Travel Review: Going Local in Rome

This post will be review of site called LocalGuddy and story of my tour with their local guide.

This Wednesday Thursday I am going to do something a little different. If you follow me in Twitter, you may already know that I spent my last day in Rome going to ready paid tour by LocalGuddy website. This is going to be my story and review of that tour, LocalGuddy and everything that led to it. I would like to start by saying that LocalGuddy paid the tour for me but they asked my honest review so everything I say here is totally from my own will and experiences.

So, how this all started?

After my blog’s reader count has started rising I have gotten a lot of companies contacting me about sponsored posts. Some have offered me a small sum of money while other want to send me free stuff. My answer is no to almost every email like that. Why? Well, I only want to share things I WANT in MY BLOG. This is why I only accepted this offer because after getting message from LocalGuddy I checked out their website and totally fell in love.

Meeting locals while traveling is one of the best sides of traveling if you ask from me. So, what would be better way to meet locals than go on tour guided by them? I decided to answer yes to LocalGuddy’s offer when they promised to give me free tour if I write honest review of their site.

Different side of Rome

Hunting for the right tour guide

After sending back and forth a few messages with LocalGuddy it was time for me to find a tour guide. Their site is easy to use and I only had to write the name of destination and all locals offering their services appeared in for me to look through. I wanted to go for tour made by local rather than pick out one of the food options LocalGuddy also has (local taking you to the best restaurants/bars or making local food for you). Because my Rome-Venice trip was close I checked tours for those two cities.

I send message to one local in Rome and one in Venice. Guide from Venice wasn’t available but guide from Rome was excited to show me the not so popular side of Italy’s capital. We sent about five messages after I first contacted her so arranging the tour wasn’t big bother (this is important for me because I am lazy traveler…) I told time that was okay for me and she agreed. Next time she contacted me was a few days before the tour reminding me to have full water bottle for the tour. So, everything went smoothly and seemed maybe even too easy.

What my tour included? Walk around contemporary art and Testaccio district
How long was the tour? About three hours. (But we decided to be only for two hours because it was too hot to do anything for me…)
How much did it cost? If I had paid for the tour, it would have cost $25 per person.

Street art Rome

Thoughts before the tour

I am often skeptic of everything but I still go for everything with caring too much of these feelings. This tour wasn’t exception. Someone online contacted me and offered free tour. I know it’s because I am now “travel blogger” and LocalGuddy seemed trustworthy site but things like this still make me feel weird. So, like any proper traveler I was a little suspicious but didn’t let it bother me. Fortunately, I had amazing experience but let me say that I was super nervous for days before the tour.

Why was I nervous expect the too good to be true deal? Basically my English sucks. You might think that it is okay if you just read my blog but believe me, I can’t pronounce anything. Walking around with someone while speaking English seemed like my nightmare at the time but fortunately my tour guide was understanding and I always get slightly better at speaking after the panic fades. 

Rome Pyramid

Meeting my AMAZING local guide

We had arranged meeting point in front of metro station. My guide said that she would be standing on the stairs but when I came outside there was several people waiting for someone. Fortunately she spotted me quickly and asked if I was meeting her for the tour. It took only a few minutes from me to define her as good person and not some online murderer. After that I was able to enjoy the tour with my full heart.

We started from contemporary museum but unfortunately there wasn’t any exhibitions. That didn’t matter a much because the area itself (old slaughterhouse) was cool and had even a few street art pieces like the one you can see in me post’s cover photo. After the museum we continued our walk around the area while she told me about the place and Italian culture. We also talked about everything else and the atmosphere was really friendly.

After that we continued walking along the river while she kept telling me about the local life and a little bit about herself. I also saw Roma’s pyramid and I have no idea why it is not one of the main sights. I mean, it’s real pyramid! I didn’t even see it in any guidebooks. One of the highlights of the tour was going around this road full of colorful bars (that were of course closet during day).

