It’s easy to figure out why there’s a National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio. The Packard brothers started out in Warren in 1899. Within a decade the company, known for its high-quality cars, was based in Detroit and neither Packard sibling was associated with it. But their legacy lives on in their hometown in northeast Ohio.

National Packard Museum Packard logo on tailfin
The snazzy two-toned tailfin on a 1956 Packard Caribbean

The museum hosts Packards built from 1900 to 1956, ranging from a 1900 Packard Model B (the second-oldest surviving Packard) through a rare assemblage of three 1956 Packard Caribbeans. (Two of which are seen at the top of this story.) A sentimental favorite is the 1941 Packard LeBaron chauffeur-driven limousine that was owned by Mrs. James Ward Packard. (Shown below.)

1941 Packard LeBaron limousine

Packards are also know for their elegant hood ornaments, two of the more elegant versions are shown below:

The 1953 Henney-Packard Ambulance (shown below) served at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Inside there was a large medicine cabinet, lifesaving equipment and seats that converted to beds. They saw service globally by the U.S. military.

1953 henney Packard ambulance

There’s an extensive collection of archives from the Packard family and the Packard Electric Company (which still exists as part of Delphi Automotive), memorabilia, and a handful of Packard marine engines. Check their schedule for annual events that include a Packard legacy weekend (devoted to the car whose motto was “Ask the man who owns one”) and a motorcycle show.

Visiting the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio

Number of vehicles: 30, plus special exhibits throughout the year.    

Highlights: 1900 Packard Model B (the second-oldest surviving Packard); 1911 Model 30 Detroit Fire Department Squad Car; 1927 Sterling Knight (the last car made in Warren, by a short-lived venture); 1956 Packard Caribbean Push-Button Automatic Convertible.

Location: 1899 Mahoning Avenue N.W., Warren, OH 44483. About 60 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

Phone: (330) 394-1899     Web: www.PackardMuseum.org

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Other things to do in Warren, Ohio

If you’re visiting Warren, there are a few attractions that may interest you. In addition to classic cars, the small town offers several sights related to a few of our key interests: space exploration and rock-and-roll.

Site of Neil Armstrong's first flight in Warren Ohio

Neil Armstrong went on his first airplane ride in Warren when he was only six years old. Bitten by the aviation bug, just thirty-three years later he was kicking up lunar dust as the first man on the moon. The airfield from which he took off in a Ford Tri-Motor is long gone; to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, “they paved paradise and put up a McDonald’s parking lot.” But in a corner of the lot “First Flight” park commemorates the historical site with a replica lunar module occupying pride-of-place in the center.

Dave Grohl alley drumsticks Ohio

Warren must have something for commemorations with a fast-food connection. Drive just three miles southeast from the lunar landscape to a Burger King at David Grohl Alley. It’s hard to miss since it’s decorated with the world’s largest pair of drumsticks (they’re each 23 feet long) that are set up like a teeter-totter. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana and is now the frontman for the Foo Fighters. The town where he got his start remembers him with this small street that is decorated with dozens of rock-themed murals in addition to the jumbo drumsticks.

Visitor information:

Warren is located in Trumbull County. www.ExploreTrumbullCounty.com/

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

I’m an avowed tea lover, and finding a tea shop in London is always a special treat. The city is great place to shop for tea. Every time I visit, (when I’m not visiting my favorite free things to do in London ),I search out spots were I can find old favorites or a new special blend.

Here are my preferred tea shops in London. Some are super sophisticated, and I always learn something new while there. Other tea shops are cosy spots where I can browse to my heart’s content while sniffing delicate aromas. There’s even one shop that is a total no-nonsense purveyor–nothing fancy, but the prices are terrific! If you’re looking for where to buy tea in London, check out the places below. (Note: these shops are ONLY available in London. There are some fine shops that have stores elsewhere, but that’s not the focus of this article. 😊)

Best Specialist Tea Shops London

interior of London Tea Exchange, teapots on display, cannisters of tea on shelves
Shelves filled with canisters of specialty tea at London Tea Exchange

Serious tea drinkers seek out London’s specialist tea shops when looking for that perfect variety or tea blend. These are the shops where you’ll be able to learn exactly where a tea is sourced. You’ll learn whether it’s a designated region of a country or a specific tea estate, or even which harvest during the year (such as spring/fall or 1st or 2nd flush). Teas are almost always sold loose, by the gram (or, depending on the status of Brexit, the ounce 😉).

Specialist tea shops in London are also very skilled at explaining how to brew different varieties of tea. For example, some teas require boiled water, while others use water that’s not quiiiiite boiling (some tender varieties get bitter with boiling water). Brewing time and whether the tea is suitable for multiple infusions are also useful bits of information. You will have an option to sniff the aroma of the dried leaves, and, in some cases, they will brew up a sample for you to try.

London Tea Exchange: Exclusive and Elegant

Tea cup and glass pot at London Tea Exchange
Order a pot of any tea for sale at London Tea Exchange-a great way to try something new!

This is my go-to spot when I’m looking for something super-special. London Tea Exchange is arguably the best specialist tea shop in London. They carry teas from all the world’s major growing regions, as well as a few teas from some more obscure locations, such as the Himalayas. The quality is top-notch. If you’re looking for an Indian single estate Darjeeling or a dark pearl oolong from Taiwan, this is the place.

On my last visit I was fortunate to meet Sheikh Aliur Rahman, who is London Tea Exchange’s Chief Executive. He does all the buying, traveling to the world’s tea-growing regions to personally select the teas that are carried in the shop. Sheikh Aliur explained that for many of the teas he actually requests leaves that are only grown on certain places on the plant. For example, the fresh, young leaves at the tips of branches are smaller and more delicate than larger leaves lower down on the plant. Now, that’s specialized!

Don’t just take my word for it; London Tea Exchange makes speciality blends for some pretty impressive clients. Members of the Twinings family (yep, that Twinings family . . . see below), purchase some more exotic blends here. And London Tea Exchange created a blend for certain members of the Royal Family. (???WHO???) They would not specify which Royal, however they did share that the Prince’s Trust has held some events in conjunction with London Tea Exchange. I’ll leave it to you to connect the dots . . .

Selecting tea at London Tea Exchange

Loose tea being weighed at London Tea exchange

The shop is located on Brick Lane, and is one of the cool things to do in Shoreditch. Browse the shelves, and the experienced staff will make suggestions based on your preferences. Or better yet, have a seat in their recently expanded tea room and order up a pot, along with a slice of cake to accompany it. This is an excellent way to determine if you’d like to take some of the tea home with you. Tell one of the staff what type of tea you like. They will then scour the 300+ varieties and return with 3 or 4 similar teas for you to consider, before brewing up your selection. It’s a fun shopping experience, an education in tea, and a lovely, relaxing interlude all in one. Whether you live in London or are just visiting, 50g of excellent, hand-selected tea is a special treat to take home.

What we love: The spectacular selection of ultra high-quality teas, the knowledgeable staff, and the opportunity to purchase a pot to sample before you buy.

Drawbacks: Only a small selection of teas in tea bags. But if you’re here for a single-estate Assam, you’re probably buying loose tea anyway 😉

The Tea House: Tea shop Covent Garden

If you’re looking for a tea shop in Covent Garden, this is the place. This friendly spot has been offering an excellent selection of loose teas for almost 40 years. The Tea House carries about 200 types of tea, including black, green, and herbal blends. Plus they also carry some more obscure varieties, such as white, yellow and pu-errh. The cosy shop is made for browsing.

Selecting tea at The Tea House

Loose teas are organized by variety on custom-made shelves around the shop. Little nooks contain pre-measured house-packs of tea, so you can just “grab and go” if you know what you’re seeking. However, each tea section also has a small, capped glass canister filled with the tea beside it. This gives you a chance to sniff a sample of each tea you’re considering before purchase. I find this particularly useful when considering herbal/fruity blends.

The Tea House’s location, on pedestrian-only Neal St., is right in the thick of Covent Garden shopping, and near to the West End theatre district. If you’re visiting London on vacation, chances are you’ll be in the neighborhood and can stop in for a souvenir to take home!

What we love: The wide selection, and the ability to sniff the samples to your heart’s content.

Drawbacks: Tastings, if offered, are limited to a particular blend they are featuring. The shop is small and can get pretty crowded during busy shopping days.

Twinings Flagship Store, 216 Strand: Historic and Authentic

Twinings tea shop london
Twinings Flagship Store, 216 Strand, London-it’s really narrow!

If you love tea and its’ history, this shop is a must-visit. As tea drinkers, we’ve probably all sipped Twinings at some point in our lives. This shop, a short walk down The Strand from London’s West End, is a tiny capsule of the history of tea in London. Established in 1706 it’s the oldest tea shop in London. And it really is TINY: the shop is so narrow you can stretch your arms across from one wall to the other! (So you can forget any ideas about a massive “flagship” with huge displays and aisles and aisles of products. That’s just “not done” here 😉)

The Twinings Museum London

Tucked away in the back of the Twinings Flagship Store is a small museum commemorating the history of tea. It’s really just a couple of glass-fronted display cases, but it’s interesting nonetheless. (And to be fair, Twinings calls it a “Tea Exhibition.”) There you’ll find historic packages of Twinings tea from the past 300-ish years. There is also historic teaware on display, including teapots, tea caddies, infusers and the like. It’s a fun and interesting diversion amidst your shopping for tea.

Display of historic teas and tea artifacts at Twinings exhibition
Some of the historic tea artifacts on display at the Twinings “exhibition” in the back of the flagship store

As you might expect from a “flagship” store, the entire Twinings range of teas is available for purchase here, including mostly black, green and herbal varieties. The front of the shop (the part that’s really narrow) is devoted to popular blends, which is mostly pre-packaged bagged teas. There are small canisters on the shelves for you to sniff those varieties. But there’s more in the back near the tea “exhibition” . . .

Selecting tea at Twinings Flagship Store

Attention, loose tea lovers: don’t discount this shop based on the pre-packaged offerings up front. Intrepid tea drinkers know to make their way to the back of the shop, where they keep “the good stuff.” Back here, the space opens up. (It’s about twice as wide as the front, so still not huge, but definitely more spacious.)

Specialty teas brewed in pots at Twinings tasting bar
Twinings tasting bar awaits with specially brewed teas

One wall along the back is devoted to a “tasting bar,” while the opposite wall holds a selection of about 30 specialty loose teas and blends. At any given time the staff will be brewing up 4-5 of these specialty blends. So you can “belly up to the bar” and sample a few. The staff are knowledgeable and will educate you about the teas origins, flavor notes and brewing recommendations. If the tea you’re interested in isn’t one of the brewed varieties, the staff will brew up a small pot for you and add it to the tasting bar. Which is how I got to try a High Grown UVA from Sri Lanka.

NOTE: Twinings holds a tasting class several times a week, where you’ll learn all about tea and taste several varieties. It’s £38 per person (about $48 US). Check the Tea Masterclass Experience more details.

What we love: The history of this shop, along with the tea exhibition, just oozes “Ye Olde London-town.” And the tasting bar in the back is a great way to try unfamiliar varieites.

Drawbacks: The shops tiny size literally makes it a “squeeze” during busy times. Specialty teas are only available in 125g sizes, which is a bit large/expensive if you’re experimenting with something new.

Where to buy tea in London: old favorites

London has been a tea-drinker’s town for centuries, and there are plenty of places to purchase good quality tea. Following are some tried-and-true spots for picking up supplies for your favorite cuppa:

Harrods: Venerable and Trusted

Shelves of tea at Harrods food hall
A limited selection of specialty teas on the shelves at Harrods Food Hall

The massive Knightsbridge department store may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think “tea shop.” And purchasing tea may be the first thing you think of when shopping at Harrods. But the venerable retailer carries a respectable selection of loose and bagged teas, many of which are their own proprietary blends.

Selecting tea at Harrods

The tea department is contained in The Roastery & Bake Hall section of Harrods renowned Food Hall. While they carry several well-known brands of tea, such as Kusmi, I would focus on teas you can only buy here. Many of their signature blends, which are labelled by number–No. 15, No 49, etc. are available in either bags or decorative tins. Most of these are black tea blends of Indian varieties, such as Darjeeling, Assam and Nigris, along with some Sri Lankan and Kenyan mixed in. My sister and her family are devotees of No. 49, and stock up on it every time they’re in town!

Harrods also offers 15-20 single estate loose teas, which are packaged to order. For something really fun and unique, spend some time with Angelo Tantillo. Designated as Harrods “Tea Tailor,” he will query you about your flavor preferences and craft a bespoke (such a charming British word!) tea just for you. How personalized is that?!

What we love: Getting a custom-made (okay, “bespoke”) tea is fun, and Harrods traditional blends are reliable and tasty standards. Plus the Harrods Food Hall is an experience unto itself.

