Tag Archives: Travel Tips

Renewing your Irish Passport Is About To Become A Lot Easier

The Irish Passport Office is possibly the most sinfully tedious and boring place to be. At some point in time, we’ve all realised that our passport is soon to expire and we’d have to set aside several hours of sitting on an uncomfortable chair, surrounded by people invading our personal space, while you wait to renew your passport. If you don’t you risk a summer holiday to Leixlip, instead of one to Koh Samui! No one wants that.

You can imagine our delight at the news that the Irish Passport Office is investing £18.6m into the passport applications service and soon you’ll be able to do ALL of it online! Huzzah!

According to our good friends over at The Irish Times, a tender has been released to seek a suitable provider of digitising one of Ireland’s most often criticised processes. Currently, all passport renewal or first-time applications must go through the post but having had to recently take on a significant amount of new staff, the Irish Passport Office has had enough and is calling in the tech guys.

The news is particularly welcome considering the massive surge in applications since Britain decided to self-sabotage it’s own economy  vote to leave the EU and those based in the UK with Irish connection (a lot of people) have sought to make steps to secure a valid EU passport in the future.

Boris

Initial timelines suggest that some form of online application to for renewals could be made available as early as Q1 of next year, with a full roll-out expected in 2019. Coming from a man who’s passport expires late next year, a hat tip to the honourable ladies and gents who are making this a reality. Now, if they could treat A&E injuries through a USB port, the days of waiting rooms would be all but over…

 

 

5 Life Lessons You’ll Learn From Visiting India and Nepal

When it comes to choosing a holiday destination, many factors are at play – the weather, the resorts, the cost, the landmarks etc. All of these blend together for a while and battle each other Top Trumps style in your head until eventually you find a winner and thunderbirds are go!

Take a brief moment to rank your holiday priorities. Now, if we’re to guess that relaxing, unwinding and comfort immediately sprang to your mind would we be wrong?

Continue reading 5 Life Lessons You’ll Learn From Visiting India and Nepal

How To Save The Pennies When It Comes To Travel…

From warm beaches to snowy resorts, holidays are something everyone looks forward to.  Of course, there is a catch though. Going on holiday can cost a bomb and leave your bank account feeling empty inside-sometimes quite literally!

Continue reading How To Save The Pennies When It Comes To Travel…

A Crazy Cheap, Six-Stop InterRail Route For Your Summer!

InterRailing season is in full swing with carriages upon carriages being packed out with excited students and graduates exploring the very best that Europe has to offer.

Continue reading A Crazy Cheap, Six-Stop InterRail Route For Your Summer!

Croatia Gets Europe’s First Zipline, 100m Above The Sea!

It’s common knowledge at this stage that one of our favourite destinations to visit in Europe is beautiful, sun-soaked Croatia. The beaches are stunning, the architecture (Game of Thrones fans, you know) is breathtaking and the people are so accommodating and friendly. In fact here’s 25 Pics that will convince you Croatia is actually heaven!

Now, Croatia has added yet another unmissable experience to it’s ever growing travel armoury with Europe’s First Zipline Over Water!

 

Crikvenici
The seaside town of Crikvenica opened the zip line on June 24th, 2016 (image via nathanmac87)

 

We’ve featured a similar zip line in Haiti recently that looks like the most fun you can possibly have in a seated position and now Croatia has followed suit by opening this one in Crikvenica, near the hugely popular coastal town of Rijeka. The 500m line offers stunning views of the Kačjak peninsula from 100 feet up and will reach approx 65km/h just like Croatia’s most popular zip line (for now) at the Centina River.

We cannot wait to have a go!

We’ve been taking more bookings this summer for Croatia than ever before so if you’re still on the lookout for the perfect summer getaway there’s our Croatian Island Hopper from only €609, cruise packages around the Adriatic starting from €715, Global InterRail Passes from €200 and much more!

Crazy for Croatia? Cool, get in touch with us info@usit.ie or on (01) 602 1906 and let’s get this adventure moving!

