Tag Archives travel tips

Before You Rent a Car in Costa Rica: READ THIS!

by Thursday, February 18, 2016

I  just got back from Costa Rica a few weeks ago and there were many things I wanted to share about my experience. However there was one component that was most pressing. It’s in regards to renting a car in Costa Rica. From my experience and first hand observations, I wanted to inform travelers to consider not renting a car when visiting Costa Rica.  This may sound like an overstatement and must make you wonder why I feel the need to say this or even suggest this? To better clarify, I came up with ten reasons you shouldn’t rent a car in Costa Rica.

This is the one topic that came up continuously on my trip to Costa Rica and what my travel companions said I must share with people.

We rented a car because we knew we would be exploring many areas and figured it was the most economic and easiest way to get around. Boy were we ever in for a surprise. Even right from the start there were unexpected issues.


10 REASONS YOU SHOULDN’T RENT A CAR IN COSTA RICA

1.There are hidden fees at car rental companies in Costa Rica.

Before heading to Costa Rica and planning on renting a car, I was aware that it was highly suggested to get the extra insurance when doing so.  Thus, while booking my car rental through Expedia, I opted for the extra insurance, which was another $11.00/day. This was no big deal I thought. The price for the car rental was only $7.00 per day (which I thought had to be an error because it was so cheap), so when you add the extra insurance, it still only came to $18.00/day. I usually spend around $35.00/day for a car rental, therefore I thought the price was great and the extra sense of security would be worth it. However, when we got to the car rental place, that all changed.

They told us extra insurance or any insurance, for that matter, from a company in the USA  did not cover for anything in Costa Rica. What? How is that even possible and why would they offer it then? This is one of the hidden fees that I feel is so wrong. They use this loop-hole to pressure you into buying extra insurance, through them, and propose that you also give a $500.00 flat fee, to cover anything, which is (btw) non-refundable. So much for the great deal I thought I was getting! This was supposed to be $50.00 (for the car rental)+$77.00 (added insurance)= $127.00. I knew that was too good to be true. It was.  

After we said we didn’t want to cough up the non-refundable  additional $500.00, he told us, then he would  have to hold $2,500.00 on a credit card in case of damages.  So basically, even their insurance covered nothing! That was on top of my extra insurance through Expedia and my extra insurance through them!  It seemed completely ridiculous!

We ended up spending $408.00 for the week for all the added fees, GPS, hotspot, and extra insurance through them, and they held $2,500.00 which was released 48 hours after the car return. I really don’t understand how they can advertise such a cheap price on the internet, when it’s a total lie. This is even worse if you are a budget traveler. We saw four young backpacker guys renting a car at the same time as us. When they were explained all the hidden fees, especially the $2,500.00,  they were flipping out. That was all of their money. They didn’t have a credit cards, only debit cards. This could absolutely ruin someone’s vacation if they weren’t aware of this and didn’t have the money.  They ended up scrambling the $500.00 flat fee between them, but you could tell they were already upset about the unexpected spending that they were trying to avoid, and they were only there for less than an hour.   $125.00 to a young backpacker is a lot of money. Welcome to Costa Rica!

2. Costa Rican drivers are very aggressive.

 

I’m not trying to say the locals (or Ticos as they are called in Costa Rica) are not nice people. They are just the opposite. Every Tico or Tica I met was warm and friendly. It’s just that their driving is very aggressive and there seems to be no road rules that people follow. Now I’ve driven in New York City and other extremely intense driving situations, but nothing compared to the chaos that is felt on a busy traffic street in San Jose or a dirt cliff road in San Raphael, Costa Rica. Actually, that isn’t necessarily true, India was way worse, but nobody rents a car in India. That would be considered suicide! Luckily my husband was the one driving and he is a much better driver than I, but he agreed that they were the worst drivers he has ever dealt with.

3. The road conditions in Costa Rica is very bad.

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we had no idea how bad this road was going to get

The road conditions in Costa Rica go from bad to worse, depending on the area. If you are in the city of San Jose, the traffic is nuts and the road construction and potholes in the street make for bad driving conditions, not to mention the way they drive. If you get out of the city and feel relieved that you got away from all the craziness, it is almost worse in the mountains, but in a different way, especially if you are afraid of heights, like me. Many of the roads are dirt and have huge rocks throughout and if its raining, turns into muddy conditions, that without 4-wheel drive vehicle, it would be almost impossible to drive through. Then, you add the cliff drops on both sides of the road, shared bridges and the constant passing of cars, its enough to give anyone a heart attack. If that’s not bad enough, there is also fog when you get to higher elevations that is so thick that you can’t see one foot in front of you?  We experienced this near Monteverde and the Cloud Forest. This area is eerie, beautiful and almost mystical to witness, but driving in it is so scary.

