Party in Panama City

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama. Panama City Skyline

Getting To Panama City

After my awesome Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica I’d gotten myself on a direct bus from the Costa Rican capital of San Jose to the Panamanian capital of Panama City. It was a very long drive. About 16 hours, mostly along the Pacific coastline. I gotta say I was tired of sitting down and ready to party in Panama City! Or sleep in Panama City.

I got into Panama City at about 3am and found my way to a hostel. They couldn’t check me in, but said I could sleep on a very comfortable looking couch in the meantime. Anything that didn’t involve sitting down was quite enticing for me at that point. So I took up residence on said couch and was snoozing a few seconds later. After a few hours sleep on the couch, the staff gave me a bed in a room. Then they said I wouldn’t have to pay for the first night’s accommodation. Sweet.

Casco Viejo – Old Town

My accommodation was in the old town, so I’m sure you can guess what I did. Explored the old town, of course! The old town is also known as Casco Viejo, which is Spanish for Old Quarter. Not only was it granted world heritage status by UNESCO in 1997 but it’s also home to some of Panama City’s best nightlife. This was very evident around Christmas time, when the party people took to the streets at night.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Casco Viejo Quiet Street. K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Casco Viejo Another Quiet Street.

Casco Viejo was surprisingly quiet during the day though. At times it felt like you were the only one in the area. There were also some parts of it that were a bit gritty. Several buildings had fallen into disrepair, despite the UNESCO listing, and it didn’t seem like any attempt was being made to fix them. For me, this just added to Casco Viejo’s appeal.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Casco Viejo Crumbling Old Building K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Casco Viejo Old Building in Disrepair

In stark contrast, just a few hundred metres away, one of the town’s major sites, Catedral Metropitana in Plaza de la Independencia was under reconstruction. Strangely, I didn’t hear any construction noises, nor see any workers near there during my stay. I guess they must’ve had time off for the Christmas holiday.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Cosco Viejo Cathedral Metropitana

There were also a few green areas in the town, which made it super lovely and relaxing. It was such a pleasure to walk around Casco Viejo. At times it even felt like you’d walked into another century.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Cosco Viejo Green Area

See the New From the Old

The town is rather tiny and very easy to navigate, although the narrow streets can be a bit disorienting to begin with. One of the most awesome things about Casco Viejo is that it isn’t very far from Panama City’s super modern skyline.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Casco Viejo View of Panama City

As a defensive measure, the town was built on a peninsula. Obviously, there’s no need for it to be defensible these days. But the design means that a short walk from almost anywhere in the old town will get you to a beautiful foreshore. On that foreshore is the Matasnillo River, which separates Casco Viejo from Panama City. The river is 12km long.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama. Panama City Skyline From Casco Viejo

From the heart of old Panama, you can peer across the water into the heart of modern Panama City. It looks beautiful.

Party in Panama City – Casco Viejo at Night

As lovely as it was during the day, the old town changed its tone at night. No longer were you walking along almost deserted streets. The narrow streets of the old town came alive at night. They were full of lights from restaurants and cocktail bars that weren’t visible during the day. Full of cheery chatter from many people that seemingly came out of nowhere to enjoy some drinks. Nighttime was the time to party in Panama City!

The atmosphere was quite jovial, possibly due to it being the festive time of year. That was before the fireworks. The main fireworks display, which I presume was put on by the city, was followed by more fireworks. This time smaller ones that looked like they were coming from nearby rooftops. They seemed to spur people in the streets to start dancing, as the music got louder so it could be heard over the intermittent fireworks.

Panamanians really know how to party! I didn’t want to be the weird tourist that just stood there watching. So I befriended some locals and joined in. Firecrackers may have been handed to me, to set off in unison with others. I may or may not have set them off while laughing uncontrollably. You’ll never know.

Party in Panama City – The Panama Canal

What trip to Panama would be complete without a visit to Panama’s most famous and one of the world’s most ambitious engineering projects? The Panama Canal or Canal de Panamá is a marvel of not so modern engineering. It’s amazing to think that it was put into operation in 1914 and the original lock gates are still in use.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Panama Canal Looking Towards the Pacific Ocean

Why Make a Canal?

In short, the canal was constructed to reduce maritime transits between the Pacific and Altantic Oceans. The journey through the 82km canal takes nearly 12 hours. The alternative route, would take ships around the entire South American continent. That journey also includes traversing the treacherous Cape Horn and could take several weeks. Even with tolls that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, the canal proves to be more cost-effective for most cargo and cruise companies.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Panama Canal Minaflores Lock Gates

What Happens in the Canal?

A series of 6 canal locks are used to raise ships the 26m required to sail through the artificial Gatun Lake, then lower them back down to sea level at the other end. The Gatun Locks raise/lower ships on the Atlantic side and the Minaflores Locks raise/lower ships on the Pacific side. While that may all sound rather boring, seeing it in action is slightly more interesting.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Party in Panama City. Panama Canal. Two Ships Passing Through The Minaflores Lock Gates

Obviously, Panama City is on the Pacific side of Panama and I therefore visited the Minaflores Locks. The most interesting thing I learnt there was that a man paid a 36 cent toll to swim the Panama Canal in 1928. These days the toll can run into the $100,000s, depending on the size and weight of the vessel.

The Party’s Over

They say all good things must come to an end. This is the unfortuante thing about travelling. Sometimes you need to leave a place before you’re ready. This was the case with Panama. The people and the sights had been beautiful, but I was quickly running out of holiday time.

Keep an eye out for my next post on my adventures in Colombia!

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Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. 100% Aventura Ziplining

If you’ve heard of Costa Rica, you’re probably aware that it’s famous for it’s greenery, it’s happy residents and it’s mountains. There are adventures to be had in those mountains! Mountain adventures in Costa Rica are probably the main tourist draw of the country. While I don’t normally go for touristy stuff, I can’t resist adventures. So onto Costa Rica I went!

Crossing into Costa Rica

After an uneventful border crossing through the Peñas Blancas border, I continued on to the town of Liberia in Costa Rica’s northwest. It was about a 2 hour drive with some awesome scenery. I’d only planned a short stop in Liberia, as I wanted to get to the mountains as quickly as possible. I really do love mountains! I arrived in Liberia in the evening and it all looked very festive. That could’ve been because it was around Christmas time.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Festive Road in Liberia

Getting my head around the currency in Costa Rica proved a bit challenging. In Nicaragua, 100 Nicaraguan Córdoba are equal to roughly US$3, whereas 1000 Costa Rican Colones are equal to a little under US$2. It was at that point that I realised that I didn’t know the word for 1000 in Spanish! I had only learnt the numbers to 100, thinking that would be enough.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Festive Town Square in Liberia

So when I bought something at the town square, I sheepishly asked how much it was, knowing that I may not understand the answer. The reply was, ‘dos mil’. So two something.. mil must mean 1000, right? I handed the man two 1000 Colones notes hoping that I had guessed correctly. The man took my money and handed me my street food with a smile. I’d gotten a US$3.50 street meal and learned something new! Costa Rica had been great so far.

Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Getting to the Mountains

The next morning I got myself on a bus to the mountains. Sort of. Apparently there were no direct public buses available from Liberia to my destination. So I had to hop on a bus going to San Jose and get off at La Irma. From there I could get a bus onto the mountain town of Monteverde.

I grabbed a snack from the service station at the junction where I’d been dropped off. It seemed to be the only building for miles. I couldn’t see the bus stop that the previous bus driver had promised was there. I tried to ask the staff at the service station where I could catch the bus. As I only had about a week’s experience of speaking Spanish, it didn’t go as well as expected. It turns out that Spanish words spelt similarly to English words have different pronunciations. We all worked it out eventually though.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. La Irma

I made my way across the road to the bus stop, which was a small shelter surrounded by trees. It was barely noticeable from the service station. I started waiting there, not knowing when the bus would arrive. The fact that other people were waiting made me feel a bit more sure about the fact that the bus was running.

Riding with Locals

After about 20 minutes of waiting, I was the only person left at the bus stop. I watched as cars pulled up every few minutes and people waiting got in the cars. I figured it was just an easy place for people to arrange for their lifts to meet them. Then a car stopped and motioned for me to get in. There was a lovely bunch of people in the car eager to know all about me. The language barrier made things a little difficult but the occupants were still super friendly.