Drawbacks: While there are good selections from India, teas from China and Taiwan are under-represented. During the holidays this store is JAM-PACKED, don’t count on a leisurely, personalized shopping experience then.

Algerian Coffee Stores: “Old School” and Great Value

A vintage photo of Algerian Coffee Stores–it still looks the same! (photo courtesy Algerian Coffee Stores)

I know, I know, Algerian Coffee Stores doesn’t sound much like a tea shop. But trust me on this one–they carry a lot of tea. In fact, they actually have more varieties of tea (over 120!) than coffee (about 80). Go figure.

Algerian Coffee Stores has been providing tea and coffee to Londoners at this SoHo location for over 130 years. (Despite the plural “Stores” in the name there is only a single location. The term “stores” in this case refers to “provisions,” and not multiple shop locations. The atmosphere is very different from virtually any other tea shop. It’s a real “old school” kind of place. The shop is a small, cramped room, complete with old-time-y wooden shelves (probably original to the building) stuffed to the gills with tea and coffee paraphernalia. If you love a retro, “old world” vibe, this is the place for you.

Selecting Tea at Algerian Coffee Stores

Don’t be deterred by the “no-nonsense” atmosphere (or the name), the tea at Algerian Coffee Stores is good quality . . . and good value!

All the loose teas are kept behind the counter, and most of them are pre-packed on site in 125g bags (about 4 ounces). Tell a knowledgeable shop attendant what you’d like, and they will fetch it for you. Note: They do a brisk business; when it’s your turn at the counter, be ready with your selection, or they’ll move on. I generally prefer sampling my tea before I purchase. And I also like to buy new varieties in smaller quantity until I’m sure I like it. However, at Algerian Coffee Stores the throughput is high (ensuring freshness), and the prices are terrific. In this case I don’t mind taking a chance on something new. On my last visit I got 125g of Keemun Mao Feng for about £8 (about $10 US)—about half of what it costs elsewhere. And the quality was excellent.

What we love: The excellent prices—probably the best I’ve seen anywhere in Europe OR North America!—and the wonderful old-world market atmosphere. And if you feel like crossing over to “the dark side (coffee)” they have a great selection of that as well!

Drawbacks: Cramped quarters and no chance to sniff or taste your selections before buying. But at these prices, who cares?

Looking for more in London? American visitors will love visiting the Benjamin Franklin house (the only one still standing!), or the quirky (and somewhat sad) tomb of Benedict Arnold. For more quirky sights, explore these 7 Rather Odd Hidden Sights in London.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

Visiting the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena

There are two Ferrari museums in Italy, one in Modena and one in Maranello, where the cars are actually built. The Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena is the perfect setting to combine food and auto touring in Italy. Although the town is full of ancient cobblestoned streets and old stone buildings, it’s known as the “Detroit of Italy” due to its automotive heritage. It’s set in the Motor Valley where Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini automobiles, along with Ducati motorcycles, are built. Located in the Emilia-Romagna region 250 miles north of Rome, visitors can tour factories and museums related to these legendary marques.

Modena is a city of contrasts. Two prominent buildings pierce the azure blue Italian sky; the 12th-century white marble cathedral and the sinewy, yellow curved roof of the Enzo Ferrari museum. (In Italian it’s the Museo Enzo Ferrari.) Modena may be the birthplace of Ferrari, the worldwide symbol of fast automobiles, but it is also the heart—or perhaps stomach—of Emilia-Romagna. Regional names such as Modena, Parma, Bologna and Reggio are all associated with famous foods.

Italians might make these famous foods slowly, but they like their cars to be fast. Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena 1898 and still leaves his mark on the city more than a century later. His bright red, road-hugging vehicles seem synonymous with the word “racecar.” Start your Motor Valley tour at the Ferrari Museum in Modena.

In the Footsteps of Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena Italy
Ferrari Museum in Italy

You’ll walk in the legendary carmaker’s footsteps at the original workshop and home of his father–Alfredo Ferrari. Enzo inherited the buildings at age 20, but sold them soon afterward to buy a sports car. Here you’ll get up close to the first road Ferrari ever built, a 1947 Ferrari 125 S with a 1500 cc V12 engine pushing out 118 horsepower for a maximum speed of 210 km/hour.

Museum of Engines

Since, besides good looks, Ferrari cars are also known for their engines, there are more than 30 high-performance engines on display, which is why this area is called the Museum of Engines. It’s a gearhead’s paradise.

 1994
The 1994 Ferrari F129B engine was their first road-worthy V8 engine with a five-valve cylinder head. It was developed through their Formula 1 research. It put out 380 hp and was first used in the F355 Berlinetta.
ferrari Museum Modena 1951 500 F2 Formula 1 champion
Behind the wheel of the 1951 Ferrari F2 that won the Formula 1 world championship in 1952 and 1953 with Alberto Ascari driving.

Adjacent to the workshop a newer building’s striking yellow roof curves skyward, mimicking the hood of a 1950s racing Ferrari. Inside, more than 20 Ferraris are displayed under glittery lights as if they were jewels in a crown, although these Italian creations are more expensive than most diamonds. A soaring Luciano Pavarotti (another local boy) soundtrack creates a sense of autos as art. For more information go to the Ferrari Museum in Modena.

Ferrari Museum in Modena
1948 Ferrari 166 Inter Aerlux at the Ferrari Museum in Modena
The 1948 Ferrari 166 Inter Aerlux was the first four-seater Ferrari. It featured an aluminum body and clear panoramic roof.

The Pavarotti music can get you in the mood for visiting the nearby Luciano Pavarotti House Museum. Even for non-opera buffs (like me) it’s a fascinating experience; sort of like Graceland with an Italian twist. The house where he lived for the final years of his life is set on a bucolic one-lane road outside his childhood hometown of Modena.

Modena Ferrari Museum

The Ferrari Museum in Maranello

Ferrari Musuem Marinello one off gallery

Ferrari moved production to nearby Maranello in the 1940s. After you’ve seen the Modena Ferrari Museum you should check out the Museo Ferrari in Maranello. It focuses more on performance with a dose of Ferrari heritage and style added. The visitor’s courses through Ferrari Formula 1 race cars up to the “One-Off” gallery that on this visit included rocker Eric Clapton’s SP12EC (shown below). Make sure to enjoy the museum; the only way to go on the Ferrari factory tour is to buy one. Ferrari Museum in Maranello

Eric Clapton Ferrari Marinello

After viewing primo cars, Modena is a great place to reward yourself with a fine Italian meal: it’s the town that invented tortellini pasta and the eponymous balsamic vinegar di Modena.

Visiting Modena With a Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land Passport

With so much to see and do in Modena, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Fortunately there is a means of easily visiting many attractions within a few days. Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land is a shuttle service that whisks visitors to over a dozen sights related to food, wine, history and cars (including both Ferrari museums) with a stop thrown in at Pavarotti’s home. The price includes access to the attractions as well as the shuttle.

Interested in purchasing tickets? You can get them in advance here:

Tickets when traveling from Bologna: Ferrari & Pavarotti Land-Bologna Shuttle

Tickets when traveling from Modena: Ferrari & Pavarotti Land-Modena Shuttle

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Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

Introducing the updated and expanded 2019 Second Edition of the perfect tool for anyone who loves vintage and collector cars!

The 2nd edition of the Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums & Attractions is now available. The 400-page road warrior was published in April 2019 and is the ultimate travel guide for vintage car buffs

Hemmings Motor News–the bible of the collector car hobby–says “No car enthusiast should hit the road without this book,” while the Detroit Free Press called it “Vacation planning for car lovers.”

This guide is a valuable travel resource for anyone who wants to discover classic cars, from Model As to 280Zs. Organized geographically, it helps car buffs plan motor-themed road trips, or find a museum close to home.

There are more than 300 attractions featured in the book. The museums range from the well-known, like the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, to smaller ones like the Franklin Museum in Arizona and the Studebaker Museum in Indiana. Vintage car lovers will find many places they have never head of before featuring the Brass Era, Classic Cars, Tail Fins, Muscle Cars, racing, sprint cars, trucking and more.

There are also many auto-themed attractions like the Tucker Trail in Pennsylvania; along with oddities like Cadillac Ranch in Texas; Carhenge in Nebraska (think Stonehenge, but with 1950s sedans buried in the ground); and the world’s largest tire in Michigan, which was a Ferris wheel at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Bring this book along on your next road tip to discover fascinating car places.

There are 60+ black-and-white photos in the book. They’re not color because then the book would have to be printed in China (like so many other books are) to keep the price reasonable. But I wanted the books to be printed in the USA.

I greatly appreciate your interest in this exciting project that helps keep America’s auto legacy alive.

To order on Amazon: Roadster Guide

From extravagant high teas to cosy cafes with scones and jam, we explored them all in search of the the best afternoon tea in Edinburgh. Read on for our recommendations.

It’s no secret that baked goods put us in our “happy place.” And if there was ever a (sort of) meal where baked goods are the star performers, it’s afternoon tea. Therefore it was a delight to sample some of the Edinburg’s best afternoon teas during our extended stay in the city.

Afternoon tea in Edinburgh can mean different things. It can be a gloves-on, pinky out affair with delicate pastry and finger sandwiches. Or it can be simpler mid-afternoon break with a traditional cream tea: a pot of tea and a scone with butter and jam or cream. (If you’ve read our post about finding the best scones in Edinburgh, you know we take our tea time seriously!) It’s even possible to have afternoon tea on a double-decker bus! Whatever your preference, you can to spend an enjoyable hour in the afternoon at any one of these spots.

Afternoon tea, Edinburgh: best spots for high tea

When it comes to high tea, Edinburgh has got more than it’s fair share of spots for a three-tiered extravaganza (often with optional champagne!). Certainly most major hotels have something on offer, no surprise there. We’ve sought out some spots that might not be that obvious, but still offer that great “special event” feel . . . in all price ranges.

Elegant high tea at the Colonnades in EdinburghIf you’re looking for a swanky, special-event-type-of-tea, this is the place. The Signet Library is an elegant early 19th century building owned by a prestigious Scottish legal society known as The Writers of the Signet. The majority of the building is private, but its lower library, “the Colonnades,” is open for lunch and afternoon tea. Nibble delicate sandwiches, cakes and freshly baked scones served on silver stands amid a hushed setting just off the Royal Mile. Great selection of teas, including the Colonnades’ own Signet Blend. Booking ahead recommended.

What we love: The beautiful setting and ultra-high-quality food.

Drawbacks: The price. At £38 (approx. $48 US) per person, it’s an expensive afternoon. We think the 2- or 3-course lunch, at £24 or £30 respectively, is a better value.

Elegant tea in a historic setting at the Grand CafeThe Grand Cafe offers a traditional afternoon tea with an old-world feel. Both the cafe and the hotel are located just off the Royal Mile in the former headquarters of The Scotsman newspaper. The soaring ceiling and marble-bedecked columns of the cafe began life as the Advertising & Notices department of The Scotsman. It’s easy to imagine a copy boy running through the room shouting “stop the presses!” At £21.95 (approx. $28 US) per person, it’s a good-value indulgence. There are options for enhancing your tea with a glass of Prosecco or Champagne as well. It’s a good idea to make reservations.

What we love: The Grand Cafe also offers a Children’s Tea, with treats geared to a more youthful palate, for £9.95 (approx. $12.50 US); great for traveling families.

Drawbacks: The genteel atmosphere can get a little boisterous as the adjacent bar fills up for early evening drinks.

  • House of Fraser/Jenners Department Store

High tea EdinburghThe cafe in this venerable old Edinburgh department store offers up a respectably traditional afternoon tea. The service is more casual than most three-tiered afternoon teas: you order at the counter and the food is brought to your table. But we can forgive that small service lapse due to the price. At £12.95 (approx. $16.25 US) it’s an excellent value. Don’t have a big appetite? Jenners also offers a simple cream tea for even less. [NOTE: During the month of August, in conjunction with the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival, Jenners offers a special “Tea with Mr. Jenner” event for £29 (approx. $36.50 US). It’s super-swanky, held in the shop’s historic boardroom, and includes tales of the legendary retailers’ history. Reservations mandatory.]

What we love: The view. Located on the 3rd floor above Princes Street, the cafe offers a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town.

Drawbacks: The savory sandwiches are a bit mundane (tuna, egg salad, etc.). But the scones and pastries are excellent–and isn’t that really why you’re out for afternoon tea anyway? 😉

best afternoon tea EdinburghEataket sells teas and tea-making accessories at a cluster of shops throughout Edinburgh, so you know their tea is top-notch. Their Tea Room on Frederick Street in the city’s New Town is a cozy, casual spot where you can sample their brews accompanied by the traditional afternoon tea accoutrements. For £15.95 (approx. $20 US) you get a choice of sandwich, a scone with cream and jam, and a selection of mini-pastries along with your tea.

What we love: For £8.95 (approx $11.25 US) Eataket offers a “High Tea,” which is a mini-version of their Afternoon Tea. (A half-sandwich, scone, and one pastry, plus tea.) This is a great value, and terrific for lighter appetites.

