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9 Things You Should Know Before Going to Tahiti, Moorea, or Bora Bora

Reading Time: 7 minutes

1. Know What You Are Getting Into

What You Should Know about Visiting Tahiti, Moorea, or Bora Bora:

  • It is 8 hours from LAX (Los Angeles) to PPT (Papeete aka Tahiti)
  • If you do not live in the LA area, it can be a very long day of travel
  • Plan to sleep on the plane
  • How much you want to spend and how much you are willing to spend
  • Do you want to experience everything, but really don’t want to save for a year to do this…stay tuned.

What We Did:

  • Living in Columbus, Ohio; used Southwest Credit Card points to fly out to Los Angeles
  • Click Here for the Southwest Credit Card
  • The sign up above will provide 2 roundtrip tickets from Ohio to California which is what we did; spend $1,000 in 3 months and you receive 40,000 miles. (this link provides me with a few miles at no cost to you)
  • Knowing that the flight from Columbus, Ohio to LAX is approximately 5 hours; we went to Disneyland for 1 day when we arrived for 2 reasons: 1. make sure we did not have weather delays for our flight 2. it is a long day if you are on a plane for 5 hours then layover and another 8 hours of flight time. This can start the vacation in a bad place; we opted to wear ourselves out and have a blast a Disneyland and the next day took off for Tahiti. Highly recommend this.
  • We visited Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora on this trip.

2. Know Your Budget

What You Should Know:

  • There are lots of websites out there that will take your money and lure you to believe you need to spend more money.
  • Stick with your budget

What We Did:

  • There are a lot of choices with places to stay in the South Pacific and costs range
  • We stayed 5 nights in Tahiti with a package deal that included airfare and hotel
  • We upgraded the hotel to an overwater bungalow for all 5 nights
  • We did 3 full days in Tahiti
  • 1 full day in Moorea
  • 1 full day in Bora Bora

3. Know The Time of the Year

What You Should Know:

  • There are really only two seasons in the South Pacific.
  • November – April: Hot and Humid, Rainy Season, Hurricane Season
  • May to October: Cooler Season and Dry Season, Sailing Season

Weather is 70’s-80’s year round. Night time is around 10 degrees cooler.

What We Did:

  • We went in June and the weather was fabulous.
  • During the day: shorts and short sleeve t-shirts
  • Night time: shorts and a sweatshirt
  • It did rain for a few hours on two days and it was considered the dry season when we went.

4. Know the Flight Costs and How to Get a Deal

What You Should Know:

  • The cost from CMH to LAX is can range from $300-$600 roundtrip or $5.60 each way with flight miles on Southwest.
  • The trip to Tahiti can cost $800-$1500 roundtrip from LAX.
  • The Air Tahiti Nui flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora is around $450.00 roundtrip. You may be able to buy tickets once you arrive, but if they are sold out; you will be limited on options getting there.
  • There are two higher speed ferries that operate from Tahiti to Moorea is around $11.00 USD each way. You can purchase ferry tickets on the day you are going; there are more than 7 trips a day (no need to buy ahead of time). More information on Aremiti 
  • Rental cars are reasonable.

What We Did:

  • We used the Southwest Flight Miles: $11.20 per person
  • We booked an Air Tahiti Nui Package: $1172 includes flight to Tahiti and 5 nights hotel stay.
  • We stayed at Le Meridian 
  • We upgraded to the Overwater Bungalow for all nights
  • Le Meridian Hotel is the nicest hotel of the options given for Air Tahiti Nui; some hotels have obnoxious birds that can keep you awake all night
  • Stay here even if you just stay in the hotel and not in a bungalow.
  • The pool and amenities are nice; but not super updated and renovated with bells and whistles. keep in mind Tahiti is circa 1970s; similar to Kauai
  • We flew to Bora Bora for a day; took the earliest flight and returned on the latest flight of the day costing $420.00 per person roundtrip
  • We went to Moorea by Ferry for a day.

5. Book Hotels and Excursions Before You Go

What You Should Know:

Some people will show up on a vacation and figure out hotel accommodations when they arrive. In Tahiti, this is not advisable. Hotels, hostels, and homes are booked. Just make sure you have a plan. It is advisable if you have a desired excursion that you book it before you go; with that being said, you can also talk with your hotel and they will help you book local excursions.

What We Did:

  • We did a package deal with Air Tahiti Nui and knew we would be staying at Le Meridian hotel. After booking the normal hotel option; we upgraded to the overwater bungalow.
  • Knowing that we were going to Bora Bora for a day; we wanted to do a snorkeling adventure and we booked with Pure Snorkeling by Reef Discovery; picked us up by boat at the airport in Bora Bora to start the excursion. Video of the Snorkeling We went on one of the most amazing four stop snorkeling trips possible with Pure Snorkeling: stop 1: manta rays, stop 2: eagle rays, stop 3: coral reef, stop 4: aquarium like experience-thousands of fish.
  • We booked the Moorea excursion with the hotel when we arrived.