4. The risk of car theft in Costa Rica is high.

Everyone told us over and over not to leave anything in our rental car because it will be stolen.  We figured since we would be moving around a lot that we could keep all of our valuables in the trunk.  “No way!” a Tico told us. “Everything will be stolen!” That was a huge inconvenience, especially when we were leaving one hotel, going on our day trip, and then checking into another hotel later that day. “Were we supposed to take our laptops and suitcases hiking with us?” It was awful. In certain situations we had to park and leave our stuff. We really had no other choice. We just took our money and passports with us and crossed our fingers. Fortunately, nothing was stolen, but the worry it would cause us, while we are trying to enjoy a nice hike through the amazing jungles of Costa Rica, kind of dulled our enthusiasm bit.

5. Driving in Costa Rica is so stressful.

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“cloud forest”

For most people, when you are on vacation you like to relax and enjoy yourself. The thing with driving in Costa Rica is you are always feeling stressed, whether you are scared while driving, hoping not to get into a car accident or drive off a cliff, or you’re worrying about the car getting broken into. How is this a fun and relaxing vacation? It’s not. On our worst day of driving, we had been on a four-hour drive from Jaco to La Fortuna and we drove literally over a mountain. It was the scariest, most intense car ride I have ever experienced. Being in the fight or flight response mode for that long was overwhelmingly exhausting. Once we arrived and were relieved that it was over and we didn’t die, we all were mentally and emotionally drained. I had a migraine and none of us barely spoke at dinner, we felt traumatized.  It was really that bad.

6. Driving in Costa Rica is time consuming.

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Most likely when you go on a vacation you have only so much time. With that being said, would you want to spend most of your one or two-week, hard-earned vacation in a car, fearing for your life? Me neither. I think one of our biggest mistakes about Costa Rica is how far each area was to one another. On a map, locations may not appear to be too far from one another, but if add the road conditions, construction, and traffic, you will most likely double the time you were initially expecting your journey to take. I think the best way to explore Costa Rica is to choose one area, and not four. If you are really keen on seeing more than just one area, then booking a tour might be the best option. That way you can leave the driving to the bus driver, who is used to these conditions and you can just sit back and relax.

7. The chances of getting into a car accident is very high.

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This one is an obvious one due to all that I mentioned above. The car rental place basically said to us that we were more likely to get into a car accident than not. Awesome! How is that for reassurance? I also had read about this and heard about this from others, which made me a little worried, but I thought it might be an exaggeration or at least I hoped it was. We hadn’t even gotten the rental car and we were mentally preparing ourselves that we would most likely get into a wreck. That seemed crazy to think like that, but we did. My head was spinning.

Thank goodness we didn’t get into a car accident, but there were numerous times that we came uncomfortably close to one. Each time it happened I thought, “Welp, here it is. They were right!”, but for some reason though, we narrowly escaped from any. I like to think it was because of my reiki energy protecting us and my husband likes to think it was because of his Nascar style driving skills. Maybe he is right? lol

8. Addresses in Costa Rica don’t always exist.

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If you do, after reading my warning about renting a car in Costa Rica, decide to give it a go, make sure you get a GPS and even better, one with a hotspot. If you don’t,  you will definitely get lost. Even with the GPS and hotspot that we opted for, there were some places that just didn’t have an address. Some places may have coordinates, but no physical address.  This was extremely difficult for finding things. So, what I would also suggest is if you have a place you want to go to and they have no physical address, try dropping a pin in the area you think it would be.  Then, drive to the pin and keep your eyes peeled for signs. It’s much better than driving through the mountains or jungle aimlessly. That just reminded me of another tip. If at all possible, don’t drive at night. It’s hard enough to drive during the day. Driving at night would just add to your anxiety and stress and if you are lost, it would be a total nightmare.

9. Parking in Costa Rica is sometimes a challenge. 

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Parking for TICOS ONLY

Parking is another tricky thing to deal with because some areas have nowhere to park, while others have parking, but you aren’t really sure if it is safe. The last thing you want to do is come back from an activity and find your rental car is gone or broken into. There were many times that we skipped stopping to see something just because we didn’t know where it was safe to park.  A total bummer.

10. They try to scam you out of more  money at car rental places when you return your car. 

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I met a women while we were at a dentist office in San Jose, for our dental tourism story, who was from Alaska and this was her fifth visit to Costa Rica for dental treatment. We of course discussed the driving and how nuts it was!  She learned as we did, that driving in Costa Rica was for the birds. When she comes to Costa Rica now, she refuses to rent a car. “The stress of it all is just too much!”, she said. She gave me a really good tip,  that I’m so glad she did before we returned the rental car.

She told me that the car rental companies (not all, but many in Costa Rica) have a sneaky way of adding charges at the end. She said it happened to her, a few of her friends, as well as to people that she has met along the way through her travels in Costa Rica.  She didn’t want it to happen to me.

THE SCAM

What they do is check the car for damages after.  That’s the usual part. It could be anything from a scratch to a dented bumper. They look, jot a few things down and then ask you to sign the release form without saying anything and while you are signing, another worker takes the car off the lot.  What’s unusual is, then when you get back home you may find a charge for $100.00 for damage to a rental car, taken straight out of your deposit that you signed for.  By that time, going through all the steps to remove it becomes such a hassle that most people don’t bother fighting it.