Drawbacks: While the tea was excellent, and the sandwiches and pastries tasty, we found the scones uninspired.

Afternoon tea, Edinburgh: best spots for cream tea

Ah, the simplicity of a cream tea! Edinburgh has more than its fair share of spots that offer a scone with a cuppa. Most cream teas in Edinburgh offer an option of either butter or cream (whipped or clotted) along with jam to top your scone. We’ve rounded up a few where the scones are a worth a special trip.

Blueberry scone, cream tea EdinburghThis cafe/gallery in the New Town is beautifully decorated with an ever-changing display of original art, managing to feel homey and sophisticated at the same time. Co-owner Stuart Allan bakes the best scones in Edinburgh—and you have a choice 6 varieties fresh-baked daily (4 sweet, 2 savory). They’re massive (about 4″ around), buttery, crumbly . . . and Stuart warms them to order. No need for the fancy stuff with a scone this good! (Although Stuart also bakes a selection of cakes daily if you’re seeking something sweeter.)

What we love: The blueberry scone, chock-full of fresh berries. Also, the cheese or sun-dried tomato & herb scones, which are served with butter and an onion jam or pickle, which make a great savory tea.

Drawbacks: Bon Papillon is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays. But I guess Stuart and his partner Ingrid Nilsson are entitled to some time off!

We almost missed this tiny cafe, run by Tom and Elaine Courtney tucked into the Royal Mile just west of the Museum of Edinburgh. But then we saw Elaine’s delectable scones displayed in the window, and knew we had to try them. Our eyes did not deceive us; they were crisp on the outside, crumbly and tender on the inside. We were particularly taken with their triangular shape, which gave them lots of crunchy bits.

What we love: The strawberry scones, which are plain sweet scones filled with strawberry jam, fresh whipped cream AND fresh strawberries. A real summer treat.

Drawbacks: The cafe only has about 12 seats, so you might not get a table during busy periods.

Cream tea in Edinburgh at Mimi's BakehouseMimi’s is an Edinburgh mini-chain, with 4 locations in the city, two of which are right in the Old Town and handy for visitors. In addition to rib-sticking sandwiches (called “sarnies”), Mimi’s bakes some hefty cakes and traybakes (bar cookies), plus whopping scones. The cafe offers both an afternoon tea (and a unique “beforenoon tea”), which includes a selection of all three. But the portions are so large, we opted to stick with the cream tea version, simply enjoying our scone.

What we love: The cafe on Market Street, just opposite the south exit of the train station, is a quiet oasis in the midst of the Royal Mile frenzy.

Drawbacks: The scones are popular and often sold out by noon or 1pm (according to the cafe worker we spoke to). This makes having an afternoon cream tea difficult. So, um, maybe they should make a few more?

Afternoon tea, Edinburgh: fun and unusual spots

Sometimes the atmosphere is half the fun! Below are two unique afternoon teas in Edinburgh, based on some quirky locations:

Best afternoon tea EdinburghOn top of being a great way to multi-task when visiting a city, this afternoon tea/bus tour is just plain FUN! Climb on board a vintage double-decker bus, sip tea/coffee and nibble on tasty treats while the vintage Routemaster bus drives by all the major sights in Edinburgh. During the 90-minute experience you’ll taste a selection of sandwiches and mini-quiches, pastries, and (we’re still not sure how they managed this one), freshly baked scones.

What we love: This beats any plain old bus tour, hands down. And it’s a great way to experience a lot of Edinburgh in a short period of time.

Drawbacks: The bus doesn’t drive particularly quickly, but it is a moving vehicle. So it might not be a good choice for clumsy sorts.😯

NOTE: This tea must be reserved in advance. Click here to book the Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Bus Tour on Viator. (This is an affiliate link, which means we earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.)

  • Royal Yacht Britannia Afternoon Tea

Tea with the Queen? Not exactly, but this may be as close as most of us will ever get. The Royal Yacht Britannia, the former yacht of the British royal family, is open to visitors in Edinburg’s port of Leith. The Royal Deck Tea Room serves tea, cakes and light meals where the royal family once entertained. You can simply order a pot of tea with a scone for about £8 (about $10 US) or give yourself the royal treatment with the “Cream Tea special for one,” which adds a sandwich, slice of cake and a glass of sparkling wine to your tea and scone. Veddy posh!

What we love: Having tea on the yacht where Princess Diana spent her honeymoon is pretty awesome.

Drawbacks: The Royal Deck Tea Room is only open to those who have purchased a ticket to visit the yacht (approx. $20 US). But it’s a pretty fascinating self-guided tour—you can read about my visit to Royal Yacht Britannia here.

Want to enjoy more of the area? Explore the gorgeous New Town neighborhood in search of sites the 44 Scotland Street novels. Climb on board a Concorde at The National Museum of Flight, just outside of Edinburgh. Or go farther afield and take a Scotland road trip to see film locations for the movie Local Hero. You’ll find charming villages and one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.

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afternoon tea Edinburgh

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

best scones in Edinburgh

We went on a quest to find the best scones in Edinburgh, and found them at a charming cafe in the New Town.

When you think of a food that defines Edinburgh, scones top the list. Well, some people may think of haggis, but really, the less said about that, the better 😉. (However if you must, check out our Haggis Taste Test.) But back to the scones. They are an Edinburgh institution. You can find them just about anywhere; virtually every cafe, tea shop or coffee house will have them on the menu, and markets carry prepackaged versions. Noted Edinburgh author Alexander McCall Smith even dedicated a title of one beloved 44 Scotland Street novels to them (The Unbearable Lightness of Scones.)Crumbly texture of good scones

Scones in Edinburgh are a good news/bad news scenario. Yes, you can find them everywhere—that’s the good news. But that’s also the bad news . . . it turns out there are some real clunkers out there. But for you, dear reader, we did the research. We explored the city in search of the best scones in Edinburgh, and finally found the hands-down winner!

What makes a good scone?

Best scones in Edinburgh-great crumbly texture

First, texture. If a scone has the proper texture, everything else—aroma, appearance, and, most importantly, TASTE—naturally follows. A good scone should be slightly firm on the outside, with a delicate crispy crust (it shouldn’t be spongy or squishy—this isn’t a yeast roll). Inside, it should be tender and crumbly, with what bakers would call a “crumb.” Create that texture and you’re onto a winner.

Second, the best ingredients. A good scone must be made with . . .butter. Anything less and you haven’t given your poor scone a fighting chance.

Armed with these two requirements, we purchased scones from bakeries and supermarkets, popped into coffee shops and cafes, and even stuck out our pinky at a few afternoon teas. We had some fair scones, a few lousy hockey pucks, and even a few good ones. But then we found the best scones in Edinburgh, and everything else paled in comparison.

The best scones in Edinburgh

Bon Papillon cafe and galleryLadies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Bon Papillon, an art gallery/framing shop and cafe on Howe Street, home of Edinburgh’s best scones! Bon Papillon is run by business and life partners Ingrid Nilsson and Stuart Allan. Ingrid is the artist and oversees the gallery; many of the works on the walls are hers. Stuart, a professional chef, is in charge of the cafe—and the scones.

Stuart makes his scones by hand (no mixer!) daily. Even before tasting one of these beauties I knew it was going to be a winner. It was a feast for the senses. Lifting it, I could feel the slightly firm crust, and upon breaking it open I was rewarded with a gorgeous crumb texture and a delicate butter aroma . . . aaaahhhh. The rich brown exterior gave way to a golden yellow inside, further testament to the buttery goodness within.

best scones in Edinburgh

My mouth was already watering by the time I had my first taste, and my fingers, eyes and nose hadn’t let my tongue down—this scone was delicious! The crust provided just a tiny bit of crunch, the interior was crumbly and moist (without being chewy or gummy-a sure sign of overmixing), and the taste was buttery and slightly sweet. All this deliciousness and I hadn’t even added any of the jam or freshly whipped cream provided on the plate! [Full disclosure, the whipped cream did NOT got to waste.]

I was a happy girl, we had found a winner! Michael announced he’d be purchasing 2 or 3 more to takeaway—a sure sign that he loved them as well (he hadn’t finished most of the scones we tried elsewhere.)

Sultana scones at Bon Papillon in EdinburghStuart with a tray of his freshly baked sultana scones

Scones at Bon Papillon

Unlike many cafes and tea shops that only offer one, or maybe two, varieties, Stuart Allan makes multiple flavors. He bakes them fresh each day, typically making 6 varieties: 4 sweet and 2 savory. (The savory versions are a delicious accompaniment to the salads or homemade soups for lunch.) We shared a blueberry scone on our first visit (there would be many more trips before we left Edinburgh); the seasonal specialty was bursting with fresh fruit. On the other hand, the “standards,” such as plain, sultana, and cheese are available every day. Stuart makes other flavors, like a savory scone with herbs and sun dried tomatoes or a sweet raspberry scone, according to seasonality or his creative whim.pretty cafe and art gallery

Bon Papillon’s scones are large, about 4 inches in diameter, and an excellent value. At £3 each, they make a delicious snack or light meal. Stuart and Ingrid serve sweet scones with strawberry jam and either butter or whipped cream; savory scones come with butter and a carmelized onion jam or savory pickle. The cafe also offers house made salads and soups, along with a large selection of teas and espresso drinks.

If you are traveling to Edinburgh, I recommend visiting Bon Papillon for a cream tea or light meal (with a scone!). Enjoy your scone amid artistic beauty, and you may even decide to take home some of Ingrid’s work. It will be a beautiful way to remember the day you tasted the best scone in Edinburgh.Gallery at Bon Papillon

Bon Papillon is located at 15 Howe Street, Edinburgh EH3 6TE

They are open Wed-Sun, 9am to 5pm (Closed Monday & Tuesday) 

Blueberry scone, cream tea Edinburgh

After you’ve fortified yourself with Stuart’s scones, consider visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, or checking out the National Museum of Flight. Or explore the neighborhood of the 44 Scotland Street novels.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic CircleWe’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter here.

From guest writer Mark (an Indy native)~ Headed to Indianapolis for the Indy 500 or a conference? Looking for something else to do besides sit through another boring PowerPoint presentation? If you’re looking for other activities in town you’re in luck because there are many unique things to do in Indianapolis.

Newfields: Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gardens and More

Indianapolis Museum of Art, LOVE statue. Photo courtesy of Visit Indyphoto courtesy of Visit Indy

If you’re looking for a some culture, you can find a wide array of it at Newfields. This vast complex contains several terrific points of interest. The Indianapolis Museum of Art boasts a collection that spans the world and millennia and includes over 100 acres of nature park and estate gardens. The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres is exactly what the name implies and Oldfields  Lilly House & Gardens is a historic 26-acre estate filled with gardens, fountains & statuary. You can spend a whole afternoon wandering the grounds without ever making it inside the museum.

Mark’s tip: Grab some barbecue from Hank’s Smoked Brisket down the road on MLK Drive and have an impromptu picnic. Best part is that general admission to the museum and the grounds is free.

See the “reel” life Hoosiers at Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse

Hinkle Field House, Butler Universityphoto courtesy of Mark from The Time to Go is Now

Butler University is located near the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is a great place to wander around. Stop by the Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium and take a gander through their telescope. (Yes, we still say “gander” in Indiana 😉)

Go see a basketball game at the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, home of the Butler University Bulldogs, decades of Indiana high school basketball history and the climactic scene of the movie Hoosiers. Hinkle Fieldhouse is to basketball what Lambeau Field is to football and Fenway Park is to baseball. Hyperbole? Not to Hoosier basketball fans.

Try a Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Pork Tenderloin sandwich, Things to do in Indianapolisphoto courtesy of Mark from The Time to Go is Now

The word “tenderloin” is usually associated with beef except in Indiana where it refers to pork. (Okay, and San Francisco but that’s not food related.) Indiana has been one of the top pork producing states since the 19th-Century. While other places took their pork to the smoker, we took ours to the fryer. The Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich features a cut of pork tenderloin pounded thin, breaded and fried (think schnitzel) and then served on a bun. Darn near every restaurant, diner and bar has one on the menu but not all are created equal. I’m not offering any favorites because I’m not starting an argument here, but a Google search will help you find one.

Gangsters and Presidents at Crown Hill Cemetery

Crow Hill Cemetery-Things to do in Indianapolisphoto courtesy of Mark from The Time to Go is Now

Crown Hill Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in the United States. Its elevated vantage point offers great views of downtown. The wooded grounds create a park-like setting to stroll or ride a bike on the twenty miles of roads. It is home to a who’s who of Indiana history including president Benjamin Harrison, Col. Eli Lilly (founder of the pharmaceutical company that bears his name), and Depression-era gangster John Dillinger.

Race Over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indy 500 Trophy, photo courtesy Visit Indy

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a monument to fast cars. If you’ve never been to a big time race the Indianapolis 500 is the one to attend. It’s held every year over Memorial Day weekend, and tickets are available and affordable.

