Everything you Should know for Obtaining the New Saudi Arabia eVISA

Over the last couple of years, rumors have spread across the media talking about Saudi Arabia opening their doors for travelers to freely visit their country for tourism. Multiple media sources have written about specific dates indicating when this change would be made, but in the end, the doors still remained closed.

However, earlier in August 2019, more and more new sources started to write and speak out about a revolutionary change that would take place in Saudi Arabia in September 2019.

This captured my attention, so I decided to follow the news regarding this topic on a weekly basis.

In September, more articles started confirming a set date of a new eVISA that would shortly become available.

This time, it was more than just a rumor!

On September 27th, there was an official confirmation that stated that many nationalities from all across the world would be able to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a new, easy to obtain EVISA.

Photo: Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Dammam, Saudi Arabia

 

As soon as this news was released, I instantly bought the new EVISA and started planning my solo trip there.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that getting a visa and traveling there is easier than ever!

In this article I wanted to give you a bit of information and answer some questions that people have asked me every day through social media on obtaining a visa for Saudi Arabia.

Who is elegible for the new EVISA?

  • USA
  • All European counties
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Asía (Japan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan)
  • South Africa

Where do I obtain the eVisa?

The whole entire visa process is done 100% online.

There is no physical place that you will need to go and it is NOT necessary to send your passport or documentation to any place.

There are many different websites that you can apply, but the one that I chose and trust is:

visa.visitsaudi.com

What documentation do I need to present?

You will need to fully complete your application and submit a photo.

It is VERY important that your passport will not expire with 6 months of applying for the visa. You will also need a full page or two for the entry and exit stamp.

Necessary information:  profession, city/country of birth, current address, passport information/expiration date, purpose of visit.

Towards the end of the application it will ask you for your address in Saudi Arabia. It will give you the option for a “residential or relative” or a “commercial accommodation.”

I just put the number and name of a friend in Saudi Arabia, but you can just put a hotel with a contact number. If you plan to travel around a lot within the country, just put the name/number of the first hotel that you are planning to stay in. This name and number does not appear anywhere on the visa and you will not be required to stay at this place during your whole stay.

How long does the visa process take?

The application took me less than 20 minutes to fill out and I received my visa within 24 hours by email.  However, other people have told me that it has taken up to five days to process everything.

The process was SUPER easy. As soon as you receive it by email, just download it (along with your required Saudi health insurance) and take it with you.

Can I use the visa at both land/air borders?

The eVISA is eligible for both land and air crossings. I entered into Saudi Arabia from Dubai and also took a trip to Bahrain by land. Entering and exiting the country was very simple.

The immigration officers will stamp your passport and then you are free to enter and exit the country as you wish.

You do not need to travel with any extra passport photos. You will be required to give your finger prints, take a picture and that is it!

There are no additional costs at the border.

Is this visa multiple entry?

Yes, the visa is valid 1 year and you can enter and exit all you want.

However, you have to be very careful that you do not exceed more than 90 days in one year without an additional visa.

Cost of Visa and Mandatory Insurance

Everything for my visa cost me around US$125, payable by credit card.

When you are getting ready to check out on the visa website, it will take you to a page giving you options for medical insurance. It is required that you have medical insurance during your stay.

I chose the Arabian Shield Insurance, which cost me 35 USD.

On the website you can download a printable version of your policy, including details of your full coverage. Take this with you just in case of emergencies.

Important Reminder

You must show a yellow fever vaccine if you are traveling from high risk countries. There are multiple websites that can show you which countries are considered “high risk.”

 

 

Honestly, it is quite incredible to look back and see how easy this process was! Without a doubt, it was one of the easiest countries to get an online visa that I have ever been to!

My solo trip to Saudi Arabia was absolutely fantastic and I felt VERY safe traveling there. I will share many of my experiences in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

 

Don’t forget to also check out:

OVERLAND TRAVEL TO LIBERIA, AFRICA: A COUNTRY OF LONG STANDING RESILIENCE

THE ONE THING THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT

SUAN MOKKH: 10 DAY SILENT & MEDITATION RETREAT IN THAILAND

 

adminEverything you Should know for Obtaining the New Saudi Arabia eVISA
read more

Exploring the Island of Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca is the largest Spanish island, located to the east of the peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. It is known internationally for its beautiful landscapes, beaches and nightlife.

When most people think about this island, they tend to think of only a beach destination, but after visiting there several times I discovered that it has so much more to offer than just beautiful beaches!

Mallorca is rich in history, with delicious cuisine and many incredible places to explore: mountains, traditional villages, beaches etc.

It is perfect for a family vacation, a couples getaway or even for those who travel alone, like myself.

It is also an ideal location for professionals or companies that are looking to organize or attend activities and events. There is always something happening on Mallorca island!

During this last year, I have had the opportunity to travel to Mallorca, combining both work and pleasure.

During my first visit, I was invited to attend the annual Travel Bloggers Meeting of the Balearic Islands. During the five days that I visited, I stayed at the beautiful Meliá Calviá Beach Hotel, which was in a beautiful area, full of attractions and night life.

For this event, they invited 17 influential travel bloggers from the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Poland, the United States, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. During this trip we visited different parts of Calviá and explored different key parts of the island.

Apart from being one of the invited influencers, I was also the invited keynote speaker that was asked to share about my experience traveling alone to almost 100 countries around the world and working as a full time media influencer.

On my second trip, I was invited to speak at DESTINO MICE at the Congress Palace in Palma. This is an annual event aimed towards meeting and event organizers that seek to promote Mallorca as a specialized destination.

In the afternoon, I gave a 2 hour training on Emotional and Social Intelligence applied towards management.

The next day, I was one of the five inspirational women invited to speak in Inca for an event with MOTIVATING TALKS organized by Creativity Events.

Resultado de imagen de MOTIVATIONAL TALKS de Creativity Events.