6. Rent a Car

What You Should Know:

  • You will need a driver’s license to rent a car in Tahiti
  • It is advisable to know how to drive a stick shift car or call before going to make sure an automatic is available

What We Did:

  • We rented a car for the entire trip and it cost around $600.00 for the time there
  • Automatics were not available

 

7. Have a Plan/ Itinerary

What You Should Know:

  • The South Pacific is beautiful and you can drive around Tahiti and enjoy your entire stay there.

What We Did:

  • We arrived in Tahiti at night and took a shuttle to the hotel. The next day we rented a car and drove around Tahiti, Day 2 we took the Ferry to Moorea and did the Lagoonarium Snorkeling with Reef Sharks, Day 3 Back in Tahiti all day (Kayaked under our bungalow, drove around the island, hiked to a waterfall), Day 4: flew to Bora Bora for the Day (pre-booked the Snorkeling Package); Day 5: Drove around the island and snorkeled.

8. Bring Essential Items

What You Should Know:

  • The South Pacific is damp and humid. Mosquitos are everywhere; spray yourself and bring mosquito netting especially if you stay in an overwater bungalow.
  • 70’s and 80’s are nice temperatures, but remember at night near water it can be a lot colder
  • Bring at least one sweatshirt and a pair of jeans
  • Bring tennis shoes and water shoes

What We Did:

  • We brought mosquito spray and mosquito netting; our overwater bungalow did have the netting with holes in it.
  • Mosquito illness signs are posted in the airport so be aware that it is a serious concern.
  • Bring a spare set of clothes including a swimsuit in your carry-on, just in case.
  • Bring sunscreen because the cost in Tahiti was around $10.00USD for a very small bottle
  • The UV sunshirts are a great idea if you snorkel and spend time in the water (esp. Bora Bora)

9. What Should We Expect to Spend

What You Should Know:

  • It really depends on how much or how little you really want to spend.

What We Spent:

  • Flights and Hotel $1200 per person from LAX to PPT
  • Flight Miles and tax from CMH to LAX $11.20 per person
  • Upgrade to overwater from standard hotel $600 total for 5 nights
  • Flight from PPT to Bora Bora $450.00 per person
  • Ferry from PPT to Moorea $22.00 per person
  • Excursion to Lagoonarium $45.00 per person
  • Excursion from Bora Bora Airport all day snorkeling $145.00 per person
  • Rental Car in Tahiti $350.00 for 5 days
  • Food Costs $300.00 per person for 5-6 days
  • Taxi Ride around Bora Bora $55.00
  • Disney Tickets $105 per person

**All of these costs were then paid for by credit card points so it resulted in no cost for the trip**

Will talk about credit points in another post.

Questions? Just ask!

~Heidi

 

0 In Airlines/ Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Europe/ Family/ France/ Itinerary/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Gear/ Travel Tips

50 Tips for Traveling In and Around France

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Paris.….is always a good idea…..

When traveling to Europe, there are a lot of things to consider….the time of year, the weather you wish to experience, and whether you are on a budget.

I have been to France around 10 times and have fallen more and more in love each time. This post will cover information on a few areas of France: Paris, Nice, Cannes, and Monaco.

Tip 1: Pack a carry on in case your luggage goes missing.

Thankfully on this trip my first day in Paris; I arrived 6 hours late after missing a connection in Philly due to weather. When I was at the airport; I made a report and my luggage was missing for 2 solid days. On the third day, we were headed down to the South of France and my luggage happened to show up 47 hours later to my hotel. In my shop are the Columbia Convertible Pants that make life a lot easier Similar Columbia Pants

Tip 2: Concorde La Fayette is a great place to stay for 3 reasons: Reason 1: Take Air France Bus 2 directly to this hotel which is Porte Maillot. It stops at Etoile, Porte Maillot, and Rossy CDG Reason 2. This hotel has a subway/metro in the hotel (go down the stairs through the tunnel and you are there) Reason 3: cheap transportation   Paris Metro Map

Tip 3: Prepare to Walk

Staying at the Concorde La Fayette (2 miles south of the Arc de Triomphe) to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Musee D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Louvre, and of course the Eiffel Tower and back without the use of a subway.

Tip 4: Stroll down the Champs Elysees and take it all in.
Renault has a wonderful restaurant on the Champs Elysees.

Tip 5: Visit Versailles at least once in your life.
Take the 45 minute RER train ride to see the great palace. It is something to see- gold embossed tips to the palace and the grounds are just gorgeous.

Tip 6: Plan to arrive at Versailles in the morning before 9 AM to queue
Lines develop way before the entry time and the wait can be hours; so get up early and sleep in another day.

Tip 6: Many Museums are closed on Mondays- Weekly Closing Days of Paris Museums
Before you visit make a list of the places you want to visit and check hours, holidays, and days closed.

