Category Archives: Blog

Backpacking In Style – Tips For Finding The Best Hotel Deals

There’s no denying that backpacking offers the ideal low-cost getaway. For many, the idea of just packing a rucksack with the essentials and leaving the everyday routine miles behind really epitomises the concept of freedom. As such, backpacking is great for gap year travelling and for extended holidays.

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You don’t have to be a student on a low-budget expedition to enjoy the freedom of a backpacking adventure, though. Nowadays, a backpacking holiday can be enjoyed in good hotels with a touch of style – even glamour, and here are a few top tips for finding these deals.

Glam-Packing

Before you set off on your backpacking travels, look for promotional discounts in the area you are heading to. You can often find these online or with coupons from tourist information literature. It’s not uncommon to find promotions offering anything from discounted hotel rates to reduced transfer fees.

Sleep in Style

By booking your accommodation and flights separately, you can often make your trip more cost effective and afford to stay in higher rated hotels. Many four and five star hotels will offer you cheaper deals if you book early or if you are willing to stay outside of the normal high season. Again, compare these online well before you leave. Never be afraid to ring up hotels individually and negotiate a discount.

 

If you do choose to upgrade your accommodation from a backpacking hostel, make the most of it and use all of the facilities during your stay. After all, not many backpacking hostels will have a pool that you can use or a laundry service that is available to visitors.

Great Budget Destinations

Some places around the globe offer really good places to stay but at a fraction of the cost you would expect. Thailand is a good example, with plenty of four and five star accommodation that backpackers can check into without worrying about breaking the budget.

Egypt has seen a fall in accommodation prices in recent years, too. Another place well worth checking out is Tunisia – a long-time favourite destination for French backpackers.

Making the most of the freedom of travelling doesn’t have to be about bumming it across the globe. With a bit of careful research beforehand, it’s possible to backpack in style and sleep in comfort.

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Singapore: Tour The City Like a Local This Year

Traveling is always an exciting time, and one of the best places to visit this year is Singapore. Singapore has so many different things to offer in regards to tourists, and there is definitely something here for everyone. Of course, there are those common places that most tourists visit and can get through in a day. Most of that being the couture shopping that Singapore is known for, but thankfully there’s a great selection of alternative attractions to see too! Whether you enjoy cultural sights, shopping, or just some fun and relaxation, you will be sure to find it in wonderful Singapore.

Artwork at the Ritz-Carlton

It is a little crazy to be visiting a hotel, instead of an actual museum, or is it? The artwork at the Ritz-Carlton is one of the greatest collections there is to see of modern and contemporary art, and it is virtually unknown to tourists!

Chinatown Heritage Center

When visiting Singapore, of course there are museums and other places to look into the past of this city, but everyone should make it to the Chinatown Heritage Center. Here, visitors can admire the different 19th and early 20th century scenes that are available to see, and it also introduces you to the culture of the city too! You can even shop there and collect little souvenirs.

Geylang

Located in the former red-light district of Singapore, Geylang has a lot of history to offer. Walking the streets, you will be introduced to the wonderful architecture, as well as experience some of the modern elements of the city too. One of the best things to do ere is try the local food.

The Camden Medical Center

If shopping and couture is your forte, you’ve come to the right place. Being big in fashion and appearance, Singapore has a nice little cosmetic secret. Stop in the Camden Medical Center for some of the latest skin treatments, from expert medial advancements to traditional and herbal medicines.

Haji Lane

Tucked away in the heart of the Muslim quarter, Haji Lane has tons of little secret shops to offer the savvy shopper. Of course, you will find a vast variety of couture shops in popular places, but here, it is really a shopper’s dream come true!

Funan Digitalife Mall

If electronics are what excites you, try the Funan Digitalife Mall. Take advantage of the most hi-tech devices for about 10-20% cheaper than you would at other shops!

The White Rabbit

This restaurant gives you a little history, a lot of beauty, and some really great Euro comfort food. Once a historical church, this building was renovated to be a beautiful restaurant, keeping much of the church’s aesthetic design.

