December 07, 2016

My Top Travel Moments



In the past few years I've been extremely lucky to be able to travel to some amazing cities around the world. On each trip I experience something that changes my perception of the world that little bit more. To me travel is an amazing opportunity, I cannot explain the joy and happiness I have found in exploring and falling in love with these cities, and to anyone that wants to travel, I cannot encourage you enough. 

For today's post I've gathered together my top list of things I've experienced around the world. From times that have made my cry with shock and happiness to others that have left me completely and utterly speechless. 

Two Summers ago I traveled to Venice, Italy. I honestly believe that everyone should experience Venice at least once in their lifetime. The way that life goes on in this city is nothing short of mesmerising - a whole city built entirely on water, the only mode of transport is by foot or boat and buildings are eight or nine stories high. 
Whilst in Venice we spent one particular evening in St Marks Square, a famous landmark within the city. We got Italian gelato from a local vendor in the square and watched the crowds of people bustle by. Dotted around the edge of the square people eat in lavish restaurants, but between every two or three restaurants were raised platforms from which quartets played traditional Italian music. I can still hear it when I think of it. As I stood there in the middle of the square, gathered around with so many other people from all over the world listening to the most beautiful music I have ever heard, I couldn't help but think of how much I felt like I was in a dream world. My words or photos will never do justice to this experience and it is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Venice owns a little piece of my heart.









Recently I traveled to Iceland. Everything about this trip was magical in it's own way. but for me, standing on the edge of Gulfoss, a mammoth waterfall on the Golden Circle literally stopped me dead in my tracks. Every step further I took the more I couldn't believe what I was seeing. There are no words to convey the sheer power and size of this thing. Mother nature is pretty cool at times. 





Whilst in Barcelona we took a visit to an amusement park at the top of Tibidabo mountain. We went here for an evening of relaxation and fun, only to find Barcelona's cathedral at the top of hill. The Cathedral was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, like a modest castle looking over the land. A balcony looked over the city, making it look like a tiny dot below. In the cathedral local Spaniards were taking part in weekly Saturday evening Mass. Crowds of locals brimmed the church, lined around the outside and out the door while the Priest gave communion. Above in the balcony of the Chapel the choir sang hymns in Spanish. 
I stood there in the doorway of the church crying and covered in goosebumps at what I was experiencing. Again, I can't even explain this moment, but I knew then that I had found the true and authentic Barcelona, no tourist attraction could beat that.









Whilst in Italy we also traveled down to Rome from Venice. During our short few hours that we had we took a tour of the Vatican. As I type, I think it's only just sunk in that I have been inside the actual Vatican. During our tour we seen with our own eyes Michael Angelo's sculptures, hundreds of them decorating the corridors. But the one moment that stood out for me was the Sistine Chapel.
I don't think anything could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. All of the Chapel walls and roof were decorated with murals by Michael Angelo, depicting Christ's life and narrating stories from the Bible. I remember one particular wall had been painted to look like curtains, only until Scott had pointed it out and made me study it, I thought it was real curtains (lol.) The guards inside the Chapel continuously told everyone to be quiet as you aren't allowed to speak or take any photographs. A once in a lifetime experience. 




inside St Paul's Cathedral




I really experienced the wonder of the simple things in life when we visited London back in March. At night we took a trip to the famous Piccadilly Circus. We sat on the steps just opposite and watched the world buzz by. The brightness of the lights, being surrounded by hundreds of people also having the same mesmerising moment as me, and the excitement of the city just made my heart skip. It sounds so simple and like nothing really exciting, but then and there I was just captivated. I had a lump in my throat from pure happiness of my surroundings and how lucky I was to be right there in that moment. 



Lastly, but certainly not least, when we were in Iceland we visited the Blue Lagoon. I have talked and talked about this until I am blue in the face (no pun) so I'm sure everyone is bored of me talking about it, but this was really was one of those "am I actually alive right now" moments. When I walked out from the changing rooms I couldn't believe how blue the water was. The bitter coldness of the air above the water was painful, but the warmth of the lagoon was amazing. I couldn't even process what was happening or that I was even there. 





