Sunday, 26 January 2020

Travelling To Mongolia? Read This First!

A trip to Mongolia is probably a once in lifetime experience unless you really fall in love with the country, but you can't just book and go, some preparation is essential. If you book through a recognised Trans-Siberian railway tour operator, they can take the hassle out of the preparation and arrange everything from the necessary visa to your food, excursions and accommodation. If you do decide to do it alone and travel independently, the checklist below should be of assistance.
Image Source: Flickr

Mongolia Travel - The Essentials

As previously mentioned, independent travel to Mongolia takes planning and preparation but if you have been browsing the selection of Trans-Siberian holidays available, you will have noticed the vast majority of them offer excellent value for money. But if your heart is set on independently travelling to this vast country, please see below for some things you need to know prior to departure.

Entry Requirements - You need a visa before you travel to Mongolia. A Mongolia tourist visa is valid for 30 days from the date of issue and can be extended in-country by 30 days.

Vaccinations - A number of vaccinations are wise in advance of a trip to Mongolia. Your local GP of travel clinic will be able to provide more upto date information.

Safety and Security - Violent crime is rare. The biggest danger by far is travelling by road in certain areas. Bad conditions in conjunction with poor standards of driving can make travelling by road a hair-raising experience.

Local Laws and Customs - Possession or any use of any type of drugs is highly illegal and should be avoided at all costs unless you fancy an extended holiday in a Mongolian prison. Be culturally sensitive to Buddhist Monks and local people alike. Follow the examples of local people and you won't go far wrong. Be aware, that outside of areas frequented by tourists, the level of English will be limited or non-existent. A phrase book or an offline app may be useful.

Travel Insurance - Due to the isolated nature of much of the country, medical assistance maybe hours or even days away. Make sure you have a travel insurance policy that covers repatriation, better safe than sorry. For minor ailments, follow the advice of local people.

Packing List - The climate can vary wildly depending on the areas you visit and the season. Seasoned travellers recommend good trekking shoes, a headlamp, first aid kit and layers of warm clothing that can be peeled on and off according the current weather conditions. It is also important to take as much personal medication as you need for the duration of your stay and a little bit extra for good measure.
Image Source: Unsplash
The vast majority of visits to Mongolia are trouble free, particularly if you book a tour with an experienced tour operator. If you want to find out more about visiting Mongolia, there are a number of resources online where you can look. Government and official tourism websites are usually the best sources of upto date information.

This article is published in partnership with Mediabuzzer

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Friday, 24 January 2020

3 Deadly Mistakes Every HomeBuyer Should Avoid

Image Source: Pexels

Deadly Mistake #1

Thinking you can't afford it. Today, buying the home of your dreams is easier than ever before. Many people who thought that buying the home they wanted was simply out of their reach are now enjoying a new lifestyle in their very own new home. Buying a home is the smartest financial decision you will ever make. In fact, most American and Canadian home owners would be financially broke at retirement if it wasn't for one saving grace - the equity in their home. Furthermore, mortgage rates are more flexible today than ever and tax allowances favour home ownership. Real estate values have always risen steadily. Of course there are peaks and valleys, but the long term trend is a consistent increase. This means that every month when you make a mortgage payment the amount that you owe on the home goes down and the value typically increases. This owe less-worth more situation is called equity build-up and is the reason you can't afford not to buy. Even if you have little money for a down payment or credit problems, chances are that you can still buy that new home. It just comes down to knowing the right strategies, and working with the right people.

Deadly Mistake #2

Not hiring a buyer's agent to represent you. Buying property is a complex and stressful task. In fact, it is often the biggest single investment you will make in your lifetime. At the same time, real estate transactions have become increasingly complicated. New technology, laws, procedures and competition from other buyers require buyer agents to perform at an ever-increasing level of professionalism. For many homebuyers, the process turns into a terrible, stressful ordeal. In addition, making the wrong decision can end up costing you thousands of dollars. It does not have to be this way! Work with a buyer's agent who has a keen understanding of the real estate business and who is on your side. Buyer's agents have a fiduciary duty to you. That means they are loyal to only you and are obligated to look out for your best interests. Buyer's agents can help you find the best home, the best lender and the best inspector. Best of all, in most cases, the buyer's agent is paid out of the seller's commission, even though he/she works for you. Trying to buy a home without an agent at all is, well... unthinkable.

