Is Cabo, Mexico Safe? [2020]

Are you thinking about venturing to Los Cabos, Mexico sometime soon but want to get an idea of how safe the city is before you depart?

In this article, I’ll break down some of the crime trends of Los Cabos during the last few years and give you a sense of where things currently stand.

I will also offer a statistical comparison between Los Cabos and other cities like Cancun and Cozumel so that you can see which cities are potentially the safest for tourists.

Is Cabo safe?

Cabo appears to be a relatively safe place to visit but there are some recent crime trends and other data that you will want to be aware of.

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Recent crime trends (2017 to 2020)

In 2017, it was a rough year for some cities in Mexico including Los Cabos.

There were some high profile gang incidents and also a series of sketchy incidents regarding tainted alcohol.

For example, in 2017, six bodies were found hanging from bridges near a Cabo resort. (It was suspected that these individuals were related to some type of drug gang dispute.)

Stories like that end all of the other violent activity led to certain measures being taken by the Mexican government and also private industry.

For example, they developed a five-point security plan that included more police presence and also enhanced communications between resorts and law-enforcement. There was also the construction of a $9 million regional emergency response center.

This, according to officials, resulted in a drop of about 90% in violent crime in Los Cabos.

This included violent acts such as armed robbery, extortion, and kidnapping. The homicide rate dropped around 60 to 70%.

Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of Los Cabos Tourism Board called 2017 a “wake up call” and told Travel Market Report that “Los Cabos is safer than ever and we have done a very strong job with our destination partners to make sure that message has filtered down in the industry and to the consumer.”

So it appears that things were looking a bit rough in 2017 but then measures were effectively implemented that drastically reduced the crime rates in 2018.

If you research for Los Cabos crime for 2019, nothing really sticks out which would suggest that crime is not near the issue it was a couple of years before that.

As far as what has happened in 2020, as you might expect one of the biggest concerns is the coronavirus.

Los Cabos was closed to travelers during the summer of 2020 but they opened back up to tourism activities as of June 15, 2020.

They developed a color-coded classification system that is given to local establishments like hotels, restaurants, and tour operators to determine the level of safety that they can offer and whether or not they should be open to the public.

When visiting during the pandemic you will likely notice several common restrictions in place such as capacity restraints and mandates that all individuals must wear a mask when in public except for when doing certain activities such as eating, drinking, etc.

If you want to check the latest coronavirus data that is updated in real time check out this resource.

Colorful San Jose del Cabo sign

US travel advisories

In case you are not familiar, the United States Department of State issues travel advisories for all the different countries in the world.

These travel advisories are designed to help guide Americans when choosing whether or not to travel to a given place.

There are four different levels to these advisories and you can learn more about them here. These four levels are:

  • Level one: Exercise normal precautions
  • Level two: Exercise increased caution
  • Level three: Reconsider travel
  • Level four: Do not travel

It’s a good idea to check what the most recent travel advisory levels are before heading to Mexico.

The thing that you need to know about these warnings is that they are very broad when it comes to applying them to a specific country.

So what you want to do is read into the warnings and find out the details because there often will be specific guidelines to specific states or regions within a country.

For example, if you clicked on the advisory for Mexico you might see a breakdown of the different states that looks like this (the active advisories for October 2020):

Do Not Travel To:

  • Colima state due to crime.
  • Guerrero state due to crime.
  • Michoacán state due to crime.
  • Sinaloa state due to crime.
  • Tamaulipas state due to crime and kidnapping.

Reconsider Travel To:

  • Chihuahua state due to crime.
  • Coahuila state due to crime.
  • Durango state due to crime.
  • Jalisco state due to crime.
  • Mexico state due to crime.
  • Morelos state due to crime.
  • Nayarit state due to crime.
  • Nuevo Leon state due to crime.
  • San Luis Potosi state due to crime.
  • Sonora state due to crime.
  • Zacatecas state due to crime.

And even within those states often times the advisory level is triggered by a cluster of crime within a specific pocket of that state. It’s possible that you could be visiting a state with a high travel advisory warning and not ever encounter any type of danger.

Los Cabos is located in the Mexican State of Baja California Sur. Therefore, when checking the travel advisories you want to look for any warnings associated with Baja California Sur.

Things to look out for

The type of criminal acts that you likely need to be on the lookout for will be the same type of acts that occur in many touristy destinations.


Avoid walking around with flashy or expensive items on display and try to keep the bare minimum amount of valuables and cash on you. It is usually best to leave your passport at your hotel, possibly stored in the safe.

Pick pockets can often happen in places like casinos or bars and nightclubs when your guard is down. Because Cabo San Lucas is more of the party town, pickpocketing is probably a bigger issue there than it is in San Jose Del Cabo. However, you should be alert everywhere you go.

Taxi/uber roads

Be careful and make sure that you are only taking licensed taxis in Los Cabos. It’s possible that somebody could pose as a taxi driver and then take advantage of you or worse — rob you.

If you stick with the licensed taxi drivers you should be fine. On our recent visit to Cabo we took several taxi rides and nothing ever felt sketchy. However, it is probably a good idea to request an estimate for your journey prior to getting into the taxi (just like this is a good idea anywhere).

If you have ordered an Uber take extra steps to make sure you’re getting in the right vehicle and if possible always travel with others.


Be extra careful about using ATMs. For one, you want to make sure that there is not a skimmer on the ATM. Also, you want to make sure there are no predators nearby. It’s often a good idea to just step inside of a bank to complete your transaction.

Crime comparisons to other cities in Mexico

Below, I will break down some of the available crime data and compare it to other locations to give you a sense of the risk relative to other popular tourist spots.

All data below was taken from This data is not as official as something like crime reports from the FBI. It is based on surveys given to visitors of the website.

So you can’t assume that the data is 100% accurate. However, many people do rely on the data and it at least can serve as a guiding post for finding the crime levels in different cities.

In many cases, if you are visiting as a tourist your experience (outside of some excursions) will largely be limited to the tourist areas.

This is especially true if you are staying at an all-inclusive hotel and your resort has a lot of the activities on-site.

This means that generally speaking you will be safer than the crime data suggests until you venture out into the city areas.

This is not to suggest that crime does not happen in the tourist hotspot areas but as a general rule of thumb: the further away you get from the resort areas, the more likely it becomes that you will encounter criminal activity.

Cabo vs Cancun

Here is the crime data for Cabo.

Type of crimeRisk level
Level of crime43.33Moderate
Increasing crime in past three years61.29High
Muggings and robbings36.29Low
Vandalism and theft47.58Moderate
Violent crimes45.16Moderate
Dealing drugs51.72Moderate

Related: Cabo vs Cancun: Which is Better for You? 

Now let’s take a look at what the crime data looks like for Cancun.

Type of crimeRisk level
Level of crime53.45Moderate
Increasing crime in past three years74.14High
Muggings and robbings54.66Low
Vandalism and theft55.08Moderate
Violent crimes51.67Moderate
Dealing drugs58.18Moderate

As you can see, the data suggests that the level of crime happening in Cancun is higher than that in Cabo. It’s still labeled at the same risk level of moderate so it may not be a dramatic increase in crime, but it is pretty noticeable across-the-board.

I’ve recently visited Cancun a couple of times in the past couple of years and each time I felt safe. So this data is not to suggest that Cancun is not a safe place but just that it may have more criminal activity taking place than Cabo.

Beach view from balcony

Cabo versus Cozumel

Let’s take a look at the crime data for another tourist hotspot: Cozumel.

Type of crimeRisk level
Level of crime29.81Low
Increasing crime in past three years55.56Moderate
Muggings and robbings30.56Low
Vandalism and theft45.37Moderate
Violent crimes31.48Low
Dealing drugs33.00Low

The data above would suggest that Cozumel is a safer destination than both Cabo and Cancun.

So if we use this data as an accurate indicator of criminal activity in these three Mexican cities, Los Cabos would rank somewhere in the middle.

Final word

So overall here are my thoughts on safety in Los Cabos.

Based on a series of articles, US travel advisories, some available data, and my own personal experiences, I do believe that Los Cabos is generally a safe place for a tourist to visit.

As long as you use common sense when going out in public you should for the most part be okay.

But it is always possible that crime could make a resurgence so you definitely want to stay up-to-date on the current trends before visiting.

Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Seashells [2021]

You might be collecting seashells just for fun with your kids, for keepsakes while traveling to amazing beaches, or you might be seeking out some beautiful shells to showcase in your home decor.

Regardless of your motives, you will want to make sure that you take adequate steps to ensure that the seashells you collect are clean and that they look great.

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about cleaning seashells.

Is it legal to collect the shells?

The first question that you need to ask yourself is whether or not it is legal for you to collect the shells at your given location.

You should be very mindful about the location that you are thinking about taking shells from.

If you are on certain sites such as a marine reserve there is a chance that it is illegal to remove any shells.

For example, you cannot collect shells at La Jolla Ecological Reserve in San Diego County.

Also, if you are on some type of wildlife refuge typically you are not allowed to take anything with you including empty shells.

Many times you will see signs posted at these locations but that is not always the case so it is on you to do some research ahead of your visit.

If you violate these rules you can be sent to jail, hit with stiff fines, and even get put on probation.

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Should you collect living shells?

My advice would be generally to avoid collecting living shells.

For one, unless you are very knowledgeable about the different species of living shells in a given area, you will not know what type of impact collecting living shells will have on the local environment.

Even if you are indifferent about killing a simple organism living within a seashell, you could still contribute to disrupting an ecosystem which is something that you don’t want to do.

Moreover, in certain states, if you would like to collect a living shell such as a mollusk, you might need a fishing license.

And collecting other types of living shells may be flat out illegal regardless of what type of license you have.

So unless you are aware of the local Fish and Game regulations and know that you are in compliance with them, you are better off not collecting living shells.

Tip: If you can’t tell whether or not a shell is alive, simply leave it alone in a small tide pool for a while and if it is alive you might see it move or open up.

Sea Shells

Cleaning seashells

Assuming that you are allowed to legally collect seashells, here are some steps that you can follow to clean your seashells adequately.

Boiling water method

One of the most popular methods for cleaning seashells is to simply boil them in water.

To do this, simply follow these steps:

  • Let your seashells soak in water for several days if possible
  • Place your seashells in a large pot with water at room temperature
  • Make sure there are a few inches of water above the largest seashell
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil for approximately five minutes
  • Carefully remove the shells with tongs or a similar apparatus and let them cool down on a towel

Make sure that you do not drop the seashells into boiling water because that could risk cracking or damaging the seashell!

Also, some shells may crack if you boil them too long or if they are too brittle to begin with.

If you have chosen a live seashell then this boiling method should remove the tissue from the shell, allowing you to more easily clean it.

If there was dead tissue within the shell then that should also be loosened up by the boiling water.

In both cases, use something like a pair of tweezers to remove the objects from the inside of the shell.

The bleach method

Some people prefer to bleach their seashells.

This approach is a bit more aggressive but it can be very effective in removing dirt and other waste materials from your seashells.

With this method, you will mix an appropriate amount of bleach with enough water to fully cover your seashells.

Different people use different amounts of bleach. Some recommend mixing about 1 to 3 tablespoons of bleach per 1 gallon of water into a bucket.

When handling bleach, it can be helpful to wear latex gloves but if you are careful enough you can simply drop the seashells into the bleach water.

You will want to then leave the shells alone for several hours, likely 4 to 8 hours depending on how much work the bleach needs to do to remove any gunk, dirt, etc.

Once the time is up then rinse your shells in clean water and placed them somewhere to dry.

Tip: If the shells have a lot of grooves in them or you are not completely satisfied with the removal of debris, a great solution is to simply use an old toothbrush to scrub away little remnants.

The risk with bleaching is that you could affect the appearance of the shell.

If your shelves have nice colors on them it’s very possible that they could be faded by the bleach. (For lighter colored shells this is less of an issue.)

Also, many shells will have a thin coating on them that will be eaten away by the bleach and that could affect the appearance of the shell.

Note: Some people might recommend to use vinegar for cleaning the shelves but this runs with a high risk of dissolving the shells.

Another option that people try is olive oil but that can stain your shells sometimes.

Rinsing water

The third method that you can use is just to rinse the seashells with water.

This will be the least effective at removing particles that are stuck to the shells but it can be a pretty efficient method for washing away sand and other particles.

For best results, you might want to simply soak the shells in water for several days before attempting to rinse them.

For dirty shells, you will most likely also need to use the toothbrush method to remove the grime.

If you are against using bleach or worried about cracking the shells with boiling water, you can also use toothpaste to clean your shells.

If you choose to go the toothpaste route, it’s best to smear toothpaste on the shell and let it sit for several hours so that it can do its magic. You might even think about leaving it on overnight.

Tip: If you find that there are small barnacles attached to your shells, you can use something like a dental tool or perhaps even a wire brush to remove the barnacles.

Bury your shells

If you have a live shell one method to remove the tissue is by digging a small hole and placing the shell in the soil.

This method will take several weeks or months but after a certain amount of time, small organisms in the soil such as insects or even bacteria can remove all of the tissue in the shell for you.

This method is obviously only for those individuals who have extreme patience and who don’t have an immediate need for cleaning live shells.

Colorful sea shells on beach

Polishing your shells

After you have removed all of the dirt or undesirable waste remnants from your seashells, you might be interested in polishing them up especially if you plan to use them for decoration.

