As more countries are opening up their travel lanes, staycations are becoming less of a thing. Which is a HUGE deal! Because, now we can dust off our passports, get on a flight, and hear those sweet words, “this is your pilot speaking.”
Let this be your sign to revenge travel like no other. But if you’re not quite there yet, or need a little more inspiration. The Expat Dream Team is here to boost your wanderlust, kick it into high gear, and share the best traveling insider tips that you won’t find in travel guidebooks and sites.
How is that, you may ask? Well, simply put. Expatriates are the gatekeepers to the best unknown tips for travel. They have the insider knowledge to local life. Also, I straight up asked other expatriates, “What are some unique travel tips/ advice for visitors who are traveling to your host country, that you won’t find in a travel guidebook?”
Here to motivate your next travel adventure, is the Expat Dream Team Panel 11# sharing their insider traveling tips to Japan, Egypt, Spain, England, Finland, Turkey, Portugal, and Nicaragua.
Insider Traveling Hacks From Around The World
Before booking travel accommodations, be sure to thoroughly research and keep abreast of yours and the travel destination’s government and chosen airline’s restrictions, rules and all related Covid-19 safety measures and requirements.
Maren in Portugal
Meet Maren. ”Hello, my name is Maren, I’m originally from Germany but have lived abroad for almost half of my life now. I’ve lived in Paris, and then in London for over 10 years, before making the move to Lisbon, Portugal, in May 2021, together with my better half and our Bengal cat. Now we’ve settled under the Portuguese sun and we’re loving life in Lisbon. I’m sharing snippets of our life on my Instagram the.honey.cat – I’m into fashion, food, cats, travelling, yoga and just the sweet things in life. I’d love to see you on the ‘Gram and feel free to message me if you have any questions about my life in London – and now in Lisbon.”
1) ”Useful apps. Here in Lisbon, I’ve always found it really helpful to have Citymapper installed on my iPhone. It’s an app for directions, whether by foot, car, public transport and also shows multiple alternative itineraries on how to get to your destination.
I also use Mapster quite a lot – it’s an app to pin your favourite places or places you want to see/visit. You can use different tags per category and it easily creates lists to filter by, for example restaurants, bars, shopping, etc. You can also create your own categories, and share your ‘pin board’ with other users.
Über/Bolt and the likes – public transport is cheap and convenient here in Lisbon, but sometimes taking an Über or Bolt (competitor) is easier and also more cost effective, if you’re more than one person travelling.
With the pandemic still ongoing, take-away is booming. There are also quite a few useful apps if you want to eat in and order food to be delivered to your door, such as Bolt Food, Glovo, Über Eats, TakeAway etc. Bolt Food tends to have lower delivery fees and regularly has discounts/offers. With Glovo you can even do grocery shopping at participating stores. If you sign up for Glovo Prime (free for one month) you get all deliveries for free.
Too Good To Go is another app I really love – it is a food waste app and you can purchase leftover food at participating restaurants for low prices. They call it the ‘magic box’ as you never know what you might be getting, it could be anything from salads, pastries, bread, sandwiches, wraps etc. You can check the participating restaurants and their offers in the app, pay through the app and then simply go to pick-up at the designated time slot.
Lime / Bolt / Bird / Link – these are all e-scooter apps through which you can locate your nearest e-scooter. Usually you get a few minutes for free, and then there’s a fixed a rate per minute. When you’re done riding, simply drop it off and stop the ride through the app (oftentimes you need to take a picture as proof of where you dropped the scooter).
2.) Souvenirs. There are of course, like everywhere, a lot of tourist and souvenir shops spread across the city of Lisbon. They offer the usual stuff such as post cards, magnets, mugs, etc.
If you are looking for a special gift for someone, I would recommend (if your suitcase allowance allows) bringing home some Portuguese ceramics, for example from Cerâmics na Linha (Rua Capelo 16) or heading over to A Vida Portuguese (Largo Do Intendente Pina Manique 23), a concept store of 500m2, where you can find all sorts of arts & crafts made in Portugal, including a huge selection of tinned sardines (speciality here in Portugal).