Deadly Mistake #3

Getting a cheap home inspection. Buying a home is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. This is no time to shop for a cheap inspection. The cost of a home inspection is very small relative to the home being inspected. The additional cost of hiring a certified inspector is almost insignificant. As a homebuyer, you have recently been crunching the numbers, negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages and trying to get the best deals. Do not stop now. Do not let your real estate agent, a patty-cake inspector or anyone else talk you into skimping here. NACHI front-ends its membership requirements. NACHI turns down more than 1/2 the inspectors who want to join because they can't fulfil the membership requirements. NACHI certified inspectors perform the best inspections by far. NACHI certified inspectors earn their fees many times over. They do more, they deserve more, and yes they generally charge a little more. Do yourself a favour...and a pay a little more for the quality inspection you deserve.

This is a collaborative post*

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Thursday, 23 January 2020

4 Musicals I'd Like To See In 2020

Time for more theatre content because I would write about it every single day if I could and today I'm talking about the musicals I'd like to see in 2020. I did plan on sharing this a few weeks ago so we have actually booked a few of these shows since but still, I'm gonna include them anyway! Last year I did something similar and I ended up seeing two of the three shows I mentioned but I have a feeling 2020 is going to be the year of musicals for me 🤞. We already have quite a few lined up and there are so many others that are set to tour towards the end of the year, that I'm just determined to get to. 
collage - Dear Evan Hansen, & Juliet, Six, Pretty Woman

Dear Evan Hansen 

The second show of 2020 for me will be Dear Evan Hansen (we saw Les Miserables a few weeks ago if you want to read my review) and honestly I don't think I've ever been so excited for a show. I've said many times on my blog recently that reading the book of Dear Evan Hansen was hugely comforting as an anxiety sufferer and there were so many parts of it that I found relatable so I think seeing the actual show is going to be emotional to put it lightly. It's a tough story but the score is beautiful, I can't wait to see how the songs are staged and the current cast have had fab reviews since they started in November. I'm counting down the days and fully expect to cry my whole way through it.
Dear Evan Hansen - Evan and Connor on stage

& Juliet

I love a double show day in London so after seeing the Dear Evan Hansen matinee, we're seeing & Juliet that evening. Quite a contrast but I think & Juliet will be just what we need after an undoubtedly heavy afternoon. I was lucky enough to be invited to see the show whilst it was playing in Manchester last September so I'm really looking forward to seeing it in the West End this time with the same incredible cast. I see it very much as the new Kinky Boots - a piece of theatre that whilst has it's serious elements and moments that will pull on your heartstrings, it's all out fun and you leave on such a high. We need something like that in the West End now Kinky Boots has left so I hope & Juliet sticks around for a very long time. I have the soundtrack on repeat and I just can't wait for what I know is going to be an amazing night out.
& Juliet cast on stage

Six 

Six is seriously hard to get tickets for in London now as it's popularity has just grown and grown over the last year so I pretty much resigned myself to not seeing it for a long time but then they announced a tour! It's currently touring the UK and it will be playing in Leicester in Summer so we've recently booked tickets as we've been after an excuse to go back to Leicester anyway. If you're not a long time reader of my blog, George and I used to live there whilst in Uni but moved back a few years ago. I'm sure it will be strange to be back after such a long time but I'm looking forward to it. Six tells the story of the six wives of Henry III but with a little twist. It's had rave reviews and looks so much fun.
Six Tour cast on stage

Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman opens at the Piccadilly Theatre next month in London and whilst I would absolutely love to see it, I do think the chances I will are pretty slim. The ticket prices are absolutely insane! I mean, it's Pretty Woman, I can understand to some extent but currently they go way beyond what I'd be willing to pay so I'm going to keep an eye out for any deals that come up. It's only set to stay in London for a year so it would be a shame to miss it but I do have a feeling it will tour afterwards which I imagine will be much more affordable. It looks like such a fun show and the music is brilliant but whether I'll actually get to see it or not, I'm really not sure.
Pretty Woman on stage
There are quite a few other musicals touring this year actually so I'm hoping we can get to another one or two of those. Trips to London aren't cheap so I think it's great that more shows are starting to branch out now and taking the show on the road so more people get to see them. The Phantom Of The Opera is on my theatre bucket list and that's touring for the first time soon so that would be a dream but there's also Hairspray later in the year, Beautiful The Carole King Musical and Everybody's Talking About Jamie which I think would all be incredible!

I'd love to know if you're planning on seeing any musicals this year? Or have you seen any of the ones I've mentioned?!

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Make Your Home Move Easier*

Moving home can be a stressful time. In fact, it's often cited as one of the most stressful things that we can do alongside divorce and redundancy. As we also know, moving home is also a really exciting period in our lives. It can be an upgrade in living standard, moving closer to friends - even a new job! The trick is making the home moving experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. To help you in doing that we're going to cover three tips to help your next home move go as smoothly as it can.
grey blanket, white book and black mug on coaster
Photo by Isabelle Taylor from Pexels

Spending Under Control

According to Barclays, the average home move in the UK costs £8,855. That's expensive. The crazy part is that we all tend to overpay for products and services when we're moving home. There are lots of reasons for that, but one of the more unknown ones is because of something known as the 'primacy bias'. The primacy bias is something we all naturally have being human. It essentially means that our perception of something is influenced by what we have just seen beforehand. The classic example is if you were to walk into a high-end bridal shop and are shown dresses entirely in the £6,000 - £7,000 range. Then, they bring out a dress for a the low-low price of £3,500. In this scenario we have a tendency to see this price as much cheaper than it actually is, because it was preceded by something twice as expensive. Had you walked in and see the £3,500 dress initially you wouldn't perceive it to be as cheap. When it comes to moving home, this applies to everything. You're spending tens of thousands, so when you're asked if you would like the legal on-top for £1,200 we say, 'sure'. Because we're spending such high sums of money we don't question the price as much despite the fact we can get it much cheaper. In short, try and reduce the amount you spend and be aware of your natural biases.

Get Planning

When someone tells us to 'plan better' we tend to have the reaction of 'of course!'. In reality though, most of us don't do proper planning when we're moving home. And we need to. There are two key things to stay on top of when it comes to moving: your budget and your timeline. It is best practise to start by outlining how much money you need to spend on the move. If you're buying a home this might involve separating out the costs for things that you need when you move in and other items you could wait for - like that Jacuzzi you have your eye on. In terms of timing, find a really good online moving checklist. Understand what needs to happen and when it needs to happen by. Moving is very busy so invariably we will all forget one thing or another. Having a comprehensive list or plan to follow will make your home move much smoother.

Save Time & Cut Costs

With the growth of accessible technology the ability to save both time and money has never been so accessible. SlothMove is one such company. They actually enable you to update your address online, cut costs on setting-up your bills and get you access to free stuff - like Tastecard. Instead of having to make 20+ phone calls repeating the same information, you can just 'say it once' and update them all at once. It's also completely free - so whether you need to 'change address on driving license', update your councils or anything else, be sure to check them out. You can also cut costs by creating a thorough written budget and, more difficulty, sticking to it. This is more difficult to do when you're buying a home but also more much important.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you are now fully prepared to make your home move easier. Some of these tips are simple, but can carry a significant impact in terms of making your home move much more enjoyable. And the final thing to bear in mind is that moving home ought to be fun. And that means making time for yourself amidst the chaos of moving. That could be an evening completely off during the week or a day trip. Whatever it is, make sure you take time for yourself.

*This post is in collaboration with SlothMove

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