Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said

Located in the north of Tunisia, about 20 minutes from the bustling capital of Tunis, is the charming seaside town of Sidi Bou Said. Known as the “Artist’s Village’ it is easy to see why Sidi Bou Said has been a popular bohemian getaway since the late 19th century.

With its winding cobblestoned streets, hidden courtyards and gardens and endless alleyways, Sidi Bou Said is the perfect place to spend the day exploring and taking in the views from the cliffs out to the Mediterranean below.

It is also a great base from which to explore the surrounding area. The ruins of ancient Carthage are nearby, and it is an easy trip into town to explore the sprawling maze of the Souq lined Medina in Tunis.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Getting there: from Tunis take the TGM Metro (known locally as the “Blue Train”) which departs every 20 minutes or so. There are also several day tours running from Tunis to the village. Cars are banned in the village centre.

Where to stay: La Villa Bleue – A beautiful boutique style hotel overlooking the Mediterranean. Hotel Dar Said – Set in a traditional merchants house Hotel Dar Said is an authentic and relaxing small hotel.

Where to eat and drink: Au Bon Vieux Temps – French, Mediterranean. With stunning views overlooking the Mediterranean this is the perfect spot to watch the sun go down while enjoying your meal. Restaurant Dar Zarrouk  – Tunisian. With plenty of tables both inside and out and views over the Marina, this is another great option for evening dining. Cafe des Nattes This iconic traditional cafe perched above the village, is a great spot to people watch while enjoying the traditional sweet mint tea, or local coffee.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova BlogRestaurant Dar Zarrouk

Shopping: Sidi Bou Said is a great place to pick up souvenirs of your trip to Tunisia. Carpets, colourful pottery, leather goods, and jewellery are amongst some of the things on offer.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Street vendors sell sweetly scented Jasmine flowers.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

The maze of narrow cobblestoned streets provide much needed shade from the heat of the day.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

In the late afternoon the village shimmers in the sunlight. It is a good time to take advantage of one of the villages courtyard cafes. Relax in the shade and enjoy a glass of the local sweet mint tea.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Travels

Everywhere you look in the village you’ll find elaborate iron latticework, and colourful studded doors.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Travels

Archways give glimpses of the glistening Mediterranean below.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Travels

In the balmy afternoon air, music floats out onto the streets from behind the doors of iron gated villas. This was one of my favourites. I can definitely see myself living here!

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Read more about Tunis and Sidi Bou Said in my next post here.

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Female Travellers: 20 Safety Tips

Safety can be a big concern for female travellers, especially when you’re travelling alone. When my sister and I first started to travel overseas, we would get a lot of advice from well meaning friends and relatives that we used to refer to at the time as ‘scaremongers’.

While I think you can take many of the nightmare travel stories you hear with a grain of salt, there are some precautions you can take which will make you feel more prepared for any situation and in control of your safety.

After many years of working as a travel agent and flight attendant, I have done more than my share of solo travel. These are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.

20 Travel Safety Tips For Female Travellers | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

1. Don’t advertise your room number  – whether you’re arranging to meet friends later, or charging something back to your room in the hotel restaurant, be careful who is within earshot when you’re giving out your room number or the name of your hotel.

2. Use your do not disturb sign – if you have valuables in your room, leave the do not disturb sign on the door when you’re heading out to help prevent theft. Lock laptops, cameras and any other valuables in the hotel safe or your suitcase.

3. Be social media savvy – in a world where our private lives have become very public its a good idea to be cautious about sharing your travel plans online. If you’re posting on Instagram or Facebook turn location services off and don’t advertise your plans for the next few days.

4. Blend in nothing screams ‘I’m a tourist’ like a backpack, belt bag and a map. Try to blend in with the locals and dress as you would if you lived there to avoid unwanted attention. As convenient as a day pack is, they are easier for an opportunistic pick pocket to access when you’re distracted.  Instead, opt for a cross body bag which will still fit everything you need, but can be worn towards the front so you can keep a good eye on it when you’re walking around or on public transport.

