Choosing the right hotel

If you are going on a business trip or romantic vacation, where you will stay for at least 3 days, it is quite important to choose a hotel where you will feel comfortable. Trust me, I had my share of failures, and there is nothing more unpleasant than ending up in a smoking room or sharing the bathroom, if you are not prepared for that kind of adventures. Being a “booking genius” takes a lot of experience and if you read this chapter carefully, you will see that choosing the right hotel can be quite a challenge.

After you set the destination, I suggest you follow these simple steps for choosing the right hotel or a place to stay:

What is the purpose of your stay?

If you are on a business trip, you need to consider the amenities like: internet (wired or wireless), working desk (you cannot work in your bed or on the floor), breakfast option, perhaps even in-room dining (to save you time and charge you with the necessary energy for the presentations), fitness center or at least a pool are a must (stretching yourself after long meetings is very important) and it is also very convenient if the hotel has a quiet place where you can meet your business partners. If you are on a romantic vacation you will probably appreciate the extras like massage or beauty salons, the variety of meals (all-inclusive options are usually a good choice), outdoor activities and the vicinity of the beach or other tourist attractions. If you are on a road trip and just passing by, then you usually just need a cozy bed and a place to spend the night.

What is your budget?

No matter how high my budget is, I always choose the accommodation by myself, for various reasons. First of all I don’t want any surprises, secondly I don’t want to overpay the rates offered by travel agents or hotels directly and last but not the least, I really enjoy surfing the booking sites and comparing their offers. (I am a travelholic, remember?)

My favorite booking site for choosing the hotel is Expedia, even though their selection is sometimes quite limited. I like Expedia for 2 reasons: one is “Best price guarantee”, which means they will refund you the price difference if you find any cheaper option for the chosen room. This guarantee comes under certain conditions, but if you follow the rules, it actually works. It is not so much about the amount of change they refund, as it is about the feeling that you are in the right place where they won’t rip you off. And the second reason is that you can enroll their loyalty program, which can really get you a lot of benefits and rewards. For example I saved over 500 US dollars in 2015 by using the coupons I got from my Golden Elite Plus status.

The second hotel browser I use is Booking.com which is also very good and they usually offer a wider selection of accommodation. Their search engine is very simple and transparent, however they usually don’t include the taxes in their final prices. You can find this in the small print but it can still be a little misleading if you don’t pay attention. Booking.com doesn’t offer any loyalty program, however if you are a frequent user they give you a “Booking Genius” badge – which offers better prices for some hotels. They also claim to guarantee the best price but I only used this option with them once and they didn’t reply.

Besides Expedia and Booking.com there are many similar booking sites like Agoda or Hotels.com, where you just set the size of your budget and compare the selection (usually they all offer you to choose the price range you are interested in), however if you travel a lot I suggest you pick your favorite one so you can take advantage of the loyalty program they offer.

A bit different from the options mentioned above is Airbnb. This site combines accommodations from local hosts, which can be very convenient if you want more personal touch: usually the locals rent out a room or a part of their home, and they can be very handy with offering you some useful information on how to make the most of your vacation in their hometown. Those of you who prefer privacy can also choose a place where the owners don’t live – in this case they will provide you the information where to get the key, Wi-Fi password and stuff like that. All hosts are usually very polite and respond to your questions within 24 hours. They are also rated by previous users – the more stars they have the more “safe” is your decision. But don’t worry, Airbnb is as safe as any other booking site – in terms of payment, cancellation policy and accommodation descriptions.

Guest reviews

If you are browsing for your accommodation on booking sites, you will usually see guest rates next to the descriptions. For example if a guest rate shows 3 points for a 4 star hotel it means you probably won’t get what you pay for. However it is always good to double check it, since some of the hotels might be newly listed and don’t have credible rates yet. For this purpose I use Tripadvisor, which is literally a travel Bible (sorry Lonely planet, you became far too commercial in my humble opinion). Besides the updated accommodation and other reviews Tripadvisor also offers guest photos (which are more realistic than official hotel pictures) and many other useful tips, including some prices, places to eat, etc.

