Scotland’s vast natural heritage is a great reason to visit Britain. The country’s gardens offer a delightful opportunity to indulge your senses and explore the very best of Britain’s natural scenery. Take a look at some of the finest Scottish gardens.


Discover more Scottish and English Gardens from VisitBritain

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Drummond Castle Gardens

These gardens combine to perfection stunning Renaissance architecture with superb scenery. This Perthshire venue dates from the mid-18th century, and the garden’s layout and gorgeous details will surely transport visitors to the stately glamour of a bygone area.

Monteviot Gardens

Located in Jedburgh, a historic market town south of Edinburgh, the Monteviot Gardens are the ideal place to disconnect from the busy pace of daily life. Here you can stroll around wonderful rose, herb, river, and water gardens, which are connected to each other through lovely ponds and bridges. Don’t miss the Monteviot’s arboretum and the gardens’ top terrace.

Rocheid Garden

Rocheid is a hidden and relaxing gem in the heart of cosmopolitan Edinburgh. This garden features gorgeous exotic plants and flowers that gather gracefully around a crystal-clear natural pond. The result is a beautiful collage of bright colours that never fail to make an impression on visitors.

Brockhole Gardens

Although the Lake District is not part of Scotland, a trip to this wonderful part of Cumbria is well worth the detour if only to visit the splendid Brockhole Gardens. Located right next to Windermere Lake, these gardens feature 30 acres of terraced land that has been beautifully landscaped to bring out the best of this stunning area. For the best views of these gardens, go on the exciting tree-top trek at Brockhole.


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Ask anyone where to find the best affordable summer beach holidays and it’s likely their answer will be Turkey. The sun kissed country has it all! The sea is crystal clear and ideal for swimming while the winds on the Aegean coast create perfect conditions for surfing and windsurfing. What’s more, Turkey enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year, with temperatures often exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in the high season (July-September).


To help you make the most of your Turkish summer holiday, we’ve compiled a list of the best beaches in the country, with a good mixture of tourist hotspots and hidden gems for you to explore:


Iztuzu, Dalyan

There’s nothing quite as magical as watching turtles coming to the shore to lay their eggs – if you’re lucky enough to catch them that is! This 4.5km stretch of beach is abundant with beautiful wildlife and is perfect for a family day out. The seabed shelf means that the waters are serenely calm and great for families with younger children. There are plenty of low cost options for those looking affordable holidays. Take a look at this great range of holidays for 2015 from Cosmos. A flight and three nights accommodation for one adult in a luxury Dalyan resort will set you back around £220 pounds, which is incredibly cheap for the quality of beachside resorts found on the Turkish Coast.


Pantara, Xanthos Valley

Pantara is without a doubt one of the best Turkish beaches, featuring the longest continuous stretch of sand in the Mediterranean. Its sheer size and beauty makes it a very popular destination but should you seek a more secluded spot, head over to the northwest part of the beach. During the summer, the waves can be pretty intense so it’s not an ideal place for families with small children.


Cirali, Turquoise Coast

Cirali makes the list not only for its beautiful secluded beach but also for its breath-taking surrounding scenery. A short trek from the beach will take you to the ancient ruins of Olympos, an intensely magical experience that shouldn’t be passed up! The entire area is a protected UNESCO site and features fascinating wildlife not to be missed.


Phaselis, Turqoise Coast

We’ve already included one beach from the Turquoise Coast, but this one couldn’t be left out! The collection of small peaceful bays makes for a wonderfully relaxing day at the beach. Phaselis boasts some of the best swimming in Turkey, with stunning surroundings and calm, crystal clear water.


Ayd?nc?k, Gökçeada

This 1500m stretch of white sand is a sight to behold. Extremely popular with tourists, it can get pretty busy as far as beaches go. Ayd?nc?k is located in an area popular with migrating flamingos, making it a perfect spot for birdwatchers and holidaymakers alike. Health buffs will also love the black mud found on the shoreline which is renowned for its healing properties.

It’s always worth subscribing to travel website newsletters as they often advertise great last minute deals that could save you even more money!


It is very difficult to choose five beautiful beaches in a country that has more beautiful beaches than I will one day have vintage china tea cups (I have three so far, but I’m working on it). So how do you go about choosing between these tropical paradises? The answer is: with great difficulty. But of all the spectacular beaches in Thailand, the following five certainly leave a lasting impression:

1. Maya bay

Located in Koh Phi Phi Ley, this stunning bay became famous for being the destination chosen to make the film ‘The Beach’. Since then, it has attracted huge numbers of visitors. This has the obvious drawback of tourists often packing together like sardines on the beach to look at the landscape but, it has to be said, this landscape is breath-taking.

The beach opens out onto an expanse of clear, turquoise water; the bay is encircled by 100-metre limestone cliffs; and the coral filled waters hold plenty of marine life, making this a perfect location for divers.

Maya Bay

2. Sunrise Beach

Sunrise Beach compromises the perimeter of the east of the island Koh Lipe and, as you may surmise from the name, this beach offers one spectacular view of the sunrise!  While Koh Lipe has a number of great beaches to choose from, Sunrise Beach has the advantage of being tranquil as well as gorgeous. At it’s back are tall, luxurious trees that offer shelter; and this beach is made distinctive by a stretch of sand that curves a ring around part of the ocean (a unique and often photographed part of the landscape).


3. Freedom Beach

This is one of the least accessible beaches in Phuket, but arguably the best. Tranquil and set against a backdrop of thick jungle, this beach creates the illusion that you have stumbled into paradise. The crystal clear water holds colourful coral reefs, making it one of the best places for snorkelling in Phuket. The beach is cared for by locals and the ban on motor boats and jet skis (which are seriously annoying when you aren’t riding them)   makes this beach a very quiet, relaxing place.

Freedom beach

4. Railey Beach

This beach is one of the most popular in Thailand and can be found near the town of Krabi, along a narrow peninsula, in the south-west of Thailand (where it is much less touristy and much more relaxed). This beach looks incredible: the water is crystal clear; the sand is white and fine as powder; and it is surrounded by tall, jagged cliffs, which attracts rock climbers from all over the world.

railey beach

5. Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Beach)

For better or worse, this location will always be associated, for me, with that scene from ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ where Christopher Lee and Roger Moore have a pistol duel (who am I kidding, that scene is great).

Although Phang Nga Bay does not share the powdery white sand and flawless turquoise waters of my other choices, the rugged landscape and fascinating rock formation (in particular the tall islet ‘Ko Tapu’) makes it just as breath-taking to behold.

Thailand beach

Although there are downsides to all of these gorgeous beaches- whether it be an entrance fee, too many tourists, long boat rides or paranoia that Scaramanga is going to jump out at you holding a golden gun- they are all unique, all breath-taking and all examples of what makes Thailand so wonderful.

The Silk Road is historically fascinating- a network of routes dating back over two thousand years that were central to trade between the West and East. The scenery itself resembles silk; stretches of land that reaches out for miles and miles over mountains and deserts, interspersed with cities that appear to rise as though from dust.

My chance to travel there came in the form of the Vodkatrain. It is not, as you might suppose, a sleek glass train where you are served shots of vodka (which would be amazing, by the way) but a series of trains that take you through Russia, down to Mongolia and through to Beijing throughout the course of 21 days.

The Beginning

My friend and I began our journey in St Petersburg, where we met our group and our first Honcho (a guide assigned to you by Vodkatrain at each destination to answer pretty much any question you can think of). After the meeting we set out together to explore St Petersburg. It was a fabulous start to the journey: a gorgeous city, brimming with some of the most stunning examples of baroque and neo-classical architecture, not to mention St Issac’s Cathedral, which you should look at last because that thing will blind you.

From the opulent beauty of St Petersburg we left for the huge, modern Moscow and took in as much of the city as possible before catching our next train. I have to say that, with more money, I could have spent several days in St Petersburg and Moscow, and, with even more money, would have attended several performances at the legendary Mariinsky and Bolshoi Opera Houses (I managed to convince my group to go with me to both buildings before they pulled me away to the nearest bar).

But our train was waiting and, by the time we boarded, armed with visas and vodka, we were buzzing with excitement and, as it turned out, there were many good times ahead.


Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

The Train

I love this method of travel. There is something magical about watching the landscape changing from your window; it really gives you a perspective on the vastness of the land you cover. The trains were comfortable and combined group members with local travellers: we got chatting to really interesting people.

I found the cheapest way to eat on the train was to buy food from people at the various train platforms you will stop at (you can budget around £2.50- £7 per meal).

The Accommodation

All the accommodation was arranged by Vodkatrain. My favourite places were: Tatania’s guesthouse, a Siberian wooden chalet at Lake Baikal, where the host cooked us delicious Russian food; and the Ger camp in Mongolio, which was brilliant- definitely the best accommodation we stayed in.


Photo credit:
Photo credit:

The Highlights

Of course St Petersburg- one of the places that I definitely want to return to- left a lasting impression. The train itself was a lot of fun and the day we all went swimming in Lake Baikal (which was freezing). Each of our destinations were very interesting, made more so by some really great Honchos. By the time we got to Beijing I was sad that it was all coming to an end, but Beijing is a fantastic city and was a hugely enjoyable finish to the tour. We ate some of best food I’ve ever tasted; we found lots of places to shop; and we met some wonderful local people. The city is also home to some magnificent landmarks, including the tranquil Temple of Heaven, the vast Forbidden City, and, of course, the Great Wall of China (which we ended up walking for far too long because no-one wanted to be the person who suggested turning back).

Although we were exhausted by the end of the 21 days, and we were very hungover at points during the 21 days, there is no doubt that this experience- hilarious and beautiful in equal measures- is not one that any of us will forget in a hurry.

You can find out more about Vodkatrain here.

There are six ‘small group adventures’ to choose from depending on your interests, time scale and budget (prices range greatly from £2,380 for ‘The Cossack’ and £945 for the ‘Budgeting Bolshevik’). The website will give you a good idea of how much you should be budgeting for food and entrance fees in each city.


James Keogh gives us his top tips for using the London Underground and how to survive it like a local.

It is just past noon on an unusually sunny Saturday in Brixton, most pleasant given this otherwise bitterly cold month. As a Brixton local I must say there is no place quite like the melting-pot of Lambeth and I can’t help but smile to myself as I walk to the tube.

The tube is a different world to yesterday, the buzz and stuffiness of the working week has given way to more leisurely colonies of tourists and families with young children all eager to take in popular and “hidden” parts of the city and indeed today I shall join them.

This more leisurely commute may be more chilled out but why do all the tourists seem unaware of the Tube etiquette?

We have many nuances of ‘Great British etiquette’ and the Tube specifically has quite a collection of quirks. Although most of these things can be found signposted around, some are still unwritten rules and either way it is easy to see how tourists or first-timers could get caught out and face the British cold shoulder. So, with this in mind, I have decided to collect all the do’s and dont’s into one place for those who are yet to travel London’s Underground:



As discussed you may or may not feel the wrath of your fellow travellers, mostly dependent on  whether it’s rush hour, but ending up the wrong side of the tracks will always attract some frosty  attention. In general watch out when travelling with large pieces of luggage at peak times for fear of  tripping up junior city boys as they dart to-and-fro late for a meeting!

rules of the underground


…. the announcement rings. This is usually played over the loudspeakers on most platforms but  once at South Kensington I saw a Scandanavian man physically held back for trying to go against  the system! I have heard that many other European countries do not follow the same custom but be damned sure … we Brits take it quite seriously.


This is surely followed globally as just an obvious piece of goodwill and respect but on many  occasions in London I have seen other passengers picking on the closest youth to reprimand them for their sloppy manners. However, this particular etiquette can prove quite tricky as some passengers may take offence at being labelled “in need”. For example, I once offered my seat to quite a glamorous and well-spoken elderly lady one evening but she declined and added rather dryly, “My dear, If I was not fit for the underground I would have taken a cab.” Quite funny really and a fair point, nevertheless it took the air out of my good deed and left me feeling a bit deflated.


No observation on British etiquette would be complete without highlighting the importance of  queueing. Whether it be for the oyster machines, getting on the carriages or just to get through the  barriers you will notice the crowd start aligning as if shuffled up by invisible channels. At this point  beware the red light! Whether you haven’t got enough money on your Oyster or have double  touched you will experience what it is to interrupt ’the Great Flow’. Check first and get comfortable  with The Way of ‘The Queue’.


Especially true during rush hour. It is a common thought shared amongst commuters that those who stop their motion, perhaps to consult the Underground map or read signs either immediately after leaving trains or on route to the  platform will inevitably end up with someone treading on their heels proceeded by a flustered and speedy getaway from the perpetrator. The Londoner’s hit-and-run method of most encounters on the tube is perhaps epitomised by this act. The answer is to keep moving, even if it means proceeding slowly one must be in motion at all times.


In continuing with the theme of movement it must be made clear that at peak times a failure to  move down the platform or especially the carriages will certainly provoke vocal backlash. Remember – all people want to do at 8am or 5pm is get to work or get home and you WILL NOT delay this process for them, even though trains tend to run every minute or so!


Although the point will almost never be raised by fellow passengers it is of agitation to most when other travellers are listening to loud music or having loud conversation. I think this is perhaps to do with the fact that such noises exist in such close confinement and with the inability to escape this the  lack of control quickly gathers a repressed tension throughout the carriage. People may look at each other as if to say, “Are you hearing that too?!!” but nobody makes a sound – You can feel the tension  being lifted as sed ‘loud’ passenger leaves the carriage. This leads onto another point – there is no spontaneous socialisation on the tube. Or eye contact. Never.

The only time I have ever struck up a conversation on the tube was when I was coming home from giving a ukelele lesson and for the sheer novelty of my instrument I fell into conversation with a lovely American lady and her daughter, it was  such a great experience and whats more it was hilarious seeing the look on other people’s faces, it was almost like we were plotting to blow up parliament or something!

Note: interestingly this is not the same when using the trains. I have met many awesome people on journeys overground. Perhaps there is something about travelling underground that makes people particularly anti-social?


Now, I am a musician myself and – although I have never obtained one of the legitimate ‘busking licences’ – I have tried my luck once or twice setting up on the branded pitches and have always managed to hold my spot for an hour or so before someone notices. From this experience it is my whole-hearted conclusion that only tourists and foreigners throw money into the hat. The Londoner when offered a chance to escape giving will always oblige. At this point I would like to thank visitors to London for keeping buskers afloat, please don’t act like a Londoner on this occasion, you will never provoke negative attention and hopefully will encourage others to do the same.

So there you have it, a few pointers for successfully navigating your trip on the underground without causing too much offence. I would like to conclude with a little piece of advice for those of you, like me, who see their journey on the tube as a time to get a bit of reading done. Go for poetry or magazines rather than books or newspapers. Poetry is usually short and you can sink your teeth into a piece even between neighbouring stations and magazines have short articles like newspapers but they don’t open out as far as the Standard, Metro or worse still a Broadsheet. God forbid that you might infringe further on someone’s personal space anymore than your mere existence!

They always say, “Life is about the journey, not the destination,” and I am a believer that adventures on the London Underground breed memorable journeys in one way or another.


I first visited Rome in my final year at university, a birthday present from my wonderful sister. We set off with our friend and all agreed that Rome was going to be an entirely stress-free experience. We were not going to budget; we were going to enjoy every moment.

This cavalier attitude, while wonderful during the three days I stayed in the aptly named ‘eternal city’, seemed somewhat reckless when I spent the remainder of the semester living on cereal and tinned soup. It is at this point you realize that throwing money about as if it were going out of fashion is, in fact, a very ill advised thing to do and that, as much as you would like it to be the case, you are not Princess Ann from Roman Holiday.

On a brighter note, I have returned to Rome since and managed to do so without devastating my bank balance.  So here is my advice on how to save money in one of Europe’s most stunning and expensive cities:


It is easy to find a cheap flight to Rome (you can get a return from Stansted, London from only £53); it is also easy to not spend much on travel once you are there. On my first trip we took a taxi from the airport at a fixed price of €30.

For a much cheaper alternative take a bus from Ciampino Airport to the underground station ‘Anagnini’ (€1,20). Then get the metro for €1 to whichever station is closest to where you’re staying.

Once you arrive, you’ll find that Rome really isn’t that big a place, so it’s easy to plan your route each morning and travel around on foot.


On my first trip we stayed in a lovely apartment but this is because my sister is, as previously mentioned, an awesome person.

On my second trip I stayed at Hotel Beautiful Hostel, about a minute away from the Termini station. You can get a room here from €30 to €60 depending on the time of year.

For a cheaper options, it is well worth looking at Airbnb  where you can find a room in Rome for as little as €10 a night if you don’t mind sharing!


This was, by far, the biggest expense of my first trip to Rome. We ate out every night and often during the day. We bought coffee and gelato and ordered way too much wine. On the second trip, we went to a grocery shop near Termini station on the first day and ended up saving a lot of money (this obviously didn’t include gelato, which remained as much a feature of my second trip).

If you do want to eat out be sure to check the menu first and never just walk into a café and order over the counter. Prices tend to be astronomical just outside of landmarks, as we discovered when my sister unwittingly ordered a ten euro glass of orange juice outside of the Coliseum.