After spending some time in Mallorca, I quickly realized that it is much different than any of the other Spanish islands that I have visited so far. In my opinion, it was a huge advantage visiting in the low season, because I was able to escape the crowds and experience a whole different side of Mallorca that many people might not get to see in the high, crowded season.

Mallorca is so much bigger than I thought, so I decided that renting a car would be the best way to get around and explore.

I chose Roig Rental Car, a car rental company located less than 5 minutes from the airport. I was picked up by a shuttle at the airport and taken quickly to their main office. I was given a small, fuel efficient car during the week that I was there. It was very practical and I got my around the whole island on just one tank of gas!

This is hands down the most comfortable and affordable way to get around, especially if you are traveling with multiple people.

Recommendations:

There are many hotels and places to stay on the island, but given that Mallorca is known for its beautiful beaches, I decided to look for something as close to the beach as I could. The ocean always gives me energy and helps me to recharge my batteries, so finding a place with beach views was a must.

Hotel Nixe Palace

After a late evening flight and dinner, I arrived to Hotel Nixe Palace quite exhausted. The reception was friendly, helpful and had everything prepared for me as soon as I arrived. Upon entering the room, I was surprised to find a nice welcome note, fruit platter and a bottle of cava. The amazing detail as soon as I entered my room was priceless!

The room was very spacious and the bed was soft and comfortable.  I instantly opened the curtains and saw that there was a large balcony. I stepped outside, took a deep breath of the fresh air, with a gentle breeze coming from the ocean, and instantly felt relaxed.

I was so excited about having the large outdoor area with seaside views that I actually woke up each day way before the sun in order to have some quiet time before my events and calm my mind with the sound of the waves and deep breathing exercises and mediation.

Each day I went downstairs to the breakfast buffet in order to enjoy a delicious healthy breakfast with amazing ocean views.

Given that I travel a large part of the year, it’s very important for me to have healthy options for each meal. Most people travel and skip their diets, but given that travel is my lifestyle, I make it a rule to eat healthy when on the go, just like one would do in their regular day to day lives.

In the evening, after returning to the hotel, I finished each day by a nice workout in their gym and soaking in the spa. I was so impressed with all the amenities of the hotel. I HIGHLY recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to Mallorca!

Click here to read more about Hotel Nixe Palace.

GASTRONOMY

Mallorca is an island known for its gastronomy. The food has a rich history, with African and Roman influences.

I tried many different restaurants during my stay in Mallorca, ranging from classy sit down places, to stand up tapa bars.

In my first visit to the island, I found a place called Urban Food in Calvia. It has a very modern atmosphere that attracts many international tourists and is perfect for trying different types of Mallorcan food and tapas.

I loved this area because of the different options of food available and for its young, hip environment. This area is also perfect for shopping, night life or just simply an evening stroll.

Restaurants:

Lume & Co

This was the very first place that I visited after getting my rental car and starting my adventure through Mallorca. This was recommended to me by others and they have excellent reviews on Trip Advisor.

It is located in Genoa, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Palma, about 10 minutes by car from the center.

Upon entering, I fell in love with their cozy and romantic atmosphere. It is located in a 15th century historic building, next to the castle of Son Berga, which was restored and modernized from stables to a beautiful location to dine.

Their speciality is quality meats (without hormones, antibiotics and additives). However, there are many vegetarian options, as well as wild fish.

It was a perfect place to start off my trip through Mallorca: good food, romantic atmosphere and excellent service!

Click here to read more about Lume & Co.

La Cuadra Del Maño

Strolling through the old town, near the Plaza Mayor in Palma, a strong smell came over me that reminded me of my days back in USA when I used to have barbecues.

I followed that smell down the street until I found La Cuadra Del Mano, which was absolutely FULL of people. They had long lines of people waiting outside to enter, but I decided that given the amount of people there, that it must be a place that was popular and that I should not miss.

Although the restaurant was packed, they still managed to find a small place for my guest and I. We told the owner that we wanted to try a little bit of everything in small portions so that we could try out many different things that they had on the menu.

Within 10 minutes, the waiter started bringing large plates of food out, ranging from olives, cheese, morcilla, meat and home made bread with olive oil. Once we got started, it was very hard to stop eating.  We stayed there for 2 hours and we left feeling very full and satisfied!

I am not a meat eater, but there are other options to choose instead. However, without a doubt the best part of the experience was feeling the lively environment and the staff (its a family run business) that will treat you just like one of the family.

Food&Friends

This is a perfect place to hold business activities, events, special occasions or just a good night out with a group of friends. After the MICE event, the organizers and speakers went out to have a unique gastronomic experience, where we learned how to make new delicious dishes together.

This is an excellent way to learn about the local gastronomy and have a fun interactive experience for everyone!

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Apart from the delicious gastronomy, there is so much to enjoy in Mallorca, such as its coastal towns and cute traditional villages. I would of have liked to spend more time on the island in order to explore much more, but given that time was limited, I only had the chance to explore the following:

Porto Colom

This is an adorable fishing village where you can enjoy beautiful post card views and see small colorful houses and fishing boats. Many historians claim that this is actually where the famous explorer Christopher Columbus was born and for that reason it got its name, “Port Colom.”

I enjoyed walking through the town and seeing all the gorgeous views around sunset time. For those who have lots of time, boat trips are available, something that is highly recommended by others.

The ride from Porto Colom to the hotel was absolutely breathtaking. The sky ended up turning pink and yellow and I couldn’t help but stop the car and get out and take some pictures in the hay field.

Santayi

Walking through the old town you can see many cute shops and charming houses. Every Saturday there is a local market and its a great place to find traditional local products, homemade cheese, wine, fruit, jams and all kinds of different souvenirs.

If you are a wine lover, there are different places to stop along the way way to try different wines and to find a good quality bottle to take back home with you. One of the places worth mentioning is the Son Alegro Wine Cellar. They are known for making organic wine and highly respecting the environment.