Writing this post has really made me reflect on my travels, but mostly made me excited to hop on another plane discover another city. I've visited some of the wonders of the world and I'm only 18. I think that's pretty cool. I know I say it a lot, but I really cannot believe how lucky I am to have been able to see some of the things I have.
If I was to write a post on all of my travel experiences I would be here all day, but these are the ones that have really left me feeling grateful for the world we live in!
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December 05, 2016

Why I Didn't Go To University



The expected path to take after secondary school is to follow your education onto university or college, but admitting this wasn't the path for me was one of the scariest decisions I have ever had to make.

 Deciding to go to university is a huge move to make, and I wasn't ready to go. 

Probably the most asked and definitely the most aggravating question being asked at school will always be "so what are you going to do at uni?". Since first year I changed my mind like the weather when it came to answering this. I wanted to be a doctor, a nurse, a radiotherapist, a journalist, a computer scientist, a business woman, a fashion designer, and pretty much anything else under the sun, but the closer and closer I came to having to actually pick a career and stick with it, the more I realised I didn't actually want to be any of these things, in fact, I didn't know what I wanted to be at all. 

I attended a school were academic achievements were all that really mattered. It didn't matter if you were stressed, or having panic attacks over work load, or spent all day and night trying to stay afloat with work, all that mattered was that you were going to go to university. This for me was a really sad thing, because all along I knew that I wasn't ready to go to uni, but I could never admit this because, what the hell would my teachers think of me if I didn't want to go to uni? I felt like my school didn't provide any support or care to anyone who didn't want a degree at uni. I remember one afternoon my teacher invited past pupils in to talk about their life after school and how they're getting on, but every single one of the selected students were university students. Can you imagine the pressure I felt?

During this time last year, the crunch was on and I was panicking. I HAD to find a career that A.) I would get accepted into B.) that I could fool myself and others into believing I wanted to do. So, seeing that I was studying A Level computer programming and I enjoyed it, I decided I would take that as my calling. I nurtured a personal statement on why I would be the best next female programmer and off I sent it to UCAS in hope of university offers.

Within days I had received all 5 offers for my chosen courses, one of which even being an unconditional offer for an amazing university in London. But something felt different about getting my offers than when I watched my peers get their offers. People would actually cry when they received an offer from their desired uni, and as happy as I was for all those people who got what they dreamed of, I just could never find the same excitement for my own offers.
Yes, when I received offers it was extremely exciting at the prospect of some university being interested in wee tiny me, and the reality of growing up and leaving school was becoming real, I just felt dread at thinking of how much I knew I was making a mistake. 

After months of contemplating, I finally decided that I wasn't going to go to university just yet. I took the Summer to consider this, to make sure I was making the right decision. I considered every possibility and everything that I would face with not going, but I was ok with it.
After receiving my A Level results in August, and obtaining results I felt really quite proud of, I made my way to the UCAS app and I turned down my unconditional offer. I said no to a new life in London as a student, something I had dreamed of for years. And when I clicked that button my stomach was in knots, but I also felt a sense of relief that I didn't have to leave my Mummy and Daddy just quite yet.

At this point I didn't have a part time job, I was watching all my peers pack their suitcases and head off for amazing new lives all over the country, some of them in different countries, and I felt so insignificant. This was probably one of, if not, the worst things I've ever endured. I can't exactly describe the feeling, but I felt like I had just lost in life because I wasn't going to uni. I felt like my life was over and I had made a huge mistake.

Four months on and I have landed on my feet. I now have two part time jobs that I love. They aren't exactly what I want as my career, but I'm taking time to figure myself out, and what I want from life. I know, without a doubt in my mind, that if i didn't decline those offers and I listened to what my teachers thought was best for me, that I would either have spent £9,000 for a years tuition only to reuturn home after one month, or I would be living a very sad and lonely life in London studying a course I hated and being somewhere I didn't want to be. 

I'm still not sure where I want to go in life, but I'm a hell of a lot closer to knowing now than I was last year. I don't have teachers telling me to do one thing and my heart telling me another. I actually have time to think about what I enjoy, I have time to share my head every evening because I'm not bogged down by coursework. I have had time to have jobs and experience working in fields that I enjoy. One of my part time jobs is in marketing and I love it. I would never have known I was this good at it or enjoyed it this much if I didn't take a leap of faith and say no. I've learnt so much about myself, I've grown up and matured in more ways than I could have ever imagined, and I've seen the devastation created when someone hasn't been brave enough to say no to uni right now, and it makes me proud that I was brave enough to listen to my heart.

