Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advantages of Buying Travel Money Online Prior to Arrival

When backpackers or holidaymakers alike travel to Europe or the UK it is often the case that they will choose to buy the majority if not all of the appropriate local currency on arrival at their chosen destination - be it London, Prague or Paris. Some may also take the option of using a local bureau de change in their hone city or town. However, in both of these instances, travellers may find that the rate of exchange may not be competitive - or that the broker may offer a good rate to entice customers in but then whack on a "service charge" or commission which can regularly stand at around 10%.

With the growth of online shopping in the last decade or so, it is perhaps not surprising to know that a lot of the services that consumers would regularly source locally are also moving to the world wide web - bringing with them similar advantages of reduced overhead and staffing costs which can then be passed on to customers. The travel money exchange market is indeed no exception to this rule - with foreign currency exchange sites now servicing countries across the world from Bahrain to Zimbabwe.

So if you are travelling to Europe this winter to enjoy the holiday season, why not first consider if you could save money by buying foreign currency online in your country of origin before you depart to Europe.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Beautiful Beaches in South Thailand

I have been lucky enough spend around 3 weeks during November 2012 visiting Bangkok, as well as a range of beaches in southern Thailand's beautiful islands. Here are some of my own snaps of a few of my favourites taken on my backpacking travels.

Bhoput Beach (Koh Samui)

Koh Samui is somewhat westernised and touristy these days - but the tiny fishing village of Bhoput still retains a little of its old school charm amongst its small strip of bars and restaurants as well as a beautiful beach.

Sairee Beach (Koh Tao)

Think Thailand, think tropical island paradise, think Kho Tao and dream of Sairee. Divers and snorkellers flood to Kho Tao for its fantastic facilities and wide range of trips in and around this wonderful island, and many find a home from home at the beautiful beach at Sairee.

Klong Dao Beach (Koh Lanta)

My favourite of Thailands "resort" destinations, there can be few better placves to enjoy a beachside sunset than Klong Dao.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hiking Up the Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales, UK

Those who love the great outdoors who have a chance to travel to the North of England – particularly if you are staying in or around the Yorkshire Dales National Park – should plan a day visiting the so called “Yorkshire Three Peaks”. As the name suggests, the area comprises of 3 moderate mountains which are part of the famous Pennine range which defines the physical landscape of this area of the UK. The peaks are Whernside (the largest at 736 metres), Ingleborough (second at 723 metres and my personal favourite) and Pen-y-ghent (smallest at 694 metres high).

While scaling all three and the distances between them is certainly not a challenge to be taken on by the faint hearted, it is achievable for the extremely fit who are well prepared, have sufficient time available and attempt the hike in good weather conditions. Most visitors prefer to tackle just one of the slopes – which can be achieved in an afternoon – but be warned even in summer conditions can be cold and wet making outdoor clothing and strong suitable footwear essential.

The photos here are taken on a rare sunny day up in the Dales - which is perhaps the most physically demanding of the peaks due to the very steep steps that are encountered further into the walk.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Great Cycling Holiday Destinations in Europe

Cycling holidays are a great way of seeing some of the most attractive rural landscapes that can be found throughout Europe and also gives the holidaymaker the additional bonus of being able to enjoy Europe's mild summers - whilst getting in a good bit of exercise to boot! Here we examine some of Europe's top cycling holiday destinations:

Cycling in Provence, France

There are fewer areas of greater natural beauty throughout France than Provence - and what better way to get around the area than by bike as you pass through this rich and historic area of Europe. With Roman and medieval settlements to explore, and for the more adventurous; Mount Ventoux to traverse (the highest point in the Provence region). Meanwhile your trip will be broken up nicely with fantastic French food to keep you well fuelled for the next day's ride!

Cycling in Sardinia, Italy

Pack up your mountain bike and rucksack and head off for a great Italian cycling holiday in Sardinia. Enjoy all the ups and downs of this exciting cycling terrain as you head through Supramonte and enjoy all the great unnatural scenery that Sardinia offers visitors from around the world - but make sure you are well filled on the local pasta as these trips are not for the faint hearted!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Photos of Split, Croatia

If you are travelling to Croatia than visiting the city of Split on the Dalmatian coast is an absolute must. And here are some of the reasons why...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rigor or Relaxation – Exploring 2 Sides of Canada Holidays

In this blog I often look to document many of the great holiday destinations that Europe has to offer, but as a traveller of the world it’s always good to look at areas further afield. In this post we examine 2 different sides of holidaying in Canada – a beautiful and expansive country that certainly offers something for everyone, whether you are the all-action outdoor type or looking for a more relaxing holiday experience.

Canada for Adventurers!

If your personal idea of a great holiday is an outdoor, adventurous affair then you can hardly pick a better holiday destination throughout the world than Canada. With miles of rural, untouched landscape to explore Canada offers any intrepid outdoor type enough excitement and appeal to last several lifetimes. The Rocky Mountain range cover an area of approximately 3000 miles – plenty to keep even the most daring of explorers busy – and are perfect for anyone looking for outdoor experiences including fishing, camping, walking and climbing.

