The Favourites of Sven Luca
Sven Luca is the youngest German ever to have visited every single country in the world and the first person who was born in former East Germany with those achievements. He has been to all 248 countries in the world with a flag and parliament of their own (info provided by Sven). That is of course, including all the 193 UN-Countries as well.
How many days have you approximately travelled?
In a span of seven years in total, I travelled around six months each year. In some years it’s been less and sometimes a bit more depended on my annual work situation.
What are three of your favourite countries and why?
Well, I think my absolute number one favourite country is Thailand. Those beautiful regions in southeast Asia have for me the perfect total package in general with whole year warm temperatures, easy to reach, amazing landscapes, beaches, unique islands, still cheap for living and just perfect for a vacation or any kind of business.
My second favourite country is the Caribbean island of Dominica. Dominica is a lot different from all other Caribbean islands with their amazing tropical rainforest and fascinating landscapes. The island is so rich in different tropical fruits everywhere. It was like being in paradise. For one week I stayed in a beautiful lodge and had all the right trees around me. Coconuts and mangos for breakfast, bananas and papayas for the day, lemons for my fish on the barbeque, guavas and others as dessert. Finally limes for my Bacardi coke at night. All fresh from the trees just a few meters around me. Life can’t be better. Additionally, all the people on the island were so friendly and I had unforgettable days.
Unfortunately, Dominica was hit very hard two times in the last years by a terrible hurricane. I hope people stay strong and build up these paradises again.
For my favourite country number three, I will go back to Asia again and land in Bhutan. It’s really quite difficult to describe Bhutan from a touristic standpoint. Bhutan is something special in the entire travel world. High above in the mountains of the majestic Himalaya and very far from any other touristic hotspot. A trip to Bhutan feels like a trip to such a different world on this planet. The people are so friendly but also very shy at the same time. They live in their own very religious world. As a tourist to come in touch with these amazing people, to visit all their beautiful monasteries and fascinating buildings was for me one of the most impressive trips ever.
Additionally, my next favourite countries are Bolivia, El Salvador, Greenland, Tajikistan, Seychelles, Kiribati and South Korea. Some unique islands are also part of my favourite destinations like Hawaii, Lord Howe Island, Niue, Madeira, Galapagos Islands, Fernando de Noronha, Lampedusa, St. Helena or Corfu.
Are there any countries you don’t enjoy travelling?
Oh yeah of course. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Africa. So to travel around there and visit some of the poorest countries in the world isn’t always much fun. Such countries like Niger, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic or South Sudan offer nothing much on a touristic standpoint but opened my eyes enough to understand the world much better than before.
In Mogadishu, Somalia for example in October 2017 I survived the heaviest bomb explosion in human history with almost 600 victims. Just one hour before I planned to do a city tour and I could have ended up exactly there just 800 meters away from my hotel, but the hotel reception stopped me for security reasons. So in the end I, of course, didn’t enjoy travelling in Somalia.
What are three of your favourite cities and why?
Rio de Janeiro
Oh, that’s easy. The clear city number one favourite city is Rio de Janeiro. What a city, amazing landscapes, beautiful beaches, many hotspots and plenty of small relaxing bars. I was so lucky to spend two weeks in Rio during the 2014 Soccer World Cup where the Germans won the World Cup. I had an amazing time with some friends which I for sure will never forget in my life.
My second favourite city is Cape Town. This city has actually everything that you need as a tourist. I’m really in love with Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill which makes the city so special. For night time Cape Time owns so many fantastic bars where I had always so much fun.
Because I can’t really decide, I have actually two more great cities to mention.
Sydney and La Paz
Two absolute different cities coming next on my list. For Sydney, I think not much words are needed. It’s a mega hotspot with so many highlights and for me the best rail system on earth. Even three weeks are never enough for this city which is so exciting on every different corner.
La Paz in Bolivia is totally different and for me the most beautiful city without sea access. Arriving at the airport in El Alto at 4.100 meters above sea level, driving by car to the edge of La Paz and looking down to the valley of the capital. It was so impressive and really one of the biggest wow-effects in my entire travel life. The world-famous cable car system, the friendly people in mostly traditional dresses, the permanent hilly area are so unique in the world and so impressive. I’m really in love with La Paz.
And by the way, I’m originally from Berlin and I lived until last year in Dubai for 14 years so I need to mention these two great cities as well of course.
What are three of your favourite hotels or places you’ve stayed and why?
Grand Millenium Hotel, Auckland
The first hotel which comes immediately to my mind is the Grand Millenium Hotel in Auckland. I’ve been there a total of five times in this beautiful city of New Zealand and I always stay there. The hotel is very close to the city centre, has huge rooms and isn’t too expensive.