I have to admit, out of all the places that I visited in Mallorca, this area was by far one of my favorites, because it is just a few kilometers away from the famous Cala del Moro. It is a small hidden beach, with beautiful blue waters and surrounded by rocks and groves.

There are many places to explore, but this is the most recognized area. There was not a single person in sight, which was the perfect opportunity to fly my drone and get some amazing video and footage.

Pollença

One of the things I quickly discovered walking the streets of Pollencça is that they actually have their own dialect. This is a great place to go and learn more about the culture of Mallorca, interact with locals and have an authentic type of experience.

This is also a nice place to relax and watch people. The environment is relaxed and good for taking a nice stroll and checking out the artsy places around. There are different areas that you can visit, but if you like to hike, I highly suggest you visit the Mountain Puig. You can walk it in about an hour and the views are lovely.

Strolling through the village was a nice way to end my time there. I found a very romantic restaurant that I fell in love with called FOGONEU

It is perfect for a chilled out evening, enjoying the good cuisine and wine with their tasting menu.

Valldemossa

This is a lovely place in the mountains of the “Serra de Tramontana”, a quiet and relaxing place with incredible views. You can visit different art galleries, enjoy delicious food, visit the monastery and walk through its artsy streets.

For all nature lovers, there are many trails in the area for hiking, with neat spots that you can stop and get nice panoramic views of the sea and Mallorca.

Foto: Domingo Vázquez

Deià

This is a coastal town in the western part of the island, known as the village of artists. It is a great destination for art lovers and those love to walk aimlessly though art galleries. Many claim that this is a great place to live if you are looking for a calm and relaxed way of living. There are many fantastic outdoor areas, with good hiking trails and excellent opportunities for photographers.

Mallorca is truly a hidden gem that one needs to discover and explore. I really believe that this is one of those places where you can visit countless times each year and still never run out of exciting places to discover.

Don´t forget to also check out: 

HOW I GRADUATED WITH HONORS IN 1 YEAR WHILE TRAVELING FULL TIME TO 20 COUNTRIES

7 GESTURES YOU MIGHT WANT TO AVOID IN OTHER COUNTRIES

THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

PaquiExploring the Island of Mallorca, Spain
read more

Most Common Travel Mistakes: Part 3

As you all now know, if you have been reading this three-part series, that there are many travel mistakes that travelers can fall into that could be the difference between a beautiful experience across the world, or a total nightmare.

There are so many precautions that we can take and lessons that we can learn from other travelers that have personally had terrible experiences. Given that I am the queen at making lots of travel mistakes, I desperately seek to help and inform other travelers so that they don’t find themselves in the same problems that I have been in multiple times throughout my journey across almost 100 countries.

With that said, let’s continue on to the last part of this series of “Most Common Travel Mistakes.”

28. Traveling with your Normal Habits and Patterns

When my parents traveled all the way across the world to visit me in Ireland, one of the first places we went to was an American restaurant to have ribs, something that they had eaten for dinner at home just two nights before. It is so important to break your routine and try different things while traveling. 

Experiencing new things is part of the travel experience and adventure. Get with a local and see how they live their life, try something new, and make new memories through new experiences.

29. Not Taking Time for Exercise and your Health

I know many travelers that gain weight while traveling, simply by just not caring about what they eat or taking time to exercise daily. Traveling and finding that balance is not an easy thing, but believe it or not, I have lost weight while traveling and have come to find a good balance, with healthy eating and exercise while on the road.

This may be something difficult for new travelers, but it’s something you must be aware of, so that you can take positive steps towards a more healthy future. 

30. Depleting your Budget Due to Alcohol Consumption

This has to be one of the biggest problems I have heard from backpackers from all over the world. Keeping up a nightly drinking pattern can get very expensive, even in the countries that have a reputation for being cheap to travel to. Many claim that alcohol is their biggest expense and something that sends many of them home early and totally broke. 

This is an easy fix: find enjoyment and a life outside of being drunk.

31. Eating Near the Major Touristic Sites

Want to get ripped off in just one second?  

Find the nearest major attraction and eat at the restaurant next to it. This is a guarantee way to get ripped off. Instead, take a five minute walk away from the site and have lunch, especially if you are on a budget. Not only will you save money by leaving the touristic areas, but you are more likely to find more local restaurants and people. 

32. Waiting to Buy all your Last Minute Gifts at the Airport

I seem to make the same mistake every time that I travel when it comes to buying gifts or postcards in a country. I end up finding the perfect gift in the city center, but then waiting and saying that I will go back and buy it another time.

Time has a way of getting away from me I find myself desperately running around the airport at the last minute trying to find something quick to buy.  The prices are much higher in the airports, even in most duty free areas. I had to pay up to 4 euros just for one postcard in Jordan in the middle east!

33. Booking your Trip too Early Without Insurance to Change your Dates.

Already planning your trip for next year?

That’s not a bad thing to do, but do not book your flight for a year out without insurance to change your ticket, because you never know what will happen.

Yes, flights are cheaper, but if something happens and you can’t go, it doesn’t matter how cheap your flight was, you will end up paying double in many cases. Many airlines offer insurance for less than 20 dollars and this can give you the peace of knowing that no matter what happens, you are covered. 

34. Paying for Rental Car Damages that you NEVER did

Ever rented a car for a week without a single problem, only to return back and forced to pay fines? How does that happen?

Not checking your car over the minute you get it.

Don’t assume that the car is without damages when the inspector finishes looking it over and taking notes. Go around and analyze the car and take pictures from every angle, especially in cheaper rental car companies.  This can save you a lot of money, and in if they try to accuse you of a damage that you did not do, your pictures will be your evidence.

35. Not Taking Time to Renew your Passport

Many countries will not even let you into their country if your passport is about to expire.  I personally had to stay three weeks in the south of India in order to wait for a new passport.  Also, make sure to pay attention to the number of pages in your passport if you are a frequent traveler and do not reach the very last page if you plan to continue traveling abroad.