There are multiple ways that you can accomplish this.

One way is to use mineral oil and simply rub on the shelves until you are pleased with how polished they look. Mineral oil is great because it is pretty easy to use and it also can be pretty cheap. It also typically provides a nice natural finish.

Another method that you can go with is using some type of acrylic spray that will give them a nice shine.

Acrylic sprays can leave a glossy finish or a matte finish so it is all up to your preference.

Finally, some people will use clear nail polish or baby oil to give their shows a nice luster once they are finished cleaning them.

I’ve even seen some people who have used coconut oil to give their shells a nice shine.

Whatever route you choose to go with the polish remember that you want to apply as little as possible in the beginning to avoid building up too much on the surface of the shell.

Before you apply your polish, you might want to give the shells a full day to dry to make sure that the polish is applied optimally.

Just don’t leave them in the sun for too long because that could cause the colors to fade if they are subject to strong UV rays.

Tip: When applying your material to the shell you might need to only do one side of the shell per day in order to give it enough time to dry.

Smelly seashells

If your seashells begin to smell bad after several days then chances are there is some type of dead organism or remains of a dead organisms within your shells.

You can use one of the methods above such as the bleaching method or boiling method to remove the dead remnants.

But you can also try other methods such as soaking the shell in water and replacing that water every day in order for the rotting organism to be expelled.

In some cases, you might actually need to shake the shell to loosen up any particles.

If you are dealing with a particularly large shell then you can use a nozzle on something like a hose to hit it with a stream of water that could potentially loosen up whatever is inside.

Final word

As you can tell, the process for cleaning your seashells is pretty straightforward.

First, you need to make sure that you are not illegally picking up seashells or unnecessarily disturbing an ecosystem.

Then you can choose whether you want to use a boiling method or a bleach method to wash off your shells.

If your shells are particularly dirty, you might need to do a little bit of scrubbing with an old toothbrush.

And if you want a polished finish on your seashells then consider using mineral oil or some type of acrylic spray to give them a nice finished look.

Do You Need A Passport to Fly to Hawaii?

Hawaii is a dream destination for many people. It has the beaches, the mountains, the volcanoes, and even has snow. But when it comes to flying to Hawaii from other US states, some people wonder whether or not they need a passport to get into to Hawaii. In this article, I will answer the passport question and also provide some insight into some other restrictions that you need to know about when traveling to Hawaii so that you don’t risk getting fined (or worse).

Do you need a passport to fly to Hawaii in 2019?

No, if you are flying from another state in United States you do not need a passport to gain entry to Hawaii. However, you will need to have a recognized, government-issued ID. Also, there are some restrictions that you might want to know about that are specific to flying to Hawaii. Keep reading below to find out more about those.

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ID needed to fly to Hawaii?

In order to board your plane to Hawaii from another state in United States, you will need to have a compliant ID. This will often be a government issued drivers license although other IDs may suffice. Below are examples of IDs recognized by TSA.

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

Also be aware that as of October 2020 the Real ID requirements will come into play.  The REAL ID Act prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.

The majority of states are now compliant with the new requirements and some have been given an extension to comply with them. If you want to check on the current status of the different states you can do that here. 

Children under the age of 18 years old do not need an ID.

Restrictions for bringing items to Hawaii

When you are flying to Hawaii from the mainland, you need to be careful about certain items that you are trying to bring into the state. With Hawaii being such an isolated place, they take extra care to make sure that their ecosystem is not wrecked by foreign invaders and so there are some items that you might need to get special permission to bring in.

Most plants are allowed to be brought into Hawaii after an inspection.

However, Hawaii does not allow the following to be shipped into the State without prior arrangements for permit and/or quarantine, treatments, or certification:

  • Pineapple and bromeliad plants and fruits
  • Passion fruit plants and seeds
  • Cruciferous root vegetables (radish, turnip, daikon, horseradish, rutabaga)
  • Corn on the cob
  • Citrus and pulpy fruits from Florida & Puerto Rico
  • Taro and dasheen
  • Coconuts
  • Orchid plants require an import permit and certificate of origin.
  • Plants in the grass family (including sugar cane and bamboo.
  • Coffee plants and plant parts including seeds.  (Green coffee beans must be fumigated and certified prior to shipment)*
  • Palm plants
  • Aster, chrysanthemum, hollyhock, dahlia and gladiolus plants require certification of origin or certification of treatment depending on where they are grown.*
  • Pine plants and parts require certificate of origin or certificate of treatment depending on where they are grown.  Cut branches are allowed during the period of Oct. 20 to Dec. 31.
  • Sorghum, broomcorn and sudan grass – non-propagative parts require certificate of origin or certificate of treatment depending on where it is grown.  Propagative parts (except seed) for planting require an import permit and quarantine.

What about food items?

In general, foods that are cooked, canned, frozen or commercially processed and/or packaged are allowed to be transported to Hawaii, as long as the product is arriving from within the U.S. You can also bring in frozen or chilled meats as long as the meat originated from within the United States. Also, manufactured food items don’t have to be inspected or declared. If you want to read more about the general TSA food rules, click here.

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Bringing your pets to Hawaii

If you are planning to bring your pet with you when flying to Hawaii you need to be aware of some special rules. If you choose to not abide by these rules then you can be subject to up to a penalty of up to $500,000 or three years in prison. I don’t know about you but I would much rather just play it safe when it comes to the pets and avoid getting locked up. I mean, I guess getting locked up in Hawaii couldn’t be that bad but… yeah

If you want to bring your cats or dogs to Hawaii there is a quarantine rule. Hawaii is the only state that is rabies free and they intend to keep it that way by forcing your pets to be quarantined before they arrive in the state.

There are different types of programs that you can utilize to quarantine your pet attendees come with different costs that can vary dramatically.

  • The 120-day quarantine program costs $1,080 per pet.
  • The 5 Day Or Less quarantine program costs $244 per pet.
  • The direct release program costs $185 per pet

(There is no discount if you need to quarantine multiple pets.) Note that the U.S. Department of Defense may reimburse active duty military members with dogs or cats up to $550 per family for quarantine expenses.

To qualify for these programs you will need to meet very specific criteria. For example the below is the criteria for the five day or less quarantined program:

  • The pet must have been administered at least two (2) rabies vaccines in its lifetime. The second vaccination must have been administered no less than 30 days after the first vaccination.
  • In addition, the most recent vaccination must have been given no less than 30 days, and no more than 12 months prior to arrival in Hawaii for 12-month licensed vaccines and no less than 30 days and no more than 36 months prior to arrival in Hawaii for 3-year licensed vaccines;
  • The pet should be microchipped for identification. The microchip is required to identify the pet with the blood sample;
  • A blood sample must be sent to an approved laboratory for the OIE-Flourescent Antibody Serum Neutralization Test (OIE-FAVN), which tests for the adequate response to the rabies vaccine. A test result >0.5 IU/ml is required; and
  • The pet must complete the required waiting period from the date the laboratory receives the blood sample before it may enter the state under the following programs:
  • 5 Day Or Less quarantine – requires 30-day pre-arrival waiting period.

You can find out more about these requirements here. Also, here’s a list of restricted organisms.

Final word

Hawaii is treated just like any other state whenever it comes to needing a passport. Therefore, you do not need a passport in order to get from the mainland USA to Hawaii. But if you have any intentions on bringing in pets for certain items like fresh fruits you need to be aware of the strict regulations and restrictions so that you do not end up fine or worse.

Cover photo by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr.

Ultimate Guide to Major Ohio Airports (Airlines & Maps)

Are you trying to find out more about Ohio airports, such as where these airports are located and what destinations and airlines they serve? 

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the major airports in Ohio. I’ll go over how long it will take you to get to these airports from the heart of the nearby cities and give you some insight into which airlines serve these airports along with some info on lounges and terminal maps.

Major Ohio airports overview

Ohio is not home to one of the top 25 (or even top 40) busiest airport in the US. So, as you might expect the service is going to be quite limited when it comes to international destinations. If you are trying to fly internationally there is a good chance that you will have to connect through a neighboring state or somewhere else, so keep that in mind.  

The good news is that these airports won’t be as busy and difficult to navigate as other larger airports. In many cases, you can pop in and out of these airports very efficiently. 

How many airports are in Ohio?

There are approximately 37 airports in Ohio but there are only a hand full of major airports for passenger traffic on commercial airlines. Below, I’m going to focus on the major airports although I’ll also list some relevant airports nearby the cities that you might want to also check out.

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Airports near Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (CLE)

Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (CLE) is the busiest airport in the entire state of Ohio with over 4,000,000 enplanements per year. Depending on the traffic, you can make it up from the center of the city of Cleveland to the airport in about 15 to 20 minutes.

Hopkins is a focus city for Frontier Airlines, which is one of the ultra low cost carriers in the US. They offer very low fares to various destinations across the country but they are known for having some of the more expensive baggage fees. So in many cases, it can be very cheap to get to Cleveland from other cities across the US.  

CLE is the only airport in Ohio that offers nonstop transatlantic flights to Europe (Iceland), so if you are trying to get to Iceland efficiently and you live in the state of Ohio, CLE is probably the option you want to go with.

2020 Update: This route is no longer available.

Direct flight routes map from Cleveland Ohio
Direct flight routes map from CLE as of February 2019 (via

CLE does not have many lounges but they do have a United Airlines United Club along with a USO Lounge, and Bar Symon. They also have an Airspace Lounge, which is one of the lounges that you can access with the Amex Platinum.

If you’re curious about what the CLE terminal map looks like, I’ve included it below. The airport consists of three main concourses: A, B, and C. 

  • Concourse A: Air Canada, American, JetBlue, and United
  • Concourse B: Southwest, Delta
  • Concourse C: Allegiant, Frontier, IcelandAir, Spirit

There are three security checkpoints you might use and their hours are below: 

  • North Checkpoint: 4:15am to 8:00am
  • Central Checkpoint (TSA Pre-Check Only): 4:00am to 8:00pm
  • South Checkpoint: Sun to Fri 4:00am to 8:00pm / Sat 3:30am to 7:15pm

If you don’t know what TSA Pre-Check is, you can read more about it here

As for restaurants, you can look up the CLE restaurants and shopping here. You’ll notice that they have many familiar eating establishments like Chick-fil-A, Subway, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, etc. 

Map of Cleveland airport
Image via

Other nearby airports: 

Burke Lakefront Airport (BKL)

Cuyahoga County Airport (CGF)

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (CLE). Photo by Tim Evanson via Flickr.

Airports near Columbus, Ohio 

John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)

John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH), formerly known as Port Columbus International Airport, is the second busiest airport in the state of Ohio, not too far behind CLE. The airport is located only 6 miles east of downtown Columbus, Ohio. Depending on traffic, you could get to the city in under 15 minutes and to Ohio State University in under 20 minutes via automobile. 

It’s also about 75 miles from Athens, Ohio so if you’re looking for an airport near Athens, CMH is only about 1.5 hours away. 

You can find direct flights from CMH to approximately 140 destinations with various airlines. If you are trying to fly to an airline hub for a major carrier like Delta, American, United, Southwest, Alaska, etc., you should have plenty of options to choose from.

This is especially the case if you are flying Southwest Airlines. While Columbus is not a Southwest hub or even a focus city, it does serve several Southwest locations, including:

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago–Midway
  • Dallas–Love
  • Denver
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Fort Myers
  • Houston–Hobby
  • Las Vegas
  • Nashville
  • Orlando
  • Phoenix–Sky Harbor
  • St. Louis
  • Tampa
  • Washington–National

While this is technically an international airport the only international arrivals come from Cancun, Punta Cana (seasonal?), and Toronto. 

Direct flight routes map from John Glenn Columbus International Airport
Direct flights from CMH as of February 2019 (via

The only lounge currently found at this airport is the Jake Brewer USO Lounge.

There are three main concourses at CMH: 

  • Concourse A: Southwest
  • Concourse B: Air Canada, American, Spirit, and United
  • Concourse C: Delta, Frontier, Vacation Express

If you want to view a terminal map, I suggest checking out the interactive map here. You can also view the different shops and restaurants in the airport which include: 

  • American Craft Tavern
  • Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
  • Bob Evans Express
  • Burger King
  • Charley’s Philly Steaks
  • Chili’s Too
  • Eddie George’s Grille 27
  • PGA TOUR Grill
  • And many others

Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK)

Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) is yet another airport located in the city of Columbus. This airport receives significantly less traffic than John Glenn, however. You’ll mostly find flights with Allegiant flying out of this airport, and it primarily serves airports in the Southeast US, including Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

Direct flight routes map from Rickenbacker International Airport
Direct flights from LCK as of February 2019 (via

Other nearby airports: 

Ohio State University Airport (OSU)

Aerial view of John Glenn Columbus International Airport
John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH). Photo by Mark Cameron via Flickr.

Airports near Dayton, Ohio

James M. Cox Dayton International Airport (DAY)

James M. Cox Dayton International Airport (DAY), formerly Dayton Municipal Airport and James M. Cox-Dayton Municipal Airport, is located 10 miles north of downtown Dayton. James Cox is the third busiest airport in the state of Ohio. 

This airport is known as a primary commercial service airport and is home to the annual Vectren Dayton Air Show. There are not many airlines served at this airport and service is limited to Allegiant Air, American Eagle, Delta, and United Express. With such limited service, there are only a few direct routes to places in the US mostly along the East Coast and central US. 

