Posted in Travel

Customer service and tipping in Europe versus the United States

Generally speaking Europeans are welcoming, polite and kind people speaking multiple languages; however some might argue that the French are rude or the Italians are cocky or the Germans are cold. English is widely spoken even in non-English speaking countries but they may expect you to speak their language; after all you go to their countries.

When it comes to customer service you need to remember one thing: In Europe people have a fixed salary in every industry so they may not make the extra mile for you; it doesn’t really matter if you are satisfied and happy with their services, whether you return or not, because they will still get paid. Don’t expect them to customize services for you, especially in the last minute, they are not that flexible. Keep in mind that Southern Europeans close down during siesta so you won’t get anything done. It is just a differently lifestyle, laid back and a little more family friendly than the USA since people go home for lunch.

In the United States people earn commissions on sales and tips in bars and restaurants.  Americans are highly motivated to serve you well because that is how they make a living and they need your continued business.  Europeans find it bothersome when a waiter checks on them 3-4 times during dinner because if they needed anything they would let you know with a hand move. Tipping in Europe is always welcome but not expected; tipping in Europe means leaving a coin or two (Euro) on the table or 10% in upscale restaurants.


Posted in Caribbean islands, Cuba, Travel

Americans traveling to Cuba

You can go to Cuba legally without a license or paperwork as long as your purpose of travel fits into one of these US government approved categories:

  • Educational activities in Cuba for schools, including people-to-people exchanges open to everyone
  • Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba
  • Religious activities in Cuba
  • Humanitarian projects in Cuba
  • Journalistic activities in Cuba
  • Family visits to close relatives in Cuba
  • Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
  • Any type of support for the Cuban people
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use
  • Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

If your travel falls within one of these categories you are automatically authorized to visit Cuba legally without having to apply for a license. There is no paperwork involved. You simply arrange travel and go to the island.

US visitors are required to engage in a full time itinerary of activities related to the above categories of travel.

Purely touristic travel such as relaxation stays at all-inclusive beach resorts is prohibited.

There is no limit on the amount of money you can spend in Cuba. Travelers can use US credit and debit cards in Cuba.

Note: US credit and debit cards are legal but do not yet function in Cuba.

The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the main currency used by island visitors. It can only be obtained in Cuba and is worthless outside of Cuba.

The purchasing power of the CUC is similar to that of the US dollar. The CUC benchmarked to the US dollar at one-to-one.

However, changing US dollars into CUCs carries an additional 10 percent (10%) fee. This fee does not apply to other currencies. Some travelers take Euros, GBP sterling, Canadian dollars or Swiss francs – currencies for which there is no additional conversion fee. The savings is about 4 percent (4%) overall and may not be worth the hassle.

Suggestion. Carefully evaluate daily spending needs prior to departure. A minimum of $100 per day is recommended. It is better to plan to take more money than to get caught short of funds.

Travelers can return to the US with up to $400 of Cuban goods for personal use, including up to $100 of alcohol or tobacco products. Cuban artwork and informational materials are exempt from this limit.

Image: examiner

Posted in Cheap Airline, Europe, Travel

Blind Booking for 33 Euros one way by Eurowings

Mystery flights at a fixed price

Naturally, you get to decide when and from where you wish to depart and what sort of trip you’re in the mood for. Just choose your departure airport and your personal interest by clicking on one of the themed offers.

  • Of course, you can specify when and where you want to fly from at Eurowings attractive fixed prices.
  • Undesired destinations can be ruled out for a charge of €5 per passenger and per destination, thus tailoring your booking to suit your personal preferences.
  • As soon as your booking is complete you will find out your destination so you can prepare for your trip.
  • The minimum stay is 18 hours.
  • Blind Booking flights can be booked up to 45 days days before departure

First: Pick a departure city:

Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hanover, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Berlin and Vienna

Second: Choose a category (the airline will chose the city for you from your category)

Culture: Barcelona, Budapest, Dresden, Leipzig/Halle, London, Milan, Prague, Rome, Salzburg, Venice, Vienna, Zagreb

Metropolis: Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Hamburg, Lisbon, London, Milan, Prague, Rome, Vienna, Zagreb, Zurich

Gay friendly: Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Manchester, Milan, Venice, Vienna, Zurich

Shopping: Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Dresden, London, Manchester, Milan, Rome, Venice, Zurich

Nature, Trekking and Hiking: Berlin, Bologna, Dublin, Edinburgh, Klagenfurt, Rostock, Salzburg, Zurich

Party: Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Leipzig/Halle, London, Manchester, Milan, Prague, Vienna