A More Relaxing Side of Canada 

Although perhaps not the first destination that springs to mind when many people consider the best holiday destinations to take a cruise break – Canada actually offers some stunning water born experiences. Cruises in the Alaska region offer breath-taking sites and scenery – as well as the opportunity to visit some of the region’s best city destinations such as Vancouver. As you would expect, liners operating in this region offer luxurious service and facilities, making Canada cruises an excellent getaway for those looking for a more relaxing and refined side of Canada.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Exploring North and South Italy by Car

Exploring North and South Italy by Car

Italy is split in two by the Appenini Mountain range and either side of its rocky midriff is a country that’s easy to fall in love with.  Rent a car here and you’re free to explore anywhere in the Bel Paese (Beautiful Country).

The best way to enjoy Italy in its entirety is from the top down, beginning at one of the most loved driving roads in the world – the Stelvio Pass.  Tucked beneath the Swiss border, this awe-inspiring, peaceful and trafficless strip of road can set you off from Bornio, through Parma to the city of Milan – one of the coolest places on the planet.

If you want to skip the raw Italian inland and get straight to the coast, start your holiday in Pisa.  The Leaning Tower isn’t the only draw to the beautiful shoreline city – there’s up to 20% off car hire from Pisa Airport if you book in October.

Go through Holiday Autos Car Hire to get the discount – you can have a two-door mini from £9 a day and it comes with air-con which is a godsend in the Mediterranean heat.  So, once you’re finished driving your mini around the cobbled streets of Pisa’s city centre, re-enacting scenes from the Italian Job, you’re free to head south in style…but don’t enter the Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy) without spending the night in Rome first.


The capital city is just 3.5 hours down the western coastline from Pisa and is home to the mesmerising Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Vatican City.  Rest up for the night in a hotel along the moonlit River Tiber and look forward to experiencing your very own Rome the next day.

You can choose to stay in Rome for the rest of your holiday, with so much to do and see there, nobody could blame you.  Still, if you want to continue south then you have to start the day with a wood-roasted coffee at Sant Eustachio – the best café in Rome (and probably Italy). It’s a family-run business founded in 1938 and the device they use for making the coffee has been functioning for over 60 years. Plus it’s just 10 minutes away from Vincenzo alla Lungaretta, a bistro marking the next stop on the tour.

The narrow street isn’t short of street performers and charming rose sellers but it is a nice, secluded spot for some brunch before the big drive out the city and towards the toe of the ‘Big Shoe’ that is Italy.

The South

Southern Italy begins in Naples and becomes even more beautiful and raw the further south you travel.  The beauty of a car rental in Italy is that you can reach this hot, almost tropical side to the country and be back up to Pisa or Milan the next day.

While you’ve got the car, make the most of your time in the south and hit the Amalfi Coast.  Set off in either direction and you’ll be spoilt with paradisiacal scenery: You can visit the Castello di Arechi to get the best views and photos of the Mediterranean possible or park up at Spiaggia Del Fornillo beach, just make sure you’ve packed some towels in the boot. One thing is for sure, before you leave the area get a natural lemonade from a roadside stall – the best thirst quencher ever.

There is far too much of Italy to fit into one blog but hopefully, you’ve got a better idea about just how individually amazing both the north and south can be.  The Apennines split the country down the middle and we’ve only discussed the western side here, travel back up on the East coast and you’ve got a host of Adriatic Sea towns to explore all the way up to Venice – a blog worthy location in itself.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Things to Look for in Holiday Accommodation

Without question central to any holiday experience is accommodation - after all, however grand or humble your options may be, everyone needs a place to stay the night and store their belongings - and whether your budget is large or small its always a key consideration to take into account as part of any travelling experience. Its perfectly natural that whether backpacking on a budget or living the life of luxury, any holidaymaker will always tend to try and find a place to stay that offers the sort of facilities and features that suit their individual needs and tastes - but of course the choice of accommodation must also offer the best value for money relative to how much you can afford to spend. Here we examine what features to look for in your lodgings when travelling Europe and how to get the most out of your money.

Location, Location, Location

When picking accommodation  its proximity to your main places of interest in the area must always be a key consideration. Sure, not everyone who visits Venice can afford to stay on the Grand Canal or in St Mark's square - but there are often cheaper hotels and hostels tucked away in close proximity to major tourist attractions in holiday destinations across Europe that offer great location for little cost.

Search Online for the Best Deals

If money is no object then Europe is indeed your oyster when it comes to first class hotels, but even some accommodation that may seem out of reach to the vast majority of us may be more affordable than you think if you have the time to seek out the best European hotel deals online in advance. Off peak seasons may offer rich pickings for holidaymakers who don't necesarily have the deepest of pockets.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Reasons to Choose a Cruise Holiday

All people are different and accordingly will have different interests, personalities and tastes - so it is perhaps not surprising there is no "one size fits all" approach to choosing a holiday destination. After all, not everybody is the backpacking type, some people may prefer a more relaxing and refined option for their holiday choice - and a cruise holiday can provide just the ticket.

A cruise holiday in some ways offers a similar experience to that of a backpacker - in that you get the chance to visit multiple exciting destinations on a single trip rather than being tied down to one place. This gives great variety through your cruise vacation - whilst all along the way you can enjoy great comfort, hospitality and entertainment.

As well as getting to visit numerous exotic locations on your cruise, many travellers will choose to take up this kind of holiday because of the superb variety of different cuisine available on board, as well as first class entertainment on a daily basis. Modern cruise liners have the facilities to rival most holiday resorts around the world - so if just chilling out with a delicious cocktail or relaxing by the pool is more your thing then a cruise holiday will offer up this option too.