She suggested you stay with the worker while they are looking and when they ask you to sign, look at what they wrote, even if they say, “it’s just signing that you returned the car.” Also, if possible, to have someone stay in the car. That way they can’t use the excuse,“Well there was a scratch on the car but now its off the lot so you can’t see it”  That’s what they did to her and they knew she was in a rush to get to the airport and didn’t have time to wait for them to go back and get it. How convenient.

They, in fact , tried to do this with us. I stayed in the car while my husband walked around with the worker, he wrote something down and asked my husband sign. My husband asked what he wrote.  He wrote that there was a scratch and they were charging us $50.00 for it. When my husband asked,” Where?”, the guy couldn’t produce a scratch. He was pointing to an area of the car that just had some dirt on it.

Luckily, he knew we were on to his scam and didn’t charge us for it, but otherwise, I’m sure the same exact thing would have happened to us.  Can you imagine how much extra income they make from this little scam that unknowing tourists fall for on a daily basis?


thewanderlustyogi.netI hope this warning will help better inform those who are considering renting a car in Costa Rica. Even after reading this, you may still decide to rent a car, which is totally fine, but I’m convinced that learning these tips and words of caution beforehand would be very beneficial. I know I wish I knew what we were getting ourselves into in hindsight.

In closing, I  want to express, although I would never rent a car again on any upcoming visits to Costa Rica, that doesn’t mean I didn’t love this country. It was a gorgeous country with so much biodiversity. This place is absolutely beautiful and offers so much in one small country. Costa Rica is literally a nature lovers dream. I will be going back in six month for my husband to finish dental work he is in the process of getting in Costa Rica. On this next trip, however, we will leave the driving to the Ticos. You live and learn.

 

HOW TO AVOID BAGGAGE FEES FLYING SPIRIT AIRLINES

by Friday, January 15, 2016

If you have ever flown with Spirit Airlines (www.spiritairlines.com), then you already know how no-frills they are. Not only are their seats cramped, they don’t serve you any drinks or snacks for free, not even water, but the biggest complaint by customers, are their outrageous baggage fees. That was why I decided I needed to help my readers with tips on how to avoid baggage fees flying Spirit Airlines.


 

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SPIRIT AIRLINES BAGGAGE FEES (BASIC BREAKDOWN):

  • 1 personal bag (12x14x16)= FREE
  • 1 carry-on bag(10x18x22)= $50.00
  • 1 checked bag (H+W+L= 62 inches)= $45.00

The prices vary, depending on when you purchase the extra baggage, the size of baggage and if you are in their “9 fare club”( $59.95 membership):

  • if you book baggage using “9 fare club” at the time of purchasing flight(carry-on=$25.00 and checked bag=$30.00)
  • if you book baggage at the time of purchasing flight (carry-on bag= $35.00 and checked bag=$30.00)
  • if you book baggage when you do online check-in(carry-on bag= $45.00 and checked bag=$40.00)
  • if you book baggage at the airport ticket counter(carry-on bag= $50.00 and checked bag=$45.00)
  • if you wait until the gate to discover your bag isn’t (12x14x16) be prepared to pay $100.00 per bag!

For the latest details on pricing for optional baggage and special sized items on Spirit Airlines, here is the link to the website with this information: Spirit Airlines baggage fee prices


thewanderlustyogi.net


 

If you are going to suffer through this style of travel, you might as well make it worth while and not let the airline trick you with hidden (or unanticipated) tacked on fees. Otherwise, you might as well pay the extra for a fancier airline, because you will end up paying the same in the long run,  if you don’t know the inside scoop and how to avoid these hidden fees.

Being an avid traveler, I know travel isn’t always pretty, especially when you want to travel more, for less. I am a very low-maintenance girl and love stretching my dollar, so I don’t mind sticking with the bare essentials, if it means I get to see more destinations.  Somehow when I changed from a regular traveler (2 weeks per year) to a travel blogger; fashion, makeup, accessories, dressy clothes, hair styling tools, all kind of went out the window.

Also, the type of accommodations that I accepted prior to a life of travel, to now, has drastically decreased. I guess when you look at it as work, as opposed to going all out, for your “big vacation”,  you look at things differently? That doesn’t mean all travel bloggers are like me. Some travel with a tons of beauty accessories, always dolled-up, have lots of bags and only fly business class and stay at 5 star hotels. Many though, learn through experience, ” The simpler, the better.”  So flying Spirit Airlines wasn’t an issue for me until I realized how expensive it could actually be, if you weren’t aware of all of their restrictions and additional costs.


 

In November, I bought a Spirit Airlines flight on a flash-sale because of a ridiculously low fare, from Boston to San Jose, Costa Rica, that was unbeatable.  $150.00 ROUNDTRIP! I have been searching for these flights for a while, planning our upcoming “dental tourism” trip”. This price was more than half off the normal fares I was finding.

