europe travel

Vlog Gallery from the Road 40 months of travel…

Second trip to Bangkok, entry March 9th, 2023, previous entry was December 10th, 2019… just before travel during coronavirus!

Next… India… a country of significant monuments, population and a lot of dirt and trash… (but the photos turned out well!). I really hold a neutral opinion of the country but it does have pluses, such as the food, price, and weather forecast.

Saudi Arabia stopover and Romania stopover, my second time and meeting an old friend! My original flight from Saudi to India got canceled so i decided to stay at the airport for 1 day, then take an earlier flight. Flight on Jan. 30th, 2023. Flight to Bucharest from Athens dated Jan. 25th, 2023.

Next up in reverse, order Athens, Greece! Flight in from Tirana, Albania! Nice to be on the road again! Flight via Wizzair on Jan. 7th 2023. It was snowing in Bucharest so had to plan for winter and summer once i get to Thailand, a few stops away! Left Athens on Jan. 25th, 2023.

Stopover/Rest Albania, Tirana, visit #3 … I spent this time to retool my clothing and my gear, and replaced or added some smaller items for my next unique adventure to Greece, India, and Thailand, and the Mideast! Entry to Albania from Milan Italy on … I had to look this up.. 11/08/2022.

Next stop in reverse order.. Italy, flew to Pisa from Tenerife on an affordable on Nov. 3rd, 2022, and bussed it to Milan on Nov. 7th, 2022, where I then caught a flight to Tirana on November 8th/9th 2022. The reasoning was to spend less time in more expensive countries my two stop Italy trip did not disappoint!

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, rewinding again (my second time in Tenerife (and 2nd time in London). I flew to Tenerife South airport from London Stansted on Sep. 9th, 2022, and from Tenerife South to Pisa on Nov. 3, 2022. Over here in Tenerife I was boondocking it for most of the 42 days that I was on the island.

Next up going in reverse the country of Poland… London was a stopover so not counting as a visit, i came from Krakow and took a flight to London, then another Ryanair flight to Tenerife. . My bus from Gdansk to Krakow was on Sep. 14th, 2022 via the Flixbus. The flight to London was on Sep. 21st giving me 7 days in Krakow… The flight to Gdansk was on Sep. 12th, 2022.

I took yet another Flixbus from Stockholm to Oslo, Norway. One of my most interesting experiencing camping in the wild woods in central Norway, I came into contact with some magnificent forests and a wild boar! I came to Oslo on Sep. 3rd 2022 from Stockholm.

Going back in time, the next country I visited was Stockholm Sweden. I came via Flixbus on August 30th, 2022. Here are some photos from Stockholm below…

Planning a backpacking trip to Eastern Europe, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland…

Hello traveling guys and girls! Its now time to get down to brass tacks again and look at my travel planning and ill tell you what I plan on doing, when, and how, and by what modes of transport. This is for me just my personal travel plan to eastern Europe. It should be exciting and perhaps for you somewhat informative.

Now you may have heard the news that travel this summer in Europe is really going through the roof, with a lot of Americans now visiting Europe because the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. This has caused the price of accommodation to rise if you are looking for something in a major tourist destination like Paris. So the plan for me is to stay in eastern Europe most of the time because its significantly cheaper than western locations.

So on with the plan, I did some research on the country of North Macedonia, here. It’ll be my first destination via bus. The bus will cost 20 euro/$22 USD and the good news about going by bus is that usually a traveler can get a seat on the bus the same day, so i dont plan to have to take it way ahead of time like a flight, and there is no security. Now the bad news about bus travel is that its significantly slower than airline travel. Why am I taking a bus? Because I would like to enjoy the scenery out the windows and enjoy the ride. The ride to Skopje will be 8 hours, that’s quite long for only traveling for 289 km. I figure I can cover a few major sites in North Mac in 3 to 5 days time, in fact I will probably only do Skopje and then exit the country via another bus trip.

Now let me check the prices for the second bus fare. The good news here is that the cost of the second trip to Sofia, Bulgaria will be $21 and takes 3 hours and 45 minutes. So far I’ve heard a few bad things about Sofia as a tourist destination. The city is supposedly heavily disorganized but I’m fine with this. There are a few seriously instagrammable sites including the cathedral that I mentioned in my research here. Over in Bulgaria I’ll definitely be spending a bit more time in the country and cover perhaps 3 or 4 cities and locations. I want to see Varna and perhaps Sunny beach, Plovdiv, and Ruse near the border. So we can give this country 1 to 2 weeks worth of time. So this puts me exiting Bulgaria around July 25th to August 1.

