Travel Product Review – Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Travel Product Review - Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones
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You’ll usually recognize the road warriors as you board the plane as they fiddle with their noise-cancelling headphones. And I can finally say that after many years as a frequent traveller, I have finally joined up with the road warriors and invested in a good pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones. I wish I had them on my trip to Dubai! Rather than review 5 different headphones (buy 5 and return 4), the purpose of this post/review is to bestow the virtues of quality headphones for travel and to review my new Sennheiser headphones based on real life usage.

For many years, and like many of you, I carried earbuds and/or purchased them on the plane. I even purchased noise-cancelling earbuds a few years back. (They aren’t noise-canceling and aren’t nearly as effective as over the ear headphones). While travelling with earbuds in your pocket or handbag is beyond easy, listening with them on a plane is like being in the dark ages. If you travel with any regularity (and/or commute by transit or walk distances), you simply must get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Travel Product Review - Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones
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Headphones are quite simply essential in today’s world of packed flights and delays. Travel is certainly easier when you can “noise cancel” the snoring guy beside you, the crying baby and/or the arguing couple. They will change your in-flight experience, letting you disappear into a cone of silence and/or song. Deep relaxation and sleep are within your reach. I find it easy to sleep on a plane but only if I can block out the airplane sounds, the baby cries and the frat boys’ banter.

There are plenty of great headphones in the market. Sony, Beats, Bose and Marshall all make great headphones. Whatever you choose, make sure they warrant the investment (generally $200-$1,000) and are worthy of being in your carry-on. They must be comfortable, portable (fold up), have great sound, cancel noise, and have enough battery life to last through a long day of travel. And will they fit with a decent travel pillow? Keep in mind that if you are a commuter, you’ll be using them on subways, buses and long walks down busy sidewalks (in addition to travelling).

I’ve opted for Sennheiser Model HD 4.50BTNC, largely based on their reputation for fidelity. They are middle of the pack in terms of cost ($250-$300) and quality. You’ll pay more for many other models from Sony, Bose and Sennheiser too.

Travel Product Review - Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones

The lower price comes from a mostly plastic shell (fine with me), and a canvas sack carrying case (instead of a rigid case). The 4.50s fold up easily for carry-on and provide very good stereo sound (my opinion). Sennheiser’s NoiseGard™ active noise cancellation lets you enjoy silence or music in peace. If you spend more on a higher-end model, you will undoubtedly get more but I’m perfectly happy with my first pair of quality, noise-cancelling headphones. I’ve travelled with them and had an almost silent plane ride with music and sleep. The battery life is decent at close to 19 hours (2 hours to charge).

My verdict – a solid buy (and I did buy them). They provide great value; they are comfortable; fold easily and come with an auxiliary cord when you need to be wired.

Safe travels,

Mark

Christmas in Vienna

A Christmas in Vienna is one not to be missed. It’s worthy of “bucket list” inclusion and one you will remember for a very long time. The Christmas markets in Vienna are truly something magical. Soft sparkling lights, gently falling snow, the smell of freshly roasting chestnuts, and musicians wandering through the streets. It sounds and feels like a fairytale, but Christmas in Vienna is very real.

From mid-November until the end of December, Austria is the place to enjoy traditional Christmas markets. Festive lights, seasonal treats and snow-covered roofs make for a special experience that only Austria can provide. Austrians often refer to the Advent period as the country’s “fifth season”. Vienna always shines, but during the Advent season, it dazzles. Festivities take place in historic squares and pedestrian areas, making long walks from cafés to museums and shops even more enjoyable.

Christmas Markets in Vienna

In Vienna, the markets are an age-old tradition that help to put a smile on everyone’s face and provide an overwhelming Christmas spirit. The forerunners of the present-day markets date back to 1298 in the Middle Ages when the Duke of Austria granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a “Krippenmarkt” or December Market. The character and prevalence of these markets has naturally changed considerably over the centuries.