I know that being in school is tuff. A Levels and college work is tuff. Everyone wants the best for you, and you do to. You're scared that if you don't go to university that you'll be "a waster". You're scared of judgement from teachers, friends, peers and family. But none of these things would feel as bad as being miles away from the comfort of your own home when you're stuck studying something you don't love.

I think university and higher education is an amazing opportunity and I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have the opportunity and freedom to have or choose my education, and I'm not ruling university out for myself, I still want to continue my education and study, I want to continue to learn for as long as I can, but right now, I'm just not ready for that commitment. I need a break. 

There is absolutely no shame in admitting that you don't want to do something, in fact, it's the best form of bravery. Standing up for what you believe in and what you think is right is a really difficult thing to do, but once you do it, you will never look back. I know I didn't believe this before, but there are so many young people that feel the same as I did, but they were too scared to stand up, and that's why I have shared this post. 

If you are going to university in the next year or two but you aren't 100% on your decision, don't rush into things. You have your entire life ahead of you, one year out won't kill you, in fact it will make you stronger. Be proud and most importantly, be brave. If I can take this huge leap of faith and come out the other side then anyone else can too. 

If you want to talk more about my decision or you have any questions please leave them in the comments or add me on snapchat! (sara_belleza.)





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December 03, 2016

How To Start A Blog


I've been blogging now for three years, and over that time my most asked question is without a doubt, how did you start your blog?

Starting and running a blog comes in a two parts, the technical side of things, and the confidence and work ethic side of things. To keep things simple I'm going to kick off with the simple stuff first - tech.

Getting your blog started.
Before I started this blog I had no idea how it worked, or where to start. I literally googled "how to start a blog." So, if I can go from there, you can too.

Firstly you will need a host for your blog. You can go self hosted, but that's way more complicated, and a story for another day. 
I host my blog on Blogger. To keep it sweet, blogger is basically the scaffolding of my blog that keeps it standing and allows me to write and manage posts. 
Another popular blog host is WordPress. This does the same as Blogger except it's a little more detailed and professional. If you're new to the blogging scene I would recommend Blogger, it's just a lot more simple and fuss-free. 

To get started on Blogger, you can set up an account here.


Naming Your Blog
 This is probably the most important part, and for sure the one thing you want to spend time thinking about. When you name your blog, don't think of something random in your head, take time to consider what your blog will be about and what you want to achieve with your blog.
Consider telling others the name of your blog, would you be embarrassed to tell them the name of it? Could you out grow the name of your blog as you get older? These are important things to consider.

Before you settle on a name, do a google search of your potential new calling to make sure there are no other blogs, websites or celebrities/people with that same name that might either confuse potential readers also searching for your blog or draw traffic away from your blog because they can't find what they're looking for.

Getting A Domain Name
A domain name is the address of your website or blog. When you start up a blog the standard domain will be for example, "www.sarabelleza.blogspot.co.uk" or "www.sarabelleza.wordpress.com". These come issued with your blog and most importantly, they are free. 

To have your own personalised domain you will have to buy one. I have bought mines from www.GoDaddy.com. It works by searching for the name you want for your website, so I searched for "www.sarabelleza.com" and the options appeared, and alongside them the price of that domain for the year. 
When you first purchase a domain typically speaking they aren't overly expensive, but as the years go on generally speaking the prices increase, but not drastically. A few weeks ago I had to renew my domain subscription and paid around £20, so all in all not that bad. 

Once you purchase your domain GoDaddy will give you step-by-step instructions on how to set it all up.

Utilising Social Media
If you haven't already guessed, social media is HUGE part of blogging, probably the most important part actually.
Before you settle on a sure name for your blog search Instagram, Twitter and Facebook etc to make sure that there are handles available similar to the name of your blog. Try your best to keep all of your social handles the same or very similar so that when potential followers search for you across different platforms, they can easily find you.

Blog Design and Templates
The blog design and templates that come with platforms like Blogger and WordPress are sometimes quite basic and plain. If you want to take your blog more seriously and give a professional feel you can buy templates from web designers. I recommend www.PipDig.com. Phil has implemented the current design of my blog and I am currently in preparations to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress which Phil is also helping me do. The templates Phil offers are amazing and a bloggers dream, if you want a great looking blog check him out.