It was her first tour so at first it was a little awkward and some thing didn’t go as planned (we tried to find one mural for long time but in the end never found it). I think this will be the case with quite many guides from LocalGuddy because the site is quite new and there is many first time guides. Necessarily not bad thing because that just means they will have different view to the things than someone who has taken people around the attractions for years.

Here is link to her tour if you want to check it out or if you are planning trip to Rome. I recommend trying out her tour (and other tours in LocalGuddy) but if you are not friend of seeing the local side of destination you are visiting, don’t bother. Tours like this only fit for those who are ready to get to know more of the culture and local lifestyle.

Side street of Rome

Thoughts after the tour

Would I recommend using LocalGuddy? Yes, definitely. Before this tour I had been going to the most popular touristy places in Rome and the city seemed kind of boring from my point of view. After I saw a little different side of this popular holiday destination my image of Rome changed. Before I didn’t think I would return there anytime soon. But after the tour going back to Rome didn’t seem like that bad idea anymore. Locals will show you places you would never find by yourself.

I tried to use the site again now during my east Europe trip but realized that they don’t have any tours in the destinations I am visiting. So, if you aren’t visiting popular tourist destination, finding a guide may be a little harder.

Because locals always know the best places to visit and especially if you are like me the selection of street art and abandoned building tours will win you over quickly. First it may sound expensive because the prices of the tours range from 25 to 40 euros. But when compared to “professional” tours there is many positive points to remember.

  • The group size will be just you and your friends.
  • You can ask anything from the guide and they will try to change the tour to fit more of your wants and needs.
  • Local guide probably knows a lot of things normal tour guide wouldn’t tell and show you.

streetart_rome

So to sum this review up I would recommend checking out LocalGuddy.com but use your own common sense when contacting the locals and going for the tour. This doesn’t mean you have to be scared of the guides who don’t yet have reviews (mine didn’t have and she was lovely person) but remember to act like you normally would when meeting someone from online for the first time. Firstly pick out public and busy place to meet and secondly tell someone where you are going. I would give this same tip for those people who want to work as guide through this website.

Finally, I want to thank LocalGuddy for giving me this opportunity and thanks for everyone who read this far. Have you used this website? Or do you have any amazing experiences with locals or guides you want to share? Like always all comments are more than welcome. 🙂

Don’t forget to follow my InstagramFacebook and Twitter!
And check out LocalGuddy for amazing tours by locals.
With love,

Lost Viivi

My 5 Favorite Travel Experiences

Traveling changes us. That’s a fact. Going to new places, seeing all these interesting countries and meeting these people who have been raised so differently when compared to your childhood. Traveling is full of amazing experiences and if I had time I would love to share all my own with you and hear all of yours.

Recently my travel blogger buddy from DreamsVoyager wrote post about his best travel experiences. In the end he asked everyone to share the first 5 travel experiences that come to their mind. So, here I am copying him and answering this question. What are my 5 favorite travel experiences?

Travel Blog Gdansk

5. Rainy Gdansk with princess umbrella

I never found inspiration to write about my Gdansk trip so you haven’t even heard about my unfortunately meeting with ‘umbrella man’. Maybe I will share that funny story with you sometime soon? Well however, it was raining in Gdansk during my trip. And when I say raining I mean RAINING. There was water everywhere and I was almost considering not going outside at all one day. In the end I went and it’s one of my favorite travel experiences so far.

I took tram from the city center to close-by beach. I had my white lace-heart-rose-ribbon decorated umbrella with me (all blame for buying that cute thing goes for the umbrella man…) and my sneakers had huge holes in them. Not so good outfit for rainy beach. It was almost the last tram stop and I was only left in the carriage. When I exited the tram I saw no one. It was raining, there was mist in the air and not even single person anywhere. I walked through small place looking like a ghost town before seeing the sea. Have I ever mentioned how much I love sea?