They took me a few kilometres up the road, but they needed to turn off the road that went the way I needed to go. By that point, I was only about 3km from Las Juntas, so I decided it was walkable. It wasn’t long before a man in a small red car picked me up and took me the rest of the way to Las Juntas. He dropped me off at the bus station so I could get a bus to Monteverde.

Las Juntas

I bought my ticket from a tiny little hole in the wall, which took me a while to locate. The bus wasn’t due to leave for another hour so I walked around the little town of Las Juntas. It was very quiet and very green.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Quiet Street in Las Juntas K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Greenery.

While I was walking around, a few locals stopped me and asked if I was looking for ‘agua caliente’. I guess that means that there are hot springs in the area. They’re really not my thing, so I continued walking and found the town square. It had a lot of interesting sculptures. Some with a definite Christmas theme.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Christmas Decorations K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Princcess K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Santa Train

Las Juntas de Abangares was a product of Costa Rica’s 1800s gold rush. It served as a major mining town and important stop for people seeking their fortunes. Its importance in history is documented at the Ecomuseo de Las Minas de Abangares, or Mining Eco Museum of Abangares. I guess that also explains this strange monument on the road heading out of town toward Monteverde.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Strange Monument in Las Juntas

Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Monteverde

The 30km journey from Las Juntas to Monteverde took just over an hour, because of the size of the bus, the incline and the winding mountain roads. Of course the scenery was awesome. I got into Monteverde just in time for sunset. A very early sunset. Apparently that’s a thing in Costa Rica.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Santa Train

I got lucky when I arrived to check in at my accommodation in Monteverde. Not only was it right near the bus terminus, but the lady at reception was super nice. She put me in a room by myself, but still only charged me the shared room price. As an extra bonus, the place had hot water! Everywhere I’d stayed in Nicaragua only had cold water. But then again, it was fairly hot there, so having cold showers wasn’t so bad.

After checking in, I booked my mountain adventure for the next day. I then decided to explore the town a little bit, only to find that almost everything was closed. It was also much cooler than the foothills and it was very hilly. This wasn’t a problem for me but I could see how it would be for some.

Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Ziplining Through a Forest Canopy

I arose bright and early, excited about my upcoming zipline adventure through a forest canopy. I would soon be zipping along the longest zipline in Central America! But first, we had a safety briefing.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Safety Briefing Platform K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Safety Briefing

Then spotted some local wildlife on the way up to the treetops.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Wildlife

Each of the ziplines started and finished at small wooden platforms throughout the treetops. As you could imagine, there are quite a few stairs to climb to get to the first platform. Then there was some waiting, because only one person is allowed on the platform at a time. I was excited when I was finally on my way!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Canopy Zipline

The park had a total of 11 ziplines, including the longest zipline in Central America at 1590m. 2 of those lines were superman lines. As the name suggests, you fly down the lines in a horizontal position, like superman. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. The staff member at the platform told us that we were around 2km above ground level at that point. You wouldn’t want to drop something from that height!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Suspension Bridge

After the superman lines, we ended up on a suspension bridge that lead us to the park’s peace de resistance; a 45m high Tarzan Swing!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Canopy Tarzan Swing

It’s kind of like a combination of a small bungy jump and a swing, except that the staff are sneaky and will retract the platform you’re standing on with no warning. Which means there’s a lot of screaming.

So how do you end a hard morning of flying around a rainforest on ziplines? Steak and chocolate at a cute cafe with new friends!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde. Steak and Chocolate After Ziplining.

Onto the Capital

My final stop in Costa Rica was San Jose, the capital. It is also said to be the safest city in Central America. The locals were very friendly. On my walk from the bus station where I was dropped off, to my accommodation on the other side of town, I was stopped for a chat a few times. One of the most notable of these chats was with a man named William. He had marched right up to me and put his hand out to shake and introduced himself. After the normal questions, he deduced that I mustn’t be married because I looked happy. I couldn’t argue with that logic.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose Church K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose Market K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose. Festive Trees

As I continued my walk through the city, the atmosphere was quite festive. I soon arrived at my accommodation. The staff were very friendly but didn’t speak much English. My crappy, but improving Spanish was really getting a workout. After sorting everything out, I retired to my room to see a sign with some bizare rules.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose. Weird Accommodation Rules

Costa Rica had been amazing and beautiful, but it was time to move on. After a good nights sleep, I hopped on a bus for the long trip to Panama City in Panama. Keep an eye out for the continuing adventure in my next post.

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Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua

Why Nicaragua?

For some reason, people don’t often think about visiting the Central American country of Nicaragua. This made me very curious about it. I love visiting countries that don’t have much tourist pull. So I thought, why not check out some love and volcanoes in Nicaragua! Okay, maybe I just went to check out the volcanoes and the love followed me. Confused? Read on and all will become clear.

Getting to Managua, the Nicaraguan Capital

After spending a lovely, albeit cold, couple of days in Vancouver catching up with some friends, I’d hopped on an overnight bus to the airport at 2am. I had a 5am flight to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, via Denver, Colorado and Houston, Texas. It was going to be a long day. So imagine getting to the airport at 3am, only to find that the first flight had been cancelled due to a snowstorm in Denver. Fantastic!

Luckily, the airline had already put me on another flight, to Chicago at 6am. Well, that’s not exactly on the way, but I was still going to make it to Houston in time for my flight to Managua.

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Managua

It was still dark when I landed in Managua, very early the next morning. After crossing 3 time zones and having 2 delayed flights. I was glad to finally be in Central America!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua Airport

The Managua International Airport was fairly small, but not so small that there wasn’t a lot of taxi drivers trying to get me in their cars. But after a whole day spent in airports or planes, I wanted to enjoy the fresh outdoors. Or the slightly polluted outdoors. Managua isn’t the least polluted city I’ve been to. Nor is it the most, but it certainly had its fair share on the day that I arrived. On the way out I saw a rather interesting road sign.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Weird Airport Sign

Managua definitely wasn’t a glitzy city. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was raw. While walking along I could see a fair bit of rubbish around. Especially in streams by the side of the road.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua

The city showed it had a penchant for giant colourful trees as well.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Big Green Tree K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Big Green Tree K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Big Blue Tree

Apparently, the city knew it wasn’t doing the best it could and promised that it would be better soon.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Now it Will be Fun Sign

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Leon

With almost no Spanish ability and a wonky map, I’d managed to get myself to a collectivo station. From there I had to wait about 30 minutes for the next collectivo (shared taxi) bound for Leon. I had to battle for my life to get into that van and secure a seat. 20 people were waiting for 10 seats, so no one was trying to be polite about it.

The little town of Leon, 2 hours northwest of Managua had drawn me in with the promise of adventure. A somewhat unique adventure that could not be had anywhere else. Volcano Boarding! On an active volcano!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Volcano Boarding Sign

When I arrived at my accommodation, I used my best Spanish accent to ask, “¿Dónde está el volcán?”. Luckily the staff at my hostel, which doubled as the volcano boarding tour operator, spoke English. They also humoured me and told me that my Spanish accent was good. I’d missed the tour for that day, as it was after midday by the time I got in. I booked myself a spot for the next day and decided to have a nap. Crossing 10 time zones in the previous 4 days had caught up with me.

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – A Love Story?

Unfortunately, that late-afternoon nap turned into more of a full-on slumber. A slumber I woke from at around 3am. To my surprise, the bar at the hostel was still open. I went and joined the 3 other people at the bar and started chatting. It was at that point that I became the love of someone’s life. The bartender had recognised my inner awesomeness and wasn’t afraid to let me know about it! Thankfully, he did it in the non-creepy way.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Hostel Bar at 4am

I was feeling kind of awake at that point, so I stayed and talked to the guys propping the bar up. They had been there a while and were at just the right level of inebriation to be hilarious. It took a while, but they finally noticed I wasn’t drinking, which prompted Ricardo, my new Nicaraguan husband, to say, “It’s 4am, where’s your beer?”. Then a local beer magically appeared in front of me.

I decided that it was best to go to sleep after the beer because I had a volcano adventure to experience less than 5 hours after that. Now that I’ve covered the love part of the trip, let’s move on to the volcanoes.

