Category Archives: travel

Will Travelling After this Pandemic Come with More Hassles?

As these surreal days roll by I ponder what travelling post this pandemic will be like. It is already painful to get off a long 14 hr red eye flight to stand in lines for a few hours in transit.

Will we be pricked and prodded and at the mercy of rapid tests?

Will we have to pay even more to be packed into the not so comfortable economy seats to fly home to see family and friends?

Will travel blogging still be a thing especially for budget travellers?

Yea, I know all this is somewhat inconsequential in a world where people are losing jobs and facing increasing hardships. These are some things on my mind with everything else now.

reminiscing on my trip to Kuala Lumpur…

People will continue to travel I am sure. People are still travelling in the midst of this pandemic. Some travel for a living and others need to go from point A to B for important reasons. There are also still others who enjoying travelling for leisure and other such reasons.

I imagine wearing a mask onboard flights will be mandatory. Interestingly, this was en vogue for many East Asians since it helps to combat the dryness in the aircraft. Can I even handle wearing a mask for 14 hours on the flight from Japan to America then on to Jamaica?

One of the majestic castles in Japan from my jaunts around the country. How carefree were those times?

I am seeing news here and there about airlines planning to implement social distance practices on board. This suggests fewer passengers and with many airlines losing money hand over fist, I can imagine airfares will shoot up. While I can forego travelling for leisure to budget and save, I need to visit Jamaica to see family and friends, ideally once a year. I am a bit anxious about how much more this will cost, since flights are already going above $2,000 for a round trip in summer, in economy. Oh yeah and this means not getting any meals on the leg from America to Jamaica. Also, getting on the plane and having all the overhead compartments stuffed by those who got flight deals. Sigh!

So yea, I am waiting with bated breath to see how travelling cross-continentally tests my budget for one thing.

Looking out from the Peak in Hong Kong

Can you imagine being on a plane and having a coughing fit post this pandemic? Even when wearing a mask I know this will make the journey all that more uncomfortable? Will I just not eat anything for 14 hours? Drink no water? Gasp! That just won’t do.

I am already a nervous flyer, so I am already steeling myself for all the above.

There are lots of questions rolling around inside my head about how flying will change. I fly cross-continentally at least once a year, so this has been on my mind. I also think about how quickly tourists will want to or even afford to take vacations post the pandemic.

This may seem frivolous to some but there are many people who work in this industry and others connected to the industry.

As with many things, time will reveal how travelling will change post this pandemic. We have to learn to expect the unexpected, be flexible and learn to thrive in unchartered waters.

Visas, Travel Privilege and Expenses

Sometimes you want to visit a particular country so much but alas you don’t qualify for a visa. When you are from a developing country with a weak passport this happens and does so quite often for some people. The burden of proving, that you are a person of moral character, who will not become an illegal migrant, is virtually nigh on impossible for some people applying for visas in some countries.

If visa applications were free or even refunded in part this would not be so bad. Imagine spending over a US$150 to apply for a visa, paying for pictures and transport to an embassy to hear that you don’t qualify. On what basis you may ask? Well, this particular individual doesn’t qualify because she is single and works in a job that is not seen as professional. The one making this decision doesn’t even open the individual’s passport to see that she has visited other developed countries and returned home.

Many decisions for a visa seem to be made in an arbitrary manner. There are people who are unemployed, unmarried, not in school and have no so called ‘ties’ to their country who are granted visas. Then you have professionals who have served in their respective fields for over a decade, earn good salaries, have cars and houses and refused visas multiple times. These are not made up stories. These are people I know well. It is a frustrating experience I am sure.

Visas cost time and money. None of the money for the application fee is refunded. You often can’t appeal a decision. No plausible explanation is given in many cases. For many people from developing countries, applying for a visa to visit a developed country is like buying the lottery. They don’t have the freedom to go and come as they please. You may ask why not travel to other countries? Fun fact: many people need to transit through a developed country to get from destination Y TO Z in some cases. For example, if friends or relatives in Jamaica want to visit me in Japan they may need to get a transit visa for one of a few developed countries to do so. The most affordable routes are via these countries. There is the option to go through Mexico, which is visa free for us but you may be looking at an additional 500 dollars or more for airfare. How ironic, that those of us from developing countries pay more to see the world.