Most countries will ask for a full page upon arrival for the entry and exit stamps.

36. Traveling to the UK after staying close to 90 days in Europe

This was one of my biggest mistakes that cost me over $500 in missed flights + fees.  I traveled through England on the way to Iceland after being in Europe for about 80 days. Due to the fact that they thought I was trying to live there or do a visa run, they detained me overnight for questioning (although in the end they never asked me anything).

Many people that travel in Europe for 90 days go there for a period of time and then go back to Europe. In order to prevent this or the possibility of you trying to live there without a appropriate visa, they will deport you, even if you are slightly questionable. 

My biggest tip would be to visit England only after being in Europe for a short time, or going with a round-trip ticket, showing that you will be going to a destination far away from Europe after your stay.

37. Not Taking the Proper Safety Precautions

We have all heard the obvious safety precautions:

  • Avoid wearing flashy clothes, jewelry or purses.
  • Avoid walking alone at night, especially as a woman. 
  • Avoid walking around in the evening with your camera around your neck.
  • Avoiding talking on your phone while walking through the city (especially at night).

These are pretty standard and these precautions are there for a reason. I broke a couple of these rules and had to pay a hefty price. I was in a Central American country walking alone the evening to my hotel while talking quickly to my mom on the phone.

All the sudden I looked up and saw a man in all black running at me with a gun. He yelled at me, put the gun to my head and robbed me. He was not happy to find out that I had no money with me, but at least he got my IPhone 7.

38. Passing through a Small Airport if you are in a Questionable Visa Situation or Processing a European Visa. 

I saved one my most dramatic travel mistake for last. I was detained and quickly deported out of the small Milan Bergamo Airport in Italy due to a minor mistake that I could’ve prevented.

Long story short, my Spanish visa was being processed, and while I was waiting, I left the European Union to visit Belarus. I was not aware that I was not allowed to leave the European Union during the time my visa was being processed and that I would run a high risk of not being able to enter back into the Schengen Zone.

I was stopped by Italian officials and they did a full analysis of my passport, marking on a piece of paper all of the times that I had entered and left Europe.  In the end they officially counted that I was 3 days over my maximum limit in 180 days without a visa.

What did that resulted in, besides being locked up and police escorted out of the European Union?

A beautiful X in my passport.

Lesson to learn: Do not leave the EU if you are processing a visa. Wait until you have the visa and then travel without restrictions. If you are over your 90 day mark, DO NOT leave the European Union and try getting back in without a problem.

 

.

.

Don’t forget to also check out: 

adminMost Common Travel Mistakes: Part 3
read more

Overland Travel to Liberia, Africa: A Country of Long Standing Resilience

After an incredible three week overland trip across Sierra Leone, I finally reached my next stop, Liberia, country #98.

I have been intrigued about this place since the first time that I heard about it years back. Unfortunately, many people have only heard about Liberia through its tragic past with war and ebola, and to be quite honest, fear often holds travelers back from venturing off to that part of Africa. 

I truly met some incredible people during my stay there, some in which suffered things that you couldn’t even imagine during those dark years of war. 

As I traveled through the country, the word that stuck in my mind was RESILIENCE. It is a country that has had it share of suffering, but somehow they have kept moving forward..

If you are not familiar with Liberia’s past, I will give you a very quick summary….

In 1989, civil war broke out when a group of rebels, led by Charles Taylor entered into the country through the Ivory Coast and began killing off the ethnic groups siding with President Samuel Doe. This war lasted over 7 years. Not too long after, the second civil war began, from 1999-2003.

Sadly, more than 200,000 people died during those years of war and the survivors were sent to neighboring countries to refugee camps. 

Many years later, in 2014, Ebola broke out in West Africa. Liberia was the first in the region to report it, and from that moment there was a downward spiral, taking the lives of over 11,000 Liberians..


Let’s be honest…

 

Fear is the factor that prevents people from visiting new places and getting outside of their comfort zone, especially in parts of the world where war only happened a short time ago.

In the case of Liberia, I would not say that I was fearful, but more hesitant and cautious as I made plans to visit there. Many skeptical people warned me and would say:  

 

“Sarah, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. Danger is all around and you must stay away from there.”

“It is very unstable and it not a place you should visit, especially as a solo female traveler.”

 

I understand that many people mean well in their concerns for me, but these warnings are the same ones that I heard years back when I first mentioned to people that I was going to travel alone across the world. Everyday during that period of time people would warn and try to instill fear in me, but luckily I did not take their advice and stay home just dreaming about traveling.

I took the the most important step that most people tend to skip: ACTION! 

Fear…

Most people live in a prison of fear…

Fearful of change…

Fearful of the unknown….

Fearful of what COULD happen…

Trust me, I know….

Before traveling, I lived in that overwhelming prison of fear…

In fact, if you would’ve told me 15 years ago that I would be taking a solo, overland trip across West Africa, into Liberia, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. 

Through my years of traveling, my idea of fear has completely changed and my current mission in life is to take on any challenge and go into new situations with an open mind and heart.

That is exactly what I did going on my trip to Liberia…

 

                              Liberia. Country # 98

 

 
                             Country: Liberia                       
                             Capital: Monrovia 
                             Language: English
                             Money: Liberian Dollar

                           Visa: 180 USD (this is what I paid, but this can vary                                       depending on where you get it).

 

I crossed into Liberia overland from Bo, Sierra Leone. According to Google Maps, the trip should’ve taken around 5 hours.

 

After having had traveled from Mauritania-Senegal-Gambia-Guinea Bissau-Guinea-Sierra Leone, and then to Liberia overland by public transportation, I knew without a doubt that the estimation of 5 hours would be double or triple that time.

 

Anything can happen while traveling in West Africa and if you are serious about visiting there, you will need lots of patience and a good sense of humor.