*** Note that with bus travel, I wont be planning any hard and fast flight dates, as I think its more convenient to just play it by ear. If i like a country perhaps ill stay a touch longer, and if not, then leave a bit sooner, train will also be considered as a mode of transport ***

The next country after this will be Romania. I’ve actually heard some cool things about the coast, a place called Vama Veche, which is a hippy hang out along the Black Sea in Romania that is not a very far distance from the country of Bulgaria. I would like to stay here at least a few nights and possibly longer and may use my tent, to save a few bucks, we will see. I also definitely want to check out the region of Transylvania although its not Halloween yet! I always thought the myth of Dracula was interesting. So thats 1 to 2 weeks in Romania then ill be switching to Hungary via bus, i just recently checked some prices on Flixbus, and this company is more than reasonable. I was looking at Flixbus between Bucharest and Budapest and the price is 30 euro, about $33 USD.

Future destinations… I do plan on continuing to move around Europe after Hungary, I’ll go to Slovakia then Poland. In Poland the prices are more than reasonable for hostels. After this I may head to a place like Sweden or Finland, then at the conclusion of my north tour, I’m going to head for Italy! Stay tuned, thanks. Map for reference:

backpacking tour ro Romania and Bulgaria

30 liter personal item-sized backpack versus 45 liter carry on item backpack, planning backpacking trip, 2..

decathlon stuff sack

Hello traveling guys and girls! Its time for me to plan the second part of my trip which is what I will bring. I am considering downsizing my current Pacsafe Exp 45 liter backpack and using instead a 30 liter personal item sized backpack for flights on either RyanAir or Wizzair throughout Europe. Now I haven’t decided which backpack I will take as it involves some changes.

If I do decide to take a personal item sized back on the discount airlines I will not have to pay the Priority Fee per flight which ranges from roughly $17 to $45. However, if I do decide to take the bus or train instead, then I wont have to pay the priority fee for those trips. In my previous blog post, I discussed the size of the bags for each category here

Now on to the good part… In order to take the 30 liter backpack I will first need to downsize the tent from a 2 person to a 1 person. Now there aren’t too many 2 person tents that id be able to take, but I am still looking to see if there is an extremely light 2 person. The easier choice would be to simply purchase the 1 person tent in the range of 1 to 3 lbs in weight versus 3.6 lbs for the 2 person. I currently carry a 2 person Naturehike tent with the VentureSafe Exp 45 liter pack that weighs 3.6 lbs.

Another slight change and here’s the plan for flying… Ill just bring 1 less outfit. Now since I dont have the 30 liter pack yet I honestly am not sure what would fit inside, but here’s the plan. I’ll wear 2 to 3 outfits on the plane, then ill take these off and put them in the second carry bag… this one, the Decathlon 20 liter stuff sack. This will give me a little more space to unwind, a total of 50 liters of space, versus 65 with the 45 liter pack…. this is a great little bag that only costs $12 and its carriable (usually in my left hand). Down below you will see the item plan…

Decathlon Stuff Sack 20 liter, secondary bag

Here is the item list and weights, courtesy of my profile on packing app. This is a useful app that a backpacker can use to estimate pack weight, and wearable weight: Notice that the luggage weight and clothing weight are down some. The base weight decreased to 16.29 lbs whereas I’m wearing 8.33 lbs worth of gear (this is for the flight only). This pack is lighter than my last trip because I’ll be carrying summer clothes, about 2 to 3 outfits total. Here is the break down by category from lighterpack.

Finally, heres the actual list via!

Planning a backpacking trip to Europe for the summer of 2022! How do I do it?

Hey traveling guys and girls! For me and some of the other traveling backpackers out there, its time to start planning out our trips for summer of 2022, and let me tell you from the local news over here in Europe it looks like pandemonium and a little bit of chaos this travel season due to so many people wanting to travel now. Did you see the news about EasyJet, Ryanair and some of the other major European airlines canceling lots of flights per day? Check the link here from BBC.

So for starters if you dont know who I am, I am an American full-time traveler and you can read a bit more about my bio here. Now I just arrived back in Tirana, Albania, where I had my stuff in storage, and I plan on taking a break to rest in the same apartment that I rented back in the fall. So i was just thinking and looking at what other places and sites in Europe I would like to visit, how I might go about getting there, the expenses, and what ill take as well as my budget! In this blog post ill tell you how I go about doing it. If you are familiar with Myers Briggs personality types, I am an INTJ, and we are planners, for us or me specifically, I tend to make plans so that i can change them using new information, but at least I have one to start with, now I have several.

How do I plan?!?!?! I would like to visit somewhere I haven’t been before, this still includes most of Europe there are 44 total countries in Europe and 1000s of cities.. so for the past few days I’ve been visiting major airline sites,,, and, Kiwi is the most useful since its able to search multiple airlines to piece together routes as well as show me an entire list of fares from competing airlines, whereas Wizzair only has Wizzair’s fares. Now I’m not married to the idea of leaving Tirana on an airplane. I am also considering leaving by bus to make a few local stops at regional cities in the Balkans for example, Shkoder and Skopje, Macedonia.