(Here is a link to it if you are interested:Dental Tourism in Costa Rica)

That was so cheap and I knew I would never find a fare any lower than that. So, I booked it and felt like I beat the system. Wooo! In order to really get my money’s worth though, I would also have to not pay for extra baggage. This would be very tricky, but not impossible. I would have to bring a carry-on ONLY and not even have a purse or small bag in addition. It’s not allowed. Well, for FREE anyways. Also, take note, their bag allowance is called a “personal item” and is so small (12x14x16), no wonder why people always end up bringing the wrong size and paying up to $100.00 each way for that bag.

No way! That’s not happening to me, or you either, once you finish reading this.


 

Initially,  I was just going to get the smaller sized NorthFace women’s surge backpack, since that’s the brand of my big backpack and I feel like it’s very durable and functional. That would set me back $129.00.  I didn’t really want to, but I’d rather spend the money on something I can keep for future Spirit Airlines trips and I surely didn’t want to hand that money over to them.

 

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women’s NorthFace surge backpack $129.00

My husband pulled up Amazon Prime and we were ready to order. On closer inspection, we discovered that NorthFace backpacks (even the smallest ones) were 2 inches larger than accepted as a “personal item” with Spirit Airlines. Damn it! And, OMG! We almost spent the money for new backpacks (specifically for this trip, flying with Spirit Airlines), and would have found out (at the airport!) that they weren’t allowable and would have to pay the baggage fee on top of that! Yikes!


I’m so glad we were paying attention to this huge detail.  So, we starting looking at all other brands of backpacks. Wouldn’t you know it, none would fit Spirit Airlines criteria. I googled, “what bag to use on Spirit Airlines as a personal item” and other subject lines close to that search. Not to my surprise, so many others had that same question in the search que.

The repetitive and consensus answer was the same from almost every source:  American Tourister- Atmosphera II, which can be bought at your local Wal-Mart store.

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American Tourister Atmosphera II (overnight bag)

The size of this bag is the exact dimensions needed (12x14x16) for a FREE, personal item on Spirit Airlines. Perfect! I went to Wal-Mart to see for myself, I even used measuring tape to be absolutely sure. It was true, so I had to get it. You can too. They sell it at all Wal-Mart stores and online for $39.00.

Here is the link:Walmart.com American Tourister Atmosphera II overnight bag $39.00


 

To be honest, this bag is not the fanciest bag, nor one I would normally be excited to buy, but, and the big but is, it is how to avoid baggage fees flying Spirit Airlines. If you use this bag, and I mean, “This bag ONLY.” 

*YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY ANY BAGGAGE FEES* 

With that said, I also wanted to show you how it IS possible to pack for a one-week trip to Costa Rica, (because that’s where I’m going) just using this American Tourister-Atmosphera II bag.


 

I also made a YouTube video that shares this packing list, that uses the American Tourister Atmosphera II bag ONLY. It takes a lot of will-power (even for a light packer like me) to not want to bring way more things. I will admit that this is the lightest I have ever packed, but if you can do it too, it could save a lot of money.

You could use this money  you saved on more excursions, souvenirs, or a nice meal on your trip, or even use it towards your next trip. Whatever you use it for, at least it isn’t good money being thrown away just to lug stuff around with you.

Here is the video:

 


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What I’m bringing for a one-week trip to Costa Rica, flying on Spirit Airlines, using an allowable FREE bag

PACKING LIST:

  • 2 pens
  • mini notebook
  • passport
  • wallet
  • chapstick/ lipgloss
  • feminine products
  • small flashlight
  • cell phone
  • GoPro
  • camera
  • selfie stick
  • tripod
  • floating GoPro handle
  • phone charger/GoPro and camera chargers
  • GoPro chest mount/ GoPro head mount, GoPro accessories
  • adaptable charger (if needed)
  • disposable wipes
  • deodorant
  • toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
  • 8 shirts
  • 5 shorts
  • 1 yoga pant
  • 1 elephant casual pants
  • collapsible backpack
  • 1 pair sandals or flip-flops
  • 1 pair water shoes
  • snorkel set
  • 2 bras/ 2 sports bras
  • 7 underwear
  • 3 swimsuits

*if you don’t have a GoPro and all those accessories, you can use that space for 3 oz. sized toiletries and makeup. On Spirit Airline trips, I’ve decided to purchase toiletries at my destination to save space.


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What to wear (layered, comfortable clothing):

  • leggings
  • bra and underwear (or wear a swimsuit as your undergarments)
  • tank top
  • t-shirt
  • sweatshirt
  • light cardigan or sweater
  • socks
  • sneakers or hiking shoes
  • scarf
  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • ear buds

 

I hope these tips helped to show you how to avoid baggage fees flying Spirit Airlines. Trying to get great deals traveling can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. However, the more travel tips people share, from their own experience, the easier, cheaper, and better, travel becomes for everyone!