 

If you want to pay half the price, you can ride on top!


Without that, you will NOT survive. 

 

My first stop on my wild adventure to Liberia was in Robertsport. 

 

I must admit, there is no better place in Liberia (in my opinion) to make a stop for rest and relaxation than Robertsport. It has a reputation for it’s beautiful beaches, relaxed environment, great surfing spots and a common place to meet other travelers.

For anyone traveling from Sierra Leone to Libera overland, this is convenient place, not too far off the main road, that you can enjoy and see a part of Liberia that you will not see just visiting the capital city. 

 

HOW TO GET THERE

 

The route that I chose was from Bo, Sierra Leone to Robertsport.

It is important to note that road conditions are not the best in this part of the world. Some parts of the highway are brand new and in perfect condition, but the majority of the roads are not good and it literally feels like you are going on a bumpy roller coaster the whole time.

If you tend to get carsick, this is NOT the place for you. 

Also, the conditions of the shared taxis are quite bad and it is VERY normal to have to get out of the car multiple times during the trip in order to help push the car up the steep hills. 

 

ARRIVING TO THE BORDER

After crossing the border from Sierra Leone there is a motorcycle that can take you to the Liberian border for a small price. From there you can catch a shared taxi going straight to Monrovia.

 

 

If you want to stop at Robertspoint, you will need to inform the driver that you need to get off at the road going in that direction. The driver will drop you off along the highway and there will be motorcycles and taxis waiting that can take you the rest of the way for less than 5 USD. 

I chose to take a motorcycle from the main highway to Robertsport and it took us around 25-35 minutes. 

To continue on to Monrovia from Robertsport, you can get a shared taxi and the distance is around 80km. 

 

ENTERING INTO LIBERIA 

There are many different routes that enter into Liberia from the three surrounding countries:

  • Sierra Leone

  • Ivory Coast

  • Guinea.

If you plan on taking the safer option, you can arrive to Liberia via in their main airport, Robert’s International, but keep in mind that flights tend to be quite expensive to and from there. 

It is very important to get your visa situation figured out before arriving. The immigration officers told me that it is possible to get a visa at the border, but I do not recommend it.

There is not an “official” price, meaning that they can try to change the cost to whatever they want. I can tell you from my own experience that it is much better in most cases (if traveling overland) to get your visa in the neighboring country. 

 

MONROVIA (CAPITAL)

This is the largest city in the whole country, and the capital. It is a city filled with history and an interesting place to go in order to get a better idea of Liberia as a country. Passing through the city you can see the remains of old 19th century town houses that were destroyed from war.

 

 

Given that the war happened in the last 30 years, the results of the war are still seen in many parts of the city and in the areas outside of Monrovia. 

 

Ducor Hotel 

This was West Africa’s first 5 star luxurious hotel and an important symbol of prosperity for Liberia throughout the world years ago. This hotel was built in 1960 and attracted people from all over the world to Liberia, for business and tourism. 

It had a beautiful rooftop, with incredible views of the city, 106 spacious rooms, a large swimming pool, tennis court and many other fantastic amenities.

 

 

I took a trip to the hotel and walked through each floor, until I reached the top. I could not help but think about how the hotel might have been more than 30 years ago. What I learned during my visit there was that the hotel was closed in 1989, the year of the first Liberian Civil War.

The hotel was destroyed and anything of value was taken out. What used to be this elaborate, luxurious hotel, was soon nothing more than a destroyed, empty, abandoned building.

 

 

As of today, the Ducor Hotel is one of the most visited places and all of Liberia.

The climb up is quite steep, but at the top you can get beautiful 360 views of the whole city.

 

 

WHERE TO STAY 

There are tons of options available to stay throughout the country, but there are two places that I visited during my stay in Liberia that I absolutely fell in love with.

If you are planning a trip to Liberia, you do NOT want to miss out on lodging in these places. 

 

Libassa Ecolodge

Libassa Ecolodge is located about 45 minutes outside of Monrovia (easily accesible by private or shared taxi). This is a perfect escape from the busy city capital. 

 

 

It’s located in a beautiful area right in nature and only a short walk away from the beach. 

One aspect that I loved about this place is that it is totally surrounded by palm trees and not a single one of them was cut down in order to build this place. The trees that are used to build the hut are replaced with a new seed, bringing life to a new tree in its place. 

The huts are so orderly and cozy. The water is restricted and each room is limited to 200W of electricity. All the products are recycled and each day they are coming up with new ways to help save the environment. 

 

 

Libassa has the only wildlife sanctuary and the whole country.

Sadly, in West Africa it is a very common to see wild animals being used as pets or sold on the street. They do everything possible here to create awareness, educate and help stop illegal animal trafficking throughout the country.

 

 

As of now, more than 265 animals have entered into their sanctuary and out of all of these 123 have been released back out into the wild.

Going to the sanctuary was a touching experience and I recommend it to anyone. Not only will your see cute animals, such as a little pangolin, but you can also get that feeling of satisfaction, knowing that your $5 entrance into the sanctuary is going for a good cause.

 

 

If you are reading this and are not able to make a visit and are interested in donating to the cause, enter into their website make a donation.

Even one dollar can make a difference into the lives of these innocent wild animals. 

Click here for more information. 

 

Nana’s Lodge 

 

Nana’s Lodge is the very first place that I stayed in when I first arrived into Liberia in the town of Robertsport.

 

 

One of my favorite things about staying here was the chance to wake up to the sound of the ocean. They have many styles of beach side bungalows. The one that I stayed in had two double beds, a fan and a lovely balcony that faces the ocean.

 

 

Also, if you want to camp next to the beach, you can bring your own tent or rent one from them. As I mentioned, I chose to stay in a bungalow and it was definitely a great decision. I totally recommend it!

The lodge is located just steps away from an area that is very popular for surfers. In fact, I heard that Robertsport has some of the best waves in the whole country.