Basic check list

Other important checkpoints you should consider before booking:

  • Location: this is my first checkpoint when choosing the hotel. If I travel for business I want the hotel as close to my meeting point or exhibition center as possible. The minutes you save by taxi or public transportation can sometimes turn into gold. And the opposite: my friend told me he was once late for a meeting and the client just left him a note with his secretary, saying “next time pack your watch”. If you are on vacation, you will probably want a hotel close to the beach, lake or ski resort.
  • Internet options: hotels usually offer Wi-Fi, but just in case double check it – there are still some technology dinosaurs out there.
  • Nonsmoking rooms: if you don’t smoke you probably don’t want to spend the night in a room which smells like cigarettes, so book a nonsmoking one. If you are as sensitive as I am, you might want to check if there are nonsmoking floors in the hotel (sometimes the smoke can come from your neighbor’s room if your window is open or if your rooms share a camouflage door).
  • Quiet rooms: if you like to sleep long in the morning or if you need a lot of rest then ask for a so called quiet room. They are usually in the end of a hallway, as far away from elevators and service facilities as possible.
  • Bathroom: be sure to check if your room has a private bathroom and what are the included amenities. I am sure you don’t want to carry a hairdryer with you and basic toiletries can come very handy if you are travelling with only a hand luggage.
  • Bed: if you are travelling alone this is usually not an issue but if you are renting a room as a couple, make sure you ask for a king size bed. On the other hand, if your roommate is just a friend then you might consider 2 separate beds.
  • Pool: if you want a hotel with a pool then you might check if it is operating out of season.
  • View: rooms with a seaside or lake view are more expensive and usually quieter than those facing the street, so they can actually be worth those extra bucks.
  • Parking: this is a very important information if you are arriving with your own or rented car. Parking in city centers can be quite a headache, so free (or at least paid option) parking lot is always a good choice.
  • Pets allowed: if you are traveling with your dog, this is actually the first thing you should check. On the other hand this “flexibility” can be a turn off for those who don’t tolerate the vicinity of our hairy friends.

If you think I am crazy for being so meticulous with “a simple process” like choosing the right hotel then I suggest you imagine booking a romantic holiday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and ending up with pool being under renovation and beach flushed away by a hurricane. You can thank me later.

Continue Reading

Upside down

My moto is: “You only have one life. Don’t waste it by doing things you don’t like.”

Actually this is one of my mottos, but for my upside down chapter this one will do just fine. And this is what I am trying to show with my hand stand photos in the end of each chapter.

“You are crazy.”

I hear this almost every day, either from my friends, my boyfriend, my parents or sometimes even at work. (I don’t even count those who talk behind my back.) I wouldn’t put it exactly this way, but I know I am a little bit unconventional. Unlike most of the people I know, I am usually very straightforward and say whatever is on my mind. Which I know can hurt sometimes. Or I can shock people with crazy ideas from time to time.

But hey, that’s me!

I don’t want to waste my time with people who don’t share at least 2 interests with me. Life is short! I don’t like people who are always late, so I stopped hanging around with those who don’t respect and appreciate my time. Again, life is too short! I don’t have children and this can be quite a test for a lot of friendships. If you don’t share the experience of changing diapers and sleepless nights and if the other person can’t stop talking about it then again, what is the point?

For that reason I have so much more “me time” when I can do whatever I want.

And admit it or not, this can be frustrating for a lot of people who come from work (if they are lucky enough to have a job) to continue the struggle with a child who doesn’t want to do his homework, a husband who left his socks on the couch again and parents who are coming over for weekend to check how lousy housewife you turned out to be.

At last but not the least, I have a job I enjoy very much.

And I have always managed to take care of myself financially. I was never supported by my parents after I finished high school and everything I have earned has been done with my own brains and diligence. I can say that I am financially independent and I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy my life as much as I can. Which, again, can be disturbing for a lot of people. For example, I lost a “good friend” just because she saw a very stylish Versace coffee cup in my house. (Which was by the way a gift, but she didn’t know that).

Now most of you probably think I am some spoiled rich bitch with an ego in the size of Mount Everest.

Well, if that was true, this blog would be about 5+ star hotels, business class or private jets, Michelin stars and selfies with the newest collections from Luis Vuitton or Chanel. And you definitely wouldn’t read about how to collect coupons when shopping for clothes or flight tickets.

All I am trying to say is I live and let live.

Which is why I make a handstand and an upside down photo in every fantastic place I visit. To release an inner child from time to time.