Change The World Hostels – Açores – Ponta Delgada
The best hostel I ever stayed in was in Ponta Delgada in the Azores Islands. The “Change the World Hostel” not far from the city centre was really the cleanest, friendliest and cheapest hostel during all my trips and I so much enjoyed my four nights there.
Couchsurfing in Dhaka
In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, I used Couchsurfing and was living with a young family. They showed me the whole city and we went to many local restaurants and special places. A trip I will always remember.
What are the three worst places you’ve stayed?
Ohh there are many.
In Niamey, the capital of Niger, I booked a hotel for two nights before my trip. After the first night where I really didn’t sleep any seconds, I changed the hotel in the morning and moved to a 5-star hotel for 250 Euros per night, but at the end much better than the other “Hole”. I guess it was the dirtiest and uncomfortable hotel during all my trips around the world.
Delhi and Yangon
Then I remember I chose really bad hotels via Booking.com for Delhi in India and Yangon in Myanmar. Later after a few years of travelling, it got better and I got more experience in choosing hotels and always made the right choices.
What are three of your favourite restaurants and why?
McDonald’s in Asia
Hehe, one of my favourite restaurants especially in Asia is McDonald’s because Asian food isn’t really one of my preferred foods.
The Meat Co., Dubai
In Dubai for example I can highly recommend “The Meat Co.” restaurant in Madinat Jumeirah. I really love to eat steak and this is one of the best places in town.
Small Shop, Berlin-Tegel Airport
My last choice isn’t really a restaurant. It’s actually just a small shop, but it was a must during all my travels. Whenever I started or ended a trip in Berlin for sure I went for a German “Currywurst” at the meanwhile old Berlin-Tegel airport. For example, can you imagine travelling for weeks in Africa how I missed the special food of my hometown? Sometimes many days before I arrived in Berlin I didn’t think about anything else. The speciality of Berlin was just a must for me always.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Completing a list of 248 countries
When I came to the idea to visit every single country in the world I didn’t know that it would be so hard and difficult honestly. Especially with all the certain visa regulations. Even as a German with almost the strongest passport in the world, it’s such a very difficult target. In the end, I used 8 passports in total and paid almost 8.000 Euros just for visas. So that’s why my favourite travel moments are mostly when I reached some targets.
So the moment was so special and overwhelming when I visited my 248th and the last country with Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean on the 8th of March, 2019. It’s actually hard to describe. Honestly, with tears in my eyes, I landed there and it felt all so unreal. These moments I will never forget in my life and it was the reward for 7 years of travelling while spending a lot of money as well.
Completing every country in the world
Another very special moment was the 3rd of February in 2019 when I landed in the last of the 193 UN-Countries, Samoa. To be one of just 196 humans in history to complete all the UN-Countries felt somehow strange and very special.
Then of course to my favourite travel moments, I will count my visits to very famous sights like Petra, Angkor Wat, Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Monument Valley, The Great Wall or the Pyramids of Gizeh.
What are three of your worst travel moments and why?
Bomb explosion in Mogadishu
As I mentioned before it was the heavy bomb explosion in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
Drugged in Tokyo
In Tokyo at a regular bar, somebody put knockout drops in my drink. I woke up 20 hours later in my hotel room without my brand new iPhone, without any of my cash and with an empty bank account. To this day I have no idea how I reached my hotel and how they could empty my account.
Getting the worst kind of Malaria in Angola
And finally in Luanda, the capital of Angola, while waiting 8 hours for my flight to Berlin many mosquitos bite me and I caught the “Malaria Tropica”. This is the worst form of Malaria and the only one which can kill you. After one week in Germany, my house doctor sent me to the hospital with already 4% of malaria parasites in my body and it was almost too late. Had it been around 10-12 hours later I wouldn’t have survived it. Thanks God I was in Germany the time.
What are three of your best travel tips?
As many destinations as possible on one ticket
When I booked my flights for a long trip to many countries in a row I always tried to add as many destinations as possible on one ticket. As long as you never change the direction it’s really possible and saves a lot of money.
Most of my hotel rooms I booked via booking.com and it’s really important to check all the references instead of the beautiful pictures on the website.
Cash in the pocket of your trousers
My last travel tip is a very easy one. Try to avoid using wallets and instead put the cash in the pocket of your trousers. Wallets are always targets for thieves and while travelling not necessary anyway.
Do you have any little known travel tips?
So after what happened with me in Tokyo while I travelled alone, I would recommend never to drink any open drinks in any bar in Asia or Africa. It’s just better and safer to order any kind of bottles.
Based on my own experience, when I travelled in Africa, I never used to drink coffee because after coffee I sometimes needed to use a toilet and these toilets in Africa are mostly dirty and in terrible conditions.
You can follow Sven on his website and on Instagram.
Year of Interview: 2020.