7 Tips for Visiting Oslo in Spring

There are some bits of knowledge one must learn for themselves, but as a sharer of travel tips here is how to get around in Oslo, Norway:
1. Bus Tickets – Use Ruter. Depending on the stay choose between a 24 hour, seven day or month bus pass. Load a pass onto a traveler’s card at Oslo Central Station or head to a nearby 7-11. The travel card is 50NOK (about $6USD). The kiosks at bus stops won’t accept non-Norwegian credit cards so, it’s super important to obtain a bus pass as soon as possible. The card is reloadable and does not expire, therefore, keep a hold of the card for future use.
To activate the travel pass, scan the travel card as bus is boarded. It will be a scanner immediately to the left or right. If the pass is not activated, risk a hefty fine should tickets be checked.
Public transport is included in the Oslo pass. Just watch, the Oslo pass is only redeemable for up to three days of travel. Depending in the visit length it may be more economical to only use the Ruter pass. Do the math, a week pass is 240NOK ($28USD). A single ticket is 33NOK ($4 USD). Ride the bus at least once a day and the fare pays for itself.
2. Wear Sturdy Shoes
Oslo is incredibly pleasant, especially on foot. The terraced streets provide a perfect up-hill/down-hill work out. Do be aware of the cobblestones and prepare for proper footwear.
3. The Oslo Pass – Purchase the Oslo pass to gain access to free museum passes, public transport and discounted tours. Choose 24, 48, or 72 hour passes. To name a few museums included: Viking Ship Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, Munch Museum and more. This pass is excellent for someone who is in town for a few days. In town longer? It may be wise to skip the pass and see the city at your leisure.
4. Bikes
Scandinavians love their bikes. Who can blame them? Bikes are eco-friendly, cheap (compared to a car), and pedals the rider to their location in a timely manner.
5. Coffee, coffee, coffee
Coffee seems to be the prima social stomping ground. There are noticeably more cafes than bars. Be sure to stop in and pull up a stool – if there is one around. Pick up the phrase “Kan jeg få en stor kaffe?”. Coffee shops are often open all day and are jam packed – all day. Be sure to ask for cream and sugar or end up drinking it black. My favorite.
Note: Don’t panic, it’s perfectly normal for parents to leave their babies outside as they grab some magic bean juice.
6. Pedal to the Metal
The cheapest way to navigate Oslo may be walking, but, if time is an issue pick out a city bike. For a fee, ride a bike anywhere for forty-five minutes. The rider doesn’t have to return the bike to the same parking station. Either return them if the journey is over or add more time to keep on biking. Oslo is bike friendly, as is Scandinavia.
7. Useful Apps – Available for most Smart Phones
Flytoget – an app to buy train tickets to and from locations (including the airport) departing from Oslo Sentrum. This app is handy since it also shows the train schedule.
Oslo Bysykkel – shows locations and number of bikes available to rent. For a fee, rent a bike and tour around Oslo for forty-five minutes. There are options to return or extend the rental.
RuterBillet – the bus app. This app, if your card works, can be used to purchase tickets and passes.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
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What You Need to Know About Travel Insurance

Not everyone has it. Not everyone will need it. Caught without it – you could be in for a terrible time. I’m talking about travel insurance. My quest for the best coverage and coincidental headache brought to you by travel insurance. Insurance is a nuisance, however, like gambling you are weighing and measuring your own risks.  Growing up with an insurance agent Mom eased the process. I could ask “what is a deductible?” or “do I have to purchase liability?”. As a girl dedicated to passing on knowledge, I present tips and considerations for Travel Insurance.

Some key words:

Deductible: An amount of money the insured must pay for the insurance company to settle a claim. A higher deductible will grant a cheaper policy but, prepare to for over a chunk of change should a claim be submitted. I personally elect for a $500 deductible.