 

P.S.  Three other tips that could help:

  1. Don’t forget to print your boarding pass and check-in online. If you wait until you get to the airport to get your boarding pass, they charge you $10.00 to print it for you. 
  2. Bring your own snacks or get something at the airport to bring with you on the plane.
  3. Purchase liquids (soda, water, coffee) at gate before boarding. 

 

 

 

Reykjavik, Iceland: A Perfect Stopover

by Friday, September 11, 2015

Last summer I took Iceland Air (www.icelandair.com) for the first time on our trip to Paris and Amsterdam. The reason we chose Iceland Air, simply, was the cost.  They had great deals to many of Northern Europe destinations.  The flights left in the evening, like most other US to Europe flights, but with a stop in Reykjavik.

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The Blue Lagoon, Iceland


I never even considered a visit to Iceland before, but it is something I kept hearing about as a new “hot spot” for travelers.  I was intrigued.


The week before my trip I was at work (still a full-time dental hygienist at the time) and I saw a patient that traveled a lot for his job. I loved seeing him because we got to talk about world travel instead of just the usual, “do you floss” talk. When I told him about my upcoming trip, he asked which airlines. When I said Iceland air he told me about this amazing deal. He said that Iceland  Air was trying to promote Iceland  tourism and will offer, up to a 7 day stopover, for no additional charge. At first I didn’t believe him because he was always joking around with me, but by the end of his appointment I knew I had to look into this.

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I got home and did some research. He was right!! I was so excited and yelled to my husband, “What do you think about staying one night in Reykjavik Iceland?” We did have one extra day on our vacation because it fell on Labor day weekend. He said, “Sure, that sounds great”

This deal is still going on today.  here is the link:http://www.icelandair.us/flights/stopover/

I was pumped! To think I would not only be seeing Paris and Amsterdam( for the first time), but now also be able to squeeze in a little visit to the “Land of Fire and Ice.” How cool!

I immediately brought up my reservation and looked up contact information on how to go about the change in my flight.  I called and spoke to a Iceland Air representative. She stated that this is possible and people do it all the time, but she would have to check the availability of seats. A minor detail I forgot due to my excitement!  Guess what happened next? Yep, it was a no go. Especially being a holiday weekend , there were actually overbooked by 10%. Bummer!!

I guess it wasn’t meant to be?


 

Fast forward to this summer.  My girlfriend from work was taking a trip with her mom to visit their homeland of Poland.  She was ironically taking Iceland Air. I had previously told her about the deal and she thought it would be a great opportunity to take herself.  She booked he flight with  3 day stopover in Reykjavik.  I told her I was excited and wished I was able to have done that last summer.

She said, “Why don’t you join us?” “Just for the Iceland portion of our trip.”

I thought about it and decided to take a quick check of price quotes first.  I found a deal for $432.00 round trip on WOW Airlines.  What the hell was Wow Airlines? I’ve never heard of it, but whatever. I’ve flown Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com,) I’m not picky.

So I booked it!thewanderlustyogi.net


 

In the few months of planing and seeing what I wanted to do on my quick trip, my husband said he was interested in going as well.  He works as a home inspector, so summers are crazy busy and he works constantly. He said it would be a perfect  long weekend getaway (less than a 5 hour flight) to relax after an exhausting work season. I was thrilled.

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At Boston Logan airport doing my daily headstand challenge, waiting for my flight to Reykjavik, Iceland

The first thing on my bucket list to check off, was to see the Blue Lagoon (http://www.bluelagoon.com.) I always thought that seemed like such an unique and awesome thing to see, but ever since I was watching (dare I even admit this?), The Bachelor, (cough, cough), television show and their episode in Iceland, I knew that it would have to be a must on my ever-expanding travel destination wish list.

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Northern Lights viewed from my WOW airlines flight

The Blue Lagoon is situated about 20 minutes north  from the Keflavik airport and in route to Reykjavik, which is approximately 45 minutes from the Keflavik airport (something that many people aren’t aware of). Because of this, it is recommended to visit the Blue Lagoon either on the way in from your flight or on the way out to your flight. This way you can use your time wisely (since many visitors here are on a stopover ).


 

Day 1: Blue Lagoon and checking into our AIRBNB

We decided to do it right when we got there. The flights that come into Keflavik International airport from the US come in very, very early. Iceland Air around 7:00 am and WOW Airlines at 4:00!!! This part was a bit inconveniencing. It’s not like you can check into your hotel that early and nothing is open.

W got in from our flight and hung out at a juice and coffee place called Joe and the Juice (http://www.joeandthejuice.com.)  It had great health smoothies, coffee, lattes, cappuccinos and hand sandwiches. Our car rental place didn’t even open up until 6am, but our reservation wasn’t until 7:00 am. Lots of waiting around.

thewanderlustyogi.net

arrived at 4:00am in Keflavik International Airport, sitting at Joe and the Juice drinking coffee until anything else opens. Boy is it cold here!! 40 degrees!!!