Tip 7: Hop On, Hop Off Tour Bus is a great deal: 4 bus lines averaging an hour each route approximately 25 euros per person.
Allows you to see everything from a visualization standpoint and the proximity of things when you are in a double decker bus going around the city. Many of these include a boat ride.The hop-on/ hop-off bus is called L’Opentour …50 stops, 4 routes, and 1 ticket (I would suggest the 2 day pass) One day pass is 29 euros; 2 days is 32 euros and kids are 15 euros ages 4-11.
-Boat hop on, hop off- batauxbus Paris

Tip 8: If you use the metro a booklet of 10 tickets is a good deal: you get 10 tickets for the price of 8. (over time this may change)
Great if you want to quickly zip around the city or know where you want to go in a hurry.

Tip 9: Bring water everywhere with you. You will need it.
Prepare for standing and walking a lot. A few snacks would also be good if you think about it (especially with wait times in line for certain places)

Tip 10: Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night is the best; especially around 11:30 PM
Again, check on the times of closing and if you can get tickets in advance

Tip 11: A pullstring bag is essential because at times you will have a lot of snacks but you can fold it into your pocket when you have nothing.(Backpacks are too cumbersome)

Tip 12: Know the exchange rate 
Exchange rate was 1.60 US dollars to 1 euro and at times is 1 USD to .85 Euros; fluctuations occur often so know what you are paying.

Tip 13: Use points for hotel stays instead of money if you can

Tip 14: Bring an umbrella or Package of 5 ponchos
This comes to personal preference. I like carrying a poncho (1.99 at Walmart) more than an umbrella, but whatever you have to keep you dry is a must.

Tip 15: Bring Clip on Hand Sanitizers
Many places in France have “ran out of soap” or is just not available. Be prepared.

Tip 16: Remember that Air conditioning is not good anywhere in Paris unless you stay at the Charles V

Tip 17: Build in time to just sit, relax, and have no real plan for at least one day in Paris. A Place to Stroll

Monaco

Tip 18: You must have lots of money to go into the Casino. Everyone can walk on the grounds and go in the doors, but to actually play in the Casino; you must be independently wealthy or have wealthy friends. Regardless, it is fun to walk around the area. You never know who you will see.

Tip 19: You must be in a coat and tie to get into the Automobile Club in Monaco.
We were wandering around the Grand Prix area and found the Automobile Club; shorts will not work.

Tip 20: Treat yourself to ice cream while you people watch in Monaco

Tip 21: Remember that you are a 45 minute train ride from Nice, 30 USD round trip  You can get tickets on the day you travel

Tip 22: Trains to Monaco are every 30 minutes from Nice.

Tip 23: Once you arrive in Monaco, you can walk everywhere (the Casino and the Palace are on different cliffs-40 minute walk uphill both ways) I recommend a taxi based on time and getting to see things. There is quite a distance between these areas; there is also the Monaco Bus Service which was $4USD each way depending if you mind stops every 4 minutes.

Tip 24: Little train ride at Oceanographic Museum: 30 minute ride takes you by the Casino and by the Palace, but you must stay on the train, no stops cost 7 Euros for adults, 4 euros for kids.
– Go to Oceanographic Museum first…………if you exit the train station…..go to the right and follow the signs.
-You can walk the grounds of the Prince’s Palace without paying; 4 euros for an inside tour (not worth your money imo)

Cannes

Tip 25: A 30 minute ride from Nice to Cannes via train. Once you arrive in Cannes from the train station walk 1/4 mile to the beach.

Tip 25: When you are in Cannes, take the little train ride to see the city. 10 euros for the big tour
The narrator does a good job of explaining the town; the little train allows you to enjoy the sights.

Tip 26: When you think of Cannes, many think of the film festival. Check out the Red Carpet.

Tip 27: Nice has rock beaches and Cannes has sand beaches and so does Antibes (sand beach) Know and plan accordingly.

Tip 28: Walk around the harbor- gorgeous yachts

Tip 29: Long promenade to walk

Tip 30: Good for a day trip; no more than a day would be advisable here.

Tip 31: Shopping name brands is good: Chanel, Gucci, Prada; all the good brands!

Tip 32: Likely to see famous people walking around.

Tip 33: Haagan Dazs located across from the red carpet..another 15 USD for 2 sundaes.

Nice, France

C’est la vie……………………

Tip 34: Stay at Le Meredien
Use points to stay here (Starwood) Our room was 425 euros a night with an exchange rate of 1.5-1.6…..you do the math! We were able to stay 3 nights and get the 4th night free using points for the three nights.

Tip 35: The promenade is about 10 miles long and continues toward Monaco. Wonderful shops, hotels, and exercise along the water.