Quality Photography and Visuals
It's no huge surprise that the quality of blogs as of recently has been nothing short of amazing. It's certain that to compete with these power houses the quality of your content has to be just as intriguing, but when you are just starting out in the blogging industry, bagging yourself a two grand camera isn't the wisest decision. I started using a point and shoot Samsung camera and my phone, and with phone camera quality now, the margin of difference isn't as drastic.

In my opinion, I think the quality of your content is way more important that picture or visual quality. If you can produce top level and honest quality, readers will still value your voice just as much if not more.

Give blogging a go for 6 months, and after this time period if you are still as in love with it as you first were then perhaps start considering investing in some equipment. Blogging is tuff and a lot of hard work, it would be a waste to spend hundreds on a camera to discover blogging isn't for you.

If you are curious, I currently use a Canon 700D with a standard kit lens and edit my photos on PicMonkey. 

Blogging Work Ethic 
I mentioned this previously, but blogging is seriously a lot of work. I was extremely naive before I started my blog and thought all it took was snapping a few pics, sharing what I thought and hitting publish. But it's far from this.
Each blog post requires planning, hours taking photos and editing them, more hours writing, perfecting and preparing your post to be published and even more hours of shameless self promotion on social media begging people to read, but no one actually does, then all your hard work seems worthless.
I am awful at this, but consistency really is key when it comes to blogging. Always having fresh content is important in keeping your readers interested and on their toes, but it also builds a relationship between a blogger and their readers that they can trust there will always be something new coming up.
But being consistent it extremely difficult when you are always busy. Get yourself a diary or a planner and schedule posts for a few weeks in advance to make sure you have plenty of time to prepare them. Make time to blog.

Finding Confidence To Start Blogging
Before I started blogging I was so low in confidence. I feared posting on social media because of judgement never mind publishing a blog. But this was something I always dreamed of, I wanted it so bad. I felt I had spent long enough putting off my dreams for other people. I took the leap and I am honestly SO glad I did. I know that the prospect of starting a blog seems like a string of horrible comments and giving people opportunity to laugh at you, and being so public about what you love can be embarrassing, but it is so worth it. The opportunities I had gained from blogging and how I have grown so much in confidence is priceless, it is worth all the times people gossiped and laughed.

If you are thinking about starting a blog, I cannot tell you enough to just go for. You will never ever regret it. Ever. It is a lot of hard work, and sometimes it feels like you're doing it for nothing because no one ever seems to care whether you post or not, but these are small and minor issues in comparison to the good that has come out of this journey.


If you take my advice and start a blog after reading this post tweet or Instagram me and let me know! If you have any more blogging related questions leave them below and I will get back to you. 


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December 02, 2016

How I Dealt With Cystic Acne - My Acne Vanishing Wonder Product



Breakouts of any kind are horrible, but the winner definitely goes to those cystic, under-the-skin painful spots that never seem to pack up and move on. After a recent and quite random breakout of horrific cystic acne I found the wonder-product cure which really works.

Towards the end of August / start of September I developed quite a horrible case of acne, but not just spots, I had been prized with horrendously painful cystic acne. I say this breakout was random because previous to this I have never had that much bother with my skin, surely I get the odd spot here and there, and during that time of the month I do often get cystic and painful spots which shortly go away, but towards the end of the Summer months every day I was getting more and more spots, and looking even more like The Joker each day with the dot-to-dot of lumps across my cheeks and mouth. 

These spots were so painful I couldn't even sleep on the left side of my face, no matter how often or little I cleansed my face, used spot treatments or drank my body weight in water, it was still getting worse.  I know that people have acne much worse than I did, but my skin was really weighing me down and played heavily on my mind, I was becoming obsessive over it so I decided it was time for a trip to the doctors for (hopefully) some antibiotics to send them on their way.

My doctor prescribed me a general acne antibiotic (lymecycline) and this cream, "Acnecide." This is a strong anti-bacterial cream for the skin which helps eradicate the cause of acne by killing bacteria on the skin that causes acne, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory to calm down any blazing spots too.

I can honestly say, hand on my heart, after one night of using this I seen a huge difference in the appearance and feel of my cystic acne. They were not half as painful, significantly less red and angry and they cleared away within days. After numerous weeks of continued treatment my skin was becoming more and more like its old self, the texture on my skin had completely vanished, the cystic spots were slowly but surely dying away and no new ones were settling in. 

