Category Archives: MegaCity Travel

REVIEW: GuideWithMe Offline Travel App

Another offering from the stables of MapsWithMe is called the GuideWithMe app. As the name suggests it’s an extensive guide to specific countries and it lists the popular cities/states/regions of the country. The details of the places are sourced from WikiTravel and thus can be considered to be fairly accurate with in any case I’d recommend using it with caution.

While travelling places Screenshot_2013-12-01-22-27-30 Screenshot_2013-12-01-22-26-08we don’t always get the best deals on communication and at such times offline maps come in handy.  GuidesWithMe is completely offline and that gives you the liberty to get a decent over view of places at your convenience. You also have telephone numbers of the places that are famous, which can be helpful when you are out all day and need to call up to check availability. There’s an inbuilt map which can be downloaded as an add-on to keep you pointed in the right direction.  Here are some pros & cons:

PROS:
1. Completely offline
2. Easy to use and very intuitive
3. Coupled with the MapsWithMe app, it would be the perfect guide book for your travel

CONS:
1. While the app is offline based, there could have been an online component in the form of a forum.  A traveller will eventually find WiFi and reading discussions or comments about such places would surely be beneficial, from my point of view.
2. Should have come with the detailed maps since it’s a single country guide app.

Overall it’s a great app to keep handy during your travel. It would surely make your life much easier on the road, while giving you the liberty to get wonderfully lost.

REVIEW: MapsWithMe Travel App

Travel is getting tech savvy and the mobile devices boom has enabled the traveller to carry the world in his/her pocket. Now your mobile device helps you call, stay connected socially and help you find your way on the move. I love twitter and I happened to come across the MapsWithMe service during one of those fun events like #ttot.  I’m always curious about new technology and I was drawn into checking out their website. Two words, offline maps & no-grey-screen maps came out glaringly.  I downloaded the app and I was seriously impressed, so I decided to get in touch with them and review their product. MapsWithMe have been very kind to have offered me their Pro version.  Here’s what I liked about the product.Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-05-44

So, when you download the app and launch it for the first time, it does a small download to get the world map in place. Once that’s done you are ready to kick off.  The user interface is very intuitive. You can get your way around all its features very easily and usually within a tap of a button.  When you selected the region you want to explore or plan to travel to, just download the detailed map of that place.
This is great for those who love to research and know about their destination well in advance and it also lets the whimsical people find places that fit their fancy.  I love to plan my trips, even to the exact minute if possible and I really would find this handy. The biggest positive in all of this is that it is completely offline. Once you’ve downloaded the detailed map for a region/country you can search for a little food stall right at the corner of a street offline!

Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-06-20 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-12-41 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-11-28 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-11-46 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-07-37 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-07-18
The maps are rich in details. You can search for food joints, shops, hotels, sights, entertainment, atms, and even transportation individually or see them simply overlaid on to the map. The GPS constantly gives you the correct direction and the distance from your marked destination.  Another helpful feature in the app is the note tool. You can pin down locations that you want to visit and add a note to it. It’s a handy tool especially when you are unsure of how you plan to spend your day while travelling.

The biggest pro of this app is that it works offline.  MapsWithMe gives a great viewing experience to the user as it doesn’t get those grey patches you typically see when you zoom into a map online. I downloaded the detailed map for India and I was impressed by the quality of information that the maps gave.  I’d surely recommend this app for digital nomads and frequent travellers.

You can check out the features and download the app for your iOS/Android device by clicking on this link: http://mapswith.me/en/home

Do leave your thoughts on this review in the comments below!

7 Tips to Travel Healthy by Sonnet on insonnetskitchen.com

Last week I traveled to Washington DC for work and I thought it would be fun to share some of my best tips healthy traveling tips. Eating healthy and feeling energized while traveling can be particularly challenging, especially if you have special dietary needs or preferences. Since I was traveling for business, I wasn’t able to have as much flexibility and control over my schedule as if I were traveling on vacation, so I definitely picked up some techniques along the way that made it easier to eat healthy and feel my best on-the-go.