Direct flight routes map from James M. Cox Dayton International Airport
Direct flights from DAY as of February 2019 (via

There are two lounges at DAY: a USO Lounge and a Business Travelers Center. 

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Other nearby airports: 

Montgomery Co Airport (MGY)

Airports near Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport (LUK)

Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport (LUK) is a very small airport, Located just 3 miles south east of downtown Cincinnati. The airport serves a lot of private aircraft in the fleet of local corporations although it does serve a few commercial flights.

Outside Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport
Lunken Airport. Photo via Flickr.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) is a larger and close by airport that is located about 20 to 25 minutes outside of downtown Cincinnati in the city of Hebron, Kentucky, about 45 to 50 minutes south of Mason, Ohio and an hour south of Oxford, Ohio.

It is known for Housing the headquarters for Amazon Air, Delta Private, DHL Americas, and Southern Air. But the airport is also a focus city for Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, and Frontier Airlines and serves many hubs around the US, making it a prime choice for those in the Cincinnati area with real travel needs. CVG also has a direct flight to Paris via Delta.

Direct flight routes map from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
Direct flight route map from CVG as of February 2019 (via

There are five lounges at this airport, including two USO lounges. You can also find a Delta Airlines Delta sky club, Graycliff Divans Lounge, and The Club at CVG Lounge. You can check out the terminal maps here

Airports near Akron, Ohio 

Akron-Canton Regional Airport (CAK)

Akron-Canton Regional Airport (CAK) is a commercial airport in the city of Green, in southern Summit County, Ohio. This airport considers it to be a “reliever” airport, meaning that travel through here is easier than nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, which is significantly larger. 

The airlines is served here are significantly limited to only a handful which include: American Eagle, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Spirit Airlines, and United Express. These airlines only serve a few states in the surrounding area but service with United does stretch as far as Houston, Texas.

There is one lounge at this airport: the Ohio Desk Business Center.

Airports near Toledo, Ohio

Toledo Express Airport (TOL)

Toledo Express Airport (TOL) is a smaller airport with fewer than 100,000 enplanements each year. It is actually a joint civil-military airport in the Swanton and Monclova townships ten miles to the west of Toledo in western Lucas County, Ohio. It’s also about 55 minutes north of Findlay, Ohio. 

This airport is used by both passenger and cargo airlines and is home to Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing. The airport also serves as a secondary airport to Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).

Other nearby airports: 

Toledo Airport (TDZ)

Airports near Youngstown, Ohio 

Youngstown–Warren Regional Airport (YNG)

Youngstown–Warren Regional Airport (YNG) is a public and military airport in Vienna Township, Trumbull County, Ohio, 11 miles north of Youngstown and 10 miles east of Warren. It is home to the Youngstown–Warren Air Reserve Station. 

Final word 

As you can tell, there are several different airports that you can choose from when flying into and out of Ohio. None of the airports offer significant international travel opportunities so in many cases you will need to connect to another airport if that is your goal. However, a few of these airports are well-connected to other major airline hubs all across the US.

Cover photo by bk via Flickr

Ultimate Guide to Onsens (Japanese Bathhouses)

Japan is one of my favorite countries for food and activities. One of the best things to do in Japan is going to an onsen, also known as a Japanese bathhouse. Visiting an onsen and bathing in one is probably one of the most relaxing activities you could do while you’re in Japan — no matter if you’re in the countryside or city, onsens are everywhere. 

In this article, I explain what an onsen is, what type of standards and expectations you should have for onsens, and where you can visit some of the best onsens in all of Japan.

What is a onsen?

Onsen is the word for a public bathhouse that you will find all over Japan. Bathers will bath naked with their specific gender as males and females have designated baths. Onsens might be standalone while other onsens might be part of ryokans (an inn), which will be called onsen ryokans. Onsens can be cheap or expensive and all you need is your clothes as onsens will provide everything you will need or possibly want before or after your bath. 

Below I go over the standards of onsens and what you might expect at your average onsen or onsen ryokan.

Forest Hotel Fuki inside onsen
Forest Hotel Fuki inside onsen

Standards of onsens

Onsens can come in many shapes and sizes.

Some onsens will offer a very luxurious environment while other onsens offer the bare bones in both facilities and amenities. However, onsens typically are all the same when it comes to offering a changing room, showers, and bath. 

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Everything you can imagine is provided (maybe with a fee)

You might think onsens nickle and dime you when it comes to toiletries or bath accessories, but in reality the fee you pay for the onsen includes almost everything you can think of.

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Soap
  • Hair dryer
  • Combo
  • Hairbrush
  • Towels

Non-essential items below might have to be rented or purchased at cheaper onsens, but are certainly free at averaged priced and more expensive onsens.

  • Face wash
  • Makeup pads
  • Razors
  • Hair iron
  • etc.

In many onsens, you won’t have to rent or purchase non-essential items, but do keep in mind that the cheaper the onsen is, you might have to pay extra for non-essential items.

Most onsen ryokans will offer everything you can think of without the need to rent or purchasing non-essential items.

Sometimes I have found products that are crazy good at more expensive onsens making me wish I could bring it home and at other cheaper onsens the products are just okay. 

You will be naked

The whole point of an onsen is to bathe yourself. So, in retrospect, you have to be naked. Expect most onens not to allow any type of swimwear, so you have to be naked if you want to actually shower and bathe at an onsen.

I am personally self conscious, so the first time going to an onsen I was nervous, but in reality it’s a wonderful experience. It’s something about being with strangers and/or friends that makes bathing in an onsen a wonderful experience to remove all the worries in your life.

If you absolutely cannot bathe nude, you can find onsens that allow swimwear. Unfortunately, they aren’t all that common and typically are found in more touristy places. 

Cubbies or lockers

At any onsen you visit, there will a changing room with lockers or cubbies. Most of the time they are just open cubbies with baskets, where you don’t need a special key to unlock. I’ve never lost anything in these cubbies. I have left my phone and wallet before many of times, but they were always there when I came back to the cubby. It’s probably because Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.

You can change out and into your clothes in this cubby room. In the cubby room, you will usually find a private toilet, towels, sinks, and other toiletries. There are usually even scales to weigh yourself and sometimes cold or hot tea to drink.

Shower before getting into the onsen (bath)

It’s a must to take a shower before getting into the onsen. There will be places where you can either stand or sit while showering. You will find shampoo, conditioner, body wash, mirror, and sometimes face wash at each shower. Showers will also have a bucket where it’s fun to rinse yourself off. I never realized how much of a joy it can be to shower before and after bathing at an onsen.

Some onsens will have dividers between each shower, but in most cases the showers are in a row without a dividers between each one, but typically there isn’t.

Going with your friends

It’s normal to go to an onsen with your friends and not uncommon to see younger and older groups of people bathing together and talking. While you might think going with your friends might be weird, it’s actually pretty fun. You tend to be relaxed because of the water and talk without any distractions. 

Family friendly

Most onsens are family friendly where children or even infants can come into the onsen. Onsen goers have no problem taking kids or even having strangers kids in the baths. Bath toys aren’t usually welcomed, but some family onsens might allow bath toys as they might want to cater more to families than the general population.

Just remember to watch your kids so they don’t get in trouble. You should also take note that onsens can be very hot, so the younger the child or infant, the water might not be so good for them. So, limit your time.

Going alone

Yes, it’s perfectly normal to go to an onsen alone. I have gone to an onsen alone and enjoyed it as much as going with friends. Visiting an onsen is all about relaxation. It’s amazing to go to an onsen and look out of a winder to see something peaceful, I highly recommend trying an onsen alone if you can. 

Private couple onsens

Some private onsens are available at higher end places for an extra fee. These can be awesome if you’re traveling with your partner and want to enjoy a bath and shower within your own privacy. Expect the same onsen experience, typically indoor and outdoor onsen all for you and another person, just smaller.

Unique minerals

There are different types of onsens. You will have natural and articifial onsens. Artificial onsens aren’t bad, but natural onsens are a different world. Natural onsens tend to have unique smells, smoothness, texture, etc. The type of onsens you can encounter would be:

  • Sulphur onsen (硫黄泉, iō-sen)
  • Sodium chloride onsen (ナトリウム泉, natoriumu-sen)
  • Hydrogen carbonate onsen (炭酸泉, tansan-sen)
  • Iron onsen (鉄泉, tetsu-sen)

Sulphur onsens are by far the most common onsen you can find around Japan. Sometimes Sulphur is not the most pleasant smell, but it does make your skin feel amazing and feel relaxed in a unique way. 

With these types of minerals you will tend to have different styles of onsens eggs, which are commonality at natural onsens.

Forest Hotel Fuki outside onsen
Forest Hotel Fuki outside onsen

Onsen eggs

Onsen eggs are basically eggs boiled in the onsen water. Of course they use clean different onsen water that hasn’t touched human skin.

Onsen eggs tend to taste and have a slightly different texture than regularly boiled eggs. In fact, when I first tried onsen eggs for the first time, I was surprised how there was an actual difference. You can typically find onsen eggs at many onsen ryokans, but also at some onsen houses too.

Don’t be loud

Onsens are meant to be a quiet environment, and if it’s not a quiet environment it will anger locals, especially regulars. Library talking is okay, but anything louder can be annoying to other onseners. You should also not splash around water if you are with friends or your partner as others around you will definitely not enjoy it. 

While some children can lightly splash around, make sure your child is aware of the onsen culture of relaxation and not running around. 

However, if you and your buddies are the only ones in the onsen with no one else around, you can be as loud and splash around a little bit. Just know that most male and female onsens are right next to each other with a dividing wall, so being too loud could have the other gender get annoyed. 

Tattoos might be prohibited

Yes, that’s right, if you have body ink, an onsen might turn you away. Sometimes other onseners might tell on you by saying to the onsen staff. It’s because tattoos in Japan are usually associated with rebels. While Japan is slowly opening up to the idea of tattoos, many locals might still have a negative connotation of tattoos.

If you have a tattoo, I highly suggest finding an onsen that is accepting to tattoo onseners. 

Onsens are hot

You might not realize it, but an onsen can be very hot. Some are slightly hotter than others. So you need to listen to your body and know your own tolerance. Also, don’t stay in too long as health side effects can occur.

I have been to a few onsens that are extremely hot, almost unbearable. Definitely don’t go to an onsen if you have high blood pressure.

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Yukatas are fun to wear and walk around in onsen towns

Think of a yukata as a more casual version of a kimono. You will typically be given one at onsens, and most definitely be given one to borrow at onsen ryokans. They are typically worn around town, even if you wanted to go out to eat wearing it, it’s okay.

They make yukatas for all ages and body sizes, so you don’t have to worry about it being too big or small.

I personally love wearing a yukata. Think of it as a bathrobe, but much better.

Couple wearing yukata at Ginzan
Couple wearing yukata at Ginzan

Where to find the best onsens in Japan

While you may already know Hakone, you might not realize that there are many onsen towns and villages out there that make Hakone look like an overpriced just okay tourist town in comparison. 

Ginzan Onsen Village, Yamagata

Located in Yamagata Prefecture, Ginzan Onsen Village is one of the most beautiful onsen villages out there. With dozens of natural onsen ryokans, which some allow you to access the onsen without staying. It’s one of my favorite onsen villages in Japan. 

During my first visit to Ginzan Onsen Village, I fell in love. Views from many outside onsens were breathtaking and calming. Then on top of that, onsens here are natural. During the summer it’s not crowded, but during the winter many people visit, as onsens are always better during the winter. 

The whole village is picturesque, and you can walk around wearing your Yakata. Many Japanese all over Japan will go to Ginzan for onsens. In fact, some animes, like Spirited Away, have based the buildings in the anime off of Ginzan Onsen Village buildings. So, you can expect it to be worth your visit, even if it’s only accessible by car. 

Kurokawa Hot Spring Ryokan Association, Kumamoto

Kumamoto is known for its bear mascot, but also known for its wonderful landscapes. Kurokawa Hot Spring Ryokan Association is cluttered with many onsens and ryokans for a relaxing day or two. With over 25 onsen ryokans, you will be able to stay and relax overnight while some allow daily usage of the onsen without staying overnight.

The most beautiful times to visit would be during the fall when the trees change colors and the weather is chilly. During the spring you can see flowers and trees blooming, aka sakura season for sakura trees, normally mid March. My friends that have been here loved it and usually went back annually for some relaxation between semesters at university. 

Kusatsu, Gunma

Kusatsu is probably one of the most famous quality towns for onsens near Tokyo. It holds some of the most beautiful natural onsens in the mountains of Gunma. A short drive away, you also have the Jigokudani Monkey Park, one of the most unique places to visit during the winter as monkeys soak up the onsen water surrounded by snow. 

If you had to stay at any onsen ryokan town, Kusatsu would be great for all seasons as it can cater to outdoor lovers and home bodies as the mountains are some of the most beautiful mountains in all of Japan. I am planning to visit during this March with friends as they really want to go back and it’s on my list of must visits.

Exploring caves of Ginzan Onsen Village
Exploring caves of Ginzan Onsen Village

Final word 

I hope this article gave you a better idea of what an onsen is. Going to an onsen is definitely a recommended to-do for anyone who visits Japan with friends, family, or even alone. If you end up visiting an onsen, tell us what you thought of the experience in the comments below.

