Category Archives: Tep travel blog

4 Easy Tricks to Take Better Travel Photos with Your Smartphone

We make so many great memories when travelling, so taking high-quality travel photos to remember these times is often a priority. Luckily, we no longer have to carry around bulky camera equipment to achieve this, because our smartphones are the perfect tools for taking great photos.

If you want to up your travel photo game without upgrading to an expensive new smartphone, here are some tips for taking better smartphone photos.

Understand your camera settings

There are lots of settings in your smartphone camera app, some of which might seem a little complicated. But there are some quick things you can do to improve your photos. By simply tapping on your screen, you can identify the subject of your photo, helping your camera to automatically focus on that and adjust the settings to highlight it in the best way. For more manual adjustments, you can select the pro setting where you can adjust brightness, contrast, and more. Increasing or decreasing the brightness for the desired effect is a simple trick, but here are some more tips for understanding the pro settings of your camera.

Using third-party apps

There are lots of apps available to help you edit your photos to make them look even better, from simple things like adding filters to more complex and comprehensive editing options.  Apps like Snapseed and VSCO are great free apps that allow you to play around with and fine-tune your smartphone photos. Here’s a rundown of some of the best photo editing apps if you want more ideas.

Boost your lens power

You could spend hundreds of dollars on a new smartphone with a better camera, or you could buy a much more affordable camera lens to clip onto your smartphone. Products like wide lenses and macro lenses can help you take better travel photos, as if they’ve actually been taken with a fancy DSLR camera. TechRader compiled a list of some of the best clip-on smartphone camera lenses for you to try.

A good quality smartphone lens can make all the difference to your travel photos.

Basic photography techniques

Finally, it all comes down to improving the way you choose your subjects and use your smartphone camera. One important tip is to make the most of natural light. The flash on smartphones doesn’t meet the grade of traditional cameras, so framing your subject with natural light is the best way to get a quality photo. Also, experiment with angles and perspectives to get interesting, unique shots.

Another tip that sounds so simple is to hold your camera straight. Yet, somehow, when I look back through my photos, I see that they’re all slightly crooked. To help you keep your photos straight, try turning on the grid assist, which you can find in the settings of your camera app. This overlays a 3×3 grid over your camera screen, helping you to stay in-line. This grid is also designed to demonstrate the rule of thirds, which is a technique for perfecting your shot composition.

Mastering smartphone photography basics

Do you have any other tips to help readers take better travel photos with their smartphones? You can share them with us on Twitter. And of course, to share your best photos with friends and family while you travel, rent a WiFi hotspot from Tep Wireless.

Do You Need a WiFi Antenna Booster?

They say that the four basic components for human survival are air, shelter, water, and food. It seems like, in this day and age, we need to add a fifth item to this list – WiFi!

We rely on WiFi for a lot of things, especially while travelling. Where would we be without Google Maps, a translation app, a currency converter, and various social platforms to keep in touch with our friends back home?

WiFi coverage continues to grow, but you might find yourself in more remote areas where fast Internet is difficult to come across. Having a WiFi antenna booster in your travel arsenal is a great way to get around this problem.

What is a WiFi antenna booster?

Your laptop typically detects wireless Internet signals using a wireless card built into it. This allows you to connect to the WiFi in cafés, for example. However, the range on wireless cards is quite limited, meaning you’ll easily find yourself out of range of local WiFi signals. This will leave you either disconnected or with a frustratingly slow connection.

Seriud Wifi Antenna Booster

A WiFi antenna booster helps you to boost the WiFi connection range of your laptop. This has two key benefits – it allows you to connect to a WiFi that would have otherwise been out of reach, and it boosts the connection speed of signals you are in range of. They can help you extend to a range of 200-300 yards further than your wireless card alone.

There are different kinds of WiFi antennas, but most are really easy to use, simply plugging into your laptop’s USB port. You can find ones that are ultra-lightweight and perfect for travel.

Why might you need a WiFi antenna booster?

There are lots of times a WiFi antenna booster can help you out, especially when you’re travelling. Maybe you want to work outside a café but the signal is weak outside. Or you could go even further and work in a park or on the beach, extending your reach to nearby hotspots.

WiFi boosters can also be useful in hotels and hostels. Some have good signal throughout the hotel and all its rooms, while others are strong around the reception area but don’t reach the rooms very well, especially in hostels. If you want to do some work or watch a movie in your room, then a boosted signal can make this possible.

Sometimes, cafés and hostel common rooms simply have slow WiFi, but you’re comfortable working from there or you really like the coffee. A WiFi booster could help to speed up your connection or connect to a faster public WiFi down the road.

They’re not just useful for those who travel, though. Some homes have a certain room or corner of the house where the WiFi suddenly drops out or slows down, especially in houses with attic rooms. If you can never load a YouTube video in bed because of your distance from the wireless router, a home wireless booster is a great way around this problem.

With the help of Tep Wireless, you can keep WiFi with you wherever you go. Find out how you can stay connected with Teppy and save 15% with the discount code “tepbooster”.

5 Creative Alternatives To Love Locks This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to express your love for that special someone in your life.

There are so many ways to say “I love you”, and one of the fastest growing trends around the world is “love locks”. This involves attaching a padlock to a bridge, statue or fence in a prominent location, optionally with the lovers’ names scratched or written on the side.

While love locks have risen in popularity over the last 15 years, many people do not realise the damage caused – to bridges, the environment and the view. The backlash has been strong, with trending hashtags like #lovewithoutlocks and organisations like No Love Locks trying to discourage tourists and locals alike from leaving their mark.

In 2014 a section of the famous Pont des Arts bridge in Paris collapsed under the weight of love locks. And as part of the repairs, the City of Paris had to cut off 700,000 locks weighing 44 tonnes – all at considerable expense to taxpayers.

So, what can you do for your special someone this Valentine’s Day to commemorate your love in a timeless yet socially responsible way?