There are a number of well established companies offering first class cruise holidays operating in regions across the globe including cruises to the Caribbean, the Adriatic, Amsterdam and Europe plus many other fantastic areas of interest. Perhaps the best and most established operator is P & O. Its fleet of stunning liners include the Oceana, Oriana, Ventura and a more recent and modern additions in the form of the Adornia and the Azura.

So if you are looking for a different kind of holiday experience that offers the holidaymaker comfort, style, excitement and variety all rolled into one, why not opt for a cruise vacation with P & O ferries?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Great Reasons to Visit Turkey

If you are looking for a great place to getaway for a late season break that can offer up a bit of everything in your summer holiday, then Turkey can give you all you need to make your September this year a memorable one. Holidays in the Eurasia region are as popular now as ever, offering great value for money both before and after you get on the plane - and of course a massive range of things to do. When choosing the best place to go in the area you will surely find Turkey is the region’s most notable and standout holiday destination – a country that can tick all the boxes for holidaymakers spanning all ages, and satisfy a wide range of people including those who are perhaps seeking surprisingly contrasting day to day choices of activities and requirements from their vacation.

     With the countries many major attractions for its tourists ranging widely from its stunning natural landscapes that includes mountain ranges, countryside, unique coastline and sandy beaches – to its ancient and diverse historical sites which incorporate fascinating ancient Greek ruins and intriguing Ottoman Mosques. These factors offer great appeal to tourists from all over the world – and this coupled with a very satisfying and temperate climate that is typical of most Mediterranean countries it is easy to see why thousands of holidaymakers each year are seeking out cheap holidays to Turkey by booking online.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Prepare for Volunteering Overseas

Deciding to head overseas to volunteer is really exciting, since it has all the promise of adventure, as well as giving you a chance to make a positive difference to the world. Any kind of jaunt abroad requires a little preparation, but volunteering trips often need more attention than others.

I've put together a basic guide of how to prepare for volunteer work abroad below - I hope it helps!

Step 1: Work out a budget

Once you've booked your trip, flights and such, the first thing to work out is a budget for while you're there. The simplest way to start this is by looking at what your chosen tour operator includes in the price. For example, they might offer to cover some of your food costs or pay for your accommodation - what you get will vary from one company to the next.

After you've got that clear in your mind, you should look into how much living costs are in your chosen destination. This way, you can begin to get a picture of how much day-to-day living might add up to. As well as considering the prices of things like food, drink and accommodation, you should also think about whether you will need to pay for any additional transport or activities.

Step 2: Talk to your doctor

Next on your list should be arranging an appointment with your doctor to discuss whether there are any vaccinations you will need before you travel. This is perhaps the most obvious aim of your appointment, but don't forget to talk about your trip in a little more detail.

By doing so, your doctor can advise you how to handle any underlying medical conditions you may have before you go away, as well as giving you tips on how to avoid getting sick in the places you plan to visit.

Step 3: Insurance

It's likely you've already got travel insurance on your to-do list, but it's worth bearing in mind that you'll need to read the small print carefully to make sure the package you get is actually appropriate for your trip. Think about any unusual activities that might need to be covered, your medical needs and how long you will be away for.

Step 4: Research the local culture

The next step is to prepare yourself mentally. It's likely you'll be entering into a culture that's wholly different from what you're used to, and one of the best ways to prepare is to make sure you know what to expect. This has the added benefit of helping you integrate with the locals more easily too.
Learning a little of the language is one of the most useful steps. Don't worry, there's no need to become fluent (though you can if you like!), but knowing some basic terms can really help you settle in, feel more at home and make friends.

As well as learning how to say hello, please and ask where the bathroom is, you should also do a bit of research into the culture itself. Are there any gestures that are considered rude you should avoid, for example? Or is there a polite way of addressing people you should use in the country you're visiting? Knowing cultural quirks like this can really help ease your way into local society.

Step 5: Pack smart

Finally, as any keen traveller knows, you need to be smart with your packing. Think about what you really need to take and be as ruthless as possible to avoid overloading yourself. Pack appropriate clothing - and make sure it's comfortable - as well as any medicine you require.
One of the most important things to remember is to take a comprehensive list of emergency numbers with you, such as a contact number for the airline and tour operator and the number to dial for lost or stolen credit cards. You should also give people at home an emergency number they can reach you on.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why visiting Camp Nou is a must in Barcelona

Barcelona is a stunning Spanish city that is home to a wealth of churches, museums and galleries that all make it a top cultural spot to visit. But sports fans will no doubt also be keen to take a look at one of its other major attractions - Camp Nou.

The football stadium is where Barcelona FC has played since 1957, making this an historic site for sports enthusiasts. It's located at Carrer d'Arístides Maillol, so you can either book hotels in Barcelona that are close to the stadium or decide to stay somewhere nearer to the other attractions, like Las Ramblas. Either way, the city's metro and bus service will ensure you're never too far away from the biggest tourist spots.

Below are my top reasons why stopping off at Camp Nou is a must.

Its history

Camp Nou has an interesting history that goes beyond the age of the stadium. It was designed by Josep Soteras Mauri, Lorenzo Garcia Barbon and Francesc Mitjans Miro to provide capacity for more than 93,000 fans. A bigger ground was required due to the growing popularity of Barcelona FC, helped by the signing of Ladislau Kubala, who was a very respected Hungarian player.

The building project cost millions of pesetas, resulting in the club spending several years clearing its debt. To find out loads more interesting facts, stop by Camp Nou's museum. A mixture of trophy-packed display cabinets, interactive screens and temporary exhibitions all make this corner of the stadium a fascinating place to visit.

