Monday, April 28, 2014

Blog has moved!

My blog is now moved to:! Please visit there for my latest trip reports :) Just got back from Greece, see my trip reports there :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Quick Guide On How To Plan A Day Trip to Hallstatt

Quick Guide On How To Plan A Day Trip to Hallstatt

I have received few emails throughout the year on how to plan a day trip to Hallstatt so I am putting this quick guide to help, it's very easy!

Train Tickets

The Austrian Rail website is by far the easiest rail website I have seen, website is
It is a very informative planning tool, everything you need to book your day trip to Hallstatt...well almost everything :)

There are three ways to get to Hallstatt:

Option 1: Regular trains (most expensive)

If you are going on weekdays by train use this option, for weekend trip look at option #2 below. First, finding the train on the website by inputting your departure station (most likely to be Salzburg, if Vienna it's doable but will be a long day)!  So let's put from Salzburg to Hallstatt, select a date from the calendar, and then departure starting at 05:00 am:

Click on Book ticket and the results look like this:

Click on "I would also like to book a return journey" and select the return time, I use 16:00. Add passengers traveling with you. Then click on calculate fare for time tables:

Since I added passenger for 2 adults, the price displayed are for 2 people. For this example, I choose the 6:12 am arriving 8:47 am. Click on "Details", it will display the full information:

The train number IC 541 departing Salzburg on 6:12 am, no platform shown yet probably too early, so make sure when you get to the train station, double check the platform on the display and the train number before boarding the train. Note that the train direction is to Wien Westbahnhof, but you'll need to get off at Attnang-Puchheim to change to another train. Click on the "i" icon next to IC 541 for the list of train stations in which you'll be passing on the way:

You'll get off on the 2nd stop: Attnang-Puchheim, arriving 6:58 am. Attnang-Puchheim station is a very small station, so don't worry about the 17 minutes to change train, you'll have enough time to walk across the platform. Change to train number R 3406 departing 7:15 am and arriving 8:47 am. Note that the direction of the train is heading to Obertraun Dachsteinhöhlen. Click on "i" icon for details on the 2nd train:

It will be a long ride, 20 stops to reach Hallstatt but you'll pass by many picturesque towns, lakes, and mountains!

Hallstatt train station is just one platform with the sign "Hallstatt". Once you get off, walk down to the path to the pier, there's a small booth there to purchase the ferry ticket. If no one is there, don't worry, you'll be able to pay when boarding the ferry, ticket is around €2.40 . The ferry time table accommodate the train schedule pretty well so you won't be waiting for long. The journey across the lake to Hallstatt town will be amazing so have your camera ready! The ferry will drop you off at the ferry station: Hallstatt Markt.

For the return trip, either take the 16:32 or 17:07 train to get back to Salzburg for dinner. Make sure you check the ferry schedule so you will not miss the train! The ferry departs at Hallstatt Markt the same when you arrived. The 16:32 train from Hallstatt to Attnang-Puchheim heads to the direction "Wien Westbahnhof", whereas the 17:07 train heads to the direct Linz/Donau Hbf, either one you'll get off at Attnang-Puchheim to change train back to Salzburg, direction is Salzburg.

If you want to book online, click on the price of your desire train/time, then you have an option to select the class, and then click "confirm fare":

You have an option to register for an account or proceed without registering which leads to the payment page:

Please note that the currency is in Euros, which usually credit card charges a foreign exchange fee of 3%, there are no foreign exchange fee credit cards available in the market :) If payment is rejected, you can try to call your credit card company and let them know that you are making this purchase and try again. 

Option 2: Weekend trains (best value for group travel)

To save cost, I would strongly recommend Saturday or Sunday if you are traveling with a friend or friends. This is because Austrian Rail offer a very good deal on a day pass called Einfach-Raus-Ticket cost 35 euros (as of 2014) good for 2-5 people traveling together. The Einfach-Raus-Ticket is valid all day during weekends and public holidays on all suburban and regional service trains as well as on the Raaberbahn (R, REX and S-Bahn trains); whereas for weekdays, it's valid from 9:00 am to the next day 3:00 am. For day trippers like us, we would like to maximize the time to spend in Hallstatt so would take the earliest train possible! If weekdays, the earliest is 9:00 am which gets to Hallstatt before noon, definitely not worth the saving! If you are planning to get the Einfach-Raus-Ticket, you can either buy online by clicking the "Einfach-Raus-Ticket" instead of "Ticket" on the first page:

Then you'll select a date for the pass to be valid and select the total passengers traveling together:

You can also purchase the pass from the automated ticket machine, remember to have cash with you because automated ticket machine required credit cards with smart chip and a pin number to pay!