Zouk

The nightlife in Singapore can be compared to that of New York, and a wonderful place to see it is by visiting Zouk. This amazing nightclub will fill your night with loud music, flashing strobes, and tons of dancing. No matter where you party in Singapore however, you’re bound to have an amazing time!

If you thinking of how to get to Singapore or how to get around here are some handy tips. When in Singapore you have several options for getting around including MRT, bus and taxi.

 

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What type of holiday is right for you?

Investing in a holiday is often one of those things that the majority of us don’t get to do that often. With work, personal taste, time constraints and financial details it is imperative to find a holiday that satisfies everything that we want in a holiday, so we can get maximum enjoyment from the experience. Here are some factors to think about when considering what type of holiday is right for you.

Cruise ship deck

Time Available

If you are under time constraints then you probably won’t be booking a 3 month safari, or an open ended ticket to see the world. Working out how much time you have and choosing a holiday that fits into your schedule is the best way to ensure that you are getting maximum enjoyment for what you are paying for. Some holiday ideas that might fit that bill are cruises, bus tours and other short term holiday ideas.

Affordability

If money is not flowing as abundantly as you would like it to then you will need to choose a holiday that fits in with your budget. Conversely if you have a large amount of money at your disposal then why not splash out and do something big! Working out what you want, and what you can afford and then shopping around for the best deal is a great way to ensure that you are getting the best holiday you can for your money. There are some great Cruiseabout specials available that will give you a great holiday without breaking the bank.

What Interests You?

If you don’t like walking, then you probably won’t be interested in going on a trek of the Himalayas, and if you aren’t a fan of the snow then you wouldn’t think of going on a snow trip. Working out what interests you will give you a few clues about what sort of holiday might be the best one for you.

Travel Companion Vs Solo Adventure

Some of us love spending time by ourselves, while others need to be around other people. If you are a person who is happy to head off on your own on an adventure then you will probably be fine with whatever holiday you choose. For some of us we would prefer to have a companion to travel with so we might be happy to do anything as long as we are doing it with friends, or family.

What did you love/hate about your last holiday?

If you take the time to think about your last holiday and what you loved/hated about it you will be able to get a good idea about what things you might want to experience in your next holiday. Planning a holiday is one of the most exciting parts of the trip so relax, and take the time to work out what you really want in a holiday, so that you will be sure to have an awesome time whatever you do!

By Natalie Brown

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Take a Self Catering St. Ives Holiday

One of the best places to take a holiday in the UK is without a doubt in St. Ives. This beautiful landscape near the Western most edge of the UK offers a wide variety of activities for all walks of life. It has a beautiful coastline that is good for enjoying a beautiful relaxing walk or for the more daring that want to try out the new adventure sport of coasteering. There is so much to do in this friendly town, all the way through to Autumn making it a great option if your looking for cheap holidays in October so the only thing left to do is decide where you want to stay. If you are looking for a self catering St. Ives holiday then there is really only one choice that you have.

st ives

Every destination in the world offers hotels or motels. While these can be a great accommodation, they always tend to get a bit crowded and make people stir crazy. This can be especially true for stays of a week or longer. The same goes for hostels. While these are great for solo travelers or a group of younger kids they are not ideal for a family or a couple trying to get some quiet comfortable quarters. What you can find here, for this holiday, is St. Ives apartments that will be all yours for as long as you need.

The best part of self catering your holiday is that you have complete freedom and autonomy from others. You have your own space and can make it feel like home. The biggest draws of hotels is that you have a staff at you disposal to help with anything you need from dinner recommendations to reservations. At St. Ives they offer a concierge service that can take care of all that for you too. They will even go as far as to stock the refrigerator for you upon arrival so there is no delay in enjoying your vacation.

The views from all of the apartment choices are something to be marveled. There is no feeling like waking up, walking out to your balcony, and seeing one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The way the waves crash into the cliffs is surreal and is a sight that will never get old. You can choose all different types of accommodation that may suit a couple better than a family so make sure you do some research before booking. You can even get a room that comes equipped with a telescope so you can gaze at the stars, up close, on a clear night.