Here’s 5 alternatives to love locks:

Toronto, Canada – Lock Art

The Distillery District is one of the most romantic neighbourhoods in Toronto. Along Tank House Lane, a creative steel art installation spells out the word “LOVE”. Lovers are encouraged to add their lock and share a photo on social media using the hashtag #DistilleryLove.

Moscow, Russia – Love Trees

Along the Luzhkov Bridge, lovers do not attach their padlocks onto the bridge, but instead onto dedicated metal “trees”. These were setup in 2007 as an alternative to vandalising the bridge, which means love locks isn’t just okay, it’s encouraged. Now the trees are blooming with thousands of locks, the bridge itself is almost love lock-free.

Seoul, South Korea – Love Trees

Korea is really big on romance, and nowhere is more apparent than the love lock trees at the base of the Namsan Tower. Staff have installed “love boxes” for couples to drop their keys into, rather than discarding them which protects the environment. As with Moscow, this initiative has reduced unwanted locks in undesirable locations.

Everywhere – Virtual Love Locks

What if you’re not located near Toronto, Moscow or Seoul? No problem! Founded by married couple Matt and Trish, The Love Lock website provides a digital alternative to cluttering the world’s most romantic cityscapes with padlocks. The process is very simple, just select a date and add your virtual “inscription” and a photo, and it will be memorialised forever on the Internet. You can also see other visitors’ love locks by date for a little inspiration.

Everywhere – Buy A Star

Why stop at a padlock? Aim for the stars… literally! You can name a star in the heavens after your loved one at Star Registration. For a modest fee you’ll receive a personalised certificate and celestial map to make it easier to find your star. And chances are that star will still be there long after the padlock has rusted away.

Stay in touch with your loved one wherever you travel, and pick up a Tep portable WiFi hotspot before your next trip. Use the “Teplove” discount code for a 15% discount in February only!

How dependent are we on smartphones and the Internet when traveling?

Humans have an irrepressible need to move and to discover. We are infinitely curious. We have an irresistible desire for anything new. We find ourselves in the mercy of our insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Our early ancestors left the forest canopies to fearlessly delve into the jungle floor. Great human migration led to the formation of settlements all across the globe. Trade and innovation became an inevitable byproduct of thriving civilisations. And so is travel.

Early travellers (literally and figuratively) endured discomfort, weathered storms, and battled adversary all for the sake of uncovering what is not yet known. Travel gave our ancestors the means to satisfy this innate human yearning for exploration and discovery. It provided concrete answers to our practical and existential inquiries.

Concepts and ideas are redefined over time and travel is no exception to that. The success of the age of exploration and the romantic accounts of early explorers drew the attention of rich patrons. Then came the dawn of traveling for leisure and pleasure. Travel started to become a luxury only the wealthy and privileged could afford. It became an emblem of affluence and enlightenment.

Today’s modern and globalised world have mainstreamed travel. With enough resources, we can be halfway across the globe in less than 24 hours in the most luxurious and comfortable way possible. Gone were the days of pest and disease-ridden, year-long global traverse.

The advent of cheap airfare and tourism made long distance excursions more accessible to the layman. We are attracted to places that have been beautifully photographed or filmed. We choose the commonly traveled “safe” routes. We check out available lists of where to go and what to bring. We tend to plan our itineraries based off of what has been said and done by other people. The amount of streamlined information online makes travel as easy as it is now.

Social media have made it easy for people to exchange opinions and observations about a certain destination. We are able to predict our spending based off of the information we find online. We are now able to gauge the amount of safety and security we have upon travelling to one place. There are forums and blogs that give us an idea of what sociocultural norms should be observed. We do our research so we can figure out which type of clothing and gadgets are allowed in each country. Different platforms online even provide us with lists of where and what to eat. Smart phones have made everything from language barriers to navigation seemingly trouble-free. We are never not prepared when we embark on a journey towards unfamiliar territory.

There is nothing wrong with gaining courage and inspiration from others. But in this day and age, don’t you think we tend to model our experiences off of others’ personal accounts?

We post in accordance to other people’s expectations. As much as we all hate to admit this, we share whatever we think will get the most likes. Once we get to our destination, we go to places and we want to have our picture taken at a spot that would be considered worthy of likes. We tag our locations for us to boast that we have been there and have done that. We share information that we think will attract people. We’re inclined to censor ourselves when it comes to real and less pleasing observations. We curate our experiences online. And doesn’t that reduces the credibility of the information sharing we all depend on?

We react and respond differently to information. Some people enhance its potential and some people take it for granted. Information sharing is valuable. Discourse is great. Sharing experiences on social media is an important part of interconnectivity. There is nothing wrong with wanting safety and security. Some people travel for rest and relaxation. Some travel to be challenged. You define how you want to travel. To each his own.

But what do our technologically dependent lives say about our inherent craving for growth, wisdom, and discovery?

Despite the convenience and the grandeur associated with it, modern technology have made us all vulnerable to the negatives of being technology and information dependent. We end up questioning and second guessing our own experiences. It’s tempting to be glued to our smartphones to be aware without making the effort to observe. But what about asking questions and having social interactions with the locals? What about allowing yourself to get lost and then spontaneously stumbling upon something unique and unforgettable?

Let’s not forget, there really is something about traversing the less travelled path. Yeah, there’s the safety issue. But it should not outweigh our desire to learn. Instinct and common sense are still valuable travel companions. With everything readily available at the tip of our fingers, we have become lazy to uncover things by ourselves. If you travel to illuminate yourself about different perspectives and norms then don’t expect traveling to be all grand and easy. There are valuable lessons to be gained from the less than perfect experience. Learning something new provides you with the notion that there is more to learn about this world. And that exact mindset is what prompted our ancestors to learn more and to explore more.

Traveling provided a platform for our quest for knowledge. Technology enhanced our ability to properly utilize information and not exploit the worst of it. Traveling in this technologically advanced age is an enlightening experience. This combination elevated our experiences in every aspect of human life. It expanded our awareness and broadened our perspectives.