This article was originally published by Steve Smith.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour Review (Ultimate Guide)

I have seen some pretty cool movie set tours like the Harry Potter Warner Bros. studio tour in London and the Hobbiton Movie Set tour ranks up there with the best. In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour. I will cover things like ticket prices and tours and also give you a detailed review of what the experience is like.

What is the Hobbiton Movie Set?

The Hobbiton Movie Set is a hilly farmland in Waikato, New Zealand where scenes featuring “Hobbiton” of the Shire were filmed for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film series. The site now offers several different tours and experiences that allow fans to enjoy the movie set in memorable ways, such as guided tours and festive banquets.

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Booking the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Below I will go into the details for all of the prices for the different tours.

One thing I will say right off the bat is that you need to book your tickets as soon as possible because the spots will fill up very quickly. This is especially true if you want to do one of the special tours that involve a lunch or banquet. This is not an attraction that you want to wait until the last minute to book!

There are four main different tours that you can choose from. Note that the prices will be increasing for all of the tours as of April 2020.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

This is the main tour that most people will do. It takes you through the major sites like the Hobbit Holes and Green Dragon Inn and takes about two hours (I’ll go into detail on this tour below). 

You can choose to be picked up from three different locations:

  • The Shire’s Rest (the tour’s main location)
  • Matamata i-SITE
  • The Hobbiton™ Movie Set Shop, 1235 Fenton St, Rotorua (more expensive)

The tours from The Shire’s Rest depart every 10 minutes so there are many of these tours every single day. When you go to book a tour you will have a selection of different time slots to choose from and you should see if there are limited spaces for certain slots.

Daily Hobbiton Movie Set Tour list and times

Here are the prices for the tour: 

(All prices below are in New Zealand dollars. For your reference, you can click on a price below and see the US dollar equivalent. 84 New Zealand dollars is ~$55 USD as of 12/19.)

  • Adult (17 years and over): $84.00, $89.00 from 1 April 2020
  • Youth (9-16 years): $42.00, $44.00 from 1 April 2020 
  • Child (0-8 years): Children are FREE but must have ticket allocated prior to arrival and be accompanied by a full paying adult.
  • Tours depart daily from 9am until 3.30pm.

If you are going to be late for your tour I suggest that you contact them immediately. They will work with you to try to get you into the soonest tour but keep in mind that if other tours are all sold out they might not be able to get you in that day.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour + Lunch

This is the tour that I wish I would have done. If you want to make your tour experience a little bit more memorable without paying a whole lot of extra money, I think this tour option is perfect. There are only three timeslots though and these tours need to be booked very far in advance to secure your preferred time slot.

Here are the prices:

  • Adult (17 years and over): $120.00, $125.00 from 1 April 2020
  • Youth (9-16 years): $78.00, $80.00 from 1 April 2020 
  • Child (0-8 years): Children are FREE but must have ticket allocated prior to arrival and be accompanied by a full paying adult.


  • 10.05am departure begins with tour followed by lunch at 11.35am
  • 12.05pm departure begins with tour followed by lunch at 1.35pm
  • 1.25pm departure begins with lunch followed by tour at 2.25pm

Hobbiton Movie Set Evening Banquet Tours

The Hobbiton Movie Set Evening Banquet Tour is probably the coolest way to explore the Shire because it is a tour that takes place at dusk. Also, you get to enjoy the banquet at the Green Dragon which is a unique experience.

I think I would enjoy this tour but there is something special about visiting the Shire during the daytime when the sun is out shining brightly and this tour may not offer you that same type of experience.  

Here are the prices:

  • Adult (17 years and over): $195.00, $199.00 from 1 April 2020
  • Youth (9-16 years): $152.50, $162.00 from 1 April 2020 
  • Child (5-8 years): $100, $104.00 from 1 April 2020. Children must be accompanied by a full paying adult- Must also have a ticket allocated. 
  • Infant (0-4 years):  Infants must be accompanied by a full paying adult- Must also have a ticket allocated.

Private Tour

The private tour is very expensive but it is probably the best option for the diehard fans and I will explain why below.

Here are the prices:

  • Private tour (up to 4 people): $750.00
  • Additional Adult (17yrs+): $84.00
  • Additional Youth (9-16yrs): $42.00
  • Additional Child (0-8yrs): Free with full paying adult

Please note: From 1 April 2020 Private Tour departures will be $1,000.00 for maximum six adults or equivalent.

Tour packages

Because the movie set tour is a couple of hours away from Auckland, New Zealand and semi-close to other attractions, a lot of people like to package together tours and spend an entire day hitting up multiple spots.

This can be an efficient use of both time and money so it is definitely something to consider. One of the popular tourist packages you can do is what is known as the trilogy and it offers the following tours:

  • 45 minute Tour of Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waitomo
  • 2 hour tour of Ruakuri Cave, Waitomo
  • 2 hour Tour of Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata
  • 4.5 hours exclusive guided tour of Te Puia; Maori welcome ceremony and cultural performance & Māori Feast (traditional indigenous dinner), Rotorua

The Trilogy Package Prices

  • Adult $342
  • Child $171
  • Family $924 (2 adults and 2 children; extra child add $171)

Don’t forget — watch the movies!

Once you book your tickets, I recommend that you re-watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy and also the Hobbit movies so that everything is fresh on your mind. And obviously if you have not seen the movies, you need to get on that ASAP!

Getting to the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Here is the address of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour:

501 Buckland Road, Matamata 3472, New Zealand

Below are the approximate time frames it will take you to get to the movie set from major destinations:

  • Waitomo Glowworm Caves: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Auckland, New Zealand: 2 hours
  • Wellington, New Zealand: 6 hours

We stayed at the Hilton Auckland Hotel and so we were about a two hour drive away from the movie set, which we made in a rental car. 

The drive to the movie set from Auckland was very beautiful!

You will pass through many rolling green hills and beautiful farm landscapes. It reminded me a lot of driving through California when all of the hills are nice and green and full life.

Driving in New Zealand
Driving to the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour.

Your GPS will probably take you right to the location but you will also notice several signs pointing you in the right direction as you approach the movie set. If you don’t want to drive there, you can look into getting transferred there.

Also, there are farm stays in the local area so you could stay in something like a B&B for a night and enjoy a nice complimentary dinner and breakfast. 

Hobbiton Movie Set Tourist Farm sign

Arriving at the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

There are pretty large parking lots at the Hobbiton Movie Set so you shouldn’t have an issue finding a parking spot when you arrive. 

Parking lot at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

The first thing that you need to do when you arrive is to snap a photo of you underneath the Hobbiton Movie Set sign. It is a picture perfect sign and there is a little walkway that will take you right to the sign. 

Man standing under Hobbiton movie set sign

The Shire’s Rest

When you arrive, you will need to check in to receive your tickets if you booked online and you will want to head to The Shire’s Rest to do this. Simply follow the signs to the Shires Rest Ticketing Centre where you can get that done. When we arrived, there was only a short line to deal with. Keep in mind that they request you to check in 15 minutes prior to your scheduled tour time.

Ticketing area Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Shires Rest Ticketing Centre.
Ticketing area Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

If you have arrived early then you might want to spend some time at the nearby Shire’s Rest Cafe or Garden Bar. The Garden Bar offers a nice shady spot to grab a bite and craft beer before or after your tour and it’s perfect for summer days.

You can also order ice cream and milkshakes or thick shakes for around five to seven New Zealand dollars from the ice cream shop. If you really have a sweet tooth consider going with the Hobbit Crunch which is a fancy sundae that you will surely enjoy.

List of ice creams at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

You can also explore the gift shop. However, a lot of visitors like to save the gift shop until the end of the tour so you might want to go that route. I will talk more about the gift shop below.

Getting ready for your tour

As the time approaches for your tour, you will want to line up where the sign indicates your tour will be taking off. I would suggest lining up about five minutes before your scheduled tour time.

Lines for Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Depending on the type of tour that you booked, you might be getting transported via a bus or a van. In our case, we did the bus tour.

Group getting on bus at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

After lining up we boarded the bus and found our seats which were in a 2-2 lay out.

Bus at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Once we got going, they played some special footage related to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies and also provided us with some insightful content about the production of the movies, the 12-acres that was used for Hobbiton, and some other really cool and interesting facts.

I don’t want to give everything away but you will find out some little tidbits about the movie that you probably did not already know.

The drive through the Alexander family sheep farm over to the movie set is also an extremely scenic drive. You will wind through some beautiful rolling green pasture land dotted with sheep living a good life. 

Rolling pastures at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

The bus ride from the arrival area to the actual movie set took a total of 15 minutes. 

Once everybody exits the bus you will meet up at the first sign and they will go over some of the information that you need to know about the tour. Basically they just told us to stay together and to not venture into any of the areas without permission.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Group walking at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Welcome to Hobbiton sign

The Tour

The way that the tour works is that you will travel as a group and your group will stop at several different Hobbit Holes throughout Hobbiton. At each stop, you will be able to check out the areas and get photos while learning some cool facts about each little site.

Group walking at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

The biggest drawback to this tour is that they move along too efficiently.

Basically if you are in the back of the line you will feel rushed from the group behind you coming up.

It’s a very awkward experience when you are trying to get a photo and you have 30 tourists glaring at you as they impatiently wait for you to leave so that their tour guide can start showing them the site.

Therefore, if you are a true Lord of the Rings fan and you want to savor this experience, you probably want to consider a private tour. Yes, they will be much more expensive but you will be able to enjoy the sights without any pressure from the crowds.

Spoiler alert

If you don’t already know, you will find out that these little Hobbit Holes are not actually real little houses with rooms and lively corridors to explore. Some of them open up to a small area that is similar to a closet but most are just facades.

But still, it can be really fun to explore the exterior of the Hobbit Holes and the entire community.

One thing that fascinated me about the different Hobbit Holes was all of the details. Everything from the windows to the doorhandles are extremely intricate and it is really fun to explore them from up close. It really feels as if little hobbits are living inside behind those doors.

Hobbit hole at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Hobbit hole at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Hobbit hole at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

It’s really cool to see some of the sights like the detailed clothes drying out on the clothes lines.

Clothes on line at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Clothes on line at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Also the landscaping with all of the colorful flowers is pretty immaculate and a sight to see. When we visited in February, there were tons of butterflies fluttering around and it was a very magical experience.

Hobbit hole at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

Your tour guide will point out the residences of the most notable hobbits.

Bilbo Baggins home at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Bilbo Baggins home.

One of the coolest things to see are all of the live plants and produce that they produce on site. 

Hobbit hole at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Hobbit hole at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Garden at Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

You can even find batches of raw honey.

Jars of honey

I also appreciated the attention to detail in things like the “street signs.”

Each time you stop at a little Hobbit Hole you should have enough time to get some photos and to pose in front of them. Like I mentioned though, this is much easier to do if you are at the front of the group because you will not feel as much pressure to move along quickly.

Man at hobbit hole Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Man at hobbit hole Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Group at hobbit hole Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

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Your tour should stop at at least one Hobbit Hole that they will allow you to step inside of and get some photos. And when I say step inside of, that literally means just taking like one step inside of the Hobbit Hole. 

Make sure you are listening to your tour guide because during our tour some of the tourists entered in one of the Hobbit Holes that was NOT meant to be entered in. This caused a little bit of commotion so just be mindful of this.

The tour will wind up and down the hillsides as you hit up the different sites. The walking required is not overly strenuous, but I would definitely bring some walking friendly shoes. 

The pathways are not wheelchair friendly but there are options for those who can’t complete all the walking.

Also, you are permitted to bring strollers on the tour but many of the pathways are cobblestone or bumpy and they also can be quite narrow so bringing a stroller can be a task.

Hobbit holes Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
Cottage on the water

Green Dragon Inn

Eventually you will wind up at the tavern at the end of the tour, known as the Green Dragon Inn.

The Green Dragon Inn
The Green Dragon Inn.

According to the official Hobbiton website, “The Green Dragon Inn was the meeting place for all residents of Hobbiton, who would gather in the warm surroundings of the bar to chatter about the day’s events.” 

The Green Dragon Inn
The Green Dragon Inn.
Inside The Green Dragon Inn

The Green Dragon Inn is a really cool spot where you can enjoy some grub or even some drinks from the Hobbit Southfarthing range, which I believe is brewed right on location.

Here are some drinks that you might be interested in trying:

  • Girdley Fine Grain, Amber Ale
  • Sackville Cider, Apple Cider
  • Oatbarton Brew, Traditional English Ale
  • Frogmorton Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic)
Inside The Green Dragon Inn
Inside The Green Dragon Inn

Once you find yourself a drink, head over to the fireplace and relax in a nice comfy seat.

Inside The Green Dragon Inn
Inside The Green Dragon Inn

If you have also booked a lunch tour then this is where you will depart from the other group to enjoy the lunch buffet served in the Party Marquee. The Party Marquee is adjacent to The Green Dragon Inn, with the garden bar seating overlooking the Hobbiton Movie Set.

In our case, we only did the standard movie set tour so we then headed back to the gift shop. The entire tour lasted about two hours.

The gift shop

There are a lot of interesting items to purchase at the gift shop. You will find all sorts of different collectibles, books, and some decoration items like the maps of Middle Earth which I thought were pretty awesome.

Maps at Gift shop

For something like a map you would be paying about NZ$35.