Its sheer size

Camp Nou is huge and you'll be blown away by its size when you approach the ground, and even more so once you step inside. It's got a capacity of 99,354, making it the biggest stadium in the whole of Europe. Believe it or not, it was actually going to be extended to house 120,000 football fans for the 1982 World Cup, but new regulations regarding standing areas soon put paid to these plans. Rising for 48 m and with a surface area of 55,000 sq m, it's certainly big enough - for now, anyway!

The Camp Nou Experience

If you really want to get a feel for the stadium, get yourself booked on to the Camp Nou Experience. As soon as you've sorted your flights and hotels in Barcelona, your next step should be getting a place on this tour. You get to see and hear loads of different things, such as visiting the museum, exploring the multimedia area, discovering the grandstand and seeing what the view is like from the press boxes. Throw in the thrill of standing in the players' tunnel and checking out the pitch and very swish changing rooms, and you can see why it's an amazing experience for football fans.

The club shop

Barcelona FC's football strip is one of the most recognisable in the world, so get yourself a reminder of your time at Camp Nou by picking up some of the latest kit. There are plenty of items to choose from, and not just the team's official strip. You can bag a hoodie, nightwear, cap and tie, as well as bags, balls, games and toys.

If you've been lucky enough to visit Camp Nou when on holiday in Barcelona, what was your favourite bit and why?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

3 Top Places for a Family Day Out in Devon

If you were to ask me what my perfect staycation would be, I would have to say self catering in Devon. It's so relaxing to simply get up and eat when you want - and you are also surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK.

I think the county is a great place for families to visit as there is so much to do, whether you are outdoors lovers who like going on long walks, or you prefer to delve into a destination's past by going to museums.
Here are three of the best places to visit if you are on a getaway with your kids.

The Milky Way Adventure Park

This theme park is home to the longest, tallest and fastest - and probably the most thrilling - roller coaster in Devon, and makes for an exciting place to spend the day. Indeed, a trip here could well be the high point of your kids' holiday.

Of course, it's not all about adrenalin seeking, and there's also plenty to keep younger children amused, like the 85,000 sq ft of indoor play area. In addition to that, there are craft stalls, assault courses and even activity areas for toddlers. You can easily spend the whole day here, as there are places to eat and drink. One's thing for certain - your kids are sure to sleep well that night!

Pennywell Farm

If theme parks are one thing that is guaranteed to please young holidaymakers, the chance to cuddle cute animals is another. Luckily, you can do just that at Pennywell Farm, a multi-award winning activity park that is the largest of its kind in the south-west. As well as being home to dozens of friendly animals, it also has rides and play areas, so you can easily spend the day here.

Perhaps the most famous inhabitants of the farm are the miniature pigs. These have been specifically bred to stay smaller than an average pig, and they are also so friendly some people decide to acquire them as pets. At birth, these pigs weigh just 8oz and will grow to be around the size of a Springer spaniel - which is about a fifth of the size of a normal pig. Theses miniature pigs are for sale at the farm, but you may prefer to pet one rather than take it home.

Other inhabitants include reindeer, shire horses and ferrets, while there is much more to do, like ride on the Red Rocket tractor or the Rainbow Railway. You can also race each other on the Run Rabbit Ride Go Carts - why not make it a family tournament?

Morwellham Quay

This is a place that makes learning fun, so your children could come away from their holiday having found out much more about the place they are visiting. History has been brought to life at this museum by the people who work here and all dress in 19th century costume.

Nestled in the Tamar Valley, the attraction is home to a narrow-gauge railway that you can ride to the George and Charlotte copper mine, where you can have a peek at the underground workplace where many locals would have spent long days during the Victorian period. If nothing else, your kids will appreciate that they aren't facing a future working in such conditions!

Wherever you choose to go, your little ones will be tuckered out by the time you get back to your holiday home!

Do you regularly visit Devin? Where are your top destinations for a daytrip?

Monday, August 13, 2012

How to save money on a family holiday to the Seychelles

How to save money on a family holiday to the Seychelles

Family holidays are always highlights of the year, but they can be extremely expensive, especially if you want to jet away on a trip somewhere exotic like the Seychelles. For a chance to experience a holiday of a lifetime on a shoestring, read our tips.

Choose your holiday deals carefully

This might sound obvious but getting the best deal for a family holiday on an island in the Seychelles involves spending a lot of time doing your research. These days, you'll have plenty of choice of tour operators, airlines and travel agencies, so make sure you look for deals in all of these establishments.

By shopping around and comparing quotes, you'll get the best offer and save a bundle in the long-run!

Don't forget, peak times such as school holidays bring up flight and hotel prices considerably. So, if you have little ones that aren't of school age yet, you could look at travelling outside of the expensive seasons to save money. Be flexible with your time as well by looking for flights that leave on a weekday or at unsociable hours. These are often less popular among holidaymakers and therefore cheaper, but if you have got young children, you'll be used to being up at all hours anyway.

If you used to travel a lot before the kids came along and are pretty confident you can book your own accommodation, take advantage of these skills by arranging your flights and lodgings separately. You may find this will save you money, particularly if you're looking for self-catering accommodation. But should you think it'd be easier to stay in all-inclusive hotels with your little ones, it might be more cost-effective to go for a package holiday.