If you want to eat out, it’s advantageous to ask the locals. We were recommended two great places to eat:  Sfizio Pizza near Termini station (around €8 per head); and Picculo Buco, a family run restaurant near the Trevi Fountain (this cost about €10 per head).

Photo Source:
Photo Source:

Tour Guides

Whenever you approach an important landmark you will be bombarded with tour guides. We went on two tours on my first trip to Rome: one of the Vatican City, which was brilliant; one of the Coliseum and the Ancient City, which was not. The latter literally consisted of us paying someone to take us inside and say ‘this is where gladiators used to fight… feel free to go take some photos of yourself posing as gladiators and meet me by the pillar in half an hour’.  To top it all off we went to the wrong pillar and lost our guide, who was carrying our tickets to the Ancient City (this was, admittedly, our own fault).

For those on a budget, there is a great organization that offers free walking tours in Rome. These are licensed and expert tour guides who will take you around the city for free (they do rely on tips but this is still a cheaper alternative).

Budget for Rome

So to summarize, here is a rough budget for a trip to Rome:

Flights: £53 plus €6 to and from the airport

Accommodation: €10 to €30 a night

Groceries: They came to roughly €10, which included packed lunches.

Restaurants: If you want to eat out, you can do so for €5- €15 per head. Save money by making a packed lunch during the day and remember there are water fountains to drink from all around the city.

Entry fees: There are plenty of things to see in Rome that don’t cost a cent, but, on both trips, we agreed to allow about €10 per day.

Nights out: Agree on a budget beforehand and stick to it. Avoid tourist bars, which are always very expensive- drink with the locals!

Gelato: No budget.

 Do you have any tips for travelling on a budget in Rome? If you do, let us know in the comments below!





The current trend in the travel world is to book your holiday DIY.

By that, I mean you book your flight, transfer, and accommodation separately, to create your own bespoke package holiday. This is an easy process, and can be a real money-saver, however if you’ve never done it before, it might be a worrisome thing to embark on.

Worry not! I’ll tell you how. 

Finding a cheap flight can sometimes work out better if you cast your net further afield in terms of where you fly from. You’ll usually find London flights coming up cheaper than anywhere else in the country, and if you can get there, it’s worth trying, as you’ll sometimes find it all works out cheaper including travel, compared to a regional flight.

If you’re doing this, remember to book airport parking, such as my regular service of Gatwick Long Stay Parking  and you’ll find it often works out cheaper, easier, and more convenient than public transport. Head to ParkBCP to peruse what’s available, and you’ll see that most large UK airports offer a service.

Once you’ve opened your search up further, you’ll find a world of flexibility. Head to Skyscanner and put in ‘UK’, and your destination, your dates, or the month as a whole to give you the choice, and then watch and wait.

When it gets as low as you think it’s going to go, then book it and don’t look at it again! If you see it lower, because it is a risk, then you’ll feel very sick indeed, however there is the equal risk that it will go up.

Flight booked, turn your attention to accommodation, and this is where the fun bit starts!

Travel Republic, Sunshine, Alpha Rooms etc, amongst many others, are where you’ll find sales and deals on top quality accommodation, with every price range, and you can check out maps, photos and reviews to help you make your decision. You can also book your transfer here too, bringing the whole package together.

All that’s left from that point is to print out all your confirmations, put them in your hand luggage bag, and you’re done!

Booking a DIY holiday isn’t difficult, and it needn’t be a worrying experience. Package holidays can be found at great prices, but the flexibility isn’t there like when you book in this manner.

Creating your own adventure means it can be tailored to your needs and likes, which will overall make your holiday more fulfilling as a result.

Don’t know what to expect from a Lapland holiday?

You imagine Lapland as sleepy snow covered place where you will have to stay indoors and have no chance of having fun?

Holidaying here will open your eyes to the unexpected aspect of Lapland, the fun factor which will spice up your holiday experience. Lapland offers much more than a cozy cabin, hearty talk and storytelling around the crackling fire. It offers a perfect combination of picturesque beauty of the place along with the thrilling activities which make Lapland holiday a once in a lifetime experience and sites like The White Circle offer some incredible experience to be had.

Your will thoroughly enjoy the wild adventures in the Lapland wilderness and here’s some of our top to dos…


Cross country and downhill skiing: You will be enthralled to see the wonderful ski facilities available in Lapland. There are well maintained trails which pass through picturesque terrains for those who want to do cross country skiing. Looking at the well manicured slopes, you will realize why Lapland is one of the most attractive downhill skiing destinations. Beginners needn’t get disheartened because there are trainers at the resorts, who will help you, learn the basics to deal, with ice and snow.


Snowboarding and snowmobile rides: As Lapland is snow covered throughout the year. You can have fun as a family, as you enjoy snowboarding together. A must-do while in Lapland, feel the thrill of snowmobile ride as you feel the icy wind and cold snowflakes flying around while   speeding through the snowy terrain.


Husky dog safari and reindeer sleigh ride: Explore the beautiful and serene countryside while your sled is being pulled by a team of dogs. Opt for the reindeer sleigh rides to feel like Santa Claus. As you enjoy these rides, you will have a sense of adventure when you realize that the only thing disturbing the quiet and stillness of the surrounding is the sound of the sled or sleigh, being pushed and you can go looking for Santa Claus at his secret hideaway in the forests!


Snowshoeing: Venture deep into the snow covered forests and explore the Lapland wilderness as you go trekking with snowshoes strapped on. There are various trails here which you will enjoy. Cabin in the wilderness: For the ultimate adventure in Lapland, rent a cabin in the heart of nature and begin and end your everyday adventures from here. As you stay in this beautiful untouched setting surrounded by silence, your spirits are sure to go soaring high.


Go in search of the Northern Lights: You can either go on a trek in the evening or go snowmobiling, in search of the beautiful Northern Lights. Venture deeper into the forest for that wild adventure and also to better your chance of seeing that enchanting phenomenon, Aurora Borealis.


Go ice fishing: You can go ice fishing in the frozen lake of Lapland. Start this unique fishing experience by breaking the sheet of ice on top of the lake. You can add more fun to the activity by having a campfire to cook your catch and then relax and enjoy this outdoor meal amidst the beautiful though still white surrounding.


Have you headed to Lapland? Anything you’d add to the list?


Since I’ve taken up diving my scuba diving bucket list is fast growing – and if there’s one place that seems to be the top of every divers list it’s the red sea. It comes with a massive recommendation from everyone who has dived there – be it scuba or free diving (which I recently got addicted to!) and stories are always met with envy by those who haven’t!

So where should you hit up when there? And where from?


backpacker scuba diving
Clear, Warm Waters…

Sharm El Sheikh is an Egyptian city located on the coastline of the Red Sea and situated on the Sinai Peninsula, at its Southern tip.

Over the years, Sharm El Sheikh has earned the reputation of being one of the most extraordinary diving destinations, in the world.

The city was always well known for its amazing touch with nature however, these days, it has also become a tourist friendly city. A couple of decades ago, divers had to trek a long way through the dessert, before they could get to the spot from where they could go for a dive, today though the scene is more luxurious with many popular hotels setting up camp there.

The sight of the crystal clear waters, with beautiful corals and under water flora, is a treat to the eyes and in contrast to the beautiful waters is the white, sandy beach and the infinitely large dessert


So which dive spot should you add to your list? Well here’s a few to jump into…

  1. Ras Mohammed: This dive area is located in the extreme southern region of Sharm El Sheikh, at the point of confluence of the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. With an ocean depth of over 1000 meters and coupled with strong underwater currents year around, this dive spot remains a tough challenge even for the most experienced divers. Ironically, the unique reefs formed in this region and the variety and density of various species observed here are credited to these strong water currents.
  2. The Straits of Tiran: The Straits of Tiran is another unique dive area, near the Island of Tiran, located on the Gulf of Aqaba. This 2000 meters deep dive area is characterized by four coral reefs named after the British cartographers Woodhouse, Jackson, Gordon and Thomas. The strong currents caused during high tides, when the water flows through the narrow path in the region, are responsible for the large variety of fish swarms and corals in the area.
  3. The Locals: Stretching from Ras Nasrani in the north to Ras Cathy in the south, along the coastal region of Sharm el Sheikh are twenty-eight diving sites that can be reached on by taking a boat ride for around 10 to 60 minutes. These diving sites are collectively called ‘local dives’. The site is an ideal location for beginners to test their diving skills, while the experienced ones would also have a great time.
  4. The Wrecks: This dive site derives its name from its past history, where many ships entering from the Suez Canal got wrecked in this region, due to a shallow reef just below the surface. Since these wrecked ships lie within safe diving limits, special wreck-safaris are sometimes conducted in this dive area.
  5. Naama Bay: The Naama bay is a year around dive spot and surprisingly happens to be one of the least known sites in Sharm El Sheikh. The diving area starts just 50 meters after a walk through the water, where you can witness the amazing and unique sea life. There are also night dives conducted in this region, for those interested in interacting with the nocturnal creatures in the ocean.


Sharm El Sheikh is a Holiday Gem and diving remains the major attraction, but those interested in other activities like water sports and excursions can also visit the region – and Egypt itself is a great backpacking destination given the variety of terrain in the region – and of course the Pyramids which should be on everyones bucket list!


Anyone been diving here? What did you make of it?

best budget adventures in floridaWhen most people think of Florida, they think of the large resorts that welcome millions of tourists every year. But outside of Disney World and Universal Studios there’s a whole wealth of great attractions to discover, and on a great budget too.

Florida holidays are becoming more accessible to people nowadays, with the likes of Florida 4 Less offering cheap flights to the state regularly. And with so much to see and do, it could be a vacation you never forget.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Located 70 miles off the coast of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is a small archipelago of coral islands, that includes the preservation of Fort Jefferson, a 19th century coastal fortress built as a naval station to help prevent piracy in the Caribbean. Popular amongst nature lovers, the islands are awash with tropical birds, colourful coral reefs and eclectic sea life.

Priced just $5 for a week’s entry to the park, with the option to camp for an extra $3 per day, the national park is accessible by ferry and seaplane and is perfect for anyone who wants to be one with nature. Able to snorkel, bird-watch and explore the incredible fort, it’s a far cry from the busy tourist spots of Key West.

Cycle in the Everglades

The Everglades are one of the true, natural beauties in the Sunshine State and is awash with magnificent wildlife just waiting to be discovered. Home to numerous endangered species including the manatee, American crocodile and the Florida panther, the state opened the National Park in 1947 to protect the natural landscape, and is now enjoyed by over a million visitors every year.

Priced at just $5 entry for cyclists, you’re free to roam the park for seven days along the 43 mile network of trails through the lush pinelands.

Experience Daytona

Not only does Daytona have one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, but it’s also home to one of the world’s most famous motor races. The Daytona 500 attracts over 200,000 visitors every February to the city as well as large amounts of NASCAR fanatics throughout the year. Tickets can be grabbed from as little as $40, whilst the city during a race-day has an unrivalled atmosphere.

If motorsport isn’t your thing however, then a walk along the boardwalk can be just as thrilling. With stalls, games and attractions you can enjoy hours of fun before slipping down to the beach for a relaxing afternoon watching the waves.


St Augustine

St Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. Established in 1575, St Augustine is located just 40 miles south of Jacksonville and is perhaps the most charming city in the state. Steeped in a rich history, the Spanish colonial-era architecture draws a number of tourists to the city, whilst it’s civil rights moment that was prominent in the mid 1960’s can be read about in the Civil Rights Library.

The Basilica Cathedral is a reminder of its Spanish history, meanwhile the rolling coastline and St Augustine Alligator Farm is a reminder of the glorious Florida setting it owns.

Kennedy Space Center

Taking one step beyond is compulsory at the Kennedy Space Center. Just a stone’s throw from Orlando, the center has been home to every NASA human space flight since 1968 and is one of the most enthralling museums in Florida.

For $50 you can experience the awe-inspiring scale of the largest rocket ever made, hear the tales of a veteran NASA astronaut, and get your hands on some actual moon rock. It’s a full day out at the Space Center and a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else.


A vacation in Lapland is more than the usual holiday experience. It is a magical experience for all, kids, parents and grandparents. The variety that Lapland offers is such that everyone goes back, content and happy.

Whether it is the beauty of the place, the fascinating phenomenon of Mother Nature, the festive feel of the spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus, or the adventurous and thrilling snow sports, there is something for each member of the family. It is this variety that makes Lapland, the perfect family holiday destination.


The pristine natural beauty

Lapland still remains unspoilt by tourism and offers a breathtaking view of immaculate snow covered pine forests, snow capped mountains and the frozen lakes. The flora and fauna and specially the large reindeer population add to the beauty of the place and is sure to be liked by everyone in the family.


The captivating wonders of Mother Nature

For those who want to enjoy a leisurely laid back kind of vacation, you can enjoy the beautiful landscape of Lapland and witness the many wonders of Mother Nature. You are going to love Mother Nature’s spectacular and colorful fireworks in the sky, the Northern Lights against the backdrop of the quiet white wilderness of Lapland. Everyone in the family is bound to be excited about seeing the midnight sun from the top of the mountains. These are unique experiences you take back to share with friends back home.


The enchanting and festive Christmas experience

Lapland is a magical experience for kids and parents. With this trip to Lapland, the land of Santa Clause, you can help your children enjoy the festive spirit of Christmas while reliving your childhood memories. What can be a bigger treat for the kids than a chance to meet Santa Claus and his elves? You can become a Santa to your child, by making the dream of your child to meet Santa Claus, come true. See in Lapland, the Christmas of your imagination, snow covered landscape, a Santa Claus with a sleigh run by reindeers, elves baking ginger bread and making toys, it’s all there for you to enjoy.


The thrilling outdoor adventures

Lapland has a lot in store for those who are adventurous and energetic. There are adventures which you can enjoy during winters, as well as fun filled activities to be enjoyed, during summers. Engage in a wide range of activities such as sleigh riding, husky safaris, cross country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, walking, cycling, white water rafting or canoeing. You can also try the fly-drives or opt for ice or sea fishing. Whether it is the impromptu snowball fights or these adventure activities, they will turn out to be more fun as you enjoy together as a family, laughing, shouting and screaming together.


More family fun with snow and ice

Visit the Snow Village, home to various massive construction made of ice and snow like ice castles, hotels ,ice sculptures etc.You are sure to pick up creative ideas for your own backyard snowman when you see such artistically made structures. Everyone will also love to see igloos.


Have any of you been to Lapland? Looking to head that way? Check out some more activities here


When you think of Liverpool’s music scene, it’s fair to consider The Beatles as the city’s crowning glory. These four lads from Liverpool took the world by storm in the 60s, transforming into international superstars almost overnight. While their career as a band is long gone, their influence over others still continues and their legacy remains. Liverpool is very proud of what The Beatles achieved and, to commemorate their 50th anniversary, has plenty in store for visitors to the city over the coming months. Book some very cheap Liverpool accommodation from Travelodge and you could sample the Beatles-inspired events and attractions during your stay – there’s plenty on offer, so make your visit last at least a couple of days.

Ever since Ringo Starr joined the group as their permanent drummer in 1962, The Beatles went from strength to strength. With 12 studio albums under their belts and so many hit singles that you’d be forgiven if you had lost count (22, if you’re wondering), their remarkable career between 1962 and 1970 has inspired thousands. Having sold an estimated one billion records worldwide, The Beatles continue to draw in younger generation fans, meaning that their legacy will continue for years to come.

As the birthplace of the group, Liverpool has always taken the subject of The Beatles very seriously and has plenty of attractions scattered across the city to celebrate their success. The fifty year anniversary celebrations continue throughout 2013 and into early 2014, giving you plenty of opportunity to see these special events as well as attractions whose doors are always open. From The Beatles Story to a Magical Mystery Tour, if you want a rock and roll weekend, you know where to go. Start at the very beginning by seeing the homes of young John Lennon and Paul McCartney before stopping off at the Cavern Club for a piece of nostalgia.

The real fun begins when you look at the myriad of events in store over coming months, starting with August which has oodles in store for The Beatles fan.

3rd August – Beatles’ Final Cavern Club Performance – remembering the final performance by The Beatles at the illustrious club before they went their separate ways.

21st – 27th August – International Beatleweek – Bands and artists from over 20 countries worldwide join forces to perform various gigs across several venues in the city, while exhibitions, sales, tours and a convention are also in store.

23rd August – The Cavern Club Beatles Show – Presented by the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, the quartet performs various tracks from throughout the band’s career.

23rd August – 14th September – Lennon – The Royal Court takes a look at the life of John Lennon, from his humble beginnings to his untimely end in New York.

24th – 25th August – Liverpool International Music Festival – August Bank Holiday weekend promises to provide two days of awesome entertainment, including plenty to celebrate the rock and roll heroes.

Plenty to look forward to throughout August and beyond – keep an eye on the event programme page online to see what’s in store over the coming months.

Managing your money on the road is one of the least glamorous parts of travel. It’s mundane, seemingly complicated and something many people unfortunately leave until the last moment. However it’s very much a necessary evil as no matter what you may think, money will very much be the driving force behind what you can and can’t achieve on your travels.