Since the pass limited to REX, R, and S-Bahn trains, it will be different to find the correct trains. Go to the route planner:

Input from Salzburg to Hallstatt, date, time, click on return journey put in date and time. Then on "products" select Einfach-Raus-Ticket from the drop down menu:

Click search connection, as you can see, only the R and REX trains are displayed and takes a little bit longer to get to Hallstatt.

Option 3: Bus (cheapest)

Alternatively, a cheaper way is to take Bus 150, back to using

From Salzburg, take Bus 150 to Bad Ischl bus terminal, departing Salzburg at 6:45 am from platform F and arriving Bad Ischl bus terminal at 8:10 am at platform E. Then you'll need to walk over to the Bad Ischl train station to take the train R 3406 departing at 8:20 am at platform 1 to Hallstatt. This is the same train as above and will get to Hallstatt the same time - 8:47 am! The price shown above is for the train only, you'll need to purchase the bus ticket separately. The bus ticket is around €10.10.

On the return trip, you can either take the 16:32 or 17:07 train or if by bus will require 2 stops:

Take the bus 543 from Hallstatt Lanh (this is different than the Hallstatt train station located across the lake), this is the bus station in the end of Hallstatt town. Departing 17:31 and arriving 17:39 at Hallstatt Gosaumuhle. Then change to bus 542 leaving at 17:40 (not sure if 1 minute is enough time since I didn't take this bus), which heads to Bad Ischl bus terminal arriving 18:10. Lastly, switch to bus 150 again leaving at 18:24 and will be back to Salzburg at 19:53.

I hope this quick guide is easy enough to follow and plan your own day trip to Hallstatt! Have a great time and I am sure you'll! If you still have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or email me!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Grand Cayman Day 7 - Swim With Dolphin

Day 7 - Swim With Dolphin

Happy times always go by so fast......our one week vacation had come to an end - our last full day in Grand Cayman! Early in the morning after I woke up, I checked the weather forecast back home, urggg snow storm expected 3 - 5 inches with low in 15 degrees (that's not even half of 85 degrees here!). I am thinking to myself can I not go back? Alright got to enjoy our last full day with the hot sun - activity planned for today: Swim with Dolphin wohoooo! I always wanted to try that but never really make it until now :D Well another good reason was I booked Sunshine Suites through Expedia and Expedia was having a special of buy one get one free dolphin swim at Dolphin Cove, can't beat that right? I contacted Dolphin Cove weeks ahead and scheduled a time, all of the available times were in the afternoon at 3 pm and the only morning available was today at 10:30 am.

We left the hotel at 9 just in case we made some wrong turns and will take extra time to find the place hehe. There are two dolphin swim facilities in the island one is Dolphin Cove and another one is Dolphin Discovery (next to the Turtle Farm). We got there pretty smoothly and arrived around 9:30 am, one hour early! We parked at the back lot where the sign pointed us to, we could've parked at the front much closer! We checked in, hand over my Expedia voucher, and paid $139 for both us. I think we were the earliest ones there since I don't see anyone at the dolphin area. The facility is like open to the sea:

There was a floating platform there and I spotted at least 3 dolphins in there :)

Since we got there early, we checked out the parrots and the touch tank. The guy who worked at the parrots area was friendly, he introduced us to each of the parrots there. First one was the talkative parrot, he was so cute!

The second was the green male one, the female was red colored, I love those tropical colorful birds!

This one was doing his morning exercise - pull ups LOL!

The trainer hand signed and he opened his wings!

This one liked my husband LOL!

The trainer told us that it was harder to train parrots than dolphins! Also, he had to train parrots one by one because if they trained together, they'll fight! He also helped to take a picture of us holding the two white parrots :)

Oh...with the exception of those two..they liked to be trained together! 

Afterwards another guy showed us his touch tank. He said he used to have more show and tell sea animals but due to more strict restriction of captivating sea life, he couldn't keep them. He showed us a jelly fish and explained different types of jelly fishes. 

There was also a Caribbean lobster there.