Hotel & Hostel Prices in the summer of 2021 – one thing I just noticed is that hotel and hostel prices in western Europe are just going crazy! They are really moving up. In normal times of the year hostel prices tend to be well within my travel budget, over in Berlin we are talking $30 a night for a hostel, when I had previously searched I found most places to get one $20 or below perhaps $17. This is not good, but using my INTJ planning abilities, its not the end of the world, I’ll find a way to adapt. There is a reason I purchased a tent last year.

The good news… I found this hostel in Skopje, Macedonia BSV Hostel for $5 on Yes that’s right only $5. So an entire week would set me back $35 or for the entire month if I wanna rough it, its $150 those are more like Thai prices, and this is a great deal for summer. Just for reference a private room in Skopje starts at $14 USD, not too expensive either.

So the bus from Tirana upto Skopje would run me about $20 to $22, then after I tour North Macedonia, the plan would be to jump over to Bulgaria more than likely also by bus, and the cost would be around $11 to $17 at the cheapest. North Macedonia is a small country with a population of 2 million that was also part of the former Yugoslavia sort of like Montenegro, so over there it wont take long to cover a few sites, namely the OLD BAZARR, a FORTRESS, or an old MONASTARY like the one below….

Skopje, North Macedonia

So using this example what I do is I try to average my cost of nights, keep in mind I’m a long term traveler so I’ll be traveling for the entire month of 30 days. if I then jump over to a place like Stockholm in Scandinavia, the cost of a hostel might jump upto $30 a night (oops i just checked its $20 but lets assume its $30), the same for Berlin at present time. So if I stay in the $5 a night place for 15 nights and the $30 a night for 15 nights the total comes out to a monthly price of $525, a touch more than my actual monthly budget for housing in the Balkans but still not bad. Id probably add 5 nights worth of camping instead of the Swede hostel and get it down to $375 which is just about the right price for me. Notice that the price of camping per night is $0 that’s quite a budget friendly #.

Slight correction… at present for July it looks like there are multiple hostels available in Stockholm for roughly $20 a night which is within my monthly price target so there you go, not as bad as Berlin. One other tip, if i were serious about going to Stockholm id book immediately instead of waiting, because those $30 nights might just jump upto $40 then id have to sleep in my tent.

Agoda... and a few other sites like Kayak… don’t overlook this site, sometimes they do have flash sales that offer you a lower price than Concerning the site Agoda there are a few differences. Agoda follows a model where they purchase rooms and then sell them at a discount, rather than a commissions based model, this is why the prices are sometimes different (even though they are both owned by the same parent company). One of my minor complaint about the Agoda site is that its kind of hard to tell how much the total cost of the stay is for example, they dont include taxes, the cost of sheets, something of this nature, so just make sure to read the fine print.

I haven’t been to Bulgaria, so this is a logical next step after Macedonia. Its not as cheap or as small as Macedonia, so might take a little more time to cover at a sightly higher cost. The question after this, do i want to take a bus to Hungary or Romania, or a flight to Sweden or Denmark!?!? Ill have to consider, and post in a future blog, thanks for reading….my map so far… and i never made it to my packing, ill do that next

map of the Balkans with backpacking plan
map of my backpacking plan for 2022

Ways to Save Money on Travel part #2!

Hello traveling guys and girls! Ready to hear some more tips to save cash on your backpacking trip ahead of time?!?! Sometimes when I travel, its a constant push and pull with money. The locals know you have at least enough to take an international flight to their country and take a tour, if you aren’t working while they are, right? So sometimes they just want your money. Over in Morocco, even though its a cheap place, there were many beggars and salesman in the street who really wanted my cash. I can understand this to some extent because its a very poor country. Sorry Morocco, I’m going to give us travelers a few tips to extend our little journey, with all due respect your country’s poverty. We are a bit stingy here at SoloVagabond.

Tip #1 – take local buses in countries like Albania and the Balkans! This can be an experience. Over in Morrocco, they also have two classes of busses, one for local people which are much cheaper and ones that are considered to be tourist class buses. I’m going to separate this out into local CITY buses and local inter-city buses! two types of trips. Yesterday, i just popped over to what is called the North South bus station, over here, they have busses headed upto Shkoder, near the lake and the border with Montenegro. I wanted to make an inquiry as to the price of a bus ticket to Shkoder to see the lake. It was 400 lek, which is toughly $3.70 not much cash at all, thank you! The driver and the passengers could barely speak English! Now they also have some fancier busses around town with Wifi aboard and AC but im just fine riding with the locals. One of these would cost between $8 and $15. As long as the country isnt too dangerous im fine with riding local.