Tip #1: Do your research before you go
The internet is your friend and it will help you to explore the city you are visiting before you embark on your trip. I always find this especially important if you like to eat healthy on trips because then you can prepare by packing extra snacks if needed. I always look for:

  • The closest natural foods or health foods store. (In a pinch, a regular grocery store will also do!)
  • A nearby juice bar (if possible)
  • Nearby Asian, Thai, Indian, and (healthy) Mexican restaurants. (These restaurants are usually my best bet for finding fresh veggies in an unfamiliar city. Plus, they are also a great option if you are traveling with others because these restaurants can accommodate a large variety of dietary needs.)
If you know that you are traveling to a city that doesn’t have any options for dining healthfully, the next few steps are really important because they will help you to be prepared and make the best choices on the trip.
Tip #2: Pack your snacks
Nothing is worse than traveling hungry. I always make sure I have a variety of healthy snack options with me to prevent blood sugar crashes. Some of my favorites include:
  • Nuts (preferably unsalted) or seeds
  • Crackers
  • Nut butters (I really love these individual Justin’s almond butter packets because they don’t have to be refrigerated for traveling and are easy to use on-the-go.)
  • Dried fruit
  • Larabars (Cashew Cookie is my favorite!)
  • Herbal (or decaf) teas
Other items to pack:
  • A small bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar (helpful for salad bars with limited dressing options)
  • A can-opener (helpful if you plan to purchase canned beans, see below)
Tip #3: Pick-up some fresh snacks and basic ingredients when you arrive
One of the reasons why I research a health foods or grocery store before I go is because then it’s easy to pick-up some fresh snacks when I arrive. Even if you don’t have a refrigerator in your room, you can easily make an ice bath in your sink to keep these items cold overnight or for a few days (just replenish the ice as needed.) Some of my favorites include:
  • Whole carrots, cucumbers, celery sticks
  • Fresh guacamole or an avocado
  • Hummus
  • Fresh fruit
  • Mixed greens
  • Canned beans
I love these options because they can easily double as meals if I need them too. I will often pair my flax crackers with hummus and veggies to make a light lunch or combine mixed greens with veggies, canned beans and the olive oil and vinegar that I packed to make a large salad for dinner. If you are planning to dine out or have lots of restaurant options, you might not need to be this resourceful.
Tip #4: Drink water and stay hydrated
One of the worst things about traveling is how dehydrated I feel during and after a flight. Carrying a water bottle and drinking lots of water ensures that I will stay hydrated and energized throughout my day. I also try to drink at least a cup of water for every hour that I am flying, as well as increasing water intake on the days before and after flying.
Tip #5: Eat smart when dining out

From small airports to big cities, I have experienced a variety of challenges during my travels over the last few years. Dining out is always easier if you are going to a restaurant that has some healthy options, however, when that’s not possible here is what usually works for me:

  • Start with a large salad. Every restaurant should have some type of salad and you can usually get it without cheese, croutons, and mayo-based dressing. This is helpful if you don’t have a lot of options for fresh food wherever you are dining.
  • Pair together a variety of sides to create a meal. Restaurants are usually able to give you a side of black beans and steamed veggies. In a pinch, this can be a lifesaver. I also like to order a side of beans and put them on top of a salad to bulk it up a bit.
  • Ask what accommodations they can make. Some restaurants are more flexible than others, but often times they can remove cheese on items or make dishes gluten-free if you need them to be. A polite request can go a long way.
Tip #6: Supplement as needed
This last trip I used a few supplements that were immensely helpful for traveling and I will definitely be using these on future trips. My favorites were:
  • Natural Calm Anti-Stress Drink packets. I’ve talked about the importance of magnesium supplements in another post and I found these individual packets were great for traveling and helping to reduce stress and fatigue during the trip.
  • Airborne Immune Support on-the-go packets. Traveling can be stressful at times and I hate arriving home with a cold. I’ve had great results using Airborne while traveling in the past and I loved these packets because they were convient to mix with water during the flight.
  • JetZone Jet Lag Prevention. This trip was my first time trying this supplement and I was a little skeptical of it as first, but I decided to try it because of the time difference between the East and West coast. I was already immensely sleep deprived leading up to the trip so I wasn’t sure if it helped that much on the way there, but I definitely noticed it on the way back. My trip back included thirteen hours of a subway ride, a train ride, working, a layover, and two long flights. By the end of it I was exhausted, but I had a wonderful night of sleep when I returned and woke up incredibly refreshed the next morning. I know there is no way I would have felt this good without this. If you are traveling between time zones, I would definitely recommend trying it.
Tip #7: Respect your body
Traveling is physically and mentally exhausting and it’s important to take care of your body. This includes:

  • Getting extra sleep as needed.
  • Moving your body. This might be walking around the city, using a hotel gym, or doing some yoga poses in your room. I always pack my resistance bands so I can do some basic resistance exercises (e.g. arm curls, side leg lifts, etc) in a small space if I don’t have other options for exercise during the trip. This really helps with jetlag, overall fatigue, and feeling energized during the trip.
  • Avoiding salt, sugar, and caffeine as much as possible. Even though I work to avoid these things in general, I have found that minimizing salt, sugar, and caffeine while traveling is especially helpful for keeping my energy level up and preventing mood swings.

What are your best tips for traveling healthy? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

Credit – This insightful article is written by Sonnet on insonnetskitchen.com . Do check it out for some mouth watering recipes!