3.) Hipster spots. There are a lot of hype Instagram places in Lisbon; cafés, bars, rooftops. They usually look fancy, but oftentimes turn out to be crowded and overpriced. A good alternative is to venture around one of those hipster spots, as you will most likely find other places that are less hyped but then turn out to be super cute hidden gem. It’s happened to me quite a lot – and the places I discovered through this have now become some of my all time favourites. I will not be sharing them here as I want to keep them secret, but if you follow me on Instagram, you might find some on there 🙂
4.) Colourful streets Rua Verde (Rua da Silva), located in the neighbourhood of Santos, is one of the narrowest streets in Lisbon, and on its 50m the residents of the street connected over their love of plants and have created this unique space it’s become now. Rua Verde is, as the name suggests, very green, with plants and flowers everywhere, and the residents have opened their businesses, whether jewellery shop or restaurant/bar to pedestrians strolling through. A nice place to eat there is A Obra, a restaurant with Portuguese cuisine.
There’s also another colourful street worth a visit: Pink Street (Rua Nova do Carvalho 24), near Cais do Sodré. It’s a very instagrammable street with, as the name suggests, a pink floor. It’s a quirky street with some nice bars and clubs. It used to Lisbon’s red light district, with gambling, brothels, shady bars and shady customers, but then in 2011 gentrification happened and the street was painted pink and turned from shady to hip. Definitely worth a visit, to walk through and maybe grab a drink on the Pink Street.
5.) Monsanto Park. This is Lisbon’s largest green space with over 2,5 acres worth of greenery – that’s approximately three times the size of New York’s Central Park. If you want to escape the concrete of the city, this is the place to go to! Plus, it also offers some greet views over the Bridge 25 de Abril and the Cristo-Rei monument. There are plenty of things you can do there, from hiking, cycling, skating, or just going for a walk and a picnic. There are sometimes also some outdoor events taking place, so check their website for the latest agenda. There’s a nice café there called HelloPark as well as an abandoned restaurant (Panorâmico de Monsanto), that now serves as a viewing point offering 360 degree views over the city.”
Ashley in Nicaragua
Tropical_homestead is Ashley. ”My name is Ashley, originally from Pennsylvania, USA, now living in Matagalpa, Nicaragua since February 2021. Our family of 6 chose to live in Nicaragua because my husband and his family are from there. The cost of living is also a lot cheaper than the US. I’ve been a teacher for over 9 years in elementary and now online teaching Spanish. I also love traveling, crocheting, and sewing and am slightly obsessed with making sourdough bread. Fun fact about me: I climbed Mt. Vesuvius in a thunderstorm.”
1. ”Nicaragua has some amazing street food and national dishes. My favorites are the nacatamal (think tamale but way bigger) and güirilas (sweet corn tortilla with cuajada, a fresh cheese). While the food is great, keep in mind that sanitation standards aren’t usually the same as the Western world, so being observant about how the food is kept safe and stall/ restaurant clean is a good thing.
2. Parasites. Yay! You can get these little guys even if you take lots of precautions. Instead of trying to find medicine (in Spanish) to get rid of them, just take 10-20 papaya seeds and 1 garlic clove twice a day with your meal for about 10 days and you’ll be good to go. Obviously, it’s the more natural way to go and all you have to say when you buy the ingredients is “papaya, ajo, por favor.” 🙂
3. Expect people to call you and their own people by identifying characteristics. For example, I usually get called, “chela” (white girl) or gringa. My Nicaraguan sister-in-law is called “cucaracha” o “chaparra” (short girl). They aren’t being rude or derogatory; it’s just part of the culture to identify others in that way.”
Amelia in England
Amelia and family live in England and are giving helpful travel insider travel tips about the London Underground.