They also had some awesome figurines of different characters and those were more expensive — usually ranging around NZ$100-NZ$300.

Figurines in case

Some of the items cannot be purchased at the store but they are on display and available at websites that will be shown on the display.

They also had a lot of standard gift shop items like candies and various types of sweets. You could also venture into the café and purchase sandwiches for around $6.50 and beverages like iced coffee or milk for around 3 to NZ$5.

Food at gift shop

If you wanted something more substantial you could order a meal like eggs Benedict for $16.50, second breakfast for $19.50, or a Lamb burger for around $18.

Food menu at gift shop

There are several picnic tables for you to enjoy your meal outside and on a nice day it can be an extremely pleasant experience.

Picnic tables outside gift shop

But there are also tables located indoors just in case the weather does not cooperate.

Indoor seating at gift shop

Lord of the Rings tours

If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy there are other tours that you can do that will take you to various destinations and locations used in the films. Some of these tours can be up to two weeks in length so you can live your fandom for days on end!

Here are some companies to look at:

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour Review (Ultimate Guide) FAQ

Can I wander around by myself?

No, the tours are all guided and require visitors to be supervised. This is probably in the best interest of everyone.

Are drones allowed?

Drones are not allowed during the normal tour hours. You can contact the site owners to inquire about after our drone usage but there is no guarantee they will allow it.

Do tours still take place when it rains?

Yes, they will continue with tours in the rain. They will supply you with umbrellas but this is one reason why you want to bring quality closed toed shoes with you on this trip (or a poncho).

Can we go inside the Hobbit Holes?

You will likely only be allowed to step inside of one Hobbit Hole. And keep in mind there will only be a small closet-like area behind the door.

How long are the tours?

The standard movie set tour is approximately two hours and about 30 minutes of that is travel time to and from the movie set.

Can I take photos?

Yes, you can take as many photos as you would like just make sure they are not for commercial use. I brought out my professional DSLR camera and had no issues with photos.

What do I need to bring with me?

You don’t need to bring anything special with you on this tour. But you would probably be good with a small backpack where you can hold things like sunscreen, a jacket if you don’t need to be wearing it, water bottles, etc. As mentioned above, I would consider a rain poncho if I were visiting when rain was expected.

Final word

Overall, the movie set tour is a must see destination for any fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Hobbit movies. You will no doubt be floored by the amount of details in the Hobbit Holes and surrounding areas. But while I loved the tour I do think that a private tour would be much more enjoyable for a diehard fan even with the price tag of $1,000. 

Best Time of the Year to Visit Greece (Weather, Temperature, & Events)

Greece is not only known for its spectacularly beautiful islands but also for the culture and traditions of yestercentury. Even outside of the islands you can find some of the most beautiful landscapes in the northern part of Greece. Plus, it’s also one of my favorite countries for food where savory and sweets are all enjoyable.

In this comprehensive article, I will cover the best time of the year to visit Greece factoring in things the climate, weather, temperatures, beaches, and special events that take place throughout the year.

When is the best time of the year to visit Greece?

If you wish to experience Greece to the fullest, where all the islands are accessible, the best time of the year to visit Greece is April to mid-June and September to mid-October. During those months the weather is mild with long days and islands shouldn’t be too crowded.

For the best weather, you will find May to October having the sunniest days. July and August will be the hottest months, along with being the most crowded months. I personally don’t like crowded places and would avoid July and August since it is the summer holiday for many countries.

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Best time to visit Greece on a budget

For the money-conscious travelers, you will find that months like March, April, May, October, and November offer decent weather with cheaper flights and accommodation. 

In fact, I went late-February and was amazed by how cheap accommodation was in Athens. Coco-Mat Hotel, Herodion Hotel, Andronis Athens (which I stayed in before), Plaka Hotel, and Athens Mansion Luxury Suites all were offering around $100 nightly rates. 

When I stayed in Andronis Athens in February, I found it a great location for an awesome price of $105 a night.

Ruins in Athens Greece

Greece geography (map)

Located in south-eastern Europe, Greece is part of the Balkan Peninsula and numerous islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Greece borders Turkey, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Albania. As you can see below, here is a map of Greece via Google maps.

Map of Mediterranean sea

Greece is, in fact, part of the European Union, where travel between other Schengen states will feel like a domestic flight within a country. 

Driving in and out of Greece is possible with a car or a bus. So, you could rent a car in France and drive to and within Greece with that same car, just make sure you have the proper permit and insurance for driving.

Greece has 13 administrative regions and those administrative regions are known as Peripheries of Greece. Nine of the peripheries are on the mainland and four are island groups. Attica, South Aegean, Crete, Central Macedonia, and Corfu are all the most touristy peripheries.

Map of Aegean sea
Map of Greece

Greece climate/weather

Greece has a Mediterranean climate, best defined as warm and dry in the summers and mild and rainy in the winters. Expect sunshine throughout most of the year in most areas. Even when I was there in February for a few days it was sunny every day. 

There are some climate subtypes, like Attiki (Athens’ greater area) and East Greece that are more of a dry climate,  while Northern and Western Greece have generally a wet climate. 


The temperature in Greece varies between the north and south. For example, the southernmost island of Crete (Iraklion) in January has an average daily temperature of 54.5F (12.5C). Thessaloniki has an average temperature in January of 42F (5.5C). While Athens, being in-between Crete and Thessaloniki, has an average temperature in January of 49F (9.5C). 

Down below I go into details about air and sea temperatures for specific cities and islands.


Santorini is by far the most iconic destination in all of Greece for its picturesque views throughout the island. The hottest month, on average, is during July with an average temperature of 79F (26C). The coldest month would be January with an average temperature of 54F (12C).

Traveling in Santorini is still doable during the shoulder months like November. In November you can expect the weather to be more pleasant than Ireland with an average temperature of 62.5F (17C). In fact, if you wish to see a fewer number of tourists, October or April would be doable months. It might be chilly sometimes, but still pleasant enough to enjoy the sun and beauty of the island. 

The best time to swim in Santorini would be August with an average sea temperature of 77F (25C).


Beautiful Mykonos, the island that rivals Santorini but is so different that it also needs to be visited. Mykonos’ hottest month is July with an average temperature of 79F (26C). During the winter, expect an average temperature of January to be 48F (9C) in it’s coldest month.

The average sea temperature in Mykonos during July is 75F (24C), making it the best time for beach life. It’s still not as warm as Santorini, being more north of Santorini, but it’s still known to have wonderful beaches during the summer months of June to September.


Athens is the hottest capital in Europe with the average daily temperature in July and August of 79F (26C). Some inner districts get as hot as 82F (28C). It’s also common during July and August for the temperature to reach 97-100F (36-38C). However, during the winter, the average temperature in January is 49F (9.5C).


In the beautiful north, Thessaloniki has an average high temperature in July and August of 88-90F (31-32C) with peaks of 95-97F (35-36C). With an average temperature of 42F (5.5C) during January, It can get chilly, in fact very chilly sometimes. 


Corfu’s hottest months are July and August with an average temperature of 77F (25C). The coldest month is January with an average temperature of 49F (10C). During the night, Corfu does get chilly with an average low temperature of 66F (19C). 

You can expect the weather between June and September to be warm enough for the beach, but the best month for the beach would be July and August as the average sea temperature is 77F (25C).



Days are filled with the sun in Santorini. During July there are 14 hours of sun with minimal rainfall during the summer months. The wettest month would be December with almost 74.5mm of rain. During the winter, expect the weather to be cloudy and wetter.

The best time to visit Santorini with sunny weather and minimal precipitation would be between late-May to mid-September.


Mykonos summers are warm, arid, and clear while the winters are long, cold, and partly cloudy. You can expect Mykonos to be windy all year-round with the sunniest days in July and August. Similar to Santorini, the best time to visit Mykonos for the best weather would be late-May to mid-September. 


During the summer, expect Athens to be very sunny, but with chances of smog. That’s right, Athens is more polluted during the summer with smog wrapping the city up during peak summer months. It’s also not really windy making it a hot, stagnant city.

However, Athens during the winter is sunny, partly cloudy, and with less smog. I found the air fresh during the winter months, good for long cool walks to my destinations.


Being situated in the valleys of the north, Thessaloniki is sunny and hot during the summer. It’s not very windy during the summer making the high temperatures unpleasant. It doesn’t rain too much in either summer or winter, but during the winter you can expect it to be cloudier and windier. 


Corfu has 12 hours of sunshine throughout the month of July but is very cloudy during the winter months of December, January, and February. Expect an average of three hours of sunshine during December.

Out of all the months, expect very little rainfall between May to September, but once it’s October, rainfall is more common, while November has an average of 20 days of rain. Compared to other islands, Corfu is the least sunny and the wettest island outside of the summer months.

If you had to visit Corfu during the winter months, a rain poncho is well recommended.

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Things to do in Greece

Below, I highlighted a lot of the different things you can do throughout the year when visiting Greece. 


Greeks know how to celebrate, and I mean cel-e-brate.

Expect to keep celebrating the holidays in Greece in the month of January. You have celebrations like the Feast of Saint Basil’s on New Year’s Day. Think of it like Greece’s Christmas-like celebration. It’s a day of gift-giving, feasting, card games, and Greek customs for bringing good luck for the year. You can also find Athens and many other cities having midnight fireworks.

Then halfway through the month of January, you will find Patras Carnival, Greece’s largest festival starting on January 17th, 2020. For several weeks there will be parade floats, boules (transvestite masquerades), pantomimes, and many many many parties. 


February is known to be the time of culture vulture, meaning you aren’t partying on the islands, but witnessing the beauty of culture hot-spots and archeological findings. Greece is filled with many.

But, if you still want to party, Athens and Thessaloniki are still great places for nightlife where it’s year-round. 

During the month of February, you will find many carnivals called Apokries. Apokries are hosted throughout Greece in various cities where it’s flamboyant with lots of dancing and feasting. Think of this as the crescendo from Greece’s largest festival, Patras, that started back in January.


March is the month that tourists start to come in droves from all around the world, as the weather is much better. So, the parties are settling down.

However, with the weather getting better, marathons are becoming more prominent. If you are a marathon lover, you shouldn’t be disappointed with these two marathons:


In April, expect even warmer weather where summer activities like fireworks become more frequent. Rocket War, Chios is a once a year celebration on the night between Saturday and Sunday of Easter. This is a battle between the people of Saint Mark Church and the people of Virgin Erethianis Church. 

It’s located in Chios and starts around 8pm where thousands of fireworks between the churches light up the sky in an all-out battle. 


The islands become the life of the party starting in June with Hippocratia Festival for a summer-long series of events on Kos.

Its music festivals, theater, and art exhibitions throughout Kos where the culture comes alive. Think of it as the time of connecting with other like-minded people that value the arts. 


While it might be the hottest month out of the year, festivals are still very much alive in the month of July.

You will find festivals like the Hydra Puppet Festival, where it’s a tradition of local and Greek puppeteers presenting new and old performances on the island of Hydra. Then on other islands, like Kavala, you will find the second oldest festival in Greece called Philippi Festival performing ancient theater. These two festival performances highlight the Greek arts like no other.

If performances aren’t your thing, Halkidiki holds an art festival called Sani Festival. It’s meant to connect locals with foreign artists showing off their latest creations. You will find professionals to unknown artists all in one place sharing their works.


August is yet another hot month, but musical festivals like the Aegina International Music Festival still go on performing classical music on the island of Aegina. You will find Greek and international artists performing classical music on the beach and with cultural backdrops emphasizing the music being played. 


The arts just keep on coming with the Athens International Film Festival showcasing Sundance like films for 12 days. You will find many foreign films from all around the world, some premiering at the film festival.

Santorini joins the music scene with three weeks of the Santorini International Music Festival. Find solo recitals, orchestras, piano duets, operatic music, tango, classical, almost every genre you can think of during those three weeks. 

However, if film or music isn’t your thing, the Armata Festival is where local boatbuilders all come together to build a Turkish Boat that is from the battle of the strait between Spetses Islan and Kosta during the revolution of 1821. Once the boat is done, the festival has local dances and theater. Then there is a grand finale of fireworks. You will also find local boats making their way out to the middle of the sea all candlelit. It’s truly special. 


Every October during the last week there will be a Chestnut Festival marking the new harvest in the Macedonian forests. For three days you can join locals in mountainous villages savoring winter fruit with a glass of tsipouro (local spirit) or wine.

At the beginning of October, Santorini has one of the biggest sporting events called the Santorini Experience. Trekking, swimming, climbing marathon throughout all of Santorini, it’s a marathon for the best of the best. I am for sure not one of the best, so I won’t even attempt it. 


While it might be getting cold, the holidays don’t stop Greece. You can find many Christmas markets throughout Greece, but once Christmas hits, it’s a time to celebrate with family. After Christmas passes New Year’s Eve comes around where the festivities all start up again with huge New Year’s celebrations all throughout the night and the following day.

Final word

As you can tell, there are pros and cons to visiting Greece each time of the year. Personally, I would shoot for September as the sea temperatures should still be warm enough for some beach life, but also less crowded than June to August. 

However, visiting during other times of the year, like October, could hold for some interesting events in the Macedonian forests.

This article was originally published by Steve Smith.