Tip #2, avoid scams! Get recommendations! If you are visiting Thailand there’s some scams over there. Although it is a beautiful country, and i witnessed this once or twice. Make sure to read reviews and recommendations for whatever tour, service, product, boat ride, elephant photos, jet ski ride, and so on! One scam that local young Thai guys pull over in Pattaya is the jet ski scam. A young guys comes up with a jet ski, i actually saw one of them riding around the bay, they then ask tourists to rent the jet ski, after the ride is over, they accuse the customer of causing damage to the ski, its usually already broken. Thats when about 10 or 20 other Thais show up in attempts to intimidate the tourists. Sometimes the police will intervene and sometimes not! Me? I road a jetski that belonged to some Irishman who i met on the beach, so lucky there! i am brought my own inflatable boat to avoid the scam! Yes so in Thailand just watch out and hopefully you’ll be fine. One of my strategies, might be a bit isolating, but if you dont want to be ripped off dont employ anyone! just enjoy a day at the beach free, tan or swim!

Tip #3, use local city buses for long trips in the city! Over in Madrid, I landed at the airport, then i went into the underground where all the subways and buses lead you into town. I asked a local Spanish guy which bus i should be taking, he directed me to 1 bus, then a subway (as we call them in NYC), then a regional rail line, a lot of transfers, oops! Now the city bus lines are way slower but they are also WAY cheaper. It was around 1.5 euros. Now what happened on my after dark ride down south to my hostel? I had to backtrack on the regional rail and that cost me a few extra euro. I actually ended up spending about 10 to 12 euro on transportation to get to my hostel, but thats ok, live and learn. The next day I took a local red line bus from my hostel about 1/2 mile near the center of town for only 1.5 euro. Now the Spanish guy probably didnt know that i was a backpacker with a really low budget, he was just trying to help, but in this case from the airport in madrid i could have taken 2 local buses 1 to city center, and one south to my hostel for 3 euro, i just happened to be at the wrong terminal to catch the red line local bus.

Google maps is a godsend in identifying which single line busses that you can take within Madrid and other Spanish cities, as well as our good friend, London’s double decker buses, now over in London you do get 1 transfer free for the same price as 1 ride on a red line Madrid bus (no free transfer there). Now one tip about the London busses, if you are getting off at Gatwick or any of the other airports, make sure to pick up an Oyster card for 5 GBP. you may get your deposit back before returning to the airport. For the transfers you must swipe into the second bus 1 hour or less time after you swipe the first. Now London red double deckers can get stuck in traffic sometimes, but its definitely a way cheaper option of transport as compared to the tube, and car services like the black car.

Tip #4 Can you ride a bicycle? This is something that might apply to a long term backpacker like me but i thought i would include it anyway. If you have a bike, you wont have to pay the above mentioned bus fare at all, right? and your leg power is free, right?

How to save money while traveling

how to save money on travel

Hey traveling guys and girls! Looking for a few tips by a professional traveler on how to save money while traveling? You have come to the right travel blog! I’ve been traveling the world for 2.6 years, so I have quite a few tips. I am an American, who has traveled to about 15 countries. This blog is mostly focused on international travel for Americans. The good news here is that MOST countries that dont start with a U and end with an A are cheaper to visit and live inside of. For example, I was pleasantly surprised that England was not really very expensive and the same with Spain, and ill tell you why.

#1 Travel in a country that is technically a 3rd world country – my first tip! One of the first places that I visited was Thailand. First because its very popular and I saw some videos on Youtube about the super cheap cost of living, and this is definitely true! So avoid the developed world, because that is where people have high salaries and make a lot of money and therefore the rent and food prices are more. Even though special Thailand is a popular tourist destination, it is still firmly in the developing world, so prices are cheaper, there’s some poverty, and trash around, and the currency is still low compared to the almighty US Dollar.

There’s good things and bad here, but with regards to money its all good. You can find an apartment for $150 to $300 USD, and you can find a meal for less than $2. Over in Pattaya, Thailand i used to frequent a Thai ladies food cart that was so tasty, a full meal with rice and chicken for 40 baht which is roughly $1.20. Over in southeast Asia, most of the countries are around this price level, for example Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, with the last 3 being a bit cheaper than our friend Thailand.

Plan out your expenses, plan ahead! Tip #2.

The biggest expense for travel is going to be your housing of course, and the second might be your transportation and flight costs as well as food. One of the best ways to save on housing is to get started on looking at housing on the major travel sites like before you leave, of course. What I have noticed is that sometimes the cheapest or the best valued places get booked a few weeks in advance. If you are waiting until the last minute to book you may not be able to get the best, more affordable valued place in a particular city.

Staying in a hotel?

In my experience, hotels can be some of the worst rip-offs in terms of travel expenses. These are ok if you are looking for a quick vacation with some nice luxuries, but did I mention that I had been traveling for over 2.6 years as a backpacker? Hotels are not usually super economical, but if we go back to our southeast Asia example, sometimes I can find a hotel over in southeast Asia for a few $100 a month, an sometimes if you ask, the hotel may offer you a monthly stay for as much as 50% off the nightly rate!