Cerro Negro

The next day, around 20 adventurers were piled into the back of a truck for a very bumpy 40 minute ride to the start of the hike to Cerro Negro, the volcano that we would be throwing ourselves down.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Cerro Negro Warning Sign

Cerro Negro, which means black hill, is part of the Cordillera de los Maribios Mountain Range. At the tender age of 169 years old, it’s also the youngest volcano in Central America. We were assured that there was no chance of an eruption, as the hill is carefully monitored and they have plenty of forewarning of eruptions. Plus, the last time it erupted was in 1999.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Volcano Boarders at Cerro Negro

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Hiking Cerro Negro

Although the hike itself wasn’t that long, we had to carry horrible orange jumpsuits and the boards up with us. The boards were old and rickety. And not all that light. There was an option to get them taken up to the top, for a fee. I’d decided that it’d make the experience much better if I did it myself. I’m sure it must’ve been amusing to some of the guys to see me trying to carry a board almost bigger than me up the hill. In fact, many of them offered to take it for me, but I’m stubborn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Scenery Around Cerro Negro

I started to regret my choice when the winds that our host warned us about, kicked in about halfway up. It was a mission trying to position the board in a way that the wind wouldn’t catch it and blow you off course. It was definitely a struggle that slowed the group down considerably.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Scenery FromCerro Negro K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Scenery Surrounding Cerro Negro

Luckily there was some great scenery on the way up. The basaltic gravel of the volcano contrasts beautifully with the surrounding mountain range. Of course there was time to stop for pictures too!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Cerro Negro K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Hiking up Cerro Negro

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Volcano Boarding

Once up the top, we had to change into the horrible orange jumpsuits we’d carried up with us. Then our host gave us a briefing on safety and how get the most speed out of the descent. She then rushed down the slope, with a radar gun in hand, to record our speeds for us. Cool. I had a theory that letting some people go before me would give me a more compacted and defined trail to follow. That would lead to more speed. I wanted to be the fastest!

Watching the people in front of me, I started to get worried that my dream of a fast descent was not possible. Everyone was struggling to get started, but I was learning from their mistakes. Once I had a pretty good handle on what I needed to do, I decided to give it a go. I launched myself down the hill at 40km/h, one of the fastest runs of the day. Although I definitely felt like I had achieved something that day, I was disappointed with the speed. It really didn’t feel that fast. I will return one day to feel the wind of a faster speed in my hair!

The Unexpectedly Quirky Town of Leon

After all the excitement died down, I decided to explore the town of Leon with someone I’d met at the volcano. We ended up at El Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas, or the Museum of Legends and Traditions. The museum is housed in an old early 20th century jail, where some horrible torturing is said to have taken place. Despite how somber that all sounds, this may have been the most amusing place I visited on my whole trip through Latin America!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions

To be honest, some of the exhibits were kind of horrendous, probably partly due to the terribly-put-together figurines used to depict them. The place is full of a lot of weird stuff. I don’t wanna give too much away, because you should really get there and visit yourself. So let me just whet your whistle a little. Here’s Dead Cheerleader Man.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions. Dead Cheerleader

Perhaps one of the craziest and most amusing legends explained in the museum was the one about the woman that roamed around putting her nipple in men’s mouths. That in itself sounds rather odd, but the figurine depicting it just added a whole other element to it. It was hilarious.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions. Crazy Legend K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions. Hold Your Tit

After laughing so hard our throats hurt, we headed back into the town just in time to see it at sunset.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon at Sunset

Onto Granada

I would’ve liked to have stayed in Leon for longer but it was time to head south to Granada. Yes, it was named after the Granada in Spain by the conquistador who ‘found’ it in the 16th century. It is situated on Lago Cocibolca, or Lake Nicaragua, which is the world’s 20th largest lake.

The place has a lot of colonial history and once vied with Leon to be the capital. Managua was eventually founded when neither could agree to the other being the country’s major city. Due to Nicaragua’s shakey economic history, some of the colonial buildings, like the Guadalupe Church in La Calzada, fell into disrepair.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Granada. Guadalupe Church

Granada still has a lot of narrow streets, owing to the fact that the infrastructure for the city was put in place centuries before the advent of motorised vehicles. The city has boomed in recent years, which has caused a lot of new areas to be erected to deal with the influx of foreign investment.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Modern Granada K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Granada. Narrow Street

It was all a little more touristy than I was prepared for. Although it was a nice town, there was nothing about it that really grabbed my attention to make me want to stay. So with that I started heading south to the Costa Rican border, where my next adventure awaited.

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Mystery Blogger Award Nomination

I was surprised and honoured to be nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by Julie from Dark Blue Journal

Julie blogs about a little bit of everything and even gets philosophical at times. Her main focus is on our environmental impact and practical ways to reduce our affect on the earth. If you care for our little blue marble and want to see it preserved after we’re gone, the Dark Blue Journal has a wealth of information for you. Go check it out, now!

What is the Mystery Blogger Award?

The award was created by Okoto Enigma. It was created as a way for blogs that haven’t been discovered to gain some recognition.

“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.
– Okoto Enigma

Mystery Blogger Award Rules

1) Put the award logo/image on your blog
2) List the rules
3) Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
4) Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
5) Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
6) Nominate 10 – 20 people
7) Notify your nominees
8) Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
9) Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Facts About Me

So as not to bore you by rambling on about myself, I’m gonna keep my answers here short. If you need more elaboration, let me know in the comments!

1) I’m a Third Culture Adult.

2) I’m shorter and older than you think.

3) I really, REALLY hate adulting.

Julie’s Questions

What are your thoughts about the paranormal?
I believe that some people believe, but I’m gonna need some proof.

Do you think humans will overcome the climate problems, and why?
Sadly no. For several reasons, the biggest being money. People with money that have interests in industries that are environmentally destructive aren’t about to lose money over the environment. Greed is a bitch.

Aside from that, there are still too many people denying that climate change even exists. It’s impossible to take the required action when you can’t get the proper consensus.

Furthermore, even if we stopped producing everything that’s environmentally harmful and implemented clean strategies TODAY, we’d still have an impossibly large amount of waste left behind that would take years to eliminate.

I’ll still keep doing my part regardless.

What’s a story that really stuck with you?
Not so much stories, but things that I’ve seen while travelling tend to stick with me and remind me how lucky I am to be in the situation I’m in.

What’s your favorite trait about yourself?
I’m awesome! Haha, just kidding. I’m tenacious. I will keep going long after I think I can.

What is your hope for 2020?
I think you can guess what I want; more travel!

My Nominees

I nominate the following awesome bloggers who offer amazingly helpful content. Go visit them now. I’ll wait.

Britt from Alternatively Speaking
April from Rodes on the Road
Denise from Many Facets of Life
Stephen from Yule Times
Chloe from Nyxie’s Nook
Felicia from Meal Planning Easy
Alex from Roam and Thrive
Sandra from Poof, Be Gone
Ana from Goatdog Simple

Questions For My Nominees

1) Life isn’t perfect. What gets you through the bad times?
2) How many languages can you curse in?
3) Are rules made to be followed or broken? Why?
4) Would you rather be trapped somewhere with humans or dogs/cats?
5) Have you ever tried something/been somewhere and thought, “Never again!”?

My Best Posts

From a purely statistical point of view, my best posts are –
Hong Kong on a Budget
Travel to South Turkmenistan
Turkmenbashi to Baku – 3 Days on the Caspian Sea

But my personal favourite is –
Mauritanian Adventure – Coast to Capital on the Iron Train

Which one is your favourite?

Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination

K in Motion Travel Blog. Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination

I’m excited to say that I have once again been nominated by April from Rodes on the Road for a blogging award. This time it’s the Sunshine Blogger Award. The award aims to recognise positive bloggers who act as an inspiration to others.

Obviously I’m grateful to April for this nomination, but I’m also quite humbled by the fact that anyone would see me as an inspiration. To me, I’m just an average person doing what I do. Sure, some of what I do involves crazy adventures in far-off lands, but that’s nothing that can’t be done by any other average person. Go on, give it a try! ;o)

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award for bloggers from bloggers. It is given to bloggers who are creative, positive and inspiring. A ray of sunshine in the blogging community. People who entertain you and make you smile :o)

Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination Rules

As with all awards of this type, there are some simple rules that the nominee needs to follow.
1) Thank the blogger who nominated you in your blog post and link back to his/her blog.
2) Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
3) Nominate 11 new bloggers to receive the award and write 11 new questions.
4) List these rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and on your blog.