During my time using the cream I experienced some mild irritation on my skin, sometimes burning if I applied moisturiser over top of it or if I over applied it. After pro-longed use my skin became quite dry and flaky, but this didn't bother me because I did suffer with severely oily skin before, after using this cream the oil levels in my skin are much more controllable and less radical. Just have a good moisturiser and face scrub to tackle the dryness, I highly highly highly recommend Lush products, shortly I'm going to be sharing the Lush products that helped me clear my skin so make sure you stick around here to find out!

I still do continue to use it now and again for small spots and pimples, but I 100% swear by this stuff. I always find spot treatments gimmicky and never do what they actually claim to do, but this works. 

You can get Acnecide by prescription from your local GP or you can purchase it from some pharmacies. Superdrug pharmacies sell it in store and online for £9.49 a tube, kind of expensive for a spot cream but SO worth it. If you suffer from acne or cystic spots try Acnecide, it honestly has changed my life.

If you found this post helpful don't forget to stick around for more skincare and acne advice, you can find my social media links on the right hand side of this page!

I'm still tackling my acne scars, check out this post to see which acid peel I swear by to shed them!



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December 01, 2016

Styling Winter Prints










Finally December 1st has rolled around and it's now socially acceptable to watch Elf again.. but apart from Elf and the other wonders of the Christmas holidays, December also brings the famous blogger ritual - "Blogmas" - The challenge of uploading a blogpost every day in the run up to Christmas. This year, for some bizzare reason, I have decided to see if I can rise to the test, so here goes Blogmas numero one.

Since Autumn is saying it's last goodbyes, Winter fashion has been very much on my mind. Lately I've picked up a few new items for my wardrobe and paired them with some good oldies for a Winter fashion fest. 

I think prints are essential for any wardrobe, and they're the perfect cheat escape from a lazy outfit.
Today I chose a plain outfit, keeping everything block coloured then added detail and excitement with prints. This new bag from Topshop has been rocking my world and I cannot get enough of it. I have paired it with a new tartan print scarf also from Topshop to dress the outfit up.

I know prints can sometimes be a little scary and some people find them tacky, but when you let them be the star of the outfit and keep everything else minimum and plain, they really can make you look a million dollars. And don't be scared to mix prints, sometimes this can make for a really out-there and extravagant match, you just have to have the confidence to wear!

Coat - Primark (last Winter, although they're currently stocking a very similar one!)
Turtle Neck - Peacocks
Jeans - Topshop
Shoes - Peacocks
Bag - Topshop
Hat - Topshop
Scarf - Topshop
Jewellery - Rose Gold collection at Pandora
Lipstick - MAC Chili
Nail Polish (hands - Maybelline 7 Day "Devine Wine) (feet - Rimmel & Rita Ora "Sweet Retreat")





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November 21, 2016

Car Hire In Iceland - Idiot's Guide To Car Rental

Our recent adventure to Iceland seen us make a difficult decision on how we were going to explore this amazing island.. Fork out $$$ for boring tour buses or take the plunge and hire our very first rental car. Thankfully, we chose the later and today I'm sharing my two pence on how we went from idiot to savvy in everything car-hire-101 and why you need to know this if you're hiring a car in Iceland...





If you want to experience the true Iceland, you need a car. Yes, tour buses are effective and get you to the things you want to see, but having a rental car allows you the freedom to travel this beautiful island in your own personal and unique way - your own company, the freedom to stop at every possible photo opp, the freedom of however long you want at each new amazing place and the comfort of personal space for hours on end of driving each day.

We experienced one guided tour for The Northern Lights, and although enjoyable to be taught about the myths and legends of the Northern Lights in Iceland and Nordic countries, the exceptionally limited leg room and irritating company of loud and over-enthusiastic fellow travelers took some enjoyment from the trip. The very thought of spending 7-8 hours a day for the whole of our trip in this style made me thank my stars we thought carefully about our adventure. So if you are wise enough to hire a car, make sure you've got all of this advise on board before you do.

We used www.RentalCars.com to find and book our car. This website made everything extremely easy - we entered our trip and driver details and available cars appeared in order of price. Bingo.

I also want to quickly mention that the minimum age for car rental in Iceland is 20, a year younger than most other European countries. So don't rule yourself out if you think you're too young!