If you can’t make it to race weekend, check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, which is open all year. There you can see race cars from open-wheeled racing’s glory days when speed, safety and sanity were pushed to—and in many cases beyond—the limit. (photo courtesy of  Visit Indy)

Take a Hike at White River State Park & Canal Walk

White River Canal Park, Things to do in Indianapolisphoto courtesy of Visit Indy

On the west side of downtown Indianapolis, White River State Park offers several attractions in a very small area, many of which are connected via the strollable Canal Walk. For history and culture, check out The Indiana State MuseumThe Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the Indiana Historical Society; all are accessible via the Canal Walk.

For more active pursuits, cross the pedestrian bridge over White River and visit the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens. Catch an Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field, a wonderful stadium to watch AAA baseball. Interested in music? The Farm Bureau Lawn at White River Park hosts a summer concert series. Traveling on the cheap? Pack a picnic and find a spot outside. You may not see the band, but you’ll hear the whole show.

Beer Here

Black Acre Brew Pub-Things to do in Indianapolisphoto courtesy of Visit Indy

Indiana was once home to a thriving brewery industry (we are in the German Triangle after all) only to have it virtually wiped out by Prohibition. In the last twenty years Indianapolis has gone from having a couple of dedicated brew pubs to several brewers putting out many lines of quality beers. Sun King, Black Acre, Flat 12, Fountain Square, Bier, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Brugge Brasserie, Oaken Barrel, Triton, Planetary there are more, but that’s a good start.

Tour Monument Circle and War Memorials

Things to do in Indianapolis-War memorials and Monument Circle

Like a smaller version of Washington, D.C., Indianapolis loves its war memorials. The Soldiers & Sailors Monument on Monument Circle is right in the middle of the original city plan.  Dedicated in 1902 the monument houses a Civil War museum and observation desk that offers a nice view of downtown. If you’re feeling energetic you can climb the 331 stairs for free or pay $2.00 to take the elevator. A short walk north will take you to the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza and the American Legion Mall featuring more walkable green spaces with parks, fountains, monuments and memorials. photo courtesy of Visit Indy

Bike the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

photo courtesy of Visit Indy

Six years in the works, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is a network of bicycle and pedestrian paths that connect the various cultural districts of downtown Indianapolis allowing for quick and safe movement around the downtown area. It also features several installations of public art. Rent a bike for the day and explore downtown. Venture out to the Massachusetts Avenue & Fountain Square cultural districts. There are more than enough restaurants, bars and shops to keep you occupied.

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The American city of Indianapolis offers many interesting sight beyond the famous auto race.


Mark and Julie-The Time to Go is NowGuest writer
 Mark and his girlfriend Julie quit their jobs at the end of 2013 and embarked on a 12 month round-the-world backpacking trip. His blog, The Time to Go Is Now, documents their trip, and travels beyond.

 

 

 

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter.

His gums duly numbed with painkiller, Michael reclined in the cushioned chair as the dentist loomed overhead with a whirring drill in her hand. Michael was about to start dental implant surgery to replace a broken tooth, a fairly standard procedure, except he was in a dental clinic in Bucharest, Romania. How did we end up there?

The short answer: affordable dental implants.

Dental implant cost: A mystery in the U.S.

Two years ago, we practically had to scrape Michael off the floor when he learned he needed a dental implant that would cost approximately $6,000. We’d gotten crowns and had root canals in the past, but never anything that rivaled the price of a decent used car. The high cost prompted us to explore less-expensive options. This endeavor proved to be more difficult than we expected.

It’s not easy to find published prices from most U.S. dentists. The U.S. practices we found advertising “discount” implants priced only the implant itself; they didn’t include the extensive prep work, including removal of the broken tooth and often the need for a bone graft, in the total cost.

 

Dental tourism Bucharest Romania intelident, affordable dental implants

We recalled that during a visit to Bucharest a few months earlier, we had noticed many billboards — in English — advertising dental services. Upon further investigation, we learned that Romania is a popular destination for European dental patients; the quality is top-notch, and  the prices are very low. Would we actually consider dental work outside the U.S.?

According to Patients Beyond Borders, a guide and website for medical tourists,  more than 150 million Americans lack dental insurance and are increasingly seeking dental work abroad. Currently, the majority of Americans traveling outside the country to see  dentists venture to Mexico from the border states of Texas, Arizona, and California.

“Dental tourism has been going on for more than two decades,” said Amid Ismail, dean of Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry.

Ismail had no statistical data — good or bad — regarding U.S. patients who had work done overseas. From our research, we learned it’s important to perform your own due diligence on any overseas provider.

“There is quality dental care everywhere, but the range is wider overseas, so you must be careful who you choose,” Ismail said. “Cheap care is most often not equivalent to good care.”

Affordable dental implants in Romania

Which left us still pondering the value — and risks — of using a dental clinic in Bucharest, Romania. We knew from our previous visit that English is commonly spoken in the capital city, so communication wouldn’t be an issue.

As part of our research, we contacted the U.S. office of Romania Tourism. The website addressed dental tourism and provided links to several dentists. Romanian law requires dental clinics to post their prices prominently — something we wish American practices would do.

We homed in on one dental clinic in Bucharest, Intelident, for several reasons. Its website was in English and provided detailed information about the education and work experience of the dentists. The clinic also posts prices online, which made our research easier. In addition, it is part of a network that provides dental services to U.S. employees of American companies (such as Citi and Oracle) that maintain offices in Bucharest.

affordable dental implants romaniaMost importantly, we liked that Intelident used top-notch materials. We were determined to get a standard of care similar to that of the U.S. or Western Europe; there was no reason to consider dental tourism otherwise. We had heard anecdotes of people getting “cheap dental implants” in Eastern Europe, but details about the materials (and potentially the dental clinics) were sketchy. We wouldn’t seek out some back-alley practice back home; we sure as heck weren’t going to go that route in Romania.

We communicated extensively with the manager of the practice by email and clarified prices and approximate timelines. Unlike the U.S., where many dentists price the procedure in total, pricing in Romania is more of an a la carte model. Therefore, it’s important to understand exactly what is required for your complete procedure; a front implant cost may be different than a back tooth, for example, or you might need to factor in tooth extraction. (All cost comparisons here are as “apples to apples” as possible.)

The total cost to install Intelident’s most expensive titanium implant, made by highly regarded Swiss manufacturer Straumann, was approximately $1,500, including a replacement crown;  1/4 the cost of the same procedure in the U.S.

Now that we knew we could obtain affordable dental implants in Bucharest, was a saving of $4,500 enough for us to fly to Romania? Perhaps not. But what if we considered additional work?

We both had several metal-based crowns that were nearing the end of their useful lives; the replacement cost of a nonmetal zirconium crown in the U.S. was estimated at $1,400. The cost in Romania for a similiar crown would be only $350; root canals were similarly priced. If we got a significant amount of preventive work done, the trip would be worth it.

The Procedure

Our first appointments entailed a general examination, including a review of new X-rays. The dentists then prepared a complete treatment plan for each of us. Michael focused on getting his new implant, and  Larissa addressed replacing her old crowns, some of which required root canals. We were given specific pricing upfront. They even said we should defer some work they didn’t feel was necessary, so we never felt “up-sold.”

Dental tourism romania bucharest intelidentX-rays are taken in another office, about a mile away, saving the dentist the investment in equipment that is not often used. The excellent prices ($18 for a full set of digital X-ray bite wings, $6 for a single tooth) at the state-of-the-art imaging facility offset the slight inconvenience of an extra errand for the patient.

Throughout all our work, the Romanian dentists used sterilized equipment and sealed products that they opened in front of us.

For Michael’s implant, his dentist even shared the packaging materials to demonstrate their authenticity. Straumann implants come with a unique serial number, and Michael was able to verify his through the company’s website. Tomas Konrad, a Straumann representative, agreed that best practices include sharing the package with the patient.

A verification document with details about the implant also ensured that Michael could have follow-up work performed by any dentist around the world trained to use Straumann implants — which includes the dental clinic at Temple University.

“That’s a good [standardization] model,” Dr. Ismail said.

The result

To date, there have been no complications with the dental work we had done. Three months later we were back in the US where Michael had the work reviewed by an American dentist, who was impressed with the high quality level.

In the end, we saved more than $18,000 by seeking work outside the U.S. Of course, travel expenses must be deducted from that amount, which is a different variable for everyone.

Visit Romania: Travel considerations

By European and American standards, Bucharest is an inexpensive city. We found a fully furnished apartment in the heart of downtown on Airbnb for $850/month. (For more information on places to stay, please see our detailed guide to lodging in Bucharest.) The dentist’s office was within walking distance, so there was no need for a car. There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Bucharest, but Delta’s SkyTeam alliance offers several connections through European gateways. We flew from New York to Bucharest via Amsterdam.

Dental Tourism considerations: Do Your Research

Dental tourism is not right for everyone, but with the increasing costs of dental procedures in the U.S., it’s an option worth considering if you are facing extensive work. The ideal candidate is someone without comprehensive dental insurance who has an open mind and time to travel abroad.

If you choose to explore this option, it’s essential to do your research. Consider the following:

  • Education: Where did the dentist study? How good is the school? Has he or she done specialty training abroad?
  • Experience: On how many patients has he or she performed this procedure? What’s the success rate? According to the Journal of Dental Research, success rates for most implant procedures are 90 percent to 95 percent; be wary of  dentists who  say they have a 100 percent success rate.
  • References: Ask for names of patients, and contact them  about their experience.
  • Pricing: Be sure to ask for all costs related to the procedure, including X-rays and any prep work.

Even with satisfactory answers to these questions, there are still risks involved. If there is a problem with the work, the burden of extra costs falls to you. We acknowledged that if there were any problems, we’d have to take care of them in the U.S.

“Health tourism in a global economy is a reality of life, but we prefer that patients stay in their home country for continuity and follow up care,” said Ismail.

Prospective patients also need to verify the timing of their procedure to determine how long they will be overseas. One or two weeks are usually needed for a crown; an implant might require two separate short visits. Michael had already had his tooth removed in the U.S., which allowed several months for the bone to grow back before having the implant procedure performed in Romania.

We planned a month for our work in Bucharest, which also gave us plenty of time to explore the city and surrounding area. Overall, our experience as dental tourists was pleasant, and we will consider having work done here again. Plus we miss the Romanian pastries!

If you’ve got further questions about dental tourism, please click the “contact” tab at the top of the page. We’re not dental care experts, but we’re happy to share more about our particular experiences.

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Dental Tourism Romania, Affordable dental implants

 

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Is Graceland worth visiting? August 15, 2019 marks the 42nd anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, and “The King” is more popular than ever. Below is our review of visiting Graceland, which reflects updates to the facility unveiled earlier this year.

The Elvis Presley Graceland home is a required pilgrimage for Elvis fans. Graceland Memphis TN is one of the most popular Memphis attractions, but with tickets ranging from roughly $40 to over $150, is Graceland worth visiting? We set out to see if a tour of the Elvis house was worth the price.

BEST VALUE: The Elvis Experience Tour

QUICK ACCESS: Elvis VIP Skip the Line

There are many different options for visiting, which we share below (along with our candid opinions). A lot depends on how much of a fan of “the King” you are, along with how much time you want to spend, and of course your budget.  If you are a fan going to Memphis to walk in the footsteps of your musical idol then Graceland is a must. If you’re just passing through and are simply curious, it may not be as high a priority. (Although we do share a free hack for a quick visit at the bottom of the post.)

VISITING GRACELAND? COMPARE HOTEL PRICES

We’re casual fans. I like his music but I’ve never seen one of his movies in its entirety (Larissa has–I think it’s a “girl thing”) and I owned only one of his albums. Despite this, we were pleasantly surprised to find there was plenty to see, and it was one of the best Memphis tours that we took.

Graceland Memphis|Elvis Presley Graceland|Memphis toursThe entrance to Graceland: Elvis Presley’s legendary home

Graceland Tours

There are ticket packages with different options about what you can see, which range from below $50 to over $150. Since prices are subject to change we are categorizing them into 3 general price ranges:

  • Low: Under $50
  • Moderate: $50 to $90
  • High: Over $90

1. The Graceland Mansion Only

(Price category: LOW) Includes: an audio-guided tour of Graceland, Elvis’ house, only. While this is the least expensive option, at around $40 it’s not exactly cheap; we don’t think it’s the best value.

2. The Elvis Experience Tour

(Price category: MODERATE) In our opinion, this is the best value. It’s about $20 extra, but you get to see a LOT more. This package includes the Graceland Mansion, plus full access to the all-new Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, which includes three self-guided exhibits:

  • Presley Motors Automobile Museum: A great collection of Elvis’ favorite cars
  • Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum: Gold records, the funky jumpsuits and more
  • Elvis Discovery Exhibits: A collection of exhibits (some rotating) that showcase different facets of Presley’s life, such as his Army years and growing up in Tupelo, MS.