”Hi, I’m Amelia (The.Brames.Abroad)! An American expat in London who loves dancing, eating pastries, running for pleasure and adventuring with my people. In real life, I’m a passionate dance educator and photographer but am taking a career break to explore the world whilst we live in London. My life revolves around playing with my sweet six year old and trying to see this beautiful world.”
1. ”London is so family friendly. Lots of things happen to make outings more pleasant for families. Like this… kids age 10 and under ride free on the London Underground AND up to four children ride free with one adult. Makes it a cheap and efficient way to get around.
2. Another London Underground tip… no need to buy a day pass. If you use the same contactless card to tap in and out for all your public transit, it will automatically cap at the daily pass rate. You can use contactless card and also Apple Pay on your phone or watch.
3. Bus number 11 from Victoria station does the same route as the pricey double decker bus tours, but you can tap in for £1.50! It goes past Westminster, Parliament, Downing St, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and ends at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
4. If you stay outside Central London, Ealing is a great area. It has a lot of food options, a lot of parks and playgrounds and great connection into the city. You have the Central and District Underground lines and also a fast TFL train that takes 8 minutes to get you to Paddington Station.”
Dani in Spain
Sincerely Spain is a two-fer. Let’s start with Dani. Originally from the Chicagoland area, Dani has called Granada, Spain home for over seven years. She first fell in love with Spain when she studied abroad for a semester in Alicante back in 2011. Since then, she has worked as an English teacher in Granada, Spain (and briefly in San José, Costa Rica). She is now an author and one of the co-creator of the Sincerely, Spain blog. You can find Dani on her website, her personal IG, and her YouTube.
1) ”Don’t order paella in the evening (and if you do, don’t expect it to be delivered to your table quickly): It’s important to understand that paella is a lunch food in Spain (the meal eaten between 2 and 4 pm). As such, if you try to order this outside of the typical hours, restaurants may not offer it and, if they do, it could take a long time to get everything up and cooking. A typical wait for fresh paella is 40 minutes to an hour and can take even longer if you order outside of the regular timetable.
2) ”While not all Spaniards actually take a siesta, you may need to keep this break in mind: The idea of the entire country shutting down to take a midday nap is definitely a myth! However, if you find yourself outside of a main hub like Madrid or Barcelona, it is not uncommon for businesses to shut for the lunch and siesta break (approximately 1:30-4:30 pm). Especially if you need to visit a bank or government building, be sure to do so in the morning as many will not re-open after lunch!
3) Don’t expect to get anything done in August: August is the month for taking a holiday in Spain and so many families living in the cities will escape to holiday homes along the beach or in the mountainside in this month. If you are traveling at this time, be aware that you will not be getting as “authentic” of an experience (due to many Spaniards leaving town and shutting down their businesses in the process). If you need to file visa paperwork, find a home to rent or buy, or anything else that requires timeliness, I highly recommend doing so before or after August.”
Claudia in Finland
The other half of Sincerely Spain is Claudia in Finland. Claudia is originally from Wisconsin but left home at 18 for a gap year in Brazil and Spain. Over ten years later she is still living abroad, now in Finland where she has been for just over two and a half years. Her favorite things about traveling and living abroad are meeting new people and learning about new cultures (which definitely includes trying all the local food!). She is the other co-creators of the Sincerely, Spain blog. You can also find Claudia on her Pinterest page and Facebook.
1) ”The official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish: Due to the history of Finland, Swedish is spoken as a first language by a small portion of the population. That is why you might see two languages on street signs or maps. In most cities, Finnish will appear first but in cities with more Swedish-speaking Finns, Swedish may even appear first. This is especially important to keep in mind when asking for directions or trying to follow a map.
2) The Finns love their coffee: Unlike southern Europe where they drink espresso-based drinks, in Finland they usually drink filter coffee and they love it! With one of the highest consumption per capita rates in the world, you will usually find options to buy a cup of coffee at most places (including supermarkets and bars). For those of you not used to drinking filter coffee, it can be more bitter and stronger than espresso.