More tips on housing as a long term traveler: I usually research all of the major ways of sleeping and lodging in a country, hotels, youth hostels like those listed on, airbnb, which is a major long term apartment rental site that has been just great, couch surfing,, and, and even for apartments listings. So for prices over in western Europe and the UK, you may be looking at 2 to 3 times the prices of a place in southeast Asia. Youth hostels are a good answer to this even though some of them can still be expensive.

Camping to save money… Tip #3. Don’t want to pay anything for housing?!?!?! Free housing? Yes I bought a tent and I decided to camp as a way to save money. I didn’t pay anything for 1 month straight of camping over on the Canary Islands. You can see details of what I did as a backpacker here in this blog post. if you are comfortable with sleeping outside or even in a van, you may want to consider this option instead of paying for accommodation.

Food costs. Tip #4. Find out where the locals shop for food! In each country, saving on food can be a bit different. Definitely dont go for the areas that cater strictly to tourists. After a few days inside a place I’m usually shoulder to shoulder with the locals buying my stuff at their price, to avoid what is called “the tourist price.”

Over here in Albania, there are a good selection of chain grocery stores that have sale prices like Spar and Big Market. Albania also many outdoor local food markets. Yesterday i bought potatoes and onions for only 30 cents and this is enough to create a filling meal. Over in Montenegro and Serbia you can find local fast food restaurants that sell burgers for $2, still pretty cheap as compared to the USA, and in Spain I found another local cafe that sold a burger meal for $3.5, not too bad as compared to the USAs $8.

What do you eat? Tip #5. What are you eating? Since potatoes are a cheapie food, i like to cook them about once or twice a week. Some other cheap foods are things like beans, which you can find over in the UK for about 30 to 40 pence a can. I was quite surprised to see that food is cheap compared to the USAs prices where you may find a can of whatever for 99 cents instead of 40. Another good one is pasta. Over here, i bought a big package of pasta for about 70 Lek which is a total of 60 us cents. This pasta lasted me a few nights, i put some spices on top and it was fine as a meal for one or two nights, and one night i added some cheese, although this was a bit more expensive. Find out what foods are cheapest in the country that you are visiting. Good luck.

Free tours Tip #6. What is free in your chosen city? In many cities they have what is called a free tour where you are expected to make a donation, but of course you dont have to make one. I usually make a small one of $1 or $2. Some of these tours are helpful and some are not, it really depends on the talent of the guide. Over in Belgrade i went on a cool tour with this guy who seemed to know every bit of rich history of the Belgrade, and all the wars too. Just enjoy and walk away. These tend to be much cheaper than guided tours that you pay for ahead of time. Self guided tours are also helpful if you can look on Google to find these. Happy travel. Good luck saving money while traveling!

Living in Montenegro as an American Expat

Living in Montenegro as an American expat…

Hello traveling guys and girls! I can detail for you, some of my life living in Montenegro as an American expat in this blog post. I moved to Montenegro last summer after having spent a few months in Belgrade, Serbia which I loved. I came to visit Montenegro on a tourist visa from August for almost 3 months of time, so not your typical 1 week or weekend vacationer.

Now Montenegro does have its charms especially if you like the ocean. The primary industry here near the coast is tourism. First, a few things about Montenegro, it is a very small country, mountainous and located along the Adriatic sea across from Italy and within the former Yugoslavia. The population is about 620,000 people so it’s extremely small for a country. It borders on Albania which is the country I moved to afterwards. The capital Podgorica is a smallish big city that is located on a plain away from the ocean near the center of the country. It’s not even close to the size of Belgrade so it can barely be called a city at 156,000 vs. 1.37 million.

Getting to Ulcinj, Montenegro. I took an interesting bus ride from Belgrade to Podgorica to Ulcinj. It was memorable for several reasons. Namely because of the number of hills and mountains we passed in the night. It was an overnight bus and I was seriously afraid that the bus driver would drive off one of the 100s of cliffs we passed. It was a 12 hours long ride, more about driving here in Montenegro later. From Belgrade, many Serbians go to visit Ulcinj and many parts of Montenegro for summer vacation via plane or by car. A traveler can fly into either Podgorica or Tivat which is along the northern part of the coast. Ulcinj is actually a very small beach town along the very south portion of Montenegro. Here it is affordable even for the hottest and most popular part of the summer and this is what drew me to it. Go to the north, and it’s much more expensive to rent for August. the same is true for Croatia, prices up there are pretty ridiculous unless you want to visit in the winter.

Now there are certain things that were memorable about my trip over to Ulcinj and the surrounding areas, here we have a tourist town on a hill with many beaches around. There is a small castle/fortress area, the rocky beach area, the Little Beach at the center of town, and what is called Ada Bojana Velicka Plaza, which is translated to big beach, which is a huge flat beach about 2 miles south of town and doesn’t have any mountains. On the other side of this is Ada Bojana which is a nudist island, memorable for its own reasons, and I’ll get to this later.