Liability: Coverage that protects the insured should they injure another person. Further research only reveals one company that offers decent liability (keep reading till the end for a comparison). This benefit covers an instance where you maim, kill or damage another person or their property. Look for a company that is inclusive of legal fees.
Note: Be sure you know which activities are covered and other conditions. Expenses add up, particularly in extreme cases. There are policies that offer liability up to a quarter million – my personal insurance agent suggests this one.
Accidental Death: A topic no one wants to think about. Nearly all travel insurance policies cover Accidental Death & Dismemberment. Accidental meaning unforeseeable, unplanned or sudden. The limit for death contributes to any debt, bills and burial intended to settle your person. The chances of needing this coverage are slim, but second to liability, don’t be caught without it.
Loss of Limb: Limits for loss of limb covers medical bills associated with just that – dismemberment. Note: Watch what the company defines as limb. Some policies define the loss of an arm as severance above the wrist and a leg above the ankle. If a finger or a hand is prey to a hungry giraffe – you may not be covered.
Repatriation: Preparation and transportation of your remains or ashes back to your residence. Nevertheless, not fun to talk about, but, it happens. Please, please, please find decent coverage for repatriation. Repatriation is not cheap.
Common Carrier: A commercial aircraft, watercraft, bus or train with published routes and fare paying customers. Why this is important: some travel insurance does not cover Common Carrier Accidents. Most commercial operations have their own liability insurance. Should there be a need to call in a claim follow up with the operator’s customer service.
Company Ratings: Company ratings aren’t flashed around their site so, do some research. Ratings measure the ease and ability to provide pay outs. Any company should be an A or higher. The top companies will have an AAA rating.
Trip Delay/Interruption/Cancellation: Each company has their own set of rules regarding a trip that has come to a halt.
  •   A delay is an unforeseen lag in service so, if your plane is delayed by severe weather you will more than likely be covered. If the delay is due to a missed flight, you may not have coverage.
  •  Interruption reimburses the unused costs and transportation to travel home should an unforeseeable event occur.
  •  Cancellation completely covers the non-refundable payments and deposits in an unforeseeable event that ends your trip.

Note: The keyword here is unforeseeable.

I won’t bore you to death with any more insurance terms. I’m going to list my top companies, compare, and contrast. Disclaimer: my opinion is based exclusively on coverages not on experience. I’ve not used travel insurance before now and I have not needed to submit a claim.
Tokio Marine HCC – Atlas Premium Series: The policies are simple to tailor to your needs and offers policies maxing at two million. The company is AA- rated which is fantastic. Benefits included in the policy include liability which few others offer. HCC also offers medical, trip interruption or delay, lost luggage and even pet return.
AllianzIs best known for its rental car insurance, but, offers health insurance as well. Allianz would be my second choice. They seem to have a wide range of benefits and have a known reputation. You can even bundle auto insurance and medical. The biggest issue with Allianz is that it does not offer liability and policy is pricey for what is being offered. You do not have the option to choose your deductibles.
Allianz doesn’t offer liability for autos. Their scope of coverage is based on CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) which covers damages to the car, but not to the driver, passengers, the opposing cars or their drivers/passengers.
World Nomad: Perfect for a one trip wander. I wouldn’t recommend this for travelers leaving for extensive amounts of time. The longer you stay, the higher your risk. Nomads covers electronics, missed flights (for unforeseen reasons), and baggage protection. They offer basic trip protection, death and dismemberment, repatriation but no liability. I also question their ratings. I know that they are associated with Nationwide which is AAA rated, but, they are separate. So says the agent who I called to check if I could add to the policy. Customer satisfaction was less than desirable. When accidents ensue, SURE people are unhappy with pay outs but, two out of five stars seems suspect.
Results are in! I choose Tokio Marine HCC as I will be gone for an extended time. Moreover, I will be gone for a year, the risk of something happening whether it be theft, injury or sickness is significantly higher than someone vacationing in the UK for a week.  All travelers should carry travel insurance. There are insurance companies aplenty but, remember to do your research. You can’t predict the future, but you can protect yourself.

What are your experiences with travel insurance?