Tip 36: The train station is about a mile from Le Meredien (centrally located on the promenade)

Tip 37: Le Meridian is the only one with a beach pool and a pool on the top of the hotel (uncommon in France)

Tip 38: Wireless is 30 euros a day at the hotel (go downstairs and get it from the McDonalds for free; the lobby area you can access the wi-fi)

Tip 39: Just about all McDonald’s in France have wi-fi

Tip 40: Walking to the waterfall is about 3 miles from Le Meridian hotel.

Tip 41: The airport is about 7 miles away, but will cost you a whopping 40 euros! Consider negotiating with the taxi driver before getting in.

Tip 42: If you fly Easyjet (remember that every bag is 22 euros) one carry-on only and no more than 20kg or 44 pounds

Tip 43: If you miss your flight on Easyjet you have to rebuy another one unless you bought insurance

Tip 44: Bus service is a good option from the airport to your hotel. This is not always possible.
We took a bus from the airport to the hotel, but our return flight was super early and the bus was not running. (Bus fare is 7 euros per person, but you must know what stop to get off at)

Tip 45: People do not speak good English here……….especially at the airport.
In Paris, many people speak English and speak it well. As you go to the South of France, many young people speak English but some store owners, airport employees, bus drivers, taxi drivers may speak French only.

Tip 46: Use credit card for transactions.

Tip 47: There is a ferry that will take you to St. Tropez or Corsica (must view dates and times) (Cannes to St. Tropez and Nice to Corsica)

Tip 48: On the promenade there are music groups, dance groups, and rollerbladers, segways, and bikes all day long. It is approximately 4-5 lanes across and next to the beach so you do not cross roads. Performances all the time.

Tip 49: Make Nice your home base.
We stayed for 5 days and 4 nights on this trip and visited Cannes, Monaco, and Nice.

Tip 50: Should you have extra time, stop off in Eze or Grasse and visit the Fragonard factory.

**Always book travel insurance**

0 In Airlines/ Australia/ Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Itinerary/ New Zealand/ Oceania/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

Can You See Australia and New Zealand in under 2 weeks?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

 

I’ve wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand since I can remember. We had the opportunity over the summer of 2017 and jumped at the chance even though our time was somewhat limited.  Not sure what the optimal time is to see both countries – but most suggest at least a couple weeks for each.  That being said you can (and we did) have an amazing adventure in less than 2 weeks.

 

What to know before you go:

  • You need a Passport AND an Australian ETA/eVisitor Visa to Enter Australia (a fact that somehow eluded us but until we checked in at the airport.  Luckily we were able to sign up for one online in just a few minutes for $15.
  • This is a long trip 12-14 hours there and back and you lose about 1 day of travel each way
  • It can be expensive but there are ways to save money
  • Our summer is their winter – so dress accordingly! The Whitsundays (Australia) was 70-75 degrees but New Zealand ranged from 40-50s…brrrr!

 

What We Did:

We only had 12 days to see both countries and made the most of it.  We moved at a good clip but were not rushed and had plenty of time to relax.  The first leg of our trip we visited Sydney, The Great Barrier Reef and The Whitsundays.  The second part of our journey we hit some of the major cities in New Zealand including Queenstown, Christchurch and Auckland.  Transportation, food and lodging was not cheap but it was definitely not prohibitive.  You can save big if using points for the transpacific flight.  We booked most of our hotels through Hotels.com and even earned a free nights stay along the way.

Getting there:

The flight there and back was expensive ($2067 round trip) and long (14 hours there and 12 hours back to/from LAX). We were able to use points to cover one of the round trip tickets on American Airlines.  The intercity flights between Australian Cities and New Zealand (via Quantas and Jetstar) were not too bad at $100-$300 each.

Day 1-4:

We flew from Columbus, OH to LAX and then on to Sydney.  From Sydney we immediately departed for the Whitsundays where we spent the next 3 days.  We stayed at Arlie Beach, Queensland and were able to find a hotel at a very reasonable price.  The first day we booked a half day Excursion from Airlie Beach out to the Great Barrier Reef via Cruise Whitsundays (about $199/person).

The trip out to the reef took about 2 hours. The Seas can be rough but luckily they were not too bad the day we went.  We spent the next 2 ½ to 3 hours on a large pontoon boat right on The Great Barrier Reef where we were served lunch and then could partake in a snorkel safari, semi-submersible boat ride, and see fish and other aquatic sea life including some beautiful coral.  There were a few small sharks in the water but luckily none looked like they wanted to eat us!

 

 

The next day we took another Cruise Whitsundays Tour  (@$109) which took us around the Whitsunday islands including a stop on beautiful Whitehaven Beach .  Know that you must take a ferry or water taxi from island to island to get to pick up/drop off points for the cruises and these can cost anywhere from 50-60$ per person each way.  Unfortunately there is no other way to get around the islands unless you bring your own boat….