Vienna itself says that there are 20 official Christmas Markets. There are in fact many more smaller ones. As you walk through the central old city, you’ll come across small squares (or platz) where small markets and vendor booths are open and waiting for you.

The most well-known and largest market is at Rathausplatz and known as Vienna Christmas World. The market sits right in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall) with some 150 booths. The adjacent City Hall Park has an ice rink, ice paths through the park, and a children’s area with nativity path, reindeer train, ferris wheel and carousel. The unique arts and crafts blend perfectly with baked goods and sausage stands.

A short walk away is the Christmas Market on Maria-Theresien-Platz, between the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna. Over 70 booths offer traditional Christmas handicrafts and original gifts throughout the season of Advent. There are regular visits by Gospel choirs and music groups to amplify the festive mood. The Christmas Village then transitions seamlessly into the New Year’s Eve Village.

Christmas in Vienna

The Imperial and Royal Christmas Market on Michaelerplatz, in front of the Imperial Palace features Austrian products, sweets, pewter figures, hand-made crafts and more in its white huts. The Christmas Market on Stephansplatz focuses more on tradition, with some 40 booths and huts beside St. Stephen’s Cathedral offering high-quality Austrian products. The Advent market at the Opera House has gingerbread, cheese, meats, punch and wine from regional producers in Austria.

The best time to head to the markets are weekdays and early evening when the lights come on and the day turns into evening. Weekend days are very busy.

Enjoy the Lights Above The Graben And Kärntner Strasse

The Christmas lights of Vienna shine with a magical beauty. Thousands of crystals and giant chandeliers make you feel like you are in a large imperial ballroom as you walk along the main pedestrian areas in the old city center. Start an early evening walk from the State Opera House building, down Kärntner Straße to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, then along the Graben and up Kohlmarkt to the Hofburg Palace. Walk through the Palace grounds and you’ll end up back at Ringstrasse (and just a few blocks from your starting point).

Christmas in Vienna - The Graben

Walk the Ringstrasse

The Ringstrasse is the grand boulevard that circles the historic Innere Stadt (Inner Town) where ancient fortifications once stood. Along the “Ring” you’ll see museums, parks, restaurants, five-star hotels, luxury stores and Christmas markets. Ringstrasse is decked out with lights and many Christmas displays to highlight Vienna’s impressive architecture. You can walk the “Ring”, get on a public bus or tram, or take a scheduled sightseeing tram with guide.

Weihnachtspunsch Or Glühwein?

Most street corners feature a mulled wine or punch stand where locals and visitors gather for a warm drink and conversation. The local Lions Club has a number of drink stands along with a slightly lower price and a Styrofoam cup. The markets serve their punch in collectable mugs with a unique design for each market. You’ll pay a deposit when you order your drink, so you can keep the mug (or just buy the mug separately). The slightly more popular steaming mug of warmth is Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch). It comes in dozens of flavours across the old city. The more traditional drink is a mug of hot Glühwein (mulled wine). You can’t go wrong with either and should try both. Either choice will take the chill away on a cold winter’s evening. Multiple drinks into the evening may have you singing songs from the “Sound of Music”.

Christmas in Vienna

Try Maronis (Roasted Chestnuts)

You’ll find at least one “Maroni Stand” at every market and at many major street corners in the winter months. They are selling roasted chestnuts from one steaming steel barrel and roasted potato snacks from another barrel. It’s a Christmas experience that goes back to the Middle Ages. You can almost imagine children blowing on a hot, freshly peeled chestnut to cool it down. Now you can follow in their footsteps.

Christmas in Vienna - Roasted Chestnuts

Eat Sausage or Leberkäse? (or both)

Sausage stands are year-round in Vienna, but they somehow seem more inviting in winter. Austrians love their meat and these roadside stands don’t disappoint for taste. If you need a little food energy and break from exploring, try a Käsekrainer or Bratwurst. The other must try Viennese snack is Leberkäse. It is a kind of rectangular sausage cut as a thick slice of meat on a fresh bread roll with mustard. It is an Austrian staple, cheap and delicious (trust me- I’ve eaten a lot of Leberkäse).