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

 

First Impressions of Iceland

Everyone asked, “Why did you start your adventure in Iceland?”. My reply was always “Well, I like to be outside”. Outdoorsy? Come to Iceland. Iceland is a jaw dropping haven where hikers can hit the trails and explore for days. The sheer cliffs, cascading waterfalls and utter ruggedness found here is quickly stealing my heart. I don’t know if I would ever choose to live here but, I would certainly return. Here are some of my thoughts on Iceland so far:
Turbulent Weather
Four seasons in a day is an understatement. I know how to be safe when it comes to dangerous weather – I had about seven hours before snow was expected.  The day I arrived was magnificent. The sun was out, a little windy, a bit chilly but overall pleasant. Forward two hours I was gripping my steering wheel praying to Odin that I was going to outrun a snowstorm brewing in Þingvellir National Park. Arriving at the Airbnb the storm finally cut loose dumping about five inches of wet snow. Cozy in my room I watched the white fluff build on the railings of the deck. It must have rained early in the morning because the snow was GONE when I woke up. Then it alternated snow, rain and sun for the next three days. When the rain stopped… the wind came. To make a long story short. Don’t depend on the weather or you will never leave the accommodation.
Foss
There are waterfalls a plenty! In the south east and south west (all the ground I have covered thus far) almost every property comes with its own waterfall. Talk about some great real-estate.

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Food is Delish, but Few and Far Between
Be prepared to spend a buck or make grocery stops. I’ve not had poor food yet. If you are traveling the Ring Road be prepared to carry food with you. Our group started out a little ill prepared but we quickly learned to buy non-perishables or food to cook on the spot.
Normal economics suggest that a bowl of spaghetti meat sauce should not be 3200ISK (around $29 USD). Just remember importing drives price levels up – especially to a relatively remote island. Opt for a grocery store run and cook for yourself. Most hostels, guesthouses or Airbnb’s have kitchens you can utilize. Do some research.  I suggest eating one huge meal a day followed by snacking.

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Food you do pay for? Fan-freaking-tastic. I’ve not had a bad meal yet.
Roundabouts
Welcome to round about hell. Icelanders take driving seriously. Be prepared to drive at two lane circle. Outer circle exits at the nearest turn off, inner circles exit at later turn offs. Make sure you use turn signals. Those are the little knobby things on your steering wheel.
There Seem to be More Horses than Humans
If you are looking for a place of self-reflection, Iceland is the place to be. You can choose to be social or introverted. Iceland is very safe – people wise. Rather dangerous though if you plan on hiking or touring alone. Fall of a cliff? No one would know.
Fill Up
If you are used to American gas stations – you might be in for a rude awakening. It took $40USD to top off a half tank and $70 USD to fill from a quarter tank. My best advice: fill up every half a tank. Prevents sticker shock and ensures you never run out of gas!
Safe Driving
The most sobering feeling is seeing a 4X4 Jeep on its roof at the top of a barren snow-covered mountain in Vatnajökull National Park. Please, please, please drive safe. The maximum speed limit for the entire island is 90KPM (55MPH). Yes, it is slow but it could save your life. Iceland is untamed and nature gives zero thoughts to reckless behavior.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

What You Need To Know For Iceland in April

April marks the beginning of my journey. Myself and three other adventurers will set out for Reykjavik, Iceland. I’m determined to see the Aurora Borealis and as many ‘foss’ (waterfalls) as humanly possible. April is the transitional month from winter to spring. I picked April as it’s the sweet spot right after tumultuous weather and before peak season. Most major roads are open and easily driven. The temperature is cold (32F-42F) but manageable with strategic layering. I’ve complied some research for questions that have been on my mind beyond hotels, car hires and airplane tickets.

Quick Facts

Sunrise: about 5:45AM

Sunset: about 8:30PM

Visit here for exact times as you visit!

Currency: Icelandic Krona (IKR)

                USD 1→ISK 130

                EURO €1 →ISK 154

Emergency Services: call 112

Road Condition Info: call 1777

Banks Open: 9am-6pm

Petrol Stations Open: 8am-10pm

Drinking Age: 20

Electricity: 230V/50Hz

April Events in Iceland

Puffins. Tiny little sea birds sporting penguin like attire with comically large beaks. If there is a bird I’m obsessed with it’s a puffin. April marks the great puffin migration. Iceland is home to an estimated 10 million individuals. My lucky day.
Easter this year is April 16th. Watch for closings and be respectful of people’s time.
April 20, 2017 is the first day of summer. Sumardagurinn Fyrsti is a Norse holiday with parades and celebrations.

