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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

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Take the plunge – Bungee Jumping at Kawarau Bridge, New Zealand

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New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. From the top of North Island to the tip of South Island, and places in between, it offers unparalleled natural splendor.  The country has everything a nature-loving visitor could desire.  Blessed with snow-capped mountains, picturesque beaches, clear blue seas, rolling plains, sparkling rivers, scenic forests and steaming hot-springs, New Zealand is the complete package.

Bungy Jumping in Queenstown, New Zealand

Then there is Queenstown!  This, the adventure capital of the world beguiles you with its fabulous scenery and serene blue lake but plenty of heart-stopping action happens around this lovely town.  Bungee jumping in Queenstown is the most popular adventure activity, which attracts thousands of jumpers every year.

The most famous jump is located at the Kawarau Bridge, the acknowledged home of the original bungy jump.  At 43 metres (141 feet) it is also reckoned as being the highest bunjee jump in the world.  When you visit New Zealand you just have to allow yourself to be tied to a giant rubber chord and take off from the bridge. In the travel industry the expression ‘must-do’ is over used but this intensely exhilarating five second experience is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

When you are on the platform, flanked by the sheer rock cliffs of the gorge, with the Kawarau River rushing below, you can choose your manner of going.  You can decide how you want to do it – backwards, forwards, head first; topple over, with a friend or by yourself.  The staff guys who operate the bungy cords are so experienced and practiced, they can ensure that you end up bobbing just over the water, only up to your waist or totally dunked in the river.

Bungy Jumping in New Zealand

Another amazing thing about bungee jumping at the Kawarau Bridge is that it is actually very gentle on your body.  The jumper will not be harmed or stretched so little children and old folks alike can do it without fear.  After all, it’s only in your head.

This awesome experience can also be photographed or videoed so you can have a record of your feat to show your friends and family back home.

Do keep in mind that the operational hours of the jumps will vary, depending upon the season so call ahead to confirm the hours at the time of your visit.

 

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10 ways Travelling can Change your Life

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There are so many metaphors to describe travel that one could get lost just trying to choose.  You could think of it as a long dusty highway; a faint, fuzzy distant and uncertain yet inviting horizon; a magical mystery forest; a rainbow begging for you to find its pot of gold; the roar of an unseen lion in the bush, which has your blood pounding.  All of which may have you scared yet strangely excited.

travel

Whatever word picture best describes your own personal experience there is one sure thing that travel does.  It changes you – for better or worse; whether you like it or not; whether you are conscious of it or not.  You change!!  As was once said, ‘change is the only constant.’  You cannot avoid it.

1)   Getting out of your PJs and your comfort zone

Your comfort zone is probably the first barrier you have to climb over when you set out to travel.  There are literally thousands of little things you do or wouldn’t do, which you will be pushed to do when you are far away out there.  You will have to shed those warm, comfy PJs of home and its security.  Everything is new; everything is different.  Everyday things suddenly seem scary and strange.  There is no escape so you will have to force yourself out of those secure places in your mind. In a short while you will be doing ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ things in far-off places and treat them as routine.  It is amazing how quickly we shed our old skins.

2)   Decision-making comes easier

There is no one to turn to – no good friend or mom or dad to help when you have to make an unplanned change of course or when an unexpected glitch pops up in your schedule.  You start to figure out alternatives based on scant information.  You learn to process the options based on your own experiences and needs without the pressure of another person’s biases.  You will discover, you have a mind of your own and it is a pretty good and clear one too!

3)   You stretch, become flexible

You learn to bend with the wind and sway with it like a palm tree. The rigidity of earlier life-long routines suddenly seems unnecessary.  You will quickly throw off the shackles of ‘this is how I do things.’  Sometimes the new routines may last only a couple of days and you have to change them again.  But that’s all right ‘cause you are now on your toes and the daily drudgery of routines are why left home to travel, didn’t you?  You find that locals do things differently and you learn to appreciate the merit in that. You will appreciate and understand the basis for their customs and enjoy it.  You may find yourself adopting their cultural practices and making them your own.    Like a good yoga work out, the changes will do you good.

4)    You adapt; ride the tide

Your precious lifestyle abruptly goes out the window.  The facilities and comforts you grew up with and took for granted are not available anymore.  You are out there free-falling and unsure of anything.  No matter how much you read up and googled you will still be unprepared for the experiences that await you.  The colours, smells, sights and sounds will overwhelm you.  Right will be left and vice versa.  Your fears will rise right up and you will want to get back on the flight you just got off.