The Austrian capital is the perfect destination for a holiday hiatus. Vienna combines history, traditions and culture into the world’s most livable city.

Your Christmas spirit will come alive in this fairytale setting. Vienna is really the perfect destination for Christmas – this is Christmas in Vienna.

Is Your Credit Card Travel Insurance Coverage Enough?

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Is Your Credit Card Travel Insurance Coverage Enough?
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Still relying on credit card travel insurance? Not sure if it really fits the bill? Read on to determine if your coverage is enough…

1. Coverage clauses

• Do you have to pay for the whole trip with your credit card to be covered? Is
there a minimum amount?
• What’s the maximum number of days covered for one trip?
• What’s the maximum amount you’re covered for?
• Are you covered for high-risk activities, like scuba diving?
• Are you covered for other professional services like physio, chiro, etc. to relieve
an acute emergency?

2. Family coverage

• Is coverage only for you, the cardholder?
• Will your travel companions get the same coverage as you, or do they need to
buy additional insurance?
• Would coverage be available to return your travelling companion,
children/grandchildren or accompanying pet home, in a medical emergency?

3. Pre-existing medical conditions

• Does your age affect coverage?
• Are you covered for pre-existing medical conditions?

4. Trip cancellations or interruptions

• Does the plan offer trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance?
• Do you have to pay for the whole trip with your credit card to be covered? Is
there a minimum amount?
• What’s the maximum amount you’re covered for?

5. Emergency and claim assistance

• Are you covered for ambulance or emergency air transportation?
• Will you be penalized if you don’t call the claims company after the emergency or
before visiting the hospital?

So remember, while you may have travel coverage through your credit card, it might not cover you completely in a medical emergency situation. Make sure to contact your credit card provider to know what your policy really covers. If it’s not enough, check out how TuGo can help meet your travel insurance needs.

Is Your Credit Card Travel Insurance Coverage Enough?
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Top Five Places To Visit In Austria

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria

It’s tough to have a short list of my top 5 places to visit in Austria. For me, it’s the perfect destination. Austria is known for many things including its history, natural beauty, and Alpine terrain. It’s a perfect vacation destination for travelers in search of a new adventure in Europe. Winter sports enthusiasts regularly visit to ski and snowboard on the iconic Austrian Alps. But there is much more to Austria than snow. In fact, Austria has some of the most historic architecture in all of Europe, and a myriad of towns and cities with their own unique cultural feel. Here’s my short list:

Vienna

Vienna is widely considered to be a cultural haven for music, fine art, and architecture. Known for many diverse architectural styles throughout the city, travelers can expect to find many well-preserved examples of Romanesque, Baroque, Classicist, and Art Nouveau styled structures. Vienna is also celebrated for its rich performance-art tradition, hosting over 200 balls a year. It also hosts a variety of classical music concerts featuring many of the famous composers who once called Vienna home, including Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and others. Christmas in Vienna is a magical time with its many Christmas markets. No visit to Vienna is complete without a visit to one of their outstanding cafes. Austrian cakes, like the “Sacher Torte” are world famous. Why not try a cake and coffee at a famous landmark like the Demel.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Vienna

Salzburg

Situated near Germany’s southern border with Austria, the city of Salzburg, like its capital counterpart, is famous for its long-standing musical traditions. Salzburg is the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart and features the Mozart Museum, his former home. Beyond the numerous examples of historic architecture and artistic attractions, Salzburg is surrounded by a breathtaking Alps mountain range. A visit to Salzburg allows you to explore the experiential contrast of rich history and stunning natural beauty simultaneously. Take the funicular to Hohensalzburg Fortress for a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding countryside. It is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, dating back to 1077.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Salzburg