How Can I Fudge Icelandic?

Now, I have a background in a few languages German, Russian, and Japanese however, none of them will be useful to pick apart Icelandic. What better way to start research then to figure out the basics. Icelandic is the distant cousin of German and branches from Northern Germanic and Western Scandinavian roots. Most likely you will always come across English speakers however it’s good to be prepared for anything.
Two letters that you won’t recognize:
Ð, ð – pronounced as “eth”
 Þ, þ – pronounced as “th” like thorn

Signs?

Once the language is figured out… then road signs. Drivers have a matter of seconds to decipher what the sign says. It could be the difference between:

And:

 

Slysasvæði translates to accident area so be cautious of your surroundings, climate and terrain.
 Want more about road signs – Click Here

Your Road Trip

Ok, lets talk gas. Petrol that is. I read that gas was super expensive in Iceland but $1.75 per liter didn’t seem so bad. I soon realized they measured in liters not gallons. Silly American. See? This is why research is important. The real cost per gallon is about $7.50 US.
Pre-paid gas cards. It may be a good idea to have a few of these handy should you come across an unmanned station. Purchase prepaid gas cars at an open gas station. N1 stations seem to have the best deals and are abundant through-out the country.
Fuel up at all stops. There may be few and far between petrol stations especially in the south west quarter of Iceland. Pay attention and stick to the 1/4 rule. NEVER let your tank run under 1/4. This rule has kept me out of many sticky situations.
Get yourself covered. Iceland is know as the land of fire and ice. Rocks, ice, ash and snow are all elements that can damage your car. Insurance is required when you rent a car in Iceland. Save yourself major money by not waiting for the clerk at Hertz to add an unforeseen $1,500 to your MasterCard.

Thermal Pools and Pools

I’m positive baring it all at the Blue Lagoon is frowned upon. So, what are the rules for the glorious geo-thermal pools and spas?
1. Rinse off – read the rules in the changing rooms as to how to properly shower before taking a dip. Most likely you will have to shower sans swimsuit. Nobody wants a spa date with a grease monkey.
2. Leave the Phone – be chatty with everyone else enjoying the moment. Skip ringing your mom about what you are seeing.
 
3. Nudity – I keep reading that Scandinavia has different ideas about nakedness. Keep an open mind but, be sure to read the rules posted by the spa.

Been to Iceland? Comment below and tell me the secrets!

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
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No Jedi on Skellig Michael

Of the countless sites I visited in Ireland none captured my attention quite like the hike up Skellig Michael. The islands in the Ring of Kerry rise out of the Atlantic Ocean a few kilometers from Valentia Island. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a immaculately preserved monastic outpost from the Early Christian period.  It’s no wonder the site is beautifully preserved as the island is protected by sheer cliffs and rough waters below. Monks resided here somewhere in the 8th century. They dedicated their lives to isolation and their religion. Note: Luke Skywalker was not one of these monks 🙂

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  My adventure began early in the morning. Montanna and I boarded a boat with about eight other adventurers.  I was nervous as I dislike boats and have a mild fear of open water. It was raining lightly – the typical drizzle you come to expect from Ireland. The boat set off and we made our way to the massive outpost. As we approached, we saw native garnets and puffins hunting in the waves. The island itself is brilliant emerald and black from the rocks. The waves were deep blue and choppy.
 When we stepped off the boat we were greeted by the tour host. He cautioned us about the slick steps and not to disturb the puffin nesting sites. He said he would meet us at the top in about an hour and sent us on our way.  Montanna and I started climbing the eight hundred ancient stairs to the monastery.  She started cursing my name since she was afraid of heights and the sheer cliffs lacked handrails. About half way up we reached the saddle of the island and were greeted by a fierce wind. It was as if someone set off a fan in a wind tunnel. The last leg was the steepest and narrowest.  From the summit you could view the iconic Beehive Monasteries and stone dwellings made of rocks clearly gathered from the area. It is also apparent that the inhabitants also dug into the side of the cliffs for shelter.  The wind was still fierce, but, inside the domes it was peaceful.