3) Alcohol is expensive: While it is less expensive than in other Nordic countries, the alcohol tax in Finland is high and, therefore, alcohol is expensive here in Finland. In addition, you should know that you can only buy drinks with up to 5% alcohol in normal supermarkets and for everything else you’ll have to go to a specific shop—Alko. This doesn’t stop most Finns from drinking though and if you’ve planned accordingly to spend the money, a night out at a pub or karaoke bar (which Finns also love) will be an experience!
4) Prepare for the light differences in winter and summer: This is something they will tell you if you are coming to see the northern lights, but it is relevant for most visits. In the summer you can expect around 18 – 20 hours of sunlight in Helsinki and up to 24 the further north you go. In the winter it is the opposite and you can expect only a couple of hours of light (not even bright sunlight most of the time) in Helsinki and less the further north you go. To see the northern lights you need darkness but for enjoying everything else this country has to offer, summertime is probably better—just make sure to bring an eye mask or you might not be able to sleep.”
Trish in Tokyo
That.Trish is Tokyo and she’s giving you the insider travel tips of using the trains in Tokyo. Everything that I wish I knew before my first visit.
”Hey y’all! My name is Trish and I’m originally from the Lone Star State (it also goes by Texas (^_-) ). I’ve lived in Japan for 10 years; the first six were in Nagoya, but now I call Tokyo home. I’m basically an anime otaku, but I got my love of Japan from watching the old black and white Godzilla movies with my dad! Check out my YouTube channel for more about Japan and what it’s like to live here.”
”One thing that Japan is (in)famous for is crowded trains. I feel like that shows up a lot when people talk about traveling around the country. However, one thing that doesn’t really get mentioned a lot is how to navigate a crowded train during rush hour, or even etiquette tips to make the ride smoother for both you and your travel party as well as the regular commuters on the train.”
1) ”It’s a little terrifying at first, seeing so many people crowded on a train. Especially if you take an 8:00 am train in Shinjuku. It’s no joke packed to the point of “literally-nobody-else-can-fit.” The thing is- you can. The best advice someone gave me was to not wait for a less-crowded train, just try to squeeze in as best you can. If you wait, there is literally no telling how long you’ll be standing on the platform. Just go for it. It’ll give you something to talk about when you get back home, haha.
2) Don’t wear a lot of perfume or heavy cologne. If the train is as crowded as it is in 1), you are literally going to be shoulder-to-shoulder or even face-to-face with another commuter. Do both of you a favor and try not to have a strong-smelling fragrance on. It can be a little much on an already-crowded train.
3) Try to keep conversations to a low-volume when riding public transport in Japan. If nobody else is talking, it’s probably a good idea to wait until you get off of the train or bus to have your conversation. Just watch what others are doing.
Which brings me to the last one:
4) When getting off of a train or bus, don’t block the door waiting for another member of your party or looking at your phone. Please move to the middle of the platform and wait there. A lot. A LOT of people are getting on and off trains during busy times (or really even during non-peak times), remember to be courteous and not block the flow of people entering and exiting public transportation.”
Kiry in Egypt
Kiry in Egypt. “Hey there! My name is Kirsten, but everyone calls me Kiry and I share my expat life on Instagram as @minds_that_wander and share vlogs on Youtube as Minds That Wander. My husband and I met here in Egypt and moved back here together after we got married. He is studying at AUC while I work as a photographer/videographer and we feel extremely lucky to be living this dream come true together!”
1)”In Egypt, there seems to be a shortage of change. If you purchase anything with cash, chances are the owner of the establishment might not have exact change to give back to you. This is especially true of places like grocery stores and kiosks. If they don’t have change, they will most likely give you some gum or small candies to make up the difference!
2) When in need, find a pharmacy! First of all, any pharmacy I’ve been to has at least one employee who speaks english or another universal language. If you need directions or help of any kind, you’ll probably find someone at a pharmacy who can help. Second, if you find yourself in need of any medical care, go to a pharmacy first. They can give you a quick examination there and give you a prescription medication right away. If they think you need a specialist, they will let you know and point you in the right direction.