 

Day 4-6:

 

The follow day we flew back to Sydney where we spent the next 2 days exploring the City, Harbor, Harbor Bridge, Opera House, and Sydney Eye Tower. We took the Big Bus Sydney Hop-on-Hop-off Tour ($67/person for 2 days) which allowed us to explore the city at our own pace. We used the OPAL Card which also saved us money on trains, buses and ferries.

Our 2nd day we took a short excursion by train to Featherdale Wildlife Park where we could see much of the native Australian wildlife and we got to hold and have our pictures taken with a Koala bear! There were also incredibly cute kangaroos. The park is easy to get to (about 45 km west of Sydney, 45min by car, 1:15h by train.)  The experience was well worth it at $32/adult, $17/child.

 

Day 6-10:

 

Next it was off to New Zealand. From Sydney we flew to Queenstown which is an absolutely beautiful town perched on the shore of Lake Wakatipu and nestled in the Southern Alpine Mountains.  There is plenty for tourists to do with lots of skiing, restaurants and shops.  There is also an abundance of outdoor recreational activities.

The following morning we took a day trip to Milford Sound which maybe one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.   We had to get up early in the morning and took a bus to the sound Kiwi Discovery was purchased by Go Orange.  Once there we had about a 2 hour cruise on the Sound where we were fed lunch and took in not only the scenery but also some wildlife! $179.00 per person. The video on the bus ride back was spectacular as well: The World’s Fastest Indian

 

The next day we headed to Christcurch. It was amazing to see the amount of Devastation that still persisted more than 6 years after the 2011 earthquake. Many buildings still remained abandoned. The most striking was the Christchurch Cathedral.

The following morning we set off for a day-long round trip via the KiwiRail TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth (@ $260/person).  This trip takes you across through the Alpine Mountains and through Arthur’s Pass.

Day 11-12:

 

From Christchurch we left for Auckland. Once in Auckland we rented a car and drove to The Hobbiton  (“Middle Earth” where the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings was filmed) which was about 2h and 15min southeast of Auckland.  From there it was onto the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves which was about another 1.5h southwest.

 

The round trip leaving and returning to Auckland is easily doable in one day if you get an early start.  It did take bit of getting used to driving on the Right side of the road! We spent our final night exploring Auckland before departing for LAX the following morning.

 

 

In summary:

We were only able to sample some of Australia and New Zealand in 12 days but had an amazing trip and that left us plenty to see when we go back! This vacation can be a bit pricy but there are ways to save money. Overall it was well worth the cost.  Australia and New Zealand are undoubtably two of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Questions? Just ask!

3 In Airlines/ Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Iceland/ Itinerary/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

$99 Each Way or $199.00 Roundtrip to Iceland on Wow AIR

Reading Time: 6 minutes

When I see these deals, sometimes I am a bit skeptical on whether or not it is a legit deal. This particular deal came open and within a few weeks, I figured it was good enough to try and booked it.

A couple of definitions that may help you to better understand me before you read any further: I am frugal most of the time but will splurge on experiences or something I deem valuable. For me, being frugal looks at what I place value on (whether it is a restaurant or amazing hotel or experience) and being cheap looks at the least expensive tour or least expensive hotel in the area.

What You Should Know Before You Go to Iceland.

  • Need a passport
  • It is cold even in the summer
  • Food is expensive
  • Endless beauty
  • This trip is amazing and you will love it. Thank me now!

What You Should Know About the Wow Air Flight:

WOWAir offers 5 hour non-stop flights from Baltimore to Reykjavik at $99.00 fare each way. It is important to know that you do not get a carry on, personal item, and luggage with this airline. WOW Air has certain restrictions on luggage and even personal item (the size and weight) so make sure that you read that information instead of showing up at the airport and paying more than you should.

Leaves the United States in the evening; arriving in Reykjavik in the early morning hours.

What We Did:

I had a personal item and checked bag only. I wore my coat on the plane and also wore my Sorel heavy boots while my tennis shoes were packed in the suitcase. All of my heaviest items were worn on the plane. I live in Ohio and based on the deal; drove 6 hours to Baltimore to catch the flight. Gas cost $99.00 roundtrip from Columbus, Ohio to Baltimore, MD.

What You Should Know About Iceland

You can spend very little in Iceland if you rented a car, paid for gas, and stayed at the least expensive hotel/ Air BNB/ hostel.

Airfare including bags, taxes, and seats: $283.00 per person roundtrip

Rental Car: Blue Car Rental   for a Land Rover SUV with insurance including the wind, volcanic ash, etc. coverage for 4 full days was $767.12 USD This included a wi-fi transmitter in the car so we could talk on WhatsApp and use the google map feature on the cell phone with no additional costs.

Day 1:

Drive from Airport to Glacier Lagoon with stops along the way at waterfalls and at Vik. (7 hour drive) Hotel Stay Expenses: Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon: $146.30 USD. Pictures from Day 1 below. Hotel was very nice; the dinner at the hotel was very expensive. $60.00 USD per person.