If you wake up early, you can find many surfers of all ages out in the ocean surfing. 

 

 

The lodge also has a volleyball net, large beach beds next to the ocean and reclining chairs to relax and read a book.

 

 

If you are adventurous, you can take a one hour hike along the beach to find a ghost ship wreck.

I must admit, it’s not the easiest hike in the world and you must be VERY careful because you have to climb slippery rocks (it is very hard to do with flip flops), but the experience was SO worth it! 

Click here for more information: 



My Liberian Nightmare….


Traveling the world is not always a fun, pleasant, happy adventure like people might assume it is by watching through Instagram. There are many moments in my travels that I have found myself in very uncomfortable situations, alone and totally lost. 

The obstacles that I have faced while on the road are part of the experience and with every situation that I have lived, I have come out with more wisdom and prepared to not make the same mistake again. 

With that said……..

After an exciting week exploring Liberia, my adventure took a major detour…..

I arrived at Libassa Resort, checked into my cabin and instantly started exploring the area. The lodge is a mini paradise, with a large pool, beach area and completely surrounded by nature. As I was walking around, I felt a strange sensation take over my body that only grew with every step. 

As always, I remained positive and said to myself, “This is only the exhaustion from endless travel.”

The weakness grew over the next two days to the point that I could barely make it from my bed to the bathroom. My stubbornness told me not to go to the doctor and to just keep drinking water and that everything will be okay…

However, it was not….

On the third day I found myself hunched over, weak and barely able to make it through the door of the International Hospital in Monrovia.

The doctor gave me a look of concern, took some quick tests and within 2 minutes diagnosed me with Malaria, a disease spread from mosquitos. 

 

HEALTH 

Malaria is very common in many parts of Africa and throughout the world. 

It can be easily treated if caught in the right time, but if you wait, it can and will kill you. In fact, thousands of people die every single year because of untreated Malaria.

If you plan to travel to Malaria zones, travel with precaution and realize that this is a disease that you don’t to mess around with. 

Don’t hesitate one second the moment you start to feel any sort of strange symptoms, such as unusual back pain, fever, weakness and fatigue.

Quickly find a local clinic or hospital in order to get tested. The earlier the doctors can diagnose Malaria, the quicker you can get the treatment you need in order to continue on with your life.

Unfortunately, my trip to Liberia was cut short after nine days of being there. The rest of the time I was either laying in a hospital bed or alone in the house of my American friend who allowed me to stay there while he was out of the country. 

 

 

It was hands-down one of the scariest experiences that I have had while traveling. It truly was a nightmare, especially being completely alone. 

 

People continually ask me “Why did you not get the vaccination for Malaria?!” 

 

As of now there is no vaccination available. 

Many people mistake the vaccination for Yellow Fever that you must get while traveling to Africa for Malaria. 

There are anti-Malaria pills available that you can take during your travel, but given that I was traveling for 4+ months, this option was highly discouraged by my doctor. The pills are quite strong and over a long period of time it might actually cause major problems. 

 

 

If you plan to travel long term in a Malaria zone like I did…..

 


My Words of Advice:

  1. Load up on mosquito repellent and apply it multiple times a day.
  2. Always pack long pants and sleeves and wear them as often as possible, especially in the evening hours. 
  3. Wear a mosquito bracelet (some people swear by these). 
  4. Wear socks any chance you can. 
  5. Sleep inside of a mosquito net. 
  6. For short trips, take the anti-Malaria mediation. 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to also check out:

Top Solo Female Travel Myths EXPOSED: Part 1

10 TRICKS BEFORE SPEAKING ON STAGE

THE ONE THING THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT

 

 

adminOverland Travel to Liberia, Africa: A Country of Long Standing Resilience
read more

Discovering the Beautiful Island of Sao Tome & Principe, Africa

As we were getting ready to land on the island of Sao Tome & Principe in Africa, the man sitting next to me on the airplane looked over and quietly whispered to me, “you must be going to the island for work, no?”

With a very confused look on my face, I smiled and said,

“No, I am going for tourism. I have been traveling alone in West Africa for the last 3.5 months and this is my last stop.”

He looked at me totally shocked, as if I had told him something that was absolutely absurd and unheard of.

“Look all around us and see if you notice anything in common with the majority of the people”- he mentioned

I awkwardly turned around, looking to my right and to the left. He was right, there was a commonality:  Couples, many, many couples. They were of all ages, the giddiest of them being the elderly couple sitting in the seat in front of us, which were kissing endlessly until the plane hit the ground.

So, what the man next to me was trying to determine with his original question is: why on Earth would someone travel to a beautiful island destination, full of lovers, COMPLETELY ALONE?!

Over my years of traveling, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the typical line: “One day, when I have the love of my life by my side, I will travel to that incredible destination I have always wanted to visit, but until then, I will wait.”

Many people constantly wait until another day, and the sad truth is that many will never actually visit their dream destination because they are constantly waiting on a future change or person to come.

Sure, Sao Tome & Principe is a beautiful island and there are many lovers that visit there, but it’s suitable for all types of travelers, even solo travelers. As I was looking out the window as we were landing I did not get upset by his random question to me, nor did I enter in a depression of the reality that I was there completely alone. In fact, I felt the opposite. I could feel the excitement building as we got closer and closer to the runway, knowing that I had 8 full days to explore this small island, which is the second smallest country in Africa.

Sao Tome & Principe was already on my good list before entering, considering the fact that as an American I did not need a visa for up to 15 days. That was an excellent plus, especially given the amount I spent only in visas in West Africa before arriving. In fact, the no visa applies to all European citizens and in many other parts of the world.

NOTE: Before booking a flight it’s important to check and make sure you need a visa. Many require visas in advance. 

Flying to Sao Tome is quite simple. Portugal and Ghana are the normal layovers to enter into Sao Tome through Tap Air. I was super impressed with the company, which had competitive prices, good amenities on board and good food options for the long international flight.