After that I walked along the empty beach, sat down every now and then to the towel I had smuggled out of the hostel and just enjoyed life in the rainy weather. It just felt magical. I continued walking until I came to long wooden pier. It was my first time seeing one in person and I fell in love. Old wooden piers are just thing to live for. So pretty, magical and like from storybook. After a while I was freezing and all my clothes were wet.

I decided to find the tram again and leave but then small cozy looking restaurant by the sea took my attention. Of course I went inside. It was empty expect the workers. Handsome looking waiter took my order and came soon back with warm ginger chai tea and cheesecake. I ate while watching the sea and started writing this story that had been in my mind for a while. It was so simple and still so perfect.

I have so many moments like this and if I could I would list all of them as my favorite travel experiences.

Travel Blog Origami Japan

4. All the people I meet and things I learn from them

I am totally introverted but I also love meeting new people and talking for people that come from different culture or just different place than I. Mostly I have met these people in hostels or through funny travel situations. In the other hand lately I have been talking for super cool people because of my blog and even been brave enough to meet someone face to face. I never thought that I would be able to connect with so many people just because I am writing to internet. (I am always happy to talk with other travelers so feel free to start conversation for example in FacebookTwitter or in Instagram‘s private messages. Just be warned that I am and will always be super shy and awkward!)

However, just meeting these people isn’t my favorite thing. Learning something new and unexpected from these people made meeting all of them one of my favorite travel experiences. So what have I learned? EVERYTHING… I once listened three hours when German guy taught me and two Korean dudes how they learn hiragana and katakana (Japanese alphabets) in Germany. May sound dull but I had amazing night.

On the other hand, I have learned a lot about different cultures and things to do and not do in countries I didn’t even know existed. A few times other hostel guests have tried to teach me how to cook. That never works out but at least I get to taste tasty food. Sometimes you meet people who know something really special. Once I got some tips from this professional travel magazine photographer and another time older lady with her 5 years old grandchild taught me how to make origami.

Travel Blog: Japan

3. Concerts, gigs and music in general

If you have been reading my blog for some time you may know (or if you are new: hello welcome, now you will learn something new about me!) that I love music and especially listening to live music. When I say music I really mean all kind of music from classical symphonies to hardcore rock. This is why music has made its way to my top 5 travel experiences list.

The photo above is from my Japan trip. I saw that group playing drums million times while they were having street performances around Harajuku. I had to stop and listen every time. My first trip to foreigner country without my family was to see Super Junior’s concert in London. I had amazing adventure with my friend and the concert was totally worth all that money and traveling.

I have a lot of music related travel memories. If possible I always try to go to local gig or concert while in new country. In Brighton I didn’t even have to find the music because it came for me. I was staying in hostel and that hostel had also local lively bar. That nice small bar also had live performances every freaking evening. If you have ever been in hostel, you know that those buildings are never soundproof. So, when I was hanging out in my hostel room at 7pm or trying to sleep at 2am, I had to listen these local bands and DJs. Funny thing was that I was able to hear it as loudly as if I had been standing in the bar…

Travel Blog Flying

2. Leaving for my first solo trip

There is no feeling like standing alone in the airport with your too big suitcase before sunrise. More rational people would have first gone for shorter sole trip but I decided to start from the extreme. Three months alone in Japan living in hostels. I didn’t speak the language. I had never even lived alone. I was just lost 20 years old girl who had no idea what to do with her life.

It was crazy to sit alone in the plane and know that after 24 hours and a few layovers I would be alone in Japan. This 24 hours of flying goes to my best travel experiences list. I have never felt so alive and I will probably never feel like that again. Being first time alone, just surviving by yourself, is amazing scary experience that changed me as person. 

abandoned japanese amusement park

1. Getting lost in abandoned amusement park

And then number one in my travel experiences list. Accidentally visiting abandoned amusement park and getting in trouble! This is memory that will forever stay in my mind. If you haven’t yet read the whole story, check our my three too long and boring posts about this mishap. Seeing abandoned place is always special. Place that is left by humans and taken over by the nature.