Is a transit visa not easy to get you may ask? The process for getting a transit visa is the same as getting a non-immigrant visa. For some countries the fee might be a little less but all the documents are the same. I have dedicated my share of time researching, planning and applying for visa for a lot of places. Don’t believe that living in a developed country, makes me a shoo in to get visas for other developed countries all the time. In some cases, even other developing countries can be a pain.

What is Involved in Applying for a Visa to the Average Developed Country

Money – Visas can range from $US50 to over $150. This is why some developing countries charge visitors from developed countries for visas as well. Visa free reciprocity is a beautiful thing and I take advantage of it as much as I can. As a Jamaican I have gone to quite a few countries in Asia, Africa and South America visa free. It really makes planning a trip so much easier. You also need pictures, so that’s money. You also may need to travel to the embassy. You also may need to have flights and hotels booked (this is no guarantee to getting the visa). Also, you often need to show a bank account with a healthy balance and a bank statement that reflects the status of your account for six months or so. Bank statements aren’t free.

Time – If you need to visit an embassy for a face to face interview, you need to take time off work. You need to take time to read the application form well and prepare all the necessary documents. Things like the size of pictures, how clear they are and how recently they were taken is very important. I have had to go to a studio to get it done to meet certain specifications. You may also have to get a job letter and that may take time as well.

Angst – It is hard to make firm plans before you get a visa. This means you may not be able to take advantage of flight deals and the like. Also, even when you get a visa it may be for a limited period, so it’s hard t plan in a concrete way. Oh yeah, having a visa is never a guarantee that you will be allowed into a country. Many visitors take this for granted. I guess this applies to all travellers.

For those who have experienced this let me know if I have forgotten anything.

Travelling to Visa Free Countries is Best but

the developed countries make themselves so attractive, how do many of us not have a desire to see all the natural and manmade wonders?

Anyway, once one passes that stage then you come to realise, if you are like me, that you can enjoy many great places in the world visa free on a Jamaican passport: Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, The Philippines, Indonesia, Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and quite a number of other countries and territories. Thus, I have made it my business to focus on travelling to visa free countries and saving myself the angst of all I mentioned above. It is quite liberating. My advice to others from places with passports that require visas for certain countries, think about doing this too. Try visiting some visa free places and enjoying travelling this way. Alas sometimes you may need a visa to get to them but some transit visas are easily procured by airlines in certain regions.

Don’t let visa refusals from certain developed countries dampen your spirit of adventure. It can be a blessing to push you to enjoy and discover other less popular places.

Preparing for Very Long Flights

Flying from Japan to Jamaica and vice versa is a marathon. This involves flying 12 – 14 hrs to somewhere in America, then around 4 hours from America to Jamaica.

Though I have taken my share of transatlantic flights to the different continents once or twice a year, I am not excited about the long flights. For me, I have to mentally prepare for the journey. I really wish we could beam from place to place like in Star Trek.

Here are some of the things I do to prepare for very long flights:

