Middle East

Country #69 - Afghanistan

The Stressful Country

I was able to sleep in a bit this morning but it definitely was not a very restful sleep. The most stressful country of my trip so far was today, and I was worried about making the flights and finding my witnesses with enough time to spare. I headed to the airport four hours early because the New Delhi, India airport is infamous for taking a while to get through. Also, you have to have proof of your flight to even be allowed inside of the terminal.

When standing in line for my ticket I could tell I was getting a few funny looks - I was pretty self-aware, too, that I didn’t fit the bill of a normal passenger to Afghanistan. I was given my ticket, though, and made my way to immigration and security which were fine but a bit time-consuming. I then had Dominos for lunch because I wouldn’t be eating again for a while and wanted to have a large but relatively inexpensive meal. Also, there were very few options in the New Delhi airport when it came to food.

At my gate, I was again aware of how out of place that I was. Thanks to the guys who looked like backpackers for sticking out more than me, though. My time in the Afghanistan airport was fine but I don’t think it is currently an ideal backpacking destination. Anyways, the flight was a little delayed which stressed me out as I was already going to have a tight window to transit through the country. Eventually we boarded, though, and I luckily had a seat close to the exit so I could be off the plane quickly when we landed. Upon descent into the country, I was amazed by how beautiful the country was as there were tons of snow covered mountains everywhere.

It was a two and a half hour flight and upon landing immigration was a breeze. I had no idea what to expect but I guess they likely do get quite a few Americans through the airport. So while it was new to me and I definitely stuck out on my flight, I’m sure the airport does actually see quite a few people like me (though if I had to guess, probably not too many solo women).

I exited the airport briefly and then made my way back to departures. The security screening for women upon entering the airport consisted of a pat down but I actually really enjoyed talking to the two women in the area. They were really intrigued when they found out I was American and complemented my skin and clothing profusely. They were so kind and it was a great first interaction in the country! I was also impressed with their English as well, as I had no idea what to expect when it came to English proficiency in Afghanistan.

I then checked into my flight at what I assume was an English speaking check-in counter as they both spoke perfect English - which was great because they agreed to be my witnesses! I was making good time and only had security and immigration left. Immigration was fine, I was just asked when and where I entered the country (a bit awkward to say that same day but it was not an issue) and other than that I was free to go. Security was actually a bit funny as they had to scan my bag through at least three times due to the many electronics that I carry. The guy helping me spoke English and thought it was entertaining that electronics kept coming out of my bag (cameras, computer, lots of chargers, etc.). Once again he was very nice and after a final scan, I was able to go to the boarding area.

I had my picture taken in the airport and then sat in the open boarding area until my flight. I noticed at least three other Americans waiting for the flight to Dubai who looked like they were definitely involved with the military in some way. My flight actually ended up being delayed by thirty minutes so I ended up making it through with time to spare! I was relieved to board the flight even though I felt fine throughout my few hours in Afghanistan. I actually did not see any evidence of the military until the plane was taxiing to depart when I saw tons of helicopters sitting on the runway and a giant American flag in a hanger off in the distance. I’m definitely glad to have Afghanistan off of my list as it was one that I was a bit worried about, but I know I have a few more countries that will be even more tumultuous to come in the future. For now, though, it’s on to Dubai, UAE for the night!

It was a three-hour flight and when I landed I was met by the driver for Dunes Hotel Apartments. I rode in a really nice SUV to the hotel where the nicest greeting was waiting for me! David, who had arranged my stay, along with a few other employees met me in the lobby with a bouquet of flowers! It was so sweet! After a long and stressful day, this made my day for sure. After taking a few pictures I was shown to my room which was a fantastic one bedroom suite.

There was a full kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, and a giant bed. I was shown around the room before wishing everyone goodbye - I cannot thank David and everyone at Dunes Hotel Apartments enough for an amazingly warm welcome and really great stay! I loved the room and slept so well. It was a great few hours back in the UAE though I wish I could have stayed longer!

69 countries down, 127 to go.

To learn more about Dunes Hotel Apartments click here.

Country #68 - India

The Taj Mahal

Today was quite the whirlwind but it was absolutely incredible! I landed in New Delhi around 4am after sleeping for maybe two hours on the plane. Going through the immigration eVisa line was a breeze and the immigration officer was very welcoming. Though I’m not sure if being wished good luck for taking on India on my own was encouraging or concerning. Upon exiting the terminal I called an Uber and went to my hotel, the Suncourt Hotel Yatri. I had about an hour to drop off my bags and make it to the train station.