I hope you ask yourself why you travel. I hope you think twice as long and twice as hard what you do with this privilege. I hope we don’t lose the real essence of travel. I hope we don’t trivialize courage and curiosity and patronize frivolous thought. We now have a chance to inspire and ignite something in our peers. We have a chance to do good. We have a chance to raise awareness about things that matter the most to us. We have a chance to have our voices heard.

With all this in mind, why don’t we start traveling with our eyes, ears, and palettes wide open again for learning?

Top travel bloggers recommend these places to visit in 2019

Hello, 2019! All throughout 2018, we have worked with travel bloggers who have used Tep Wireless all over the world. This season, these top travel bloggers will recommend places to visit in 2019 to add to your bucket list!

1. Valencia, Spain by Sonya of The Globalite


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Port city Valencia isn’t first in mind when it comes to visiting Spain, the second most visited country in the world, but it should be. As Spain’s third city, it has an unbeatable – Holy Grail – mix of beach, food (paella originated here), nightlife, architecture and culture. It isn’t just a tourist destination, but an instantly comfortable place you’ll fall in love with (and even consider moving to)!

Spend the day exploring the cultural wonders of Valencia such as the pretty pastel buildings of the Old Town; lounging away at the nearby pristine and little-developed beaches (La Malvarrosa is one of the best); or marveling at the futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, a massive complex with museums, theaters and artistic public spaces, known as one of Spain’s 12 Treasures. Nature lovers will be happy with all the green spaces in the city. Even in the oldest parts, tiny squares brim with enormous palm trees shading from the year-round heat. A new Central Park is opening in 2019 to bring 230,000 more square meters of green. Valencia is also a sporty city, the home of one of the top football teams, Valencia FC, and Europe’s largest basketball training center. Its marathons are also hugely popular, drawing international crowds. Foodies are spoiled for choice from lively tapas at the stunning Art Nouveau-style Mercado Central to Hemingway’s favorite restaurant for paella, La Pepica, to Michelin starred establishments (El Poblet, Ricard Camarena, Riff and Sucede). The Mediterranean way of life is alive and well in Valencia as dinners spill late into the streets amongst friendly conversation.

Valencia’s most unique attractions are its festivals. Fallas is one of the strangest and most endearing, a two week fest in March that entails fireworks and larger-than-life statues (“fallas”) and cumulating with their burning.

And when speaking of Holy Grails, most experts believe that Holy Grail, the chalice drunk out of by Christ during the Last Supper, is in Valencia. The Aula Grial museum opened to sold out audiences in 2018. If the city good enough for the Holy Grail, it should be good enough to draw you into a visit, this welcoming, wacky, artistic, delightful, laid back Valencia.

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Spain today!

2. Petra, Jordan by Trisha of P.S. I’m On My Way


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I spent three and a half weeks in Jordan and I want to tell you about my experience. Jordan is safe and I couldn’t believe it myself first. When I first arrived, I felt that I have to keep my guard up all the time. For every time a man would come up to me and say, “do you need help?” I would step back, keep my guard up and respond, “no, thank you. I’m okay.” Even if I am really struggling to read the map in Arabic.

“Where you from? Japan? China? Thailand?” Everyone wanted to engage into a small talk. It was very annoying.

“They want to help, you know. Jordanians are like this. It may seem like they are bugging you but really, they just want to help. Don’t be scared. They are good people,” said an expat whom I met at the bus station.

It feels ridiculous that I would always respond and lean on to foreigners when lost. But when I am offered help by a ‘stranger’, I always hold back. (Wait, the expat was also a stranger, no? I don’t know where this is coming from. Is it from the current mad state of the world? Or the society I grew up in?

The good is good. I promised myself I won’t put any other meaning to the good. It’s okay to be cautious. But the reason why we are continuously divided by race, gender and religion is because we are not open to learn and understand something that is different from ours. I am (again) slowly journeying into a deeper meaning of my values, of my beliefs, on how I look at the world. And this is good.

Jordan is one of those places where I felt entirely safe to wear whatever “decent” I deem fit, even to walk in the middle of the night. Recently, one of my best mates brother who happens to work for the United Nations launched this program called Street Watch Amman, where women can instantly report issues of harassment.

I have loads of stories about Jordan as one of those hardcore Middle Eastern countries who don’t have respect for women but during my 3.5 weeks stay, I found out that women are highly prioritised here.

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Jordan today!

3. Malta by Ruben and Rachel of Gamintraveler


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For us, Malta is considered a top travel destination for 2019. The beauty of the country is amazing; combining the beaches and the places that were listed in UNESCO like Valleta, which is its capital. The weather is great and you can go to Malta anytime of the year, but I would avoid peak season since could be too crowded.

There are many things to do in Malta like visiting the Blue Lagoon in Comino Island and the great beaches in Gozo and Mellilha Bay in mainland. Going to places like Sliema that has a beautiful port and nice nightlife with historical places as well as Valleta, Mdina and Pompeya Village, you’ll surely enjoy the visit. The best way to move around Malta? Rent a car and you will feel free to visit the places anytime; just don’t forget your Tep Wireless to stay online anytime of your trip.

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Malta today!

4. Sri Lanka by Vicki of Make Time To See The World


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Sri Lanka was recently voted no.1 in Lonely Planet’s best countries to visit in 2019 – and I can totally agree with them! This small island nation is packed full of culture, temples and wildlife, and not to mention surrounded by gorgeous beaches, world class diving and some of the best surf spots in the world. In the space of a few weeks you can have wandered through ancient cities, detoxed and reset your body at an Ayurveda retreat, soaked in the culture of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, spotted elephants and leopards in the wild, seen where your cup of tea starts it’s life, rode some epic waves, hiked a mountain to reach where it is believed Adam first stepped after being expelled from Eden and taken some of the most scenic train rides on the planet. And these are just a few of the amazing things to do in Sri Lanka and why it absolutely should be on your list for 2019!

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Sri Lanka today!

5. Tasmania, Australia by Mapping Megan


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Isolated from the mainland by 400 km of wild ocean, Tasmania is often forgotten by travelers to Australia. And in fact by many Australians themselves! But for such a small island, Tasmania is far richer than any other Australian State in terms of natural beauty and outdoor tourism. In fact, it could easily be classed as Australia’s last true wilderness frontier.