Book the Elvis Experience Tour

[BEST OVERALL VALUE]

 3. The Elvis Experience + Airplanes Tour

(Price category: MODERATE) includes the above plus self-guided tour of Elvis’ jets–which Larissa insisted on, since she is a total plane geek. The Airplanes Tour is a few dollars extra. (Note: same tour as above, simply select the “tour the planes” add-on option.)

Book the Elvis Experience + Airplanes Tour

[BEST OVERALL VALUE . . . FOR PLANE GEEKS (Like Larissa)]

 4. The Elvis Entourage VIP Tour

(Price category: HIGH) includes the above plus “Front-of-the-Line” mansion access, a Keepsake Backstage Pass and a Self-guided tour of Exclusive VIP Exhibit.

Book the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour⇐  

[RECOMMENDED for BUSY TIMES]

(NOTE: Most of what you are paying for on the VIP tours is the ability to skip the line. We visited at 2:30 on a weekday afternoon in late August and there was absolutely NO line. We strolled through the house practically on our own and had the Jungle Room all to ourselves. However, if you’re visiting on a weekend, or during a special event, it may be worth the extra money.)

 5. The Elvis Entourage VIP + Airplanes Tour

(Price Category: HIGH). So you have to pay an extra few bucks to see the airplanes if you purchased only the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour. You still get the ‘Front-of-the-Line” mansion access and the backstage pass.

Book the Elvis Entourage VIP + Airplanes Tour

[For BUSY TIMES/AIRPLANE GEEKS]

6. The Elvis Entourage VIP Tour (With Transportation)

(Price Category: HIGH) This is a good option if you’re staying in downtown Memphis and don’t have a car (or don’t feel like dealing with parking hassles). You get a full-day pass to the attractions listed above (Airplanes a modest surcharge), along with regularly scheduled shuttles to/from several Memphis hotels.

Book the Elvis Entourage VIP + Transportation Tour

[For those without a car in Memphis]

7. The Ultimate VIP Tour

(Price category: HIGH+). If you just won the lottery this is the tour for you. Instead of touring the mansion via a self-guided audio tour you get a personal guide plus: transportation for your tour of Graceland Mansion in special vehicle, access to Ultimate Lounge at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, options to purchase special merchandise only available to Ultimate guests, a meal with table service at one of the Elvis Presley’s Memphis restaurants, Exclusive Photo Opportunity, Personal Graceland Archives Show and Tell Session and the Keepsake Backstage pass. We didn’t take this tour, so we can’t recommend it. But to us it seems like a lot of extra doodads you could purchase at the souvenir shop, along with a meal at a restaurant that’s open to the public anyway.

Elvis Presley Pink Cadillac at Graceland|Memphis attractions

Elvis’ favorite car was this pink 1955 Cadillac he bought for his mother . . . even though she couldn’t drive!

Even if you’re not a fan we recommend the Elvis Experience Tour. It helps put the whole Elvis “Phenomenon” into context, and gives you a greater appreciation for the impact Elvis Presley made on music and pop culture in his relatively short life. You’ll see the car museum (I’m a classic car guy, and included the Presley Automobile Museum in my guide to classic car museums, so I had to see that) and a few more exhibits. If you want to pay more to go inside the airplanes is up to you. You’ll only be inside them for a few minutes tops. (Well, most people will be–Larissa was in there for half an hour!)

Graceland jungle room|Elvis Presley Graceland|Memphis tours

Ah, yes, the infamous Jungle Room at Elvis’ Graceland.

Inside Graceland: Jungle Room & more

Graceland mansion includes Elvis’ house, which is not that large for someone who was larger than life, along with the paddock with his father Vernon’s office, and racquetball court. It’s interesting to walk through the rooms where he lived (except for the off-limits second floor) and get a sense of the man, or at least his lavish taste in decoration.

The Jungle Room is legendary for what some consider its tackiness. Woe unto anyone who had the misfortune to die in the 1970s and have their design choices from that funky era of shag carpeting and garish colors be memorialized forever. On the plus side, a prerecorded guided tour with headsets is included with the admission ticket, most places charge extra for that.

The tour of the grounds ends beside the in-ground pool with a somber visit to the Meditation Garden containing the graves of Elvis and his family. A stone marker also commemorates his twin brother Jesse, who was stillborn. [Note: If you simply want to pay your respects, here’s a free hack: the Meditation Garden is open daily from 7:30am to 8:30am for free walk-up visits.]

elvis grave graceland|Elvis Presley Graceland|Memphis attractions

Elvis’ tomb. He is buried here, along with his family, including his twin brother Jesse (who was stillborn). 2017 is the 40th anniversary of the Elvis Presley death.

Elvis Presley’s Memphis: multiple museums and displays

On the west side of Elvis Presley Boulevard, you’ll find Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a recently-opened entertainment complex that houses the other museums and exhibits. [These are included in all tour packages except the “Mansion only” tour.] This is where you’ll find Elvis’ collection of gold records and those famous jumpsuits.

Other displays include videos of his early TV appearances and costumes and memorabilia from his movies. You can also see the outfits that he and Priscilla wore for their wedding. (BTW, if you’re seeking a gift for the Elvis fan in your life, those costumes shown at the top of this post are available in the gift shop for a mere $2,000 and up.)

There are also two restaurants–Vernon’s Smokehouse and Velma’s Diner–along with a coffee shop. This makes it easy to pace yourself through the many exhibits. We took a break, had a peanut butter & banana sandwich (Elvis’ fave) at Velma’s, and were refreshed and ready to continue exploring.

graceland racquetball court|Elvis Presley Graceland|Memphis tours

Jumpsuits and gold records: a hunk a hunk o’ burnin’ love.

Visiting Graceland: Practical Stuff

The Graceland tour is well organized. The ticket office, museums, jets, gift shops, restaurants and rotating displays are on the west side of Elvis Presley Boulevard, while the mansion is across the road. Visitors board shuttle buses to enter the mansion grounds. Once you’re over there, it’s just the house, some outbuildings and the Meditation Garden, so it is not overrun by commercialism.

One negative aspect was the parking charge. I could understand this during busy times and festivals, but on a midweek afternoon the lot was virtually empty and we still had to pay $10–effectively adding five bucks to each of our admissions. I wasn’t too happy about that. It looked like there might have been free spaces on the street, but we didn’t discover that until later.

Graceland Hours: Monday-Saturday from 9am to 5pm; Sunday 9am to 4pm for most of the year. Winter hours and holidays might be shorter–best to check the website.

Graceland Address: 3765 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN 38116 (about 20 minutes south of downtown Memphis)

Where to Stay: There are several hotels near Graceland. Check Prices!

For the full immersion experience, the best choice would be The Guesthouse at Graceland, which is part of the Graceland complex. (It didn’t open until after our visit, but you can bet we’re going to try it the next time we’re in town!)

fried peanut butter and banana sandwich|Elvis Presley Graceland|Memphis attractions If you made it this far you may as well stop at Gladys’ Diner for The King’s favorite sandwich: fried peanut butter and banana.

Our Verdict

So is visiting Graceland worth it? While it depends on your level of fandom–and we’re not crazy fans–we still felt it was worthwhile. It’s not like visiting a zoo or fine arts museum, which you can find in any major city. There is only one home of King of Rock and Roll; Graceland is unique and we’re glad we went.

For more opinions on whether Graceland is worth seeing here is a discussion on Fodors.

🎶 I saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue

Followed him up to the gates of Graceland

Then I watched him walk right through

Now, security did not see him

They just hovered round his tomb

But there’s a pretty little thing

Waiting for the King

Down in the Jungle Room 🎶

~Marc Cohn, from his song Walking in Memphis

Like it? Share it . . .Pin it!

Is graceland worth visiting|Elvis Presley Graceland|Graceland Memphis TN|Memphis attractions

28581550060_131210d7e7_mWe’re Larissa and Michael: your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Normally Michael doesn’t shriek like a tween girl who just found out One Direction was breaking up. But he was this day. Being up close to the open jaws of a lion will do that to you.

We had arrived in Africa a few days earlier for a safari so Larissa could fulfill her long-time dream of seeing wild animals in their native habitat. Michael is more of a city boy, more comfortable with concrete than trees, so while he was coming along reluctantly as the good husband, he had his doubts about how this bout with nature would turn out.

During our travels around the world we met up with several people who just gushed about visiting Namibia, located on the southwest coast of Africa. Its main attraction is Etosha National Park, located about 250 miles north of the capital city of Windhoek.

wildlife in Namibia

 

About the size of New Jersey in the United States or Slovenia in Europe, Etosha surrounds a vast, blinding white saltpan and provides one of the best wildlife viewing areas in all of Africa. On any given day a visitor can spot elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions, springbok and, with a bit of luck, elusive rhinos, leopards and cheetahs.

We were riding in the park on a guided game drive in an open air Land Rover, making sure not to leave our arms dangling outside of it. Our safari driver, Ismail, knew all the hot spots or, in this case, wet spots as he sought out the waterholes where the animals congregate.

Within minutes of entering the park gate we spied a pair of giraffes loping across the road with their signature languorous stride. Despite a childhood spent leafing through animal photos in the glossy pages of National Geographic, nothing prepared us for seeing these animals up close in their native habitat. Surprisingly, Michael was enthralled as he watched the mesmerizing pace of the giraffes. We clicked through what would have been several rolls of film in the pre-digital era in about five minutes. Ismail’s gentle smile let us know that “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

wild animals Africa two giraffes crossing road (575x440)

After 20 dusty minutes on a gravel road we reached the Nebrowni waterhole, where hundreds of zebras were eagerly quenching their thirst. Sprinkled among them were springbok, dik-diks and impalas.

We watched the animals for a spell and were just about to leave when off to the right three mammoth leathery gray piles lumbered towards us. The elephants plodded along with a slow-motion rumbling gait, with their big ears flopping back and forth.

As the elephants made their deliberate progress towards the waterhole, the zebras got a bit restless. Most of them had seen this movie before and scurried away before the gargantuan onslaught.

Photo of Zebra Namibia one elephant

When elephants show up at a waterhole it’s the equivalent of the chubby kid cannonballing into the pool at a swanky hotel. Everyone else gets soaked and figures out that it’s time to leave the party. It was no different here. The zebras and springbok crept away and meandered aimlessly while waiting for the big boys to have their fun.

The elephants weren’t content to just drink the water like the other animals. They plunged right in, splashing and swinging the water around with their trunks. They played for an hour, as delighted as schoolchildren on the first day of summer.

After this adventure, we drove down a rutted gravel road through scrub pine for two or three miles where we happened upon another watering hole where a herd of thirty elephants were cavorting in the mud; the larger ones pushing the little ones aside until they swigged together at the equivalent of the “kid’s table” at the end of the pond. Elsewhere giraffes crouched into their distinctive splay-legged wide stance so they could reach down with their long necks and slurp some water. Hours slipped away as we enjoyed front-row seats for our very own live-action nature film. Elephants here, zebras there . . . hey, there goes a pack of ostriches.

Etosha 30 elephants at waterhole-Namibia

At one point Ismail pointed out a large animal about 20 yards off to the side of the Land Rover plodding through the bush. At first, all we could see were branches being disturbed but then we focused on a sight that is rare indeed, the elusive white rhinoceros. It was so close yet we never would have seen it without our guide’s trained eye. This time we put the camera down and enjoyed the moment. We were experiencing one “pinch me, I can’t believe I’m here” moment after another.

Later that evening, as the setting sun was casting a golden glow on the savannah, we got a bit more than a pinch. We had stopped on the narrow shoulder of the road and parked over a culvert to take some photos of the sunset. Meanwhile Ismail was dropping rocks onto the culvert. He said lions sometimes sleep there to escape the heat and this would bring them out. (That maxim about not waking sleeping dogs, doesn’t it apply to lions too?) But guess what: his technique worked, perhaps too well.

self-drive Namibia trip lion

Suddenly a lion, or in this case a lioness, leapt up out of the culvert where she appeared at Michael’s dangling elbow. And that’s when the shrieking started. Fortunately, the lion didn’t seem all that interested in us, or was just so shocked at the sight of a grown man whimpering so much, that she sauntered away with nary a care in the world as she returned to her nap.

Michael was a bit stunned at first, as were we at his shrieking, but like a little kid who loves being tossed in the air and repeatedly asks for more, he said, “Hey, can we do that again?” City boy was becoming nature boy as our adventure in Africa continued.

Namibia self-drive safari

For those to whom a trip to Africa is the trip of a lifetime it’s a must-see, and as Michael proved, even those for whom it’s not on the radar will experience unforgettable moments that are not available anywhere else on Earth. Just be careful if you wake up a sleeping lion.