So, just a few notes about my moving there, I took the bus to Budva Montenegro but there is also apparently a bus to Ulcinj from Belgrade, you just can’t buy the tickets online. I mentioned the hills earlier, that was a bit scary and the second issue was my luggage, 3 big jumbo suitcases, a backpack, and a bicycle, quite a haul. I was able to get these into a taxi in Belgrade, then get them to the bus station, then aboard the bus for roughly $2 per bag, so only $6 total, flying with these items is much more costly. After I arrived in Budva, which is a cute upscale area, a little more so than Ulcinj, I then hired a local taxi driver to take me to Ulcinj, this cost me a bit more $$$. It took about 1 hour’s time and cost $50. The taxi driver helped me with my bags going into a guest house in Ulcinj.

I spent the summer time, a few weeks/months in Ulcinj and going to the beaches here, cycling, droning with my Mini 2, boating, and hanging around the beach doing just summer stuff. I didn’t do any fishing here but I am considering buying a pole, since I do have a small rubber boat inside my luggage – one of the reasons that I have so much luggage. I also spent some time hanging out in the local cheap restaurants that are not a bad price for a burger. Here is a vid I filmed along the main drag… uploaded YouTube.

ulcinj montenegro
ulcinj near big beach

After my time was up in Ulcinj I actually moved to two different locations, I spent one month at a guest house in Ulcinj, and didn’t really like the owner too much, but the price was decent for the room type. I switched to another place over in Ada Bojana Velicka Plaza that was more expensive, for about 2 weeks, and after this I moved to a place called Sutomore, Montenegro which also has its charms, this was in September to October of 2021, and I’ll tell you why it was memorable. Sutomore is a small beach town that is up the coast of Montenegro about 30 minutes in between Budva and Ulcinj. The taxi driver who drove me from Budva to Ulcinj was badmouthing Sutomore because it was the cheapest place you can rent along the coast in Montenegro.

My time in Sutomore Montenegro. When I arrived here the summer was winding down and it was interesting to see the place becoming quieter into the fall, in my mind this was memorable. Sutomore I would describe as charming in the fall. I stayed in an Airbnb up a hill about 1/3 of a mile from the beach. It was a super affordable price, one of the lowest prices I’ve paid for a monthly rental for a private room with A/C, tv, its own private bathroom, and a fridge! Here i spent my time at the beach or inside the restaurants on my laptop as I’m somewhat of a digital nomad/pro tourist and social media fiend. I also used to play with the strays along the beach one of whom was adorable. One town south, is a place called Bar, Montenegro.

sutomore montenegro

Bar, Montenegro and the fall season. In order to get to Bar, you must either hitchhike or take a local private bus for about $1. You can’t walk along the roadside because there’s not one and there is no sidewalk, there are also big trucks that come barreling down the windy roads without looking, did I mention hills and curves? So once one hitchhikes his way over to Bar, there’s a bit more of a town there, including some shipping centers, a waterfront, sports facilities, and bigger resorts that cater to cruise ship customers. there is also a port for loading and unloading. You can see this video that I took in Bar which I uploaded to Youtube here! You can see how it’s kind of deserted in the Fall, enjoy.

Moving… Later in the fall it became very dark and rainy here in Montenegro, and beach season ended. Over in Sutomore many of the business shut down for the season, and hardly anything was left. on October 20th I made the choice to relocate to Tirana, Albania. I hired a private taxi driver to drive me from Sutomore to Tirana for about 120 Euro, it was a smooth trip, and I needed to get a Rapid covid test to enter Albania, and passed the border by land.

Withdrawing cash abroad, travel tips

A few years overseas has taught me one or two things about changing money and withdrawing it from foreign ATMs using an American debit card. I currently use Citibank because it is reliable and I am satisfied with it. They are also fine with me having a mailing address in New York City and being outside of the USA for an extended period of time, although some other banks are not.

Tip #1: Continue WITHOUT Conversion. When withdrawing money from a foreign ATM make sure to click “Continue WITHOUT conversion” What this means is that you will receive the foreign exchange rate of your home bank and not the one shown on the screen, which is a usually a ridiculous 8 to 10% mark up. I cannot stress this enough. Most countries do allow banks to do this, but each country is different. Here in the UK, they offer a free atm fee, but some banks do charge for a foreign card withdrawal. Over in Spain you can find some banks that charge a fee and some do not. Here an example of my 140 British pounds withdrawn at a Sainsbury local ATM without any fee… Citibank charged me $176.60 for a withdrawal of 140 GBP, however Google is telling me $171.20. Citi is giving me a $1.26 to 1 exchange rate. Sometimes Citi charges me a rate closer to the official exchange rate listed on Google, it depends on the country and the currency withdrawn.

foreign transaction atm withdrawal GBP british pounds.
My recent ATM withdrawal at Sainsbury local

Tip #2. Shop around for the best rate. If you are bringing hard currency into a country, you will normally be able to find an exchange office to get bills changed. Make sure to shop around for the best rate. Just recently i was visiting the country of Morocco, one office listed the exchange rate as 10.2 MAD or Moroccan Dirham to 1 USD, whereas another listed it as 10.6 MAD. This is a 4% improvement over the first office.