An island defined by its wild landscapes, visitors to Tasmania can experience ancient rainforests, hike to raging waterfalls, trek through dramatic mountain ranges, and walk deserted stretches of pristine beach. And then there’s the wildlife; kangaroos, wallabies, and the iconic Tasmanian devil, who roam throughout the State freely.

The fact that it flies under the radar from tourism means that Tasmania is a still largely untouched and unspoiled State, and the perfect destination for those looking to escape the crowds. But from a tourism standpoint, the infrastructure is developed enough where it’s easy to get around, and organize a DIY trip yourself. You can access vast wilderness and astounding natural wonders here like nowhere else in the world.

Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, has a thriving food and wine scene, a fascinating convict heritage, and has recently gained international acclaim for it’s cutting edge art museums. However travelers looking to really discover the magic of Tasmania should rent a car and drive into the wilderness, beyond the main cities.

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Australia today!

6. Quebec, Canda by Teacake Travels

Whale in the St. Lawrence: Ursula Tscherter/ORES

For the ultimate nautical wildlife adventure, I strongly recommend getting your waterproofs and boots on! If you want to experience some of the best whale watching in the world, venture to the coast of Tadoussac in Quebec Canada.

People come from all over to the bay area between May and October to catch a glimpse of the beautiful 13 species of whales here. There’s an abundance of plankton and fish to gobble up, which is why so many whales come to visit.

Cruises run daily in prime whale season. Although you can spot whales from the bay, I recommend hopping on a boat to get as close as you can. With anything relating to wildlife spotting, it isn’t always guaranteed that you will spot whales – but you do have a very high chance!

You’ll also be surrounded by 80 species of birds, plenty of seals and glorious sand dunes along 1300km of stunning coastline. Just be prepared to get wet!

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Canada today!

7. Croatia by SJ of Chasing the Donkey


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If you’re traveling to Europe in 2019, come visit Croatia – we suggest you get off the well-trodden path and head to the green landscapes of Slavonia, located in eastern Croatia..

Slavonians tend to be fiercely protective of their heritage, and as such, you’ll see the real Croatia. People still wear traditional clothing, and events such as harvest festivals remain hugely popular. Because of its landscape Slavonia ideal for agriculture, so you’ll east like a king – and for much cheaper than you would on the coast. Virtually all major historical powers in the region have at one time ruled Slavonia, from the Ottomans to the Habsburgs so there is a variety of food to dig into.

And, it’s not just food to entice you, music is a significant aspect of the Slavonian culture as are the annual folklore festivals. The biggest and best is the Vinkovačke jeseni Festival (in Vinkovci), held each September for the past 53 years. During the celebration, a folklore show introduces the traditions and customs of Slavonia. Folk music bands play traditional songs, while makers of Kulen and brandy show off their skills in competitions.

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Croatia today!

8. Guyana by Claudia of My Adventures Across the World


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Kaieteur Falls may well be one of the most beautiful, breathtaking places on earth. Set in the thick rainforest of Guyana, in South America, it’s famous for being the widest, single drop waterfall in the world.

The world record is an interesting trivia, but what really makes it special and a must visit is the fact that it is completely isolated, and can only be reached via a strenuous 5 days hike through the jungle, or via a day trip from Georgetown (Guyana’s pretty capital) or a handful of other places in the country.

A day trip to Kaieteur Falls involves catching a charter flight on a plane that carries no more than 12 passengers. As the plane approaches the waterfalls, you get a first glimpse of it: it’s a mighty, gorgeous sight. The plane lands on a small airstrip, where no more than one small plane can land at a single time. This means that unless a large group of people embarks on the hike, chances are that no more than 12 visitors will be on the site at the same time and those who visit will really have the place to themselves.

Once landed, a local guide meets the visitors and takes them on a tour of the area which lasts around 2 hours and normally involves walking through the forest to admire the local flora and fauna (several bird species such as the cock of the rock live here) and reaching 3 different viewpoints from where the views of Kaieteur Falls and the gorge below are simply stunning.

It’s a once in a lifetime experience that is worth paying for!

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Guyana today!

9. Portugal by Inma and Jose of A World To Travel

Speaking of Lisbon, Oporto, Azores or the Algarve as tourist destinations is nothing new. It is well known by everyone how good one can eat in Portugal, how friendly its locals are, how sweet it is to listen to fado, the special light of the country, and overall how affordable it is. But today I would love to tell you about a not so famous region in Portugal I am sure you will love too.

The fact is that there is much more Portugal than the one that appears in every traveler list out there. And the north of the country is a region that is very worth a visit.

Believe me when I tell you that I’ve been close to a hundred times visiting the wonders of this country next to Spain (where I grew up and have my base right now) and I never get tired of exploring northern Portugal. Its music festivals such as the Paredes de Coura and – my new favorite – the Neopop, its fishing villages such as Viana do Castelo and inland as Ponte de Lima, the natural wonders that appear at every step such as the Peneda-Geres national park and Montanhas Magicas. There is a lot of Portugal to discover, and it was never easier than now with Tep’s support.

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Portugal today!

10. Japan by Samantha of Travelling King

Japan is my top travel destination pick for 2019 as it is ramping up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games; however, this isn’t the only reason. I think that Japan is a totally unrated country, it has so much to offer for different types of travellers from the crazy city of Tokyo to quieter places such as Matsuyama (in the Ehime prefecture).

Saying Tokyo is insane is probably an understatement, it’s population is MORE than the whole of Australia, I’ll let that sink in for a second….. There is so much to do if you can dodge the massive crowds, such as visiting the lesser known Tokyo City view, which offers an observation deck… on the roof! Here you will be able to get uninterrupted views of Tokyo city and maybe even a new hairstyle (the wind can be extreme at times). If city views aren’t your thing, then I would suggest heading to the Ginza area and hiring a kimono for a few hours to immerse yourself into the Japanese culture.