Become a local and make your money last longer

Once you have landed in the Seychelles, there are also many ways you can stretch your budget. Firstly, choose somewhere to visit that isn't in the most popular destinations. Many people stay on Mahe or Praslin - the largest and second biggest islands - as this is where they'll find idyllic beaches, large resorts and crystal-clear waters.

However, if you're willing to go off the beaten track, you could find some quieter - and cheaper - gems of your own. Do some research before you leave and find a destination that is further out of the Seychelles's cities or main tourist resorts. You'll find these definitely save you some cash, while giving you and your children a chance to see a more authentic side of the nation.

In fact, immersing yourself in the local culture will both save you money and enable you to have a really fulfilling and rewarding experience. How many kids will get the chance to say they have see how Seychellois people really live?

As well as picking somewhere more traditional to stay, go on low-cost excursions to cut down on your spending. These include shopping at local markets where you can put your haggling skills to the test, visiting fishing villages to learn more about the livelihood of locals, and taking a trip to Valle-de-Mai on the island of Praslin. This last excursion will enable your kids to run through a real rainforest and possibly spot the world's largest seed, coco de mer. But don't try to pick it up, as these can weigh up to 30 kg!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ghosts, Whisky and Tartan an Irresistible Combination?

We’ve heard a lot about ‘staycations’ this year, and to be honest we weren’t convinced about trading in the Seychelles for Skegness but needs must, so with Hawaii cancelled this year we went scouting for places in Britain that are really worth it for your precious holidays. Well I hope you appreciate our hard work because several very, very soggy weeks later we’re actually holding a bit of a grudge…

But all was not lost we discovered one city that really withstood the weather for things to do, places to eat and stunning architecture; but it was a wee bit hilly. I’m talking of course about Edinburgh, so we’ve broken it down into top 6 things to do in our new favourite city.

1) Deep fried mars bar?

No! Well yes you probably can but we won’t allow it.  Spend some of the money that Easyjet didn’t rob from you this year on one of the city’s amazing restaurants. As a starting point try 21212 – yes that’s what we thought about the name as well but it’s the envy of Michelin starred restaurants and with stunning dishes like their creamy gourmet mushroom risotto it can be forgiven.

2) Hell on earth you say? Two tickets please

Whatever you say about this city no one can deny it’s old, and we all know what old means: ghosts and ghouls and spooky things - excellent stuff.

Now we have to admit we’re sceptical but this tour did give us the heebie jeebies.  The tour of the under-city describes itself enticingly as the closest thing to hell on earth possible. Personally we thought hell would be rather warmer. The underground city is a series of vaults built under the city in 1788, originally designed as a kind of underground shopping mall for tradesmen and it was reputed to have been used by the serial killers Burke & Hare to dispose of bodies. Despite this brilliant start it was too inhospitable for olde times shopkeepers and they abandoned it and the poorest inhabitants moved in.

Now they are mainly used for tourist thrill and chills and even if you’re not of the ghost hunting ilk these are well worth a visit for historical interest alone.

3) Get classy

After a bit of ghost hunting you may need some culture so take a walk along the riverside and enjoy The Scottish Gallery of National Art, located along the water of Leith Walkway, which is dotted with sculptures by Henry Moore and Edinburgh's own Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. Fresh air and some beautiful art is a great way to spend a relaxed afternoon strolling.

4) Suits you sir

Discover your inner Braveheart and visit Edinburgh Old Town Weaving Co. to find out how it’s done. Have a look at the tartan guide and, of course, find your own clan history and get the kilt to go.

5) One for the road?

Finally get a real taste for Scotland and have a tipple. Find out the history of their liquid gold with The Scotch Whisky Experience.  No dry lectures here – the tour includes a barrel ride. Then ends, of course, with a shop full to the brim with delectable whisky

6) Stay in Style

Edinburgh can boast some of the finest city hotels in the whole of the UK, including the wonderful George Hotel in the very heart of the city. This grand old hotel won the prestigious "best hotel in Edinburgh" in the Scottish hotel awards last year, so why not treat yourself to some stunning style and luxury. Click here to visit the official George hotel website.

With these trips and treats Edinburgh’s the place to be for culinary and cultural delights. So despite the rain we thoroughly recommend Edinburgh for this year’s staycation, as long as you can hack a hangover…

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Things to remember if you’re moving to Malta

Malta is a big hit with tourists but it is also becoming increasingly popular with people wanting to move abroad, maybe for work or just a new lifestyle. Here are a few things you need to remember if you are making the move:

Your Sunday best

Malta is largely a Catholic country, in fact it is one of the most Catholic countries in the world. More than 50% of inhabitants go to church for regular services and this statistic is huge compared to church-going in the UK.

A phrasebook

English is widely spoken in Mata which is of course great news for Brits abroad. However, the local language is Maltese so if you are going to spend some considerable time there you should make an effort to get to grips with the local tongue.

Your sun cream

Malta has a great climate, which is why so many people holiday and move there. This means hot sun in the summer, so don’t forget to slap on the sun cream to protect your (possibly pasty) British skin.

An international removals firm

Shipping your possessions abroad can seem like quite a task, but it’s a breeze with an international removals firm. Goods can be shipped quickly to your destination and to your new home quite inexpensively, and this takes all the hard work out of moving abroad. To learn more about moving your possessions to Malta click this link to learn more.

Why you should order holiday money online and other travel money tips

If you have a holiday or a foreign business trip on the horizon it makes sense to prepare as fully as you can. This can involve shopping for the right clothes, learning about your destination and changing your currency.

