Essential Travel Tips for St Martin

St Martin is split between St Martin (French) and St Maarten (Dutch) offering an eclectic combination of European and Caribbean cultures. Dream vacations don’t always go to plan so follow these tips to make sure your vacation to the Friendly Island is perfect.

St Martin

Get an Awesome Place to Stay:

What could be better than waking up and seeing the ocean from your bedroom window? Tourists have the choice between luxury St Martin vacation home rentals and resorts. Do your homework and choose a nice place to stay with an even better view. If this is a dream vacation, make sure you stay somewhere perfect.

Rent a Car:

When arriving at the airport, get yourself a car. Driving is the fastest and most convenient way of seeing the island on your own terms. Several companies will try to give you extra things, but you don’t need anything apart from the vehicle itself. The roads are relatively clear and driving is a pleasure on both parts of St Martin. Clear road signs and efficient maps help tourists get around without any problems.

Avoiding Theft:

Compared to other destinations in the Caribbean, St Martins is a safe island. But this doesn’t stop opportunistic thieves from operating on unsuspecting tourists. Car theft isn’t unheard of along the beach, which can lead to a miserable experience. And then there are the extra fees you may need to pay at the rental company to repair the damage. The solution is easy. Don’t leave anything inside the car and keep the windows down on a clear day. Potential thieves won’t even look twice at the car as you’re showing that nothing valuable is inside.

Avoid the Tourists:

St Martin has always been a typical stop on cruise ships around the Caribbean. Vast numbers of liners and ships pull up in Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St Maarten, and hordes of passengers disembark. Front Street and the Boardwalk are their first calling point, which makes it very crowded during the daytime. This area is worth visiting to enjoy the sites and duty-free shopping. But, don’t spend too much time here as there are other much better places. And it’s advisable to avoid the area after nightfall when a few dodgy characters come out.

Explore Both Sides of the Island:

The Dutch Side attracts visitors looking for a touristy experience. St Martin on the French Side has a more natural, laid-back atmosphere. Visitors can freely pass between the two administrative regions without needing to show their passport or face other bureaucratic complications. And both have something different and unique to offer tourists. The island itself is small (87km2) making it easy to get around. Take advantage and explore the island. However, the signs are in different languages and calling someone from one side to the other is actually an international call!

Spending Money:

Tourists tend to rely on their credit cards more often when they take a vacation. St Martin is no different. However, it’s not uncommon to encounter problems with the card machine in shops and restaurants for one reason or another. If you’re carrying a limited amount of cash, it’s advisable to check with the restaurant before you order to make sure your credit card will work. Another point worth mentioning is that some of the receipts may have the entire card’s number rather than blanking sections out. Make sure you check before throwing it away.

Tipping Etiquette:

Check your receipts carefully after ordering a meal as some will include an additional 15% tax or service charge. Some places add this whereas others don’t. Unsuspecting tourists who don’t check their bills end up paying the service fee and an additional tip. St Martin is an expensive island to visit and leaving an extra can equal 30% of the total cost of the bill. It’s entirely up to you and more research is needed on your behalf. But, wouldn’t you rather spend the extra money taking a day trip to Prickly Peak or renting snorkelling equipment?

Drinking Water:

The tap water is safe to drink in St Martin. Locals drink from the tap and many tourists do too. Bottled water is expensive on the island, especially when you’re eating at a restaurant. If you ask for water, specify that you want tap water (free of charge) rather than a small bottle that costs several dollars. The feeling of paying for something, albeit at a low cost, when you can get it for free isn’t ideal for a perfect vacation.

Take a Day Trip to One of the Islands:

St Martin is surrounded by a number of smaller islands, which make for a good day trip. Some have an active infrastructure for tourists whereas others are completely unpopulated and have quiet, secluded beaches. Popular trips are to Saba, St Barths, and Prickly Pear. The first two have a number of restaurants, bars, and lodging whereas Prickly Pear is completely uninhabited. Activities on the islands include snorkelling in the reefs, sunbathing, and water sports.

If you want to travel a little further afield, take the ferry and visit Anguilla. This British Overseas Territory offers a different vibe and experience to St Martin. Regular ferries depart every day between Marigot and Anguilla every 20 minutes or so from 7.30 am until 7 pm. Remember to bring your passport.

Trip of a Lifetime:

St Martin makes for a great and diverse travel destination, but unsuspecting tourists can get caught out. Follow our tips and avoid the mishaps to make sure your perfect vacation stays perfect.

