California: San Francisco Day 5 and 6

You can definitely feel the difference between Southern and Northen California. San Francisco is a bit chillier and it was really cloudy once we got there.

The flight between LA and San Francisco is really short. By the time you go up and you have to land again.

San Francisco, just like LA is really easy to get around using Uber/Lyft. The difference here is that public transport seems more convenient and accessible. One ticket is $2.5 and you can board another bus/street car up to 2.5 hours afterwards.

There is also SF BART which will cost you around $8 from the airport to Powell St.

After we arrived we headed downtown to find something for breakfast. As expected most places have lineups so keep that in mind. Brunch is a big thing apparently in SF.

This trip was a lot less structured due to not having enough time to plan and the shortness of our stay. 20170327_105731-2.jpgFrom Powell St once you’re out and the Cable Car is pretty much the first thing you see. It’s a huge attraction and always have a large crowd waiting to go for a ride. Tickets are $7 per person and are sold nearby.

We got on a street car and headed to Pier 1 since we had tickets to Alcatraz later on. Pier one is full of small markets where you can buy coffee, a snack, bread, cheese, honey, and other foods. Your stay in there would most likely depend on your budget.

Pier 39 and Alcatraz

This was our first big event for the day. I don’t think I need to explain what Alcatraz Island really is. It is amazing how they managed to turn a prison into a huge tourist attraction that brings so much money.

SAM_9964-2.jpgI think the best place to buy tickets is from http://www.alcatrazcruises.com. Not trying to advertise or anything but they’re the ones that actually sail to the island and not just around it. For $35 you get 2 way ferry ride plus audi tour of the cell block. I have to say it’s totally worth it. There is a boat schedule all over the island so you can plan to stay as much or as little as you’d like. Once you land there’s a bit of a walk until you reach the cells.

20170326_150830-2.jpg

The place is still pretty accessible since you can get a small bus/train that goes from the landing all the way up. Once inside, you get your audio tour and you’re on your way. The tour last 45 minutes and it’s pretty interactive.

There are also other events happening on the island which unfortunately didn’t have time to explore.

20170326_154039-2.jpg

The last boat departs Alcatraz at 5:30PM so after everything we had dinner in a Thai restaurant in a sketchy neighborhood and called it a day.

Next Day

We began the day boarding the cable car to the Fisherman’s Wharf.

20170327_115025-2.jpgThe ride is real fun. Obviously you can get to the pier much cheaper with streetcar but I don’t know if you can experience such a ride anywhere else. It takes probably 45 minutes to its final destination. You can see Alcatraz from there as well.

Once at the pier there are plenty of things to do. 20170327_120002-2.jpgOne of those things was Hyde St Pier where you can go aboard those ships but I wasn’t really excited to see those. Not to mention the Maritime Museum in San Diego is probably much better for pretty much the same price.

There are also a lot of places where you can rent a bike, scooter or other means to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Sadly we couldn’t do any of those so we headed back to Pier One.

From Pier one we walked around and grabbed a fairly long streetcar ride to Twin Peaks.

SAM_0055-2.jpg

There’s not really much to do there but if you want to get the best view of San Francisco this is it! Plenty of tourists here.

Looking back I don’t think we were explore most of San Francisco but we were happy with everything we saw.
Definitely wanted to check Golden Gate Park or walk across the bridge itself. Another time maybe.

In the meantime if you ever fly from San Francisco through JFK make sure you have enough time to transfer flights. We had one hour so due to delay we spent 12 more hours flying through Salt Lake City and Boston.

20170328_174159.jpg

Advertisements

A guide to Istanbul Pt.1

Intro

Before I start, let me just say that I tried to find as much information about Istanbul before I went there, and somehow most of the things I found seemed outdated. After 3 days in there, I decided to share my experience in case you find yourself in a similar situation as I did. Some of the things I write might not apply to anyone, but coming from Canada here’s how things like:

  • Getting there

Most people fly to Istanbul, but I was previously in Bulgaria so I got a bus from Sofia, which was a)cheaper b)just as convenient as getting the plane.

The night bus from Sofia is a decent option if you’re on a budget. I got my ticket from the central bus station in Sofia(Subway stops there so it’s not hard to find), and cost me 50Leva one way. The bus leaves from “Serdika” station, which is on the other side of the street across the railway station.

I got my ticket from “Metro”, but there are other companies that go the same route for probably the same amount. I can’t comment on their quality, but metro was okay. They gave some snack before we left, and coffee/tea, even though I didn’t feel like drinking coffee at 11PM.

The ride went smooth, and the only time we had to leave the bus was when we crossed the border. Check your country’s passport requirements for entry into Turkey. It wasn’t an issue for me, but for other countries, you might have to pay for visa on entry. A small thing to consider is that security isn’t as tight and nobody bothers you during the trip, so in a way I find the bus even better than flying there. (I hate airport security)

The bus arrived there around 8-9AM the next day. There was supposed to be a free shuttle bus to Sultanahmet, but it never showed up, and we got on the one to Aksaray. You can also get the subway from the central bus station. It is roughly 5 minute walking. Depending on where you’re going you should probably switch to tram at Aksaray station.

  • Public Transport

This part is pretty straight forward as long as you get it right. There are 2 ways to travel with the public transport. One is a token, called”jeton”, which costs 4 Lira(as of July.2014), and Istanbulpass which gives you some discount, and you can charge the card at any station. I’m not sure exactly how much discount you’re getting, but if you change a bus or subway within a certain time period you pay only 50% on the next trip. You can also use it for more than 1 person, which makes it even more convenient. It will save you a lot of money so I’d really recommend buying one. I got mine from an employee since the machine was broken and I might have overpaid a bit, but it’s well worth having one if you’re staying 2+ days.

To put things in numbers traveling with a pass costs roughly 2.45 lira on the first and 1.20 on the second trip.

I avoided taking the bus, and I have absolutely no idea how convenient it is for foreigners to take. Fortunately, going around the main parts doesn’t require taking a bus. Walking should be fine for covering most of the historic part of Istanbul

Trams have a good announcement system, and there are also instructions in English on interchange stations. Same goes for the subway.

I actually used public transport from my hotel to Ataturk airport on the last day. It took me roughly an hour from Sultanahmet on Monday morning(considering traffic and commuters), and it’s really easy and cheap. You just have to switch from Tram to Subway at Zeyitinburnu station.

  • Changing money

That’s another thing which bothered me before going to Istanbul. It might be convenient for people coming from Europe to use ATMs, but for me having only Canadian dollars it meant I had to find some place to exchange money. Didn’t try any banks, and went straight to exchange offices. I actually saw some pretty good rates at the airport when I was leaving, but they might charge commission, so check before giving them any money.

For me the best places to change money was in Grand Bazaar. Avoid changing around the main touristy areas since they’ll probably sell you liras for much cheaper. Look for “no commission” sign and you’ll probably be fine. I changed money in 3 different places and never had issues.

Do your research beforehand, and look for the difference in “buy” and “sell”. If it’s too big then it’s probably not a good rate you’re getting in there.

Many places accept credit cards, but companies usually charge fees for using them abroad.