These apartments are luxurious, hassle free, and can be a good fit for any type of group looking for any type of holiday. Don’t wait, scoop up one of these luxury apartments before its too late!

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Faro Beaches & Nightlife

Faro is a lively and charming city, a superb choice of destination if you like to be in the heart of things. As a student and tourist town, it has a fun and vibrant nightlife, but there are many quieter bars and restaurants if you want to take it easy.

Faro is the gateway to the Algarve, the dramatic stretch of southern Portuguese coastline that fronts the wild Atlantic Ocean. At times spectacular and rugged, at others beautifully tranquil, it cannot be argued that the Algarve is not incredibly beautiful. Many visitors do not linger in Faro but head immediately to one of the seaside resorts.

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There is an argument to be made for this approach, especially if you are short on time. But Faro itself makes for a rewarding experience in itself, whether you are simply passing through or have chosen the city as your main destination. Take advantage of car hire to make the most of your time in Faro and get to places further afield.

Faro’s beaches can compete with the best in the Algarve. A series of sandspits, large deposits of sand that project into the sea, provide protection from the Atlantic waves; this makes the waters calm and safe for swimming in.

The beaches are nothing if not diverse. Faro beach itself, near the airport, is a busy and vibrant stretch of golden sand, lined by shops, cafes, bars and hotels. Colourful boats rock in the gentle waves, and there are opportunities for various water sports, including jet-skiing, windsurfing and water-skiing. It’s a great beach for those that like access to great facilities and don’t mind the crowds.

The sand spit island beaches, such as Ilha Deserta, Ilha da Armona and Ilha da Culatra, lie offshore and can be reached only by ferry or water taxi. Ilha Deserta has over six miles of glorious golden sands, so there is plenty of room to find your own spot. It is part of the Ria Formosa National Park, an important wetland site for birds, and amongst them you can see flamingos and terns. There is a restaurant and sunbeds and umbrellas can be hired if you are in the mind for relaxation, or you can follow the nature trail and take a dip in the warm, shallow waters. Ilha Deserta, as its name suggests, is the ideal spot if you are looking for peace and relaxation.

Ilha da Armona, another large, sweeping beach, has superb sand dunes that kids will love, and there are plenty of cafes and facilities, and even a campsite. Ilha da Culatra has a great sandy beach and is one of the few sandspit islands to be permanently populated; there are several cafes and beautiful bougainvillea-clad houses as well as a lighthouse. Unfortunately, ferries do not connect the islands together, but it is possible to travel between them by water taxi.

Spending a day at the beach can be tiring business, and in true Portuguese style you may want to have a lazy siesta before hitting the town. Faro is a superb spot to try out authentic Portuguese cuisine and join in the later revelries. The Rua do Prior and surrounding area is the centre of the action, and there are many clubs and bars here to choose from. Try Havana Club for a Latin vibe or Millennium III and Dux for top DJs and live music.

While the Old Town buzzes with activity at night, the Marina is a great place for a more relaxed meal, a gentle evening stroll or a leisurely drink beside the gently lapping waters. Try out freshly caught seafood and a local wine or dry white port served over ice in traditional style. Just beware of medronho, made from the arbutus fruit – it’s known as fire water for good reason!

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What types of wine tours are available?

For the first timer, it may come as a surprise that there is more than one way to experience European wineries. In fact, there are many options to suit your interests, itinerary, budget and lifestyle, so if you’re thinking about a trip to Europe to taste some special wines and enjoy the food and scenery this summer, take a moment to consider your options:

Wine Tour

Package tour

Perhaps the most obvious, and possibly the easiest winery visit option is to go on a package tour. This might be a private or group tour, and has many pros: accommodation and transport is usually included, and you get the expert advice and inside knowledge from your experienced guide. This is useful for those who would rather leave the driving to someone else – especially if you plan to enjoy the wines on offer!