Antalya (Turkey), Athens, Bari (Italy), Bastia (Corsica) Cagliari (Sardinia), Catania (Sicily), Corfu (Greece), Heraklion (Crete, Greece), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Faro (Portugal), Ibiza (Spain), Izmir (Turkey), Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), Kavala (Greece), Lamezia Terme (Italy), Menorca (Spain), Naples (Italy), Nice (France), Olbia (Sardinia), Palermo (Italy), Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Pula (Croatia), Rhodees (Greece), Rijeka (Crotia), Split (Croatia), Thessanoniki (Greece), Verona (Italy), Zadar (Croatia)


Posted in Costa Rica, Travel

Road trip-Manuel Antonio National Park

palm treePalm tree plantations between Parrita and Quepos

The road leading to Manuel Antonio from Puntarenas is very scenic with several lookout points along the coast and panoramic views of the beach. Manuel Antonio National Park is approximately 150 km from Puntarenas and 130 km from San Jose. This is one of my personal favorite stops in Costa Rica because this is where jungle meets the beach.

look outLookout point

During your road trip you are going to cross a bridge over the Rio Tarcoles which is infested with crocodiles.  You can’t miss it because tourists will walk around the bridge looking down, taking pictures; it is a pretty big crowd occasionally holding up the traffic.  I suggest you to park your car and check the crocodiles out.

krokiRio Tarcoles

Then continue your road trip and stop for a lunch break on Jaco Beach.  As soon as you pass the town of Parrita, you will notice palm trees on both side of the road which will give you a tropical feeling.  For those who are not familiar with the area, Playa Manuel Antonio is inside the National Park so if plan on resting on the beach in the afternoon hours, I suggest you to schedule that for next day.



camoPlaya Manuel Antonio and Playa Gemelas

Manual Antonio National Park is one of the most popular parks in Costa Rica so if you don’t arrive early, you may not be able to enter.  The later you go, the longer the lines get and keep in mind that the park closes at 4 PM so leave some time to enjoy the beach.  There are a few parking lots nearby, guards will waive at you to follow them. Beware of aggressive and pushy parking attendants, they are trying to make some money but the closer you park to the entrance, the more expensive it gets.

You will have to line up twice, once for the ticket booth and again at the entrance of the park; security screening is pretty slow since you have to open your handbags or backpacks.  Everything takes time so try to arrive by 7 AM the latest. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and pack for a day, have plenty of water but alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

There are a few hiking trails in the park, one leads you through a sloth habitat, another trail heads to the monkeys and there are trails ending at beaches and lookout points.  If you want to see everything  in the park you will need about 3-4 hours. You can go on your own or hire a professional guide with a large binocular so you won’t miss a bug 🙂

There is quite a varied fauna with 109 species of mammals and 184 of birds. The park includes 12 little isles just off the coast; these often visited by a number of dolphins and, at times, migrating whales can be observed. The expansive white sand beaches are backed by an evergreen forest that grows right up to the high tide line. The principal habitants are primary forest, secondary forest, mangrove swamps, lagoons and beach vegetation.

monoCapuchin monkey

Posted in Hotel, Travel

How to beat the system – Beating Hotwire rates

Before booking any hotel, please do a price comparison on all travel sites using both your laptop/PC and your cell phone.  Travel websites love to advertise lower rates on mobil phones using their applications but don’t let anybody mislead you, it is not always lower and you probably can do better than that.  A friend of mine, Ivan Aramayo said that if you clear your cache and cookies, the travel websites will also reset with a slightly different price in your favor. If you really look around you can beat Hotwire or even Priceline!  When buying Hotwire Hot Rates or when you name your price on Priceline, you don’t even know what you are getting until after purchase.

I am already preparing for my 10 day road trip at the end of this year in Hungary – Czech Republic – Austria and need either an apartment for 4 adults or 2 double rooms in a hotel in Innsbruck, Austria. We would be checking in on January 3, 2017, checking out on January 4, 2017. I love to go for the impossible, which is getting a 4 star apartment or hotel room on 2 star cost, so let’s go for it.

I normally start with, I chose a star category and an area and off you go.

The lowest 4 star hotel,  the Austria Classic Hotel Binders Innsbruck on Hotwire Hot Rate on my IPhone is $76.


Now go and check the same hotel on the same travel site, but this time on your laptop computer.  I have a MacBook Pro and I am seeing the same hotel on the same site being only $69.  That is $7 lower so for 2 rooms the difference is already $14 plus taxes, about 20 bucks.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.00.53 PM


If you have a stand alone computer I would suggest to go check that as well, I can pretty much guarantee you that you would get another rate.

I think I can beat this Hot Rate 🙂

Go on and check the same hotel: Hello $52 a night!

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.15.14 PM

I can still do better than this: lists the same hotel for $50 a night, this is just getting better!

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.14.17 PM

Lastly, my favorite website: Expedia, and no surprise, being a Gold+ member, they are giving me the best rates available: $48!!!!!

From $76 I went down to $48 per night saving a total of $56 on 2 rooms for 1 night.

Not too shabby! 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.13.29 PM

Image: resultsincoaching