For Iceland, cars range from small vehicles to SUV's. A small and cheap car will do the job for this trip for most of the year, but perhaps check out details of road conditions in Iceland's deep winter months, as a smaller car may not be the best mode of transport for the islands inches of ice and snow, A 4X4 or SUV might be more the style for Winter months.

Originally we booked for a "small car", the cheapest of the range of vehicles available, but on arrival we were upgraded to a "medium car", a Hyundai i30. This was both a blessing and a curse - a blessing in that a "small car" might have been a little too uncomfortable for the 8/9 hours of driving we were tackling each day, so a slightly bigger car made the journeys a little quicker and smoother.
However our upgrade meant we were given an automatic car. This again, was another bitter sweet moment. For Scott's first time driving on the right side of the road having an automatic car was a blessing, meaning Scott could focus on keeping us between the hedges rather than controlling a foreign gear box. Although, when Iceland presented hills which were honestly almost vertical upwards, we chugged our way up those hills. Not cool.

Booking A Rental Car - The Ins and Outs
To book a rental car you will need a credit card. This was Scott and I's first experience of car rental, so thankfully Scott's parents were on hand to help us, who, in my eyes, know car rental like the back of their hands, so all of the information you are about to indulge in, comes only from experience...

The short of needing a credit card for car rental is as follows:
> You will need a credit car in the main drivers name.
> The credit card must have a credit limit of at least the excess of the car rental. (explained later)

To find the ideal car within your budget a couple of factors apply:
> Firstly, find a car rental price that suits your budget price per day. Check rentalcars.com for prices.
> Check the review score of the Rental Company on www.RentalCars.Com or google reviews
> Check the excess on the car - for the most basic of cars this is usually £1600 or thereabouts.
> Preferably look for a car rental with unlimited mileage so as to ensure there are no extra hidden costs

What is excess and why does it matter?
In a nutshell car rental excess is basically a form of insurance for the hire company to ensure that if you damage the rental car or it is stolen, they have the funds from your pocket to cover the costs. Generally speaking, the higher the excess, the more luxurious the car.

Car rental companies will only accept this excess payment from a credit card, meaning you will have to obtain a credit card in the main drivers name with a minimum credit of the price of the excess of the car, plus possible fuel costs. (Explained later)

When you go to pick up your car the hire company will take a copy of your credit card, and in most situations, will reserve the credit amount of the excess from the card, meaning you will have no or little credit on your credit card (more commonly known as, your card has been "maxed out") for the duration of your hire, until the credit value is released back onto the card after the car has been returned damage free, however it can take some weeks for the credit value to clear back onto the card.

If, unfortunately, it is the case that your car is damaged or stolen, your car hire company will keep the credit value of the car rental excess that they reserved on your credit card, meaning you are now out of pocket. So, how do you cover yourself?...

So how do I insure myself? Especially if I damage my car?
So now you're wondering about insuring yourself? www.RentalCars.com offer a "Full Protection" cover when checking out, meaning that you can purchase temporary fully comprehensive insurance in the case that your car is damaged or stolen. In idiot free language, this means that if you do damage your rental car or it gets stolen, and the car hire company charge you the excess fee for your car, e.g £1600 from your credit card, if you have fully comprehensive cover,  www.RentalCars.com will have you covered and will pick up the costs of the damages by repaying you the £1600, so you are never out of pocket. Simples.

The Final Cost
Theoretically speaking, the only payment you should make for your car hire is the upfront payment on www.RentalCars.com, for example, £120 for a three day rental. This can be paid by debit or credit card.

The credit value on your credit card is "reserved" meaning you can't spend it or max it out on ASOS, but your card is never really charged for it, unless your car is damaged or stolen, in which case you're still covered if you have fully comp insurance. So even though it may seem you are paying almost £2,000 for a basic car rental, you are only ever charged the upfront cost on Rental Car, unless you don't have fully comp insurance, and I wouldn't recommend renting a car without fully comp insurance.

Covering Yourself
 Rental car companies have a famous reputation for scamming it's customers for all they're worth. So to stop yourself from suffering any additional and unnecessary costs there are a few things you have to do before you waltz off in your new wheels.

> Check your car for ANY damages - inside and out. When you find them, take photos of them and date and time stamp the photos. This is in the case that your rental company accuses you of damages that were there when you got the car, so with your photos you can prove they were, otherwise they have every opportunity to charge you your excess.