And to tell all the gossipers:

I don't care what you think about me

 

Continue Reading

Chihuahua corner

CHIHUAHUA LOVE

It is very simple. I love dogs and I like people who love dogs. So I have dedicated a part of my blog to our furry friends who bring love and joy into our lives. And since I own a Chihuahua, I will try to break some stereotypes about this world’s smallest dog breed. If you love to travel and love dogs, then you are definitely in the right place.

ABOUT SKY

Some of my reviews also include pet-friendly advice, so it’s kind of logical to introduce my furry sweetheart. Sky is a 4 year old longhair Chihuahua and she lights up and brightens my days. She is one of the reasons I miss my home so much when I travel and welcomes me with unbelievable joy every time I come home. She has never been on a plane with me, however she is always my companion on daily trips and shorter destinations.

ONCE A CHIHUAHUA, ALWAYS A CHIHUAHUA

Sky is my second dog. I got her one week after my first Chihuahua died of a fatal attack from a bigger dog. That was one of the saddest moments of my life. His name was Ali and he owned a big part of my heart for 7 years. To fill in the terrible gap that Ali left in every corner of our house and every step on my way, I decided to get another dog immediately. And there was no doubt in my mind it would be a Chihuahua.

I checked the ads and there was a litter of 3 furry angels with the best looking mom and dad in the world. I visited their owner on the same day and I played with them for 2 hours. She probably thought I was crazy because I was crying and laughing and crying and laughing all the time. We agreed I would take the boy (other 2 were females) since I was used to one and I wasn’t ready to take the responsibility for the cubs every year. Hell, I can hardly take care of myself 🙂 After one week when I came to pick up the boy, the little white baby girl with brown ears came to me and started licking my hand. She was licking me so intensively, as she was fighting for her life. My heart melted instantly and in 10 seconds I made up my mind: “You are coming with me.”

BEST FRIENDS

And this was the best possible choice I could have made. I had already picked the name Sky for the boy and I decided to keep it for my girl as well. It is a bit confusing for some people, so I bought her a pink collar just in case. (Actually that is a lie – I am obsessed with pink, so it was the only option). We have been inseparable since the first day and it breaks my heart every time I have to leave her. But when I travel, I always leave her in safe hands of my best friends and I know she is well taken care of. I am uploading her photos to my Facebook album: Sky all the time so you are welcome to meet her there. Or visit my Chihuahua corner category from time to time – I will do my best to post some news here as well.

Gotta go now, Sky wants my attention! 😉

Continue Reading

How to Travel with Anda

Tips for consuming my travel blog

Here is a bit more information about my travel habits so that you know what to expect from my travel blog:

  1. My blog is not in any way influenced by a third party so my reviews and recommendations are based exclusively on my own EXPERIENCE.
  2. Although my income is above average (I don’t have kids and my dog doesn’t eat much), I am always RATIONAL WITH SPENDING my money – whether it is for business or pleasure. That doesn’t mean I am on a low budget: I usually pick 3 – 4 star hotels, I always fly in economy class, I use Uber when possible and I own quite a few loyalty cards from different airlines and shopping malls.
  3. I usually travel as a COUPLE so I do have to adapt to my partner’s needs from time to time. Fortunately he knows that it is best to indulge me, but sometimes I let him chose the destinations, trips or activities. And I usually don’t regret them.
  4. When I travel on BUSINESS, I don’t have much time to explore but I always try to organize my schedule to make the most out of my visit. I usually squeeze everything into one day and I am lucky to have wonderful business partners who know about my passion, so they take care of me well.
  5. I don’t mind staying on sandwiches all day, as long as I EAT and that the food is healthy. (Yep, sandwiches can be healthy too!) I am however picky when it comes to breakfast and COFFEE. You won’t find much “where to eat” tips in my blog, but I will tell you where to get a good Illy cappuccino.
  6. I have had my share of crazy parties in my life so I usually don’t look for that when I travel. You won’t find NIGHTLIFE suggestions in my reviews. If you do happen to see me in a night club in the evening, the drink is on me!
  7. I do love NATURE and WILDLIFE so this is my main travel focus. I always search for hidden places, fabulous beaches, lakes and waterfalls, and I am ready to climb on the top of the hill for a spectacular view.
  8. I am also fond of ARCHITECTURE so you can easily spot me upside down in front of skyscrapers, monuments and other HISTORICAL BUILDINGS.
  9. SHOPPING is one of my favorite sports, especially in the USA. Let me put it this way: I need to buy something every 3 to 4 days. And magnets don’t count.
  10. All of the PHOTOS in my travel blog are made by or owned by myself and are not allowed to be used for any other purposes unless I specifically allow you too. You can always find additional photos on my Facebook page or in my Instagram account.