  1. I have my own entertainment sorted.Yes, on these long flights you have your own screen with movies, music and the like to choose from and binge on. However, technology fails sometimes. I remember returning to Japan on a flight, a few years ago and the entertainment system was down. I was happy I had my kindle with books and my ipod with music. Thankfully, many airlines have charging ports at your seat so your device will stay charged and ready.
  2. I pack snacks, suff that are comforting. Yes, you get two meals and snacks on these flights but it’s nice to have these. Not everyone enjoys plane food. Munch and enjoy the entertainment.
  3. I choose comfy clothes that are breathable and carry some kind of covering because the air in planes can often be frigid. The blankets you get may not be warm enough. You want to be comfortable enough to lounge as much as you can in the narrow seats to get some sleep. Since, I fly economy, my advice is mostly for those who do the same.
  4. I wear comfy shoes and/or bring slippers to change into on the flight.
  5. I take headphones/earphones, these are necessary to hear what I want to listen to well. The ones provided by airlines are not great quality.
  6. I take some chewing gum, it is supposed to help with clearing my ears of the pesky air pockets.
  7. In the nice little transparent baggy for liquids in my carry-on, I pack lip gloss, hand sanitiser, lotion and eye drops (This is essential if you wear contacts). I use these multiple times on the long flights.
  8. I wrap my hair in a scarf for the duration of the flight. My hair is prone to dryness and the air in the plane is oh so dry.
  9. I have pocket tissues ready because I may need them for whatever reason.
  10. I pack my patience and anxiety because time seems to crawl.
  11. I take some water on the flight ( 2 500 ml bottles). Of course, I buy them after going through security. The small amounts they serve on the flights just don’t suffice.
  12. If you need something to calm you down, see your doctor before. I don’t, I pray and learn to leave I all to God.

I am oh so thankful to be able to leave Japan on a Thursday and get to Jamaica on the same Thursday, all because Japan is 14 hours ahead. I do not like losing a day coming back though.

Regardless of the long flights, it is nice to know that I can go from one place so far away to another place a great distance away in a day. Imagine travelling by ship for many months back in the day.

How do you prepare for very long flights?

View from Cusco Airport after a short scenic flight from Lima

Visiting Shanghai, Xian and Beijing in December

Travelling in these regions of China during the colder months is not for the faint of heart. It gets very cold. I mean freezing cold. I mean frigid, I will never ever be warm again in my life COLD.

One big advantage is that you can walk the many distances from place to place without sweating buckets. There is much walking as you sightsee, especially in Beijing. Also, no trip to Beijing is complete without a trip to The Great Wall, so even with snow flurries falling from the sky, we enjoyed its magnificent workmanship.

Getting to the Great Wall

I think the most convenient way to get there from Beijing is to go with a tor company. There are tours that take you there and pick you up after you are done. If you don’t speak the language then this is a good option. Someone will be on board to explain everything to you and all the fellow tourists on board in English. It is also reasonably priced. I often buy tours on Viator.com when I travel, so check out tours there. (This is not sponsored, just advice from my experiences with them.)

Schedule a full day because it is quite a drive there and back. Also, it is worth walking along the wall and enjoying the scenery and such. I can imagine it being very beautiful in spring and fall.

Yu Garden, Shanghai
Yu Garden Shanghai

You can still enjoy being out about in Shanghai even in the cold in winter. There is much to do and see in the way of cultural elements. Shanghai is known for its shopping but there are art museums, gardens, an aquarium and other things to enjoy. I enjoyed the different Christmas decorations around the city since I was there just before Christmas day.

In addition, the subway is great for getting around, though you have to be prepared to be pushed by many people. It is all a part of the adventure.

Xian, is where the Terracotta Warriors are to be found. It is worth visiting the Terracotta Warriors Museum to see the beautiful work of art on display. Read a bit about the warriors before going, to fully appreciate what you will see.

Enjoy walking around the town and see the city wall, the bell tower and enjoy street food. Soak up the different experiences and see how people are as they go about their daily lives there.

Dress for the weather if you go in winter. It is a great time to visit because you can have many of the tourist sights to yourself.

Things are affordable, so you can enjoy many experiences and stay in mid range hotels at a good rate. There are many options for good restaurants with affordable prices. Also, with some research you can get from place to place by train. I flew into Shanghai then took the train to Xian then another one to Beijing. Then I flew from Beijing back to Japan. We took the trains overnight, so that’s a great way to save on lodging and wake up in another city. BUDGET TIP!

While Beijing was oh so cold, I did enjoy that city most because of its architecture, museums and historical sites. I hope to visit it again in more palatable weather.

Travelling to Siem Reap to Gaze in Wonder at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat displays beautiful architecture and how well this meshes with nature over time.