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 We spent about an hour poking around then we listed to the guide talk about the history. On the other end of the settlement they had found a hermitage. Meaning, one monk decided to further his isolation by living separately from the structures.
 Back down the eight hundred steps and a cold, wet boat ride back to the mainland we arrived back to our car. The weather had picked up on the boat ride back, dumping sea water on everybody every few minutes. We were soaked and frozen to the bone. I don’t know if fun was the exact words for the end of the experience, but it was surely an adventure!
Aa Puffin for you
  To book your trip to Skellig Michael visit HERE  to book a landing tour. Remember that the tour is highly dependent on the weather so keep tabs. Their season runs from May 15th to October 2nd as the weather is typically fair. Also pay attention to cash or card operations. My tour was cash only.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

Badass Arizona History: Petrified National Park

Badass History Arizona

When was the last time Arizona lush, green, and tropical? The Late Triassic period roughly, 225 million years ago. What is left behind today? Rainbow colored, fossilized tree remains:

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely

You can visit Petrified National Park full of hiking, geology, and numerous photo-ops. The area is known for fossilized trees as well as creatures ranging from clams to a relative of a giant crocodile called a Phytosaur. Most of the tree fossils belong to a conifer species, Araucarioxylon arizonicum – also referred to as rainbow wood! I went on a sunny day so you could really see the brilliant flecks of yellow, red, purple, indigo and green. My iPhone did an excellent job but failed to capture all the colors had to offer.

You can enter the park on the north side (Painted Desert Visitors Center off of Interstate 40) or through the south (Rainbow Forest Museum on highway 80). For $20 you can enjoy over thirty miles of drive-able National Park. Not including the numerous hiking trails and offshoots. I took the Crystal Forest trail where I got most of my awesome pictures and the Blue Mesa loop which was a little harder but worth it. You can hike down into the purple-ly mounds which takes you to a seemingly alien planet. Be prepared to carry water and sun protection, the closest gas station is nearly twenty miles away. The forest is also in the middle of the desert so it is hot, dry and usually windy.

Be warned there is a hefty fine for removal and/or destruction of any material in the park. Your vehicle is subject to being searched!

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

The second half of the park is the Painted Desert and dedicated to the Native people who occupied the lands for generations. Like the fossilized trees, the land reflects similar colors in the striations of the geography. There are numerous examples of pueblos (dwellings) and a site called Newspaper Rock which is a well-known petroglyph site. The most famous location is Casa Grande.  The last bit of road crosses over old Route 66 and overlooks the Devil’s Playground:

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Stop off at Tiponi, Tawa, Kachina, Chinde, Pintado, Nizhoni, Whipple, And Lacey Points!

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Petrified Forest National Park Kate Swavely Travel Scout

8 Things that Happen When Your Bestie Visits

 

BeFunky Collage 1

If you have ever experienced a significant move –  I’m talking through time zones – you know the feeling of seeing a loved one for the first time in months or even years. There are some friends who stick around and some who fade away into their own lives. It happens, c’est la vie. When your friends do visit it is better than getting a unicorn for Christmas.

Two thousand miles could never hold back our friendship! For spring break my best friend of nearly ten years, Danielle is flying in from Pennsylvania and will stay at my house for a week and a half. After I did my joyful dance I started thinking what trouble is going to ensue? For one, a Utah camping trip is in the works. I can have her meet my Arizona friends. Must drive to Cave Creek. Where have I not been that resembles an adventure? The zoo? A movie night! Pool side chats about the future. Here is what happens when your best friend visit:

Begins with the Hug that Ends all Hugs.

At first sight.  There is much giggling, screaming, and crying that not one damn is given concerning the airport security guard glaring at you for parking too long. Whether one is a hugger or not a hug from your best friend is the best of all.

Food.

In-N-Out doesn’t exist everywhere and following a 5-7 hour flight food is essential. For most normal girl-friends, food is a vital slice of your relationship. There is no judgement – and yes, eat that entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Show off all the countless spots to feast on delicious food! O.H.S.O, Sushi Brokers, and Cowboy Ciao – food possibilities remain endless.

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