April’s questions

1. What inspired you to write?
I love writing. I like saying things that no one else has said, or taking something that someone else has said and making it sound better. That’s what got me through high school English!
In relation to my blog, I just love sharing some of the crazy stuff that happens when I travel. From the feedback I’ve gotten, you guys love reading it too!

2. If you’re given a chance to talk to unfortunate young children, what would you say?
*Teacher Mode Enabled* Children have an insane capacity to learn and do, if only they are encouraged. So I encourage. I push them. I let them know that they can do anything they think they can do. They might hate me now, but they’ll thank me later!

3. When you have to do an inspirational poem or message, how does it sound?
Inspirational I hope! I don’t normally have to write inspirational stuff, but I do have to motivate kids to learn every day, does that count?

4. Life hits us hard sometimes, and when you hit bottom what do you do? Do you write something about it? In what way? Journal, poem, and or song?
I spent a few years at the bottom and I’m pretty sure it’s writing that got me through it. I wrote hundreds of poems and songs. They may be shared one day. Or not.

5. Who you look up to?
People who do their own thing and don’t follow the crowd. People who are unapologetic about the fact that they are themselves and don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves.

I also have all the time in the world for people that can debate an issue that they have a different opinion about and still keep stuff civil. Embracing differences is what helps us grow.

6. Do you have a favorite book and or author that helps you positively change your life? If yes, what book and who is the name of the author?
Unfortunately, I don’t read books that much these days. When I did, I really loved reading fantasy books by Raymond Feist.

7. Blogging is not an easy task to do. So what difficulties you encountered and how you handle them?
It’s not as glamorous as some would make it out to be! I haven’t really encountered any difficulties yet. Well, except that time that my hosting company couldn’t handle a boost in traffic and my site was down for the best part of 3 days. I’m glad to say that my new hosting company really stepped up.

8. Why should readers follow you?
I hope that I can entertain people and show them that the world is more accessible than they think. I’d also like to show people that travel isn’t just for the rich. I often provide tips and guides for getting through places on a budget.

9. What inspires you to travel, and why?
The world is a wondrous place. Travel enables me to see cultures first hand and have amazing experiences that I can’t have at home. It helps me to not only see the best scenery, but also the best of people. That’s what keeps my faith in humanity alive.

10. Do you find a life quotation that can describe your life journey as a whole? What would it be?
“Life begins on the edge of your comfort zone”. I’m not actually sure that I have a comfort zone anymore, as I spend so much time out of it.

11. In what way you can help spread positivity to your community and to the world we live in?
I try to help out where I can. There are a few charities here in Hong Kong that I offer my time to when I have it.

And the Nominees Are..

Chris from Golden Bloggerz
Sonila from Mediteranean Latin love Affair
Sheri from Keto Foodification
Steve from Plumb and Lined
Nart from Cooking With Nart
Ai from Ai Made it for You
John from Business and Life Tips
Jennifer from Kinging Queen
Tamra from Nuturing Tamra
Jerry from Four Columns of a Balanced Life
Teresa from Joys, Blessings and Poetry

My Questions for the Nominees

1) If money wasn’t an issue, what would be your dream trip?
2) Cats or Dogs? Why?
3) What’s your favourite pun?
4) Are you a morning person or a night owl?
5) What’s your travel style? Plan every little detail, or go with the flow?
6) When was the last time you went to a live show? How was it?
7) You have an accident which is either going to cause loss of sight or loss of hearing; which would you prefer and why?
8) What’s something you’re super proud of?
9) What would your superhero name be?
10)Do you think that social media connects us to the world, or disconnects us from real-world interaction?
11) What are 4 things you simply cannot live without?

Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Never heard of Uzbekistan? Well, put it on your ‘must see’ list right now! It’s an amazing Central Asian country that could just capture your heart. Before you head there, check out this list of 9 things to know about Uzbekistan, to give you a head start when it comes to navigating the country.

3 Important Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Tourist Registration

It is a government requirement that tourists register within 3 days of entering the country. That doesn’t mean that immigration checks this too closely when you exit though. There are 2 ways that this registration can be carried out. The first way is to stay at a hotel/hostel and they will do the registration for you and give you a small white piece of paper to keep in your passport. The idea is that you show that paper to immigration officials upon exit.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Guesthouse Registration Slip K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Hotel Registration Slip K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Hostel Registration Slip

The second way is to register online. This way involves registering at this site. Once you’ve input all the details, the site will calculate a daily tax that you need to pay, but it can only be paid with an Uzbek card.

Drivers Be Crazy

Travelling by road in Uzbekistan can feel more like a rollercoaster ride in a theme park than an intercity drive. From what I could tell, red lights and line markings are for indicative purposes only. People don’t seem inclined to follow them most of the time. By people, I mean just about every driver on the road. A lot of roads don’t even have lane markings, I presume because they figure that drivers would ignore them anyway.

Being a pedestrian in Uzbekistan can often feel like playing a game of cat and mouse. While stopping at crosswalks is legally mandated, it’s far from practiced. It’s probably safest to cross where there are traffic lights combined with a crosswalk. A lot more cars will stop in that situation. But if it’s a crosswalk by itself, the best advice is to look for a break in the traffic and run.

Super Hospitable Locals

Uzbek hospitality is really something else! Uzbeks will always try to help a stranger out in any way they can. That could mean simply helping them find a place they’re looking for. Or it could mean inviting them to stay at their house and force-feeding them tea and sweets at 1 am.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Tea and Biscuits K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Tea, Biscuits and Fruit

On the subject of tea, there are two main varieties available in Uzbekistan. Green and black. Every good host will always have both on hand and will offer you a choice. I prefer the black variety, as it’s stronger, but the green one is also nice.

3 Handy Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Language

Uzbeks speak the Uzbek language alongside Russian. A little Rusian can get you a long way in Uzbekistan. Younger people tend to speak at least basic English, as do a lot of people working in customer service, so it is also possible to get by with just English. Most road signs and a lot of businesses use Latin transliterations of the Uzbek language, rather than Cyrillic.

Transport

Uzbekistan has the cheapest transport in Central Asia at just 1200 Som/$US0.15 for city buses and trains. When taking buses, the fare is paid to a ticket person on the bus. If there is no ticket person, then you pay the fare to the driver as you exit. Intercity trains are also available at varying fares, depending on the destination. You can find out more on the Uzbek Railway site.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Inner City Bus K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Intercity Train

Mashrutkas (minivans) are common forms of inner and intercity transport, although they seem to be a little more compact than their counterparts in other Central Asian countries. Their prices vary depending on where you are going. They normally cost between 5000 Som/US$0.58 and 10,000 Som/US$1.16 within cities and 10,000 Som/US$1.16 to 30,000 Som/US$3.50 for intercity routes. They do not run on longer intercity routes.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Mashrutka

For intercity routes, the main option is shared taxis. They can cost between 20,000 Som/US$2.50 and 150,000 Som/US$16 depending on the city you want to get to. You would pay 20,000 Som for a 1-2 hour drive and 100,000 Som/US$11 for a 12-14 hour drive. Some taxis will charge up to 150,000 for an overnight drive between Termez and Tashkent, but from Tashkent to Termez you may only have to pay 100,000 Som. In the city, taxis will cost between 3000 Som/US$0.34 and 7000 Som/US$0.81. As in other central Asian countries, you can flag down an unoffcial taxi by standing on the side of the road with your hand out. Or you can use the Yandex Taxi-hailing app, if you have internet.

Potable Water

Despite what the internet says, the water in many places in Uzbekistan is drinkable. Some say that if your body is not used to it, you may have problems. I didn’t encounter any issues. Locals will generally boil tap water before they drink it.

3 Quirky Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Gas Stations

If you’re from North America, you’re probably wondering, ‘why mention gas stations, they’re everywhere’. That’s true, but there are special stations in Uzbekistan that only sell gas, as in liquid gas. You can’t fill up cars that run on petrol or diesel at these stations. These stations don’t really look like your average filing station either.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Gas Station

Crsips/Chips in Shwarmas

While Shwarmas can vary from region to region, perhaps the strangest variation occurs in Uzbekistan. The standard composition of a Schwarma there is meat, salad, sauce and crisps/chips. But they’ll look at you weirdly if you ask them to leave the crisps/chips out.