Being at Angkor Wat is an unforgettable experience. This is why many people go to Siem Reap. Its setting is captivating and one marvels at the level of artistry seen everywhere.

Travelling to Angkor Wat in style with the nice driver

Look how lush everything is. It reminded in many ways about place sin the Jamaican countryside that I had visited. The driver was very funny and engaging. I remember the warmth of the people in this area and also the little kids who speak all kinds of languages. They may have slippery fingers, so though cute one has to watch out.

I just say ‘Wow!’
Nature pushes through and takes back what we introduced to mess with it. It makes something even more intricate.
Preservation in process, this is good since a legacy is being preserved so more of us can go, see and learn about another culture.
Lush tropical beauty. One can spend an entire day just enjoy nature and being restful.
Look how beautifully designed this is. Its ageing features gives it even more character.
Look at the intricate work of art….
Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to do a good bit of walking. Spend a day or two soaking up this wonder.
As pretty as a picture right?

If you are going to South East Asia, add Cambodia to the list. It is an affordable country and the people are warm and welcoming. Be careful though because there are those who may grab your valuables. Travel responsibly and so on…

Discovering the Beauty of Tea in Sri Lanka and Forming New Bonds

Sri Lanka is a beautiful paradise with lush scenery, wonderful people and scrumptious food. I can’t believe I had no plans to visit this awesome place, until I met a friend from there in Tokyo. When she returned home and told me to come visit whenever I wanted, I jumped at the chance. By then I had been to India and knew it was somewhat similar. Sri Lanka, has its own rich cultural traditions and has a warmth all of its own though. Let me wax eloquent about it all.

Jackfruit, my favourite fruit and mango my other favourite fruit are abundant in Sri Lanka. If I am able to gorge on these then I am happy. I was happy in Sri Lanka both times I visited. At my friend’s house, I enjoyed these fruits and others, as well as a smorgasbord of other local dishes that infused joy into my being. Food in Sri Lanka is spicy goodness, everything is delicious.

Learning more about Sri Lanka through its foods

I am always surprised at how common it is for people to eat their meals with their hands. It seems that eating with utensils (especially at home) isn’t as global as some of us practice/believe. It is something I do when I visit places where this is the norm. Since, I was staying with my friend and her family I considered it important to do this. One great aspect of travelling is learning about other cultures in real life. I am learning as I travel, to be more open-minded and respectful of the way other groups of people do things. When you think of it, it is quite eco-friendly to eat with your hands. Curried jackfruit was new to me. Though I enjoyed it, I still prefer eating it raw and ripe.

Seafood is quite tasty and varied in Colombo (this is where I indulged a lot so keep this in mind). We enjoyed eating at some world class hotels and the fare they served was worth every penny. You can eat good food for cheap and you can also splurge and enjoy good food in more classy establishments. It’s worth trying them, within your budget of course.

Sri Lanka
Somewhere between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy

Exploring tea ‘country’ and making connections in Kandy and Colombo


Sri Lanka is a country where travelling on the beaten path still gives great rewards. It isn’t crowded and train travel or transportation is accessible. Also many people speak or understand English, so travelling around is relatively straightforward. I was fascinated by ‘tea country’ Nuwara Eliya, so I took the train from Colombo up there. It is freezing in summer. Thankfully, I had planned for this. I enjoyed a local tour around a tea plantation to see how tea is made. Phew! The thing that struck me was how hard the women worked to pick the leaves. I was left wondering how much money seeps down to them…

Sri Lanka

The entire area is lush and green. There are lots of picturesque spots for the instagram worthy pics. On the way back to Colombo we drove and those roads are winding…the scenery can’t be beat though. It was nice to see the loads of fresh fruits and veggies being sold by the road side. This brought up memories of familiar places in Jamaica.

In Kandy I spent time with my friend’s relatives and learned more about that area. For me though, just chatting with them about cricket and their lives were the highlights. We are still in touch and I visited them on my next trip, without my friend who had to work then. There is something about making real connections that crosses distance and cultures.

