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5 Things To Know Before Visiting Russia

5 Things To Know Before Visiting Russia

We were set for the trip of a lifetime…but not at all prepared for what a wild ride visiting Russia can be. Which is why we want help you plan your trip to Russia by sharing these 5 things we learned along the way.  

Caring For Aging Parents When You Live Abroad

Caring For Aging Parents When You Live Abroad

Indian families are close-knit in ways that can be hard to understand, and it’s always fascinated me how Indian adult children juggle expat life with the needs of aging parents living on the subcontinent.

A Beginner’s Guide To Oman

A Beginner’s Guide To Oman

Oman is a small nation in the Middle-East with a truly larger-than-life unique flavor all its own. From sun-kissed beaches to golden deserts, from palm-fringed oases to soaring mountains, you can find a bit of everything in Oman! 

This is a truly special country that, we think, is a bit underrated. Visiting Oman was such a moving experience for us that we’re always eager to share with other travelers tips for visiting this amazing place. Which is why we’ve written up this beginner’s guide to traveling to Oman! Read on for a few tips on how to dress, where to eat, and more! 

Conservative clothing is a must in Oman.
Conservative clothing is a must in Oman.

How to dress

Oman is a Muslim country, which means that conservative clothing is a must. While they do seem to take a ‘live and let live’ approach to foreigners wearing tank tops, shorts, and bikinis in some places, Oman is still pretty conservative–especially when it comes to women. If you want to be a good traveler and avoid coming across as an ignorant tourist, try to dress more like a local. This means pants and loose tops that cover your shoulders and arms. We know that the hot weather makes this seem unappealing, but you can buy lots of great light-weight clothing that keeps you covered and cool at the same time. You’ll also have more protection from the sun if you cover up, which is an added bonus! I (Katie) opted for wearing what I usually wear in India, which is pants with a kurta, while Gaurav could get away with shorts and t-shirts.

There are lots of Indian restaurants offering excellent food options for the veggie traveler!

Where to eat

We know how important food is to other vegetarian/vegan travelers which is why we like to recommend great no-meat places to dine. Omani culture does embrace meat-heavy cuisines, but the good news is this doesn’t mean you’ll need to pack a suitcase full of vegetarian friendly foods or go hungry. 20% of Oman’s population is made up of Indians, which means you can find great Indian food everywhere—even outside of Muscat! This means lots of delicious vegetarian Indian fare (though it’s not usually vegan as Indian food is cooked with ghee/clarified butter), and there are a few vegetarian options for local cuisine as well. Don’t miss out on trying khubz ragag–Omani bread which is served with a variety of toppings. Our favorite combo was honey and goat’s cheese which we’d eat for breakfast along with a side of milky chai (tea)!

Getting around

Getting around Oman can be incredibly difficult without a car, which is why you should consider renting one if you’re going to be exploring beyond Muscat. We’ve written up an entire guide to help you decide where to rent and what type of car to get, so give that a read if you need a hand with car rentals! Oman is rapidly changing and there are lots of new mega-highways being laid out across the country. This make exploring a lot easier, but unfortunately the public transport system—such as buses and trains that travel around the country—is still not quite there yet. Quite simply, Oman is a nation that’s meant to be explored by car.

On the road

As we explained in our blog post about renting a car, you will most likely get lost once or twice while traveling around Oman. We’ve gotten spoiled over the years because Google Maps seems to function really well almost anywhere, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in Oman! Google Maps gave us directions to completely different places a few times, and there were other occasions where it simply wouldn’t work at all. A healthy sense of adventure (or a good GPS system in your car) is a must for travel in Oman!

Be sure to order some khubz ragag and chai at one of the many local roadside cafes!

Roadside stops

One of the huge highlights of traveling in Oman for me (Katie) are the chai and coffee shops located along the roads. You’ll see these everywhere and it’s very common for travelers to stop multiple times during a trip for a quick chai refresher. The best part is, you don’t even have to get out of your car! The minute you pull up, someone will come out of the shop and right up to your window to take your order. If they don’t, a simple honk will alert them that you’re outside. You’ll have your food brought to you on a plastic tray and that’s when you pay up. It’s cheap and good fare and you can buy snacks (such as khubz ragag) at these stops too.