I would also highly recommend Matsuyama, which is an hour/hour and a half flight from Tokyo. Matsuyama is a little more “chilled” than Tokyo, here you can enjoy a local dish of Uwajima sea bream and rice or head to Matsuyama Castle which as one of 12 original castles that remain in Japan. After a day of sightseeing, you can head to Japans oldest Onsen, Dogo Onsen for a nice long soak.

>>>> Get your portable wifi in Japan today!

The history of passports

Travel is a luxury that most of us take for granted. We choose a destination, book a ticket, hop on a plane et voila we are wherever we envisioned to be. And then us being humans and us being used to getting whatever we want, more often than not, we tend to overlook the importance of our most valuable travel companion. We complain about long queues at the check-in counter and we get frustrated about delayed flights but we don’t stop and think about the significance of the small booklet in our hands.

Without it, you are legally denied of leaving and entering a particular country. Without it, you do not have the guarantee of a safe passage nor have the assurance of being protected under international law. A passport is so much more than a mere piece of document. It carries within its pages the history of past and present civilizations.

Today, passports are defined as “an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder’s identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries.” Okay. That definition is relevant and makes a lot of sense. But, really, how did the notion of a travel document come about?

The very idea of a passport predates democracy and diplomacy. The moment powerful empires flourished, land divisions between territories were drawn and redrawn. Regulations for people traveling from one domain to another were thus implemented. There was then a need for a rough concept of national identity.

The earliest reference to a document that served a similar purpose as a passport is found in the Hebrew Bible. Nehemiah of Persia asked for permission to travel Judea. Nehemiah was then given a letter by the king to ensure safe passage throughout the land.

The notion of having some form of identification containing physical descriptions while traveling was first seen in ancient China. Details such as name, age, and body features were required in the official document. The zhuan then determined a citizen’s ability to move freely throughout areas under Chinese jurisdiction.

On the other side of Asia, you needed a proof of commitment to the state and not everybody was given the freedom to be issued travel documents. In the medieval Islamic Caliphate, only the people who paid their taxes to the state were given a bara’a or a receipt. This receipt then allowed citizens to travel to different regions of the Caliphate.

The word passport itself has roots dating from the late 15th century. The French words passer (meaning to pass) and port put together denotes authorization to enter or depart from a port. In medieval Europe, documents were required in order to pass through different territories. Local authorities issued travel documents to foreign travelers that contained a list of towns the holder is cleared for passage (sounds more like a visa).

The modern idea of a passport serving as proof of citizenship or allegiance to a specific country was first thought of at the time of King Henry V of England. The rulers of England wanted to give their subjects the ability to prove who they were while traveling a foreign land and the rest is history.

During the mid 19th century, Europe underwent a widespread railway infrastructure expansion. International travel became so rampant that European countries faced the challenge of properly implementing border laws. Subsequently Europeans experienced a relaxation of the passport system enabling them to leisurely travel across the continent for a certain period before the dawn of World War I.

In the midst of war, security measures had to be considered. European governments increased passport regulations within their borders and the system remained in place even after the war. Standardized passport guidelines were then introduced through a binding conference under the supervision of the League of Nations.

It was only in 1980 that the International Civil Aviation Organization issued the passport standards that we know today. The ICAO recommended standardization guidelines to national governments across the globe to make traveling easier for anybody from any nation. Included within these guidelines are the booklet size and format for the cover, title page, and data page. The booklets also contain blank pages for stamps and visas. Machine-readable passport and biometric passport standards are eventually issued still under the patronage of ICAO. Issuance of passports on the other hand is under your nation’s control (along with passport color choices, in case you were wondering).

Humans have an inherent need to organize and compartmentalize. It might not be the grandest idea to let a booklet define who you are but in this golden age of travel there is an undeniable need to systematize people while traveling. Passports might not specifically define your cultural identity but it does serve its purpose of identifying your citizenship and it does serve its purpose of entitling you to your safety. From handwritten letters to state of the art biometrics, the passport truly has been a testament to the development of humanity and civilization.

With technological advancements at every corner, do you ever wonder what’s in store for the future of passports?

What symbolizes a magical Christmas more than freshly fallen snow, twinkling festive lights, Christmas market stalls, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts? Not much, we reckon!

In this second post in our festive series, Tep has put together a list of the most Christmassy places to visit around the northern hemisphere that could give you your dose of magic.

From real snow and reindeer rides to hot mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and dazzling Christmas markets, we’ve got you covered!

Here’s our list of the top 5 places to visit:

5. Nuremberg, Germany

German Christmas markets are known worldwide for their famous mulled wines, gingerbreads, glittering decorations and picturesque wooden chalets. Perhaps the most charming aspect of a German market is that it brings the holiday spirit to town with its aromas, sights and sounds. Yet, none of the imitations you can find across the globe come close to the original treats you will try at the original Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg.

The annual Christmas market, which dates as far back as 1628, descends yearly upon the center of Nuremberg and brings with it a wonderful festive atmosphere that is very contagious, joyful and family friendly.

Some of our favorite picks from the Christkindlesmarkt that just can’t be replicated include; the iconic stagecoach tour, a steaming hot mug of glühwein (mulled wine in German), the famous prune men, delicious Nuremberg lebkuchen (sweet gingerbread) and of course bratwurst. If you are looking for the real deal there is no better German Christmas market than this one!

For a short break in Nuremberg we recommend staying at Hotel Victoria that is perfectly placed to enjoy all the market has to offer!

4. Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City has been consistently named one of the world’s top destinations to visit during Christmas and for good reason. A metamorphosis takes place in the Old city during the holiday season as it transforms “into a Christmas village straight out of a story by Charles Dickens” (CNN, 2015).

There is an undeniable old world charm to this small Canadian town that lures tourists from all over the world to enjoy its Christmas markets, concerts and decorations. Visit the German Christmas Market for your mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwurst fix without having to step outside North America.