5. Check in with family or friends at home – it’s always a good idea to leave a rough itinerary with a friend or family member at home. If you’re travelling alone arrange to check in daily with someone – a quick text message or email to a friend or family member is all  it takes to keep them up to date with your movements.

6. Use trusted taxi companies only – when you’re running late to get to the airport or you’re tired and just want to get back to your hotel it can be tempting to jump into any taxi that’s available. Always check which are the reputable taxi companies in your destination and use their cars only. It can also be a good idea to make a habit of noting the licence plate of the taxi you’re in, in case you leave any of your belongings in the taxi.

7. Respect local customs – do your research on local customs before you travel. Abide by local dress codes and respect their values to avoid causing unnecessary offence and confrontation.

8. Always take out travel insurance – insurance can be one of those things that seems like just another expense, especially if you are travelling on a budget, but with medical costs being so high for non-citizens in many countries, it really is essential. Most travel insurance will also cover you against loss or theft of your belongings.

9. Language barriers – in a country where you don’t speak the language, it is always a good idea to get one of the hotel staff to write the name and address of your hotel in the local language on a piece of paper for you to pass to taxi drivers in case you have trouble communicating.

10. Trust your intuition – if your gut says no, don’t do it. When a friend and I were visiting the pyramids in Egypt a man offered to show us a spot where you could get the best view. At the time it didn’t feel right and we didn’t go. We later heard that it is a popular scam to lead you away from the main tourist area and rob you. Nine times out of ten your intuition will be right, so listen to it.

11. Research scams – ok so it’s not the most exciting thing to research before you travel abroad, but as they say forewarned is forearmed. Just do a quick google search for common tourist scams in your destination so you know what to watch out for. Chances are you won’t come across them, but it’s a good feeling to be prepared.

12. Wear a fake wedding ring – I wouldn’t suggest that you need to do this all the time, however, if you’re travelling to an area where you feel that you may stand out and attract a lot of unwanted attention from the opposite sex, a fake wedding ring can help to avoid the problem. In saying that, the mention of a fiancé or boyfriend may well have the same effect.

13. Carry only what cash you need with you – work out roughly what cash you will need for the day and leave the rest in your hotel safe. Keep a separate coin purse for tipping and making small purchases so you’re not having to get your wallet out more than necessary. Keep some spare cash and a credit card hidden somewhere in your suitcase for emergencies.

14. Check the location of the nearest fire exit from your room – when you check into your hotel room, memorise which direction the nearest fire exit is and how many doors that you need to pass to get to it in case visibility is limited. I once woke up to a fire alarm in a hotel in the middle of the night, and was so disorientated that I struggled to remember which city I was in, let alone where the exit was. Luckily it was a minor fire, however, had it been serious I would have struggled to find my way out.

15. Don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry designer handbags – it can be tempting to want to look as good as possible, especially in fashionable destinations like Milan or Rome. You can still look great, but avoid the temptation to draw attention to yourself by showing off your best designer gear and jewellery.

16. Get your bearings – whenever I’m in a new city I tend to do some sort of city tour on my first day to get my bearings and give me a feel for the areas that are safe and others that are perhaps best to avoid. The hop on hop off tours are great as you generally get a 48 hour ticket, which allows you to spend more time visiting any of the sights that you didn’t have time to visit on the first day.

17. Make friends with other female travellers –  day trips are a great way to meet other travellers and make friends. When I was visiting Los Angeles alone, I met two lovely ladies on a day tour and ended up meeting up with them for dinner that evening. I always find dinner time to be quite lonely when I’m travelling alone, so if you can find other ladies in the same situation it can really make a difference.

18. Drinking – I have been unlucky enough to have had my drink spiked while in a bar in Melbourne and it was not a pleasant experience at all! Thankfully, I was with a group of girls who soon realised what had happened when I collapsed. If you’re out in bars try to order bottled drinks that are opened in front of you, and never leave your drink unattended. It sounds like an obvious one, but when you’re travelling it can be so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and let your guard down after a couple of drinks.

19. Budget extra – when you’re planning your trip budget a little extra to allow you to change accommodation at the last minute if you feel unsafe, or hail a taxi rather than walking alone at night.