Sri Lanka
Royal Botanical Garden, Kandy

Back in Colombo it was time to check out my friend’s church. Can I just say it was the topping on the cake of my experiences in Sri Lanka. We worshipped, fellowshipped and had great fun. They have a lovely tradition of having Christmas breakfast. This was a special time. New Year’s Eve service was also lovely. Thereafter we set off fireworks and chilled into the wee hours of the morning. These people know how to live well. It reminded me of the joy and closeness of a small church, where everybody knows everybody.

I have nothing but warm memories of Sri Lanka. It’s one of the places I know I could visit again and again. It’s a blessing to have had the wonderful experiences I had there.

Discovering the Richness of India on my first Solo Travel Adventure

Seeing the Taj Mahal up close in all its majestic pearl white splendour is surreal. It is truly a work of art.

It is easy to sit there all day and soak up its beauty. Thankfully there are quite a few trees around that offer shade and facilitate this. Of course, after travelling so far and paying a pretty penny to see it as a foreigner,you feast your eyes until you feel full.

Spend time people watching and coming to grips with the fact that you are here, in India, finally!

If you are of the darker hue like me, have people gather around to take you in like you are taking in the building. Suddenly, you are caught up in a group of youths who you chat with you about cricket and snap photos.

Take some time to see other places in India and experience its rich culture. One way to do this is to visit some other cities such as Jodphur, Udaipur or go to places in the south and so on. The magnificent structures that loom up in many places allow for learning more about India’s history. They too are worth the time and just a bit more money.

You can spend days just going from place to place and exploring these buildings to learn more about what the past was like. The fact that you can get around by train or bus makes this feasible even if one only has a week.

Travelling in India alone as a woman comes with its fair share of nuisances. We all know about the horrific things that have been done to some native women there. One needs to be on guard, especially as a woman. Unfortunately, some men think all women travelling alone are on the prowl. This is a reality. However, if a woman is careful and keeps her wits about her, travelling in India can be rewarding.

The poor animals, I tell ya

So, go to see the Taj Mahal if that is pulling you to India. Plan and explore other areas to experience different aspects of the culture. It is an affordable place to travel. The fact that many people speak English also makes it an easy place to get around. India is a vibrant place with many things for different tastes. Research, plan, budget and travel responsibly.

Travels in Japan: Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a must visit place in Japan. Nagasaki should be the same.https://thisgracedlife.com/2019/06/27/travels-in-japan-nagasaki/

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum showcases the horrors that people experienced after the bombing. Steel yourself for the graphic images. It’s only 200 yen and it has been recently updated to accommodate more people. The entire park is worth spending some time viewing and reflecting on the events that took place there less than 100 years ago. Get to the museum early because when there are many people they may stop admitting people way before closing time. You may have to wait and it maybe a bit crowded.

Visit the Hiroshima Castle to get a taste of that aspect of the culture. It’s 370 yen to enter and it’s worth exploring. The grounds are really beautiful as well. It’s a nice place to sit and enjoy nature for a while especially in spring and fall.

Many people rush through Hiroshima in a day or two but there are many wonders to discover by walking its streets. Okonomiyaki is a staple of Hiroshima and worth trying. Also ride the trams from place to place and see more of the surrounding areas. Payment on the tram can be tricky so watch others or ask the conductor.

Of course no visit to Hiroshima is complete without a stop at Miyajima.

Everybody who visits Hiroshima has a shot like this LOL!

A short ferry ride from Hiroshima is where you will find Miyajima. It’s known for the tori in the picture above and the deer you will encounter there. Spend a day exploring the island on foot and ride up the ropeway to see a view of the city, on a clear day.

Whenever I visit – I have been 3 times- I enjoy trying out the different seafood on offer by different vendors. It’s definitely a place to walk and eat again and again. Go in the back streets, enjoy the different architecture, see how people live and soak up the moment.

Visiting Miyajima after the Hiroshima Peace Park reminds you of how people are living and thriving despite the horrors of the past. You can enjoy nature in many different forms and see another side of Japan that you may not see on the beaten track.