 Next, we went back to see the Love Birds....they are gorgeous!

Aren't they pretty?

Time for our dolphin swim!!!! We had a total of 6 people, 4 of us booked the Dolphin Swim and the other 2 booked the Ultimate Dolphin Swim (cost more, more tricks, but same duration).  We were given a life vest which was mandatory and then 4 of us went to one section with one trainer and the other 2 went to the other side with another trainer. It was a small group just 4 of us so we didn't have to wait long to take turns. The unfortunate thing is no camera is allowed; they have their guy to take photos which will be for purchase sighhhh!!!  We left our DSLR camera on the bench next to the floating platform, only few of us there and only ones who booked that time slot were able to access the area so we felt it should be secure (we asked about their lockers and they said the lockers are small can only fit your wallets and cellphones).

 Our dolphin's name is Nemo so cute!!!! The water was cold when I first dipped in but soon I felt warmed up. We swam out few feet away and instructed to put our hands out. Nemo swam by and we touched it...oh boy first time touching a dolphin.....its skin was much softer than I expected!!! Then, we took turn to get a belly to belly ride with Nemo!!! It was amazing that Nemo just popped up straight and I grabbed on him and swam together! We also took turn to pose for a kiss with Nemo :D Lastly, Nemo showed off his big jump right in front of us. I forgot to time how much time we spent on the water but it wasn't rushed. Sometimes I thought Swim with Dolphin is a tourist trip sort of activity but this changed my mind after getting so closed to this intelligent sea mammal!  

We got out of the water and there was a rinse shower near-by then headed to the restroom to get change. We went back in the gift shop and checked out our photos...oh my god completely rip-off: $25 for a 5x7 print and $99 for all pictures on CD!!!!! I would think $10 per print should be fair but $25 for one (not even include the digital copy) are you kidding me!!! And the pictures didn't come out to be nice, the camera wasn't great and the photographer...not really professional. URGGGG what should I do in this case? I have thought of not purchasing but at the end we decided to buy one just to show that we did the dolphin swim!!! 

Here is the picture....over exposed and the print quality was not great either!!!

Well at least we did had a good time and will always remember it! With the purchase of any of their swim programs, they included a complementary trip to Stingray City or the Turtle Farm. I really wanted to go Stingray City but we been there before and it was very windy so the sea would be we decided to go to Turtle Farm. I asked how we get the free tickets to the Turtle Farm, the lady said since we got buy one get one free, they can only give us one free time and we'll need to pay for one. It was $15 so fine ..... I swiped my credit card three times in this place LOL!!!! We drove there ourselves or else we would have to pay for the transportation fee -.- 

She gave us the wrist band and said we can use it in another day if we want to but it was our last day so we had to go today. We drove to Alfresco for lunch which is located in the West Bay area. It wasn't too hard to find since it's located right in front of the main street not hidden inside like Heritage Kitchen. We sat outside facing the beautiful beach! The view was unbelievable at that time of the day!

The outdoor seating area at Alfresco, hubby was busying deciding what to order while I went around and took pictures!

We ordered Pina Colada, BBQ shrimp, Jerked Chicken Sandwich, and the Steak Sandwich and while waiting for food....more photos hahahaha! You can't blame me, look at the view!

There was a stairway to get down to the beach as well!

Here came our food! The BBQ shrimp was okay but only 4 per order and it was almost $9 CI! I always thought seafood should be cheaper in island places but I guess they imported the shrimps....

The Jerked Chicken Sandwich was really spicy, love it!

Hubby's grilled steak sandwich was really good too! Overall we both enjoyed both the food and view at Alfresco!

Our lunch with great view came to be $51.33 included tips..not bad at all Cayman price-wise! There were a few lizards/iguanas roaming around but they were pretty small so wasn't that scary!

We sat there for few more minutes after lunch to enjoy the view. We met a couple who sat next to us, they were from New Jersey! They also did the Dolphin Swim earlier in the week and they loved the experience!

Next off we drove to Turtle Farm, parked right across the street at Dolphin Discovery. The farm had a sign posted that last admission for today is 3:30 pm, they probably had an event going on afterwards. We were lucky to made it there at almost 2 pm. We went in and it was not that big as I expected. First I saw was those giant turtles swimming's their mating and nesting area.

You might not able to tell how big those turtles are but see the picture below where my husband stand close to it....