Airconditioning is Not Standard

Most people will not have airconditioning in their homes, but a lot of places offering accommodation will also be without airconditioning. You’re probably thinking that not having airconditioning is not really that much of a weird thing, right? Would you still think that if you were in an area where temperatures edge towards 50 degrees Celcius in the summer? If you find it hard to handle hot temperatures, ensure that you carefully check that your accommodation has airconditioning before you finalise your booking.

Wanna know more about Uzbekistan? Have a look here and here.

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9 Fun Things to do In Baku – 2 Days on a Budget

So you want to see a beautiful Western Asian city but you’re short on time and cash? Then this list of 9 fun things to do in Baku is for you!

Aside from being beautiful, Baku is also unique in so many ways. It’s the only metropolis in the whole of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, it’s situated below sea level on the shores of a sea that isn’t really a sea. Keeping yourself occupied in this city won’t break the bank. In fact, there are many cool and quirky things to do for free!

The activities below will definitely keep you occupied for at least 2 days, but possibly longer if you like to do things at a more leisurely pace.

3 Fun Things to do in Baku For Free

1) Go on a Fountain Hunt

If you love fountains, you’ll love this! The city of Baku has a crazy amount of fountains. Who can blame them really. I mean, who doesn’t love stylised water jets? Seeing how many you can find is a great way to introduce yourself to some of the quirks of the city while you find your bearings.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Fountain

To save water, most fountains do not run during the daytime, so fountain hunting is some thing that you might want to try after 7pm in the summer season. the added bonus there will be that everything gets cooler in the evening.

2) Admire the Architecture

While you’re hunting fountains, you’ll see a lot of pretty buildings, in both the new and old town. If you love architecture, you can wax lyrical about the different structural influences that can be seen around town.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Subway Ceiling K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. City Centre K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Building With In-built Monuments

If you’re not architecturally inclined, there’s certainly still a lot to appreciate about the city’s buildings. Maybe you can take pictures for your friends on Instagram?

3) Find Some Pop-out Friends

You may notice that some of the pretty buildings have heads popping out of them. These are sculptures of people that played a part in the city’s history. Most have a short explanation about how the person contributed.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. White Pop-out Head K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Black Pop-out Head K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Grey Pop-out Head

Some even pop right out of the ground.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Head popping out of the Ground

3 Fun Things To Do In Baku For Free, With Optional Budget Extras

4) Visit Baku Boulevard/Denizkenari Milli Park

Denizkenari Milli Park, the biggest park in the city, is also known as Baku Boulevard. It stretches along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea for almost 4km. That means you should easily be able to find a quiet spot where you can sit and admire the sea.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Looking out to the Caspian Sea

You can continue your fountain hunt while walking through the park.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Fountain

When you finish your walk at Flag Square, you can play chess with little-people-sized chess pieces under the Azerbaijan flag.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Flag Square

Here are some optional extra things to do in the park if you don’t mind spending a little bit of money.

Go to the carnival area and go on some rides. This area may be aimed at children, but they don’t have any signs saying that child-like adults can’t join in the fun!
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Carnival Area

Maybe if you have kids, you can leave them at the carnival and take a gondola ride on the canal a short walk away.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Gondola Canal

Finally, to escape the heat, you can head to the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum. It comes highly recommended by locals and costs 7 Manat for entry.

5) Rise Above It All

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. View of the City From The Hill
There is a place where all the locals in the city gather for the best view. It’s known as ‘The Hill’. You can also find it on Maps.me as ‘Panoramic View’. The beginning of the stairs that lead to the hill can be seen across the road from Flag Square in Denizkenari Milli Park/Baku Boulevard.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Stairs to the Hill

If you want to go for the free and fit option, you can walk the 700 metres up the stairs. Make sure you take enough water as there isn’t really an option for resupply on the way up!

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Entrance to the Funicular

If it’s too hot, or you’re feeling a bit lazy, there is a funicular near the start of the stairs that goes up to the Flame Towers. The towers are a little bit past the hill, so you’d have to backtrack a bit, but at least it won’t be uphill! The funicular costs 1 manat each way.

The Flame Towers come alive at night

You could also take a taxi. I’m sure all the drivers will know what you mean if you say ‘The Hill’. It shouldn’t cost more than 5 manat/US$3.

6) Get Lost in the Old Town

It’s free to wander around the UNESCO Heritage Listed old town of Baku and soak up the old timey-ness of the narrow alleyways and cobbled roads. There are also handy maps and markers to show you where the points of interest are. Audio guides available to explain the importance of the points of interest, but they cost 5 manat/US$3.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Miniature Book Museum

Among the many attractions of the old town is the Miniature Book Museum. It is free to enter and quirky to boot. It’s definitely something to tell your friends about. Unfortunately, it’s closed on Mondays and Thursdays, so plan accordingly.

3 Fun Things to do in Baku on a Budget

7) Qobustan Mud Volcanoes

Looking for a fun adventure outside of the city? Then get yourself to Qobustan, (pronounced Gobustan)! This unassuming little town hides some quirky little secrets away from the main road. Mud volcanoes! These ‘volcanoes’ are about 10 minute drive down a dirt road into the middle of nowhere.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Qobustan Mud Volcano

The sounds as the volcanoes ‘erupt’ are giggle-worthy. This place is guaranteed to put a smile on your face without burning a hole in your pocket. To get there, you can take the 125 bus from the city to Bina Ticaret Merkezi, then get the 195 bus and let the driver know you want Qobustan. The combined cost of these buses is less than 1 manat. You’ll get dropped off on the side of the road, where a taxi will be waiting to take you the rest of the way. They will barter hard, but it shouldn’t cost you any more than 10 manat/US$5.

8) Bibi-Hebyat Mosque

This is an amazing mosque and adjoining cemetery perched high above the Caspian Sea. You can catch the 125 bus from the city, so it can be combined quite easily with your visit to Qobustan.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Bibi-Heybat Mosque

9) Take a Bus or a Train

The transport in Baku is efficient, clean and cheap! You shouldn’t have to pay more than 1 Manat to go anywhere in the city. Each bus stop and metro station has machines where you can purchase a Bakikart for you trip.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. BakiKart Machine K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. BakiKart

Above is a one-time use BakiKart, but there are also BakiKarts available for everyday use, that can be recharged at the machines at all stops. It could be a good idea to purchase one if you plan to spend more time Baku, because you’ve fallen in love with the city. I did! You can see why here.

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Beautiful Baku

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill. Looking Down The Stairs

Why Beautiful Baku?

When I say Beautiful Baku, I mean it’s beautiful in every possible way. It could be described as a little bit of Europe, a little bit of Asia and a whole lot of love. After travelling in Central Asia for 2 months, Baku presented a totally different aesthetic to what I had become accustomed to. While Central Asian cities are fairly low rise and spread out, Baku was definitely rocking a lot more high-rises, but it was also fairly spread out. Even though it’s a huge city, it’s still had a very homely feel to it.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Flame Towers From The HIll

Baku is definitely impressive from the first time you lay eyes on it, even if that time happens to be 2am. That’s when the coach transporting us from the port of Alat arrived. Even at that time, there were middle-aged taxi drivers ready to hassle us to get into their taxi. But in a friendlier way than most around the world.

Myself and my new friends, who had crossed the Caspian Sea with me, decided that we would walk to our hostel. It was only a 10 minute walk away. We were surprised when we arrived at the address and the hostel didn’t seem to be there. We saw a small convenience shop that was opened and asked if they knew where the place was. They didn’t, but they let us use their internet to see if we could find the correct address. We had no luck there, but a local found a phone number and called the place, then gave us a lift there!

Where is it?

When we moved the next day, we encountered another hostel that wasn’t at the location that the map indicated. I also came across this anomaly when I’d booked a hostel across town. A wonderful local saw that I was looking a bit lost and asked if I needed help. He and his friend ended up finding a phone number for the owner and called him for directions.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Graffiti Near Where a Hostel Should've Been
Graffiti near where a hostel should’ve been

The helpful locals also had difficulties finding the place when following the numbers on the street. After speaking with the owner, they explained that the street numbers had recently been changed in some areas of the city. They weren’t sure what the reason for this change was but agreed that it was kind of weird. In essence, the numbers found on the buildings, as well as maps, are the old numbers. The new numbers, which for some strange reason were not sequential, were nowhere to be seen. I’m glad to say that this was really the only quirk of Baku that could be a tad annoying.