Stick it out and you will find that different is terrific.  Embrace it and enjoy it.  You learn to ride the tide and cope with slow, uncomfortable buses.  Hotel rooms will often not be not quite as advertised and situations seem to change every time you look.  Delays can lead to missed connections and leave you seemingly stranded in the midst of nowhere or late at night in a town that has gone to sleep. No worries you will find a way to move on and find a place to lay your head and sort out the situation.

5)   You become stronger

Whoever said, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ must have been talking about travel.  Things happen when you are on a trip that just doesn’t happen when you are at home.  That warm, sheltered cocoon called home is out of reach.  You find yourself on the wrong bus or train; you get sick and no doctor around; you get robbed and left with no money and no friendly soul to help; you lose your passport and have to travel a huge distance to get to the embassy to replace it thus throwing your whole schedule and bookings out of gear.  The list can be endless and most incidents minor and bad luck seems to dog your every step.  Bad enough for you to want to just pack it all in and head back home.

However, you stick it out and find you have survived the hassles and horrid things that happened to you.  You discover a well of resilience you never knew you had.  You start to chalk it down to lessons learned, experiences to be treasured and even laughed at in retrospect.  Minor things stop bothering you; problems are there to be solved, not bury you. You very quickly lose your fear of the unexpected and frustration is no longer a part of your make up while calmness and composure does.  You exert more control over your life and if you don’t have control you don’t panic or even worry.  Anxiety attacks become a thing of the past.  You develop the strength to do your own thing and the courage to avoid being pressured into following the ‘group.’  You grow steel in your spine making you strong in a quiet, non-aggressive way.

6)   You get comfortable with yourself

Loneliness is one of the biggest concerns when leaving home to travel the world. Believe me, it is not a problem at all – you will love the time alone.  You have no encumbrances; not have to answer to anyone; do what you want when you want.  You are truly liberated because it is just you and the experiences you set out to find or unexpected joys that pop up.  Being alone is a marvellous tool.  Your mind and your soul expand because there is much in the world that will open your eyes.  Read books (or invest in a kindle) take long walks, day dream, listen to music.  You will discover independence and the strength it brings; you will function well on your own.  You will define yourself without the crutch of relationships. You are living your dream.  You will get comfortable in your skin.  It’s a good kind of lonely.

7)  Confidence, assurance or self-belief

Call it what you will but you acquire poise and coolness under pressure.  Trying to get directions in a language you don’t know; talking to a stranger; taking risks (not stupid ones though) and managing them; learning to trust your instinct and intuition; honing your perception to the point where you confidently make a call on whom to trust and not to.  Hey!  You have navigated strange cities and the Australian Great Barrier Reef with the same aplomb.  You can do anything, even climb Mt Everest.  It’s all cool.

8)   You lose your ego-centrism while perceptions change

When you pack your bag for a journey you better leave behind your old mindset. You are going to find, for a start, that people think and see things differently in the rest of the world.  They do things a whole lot differently too that are not necessarily bad or inferior. It works for them and who are you to criticise.  You could say there are other worlds outside your own.  You make friends on the road with people whose opinions may clash with yours but that’s OK.  You become more understanding and tolerant of people, places and things.  You will also acquire one major virtue – patience. Buses are either late or simply do not show up; food can be awful or mediocre; people struggle to understand you; lines will be long and the weather will be bad; the list is endless.  There is nothing you can do about it so you learn to close your eyes and play back that gorgeous sunset you watched the previous day.  Beats any TV show you’ve seen.  The kaleidoscope of your world vision changes.  You find people are basically the same all over the world yet wonderfully different.

9)   Fear of Food

Something as basic as food, in a foreign country, becomes a huge challenge for many people. In many cases it either throws them off travelling or they only go where ‘the water is safe.’  However, eating the local food is just as important as seeing the sights.  You won’t fully appreciate the culture of the country until you have dipped your fingers into a bowl of spicy Indian curry; fumbled clumsily with chopsticks in a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant; have your eyes water from biting down on a hot chilli.  Oh the magic when you do start to enjoy the amazing flavours that coconut, ginger, garlic, onions and hundreds of other spices bring to a dish.  You will never go with ‘bland’ again.  The taste of calamari or the aroma of a fresh mackerel fried in red chilli, onion and garlic paste on a Goa beach will never quite leave you.  Long after you return from your travels you will find that it is the memory of a dish that will prod you to relive your travel experiences.  The taste buds never forget for they will have changed and adapted as much as you.