I’ve of the easiest ways to manage your money on the road is through a prepaid cashcard. It’s simply a case of load and go, without the risk of racking up any debt (one of the biggest reasons I refuse to recommend credit cards to travellers) and can be setup quickly.

Some companies issue single currency cashcards, with the most common being the US dollar,a Euro and Aussie dollar.

However for those hitting multiple countries options like the STA travel Cashcard are ideal, converting your money to local currency and being accepted via chip and pin anywhere mastered a is accepted.


travel money
It’s All About The Dollar!

Bank account

Even if you opt for a cashcard you need to back it up with a bank account. Personally I use my standard UK account for my savings and transfer it to my cashcard as and when it’s needed.

There are two other solid options which may suit your needs too – the international bank account and the local bank account.

So what is an international account? Simply out it’s baked by a large banking company and allows your to transfer, spend and otherwise deal with your cash from multiple countries, however it usually comes with a monthly charge for the privilege.

For those heading out on working holiday visas having a local account in your country of choice can save you heaps on bank fees and also allow easier payment of wages, just do you homework on which bank to use!



Even with all this plastic having some cold hard cash is something I recommend to anyone. Getting some local notes in small denominations before you travel is always handy – getting cabs from the airport and something to eat and drink without having to struggle to locate and ATM in a strange new place will be much appreciated after a long haul flight!

I also strongly suggest carrying around $50US in small notes too, it’s a solid currency for visas, bribes and easily changing into local currency.



Even though money is boring it’s important and it will really pay off (no pun intended!) to be prepared well before you leave.

Do your homework, find the option that’s best for you and make sure you have a back up – there’s nothing worse than being stranded abroad with no access to your cash!


Whatever you choose to use also make sure you track your spending and get in the habit of budgeting, you’ll thank yourself in the long run! 

The French Riviera is, without any argument, the most popular French holiday destination in the world. Situated on the southern end of France, the French Riviera or the Cote d’Azur extends from the Italian border to the other end of the country – a playground of the rich and famous, the place is filled with azure blue beaches and the most exotic resorts in the world, from 5* boutique hotels to some amazing offerings from

Though August is considered the tourist season, the Riviera has been blessed with a beautiful climate that does not change much for most of the year. If you are not the kind of person who likes being in a crowd, go during the spring season, which is considered as off season here. During this time, the streets are less crowded and the prices are somewhat lower.

Some of the most famous holiday cities in the world are located here too, since it will be impossible to list out all of them, we will talk about the most popular among them.



Cannes, the city made world famous by the Cannes International Film Festival, has got more to it than the glitz and glamour associated with it. Once a small fishing village, the city is now bustling with night clubs and casinos.

If you are someone who likes it nice and quiet, the nearby streets of La Suquet is the place for you. With its cobbled streets and small roadside bistros, it is perfect for a nice evening of relaxation.

Reaching Cannes is easy by any mode of transport. The closest airport is the Nice International Airport. While getting around Cannes, the best method is by walking. This will also give you a chance to see the sights that you might otherwise miss.



The city of Grasse is synonymous with perfume. The home of the perfume industry, the city is in the inland region of the French Riviera. Filled with tiny, quiet villages, Grasse is one of the regions of the Riviera that has not been ruined by the throngs of tourists.

If you want adventure, you could hike in the sweeping hills or go horse riding or mountain biking. One thing to not miss would be a visit to the legendary perfumeries of Grasse.

If you don’t find anything to do, you can kick back and relax from the hills above watching the coastline. You can reach Grasse by train from Nice or Cannes. You could also reach by road from Vence.



Nice, one of the most populated cities in France is also one of the most popular cities there due to the fact that it has something to offer every person who comes there.

With the beautiful waterfront, the Promenade des Anglais, Nice is also known for its pebble filled beaches. For the shopaholics, there is the iconic flower and food market in the old quarters of the city. Of late, almost all the popular international brands have opened shops here. Nice is accessible by any mode of transport. The closest is the Nice International Airport.

Now that we have seen the most important places to visit, we will look at some of the fun things to do in the French Riviera. Since most people know about the night clubs and casino, we will discuss some of the unusual things you could do here.


Take a long walk

As we said earlier, the best way to see the Riviera is to take a walk. Don’t worry about getting lost; everything you need is quite close. A walk along the cobbled streets of the old regions of the Riviera is an unforgettable experience.


Smell the perfumes

Another economical way to spend your vacation is to visit the perfumeries in Grasse. Though some tours might be expensive, there are legendary perfumeries, like the one started by Fragonard in the 18th century, that gives free guided tours.



Instead of eating the high priced, small portions of food from the high class restaurants and hotels, walk around the small streets and eat from the tiny roadside restaurants to get an authentic taste of France.

Run by the locals, these little restaurants are a great way to enjoy the Riviera and also to make some friends.

Though these are some of the places to visit and some of the things to do in the French Riviera, to get the real feel of the place, there is no other way than to visit it.

travel planning
Latin America – Bucket List Heaven!

Latin America has the potential to re-charge your batteries and sweep you away on a carpet of natural sites and eye-popping scenes unlike any other in the world, I’ve spent some amazing times in places like Ecuador and Peru and it draws me back time and time again…it’s certainly a heaps more exciting place to explore than the more famous backpacking trail in Asia.

Travelling inspires an appreciation for diversity and life, as Latin America beats its own drum and betrays a singular, sensuous rhythm; for want of a better description, it can only be categorised as the collective heart-beat of this very dynamic and colourful part of the world.

While a salsa siesta and street festival may tickle your fancy (and why not? The experience is absolutely not to be missed) and there’s also a heap of unique attractions – like Bolivias San Pedros Prison Tours –  spare a thought and a couple of days for the glories of the natural world or the mesmerising juxtaposition of civilisation – ancient or modern – and geographical location. Need an idea of where to start? Don’t worry, we have you covered.


Lago de Atitlán

The deepest lake in Latin America, Atitlan flooded a vast and cavernous caldera, formed over 80,000 years ago by an earth-shaking eruption; framed by three towering volcanoes, it’s beauty and imposition steal your words and breath away. The area is a thriving centre of villages and Mayan traditionalism, but the real action is beneath the surface, as divers and local fisherman have discovered many pre-classical buildings and historic infrastructure, some clearly defined and easily dated after pottery shards were retrieved.


Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

An assuming and stately island shaped like an hour-glass, Ometepe is a curious anonmly rising from the depths of Lake Nicaragua. Though at first glance, Ometepe may look like two mountains getting warm and snuggly with each other, these peaks are anything but fuzzy. Two volcanoes connected by a stretched isthmus, Ometepe is a lush, fertile island but one with a price if any pyroclastic surge should arise. The Northwest volcano is named Conceopcion and she is certainly very active; after a long sleep, she started to wake up in 2005, fracturing roads and forcing the local government to advise an evacuation. Nothing happened until 2010, when things became decidedly heated. Maderas is dormant (some say extinct), providing rich soils for rainforest vegetation and plot cultivation. Ometepe is an important site in the Central American narrative.


The Pantanal

You may have heard of the Amazon and dreamed about its eccentric and eclectic mix of animals, serpents, amphibians, crawlies and beautiful plants, but we’ll let you in on a little secret. Cruising the Amazon won’t always be what you wish it to be – the animals hide and avoid the sound of boats and people, and the canals sweat muggy claustrophobia. If you’re chasing an Animalia experience, the sloped basin of Pantanal houses 1000 bird speces, 400 types of fish, 480 scaly reptiles and 300 mammals, plus the innumerable invertebrates, including the intelligent and playful giant river otter and the awesome giant ant eater. Looking for a little big cat action? The Pantanal supports one of the largest and sustainable populations of Jaguar globally.

Only one question remains…

What are you waiting for?

The beauty and hospitality of Latin America awaits. Go check out some sites like or stir up your favourite search engine – You won’t regret it. 


Paris is one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world, and a great way to capture your experience in Paris is through the written word. Travel writing is highly enjoyable, whether it be for others or for your own pleasure. You can also harness your writing skills and tell others all about Paris and its wonderful tourist attractions. You can also use your writing skills to help readers understand the city and the best attractions to see and activities to do. Paris is a wonderful city and great way to get the most of the city is by purchasing a Paris Visite Pass, this way you can write about all the attractions in the city and save money at the same time.

You may find it tricky to get started and be unsure how to create a well-written piece. However, Silver Travel Advisor has recently provided some excellent travel writing tips from established travel writers that will help you get started.

View on Paris form Notre Dame cathedral_113654788

Avoiding cliches

One tip the site gave is to avoid using too many clichés, or to use them sparingly if they seem appropriate.
Many of the attractions in Paris are so unique that you may yourself inspired to describe them in a more original way, rather than using clichés.
For example, rather than simply calling the Arc De Triomphe ‘visually stunning’, why not write about its history and architecture in a little more detail, or use a simile to describe the building’s shape and size?

Use words to create an image in the mind of the reader

Silver Travel Advisor suggests that most people have a visual awareness and we are more compelled by words that create an image in our minds.
The site recommends that you close your eyes and think back to the attraction you want to write about, and then describe the pictures that come into your head. The site also suggests that you use descriptive words, such as certain shapes and colours.
The site also suggests that you should read other travel articles and suggests picking out several phases in the text that make you feel like you are there and look at the way they have been written. Also, when you visit Paris why not take some travel books regarding France and Paris along with you, and think about the way the author conveyed his or her experience?

Adventurous use of adjectives

Silver Travel Advisor recommends that you try and use unusual adjectives in your travel writing in a natural way. For example, when describing the Louvre’s pyramid, use words like striking, gleaming or grand. You can even use very unusual adjectives, such as pulchritudinous or incandescent. However, you should yourself if these would fit naturally within the text.

Be funny

Silver Travel Advisor also recommends that you be humorous in your text, but limit this to avoid making your entire article a comedy. They also suggest that you attempt to convey your personality in your travel writing. Write about funny personal experiences, and try to be a little self-deprecating. For example, if you made a silly mistake during your time in Paris, such as going in the wrong entrance at an attraction – put it in your writing to tell a funny story that everyone can relate to.

Florence is a beautiful Italian city home to Renaissance architecture, monuments and statues, galleries displaying priceless pieces of art, and informative museums documenting Italian history. There are countless places to eat and drink and sample a vino or two and you can always find a place to stay no matter what your budget is. The centre of the city is a concentration of all these attractions, of which there are enough to send your head spinning! We’ve narrowed it down for you, and have compiled a list of the five best things to do in Firenze.

The Duomo

This emerald cathedral dominates the centre of Florence and draws crowds like a magnet into Piazza Del Duomo. The cathedral, officially named ‘Basilica di Santa Maria Del Fiore’, took 140 years to build and was finally completed in 1436. The grandeur of the cathedral is more impressive from the outside as it gleams shades of pink, green and white across a marble façade. The cathedral comprises of varying features that include the baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower). The most exciting aspect of a visit to cathedral is scaling the Duomo’s cupola. The dome is a significant feat of 15th-century engineering, and can be accessed via a climb of 463 steps. The ascent allows you to get up close to various frescoes painted inside the dome, including The Last Judgement, as well as inviting you to absorb the mesmerising stained-glass roundels. The reward for your staggering, limb-aching climb is magnificent views of Florence that spread across the orange-tiled roofs towards green Tuscan hills.


Piazza Della Signoria

This is Florence’s most famous square and has played the role of the heart and centre of the city’s political life since the 14th century. The square lies in front of the city hall, known as the Palazzo Vecchio. The square itself is L-shaped and is surrounded by impressive 14th-century architecture, including the arch-filled Loggia della Signoria and the Uffizi Gallery. The main attraction however is the Palazzo Vecchio which boasts a copy of Michelangelo’s David on its doorstep. The square has provided a meeting place for Florentines and tourists for many years and is home to numerous cafes, bars and restaurants.

View of Florence, Italy


Ponte Vecchio

Italian cities seem to be overwhelmed with famous bridges. However, surely none out-class Florence’s most iconic bridge, the Ponte Vecchio. The medieval bridge spans the narrowest point of the Arno River. The bridge is famous for the shops built into it. These were originally occupied by butchers, however today the bridge is mainly clad with jewellery stores, art dealers and tacky souvenir sellers. During World War II the Germans destroyed every bridge in Florence apart from the Ponte Vecchio which was left unscathed. This was apparently due to a direct order from Hitler who was thought to admire the bridge so much he refused its destruction.


Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the Western world. It is home to artistic works from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Raphael. Construction of the gallery began in 1560 and ended in 1581. The internal courtyard within the gallery is often recognised as the first regularised streetscape of Europe. The gallery is one of the most popular attractions in Florence, and tourists often find themselves queuing for up to five hours to gain access during the high season. It is advisable to buy tickets in advance.


Boboli Gardens

The Boboli Gardens is a fine park located across the Arno River and is home to various 16th-18th century sculptures. The gardens can be found behind the Pitti Palace which was once the main seat of the House of Medici, from who the Renaissance was born. The elaborate and formal design provides a fantastic insight into how the rich Florentines would spend their afternoons, strolling amongst fine sculptures and bubbling fountains. Boboli Gardens is a fantastic place to relax and take a break from the sun whilst enjoying great views back over the centre of the city.

If you’re looking for low-cost cruise escapes, whether it’s cruise deals 2013 or an early bird discount for next year’s getaway, there are a number of ways to help cut the cost of cruise holidays. Here are just a few of them:


Compare the Cruise Market

Firstly, the best place to start is with a tour operator like Thomas Cook cruises. Thomas Cook don’t own or operate any cruise ships; instead they sell cruise holidays from other operators which means customers can search a huge choice of cruise holidays all in one place. It saves you having to check multiple websites and also means you can compare the prices and offering of each. Use the Thomas Cook website to enter your search criteria and to filter the results based on your key priorities, like price, sailing date and preferred destination, until you find a shortlist of favourites.


Book Late

An ever-popular way of booking a low-cost cruise is to book late. Just like package holidays, this is a great way to snap up a bargain and means you could save a significant amount on the cost of your holiday. It doesn’t work for all holidays and some might be more discounted than others, but if you’ve got cruise deals 2013 in mind, this is a handy way to find a bargain.


Early Bird Deals

For those who like to plan their trip well in advance, it usually pays to book early. This way, you can often benefit from early bird booking deals which might include financial discounts or other incentives such as onboard spending or a cabin upgrade. What’s more, when you book well in advance, you can enjoy extra time to save some holiday spending money and pay off the cost of your trip, which means by the time your cruise holiday comes around, you can jet off without a care in the world.

Paris – it’s the epitome of the romantic city escape which conjures up images of fine dining, sprawling night time cityscapes, good wine and picnics under the Eiffel Tower.

For those with jobs it’s a perfect place to splash some cash and treat a loved one.

But Paris can also cater for backpackers keen to sample the European hotspots, culture and history this part of the world has by the bucket load – and with a range of accommodation in Paris you can opt for hostels, guesthouses, couch surfing or hotels depending on your budget, city life doesn’t have to cripple your budget!

So what can Paris serve up for those with limited funds or a taste for something different?

Well here’s 5 budget savers for Frances capital…


Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris

If you love a bit of old school, grand architecture the gothis stone building of Cathedreal de Notre Dame de Paris will bit right up your alley! According to Lonely Planet it’s also the most popular unticketed site in Paris – 14 million people a year can’t be wrong hey?!

The pure detail and expanse of the building will captivate you for a good few hours…



Le Champ de Mars

Want to avoid the cost for getting up the Eiffel Tower? Well soaking up the sun here allows you some epic views, postcard perfect pictures and will leave you with an extra bit of cash in your pocket…the icon of France without the cost! Bonus points if you spot someone proposing!


Outdoor Food Markets

For the photographer in you food markets always provide some great pictures and a great way to pass a day exploring exotic treat and lets face it food is a huge part of travel. If you’re really on the backpacker scrounge you can chow down on free samples for lunch – consider it a backpacker tapas crawl!


Climb The Arc de Triomphe 

If you’re looking for some awesome views of Paris but don’t fancy the Eiffel Tower the Arc de Triomphe has some great panoramas, so instead of snapping it from the outside take the time to cimb up the small winding staircase and soak up the chaos around you.


The Louvre

Ok it cost to get in here – but if you can shell out 6 Euros maybe Paris isn’t the best place to be traveling to!

It’s one of the worlds biggest museums so you’ll easily get your monies worth on a visit here – with both the artworks it contains and the building itself being a huge draw for millions of visitors each year.


Personally I need to explore more of Europe – and Paris seems like a great bouncing point to start – I can’t wait to return here and see more of what France has to offer…Paris and beyond.


Has anyone else visited or lived in Paris? Any hints and tips to add to the list?

shutterstock_92655643London is one of the most interesting and exciting cities. It has something for everyone of all ages and the city’s attractions are legendary. Like most capital cities there are must-see attractions that visitors will not want to miss. London also has excellent nightlife, with superb restaurants, cultural events, theatre performances, live music, legendary clubs and much more and one of the best ways to get a great sample of what it has to offer is a hop on hop off London bus…

London Zoo

One of the most popular London attractions is London Zoo, which is a fantastic day out for all the family. This famous zoo is the first scientific zoo in the world, and has played a major part in the study and conversation of animals since it opened in 1847. Today the zoo houses over 755 animal species, making it the largest zoo in the UK. A visit to the zoo at Regents Park is one of the most memorable days out for visitors to London.