Beautiful Baku – City of Wind, Fountains and Parks

I met the owner of my hostel, Farid, and he was only too happy to give me information on the city’s history and the best places to go. He informed me that the word Baku, or Баку́ in Russian, came from the old Persian word Bad-kube, which when roughly translated means windy. This probably gave rise to the city’s modern nickname, City of Wind.

I was lucky to not be subjected to the city’s infamous strong winds during my stay, but I did notice there were fountains everywhere.

Fountains of Baku

Most were found in parks that are scattered around the city. They were nocturnal and slept during the day.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Sleeping Women's Fountain K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Big Sleeping Fountain K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Group of Small Sleeping Fountains

Then woke up in the evening.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Fountain at Night K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Spiney Park Fountains K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Group of Small Fountains in Action

Some were huge.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Huge Fountain

And some had pretty lights.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Lit Up Fountain at Night

Parks of Baku

Baku is blessed with many parks. It’s hard to walk more than 5 minutes in the city without stumbling upon one. One of the major parks in the city, located on the shore of the Caspian Sea is Denizkenari Milli Park. It is also known as Baku Boulevard and is a popular hangout for locals. You’ll see many people sitting by the sea, or eating ice cream from one of the many vendors there.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park On The Caspian Sea

There are many things to do in the park. Like visit the carpet museum there, which locals will tell you is a must see. They really do love their carpets.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park Carpet Museum

Or you could take a train
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park Train

Or play chess under the Azerbaijan flag
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park Chess and Flag

Beautiful Baku – Old and New

Apparently, when developing the city, a Parisian-style aesthetic was envisioned. To achieve this coveted look, European architects were brought in to design the city’s buildings. This is why the old city could easily be mistaken for a quaint European town.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Old Town.

The old town, or Icherisheher, while lovely, has become a bit of a tourist destination these days. This means that some areas in it have been overrun by expensive hotels, cafes and restaurants aiming for the tourist dollar. It is however, still free to walk around the town’s narrow walkways and cobbled streets.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Old Town Street

There are also many souvenir shops selling local arts and crafts. Some of these still seem to have reasonable prices and very friendly shopkeepers that are eager to have you in their shop. The old town is also home to the Maiden Tower. This tower has a viewing area at the top which is said to offer a fantastic view of the city. Unfortunately, they charge a ridiculous entry fee.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Old Town. Maiden Tower

Baku is unique in that it’s the only metropolis in Azerbaijan, as well as being the largest city below sea level. It is also a city where old and new have blended together seamlessly. If you walk just outside of the old city walls, you’re standing in a 21st century metropolis surrounded by mountains and hills. I guess everything’s a hill when your city is 30 metres below sea level. One of these hills has a viewpoint that offers a panoramic view of beautiful Baku.

Beautiful Baku from Above

The mysterious hill with a view doesn’t seem to have a name. All the locals refer to it as ‘the hill’. It’s about a 700m climb up a decent amount of stairs from near Denizkenari Milli Park/Baku Boulevard.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. First section of the Climb to the Hill

To be honest, the walk up to the hill could be a little overwhelming during the day in the summer if you’re not used to the Baku heat. But there are plenty of places to stop, rest and admire the view on the way up.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View on the Way up to the Hill

There is a road that intersects the path just before the last section of stairs. Many people choose to take a taxi to that point.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Last Lot of Stairs to the Hill

On the last sections of stairs, I came across some locals selling fresh fruits. I also noticed some rest points on the way up, for anyone that needs a bit of a break from climbing.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Rest Area on the Way Up the Hill

There were incredible views from a few levels going up the stairs, I made sure I checked them all out!
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View Before the Top of the Hill

Of course the money shots were at the top. From there you get a panoramic view of the city and the Caspian.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill

It’s almost enough to make you forget for a moment that you aren’t anywhere near an actual sea. You are in fact probably the furthest inland you could be on almost the entire earth.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill. City and Sea

While it was lovely during the day, I had a thought that it would be even cooler to see at night when the city is lit up. So I walked back up just before sunset.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill. City and Sea at Sunset

It is much busier at this time, but watching night descend upon the city was pretty awesome.

Then just after sunset, at about 21:30 during the summer, you’ll get to watch a light show for free!

There’s Something Quirky in Qobustan

Farid had advised me that if I do only one thing in Baku, it should be a trip to Qobustan, pronounced Gobustan. When I looked on the map, I realised it wasn’t far from Alat, where I had entered Azerbaijan. I decided to hop on one of Baku’s very modern looking buses to get to Bina Ticaret Merkezi, which is an interchange station about 30 minutes from the city centre. From there, I hopped on the 195 bus which stops in Qobustan. Both buses cost only 0.30 Azerbaijani Manat/US$0.18 each.

The bus dropped me off on the side of the road, where there was of course a taxi driver waiting. This taxi driver initially wanted to charge me 20 Manat/US$10 to take me on the 10km round trip to Qobustan’s main attraction. I was firmly against that and said I would pay no more than 10 Manat/US$5. That was a bit of a fail on my part, because I was tired and confused about the exchange rate. It should’ve cost less.

He said his fuel would cost 10 Manat/US$5, which I totally didn’t believe. I knew Azerbaijan had a lot of oil reserves under the Caspian Sea. I’d seen the oil rigs on the way in! He wasn’t budging and neither was I, so he took me to an area where some other taxis had gathered and one of them agreed to take me.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Mud Volcanoes, Qobustan

So what’s the main attraction of Qobustan? Mud Volcanoes! I kid you not. I told you there was something quirky in Qobustan!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Mud Volcano, Qobustan

Okay, so they’re not really volcanoes in the true sense of the word, but the mud ‘erupting’ from them has shaped them into volcano-like structures. The mud being expelled from the mounds is actually being pushed to the surface by bubbles of natural gas trying to escape from the earth. Perhaps the most surprising thing was about them was that despite the ambient temperature being above 30 degrees, the mud was pretty cold to touch.

When I was done taking a million pictures, the taxi took me back to a road. The first driver, Fazid was waiting there to take me back to the road where I could catch the bus. He took me to his barber shop first, which is situated in front of his house. He said I could wait inside for the bus, but as there was a wall between us and the main road, I wondered how we would see when the bus was coming.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Road Wall, Qobustan

Back to Beautiful Baku

After making sure he got a photo with me, which I was clearly not into, Fazid and I went out to the road. Another guy on the side of the road flagged down a car and was also going to Bina Ticaret, so Fazid said I should get in. The driver wanted 1 Manat for the ride, which is about double what the bus would cost. It was more comfortable though. When we arrived, he didn’t have change for a 20 Manat note, so he said not to worry about it.

From Bina Ticaret, I hopped on the 125 bus heading back to the city. I had one more stop I wanted to make before I went back to the city.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Baku Road Sign

Bibi-Heybat Mosque

The Bibi-Heybat Mosque is still a little bit outside of the city, but it’s absolutely amazing. I was in awe from the moment I stepped off the bus.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Graveyard Across the Road From the Mosque

The first thing that caught my eye, was the graveyard across the road that had been built into a hill. Some of the graves looked better than my house!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Bibi-Heybat Mosque From the Side

Once I walked into the grounds of the mosque, I was captivated not only by architecture and stature of the mosque, but also by the view.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Bibi-Heybat Mosque From the Side

As if the building itself isn’t impressive enough, it’s perched right above one of the shores of the Caspian Sea.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Caspian Sea Behind the Mosque

Bye Bye Beautiful Baku

As always happens when travelling, it has to come to an end at some point. Although I’m not usually a big fan of cities, Baku and its people had left an impression on me. From the people that helped me find my accommodation, to the airport bus driver who left his bus to show me how to use the ticket machine that had no English display. But you know what I’m going to miss most of all? The purple taxis. A city has reached next-level coolness when most of their taxi fleet is purple.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Purple Taxi

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Turkmenbashi to Baku – 3 Days on the Caspian Sea

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Turkmenbashi Port, Turkmenistan

A journey across the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water, from Turkmenbashi to Baku sounds like fun right? The prospect was quite exciting, as it’s not a common thing for people to do. I waited patiently at the Turkmenbashi port departure building until 11am. That was when ticket sales for the ferry to Baku, Azerbaijan were set to begin. Myself and 3 other people I’d met at the Turkmenbashi port made our way to the ticket sales window. This ticket sales window was, strangely, at the back of the port hotel, not in the departures building as you would think it would be. Even though there was a ticket sales window in the departures building, it seemed to be permanently closed, along with everything else that was supposed to be operating in the departures building.