5 Best Free Travel Apps by travelsim.com

There are more apps out there than you can possibly try, even just for travel. So we’ve done the grunt work of sorting through to find the best of the best free apps that will make your travels easier. All apps listed below are available for both iPhone and Android (and some for iPad and additional smartphone models).

XE Currency

If you’re traveling to a place with a different currency, local shopping can become an overwhelming hassle. Of course you want to pick up gifts for your friends and family back home, but do you really want to pay the equivalent of $50 or 37€ for that Russian nesting doll for your 7-year-old niece? XE Currency offers free apps for a wide range of phones, and this app is especially useful if you have a multi-stop trip and have to deal with several currencies.

AroundMe

AroundMe is a clever and useful app that you can use to find out what is around you and where you want to go next. Available for iPhone and Android, the app determines your location and will show you what’s nearby according to different categories (including ATMs, coffee shops, hotels, movie theaters, and more). And honestly, this is one app that would come in handy at home and abroad.

Stay (City Guides and Offline Maps) 

TravelSim offers affordable data roaming, but you still want to be careful with your data usage while traveling. Offline maps and guides are a smart way to do just that, and Stay.com’s attractive and easy-to-use app offers free offline guides and maps for many different cities. TripAdvisor offers a similar app, but doesn’t cover quite as many cities (as of October 2013). But both apps are free, so you can try them both and see which one you like best.

Onavo Extend

Admit it. You’ve been surprised (and not in a good way) at least once by your data usage and how much it cost you. This app (available for both iPhone and Android) tracks your smartphone’s data usage and optimizes that usage to save you money. In short, it’s an excellent perhaps essential app to have at home or while traveling.

Google Translate

Possibly the most obvious app on this list, but if it’s good, it’s good! You can type in phrases to translate, but it’s best features (for travel) are voice input, text-to-speech, and conversation mode. Quite brilliant, actually. If you need some more intensive help, TravelSim offers a Personal Assistant service (free until the end of 2013 if you dial +372991) that can also provide interpretation help.

Credit – This article is as seen on http://www.travelsim.com. Do visit it, seems really interesting. Cheers!

#MeetSouthAfrica – creating travel blogging history in Africa by Keith on iambassador.net

We are proud and incredibly excited to announce the latest iambassador project: #MeetSouthAfrica, a collaboration with South Africa Tourism and Cape Town Tourism. This project brings 15 international travel bloggers to South Africa and will see these bloggers cross the country on four different itineraries that will traverse every province, giving them the opportunity to tell the stories that South Africa has to offer to potential travellers around the globe. The trips all lead to Durban, where South African Tourism will host a #MeetSouthAfrica bloggers event on 10th May at which travel trade and tourism products will get the opportunity to listen to some of these top travel bloggers share their travel experiences ahead of INDABA 2013.

This campaign was cooked up by iambassador in partnership with South Africa Tourism, whereby iambassador provided advisory and blogger selection services.

Creating travel blogging history in Africa

#MeetSouthAfrica promises to be the largest travel blogging event in African history. The 15 travel bloggers will embark on four different trips – two groups leave from Cape Town and two from Johannesburg – on 4th May and end in Durban. From Cape Town, one group will explore the Garden Route and Eastern Cape, whilst the other will head towards the West Coast and Northern Cape. From Johannesburg, one group will explore the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, whilst the other heads towards Gauteng, Orange Free State and KwaZulu Natal. The itineraries have been tailored as much as possible to match the bloggers’ interests (adventure, budget & luxury travel, food & wine, etc..) as well as promote interaction with local South Africans.

The 15 travel bloggers are:

Follow their adventures in South Africa via the hashtag on Twitter: #MeetSouthAfrica. For travel inspiration, visit the South Africa Tourism and Cape Town Tourism websites.

The iambassador bloggers will speak about their experiences in South Africa as well as travel blogging, social media and collaborating with tourism boards at a special blogger event in Durban on 10th May, a day before the official start of INDABA. Click here to register for this event.

Credit:  See more at: http://www.iambassador.net/2013/05/meetsouthafrica-launch/#sthash.jsov5ghw.dpuf

TC Original: My Tryst with Caviar

Caviar in Russia
Caviar in Russia

Eating caviar will never be as fun as the first time I tried this supposed delicacy.  Now I am a foodie inspired by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Bear Grylls but when it came to actually trying new food, I was a bit hesitant.  It was of course the first time I stepped out of India and I had a hard time adjusting to the bland, almost tasteless food that Russia had to offer.  No don’t get me wrong, there are certain cuisines in Russia which have some hints of flavour and taste, but that’s for another blog post, I’m going to tell you about my tryst with caviar in this one.