Note: This post has been sponsored World Expeditions as part of their #WEVentureOut series. We are proud to have our “Waking a Sleeping Lion” adventure featured in this series, which encourages travelers to step outside their comfort zone and experience more of the world. For more information on trips to Africa and other unique destinations, visit the World Expeditions website.

We’re experienced world travelers but that doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally make stupid mistakes. From flushing frogs down the toilet to being mistaken for a dominatrix, here are our top ten travel mistakes, so far: Read more

LeMay Family Collection EdselThe LeMay Family Collection grew out of the automotive obsession of one man, Harold LeMay. He grew up as a humble farm boy, served in World War II, then returned to Tacoma to start what became one of the largest privately owned rubbish-hauling companies in the country. When his collection topped 3,000 vehicles, it was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s “Largest Antique and Vintage Vehicle Collection.” The museum sprawls across the former home of the Marymount Military Academy, with cars and memorabilia tucked into every possible corner, including the former showers and indoor rifle range.

LeMay Family Collection car museum

Tours of several of the buildings are led by knowledgeable volunteers who are passionate about cars. One of the things that make the LeMay Family Collection unique is its wide range of vehicles on display. Tucked in between the showstoppers are ordinary cars from yesteryear; it’s almost like walking across a supermarket parking lot around the year 1972. The collection doesn’t stop at cars; there are also fire trucks, wreckers, tractors, and buses on display.

In the White Building, vehicles are stacked in so tightly that some are on three-tiered racks. Despite the inconvenience of displaying them, they are exchanged frequently with hundreds of cars in off-site storage so those can be seen, too.

LeMay Family Collection car museum

A Soviet-built 1974 Gaz Chaika Limousine sits next to a U.S.-made 1955 Packard on which it was modeled, highlighting the progress (or lack thereof) of the Soviet automotive industry. The Chaika was so out of style that it’s probably the only 1970s car that sported tail fins. The 1948 Tucker has a special story: It’s the one car that always got away from Harold LeMay. In a closing of the circle, his family purchased it after his death.

Tailfin at LeMay Museum at Marymount

I’m always trying to find my first car, a 1975 Pontiac Firebird, in a museum. Here they had a ’74 and a ’76, so that was close enough to relive my glory days. TV/film cars include a 1969 Charger “General Lee” from The Dukes of Hazzard; the 1948 DeSoto Suburban Sedan that was the Cunningham family car on Happy Days; and a 1986 Cadillac Brougham that was used as a presidential limo in The American President and In the Line of Fire.

Edsel at LeMay car museum

A special event occurs on the last Saturday in August, when shuttle buses take visitors a few miles to the LeMay family home; there, another 200+(!) vehicles are on display. Believe it or not, the family is still adding to the collection. NAAM member.

To see more autos that were owned by LeMay, visit the LeMay-America’s Car Museum that was created with a sizable gift of cars from the LeMay family.

Visiting the LeMay Family Collection

Number of vehicles: 500+     Highlights: 1948 Tucker (#7 of 51); 1959 Opel P-1 that set a record for 376 mpg (that’s miles per gallon, not mph); 1976 Chevrolet Vega Cosworth; 1938 Graham Custom 97. Note: For more about the Opel, go to www.376mpg.com.

Location: 325 152nd Street, Tacoma, WA 98445. About eight miles south of LeMay–America’s Car Museum.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Regularly scheduled tours of about two hours run throughout the day.

Phone: (253) 272-2336   Web: www.LeMayMarymount.org

Here’s the link for more stories about classic car museums.

If you’re looking for where to stay in Stockholm, particularly for a Stockholm Arlanda Airport hotel, consider Jumbo Stay Arlanda. It’s one of the coolest places we’ve stayed in our travels. The Jumbo Stay Arlanda is a Stockholm hostel parked at the edge of the Airport. But this isn’t just any hostel, it’s built into a retro-fitted 747 which was in service between 1976 and 2004. For airplane geeks this is the ultimate lodging.

JumboStay 747 hostel Stockholm

Jumbo Stay Arlanda: the ultimate hotel for plane geeks!

Boeing recently announced that in the not too distant future they may stop production of the 747. The iconic, humped airliner was the first of the Jumbo Jets and revolutionized air travel since PanAm first started flying them in 1970. For those who are fans of this airplane, the current crop of them will fly on for years. But with the Jumbo Stay hotel you have the opportunity to sleep on a 747, and not just in an uncomfortable coach seat while flying a red-eye over the ocean.

Where to Stay in Stockholm|Jumbo Stay Arlanda

Fly boy? Or just a plane geek?

Stockholm: Where to Stay

For travelers seeking a Stockholm Arlanda Airport hotel, the 747 is a marvelous sight. When you stand right below it you realize how enormous these flying machines really are. Guests take the elevator up to the former main passenger deck to check-in. The passenger seating area is now a long corridor with rooms on either side.

Jumbo Stay Arlanda airport hotel

You too can sleep in an engine cowling (or just walk on the wing) at the Jumbo Stay Arlanda.

More Than Just a Stockholm Hostel

Most of the rooms are simple, resembling cabins on a cruise ship with upper and lower berths, and shared bathrooms. For the full Stockholm hostel experience, a few rooms (four, to be exact) are actually contained in the former engine cowlings, resembling sleeping in a gypsy caravan. However, there are two separate “suites” for those who wish to have a private toilet and shower while staying at the Jumbo Stay Arlanda.

Jumbo Stay Arlanda cockpit suite

The Cockpit Suite, watch those controls!

The much-coveted cockpit suite is located, of course, in the former cockpit. It includes what used to be the first-class lounge. That was booked so we ended up in the “Black-Box Suite” in the rear of the plane. Yes, it’s where the infamous black box used to be located, a bit eerie, but we soon overcame that upon peeking out the window at airplanes soaring by.

Jumbo Stay Arlanda Stockholm Hostel room

The Black Box Suite

As a special treat the port wing is open for a stroll and some plane-spotting on the nearby runway. There are even a few tables to eat the breakfast that is provided. A shuttle runs regularly to the airport terminal, which is only five minutes away. We used the shuttle in the evening to have dinner at one of the airport restaurants overlooking the busy runway. They are conveniently located before security, so anyone can eat there, not just someone with a flight ticket.

Where to stay in Stockholm|Jumbo Stay Arlanda Airport

Enjoy breakfast, or just hang out, in the nose of the plane

Our Favorite Arlanda Airport Hotel

So if you’re seeking a Stockholm Arlanda Airport hotel (or if you’re just a plane geek), consider the Jumbo Stay Arlanda for a unique travel experience. It’s hard to imagine now, but at some point the groundbreaking 747 will be a vestige of another age, perhaps it already is.

How to book:

Check rates and availability at Jumbo Stay Arlanda.

Prefer a more conventional airport hotel? Check Arlanda Airport Hotels here.

Looking for something in central Stockholm? Check Stockholm Hotels here.

Note: If you’re interesting in staying at Jumbo Stay Arlanda, or somewhere else in Stockholm, please consider booking through one of our links above. We make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Just one of the ways we can keep things humming here at Changes in Longitude while offering valuable travel advice free to our readers 😊.

We paid for our stay. Opinions are our own. 

 

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

We have spent more than 5 months in Bucharest during multiple visits in the past two years and love the city. Read on for our recommendations for the best hotels in Bucharest, Romania (plus apartments) in all price ranges. If you’re planning a trip, where to stay in Bucharest will depend on how long you’re planning to visit and which Bucharest attractions you’d like to see. Keep and eye out for Field-Tested Travel Tips sprinkled throughout–these are our personal recommendations based on our travels in Bucharest.

Hotels in Bucharest Romania|City hotel Bucharest|Capitol Hotel Bucharest

Where to Stay in Bucharest: Best Neighborhoods

Already know the area where you want to stay? Use these links for quick access to reviews of Bucharest hotels in each neighborhood:

  1. Bucharest Old Town Hotels & Apartments
  2. The Cultural District (along Calea Victorei)
  3. Palace of the Parliament Area
  4. Piata Universitatii-East (Including the Jewish Quarter)
  5. Dorobanti/Primavera Neighborhoods
  6. Bucharest Airport Hotels (Baneasa/Otopeni neighborhoods)

Before you choose your Bucharest accommodation, it’s important to understand the way the city is laid out. Many hotels and apartments will describe themselves in a particular sector. The 6 sectors are shaped sort of like wedges of a pie radiating outward. Old Town is at the point  all the sectors meet in the center (see below). The sectors extend to a ring road on the outskirts of the city.

Map illustrating the geographic sectors in Bucharest, overlaid with neighborhoods. (Map designed by Bogdan Giuşcă in XaraX, used by Creative Commons; it was enhanced with landmarks/neighborhoods by me ☺️)

These sectors are great for giving you an idea of whether you’re north/south/east/west of the city center. But they’re not particularly helpful when choosing your accommodation. Bucharest is a big city; you might select a hotel in the same sector as the sights you want to see. Then upon arrival you to discover you’re staying out near the ring road several kilometers away. Oops.

Rather than use the city Sectors, we’ve used Bucharest attractions as a guide and grouped lodging around popular landmarks. This will help you determine which are the best hotels in Bucharest for those sights and activities of interest to you.

The center point from where the Sectors radiate is very near to Old Town. Most of the Bucharest attractions of interest to visitors will be north of this.

Accommodation in Bucharest: Excellent value

No matter what your budget or preference in accommodation, Bucharest has plenty of options. Bucharest accommodation runs the gamut from 5-star luxury, to cheap hotels, to apartments. Romania is a good value for travelers from Western Europe and North America. You can “upgrade” your lodging standards while here.

Even if you don’t normally opt for a luxury hotel, Bucharest is the place to consider a splurge without busting your budget. With some advance planning, you can find a major 5-star hotel in Bucharest for under $200 per night. That’s virtually unheard-of in most European capitals. If your tastes run more toward a boutique hotel, Bucharest has plenty to offer in in that category.

For more budget-minded travelers, there are an abundance of midrange and cheap hotels in Bucharest city centre. Even if your lodging preference is for a hostel, Bucharest has them, but we suggest considering a hotel or studio apartment. It’s easy to find a simple hotel with a private bath for what you might pay for a hostel in other European cities.

Bucharest apartments for travelers are plentiful, and available throughout the city. They are a great alternative if you’re planning to stay for a week or more, or if you’re looking for a family option.

A note about pricing: whether searching for an apartment or hotel, central Bucharest offers an excellent value. That said, prices can fluctuate based on availability. For the purposes of this guide we have used US dollars and grouped accommodations into four general categories:

  • $$$$:  $150 and higher
  • $$$:    $100-150
  • $$       $  60-100
  • $          under $60

All price categories are based on double occupancy and include a private bath, unless noted otherwise.

 Best Hotels in Bucharest: Old Town

Best for: Sidewalk cafes, Bars, Nightlife

Old Town is very near the geographic center of Bucharest. It’s a cluster of narrow, mostly cobblestoned streets open only to pedestrians. The neighborhood has a few beautiful old churches and the remains of a medieval estate. But the majority of the streets are lined with restaurants, bars and cafes that are wedged in side by side, with seats spilling onto the street. It’s arguably the core of Bucharest nightlife. If you love being in the center of the action, this is the spot for you.

Hotels in Bucharest Old Town are tucked in amidst all of this. Keep in mind that you might have to walk a few cobblestoned blocks to reach the entrance of your lodging.

The Mansion Boutique Hotel: $$$-$$$$ Chic & Swanky

Mansion Boutique Hotel Bucharest|Best hotels in Bucharest Romania

Repurposed from an elegant 19th century home, the Mansion Boutique Hotel is one of the newest additions to bustling Old Town. A cleverly designed atrium brightens up the interior, and all of the 19 rooms in this 100% smoke-free property are uniquely decorated. Field-Tested Travel Tip: rooms at the back, facing the atrium, are quieter. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Europa Royale Bucharest: $$$ Traditional & Central

Best hotels in Bucharest Romania| Europa Royale Hotel Bucharest

The Europa Royale is a classic European hotel, 100% smoke-free with 92 updated traditional rooms at the southern edge of Old Town (which means taxis can get you close to the front door). Outward-facing rooms on the upper floors have sweeping views over nearby Unirii Square park; request an atrium room facing the interior garden for a quieter stay. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Tania-Frankfurt Hotel: $$ Comfort & Value

Best hotels in Bucharest Romania|Tania-Frankfurt Hotel

This small (17-room) hotel is perched on a pedestrian corner right in the thick of Old Town. Rooms are comfortably furnished, with a few singles offering excellent value for solo travelers; 100% smoke-free interior. Breakfast is included in the room rate. Field-Tested Travel Tip: Check out the 3rd-floor outdoor lounge, where you can watch all the Old Town bustle from high above. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Apartments in Bucharest Old Town

CityLife Suite: $$$$ (Sleeps 6)

This Bucharest Apartment at the edge of the Old Town boasts 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms, making it an excellent option for a family or several couples traveling together. It has a central living area, along with modern kitchen and big dining table. Field-Tested Travel Tip: a large Carrefour supermarket is about 2 blocks away. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Antic Apartments: $-$$

Best hotels Bucharest Romania

These 10 newly renovated (2017) apartments occupy the 4th-6th floor of a building right in the center of Old Town. Sizes range from studios with basic kitchenette facilities to 1- & 2-bedroom apartments. They are furnished in a simple, comfortable style, with modern bathrooms. Field-Tested Travel Tip: check out Carturesti bookstore around the corner, which is in a beautifully renovated old theatre building. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Cultural District

Best for: Art Museums, Concerts, Revolution Square

Many of Bucharest’s cultural museums, concert venues and beautiful Belle Epoque buildings are located in this neighborhood. Calea Victorei, one of the city’s main north/south streets, is the common thread that unites them all. This area is slightly north of Old Town, and houses the majority of 5-star hotels in Bucharest (although there are some moderate options as well.) If you choose this area for your city hotel, Bucharest and most of its main attractions will be within walking distance. Stay in this area if you like the sophisticated ambiance of a European capital.