Paying for things

Cash is king in Oman, so make sure you have plenty when you set out on the road. You can find hotels in smaller towns that take cards, but it’s better to be on the safe side as most restaurants and chai shops will only take cash. You’ll also need cash to pay for entrance tickets to historical sites such as forts. We use Monzo when we travel and always ask first if cards are accepted wherever we are. If they take cards we prefer to use that method and save our cash for when we’ll really need it. It’s up to you to decide how you’d like to plan out your cash spending!

Are there any other tips you’d like to know about visiting Oman? Leave a comment or question below in the comments section and we’ll do our best to answer!  

 

Renting A 4×4 Car In Oman

Renting A 4×4 Car In Oman

A guide to renting a car in Oman so you can plan the perfect road trip!

Is Social Media Good or Bad for Your Health?

Is Social Media Good or Bad for Your Health?

Is social media good or bad for your health? Here’s what we learned after a week-long social media cleanse.

5 Great Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurants in Lisbon

5 Great Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurants in Lisbon

When you think of excellent vegetarian food, Lisbon is probably not a place which comes to mind. After all, Portugal is a nation known for its meaty dishes—we’re talking about the famous Francesinha and the Portuguese seafood medleys—and not a mecca of vegetarian and vegan food. 

Gaurav and I have often found it challenging to stick to our vegetarian/vegan diets while travelling abroad. But in recent years we’ve seen a lot of countries make a distinctive shift towards catering for people like us! While this is amazing, finding delicious, heck, even decent vegetarian food can be something of a trial at times. Most people seem to think that all you need to feed a vegetarian is some grilled eggplant (or aubergine as Gaurav calls it) with a few lettuce leaves and we’re good to go.

Luckily, you won’t suffer this fate when you pay a visit to Portugal’s sunny capital. There are some truly excellent vegetarian and vegan options in the City of Seven Hills, and we’re here to share 5 of our favorites! 

 

1. PSI

This particular vegetarian restaurant will always be foremost in our memories of Lisbon for 2 reasons. Firstly, this is the spot where we ran into the famous Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma (fun fact, she’s a vegetarian too!) who was out for dinner with a few friends. Gaurav kept hissing at me, “She was in PK remember? REMEMBER?” 

All right calm down, fanboy. 

Bollywood superstars aside, we of course remember PSI fondly because of the great food. This hidden gem is easily one of Lisbon’s best vegetarian restaurants and has an amazing ambiance to boot! Most of the dishes are Asian fusion so you can choose from different themes, whether you’re in the mood for something a little Indian, Thai, or want to try them all. The portions are hearty and healthy, and the surroundings are beautiful! 

Suggested dish: Sweet and sour eggplant with tofu – 10.90

 

2. In Boca al Lupo

In Boca al Lupo is also another memorable restaurant for us, and not just because of the food. What can I say, Lisbon is an exciting city where pretty much anything can happen! There we were, sitting In Boca al Lupo with a couple friends, minding our own business and surveying the menu when a young woman emerged from the kitchen with a plate of food and began to sing…opera. 

For the next fifteen minutes we sat there in amazement as she walked from table to table singing her heart out. Let me tell you, this girl had some pipes on her and we were completely awed! It turned out that the owner’s niece was an opera student and she would stop in every couple weeks to serenade patrons as she served them their food. We just happened to be lucky enough to be there on a night where she’d popped in with her own family and hence got a free opera performance along with our dinner! 

Even if you’re not fortunate enough to hear this talented beauty sing, you’ll still fall in love with Il Boca al Lupo. They have an amazing selection of vegetarian friendly pizzas, all made on the spot in a wood-burn oven. And while more than half of their menu caters to vegetarians, there’s still some excellent options for those who prefer a little meat on their pizza. Pair it with some locally brewed beer and you’ve got a match made in heaven!  

Suggested dish: Rossa (pizza with mozzarella, dried tomato, and basil) – 14 

 

3. Ink

Nestled in a side street just steps away from the central stop of Lisbon’s famed Tram 28, Ink is a pure vegan restaurant that takes pride in providing healthy, meat and dairy-free dishes. While I wasn’t a big fan of their sandwich of the day, I did fall in love with their vegan chili which is absolutely delish. Even better, you get to sit at cute, colorful picnic tables while you eat.