 

Day 2:

Drove from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon to the Golden Circle and then to Hotel Husafell; on the way stopping along the Golden Circle and the Solheimasandur Plane Crash! It was a long walk to the plane and there are no restrooms along the path; maybe close to 5 miles roundtrip. The Solheimasandur Plane Crash is 10 miles from Skogafoss and 17 minutes from Vik. Look for stopped cars.

    

Hotel Husafell was a wonderful hotel $263.61 for the night and it included a viewing of the Northern Lights. The hotel is located near the Glacier and is removed from most lights; absolutely stunning location. We arrived late and dinner was no longer served, however, the chef brought us some food anyway. Highly recommended.

The next morning included an excursion: Into the Glacier (for 2 people: $344.80) riding in a NATO missile truck with wifi that will climb the glacier so you can see the inside. It was incredible. We walked next door to board the truck for our excursion.

               

After the morning spent on the Glacier, we packed up and did the Golden Circle Tour for a second day.

  

We headed toward our next hotel: Ion Adventure Hotell for $345.23 a night; close to our next morning’s excursion. Included a geothermal pool experience (Northern Lights can be viewed if it is clear) and the accommodation was quite spectacular.

Guide to Iceland Silfra Fissure  included a Dry Suit to experience swimming in the Silfa Fissure (snorkeling between tectonic plates  between North America and Europe). for $300.36 for two people. The Dry Suit allows you to float; you can see me floating on my bottom and see the pictures from the GoPro.

After the excursion, it was time for a ride into Reykjavik to explore the city and take in some of the shopping. Our hotel was the Fosshotel Reykjavik for $202.32 for the night. It was centrally located.

Our last day was spent in the morning at the Blue Lagoon before boarding the plane to return to Baltimore. $108.19 for two people. There are several price points with the Blue Lagoon; we opted for the least expensive and brought our own travel towels and had flip flops. It saved us around $100.00.

      

 

Travel Insurance $144 for 2 people.

This trip is absolutely amazing and while we could have gone much cheaper; it was a quality vacation with above average accommodations. Book the trip and Go!

Questions, Just Ask!

0 In Airlines/ Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Fitness/ Itinerary/ Machu Picchu/ Peru/ South America/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips

11 Things You Should Know Before Going to Machu Picchu

Reading Time: 9 minutes

When thinking about going to Machu Picchu, there are 11 things you should know before going.

1. Know What You Are Getting Into

 

What You Should Know:

  • The time of the year (November – March is rainy season)
  • It is a working vacation (this is a non-stop, action filled, workout, calorie burning vacation)
  • South America operates at a much slower pace than the United States
  • Machu Picchu is a journey just to get there.
    • Once in Cusco, taxi is 2.5 hours to Ollanytambo where you catch the Train to Agua Calientes
    • Taxi should cost around 100 soles from the airport (35 USD) to Ollanytambo (know the power of negotiation; they started at 300 USD and ended at 35 USD)
    • Train Ticket Options – PeruRail – 3 Choices (Hiram Bingham, Vistadome, Expedition)
    • Book Ollantaytambo Train for 6 PM or later to Agua Calientes in case you have delays. (if on time, there are ruins about 1/2 mile from the train station if you arrive early)

What We Did:

  • We flew at Spring Break leaving Monday evening and leaving Cusco on Friday morning.
  • Spring Break was the end of March
  • It was 4 flights to get there (CMH-DFW-LIM-CUZ)
  • Once you arrive in Cusco, it is 2.5 hours to Ollantaytambo (35 USD) by Taxi.
  • Train (Peru Rail) was awesome. We booked the Vistadome (75 USD) on the way and Expedition (45 USD) on the way back.
    • Based on the 5 hour delay, Peru Rail was in the airport and was able to rebook our train tickets at no charge for the latest train from Ollantaytambo to Aqua Calientes)

2. Acclimating to the Altitude

What You Need to Know:

  • Altitude Sickness can be dangerous and it can ruin a vacation
  • Arrival in Cusco is 11,152 Feet; Ollantaytambo is 9,980 feet, and Agua Calientes is 6,693 feet and Machu Picchu is 7,972 feet.
  • It can be hard to walk up stairs with the altitude. A group of young men were stopping and could not catch their breath due to the altitude and some older less fit people just passed them. Altitude can affect anyone and it does not matter if you are physically fit.
  • While you are going up steps; there are no handrails and no wheelchair accessibility
  • As soon as you arrive in Cusco, plan on going directly to Agua Calientes
    • Advantages of this – reduction of headache and time to adjust

What We Did:

  • Arrival in Cusco; grabbed a bite to eat in the airport; then taxi to Ollantaytambo
  • Took Peru Rail from Ollantaytambo to Agua Calientes
  • Stay 2 nights in Agua Calientes then 1 night in Cusco before coming home
  • Had no issues; despite having altitude sickness meds (Diamox) with me
  • I have had altitude sickness before at 9,000 feet and 11,000 so this itinerary did not cause me to feel ill at all

3. Deciding Your Budget and Time Frame

What You Should Know:

  • Flights can cost 1,000-2,000USD to get from the United States to Cusco
  • Hotels can range from 35USD to 1500USD per night
  • Trains can cost 45USD to 400USD each way
  • Taxis can cost 35USD to 400USD
  • Dinners can cost 5USD per person to 15USD per person
  • Drinks can cost 2 USD to 8 USD per person
  • How much time do you want to spend in Peru?