We finally got our car and started heading to the Blue Lagoon. We got there early.  Our reservation was from 8:00 am-11:00am. The very first block. They do 3 hour appointments, which was plenty of time to enjoy the warm and milky blue waters.

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just checking off the bucket list!

There are 3 different packages from a basic entry to a luxury experience.  I decided that this is where we would splurge on our trip. I wanted to have a private changing room and spa area to lounge around in and have a bathrobe, slippers, towel, spa products, drinks and snacks. The basic entry ticket did not provide any extras and you would be changing in a crowded room, not unlike a YMCA. I didn’t want that. I wanted this experience to be special.

We were greeted and walked down to our private “members only” area.  We felt like VIP’s and enjoyed every minute of this special treatment and private area. Although it was much pricier, I think it was well worth it.  My friend and her mom didn’t indulge in the luxury ticket and they didn’t enjoy it as much. My friend said, when I asked her how they liked it,  responded, “It was nothing special. I felt like the whole thing is over-rated. It isn’t even natural. It is heated by a power plant!”

In spite of the fact that this is true, I still feel like, natural or not, this place is the bomb! Where else in the world can you swim in a geothermal bath? Not many places at all!   I know I will never probably get to do this again in my lifetime. (I am writing another post that will give a in-depth look into our Blue Lagoon experience soon.) Also note, that there are many naturally occuring geothermal pools in Iceland, plenty right within the Reykjavik region.

When we were done with our Blue Lagoon visit we headed into Reykjavik to have lunch at a cafe that was recommended.  We figured we could walk around a bit and explore the area before heading to check into our airbnb rental ( http://www.airbnb.com), which was about 20 minutes away.

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veggie sandwich at Laundromat Cafe

We ate at the The Laundromat Cafe (http://www.thelaundromatcafe.com. It was a funky, eclectic style, casual place. They offered free wi-fi with the password:iloveyou. Their menu had the usual American staple dishes such as burgers, salads and club sandwiches, which I was  a little disappointed in. I wanted to try some authentic Icelandic dish.  I guess I could do that somewhere else?  I had a veggie sandwich and my husband had a burger. We hung out and used the wi-fi and after eating, both felt extremely tired.  I think the combination of an overnight flight with little to no sleep, taking a 3 hour bath and then filling our bellies, was enough to make us feel ready for a nap. It was still too early for check-in, ugh! We walked around a little but were eager to just relax for the night in our airbnb house rental.

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Reykjavik

When it was time for check in, we drove to the address and waited to meet the person who was letting us in.  (This is another whole post I will share about later) We waited 2 hours! Due to miscommunication, the person thought she was meeting us at 5:00pm, but we thought we were meeting us at 3:00pm. It was torture waiting to be able to take a shower, lay down or just use the bathroom, especially after landing 12 hours prior,  but finally we got to stop and take a breather.

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airbnb rental in Iceland

We decided on a quick and casual dinner, since we were tired, and certainly had to try their famous hotdogs called a pylsur while visiting.  This would be the perfect time to.  The hotdog is made with a combination of pork, beef and lamb and is the Pride of Iceland.  We found a restaurant that served them, literally 2 minutes from our rental.  We got two each. We had them, as the say, “Clinton style” with mustard only.  This is how you should order it, I’m told by locals.  Their mustard was different, almost like a honey mustard, but not quite. I must admit, the hot-dogs were delicious!

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Icelandic hotdogs “pylsur”


 

Day 2: Spent the Day in Reykjavik

I’m not sure if we were just generally tired or the 4 hour time difference affected us but we slept late. Very late! So late that the day we had planned, touring the “Golden Circle” with my friend and her mom was not going to happen. I couldn’t make them wait for us.

They did the tour themselves and we had to readjust our travel itinerary. No big deal. I never like to over plan anyway. The best things that happened on any of my previous travels, were always on a whim. Not to mention, this was supposed to be a somewhat relaxing trip for my husband. No stress.  We decided to go find some lunch (now that it was afternoon by the time we got ready) and we wanted lobster soup. It was cold out and it seemed fitting since it is a popular Icelandic dish.  I’m all about trying other culture’s foods. While I showered I asked my husband to look on tripadvisor (one of my favorite goto travel resources) to find who makes the best lobster soup in Reykjavik.  On his research he found the Saegreifinn Restaurant (http://www.saegreifinn.is.), located right in Reykjavik harbor.

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lobster soup

You can’t get much fresher than that. We drove the 20 minutes, parked our rental car in the  parking garage, which had ridiculously low hourly rates, and walked over tho the harbor side.  The restaurant was a little fishing village style place. It was very small with benches lined up where you actually sit side by side with other customers and order at a counter.  A completely basic setup so if you are looking for a comfortable dining atmosphere, this wouldn’t be it. On the menu- pretty much just lobster soup.

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minke whale anyone??

They also had open refrigerated section with fresh fish to buy by the kg. I went over for a browse.  They had mink whale, cringe!! No thank you, but the lobster soup was, as the review promised, “delicious”!!!