I somehow made it with about ten minutes to spare! I found my seat in the EC (Executive Class) part of the train, which was less than five dollars more than a regular ticket and to me at least it was totally worth it when traveling in India. It included a bigger seat as well as water and a meal. The train ride itself took about two hours and before I knew it I was in Agra. After extensively researching the best way to visit Agra by myself I was left with no other option than to hire a private guide: there were no group tour options and it didn’t seem like the safest option to do it all on my own. Plus, at the last minute, I lucked out and found a highly rated guide for only $30 for the day.

I met Happy, my guide, as I stepped off of the train. He walked me to the car where I met my driver for the day who was also the owner of the tour company. They were both very kind and it was really interesting to talk with them and spend the day with them. We drove to our first stop and all I have to say was that the roads were a sight all on their own. There were animals everywhere (cows, monkeys, dogs, cats, water buffalo, goats) as well as tons of people and cars. Also, the smog in India is a really real thing and it will make you sneeze and there is nothing you can do about it except for hope not to get sick from it.

The first stop for the day was the Baby Taj. In many ways, it is a miniature version of the Taj Mahal (hence the name) but it’s definitely not exactly the same. I enjoyed learning about the history from Happy and then spending time walking through and around the Baby Taj on my own. After I finished walking around we headed back to the car where we then drove to the obvious main attraction, the Taj Mahal.

When we got to the Taj there were separate security lines for males and females as well as for tourists versus locals. There were lines everywhere, but thankfully mine only took about twenty minutes to get through. The lines for the locals were so long! I met Happy after security and we walked along to the entrance and then there it was! As massive and stunning as you might imagine. From the distance at first glance it did not even look real.

Our first task was to take tons of pictures, and Happy was an obvious professional at this. He knew all of the spots and angles to take pictures from and we got many great shots in a short amount of time. As we were taking pictures we also started the informational part of the tour, which was quite interesting. As there were no informational plaques or audio guide options having a guide proved to be essential to actually learning about the history of the Taj Mahal.

When we got close to the Taj I walked around the Mosque area to the side for a bit, and then afterwards we went inside. One of my favorite parts was seeing and learning about the marble and the work involved to adorn it with the semi-precious stones. All of the precious stones were stolen by the British, of course. It was crazy to imagine just how much more immaculate the Taj must have looked before everything of value was stolen. The stones that were there, though, were really quite cool, especially the two local stones: the Black Star and the Star Ruby. It was really cool to see how the Star Ruby would look like fire when light was shined on it. Walking through was quick but really very cool to see.

After we finished we sat for a short break before heading back to the car. It was still a bit early for lunch so we headed to a local shop where I bought a tiny version of the Black Star and also bought my mom a gift. For lunch I had Indian, of course, and the chicken that I had (along with the cheese naan) was quite tasty. After lunch, we stopped by a marble shop where there were demonstrations of how they actually would make it in the Taj. I know it was touristy, but I bought a small trinket anyways.

Our last official stop of the day, then, was the Agra Fort. It did not take a long time to see but it was really cool and you should definitely visit when making the trip to Agra. The architecture was really stunning especially in just the detail that was put into everything. There was tons of history to learn about here as well! After learning a lot and taking plenty of pictures we headed back to the car. I still had an hour and a half until I needed to be at the train station so we went to my driver’s house to visit his family, as he lived right by the train station and we were out of things to see in Agra.


It was really cool to meet his family! They didn’t speak English apart from his son, but I really enjoyed getting to meet them and talking with them. We talked about travel, obviously, as well as just India in general and it was a very enjoyable conversation. My favorite part for sure, though, came when I mentioned how interesting it was for me to see all of the animals on the street. His son then nonchalantly mentioned that, ya know, they have a pet goat on their roof. And not just any pet goat, but a three-month-old baby pet goat! I was asked if I wanted to meet him and I think my response is pretty obvious. He was adorable and it was quite the highlight of my day to have a surprise meeting with a baby goat.


After an hour I said goodbye to everyone and headed to the train station. The train back was about an hour and a half and I was served a meal again. Everything was going great until I struggled to find an Uber to take me back to my hotel. There were plenty of Ubers available but three times in a row the drivers canceled on me. I finally found my last driver and headed to the hotel in tons of traffic. It took about an hour to get there, and once I did I was so tired. A big thanks to Suncourt Hotel Yatri for a great room in the heart of New Delhi. I literally collapsed within minutes of entering my room.

It was incredible and I’m so glad to have been able to visit one of the seven wonders of the world. It is honestly no surprise that the Taj is such a famous landmark as seeing it in person you realize just how grand and immaculate it really is. It is unlike any structure I have ever seen before or will ever see in the future, and I definitely recommend a visit if you ever have the opportunity. It was a rushed visit to India but I had a great day and I’m so glad I spent it visiting the Taj Mahal!

68 countries down, 128 to go.

To learn more about Suncourt Hotel Yatri click here.