Salzkammergut

Salzkammergut – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is an Austrian resort area surrounded by serene blue lakes, verdant hills, and snow-peaked mountain ranges. For over a century, it has served as one of the countries prime tourist destinations. Salt production started the area (“salz”) and dates to the Bronze Age. A tour of the salt mine in Halstatt is well worthwhile. Outdoor recreational activities abound including mountaineering, horseback riding, swimming and cycling. The Salzkammergut region is also famous for the many luxury spas and hotel resorts inhabiting the area. If you are visting in the summer months, a slow boat ride on Lake Halstatt will be serene and provide gorgeous views of surrounding towns and mountains.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Salzkammergut

Innsbruck

Famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, the city of Innsbruck is widely considered to be one of the best winter sports destinations in the world. Visitors not so keen on skiing or snowboarding, or those visiting during the summer months, can find plenty to do in the historic city as well. Explore the Innsbruck Cathedral, the bell-making museum, or one of the city’s many local restaurants. Innsbruck is nestled in the heart of the Alps and is one of Austria’s most scenic cities. A 20-minute train ride takes you up the mountain to Seefeld, where you can then take a funicular and cable car to Rosshutte. On a clear day, you’ll see the mountain tops of 4 countries- Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

innsbruck-506820_640

Zell Am See

For travelers who are looking for the ultimate in natural scenery, and wilderness adventures, the town of Zell am See is a ‘must-visit’ destination in Austria. Surrounded by majestic alpine mountains, world-class ski slopes, and tranquil blue lakes, Zell am See hosts numerous outdoor recreation events throughout the year. During the winter, it hosts a number of ski and snowboard competitions. The driving here is also out-of-this-world, be sure to take the Grossglockner Alpine Road from here for some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the country.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Zell Am See

I’m a fan of most European countries but Austria has my heart. If you haven’t been, you must get there. You’ll go back again and again, like I do.

Visiting Spain: Visit the Essentials First

visiting spain

It doesn’t matter what your travelling preferences are, we all love a fiesta, and what better place to have a fiesta than by visiting Spain itself? Located in one of the warmest parts of the European continent, Spain does not only offers long sunny days, but also a rich history and culture. This country can cater to anyone’s taste. Partying all night, visiting museums and researching Spanish history or eating their delicious cuisine until your heart pops out. The only thing that you should know is where you’re heading, and this is where we step in. Look at the list below, and try to find the best Spanish ciudad for your holiday, especially if it’s your first time:

Madrid: The heart of Spain and capital of flamenco

It doesn’t do to visit Spain and not see the capital of the country, does it? As any other European capital, Madrid has everything to offer – bars that are open until late at night, great shopping centers and some of the most amazing parks in Europe. One such is the El Parque del Buen Retiro, or simply shortened to El Retiro. It was once a royal ‘’hangout’’, and it staged many concerts and garden plays. Nowadays, it is a great tourist attraction (even though greenery might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Madrid), as people can rent one of the many rowboats and paddle in the huge man made lake in the center of the park. However, Spain is the only place in the world where you can see a live performance of flamenco dances, and Madrid is the best place to do this.

madrid

Barcelona: The diamond of Catalonia

You’ve no doubt heard of Barcelona. There are numerous tourists who hit the road to Spain and decide to visit this place only. And it doesn’t matter how many days you stay, Barcelona is a city which you can never fully explore. If you really want a European holiday of your lifetime, you should find one of the best Barcelona holiday packages that are offered, and see the home of the extremely impressive pieces of Gaudi’s architecture such as the legendary La Sagrada Familia. Moreover, taking a walk-through Las Ramblas and having a cup of coffee in one of its many cafés is definitely something that you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

barcelona

Seville: From bullrings to beautiful barrios

To all the animal rights activists out there – no, we don’t agree with this either, but we must agree that this is one of the symbols of Spain and an inevitable part of Spanish history. Even though bullfighting originated in Ronda, Seville is its spiritual home. So, is it a form of art or simply animal cruelty? Well, it would be best to visit one of Seville’s many bullrings and see for yourself. However, don’t you think for a second that Seville is only good for this. As the heart of Andalusia, this magical city has many other things to offer – such as the Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the most beautiful barrios of Spain, or Alcazar (perhaps better known as Dorne from HBO’s Game of Thrones).