You are welcome to PARTICIPATE in my posts with your comments and questions, as long as you keep them within my tolerable level. Which means don’t swear more than I do, don’t argue with my choices and reviews without a bunch of hard evidence and don’t promote your own business unless you pay for it.

Now let’s all start spending some money and have a lot of fun while doing it. After all travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

Continue Reading

Hotel Review: Excalibur, Las Vegas (Nevada)

Eye catching towers in lively blue and red colors drove my attention to this charming castle during my first visit to Vegas so I thought it would be romantic to book my own private chamber at Excalibur Hotel Casino this time. Plus, to be completely honest, I wanted to stay as close to Mandalay Bay convention center as possible, since I was attending the Supply Side West trade show there.

Their weekly rate is quite affordable, however keep in mind the extra 29$ per night “resort fee” which will be added to your final receipt. The fee is common for all Vegas hotels and even for some motels. It includes Wi-Fi, fitness access and some other things not worth mentioning. But not the fridge – for that you have to pay extra. Yep, they surely know how to do business here …

Location and access

The hotel is located in the southern part of the Strip and it is very close to the airport (Taxi ride takes about 10 minutes). Be ready for the queue for the check in at the reception desk. They have about 5 people working there, however they somehow manage to keep the line busy all the time.

You can reach the nearby hotels (Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, New York, MGM and Tropicana) on foot (Mandalay Bay also offers a free tram ride to Excalibur), but if you want to explore further, I advise you to buy a bus ticket, which will get you to various Strip locations and take it on foot again from there. Walking all the way to The Fashion Show Mall or the Venetian is doable but can be quite exhausting, especially if you repeat it for several days. The bus station is just around the corner, which is actually quite convenient.

The Castle

I am sure most of you have heard about the legendary sword which was owned by King Arthur. Its name became quite popular and it has been used in many films and fictions. If you are into such things, check Excalibur movie, it has a pretty good IMDB rate.

The lively colored towers are definitely one of the most memorable decorations in Vegas architecture. The red, blue and golden rounded roofs are even more fascinating at night and you can see them glowing from very far away. What is also special about Excalibur is the tower clock in the back entrance – our Big Bus tour guide told us that this is the only “public” clock you can see in Vegas.

Excalibur Hotel Casino interior is not as charming as it promises from the outside. If you look for the details carefully, you will find some medieval decoration, but that didn’t impress me much. Maybe due to the fact that I took this hotel for granted and didn’t pay as much attention to it as I would if I was on a “hotel tour”. There is a Fun Dungeon in the basement, which might be interesting for the kids. If you want to experience some Middle Age atmosphere, you can visit the Tournament of Kings show, which also includes a three course meal that you eat with your fingers.

The Casino is about average size, not too crowded, despite the fact that Excalibur still owns the record in Vegas jackpot history so far. It was in 2003 when a 25-year-old software engineer put in 100$ in the slot machine and won 39.7 million dollars. I wonder how many programs he developed since that day …

Like most of the hotels in Vegas, Excalibur offers a large pool area outside, which looks pretty cool from the photos, however I didn’t check it closely – I only had 2 days for shopping and sightseeing.

Rooms

Excalibur offers 3.991 rooms. I stayed in a standard tower room, with a sunrise – street view; however I was never up that early to actually catch the morning sun. The room was clean but pretty Spartan, with all the basics, nothing special. The only medieval décor were the lights, which I already forgot how they looked like. Anyway, if you check the hotel on their website, don’t be deceived by the renders – the rooms definitely need the refreshment from the inside. I did read that contemporary rooms were remodeled in 2009 so they might be less shabby. But in the end of the day ask yourself what you actually expect from your hotel. I bet 90% of you just need to spend the night. If not, then pay those extra bucks.

If there was anything to resent, besides the ridiculous fridge fee, then it was the absence of the coffee maker in the room. I mean come on, you can find the machine in almost any cheap motel. Sure, you can grab a coffee at Starbucks, which is conveniently located in the lobby close to the elevators – that is if you appreciate their overpriced brown-colored boiling water. I don’t. So there you have it, Excalibur, a very large booooo from me in the end.