For a more quintessential French market head over to the Old Port Market or try the Gourmet Food Tour to get the best of both worlds. If you’re planning to stay inside the Old City, we can’t recommend the historic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac enough. It’s a tourist attraction in itself (and is one of the most photographed hotels in the world) so even if you don’t get the chance to stay in one of its impressive rooms make sure you take a snap before you leave.

3. Vienna, Austria

The musical capital of Europe completely transforms during the run up to Christmas and is a great place to get your festive groove on. As you walk through the many markets the city has to offer, you will be greeted by the inviting aromas of Christmas punch, roasted chestnuts and the sound of trumpets playing advent songs.

If you want all your senses tickled by Christmas fever you should definitely start with the Vienna Magic of Advent Market (a.k.a. Wien Christkindlesmarkt) at Rathausplatz. The square in front of the city’s impressive Town Hall is transformed into a glittering fairy-tale world with Christmas stalls, glittering lights, pony rides and its very own ‘Christkindl Express’ train. Ice skating at Vienna City Hall is also one not to miss out on, with the gigantic 8,000 square meter ‘Ice World’ rink featuring as one of the most beautiful ice rinks in the world this year.

For classical music lovers Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Advent Concert at St Stephansdom are the best way to get submersed in the authentic sound of Christmas. If you want to stay true to the opulent classical Viennese style, check in to Palais Coburg Residence Hotel that is within walking distance from all of the main attractions.

2. Lapland, Finland

The official home of Santa Claus in the Arctic Circle was sure to be on our top list of Christmassy places to visit. With guaranteed snow, stunning scenery, views of the Northern Lights and plenty of outdoor activities, Lapland will definitely bring out your inner child-like awe – even if you don’t bring the kids.

If you do want to take the little ones to visit Father Christmas we suggest booking the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. The highlights include elf workshops, sleigh rides, a Christmas carousel, Mrs. Claus’ famous kitchen and of course getting to meet the elusive Santa himself.

If you want to stay clear of Santa mania, why not take a day tour of Lapland’s picturesque scenery by going on a husky or reindeer excursion through the magical woodlands?

At night, the skyline over Lapland is transformed by one of the most spectacular natural light shows on earth, the northern lights. We recommend viewing the lights from the comfort of your own glass igloo or ‘kota’ at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort.

For the more adventurous and thick-skinned individuals, the Snow Village with ice bar and rooms is a once in a lifetime experience. Every year a new village is built out of 350,000 kilos of ice which will completely melt away come spring – enjoy its beauty whilst you can as it really is never the same twice.

Unlike the other Christmassy destinations we’ve focused on, Lapland has its own unique culinary delights that you won’t find anywhere else. Reindeer, bear, wild fowl and willow grouse are amongst some of the Lappish specialties – just be warned that Santa does not approve of eating Rudolf’s relatives for dinner!

1. Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg is known as the capital of Christmas for good reason, it’s home to some exceptional decoration displays, caroling choirs, stalls, festive delicacies and one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. In the heart of the Alsace region, you will find the wonders of Strasbourg’s famed Christkindelsmärik, one of the oldest Christmas markets in France.

A dazzling Christmas tree sits in the center of the market, at Place Kléber, and marks the perfect starting point to begin your journey through the 300 stalls on offer. The must tries at the market include, hot mulled wine served in boot shaped mugs, bredeles, kugelhopf, Alsatian Christmas beer and foie gras.

For the best Christmas gingerbread you may ever taste head over to Mireille Oster’s Pain d’Epices in La Petite France (their recipe has been passed down through 3 generations and is the reason people flock there year round). The ice skating rink located on Place du Château is the perfect way to have some fun away from the market’s bustling stalls and take in the city’s gorgeous architecture.

We highly recommend the Hotel Cour du Corbeau for a charming and historic stay within walking distance to all the Christmas attractions. Be sure to book ahead of time, as Strasbourg is extremely popular during the festive season!

We hope our list left you feeling warm and Christmassy all over. If you are yearning for a magical trip abroad and plan on staying connected on your travels make sure you read up on the costs of using your mobile phone abroad.

Tep offers unbeatable value for unlimited portable wifi in over 72 countries for just $9.95 a day and that includes up to 5 separate devices.

For more information on how to avoid getting ripped off for using your mobile phone check out our post on how to avoid data roaming charges here.

Tep wishes you Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas time is all about bringing together the very best things in life; family, friends, lavish food and of course lots and lots of wonderful light displays. From the very biggest Christmas trees to classic inflatable Santas – we’ve given you a rundown of the best places in the world to enjoy the sparkling lights and Christmas cheer with some tips on how to make the most of your own Christmas lights!

8. Cathedral Square, Vilnius, Lithuania

With a population of just under 3 million, Lithuania is certainly on the smaller side of the European countries. Although small in size, this Christian country doesn’t disappoint on Christmas cheer. Every year, towards the end of November, the center of Vilnius (Lithuania’s capital) transforms into a winter wonderland complete with its very own giant Christmas tree. This year’s tree has been draped with 50,000 light bulbs! The lights, Christmas tree, and market stalls are all a must see if you’re in the northern Baltic region this Christmas.

7. Ayala Triangle Gardens, Manila, Philippines

Manila’s business district, Makati City, is home to one of the best Christmas lights displays in the Philippines. The outdoor display held in the Ayala Triangle Gardens, is comprised of more than a million tiny lights that decorate the trees and surrounding gardens. The magical light show, complete with festive tunes, runs every day from 6pm to 8pm and will be on until early January.

6. Medellin, Colombia

The infamous home of Pablo Escobar is also equally famous for its annual Christmas lights display, El Alumbrado. This year’s Christmas light show will feature an extraordinary 31 million LED lights, 42,000 hand woven figures and 13 tons of multicolored metallic paper. The entire city comes to life during the festive season and is definitely worth a visit if you’re planning Christmas in the South American continent.

5. Oxford Street, London

London’s premier shopping street gets a yearly glamorous makeover to celebrate all things Christmas and 2016 is no different. For Christmas 2016, Oxford Street will be lit up with over 750,000 LED bulbs and close to 2,000 sparkling snowball-like decorations. It’s the perfect place to feel the magic of the season before getting stuck into some serious shopping.