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Places to Travel in Your Senior Years

places to visit

When you reach the age when you no longer have to worry about promotions, paychecks, and kids, it is time for you to dedicate your time to yourself. And is there a better way to do so than travelling? However, before deciding on the destination, take into consideration the following health tips if you want to enjoy your trip fully. Make sure you avoid prolonged periods of standing and sitting, wear compression stockings, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol, caffeine and tight-fitting clothes, and equip yourself with dietary supplements, such as vitamins C and E.

Australia

Even though it is the leader among most remote countries in the world, ironically, Australia is one of the most popular tourist destinations. And if you haven’t been there, now is a perfect time. First of all, Australia is the home to many beautiful natural landscapes, such as the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the biggest reef systems with the most diverse marine life in the entire world, as well as the unique iron 8-kilometer-long Uluru rock, and 50 000-km-long coastline with breathtaking beaches and lush jungles. Besides nature, Australia offers an unforgettable tourist experience with various luxury retirement communities and hotels, amazing cities, lifetime supplies of wine, and, of course – Aussies everywhere.

Greece

A home to democracy and western civilization, as well as the richest history that goes thousands of years back, Greece is a place you have to see. Filled with countless archaeological sites and museums, it will provide you with a great insight into the ancient culture. The weather is sunny and warm from April all the way to October, which is great if you love to enjoy the sea and beaches.

Make sure you spend at least three days in Athens, where you have it all – great food, friendly locals and ancient ruins.

Portugal

Portugal is a country that is going to delight you, even though it is often overlooked. Travelling around it is super easy and quick. For example, it takes only 2,5 hours to get from Lisbon to Porto by train. Besides amazing cities, Portugal has some incredibly charming villages, castles, and cathedrals, as well as 1800-kilometer-long coastline and Douro Valley which is famous for high-quality wine. Also, make sure you don’t miss a national folk music performance aka Fado performance at A Capella in Coimbra.

When it comes to food, note that food portions are large and surprisingly affordable. Unless you haven’t eaten in days, always opt for a half portion or ‘meia dose’. Make sure you have a taste of their finest egg tart called ‘pastel de nata’ at Pastéis de Belém near Lisbon.

Argentina

Argentina is a huge country where you can hardly manage to see everything even if you spend a few months there. You can go hiking around countless lakes, climb the mountains, see penguins, ride a boat to a glacier, enjoy the scenery of the biggest waterfalls in the world, visit various museums, churches and, of course – go shopping. There are always some kind of live dance performances on the streets, different shows and opportunities for taking dance lessons – who says older generations cannot work it?

Since the country is huge, it can be quite expensive, so there are some hacks that can help you save some cash: take the night buses instead of expensive flights since they are comfortable, safe, and affordable, or spend your time only in one region. If you are aiming towards seeing some mind-blowing landscapes, opt for Patagonia, Lake district and Iguazu falls, and if you are more of an escape-the-crowd type of person, visit the cities, such as Cordoba and Salta. Note that summer in Argentina lasts from December to March, which makes it a great winter destination for all the Northern tourists.

Mexico

If you are travelling solo, opt for the Pacific coast and places such as Oaxaca and Guanajuato because they are a bit more authentic than those on the Caribbean coast. Speaking of authenticity, Mexico City has also started to reinvent itself into a culture capital with a great food scene. Also, it is also pleasant to walk around and explore.

Mexico is quite colorful, sunny and affordable at the same time. Besides that, it is home to various indigenous groups and their unique customs, handicrafts, foods and archaeological sites such as Maya, Aztec, and Zapotec, as well as the friendliest locals you will ever see.

Japan

This clean and safe country is different than any other in the world. It is the only place where taxi drivers are wearing white gloves and where you can order meals from a display of plastic food dishes. And don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Japanese – you will have no trouble finding your way around.

Hotels in Japan usually charge per person rather than per room – which is great if you want to travel solo. Also, add their delicious food and their politeness, as well as respect for the elders, and you have a winner. It is needless to say, but make sure you don’t miss Tokyo and Kyoto.

How do you like these suggestions? Where did you choose to go? Feel free to comment below.
We hope you’ll have a wonderful trip – Bon voyage!

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4 Must-Try Free Things to Do in Christchurch

Notable for its English heritage, Christchurch is one of the most interesting destinations to visit in New Zealand. This impressive city is situated on South Island’s east coast. It takes pride in its picturesque scenery, diverse culture, and awe-inspiring tourist spots.

Christchurch is an ideal place to spend your vacation, because there are plenty of fun and exciting things to do here. For easy access to each tourist destinations, visitors search for available car rental in Christchurch airport upon their arrival. You will get to any of your desired destinations safe and free of any hassle via a car rental.