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Saegreifinn Restaurant

After our bellies were full and we were warmed up, we headed over the weekend flea market called the Kolaportid Flea Market. I was so excited because I love flea markets and if we would have gone to the “Golden Circle” tour we would have missed it. I was in search of a handmade Icelandic wool sweater. I guess that’s what you need to buy when you are here.  The prices were super high for these at all the souvenir shops, I thought for sure I could get a better deal at the flea market.

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Kolaportid- the weekend flea market

I was wrong! Even at the flea market they sold for no less than $200.00 USD. I just couldn’t justify it.  Wool has already been my least favorite material. It’s so itchy! I realize you can wear this over clothes and it is extremely warm but for $200.00, I know I wouldn’t get the use out of it to justify the price.  No sweater for me.

We walked around the main street called Laugavegur, which had gift shops (more sweaters) coffee shops, restaurants and plenty of bars.  We found our way to the Hallgrimskirkja church. It was remarkable looking and tall. It almost looked like a tall “Lego block” building . We went in and were going to go to the top for only $6.oo USD for a lift ticket, but ended up just strolling around inside and outside of the building.  I’m afraid of heights anyway.thewanderlustyogi.net

We walked all day. Reykjavik isn’t a very big city, but it has a lot or character and European charm. The colorful buildings and cobblestone roads were pretty to wander around on. Something to point out that didn’t dawn on me until I came back home was, we never felt unsafe the entire time we were there. The thought of our safety was never even spoke of. I can’t say the same on my visit to India, Thailand and the United Emirates. That was always on the forefront of my mind.

I think Iceland would make a perfect solo travel destination for females.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe later walked along the ocean path and saw the Sun Voyager structure. It was impressive, but it started to rain so we took a few snaps and headed toward the Harpa (http://www.harpa.is.) This is the central hub for all entertainment and cultural events in Reykjavik. It had unique architecture with mirrored cubes all around the building.  We made this our final stop before deciding on dinner.

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The Harpa

For dinner we chose a cute sushi place called, Sushi The Train (http://www.osushi.is.)  They set it up with a conveyor belt (almost like a baggage claim belt you would find at an airport, but on a smaller scale) and chairs lined up on either side.  They place offered different types of sushi and Japanese dishes. As the food  drives by, you can choose which dish you would like to try by just taking it. By the end of your meal, you bring the “color coded” plates to the counter (each one has a different value) and pay the total.  It was very inexpensive and a fun and easy way to end our day in Reykjavik.thewanderlustyogi.net

We headed back to our car and paid the parking garage fee. it was less than $4.00 USD and we were there the entire afternoon!! I was shocked how cheap it was since everything else in Iceland seemed very expensive.


 

TIP: They say the night life and bar scene in Reykjavik is taken very seriously by the locals. However, the drinks are super expensive, so the Icelandic bar-hoppers are known for  staying at home early and drinking first, before heading out to the bars at around midnight and partying way into the night.  So, if you go there for happy hour and wonder where all the people are? Just wait, it will get busy late night, so pace yourself.  Unfortunately, I can’t give you my opinion on the bars since I don’t drink, but there were a ton! I’m sure you wouldn’t have any problem finding a drinking hole to enjoy some spirits with Icelandic locals.


 

Day 3: Waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls, geysers and a black sand volcano beach

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Selijalandsfoss waterfall

We got an early start this day. We knew we had a lot of ground to cover missing the first day out on the road. We decided to do our own version of the “Golden Circle” tour. We chose to focus on the  south-west region of Iceland. We would head south to the beach in Vik, and make our way back up and around to see the popular waterfalls and geyser. That would fulfill our wishlist and we could do it all in a day trip.

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there were backpackers everywhere we looked…some even hitchhiking!

On our way to Vik we passed the Selijalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. They were beautiful as we thought and we saw dall sheep, horses and beautiful mountain landscapes as we drove. At least it was very scenic views for our 2 hour drive.

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driving in Iceland

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One thing that slipped my mind was the steep walks and stairs leading to viewpoints you are required to take to see these natural wonders. Like I said earlier, I am deathly afraid of heights! This day was full of amazing sights, but also gave me extreme anxiety. I tried my best to enjoy, but with my husband playing jokes on me, pretending he was about to fall, seeing tourists hanging off the edges, trying to take extreme selfies and kids running, with no parents in site, along the hundred foot drops, I was about to have several heart attacks!

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Skogafoss waterfall

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We finally made our way to the beach in Vik. Initially, we were at the top cliffs area, beautiful, but again the heights! ugh!!  Until we ended up on the black sand beach. This by far was my favorite area. I am partial to any beach, but the views all around, the black sand and lava rock formations, were nothing I have ever seen before.  We spend some time in a cave along the stretch of beach and my husband even spotted a puffin in the distance. thewanderlustyogi.netWe were lucky that this happened to be the nicest day of our 3 day stay (6o degrees and sunny).  We felt the ocean and were surprised that the temperature was much warmer than you might expect for Icelandic ocean waters. We even suggested that the oceans in our home state of New Hampshire, USA might be colder!