 

Self-drive tour

If you want a more free-form experience, consider getting planning a self-drive itinerary. A winery expert will be able to assist with the planning of the best route and stop-offs, sharing tips on the must-taste wines and helping with booking accommodation along the way.

 

Cycle tour

For the energetic, a popular summer option is to cycle between vineyards through the beautiful countryside. A tailor-made cycle tour will provide you with detailed map (you don’t want to be relying on a smartphone!). Seek advice on what regions are most suitable for cycling and the rest of the nitty-gritty details so you can relax and enjoy the ride.

 

Gourmet

What is wine without food, or food without wine? For those foodies who can’t do without either, a gourmet travel experience is a must. Some wineries offer tasting menus with matched wines – perfect for a decadent long lunch in a truly picturesque setting. You will also learn about regional wine-making techniques and characteristics, as well as signature dishes and produce from the area, and impress all your food-lover friends.

 

Luxury travel

If you’re looking for a luxury option, there is luxury aplenty available in Europe – stay in stately 18th Century châteaux, castles, five-star hotels, architect-designed houses ,visit the birthplaces of the most revered names in wine – Krug, Moët & Chandon, Bollinger, Dom Pérignon – and eat at Michelin-star restaurants.

 

Vivienne Egan writes for tailor-made wine tour operators SmoothRed.

 

 

 

 

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A Beginner’s Guide to the Canary Islands

If you’re eager to go on a cruise holiday this year but don’t yet know where to go, I heartily recommend that you consider the Canary Islands. This part of Spain has long been popular among British travellers, but don’t worry if you’ve never been here before and aren’t sure if it’s right for you. You’re certain to find it an enthralling destination!

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As you may have already guessed, given the fact it is in Spain, the archipelago benefits from some truly terrific weather. Not only does it receive around 3,000 hours of sunshine a year (which is more than anywhere in Europe), but its annual temperature is a thoroughly pleasant 22 degrees C.

You’ll develop a glowing tan wherever you go, but it’s important to think carefully about what you’d like to see and do. With the Canaries consisting of seven islands, I recommend you look for cruise deals that stop by at least a couple of them so you get a fuller sense of its terrific culture and landscapes. To give you an idea of where in the region to go, I’ve set out some information about three of what I think are its best islands.

Lanzarote

While the Canary Islands is famous for its lunar-like terrain, there is perhaps no isle where this is more the case than Lanzarote, which formed after a series of volcanic eruptions that started some 22 million years ago.

Come here and you’ll have the opportunity to explore some diverse terrain, ranging from towers of solidified lava to vast canyons. The Timanfaya National Park is a particularly good place to get acquainted with the island’s stunning landscape, while in the Chinijo Archipelago Nature Reserve you’ll get to see a vast range of marine birds.

Lanzarote also contains a wealth of golden beaches that are perfect for relaxing on and soaking up the famous Spanish sunshine. Among these is Dorada, a 300 m stretch of golden sand in Playa Blanca that is well sheltered from the wind and, as such, is great for families to visit.

La Palma

Nature lovers, meanwhile, are bound to enjoy a cruise that calls in at La Palma. Often called isla bonita – which in English translates as ‘beautiful island’ – this part of the Canaries is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and features a number of stunning nature reserves and parks.

One place I particularly recommend is La Caldera de Taburiente National Park. This is the ideal destination for keen walkers, not least of all because it is home to a towering volcano that has a 5-mile wide crater. Elsewhere, you’ll discover verdant laurel forests, black sand beaches and towering mountain ranges, while adrenalin junkies will have the chance to try their hand at everything from paragliding to mountain biking.

Gran Canaria

The final island that I’m going to look at is Gran Canaria. If you’re hoping to develop a golden tan on a cruise holiday, you’ll be glad to know that the isle offers ample sunbathing opportunities, thanks to its 236 km of coastline. Among the many beautiful locations you can recline on is Maspalomas – a sandy stretch that is nearly 3 km long and is good for bird-watching – and Las Canteras, which is ideal for a variety of sports.