Grad Visa Spotlight: Thomas’ Essential Guide To Living In NYC

When we help students obtain their US Grad Visa, we’re not interested in waving goodbye to them once the plane leaves the runway at Dublin Airport and that be it! The Grad Visa is such a huge opportunity and experience for our graduates that we love hearing about how they’ve settled in, what their highlights have been  and most importantly what wisdom they can share for future participants.

With this in mind let us hand you over to Thomas Burke, who escaped the ‘boredom’ of Cork behind for what’s been an anything but dull 9 months in New York City…

Thomas NY 2

‘I specifically remember sitting at a desk in my full-time job in Cork and finally deciding that I needed a change…

I was earning a good salary, had a beautiful apartment and had a great bunch of colleagues and friends. So what’s problem, right? I just wasn’t being challenged, monotony was setting in and life was getting, if I’m being honest, extremely boring. I finally decided to take the plunge and move to New York (you should have seen my parents reactions!). After living here for nine months now, one thing I can say for sure is that New York is most certainly not boring! I now have an internship at the Irish Arts Center where I help organize different events throughout the city, promoting Irish arts, music and culture. 

New York is difficult to explain to other people if they haven’t experienced the city themselves. There is a buzz that goes with just walking down the street, the collective sights and sounds forming a unique atmosphere. Integrating yourself into the city can be very daunting at first.

7 Top Tips For Your First Months in New York

  1. New York is ridiculously expensive. Period. Save, save and save some more before you arrive.
  2. The first 3-5 months are absolutely manic. You’ll be excited, scared, angry, confused and exhausted all at the same time.
  3. Get your phone sorted immediately. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon are all good options. Get your SIM card sorted before you go via USIT’s agents.
  4. Set up an American bank account straightaway. Chase Bank and Bank of America are the most popular as they have the most branches throughout the city.
  5. Buy a subway MetroCard. The subway is by far the cheapest option to get around and you will use it more than you think.
  6. Always try and have a small bit of cash on you. You never know when you might need it.
  7. You will do a lot of walking here so proper walking shoes are a necessity.

New-York-Skyline-night

Getting Accommodation Is A Slog, But A Great Learning Curve

Shortly after you arrive, you will inevitably be looking for somewhere to live. You can only live on a friend’s couch/floor/mattress for so long and trust me, it gets tiring VERY quickly. Looking for an apartment in NYC is an incredibly intimidating and disheartening experience at first and I felt out of depth throughout the entire process.

However, getting your own place first should be your number one priority. Everything else will follow and I always tell people, everything clicked once I found an apartment. I now live in Astoria, Queens with two other Irish guys and we are having a blast!

Apartment hunting in NYC takes lots of time, perseverance and courage. 

Top Tips For Finding Your Place

  1. Connect with people! Trust me, there are tons of Irish people here. You never know who might have a spare room or know of an apartment.
  2. If you find a place that you even remotely like, just take it. Literally, in less than 24 hours, it will be gone.
  3. Be aware, using a broker will likely cost a fee, one month’s rent and one month’s deposit before obtaining your apartment.
  4. Look in neighboring boroughs such as Queens or Brooklyn. 
  5. Facebook is a good platform to use. “Gypsy Housing NYC” is the main page I used and which eventually helped me get my apartment now.
  6. Don’t get too disheartened. Keep plugging away and something will come up!

Getting Used To The Subway

One aspect of New York you have to get used to is the subway. It has its own rules and regulations which you adapt to over time. People act differently; they are too tired, stressed, hot, impatient and irritated to act normally. Here are some subway tips which I have learned over time…

  1. Its $31 for a weekly unlimited subway ticket. This is your friend! It’s $2.75 per ride normally so it’s great value and you will get your use out of it, trust me.
  2. Always check before you go underground whether that platform is for uptown or downtown trains. There’s nothing worse than getting on a train and realizing you’re going in the wrong direction.
  3. When a train stops at a platform, let everybody off first! It genuinely makes the process go faster.
  4. Use earphones when on the train! You don’t want some guy blaring Drake in your face when all you want to do is sleep.
  5. Don’t hog two seats! Seats are like gold dust, especially on long journeys. Don’t be annoying and take up more than one.
  6. This one goes without saying but ALWAYS keep an eye on your belongings. The subway isn’t the safest place in the world so keep your wits about you.