10) Your horizons get wider and higher

Your changed world view will come from a wide variety of influences and an infinite number of directions.  Many of these experiences will be small and seemingly inconsequential but they will stay with you.  It could be gazing at a sunset on a beach in Bali or a long conversation with a total stranger as you both cup hands around steaming mugs of tea under a bamboo shelter somewhere in Laos.  You will lose the fear of moving to a strange city; you will embrace the challenge of starting anew; you have trekked the world; got out of uncomfortable and difficult situations; been a stranger in every place yet come away with friends.  Travel will give you skills, experiences, knowledge and the ability to navigate life better.  It truly transforms you, makes you more compassionate, and opens your eyes and soul to the universe.  The future is no more an uncertain thing; rather it is exciting place of endless possibilities.

You’ve travelled far and have come a long way.

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If you’re a movie buff head to Morocco!

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Morocco is a country of rugged beauty and magical cities.  You sometimes get the impression that it is an eclectic collection of movies sets.   Oh wait!  It’s actually the other way round.  Many an action-packed blockbuster and romantic film has been shot in a variety of locations here.  So popular is the country for filmmakers that as a movie-goer it seems familiar when you actually visit.

Morocco Tours

There are many things to do in Morocco, which is also every tourist’s dream. It is exotic, exciting and unpredictable.  Vast stretches of desert sands compete with the fabulous beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean, deep wooded valleys and orchards.  The tall craggy Atlas Mountains contrast beautifully with the green and flower bedecked Rif Mountains.  Morocco is also blessed with weather that is wide and varied.

It is a land of outstanding beauty attracting adventure enthusiasts, seekers of the unusual, foodies and the regular ‘been there, seen it’ types.  It is also the Mecca for movie buffs.  Now let’s move on to the main feature – the places you should visit in Morocco that have featured in the movies.

Marrakech

The souks and Medina has been the setting of several well known films, including Sex and the City 2, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Mama Mia.  Marrakech’s main square, Djemaa El Fna has been the star in many a shot.

Aït Ben Haddou

The crenulated walls and turrets of this ancient city has witnessed many a battle for is possession in its long history.  In modern times it has witness conflicts of the cinematic kind such as Gladiator, Babel and Lawrence Of Arabia.  Such is the magnificence and history of this 11th century city – it is listed as a UN World Heritage Site.

Erfoud

The surrounding desert and amazing sand dunes of Erg Chebbi has witnessed many a movie star do their thing.  This is the area around Erfoud, which been used as the backdrop to Sex And The City 2.  The long extinct volcano near Erfoud  was used extensively in shooting the The Mummy

Tangiers

The hugely intriguing and highly intelligent movie, Inception was shot in Tangiers.  Many of the scenes feature its landscapes and cityscapes.

 Casablanca

This lovely and evocative city was the title of the iconic 1942 movie of the same name.  However, Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergmanwas never filmed here!  It was an entirely a studio movie.

The above list are just a few of the locations used in movies beginning with the 1897 when the Lumiere brothers filmed their classics.  Orson Wells shot his Othello in Morocco way back in 1950.  Since then a host of other great movies have used the fantastic and highly distinctive landscapes of Morocco to enhance their cinematic appeal.

  • “Hidalgo”
  • “Troy”
  • “Rules of Engagement”
  • “Black Hawk Down”
  • “Kingdom of Heaven”
  • “The Hills Have Eyes”
  • “Patton”
  • “The Bourne Ultimatum”
  • “Alexander”
  • “American Sniper”
  • “Brideshead Revisited”
  • “Green Zone”

Casablanca Tours

The grand architecture of the cities, the picturesque mountain villages and dramatic sand dunes, make Morocco a highly sought after backdrop for the film industry.  If you need a desert scene in your movie, Morocco is the best place to go to film it.

Morocco Tours

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Falling In Love is Easy at these Romantic Getaways

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For some indefinable reason there is a connection between the sea and the tender side of the human spirit. Whatever that mystical bond, it seems that, the most romantic spots in the world are located in the oceans or their coastlines. From the amazing tropical paradise islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Caribbean Sea and the azure waters off the gorgeous coasts of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Adriatic Seas.

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The following are some places we think you should spend your honeymoon; propose to your loved one or renew those romantic feelings.

Kerala, India

‘God’s own country’ has been used to describe this paradise on the south-western Malabar Coast of India. It is accurate in every sense. Dazzling, pristine, un-crowded golden beaches; lush tropical forests; vast tracts of coconut groves; mile upon mile of green paddy fields and forested hills guarantee unparalleled experiences.