Head to La Cueva Pintada (‘the painted cave’ in English) and you’ll get to see some fascinating aboriginal cave art, while the Guanches archaeological site contains artefacts made by the island’s first settlers.

This is just a brief guide to the Canary Islands, but if you’re thinking of making it the destination for your next holiday let us know by leaving a comment below.

 

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Cultural experience in Stockholm

Stockholm is both the capital city of Sweden and the largest city in the whole of Scandinavia. As you might expect from such an important metropolis there are numerous attractions and entertainment options to be found here, including plenty for culture vultures to enjoy. The city’s impressive architecture, theatres, museums and landmarks all combine to provide options for several days of seeing the sights and evenings of artistically rich entertainment.

Denmark in Winter

Flights to Stockholm regularly depart from a large number of major airports in the UK such as London Heathrow International Airport. People who take the time to search for the latest deals and discounts will soon discover that there are plenty of cheap flights to Stockholm to choose from, especially in the low season. For example take a look at SAS’ cheap flights to Stockholm and it is very likely that you will find the fare that suits you.

Birka the Viking Town is situated on the island of Björkö in the middle of Lake Mälaren and is a great place to explore during the day. The town is the remains of a real Viking community and visitors will be able to spend time exploring the town before learning more about its rich history and culture in the onsite museum.

The Royal Dramatic Theatre is Sweden’s most important venue for spoken drama and more than a thousand performances are staged here each and every year. The theatre boasts a total of six different stages and some of the world’s most celebrated actors have travelled to tread the boards here over the years.

Drottningholm Court Theatre can be found in the magnificent Drottningholm Royal Park and boasts a magnificent stage that dates back to the 18th century. Visitors who arrive in Stockholm between May and September will have the opportunity to take in one of the numerous opera and ballet performances that mark this season.

Few culture vultures could resist the chance to enjoy a night at the Royal Swedish Opera. This impressive institution is known locally as the Kungliga Operan and has been hosting unforgettable performances since 1773. A large number of famous figures from Stockholm society including visiting dignitaries and celebrities can often be seen at the Royal Swedish Opera and tickets are highly sought after.

Visiting the Museum of Dance is a great way to discover Stockholm’s cultural roots. The museum is located on Gustav Adolfs torg and features numerous artefacts related to the arts including Russian ballet costumes, African masks and Indian demon statues, while the museum’s temporary and permanent exhibitions offer an interesting glimpse into the history of dance.

Stockholm also features numerous other interesting and informative museums for visitors to explore that provide an insight into the city’s rich culture. The Stockholm City Museum is the largest museum in the whole of Sweden and contains a collection of more than 300,000 historical artefacts as well as three million photographs and 20,000 pieces of artwork. Art lovers will want to allow plenty of time to fully soak up all of the treasures that located within the walls of the Swedish National Museum of Fine Arts, while a trip to the Swedish Museum of Architecture is a must for lovers of architecture.

All this and more combines to make Stockholm an extremely exciting cultural destination. Visitors who have limited time to spend in the city and want to get the most out of their experience can also arrange to take a tour with a knowledgeable local guide, who will be able to provide inside information about certain attractions as well as revealing a number of hidden gems that are often overlooked by tourists who choose to explore the city independently.

 

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Test your grit on a double volcano trek in Tanzania

If the challenge of scaling one summit isn’t enough for you on a walking holiday, why not consider tackling two? Tanzania might be most famous for Mount Kilimanjaro, but the country is also home to Mount Meru, another volcano that it’s possible to climb.

At 4,562 m, Mount Meru is the smaller of the two, so it’s this volcano that you’ll trek up first. One of the big advantages of choosing to take on this walk ahead of your Kilimanjaro climb is that it will help you acclimatise to being at a high altitude, which means you will improve your chances of reaching Uhuru Peak (Kilimanjaro’s highest point) successfully.

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Opting to do the Mount Meru trek before attempting to summit the Roof of Africa is just one of the ways to climb Kilimanjaro – as there are six routes up Tanzania’s tallest mountain, you have plenty of other options if you don’t have long enough to do the two treks.