Anda’s rate: 6.5 from 10

Bottom line: Cute from the outside, a bit poor from the inside, but all in all Excalibur Hotel Casino is a good choice for the price, in a very convenient location.

Las Vegas Excalibur tram      Fotor_144434608956896      Fotor_144435471234724

Continue Reading

Las Vegas – the Sin City, Nevada (USA)

If Paris is the city of lights, New York the Big Apple and Dubai the city of gold – Las Vegas is all in one. From Ancient Rome and Egypt Pyramids, through the magic of fairytales and science fiction, all the way to Eiffel tower, Brooklyn Bridge and London Eye: Vegas has it all. And honestly, they are doing a pretty good job out there in the middle of the desert. I have visited Las Vegas 5 times, mostly for work, and each time I try to experience something new – different hotels and restaurants, things to do in the Strip and around the town. In this post you will find about where to stay in Las Vegas, how to get in and around the city, a few casino tricks, and things to do in the Strip in general.

Getting there

Las Vegas McCarran Airport is quite busy throughouth the year because Vegas is known for exhibitions, cultural events and shows, parties and it is also a popular vacation spot or stopover for travelers passing trough Nevada, Arizona or Utah. Lots of people also come to Vegas by car, however I would avoid driving in and around the Strip, as it gets quite busy and people do sometimes act crazy (you did watch Hangover, right?). If you live in California and want to save a few dollars, a bus would be a better option. Taxi from McCarran airport costs around 20 – 30$, depending on where your hotel is, Uber is a few dollars cheaper. If you are searching for Uber location in McCarran airport, just follow “Ride Share” signs, to 2nd floor – it is very well marked.

 

How to get around

Trust me, even though everytning seems close, nothing in Vegas is “just around the corner”. Unless you are a gambling addict whose idea of fun is to move from one slot machine to another. If your schedule is tight and want to see as much as possible in one day, I suggest you consider taking the Big Bus Las Vegas – the hop on hop off tour will save you a lot of time and you will find out a bunch of interesting stories about the city and “behind the scenes” stuff. For example the guide on the bus told us that hotel windows can be deceptive. They usually connect two stories, so the object appears closer. So eventually you get tired of walking and “rest” in some Casino on your way. To spend some money there of course.

Big Bus main tour takes you from the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign (be prepared for the crowd beneath it), along the Strip, all the way to the Circus Circus, as the last stop on the red route. And from there on you can take the blue line, which goes along the Stratosphere (you might see some crazy people there paying to jump from the tower) towards downtown, crosses the lively Fremont street and returns back. This part of the tour is a bit boring for my taste, but since it is included in the price and your legs are probably killing you, take it. It only lasts for about 20 minutes or so. The Night tour is charming as well, since Vegas is the city of lights (sorry, Paris!), but there is no need to pay those extra bucks – you can easily catch a glimpse of Vegas by night if you take the last “Strip” ride at about 7 pm, when it starst to get dark.

Anyway, it is usually too hot to walk the streets of Vegas during the day (except in the short winter period), so the tour comes very handy if you want to see all the famous Hotels and Casinos which are a real masterpiece. Sure, you can take Uber or local busses as well, they are very cheap, but then you won’t be able to make all those fabulous shots. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Exploring the Las Vegas Strip

It starts with that “Fabulous ” sign which is in my opinion the least fabulous thing in Vegas. I mean, it’s just a sign, which looks much nicer on a magnet. The first two beauties on the way are Mandalay Bay and Delano, a gorgeous “golden couple” of hotels, connected with a small express train (free of charge), which runs along the Luxor to the Excalibur as a final destination. Taking the train sounds ridiculous, since all of the mentioned hotels look so damn close. But after you have walked the Mandalay Bay (their Aquarium is supposed to be good, and the “beach” with those show off pools looked very classy) and reached Delano … well, just take the damn train!