To get the most for your sterling nowadays it pays – literally – to buy your foreign currency online. There are numerous benefits to getting your foreign currency this way, from convenience to better rates.

Order your currency online – the best currency exchange rates are always available online these days. This means that by ordering over the net you can get more for your money, which is always an attractive prospect.

Don’t buy currency at the airport – the currency experts at this company also warn you not to buy your currency at the airport. You will pay a premium price for it and much more than if you buy online.

Take different payment methods – cash is the preferred format of traders, bar owners and waiters, and it makes things simple, but it is not safe. Take travellers cheques and currency cards as well, and you shouldn’t get into any serious financial trouble on your break. There are also currency cards which you can load with money so they act like debit cards and they are great for security and budgeting. 

Click here for more information on how to check the latest foreign currency rates online.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Experience Guernsey on a Budget

If you want to book a summer holiday to Guernsey but don’t want to spend a fortune, here are a few tips to help you save.

Go Online

If you want to get a great deal on your next holiday, go online to find the best deal to fit your budget. Once you have decided on how much you wish to spend, go online to compare holiday prices at speed.

Find Cheap Flights

If you want to experience Guernsey without breaking the bank, it helps if you are flexible on dates. The price of flights to Guernsey will change throughout the year and if you book in advance, you could benefit from a lower price. Avoid school holidays, as this is the peak time for families to take a break and as a result, the prices rise. If you want to cut the costs of your holiday significantly, travelling at unsociable times can also help to keep costs low.

Go Self Catering

Many people choose to self catering options over half board and full board holiday packages. Going self catering can save you money on the cost of your holiday, as you don’t have to pay up front for every meal. When it comes to Guernsey self catering hotels come with the added advantage that visitors can eat what they want at a time to suit their schedule.

Hire a Car

If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing in Guernsey, it is advisable to research transport options before you go. There will be many different options to choose from but if you do your research, there will be no surprise costs to deal with on arrival. If there is a group of you going to Guernsey it would make sense to hire a car. If you are going self catering and would like to sightsee, hiring a car could be very beneficial as you can share the cost between passengers and it will be cheaper than taxis.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Best Holiday Destinations in Turkey: Bodrum

With the seemingly never-ending bout of torrential downpours we have been experiencing across the UK over the last 2 weeks it seems we hard working Brits are currently faced with 2 options if we are to save ourselves from misery:

1. Build an Ark
2. Book a holiday abroad! 

As the former seems a little drastic - and perhaps beyond the meagre resources of the average office worker such as myself - we can only therefore look to take the option of seeking out sunnier climes for sources of inspiration, hope and relief from the perpetual gloom of the British Isles.

     When it comes to catching a bit of sunshine this spring, why not look to Turkey as an affordable and easily accessible option? With thousands of people heading to Turkey from the UK each year it is perhaps not surprising that there are many great holiday destinations to choose from in this intriguing and expansive land – but in Bodrum you may find a location that offers much more than just sunshine and beaches and the pleasant refuge offered by its warm spring Mediterranean climate.

     Rich in history stemming from its historical Greek, Persian and Ottoman occupation, Bodrum as a settlement can be traced back to around 600 years BC – meaning there is much to be learnt from the city and its past. Some of Bodrum’s most popular tourist attractions include the impressive medieval period Castle of St Peter which dominates the city skyline. Constructed in the 1500s, the castle is a must see for anyone taking flights to Bodrum this spring.

     There are also some much older areas of historical interest in the city - including the Bodrum amphitheatre - which has been recently restored and carries a capacity of over 15000 - and the remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. This was once a wonder of the ancient world, but be warned some may find the remains a little underwhelming – although extremely historically significant in its own right nonetheless.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Paris

Paris is known for its exquisite galleries and unparalleled museums. Here are the top five:

1. The Louvre Museum is world famous for its superb art galleries. Under its roof lie thousands of priceless classics as well as masterpieces of modern art. It is revered by all art lovers and is one place everyone must visit at least once in their lifetime. It only costs €10 to gain access and appreciate work from all the ages. There are antiquities from the Near East, Rome, Egypt, and Greece. There is a department completely dedicated to stunning Islamic art and sculpture, as well as masterpieces by infamous artists like Delacroix, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt. It is not an understatement to say that those on Paris flights will not have completed their trip without vising the Louvre.

2. The National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pomidou is the most well-known and important modern art museum in all of Europe. For just €12, visitors can learn about movements such as Fauvism, Surrealism, Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism. There are, of course, a huge number of works by the masters who created or sparked these important movements. Visitors can stroll through the pieces by Kandinsky, Miro, Picasso, Matisse, and other modern art pioneers.

3. The Palace of Versailles is actually visible to passengers on Paris flights that have begun their descent in preparation to land. Once the residence of King Louis XIV and his descendants, the Palace of Versailles is a gorgeous 18th century building that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for more than 30 years. It is quite possible the most extravagant palace in the world and has been a silent witness to centuries of world-changing events. Also called the “cradle of liberty” for its huge significance in the uprisings against King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the rest of the French aristocracy, the palace is truly unparalleled.

4. The Musee d'Orsay is located just across the way from the Louvre, but it is worlds away in terms of its collections. The museum has the largest collection of paintings, decorative objects, and sculptures that were created from 1848-1914. The works of masters such as Monet, Degas, Ingres, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and Gaugin fill room after room. The Musee d'Orsay showcases work from important art periods and movements, some of which are romanticism, expressionism, neoclassicism, impressionism, and art nouveau. The museum has recently acquired some new pieces, one of which is The Circle of the Rue Royale by James Tissot, a painting that has been named a “national treasure”.