Because Ink does serve food that’s a bit on the lighter side, we recommend popping in here for lunch and going for something a bit heavier for dinner (like our previous two suggestions). The interesting part about Ink is that it’s located in a, er, shadier part of town. At one end of the street you can find a lookout with a tiny cafe perched on it and can finish off your meal with a cold beer and excellent views. But to get there you may have to pass several shifty characters who will make suggestive offers to sell you various types of drugs. Don’t worry though, this is more funny than dangerous! 

Suggested dish: Soup and drink deal (vegan chili and fruit drink of choice) – 9.50

 

4. Terra

If you’re on the hunt for a wider variety of meatless dishes while in Lisbon, you can find a great selection at Terra! This chic spot is touted as one of Lisbon’s top vegetarian restaurants and boasts a pretty great buffet. The concept at Terra is simple: you pay a set price for the buffet and extra for any drinks you’d like to consume. 

The restaurant is huge, so make sure to head toward the back when you arrive. You’ll find a pretty terrace where you can sit on warm summer evenings sipping on beer or wine while feasting on good vegetarian food. Make sure to show up hungry so you can make the most of this buffet! 

Suggested dish: All-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet – 15.90

 

5. Paella

If all else seems lost and you really run out of vegetarian options, don’t despair, you can find good vegetarian paella pretty much everywhere in Lisbon (and probably the rest of Portugal too). 

Given its close proximity to Spain, it should come as no surprise that there’s quite a bit of Spanish influence in Lisbon. Head to Lisbon’s Praça do Comércio and take your time exploring the alleyways and streets around it. There are entire lanes dedicated to the wonders of paella and you won’t be starved for choice here. Most will offer vegetarian options and you can pair your paella with some chilled sangria to really bring your Portuguese holiday to the peak of relaxation! 

Suggested dish: Vegetarian Paella – around 11

 

We hope you like our 5 vegetarian suggestions for Lisbon, Portugal! Let us know in the comments which ones you try and which is your favorite. 

 

St. Petersburg Itinerary: Must-See Places

St. Petersburg Itinerary: Must-See Places

You shouldn’t pass up the chance to visit St. Petersburg while in Russia, and here is an amazing itinerary of must-see places.

Only In Spain: The Haro Wine Fight

Only In Spain: The Haro Wine Fight

Only in Spain can you take part in a wine battle. Haro’s annual wine fight is a once in a lifetime experience!

The Lake District Trip: A Suggested Itinerary

The Lake District Trip: A Suggested Itinerary

The Lake District has been on our UK bucket-list for ages, but despite living here for nearly 4 years we didn’t get around to doing it until very recently. From forests to fields, mountains to lakes, you can find a host of gorgeous nature in The Lake District, which is why it’s a huge vacation destination come summer!

You don’t need to take a lot of time off to enjoy Lakeland. Although more time is always better, 4 days can be enough to get a taste of the area and enjoy the many highlights it has to offer. So read on for tips, dos and don’ts, and lots of other great info for planning your trip to the beautiful Lake District!

Getting To & From The Lake District

One of the things we love about the UK is the ease with which you can explore via train. However, there aren’t any trains to the Lake District National Park, which is where you’ll want to spend your time, so you will definitely need to consider renting a car for this trip. 

It’s roughly 270 miles from London to Lakeland’s center, and this can take between 5-6 hours depending on traffic. Know that you’ll need to set aside half a day to go and return. Also, as mentioned in other posts, look for great car rental deals through Kayak and avoid cheap companies like EasiRent and Greenmotion. Always opt for rental agencies with a track record for providing good customer support and experiences!

Where To Stay

The benefits of a car means that you will have a plethora of options for where to stay. We suggest narrowing down your search to the area around or near Windemere Lake. We found a cottage on Airbnb that was a mere 15 minute drive from the cute little town of Ambleside. This town has plenty of food options and places to shop for supplies should you decide to do a picnic while on one of your walks. 

If you’re really at a loss, aim to stay around the same area (near Ambleside or Ulverston) but avoid the town of Windermere. It’s crowded with spas and tourists and definitely isn’t the sort of tranquil experience you might have in mind when visiting Lakeland.