Thomas NYC 3

Think Your Smartphone Is Crucial in Ireland? Wait until you get to NYC!

New York is a modern city and I use my phone for everything. If your phone is broke/old/dying before you come here, get a new one. Seriously…. You’ll need it. Below are a few essential apps I use day to day:

  1. Google Maps – I actually use this app without even thinking about it. I still get lost in this city and it’s very unsettling if you don’t have access to it.
  2. Uber/Lyft – An amazing alternative to regular cabs. You can get picked up and dropped off anywhere for a flat rate.
  3. NYC Subway – Provides a full map of the subway maps with arrival times and information on each stop.
  4. Bank Online App – Very handy for checking your balance, depositing checks and viewing bank statements.
  5. Yelp – Great for getting first-hand experience on restaurants, bars, concerts, events, etc. I use it a lot and it very rarely lets me down.
  6. Stubhub – A wonderful app for getting last minute tickets to events of any kind. Very reliable.
  7. Venmo – Probably my favorite app of all. Great for sharing payments among people such as rent, bills and bar/restaurant checks.
  8. Camera – It goes without saying but you will take A LOT of photos in this city. Take and share them, it’s all a part of the experience.

What To Explore Once New York Feels Like Home

NYC (2)

I like to think that I’ve successfully integrated myself into this city. It’s something I’m very proud of. I’m always learning and every day is a new experience. It’s inevitable you will have a bad experience here and there and that is part of living here. Below are some general pieces of advice I would give after living here for nine months:

  1. Go to Central Park as much as you can. It’s my favorite place in the city and there is always something happening here.
  2. Master the art of packing. New York is huge and coming back home for lunch or a break is just not feasible. Pack a backpack with some essentials.
  3. Watch out for Yellow Taxi drivers. If they know you are new to the city, they may take you a longer way. Be careful!
  4. You’ve got to keep up or else you’ll get knocked, kicked, trampled or shoved. If you’re on your phone, you’re a main target!
  5. If you enjoy coffee, you will drink it all the time here. There’s coffee shops on every corner.
  6. New York has an astonishing amount of restaurants so go out and try it all!
  7. You’ll make friends but not see them for weeks. People are busy working different schedules and it’s just the way of life here. Don’t take it personally!

Would I recommend moving here? Absolutely! It takes a while to get used to and the first few months are undoubtedly tough but eventually it all comes together.

I said at the start of this piece that I came here because I was bored. I can safely say that’s no longer the case and I know I never will be. If you’re even half thinking about coming here, just do it. I understand the reservations and doubts but you will not be sorry!

If you have any questions, you can email me at burkey91.tb@gmail.com or get me on Instagram or Yelp!

Massive thanks to Thomas for sharing with us (and now you) some priceless tips for getting used to life in NYC. Feeling inspired to go? There’s less than 300 Grad Visas left for 2016 so get in touch with Melanie.Young@usit.ie or give us a call on (01) 602 1747.

 

14 Travel Gadgets You’ll Never Leave Behind in 2016

With teleportation still a frustratingly far off prospect, you still can’t travel any great distances around the world without enduring a certain amount of boredom/restlessness/discomfort as you get there. Even when you do, a situation will invariably arrive where you wish you had packed something from home.

Luckily for us, some very clever people are constantly innovating and creating gadgets to make the actual travelling part much more enjoyable. Between USIT’s own adventures (they’re plentiful!) and those of our customers we’ve put together these 14 Travel Gadgets that will be worth their weight in gold on your next adventure…

ShutUpAndTakeMyMoney

1. Trtl Pillow

Trtl Pillow

This is some essential ‘napparatus’ (sorry) for air travel. Business class aside, it can be bloody difficult to get some comfort and shut eye on a flight. The days of drooling into your strategically placed jacket are over thanks to the Trtl Pillow which scientifically positions your head in a more relaxing position. One drawback is looking a bit like a football hooligan but hey, comfort is comfort.