5. The Grevin Wax Museum is a wonderful place to go for those who want to see what Paris really looked like at different times throughout history. Not only can visitors walk among life-size scenes of Joan of Arc burning at the stake, King Louis XIV holding court in Versailles, and the assassination of Henri IV. Other famous personalities include historical figures such as Napoleon and Mahatma Gandhi, and movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, Nicholas Cage, Shah Rukh Khan, and Charlie Chaplin. There are also wax figures of famous sports figures, politicians, entertainers, cartoon characters, and more. During their tour of Grevin, visitors can even learn about how wax statues are made.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Guide to Berlin in the Summer

I used to be lucky enough to live in Berlin and, although the promise of snow and wonderful Christmas markets made winter great, summer was, without a doubt, my favourite time of year in the city.

Here are just a few things to get up to when the sun is shining in Berlin:

Go Bargain Hunting

You probably didn't know this, but the Germans seem to be a nation of bargain hunters. Every weekend in the summer, Berlin's pretty squares get taken over by flea markets and if you love nothing more than browsing quirky stalls and picking up odd souvenirs, I suggest you check one of these out.

My personal favourite was held on Boxhagener Platz (in Friedrichshain) every Sunday. Take the U-bahn to Samariterstrasse, walk down Mainzer Strasse and you'll pretty much be there.

Enjoy Brunch

Another wonderful weekend activity that can be combined with a trip to the Boxhagener Platz market! You can go for brunch at any time of the year, but there's something lovely about sitting at a table on the pavement in the sunshine. There are a host of cafes and restaurants on Simon-Dach Strasse (just a short walk from the flea market) where you can enjoy all-you-can-eat brunch, usually for under €10 (£8.40).

Take a Trip to Potsdam

There's nothing stopping you visiting Potsdam in the depths of winter, but it's a beautiful place to explore when the sun's out. You can take the S-bahn from the centre of the city, so it's not hard to get there, and then wander around its amazing collection of palaces and parks.

The architecture is stunning and there are plenty of wide-open spaces to lounge around in. I'd recommend taking a picnic lunch, finding a spot in one of the parks and just relaxing for a couple of hours.

Go to a Beach Bar

Yes, Berlin has not one beach bar, but several, despite being nowhere near the coast! A host of friendly establishments pop up along the banks of the River Spree every spring and stay there until the warm weather finally disappears, so pull up a deckchair, get a cold beer and enjoy.

If you're staying centrally, the most easily accessible is Strandbar Mitte, conveniently located behind Museuminsel. Personally, I'd recommend hopping on the S-bahn to Treptower Park and then strolling along the banks of the river until you reach Badeschiff.

Bring your swimwear as there's a pool floating on the river, as well as the open-air bar on dry land. The fun doesn't end when the sun goes down, either, as the venue regularly hosts concerts and DJs.

This post was written on behalf of idealshortbreaks.co.uk, a site offering inspiration and recommendations to help you plan the perfect short break.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Best Holiday Destinations in Northern Europe - Rocking in Riga

Over the last couple of years (having already had the privilege of travelling to many of the more famous and frequently visited holiday destinations in Europe such as Paris, Barcelona and Venice) I have been looking to expand my horizons somewhat, and travel to what may be considered some of the slightly less well known city destinations on the continent - and this is how my friend and I found ourselves in Riga earlier this month. Equipped only with a small amount of Lats (the necessary travel money for Latvia) and a backpack of warm clothes (an even greater necessity for visiting the Baltics in winter) we flew to the city on a voyage of discovery - perhaps not fully knowing what to expect. As we began our descent towards Riga we got a great view of the Baltic Sea and were amazed to see that it was completely frozen over in areas near to the shoreline. It was at that point we realised this was going to be a cold trip!

Arriving in the city it was easy to see why an increasing number of airlines are offering flights to Riga as a holiday destination and more and more people are visiting the city as part of their European backpacking trips. The old town area (or Vecrīga) is a UNESCO world heritage site and has to be one of the most beautiful and intriguing old town centres in Europe - offering up fantastic timber framed buildings side by side with Art Nouveau architecture. The city features an impressive Cathedral (sadly under fairly major repair works during our visit) with many other smaller quaint churches and historical buildings dotted around the Old Town area. Away from the main old town other more modern buildings of note we visited in Riga included the daunting presence of the Latvian Academy of Sciences and the city's towering TV and Radio mast (the tallest building in the entire Baltic region) which dominated the city skyline as we walked beside the banks of the frozen Daugava River.

At night - and particularly during the weekend - Riga really comes alive, with a host of great bars and restaurants offering everything a visitor could hope for in and around the main Old Town centre. For a great local meal at a very reasonable price B-Bar is well worth a visit, and if you fancy something a little quirky then check out Dada restaurant for some freshly made East Asian food in inspiring if not slightly confusing surroundings. During the week we found some great relaxed bars away from the main strip - but if you want to party hard with the local students you should try Shot Bar, which lives up to its name with a massive range of shooter drinks including many made with Latvia's deadly herbal liquor Black Balsam. If like us (being stereotypically English) you just can't bear to miss out on the football then Maloney's Irish bar is kitted out with multiple TV screens showing sport all day long, as well as serving some cheap and decent local and Anglo-American food.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Staying in Bournemouth Hotels? Make the Most of the Ocean.