Tower of London

Another must-see for visitors to London is the Tower of London. This beautiful fortress is situated on the north bank of the Thames. It was commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1078, shortly after the Norman conquest of England. The Tower of London is remarkably well preserved and contains many fascinating artefacts, including the Crown Jewels. During the 17th and 18th centuries it was used as a prison, and the monarchs of the time would send undesirables “to the Tower” where they would be tortured and punished. Despite its rather macabre history the building is very beautiful with the original interior and makes for a fascinating day out. Do not forget to chat to the friendly Beefeaters that guard the gates!

Changing of the Guard

No trip to London is complete without seeing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace is home to Queen Elizabeth II and is a beautiful building. The changing of the guard is a spectacular sight and a great way to observe Britain’s pomp and glory. The changing of the guard occurs every other day at the palace.

Museums and Galleries

London also has some of the world’s best museums and art galleries. The Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum have breathtaking artefacts. The V&A is dedicated to the history of art and design, and the British Museum is dedicated to human history. Both museums contain artefacts from ancient times, and the British Museum has vast halls with reconstructed ancient buildings and casts from ancient archaeological sites. Other famous London museums include the Natural History Museum and Science Museum, and a visit to the Tate Modern is essential for a contemporary art fix!

The Globe

Other major attractions include the Shakespeare Globe Theatre on the south bank, St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, the Churchill War Rooms and much more. You can ensure that you get to see all the best attractions in London by joining a sightseeing tour. This will include a guide so you will understand more about the attractions you visit. If you prefer to go it alone then you can easily pick up a London Map that is specifically designed for tourists, which will help you to navigate the city with ease.

Europe is much overlooked by a lot of backpackers – especially those from the UK. It’s true what they say – you always neglect what’s on your doorstep.

But the compact size of the continent, it’s transport network and sheer diversity of language, cultures and terrain make it an amazing place to explore – whether you’re new to the backpacking circuit or a travel veteran


The Land Of Pasta and Pizza!

If you’re looking for a holiday with a difference, you can’t go far wrong with a trip to Italy.

This glorious country is home to enormous diversity, ranging from sandy beaches and dramatic rocky coves to glorious rolling countryside and stunning snow-capped mountains.

It really does have something to suit every vice and budget. Whether you want to carve up the power on a skiing trip, kick back and soak up the sun on the beach or a  immerse yourself in the latte culture with a chic city escape, this beautiful, effervescent place is happy to oblige.

Take to the slopes in the Italian Alps and enjoy the chance to whizz down snow-packed pistes, or carve up fresh powder on a snowboard as the icy spray that follows in your wake glistens in the sun. Or, visit in summer to enjoy long rambling trails, pine-clad hillsides and beautiful wildflower meadows.

Whilst not as famous as it’s Swiss and French cousins the snow of Italy can produce some amazing powder days.


Town And Country

For a different scene altogether, live the postcard dream and hire a villa in Tuscany to experience wide-open spaces and rural country living in this stunning Italian region, which is also home to the fabulous cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa.

Following days spent exploring meadnering back lanes and cooking up a storm on the barbeque, you can head to lovely Florence and marvel at its stunning architecture and statues, or head to Pisa to snap that cliche but bucket list photo holding up the leaning tower!

Many travellers choose to go their own way on a holiday to Italy. Thanks to its efficient rail network and numerous airports, it’s easy to get here and to get around – especially if you hire a car.

Although package holidays aren’t the usual attire of many young travellers it can prove a pretty cost affective way to get a great overview of the country and is perfect for a quick last minute trip away – and with everything included it’s means you can simply kick back and enjoy your time away without the stress!

There are some great options in the the beautiful Neapolitan Riviera, but you can also book skiing holidays to the Italian Alps, or use your hotel as a base and hire a car to get out and explore the region. If that’s up your street head over to the Thomas Cook website and get started…


So, when will you discover Italy?

You may be tempted into believing that a stay in one of the tourist spots in the Dalaman region of Turkey is enough to keep you occupied for your week or fortnight in the area and for most people, you’d be absolutely right. It all depends on what you want to achieve from your visit to Turkey and while Direct Holidays can guarantee an unforgettable stay at one of the excellent quality accommodation options, there’s something rather special about taking time out to explore the rest of Dalaman and, in particular, the impressive and majestic city of Fethiye.

The Dalaman region is home to some incredible sights, notably the mesmerising coastlines and picturesque vistas, but that’s not all that it has to offer its visitors. If you’re staying in one of the tourist hotspots and you want to explore a little further afield, there’s a wealth of options available to you in and around Fethiye.



Shop till you Drop 

Head to Fethiye on a Tuesday during your stay and enjoy the huge open market that can be found there. From crafts and leather to spices and produce, the stalls cover a broad range of wares and are well worth a perusal – be prepared to haggle if you want to grab a bargain!

The streets of Fethiye are home to some absolutely incredible shops if the market doesn’t have anything to tempt you – jewellery is a particular speciality with the price of gold being much more favourable than the UK.



Explore the History 

Fethiye and its surroundings are home to a huge range of historical sites that would make perfect additions to your itinerary, including the ghost town of Kayakoy and the Tomb of Amyntas – perfect day trip options.


Seek some Adventure 

From paragliding in the hills of Olu Deniz to white water rafting along the Dalaman Stream, if you’re hoping for a thrill injection, you’ve come to the right place!

Add a little variety to your Dalaman stay and incorporate a day trip to Fethiye or a book yourself onto an excursion – the beaches may be inviting but you could add to your Turkish experience with ease.

TeideTenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is much-visited for its beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. But by putting the beach lifestyle aside, you can discover an island offering incredible national parks, such as Teide National Park which boasts the highest mountain in Spain.

So swap your swimming gear for hiking boots and discover some of Tenerife’s lush forest, exotic fauna and spectacular landscape. Here’s the low down on some of Tenerife’s best national parks.


Teide National Park

The national park encircles 3718 metre Mount Teide, which is the largest mountain in Spain. From its base, Mount Teide is the third largest volcano in the world. The national park in itself is the largest in Spain and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The nutrient rich soil in the park supports a diverse number of plant species with dozens endemic to Tenerife.

The park is all about hiking and enjoying its breathtaking views. You can reach the highest point of the volcano by cable car where you can walk around and admire the scenery. If you gain special permission from the park’s office you can even reach the volcano’s mouth, or alternatively you can take a guided tour up the volcano.

There is an expansive network of trails that stretch across the park, allowing you to experience the national park’s diversity on foot. There is even a challenging path to the peak of Teide that begins at the base of Montana Blanca and climbs from 2100 metres to 3270 metres to the Altavista Refuge. Make sure you’ve had your morning Weetabix before attempting this one!


Garajonay National   Park

Located on the island of La Gomera, Garajonay National Park is a key example of humid subtropical forest. The most humid and protected valleys of the park are located in the North and have the richest and most complex forests. Valley Laurisilva is a true subtropical rainforest where large laurel trees can be found. The park is also famous for the massive rocks found along the island which are former volcanoes.

The park is crossed by a large network of footpaths that makes trekking one of the islands main tourist activities. You can also visit the park by taking a day trip from Tenerife’s Los Cristianos area.


Caldera de Taburiente


Caldera de Taburiente National Park

Caldera de Taburiente National park is situated on the island of La Palma and is home to the enormous expanse of the Caldera de Taburiente. The caldera was once thought to be a giant crater but it has since been established that it is in fact the remains of a mountain that collapsed in on itself.

The caldera is about 10km across and in certain places the caldera walls reach as high as 2000 metres above the caldera floor.

Most visitors come for the extraordinary scenery formed by the crater and to absorb the quiet and peaceful environment in the park. There are a number of hiking trails of varying difficulty and length, with walking boots an absolute must. For more extreme and serious mountain hikes it is recommended that you hire a guide.



Airports are a dangerous and powerful nemesis to your wallet. Even after forking out cash for your flight tickets, the subsequent spell spent inside the airport as you wait for your plane can rack up monumental costs. When you get slightly peckish you’re breaking £20 notes for a single mouthful, and when you get bored you go and blow your holiday allowance on arcade games and slot machines.

Remember, airport expenditure is not a cost-effective habit to slip into, so here are our top tips for saving pennies at the airport.

Bring your own entertainment

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and there’s definitely no scenario where time needs to fly faster than a dragging wait in the airport. An airport knows this, and it’ll try and lure you into all the fun it can offer, but at a heavy price. Stay away from the arcade games and put that crime novel back on the shelf. You should instead prepare for this duration of boredom during your packing session. Stick a book from home in your hand luggage or bring your iPad along and just play Angry Birds.

Steer clear of WiFi fees

Surely you’re in the airport to catch a subsequent flight that will take you away from your emails and Facebook account? Well let’s start this new habit early and avoid tempting WiFi fees. Often you’ll find WiFi in airport cafes or bars, naturally you’ll buy a couple of drinks and next thing you know ‘Bam!’, mortgage required.

Don’t pack overweight

A true holidaying classic – the overweight suitcase. Not only will you spend the next ten minutes deciding whether your large pot of mousse or your sixth pair of shoes will spend the next chapter of its life in an airport bin, if you can’t get below the required weight you’ll be hit with a fine. So get culling before you leave for the airport. Back light!

Stay away from potential souvenirs

This is another textbook airport scenario. You’ve forgotten to get your neighbour a present to say thanks for watering the geraniums whilst you were away. Thankfully the airport houses 54 souvenir shops all selling the same tack you could have got for a third of the price from the shop next door to your hotel. Think about your neighbours and geraniums early and get those souvenirs sorted pre-airport.

Don’t buy the food

If possible try and consume any food before or after your spell in the airport. Food in airports is accompanied by astronomical prices and let’s be fair, usually it is pretty unsatisfactory. I recall one incident I had in Buenos Aires airport – I had to resort to my Visa Debit to purchase a solitary Pain au chocolat, once seated and ready to enjoy my snack I found there wasn’t a single trace of chocolate within the innards of the pastry. As far as I was concerned this had ruined my entire trip and I’ve had a derogatory view of French pastries ever since.

Exchange your money before

Exchange rates are always going to work against you in airports. Get down your local post office before you head away and you’ll find you get a better exchange rate there. Use the same tactic for your return. Oh, and make sure you have a little bit of your own country’s currency for your return airport visit, just in case of emergency. Don’t leave yourself open to a panic currency exchange.

Get your essentials elsewhere

There is always something you’ll forget to pack. Whether it is the toothbrush, your swimming shorts or earplugs, there will always be something you need to get. But don’t give in to the convenience of the airport shop network; wait until you’ve made it to your destination. Most countries in the world sell toothbrushes, swimming shorts and earplugs.

So there’s some of our advice for chasing away those airport fees, if you need a little more inspiration check out these airport money saving tips.

 Do you have any other tips to save money at the airport?

I love Australia – it started my backpacking adventures back in 2009 and it’s still one of my favourite places on the planet.

Backpackers visit the land down under for many reasons – some for work, some for wildlife and some simply for the epic east coast backpacking scene. But despite being a relatively young country Oz has some heaps good culinary treats up its sleeve…so here’s a little guide to Aussie Cuisine…



Originally of course, traditional Australian fare was whatever indigenous foods were available to the Aborigines out in the bush. Then with the arrival of the British it  lapsed into the traditional meat and two veg meals that are the staple of the Brit table!

australian food backpacker
The Humble Bacon Sarnie – But A Bit More Posh!

After the Second World War however, with the influx of people from all over the world, first from northern Europe and later from the Mediterranean and Afacesia, the Aussie table once again changed as these immigrants brought with them diversity and tastes that up until then had been relatively unknown in Australia.

Over the years with the mixing of cultures and the blending of dishes, Australia can not be said to have only one traditional meal and has even re-vitalized old Aborigine favorites such as kangaroo and crocodile – which is always a different experience from the backpacker staple of 2 minute noodles!

Like most western countries Australia hasn’t  got a single traditional dish – in fact Australians have perhaps separated into two groups when it comes to their dietary preferences; there are the city dwellers and those that live in the country. In the cities and towns, especially the bigger ones, the diversity of the food matches the diversity of the cultures whilst in the countryside they are more restricted to ‘home grown’ fare.


Urban Eating

Although eating out in the cities of Australia may not be as inexpensive as perhaps the UK or the States, Australians love dinning out, which means that there has to be a large number of cafes and restaurants to cater to this need. This of course means that with a large number of restaurants, there is also a wide diversity in choices. It’s Asian neighbours have become a firm favourite with Vietnamese, Thai, Malay and Chinese restaurants becoming among the most popular.

So whether you’re staying in a backpacker hostel or using sites like to grab a hotel deal you’ll be well placed to sample some great eateries.


australian food backpacker pie
And Who Could Forget The Pie?!

Country Eating

Although Chinese restaurants are starting to make an appearance throughout the country, there certainly is not an abundance of them at this time and so those Australians living in the isolated countryside do not have much chance to eat out and certainly do not have many choices if they do.

The Aussie pie is definitely a staple of the working Aussie though and there’s more choices than you could ever imgaine!

Traditionally in Australia, local hotels will sell meals at lunch time and the evenings but they do so between limited times and offer limited choice if any, often all hotels selling the one thing; steak, salad and chips (another lapse over from the British culture!). With such a limited choice to eat out, most Australians outside of the bigger towns cook for themselves but that hasn’t stopped them from seeking diversity and they have returned to some of the traditional foods of the Aborigine.


Aboriginal Food

Although there is now an abundance of better known meats available in Australia, the Aboriginal foods would consist of meat from Kangaroo, Wallaby, Emu and Crocodiles and in many backpacker towns you can tuck into an Aussie BBQ night serving up all of them. Other Aboriginal foods include Flathead fish, which although found all around the country have to be dealt with carefully as they have two poisonous spines on their backs, so be careful if you decide to go catch your own meal!

One of the most famous though it the Witchetty grubs –  larvae from Ghost Moths and were once collected for either eating raw or barbecued…although personally I couldn’t bring myself to try them.

australian food backpacker bbq
Get Your BBQ On!


When anybody thinks of Australia, they probably think of BBQ – it’s the backbone of the Aussie household and beaches.

BBQs can be found throughout the country at beaches, parks and even some car parks, often free but sometimes coin operated. Although all Australians use BBQs, what they put on it can once again depend on where they live. If they live near the beach or coast they may BBQ shrimp or crab whilst those in the country may BBQ kangaroo or Emu.


Fruit and Vegetables

With it’s amazing tropical climate fruits are readily available in Australia both with perhaps traditional, well known ones like bananas, papaya, mangoes, pears and avocados and more local ones like Tasmanian Cherries and Quandong fruit.

A good variety of veggies are available too whether they are from America, Europe or Asia, they are all there. Vegetarian restaurants seem to have surprisingly become popular in this meat loving country so if you’re diet is swaying that way you’re all covered.

Although it may not be as cheap to eat out in Australia – especially if you’ve just bounced over from Asia, at least in the cities you will have as big a diversity of choices as you would at home and perhaps an even wider one.

Outside of the cities the choices may not be so vast but could certainly be different with many options being unique to Australia, such as crocodile eggs or grubs.

One of the great things about backpacking is the freedom this style of travel permits, and in this sense, Finland is the ideal destination. Its big, open skies and vast wilderness provide the setting for truly unique and thoroughly enjoyable vacations. Parts of the nation, particularly in the north and east, remain fantastically remote. For example, the Lemmenjoki National Park and Oulanka National Park offer quiet treks under pines and by lakes. In contrast, the capital Helsinki is a modern and bustling metropolis.


Summer Fun

During the warm but brief summer, the country comes to life in a burst of sunshine and travellers can experience festivals along with many other events throughout the year. Meanwhile, in winter visitors can enjoy dramatic snowy vistas while skiing, sledge riding and trekking. After a day in the elements, they can warm up in wood-fired saunas.

Backpackers keen to get away from it all while in Finland should make their way to Lapland, this beautiful northern outpost encapsulates much about this rugged yet welcoming nation. Extending hundreds of kilometres above the Arctic Circle, it offers continuous daylight in the summer and long nights in the winter. Holidaymakers in the area have a great chance to see the magnificent aurora borealis between late September and early April.


Get Cultured

At the other end of the spectrum, the coastal city of Helsinki offers style and culture in abundance, with plenty of museums, restaurants, cafes, Art Nouveau buildings and more. It also boasts great nightlife, particularly in summer. However, backpackers should note that there is a lack of cheap accommodation in the city and from mid-May to mid-August, it’s a good idea for holidaymakers to book in advance. In general, Finland offers lots of good quality hotels, but they are notoriously pricey. Those looking for budget options should set their sights on youth hostels as they are more affordable.

During the warmer months, the Lakeland region in the east of the country is well worth checking out. Here, lakes, rivers, locks and canals abound and visitors can take to the water in canoes and ferries. Meanwhile, the south coast also has plenty to offer. Its various coastal settlements include the city of Turku and tourists can check out a series of historic ironworks that have been turned into rural retreats.