Country #67 - Oman

The Rest Day

I slept so well at the Radisson Blu Hotel Muscat and was thrilled. I had only two hours of sleep the night before and knew that tomorrow I would be sleeping on my overnight flight before spending the whole day in Agra, India visiting the Taj Mahal. As a result, I knew that today it was really important to catch up on sleep. When I planned this trip that was not what I had intended - I had planned to get out and explore Muscat, Oman. But that just didn’t happen. Another reason for this was the expense in Oman. Taxis cost a lot and other tourist options were outrageously expensive. Take the hop on hop off bus for instance - $80 for one day! It was insane.

As a result, I spent the day in my room catching up on sleep and catching up on work as well. It wasn’t ideal and definitely was not what I had intended, but it was definitely necessary. The good news, though, was that my room had a great view of the city so I was at least able to visibly see Muscat even if I was unable to experience it.


I can’t thank Radisson Blu Hotel Muscat enough for not only the great room but the warm welcome. I received a great note and hat from Eucharis who had helped to organize my stay, and was treated very kindly by everyone that I met. I was even given a late check out of 6pm which was just incredible! I spent a few more hours in the hotel working on things in the business center before heading to the airport for my 11pm flight to New Delhi, India.


It was a four-hour flight and I slept for maybe two hours - not ideal, but that’s why I rested up today! I would love to visit Oman again in the future and really have the time and means to explore it. It was nice to at least get a taste of the city, though!

67 countries down, 129 to go.

To learn more about Radisson Blu Hotel, Muscat click here.

Country #66 - Qatar

The Giant Bear and The Horrible Lines

I had five hours when I landed in Qatar until my next flight, which was enough to even think about going into the city. This idea was quickly squandered, however, the second I walked into the immigration line. It was depressingly long and not moving. For a state of the art, brand new, international hub airport this wasn’t a great look. About an hour in (and not even halfway through the line) more immigration officers were added, but it still ended up taking about two hours total. I was exhausted and it was also really hot in line (again, this didn’t make sense for such a nice facility).

Once I finally cleared immigration I made my way to check in for my next flight. Of course, this wasn’t simple either! They sent me to three different check-in counters before I finally wound up at the correct one. Once there they had to verify my credit card by actually calling the airport in Oman which seemed bizarre. Another hour later and I was finally able to go back through to my gate. The idea of visiting the city was definitely a no go.

The Doha, Qatar airport likes to brag about how great it is literally around every corner (the awards it has won are on signs everywhere) but that didn’t matter when I spent eternity in lines with marginal customer service. Hopefully, my experience was an outlier but it definitely wasn’t a great look. When I entered the terminal there is a giant teddy bear statue with a lamp coming out of it. It was a unique site, especially for an airport. I got a few pictures and then walked to my gate, hoping to grab some food along the way.

Unfortunately, there was literally zero food along the way, and signs pointing to the food court proved fruitless. I finally asked an employee and was told I had to go the long walk back to the main entrance to find food. I know that this is nitpicking, but this again didn’t seem like a good look for one of the best airports in the world. Maybe they really shouldn’t highlight those signs so much? Also, I couldn’t get the wifi to work on my phone so that was just the latest in a string of strikes.

I finally found a place to eat where I ordered pizza and sat for an hour. It was astronomically expensive, but by that point it was the only thing I could find and I was both exhausted and out of patience. It was a nice little break before making my way to my flight to Oman, my final destination of the day. It was about an hour and a half flight.

When I landed in Muscat, Oman I took a taxi to my hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel Muscat. I was ecstatic to find such a comfortable room awaiting me and fell asleep almost instantly upon my arrival. I was really looking forward to a great night's sleep!

66 countries down, 130 to go.

To learn more about Radisson Blu Hotel, Muscat click here.

Country #65 - Kuwait

The Pinkberry

It was a very quick flight from Bahrain to Kuwait, and I had no issues upon my arrival. I walked around the airport for a short while before making my way to board my next flight. On the way, however, I saw none other than a Pinkberry out of the corner of my eye. In Kuwait of all places, I never would have guessed! I had plenty of time and needed an extra pick me up as I was running on no sleep.

I started talking with the girl who worked there, and she was so cool! She’s from the Philippines, wants to travel more, and ended up being one of my witnesses which was really helpful. I enjoyed talking with her while eating my Pinkberry. After the really pleasant surprise of my favorite frozen yogurt place I made my way to security and then found a good spot to sit for a few hours. I had about three hours until my next flight, which was unfortunately not enough to see the city, but was too long to be a quick layover.

I decided to watch a movie while I waited (Pretty in Pink) and afterwards made my way to my gate. It was pretty chaotic in the bus boarding gate area, but luckily I didn’t have to spend too much time there. Flight number two of the day would be another quick one. This time I’m headed to Qatar, also just for a few hours. It’s a busy day filled with lots of countries!

65 countries down, 131 to go.