4. Rockefeller Centre, New York

Every year the square in front of the Rockefeller Centre, in New York, is brought to life with an intricately decorated gigantic Norwegian Spruce tree – and this year’s tree stands at an impressive 94 ft.! The Rockefeller Christmas Tree, as it’s referred to, is the city’s Christmas centerpiece. Apart from the spectacular tree, there are plenty of Christmassy things to keep you enjoying the festive spirit – here’s Timeout’s handy guide to give you the complete low down.

3. Vienna, Austria

Christmas time in Vienna is not so much about inflatable Santas and red nosed reindeer but more about understated glittering elegance. We recommend walking around the city’s center starting at Michaelerplatz Christmas market and meandering your way through the glittering lights to finish in the famous Christkindlmarkt at Rathauspark – by which time you would have earned yourself a mug of delicious traditional mulled wine – or two or four!

2. Shiodome Caretta Illumination

Every year the Shiodome shopping center in Tokyo puts on a light show like no other. This year will see the Caretta Illumination 2016 ‘Canyon d’Azur’, the malls 11th running show, come to life right in the middle of the shopping complex. Between November 17th and Valentine’s Day (2017) you can enjoy a 6 minute audio-visual light show, featuring over 250,000 LEDs. This is one not to miss if you find yourself in Japan this Christmas season.

1. Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York

In the heart of Brooklyn lies a row of houses, which for most of the year are pretty average looking. However for a few weeks every year, during Christmas time, the residents of Dyker Heights put on the most outrageous and out there Christmas decoration displays you’ve ever set your eyes on. Think enormous inflatable Santas, sparkling Rudolfs and millions of Christmas light varieties to dazzle you. This neighborhood is so popular that every year over 100,000 people visit the streets just to take in the homemade displays of Christmas cheer. We recommend you take a personalized tour and book early to avoid disappointment as tickets sell out fast!

Christmas fairy lights bring a festive magic like nothing else and if you’re planning to decorate your home with them this year there are a few things to keep in mind. Here some top tips to keep you and your family merry and safe this Christmas!

1. When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree.

2. Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water by refilling daily.

3. When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” This label indicates that the tree is more resistant to burning.

4. Don’t use electrical ornaments or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings.

5. Place your tree at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators, and space heaters.

6. Remember to keep your wifi router as far away from the Christmas tree as possible. Your wifi signal can be affected by your fairy lights because of the electromagnetic radiation they emit. In fact, Ofcom has even warned that it could significantly slow your internet down!

7. And finally… if you want to avoid all the internet drama caused by fairy lights or you want to visit any of the Christmas lights we’ve highlighted in this post get your hands on your very own Tep wifi device.

Tep’s device works in 80+ countries worldwide and gives you access to unlimited internet for a fixed daily cost of just $9.95. You’ll never have to worry about those shock data roaming bills and most importantly Tep’s device won’t be impacted by any Christmas lights! That means you can live stream the switching on of the Rockefeller Tree or even enjoy your own fresh tree without any negative impacts on your internet browsing speeds! To find out more or to rent/buy your own Tep device click here.

10 Christmas street markets to visit in the US and Europe

As Christmas approaches most people love nothing better than an event which embraces the colors, sounds and smells of the holiday season. One old tradition which retains enormous popularity to achieve this is Christmas street markets. These have been held since medieval times in Europe but have migrated with people across the Atlantic and become incredibly popular in North America as well. Let’s take a look at some of the best places to get some early festive cheer with friends and family.

1. Nuremberg, Germany

Let’s begin in the home of the Christmas market tradition: Germany. You’ll find these events on in every city in Germany so selecting just one is tricky. But we’ve opted for the pretty town of Nuremberg in Northern Bavaria. It’s one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, dating back to the 16th Century and retains every bit of that authenticity right through to the present day. It’s even the place where Bratwurst sausage was invented, so you know the food is going to be good!

2. Arlington, TX, USA

Arlington hosts one of Texas’ most popular Christmas markets which runs from late November through New Year’s Eve. As well as the usual skating, shopping and food outlets it also claims to have the world’s largest light maze to explore and solve. Should keep the whole family entertained for a while!

3. Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland is perhaps most famous for its own Hogmanay New Year celebrations, but it embraces the Christmas market tradition as well. So much so, that Edinburgh actually has two-street markets in different parts of the city. One focuses on local gifts and produce; the other is a more traditional German-style market, so it’s worth visiting both for the full experience.

4. Brussels, Belgium

The Belgian capital, Brussels, has a more modern feel to its Christmas market, established in 2000. It has definite eco-friendly and multi-cultural values and a little less emphasis on history. Don’t worry, it’s still definitely got the right Christmas spirit. They’ve even produced their own trailer video for this year’s event, check it out here.

5. San Francisco, CA, USA

San Francisco is a city that always manages to put a unique spin on things and their Christmas market is no different. Can’t make it to London? No problem, the spirit of a Victorian-era English Christmas, as evoked in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, is faithfully recreated in SF’s Dickensian-themed market. It runs until December 17, so if you like an experience brought to life by colorful characters, this is for you!

6. Strasbourg, France

Although Germany is often considered the birthplace of the Christmas market tradition, the biggest and best in Europe might well be held in Strasbourg. It’s not a large city but it deserves its moniker as the “capital of Christmas” and the market here has been around for hundreds of years. Rather than being in a single area the market is spread across 11 different “villages” spread out all over the city, each with its own theme.

7. New York City, NY, USA

What could be a more spectacular location for a Christmas market than in the heart of Manhattan? That’s exactly what you can experience at the Union Square Holiday Market. You’d expect a big market in the Big Apple and this doesn’t disappoint, with over 150 vendors, you can probably nail a good portion of the Christmas shopping in one go here!