Backpackers looking for budget for breaks in Finland should bear in mind that, as well as pricey accommodation, they will have to cover relatively high transport costs. Also, alcohol doesn’t come cheap, so nights out can leave wallets feeling distinctly lighter. That said booze from stores is more affordable.

So we’ve been a bit slack on the blogging front lately – the whole team is pretty busy bouncing around juggling travel and work (oh it’s a tough life hey) so we’ve decided to recruit a new face to the RTW Backpackers Team to help provide some entertainment and lighten the hard, arduous work load of blogging!

I’ve been following a few amazing travellers who I can tell will be having some heaps good adventures over the coming few months but it was a tough decision decided who would add some chaos to the mixing pot!

So let me introduce our newest wandering nomad – Stephen…


stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog
Meet Stephen!

So Stephen, introduce yourself…who are you and where are you from?!

Right! I’m an aspiring travel writer, adventure junkie, and world-wide vagabond from Ohio. In 2006, I took a trip to Ireland that rocked my world. After that trip, I went back home and nothing was the same. I had my first taste of a bigger world and backpacking culture; I fell in love with both.

Every year I would eagerly wait for summer, when I could take off for 3 months. At the end of each trip it was harder to come home. Two years ago I couldn’t take switching back and forth anymore and I started my path towards becoming a full-time vagabond. I worked, I saved, and I started a blog. Finally, a couple months ago, I set off to travel full-time; focusing and working two years to create the life I wanted was the best choice in my life.

I’m a backpacker to my core. I’m never more at home than when I’m showing up at a train station in a foreign country with my backpack and no set plans.


– You’ve just set out on your RTW adventure, any stand out highlights so far?

Can an entire country be a highlight? If so, Croatia holds that title.

However, by the time you read this I’ll have just  ran with the bulls. It is the main item on my bucket list, and if I survive I’m sure that it will be my greatest highlight.


stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog– ….anything you’ve had to learn or adapt to quickly that you didn’t envision?

Ha, it is funny you say envision. Two days ago on the beach in Barcelona sand got into my contact lens and scratched my eye. Yesterday, I had to wear an eye patch, plus, take my contacts out.

Imagine navigating the trains and subways in Spain, while you are trying to keep your valuables safe with almost zero visibility. Luckily, I had some friends to help me out or I would have never made it.

Today I can see a little better, but everything is still blurry. I’m going to use my lack of vision as an excuse for any spelling errors in this post, just kidding.


– Tell us some more about your blog, what can readers expect from your musings?

Alright, time for a little self-promotion! A Backpackers Tale is an adventure/misadventures travel blog. I focus on all the adrenaline pumping activates around the world. I want to encourage others to travel, to have adventures and to explore the world. However, I also offer practical travel tips and personal stories from the road.

It’s weird because I thought my audience would eat up the adventure posts but my personal stories, and thoughts are by far the most popular post on my site.


– What inspired you to start writing about your adventures

After traveling I developed a reputation in my town as being the go to guy for travel advice. I would receive emails from friends of friends, people I didn’t even know asking me for advice. Then, I discovered travel blogs and saw a passionate group of people living my dream, and writing about it. There really wasn’t an option from that point. Travel writing is a perfect outlet to share experiences while helping others to travel.

stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog

– Shameless plug time, what’s your favourite post so far?!

I like my post What Two Years of Saving To Travel Taught Me. It captures the moment in life when my dream was shifting into reality, and when all the hard work started to pay off.


– What’s the plan for the rest of the year then, where are you heading and any epic adventures in there?

I’m packing in the adventures in 2013! The Mongol Rally starts July 13th where I’ll be driving over 10,000 miles through two continents and nineteen countries in five weeks. After that, I have La Tomatina, Morocco and Oktoberfest. In October, I fly to India and from there; your guess is as good as mine until I fly to Australia in January.


– On your adventures what 5 things are you really stoked about doing?

I’m super pumped to be crossing some of the top things off my bucket list. My top five are the running of the bulls, camping in the Sahara, The Mongol Rally, Oktoberfest and Ye Ping Lantern Festival.


– Any awesome travel bloggers you’d recommend we all follow, who’s been inspiring you?

Well, Nomadic Matt taught me how to blog, so I always follow him closely. I also love reading Backpacker Banter; you’ve inspired me to pick surfing back up.


A few other blogs I follow closely are:


  • Further Bond
  • One Giant Step
  • Expert Vagabond
  • Active Backpacker
  • Pause the Moment


stephen a backpacker tale rtw backpackers blog– Any advice you’d give those thinking about long term travel?

Stick with it, traveling is awesome but like anything else you have days when all goes to hell. Use those days as a chance to learn. People are always surprised how strong and capable they are when they have to figure something out on the road.


Stephen will be blogging occasionally on RTW Backpackers – but you can also follow his adventures over at A Backpackers Tale and his tweets via @XXXXXXX

The US Open is one of the 4 Grand Slam tennis tournaments that take place every year. The importance of the event means that it attracts top players, with significant amounts of prize money on offer.
That prize money is regarded by most tennis players as being considerably less important than the prestige that can be earned by winning this famous tournament. A place in the history of the sport is guaranteed, joining the likes of Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf.

For those wishing to see the players in action, the good news is that it’s possible to get tickets for the event, which takes place at Flushing Meadows, in New York City.


Book Early

Although tickets can certainly be expensive, they are made available to the general public in the months prior to the tournament. A variety of ticket options are available and you’ll generally pay more to witness the action on the show courts. Fortunately, the quality of the entry list means that you’ll also get to see some fantastic options on the other courts.

Unlike some other tournaments, the US Open also sees some matches being hosted after dark. Locals suggest that these night matches often have a particularly vibrant atmosphere.

If you are looking to see competitive matches, then you may wish to aim for dates towards the latter end of the tournament. The best players tend to make serene progress through the earlier rounds, meaning that matches can sometimes be a little shorter in length during the first week of action.


Getting There

If you’ve been examining your options for car hire in USA with Avis, then you’ll be pleased to hear that a considerable amount of parking is provided in the area surrounding Flushing Meadows. You do need to take into account the parking charges, however, since these are usually separate from the cost of entering the venue.

You may be tempted to bring a large bag of belongings on the day, but it’s worth noting that security is particularly tight and that all bags are searched. This means that your entry to Flushing Meadows will be delayed. You may wish to avoid taking a bag, if possible, in order to ensure that you can avoid the queues.

There’s also a distinct lack of shade available in the grandstands, so it makes sense to bring your own hat and sunglasses. Although it’s possible to buy such accessories within the grounds, prices do tend to be inflated.

You’ll also discover that it can be expensive to buy food and drink within the venue, but a number of stalls offer cheaper options outside the main gates. It’s possible for you to exit Flushing Meadows and to get your hand stamped, ensuring that you will have no problems with re-entry. That means that you can step outside at lunchtime and save yourself a bit of money.

As an alternative, you might prefer to pack your own sandwiches. The regulations at the venue do permit you to bring a reasonable amount of food and drink.

If you’d like to take the opportunity to get even closer to the stars of the tennis world, then look out for the autograph signing sessions, which take place on most days of the tournament.

Even if you can’t afford the prices that are associated with the very best seats, you shouldn’t despair. Action continues into the night on many of the outside courts. Even on the main courts, there’s a chance for you to get closer to the action than you may imagine.

Many wealthy visitors to the US Open tend to leave early and ushers will often hand out passes, as they attempt to fill seats. This means that it may be possible for you to get an upgrade, although this doesn’t happen every day.

In order to reach the US Open from the Grand Central Parkway, you should leave at the Tennis Center exit. You’ll then find that the venue is located on your right.

The US Open has a profile that is only matched by the Australian Open, the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships. Your visit to the US Open will be a memorable experience, allowing you to witness Grand Slam tennis live. It’s an opportunity that’s not to be missed.

People head to Thailand for a number of reasons – its cheap to get to, it’s easy to travel around and there’s a lot of culture to be had if you travel to the right places.

With its boom in backpacking unfortunately the land of a thousand of smiles has been slightly tarnished (I won’t go off on a rant about this – I’ll leave this to other bloggers who seem to get in a slight rage about things they can’t change and would rather sit in the past when “things were better”!).

The gorgeous white sand beaches can still be enjoyed though, you just have to look a little bit further afield for the slice of paradise you seek so much. That’s one of the joys of travel – if you want to find that idyllic place you have to discover somewhere new.

A well worn path will never look as good as it did the first trip around. 

Whatever your reasons for venturing in the hub of Asia there’s a variety of events year round, you simply have to pick your poison.

So here’s two of my favourite, sitting at very opposite sides of the travel scale…


Full Moon

full moon thailand
Full Moon – Bucket Fuelled Chaos!

If you’re coming to Thailand to let off steam, get messed up and make some bad decisions then the now iconic Full Moon Party is surely on your to do list.

Situated on the island of Koh Phangan (the east coast of Thailand) on the once tranquil beach of Haad Rin it has now become the poster event for how bac

kpacking can completely transform a place for all the wrong reasons.

Each full moon around 30,000 backpackers swarm to the beaches which are now littered with fire dancers, bucket sellers, illicit substances and more genres of music than you can shake your UV glow sticks at.

It’s the epitome of beach party madness!

…and no matter what your view on these type of events it’s something that has to be ticked off the travel bucket list.

It’s glorious, unadulterated chaos!

Make sure you pre book your accommodation (it sells out heaps fast, especially the summer months and the Haad Rin based hostels), prepare yourself (I put together this handy guide to surviving full moon), be safe and enjoy!

Lets face it – every backpacker needs to let off some steam every now and then!


Loi Kratong

On the very far and opposite side of the scale of Thai events is the traditional calendar filler of Loi Kratong.

It’s pretty much as far away from the backpacker created mayhem of Full Moon as you could wish to be and is perfect for the culture vulture traveller.

The event lies in mid November and celebrates the Thai goddess of water – locals and traveller alike fill the water ways of the country with floating lanterns.

Flickering flames, reflections in water, starry skies, people from all over the world coming together?! What could sum up the true spirit of travel more than something as picture perfect and romanticized as that?!

Personally I’d head up north to Chang Mai for the event – where thousands of people send flying lanterns into the air simultaneously, which is said to rid you of your troubles.

And seeing those flames float into distant skies certainly does have that affect.

…just make sure you take the time out to photograph the whole thing too as it’s a spectacle you’ll want to capture for your desktop wallpaper for sure!


Full moon and Loi Kratong – very same same but different. The perfect examples of good travel vs bad travel, the old and the new, the educated and the inebriated. 

..but both heaps good fun to slot into your Thailand travel itinerary!


What’s your favourite Thai event of the year? Any unusual things you’ve stumbled upon or recommend to backpackers heading that way?

Certain parts of Egypt are complete tourist traps but this is a vast country and there’s plenty to discover elsewhere if you’re looking for a more authentic Egyptian cultural experience. Here are some of our top tips.


Getting There

Isolated desert border points, tedious customs, and regional tensions mean your best bet really is flying in to Egypt. All major European countries run cheap flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, the country’s glittering coastal tourist resort. EasyJet runs flights from London, Geneva, Manchester and Milan for £50-100, saving £250 on a flight to Cairo. As soon as you set down, high-tail it out of Sharm. If you are set on the beach life, Dahab is more backpacker-friendly although no more Egyptian and Nuweiba is the spot for beach-hut seclusion. However, Egyptians don’t go to these resorts and you will hear more Russian spoken than Arabic. In Egypt all roads lead to El-Qahira, Cairo.


Getting Around

In Cairo, the transport system seems impenetrable. 20 million people swarm around almost as many identical white microbuses, that speedily criss-cross the city, spilling people as they go. Many bus  drivers take off their doors so they can cram more people in, hanging over the road on the flyovers. The experience cannot be missed. The adrenaline and the terror is part of daily life. Thankfully, Cairo also has a fantastic metro system, the lines are incredibly easy to navigate and each journey costs just 1EGP. Just don’t get into the wrong carriage, it is segregated between women and men.


Between cities there are plenty of air-conditioned buses that are a blessing – Superjet is the best company. Bus journeys are in fact usually far faster than the antiquated train system, a relic of the British occupation. Shared taxis are also a very viable way to travel between towns but always remember to haggle.



Street food in Egypt is incredibly cheap. Falafal wraps (‘tamiya’) are great value at about 1EGP while chicken or meat ‘shawarma’ is almost a full meal at 5EGP. The best deal is Cairene favourite ‘koshari’ – this spicy mix of rice, lentils, garlic, tomato, chickpeas and macaroni, topped with crispy onions starts at about 3EGP.

Be sure to try breakfast classics such as pitta bread with ‘foul’ (beanpaste) or fresh hummus.


Escape The Tourists

Although there are several big sights that it would be a travesty to miss – The Pyramids, Abu Simbel, Luxor, Aswan – the charge that Egypt has become just a package holiday destination is completely unfounded. As soon as you get off the main tourist route, which runs Sharm-Cairo-Luxor-Aswan, you can experience the real Egypt. Here are a few recommendations:


1) The Western Desert Oases

Four isolated oases mark the route of a prehistoric branch of the Nile through the Western Desert. El-Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga all have their distinct atmospheres but they share the same desert wilderness. Opulent date-palm plantations jostle with crumbling medieval fortresses, sand-swept ancient temples and Bedouin camps.


2) Alexandria

Cairo’s second city has a Mediterranean feel. French colonial architecture towers over cafes and book-markets on the way to the vast bay. The new Library of Alexandria is a fitting monument to the ancient wonder that fell in to the ocean. Divers can explore the ruins of Cleopatra’s Palace offshore. Siwa Oasis, where another language is spoken, is not far from here.


3) Assyut

This city will lead you well off the tourist trail. In Mubarak’s time Middle Egypt was out of bounds but now there is now nothing to stop you. Assyut is the industrial heart of modern Egypt and is interesting not for its architecture but for its culture. This is real, day-to-day Egyptian life and its markets are every bit as exciting as those in Islamic Cairo. Plenty of ancient temples and early Christian fortresses are in the local area as well.



Georgina Young tells us about an adventure exploring Monkey Beach in Penang National Park, Malaysia.

It is completely out of character, I don’t know what was going through my mind as I was packing my backpack at 7:30am. Six litres of water? Check. Snacks for the day? Check. Change of clothes? Check. Copious amounts of suntan lotion? Check.

I’ve got everything ready to go, and I pull on my hike bag, the same one that just the night before was housing all my worldly belongings, and walk out of my hostel into the bright morning light. I immediately put on my sunglasses and make my way to the bus stop, water bottles weighing me down.

The bus winds pleasantly for more than an hour through northern Penang, stopping off at the all places a tourist could ever want to see. Lush mountains blend into white sandy beaches, wildlife parks litter the highway. There is nothing quite like the nature and beauty of this island UNESCO heritage site.

Both a young Spanish girl and I disembark at the last stop, the national park. After ignoring all the scouts trying to sell me things on the path up to the park, registering my intentions with the park staff, I begin my trek into the reserve.

I’m immediately struck by the wide, smooth, paved pathway. Maybe this trek is going to be a lot easier than imagined, was it oversold? But after around half a kilometre things get decidedly more rocky and by the kilometre mark the pathway has all but disappeared. The further and further into the forest I go, the more treacherous the route becomes until I am hoping from post to post over a sheer drop and literally crawling in, out, under and over sprawling tree roots.

The trees own this forest I am just a guest here.

I stop frequently and gulp down huge amounts of water. The tiny black and white map I’ve been given says that it will take 1 ½ hours to make it to my destination, to Monkey Beach, but I know it will take me much longer as thoroughly unaccustomed to hiking as I am, particularly in these conditions.

In my short shorts and tank top, carving my way through vines and tree branches, I feel like the real life Lara Croft only of course much more pink and sweaty. I pass several small quaint beaches on the way and consider just stopping here away from the tourist traps.

But then I see it over the horizon. The pure sand cuts around the forest and the mountain side for what seems like miles. The little boat moored up to shore gives the stereotypical impression of any island paradise. But this view is all mine.

Monkey Beach

As I descend onto the beach from my mountain pass I see the critter for which the beach is named. Monkey’s fighting for position on several of the trees that surround this idyllic beach setting. I scramble up onto a rock in order to change into my clothes and take a dip in the clear, turquoise bay, but just as I get out my clothes for changing, a monkey has seized them.

“Hit it with a stick!” I hear a woman’s voice echoing from a nearby rock.

I try in vain to look for a stick, but failing to see anything scary enough to fend off this fearsome beast I make myself large and hiss. More so to do with the fact that the stolen bag contains only clothes and not food, rather than my less than scary attempt to fend him off, the monkey drops my bag and scarpers. I retrieve my bathers and finish changing, thanking the American on the rocks for her advice.

Placing my hike bag as close to the sea as possible without it getting wet I dive into the sea and feel the refreshingly cool liquid flow over me, relieving me from the scorching heat. Up on the beach I see a French couple, abandon their bags near the trees and hasten towards the sea. But shouting I warn them.

“Careful Monkeys!” and they too tie their bags somewhere near the coast. After around 20 minutes in the sea I hear the French girl scream as she scares two carefully approaching monkeys from my luggage. You give a little you get a little. I spend the whole day, talking with tourists who have made the tiring trek themselves, locals who make their living selling jet ski rides and lying in the sun.