What We Did;

  • We used Flight Miles to get to Cusco and tax cost each of us 72 USD
  • We did opt for a higher price by booking LATAM Airlines after looking at the safety records of competing airlines and their on time arrival percentages
  • We did opt for a taxi instead of a collective van (35USD for a taxi for 3 of us or 2 USD per person on a bus that could take 4 hours to get to the train station)
  • We did book the Vistadome (open window) train on the way there to see the sights (we had to rebook at the airport and ended up on the Expedition with no change fee)
  • We did book the Expedition (windows smaller) on the way back
  • We did not do other sights in Peru; literally just Machu Picchu/ Sacred Valley
  • We did stay at a 4 star hotel in Agua Calientes (Taypikala Boutique Hotel) and were pleasantly surprised (it is a walk up the hill from the train station)
  • We did splurge at a 5 star hotel in Cusco (JW Marriott Cusco) one of the Top 5 Hotels in South America and the Bachelor filmed there (Season Arie) we had hotels.com credit and the breakfast was delicious. They do have oxygen for altitude sickness and the location was close to the shopping area and main square.
  • We did do two days at Machu Picchu and would do it again.
  • The time frame for us was perfect; would not stay longer but others may have a different opinion.

4. Planning the Flights

What You Should Know:

  • Planes typically arrive into Lima 4:30 AM-6:45 AM. Plan to have the next flight 2-3 hours later to land in Cusco.
  • Remember deboarding the plane can take up to 30 minutes, followed by lines at customs/immigration, then checking in for the next flight (assuming you are not on the same carrier)
  • Plan to do a backpack duffel to keep everything with you; lost luggage is not a good situation. 60L was a great size for 4 -5 days.
  • Cheap does not necessarily guarantee a “good deal” – look at safety record and on time departures.

What We Did:

  • Flew American Airlines to Lima and LATAM to Cusco
  • Flew from Columbus, Ohio (6 PM departure) to Dallas, Texas (10:00 PM departure) to Lima, Peru (arrival 4 AM; 7 AM departure) and on to Cusco, Peru
    • We had 3 hours between flights scheduled for Lima (in our situation we had a flat tire in DFW and it took 2 hours to fix) then almost missed the flight from Lima to Cusco (made the flight by 5 minutes; then 5 hour delay because the door would not shut).
    • Actually arrived in Cusco around 2:30 PM (arrival was supposed to be 9:30 AM)

5. Book Hotels and Tickets Before You Arrive

What You Should Know:

  • The type of travel accommodations you want
    • Train Tickets Range from 45 USD (Expedition) to 75 USD (Vistadome) to 400 USD (Hiram Bingham)
    • Hotels range from 35 USD to 1200 USD a night
    • Machu Picchu tickets are around 60 USD per day per person
    • See my tutorial on how to book Machu Picchu Tickets  How to Get Machu Picchu Tickets Before You Go

What We Did:

  • Researched the cost of taxis from the airport to Ollanytambo (approx. 35 USD)
  • Booked Vistadome (wide open space and windows to see rainforest) $75USD on the way there
  • Booked Expedition (not as luxurious on the way back) $45.00 way back
  • Booked Taypikala Boutique Hotel in Aqua Calientes (breakfast was delicious and free; wi-fi was hit and miss) for 2 nights
  • Booked JW Marriott Cusco for the last night before returning to US

 

6. Plan to Spend 2 Days At Machu Picchu

Day 1: Sunny and Beautiful

Day 2: Rainy and Foggy

What You Should Know:

  • It rains….there is fog…..
  • Conditions vary at the bottom and at the top
  • If there is fog, you can see nothing.
  • Day 1 was 55 degrees in Aqua Calientes and at the top was a tropical 74 with sun.
  • Day 2 was 55 degrees in Aqua Calientes and at the top was a cold 50 degrees with rain
  • Peru Rail notified us that there was change in the Machu Picchu times in case we needed to change train service (so we knew before we left Ohio that the entrance was closing at 2 PM)
  • Machu Picchu closed the entrance at 2 PM on our first day; if this happens, they let you go in early even if you have afternoon tickets and you can stay once in, but cannot re-enter.
  • You must have tickets before you arrive at the top.
  • Cannot emphasize this enough….book 2 days.
  • If it is sunny on the first day, take all pictures and do everything you want. Do not assume the next day will be the same.
  • If it is rainy, look at the way the ruins drain the water; there are no puddles; fog everywhere; and for me it was unbelievable at the drainage
  • Within 2 hours, the rain stopped and the fog was lifting.
  • This picture was taken as we were leaving and it really becomes a “follow the leader”