Cost: €25

2. Trakdot

Trakdot

Ever landed at your destination only to be left alone at the luggage carousel as your bag fails to appear? Not fun. Well, including a Trakdot in your bag acts as a GPS and also features a courier service to redirect it to you asap if it goes on a wander.

Cost: €90

3. Airhook

Airhook

When you fly shorter haul, you can be pretty much guaranteed that the view from your seat won’t include an LCD display just a tray table. Propping or holding an iPad can be a bit of a nuisance and a juggling act but this little gizmo hooks onto your tray and acts as an anchor for tablets, and for your drink. Perfect.

Cost: €20

4. Asobu Water Bottle/Pill Container

Pill Container

When travelling abroad, keeping tabs on any tabs can be a little difficult. Tablets check, but no water. Water check, but no tablets. Now this very cool little gadget packs both together.

Cost: €15

5. Jet Lag Calculator

Jet g

So many people use tracking apps these days which measure their entire existence by the numbers. Steps taken, distance run, calories consumed can all be tracked to the enth degree but now you can even track how much sleep you’ll need to recover from Jet Lag as quickly as possible. *clicks to download*.

Cost: Free

6. Stratus Gaming Controller

Gaming controller

Nostalgia is an endlessly enjoyable emotion to experience. We all long to play ‘the floor is made of lava’ or try to solve a Rubik’s Cube when the opportunity presents itself. This little gadget is an absolute must for those of you who grew up with Nintendo, allowing you to play all the old classics, using the old controller via an iPad. A bluetooth & app combination will make any flight whizz by. You can also play multiplayer on one device so buying two is a great idea!

Cost: €29.99

7. Trail Wallet App

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet is a simplistic free app that’ll help keep your travelling budget in check. You don’t want to be worried about the money running out, especially if you’re travelling for a longer time than just a week or too. This app will be your own personal bank manager. Crucial.

Cost: Free

8. BackBeat Bluetooth Headphones

backbeat-sense-se-case

The vast majority of travellers will have audio of some description to help drown out their surroundings whether on a plane, train, bus or camel (maybe don’t wear earphones on a camel). We chose these BackBeat Headphones as the best option as they’re wireless, stylish and have a freakishly long battery life of over 24 hours.

Cost: €140

9. Scrubba Wash Bag

Scrubba

This is the self proclaimed ‘world’s smallest washing machine’ and possibly the greatest recent invention for backpackers around the world! Weighing a grand total of 140g it packs a flexible internal washboard that you can manually wash your clothes from outside the bag. Genius, I’ll take seven.

Cost: €48

10. Lithium Card HyperCharger

Lithium Charger

This is the slickest mobile phone charger you can get. This Lithium Card is essentially credit card that can pop out of your wallet and give your phone some extra juice, although it is a little on the expensive side. Hey, we didn’t say being James Bond would cost you pennies!

Cost: €60

11. Viator

Viator

Viator is your own personal travel guide (but without the terrible jokes), providing you with all sorts of cool info on wherever you might be plus an interactive map and most importantly the best deals on tours in cities. You can even book discount tours natively in the app.

Cost: Free

12. Open Table

Open Table

The final must have travel app in 2016 is Open Table, making sure you’re never disappointed in getting a table at a restaurant in the US. While the app is predominantly useful when you’re in the States, the app’s usage is growing internationally as hot spots like Abu Dhabi, Sydney and London are now listed.

Cost: Free

13. Sandless Towel

What if I told you there is a beach mat out there that is impossible to cover in sand? Well, there actually is! This genius mat is made from two layers of polyurethane which, like a sieve, instantly filters any sand back from whence it came. Look!