A tanned, fit Malaysian beach bum enquires whether I would like a jet ski back to shore and I honestly tell him that I only have 4 Ringits on me and that’s for the bus home. He then suggests that next time I come I should bring my boyfriend.

“Yea I should” I say aimlessly back.  I of course need to find myself a boyfriend first.

Believing me to be poor and unavailable he gives up on his quest to talk to me and I spend the day reading in the beating sun.




By 4pm as the sun is no longer at it’s highest and feeling well rested I begin my return journey, this time starting at the hardest point making my way back to the easiest. The pathway is just as deserted as before and I passing people is rare. On one of my frequent stops I am passed by a group of Malaysians hiking the trail barefoot thinking that the only reason I could be sitting there in the mud was because I had fallen and was injured. They rush to my aid.

“Oh no I’m fine. Just taking a rest”

The concept is alien to them, and they take off on their hardened, hobbit heels.

As I reach the entrance again, having ripped my leggings in half and exhausted, I refused to take the advice I have read to change into dry clothes believing that the refreshing breeze of the bus air con will be more than welcome after the heat blast I feel like I have just walked through. And it is for around 30 minutes, before I realise how wrong I was, shivering on the bus, my clothes completely soaked through with what I have to remind myself is not in fact sea water as my brain reasons it must be, but sweat.

While thinking to myself “this is why I don’t go hiking” I have to console myself with the memory of the beach paradise I discovered, and how few people are able to see it as I have.

About the Author: George is a 20-something hitchhiker, solo female traveller and cunning linguist, currently teaching in Kyushu, Japan. She circumnavigates the globe and teaches languages to all those in her wake. She has travelled Europe and Oz extensively, and has taught languages in 7 different countries and counting. Her blog is a mix of language learning, TEFL tips and general travel tales. Follow her journey at George on the Go or on Facebook or Twitter.

Over the past 5 years I have travelled A LOT! I spent 2 years travelling through Asia and Australia and now I travel somewhere new at least once a month. I’m incredibly lucky and I love the travel lifestyle/career that I’ve chosen but I have a travel secret to share with you: I’m terrible at travelling.

Yes, even after years of travelling, I’m still not very good at it. I enjoy every minute of travelling and I love writing about my travels and sharing my travel photos but I’m pretty useless at the actual travel part.

Here are a few examples.

I always blow my budget

Most of the time I don’t actually have a budget in mind but when I do, I always end up blowing it too quickly. My designated travel money seems to disappear from my pockets before I’m even half way through my holiday. I try to cut back on expenses, alcohol and expensive trips but there is always a little voice in the back of my head that says, ‘You only live once and you may never come back here ever again! Go on girl, have fun!’ And before I know it, I’ve not got a penny to my name.

I always get lost

It’s a running joke between my family and friends about how I was born without a sense of direction. They say it as though a ‘sense of direction’ is an organ or some kind of internal compass that ensures you always know which way to go and, unfortunately, it’s something I don’t have. To put it into perspective, I can walk into a shop on the high street and when I walk back out I forget which direction I’m meant to be walking in. If I can get lost on a long, straight high street, imagine what I’m like in a new city!

I always over-pack

luggage stuffing

Every time I go away I promise myself that this time I will pack light. This time I will have a backpack that I can lift over my head. This time I won’t lug around 15 outfits that I will never wear.  OK, maybe next time…

I always take too many clothes, accessories and toiletries ‘just-in-case’ because you really don’t know who you’re going to meet when you travel!

I always wing-it

I really admire the kind of travellers who buy a guidebook months before they visit a new destination. They thoroughly research all the things there are to do, the amazing places to stay, the local delicacies they should try and the best places to get stunning photography. Despite my best intentions, I never quite get round to doing all this research and usually arrive in a destination knowing very little about it.

So there you have it, I’m a terrible traveller but somehow, all these faults usually lead to me having an amazing trip. Yes, I spend too much money but I spend it on unforgettable experiences. I might get lost but I usually end up finding something amazing in an unexpected place. I do overpack but I’ve always got a spare pair of shoes/jeans/earrings/gloves for anyone that forgets! And maybe I don’t plan but it means I end up chatting to the locals to find out the best things to do and I usually end up avoiding the tourist traps that guidebooks recommend.

Now it’s your turn, what are your travel confessions? 

Most people struggle to pin-point the single best moment on their RTW journey. Many people travel for a few months or even a year or more so there will undoubtedly be hundreds of amazing moments but, for me, my single best moment is clear. It was one night spent camping on a beach in Tasmania. Myself and four friends had spent the day hiking, fishing and exploring. We’d caught a massive fish so made a fire on the beach to cook it up for dinner. We were having so much fun on the beach that it was 10pm before we knew it so we decided to stay for the night and camp under the stars. Drinking warm beer, eating toasted marshmallows and sharing travel stories until the early hours of the morning, I can honestly say that was the best night of my life.

I’ve been speaking to lots of backpackers in Australia and I’m always surprised how few go to Tasmania and do anything like this. They all think it sounds impossibly difficult to get over there and hire a car but it honestly isn’t. All you need to do is book car hire in Tasmania with DriveNow grab a map and you’re good to go. You can find maps that are especially designed for camping so they have campsites, toilets and great places to stop marked on the map already. If you can pick up a map from a backpacker then it’s even better because you can find their notes and dog-eared pages already marked.

Despite the scary stories that come from films like Wolfe Creek, Australia is an amazingly safe country so it’s really safe to camp. Tasmania is a small island so you don’t need to worry about getting lost out in the outback or breaking down and no one finding you. I would recommend packing plenty of water and food and a warm sleeping bag because it can get chilly at night and whatever happens, as long as you have food you’ll always be fine.

The more people you have in your car the better because it means you can share the costs of petrol which can be pricey. If you plan to sleep in your car, make sure you have an estate so you can get an airbed in the boot. If there are 4 or 5 of you, pack a tent for extra space.

The campsites in Australia cost about $25 a night and have excellent facilities. There are always loads of BBQs, fridges and nice, clean bathrooms with hot showers. Make sure you pack a torch in case you need to head to the bathrooms at night!

If you don’t plan to camp then there are plenty of budget hostels or cheap hotels for you to stay in. Hostels are a great place to meet other backpackers and chat to people to get their tips and advice for things to see and do. Guidebooks are brilliant but you’ll always get the best advice from your fellow travellers.

And my final piece of advice for anyone travelling around Australia in a car is to pack light. You have so little space and it’s virtually impossible to travel with a lot of luggage. Try to restrict yourself to a 40L backpack so you don’t have any space to overpack.

Have you every travelled around Australia by car? If so, do you have any tips to share?



We all know how it goes. You’ve spent months, maybe even years (or a few hours in transit, no judgement) thinking about all those precious dollars you have for your travels. You want them to last as long as possible, to be stretched to their very limit over the course of your trip. Fast forward a month or two and suddenly you’re re-assessing. Where’s all your money gone? You swear your bank account was looking a whole lot fatter than it is now. Where did this lean, mean bank account come from??

Even the best-laid budgets can fall by the wayside, but you don’t have to suffer through that. Here’s my top budget ruin-ers, based on way too many mistakes on my part. Learn away!

One For The Road


So you’ve budgeted for food, congratulations! But have you budgeted for alcohol? Most of the party hard people will probably be nodding their heads thinking, “Hell yeah I have, budget thought numero uno!” If you haven’t, definitely do that RIGHT NOW! Even if you’re ‘not really thing party type’ it’s still worth getting that into the budget because believe me, people change on the travel circuit.

If you have budgeted for alcohol, well done. But what about water? I’m a big fan of travelling in Asia, and one thing I’m always blown away by (hey, I made this mistake too) is that people don’t budget for buying bottled water. In most Asian countries tap water is not drinkable, so you really have to beef up your daily budget to keep yourself hydrated. Annoying? Maybe. But for Asia, totally worth it!


Research, Research, Research!

So you’ve heard a whole lot from everyone who has travelled to this place you’re going about how damn cheap everything is. Awesome. You can totally stay everywhere for $5 including breakfast, and food? That’s basically free!

Hold up.

There’s nothing travellers love more than telling stories of the cheap destinations they go to, and then exaggerating that tiny little bit extra. Don’t just listen to your friends. Get a third, fourth or even fifth opinion from somewhere reputable, like the internet. Well, maybe not reputable, but at least you get a wide range of opinions, and there has to be somebody telling the truth in all that madness.


Laid-Back Travel

Maybe you do want to stay at places that are $5 a night including breakfast. If that’s the case, be ready to accept what $5 a night means. In most places (but not all) it doesn’t mean a villa on the rice fields or a bungalow with a front step straight to the beach. It probably means something a little bit more modest, and probably nothing luxurious at all. I know people who seek out these places and enjoy them (I’m one of them). But if that’s your budget don’t go on a rage about how your bathroom tap leaks or your floor tiles are uneven. Welcome to budget living.


Where To Now?


At some point in your travels, you’re going to throw away one travel idea for another. If you’re a super organised traveller, this might mean losing money on an airfare/bus ticket/activity that you’d pre-booked. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this for the sake of your budget. As far as I’m concerned this is what travel is all about (probably why I rarely book in advance).

Even if you’re not super organised and you haven’t booked in advance, this new travel idea might end up costing more than you’d budgeted for. Does this mean you shouldn’t do it? Well, if you’re smart, no. And why is that? That is because smart people always OVER budget, so when the opportunity comes to do wild stuff (and possibly make some bad decisions) they have the coinage to accomplish that. Moral of the story, the shoestring is great, but have a little tucked away for a crazy day.

Have you had any travel experiences that have ruined your budget? Let us know in the comments below!

Travelling the world is a wonderful experience and for those with the means to do so it can be the trip-of-a-lifetime. To ensure that a long-term commitment to travelling does not have to be cut short it is important to keep a keen eye on the budget.

As well as this it is important to have some relaxing downtime, whether that be on the beach or a bit of pampering. This allows you to reflect on all of the amazing sights you have seen and recharge your batteries before setting out once again.

In order to achieve these two aims it is a good idea to do some research in advance and get a great deal so that you can truly relax and know your funds are not being eaten away. Here is a guide to some of the places to take that time out. So sit back and enjoy planning your holidays for 2013.



Croatia is pretty much the ultimate beach destination with its 5,835 kilometres of coastline stretching along the Adriatic. It is an incredibly easy place to travel with good public transport and an overall pleasant disposition in the locals.

It also offers some fascinating places to explore when you have had enough of relaxing on the beach. The picturesque old towns and pretty fishing villages are perfect for wandering around and taking it all in.

By booking through an online deal you will also be able to make your money go further and indulge in the type of luxury you haven’t experienced elsewhere on your trip. Sooth aching bones with a massage and wile away the hours in a Jacuzzi – absolute bliss.



Portugal is another great option for those of you who want to spend some time flaking out on the beach, with plenty of choices as to which piece of the coast to choose. Whether you prefer to be in a resort or tucked away in a quiet bay there will be somewhere that is just perfect for you.

As well as the sun worshipping, Portugal maintains much of its pre-tourist charm with little fishing villages to explore and small pine forests in which to take walks. And if all of that sounds like a lot of effort why not just chill out on your terrace or spend the day catching up on your reading by the pool?



When it comes to taking a break from the frenetic pace of a world trip then Greece is a good shout as it offers so many different possibilities. With hundreds of inhabited islands you are bound to find a spot that suits you, whether that be for accessing the beaches of Kos, nightlife of Zante or the historic sites of Crete.

Greek food is particularly tasty and an all inclusive deal is a great way to eat like King Minos while staying within your budget. Fresh salads packed with locally produced olives, feta cheese and the reddest tomatoes you have ever seen complement the climate totally.

Even if you intend to stay in one place for a while it is easy to hop between islands for a daytrip if you know that you get restless easily. Otherwise grab a cocktail and watch the sun go down behind the white-washed walls and blue sea.


We know this site is called Round the World Backpackers but when it comes to travelling you actually have a couple of luggage options.

Here are the options and what I recommend taking and when:

The classic backpack


I’m not a huge fan of backpacks but they are useful for when you’re getting off the beaten track or travelling on a budget. You may ask why budget travel would make a difference but you’re more likely to be getting on boats and buses or walking from train stops with your luggage. If you’re hoping to find idyllic beach huts and bargain accommodation then be prepared to do some walking to find it. And, yes, that means lugging your backpack with you!

Top tip for backpacks: Don’t over-pack it. Backpacks usually come with extendable pockets which are easy to overfill but avoid the temptation and do you your best to keep it under 10kg. You really don’t need that extra pair of jeans so put them away! I stick to the rule that if I can’t life my backpack over my head (without the help of a man!) it’s too heavy so something has to go.

The backpack with wheels

backpack with wheels

This is my favourite option. I don’t care where you are in the world, 80% of the time you’ll be able to wheel your suitcase. I’ll admit that the 20% of the time that you need to carry it, it will be heavier and uncomfortable but I think it’s worth a little bit of discomfort in exchange of wheeling it most of the time.

Top tip for wheely backpack: Invest in a really good quality backpack to ensure it isn’t going to break on you. If a wheel breaks it means that you’ll be left with an uncomfortable and heavy backpack.


The suitcase


Suitcases are perfect for short holidays, city breaks or when you’re travelling to countries where you know you’ll never be dragging your bag across fields or beaches such as if you’re city hopping in Europe. They’re easy to pack, easy to pull and easy to stack together on buses.

Top tip for suitcases: Again, I suggest buying a good quality suitcase. If you’re travelling for a few months it’s likely to be pretty heavy and if you lose wheel or the handle breaks it’s going to be very difficult to get around!


The satchel


Satchels are a good option for anyone who can travel super light. This is an art that I’ve never managed to master myself but I’m always envious of the people I see hopping on a plane with nothing more than a bag slung over their shoulder. They can be a bit awkward to carry but the softness makes them good for travelling because they can squish into small spaces.

You’re young, you’re free, and you’re looking to party. With these basic truths helping guide your travel itinerary, you should consider these tried-and-true destinations known for offering nightlife experiences like few other places on earth. So pack your bags, leave your inhibitions, and head out to some of the world’s best party locations.


New York

Along with being generally regarded as an incredible place to visit, New York has earned a reputation as a global contender for best place to party. The various boroughs of the city are packed with bars and clubs that are each trying to outdo the other on the dance and drink scale.

You can try Greenwood Park, a popular beer garden with 13,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space devoted to beer and revelry. This former mechanic shop has happy-hour deals inside and bocce courts out back.

For a true Manhattan skyline experience, head to La Piscine at the Hotel Americano, where the young, beautiful and restless indulge in margaritas and tapas next to a pool that becomes a big hot tub in the winter.



It would not be possible to round up party destinations without talking about Ibiza. The Balearic paradise is the global hedonistic capital. The year-round sun and never-ending clubbing season has made Ibiza the most famous European party destination of all.

The island is beautiful in its own right, so even if partying 24/7 isn’t your thing, there’s plenty to do to fill your time. However, if an Ibiza holiday 2013 is your thing, then San Antonio is the place to be – the music and the dancing never end!



The river Danube cuts Budapest in two, between the historical cities of Buda and Pest. Although Budapest does not initially strike you as a great city for partying, there is a growing dance music scene in the city, and a night out at Buda beach (sometimes known as Buddha Beach) is definitely worth a look.

These ‘beaches’ lie right in the middle of the city and in the summer they open up onto the river, so you can party the night away on the banks of the Danube. The drinks are cheap, the music is loud, and the bars stay open late – it’s pretty much perfect.

full moon thailand
Full Moon – Bucket Fuelled Chaos!



If your budget for flights is a little larger, then a trip to Thailand is definitely in the cards. The cost of living in Thailand is minimal, and so any expense on the travel there is reclaimed once you head out to the bars and restaurants.

One of the best parties in the world is the once-a-month Full Moon Party in Ko Phan Ngan. Here they serve drinks by the bucket, and the balmy weather means you can party on the beach until the sun comes up.



Berlin has become the spiritual home of house and trance music in the last ten years. The number of abandoned warehouses, particularly in the eastern half of the city, means that there are a number of super clubs in the city that have become destinations in their own right.

Berghain is this kind of place-to-be club, and it has become one of the most famous techno locations in the world. Although you don’t have to be in to dance music to enjoy Berlin’s nightlife, it definitely helps. Plus, it’s difficult not to love a city that sells beer by the litre.

If you are looking for the best places to party in the world, then the only determining factor is your bank balance. Whatever your budget, you can definitely find somewhere to party until the break of dawn.

Holidays in Central America can take many forms. Cultural visits to ancient Mayan sites, lazy beach vacations set among the palms and activity adventures involving white-water rafting and zip lining.

And for those who enjoy strapping on their walking boots and hitting the trails, there’s a huge range of spectacular hikes to be enjoyed, featuring volcano walks and oceans views.

If you fit into the latter category, here’s a list of the best walks in Central America, which you can get stuck into with TrekAmerica.


Cerro Chato, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country blessed with incredible natural landscapes, many of which are dominated by towering volcanoes. Located in the centre of the country, the Arenal Volcano National Park is home to several spectacular cinder cones.

Although Volcan Arenal is the most prominent in the park, it is far too dangerous to climb. However, the slightly smaller, and dormant, Cerro Chato is perfectly safe for hikers.