Where To Eat

Born and Bread

Make sure you drive to Ulverston and pay a visit to Born and Bread for either breakfast or lunch. This adorable little bakery serves up some of the most amazing food and they have plenty of vegetarian options to keep those of us with diet restrictions happy. Their serving sizes are huge, so they’ll fill you up for the day! All the ingredients used in the food is locally sourced and tastes like it was baked in your grandma’s kitchen. Just take note that breakfast runs until 11am (after which they switch to a lunch menu) and the restaurant closes at 3:30 every day, so this is definitely a breakfast and lunch spot only.

Tip: Pick up a loaf of freshly baked bread to take on a picnic!

Gillam’s Tearoom

I (Katie) am a huge coffee lover and there’s nothing I enjoy more than trying out different types of brew. Gillam’s Tearoom in Ulverston definitely caters to the whims of true coffee and tea lovers and their menu features pages and pages of coffees and teas from around the world. I ended up drinking four cups of coffee because I wanted to try as many as I could! This restaurant also only serves vegetarian and vegan food and it’s incredibly tasty. It’s the perfect place to wile away a morning over coffee while enjoying healthy, delicious local fare.

Tip: Try getting a seat in the restaurant’s back garden. This is a sweet spot for a romantic brunch or lunch.

Walks Around The Lake District

Because we only had 2 full days in the Lake District, we did two big activities, one for each day.

Wray CastleClaife Viewing Station: 4 miles

The walk from Wray Castle to Claife Viewing Station is an easy one as it’s mostly flat terrains with very few gentle rises. One way takes between 1&1/2 to 2 hours to complete. There is some remarkable forest scenery along the way, though we weren’t too impressed with most of the trail as we can find prettier, ‘wilder’ walks close to London. Suffice to say, this trek wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for us.

The Claife Viewing Station offers an amazing view of Windermere Lake and can be an idyllic spot to stop and take a breather. You can also catch the ferry at the foot of the viewing station if you want to pop across to Bowness for a quick pint or some lunch. The ferry costs £1/person and is something fun to experience as well. Just be aware that after 6pm you may be hard-pressed to find ferries going up the lake back toward Wray Castle. If you choose to park around that area you will need to take this into account and either be willing to make the hike back or plan the walk around the times the ferries are all functioning.

Would we recommend it?

We want to be honest with you guys so you have an idea of what to avoid when making the trip, and we can’t say we highly recommend this walk. It’s pretty and there’s a nice view at the end, but it won’t go down as one of our favorite treks, either. As mentioned above, we felt that we can get the same views (or sometimes better) on our walks near London. 

Wastwater Lake

If we felt like our Day 1 walk didn’t live up to our expectations, boy did our Day 2 visit to Wastwater Lake blow them completely out of the water! Wastwater is Lakeland’s deepest lake and is often rated the most beautiful and awe-inspiring too. Narrow winding roads take you alongside the lake and you’ll see the mountains (or fells) reflected on its pristine surface.

There are plenty of shoulders on the way where you can park and get out to enjoy the view or hike along the lake. Our recommendation is to pack a picnic and find a nice lakeside spot to savor good food, wine, and a spectacular panorama! If you’re brave enough, you can even take a refreshing dip in the lake like I did. It was cold, but the brilliant summer weather made it a lot of fun.

Don’t be afraid to venture as far as you want along the lake. The further you go, the fewer the people, and you can enjoy a lazy afternoon in peaceful silence. Be aware that roads are very narrow and often admit only one car at a time, so it can be slow going. There’s also lots of sheep around and they tend to wander onto the sides of the roads, so you need to be careful for that, too.

Would we recommend it?

1000% yes! If you get in nothing else but a visit to Wastwater Lake it will still make the trip to the Lake District completely worth it. In fact, we would have been happy going back there day after day if we were staying longer. This is one spot you definitely need to pencil into your itinerary.

Are you planning a trip to the Lake District? Comment below and tell us what’s on your itinerary! 

Hiking The London LOOP: Trail #2 Bexley – Petts Wood

Hiking The London LOOP: Trail #2 Bexley – Petts Wood

London is an amazing city to live in because you can experience the best of everything: city life on the weekdays and nature on the weekends. Indeed, you don’t have to even leave the city to enjoy the best of the English countryside. The London […]