A houseboat cruise through green canopied naturally formed waterways and backwaters will enchant you so much that you never want to leave this green heaven.

Kyoto, Japan

This cherry-blossom tree filled city is ideal for those looking for quiet and serenity. It is a truly amazing place surrounded by lush green hills and breath-taking mountains. Perfectly formed trees line the streets and Chinese-style gardens are all over the place. Kyoto is also famed for the intricate and delicate craftsmanship of its pagodas with the golden Kinkaku-ji temple being the showpiece. A walk through the rock garden of Ryoan-ji and the Zen temples are sure to instil some peace and tranquillity in your soul and stir up those romantic feelings.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali has been deliberately designed by nature for romance. Its amazingly picturesque scenery, stunning beaches, streams, dramatic rock formations and sparkling waterfalls topped off with spectacular sunsets seem to have been crafted for lovers.

Human touches such as beautiful temples at every nook and bend; the warm, gentle, welcoming culture and colourful traditions of its people only add to an already heart-warming setting.

Hawaii Tours

St. Barts

St Barts is a stand-out romantic island in a sea of wonderfully picturesque islands. It has everything – cool breezes, swaying palm trees lining absolutely stunning white-sand beaches with the blue waters of the Caribbean lapping its shores. All this capped by clear blue skies above. A tiny island, it has also managed to capture the chic and elegance of France, which governs it.

St. Barts is the real deal – a tropical island paradise. A place every honeymooner or romantic dreams of.

Venice, Italy

The very name conjures up star-filled skies, enchanting cafes, beautiful buildings and those captivating canals. Superlatives and adjectives such as magical seem to fall short when trying to capture the essence of this wonderful city.

The romantic power of a gondola ride through the canals of Venice can never be overstated. Add a dinner and you have the perfect potion for love and romance. “Happily ever after…” must have been invented by Venice.

The Seychelles, Africa

If it is solitude and seclusion you desire then The Seychelles is where you should disappear for your romantic getaway. Located off the east coast of southern Africa it is a balmy and truly exotic haven with guaranteed spectacular panoramic views. Empty beaches, unspoiled jungles filled with birds of every hue while sea birds soar above adding their calls to nature’s music.

Island hopping will fill you with unforgettable experiences. You will find places whose only inhabitants are giant tortoises; warm waters that you will be unable to resist. The friendly local Seychellois are a lovely mix of Indian, French, Southeast Asian ancestry, which shows up in the food, culture and buildings.

Maldives, Indian Ocean

Like some sparkling necklace the Maldives spreads it island jewels in the Indian Ocean. They exemplify the perfect island paradise. Made up of atolls, luminescent blue lagoons, coral reefs and swept by cool balmy breezes, they will have you in their thrall even as you see them from your aircraft window, for the first time,.

The various resorts on the islands will ensure that leaving will be a massive wrench. Thatched cottages and villas have private sundecks and steps leading straight down in the clear, shallow lagoons. Surf lapping under your cottage is the soothing lullaby that sends you off to dreamland. Sorry! You are already there.

If there is a heaven on earth, then, this is it! This is it.

Brugge (Bruges), Belgium

Chocolates are not the only good thing in Belgium. Brugge is the next best thing to fairytale land. Its quaint houses, cobblestone streets, winding canals, picturesque footbridges, ponds inhabited by majestic swans create a romantic atmosphere like no other. You will feel like a leading character in a Disney movie.

The Historic Centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is the world’s best example of a medieval town, where you can expect a horse-drawn carriage carrying a princess on her way to the ball to roll past you at any minute. Church spires and soaring towers gaze down upon picture-perfect village-like market squares.

You may never leave and who would want to leave a real-life wonderland!

Charleston, South Carolina, USA

There is no other place that matches Charleston for grace, charm and historic ambience than this picturesque Southern town. The antebellum architecture of this 300 year old city and its old world grace make it one of the most romantic places in North America.

Its magnolia lined streets and sprawling tall-pillar-fronted mansions are surrounded by manicured lawns and gardens. Leafy avenues bounded by profusely flowered parks are enough to change the way you walk, talk and interact with other folks. You will get all chivalrous and polite. The perfume of magnolias and honeysuckle fill the air and infuse you with romantic feelings. A major effect of all this magic is that couples come here just to get married at one of the charming white-painted churches.