A centerpiece of the neighborhood is the Athanaeum, a magnificent old concert hall that is one of the prettiest buildings in Europe. Field Tested Travel Tip: attend a performance at the Athanaeum to experience this magnificent building as it was intended. With its pocket park and nearby genteel sidewalk cafes, this is the area that earned Bucharest the nickname “Little Paris.”

Field-Tested Travel Tip: Check multiple dates around your intended travel time. Hotels here offer excellent deals on non-busy dates. A recent search yielded prices as low as ~$135/night for 5 star hotels. Bucharest is truly a rarity for affordable luxury hotels in a European capital.

Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest: $$$-$$$$ Grand & Traditional

Best hotels Bucharest Romania

Cited by many as the Grande Dame of Bucharest hotels, the Athenee Palace Hilton occupies pride of place adjacent to the Athenaeum. It has been welcoming guests since 1914. Despite an exterior renovation in the 1930s to give it a more updated Art Deco look, the interior retains its Belle Epoque elegance. There are 272 rooms (some in a more modern wing), and all the amenities you’d expect from a 5-star hotel. Field-Tested Travel Tip: Try French Revolution pastry shop just up the street. They specialize in eclairs in a variety of flavors that are tres magnifique! Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Radisson Blu Bucharest: $$$-$$$$ Sleek & Contemporary

Best Hotels in Bucharest Romania|Radisson Blu Bucharest

The Radisson Bucharest is a large (487 rooms) hotel. It’s Bucharest’s “Rich Playboy Nephew” when compared to the historic Hilton across the street. The atrium lobby bar/cafe, with its cool under-floor water feature, is often abuzz with activity and looks out onto the swanky pool area. The adjacent casino is a magnet for young bucks looking to strut their stuff. Field-Tested Travel Tip™: Caffé Cittá, the restaurant just off the lobby, serves up some of the best pizza in Bucharest (our fave is the Pizza Cittá, with prosciutto and arugula). Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Grand Hotel Continental: $$$-$$$$ Regal & Understated

Everything about the Grand Hotel Continental Bucharest oozes Old World elegance. The Belle Epoque architecture, stately entrance courtyard and gilded furnishings are reminiscent of 19th-century Paris or Vienna. With only 59 rooms, guests have the feeling they are staying at the country chateau of a rich relative, rather than a hotel. An excellent option if you like luxury in a calm, understated atmosphere. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Mercure Bucharest City Center: $$-$$$ Edgy & Subtle

Best Hotels in Bucharest Romania|Mercure City Centre Bucharest

The 114 rooms at the Mercure Bucharest City Center are decorated in a modern, edgy style with nice amenities and great rainfall showers. This 100% smoke free hotel is a great choice for someone who wants a central location, but on a quiet side street, about 1 block from the Athenaeum. Field-Tested Travel Tip: check out m60, one of our fave Bucharest cafes, just around the corner. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Hotel Capitol: $$ Traditional & Comfortable

Hotels in Bucharest Romania|City hotel Bucharest|Capitol Hotel Bucharest

The Hotel Capitol Bucharest is a pleasant 3-star hotel in a wonderful old building that is an excellent value. Located right on Calea Victorei midway between the cultural attractions and Old Town, the Capitol Hotel is a super convenient. The hotel’s 80 rooms were renovated in 2014 and are comfortably furnished. Field-Tested Travel Tip: the hotel restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch on weekdays. Each day features a different cuisine from Eastern & Central Europe, along with live music. The quality is excellent, and at €5.50, it’s one of the best values in town. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Hotel Amzei: $$ Boutique & Discreet

Housed in a former early 20th-century residence, the Amzei Hotel has the feel of a country house hotel tucked into central Bucharest. The 22 rooms are elegant without being stuffy, and the public rooms off the simple reception area are a nice spot to rest and read up on the nearby sights. The location is a pocket residential area and fairly quiet. Field-Tested Travel Tip: an excellent bakery with a simple walk-up window is just outside the hotel entrance. Be sure to try the polonez cu nuca, a pretzel-shaped walnut danish that’s the best we’ve ever tasted. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Bucharest Apartments, Cultural District 

Coming Soon!

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Parliament Area

Best for: Visiting Palace of the Parliament, Attending Conferences

Palace of the Parliament Bucharest|Best hotels Bucharest Romania

Palace of the Parliament is hard to miss. The massive structure dominates the neighborhood southeast of Old Town. Despite its name, only part of the building is used for government purposes. The complex also houses a contemporary art museum and a large exposition hall for conventions. With huge surrounding grounds, there’s not much of a conventional “neighborhood,” and lodging choices are limited. However, if you have business with the government, or are attending a conference here, this is the best area to stay.

JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel: $$$-$$$$ Stately & Palatial

Best hotels in Bucharest Romania

With 402 rooms, several restaurants, a pool, spa, casino and shopping arcade of exclusive boutiques the 100% smoke-free JW Marriott Bucharest is practically a resort! Its location directly behind the Parliament complex makes it convenient for conferences there. Field Tested Travel Tip: this hotel is a bit of a walk to Old Town & the Cultural District, so plan to use taxis (which are plentiful and cheap in Bucharest). Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Piata Universitatii-East

Best for: Proximity to Sights, Local Neighborhoods

Best hotels Bucharest Romania

Piata Universitatii is the main traffic circle north of Old Town with a metro stop on the main north/south line. It is one of the busiest intersections in Bucharest (so busy that pedestrians must use an underground passageway). Hotels east of the Piata are also walking distance to Old Town and the Cultural District, but a bit farther away. This added distance provides some quiet neighborhoods and affordable options. Stay here if you are looking for good value and don’t mind walking a bit.

Hotel Intercontinental Bucharest: $$$$ Classic & Omnipresent

This hotel is hard to miss–at 24 stories high, it’s one of the tallest buildings in central Bucharest. Perched right at the Universitatii intersection, it offers excellent access to most major Bucharest attractions. Despite its wonky 1970s exterior, the interior is hushed and genteel, with rooms befitting this luxury brand. Field-Tested Travel Tip: check out the rooftop health club for spectacular views of the city. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

Boutique Hotel Monaco: $$ Comfy & Quiet

Best hotels Bucharest Romania|Hotel Boutique Monaco

If you are seeking a city hotel in Bucharest that’s a bit removed from the hustle and bustle, the Boutique Hotel Monaco is a good choice. The hotel is set on a leafy side street across from the Hungarian Embassy, in a renovated Belle-Epoque style building. The mansard roof and the neo-19th-century French decor in the super-comfy rooms will have you feeling like you’re in a Parisian arrondissement. Field Tested Travel Tip: surf the internet al fresco at nearby Gradina Icoanei Park–the city of Bucharest provides free WiFi in all public parks. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Flower’s B&B: $ Cozy & Affordable

Best Hotels Bucharest Romania

Flower’s is a traditional B&B in a converted early 20th-century home on a quiet street southeast of Universitatii. Rooms are folksy, clean and comfortable. Breakfast is available in the walled garden in warm weather. Field-tested travel tip: there is ample street parking adjacent to the hotel, making it a good choice for departing/returning from a road trip to the Romanian countryside. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Apartments in Universitatii-East

Coming Soon!

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Dorobanti/Primavera

Best for: Parks, Outdoor Museums, Embassies

The neighborhoods of Dorobanti and Primavera are arguably Bucharest’s “gold coast.” Located at the northern end of central Bucharest, the leafy streets are filled with pretty homes and many embassies. Herestrul Park (the city’s largest) is nearby, as are both the Peasant and Village museums. Because of the residential atmosphere, hotels are located on the periphery; there are more options for apartments on the residential streets. Stay here if  you like a quieter location with a bit of greenery.

Sheraton Hotel Bucharest: $$$-$$$$ Classic & Modern

A classic big-city hotel, the Sheraton Hotel Bucharest is a good option if you’re seeking a full compliment of amenities and hotel services with well-known standards. Its location just off the bustling Piata Romana provides easy access to Old Town via the metro. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

Hotel Christina: $$$ Stylish & Eco-Friendly

A member of the Bucharest boutique hotel scene, Hotel Christina is tucked away on a quiet street north of Piata Romana in an area with chic apartments and private homes. The smoke-free interior boasts some unique design features with clever lighting and eco-friendly materials. Field-Tested Travel Tip: For a taste of local cuisine, try the traditional Romanian communal dinner offered in the hotel restaurant every Monday night. Check hotel rates and availability on Booking.com.

Apartments in Dorobanti/Primavera

Coming Soon!

Best Bucharest Airport Hotels (Baneasa/Otopeni)

Best for: Airport, American Embassy

Bucharest city center is fairly close to its airport. As a result, there aren’t many hotels near Bucharest airport (Henri Coanada International). However, if you have an early flight, there are a few good options. The American Embassy is located on a compound in the Baneasa neighborhood just south of the Airport. If you are doing business with the Embassy, this area might be a good choice for a hotel.

Vienna House Easy Angelo Bucharest: $$$ Contemporary & Convenient

Yes, it’s an unusual name. But that doesn’t take away from from the modern, well-fitted rooms and convenient amenities at this hotel, Bucharest Airport’s nearest lodging. The hotel has conference facilities and is popular for business meetings, so be sure to book ahead if you have an early flight. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

Best Western Plus Hotel Briston: $$ Classic & Reliable

Traditional airport hotel with comfortable rooms and good service with a smoke-free interior. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

 

Note: If you found this information useful, please consider booking your hotel through one of the links provided above. We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep things humming here at Changes in Longitude, while providing valuable travel tips free to our readers 😊.

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Best hotels Bucharest Romania|hotel Bucharest Airport|luxury hotel Bucharest

 

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Lately we’ve noticed escape rooms popping up everywhere in our travels. We did our first one in Prague last year and really enjoyed it. We were intrigued when we heard about an escape room at the Lock Museum of America in Terryville, Connecticut. A lock museum?  It seemed like the perfect location for it.

Lock Museum of America Escape Room Adventure Game

What is an escape room?

An escape room, or adventure game, is typically an attraction where 2 to 6 people are locked in a room where they have to solve various clues to find the key to get out. Typically they have an hour to solve the clues that involve wordplay, simple mathematics, puzzles, common sense, matching up photographs, jigsaw puzzles, and more. You don’t need to know any facts, like what’s the population of Los Angeles, to solve the clues. Phones are not permitted so no Googling!

Lock Museum of America Adventure

How is the Adventure Game at the Lock Museum of America different than other escape rooms?

Lock Museum of America Escape Room Texaco LockFirst of all, the Lock Museum of America is an incredible site for this concept. You are surrounded by one of the largest collections of unique antique locks and keys in the world, many of which were made in Terryville during its industrial heyday. (Well, except for the 4,000-year-old lock from ancient Egypt that is the oldest artifact in the collection.)

Rather than being locked in a room, which many people find stifling, players have free rein throughout the museum. In fact, they need to roam through several rooms to solve the clues. (This is why it’s called an adventure game instead of an escape room.) A volunteer is standing by to provide clues in case the players get stuck.

 

Lock Museum of America Adventure Game

The theme of the Lock Museum of America Adventure Game is based on an Indiana Jones-type tale of an Egyptian Pharoah’s gold that is hidden in the museum. Participants must solve the clues to solve the mystery. I’ve watched people play the game and, at first, it seems impossible. Where to start? What’s even a clue?

But gradually the players work their way through the clues and, with a few hints along the way, solve the puzzle. It’s definitely challenging, and also a lot of fun. Compared to other Escape Rooms I’ve played, I like the free-wheeling atmosphere of going from room to room. Plus the setting, surrounded by antique locks, is certainly unique.

More information about the Lock Museum of America Adventure Game

The Lock Museum of America is open from May through October. The Adventure Game is open on weekends during that time. Reservations must be made in advance. For more go to Lock Museum of America Adventure.