Then there were a lot of tanks, some that you can touch the turtle some that you can't. I put my GoPro into the tank to get some photos of the little turtles swimming by.

There was an alligator cage but didn't look interesting.  On the other hand, we spotted a huge iguana on the ground!


The other side of the farm was a "water park" but you need to pay extra to get into....I left the farm in less than an hour. We drove back to the hotel and searched where to have our last dinner at Grand Cayman. We had a lot of grilled seafood already and Italian cuisine so we wanted something different.  We picked Yoshi Sushi which is located across the street from the Westin so it was within walking distance from Sunshine Suites. We didn't make a reservation and luckily there were low tables available.

It was pretty busy and I saw many people who ordered take out from here...I guess that indicated the food shouldn't be too bad!

When it comes to sushi, hubby can eat ALOT of specialty rolls! He ordered 5 rolls and a yellow tail sashimi and then we ordered two rice bowls and the waitress was looking at us and asked are we sure LOL!

Beef Teriyaki Rice Bowl, the sauce was pretty good but it could be better if they didn't cut the beef up into cubes which made it not as tender as it could be.

All the food on our table hahaha!

Look at the sushi rolls he ordered! I liked the spicy tuna roll :)

Hubby ordered a beef rice bowl too, forgot the name but we both agreed that the Teriyaki one was better!

Alright how much was the bill for all those food??  ......$101 included tips, the 2nd most expensive we had hehe.

The worst of vacation.....packing up....urgg how did I managed to get all those stuff into the luggage when we came? LOL!!! We didn't bought much souvenirs this time but the two conch shells from Acquarius Sea Tours took some room but they were pretty so had to fit them in! We packed our winter coats as well since we thought it would be silly to wear them to the airport LOL!

Goodbye Grand Cayman!

Our flight was at 3:45 pm but we were told to be there at least 3 hours ahead and the hotel's check-out time was 12 pm. Since we'll get back to Boston at 7:45 pm, if I don't have a good lunch, I would faint...seriously I can't be starved LOL! We waited till 11 am when Sunshine Grill opened for lunch, I wanted to order 4 shrimp tacos but the order is either 2 tacos for $10.95 CI or 3 tacos for $13.95 CI. I talked to the waitress about it and she asked another waiter and they said they could place an order for 3 tacos for $13.95 CI and then half an order of $10.95 CI for 1 taco totally 4 tacos for $24.29 USD :D I really like their service and think about the customers first!  I ordered take out and take them back to the room to enjoy our last meal at Grand Cayman. They were good but not as great as we had them few nights before. We checked out at 11:45 am and then drove to the airport. The drive wasn't bad...just follow the sign...arrows pointing to the airport.  Car rental return was easy and fast as well! 

There were a line of people going through the security check point and it was hot there...oh gosh great that we packed our winter coats! We got through security in an hour so we had 2.5 hours to spare. Inside the gate area was packed with people, we had a hard time finding two empty seats!  We waited for a flight to board before we got seats! It has a sign "free wifi" but we couldn't connect -.- oh well the 2.5 hours I spent editing our photos :) Hubby walked around and checked out some shops here he said they were 2X - 3X the regular price! Time for our flight goodbye Grand Cayman!!! We landed at 7:30 pm and it was snowing out oh nooo I want white sand, not white snow!

Conclusion of our is very expensive, more than other islands we had been. The food is good on average, we didn't had a bad meal but we also didn't have an impressive meal. In terms of food, I would prefer Aruba I felt like Aruba had more varieties and more budget friendly.  Hubby of course preferred Cancun since he absolutely loved the fresh mussels there. One thing that I really like about Grand Cayman.....snorkeling especially Stingray City! If I have a chance to be back in the future, I'll definitely spend more time on snorkeling (first have to get hubby to learn how to swim LOL). One thing that I dislike about Grand Cayman......shops and restaurants are far apart from each other; there's not much we can go within walking distance.  So without a car, it would be quite inconvenient!  The other islands we went were usually set up hotels on one side facing the beach and the other side of the road are shops and restaurants. I felt there weren't much to do after dinner, I enjoy checking out shops after dinner or just walk around a nice area....Hawaii so far is the best to do that!  One last thing I like about this trip...the weather was very comfortable, not humid and not too hot at all, although it rained one morning and two other days were just passing showers. The world is too big and we have too little time so don't!