This travel experience was even more special because of the people I met. All those polices and driving crazily small streets in their police car while they asked me all kind of funny questions and gave touristy travel tips. People who went inside the amusement park before me. And of course talking with fellow travelers in hostel afterwards and laughing for my adventure. It may have been against law and I may have gotten in trouble but I would probably do it million times again to just experience all this.

.          .         .

These are my favorite travel experiences but like Anub did in his post I will now throw the ball for you. What are your favorite travel experiences? Don’t think too much. First five things that come to your mind. What amazing things have you experienced? 

I hope you are having an amazing day!
With love,

Viivi Severina

Photo Diary: Cherry Blossoms in Stockholm

Cherry blossoms are usually seen as Japanese thing but suprisingly you can see these beautiful pinkish flowers even in cold northern countries like Sweden. During our day trip to Stockholm a few weeks ago the most important thing we wanted to do was to see the popular cherry blossoms on Kungsträdgården.

Earlier today, I asked my sister if sharing post full of cherry blossom photo would be okay. She said no… Apparently this is boring idea. So, here is post full of only cherry blossom photos I took in Stockholm! I am always been kind of rebel and not so good at listening others’ opinions. I hope you enjoy.

Cherry Blossom Trees in Stockholm

Cherry Blossom Trees In Stockholm

We were scared that there wouldn’t be any cherry blossoms left because it was cold day in Stockholm (and it was even snowing at one point). Luckily for us half of the trees were still blossoming and we got to see these beautiful flowers.

Cherry Blossom Trees In Stockholm

Cherry Blossom Trees In Stockholm

We weren’t the only one who had came to central Stockholm to see cherry blossoms. Under the trees everyone from families to excited tourists were taking photos and admiring pink flowers.

Cherry Blossom Trees In Stockholm

Here I am looking totally lost and awkward like usually. But hey, we traveled to Stockholm to see these trees so at least I can share one photo of me with them.

Cherry Blossom Trees In Stockholm

cherryblossom_in_stockholm

I have to say that seeing a few cherry blossoms in Stockholm made me want to travel back to Japan. Maybe next spring? I love pink and pretty things so seeing even more cherry blossoms would be like a dream. Now I just have to plan this trip, right?

Cherry Blossom Trees In Stockholm

Cherry Blossom Trees In Stockholm

Have you ever seen cherry blossoms? Or what are your favorite beautiful travel spots? Feel free to comment anything like always.

With these cherry blossom photos from Stockholm it is good to start spring. It is snowing today in Finland but my summer holiday started yesterday. Because I don’t have school anymore before autumn I will have more time to write this blog. So, wait for better post next Wednesday! I will come up with something interesting.

With love,

Viivi Severina

Tips For Solo Female Travelers

Happy International Women’s Day all fellow female travelers!

Traveling as solo female traveler is adventure not any man can even imagine. There is many small things you have to remember if you decide to do adventure as solo female traveler. Not all countries are as safe or as comfortable to go without male company or safe group. It’s kind of annoying that gender can affect our lives so much but this is our society and we have to deal with it.

Women’s Day is often seen as the celebration for independent and strong girls. And that’ why I wanted to share today some tips for all women who want to travel alone. I may not be the best person to give these tips but this text is based on my own experiences and observations.

I hope you will enjoy my tips. And I hope you will keep traveling even if many people seem to think that solo female travelers are just playing with the fire. Let’s show them some girl power, shall we?

1. Trust people but doubt everyone.

female_travelers
Photos from: unsplash

I often hear that as female traveler I shouldn’t believe anyone (especially men). You may follow this advice blindly but I have one I think fits traveling better. Trust everyone but always doubt anything said for you. 

Trusting people has taken me to the most amazing experiences. Getting tour around Tokyo by super nice local girl, going around Helsinki with fellow travel blogger (when my friends thought I would surely get murdered) and maybe the funniest memory: forgetting my umbrella when it was raining and random person offering to walk me back to my hostel so I don’t get wet. If I hadn’t trusted those strangers I would have never ended up to the most memorable situations of my life.