Lock Museum of America Adventure Room

 

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

London is one of our favorite destinations in the world to visit. One of the reasons is that there are so many hidden sights in London that we’ve never heard of before. But with each visit there’s less and less new, or in London’s case, old, to explore. That’s why I was so intrigued with a new book by David Fathers called London’s Hidden Rivers: A Walker’s Guide to the Subterranean Waterways of London. It’s that last part that intrigued me. Sure, we all know about the strolling along the River Thames through the heart of London, but there are also underground waterways? This was worth checking out.

The book highlights 12 ancient rivers that helped form the city into its current layout. In medieval times these waterways were used for drinking, cleaning, powering industry, and sewage disposal. Due to this latter use, they were not pretty. In fact, as Fathers points out, by the 17th century the water wasn’t even drinkable.

London's hidden Rivers book review

 

As the rivers became literally toxic, they city started to bury them. An 1849 cholera outbreak that cost 49,000 lives also led to the creation of a city water works to provide clean water to Londoners. Over time the buried rivers were largely forgotten, but much of the path of development in the city can be traced to their prior uses. In fact, many of the city’s borough borders were defined by the rivers. These days, that’s more often a road that rides over the covered stream below.

Book Review London's Hidden Rivers Wilkinson Sword Company

The book features 75 miles of walks along 12 of these former rivers. The illustrations that accompany the maps of these walks were also drawn by the multi-talented Fathers. I particularly enjoyed learning about little anecdotes like walking along the track that Sir Roger Bannister used while training to be the first human to run the mile in under four minutes.

London’s Hidden Rivers is a great book for anyone who thinks they know London and is looking for something else to explore. Despite its compact size, it also makes for good reading about the history and development of London.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites like in the book review above. We earn a very small commission on these sales and it does not affect your price for the item. These commissions are one very small way we can continue this blog and provide readers like you with valuable travel advice for free.

The Petronas Towers

Getting Petronas Towers tickets requires a bit of strategy. Tickets are limited, so if you want to go to the observation deck—at the best time to visit for great photos, or simply a time that works for your travel schedule—it’s best to book ahead. The dual skyscrapers, which were once the tallest buildings in the world, are one of the most popular Kuala Lumpur tourist attractions. We’re glad we went; read on for our review and tips on visiting.

Impatient? Book ahead with Petronas Towers Skip the Line

Looking for a Hotel in KL? COMPARE PRICES HERE

Anyone who watched Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones dangle precariously from two tall buildings in the movie Entrapment will recognize these twin towers, Malaysia’s contemporary architectural jewel. Michael’s not much of a dangler, but he really wanted to visit the observation deck at the top. Unfortunately, there was a problem.

Getting tickets on site: wake up EARLY!

You can purchase Petronas Towers tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, which is challenging because there are a limited number of tickets available for each day. The ticket office opens at 8:30 AM. Unfortunately tickets–which are for timed departure throughout the day–are as popular as front row seats for Lady Gaga. According to the guidebooks, visitors are advised to arrive as early as 6:30 AM to get a spot before they sell out–YIKES! During our travels we met several people who skipped the tour because they didn’t want to wake up early to stand in line (like us). A friend of ours who lives in Kuala Lumpur (or “KL,” as the locals call it) has never even gone to the top because of that supposed requirement.

Uh oh . . . Michael is not a crack-of-dawn kind of guy. He was torn: as a self-proclaimed building geek, visiting the the Kuala Lumpur towers was one of the main reasons we came to Malaysia. (Like visiting the Burj Kalifa was a big draw for visiting Dubai.) Maybe he could send Larissa in the early morning for tickets? [….Um, that would be a “NO!” ] We had to find another way.

Kuala Lumpur Petronas Towers tickets

These students from Indonesia were thrilled to pose with Little Rocky in front of the Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur

Can you buy tickets for the Petronas Towers in advance?

The short answer is yes. We managed to sleep in and still get to the top.

Ticket alternative: A Petronas Twin Towers “tour”

Fortunately, you can secure a ticket in advance by purchasing it through Viator. The twin tower ticket for Petronas Tickets Skip the Line is reasonable (approximately $30). The purchase process is easy–a few simple clicks online–and tickets are delivered right to your hotel. [NOTE: we recommend bringing your passport along, in case they need to see it upon checking in.]

If you only have limited time in KL, you might want to consider this Airport Transfer/Petronas Tower option, which will pick you up at the airport (not a bad idea–it’s a looong way from downtown), take you to the towers, then drop you off at your hotel.

Petronas Towers Skybridge|visit Petronas Towers tickets

On the 42nd floor Skybridge the limited capacity keeps down the crowds. A visit to the Skybridge is included in the KL tower entrance fee.

Petronas Towers Tickets: The Skybridge & Observation Deck

As tours to the tops of tall buildings go–and we’ve been to most of them–this was by far the best. The ticket office issues a limited number of tickets for each 15-minute time segment, which means it doesn’t get crowded. Show up at the designated time and guides escort a small group of about fifteen to the distinctive 42nd story Skybridge connecting the two towers.  We had about fifteen minutes, which was plenty of time to walk around, take photos, and marvel at the fact that you are suspended between the two towers.

After that the guide boarded us on the high-speed elevator that soared to the 88th floor observatory of the eastern tower. There, we spent another twenty minutes roaming around, filling up the memory card of our cameras.  The building’s unique 8-pointed star shape provides plenty of nooks and crannies, therefore it was easy to find a private spot to take in the view. A Kuala Lumpur tourist map was laid at our feet, with the hills in the distance.  It was a gorgeous view and, best of all, we didn’t have to get up early to see it.

Petronas Towers tickets-the best time to visit is late afternoon for "golden hour" photos

Even allegedly grown men get as excited as little kids on the top of tall buildings. The Petronas Towers is one of the top tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur.

Visiting the Petronas Towers: Practical Matters

To us, the Petronas Towers is a must on a list of Kuala Lumpur places to visit. Here is a synopsis of the practical tips:

Order tickets ahead:

Skip the Line Petronas Towers.

(If you only have a short time in KL, consider the Airport Transfer/Petronas Towers combo.)

Time to allow:

About an hour for the visit from bottom to top and back again

Best time to visit the Petronas Towers: 

With tickets limited, there are never crowds. If you’re a serious photographer, schedule a late afternoon visit for the “golden hour.”

Who should go?

Lovers of tall buildings and long-range views

Where to stay?

We stayed at the ParkRoyal Serviced Apartments. Nice, large studio in a central location, with kitchenette (perfect for enjoying takeaway meals), and a terrific rooftop pool. A good value. You can also use this handy tool to check KL hotel prices.

Is it worth it to get Petronas Towers tickets?

When you visit Kuala Lumpur, YES! Compared to tours of most skyscraper observation decks, the Petronas Towers tour was well-organized. Knowledgeable guides are available to answer any questions about the building or the views. Touch-screen TVs on the Skybridge provide information about what the visitor is looking at. The are are limited tickets sold each day, as a result there’s plenty of room for everyone; no waiting or jostling at the windows for a view.

If you can’t make it to the Kuala Lumpur towers, here are some Petronas Towers souvenirs.

Some other things to do in Kuala Lumpur

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Disclaimer: We purchased our own tickets to visit the Petronas towers. We are now a member of Viator’s affiliate program, which means if you purchase a tour through our links we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep things humming here at Changes in Longitude, while providing free travel guidance to our readers. 😊

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

Driving on a fog-moistened slippery dirt road, perched precariously on the side of a mountain, is not everyone’s notion of the ideal vacation. Nor is it ours either. Yet for some reason here we were doing just that, while driving the Ring of Valentia on the far west coast of Ireland.

A wizened old billy-goat with a long gray beard, who had obviously seen it all before, watched us with a sense of amusement as we tried to keep our tires on the treacherous path. What we would have given at that moment to have that goat’s sense of sure footedness.

Lord of the Rings

49128650 - fogher cliff; valentia island; ireland

How did we get here? You see, for us the Ring of Kerry was a bit mundane. Everyone we knew who visited Ireland had been there and done that. The more remote Ring of Skellig, just beyond the Ring of Kerry, sounded intriguing . . . until we saw a note on our map that the even more remote Ring of Valentia, a circumnavigation of Valentia Island, was just beyond the Ring of Skellig off the coast of the Kerry Peninsula. The narrowness of the road precludes the tour buses which famously clog the Ring of Kerry, particularly in summertime. While not as famous as the other rings, the Ring of Valentia is no piker in the “sights to see” department.

So off to the Ring of Valentia we went, which is how we ended up in our present predicament, perched on a narrow path on the side of a cliff. The last signpost had stated “Slate Quarry 1 km.” On reflection I wasn’t sure why we were bothering to risk our lives to see a slate quarry in the first place. Then I remembered . . .

Heeding the Kerryman

We had been to a Vodafone store earlier in the week to pick up a SIM card for our phone. Upon learning we were heading west, the young salesman proudly piped up with “I’m a Kerryman myself” and recommended some of the less touristy sights. “You should definitely go see the slate quarry,” he said. Apparently it provided the slate for the Paris Opera House and the Houses of Parliament in London. It was hard to see what all the fuss was about, we had lived near one years ago in the Philly suburbs. We used to pass it on the way to the mall, and that quarry had seemed pretty unremarkable. But this was a recommendation from a Kerryman after all, so who were we to argue?

As the car wheels slithered along and kicked some gravel down the mountainside I thought to myself, “this is less touristy all right.” Probably because mounting deaths of visitors would be bad for tourism. Rarely have I felt in such imminent danger of dying on vacation. As my life passed slowly before my eyes, I realized Larissa was as terrified as I was. She didn’t have to tell me, her silence was enough. Rarely is my extremely chatty wife this quiet.

Cliff driving

Driving in Ireland

Note: This road in Ireland is not the road by the quarry. But I liked the sign.

To bolster my confidence I recalled prior challenging drives outside our comfort zone: like the time we drove on Route 1 overlooking the California coast; the road for which guardrails are shunned. At the time I kept reminding myself, “I never drive off the roads at home and there’s no reason having a massive drop next to the road should make me do it here.” But I hadn’t taken into account the logging trucks and RVs whizzing around every curve that had no regard for staying on their side of the centerline. Yet we somehow managed just fine. Or anytime driving in France, which I am told has the highest highway fatality rate in Europe. (Surprisingly it’s not Italy, the land of my ancestors.) Or even Boston, where rotaries (most people know them as traffic circles) are an invitation to anarchy . . . Which brings me back to our precarious situation clinging to a cliffside path in Ireland.

Here the danger wasn’t another car, but whether our own vehicle would continue to grip the slippery road or go sliding over one of the famous windswept cliffs of Ireland. Way down below us we could see the waves creating five-story high flumes as they crashed against the rocks of a lone lighthouse guarding the treacherous coast. As I navigated the next precarious turn, not far from my thoughts was the hope that I wouldn’t soon be seeing those waves up close.

It was essentially a one-lane road that carried trucks in both directions. The fact that at any moment a heavy rig laden with several tons of slate could come careening around at us only added to the drama. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, back up. It was a curvy road and (did I mention this part yet?) I was sitting on the opposite side of the car to what I am used to. I didn’t like my odds of backing up safely.

Your place or mine?

We finally made it to the end of the road and almost drove into the aforementioned slate mine. We were still under the illusion that the road connected to something, that by staying on it we could continue winding our way around the island. We didn’t realize it was a dead end. (A term we hoped would just be used metaphorically.) As the road got smaller and narrower and tighter we gradually realized it wasn’t a road anymore. The guys walking around wearing miner’s hats with lights attached to them should have been a giveaway at that point. Their faces strapped underneath the lights wore the same amused expression as the billy-goat a mile back. Eyes that had seen it all before.

At that point we realized that there was no other way out and we would have to turn around and traverse the treacherous way we had just barely made it in on. I thought of calling Hertz and telling them the car had broken down, but it was hard to picture a tow truck pulling the car to safety. So back we went. On our return journey it was worse for Larissa, as she was now sitting on the outside staring into the void, and crashing waves, below. Come to think of it, it’s probably always worse for Larissa.

Driving the Ring of Valentia

Ring-of-Valentia-Island-map

Despite our heart pounding experience we highly recommend driving the Ring of Valentia on Valentia Island, as long as you stick to real roads. From the west end of the island, off in the distance the craggy peaks of Skellig Michael loom over the Atlantic Ocean. This vista is familiar to anyone who saw the closing scene of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens when (spoiler alert) a grizzled Luke Skywalker finally makes his appearance. (Note the helpful Star Wars logo on the tourist map above.)

Nearby there’s also an interesting display that commemorates the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. It started out from this spot in 1866. Back in the day, this event was as significant as the modern-day birth of the internet.

 

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

 

Note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. There are also links to other companies on this blog to purchase items. We earn a very small commission on these sales and it does not affect your price for the item. These small commissions are one way we can continue this blog and provide readers with valuable travel advice for free.