We stayed at a nice airbnb that is centrally located the last time I visited. The other times I stayed in hotels. Shop around and get the best deals. Book months ahead because Hiroshima is always popular. Every visitor wants to visit and many Japanese students go there on school trips at different times of the year.

Things cost generally the same as other places in Japan so plan accordingly

Travel Smart and Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours

Free walking tours are hands down the best way to get an understanding of a city when travelling. Especially for solo travellers you will meet other travellers who you maybe able to plan some tours with.

When I am planning to visit a city I always Google free walking tours in _______________ (insert name of the city). There are usually worth the 2-3 hours set aside for them. I have experienced walking tours in Bogota, Jerusalem, Prague, Rome and a few other places.

The Pros of Free Walking tours

  • Travellers get an overview of a city for cheap. Always tip the guide, it’s polite and ensures the service will continue for others to enjoy.
  • You have a native to ask questions and get tips about things to see, do and places to eat among other things.
  • You see and experience things that you would otherwise be ignorant of. Built into these tours are usually stops at select shops and eateries. These are sometimes gems.
  • You can know where to find things that interests you and return later to explore in more depth.
  • You learn how to get around without getting lost if you are prone to doing so, like me. LOL!
  • You get some exercise in.

The Cons of Free Walking tours

  • You may stop at some crappy places because the guide has some kind of deal to expose visitors to certain shops and vendors.
  • There might be a big group of people so you may have a hard time hearing what the guide is saying.
  • You don’t get quality information about some places because the guide may not be as knowledgeable as a trained guide.

The advantages outweigh the disadvantages especially because you can tip the guide on a free walking tour what you think he or she deserves. I have found that the guides are passionate about their cities and quite knowledgeable as well. Their enthusiasm is a great introduction and a nice welcome for me.

With this in mind I highly recommend do a free walking tour in any city you visit that has one. Go ahead, Google it and try it.

Solo Travel Adventures in Turkey

Turkey is a captivating country with much to do for all kinds of travellers. A few years ago I visited Istanbul and Cappadocia for a few days each. I was on one of my solo travel jaunts to soak up what I could in these cities.

How did I prepare for my solo travel adventure in Turkey?

It all started a year prior to flying over there. I started reading more about Istanbul and Cappadocia, the two places I was intent of visiting. I read blogs about other people’s experiences in these places. I researched the cost of accommodations, food and transport on the ground to decide how much to budget for the trip.

Since I wanted to be there for a week and use my time efficiently, I opted to fly from Istanbul to Cappadocia on Turkish Air. It was a good decision and I am happy I did that. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more to travel fast in order to maximize your time.

Some of what I saw in Cappadocia and Istanbul

The outdoor natural rock formations in Cappadocia are captivating and much fodder for the creative mind. Look at some of these images to get a taste of this.

The centre of Cappadocia is a walkable place and lovely to explore. Stay in a rock hotel to experience something unique to that town. Do a few local tours and go see the sights in the desert like area and or take a ride in a hot air balloon.

As a woman travelling alone I felt safe and of course stayed on guard to look out for my best interest. Ahhh… Cappadocia is so picturesque and a great place to go slow for a few days.

Istanbul is a thriving city with one side falling in Asia and the other in Europe. It is lovely to explore and enjoy the old and new sides of the city. A great way to get a feel for it is to do a hop on hop off bus tour.

I like the liveliness of the city and it’s friendly people. There are those men though who think that a single woman travelling alone is looking for a quick lay. Be alert ladies.

The food is fantastic and the coffee is wonderful. Explore The Grand Bazaar and other markets. The colours, the sights, the sounds are an amalgamation of everything that is splendiferous.

The Hagia Sofia was my first stop because I had been wanting to see it for a while. Remember to dress modestly when visiting.

Both places are affordable and have nice boutique type hotels for less than 100 USD per night. This is a destination where your money goes a long way.

I have wonderful thoughts about my trip there and enjoyed my solo travel adventures in both places in Turkey.