Waiting..

The lady at the ticket window insisted that the truck drivers going on the ferry would be processed first. That meant we were only able to purchase our tickets for the Turkmenistan owned ferry ‘Bagtyyar’ starting from 11:30am. We had tried to get on the Azerbaijan owned ferry, Academik Topcubasov, that was also at the port. That one only cost US$60 per person for a bed in cabin. The Turkmen staff at the Turkmenistan port had told us that only the Turkmenistan owned ferry was taking passengers. Clearly it was a ploy to get people on to the more expensive Turkmenistan ferry. US$100 per person for just a seat on a 12 hour ferry. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. The Azerbaijan Ferry Academik Topcubasov Docked at Turkmenbashi Port
Azerbaijan Ferry Akademik Topcubasov in port

We were told the boat wouldn’t leave until the evening. We all had Turkmenistan Manat that we needed to spend, as it would be useless to us once we left Turkmenistan. Unfortunately, the currency exchange facilities that were supposed to be available at the port weren’t. So we headed to the port hotel restaurant for some lunch. Considering that it was the only restaurant in the area, it turned out to be a lot more reasonable than one would figure. I paid about US$1.60 for a steak.

Immigration Procedure

Back in the port departures building, the four of us joined the line to go through to the immigration area. They were only letting small groups of people through at one time, so we had to wait a while. When we finally got in, our luggage was scanned and we headed upstairs to the immigration clearance area. We were directed to use machines that scanned our passports and took our pictures. The machines didn’t give us any kind of receipt, though. We had to then go to an immigration officer to be stamped out, so the machines seemed to be quite redundant.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan to Baku, Azerbaijan - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Waiting to go into the Immigration Area

From there, we entered the departure lounge to wait for boarding. The port departures building was quite huge but there was almost nothing there. It seems they had reserved the third floor for shops but forgot to rent out the spaces. There was only 1 duty free shop there and all it sold was sheets and towels. I guess they figured that was a niche market for people taking the ferry.

Starting the Journey from Turkmenbashi to Baku. Or Not.

Luckily, boarding started not long after that. We all quickly found ourselves rows of 3 seats each that we could use to sleep on. We waited on the boat for many hours, completely unsure of when it was going to leave. We asked around during the evening meal and no one was sure when we would leave. When I saw trucks still being loaded on to the ferry at 11pm, I figured we wouldn’t be moving for a while. We ended up going to sleep while still in port.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. New Bed on the Bagtyyar
My new bed on the Bagtyyar

I woke up at about 4:30am because the airconditioning in the lounge area, where we were sleeping, was set to freezing. The sheet I’d managed to acquire was no longer protecting me from the arctic breeze. I decided to go outside where it was warmer. We still weren’t moving and we were still in the port area. We’d been on the ship for 16 hours and not moved a single centimetre. Obviously, ferries work differently in Turkmenistan!

FInally moving?

Not long after that, just before sunrise at around 5am, we started moving, albeit slowly. Great, we were finally on our way from Turkmenbashi to Baku! Or were we?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Finally Leaving the Port!

I presumed we were moving super slowly because we were exiting the port area. Surely we’d gain some speed once further out. But shortly after that, I went outside and realised that we’d stopped moving. The port was still clearly visible not far behind us. By the time they opened the galley for breakfast at 10am, we still weren’t moving and nobody really knew what was going on. Would our journey from Turkmenbashi to Baku start that day? Or would we spend another night on the ‘sea’ in a stationary boat?

By this stage, we hadn’t showered for a few days owing to this being our second day on the ship and having caught an overnight train to get to the Turkmenbashi port the day before. Thankfully, one of the nice kitchen staff allowed all four of us to shower in his personal cabin. That was much needed and awesomely refreshing!

New Captain?

There was a rumour that the captain of the ship for this sailing was relatively new. Being new, he apparently thought there was a storm coming. The thing is, the sky looked absolutely clear for as far as the eye could see and the water all around us was calm. Staff on the boat didn’t even know what was going on. They actually thought that we would be on the way to Baku that day.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Somewhere on the Caspian Sea

By the evening we still weren’t moving and still had no idea what was going on. When we went to have the evening meal, we got a bit of a surprise. Despite having already paid US$100 for our seat and onboard meals, the ship staff wanted to charge us for that meal. In Turkmenistan Manat, which we had gotten rid of. Luckily, some other passengers on the ship came to our rescue. Firstly, some Azerbaijani drivers made sure that the 4 of us got meals. Then a really nice Turkmen lady, who spoke English really well, shared some meat that she had made at home and brought on board with her.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Shared Food on the Ferry

Meeting People

This lady had figured out that I was a teacher because she’d heard me explaining something to someone earlier. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it is true that teachers never stop teaching. Or maybe she picked it up because she was also a teacher. As the only person on board that could speak English, she became our communication conduit. It was a bit weird when passengers asked for invitations to South Korea, from my companions. They had only started talking to them one minute beforehand.

That night we went to sleep again on the water, but still not moving. We were anchored just outside the port area, but still within Turkmenistan waters. At that point, we had officially been on the ferry for over 30 hours and we had been anchored in the same spot for about half that time. We were possibly waiting out a storm that never came. We’d been stamped out of Turkmenistan early afternoon on the 25th, but still hadn’t left Turkmenistan waters by the early hours of the 27th, almost 2 days later.

Turkmenbashi to Baku, Finally!

I managed to sleep in until 7am, probably because I was so exhausted from my lack of sleep over the last 3 days. It was about that time that we finally started moving, for real. We checked with the staff and they said we would be in Baku by 7pm. Collectively, we were still a bit dubious about that claim, as we had also been told that the day before.

We kept checking our progress on our map periodically during the day. It was extremely comforting to see that we were actually moving nicely across the Caspian Sea. Around 3pm it looked like we were very close to Baku and would make it quite a bit before 7pm. The prospect of getting in earlier than expected was exciting. We just knew that exiting the ship was going to be chaotic and time-consuming.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Sunset Coming into the Alat Port

Then our final surprise came at about 17:30. We were looking at the map to check how far we had to go. It was then that we realised that we’d sailed right past Baku! Despite all the information that we’d read online that our ferry goes to the port in Baku, we were heading to the port of Alat. That’s 70km away from Baku!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Island near Alat Port

Furthermore, we were only making our way past the sandbar island outside of the port area after 7pm. We were barely crawling at that point, I guess due to speed restrictions near the port. Then we had to wait for the Azerbaijani tug boat to come out and guide us in.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Tug Boat at the Alat Port

Land Ahoy!

You can’t imagine the joy we felt at finally being in Azerbaijan. But the challenges were not over yet. We still had to get off the boat, go through immigration and find a way to get Baku. It was 9pm by the time we docked. Staff became crowd controllers as they had to ensure that all the drivers exited first, in groups of 20. There were 50 drivers and the staff had their work cut out for them trying to keep the passengers at bay.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Passengers Getting Ready to Leave the Boat

Waiting patiently, instead of pushing and shoving like all the other passengers were, paid off for us. The staff-member-turned-crowd-control dude let us go with the last lot of drivers. That happened an hour after the boat had docked. There were only 2 immigration officers, so even with such a small amount of people, there was still a pretty long wait.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Small Port Shuttle

It wasn’t far away from midnight by the time we had all made it through immigration. We found out at that point that it wasn’t possible to get a taxi from where we were, in the port area. We had to get a port shuttle to the main road first. Luckily, while we were waiting, a port coach entered and we were told it would take us all the way to Baku for US$3. Sounded great to us! I even managed to get a bit of sleep on the way in.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. The Port Shuttle, Our Saviour

As fun as a ferry across the Caspian sounds, I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you absolutely can’t live without the ‘I’ve travelled across the Caspian’ bragging rights.