seville

Granada: The place that’s the richest in Spanish history

First and foremost: you’re visiting Spain and you want to try tapas. Since Granada is one of the rare places in Spain where you get tapas for free alongside your drink, it should be on the must-visit list. Moreover, this is a place where you’ll see the most important historical monuments of this country. It is a paradise for every history buff. One of the best things you can see here is the Alhambra fortress – a fortress so huge that you will need a whole day to explore it to the smallest detail. If you want to imagine what it looks like, it’s said that you must imagine the world’s most beautiful gardens, add a fortress and multiply the whole image by ten. Alhambra overlooks the whole city of Granada, offering a most breathtaking view. And it’s also an excellent place to take amazing Instagram photographs! The ticket is around 13 euros, and it’s open from March to October, so make sure to plan your stay there accordingly.

granada

And these are only the essentials. Spain has so many other things to offer, such as 24/7 Ibiza parties, spring days in Valencia, visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus, walking across the world’s scariest bridge, seeing the Museum of Funeral Carriages, or eating at the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid. Spain should be your next destination. And maybe even the one after that, because you can go there as many times as you want, and you’ll still have more things on your bucket list.

The Adventure Trek of Kasol-Kheerganga

The Adventure Trek of Kasol-Kheerganga

Himachal Pradesh is a place full of adventures. There are a lot of adventures one can do whether they are treks, rafting, bungee jumping, sightseeing, cable car, etc.

One of these adventures is the Kasol – Kheerganga Trek. The trek is one of the most popular treks in India.

Kasol

Kasol is a small village nestled in the hills of  Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It is a popular spot among hippies, backpackers, trekkers and nature lovers. The nearby village is Malana (famous for Malana Cream) and is deep-rooted in the Hippie culture. Kasol is a hub for Psy parties and every year attracts many tourists from across the World. Kasol is calm and quiet and will give you vibes of OM Shanti!

Kheerganga

Kheerganga is another small village that lies at the end of the Parvati Valley. It offers numerous waterfalls, hot springs, snow-capped peaks, and all-around lush green forests. Parvati Kund or hot spring pool is very famous among the Hindus and Sikh people as they believe the water has sacred healing properties.

Kheerganga offers amazing views of the Parvati River and the snow-covered Lahaul Spiti Valley.

The Adventure Trek of Kasol-Kheerganga

The Amazing Kasol- Kheerganga Trek

The Parvati Valley provides stunning and captivating views of the Himalayas. The trek  starts from Kasol. This 13 km long trek ends in Kheerganga and provides ample opportunities to explore the natural bounties of the region. On this adventure trail, you will pass by Rudranag, a serpent-shaped waterfall. There are numerous captivating waterfalls which are the highlights of the Kheerganga Trek.

The trek is considered as the best trek for beginners. It is a short and easy trek. It will take you through dense forests of rheodordans, oaks, and pines. You will be passing by the village of Barshaini – a small hamlet and the confluence of the rivers Parvati and Tosh. You will be treated to snowclad mountains, breathtaking views, and scenic landscapes of mountains.

 

 

A few of the villages that you will come upon on your trek:

1. Malana

A small village near Kasol, famous for Malana cream ( a drug). The place is quiet and calm with people here following the Lord Shiva. You will also start the Chandrakeni Trek from here. Malana is a village more for backpackers and nature lovers and less for tourists.

2. Tosh

It is located at 2,400 meters in elevation on a hill near Kasol in Parvati Valley. The place is famous for waterfalls and surrounded by Apple Orchards. You will see wooden architecture all over the village and captivating views of Parvati Valley. Tosh village is located close to the base of Kheergange.