When Is The Best Time of Year to Visit The Maldives? (Weather & Diving)

The Maldives is a dream destination for many people. It’s one of the most mesmerizing destinations with its beautiful white sands, turquoise atolls, and blue lagoons. But many people wonder “what is the best time of year to visit the Maldives?” 

While the temperatures are relatively stable year round, there are multiple rainy seasons to contend with. In this article, I will talk about the pros and cons of visiting at different times of the year and give some insight into things like weather, snorkeling, and diving.

When is the best time of year to visit the Maldives?

The best time to visit the Maldives is from January through mid-April. However, these are also peak times and other months of the year might also be good. Keep reading below for more pros and cons about the different times to visit the Maldives.

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Maldives geography

The islands of the Maldives are found in the Indian Ocean, about 310 miles southwest of India. The islands practically sit on the equator and are very flat (the Maldives has the lowest elevation of any country in the world). 

World map
Image via Wiki.

The country is made up of 22 atolls and about 1,200 islands that extend about 400 miles from north to south, making the Maldives one of the world’s most dispersed countries.

Map of Maldives
Image via Wiki.

The variety of islands and different geographical positions means that the experience can be slightly different when it comes to things like marine life and even climate to an extent. For this reason, you should always do research for these questions in this article based on your specific resort in island that you will be visiting.

Maldives from plane
Islands of the Maldives.

The Maldives rainy season

The biggest consideration you will probably have when visiting the Maldives is whether or not you should visit during the rainy season. But in order to make an educated decision on this you need to know what the rainy season actually consists of.

First, it is important to note that the rainy season can fluctuate slightly from year-to-year. Sometimes a rainy season might get started late or early so use the following as general guidelines for your planning, and always remember that mother nature cannot always be predicted with 100% accuracy. 

In addition, different sources define the rainy seasons differently and may include different months (though they are in agreement on the general time frames). There are two rainy seasons you need to be aware of. 

Northeast Monsoon season

There is something known as the Northeast Monsoon season. This occurs between October/November and March/April.  This technically is the “dry season” of the Maldives, though it depends on where you are situated within the Maldives. 

During the northeast monsoon season, you might experience some showers here and there but they will be short-lived and not very constant since this monsoon season is very mild compared to the main monsoon of the summer. If you want to maximize your odds of getting sunshine on your honeymoon then visiting between January and March is a good idea. 

Map of Indian Ocean
Image via

Southwest Monsoon season

Then there is the main rainy season of the Maldives. This is known as the Southwest Monsoon season. This lasts between June/July and September/October. 

The rain showers in the Maldives during the rainy season don’t need to be feared. Like many other tropical areas, many of these rainstorms come quickly and leave just as quickly.

You might be able to enjoy a nice sunny day and just have to worry about heavy rain for a couple of hours and then get on with a clear night. Relaxing in a villa while a storm blows in can be a pretty relaxing experience. So don’t think that your trip will be ruined if you end up visiting during the rainy season, even on a honeymoon. 

With that said, sometimes heavier storms can roll in during the rainy season. When they roll in there can be multiple days of heavy rains and high winds so there is a chance that it could happen. Also, at many resorts you have to do a fair amount of walking so trying to get around in the rain could be a problem (some resorts will take you around in a golf cart). 

And of course there always could be typhoons though those are not super common given the geography of the Maldives. Because the Maldives is such a flat country and floods can be a real issue if there are major typhoons you might be evacuated. 

Rainfall graph for Maldives
Image via

Maldives temperatures

The temperatures in the Maldives are very constant year-round. Highs will generally range from 84°F to 88°F (29°C 31°C) and lows 75°F to 81° (24°C 27°C). In other words, this is a very warm place all times of the year and you can count on it being in the lower 80s pretty much all the time.

When the sun is constantly shining it can get pretty hot but one great thing about the Maldives is that it receives some pretty nice ocean winds. If you book a water villa you will find that sitting out on the deck can be a very breezy experience. 

In fact, the breezes were so strong when we visited that we were able to enjoy the hot tub out on the deck (which I initially thought would be way too uncomfortable given the hot temperatures). 

It is also a very humid place as you would expect with it being located so close to the equator. The high-level of humidity and moisture in the air can be an issue for some electronics. When I visited the Maldives my DSL camera (Canon 6D) actually stopped functioning for a couple of days because it got too much moisture from the humidity alone. So this is something that you want to be careful of year round. 

The sea temperatures are also very stable. They range from 82ºF to 86°F (28°C to 30°C), so you can expect warm water, even in the middle of winter (a wet suit will not always be needed). 

Hot tub overwater villa Maldives

Maldives coral reefs

Extreme temperatures from El Nino in 2016 bleached and killed 73% of shallow-water corals within the Maldives. This means that many coral reefs will not be super vibrant when you go snorkeling (when you go diving it is a different story). With that said, I was still pretty happy with the amount of marine life that inhabited the bleached coral reefs. You can read about our snorkeling experience here.  

Fish and coral Maldives

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Best times of year to visit the Maldives

January, February, and March

January, February, and March are the best times to visit the Maldives in my opinion. This is because the rain is at bay and you will be able to enjoy many nice sunny days. In addition, the water is very clear at these times so visibility is fantastic for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The drawback of visiting at this time of year is that the peak season is upon you. Prices at some resorts can skyrocket during holidays so you need to be careful about which specific days you’re visiting. 


April is a great time to visit the Maldives as it is the very beginning of the rainy season and the end of peak season. The prices and availability should be much better beginning in April versus peak times during the winter.

Visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving should still be pretty great in April. I believe the spring is the mating season for Titan Triggerfish. These fish are extremely territorial during mating season and so if you are snorkeling for scuba diving during the spring be on the lookout for them.  


May is when the rainfall really starts to pick up. In fact, May can be one of the wettest months of the year in the Maldives. Visibility in the ocean also begins to drop a bit. That is not to say that you can’t still have fantastic dives during May it is just not going to be quite as clear.

April and May is also the time of Ramadan. The Maldives is a pretty liberal Muslim country whenever it comes to things like tourists at resorts eating pork, consuming alcohol, etc.

However, during Ramadan things could be a little bit different at some places (especially Malé). In many cases, though, you may not even notice a difference at resorts but just be prepared to be flexible with things like meal times. 

June July, August

During the months of June and July the rain can continue on to the summer. The rain does tend to calm down in July so it is not quite as wet as June. Keep in mind that even during the rainy season you are still getting an average of seven hours (or more) of sunshine during the summer months.

Visibility is not the greatest but this can also be a fantastic time to swim with whale sharks and manta rays. July can be a good time for surfing in the Maldives at certain islands. Once August arrives the rain will kick back up and the month will be much wetter. 

September and October

September and October have the potential to be the wettest months in the Maldives. So if you are trying to avoid the largest monsoons then I would avoid visiting during these times. The plus side is that this is whenever you might be able to find some of the cheapest hotel prices and there’s still a lot of sunshine. Also, this continues to be a good time to see large marine life like manta rays and whale sharks. 

November and December

November is the end of the rainy season and his when things start to calm down. You will still experience some showers but they are usually pretty manageable. 

Prices and availability can get difficult to find during the holidays such as on Christmas or New Year’s so you need to be mindful of that. It’s not uncommon for prices to triple or for there to be certain minimum stay requirements for booking during peak times like that. 

Whale shark and diver

Best time of year for whale sharks and manta rays

In some places in the Maldives you can find manta rays and whale sharks year-round. But remember, we are talking about over 1,000 islands spread out across many atolls so the times of year that are best suited for seeing them is going to differ.

Also, sometimes you can see both whale sharks and manta rays at the same time of year but in some locations you may only see one or the other.

For example, we visited the South Ari Atoll, which has whale sharks year-round and manta rays October through May. When we visited in February we had an amazing encounter with manta rays on a scuba dive. It truly was a magical experience. However, we did not see any whale sharks during our time underwater or when snorkeling. 

So if you really want to see whale sharks or mantas I would suggest that you contact the resort that you want to stay at and ask them about the peak times for that specific marine animal.

For example, while you can find whale sharks year-round, August to November might be the peak time for seeing whale sharks at the South Ari Atoll. 

Just remember, we are talking about mother nature here. Patterns can change and fluctuate from year to year so in some cases the peak season can change a little bit. That is why I would always make sure to contact the resort to try to get the most updated information (in fact, I would contact multiple resorts in the same area just to see if I can get corroboration on the data).

Manta ray

Final word

The Maldives is one of those destinations that really doesn’t have a bad time to visit. Even if you visit during the rainy season, it’s not that bad. The storms may not last that long and in some cases can be a beautiful sight to watch form out over the ocean. Plus, you can take advantage of the discounted hotel stays. 

If you visit during peak time, you will have to deal with peak prices but you also will get the best weather and fantastic diving and snorkeling conditions.  

Where to Stay in Tokyo (The Best Districts)

Tokyo is one of my favorite major cities in the world, as it offers some of the best restaurants, attractions, game centers, high-end shopping, boutique shopping, and history. Tokyo has a convenient transportation system that has a city within the stations all being as clean as the rest of the city, which is more sanitary than any first world city.

Simply put: I love Tokyo, and in this article, I will describe some of the best neighborhoods and districts in Tokyo to stay (whether you’re on a budget with kids or willing to splurge on luxury hotels). I’ll also recommend a lot of unique things to do to really get a sense of the culture and what to expect when it comes to one of my favorite cities.

What is great about Tokyo

You can get almost anywhere in Tokyo within 20 minutes. For example, you can go from Shinjuku to Akihabara, Ginza, Ueno, Roppongi, and other inner-city neighborhoods in about 20 minutes. That is the magic of Tokyo and what makes this one of my favorite major cities in the world.

You can find unique pop culture trends that drive Tokyo. In fact, pop culture drives most of Japan, but Tokyo is where it is most prominent. For example, game centers are huge in Japan partly because the gaming industry in Japan is very domestic driven as many games are driven by the anime industry as well. 

Food is everywhere, even in the five convenience stores in one tiny block. Small basement restaurants offering just bar seating and an aunty cooking homemade food with a limited menu never disappoints.

While you can find all of that said above outside of Tokyo, it’s still a completely different vibe within Tokyo. Tokyo is truly a flagship city. Below, I’ll discuss the neighborhoods that I enjoy the most and the ones that are great to visit every time I am in Tokyo.

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One of my favorite neighborhoods is Akihabara as it’s everything pop culture. Game centers spread out with many shops geared towards pop culture called anime and manga. Geeks, also known as weebs or otakus, flock to Akihabara for both manufacturer and second-hand shops that cover the area where you can find figures from any mainstream or niche anime, movie, or live action TV-series.

You can easily find video game shops that allow you to buy games that are absolute classics or modern games. Playing arcade games at game centers are a joy as is watching fellow master gamers play rhythm games like no tomorrow.

Akihabara at night
Akihabara at night

Why stay in Akihabara

Akihabara is for the geeks inside us. It’s great for the people that don’t want to go around clubbing all the time and want to shop pop culture items and play games with fellow geeks. If you want budget friendly, out of the five neighborhoods, this is by far the most budget-friendly.

Things you have to do

Figure shops

Go into a figure shop. I personally collect anime figures, about 50 now, and it’s undoubtedly fun to people watch in there as people find a figure they love. The great thing about Akihabara is the fact that you can find any type of figure shop. Want mecha? There is a shop just for mecha or a floor of a shop dedicated to that. Do you want to see Star War figures? You can, and it’s easier than you might think. 

Game centers 

Game centers are the place to visit alone, as a family, with friends, or on a date as it’s an arcade on steroids. You can find UFO machines (claw games), Dance Dance Revolution, combat fighting games, rhythm games, etc. It’s what arcades used to be like, but 7 stories tall. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Japan, and Akihabara has almost every type of game center.

Specific game centers that are iconic in Japan would be Sega and TAITO.

Maid cafes

Maid cafes are almost as typical as a game center. Maid cafes, or other forms of cafes like butler cafes, are themed cafés complete with maid and butler costumes. Sometimes there will be performances by the staff that range from cute to somewhat interesting to say the least but note this isn’t that kid friendly.

Maid cafe moments
Maid cafe moments

Electronics shops

Electronics shopping in Akihabara goes along with the nerdy ward culture with many unique new and second-hand electronic shops selling almost anything you can think of. No, it’s not like Shenzhen electronics market with many components, but this is specifically manufactured legitimate merchandise that makes you wish you had more money to buy every niche tech gear that is available.

Book shops

Jimbocho is the place to go if you’re a book lover as it’s about 160 second-hand bookstores all in one little neighborhood close to Akihabara.

Watch sumo wrestling practice

Located in Ryogoku, sumo wrestling practice is held within 2 stops from Akihabara. You can watch two giant forces fight in one of the most fascinating and unique styles known to man.

Getting around

Akihabara is one of the biggest stations in all of Tokyo, serving many lines form JR and Tokyo Metro. It’s easy to get around as it’s a hub that is also close to Tokyo Station (city center for all transportation).

Akihabara is only 5 minutes away from Tokyo Station, 17 minutes from Shinjuku, and 22 minutes from Roppongi when taking JR or Tokyo Metro. 

Where to eat in Akihabara

Akihabara isn’t the food capital of Tokyo filled with Michelin starred restaurants, but it still has a few catering to Michelin starred junkies.