In front of the pyramid shaped Luxor you can see the big statues of sphinx and pharaohs and maybe see the Titanic exhibition. I visited the real pyramids in Egypt and I have to say they made quite a good copy. The shot of Luxor I made from the Big bus is actually one of my Vegas favorites. The next one in line is Excalibur, designed as a medevial castle with eye cathcing colored cones, which is actually only magical from the outside. Honestly, you won’t miss anything if you just pass by, cross the bridge (with pretty awesome views in all directions) and reach the New York area. Since I am in love with the Big Apple, this part of Vegas was my favorite. The Statue of Liberty (by the way, it is about half size of its original version, and it has male hands – oh the jokers!) stands in front of the New York, New York hotel, followed by a replica of Brooklyn Bridge. Make sure you get some good Italian coffee inside the hotel – the charming ambient reminds of Little Italy.

Since you probably don’t want to read my Vegas review for 3 hours, I will try to cut things short from here. Make sure to see the fountains in front of the Bellagio during the day and night – both versions have their own charm. I think the water pops up every 15 minutes, so don’t worry, you don’t need to schedule your time for that. Caesar’s palace is gorgeous from the outside, while we have Celine Dion to thank for the Colloseum part – it was built just for her and she performs there regularly. Another masterpiece is the Venetian. Take the time to check it from the inside as well. Again, the night version is very romantic, when the water in those fake canals gets magical colors.

The “modern” part of the Strip, around Aria and CityCenter is a nice contemporary refreshment. The Veer twins, luxury residential towers which lean in opposite directions (about five degrees from center) are indeed eye catching.

And then there are Wynn and Encore. The richest and the most glorious of them all. Make the time and take your time. Even if your legs are about to fall off, trust me, these two giants are worth it. Especially if you learn about Mr. Wynn’s story. Once again, take that Big Bus tour, they will tell you all about it. (I swear to my dog I am not getting paid for this.)

Choosing the right hotel

I have stayed in the Excalibur (the location close to Mandalay bay convention center is quite ok, and since there is also a bus station very close to the hotel, I can easily recommend it), Polo Towers (which is more centrally located) and The Luxury Suites International at the Singature. However, I think that any of the hotels on the Strip serve their “purpose” … and that is to gamble until you drop and preferably not leave the hotel at all. Although I am not the right person to advice you on that part of the fun, I did learn that the machines are all over the place. They start by welcoming you at the airport and they don’t forget to say goodbye when you leave as well. I think they even have them in oil stations …

The prices of Las Vegas hotels can double on weekends, so if you are on a budget, it might be smart of you to take a room a bit off the Strip. Check out Booking.com for deals – by using this link you can get 15€ off your next booking. You are welcome 😉

 

Shopping in Las Vegas

If you are in the city for business (by the way over 22.000 trade shows and conventions are held each year in Vegas so if your job is related to global sales there is a very big chance you will end up there at least once in your life) and if you are not so much into gambling or sightseeing … and especially if you are a woman, you are definitely in the right place to shop until you drop.

You can shop for designers’ clothes in the Roman Forum or Fashion Show Mall (the latter included all the “big ones”: Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue), or you can easily find some fancy boutiques in all high end hotels. Younger fashionistas with slimmer wallets can easily spend a couple of hours at the world’s biggest Forever 21 store, which is just around the corner of FSM. Another option is Miracle Mile shopping, which located in the Planet Hollywood, with 170 specialty stores and 15 restaurants. If you prefer good outlet deals, you defintely need to visit Las Vegas Premium Outlets – the south one is smaller, north one has over 150 stores and you can easily find something for everyone there. For even better deals you can visit Ross Dress for Less and Marshalls, which are located in the very center of the Strip – shopping experience there is not so comfortable but sometimes you can really get good bargains.

Things to do in and around Las Vegas 

If you have an extra day to spend in Vegas and want to do some sightseeing, then take the half an hour drive towards Hoover dam, one of the great miracles of human architecture. It is indeed very impressive, especially if you read about its history and the making. If you are more “nature” person, go for the Red Rock Canyon, which is also jaw dropping. 

To those of you who have 2 days off, I strongly recommend taking a bit longer, actually about 6 hours’ drive to the Grand one. You can either rent a car or go there with a local travel agency. I prefer to do these things on my own, because I can stop on the way whenever and wherever I feel like it. And, if you are tired, you can rent some motel to spend the night there. But trust me, once you see the Grand Canyon, it will stay in your memory forever.