3. Pulga

A small Hamlet in the trail near Malana. It is a beautiful place to visit and experience the great views of lush greenery, snowclad view of the peaks and skies landscapes.

After reaching Kheerganga, it is time to take a dive into the hot waters of the Parvati Kund. Enjoy the hot springs and relax your sore muscles after the tiring trek. And enjoy ravishing views of the valley all around.

You will see many local restaurants and cafes in small villages. Restaurants serve German, Chinese and Israeli cuisines. You can also have tea, coffee and snacks at tiny tea stalls.

Camp near Riverside and get close to nature by seeing the beautiful sunrises and starry nights. Or opt for a homestay and get a chance to explore the life of locals and their culture.

The best time to visit Kasol – Kheerganga is totally depended on your own preference. In summer, the weather remains pleasant and calm. In winter, the weather stays chilly with snowfalls. Most of the trekkers opt for the winter. Kasol is famous for rave and Psy parties and attracts many Indians and foreigners. They come here to backpack and explore the Hippie culture. Getting to Kasol is an adventure in itself with different routes and forms of transportation.

Here are some basic tips for beginners who are planning to do this adventure.

  • Beginners are advised to take a trek leader along with the trek.
  • Keep a route map with you.
  • Always keep something to eat with you like chocolates, chikki, energy bars, etc.
  • Follow the instructions of your trek leader.
  • Carry minimum weight.
  • Take necessary medicines or a medical kit with you.
  • Keep yourself healthy and fit.
  • Inform your family in prior advance.

Kasol Kheerganga is just a weekend away. Plan your next trip in the mountains and feel peace all around. Beginners will love their first trekking adventure!

Live. Travel. Explore!

How To Prepare For The Trip Of A Lifetime

trip of a lifetime

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

When you’re planning the trip of a lifetime, there’s a lot to do before you go. You need to make sure you are prepared for your journey. Being prepared doesn’t even mean having your accommodation booked, you can do that as you go along, but there are some things you need to make sure you have sorted in advance.

Visas

Many  countries require visas for entry. While some can be acquired when you arrive in destination, others need to be sorted out before your trip. If you’re going somewhere where you need a visa, then it’s a good idea to sort it out before booking your flight or anything else. If your visa gets denied for some reason, you won’t have wasted money on non-refundable air travel or pre-paid hotels. 

Brush Up On Local Knowledge

When you have an idea of the countries you are going to visit, then it’s time to brush up on some local knowledge and customs. Find out if you need to have your knees and shoulders covered in certain cultural places. If you’re going to Japan then have a look on this website to see if you can learn a bit of the language. Make sure you know the laws of any country you are visiting and if there’s anything else you need to know about a particular place. Research how safe a country is and if there are any extra precautions you should take.

Book Your Flights

Once you have any visas sorted, then it’s time to book the flights or a round-the-world ticket. Prices will tend to increase the closer you get to your departure date. If you know which destinations you’re going to then use websites such as Skyscanner to compare flights. Once you have booked your flight, then you can look at your transfer options, from the airport to your accommodation.

Sort Some Accommodation

You don’t need to book the whole trip, but booking somewhere for the first couple of nights is a good idea. Check out Tripadvisor and Hostelworld as a start, and then you can ask people for recommendations as you travel around. 

Be Aware Of Any Vaccinations And Your Health

If you have any medical issues, you’ll want to speak to your doctor before you go anywhere. Go for a check-up and make sure that you are in good health before travelling. You also need to arrange for any required vaccinations. The NHS Fit for Travel website gives you all the information on what vaccinations are required for what country. Some vaccination courses can take as long as a month, so you need to get this sorted in advance.

Get Covered With Travel Insurance

Make sure you have proper travel insurance. If something goes wrong, you’ll be glad that you are insured – it could save you a lot of money. Add a sports coverage option for any activities you are planning. Make sure you read and understand the policy in full.

Have a safe and happy trip!