Food found in Akihabara will be ramen, udon, sushi, and katsu. You cannot find many places open 24 hours, but there are some options. These types of places will be on the cheaper end as it’s limited service where you order at a kiosk, get a ticket, sit down and hand the ticket to the staff. Within minutes you will typically find your food at the table.


Ishibashi is a Michelin star sukiyaki restaurant located in Akihabara that has been passed down at each generation. The dining experience is very much traditional making you step back in time with a charming family restaurant vibe. No need to dress up too.


The one downside about Akihabara is the lack of luxury accommodations. You can undoubtedly find your fair share of business hotels, ryokan, hostels, guest houses, and Airbnb, but you won’t find a hotel that is similar to luxury hotels in Ginza or Shinjuku. That being said, if you are on more of a budget and want slightly cheaper accommodations for 3 to 4-star hotels, Akihabara is your place.

If you want to use hotel points in Akihabara like Bonvoy, IHG, Hilton, or Hyatt you won’t find any points property.

Remm Akihabara

Remm Akihabara hotel is right at Akihabara station, easy to access, but very small. Rooms, even mid category rooms, aren’t big. I stayed at this hotel back in 2015; I found it charming and cramped. However, the price isn’t bad and averages between $107 to $273 a night.

Airbnb or guest houses 

Airbnb or guest houses is where Akihabara shines as hosts have a video game or anime themed listings that make the geek inside you go bananas. I highly suggest looking in Akihabara for Airbnb if that’s the way you like to go.

Anime decorated Airbnb Akihabara
Anime decorated Airbnb Akihabara


Shinjuku is regarded as the happening place in all of Tokyo that is known for shopping, entertainment, clubs, hotels, and restaurants. It’s the place in Tokyo where you can find good nightlife as it’s the part of the city that doesn’t sleep.

Being the part of the city that doesn’t sleep, Shinjuku is great for bar and clubs where you can find an abundance of clubs that caters to both wild nights out with your friends or a place to meet new people. Just remember, some clubs are better than others.

Shinjuku hosts one of the most prominent red-light districts in all of Tokyo in Kabukicho. Not the most kid-friendly place, but if you are into redlight districts, this can offer a lot, just stay away from sleazy street hustlers.

Shinjukus red light district Kabukicho
Shinjuku’s red light district (Kabukicho)

Why stay in Shinjuku

Shinjuku is geared towards the people that party. Busy during all times of the day, with drunk white-collared workers at night, but that adds more to the fun when you’re out and about after a fun night. If you don’t have kids, this is the best neighborhood for you.

Things to do

Bars and clubs

Clubbing and bar hopping is one activity that is famous in Shinjuku. At midnight it’s common to see people go from one place to another. It’s a place where you can actively find drinks and people that want to have a good time.

Not many nightclubs in Shinjuku, but as always there are new ones popping up. One of the most popular club is WARP Shinjuku for one of the first real nightclubs in Shinjuku. Another would be Decabar Z with it’s toy box feel as it’s very colorful, people dress up in costumes, and have candy themed menu.


Shops in Shinjuku are open later than other neighborhoods. It’s easy to shop after 10pm. Shops include both department, electronic stores, and niche shops. However, it’s not the boutique or high-end shopping capital of Tokyo.

Check out Shinjuku-dori street where you can find many department stores, malls, and electronic stores buzzing late into the night. Also, around Shinjuku station, you will find many shops.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is like any other cities government building, but with an observation deck on the top floor that is entirely free! It’s worth a visit to see Mt. Fuji on a clear sunny day.

Red-light scene

Kabukichō is the red-light district of Shinjuku with many love hotels, host clubs, and what creates the name of Shinjuku as being the “sleepless town”.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens you can find in possibly all of Tokyo.

Robot Resturant

Robot Resturant is not just a restaurant, but a performance theater that has robots and people performing elaborate shows. The great thing about this futuristic show is the fact its kid-friendly making it a good option for families.

Shinjuku Golden Gai

Shinjuku Golden Gai is excellent if you want to see narrow alleys of old Tokyo buildings that offer many eateries along with taverns.


Shinjuku Golden Gai

Getting around

Shinjuku Station is one of the busiest stations in the world with an overwhelming three million passengers a day. It’s easy to get around, but during rush-hour, when people are going home from school and work, it’s going to be tougher to ride the metro compared to other wards in Tokyo.

Many bus and train lines are leading you to many parts inside and outside of the city. You can smoothly go to Mt. Fuji or Narita Airport (NRT) with minimal effort from Shinjuku.

Shinjuku station to Tokyo Station takes 14 minutes, 17 minutes to Akihabara, and 9 minutes to Roppongi.

Where to eat

Shinjuku has both high-end eateries and cheaper eateries. With a right amount of eateries that cater to Michelin star followers, it’s easy to find a good quality restaurant in Shinjuku.

You can find almost any type of restaurant here like French, Sushi, Italian, American, Ramen, Udon, Indian, Thai, BBQ, and Izakaya.


Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima is a unique restaurant owned by the grandson of the chef Rosanjin. It’s famous for kombu and katsuo-bushi with dishes made to eat whole. It’s a traditional Japanese with a modern taste. It was delightful to dine here.

Fūunji is a wonderful Ramen restaurant that will take your taste buds away. While there are many ramen restaurants to try in Tokyo alone, this should be used as a benchmark of what ramen should taste like.


With many luxury hotels and business hotels, you won’t have a hard time finding a property that could host you. Plus, you can still find hostels, guest houses, ryokans, and Airbnbs in Shinjuku for cheaper accommodations.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park Hyatt Tokyo is old but iconic that ages well. This luxury hotel is easy to use points on, with good sized rooms, club lounge that doesn’t disappoint, with both public and in-room onsens. The location is nicely settled in the heart of Shinjuku next to Tokyo’s government’s buildings with easy access to public transit. This is a category 7 property when using Hyatt points.

Hyatt Regency 

Hyatt Regency Tokyo is a decent 4-star hotel that has a price tag that is easier to swallow compared to the Park Hyatt a few blocks away from it. It’s right next to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with easy access to public transit. This is a category 3 property when using Hyatt points.

Hilton Tokyo

Hilton Tokyo is yet another good option when it comes to Shinjuku. Located a few blocks away from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, you have easy access to public transit. You can use your Hilton points at this property.

Ginza and Tokyo Station

Upmarket shopping with every public transit line in and out of the city, Ginza and Tokyo Station (also known as Chiyoda City) is the place to be if you desire connectivity via public transit and luxury shopping. With many luxury hotels, a train station that has shopping comparable to shopping malls, and streets lined with shopping.

Traditionally this was the top place to stay, but Shinjuku took its spot for its nightlife. However, Ginza is very much a lovely area during the day with lots of shopping and easy access to the rest of the city being in the city center physically with Tokyo Station and the number of lines the station has.

Why stay in Ginza/Tokyo Station

Ginza and Tokyo Station is excellent for people if they want to have super easy access to everywhere in and outside of the city with upmarket shopping and luxury hotels all in one of the safest parts of what is already a safe city. If you want to spend money and don’t care about your budget, Ginza is the place to stay. For kid-friendly neighborhoods, this is one of the most kid-friendly places.

Things to do

Premium and luxury shops

Upmarket shopping in Ginza won’t disappoint you. From cosmetics and clothes to musical instruments in flagship stores. If you love high-end brands, Ginza is the place. The main shopping street of Ginza Chuo Dori closes during the weekend, making it a pedestrian-only street. 

Imperial Palace

Visit the Imperial Palace, where the emperor lives at this beautiful Edo period built castle. You can tour the grounds of the palace, which are massive in size and impressively upkeep. The entrance is free which is a nice benefit. The only thing to keep in mind is the imperial grounds have to be booked via the Imperial Household Agency`s website.

Imperial Palace moat and the city
Imperial Palace moat and the city


Upscale art galleries and cafes are a treat with many offering an excellent place to both browse and relax.

Hamarikyu Gardens

Hamarikyu Gardens is a beautiful garden right at the end of the Sumida River leading into the Tokyo Bay.

Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station is a beautiful red brick station that is massive in size with very good eateries in the station. It also allows you to be connected to the rest of Japan as it’s the main hub for JR.

Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market was once the official market for seafood wholesales, but as they moved the market it’s still crowded with vendors that are selling delicious seafood. Consider taking a sushi class that might also offer a tour of the fish market for a unique cultural experience. 

Tea ceremony

While you can do tea ceremonies anywhere in Tokyo, Ginza has a few as they are pricey and in need a good environment. So, I would recommend HiSui Tokyo located in central Ginza.

Getting around

When staying near Tokyo Station, you will be amazed at the size of the station and how many layers there are to it. To first-time visitors, remember line colors and that many lines go to the same nearby stations.

That being said, Tokyo Station allows you to go anywhere you want in Tokyo and Japan. And if you aren’t taking JR you can easily access the Tokyo Metro station nearby.

Akihabara is 5 minutes away, Shinjuku is 14 minutes away, and Roppongi is 12 minutes away.

Where to eat

My first suggestion is eating at Tokyo Station or Tokyo Station Yaesu Chikagai as it’s huge with a good amount of special eateries. It’s basically a mall with many independent and franchised eateries in it.

Around Ginza and Tokyo Station you can find many Michelin star restaurants and casual restaurants ranging from French, Italian, Sushi, BBQ, Izakaya, Ramen, Udon, and American. 


インデラ is not exactly in Ginza/Tokyo Station, but it’s close by in a quiet neighborhood. This is one of my favorite curry spots in all of Tokyo. It’s cheap, the curry is delicious, and the homemade pickled condiments are just ever so yummy.

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Ginza is a pricey area to stay as it’s mostly high-end luxury hotels. However, some of the best hotels are located in this area. Sadly, if you want cheaper accommodations, Ginza and Tokyo Station isn’t the best place to look.

Aman Tokyo

Aman Tokyo is an ultra-luxury hotel that doesn’t disappoint. Being Aman’s biggest property at just 84 rooms, it is one of the most expensive hotels in Tokyo. It caters to food lovers as having different famous chefs making special menus and cooking every month. If you want one of the best city hotel experiences, here is your place.

Aman Tokyo sky lobby and lounge
Aman Tokyo sky lobby and lounge

The Tokyo Station Hotel

The Tokyo Station Hotel is a Small Luxury Hotels property that is right at Tokyo Station. As it’s a partner of Hyatt, you can enjoy earning or redeeming your Hyatt points at this lovely boutique hotel.

Hyatt Centric Ginza

Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo is Hyatt’s newest property in Tokyo that shines both from being a modern hotel but also from the age as it opened up in 2018. This property you can use your Hyatt points as it’s a category 6 property.

Conrad Tokyo

Conrad Tokyo is Hilton’s luxury brand that caters to the bathtub rubber duckies and modern luxury Japanese design being right next to the metro and Hamarikyu Gardens. Perfect hotel if you want to burn your Hilton points or pay cash as it’s cheaper than some of Hyatt’s offerings.

Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel

Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel was the first hotel I stayed at back when I visited Tokyo for the very first time back in 2015. When it comes to this Ginza Hotel, it’s a premium hotel that has good attentive staff.


Shibuya has the most iconic spot in all of Tokyo, Shibuya Crossing shows up in almost every movie or TV show featuring Tokyo as it’s the crosswalk that hundreds of people cross every minute in every direction.

Shibuya also features one of the most beautiful shrines in Tokyo, Meiji Shrine, along with cosplayers gatherings every Sunday to cosplay in Yoyogi park next to Meiji Shrine. If you love cheap shopping with cute cafes, Takeshita Street is the place to go. While shopping near Shibuya Crossing is cheap as well with lots of small shops selling clothing.

If you were in the mood for upscale boutique shopping, head down Cat Street where you sadly won’t see many cats. If you do want to see cats and drink some coffee or tea with them, head to one of the many cat cafes or even other animal cafes where you can pet and spend time with different types of animals in a relaxing environment.

In fact, Shibuya is my second favorite area to visit in Tokyo after Akihabara.

Shibuya Crossing Tokyo
Shibuya Crossing

Why stay in Shibuya?

Shibuya is for the people that want a unique vibe with cheap shopping along with upscale boutique shops. You can easily find different types of cafes along with simple traditions like cosplaying in the park or shopping at 100 yen shops.

Things to do

Cosplay Sunday

Cosplay in the park every Sunday at Yoyogi Park right next to Meiji Shrine. You can see cosplays from anime, manga, and movies. No matter what type of cosplayer you are, amateur or professional, everyone is welcome to join talking, skits, or just goofing off.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing to experience one of the busiest pedestrian crosswalks that are as iconic as Tokyo itself.

Takeshita Street

Takeshita Street for cheap shops and cafes. You can find lots of cute outfits that are colorful, popping colors. It’s called Harajuku style. Easily find cheap 100 yen shops while fighting the crowded street on the busy weekend.

Fluffy pancakes are a must, while fluffy pancakes are everywhere in Tokyo, Takeshita Street has many cafes offering fluffy pancakes that are surprisingly wonderful.

Cat Street

Visit Cat Street for upmarket boutique funky shopping street with limited traffic and higher-end eateries.

Animal cafes

Cat cafes or other animal cafes are common in Shibuya. While you can easily find animal cafes all throughout Tokyo, Shibuya has a ton to choose from.

Cheap mall shopping

Mall shopping close to Shibuya Crossing is a popular thing to do as there are cheap department stores with many different styles. You can technically spend a day in Shibuya just shopping department stores by Shibuya Crossing.