Tip #3. Dispose or spend closed currencies and change before you leave a country. If you are a budget traveler like me, you mind each coin you spend, after all, as mentioned I’ve been traveling for a few years now. This is a site oriented towards budget minded travelers and backpackers. If you bring coins into a new country, normally you cannot get change for change, for example if i have 20 British 50 cent GBP coins, i wont be able to change these for the appropriate amount of Euros or USD or mad, and it just becomes a dead weight in my pocket when im in the new country. My solution to this is just to spend the coins at the airport on for example something you might use later like snacks or Kleenexes etc. When I left the USA somehow i ended up with $14 worth of coins inside my luggage. It was because i had just barely finished cleaning out my apartment when i boarded the plane. Over in Cambodia nobody would accept them, not even the USA embassy. Finally i found an American guy who was headed back to the States and he took them for me as a favor, but otherwise it would have been just a dead weight in my bags.

Tip #4. Get a fee Free ATM debit card. I personally choose not to follow this type of advice, but im going to soon look into getting an ATM card that doesn’t charge me the extra 3% that Citibank charges. I have stuck with them just because they are reliable and have never had an issue withdrawing money overseas. A few bank accounts and debit cards that i would personally like to research are these… Chase Premium Plus Checking, Betterment Bank, Capital One 360, online sign up only, Schwab High Yield Investor Account. I may very well go with two debit cards just to make sure that I have a backup account should something go wrong with my no fee account.

Tip #5. Have a backup transfer service like Western Union. One caveat, Western Union transfer fees are totally ridiculous, however the good news is that the service is really fast and reliable with outlets all over the world. Over in Morocco i had a friend send me $30. I stepped outside my hotel room and walked less than 1 block to pick it up, using my passport, but i think the total i got was $26. In an emergency this could come in handy if you run out of money. All I had to do was download the Western Union app on my cell phone enter my phone number and email and send my friend a request using her email. it worked great.

Living in London vs. New York as an expat …

Hi guys if this is your first time reading this travel blog, you can read a bit more about it here, in my personal description. Ive only had the blog now for less than 10 days but have been a full-time traveler for about 30 months, more specifically I left JFK Airport at 12:10 AM, December 11, 2019 to Taiwan via EVA Air. Its now 2022 so that puts me gone quite awhile. That’s 76,204,800 seconds gone on vacation or 882 days.

So I have a lot of subjects to blog about … I just recently arrived in London from Morocco, here’s a partial intro. As mentioned I came from JFK airport and had previously resided in Manhattan and Brooklyn for many years. I’ll be describing some key similarities between New York and London. Let me tell you we get a lot of Londoners coming over there. I used to be associated with a transportation company in NYC, and it was like every other person who came to visit NYC was a Londoner. Technically its not that far for an intercontinental flight, about 7 to 9 hours depending on the winds and which direction that you are flying.

A neighborhood in North London

London is pretty straightforward as a city, its got a few central neighborhoods like Kensington and the city of London, I used Buckingham Palace as my central point of orientation, whereas in NYC you may want to use midtown Manhattan. One key difference is that London is WAY more green. It seems there are trees and parks all over the place especially as you get a bit further away from places near Buckingham Palace. For NYC the main feature is the skyline, I would say. Manhattan being an island filled with huge skyscrapers.

While they are both considered large, NYC is actually about twice the size of London. Technically the city limits house about the same 9 million or so, but if we count the metro areas, London is at 12 million, while NYC is now over 20 million (data courtesy of Wikipedia). One thing that I can recognize is that along with the high-rises, NYC is actually a bit bigger in the financial world, you just have a lot of companies that are over there, in both Midtown and Wall Street, while London does have finance and its own stock exchange, I can just tell its a bit smaller.

Both cities get a lot of tourists from god knows where, and they both house a lot of immigrants. London has a lot of residents of descents from India Pakistan, Africa, and the middle east, whereas NYC has a lot of Mexican, Chinese, Russian, and many other places. People from both cities are in a rush, haha, and there’s traffic in both, but NYC takes the cake again. Traffic there is really on the horrific side, whereas Londons is just moderate to bad.

Here’s a key difference you may be interested in. Londoners are a bit more laid back, conservative and polite, while still being in a rush. Now there’s a saying that one Londoner told me who I met in NYC. The food in London is more bland than in NYC because Londoners are more polite while New Yorkers are more direct… interesting point. The food in London is not that bad, there’s a quite a mix, but ill get to that in another post. I find Londoners to be pleasant, whereas once you get to know NYers they can be vicious, if you work with them or just a bit on the short tempered side, but it really just depends on the person.