Mount Meru – a warm-up for the Kili climb

Although Mount Meru makes an excellent warm-up for your ascent of Kilimanjaro, it is also worth climbing in its own right. There are excellent wildlife spotting opportunities in the early stages of this walk, with the likes of giraffes and elephants often seen on the grassland and in the forest that you’ll hike through on the first day of your trek.

The views across the crater of Mount Meru are spectacular, particularly as you climb higher. One thing you shouldn’t miss is the optional walk to the summit of Little Meru, from where you can see the crater’s sheer walls and the bed of the horseshoe-shaped crater below.

Reaching the summit of Mount Meru on the third day of trekking is really special, though, as you’ll hopefully arrive in time to see the sunrise behind Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance – a spectacular view that you’ll remember forever. After descending from Meru, you’ll typically have a half day of walking before you are driven to the starting point for your Kilimanjaro climb.

Mount Kilimanjaro – the big challenge

One of the best routes to follow to the summit of Kilimanjaro after successfully completing the Mount Meru trek is the Rongai trail. This will give you six days on the mountain (five for the ascent and one for the descent), so you won’t be rushing your hike. This particular track is less crowded than some of Kilimanjaro’s other paths and is the only one to approach the mountain from the north.

It still has a real sense of wilderness about it, which only serves to enhance your experience when climbing the mountain. There is some spectacular scenery on this route up Kilimanjaro, too, with the track leading you through vast swathes of moorland, verdant pine forests and a desolate lunar-type landscape as you get closer to the summit.

On the day that you push up to Uhuru Peak – Kilimanjaro’s highest point at 5,896 m – you’ll aim to reach Gilman’s Point on the crater rim, which is a little lower than the peak itself, in time to see the sunrise. Once the sun is up, you’ll continue to the top of the Roof of Africa, where you can admire the vast plains that spread out around the volcano, see Mount Meru in the distance and get a close-up look at some of the glaciers and ice cliffs that are found near the summit.

There’s no doubt that tackling Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro on one trip is physically demanding, but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience and an excellent way to really test yourself on a trekking holiday.

 

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Mauritius: Treasure of the Indian Sea

mauritius

Often, searching for a destination to satisfy that wandering urge is a laborious process. Do you find that the novel nature of an unusual destination suits your tastes? Or is life abroad all about the allure of the warm tropics and the exquisite pampering that only an upmarket resort town can provide? The ideal answer is never being forced to choose between the two. Of course, finding such a gem is hardly a simple task. However, there is one location that is has a booming tropical travel industry and a quirky history that give it a bit of cultural flair to speak of.

The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation located off the coast of Madagascar. Despite a sterling reputation for warm blue seas, pristine sandy beaches and a friendly multi-cultural population, Mauritius is perhaps best known as having been the sole habitat of the extinct Dodo Bird.  Mauritius is known as one of the top travel locations in the world, having won the World Travel Awards for World Leading Island Destination three times and World’s Best Beach award in 2012.

Begin your day with French champagne on the white sandy beach and gaze across the shimmering teals and greens of the warm ocean waters. Once you’ve had a bit of relaxation, take advantage of the natural parks with a bit of motor biking or mountain climbing. Reinvigorate your body with delightful French cuisine, or if you feel a bit more daring, the authentic seafood and Indian curries will put a bit of spice in your life. Afterward, searching for hidden scenery on a snorkeling expedition around a secret island is a guaranteed hit. Of course, the alternative is just as nice: wander back down to the local beach for a seaside martini. Start a conversation with any of the friendly natives; most are happy to tell stories of the hundreds of surrounding islands dotting the sea, all while you watch the most dazzling sunset ever draped across the horizon.

As the nation is located in the southern hemisphere, the balmy weather is reserved for January and February, so plan on a holiday excursion around that time. Holiday villa rentals are available for reservations. If possible, I recommend you take advantage of this quirky paradise as soon as possible.

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