Those who make the tough trek up through the humid forest to its 1,140m summit are rewarded by the sight of a beautiful turquoise lake, which they can scramble down to for a closer look.

You have to pay a small fee to climb the volcano, with the main route starting from the Arenal Observatory Lodge. The steep ascent and descent can be accomplished in four to five hours.


Volcan Maderas, Nicaragua

If you can’t get enough of climbing volcanoes and visiting crater lakes, you’ll love the ascent to the summit of Volcan Maderas on the island of Ometepe, situated in the centre of Lake Nicaragua in Nicaragua.

Slightly shorter and less dangerous than its cousin, Concepcion, Maderas makes for a challenging but doable day’s hiking. Although this is a popular hike, a guide is necessary to ensure your safety, and the climb to the 1,394m summit is a tough all-day one, often made more challenging by slippery and muddy conditions underfoot.

Upon reaching the top, you’ll be treated to the sight of Laguna de Maderas and fine views to Concepcion. As with Cerro Chato, a small fee is payable that allows you to trek through the coffee plantation on the slopes of the volcano.


Cusuco National Park, Honduras

If peak bagging is not your thing, but trekking through lush jungles in search of waterfalls and wildlife is, the Cusuco National Park offers endless opportunities for exploration.

Head underground into the Taulabe Caves, which extend for miles, sample the raw power of the Pulhapanzak Waterfall, where the water plunges 140ft. You may even get the chance to take a guided tour into the caves directly behind the waterfall or swim in one of the pools.

And as part of the Meso-American biodiversity hotspot, there are also plenty of exotic species lurking in the forest, such as Baird’s tapir and jewel scarab beetles.


Hiking tips

For all of these hikes you’ll need to come prepared. Sturdy walking shoes or boots, a waterproof jacket (jungles can get pretty wet at times) and a rucksack containing plenty of water and snacks are a must. Also remember, it gets colder and windier at altitude so while you might not need layers when you set off, by the time you reach the peak it could be chilly.

You’ll also want a camera to capture the sights, some sun cream for when you’re on more exposed sections and some bug spray with plenty of DEET in it.

Chiang Mai is a fabulous city, crammed with trips, sites and experiences.

elephant trainer chang mai thailand
Feeding ‘Nu’

You can stay for over two weeks and still manage to be busy every day. My favourite adventure during my time in Chiang Mai had to be the day where I learnt to be a Mahout.

Chang does mean Elephant after all, so it had to be done!

To be honest, I’m not a huge animal lover.
I literally feel sick when people kiss their dogs and think it’s utterly ridiculous when they dress pets up in silly outfits. Most animals smell bad and make me sneeze!
But, I do love Elephants.
They are such friendly giants, and so clever. I never knew how smart these creatures were until I spent the day with them. It breaks my heart when you see them being poorly treated (which is the case in most parts of Thailand) and it upsets me that some tourists can be so naive to it all, supporting it by visiting these types of places. (Elephant rides with baskets and attractions like Tiger Kingdom, but that’s another story!)
elephant trainer chang mai thailand
Just a Quick Shower!
We wanted to visit an Eco friendly Elephant home. After a tonne of research and recommendations we decided to go to the ‘Thai Elephant Home’. It claimed to rescue Elephants from cruel backgrounds, so I was certainly up for backing that.
The training day starts by learning the basic Mahout commands. You need to be able to get on and steer your Ellie! Then the fun begins, you get to choose you’re very own Elephant for the day.
I obviously ran to the smallest and most adorable. (Just like me, right?!)
Her name was ‘Nu’ and she was 5.
You ride your Ellie bare back, the feeling is pretty daunting at first, you feel so unstable, like you’re going to fall right off. Once you get used to balancing your body weight you are all set.
Now it’s your time to shine, trekking through the lush green jungle on your Elephant, steering her by talking your commands. You’re pretty much a pro now, listening to the relaxing sound of nature while you’re Ellie is taking you uphill to witness the beautiful views the jungle has to offer.
elephant trainer chang mai thailand
Here We Go…!

In between you’re walks you spend time with your Elephant, feeding her, getting messy in the mud bath and splashing around in the river. This is when her character really shows.

Getting to know you’re Elephant is great fun, you feel like you’re really bonding with them. ‘Nu’ was just like any other child, she loved to wonder off, eat everything in site and make a mess. She enjoyed getting us all soaked and completely submerging herself in the river! (She was not as worried as me about getting pink eye, that’s for sure!)
You can tell that the Elephants at this home are happy and treated well. They have a little sparkle in their eyes. If you have ever wanted to spend time with these majestic creatures then I would recommend this trip.
I don’t think a visit to Thailand would be complete without meeting the Ellie’s.
Plus, after this experience you’re pretty much Tarzan. Who knows what else you’re capable of!

Once considered a medium-sized Spanish City, Valencia has undergone a massive transformation in the last 10 years. The creation of the ‘City of Arts and Science’ is one statement that underlines the nature of the place, especially as it comes from that of renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. It is fair to say, that Valencia has now become iconic for its beautiful architecture and cultural importance, this is highlighted from its reputation lying with its inner city buildings rather than its beautiful beach sitting right next to it.


Thinking of going this summer? Well it’s heaps easy to find places to stay in Valencia – but be sure to take your sun cream – at this point of the year Valencia begins to knock up temperatures of 30-40 degrees, and with the vastly built up area, there is not much of a breeze to settle the heat. Bare this in mind when going out, think about trying to get things done in the morning – the weather can play with you at times.


In terms of travel, you’re best off just using public transport because there is so much of it in and around the city. Valencia offers both the Bonobus and Bonometro, an option that is best for value for money. Wherever you need to get to, there will be a bus for it, so you won’t be short in wasting time trying to get to places. In the hustle and bustle of the city, it can get very humid on buses with the crowds, so be sure to take plenty of rests at cafes around the city. Preferably, just walking can cover much of the city, but it can become tiring in the heat.


The City of Arts and Sciences is somewhere you cannot ignore, the centre has 5 buildings, offering something for everyone from opera to the IMAX. Check out the Science museum, a completely 21st century experience that offers interactivity with almost all of its contributions to science and technology. Just a short walk and you’re at the Agora, a huge sporting complex that has been home to some worldwide events, including the Valencia Open Tennis tournament. This really is a place to visit throughout the day, its modern facilities provide you with an enjoyable day out to both learn and have a bit of fun! Once more, the centre is never overcrowded, so you are able to walk around and not feel pressured to move on.


If its photography and culture you’re after, then I highly recommend the North Station. Take your time, sit back and take in some of the breathtaking architecture from creator Demetrio Ribes. The building has it all, using a range of wood, glass, marble, metal and ceramics to produce a stunning view of old and new. Be sure to take your camera with you, the building offers some great photography with the glimmer of the sun bouncing off the colourful glass. A short trip, but one certainly worth taking!


If you’re fancying something a little bit different though, check out the Oceanografic, a stunning aquarium that holds a range of different buildings with so much to do. The building features underground tunnels, where you are able to quite literally walk with the whales! The crystal clear waters and state of the art facilities ensure you will never have a disappointing trip! So, instead of taking your chances with a dolphin boat trip, pop to the Oceanografic to get up close and personal with sharks! There are a few cafes on sight so there is food available, all you really need is your camera to get some snaps you won’t get anywhere else!


Valencia is a beautiful place to be, but don’t let the hot temperatures and stuffy city travelling stop you from enjoying the city.


It seems a bit of a shame to travel all the way to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro and then simply jet home again without seeing any more of the country. Don’t get me wrong, the experience of ascending the peak is amazing, but it’s also worth allowing a bit of time to explore what’s on offer elsewhere in Tanzania once you’ve finished the trek.

To give you some inspiration, I’ve come up with two suggestions of places to visit and things to do after the first part of your holiday to Kilimanjaro comes to an end.


Visit Zanzibar

The first option is to head to the stunning tropical islands of the Zanzibar archipelago – the perfect place to kick back and relax after climbing a mountain! There are two main islands here, with lots of small islets dotted around them. Their location in the Indian Ocean means you can expect to find pristine white-sand beaches, as well as amazing coral reefs just below the surface.

While you may be tempted to just sit back and relax on the coast after the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro, I think it’s better to include a few activities and excursions on your trip to Zanzibar. One place worth visiting for a dose of culture is Stone Town, a vibrant and eclectic city that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a host of outstanding buildings.

Large palaces and mansions can be found on its streets, as well as small houses nestled on its narrow alleys, a wide range of restaurants and shops and bustling markets. It’s got more than its fair share of historical sites, too, with the Anglican Cathedral, House of Wonders, Palace Museum and the Old Fort among the places you shouldn’t miss.


Go on a safari in Africa

Tanzania is a wonderful place to go on a safari and, although you may have spotted some of the country’s fascinating wildlife during your Kilimanjaro ascent, I think the chance to see a host of amazing animals in their natural habitat is too good to pass up – after all, you have travelled a long way to get here, so you may as well make the most of it!

You can travel to the famous Serengeti Game Reserve if you want, or head to one of Tanzania’s lesser known national parks, like Lake Manyara, Tarangire or the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. If you don’t have lots of time to spare on your safari adventure, I reckon Lake Manyara is the best choice.

This reserve is relatively small – 330 sq km – and, unsurprisingly, features a very large lake! Because it’s reasonably compact, it’s a great place to see a wide variety of creatures in a short space of time. For instance, in the forests you can look for the likes of baboons, blue monkeys, bushbucks and forest hornbills, while on the flood plains you’ll spot animals including wildebeest, zebras, buffaloes, klipspringers, lions and elephants. Around the lake itself there are hippos, in addition to a vast array of birds, such as pelicans, cormorants, flamingos and storks.

If you’re after spectacular scenery as well as astounding wildlife, the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best options, with the stunning Olduvai Gorge and the vast volcanic crater among the landscapes you’ll encounter. The main crater is home to black rhinos, lions, grant’s gazelles, elands and zebras, to name just a few, while leopards are found on its forested upper slopes.

Okay, so we have all seen crazy YouTube videos of how super fun tubing was back in the day… Before most bars were shut down, zip lines were removed and all the slides and other fun (but slightly deathy) things we could jump off were banned.
But what is tubing like now?
Is it still worth going to Vang Vieng to ‘get in the tubing’?
Well I am currently right here in the tubing capital of Vang Vieng, and I have recently experience tubing as it stands in 2013.
Unfortunately I never got a chance to visit before now, so I guess I can’t compare it as accurately as some of you guys who got involved in the craziness of the past years, but I can tell you about my time in that small, slightly off coloured, rubber ring on the river.
tubing in vang vieng
A Much Quieter River Now…

My first thoughts once getting allocate my tube and walking down to the river was that it was quiet.

Almost ‘dead’.
It was just the four of us, with another small group of backpackers in their rings in the distance however it is low season here at the moment, so I wasn’t too surprised, but I couldn’t stop daydreaming about what the atmosphere would have been like in the peak of it all (you can check out Chris’s tubing experience from 2012 here).
We started floating down stream, looking onto the bank you see burnt out bars and knocked down walls, it’s quite sad really. The ride itself was relaxing though! The gentle sound of the water flowing and the beautiful mountainous scenery around us. That was until we started to float in to the bushes at the side of the river, when we finally emerged out of the greenery we were greeted by several, huge spiders sitting on our legs and stomach.
It was terrifying, it’s safe to say I ruined the peaceful ambiance by screaming and trying to flick them off my body!
Once this horrendous ordeal was over, we were met by our first bar. It was about time!
backpacker tubing vang vieng laos
Party Bars…With Much Less Party!

The bar itself was great fun, a great mix of people and activities going on. I headed straight for the sunbathing area, but there was also games of volleyball and basketball. Now this is what I expected tubing to be like, only it was still much calmer than what I’ve heard it was like before.

There was a small party vibe at this bar, with games of flip cup and beer pong, but still nothing to write home about. It was busy, probably because there are now only about three bars on the river. We didn’t stop again after this, the other bars we came across were empty , so we just finished the tubing route on the river.
The rapids were exciting, being thrown around made it that little bit more ‘crazy’ I suppose.
During our day tubing I only had a couple of drinks, just because I felt like the party atmosphere wasn’t very strong. The time we spent on the river, and even at the bar, had a very chilled out vibe to it. I would definitely say that tubing was different to how I imagined it, I wouldn’t say it was a let down, but I think if you go tubing now, you need to think of it as more a relaxing experience rather than a day to get wasted and jump off stuff.
People still need to visit Vang Vieng and experience the town and what it has to offer, but go tubing with an open mind, as it has changed.
For the better or worse? You decide.

As our inhouse Aussie Oceana is well placed for any advice you might need when heading down under (no innuendo intended!) and she’s done her fair share of travelling around her home country as well as abroad.

So we asked her to share he personal Top 5 Aussie Stop Offs to help you out with planning a trip to Australia..


1) Cairns

What’s not to love about Cairns? This tiny Australian town is a backpacker haven, and heaven! It’s packed to the brim with awesome hostels and backpacker bars with all the cheapest drink deals. Everything is super close making the vibe of Cairns is 100% backpacker friendly.  Cairns is not a town where the working holiday travelers come looking for work, so it’s full of people who have money and are looking for a party. This means that every night there’s something going on, a willing group of people looking for an adventure and a whole lot of madness just waiting to happen.

syndey backpacker top australia
Sydney – Totally Worth The Hype!


2) Sydney

Ah Sydney, the crown of Australia. Not the capital city but close enough as far as most backpackers are concerned. This is the place most people start, and it’s also often where they finish. Good news for Sydney’s vibe because the working holiday types are totally evened out by those looking to make a good start, and those heading out of Australia with a bang. The city has a whole lot of great hostels, some wicked backpacker bars and enough entertainment to keep anyone going. As big cities go, Sydney is a pretty great place all over, with sunny days, great beaches and lots of opportunities to soak up the Australian lifestyle.

darwin markets australia
Darwin Street Markets


3) Darwin

Australia’s northern most capital city, Darwin certainly doesn’t look like much compared to Sydney. It’s not a massive backpacker town all year, although in the Dry Season (May-October) they do flood in looking for work. But there’s something about Darwin that really sets is apart. Closer to Asia than to most southern Australian cities (Timor is less than 1 hour flight) it has a uniquely tropical Asian atmosphere that’s unrivaled. Equal parts great Australian outback, and tropical northern gem Darwin boasts Asian markets, beautiful beaches and fantastic weather (as long as you like it hot!).


4) Byron Bay

Now, there’s probably not a backpacker out on the Australian (and perhaps international circuit) who doesn’t know about Byron Bay. Hardly the tiny hippy hub that once made it famous, Byron Bay is still a great place to be. Surfing hub and alternative cultural vibes abound, Byron also has an awesome hostel scene and some unbelievable backpacker bars that just must be visited. The surrounding area is flawless, and although it’s sometimes better in the off-peak season, peak definitely guarantees lots of crazy people to keep the party pumping all night long!

melbourne street art
Melbourne Street Art


5) Melbourne

Australia’s culture capital? Well, I’m not going to start any wars here, but there is definitely a lot to see and do in Melbourne. Melbourne definitely holds the upper hand when it comes to street art with almost every available public wall canvassed with graffiti creations. The same could probably be said for the competitive coffee war, easily the best in coffee in Australia and at some of the cheapest prices. Melbourne is full of great entertainment venues and things to see, some more expensive than others. But even without the dollars, the backpacker scene is very much alive, and everyone knows where to go for the cheapest bars, and the free gigs. They might lead you down winding alleys to hole-in-the-wall bars, but that’s what makes Melbourne magical.


What would be your Top 5 Aussie Spots? Care to share them and why?!


Mon has already chatted through some great ways to start saving for your backpacker travels – but what about once you’re on the road?

Yup money will be at the fore front of your mind through all your adventures, but if you manage it and are sensible there’s no reason that it should ruin your mood!

I’ve been on the road for a few years now so I’ve picked up a few handy tips for saving money – so here’s 5 of my top tips for saving whilst you’re on the road…

Last Minute Deals

Last minute travel deals are a great way to keep your bank balance healthy whilst bouncing around. Things like standby rates on trips and accommodation are more common than you think so keep an eye out.

If time is on your side being flexible enough to accommodate a few days waiting around for a spot to open up can soon let the savings mount up.

travel planning
Proper Preparation…


Pre Booking

On the flip side of waiting until the last minute is pre booking things, which is something Sam mention with her pre travel tips. When I left for Australia I knew I wanted to complete my PADI dive course on the barrier reef from Cairns.  Having this all paid upfront nearly 9months before I even landed meant it was a huge cost out of mind and I could simply turn up and enjoy the whole thing as it then didn’t form part of my budget.

Pre booking some things like bus passes also means you can take advantage of sales as they come up – take the Kiwi Experience for example, they quite often offer up to 50% off their bigger passes if you pre book…now that’s some serious discount!


Creating A Budget – And Sticking To It!

Having a solid budget always allows you to save on the road, it reigns in your drinking, makes you think twice about big spends and generally means you spend your money wisely.

Sticking to that budget on the other hand can be a bit more troublesome! It’s easy to say it doesn’t matter if you go over but it can quickly mount up.