NOTE: Keep in mind that it is absolutely necessary to have you Yellow Fever Certificate. The moment you get off of the plane there is an officer at the door checking each card individually. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION 

Language: Portuguese

Dinero: Dobra, euro accepted in many places

This is a cash ONLY country. I made the mistake of visiting with little cash and when I arrived I spent a whole entire day trying to get money transferred in by Western Union.

After spending all day at the bank, the transaction was unsuccessful. I then started to investigate different ways to get money and I was informed that if you really need to take out money with your card then you can visit EcoBank and talk with the person in charge. They will then give you a code, which allows you to take out money from the machine. I obviously did not know this, or I would’ve done this in the first place.

If that does not work, there are small places available that you can transfer money by PayPal with 5% commission. In the end, this was the option that I ended up going with. The transaction was super simple and in an official building.

TRANSPORTATION

It’s quite difficult to get lost on the island. Throughout most of Sao Tome, its one main road, with few turn offs. The road conditions are not excellent and especially the more south you go, the more likely the chance is you will need a 4×4.

Without a doubt, the best way to get around is by renting a car. Public transportation is available (yellow minivans shared with many people), but it only stays on the main roads and will not take you to the waterfalls, plantations and all of the places that are worth the visit.

Renting a car will cost you €40 a day plus gas, and if you want to rent a guide, another €20.

I’ve visited the island half of the time by myself and then the other half with a local guide. Looking back, I am happy that I spent the extra money for a guide and the driver, because the roads were rough and as a passenger I was not responsible for any sort of damages that could’ve happened on the road.

In addition, a local guide can give you lots of interesting information, tell you stories and make the experience even more meaningful.

I was traveling alone in the beginning, but I found an elderly 73 year old man that was also traveling alone. We decided to split the travel costs and have a fun adventure together.

Motorcycles are also available, but you need an international motorcycle license. However, I was told by many people that the police do not ever check your license, but in the case that they do, you would be required to pay a fine.

ACCOMODATION

There are countless options for lodging, ranging from very luxurious, mid range, to budget AirbnB rooms. I decided to try many different places out in order to get a more well rounded opinion on the accommodation options available on the island.

For the low budget travelers, the cheapest option is Airbnb for around $12/night. These options are available more outside of the city, but still within walking distance. However, if you are a solo traveler and are looking to meet people, this is not the best option in my opinion.

GUEST HOUSES 

There are two main guest houses in the city, which can range anywhere from $40-100 a night, depending on how many people you are traveling with. This is an excellent way to meet other travelers, cook and share meals and have a common area to talk and have a community of people around you.

I really enjoyed my stay in the guest houses and if you are traveling with another person, the price comes out to be very reasonable.

The two main guest houses are: Sweet Guest House & Sao Pedro. They both have different atmospheres and are located on different parts of the city, so depending on your taste, you can easily decide which one is best for you.

Both are about a 10 minute walk to the city center and easily accessible by car. I tried both of the guest houses out and I can say with 100% confidence that either one of them are excellent choices.

SWEET GUEST HOUSE 

The best thing about here is the cozy atmosphere, the shared, fully stocked kitchen and common area. I met other travelers there and even learn how to cook some delicious Nigerian food with 2 Nigerian men that were there for work. The common area has a big TV and couches for people to sit and relax, as well as an excellent outdoor area, right off the kitchen, to eat outside.

The vibe is very good there and the rooms are spacious and comfy. Of all the places that I stayed, this one had the best air conditioning, which was a huge plus! The staff was helpful and even organized a trip for another traveler and I to the south of the island.  They did all the work and all we had to do was show up, pay and enjoy the trip.

Breakfast is available in the morning at an additional price, which included tropical fruits, coffee, eggs, etc.

Highly recommended.

For more information, click here

SÃO PEDRO 

The best part about this place, in comparison to the other places that I stayed in the island, was its distance to the beach. You literally walk out the door, down the street two minutes and the beach will be right in front of you. Also, if you plan on visiting the chocolate factory, it as well is just a 2 minute walk.

You can feel the vibes of this place the minute you walk in. The huge pool, surrounded by palm trees gives this place a very tropic feeling. It’s a perfect place to lay out by the pool and read a book, relax or even go for a swim.

This is a good place to meet other travelers, in a location that is ideal and safe. The guesthouse is gated,  so I had to fear in laying out by the pool in the evening or night.

The owner was very helpful in helping me to organize my stay, finding nice places to eat and organizing my transportation.

Breakfast is included in the morning for an additional cost and has a large variety of fruits, cereals and bread.

Overall, I highly recommend this place!

For more information, click here

HOTEL CENTRAL

After visiting the guest houses, I decided to try out a couple of hotels in order to see how they are different in comparison to my experience at the guest houses.

The first hotel that I stayed at was Hotel Central. It gets its name because of its location. It is centrally located, right in the middle of all of the action. It´s just minutes away from the main market and restaurants. Wifi was not available in the rooms, but there is a small couch downstairs where one can sit and use the internet.

The rooms were very comfortable, with air conditioning. A breakfast buffet was included in the morning, which offered eggs, fruits, bread and cereal.

A very great alternative if you want to be centrally located!

For more information, click here: 

SH BOUTIQUE HOTEL 

If you are looking for a place that’s more upscale, then look no further than this hotel. This hotel is just 15 minutes away from the airport, in the area “Vila Dolores.”

The rooms were very modern, spacious and elegant. The hotel had all the nice extra amenities that I love, such as a robe, slippers, hair dryer and a a mini fridge to store my drinks.

This hotel has 24 hour security and a good parking area if you have a rental car. This is a quiet place to go and relax, located 10 minutes by foot by the city center.

Breakfast was included in the morning, with different options of fruits, cereals, eggs etc.