3) If you want to do a bit of travel inside Egypt, the GoBus is my go-to choice for long distance travel since they provide the most comfort and reliability for the best price. I defiantly would not recommend any bus service cheaper than Go-bus. If you want to go all out on the little details that make your bus ride more comfortable, Blue-Bus is as luxurious as they come in Egypt.
4) Haggling is very much a part of the cultural experience in Egypt, but it can be daunting for those of us who come from more structured/western countries. A good starting point is to offer half of the original asking price if you’re souvenir shopping somewhere like Khan el Khalili or the Pyramids (or any other tourist attraction). Don’t worry, it’s not offensive – it’s expected! Haggling is such a personal experience compared to picking out an item on a shelf and swiping your card. Don’t be afraid to embrace the experience.
5) As an experienced traveler, I’ve done a lot of sight seeing and navigation on my own, but Luxor is the one place I found it to be worth investing in a good tour guide. The tombs and temples are all quite spread out and trust me, its worth it to have A/C and a water cooler on your way from one place to the next. They can also help you get good deals when buying souvenirs since the haggling process in Luxor is especially intense.
6) When you go to a restaurant and order a tea or coffee with your meal, the server will bring your drinks after you’ve completely finished your food unless you specifically ask for them sooner. Egyptian culture is all about the quality time spent around food, so meal times are drawn out over quite a bit of time. For the same reason, servers with never rush you out the door by bringing your check to you unless you ask for it.”
Nicole in Turkey
NicoleTeachTravel is Nicole in Turkey. ”I am a 27 year old teacher living in Ankara, Turkey teaching 3rd grade. I previously taught in the South Korea for 2 years and before that I taught in my hometown of the Chicagoland Area, USA.”
”I live in Turkey, so there are quite a few places to see in this country that is filled with history, culture, and food. Most people visit the following places: south/southwest Turkey (Bodrum, Antalya, Izmir, etc.) and Istanbul of course and Kapadokya. However, there are some hidden places in between these big places that are a must to see.
1st tip: Get out of your comfort zone and try the local, hidden places that not many think of going to. There are many places in the south along the coast with more quiet beaches such as Demre, Oludeniz, Kas, and many others. The downside of this is the language barrier so make sure you have some sort of translator device on your phone to communicate. Tureng and Google Translate are two good apps for here.
2nd tip: Go to the Black Sea region. The Black Sea region is not a common place that many would think of going, but it is well worth it. While it may be a bit more conservative than the north, this place is also filled with beaches and beautiful nature to hike and see. Amasra and Sinop are two tourist places recommended, but if you want to get out and see nature, head to Giresun and Artvin. You won’t regret it because it has the most amazing food!
3rd tip: Fly or bus? Depending on where you are going, Turkey has great bus transportation and even more so flying has become popular and cheap within the last 10 years. You can fly to big cities and then take the bus. Both are cheap and the bus is more luxurious than any other country I’ve been to, by providing snacks and rest stops for food and bathroom. I do not recommend taking Metro bus company, they are known for broken down buses.
4th tip: Food is a staple in Turkey with a lot of different options depending on the region. The food captial of Turkey is Gaziantep. It is known for its kebab and baklava. Eat everything you can! Turkish tea is complimentary all over the country. Enjoy it and relax. If you are a vegetarian, be prepared to eat french fries and simple salad at most places.
5th tip: Have fun and be careful. Overall, Turkey is a very safe country despite what is said on the news. As a solo female traveler, you will have encounters with Turkish men quite often. Ignore it, don’t make eye contact, and trust your gut. Take any precautions you would in any country, and you will have a great experience!”
A huge thank you to each one of these lovely ladies. I am forever grateful and thankful for your contribution, collaboration and connection.
Find more Expat Dream Team collaborations, sharing customs, unwritten rules, food, and much more.