Some people may call me starry-eyed and naive but trusting people doesn’t mean that I am not on my toes in these situations. I trust people but I doubt everyone. And when i say everyone I mean literally everyone because you never know what are the people’s true nature if you have only known them for a short moment.

2. Be ready to lie if needed.

solo_girl_travel

When you travel alone as girl you have to be ready to use all your actor skills. Walking alone at night? Talk to phone like you are having conversation with your beloved badass boyfriend. Too enthusiastic wooer? You are waiting for you best friend and can’t talk right now. Make stories ready before traveling so when you have to do some acting it feels natural to lie.

This may sound funny or stupid but sooner or later as female solo traveler you will feel need to escape some kind of situation. If you want to take this to next level some woman travelers use fake wedding rings to avoid unwanted attention.

3. Girls are confident, strong and cool.

solo_female_travelers

Whatever you were boy or girl acting like local can save you from many problems “normal” tourists have to face. One of the key features I think is important for surviving as solo female traveler is being confident, strong minded and seem cool but kind. The truth is that “bad people” try to find easy targets so you have to make yourself someone who will probably survive anything.

  • So how to act like you belong to this new unknown city you are visiting as solo female traveler? It is easier than it may sound like. (Maybe I should write longer post about this subject?) Walk like you know where you are going.
  • Throw away maps and download them to your phone so you can check them like you were just reading text message.
  • Always listen to music or act like you are listening to music. Put headphones on and listen to your favorite songs. It will calm you down but also make you fit in better. No lost scared tourist would close the world away with music. If you hate music or feel like you want to hear what is happening around you, you can just listen quietness and act like you are listening to music.
  • When in need ask help but continue your way after that like you own the whole city.
  • Practice basic words (thanks, sorry, etc.) and use them while smiling sweetly. If someone asks you something tell them confidently that you are not living here so you can’t help them. Being honest is the best in these situations.

4. Say no! (And yes…)

For me the hardest thing to learn has been how to say no. Believe me you have to learn and use that word a lot. No, I am not bying anything. No, I am not going to that shady looking bar you are trying to track me because they will pay you if I go inside. No, no, no… But between saying no to everyone you have to learn when is the right situation to use yes. That one small word will get you to the most amazing adventures. Don’t be afraid to say yes to other people but more importantly to yourself.

5. Check everything before going.

solo_female_travel

Where is closest police station? From where you can get help if needed? What time sun sets? Is there any areas you should avoid or be careful in? Is there any known scams or other warnings happening in the area? When does the last bus/metro leave and if you miss it what can you do?

You should do some research before going. Not only about the places but also how to survive in bad situations or who to trust when in trouble. Not police can be trusted in all countries and not all places are safe to go alone as female traveler. Even if you will probably survive without checking things before your trip knowing as much as possible will calm your mind and make the travel experience more enjoyable.

6. Trust your instincts.

Female_solo_traveler

At first this may sound funny but I think it is the best safety net one can have. Our instincts are usually the first thing telling us that something is wrong or that we should definitely run from this dangerous situation. If you feel like person isn’t trustworthy or that you are taken to place you don’t want to go just say no.

Even if you don’t realize it your brains keep reading other people and their body language. If someone is acting threateningly or if the situation quickly changes to weird, it is your instincts that make the alarms go off in your head. Sometimes our instinct may be wrong but it is better to be safe than dead in side alley because you didn’t trust your own judgement.

7. Know the risks and dangers.

It may feel uncomfortable and unpleasant to think these thing but before deciding to travel alone you should truthfully tell yourself all the problems you may have to face or risks you are taking. If even after thinking trough all of those you feel like traveling is the only option for you, you are ready.

8. Don’t think too much and just go.

travel_girls

You will often meet skeptic people and probably your own family or friends will try to change your mind about traveling as solo female traveler. Lonely woman who is traveling is often seen as crazy person who is just trying to find the trouble. Our society even now thinks that women can’t travel the world alone like men.