What We Did:

  • We booked 2 days at Machu Picchu
  • Day 1 we booked the afternoon time slot because we figured with the travels we would be tired
  • We received notification from Peru Rail that Machu Picchu hours would change on our first day. We ended up going up around 11 AM and stayed until 4 PM
  • Day 2 we booked the morning time slot because our train was leaving at 2 PM.
  • We got in line at 5:30 AM and was there at sunrise to see that it was a day of rain.
  • We arrived around 7 AM at the top and left around 9:30 AM
  • We went back to the hotel and showered before hanging out at a cafe near the river before the train departure.

7. Plan on Bringing Essential items

What You Need to Know:

  • Backpack Duffel 60L appropriate size so you can take everything with you everywhere.
  • The trains do not allow big bags: your rolling 50 pound Samsonite will not work here; you will have to leave at the train station
  • Ponchos
  • Waterproof Pants, Waterproof Jacket
  • Layers
  • Boots
  • Tennis Shoes
  • Bug Spray with Deet (do not forget this)

8. Get Up Early

What You Need to Know:

  • If you go in the afternoon, head up around 11 AM and do not wait until the 12:00 time
  • Machu Picchu after 9 AM is a game of follow the leader
  • Machu Picchu early in the morning is spectacular with you and few of your newest friends
  • Can see everything without people in all of your pictures

What We Did:

  • Day 1: We went up mid-morning (Machu Picchu was closing at 2 PM and we had afternoon tickets)
  • Day 2: We got in line at 5:30 AM and the picture above shows the line…
  • Remember that when you want to leave, everyone else will probably want to as well- so make the decision early and make it happen.
    • We waited on day 1 until 4 PM to come down and stood for about 2 hours waiting on buses
    • We ate at the Belmond Sanctuary Hotel for lunch and it was worth it. 30 USD per person – buffet- excellent food; right next to Machu Picchu
    • Drinks and ice cream were also by the entrance.

 

9. Must Have Your Passport at Machu Picchu and to Buy bus tickets

What You Need to Know:

  • You have to have a passport to enter Machu Picchu; they will check it
  • There is a stand next to the restrooms where you can get your passport stamped (see above)
  • When you buy bus tickets; you can get them at once for two days; they will take credit card, but have cash in case the machines are down
  • Everyone’s passport has to be with the person making the purchase.
  • Get bus tickets when you arrive to Agua Calientes (ticket booth is where you line up to go up the mountain)
  • The bus ride up is like Ice Road Truckers in the Himalayas; curves, bumps, dangerous passage ways; no guardrails
  • When in line for the trip to Machu Picchu; make sure you get the stamp marking your Machu Picchu tickets and bus ticket OR you cannot board the bus.

What We Did:

  • Brought passports and purchased bus tickets all at once on the first day when waiting in line
  • While I ran to get bus tickets, the lady stamping passed by us; later we discovered we needed a stamp on the tickets in order to board the bus, so I had to run all the way to the top and get a signature before we could board the bus. (save yourself from this)

10. Vaccinations and Medications

What You Need to Know:

  • Have your vaccinations up to date: Flu, TDap, MMR, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever (is optional)
  • Get a prescription for Diamox (if you have a sulfa drug allergy; there is an alternate)
  • Get a prescription filled for Z-Pak in case of Traveler’s Diarrhea
  • Pepto Bismol, Tylenol, Band-aids, and any other items you may need.

What We Did:

  • All shots are up to date
  • Since we are going to Africa in July; we opted for the Yellow Fever Vaccination; my mom did not get it (was not recommended based on age and where we were going)
  • Took Z-Pak and Diamox just in case.
  • Took a variety of medical items: band-aids, tylenol, pepto-bismol, neosporin, zyrtec

11. Food and Drinks

What You Need to Know:

  • Avoid fresh fruits, vegetables
  • Avoid water; this includes ice cubes

What We Did:

  • Avoided fresh fruits, water, vegetables, and the tea everyone speaks of.
  • Did not need anything because we appropriately acclimated (going to a low point when arriving-Agua Calientes)
  • Did not shave while on this trip
  • There are parasites and water treatment facilities and chlorination is not the same as the US
  • Tried Inca Cola- tastes like Bubblegum or Big Red Gum as a drink (surprisingly good)
  • Get food as soon as you land in Cusco. You will want to have snacks on the journey for 2.5 hours.
  • There are no restrooms or McDonalds from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.
  • Bottled water and snacks are essential at Machu Picchu and to have with you at all times.