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Travel to Turkmenistan – 8 Things to Know

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel to Turkmenistan - Things to Know. Ashgabat Subway

Turkmenistan is a strange country in many respects. It is completely different to its Central Asian neighbours in that it has tried to close itself off from the world. This means that it can be a confusing and frustrating country to travel in. If you’re planning a trip there, the following list of things to know about Turkmenistan could come in very handy for you.

Important Things to Know About Turkmenistan, No 1 – Currency

Of all the things to know about Turkmenistan, this one is probably the most important as it could affect how much money you’ll have available to you. The local currency is the Turkmenistan Manat. You cannot exchange Turkmenistan Manat outside of the country as the official government stance is that the currency must stay in the country. There are 2 exchange rates for the currency. The official exchange rate is 3.5 Manat to US$1. This is the rate at which the banks sell the currency. The black market exchange rate however can range from 15-20 Manat to US$1. Yes, you read that right. The black market rate can be 5 to 6 times more than the official rate.

As you can imagine, the rate you change your cash at will influence how much you spend in Turkmenistan. Obviously, the black market rate is much better and would allow you to eat like a king while only spending a small amount of money, comparatively. The problem with exchanging at the black market rate is that it is forever fluctuating. If you change to Manat when the rate is 15 to 1, but the rate goes up to 20 to 1 when you want to change back, you stand to lose a fair amount of money.

Blackmarket or Official?

If you want to play it safe, you can exchange at the bank rate of 3.5, but that means things will end up being much more expensive and you will spend a lot more money. Another disadvantage of changing at the bank rate is that you may not be able to change any leftover money back to US Dollars at the bank, because the laws of the country only allow Turkmenistan citizens to exchange into US Dollars. This means you’ll be forced to change back at the black market rate, which could see you lose more than half of your money.

The best course of action is to only exchange a small amount, say $20 at the black market rate, to minimise the chances of losing money with exchanges. Hotels will generally exchange US Dollars for you. Some bazaars are also known for their black market exchanges. Locals always know where the best place to exchange is.

2) Transport

The Mashrutkas (minivans) that are prevalent in other central Asian countries are not as common in Turkmenistan. I only saw a few operating and only within Ashgabat.

Shared taxis are readily available for intercity journeys and normally cost 50-100 Manat (US$3.30-6.60 at the black market rate). Taxis around the city in Ashgabat should cost between 10-20 Manat (US$0.60-1.30). Bear in mind that drivers will try to double the price for foreigners and they sometimes negotiate hard to get you to pay more. You can always walk away from them and find another, more cooperative driver.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel to Turkmenistan - Things to Know. Shared Taxis in Ashgabat

As Turkmenistan only consists of a few cities, it’s easy to travel between them by train. Train tickets are cheaper than shared taxis, but can take up to twice as long. Some trains will get to their destinations at inconvenient times as well. Train tickets to Turkmanbashi and Turkmenabat are 31 Manat/US$2 for a 12 hour journey on a sleeper train. Train tickets to Mary are around 34 Manat/US$2.20 for a 12 hour journey on a sleeper train.

By far the cheapest form of transportation in Turkmenistan is the public bus system in Ashgabat. It is quite well developed and each ride only costs 0.50 Manat, or 1 Manat if the bus driver doesn’t have any change. The buses are not airconditioned, but as long as they’re moving, there’s generally enough airflow to keep you from overheating in the summer.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel to Turkmenistan - Things to Know. Buses in Ashgabat

Important Things to Know About Turkmenistan No 3 – Tourist Traps and Money Makers

Even though Turkmenistan isn’t all that open to tourism, locals still seem to find ways to put tourists in situations where they have to spend more money than they should. This starts before you even enter the country. Want to get a tourist visa to travel to Turkmenistan? You need to pay for a guide to accompany you for your entire stay in Turkmenistan, which of course does not come cheap. Want to opt for the cheaper option of a Transit visa? You’ll need to pay a US$14 entrance fee to the country at the border.

Perhaps you want to spend a night in a yurt with no amenities near the infamous Darvaza Gas Crater? That’ll be US$20. You want to get a taxi somewhere? You’re guaranteed to be quoted double the price as a foreigner. Even visiting a smelly underground lake in a sauna-like cavern can set you back up to US$20. In Turkmenistan, they know what tourists want to see and they’re prepared to charge you extra for the privilege of seeing those places.

There are some even more nefarious ways that locals will try to make money off visitors. Even though it’s illegal, locals will often try to force tourists to pay in US dollars, so they can take the money and make a profit by exchanging it on the black market. Always try to pay in Turkmenistan Manat where you can.

4) Social Media and Internet

All social media, from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to WhatsApp and WeChat are blocked in Turkmenistan. That can make it very hard to keep in contact with the outside world without a VPN. In truth, it can still be impossible to connect, even with a VPN. Many VPNs have been blocked by the Turkmenistan government, as I found out.

As you can imagine, when a government starts screwing with the internet, things get very slow and annoying to use. I was only able to connect to WiFi twice during my visit and each time connectivity waxed and waned, to the point where it was just easier to give up and do something else.

Weird Things to Know About Turkmenistan No 5 – Presidential Pictures

Of all the things to know about Turkmenistan, this is possibly the weirdest. A ridiculous amount of pictures of the current Turkmenistan president can be seen around Ashgabat. You can’t walk more than 500 metres without seeing him. He’s everywhere.

You’ll see him in parks, at train stations, on government buildings and even in buses. I’m not quite sure of the purpose of all these obviously photoshopped pictures of the president. Or if there is some law in the country about his pictures being displayed everywhere.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel to Turkmenistan - Things to Know. Presidential Picture

Whatever the deal is, it just seems odd to have photos of the country’s leader in so many places. I suspect it’s because the leader somehow expects that the people of his country should idolise him, but that just seems a bit arrogant and narcissistic. I guess that’s just about what you would expect from a guy that does donuts around the Darvaza Gas Crater to quell rumours that he’s in poor health.

6) Police State

There is a huge and noticeable police presence in Turkmenistan, on the roads and in the capital city, Ashgabat. Police Checkpoints are set up at intervals along the country highways in Turkmenistan. They may or may not stop cars that are going through and check that their paperwork is in order, especially if they’re carrying tourists. I personally was never stopped at any of these checkpoints, but I definitely noticed that they were there.

In the Ashgabat city centre, police are ever-present, normally standing on the side of roads in front of buildings. For the most part, they don’t interact with people passing by, although they do seem to use their extra curious ‘WTF are you doing’ stare when a foreigner happens to be walking past their building. Most of them always look stoic and often menacing, whereas others are a little more friendly and willing to answer questions.

Important Things to Know About Turkmenistan No 7 – Agressive Drivers

When compiling this list of things to know about Turkmenistan, I was reticent to include this one, but eventually decided it should be included because cars outnumber pedestrians substantially in Turkmenistan. Turkmen drivers seem to believe that they are the only ones that have the right to use the road. They do not take kindly to pedestrians being on roads, even at pedestrian crossings. Do not expect them to stop if they see you crossing. In fact, they are more likely to speed up and honk their horn at you. Be prepared to run at intersections, if you want to live.

8) Accommodation

Hostels don’t really exist in Turkmenistan and hotels are quite expensive, especially when you take into account what you get for your money. In Ashgabat, US$15 will get you what would be considered a super budget room anywhere else in the world. You will have to share a bathroom and there won’t be any WiFi. Or perhaps you could take the next step up and get a budget room for US$22 at a hotel that has WiFi, although there won’t be WiFi in your room. Also, expect room configurations to be weird.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel to Turkmenistan - Things to Know. Toilet, But no Shower in a Hotel Room
Hotel room with toilet, but no shower

One of the more quirky things to know about Turkmenistan is that accommodation generally can’t be booked from outside of the country, unless you go through a tour agency. Luckily, it seems to be easy to get accommodation sorted by just walking into a hotel. At $15, the Kuwwat Hotel seems to be the cheapest in Ashgabat, but it doesn’t have WiFi. It’s also in a pretty good location. Syyhat Hotel has WiFi in the reception area only, but their price is $22 and the location isn’t as good. Hotels generally expect payment in US Dollars as well. If they do take payment in Manat, they will use the black market exchange rate to jack up the price. Apparently, the accommodation in other Turkmenistan towns outside of Ashgabat is even more expensive.