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Vik, Iceland

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I got to do my daily headstand challenge here at Vik, Iceland!

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My husband had a flooding thought of taking a swim in the ocean, just to say he did it, but just as quickly as the thought flooded in, it flooded out. He knew we still had a half day ahead of driving and touring and didn’t want to be uncomfortable. Poor sport! Just kidding. It would have been funny to see, but I agree, he may be freezing and wet all day, and I would NEVER do that. I have Reynaud’s syndrome! I would end up with hypothermia.  Visiting that beach and being able to do my daily headstand (#365headstandschallenge)  there, was more than I could ask for. It was awesome!

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campers at Skogafoss waterfall

We started to get hungry, but were pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We remembered that they had a hostel and restaurant at the bottom of Skogafoss  falls an it was on our way back towards our next stops. We figured we could have a little lunch there and head to the next stop after our break. The food was surprisingly good and inexpensive. We assumed, it was after all, a camper site/hostel area and tourist attraction, that it would be the usual burger and hot-dogs, but no. They had all sorts of Icelandic dishes and options. I was excited.thewanderlustyogi.net I ordered a lamb stew to share and picked char fish for my meal (its kind of like a salmon and a local fish). My husband ordered the leg of lamb. We even treated ourselves to dessert because they had a skyr cake, that we couldn’t pass up. Iceland is one of the only known places where you can find skyr (according to the locals), besides Denmark, Sweden and Norway, so we had to. It was very good, but if you have ever tried skyr before, you would think it was yogurt. It doesn’t seem so outlandish a treat. Also, when I got home, I found some at my neighborhood grocery store (in the yogurt section).  None the less, everything was so good and our bill was only $47.00 USD.  We were very happy that we chanced it and ended up having an awesome and authentic Icelandic meal.thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.net

Off to the geyser. The road that we took leading to it was so scary! It was so skinny and literally hanging off a cliff. It had many “shared bridges” which is a common thing in Iceland, where you have to share it with the oncoming traffic.  The road ended up going to dirt and I wasn’t even sure if our car would make it.

Another side note: its best to get a 4×4 car to rent. We were okay with the 2-wheel drive car, but if we had gone on more roads like this we would have needed a 4×4. Some roads don’t even allow anything other than 4×4 cars on it.

 Like it said on our dashboard of instructions from the car rental company. “Driving in Iceland is different.” Besides skinny, windy and cliff side roads, possible wildlife, sharing bridges, there is also the risk of falling rocks. If that doesn’t concern you, don’t forget in the winter, without proper gear and blankets, you could risk death by hypothermia if stranded roadside. I’m just so happy my husband joined, otherwise I would have had to drive. Yikes!


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The geyser was really interesting and I was happy that it (went off ) erupted in very short intervals..I wasn’t really sure about that and was so glad we could easily capture it’s eruption more than once.  It was getting cold so stopping there when the sum was starting to set was a good thing. The heat coming off these gurgling water holes was intense. The sign read that it could reach 80-100 degrees celsius and to stay away. The steam was so hot. We even may have gotten little too close at one of the eruptions. No wonder why we were the only ones standing there? The most memorable thing would probably be the overwhelmingly smell of sulfur that you couldn’t escape.  My husband may have gotten away with a few gaseous releases from his big lamb dinner that I would have not noticed.  He kept giggling every so often, saying, “Excuse me” as to joke, but I think he may have required that excuse me even if we weren’t at the geyser.

Lastly, we stopped at Iceland’s most visited waterfall Gullfoss. Since it was extremely close to the geyser we couldn’t miss this one. Gullfoss was the largest of the waterfalls and the most impressive. I’m not sure which was scarier; standing on the jutted out lookout at Skogafoss or the wet and slippery, rocky ledge of this bad boy? They were both terrifying, yet a marvel to witness.

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Gullfoss waterfall

 

Since we drove for nearly 12 hours that day, accomplishing all the sights we wanted to see, we decided to just get take-out for dinner and call it a night. We couldn’t wait to see all the footage and pictures we took of this amazing day in Iceland. We stopped at a nearby pizza place. Naturally, we got the “Boston-style pizza”

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crosses along the road in Selfoss heading back to Reykjavik from Vik


 

Iceland has many unique natural wonders to visit, from their breathtaking waterfalls, awe-inspiring glaciers, gorgeous black sand beaches, rejuvenating geothermal oasis pools, volcanic mountains and bubbling geysers. These are things you can’t just see anywhere.  With Iceland Air and WOW Airlines offering cheaper flights daily than their competitors, from  the US to Europe and discount deals for stopovers, why not take advantage of them and get to see the land of Fire and Ice for a day or two? The prices on these airlines to European cities, such as Amsterdam, Paris, London,Copenhagen, Barcelona, Dublin, Milan, (just to name a few), provide such savings, that a quick stopover in Reykjavik wouldn’t break the bank. You never know, you may even see a troll?

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