However, if you don’t have much time to spend, then you should visit the Stratosphere Tower to see the city in all its glory and to experience a romantic sunset. The Eiffel Tower offers one of the best dining experience, but make sure to book it in advance, so you get a good seat.  But don’t worry – if you are on a budget, you can visit any Vegas hotel for free and all of them can offer you their own unique experience. In fact, if you only have a couple of days, you will have more than enough to do just by watching their interiors.

At last, but definitely not the least, do try to throw a coin or two into one of the machines while you are taking the hotel tours. If you are a gambling rookie, then it might be a good idea to check the tricks casinos use to squeeze as much cash from you as possible. Start with the smallest change so you don’t spend too much (there I go again … sounding like your wife or mother) and make sure that the waitress sees you. If you just so much as pretend to gamble, she will bring you any drink for free. Well, for a tip, to be more precise. However, if the tip is too small, she probably won’t return. At least I wouldn’t.

And if you by any chance get lucky… do remember this review, which helped you to cash that BIG FAT CHECK. You are welcome to like my Facebook page and see more Fabulous Las Vegas photos.

Las Vegas Hand Stand

 

Continue Reading

Resort Review: Adaaran Select Meedhupparu (Raa Atoll, Maldives)

After the destination for our short winter escape was set, I searched for the options which could offer us the best combination of stunning beaches, all-inclusive options and hydroplane transport to one of the Maldives islands. For a reasonable price, if that word is even allowed when travelling to Maldives. I hesitated between the Sun Island, Barefoot Eco Hotel and Adaaran Select Meedhupparu. With no doubt in my mind I can say that I made the best possible choice.

Adaaran Select Meedhupparu

Location

The island is a part of Raa Atoll, approximately 45 minutes’ hydroplane drive from the Velana International airport. Be prepared to wait a couple of hours for your transport to pick you up, according to the reviews some people wait for 2 hours or more. Or, if you are lucky like we were, you wait only 30 minutes in a designated space with a free Wi-Fi and drinks, which is peanuts compared to Royal Island Resort & Spa for example. Meanwhile prepare your camera because what follows will stay in your memory forever: the hydroplane flight offers breathtaking views of other islands and atolls. 

Adaaran Select Meedhupparu resort lies on a small island, about 500 long and 250 meters wide. That sounds very small but to my surprise it actually wasn’t. If you are staying on the north east part of the island like we did, you have quite a walk in front of you to get some food. The inside of the island is rich with vegetation and numerous paths which can be a bit confusing at the beginning. Don’t worry, everything is marked, but when your brain is on vacation, you just might get lost from time to time.

Adaaran Select Meddhupparu

Rooms

The rooms are actually beach bungalows with immediate access to the beach. It just doesn’t get better than this, unless you book a water villa and risk a dangerous fall into the ocean in the morning (envious sarcasm on 😉 ).

All of the beach units are “twin bungalows”, so you kind of share the beach access with your neighbour. At first I thought that would be a bit disturbing, but in the end it turned out we saw the other couple 3 times in the whole week for about 10 seconds. So yes, you do get all the privacy you need.

The bungalow itself is simply gorgeous. It is quite spacious and decorated in warm colors, which really make you feel like home. The best surprise was the bathroom, which is partly roofless, so you can shower under the stars. But don’t worry, no one can see you. The only funny and possibly disturbing thing is that you can hear your neighbor if he is there at the same tame. And he just so happens to be there all the time, especially when you are taking the shower ☺. The rest of the bathroom has a normal roof, and also additional shower cabin so you don’t get wet. Which actually sounds kind of funny when you say it out loud. By the way, the bathroom floor is partially decorated with sand and my advice is not to step in it. Unless you have Sisyphus tendency.

You walk along the island bare footed most of the time and for that reason the bungalows are cleaned twice daily. And very thoroughly, may I add. One day I practically begged the cleaner to finish his job early because it was too hot outside.Adaaran Select Medhupparu villa

Facilities

As I mentioned in the beginning, we chose the all-inclusive option so all of the following facilities and services were included in the orange bracelet which you have to wear on your hand.

Very rich breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered in the main restaurant, which is conveniently hidden behind the front bar and the pool. So just in case you forget to drink hydrate with your meal, you can grab a drink when leaving the restaurant. The drinks with lunch and dinner are served by waiters who never forget to refill your glass. And yes, even though Maldives are a Muslim country, they do serve alcohol in the islands.