You shouldn’t listen these people. Of course there is some dangers and risks that only female solo travelers have to face but other than that girls are as capable to travel as boys. If world is place where women have to stay in kitchen just so we can live and not get in danger, I don’t know if I even want to be here anymore. Is staying back home and not risking it by traveling life worth of living? Maybe for some people but definitely not for me.

So, I will keep solo traveling as lonely totally risk hazard female and I courage you to do the same. Let’s enjoy our lives and not believe those who don’t believe in us. Happy Women’s Day everyone!

 

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Like always feel free to tell your thought and tips on the comments. Have you any bad or surprisingly good experiences as female traveler? Or if you are man what is your view to this whole “female solo traveler” thing?

I hope you are having an amazing day!
With love,

Lost Viivi

 

(Not so helpful) Flight Booking Guide

This Wanderlust Wednesday, I wanted to try something new. So here is post I wrote yesterday (totally not during my political economy class…).

Many people are wondering how to book the flight tickets like traveler. In fact some of my most popular posts that get new comments often are about travelling cheap and adventuring like traveler not tourist. Whatever that “like traveler” means here is my 5 levels of booking tickets. This works for me but please don’t take anything seriously and maybe listen someone more experienced than me. I hope you will enjoy!


5. The art of decising your destination

Deciding where you want to go seems like good way of starting trip planning and flight booking. This is a lie! Be adventurous and leave deciding for those who just want safe boring holiday. Throw dart to world map and go where it points. Or look the flight deals and take cheap one. Where ever you there is amazing adventures coming to your way.

 

plane_tickets
Photos from: unsplash.com

4. Three months before your trip and other tricks

There is as many secret tricks as there is people. Some say that best time to book your flight tickets is three months before your trip. Others swear for the only buy your tickets on Tuesday rule. I have never really thought these. Usually I am too late for that three months mark and who has time to wait for Tuesday when wanderlust is taking over your life!

So is there any tricks I have learned? Making my travel route complicated. Did you know that cheapest round trip flight tickets from Finland to France cost 120€ while from Stockholm to France it costs only 35€ (and it takes 30€ from Finland to Stockholm and back). So you see why I love this ‘trick’? Other one I have learned is collecting airline points.

 

airplane

 

3. Panic, be unproductive and plan like a pro

The most important part of any travel planning is the panicking stage. Walk circles in your home and think all the negative things this trip may cause. Never forget considering airplanes falling or your luggage disappearing. After panicking enough it’s time to stare guide books without doing any real planning. This may take hours, days, weeks or even months. In hopeless cases even years.

After getting over your insecurities it’s time to start the real planning. What time do you want to travel, how to get to airport and from airport to the city?

 

 

2. Time to buy the tickets

It’s finally time to buy the tickets! Go on the right web site (I prefer to buy straight from the airline websites.It’s usually cheaper.), select your flights and use your beloved money to buy the tickets. That’s it really. The most important (only important) part of buying your tickets part. Don’t consider or get scared, just buy.

 

airport

1. Share the good news with world (after panicking some more)

Again time to panic! You have flight tickets so it is real now: you are going to travel somewhere. If you are like me you probably forgot the plan properly ahead part and are now in totally phase of panicking. Don’t worry it will pass quickly.

After panicking it is time to take the next step (also known as the “make all your social media friends jealous”). Yep, it’s time to tell everyone that you are going. I recommend leaving that make everyone jealous part out of this step but I know how it feels to be excited about your new flight tickets. So smile for the camera and put nice photo to Facebook telling everyone the cool destination you will soon head to.

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I hope you liked my not so helpful tips that will probably make your flight tickets booking experience horrible. For me this works but I am that person who has to fail to win.

Do you have any bad flight ticket booking tips? Or maybe good ones that would be helpful for everyone? Like always feel free to comment whatever you have in mind?

So did you like this kind of ‘not so official’ travel post?
I hope you are all having an amazing day!
With love,

Viivi Severina