8. Bath, England

If you’re in the UK over Christmas you’ll have plenty of choice of Christmas markets, they’re everywhere! But we’d recommend a visit to the historic city of Bath (so named for its Roman-era public baths). The market has grown to over 200 wooden chalets and is set amidst some stunning architecture. You get to visit a great market and visit a World Heritage Site at the same time. Bonus!

9. Washington DC, USA

America’s capital has one of the most popular Christmas markets in the country. The Downtown Holiday Market is an eclectic mix of stalls, performers, artists and other vendors. It’s handily located as the name suggests in the heart of downtown DC just in front of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum so this one is a winner for a great cultural experience.

10. Copenhagen, Denmark

As you’d expect from the home of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales, Copenhagen loves the spirit of Christmas and the city hosts markets in various locations. From the pretty Nyhavn waterfront area to the famous Tivoli Gardens there are festivities going on everywhere. Try them all and find your favorite!

Wherever your travels take you and however you spend your holiday season, you can ensure you can share your experiences anywhere in the world in real-time by using a Tep portable wifi device. The device is only $8.95 per day for unlimited data usage, plus, you and your friends or family can all share one device (up to 5 gadgets can connect at a time).

Tep’s portable device is amazingly travel-friendly too, it will slip into a handbag, pocket or rucksack. Find out more or buy/rent a device here.

The ultimate guide to Tel Aviv nightlife

Destinations dotted in and around the Mediterranean Sea have long been hailed as the ultimate nightlife hotspots of Europe. There’s the famous “party islands” of Ibiza and Mallorca, Ayia Napa in Cyprus and Hvar in Croatia. But you may not be aware that, at the very eastern end of the region lies a city with an amazing music scene and a reputation for all the hedonism you can handle. It’s Israel’s second-largest city, Tel Aviv.

Surprised? You’re not alone, Tel Aviv seems to have hovered just off the radar of many people seeking a fun holiday with great music and all-night reveling. But those in the know will tell you it’s up there with the best nights out they’ve had anywhere. Let’s lift the lid on what makes it special.

What’s Tel Aviv like in general?

The vast majority of visitors to Tel Aviv say they feel very safe and welcomed, despite what you might hear in the media about Israel in general. Tel Aviv is on the coast, some distance from more troubled areas like the border with Syria and the Gaza Strip.

The general city vibe is great, lots of travelers mention how friendly the locals are and almost everyone speaks excellent English. It’s also a liberal city where anyone from the LGBT community can feel at home and express themselves.

It’s a place that cares about the environment, ranked as the greenest city in Israel, has fantastic beaches to chill during the day, good public transport to get around and a great range of accommodation for all budgets.

Once in town, where should I be checking out?

There are three main areas of Tel Aviv we’d recommend you focus on.

The beachfront and port area

Tel Aviv has great beaches and a port area, Namal Tel Aviv. Locals might call them “touristy” but if you’re a first-time visitor and want to find your dancing feet in Tel Aviv it’s no bad thing to start here before you seek out more authentic locations in other parts of town.

Many of Tel Aviv’s clubs and bars are open during the day for food before switching to drinks and music later in the evening. That’s certainly true of Shalvata which is popular with a varied crowd and a great spot for sundowners.

Head a little further south towards the centre of Tel Aviv and if you look carefully you should be able to find ShuShu, a dance bar with a mainstream crowd located behind a frozen yoghurt shop.

Back on the beach further down the coast you won’t have any trouble finding Clara, the largest outdoor club in Tel Aviv. Top DJs, beautiful people… and expensive drinks. But definitely sampling.

South Central – Rothschild/Allenby

Photo Credit: The Rothschild

Now you’ve got a taste of Tel Aviv by night it’s time to plunge into its beating heart. This lies at the southern end of Rothschild Boulevard around its junction with Allenby Street. The bars and clubs are packed tight here, so you can hit several in an evening with ease.

Our first choice is Kuli Alma, a feast for the eyes as well as the ears with lots of cool décor and art exhibits. It’s a warren of different rooms and areas so gran a drink and go explore!

Then you could check out Lima Lima to take things up a level. This place has been a fixture on the scene for a decade, famous for its Hip Hop nights. The dance floor here is always lively.

Radio EPGB has a more underground vibe, where the music is always what’s happening right now, even if it hasn’t reached the mainstream, so this is a hipster’s paradise.

If you’re still going when the sun comes up, chances are you’ll be at The Breakfast Club. They didn’t name it by accident. This place doesn’t get going till late, even by Tel Aviv standards and stays open long after everyone else. Just have sunglasses at the ready when you stumble out into the morning sun!

South Tel Aviv – Florentin

Photo Credit: AirBnB

The third area of Tel Aviv that you should visit for a great night out is the neighborhood of Florentin in the southern part of the city. It’s a little more industrial, but home to a thriving art community with some mainstream bars and restaurants to some really hidden gems. But it definitely has that bohemian vibe about it.

Bugsy is a great bar to start with, more of a café during the day, but drawing locals as well as tourists into the evening.

That theme continues at Hoodna, with excellent food, drink and live bands. It’s got a more chilled-out atmosphere which you’ll find in a lot of bars and clubs in this area, it’s less rowdy and hectic than in the center of town.

The exception to this rule might be the the legendary Haoman 17. This is the place, more than any other, which put Tel Aviv on the map with amazing DJ nights giving it the name of the “Shrine of Techno”. Do check if it’s open before going, nights are irregular but if you can make it in you’ll enjoy a wild time.

Still standing? Then it’s time for the big finale at The Block. If we told you this was a club inside Tel Aviv’s central bus station, you think we were winding you up, but it’s really there and it’s a very serious club. Things don’t get happening here till after 1am, it’s a little distance away from the main nightlife areas but once you’re in we don’t think you’ll want to leave!

Wherever you go in Tel Aviv and whatever crazy adventures you have, or stories you want to share, Tep can help you stay in touch with friends and family by using a Tep portable wifi device. The device is only $8.95 per day for unlimited data usage, plus, you and your friends or family can all share one device (up to 5 gadgets can connect at a time). Tep’s portable device is amazingly travel-friendly too, it will slip into a handbag, pocket or rucksack.