Besides the restaurant, the main bar and pool bar there are 3 more bars around the island, all of them on stunning locations. My favorite was Café Mass, which was the closest to our bungalow. It offers the best ambient and a nice view towards the peer where the hydroplanes are landing. Which happens twice a day I think. The second one on the beach is the Sunset bar with a breathtaking view over the 50 shades of crystal clear blue water.

Adaaran Select Meedhupparu resort offers a fitness – gym, which is relatively small and with all of the muscles trying to show off it can get a bit crowded during the popular hours. But there it is so you really have no excuses not to burn the calories from all you can eat meal plan. Just bring your own bottle of water, since they missed that little detail when planning the interior. Alternatively you can play tennis on 2 playgrounds surrounded by a beautiful garden, or table tennis, which is located at the main bar.

For those of you who suffer from various types of pains, or just fancy a facial, there is one Chinese massage salon and a beauty corner with hair stylist. If you are into massages, do try the Chinese guys, because they are fabulous. They can hardly speak English, so be prepared to communicate with hands. And be prepared for lots of pain because they mean business. When I couldn’t resist any more from moaning, the nice masseuse asked: “Oooo you like?” And to my “No, this is pain” answer, she got very excited “Oooo very pain. Very good!” But trust me, they are worth every dollar.   

Adaaran Select Sunset bar

Dress code and other tips

Bring only flip flops or some very light shoes for the evening, so you don’t step on a stone or in case you are afraid of the dark. Because the sand can turn into an army of nasty little dragons in the night, right? Dress code in the main restaurant is no bikini, so make sure you have some scarf around your body at least. And guys, honestly, no one wants to see you hairy chests at lunch.

You can take quite a few trips from the island, mostly for snorkeling, diving and island hopping. We didn’t do any, since we were there for only 1 week. If you want to save some money, bring your own snorkeling gear. Because when it comes to money and those extras… everything is very expensive. If not so on the price list, definitely in the end, when you get your room bill with all the “service fees”.

For those of you who are ready to pay 600$ per day extra for staying in water villas… yep, 600 bucks on top of what you already paid… and yep, per day… well, you can still change your mind later. Most of the guests say the money you pay for the luxury is well spent. I won’t argue with them since I didn’t taste the experience. They do have their own private beach and restaurant. And, remember, they risk their lives every morning when taking that additional step with stretching… (Evil me again).  

Adaaran Select Meddhupparu water villas

THE beach

I left the beach part for the end on purpose. I am very spoiled when it comes to swimming in crystal clear water and walking on endless white sandy beaches under the palm trees… And Adaaran Select Meedhupparu has it all. The colors of the ocean are beyond gorgeous, the sand is white and soft, and you can actually walk on the beach forever if you keep on circling around the island ☺ Our bungalow was Number 206, which is on the north east part and even though the sand there was full of very small parts of corals (like someone would mill them for breakfast), it was a good choice. The east part of the island is more peaceful and calm, while the west one is windier with occasional waves. But don’t get excited – the waves aren’t even close to do any kind of surfing.

My first step to the ocean in the morning was accompanied by a reef shark, which was my highlight of the week. I got so excited, I scared the little guy immediately. Fortunately he was not the only one and I saw at least one each day. The ones I saw were about 40 – 50 cm long, however I didn’t see their parents. I am sure the giants were just around the corner waiting for the first opportunity to grab my skinny ass for lunch. (muahahaha, just kidding)  

The snorkeling part was a bit disappointing to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I am being honest throughout the review, it’s just that I don’t want to leave an impression that something is missing in this little gem. Anyway, I did some snorkeling in Maldives 10 years ago and the underwater life there was spectacular. Here it is kind of boring, unless you approach the pier and wait for the tourists to feed the fish. You just might run into a little Nemo. Or mantas. For snorkeling enthusiasts I really recommend taking a trip or two. For beginners, the island’s underwater fauna is pretty much enough. For me… well, the sharky compensated it all. And made my second Maldives fairytale unforgettable.

Anda’s rate: 9 from 10

Bottom line: Thank you, Adaaran Select Meedhupparu, for making me feel like in heaven. If you are a beach lover and appreciate the cozy atmosphere, than this is the place for you. But if you prefer snorkeling you might consider checking Royal Island Resort & Spa in my blog. 

Adaaran Select Meedhupparu beach

Continue Reading