If you are staying in one of Bournemouth’s hotels, than here’s our guide on how to make the most of Bournemouth’s biggest playground – the seaside.

Award Winning Seaside

It’s impossible not to be inspired by mile after mile of clean, soft, golden sand – Bournemouth’s breathtaking beaches are its biggest attraction by far.

Bournemouth beaches won no less than six awards at the 2006 Seaside Awards proving that Bournemouth has some of the cleanest, safest and best beaches in the UK. What better reason to choose Bournemouth hotels for your summer holiday?

Bournemouth Pier beach, Boscombe Pier beach, Fisherman’s Walk, Southbourne, Durley Chine and Alum Chine all received awards, which were judged on water quality, toilet facilities, bathing safety, cleanliness, access, first aid, litter bins and environmental care.

Bournemouth Hotels

If you and your family like to be besides the seaside and you’ve checked in to one of Bournemouth’s hotels, than you’ll probably be spending a significant part of your holiday on the beach. The local beaches are patrolled by RNLI lifeguards but there are always some safety tips you should take into consideration. Last year they saved 27 lives and were called to 7,226 incidents. Here are some RNLI top tips:

Don’t take inflatables out to sea – although great for the pool, the wind can blow them out to sea swiftly. Surf conditions can be dangerous too. If you do take an inflatable to the beach, make sure the line is connected to the shore, or held by an adult. Avoid altogether in strong weather.
Rip currents lurk under the surface and can drag swimmers from the shallows to the depths. Always try and remain calm, fighting against a current will exhaust you. Make noise and raise your hand for help.
If there are red and yellow flags on the beach, swim between them.
Keep a look out for any safety signs.
When in doubt, ask a lifeguard for advice.

Underwater Adventure

If you want to avoid the dangers of the real sea than you can certainly get enough thrills and spills visiting Bournemouth’s Oceanarium. One of the advantages of staying in Bournemouth hotels and spending a few days and nights in the town is the vast array of attractions for all the family.

It may seem surprising staying at Bournemouth hotels to find the world at your feet but Bournemouth’s Oceanarium takes you through the marine wonders of the world including the Amazon, Mediterranean, Africa, The Ganges, Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Key West and even…..The Abyss!

The Oceanarium is an interactive experience with feeding demonstrations, a walk-through underwater tunnel and exhibits exploring the mysteries of marine life from African land snails to Zebra Cichlids.

The beach and ocean make Bournemouth the biggest and best playground for children of all ages – book your stay in one of Bournemouth’s hotels this summer.
Beachlets.com specialise in beach cottages, villas and apartments worldwide and throughout Europe and the UK.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Vienna & Bratislava – Kilometres Yet Poles Apart

Separated in purely geographical terms by a mere 80 kilometres if travelling by road (perhaps around 55 kilometres “as the crow flies”) the 2 great European capital cities of Vienna and Bratislava offer the visitor 2 equally exciting and worthwhile tastes of European life that are perhaps to be considered “unashamedly” different to each other.  As a British backpacker taking the opportunity to spend a couple of days in each of these cities (divided by a brief yet exhilarating trip via a high speed boat along the river Danube - that I guarantee will surely beat any bus or train journey) I could not help but feel that somehow this was almost an unofficial “watershed” point between Eastern and Western Europe.

     The lasting memory of Austria’s capital Vienna for me was the sheer grandeur architectural styling of its “museum quarter” – during the day time a site to behold in itself from the area’s exterior, even if you were not to explore the many cultural and historical treasures that lay within the Modern Art or Leopold museum interiors. At night the museum quarter becomes a trendy place for local students to hang out and for backpackers to enjoy a local wheat beer in glamorous surroundings.

     Slovakia’s capital Bratislava while different in many ways to Vienne was none the less exciting to visit. The great attraction of the city is undoubtedly its old town area – for me one of the best (although not the largest) in Central and Eastern Europe. Packed with relaxed bars and restaurants all offering great drinks and food at extremely affordable prices, a visit to Bratislava’s Old Town is one that should not be overshadowed by more famous Old Town centres in Europe. Bratislava too holds an excellent castle –a must for any visitor – which towers on a hill above the Danube. Aside from offering a good visitor experience in itself, scaling the hill to reach the castle will provide an awesome view of the city.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reminiscing About Venice - My Holiday in Pictures

Being sat back at home in freezing cold England makes me want to go travelling again, and although I am set for a short break in Riga in February - which I'm sure will be great fun, its not exactly going to be warm there either at that time of the year! All the cold weather has made me think about some of the great holiday destinations in Europe I have been privileged enough to have visited in the last few years, and in turn this inspired me to start looking back at some of my old photo collections from these trips. One set of photos that made me feel a lot warmer inside were my pictures of Venice, taken during my trip to the stunning Italian city during summer 2010. I have shared below some of what I consider to be my favourite pictures from Venice here, so you too can see what a wonderful city it is - making it surely one of the best holiday destinations in Europe.

Grande Canal

Venice's biggest and most famous of all its many waterways in all its glory!


Venice's world renowned mode of transport - but not a cheap one!

Bridge of Sighs

There are few more famous and architecturally stunning bridges across the world - but it is now sadly covered in advertising boards :(

Fish Market

Eating fresh fish and seafood in Venice's restaurants was one of the highlights of my visit - and the fish market from which it all is bought is a great thing to visit and experience in itself.