Now that you have sorted out your mode of transport, how about your itinerary? Make sure to visit these places when having a vacation in Christchurch:

Stroll through Hagley Park and Botanic Gardens

In case fountains interest you the most, then you will adore the reestablished peacock fountain found in Botanic Gardens. Strolling around the nearby garden and park is a cool thing to do while hanging out with your family or friends. More so, the Hagley Park is said to be the biggest park in Christchurch so, there is a great deal of stuff to do in here, such as strolling, jogging, or having a picnic. Also, this park hosts outdoor concerts every summer.

 Chrsitchurch HagleyPark
By I, Greg O’Beirne, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Discover History at Canterbury Museum

Learn about the history of New Zealand through your visit to Canterbury Museum. Since there is no entrance free here, you will definitely get fascinated with the great collections you will see inside it without spending about your budget. This awe-inspiring museum is filled with works of art, statues, and other art objects. Simply meander its passages at your own pace and immerse into the New Zealand culture.

Image source: canterburymuseum.com

Take a walk at Bridle Path

Wonderful perspectives of Christchurch can be appreciated from the Bridle Path walk, which will take you for about three hours, back and forth. It is a historic walkway that was built in 1850 to form a link between Christchurch and Lyttelton. You can spend a day here and enjoy the scenic view. Not only you will see amazing scenery, rather you get to exercise, too.

Bridle Path 049.JPG
By Schwede66Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Tour the Air Force Museum

All military veterans and buffs will surely appreciate the Air Force Museum, for the admission is totally free. You can opt for a self-guided tour or if you are willing to pay $5 to $8 for a variety of professionally guided tours, then you can do so. In addition, there is a scavenger hunt for kids that costs $5, if you are traveling with your little ones. It comes with a prize and it is full of fun and worth your money.

NZ050315 RNZAF Museum 05.jpg
By Oren RozenOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

There are a lot of free things to do while in this diverse city of Christchurch. Your trip here won’t be boring, for it offers numerous free exhilarating activities to visitors of all ages. Take into consideration these memorable things once you travel to this region. Thus, plan your vacation ahead of time and experience the best trip of your life with your loved ones.

 

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Manila Staycation Fun with the Family

You do not need to leave the city to have a vacation.  Travelling to a far off place or an exotic destination can be quite a challenge especially when you have kids in tow.  Factor in the expense, it racks and most get discouraged to travel. It’s no wonder that the idea of a staycation has become a popular option for those who want to get away from the usual daily grind and have a little fun with the family without going far from home.  It’s great that you can find quite a number of staycation hotels in Manila using online travel agencies like Traveloka. Here are some ideas for your next family staycation.

Where to Stay

The city of Manila has a lot to offer for local tourists and vacationers.  Accommodations are affordable yet nonetheless comfortable and pleasurable.  The amenities and available activities are not all that bad either.  Here are two options for staycation hotels in Manila that you can consider:

  • Hotel H2O

    – exciting water fun – This is a smaller and relatively newer hotel in the Manila Bay-Roxas Boulevard area.  It is actually located right in the Manila Ocean Park complex.  Its different room types are attractions in themselves.  They have the Parkview Rooms, the Bayview Rooms, and the Aqua Rooms.  Depending on your choice of room, the floor to ceiling windows can offer you a view of the city/park or Manila Bay. The Aqua Rooms are signature rooms that surround you with aquarium walls – these rooms are always a hit with the kids.

Other Attractions:  Liquid Pool and Lounge, Zen Yu Eco Spa, Fitness Room, Makan Makan Restaurant

 

hotelh20

 

  • Manila Hotel

    – a taste of Old Manila – This hotel is a cultural experience in itself. Although rooms have been renovated and refurbished in the recent years, the look and ambiance still embodies the tradition and history that the hotel has been known for.  It would be a “big” thing for the kids to know the stories of the prominent historical personalities from here and abroad who have stayed in the same hotel.  Of course, you can still hop on over to the nearby Manila Ocean Park during the day if the kiddos would like to have a glimpse of Philippine marine life.

Other Attractions:  Café Ilang-Ilang, Pool and Garden, Manila Hotel Spa

Manila Hotel1.jpg

 

These two staycation destinations have their own restaurants where you can have your own meals.  If you book online, you might also find deals for free breakfasts.  There are also quite a number of restaurants in the area where you can eat and enjoy the view of Manila Bay.  The Manila Bay sunset can serve as a wonderful backdrop for your family dinner – definitely a step up from the usual fast food meals.  Seafood and local ihaw-ihaw (grilled food) are must-try dishes in these restos.