Cost: €45

 

 

 

 

 

25 Tips For The Ultimate EURO 2016 Trip For Irish Fans

Heading off to the Euros in France this weekend? With only 2 days left until the big kick off in Paris on Friday night, your master plan for negotiating your way through France is probably the real deal by now (if not, maybe get on that!) and all that’s left is are the smaller details. That’s where we come in with 25 sacred tips that’ll maximise the craic and minimise the stress of making your way through Paris, Bordeaux, Lille and all the other games we’ll play on the way to the Final (Extra Tip: optimism is key)…

Continue reading 25 Tips For The Ultimate EURO 2016 Trip For Irish Fans

Where To Watch Ireland at EURO 2016? NY, San Fran, Boston & more

Let there be no further mention of that Belarus game in Cork last week, the real action is soon to begin! The 2016 European Championships kicks off in France on the 11th June and we have a funny feeling that more than most of you will have packed an Irish jersey for your US adventure.

Whether you’re on a Summer J1, The Grad Visa Program or just taking a holiday Stateside you’re not going to want to miss Ireland’s three (and hopefully more!) games in the tournament against Sweden, Belgium and Italy. That’s why we’ve got some seasoned football (soccer over there, you’ll get used to it) fans on the ground in some of the major US cities to make sure you’re clued in on where to watch the games, even the ones on at stupid o’clock (the Belgium game is a 6am start on the West Coast!).

New York

There’s no way you’ll be stuck for a TV in the Big Apple but you want to hit a pub where the Green Army is biggest and loudest…

The Weir, 1673 3rd Av, 93rd & 94th St, New York

The Weir

Formerly the Kinsale Tavern, this revamped Irish pub is New York’s newest Celtic Bar so you know it’s in keeping with the times (Ultra HD, Wi-Fi etc). Taken over by Dubliner, Donal Daly last year, The Weir has been open since January and is already attracting hordes of New York’s Irish community. This place is going to be hopping when Ireland open their campaign against Sweden on the 13th June.

Stout NYC, 133 West 33 St, New York

Stout

New York’s biggest Irish bar is situated right next to the infamous Madison Square Garden complex in the heart of Manhattan. You also won’t be surprised to hear that the Stout does as good a pint of Guinness as you’ll get in NYC (not that an 8am pint is advisable) and serves some great food too. It’s also worth mentioning that there are now 3 Stout Bars in Manhattan but the one you want to head for is this one.

The Central Bar, 109 East 9th St, New York

Central Bar

A big favourite of our J1ers and Grad Visa students, the Central Bar is usually full of a vibrant and young crowd most of which will be in full voice dreaming of a team of Gary Breen’s on matchdays!

Boston

Not even the Red Sox are going to get a look in for at least a week in June!

The Banshee, 934 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester

Banshee

A pretty apt name for the noise this place is going to generate throughout the Euros, this is sports Mecca in Boston for Irish fans. Two levels, stacked with a dozen big flatscreen TVs, The Banshee is Boston’s most well known Irish Sports Bar and for good reason. It’s known as a Chelsea bar (sorry Chelsea fans but I didn’t know any existed?!) but don’t let that put you off, The Banshee will feel right at home when Shane Long pile drives a shot past Gigi Buffon to top our group on June 22nd.

McGreevy’s, 911 Bolyston St

McGreevys

Opened way back in 1984, this is Dropkick Murphy’s local! Enough said…

Caffe Dello Sports, 308 Hanover St

CDS

For something a bit different, this Italian themed coffee house doesn’t sell alcohol but instead some delicious coffee, pastries and gelato! Every Irish game will certainly be shown and the place is likely to be less crowded for those of you wanting a space where you can solely focus on our beating of Sweden on June 13th.

Chicago

The most sports mad city in the US, bar none. We’ll take a good guess that many of our J1 & Grad Visa students will be easily spotted in one of these watering holes on the 13th, 18th & 22nd of June…

Cleo’s, 1935 W Chicago Ave

Cleos

Cleo’s has a healthy obsession with three things – craft beers, beautiful food and European football (ugh, I mean soccer..). No doubt a large portion of Chicago’s Irish community will be descending on Cleo’s for our Group games but you can be guaranteed that every single game of the Euros will be watchable here.