A handy thing I’ve started doing is taking out your weekly spend in cash and keeping half in my wallet and half in my bag, that way I know exactly where I stand budget wise. If i over do it one day, I simply take it off of the next days spend. The trick is being strict with yourself!


Discount Cards

Sure a card that saves you a dollar everytime you spend heaps of money may sound like a waste of time – but on trip of a few months or more those savings can really add up and you’d be surprised how quickly they can snowball!

Whether it’s a hostel chain card, supermarket card, cram your wallet with some plastic and let the savings build up.


Group Together

One of the simplest things to do to save you money is bulk buying and grouping together. If a group of you want to do a tour approach them and negotiate a deal if you all book in one hit.

The same goes for booking two or more activities, there’s no harm in asking for a discount if you book them all in one go, whats the worse that could happen!?

If you plan on staying in a hostel for a while too ask if they offer a weekly rate or if they’ll cut you a deal for a longer stay – most hostel will be happy to reduce your room rate by a few dollars per night – happy days all round!


Any of you guys picked up some great ways to save on the road? Share the love and help your backpacker brethren out!

It’s a common problem affecting the best of us – your bank balance is not as healthy as you would like it to be – but this does absolutely nothing to negate your burning desire to get away from it all with one of the last minute deals that you find online. You’re not alone and that’s why we have compiled a checklist of ways to ensure that you are ready to rock at a moment’s notice…


Time off

Unless you work in the rare kind of place where the HR guy isn’t a complete tyrant, you will need to make sure that you have booked the time off well in advance – normally at least two weeks. Booking the time off doesn’t mean that you also need to book the holiday. As the time approaches, lie in wait and keep a close eye on those websites to find the best deal for the dates that you have off work.



Depending on where you are planning on going, it is probably worth checking whether or not you will have to pay your doctor a visit to get some vaccinations. If you are off to more tropical climes you will need to make sure you have up-to-date typhoid, tetanus, polio, diphtheria and hepatitis A jabs, plus it is possible that you will need malaria tablets. Although it is cheaper to visit your GP for these, if you are really pressed for time, you can visit a travel clinic where you will pay more, but get the jabs faster.



This won’t be a worry if you only plan on holidaying in Europe but again, if you plan on snapping up a deal to somewhere more exotic then you will need to check what the visa restrictions are. If you are off to the USA, you can get your ESTA visa granted online in minutes; others you will be able to get upon arrival to the country as long as you aren’t staying more than 30 days. However, some countries like India and Vietnam are far stricter and may require a trip to the Embassy. Make sure you are informed before you go ahead and book anything to avoid being sent home as soon as you arrive!



If you are King or Queen of the last minute deal then you are probably one step ahead of us already and have that case packed! Those who aren’t so organised could at least make sure that their case is loaded up with all the travel toiletries that you will need and a list of what to pack should you book something which means you only have hours to get packed and get to the airport.



Hopefully you have been putting aside the funds for a while now in order to pay. It’s a good idea to keep your holiday fund separate from your day-to-day funds so that you don’t spend it elsewhere and then have to whack the last minute holiday on your credit card. Keep that holiday fund topped up and ready to go!

RTW travel airport tipsNobody really likes airports.

Travellers and backpackers might say they do, but in the end although airports represent the start of a new adventure, they’re really just a purgatory of needless waiting punctuated with scenes of people either totally losing it, or giving up entirely.

You don’t want to be that person that goes postal when they realised they’ve missed their flight by only a few minutes. You don’t want to be that person that has a public meltdown when their flight gets delayed due to general airline nonsense. And you definitely don’t want to be the person who causes a Hollywood-worth scene in the middle of the departure lounge when the loudspeaker announces that due to a situation out of their control, the flight is cancelled.

Instead you want to be the cool kid. The ‘I don’t mind if I wait’ guy. The ‘I’m happy to just sit back and relax’ personality. But that isn’t always something that comes easy to people, regardless of their travel expertise. I know that despite being a self-confessed travel addict, I really don’t like airports. Sure, me being at an airport pretty much always means I’m about to embark on another exciting part of my travelling life, but they’re just really horrible places. So, when I was recently sitting at Brisbane Airport with a seven hour wait ahead of me, I started to compile a little list in my head of just how I deal with being in airports.


Time It

There is a fine line to be walked in relation to how much time you want to spend in an airport, so don’t make it anymore than it needs to be unless you absolutely have to. Know how early you have to be at the airport for your flight, and then plan to get there more or less at that time. Definitely double, and even triple check this though! But once you’re sure, it makes sense to get to the airport exactly at that time, and not hours beforehand so you’re wait isn’t extended any more than it needs to be. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is miss your plane, but at the same time sitting around the airport is just a soul-destroying exercise.


Ample Entertainment

I cannot stress this enough. Unless you’re planning on spending your time at the airport doing zombie stares into space to pass the time, you’ll want to bring enough to keep you entertained. This means charge the iPod, mp3 player or walkman (no judgement man), make sure you bring your headphones and bunker down for the long haul. But, I’d also suggest bringing more than one form of entertainment, like a book or a drawing pad as well as music. Unless what you actually do to keep occupied is zombie staring into space (or at people, which may very well be entertaining), then you’re probably fine.


Snack Time

Airport food is already ludicrously expensive without the added issue of being a backpacker looking to get the most out of every dollar. Unsurprisingly, I can’t see great value in paying massive dollars for food that is worth half as much, which I’d probably pass on if I was anywhere else. But if you’re at an airport, especially with the possibility of long waiting times, you’re probably going to need to eat. So if you don’t want your rumbling stomach echoing around the terminal, do yourself a favour and pick up some food before you get to the airport. Even if you don’t expect to be waiting that long, throw a few muesli bars or crackers into your bag just in case.


Sleep It Off

I’m a big fan of nap time in any environment, and have been known to be awfully protective of my lunchtime siesta. One of the positives of this for me when it comes to airports is that I can fall asleep just about anywhere. If you’re on the road, this is a good skill to have anyway, but it comes super handy if you’re delayed or laid over for hours in airport land. Just make sure you set an alarm so you don’t miss your flight!


Airport Exploration

Yeah you’re on your way to an adventure, but who says you can’t start that adventure right here at the airport? If you’ve got time to kill during a delay or a layover, there are few things that will pass the time better than a walk and and a people watch. One thing about airports is that they’re usually full of all manner of people. Plus, larger airports also tend to cover a lot of ground, meaning your can stroll around to your heart’s content. So familiarise yourself with your gate, and then let the adventure begin!


For most people, airports hardly represent an enviable place to be, especially for hours and hours between flights. But, if you go about it the right way, you can keep yourself occupied, and keep your head level in any airport situation, no matter what change of plans comes flying in your direction.


They say good things come in small packages, and those seeking for the proof to support the claim need look no further than the lovely Mediterranean island of Menorca. Far smaller and less developed than its Balearic sibling Majorca, this Spanish island is one of Europe’s real hidden gems.

So why come here with the bigger Balearic island lying just across the water? Well for one thing, whilst Majorca may have stolen the crowds, the reputation and Franco’s construction budget in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Menorca has been left with something far rarer and more valuable: its purity.


Get Back To Nature

Boasting places of extreme natural beauty such as the Parc Natural S’Albufera d’es Grau wetlands and a rich biodiversity notable thanks to the island’s abundance of flowering plants, birds and butterflies, this really is a Mediterranean Eden. Menorca is practically unique in its region in offering the opportunity to discover miles upon miles of secluded, if not deserted beach, which for some travellers represents adequate reason to book a ticket in itself. If you’re looking for sun-kissed bliss in an unspoilt location with a strong tourist infrastructure, you couldn’t do better than look into some of the options available for Menorca holidays.

Menorca has all the wonderful scenery, flora and fauna you could possibly hope to see in any holiday destination, but that’s not all. The island also bursts with an alluring human presence, past and present that really brings its beautiful environment to life.

The locals of this so called ‘Gem of the Balearics’ love nothing more than a good fiesta, making the summer months your optimum period to plan a visit to Minorca. Fiesta season runs (intermittently) from late June until late September – be sure to check dates carefully with your tour operator or a reputable online source before booking. Highlights of the fiesta calendar include the stirring ‘L’ithica’ full moon pageant (August 6-8) and The ‘Festes de Sant Joan’ – watch out for a burly local man carrying a grown sheep through the streets at this one!


A Quiet Drink?!

Menorca is not famous as a party island in the ‘UV foam party/throwing up everywhere’ sense, and to many, that’s exactly where its appeal lies. There’s ample provision however, for a spot of cultured fun-seeking; traditional singing and dancing, and drinking Pomada, a traditional mixture of gin and bitter lemon – phew!

This really is the Mediterranean island destination for grown ups – absolutely not dull in any way as some would like to think us adults are, but mature, tasteful and truly rewarding. People have settled here since prehistoric times as the island’s extant megalithic structures attest, and within its traditions it’s not hard to see a strong link back to the distant, distant past. To experience a taste of how the Menorcans have enjoyed unwinding over the centuries, waste no time in booking yourself a flight and setting out for this vibrant paradise.


When you think of Morocco as a backpacker destination many people instantly think of bustling souks, Marrakech, camel rides and desert Berberes.

And to a large extent that’s what Morocco is about! It’s a country rich in culture, local markets and has a large history of nomadic people of the desert.

But Morocco alos has and amazingly rugged and empty coastline too – which means one thing to a person like me…SURF!


moroccan souks
The Souks – Great For a Haggle and Some Bargains!

Drawing Me Back

I first headed to Morocco back in 2008 with my little bro – with the aim of scoring a heap of warm water waves. And it was an epic success – despite the roughness around the edges we both loved the place!

The surf was perfect, the local cuisine was nothing short of mouth watering, the living was cheap and the weather was a solid 25 degrees+ our entire stay! What more could a travelling surfer ask for?!

In fact I liked it so much I went back a second time after my trip to Oz – and if you’ve seen my travel blog (Backpacker Banter) you’ll know that I just spent 4months working there as a surf coach – what more of a personal recommendation do you need?!


Perfect Winter Escape

Even though the cost of living in Morocco has risen slightly (especially in the surf towns) – it’s still heaps cheaper than it’s European counterparts. Not only that but flights to Morocco can still be had for under £100 return, and Easyjet will even take your surfboard (up to 9foot) for £40 all in…now that’s an epic deal!

For me Morocco is the perfect winter escape for any surfer – as the UK water temps start to plummet (and I wont even get started on the air temperature!) Morocco is considerably warmer, you’ll still need a 3/2 suit over the main part of their winter (Dec-Apr) but you’ll spend your time out of the water basking in glorious sunshine and boardies!

The one things I’d suggest if you do a large surf trip to this part of the world though is to take all the kit you need and a heap of spares too. Things like ding repair kits, wetsuits wax, FCS thruster fins and hire boards can be ridiculously expensive in places like Taghazout, and outside of that area they can be near on impossible to locate…so come stocked up!

The upside of being so prepared also means you can sell some stuff if your cash runs short!


Waves Waves Waves

surf travel morocco
Warm Water And Pumping Waves!

Wave wise Morocco main surf region is around the sleepy town of Taghazout – about an hour north of Agadir and a 3-4hour bus journey down from Marrrakech.

In all my surf travels I’ve never found a place so concentrated with a variety of surf spots that draws in so much swell!

If you base yourself in Taghazout you’ll have a solid amount of spots (I’m talking in the 20’s here!) within a 10min drive of the village, although to be honest you can walk to most of them! They range from easy beginner beach breaks like Croc Beach and Panoramas right through to pumping world class point breaks like Anchor Point and Killers.

You can check out my Moroccan Mini Surf Guide over on my main blog – and this post including some shots of the surf PUMPING will be sure to get your stoke on!

Even if you don’t surf already and want to learn it’s a great place to start – with a whole load of surf camps to choose from – so whether you want simple surf guiding or full on tuition you’re fully covered.

So if you’re looking for some waves, don’t have a crazy big budget to blow on somewhere like Indo then Morocco is the perfect place to bounce – and at only 4 hours flight from Gatwick it’s perfect for a quick week long escape too!

Just make sure you relax with a mint tea post surf for me please – I bloody miss that stuff!


One of the main reasons people give for not going travelling is that they can’t afford it and I’m the first to admit that travelling for a few month or longer is crazy expensive. But I’ll also admit that it will be the best money you will ever spend and it’s well worth working your socks of for a few years in order to save for that big trip.

Here are my top tips to help you save for your trip that bit faster and make the saving process as bearable as possible.


Have a spending detox

Like a diet, it’s good to start with a detox, mainly because it’s horrible and when you allow yourself a few little treats you’ll really appreciate it.


A spending detox should last for a week and you should spend nothing all week other than your rent, bills and transport costs. Make sure you take packed lunches when you’ll be out for the day and don’t buy ANYTHING! If you can, don’t even take any cash or cards out with you to avoid temptation.


A spending detox will be tough but it will help you realize how much money you waste and the places you really need to spend it. You’ll realize that you don’t need to spend money on drinks and treats throughout the day, you don’t need those magazines and papers and you can go without a few drinks in the pub after work.


Have a target

It’s tough to save if you don’t know exactly what you’re saving for or how long it will take. Work out how much you’re going to need for your trip and when you want to go so you know exactly how much you need to put away each month.


Cover your walls, your fridge, your notebooks, your office, your bedroom, (hell, cover your bathroom if it helps) with pictures of the places you’re going to keep you inspired to keep saving.


What could you be spending your money on?

One night’s accommodation in Thailand can cost as little as £5 a night so try to keep this is mind every time you spend a fiver at home. What can £5 get you at home? A McDonalds meal, two coffees, a pint and a packet of crisps, a book, a magazine and not a lot else. These are all things you can live without so whenever you’re tempted, think about what you could be spending that money on.


Sell everything

That’s right, everything! If it’s not going with you, get it on eBay. If you’re travelling long term, all your clothes will be outdated and all your technology will be old news. Sell your books and DVDs because, let’s face it, who reads on a book and who watches DVDs these days? Sell your car; you could travel for months on the money you get for your car and you’ll thank yourself for it later when you can stay on the road that bit longer.


Start buying travel

If you’re really terrible at saving, start spending, just make sure you’re spending it on the right things. Buy a flight as soon as you get paid, buy your backpack, book some accommodation, book activities with flexible dates or put money on a travel money card. If you’ve already spent the money, there’s no way you can spend it!


If all else fails…get a working holiday visa

If you’re under 30 you can get a working holiday visa fairly easily for Australia, New Zealand and Canada. If you’re working abroad, you’ll only need to save enough money to buy your flights and keep you going for a month or two just in case you don’t find work immediately.

It’s much more fun to save for travel when you’re already travelling and you’ll find that you’ll meet lots of other backpackers in the same situation. I lived with heaps on people in Australia who were all working 12 hour days in order to save as much money as quickly as possible to start travelling again. You can travel around that country and when you run out of money, just stop travelling and start working again. Simples.


Do you have any other tips for saving for travel?


We live in an amazing age for communication – well some make think otherwise but the sheer amount of social media and tech means keeping in touch with people is heaps easy!

I’ve been on the road for a few years now and to be blunt I don’t really miss anyone! People ask me why and it’s simple really – I chat to everyone all the time, people know what i’m up to via my blog and the joys of the internet mean I can even see these people whilst talking to them. They’re still as much of a part of my life when I’m sunning myself on an island in Thailand or on a glacier in New Zealand as they are when I’m back in my own living room in the same town as them!

As a backpacker although you’re looking to escape the 9-5 grind and explore it’s still important to keep in touch with people back home, not just to annoy them (although to be honest this is now my main reason!) but because that’s what friend do!

Luckily there’s a whole heap of ways for backpackers to keep in touch with home (or travel buddies for that matter) – here’s My Top 5 Ways To Keep In Touch While Travelling...


  • Postcards – you can’t beat a good old fashioned bit of postcard communication with home? What sums up your travel fun more than a generic photo of a place, an exotic stamp and some squashed up writing?! Or you could take postcards into the 21st century with a smartphone app called TouchNote, which turns your phone pictures in to postcards ince postage and a mpa of where you sent it from! Postcards just got a whole lot easier!


  • Whats App/iMessage/Viber/Heytell – there’s a millions smartphone apps that allow you to easily get in touch with friends and family, be it texts, pics or short voice messages. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone these days and as long as you can steal some free wifi it’s cheap and easy to do!


  • Facetime/Skype – if you want to actually see peoples from time to time then a good old bit of skype video calling or Facetime is perfect, providing you have a reliable internet connection. For me this is my preferred method as it’s nice to have a face to face chat…well nearly!


  • Calls – Sometimes a good old fashioned phone call is always good! Especially if you know people who haven’t quite caught up with 21st century tech! Luckily making international phone calls doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg anymore and you can easily do it via the internet or phone card.


  • Facebook – easily the best way to keep in touch with multiple people is Facebook. Love it or hate it for a backpacker it’s the quickest way to share information, show people your pics or send a private message. Even if you don’t chat to people one on one at least your buddies won’t be out of the loop on what you’re up to and you can keep an eye on the gossip back home!


How do you guys keep in touch with people whilst on the road? Message in a bottle? Written letter?!