Opal Card in Sydney

Riding the public transportation is Sydney is super easy.  We found it to be the most economical way to get around.  You can buy an Opal card at train station at the airport and load it with as much as you want. Use your Google maps to figure out how to get to your destination and top up your Opal card at any of the train stations and many grocery stores.  The Opal card is good for the ferry as well (not the Fast Ferry).

All the details you need for the Opal Card can be found here:

How to Use the Public Transit in Sydney Australia

Traveling with Fruit in Australia and New Zealand

My husband and I travel with only carry on luggage. We rarely purchase any liquids because we want to avoid checking our bag.  We don’t like to check bags because our trips are short and sweet and checking a bag usually adds another 30-60 minutes for check-ins and baggage collections.

While touring Australia, we heard about the honey and thought about bringing some back as a souvenir.  The honey was as good as everyone said and we literally scraped the edges to get every last drop.  The bananas were pretty awesome too.  Would you believe that traveling from Sydney to Cairns, we had our fruit confiscated at the airport.  I know that from country to country this can happen, but I never imagined that within the same country the agriculture restrictions would be so serious.  Apparently, Queensland has the best bananas in the country.  Also, good for you to know, is that Australia does not import bananas due to the plant pest and disease threats that would give way to their local farmers.  I suppose there is fear that even New South Wales grown bananas could carry pests that would harm the banana farms in the North (Queensland).  History tells us that Chinese migrants introduced the first banana to Australia back in the 1800s. Today, the tropical regions of Queensland produce most of Australia’s bananas.

So going back to the honey that we scraped out of the jar…

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Likely the best honey, Tasmanian Leatherwood, we have ever tasted.

We were so glad that we didn’t buy more as even honey was confiscated from state to state.

After Queensland, we flew to New Zealand and upon entry immigration and agriculture must confiscate fruits and honey.  I watched one family lose all their honey that they had in their carry ons.  I was so sad for them.  There is one trick that will likely work out for you if you have go from state to state with honey.  Buy the honey at the Duty Free Shop in the airport, but if you are going to another state after that and you still have that honey, it will be taken from you.  Only get the honey at the duty free shop if your final destination is outside of these regions.  So going from Melbourne straight to Vancouver, should work out for you.

 

Let Go of Fear

What are you afraid of when you travel?  Do you fear that you might get robbed? Are you nervous to take the public transit? Are you afraid of getting lost if you venture outside of the touristy zones?

I usually am not traveling alone, so I rarely have concern for my safety because it’s always feels safer with a companion.  Of course, I am mindful and live consciously in every moment.  Two people can still get caught up in a mess, like Dumb and Dumber.

Usually in North America, we rent cars when we visit a new city, especially if it is a less populated city with poor public transportation.  On a recent trip through Australia and New Zealand our car rental experience was the first of its kind because we both had never driven on the left side of the road before.  Fortunately, our American drivers licenses were acceptable.  Naturally, my husband usually does most of the driving, but I like to give him a break here and there.  After 2 days in Cairns, Australia I got behind the wheel for a quick test.  I only drove for about a block, just to give myself a taste of driving on the opposite side that I am used to.  It wasn’t much practice, yet I felt I was ready when we got to New Zealand, which was CRAZY because the terrain was extremely different than Cairns.  The road along the coast had more valleys, hills, tight turns, and shared one way bridges than I was ready for.  Many times I was driving so close to the edge of the mountain that one false move would send us down and out for life.  In that moment, I could not let fear creep up on me.  I had to trust that the road was engineered precisely and that the calculations for driving in the space were accurate.  I had to trust that God was with me and that nothing could go wrong. I had to believe that I was capable of driving like a champion. Maybe not as good as a Nascar driver, but at my slower speed I was getting a good test of patience and I was testing my husband’s too.  I trusted in that moment that I was experiencing the time of my life like no one else can but me and I had to enjoy it to the fullest. I didn’t allow fear to disrupt my joy.  I could not let it disrupt OUR joy.

When you travel, be sure to get the best experience you can and try something new. Even if something does freak you out a little bit, remember that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in that moment and you will get through it positively.  All things are for your good, so take it all in with joy.

 

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Airport Car Rentals in Toronto Part 2

My experience with EZ Car Rentals turned out to be okay in the end.  The speed of return was like it sounds, easy.  Upon arrival the staff quickly checked the car and within 3 minutes the shuttle driver was ready to get us to the airport.  The whole process this time was about 10 minutes and that included a quick stop to another lot for EZ Car Rentals.

Word of advice:  You should still arrive at EZ Car Rentals at least 30 minutes before you want to arrive at the airport because you may arrive at a time when the shuttle is not ready to go.  If I had arrived a couple of minutes later, I would have waited at least 20 minutes.  I believe they only have one driver and this driver is also picking and dropping off guests for their partner hotel, NU Hotel.