20. Register with your governments, relevant travel safety authority – 

UK Citizens: follow the Foreign Office on Twitter: https://twitter.com/foreignoffice

US Citizens: register with U.S. Department of State

NZ Citizens: register with Safe Travel

Australian Citizens: register with Smarttraveller

Canadian Citizens: register with Registration of Canadians abroad

I’d love to hear any of your top travel safety tips in the comments below.

Safe travels!

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15 Travel Photography Tips

You’re about to set off on the trip of a lifetime and want to make sure that you capture your adventure and create treasured memories for years to come.

Here are some of my top travel photography tips which I’ve tried and tested over the years!

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova Blog

1. Research – before you set off, do some research on your destination and make a list of the types of images you’d like to take. Use Pinterest and instagram for inspiration. The list of possible subjects is endless:

Landscapes
Weather and skyscrapers
People
Wildlife
Activities and sports
Details and close-ups
Transport
Architecture
Street scenes
Festivals and events
Markets
Culture (food, arts, traditions)

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand

2. Be organised – always pack spare memory cards and battery packs. There is nothing worse than having your camera battery suddenly go flat when you’re on the Great Wall of China, (believe me I speak from experience!). Carry a portable tripod if you have one and if not improvise and use walls, fences and trees to steady your camera. Have a waterproof bag of some sort easily accessible to protect your camera from the elements.

3. Make the most of the weather – if the weather isn’t great don’t be defeated. Dark stormy skies, foreboding clouds, mist and fog can all make for some really atmospheric shots so use them to your advantage.

4. Always be prepared – when you’re on the road amazing photo opportunities can pop up at any time. Have your camera where it is easily accessible rather than in a backpack. If you’re concerned about the safety of having your expensive camera visible, have your phone or smaller camera on hand for on the go shots that you need to capture quickly.

5.  Beat the crowds – it can be really hard to get shots of famous landmarks when they are swarmed with people. Travel out of season, or get up early to beat the crowds. Trust me – it’s worth it!

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken in Santorini, Greece during golden hour

6. Plan for the light – avoid shooting in the middle of the day. Wait for golden hour – usually during the first two hours of morning light and the last two of the afternoon when the light is soft and warm. This is especially great for landscapes.

7. Leading the eye – ask yourself what is the point of interest in the photo. What do you want to viewer to look at? Use paths, roads, fences, tracks, or rows of buildings to create a straight path to the point of interest. An example would be a path leading to an archway.

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova Blog            Photo taken in Wellington, New Zealand

8. Frame your subject – take advantage of doorways, gates, arches, windows, trees and fences to frame your subject. This adds interest and depth to an image.

9. Detail – don’t forget to take photos of the small details that you love about a destination. They help to provide a sense of place and tell the full story of your trip in years to come when you look back.

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken at Alhambra Palace, Granada 

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken in Beijing, China

10. Change your viewpoint – we’ve all seen the same old shots of the Eiffel Tower and other famous landmarks. For a fresh take on a subject change your viewpoint. Get down low and shoot upwards or find a high viewpoint for a different point of view.

11. Foreground interest – colourful flowers, plants, shells and pebbles can all create interest in what could otherwise be quite a dull scene.

12. Protect your equipment – pack your gear well and if at all possible carry it in your carry on case to prevent damage or loss. Invest in a travel insurance policy that covers your camera and any lenses or other expensive equipment.

13. Do a walking tour – exploring a destination on foot allows you to get up close and take your time. You’ll see things you would never experience from a tour bus and will have some great photo opportunities.

14. People – Including people in your photos adds interest. If you want to take close ups always make sure you ask first. If you’re too shy to approach people include people from a distance, for example someone cycling past.

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken in Old Stone Town, Zanzibar

15. Book a room with a view – if you can afford it splash out and book a room with a view. In a city it will provide a great vantage point for photos and if you’re by the beach, just think of the sunsets you can capture from your balcony!

You can follow along with me and my personal travels on instagram @gypsyrova

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