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Tag Archives: safe travel

Real Adventures on St Marten

Phillipsburgh St Maarten was our 2nd stop of the cruise.  This was the only island where we actually booked a proper tour, mostly because it was so inexpensive and there didn’t seem to be a lot of things to do, or at least not stuff we could do on our own.  By taking the tour we ended up seeing a lot more than we would have on our own.  In the end it was the best visit we had due to a combination of the amount of things we were able to see and the ginormous family we shared the tour bus with.  There were 20 of them plus us, and they were so awesome that they helped make our day.

We went with Jo Junie tours.  The cost was $40 per person and that included all you can drink refreshments.  The tour was a little different from what was advertised but none of us were complaining.  We hopped on the bus, got our drinks, got to know the others a little.  I must say again, what a fabulous group!  I was a little worried about being surrounded by such a large group that we didn’t know but they made us feel right at home.  Our first stop was at an iguana farm which was totally Chelsea’s thing.  Growing up she had geckos and always wanted an iguana, so she took about 50 pictures.  It was neat to see them all running around in their natural environment.  The largest was over 15 pounds!

The next stop was Orient Bay where we were treated to the site of the most beautiful ocean view I’ve ever seen along with some coral and sea animals that had been brought up for us by a local.  I actually got up the nerve to hold one of the animals and wow, was it weird.  In the picture it looks sort of soft and fluffy, it wasn’t.  More prickly, and the thing was constantly *moving.*  You can see Chelsea’s reaction in the picture.  After that we headed in to Marigot for a short shopping trip.  Marigot was beautiful.  It is called the French Riviera of the Caribbean, and I can totally see that.  We were under a bit of time constraint at that point so we all quickly hopped out to grab a souvenir or two then hopped back on for our last stop.

Our last stop was Maho Bay/Sunset Beach.  Stunning, just absolutely stunning.  Not only was the beach downright gorgeous but it’s draw is that it’s so close to the airport that the planes get so close you can practically touch them when they come in for landing.  I’m told you can see the pilots, although I didn’t try.  By the time we were set to go I think we were all exhausted and ready to head back to the boat, that is the sign of a good day if you ask me.

St Martin seemed to be the least commercialized for tourists, and I really enjoyed it all the more for that.  I think I mentioned once before that seeing what a place wants to show me isn’t really what I’m looking for when I visit.  I want to see who and what they really are.  Hopefully experience the day to day lives of the locals even just a tiny bit is more exciting to me than going to a full blown luxury resort.  I felt like I got a tiny glimpse in St Martin, and if I had to choose one island to spend more time on it would be this one.

Some of my fav pics that we took on St Marten.

   
   
   
   
 

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Real Adventures in St Thomas

We’ve been home for 4 days already, and I’m still having a hard time getting my head where it needs to be.  Seems I’m still on Caribbean time, and I have a feeling I will be for a while.  We had such a good time that I’m already planning our next one!  Of course I have to win another trip before that can happen but I’m working on it.

I’m going to do a review of the cruise itself but since it was the largest part of our vacation I will save that for the last post.  For now, I’ll be sharing our adventures on each island.  They didn’t really turn out as we had planned but that’s ok, we had fun, which is the important thing.  I still find it kind of hard to believe we visited four different countries while we were away.

St Thomas was our first port.  While we were pulling in both Chelsea and I were in awe that first, it was no longer ocean for as far as the eye could see, second, how pretty the water was, and mostly just how beautiful it was over all.  I think we took fifty or so pictures just pulling into port.

If you remember from my previous posts we had planned to visit Coral World for this stop.  So when we finally got off the boat we hopped a bus to get downtown to browse before we made our way further in.  Downtown was pretty, although crammed with people which I suppose is to be expected.  On one side there were stores, on the other there was the ocean.  Can’t ask for better shopping scenery!  We skipped the main shopping places in lieu of the flea market type stalls.  We had a very tiny budget so had to be very careful what we purchased.  That day we each bought an inexpensive sundress, and something for the boys back home.

As we decided to explore a little more we found ourselves a street or two into the downtown area and were all of a sudden surrounded by jewellery stores.  We’d attended a seminar on the boat in regards to shopping on the islands, so we had some coupons for free stuff that we figured we would cash in at that point.  If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t bother.  While the items you get are sort of cute little tokens, they are similar to something you would get from a 25 cent candy machine, but that’s how they get people in the doors, and then they really do expect you to buy something.  There had to have been a couple hundred jewellery stores just along that street and while the prices were really amazing, they still weren’t in our range.

After exploring for a bit we had to start figuring out how to get to Coral World.  We approached a police officer for directions, as we figured it would be the safest way to find out.  We had asked several people before then and couldn’t figure out why no one understood that we wanted a regular ol’ bus.  Not a charter, tour, taxi, etc.  As it turns out they do have a city bus but it’s the same type of vehicle they use for tours.  Coral World was at the very opposite end of the island, but by taking the bus it only cost us $2/each to get there.