> Your rental car might come with a damages sheet, showing damages which have already occurred to the car. When you get this sheet check off the damages that are on the sheet and take a photo of it. If you find any additional damages return to the rental desk before leaving and inform them with evidence of additional damages by time stamped photographs.

> DO NOT delete the photographic evidence until the credit value has been restored onto your credit card and the rental company have signed off on the car to agree that it is damage free on return.

This can consume some time before you even get to leave the airport, but it it ensures that you don't get charged $$$$ in excess, then every minute is worth it.

Fuel Policy
When booking, we opted for a "Full to Full" policy, meaning we received the car full of fuel and returned it full of fuel. The rental car company may offer you to pay an upfront fee for fuel so you can return your car with as little fuel as you want without having to take a visit to the pump before drop off. Either way it's your choice which you choose, but we preferred the full to full policy.

Bear in mind that if you opt for full to full, like us, your company may hold an additional fee on your credit card for fuel in the case that the car is returned without a full tank of fuel. In our case this was an additional £80 on top of our excess fee that was already reserved - so your credit card value will have to be the excess fee plus a fuel excess. (Fuel excess is the cost of a full tank of fuel for your rental car with the local fuel rates).

Street Parking in Reykjavik
Luckily we found free street parking on the next street from our hotel, which we were very lucky with, although sometimes it was hard to come across a free spot. Remember that blocking an entry to a drive way or building entrance is not allowed and you can have your car towed, clamped or receive a parking ticket for doing so.

In the city centre parking is ticketed and you must pay a ticket toll with coins or card, but this is only in the case that you are lucky enough to find a spot. When we visited the city centre we parked in the Hallgrimskirkja Church car park, which (I think??) was free.. Or at least we escaped without a parking ticket...thankfully.


All in all my first experience of car rental was a positive one, and with the experience and tips I have shared here I'm hopeful it will always be this way! If you have any more questions about car hire or our experience with car hire please leave them in the comments. Also don't forget to check out my guide to Planning A Trip To Iceland and My Top Recommendations On What To Do In Iceland! If you haven't already then check out my Iceland travel diary here to see it all in action!


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Things You HAVE To Do In Iceland!

I mentioned in this post how Iceland is totally having a moment right now, and I am all for it! *insert raised hand emjoi*. After my recent adventure to the land of the vikings, I've put together a top list of things you absolutely have to do while you're in Iceland... You haven't done it right if you haven't checked out these things...



First up is the Blue Lagoon. There are not enough words to describe my awe of this place, and the magical-ness of it all. In my opinion, you simply cannot visit Iceland and not take a trip to The Blue Lagoon. I advise getting "Premium" tickets, which allows speedy entry, complimentary bath robe, towel, slippers, a free drink in the Lagoon bar and an additional face mask. A little pricey but totally worth it, and the complimentary robe means you can take a while in the lounge area over-looking the Lagoon and not get frozen alive. Bonus.

Since The Blue Lagoon is so close to the airport, (around 15/20 minute drive) I recommend hitting this place up on your way to Reykjavik, instead of on your way home like most other travel blogs recommend. My reason being that when we arrived in Iceland mid-day, we could head straight to the Lagoon and spend as much time there as we wanted because we were not rushing for a flight, but also afterwards we were both very hungry, wet and cold, (Despite the free hairdryers, I didn't have much energy..), so the thought of heading back to our hotel instead of a cold and busy airport was much more appealing.







We dedicated our first full day in Iceland to The Golden Circle Tour. This we done by ourselves by hiring a rental car, although tour bus guides are also available if you prefer that option. Check out here to catch why you need a car in Iceland.

For the Golden Circle Tour we headed on road number 36 out of Reykjavik using our Maps App on our phones. Once you start on the route 36, every tourist attraction is well sign posted and extremely easy to find, and the Maps App gives a step-by-step guide to your destination.

First stop on the Golden Circle was Thingvellir National Park. We didn't stop in the National Park, but the route drives you straight through it, opening up the breath taking views of the surrounding landscape. Along the road there are a lot of photo opportunities, so be prepared to stop a couple of times in lay=bys for photo shoots and mesmerising "ohhhs" and "ahhhhs". On the far side of the park we stopped near the surroundings of a mountain which suffered a landslide, we took time to take in the view and collect volcanic rocks from the bottom of the slide. This experience, although it doesn't sound like much, was a highlight of the trip, experiencing the soft and sinking earth around the volcanic mountain and studying the structure of what was once lava.