New York is WAY more expensive. Some people think that London is more expensive, but i think the reason that they claim this is because perhaps they dont have experience living in both cities, or perhaps it is because of some level of ethnocentrism. Generally London is cheaper than most major cities in the USA. How do i know? i spent some time searching for the cost of housing both on major housing sites, and for hotel rooms and Airbnbs. In Manhattan you may find that its hard to find something below $1600 USD, there’s just no bottom end for housing. Around here in London you can probably get something a little further away from places like Kensington for around $700 to $900. I know because i found a few listings on Airbnb for monthly rentals. Secondly, a lot of the tourist attractions in London are free. I seriously had some trouble finding sites that i needed to pay for, museums, galleries monuments, and so on. Finally, for shopping for food at a grocery store I saw some items, quite a few that were for below 1 GBP. In the USA its hard to see anything for this price level, for example a can of sardines, package of cookies, carton of milk etc. If we go to restaurants, both London and NYC are expensive, but over in NYC they just like to charge tourists a lot more, and there’s nothing for free! Happy Travels!

Backpacker Essentials… packing lite, detailed item list!

packing lite

Hey fellow backpackers! Here’s my list of detailed items for one bag travel across Europe! In case you missed the summary list and groupings click here for the intro description. The base weight for the new list is 21.54 lbs, this excludes items that i wear while in transit, which as you can see in the summary is about 9.34 lbs. I used a digital OZ scale to weigh my items and plug them into Lighter Pack.

Category 1, Luggage: The first category includes my backpack which is my 3.5 lb. Pacsafe Exp 45 which is the heaviest item that i am bringing. Other items within this category are a 20 liter stuff sack which i can also use as a second handbag aboard the airliner at 5 oz. I also have two toiletry bags at 3 oz each, a disposable shopping bag at 2 oz, a set of laundry bags, and a drone case for my drone and controller. Finally I’ve got two luggage locks, one for my Pacsafe and one for the hostel locker. The total for this category is 5.41 lbs. These are basically containers for other items. Items list can be viewed here.

Category 2, Electronics: The heaviest category of items that I have packed and most expensive is electronics. Ive got a 14″ Acer laptop that weighs 2.7 lbs it fits in the computer pouch of my backpack. I have a mousepad, mouse, AA battery, laptop charger, and a DJI mini 2 drone that weighs 1.5 lbs. I have a phone charger that weighs only 1 oz, and 2 USB cables that are roughly 1 oz each. My google pixel weighs 6 oz but i keep this in my pocket so it doesn’t affect the base weight of my bag. The total weight of this category is 5.11 lbs. Items list can be viewed here.

Category 3, miscellaneous and toiletries: This set of items includes just about everything besides whats in the other categories; things like my toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, tape measure, and scale. It includes 2 pairs of eyeglasses, 2 eyeglass cases, a bottle opener, a wallet, a passport, waterproof bags, reusable utensils, and beard shaver (my beard grows really fast). The weight for this category is 3.04 lbs. The list of these items can be viewed here.

Category 4, camping: I will admit that camping is not for everyone, but i was able to successfully fit a tent inside my 45 liter backpack along with the other items. The tent is a NatureHike Cloud up 2 person that I bought from Its small enough to fit rolled up and weighs 3.6 lb. It includes a ground cover, outer shell, inner tent, close pins and a tent frame. This category also includes a mini lantern for the inside of the tent. The total weight is 3.75 lbs. Items list can be viewed here.

Category 5, clothing, pants: I have to admit I’m still a bit undecided on whether to include a pair of blue jeans for my summer trip. I may go with polyester pants instead and just leave the jeans at home. Otherwise, i’ll take 2 or 3 pairs of shorts and my current pair of McKinley pair of hiking shorts that weigh 8oz. The total weight here is 3.44 lbs. Note: Individual items list can be viewed here

Category 6, clothing, shirts: Here im taking 2 to 3 polyester T shirts, at 3 oz each, 2 tanktops at 2.5 oz, and 3 to 4 lightweight summer overshirts that are button down at 7 oz each for a total weight of 2.56 lbs. items list can be viewed here.

Category 7, clothing, underwear: This includes 6 pairs of polyester boot socks at 2.5 each, and 3 pairs of polyester boxer briefs from Decathlon, weight is 1.15 lbs. Items list can be viewed here.

Category 8, 9, & 10, clothing, footwear, hats, outerwear: I will be taking a pair of flip flops and a pair of water shoes, as well as one pair of boots, but this wont be counted towards the base weight since i will mostly be wearing my boots the total weight here is 4.5 lbs. For outerwear ill be taking 1 light jacket and one pair of tops for long underwear (ill be in Scandinavia). The weight here is .94 lbs. For hats, I’ve got several. These are one bucket hat, another beanie cap for chilly weather, and a baseball cap, as well as a canvas belt and a leather belt, the total weight here is 1.44 lbs. The list of items can be viewed here.