For more information, click here: 

WHAT TO DO

CHOCOLATE TOUR 

If you are a chocolate lover, then this is your place to splurge! Years back Sao Tome & Principe used to be the world’s largest cocoa producer, but from what our guide explained, after the small country became independent, a lot of the plantations throughout the island were abandoned. The cocoa history is quite interesting here and you can learn about it at Claudio Corallo Chocolate Factory.

For just 4 euros you can join a chocolate tasting tour where you get the chance to try all kinds of delicious chocolates and learn about the history.

LOCAL MARKET 

It can get a bit wild, but the market is a great place where you can get a good feel for the local culture of the island. This place is packed full of people selling fruits, fish, meat, and everything you can possibly think of. They can get a bit rowdy in there, so hold on tight to your stuff.

They sell a lot of raw fish and meat, so if you have a weak stomach, you may want to just visit the market from the outside.

I highly suggest buying some Jackfruit and trying it out. It’s not available in all parts of the world, so it’s a fruit that everyone should try at least once.

SAO SEBASTIÃO 

This is a unique 1566 fortress which is now converted into a museum. This is great place to visit in the city center, with rich history and excellent places to take photos.

GASTRONOMY TOUR 

There are so many dishes available in Sao Tome, which are strongly influenced by the Portuguese. One of my favorite activities that I did within the city was visiting different restaurants and trying typical dishes.

The most common food on the island, without a doubt, is fish, banana and rice. Other local dishes that I enjoyed are:

Calulu: a traditional dish prepared with fish, veggies (eggplant, onion, spices and typically served with rice and plantain. This was my favorite dish that I tried.

Barriga de Peixe: traditional grilled fish, with comes served with rice, or breadfruit

Cachupa: delicious dish, made with green beans, corn and broad beans.

 

SOUTH

In my opinion, the south was the most impressive part of the island. Its a straight road to get there and is located about 2.5-3 hours by car from the airport.

I highly recommend spending at least one night in the south, but it is possible to just do a day trip, although it will be a bit rushed.

ROCA AGUA IZE 

This was one of our first stops on our way to the south of the country. This is one of the most original and largest cocoa plantations, which many years ago had thousands of locals employed.

There are many places for breathtaking views from there and it’s definitely a stop that you must visit.

BOCA DE INFERNO (HELLS MOUTH)

I absolutely loved visiting here. There are some amazing views and it’s interesting to see the water pound hard against the rock to create a large blowhole.

Although my guide told me it was not a good idea, I still decided to go down the hill closer to the rocks. Its interesting to see up close and its a better place to get a photo.

PICO CAO GRANDE

This rock is one of the most famous volcanic rocks in the hole world and it’s impossible not to see if you are traveling to the south. You can either take a hike towards the rock or get a nice shot from the road.

JALE BEACH (PRAI JALE)

This was such an impressive beach, with beautiful white sand. Out of all of the beaches that I explored, this was one of my favorites. The area was super clean, white sand and very peaceful.

The roads are unpaved to get there, so it’s recommended to go with an SUV. There are different bungalows available to sleep, which is an excellent idea for at least one night.

This is also a popular turtle beach between the months of September and April. Here you will be able to see female turtles lay their eggs in the sand, which is a pretty neat experience!

PORTO ALEGRE 

I took a long stop here to explore the area where the fishermen were hard at work, bringing in the fish and cleaning their boats. They were all so friendly with me and had no problems with me taking a few pictures.

From Porto Alegre you can visit Rolas Island, which is the area in which you can cross the equator. It takes about 20-30 minutes and will cost anything between 35-45 euros.

I did not make that trip, but I have heard from other travelers that its a beautiful experience!

NORTH

BLUE LAGOON 

On my road trip by car to the north of the island, I came across the Blue Lagoon. There is a very pretty view spot from the road, or you can go down and swim in the crystal blue water.

This is an excellent stop for divers or snorkelers who love to explore the underwater life.

PRAI DOS TAMARINDO 

This has the reputation for being one of the best swimming areas on the island. It easy to reach from the capital and its worth the visit. This is a good place to get some amazing views and to relax on the beach.

NEVES 

This is one of the most important towns on the island. What I loved about visiting this area was going into the town and getting the authentic feel of the people on the island.

I stopped and had a local lunch and had the opportunity to connect with the kids, listen to them sing and put on performances for the International Kids Day.

If you are feeling really adventurous, just outside of Neves you can find the beginning of climbing point for Pico de Sao Tome, which is the highest mountain in the whole island.

 

CENTER 

The center of the country is where one you can explore different waterfalls, see the forest and even bird watch. There are many different endemic species of birds and on a chilled out day, this can be a great option to explore.

MONTE CAFE 

This is the main place that one can go and learn about coffee, processing, harvesting and have a good coffee tasting.

Coffee is a huge part of their culture here and its a must see when visiting. It’s very close to the capital and can easily be done in just one morning.

Here you can also visit some of the plantations. If you are lucky, a cute kid might even come up to your window and hand you a cocoa pod so that you can suck the sweetness out of each bean. It tastes just like candy!

SAO NICOLAS WATERFALL

This is a waterfall that’s about 20 by car minutes from Monte Cafe. I went during the dry season, so it was impossible to swim, but my guide mentioned that many people enjoy swimming there. The waterfall is accessible by car and requires no hiking to access it.

Its located in the forest and the drive getting there is beautiful, but quite bumpy!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 

If you have a lot of time it is highly recommended to visit the neighboring country, Principe. At this moment there are not boats that take tourists between the two islands, but flights are available at different times throughout the week.

Prices range from €70-150 one way. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to make this trip, but I plan to go back in the future and check it out.

Don’t forget to also read:

HOW I GRADUATED WITH HONORS IN 1 YEAR WHILE TRAVELING FULL TIME TO 20 COUNTRIES

THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

7 GESTURES YOU MIGHT WANT TO AVOID IN OTHER COUNTRIES

adminDiscovering the Beautiful Island of Sao Tome & Principe, Africa
read more