Straight ahead is the Geysers. These natural phenomenons aren't hard to miss due to the sign posts and large volumes of water shooting into the sky infront of you. With more than a handful of geysers to see, take your time to stroll around each of them and marvel at their beauty. But don't turn your back for even a second, there's no warning for when they're about to explode. Set your camera on video mode or take a time lapse to capture the beauty of the geysers, and don't just watch it the once, stay for a while to see the geysers from a few angles and stand near the edge to catch the warm water spray down after the explosion.




Last but certainly not least was Gullfoss, one of, if not the most "I can't believe I'm actually standing here" moments I have ever experienced. Photos and videos cannot even capture the essence of Gullfoss, so sit back and take it all in. To get to Gullfoss, drive a further 20 minutes straight from the geyser's, a car park and visitor centre will open up on the right hand side of the road... but don't be fooled, the 32m drop is just behind that cliff, you won't see it from the roadside. Pack waterproofs for this one, even though it could be sunny, the spray from the fall's creates a winter rain shower over the walkway.




Gullfoss is definitely up there with the best of my travel moments so far. An unforgettable experience that will make your head spin.

Day three was confided to Southern Iceland, more waterfalls and the famous black sand beaches of Vik. Road number One is the ring road around the island heading towards the South from Reykjavik. Using the Maps App head straight through a small, local town called "Selfoss", from here we drove straight to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.




Seljalands isn't the only beauty to see here, once you have explored the waterfall head further down the less travelled path to the left of the fall (viewing from the carpark). Here we found the most amazing beauty.. A waterfall inside a cave. Standing underneath this waterfall I had a genuine lump in my throat and goosebumps at the wonder I was seeing. Getting into this waterfall is no mean feet, you will have to climb your way into the cave across stepping stones in the river, some slightly below the surface of the water, meaning waterproof hiking/snow boots are an absolute necessity. Just like Gullfoss, the spray from both of these waterfalls is enough to shower in, so make sure and wrap up with layers and top up with waterproof coats and trousers. Being around such open spaces and water makes the temperature drop dramatically, so always have gloves and a hat close by.




Further along route one, Skogafoss sheds it's beauty. This was the closest I think I will ever come to a real life Disney waterfall. Rushing tonnes of water over a square and straight cliff made me feel like I was in a dreamland. Piercing out from the cliffs, Skogafoss cannot be missed on the drive by, but signposts will direct you along the route. Climb the mighty flights of steps up the face of the cliff to the viewing point at the top of the fall. Luckily Skogafoss hosts great views from the top and bottom of the waterfall so get your walking shoes on to catch the sights.

To finish off our Southern Iceland Tour we tied up in the Black Sand Beaches of Vik. The view from these beaches will stop you in your tracks. The waves are meters high, the sand is composed of the smoothest, roundest pebbles I have ever seen, and giant basalt column caves hide in the mountains surrounding the coast. Dress warm and take a stroll to the furthest end of the beach to marvel at the eroded cliffs and stunning scenery of the island, chase the waves out of the water and collect stones to bring home. (Mainly because here you can get them for free, but in the airport they sell them as souvenirs for £20 a stone...) The drive to Vik is slightly nerving on a windy day, but brings breath taking views of the Southern Coast and Iceland's Glacier. (Unbelievable!)












Before catching our flight on Saturday morning we took a quick drive to snap a few photos of the Sun Voyager and the Harpa Hall, Iceland's famous concert hall. Unfortunately we didn't have quiet enough time to explore Reykjavik in all it's glory, but of course this is an excuse for another trip to go back..






This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I cannot recommend that you visit this amazing island if you are ever lucky enough to have the chance. The natural beauty will astonish you and leave you left for words, it is a truly magical experience.

If you visit Iceland and check out any of the things we did then please let me know in the comments! Check out these posts for all things Iceland:

HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO ICELAND - http://www.sarabelleza.com/2016/11/how-to-plan-trip-to-iceland.html

IDIOTS GUIDE TO CAR HIRE IN ICELAND - http://www.sarabelleza.com/2016/11/car-hire-in-iceland-idiots-guide-to-car.html

ICELAND 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WZvPH1wB5I


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