Family Friendly Activities

Both of these staycation hotels in Manila have onsite amenities like swimming pools, restaurants, fitness centers, and spas that you can enjoy. There’s also high speed internet access in these staycation destinations so you do not have to worry about being disconnected during your staycation.  As a tip, however, it would be good to avoid fiddling with your gadgets while you’re on vacation.  Maximize your quality time with the family.  After all, that’s the whole point of getting away from your usual routine.

Apart from onsite amenities, there are also other activities within the vicinity of these hotels that you can enjoy with the family.  Try these:

  • Manila Ocean Park– This park is touted as the country’s first state-of-the art Oceanarium.  It features lifesize aquariums and fish tanks filled with fish and sea creatures.  There are also stations for interactive activities and games.  If you are staying at Hotel H2O, you simply have to step out of your room and go down a couple of floors to get to the park.   It’s also just a stone’s throw away from Manila Hotel.
  • Catch a Play at the CCP– You can take the family to the matinee or a gala at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.  Check out the schedules and book tickets for one that the entire family would love to watch.  As you are already nearby, you do not have to worry about braving traffic to make it to the opening curtain call.
  • Visit the National Museum– Make it a Philippine culture and history vacation.  There’s an extensive collection of art work and heritage pieces at the National Museum, several streets away from Hotel H2O and Manila Hotel.  This vacation activity will surely supplement what your kids learn from their history and art classes in school.  What’s more, entrance to the National Museum is now permanently free of charge.

There are plenty more places to see and visit in Manila if you do not want to stay indoors the whole time during your staycation. Packing light will free you from the usual heavy baggage and booking a room near the places that you want to visit saves you from having to go through traffic to get from one place to another. It also gives you a little bit of flexibility when you need to head back “home” because the kids are tired or need to take care of “personal” matters.

 

Image source:

Image 1 – www.tripadvisor.com.ph

Image 2 – By Nikond80Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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The Benefits of Luxury Villas Over Hotels

We tend to look for the best deals and try to save when planning a holiday. We’ve covered a lot of budgeting and budget-friendly holiday tips here on Joy’s Flair. However, affordable hotels are not always the best choices to look into. In fact, going for luxury villas often brings more benefits. Let’s take a closer look at some of those benefits and see why luxury villas can sometimes be a better deal than hotels.

luxury villas

 

Share the Experience

One of the first benefits you will be able to enjoy when you choose to stay in a luxury villa is the ability to host more people. This means you can share the experience with friends or the entire family. In turn, that makes the cost of staying in a villa more affordable than you think.

A luxury villa such as the Villa Punto de Vista in Costa Rica can house up to 24 guests and 3 additional kids for as little as $3,000 per night. When you divide that number, the cost of staying in the luxury villa per person is often more affordable than booking several hotel rooms.

More importantly, you are actually sharing the experience. A luxury villa rental also provides you with a living room and other amenities instead of just separate rooms. At night, you can gather and enjoy a lovely time with everyone.

The Luxury Treatment

There is another thing that makes luxury villas very good value: the luxury treatment. You may be able to save a little by opting for a budget hotel, but spending that little bit of extra money will get you pampered from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave the property.

I’m talking about the best designer toiletries, amazingly comfortable beds, world-class chefs cooking your meals and various other things that will make your vacation that much more enjoyable. You also have staff available to take care of your needs.

Most luxury villas are children-friendly and have on-site activities to keep children entertained. You can make special requests ahead of your arrival too. If you’re allergic to certain food types, for instance, you are free to choose your own menus.

Location & Privacy

Let’s not forget that luxury villas have the best amenities. The Villa Punto de Vista we talked about earlier is actually situated in a tropical reserve with Costa Rica’s best wildlife living just steps away from your villa. You also have access to the Manuel Antonio Bay and its beautiful beaches.

Other luxury villas may come with a private beach or even an entire island as part of their amenities. Your vacation will be so much better thanks to the extra privacy this affords. Enjoying the day sunbathing on a private beach – with no one else but your friends and family there – while drinks and food are served is just too good an opportunity to miss out on.

With these benefits to enjoy, there are plenty enough reasons to check out the best luxury villas the next time you plan a holiday. I do have to warn you though; once you’ve tried staying in a luxury villa, you’ll never want the vacation to end.

 

Image credit: Bart Speelman – https://flic.kr/p/9dJg5d

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