We had to walk a little bit but for the price neither of us were complaining.  When we got there, the admission price was a bit more than we expected.  It turned out well though because there was a beautiful beach right next door.  Having looked at photos before we left I knew it was there, just hadn’t expected to use it.  So we ended up spending a good portion of our day laid out on Coki beach.  It was packed, but still so relaxing to lay out on the white sand beaches and swim in the clear water.  By the time we were ready to leave we were both mush from the heat and relaxation, great way to spend an afternoon if you ask me.

We still had about 4 hours to spend on St Thomas so we decided to take the bus back as well.  The ride back was considerably longer but for a total of $4 we got to see the entire island.  We talked with locals who told us where we needed to get off, pointed out landmarks, and interesting little tidbits.  We basically had our own little tour, in the same type of open vehicle, saw more than most since the bus traversed the entire island, and paid a fraction of the amount.  It was a little nerve wracking since we had to watch our own time table, but that was ok because it was an experience I won’t soon forget.  I also hope that it showed Chelsea that if you’re willing to travel off the beaten path it just might be worth the extra trouble.  If you’re looking for more info on how to get around St Thomas, this link has good information.

Of the three islands we visited, St Thomas seemed to be the least commercialized.  Considering the amount of jewellery stores that might sound odd, but even those stores were mostly ma and pop type fronts.  We both loved the easy atmosphere, beautiful murals along the roads, and the beach was the prettiest we saw on our trip.  One day I’ll go back and be able to spend a little more time there.

Here are just a few of my favorite pics from St Thomas…

   
   
   
 

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Safe Travel for Women

With only two weeks until we leave, friends are sending me tons of links on how to stay safe while travelling. One in particular is an extensive guide for women travelling alone. It burns my butt that such a thing is necessary, but unfortunately it is.  Being prepared could save you a lot of grief.

Some of the highlites:

-Know where you’re going. Research any challenges you might face for that particular country so you can be prepared.
-Leave copies of important travel information with someone at home. Passport, itinerary, ID, and important numbers.
-Also leave copies of those important documents in your suitcase in case of theft or loss.
-Get Travel Insurance, some provinces plans do cover you abroad so check with your local government office.
-Consider taking a few self defence courses. We all should do this anyhow, but it is even more important while travelling on your own.
-Register your trip with Canadians Travel Abroad. This is a registry to keep you connected to Canada in case of any disasters or problems.
-Leave as many valuables at home as you can, and do not wear your bling whenever possible. This will attract the wrong crowd.
-Always carry with you an emergency contact index card with your personal information, as well as the contact information and address, with directions, for your country’s embacy.
-Keep your luggage with you at all times to avoid tampering, and turn your luggage tags backward so prying eyes can not see your information.
-Criminals will often target women travellers, be warry of overly friendly locals.
-Set a contact schedule with friends or family back home. Use it to check in regularly so they will know if something is wrong.
-Only use reputable marked taxis, and do not get into a car if the driver has approached you.
-Know the culture of the country you are travelling to, and try to blend in. Some actions that are perfectly reasonable at home may be offensive to another culture and draw attention to yourself.
-Travel with sanitary products, simple medications like ibuprofen, anti nausea, or anti diarrhea, and condoms, these may not be readily available in the country you are visiting.
-It is a good idea to get a check up before you leave and discuss your trip with your doctor. They will know of any current health risks, shots, or other medications you might need.
-If you are single, wear a fake wedding band to thwart unwanted advances.

While chances are that none of these things will be necessary, there is no harm in being prepared. I will be travelling with my teenaged daughter, and will darn well be sure to know everything I can to be sure I keep her, and myself safe. Since we will be on a boat for the most part, most of these risks are very minimal, but that does not mean I shouldn’t try to reduce as much of it as I can. A little knowledge goes a long way.

One other thing I learned from a travel agent that should be a no brainer, but really never occured to me.  When you are researching your destination country, try to use only government and official tourism sites.  These sites will be the least biased and offer you a more true vision of the place you will be visiting and what it has to offer.

As it turns out, before I read the guide, I hadn’t even thought about travel health insurance. It was one of those forehead smacking moments, but on doing a little more research it seems that Alberta does cover many services outside of Canada. I am going to look into supplemental insurance anyhow, but it was a relief to know that for the most part, we are already covered. Be sure to check with your province, or state, and know what you need before you call for a quote.  The cost for emergency medical insurance while we are away is a whopping $57 for both of us.  I was having visions of thousands of dollars, this amount is negligeable and totally worth it for the peace of mind.

Now that you’ve gotten all those little niggly things out of the way, you can truly relax and enjoy your vacation!!!

You can read the full guide here, Her Own Way

Some other helpful links.

Wear a Fake Wedding Band.
Canadians Abroad
Healthy Travel Abroad
Check your Provinces health coverage outside of Canada.

 

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