I’m very choosy about my sea food. Living in Mumbai, I do have a large variety in terms of fish but I am snooty. I prefer eating fresh produce, found in my Uncle’s backyard in Goa.  If anyone’s ever had fresh sea food, you wouldn’t dream of having fish that has been brought in over many days from the high seas.  Moscow and Kazan, the cities I was staying in, unfortunately imported all its sea food from the coastal regions of the mammoth land mass, so fresh ‘Riba’ (Fish in Russian) was completely  ruled out.  There was however one thing that got me curious, Caviar.  Russia is famous for its caviar and I surely wanted to try it once!

Now the method of having caviar in Russia is to take a slice of bread. Plaster it with an inch of butter. Open the golden tin of caviar and scoop out the orange little balls with a spoon onto the bread and butter.  Spread this evenly and prepare to take a bite.  This was a bit difficult for me as I could smell the distinct odour of old fish.  It was I must say, extremely revolting.  I closed my nose and shoved the piece of bread in and started the awkward munching, hoping against hope that I don’t puke it out. Just when I thought the worst was over the little eggs started popping off in my mouth, oozing liquids that accentuated the taste of fish.  Now that’s where I realised it was an acquired taste.  Beer is bitter, but everybody loves that bitter tang that it imparts. I couldn’t brave myself up for another slice of bread with caviar. Enough of adventure for a day, I thought.  A fellow traveller with whom I was sharing the caviar tin with had a ball laughing at my contorted face.  Mind you I had paid 600 Roubles for a 100 gram tin of caviar.

It was a troubling experience for me honestly, but here’s the funny thing. I think I’m going to try caviar once again.  It’s not to prove a point or act even more stupid. It’s simply to relive that memory and in the process hope to may be acquire the taste.

TC Original: Tips for Travel in Russia

Russia is huge and I mean massively huge. It’s half of Europe going all the way to Alaska in North America. I recently travelled to Russia visiting the cities of Moscow & Kazan. Both these cities are beautiful and have their own unique charm. It’s got the European charm that everybody loves and at the same time it has something unique that sets it apart from rest of Europe.  Elements of the ‘Mysterious Russian Soul’ are there in the air and you can feel it when you interact with the people.  Below are some tips which I gathered from my trip.

Visa & visa registration:
Now the Russian tourist visa has a bit of red tape, at least in India. You can get a tourist visa of 30 days maximum and you ought to have proof of hotel reservations for your duration of stay. You need to have an official ‘Invite’ from a tourist agency. They usually charge you anything between 20$ – 30$ for the ‘Invitation’ and a little more if the Russian embassy in your city requires a hard copy.
Once you’re in Russia, ensure that you register your visa with the local post office or immigration office. If you stay in a hotel/hostel, they will do it for you as it’s their lawful obligation.

Internal Travel:
Internal travel in Russia is as modern as it gets. The preferred mode of transport between major cities is by train. Long haul journeys can be fun. It’s recommend trying the Trans- Siberian line. Moscow to Vladivostok is an interesting journey you can try! It would surely be value for money.  In Moscow the metro is great for internal transportation. Places which are further away from metro stations are easily connected with buses.  Kazan on the other hand is much smaller. I’d surely recommend visiting the stunning new Metro Stations.
Kazan Metro

(Kazan Metro)

People & Culture:

Hollywood movies have demonised the Russian and created a negative image of Russians all around the world. Well, the fact is that they are as human as anybody else. The women are drop dead gorgeous and the men are thorough gentlemen (most of them at least).  The culture of Russia is welcoming. There is a huge diversity with people having different ethnicities like Marie, Chuvash, Slavic, Tatar and many more. It’s amazing to see how the communist rule unified all these different ethnicities under one banner. People is Russia love to have a good time, enjoy life  and after all that is done, work hard. Every town in Russia will have a ‘Banya’ a community pool and you are sure to find a ‘Piva’ (Beer) Store next to it.  It’s not advisable to visit them, but if you’re adventurous by all means go for it.

Language:
The official language is Russian, however there a many dialects and sub-languages within the country. Almost like India, the language changes after every 30-50 kms.  Russian is easy to gather and understand if you are attentive.  You can try learning some of these words:

Pri-ve-yt – Hello
Zd-rast-we-tya – Formall Hello
Da – Yes
Neyt – No

Baton – Bread
Vada – Water
Kuri-tsa – Chicken
Spa-ci-bo – Thank you
Bye – Pokah

Money:

The Russians use the Rouble as their currency. Thankfully it trades at 2 INR to 1 RU.  Things are generally expensive in Russia. Sadly the simple jobs don’t pay so well but all the prices are of European standard.  If you eat simple and local you can easily survive in 400 roubles a day for food.

Did you find this helpful? Do leave your comments below, I’d love to chat up!