 

How to Spend 4 Days in Sydney, Australia

I arrived in Sydney on Thursday morning and had 4 full days to see the city.  Sydney was awesome, right from the start.  Whether you love museums, parks, architecture, galleries, food, shopping, beach or water sports, you can find it all here.  I had beach time on the top of my list! Next I knew I wanted to check out the waterfront and see the nationally recognized Sydney Opera House.  I explored the city as much I could without cramming too much in.  If you would like to follow the same itinerary, here is what I suggest:

Day 1: Take a couple of hours to explore the area where you are staying.  I always do this in every city that I arrive in. It helps me get to know the lay of the land.  In Sydney, I stayed in the heritage hotel called The Grace.  I highly recommend this hotel for its location, price, size of the suite and the maintenance.  The Grace Hotel is centrally located and walking distance to cool places like the Spice Alley.

After exploring your area and perhaps a little bit of shopping head down to the Royal Botanic Gardens.  As you walk through the gardens, you will reach a point (right at the top of Mrs. Macquarie’s Road) where you have a gorgeous view of the Sydney Opera House.  If you love taking photos, this will be a nice angle for you.  After that, you can walk through the park to get to the Opera House.  I walked into the theatre to chill a bit in the lounge.  I didn’t leave without snapping a couple more pics of this magnificent place.

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Take a stroll along the Circle Quay and stop in to the Aboriginal Art Gallery.  There you will find a collection of art from world renowned artists.  A visit to Australia is not complete without learning something about its first rightful owners of the land.

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The weather was great and the sun was yet to set for several more hours so we took a quick ferry ride to the famous Bondi Beach.  Leaving the beach and getting back into the central business district (CBD) is very easy.  Just hop on a bus heading to Town Hall or St.James Station.

Day 2:

Darling Harbour. Sydney is surrounded by water, so of course there are multiple spots to catch an amazing view of the city.  Darling Harbour also has the Australian Maritime Museum and the Welcome Wall honoring more than 6 million overseas migrants that have settled in the country.  I didn’t go through the entire museum, the first level is free and if you like American history you may enjoy the display.  I perused through for about 10 minutes and then moved on to see more of Sydney.

Barangaroo South. A short walk away is the Barangaroo South district, which is still going through development, but there is enough to please your appetite for food, retail therapy, and great photos opps.

 

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If you love walking head over to The Rocks, and tour the cobble laneways and visit with local artisans.  You can cover this area in 30 minutes and then walk up to the Harbor Bridge.  You can walk across the bridge and get an up close experience of this wondrous engineering without doing the BridgeClimb (which I was not interested in). Once you get across the bridge, you will be in Milson’s Point area.  If it is a Sunday, there may be a local fashion market happening.  You can catch the train from here back to where ever you need to go (perhaps your hotel to take rest).

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The Rocks

Day 3:

Manly, Manly Beach, and if you have time head up more north to Palm Beach.  If you make it to Palm Beach, plan to veg on the beach because there is nothing around in this secluded area, except gorgeous mansions, one restaurant and a small shop.  It took about 40 minutes from Manly to get here by bus and it was well worth it.  There are multiple ways to get to Manly. You can use the fast ferry or take the Manly Ferry (which is more economical and you can use your Opal card).  Both options will give you the spectacular views of the Sydney harbour and surroundings.

Day 4:

If you like to discover neighbourhoods that feel more local, yet still have something to offer tourists, then you need to hit the Spice Alley.  I heard this place referred to as a little Singapore in Sydney.  I have yet to travel through Singapore, but the plethora of food option, flavors, and smells is exactly how I imagine Singapore to be.  Spice Alley is in the heart of Chippendale and don’t get this name twisted with the male tour group.  Chippendale is a happening area popular for its converted warehouses, galleries, green space, and shopping.

There are more touristy things that you can do like, visit the Blue Mountains, The Toronga Zoo, and do the Bridge Climb.  All of which, I have heard amazing stories. If you have done this, let me know about your experience.

Getting around by public transit in Sydney is super easy.  You will need to purchase an Opal card, which you can do upon departure from the airport.  For all the insider tips on getting around with public transit click here.

 

I love using Uber Abroad

Uber proved to be a reliable and affordable quick option to get around in Buenos Aires and in Athens. For travelers heading to Athens, let me give you the heads up that you will be asked to fill in a document, upon entering the driver’s vehicle.  It is for the driver’s safety.  You will need to provide your name, the time you entered the car, and your passport number.  At first, my husband and I were a little reluctant to provide the passport number and the driver noticed. Fortunately, his English was very good and he let us know that it is an agreement that all the drivers must have by law for the driver’s safety. That was understandable, plus we knew that Uber has done the check on all of its contractors and figured if this guy was planning anything sneeky, we could track him down in the future. So we let it be and provided the necessary information.

As we continue to travel, we will rely on Uber, unless the city we visit is completely walk-able and metro friendly. Santiago, Chile was like that for us.  Santiago has a great metro system and we actually walked around a lot. We used a cab twice and then figured out after we were already leaving that we could have tested out Uber. Has anyone used Uber in Santiago?

 

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