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu, aka Meiji Shrine, is a big Shrine that is inexpensive and big in size for both the grounds and the shrine. It’s so beautiful enough that you can visit it multiple times and find a new path you didn’t notice before.

Meiji Gate and forest
Meiji Gate

Getting around

Shibuya is similar to Shinjuku as it offers great connectivity throughout the city with both JR and Tokyo Metro. It’s close to Shinjuku if you want to take any buses outside of the city.

Shibuya to Shinjuku is only 6 minutes apart, Tokyo Station is 18 minutes apart, Akihabara is 24 minutes apart, while Roppongi is 11 minutes apart.

Where to eat

Shibuya has tons of eateries ranging from on a budget to expensive. You can find all types of food and cafes through Shibuya that won’t disappoint you, even Michelin star restaurants are available in Shibuya.


My second favorite Sushi restaurant is Sushi Masuda which is a Michelin two-star restaurant. It’s not exactly in Shibuya, but on the border of Shibuya so no need for public transport as you can walk to.


Shibuya doesn’t have much when it comes to accommodations. While the area is wonderful, it lacks high-end accommodations and typically has business hotels or Airbnb. If you want to use your hotel points at a hotel, Shibuya won’t give you any options.

The Millennials Shibuya

The Millennials Shibuya could be a good option if you’re traveling alone, want a “trendy” public space, and don’t mind capsules. This is probably the most modern capsule hotel in all of Tokyo, maybe even the nicest. It’s on the pricey side, but it certainly shines in peoples feedback.

Airbnb and residences

There are many other hotels in the area, but I personally think they are a little bit pricey for the property. Therefore, Airbnb, guest houses, or residences really shine in this area.


This small lively entertainment district filled with shopping, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants is more elegant than Shinjuku as it’s more laid back. Roppongi is near Tokyo Tower, so skyscrapers get great views of Tokyo Tower. Michelin star restaurants are through Roppongi along with other great eateries.

Interested in art galleries, museums, and theaters, Roppongi has many for you to visit. Roppongi Hills complex has over 220 restaurants in one area for you to choose from. You honestly won’t go hungry in Roppongi.

Why stay in Roppongi?

If you want Shinjuku nightlife, but laidback, Roppongi is your place as it is similar nightlife as Shinjuku while being more family-friendly and laid back with less drunks walking around club or bar hopping at night, but still with some awesome nightclubs like ageHa. If you’re looking for kid-friendly neighborhoods, this is one of the best.

Things to do


Museums are key in Roppongi as there are a bunch. You can go to museums like the Mori Art Museum, National Art Center Tokyo, and Suntory Museum of Art.

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower is a cute red and white Elfiel Tower that is actually fun to visit as it gives you views from above. It’s most beautiful at night as Tokyo Tower has specific themes before entering throughout the year.

Atago Shrine

Atago Shrine has a beautiful stone walkway leading up to the shrine that is lit up by lanterns at dusk.

Food heaven

Eat your heart away as Roppongi is known for many foodie restaurants and Michelin star guide recommendations.

Underneath Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower

Getting around

Roppongi is easy to get to as H and E lines of the Tokyo Metro operate through Roppongi, but no nearby JR stations. As it only serves two lines, which are still major frequently visited lines, it again connects you almost everywhere in the city with only one connection at most times.

Roppongi to Tokyo Station is 12 minutes away, Akihabara is 22 minutes away, and Shinjuku is 9 minutes away.

Where to eat

Eating in Roppongi is easy. You can find almost any type of food you want. High-end restaurants to casual eateries you can find it all. Your tastebuds won’t go bored in Roppongi with all types of international and Japanese food.


I cannot rave enough about visiting my very first Michelin two-star restaurant, the son of the Sushi master Jiro, my favorite sushi restaurant in all of Tokyo is Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongiten

Sushi Saito with lunch prices that are better than other Michelin three-star restaurants, this is a treat and another favorite Sushi restaurant of mine.

Men giving peace sign
Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongiten group photo with chef (2015)


Roppongi doesn’t disappoint when it comes to accommodations with many favorite hotels by travelers. You can easily find points hotels as well making it easy to use your hotel points or earn them at these properties.

Grand Hyatt Tokyo

Grand Hyatt Tokyo this Hyatt property is connected to the subway offering 10 restaurants at the hotel along with the 220 restaurants in the Roppongi Hills complex. It is a category 6 for using your Hyatt points.

The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo

The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is not my favorite Marriott property in Tokyo, but if you love Ritz properties (even though I don’t like Ritz brands) this property is wonderful and brings in many Japanese elements into it while keeping the Ritz feel.

You shouldn’t worry where you stay in Tokyo

Tokyo is the easiest city to move around in as there is either JR or Tokyo Metro within blocks. It’s one of the safest cities in the world in one of the safest countries in the world. You can easily find good food everywhere in Japan, let alone Tokyo. There is always something unique in Tokyo to see when you walk around randomly in new neighborhoods.

Each neighborhood is welcoming with its look and feel. Of course, some neighborhoods won’t have people speaking English everywhere, but most of Japan is not English friendly, so get ready to learn the basics like thank you.

In fact, some of my favorite hotels aren’t even in the neighborhoods I suggested. Does that mean my favorite hotels are in better or fun neighborhoods? No, I prefer laidback areas for my accommodation and take a short train ride to the area I want to hang out. Typically, you can go anywhere in Tokyo within 20 minutes by metro so I don’t care about what neighborhood I stay in. I personally care about my accommodation and how budget friendly it is over what is near. Luckily, Tokyo allows everything to be near.

Go out and explore Tokyo neighborhoods.

My favorite hotel in Tokyo

Tokyo has some great hotels that put hotels in other flagship cities to shame. My ideal hotel in Tokyo has to be  The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a Luxury Collection Hotel. The property offers the most beautiful views of Tokyo as rooms are only available above floor 30th floor all offering views of the city skyline. If you get a corner room you can have views of both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower.

Night view of Tokyo
Prince Gallery floor 30th floor base room view

When it comes to food, it also offers great food, for hotel prices, but probably one of the best wagyu burgers I have ever tried. I would say the wagyu burger was better than Aman Tokyo wagyu burger. 

Burger and Frys
Prince Gallery Tokyo wagyu burger

The hotel is located in quiet Kioicho, but like I mentioned before it’s easy to get everywhere as it’s Tokyo. For a Marriott property, this is in my top 5 favorite city hotels in the world.

Daniel’s recommendation

Daniel stayed in the InterConinental Tokyo Bay during his visit to Tokyo. He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel as he found it clean, well maintained, and beautifully finished room with a yummy breakfast. He even comments about the location is not ideal, but with public transit options, it’s easy to roam around Tokyo.

I really suggest reading his review here as it gives you an insight into this bay hotel and the hotel itself.

Final word

I do hope this article helps anyone searching for their first visit to Tokyo or their return to Tokyo.

If you have any suggestions of places to stay or visit in the areas I suggested please comment below. I would love to know what you have experienced and done in Tokyo. 🙂

This article was originally published by Steve Smith.

The London Eye (Tickets, Fast Track, and is it Worth it)?

The London Eye is one of the most iconic landmarks in London. Tons of people flock to the London Eye for the unique experience and fantastic views of landmarks like Big Ben and Westminster Palace.

In this article I’ll talk about what you can expect on your London Eye visit and give you my recommendations for the best London eye tickets.

London Eye History

The London Eye, Europe’s tallest Ferris Wheel, was built in the year 2000 to celebrate the millennium. It’s a massive structure (by London standards) that stands 443 feet tall and is made up of 32 pods which each represent one of the bureaus in London.

The London Eye was originally meant to be temporary; however, it was such an attraction that they ended up keeping it around. While the London Eye has proven to be quite a touristic draw, many still wonder whether a trip to the London Eye is worth the cost.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Is the London Eye worth it?

The London Eye
The London Eye seen from below.

London Eye Tickets

The first thing to know about the London Eye is that there are a ton of different types of packages for London Eye tickets. The standard adult admission ticket — which requires you to select a certain time slot starts at £24 per adult.

London Eye fast pass tickets

The prices go up depending on whether you’d like a fast track and/or flexi ticket.

The fast track ticket will have you waiting in no more than a 15-20 minute line (we only waited about 3 minutes) and considering how long the line can get during peak hours, I’d recommend the fast track for you if you’re at all on a time crunch.

Keep in mind that the standard entry queue time can be around 45 minutes.

You can get your fast pass tickets here.

London Eye flexi tickets

The flexi option can allow you to show up at any time during a designated day or if you pay a little more, you can show up at any time on any day during the week of your choice. If you’re interested in getting the flexi + fast pass tickets to avoid the line, you can buy fast pass flexi tickets here


The London Eye offers a ton of specialty packages that you can look into if you’re in the mood of splurging (these range from £28-50 per person). Some of these include glasses of champagne, chocolate and wine tasting, and even whiskey tours.

You can also book your own private capsule tour so you can experience the view all to your lonesome with romantic additions of champagne and truffles but that’s a pretty pricey option at £360.

Personally, I don’t think it would be worth spending that much money for a mere 30 minutes of privacy but if you could afford to do so, you probably wouldn’t be questioning whether such an experience would be worth the money to begin with.

At the top of the The London Eye.

London Eye Hours

The Coca-Cola London Eye opening times vary throughout the year, typically the attraction opens at 10:00 and closes between 18:00-20:30.

You can check here for the latest hours.

Where is the London Eye?

The London Eye is located directly across from Westminster, where you’ll find Big Ben.

You can take the Tube to Westminster Station and walk the bridge to the London Eye for a more scenic route. Or if you can take the Tube to the Waterloo Station, which is right next to the London Eye.

London Eye map
Map of the London Eye.

The London Eye Experience

The London Eye takes thirty minutes for one rotation, thus you’ll have thirty minutes to take in the views, which is plenty of time. In fact, after about 20 minutes into it, you’ll likely feel like you’ve “seen it all.”

Tip: to help keep yourself occupied considering downloading the London Eye App.

  • Get the London Eye App for Android
  • Get the London Eye App for Apple
The London Eye View
An iconic view of Big Ben from the London Eye.

I think they stick about 28 people in each capsule which may sound like a lot but the capsules are pretty spacious and I think there’s enough room for you to comfortably enjoy your experience.

I didn’t realize it but this eye of London never stops rotating even when they load and unload the occupants. It moves so slowly and smoothly, however, that it’s not an issue. (Note: if you are disabled they will stop it momentarily so that there’s no issues loading you on and off.)

The London Eye View

The entire ride up and down is pretty smooth as well. From the time you step into the clear capsules, it’s only a matter of minutes before you ascend over the River Thames and have the birds eye view of London.

A few more minutes and you’re approximately 440 feet in the air and can see the skyscrapers upstream on the River Thames, including The Shard. If you look really closely with a zoom lenses or binoculars you can see the Tower of London and even, Tower Bridge. On a clear day, you can see as far as Wembley Stadium.

The Shard from The London Eye

There’s a couple of tablets in each capsule that will help you point out the buildings that you’re looking at which makes it a bit more interesting of a ride. I’d done a lot of research so I knew what most of the buildings were that we were looking at but it was still pretty helpful to give it a glance here and there.

Tablet in capsule of The London Eye

From time to time as the London Eye gains elevation, you can feel an occasional shift in the capsule as the rotating mechanisms change but nothing that should startle you too bad. In fact, you may not even feel anything at all. The capsules are all outfitted with air conditioning but if the sun is hitting your windows directly, it can get a little warm as ours did so you may need to ditch the jacket or sweater once you get in.

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One of the best views in London

The view from the London Eye is, in my opinion, one of the best in London.

Sure, the Shard is higher and offers a more far-reaching view. However, the Shard is much further upstream along the River Thames so you’re not offered that “money shot” with Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster right in front of you. To me that’s the quintessential London shot and one of the reasons I feel like it was worth the cost.

The London Eye View
View from the London Eye.
London Eye view Big Ben
View from the London Eye.
Bridge view from London Eye
View from the London Eye.

I do kind of wish we would have timed our visit about an hour later when the sun was setting. We got in the London Eye around 7:15 pm and the Sun was still sitting pretty high considering it is late May. However, I think capturing the sunset from the Eye would’ve added a lot of drama to the photographs and it also would’ve been nice to see London lit up at twilight.

The glares in the windows aren’t too bad but you’ll likely have to work around them depending on the lighting conditions. Also, unless something has changed, no tripods are allowed on the London Eye, so keep that mind if you’re thinking about getting some night shots.

London Eye FAQ

Can you bring food into the London Eye?

Food is not allowed on the London Eye but you can bring bottled water.

If you need to bring a food or drink related item for medical reasons, contact them and they should be able to work something out.

Can I take my luggage on the London Eye?

Large bags or suitcases are not permitted onto the London Eye. There is also not a cloakroom facility at the London Eye. Instead, you’ll have to go to London Waterloo station for the nearest luggage facility.

Are there seats on the London Eye?

Yes. There is actually a bench in the center of the capsule, which is available on a first come first serve basis.

How tall is the London Eye?

The London Eye stands 443 feet tall.

Final word

Overall, it’s a bit pricey of an experience but when you factor in the great views that the London Eye offers I think that it’s worth the money for the majority of people who will go to experience it, especially if you double dip with the day and night experience.

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