The Globe, 1934 West Irving Park Road

Globe

‘The best sports bar in the world’.

That’s a pretty big statement to be making but you can argue they can back it up! An establishment completely consumed by sport, pretty much everything going on in The Globe revolves (see what I did there?) around kick off times. As a side note to watching the Euros, check out The Globe’s weekly FIFA tournaments and sports quizzes…quality.

Timothy O’Toole’s, 922 Fairbank Ct

Tim o Tooles

70 HD Screens. 70, think about that for a second? An often stated bug bear of watching a big game in a pub is that you end up behind a pillar or some ludicrously tall dude who’s oblivious to your suffering. Timothy O’Toole’s most certainly solves this problem and while Cleo’s and The Globe aren’t strictly speaking ‘Irish pubs’, this one certainly is.

San Francisco

Watching the game is going to be more challenging in San Fran due to the time difference so don’t forget to check in advance if these places are opening early! Also worth remembering to have a coffee or two before the Belgium game.

The Kezar Pub, 770 Stanyan St

Kezar

The Kezar is one of the most popular Sports Bars in San Fran, from NBA and NFL to footb..sorry ‘soccer’ and rugby. Despite the rather odd name it is classed as an Irish Bar so it will be a safe bet for the early mornings cheering on Martin O’Neill’s men in France.

The Dubliner, 3838 24th St

Dubliner

You’d be hard pressed to think of a Irish pub name more common than The Dubliner. We could probably count 20 homages to Ireland’s capital that we’ve frequented around the world, this being one of our favourite! The pub is full of characters, most of which with strong Irish connections so it’ll be so easy to strike up a conversation with them (mostly about how Belgium are overrated and will get turned over against us in Bordeaux).

The Blarney Stone, 5625 Geary Blvd

Blarney

Finally, a pub with a Happy Hour! Plus the friendly bar staff are often poor timekeeper’s meaning that ‘hour’ will feel suspiciously longer. Given the early starts, it’d be a wise move to check in with them beforehand to make sure they’re awake and open early in time for kick off!

Myrtle Beach

The South Carolina hot spot has been crazy popular for J1 students this year, with more heading to Myrtle Beach than ever before. With so many of you already out there, you’ll want to get your plans sorted in time for the first game…

Molly Darcy’s, 1701 South Ocean Blvd

Molly

Watch Ireland stuff Sweden and then go celebrate on the beach! Sound good? Molly Darcy’s Irish Bar is in an amazing location and also packed with pool tables if you want to get out of the sun (unlikely!). While not renowned as a sports bar we have it on good authority from J1ers already in Myrtle Beach that you won’t miss a kick of any game here.

Remedies, 4803 Highway 17 Bypass S

Remedies

Pizza, beer and sports! Another great location by the sea, Remedies is jam packed with TVs showing sport morning until night plus they do some great pizzas which go down a treat no matter what time the game kicks off at.

 

So there you are, panic over! No shortage of ways to find and join the Green Army if you’re in the US as we March on France this June. COYBIG!

Got any more hidden gems where you are? Let us know and spread the word!

 

 

6 Reasons Why Cancun Is Becoming The ‘New Spain’ For Euro Tourists

Hands up if you’ve holidayed in Spain in the last say 10-12 years? Yep, pretty much everyone has flown down for some sun and sand in Marbella, Barcelona or Ibiza and there’s no obvious reason to knock it. It’s been an affordable, convenient and a standout holiday for Europeans for a long time.

Fast forward to 2016 and the world has become a smaller place thanks to increased competition from airlines and more opportunities to save on accommodation. While Spain’s tourism industry has seen a revival of Lazarus-like proportions since the 2008 slump, the backlash has begun with locals demanding tourists go home on account of trying to ‘turn us into a theme park’. They’ve seemingly made their position clear in Palma.

Continue reading 6 Reasons Why Cancun Is Becoming The ‘New Spain’ For Euro Tourists