The Italian Riviera

Medieval red-roofed villages perched on rocky hilltops; picturesque fishing villages packed with colorful boats straggling down hillsides towards the water’s edge; tiny pebbled or sandy beaches washed by the sapphire blue Mediterranean Sea. That’s what you get when you go to the Italian portion of the Riviera.

Visions of sturdy, sun-burned sailors heading out to sea to fish or discover distant lands will rise up in your mind’s eye. The possibility of brushing shoulders with princes and princesses and movie stars only add to the glamour of this whole region. There is nothing to beat the Italian Riviera for ambience, stunning views of the sea enhanced by vineyards and olive groves for good old-fashioned romanticism.

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Top 5 Summer Travel Destinations in 2015

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As winter very slowly relaxes her grip on the northern hemisphere it is time to turn one’s thoughts to finding getaways for the approaching summer.  In a world full of choices we hope our selection will inspire you.

1) Da Nang, Vietnam

This laid back and friendly city is located on Vietnam’s eastern coast halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  The largest city in the country it was the French colonial entry point into Vietnam.  Many beautiful remnants of historic buildings and French architecture are still to be found.

Da Nang is characterized by its genuinely friendly people.  It has not acquired the hustle, bustle and hectic pace of the big city life.  It has not yet become a hotspot on the tourist trail and makes a welcome change.  Some of its attractions are beautiful beaches – the best and most well known is China (My Khe) Beach.

From Da Nang you could take several day trips to Nui Son Tra (Monkey Mountain) and the five wonderful Marble Mountains.  The city’s nightlife and fabulous food are legendary.

vietnam tours

2) Bodrum, Turkey

What was once a small, sleepy, picturesque fishing village on the Aegean Sea, Bodrum has transformed into a wonderful destination.  It is now an outstanding combination of the ancient, medieval and modern.  Historic buildings reached by and winding backstreets amiably rub shoulders with chic shops, boutiques, salons, elegant restaurants and cafés.

Ottoman period mosques, ancient Roman relics and the Crusader era castle have helped retain that lost-era flavor.  The pretty green-clad hills surrounding the city, numerous coves, bays and astounding blue seas make this once unknown seaside town a very attractive place.

Turkey Tours

3) Costa Rica

This summer travel to Costa Rica before the rest of the world gets there.  More than half of this tiny country is covered in thick green forests, populated by a large variety of fauna and colorful birds.  It is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world protected by 60 National Parks and Reserves. It has rainforests, temperate forests, tall mountains and lush lowlands.

If jungle adventures are not your thing or you want a more laid back experience then head for the amazing beaches.  You have the choice of the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea.  Costa Rican beaches are the equal of any other in the Caribbean and world-class surfing opportunities.  There are also several volcanoes that are safe to visit.  Costa Rica has plenty of waterfalls, misty crater lakes and deserted beaches.

You will be spoilt for the choice as to the experiences you want to have.

Costa Rica Tours

4) Namibia

Namibia is one of the most dramatically landscaped places in the whole world. A spectacularly successful pioneer in the field of conservation and animal protection, the country’s wildlife has actually increased!  It is one of Africa’s most rewarding destinations.

The country posses some the planet’s most stunning scenery in the form of the mighty Fish River Canyon, the Kalahari and Namib deserts.  The wildlife is so abundant and astonishing, especially at the Etosha National Park that it should be proclaimed a “natural wonder.”

Namibia will stay in your memory long after your aircraft’s wheels have touched down in your home city.

namibia tours

5) Croatia

Croatia is a relative newcomer to the international tourist trail.  That makes it a great place to visit before the crowds start to show up.  It has a wonderful Mediterranean climate, gifted by the astonishing blue Adriatic Sea.  Thickly forested mountains, fabulous beaches, a thousand pretty and charming islands, achingly beautiful lakes and sparkling musical streams make up this country.  The region is also home to hundreds of pretty bird species and wild animals.

Even amongst so much beauty, the southernmost county of Dubrovnik-Neretva is outstanding. It is populated by quiet picture-postcard villages, sheltered fishing hamlets; hidden coves; tiny secluded isles and some very, very beautiful and historic towns.

croatia tours

It is easy to see why the ancient Greeks holidayed here.

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6 Myths of Solo Travel

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If you are of a mind to travel you should.  Don’t hang around waiting for your friend(s) to make up their minds or the time to accompany you.  Don’t put off your travel because you are too young (or too old) or you should be thinking about your future and career.  If you do, chances are, you will never get on that plane or hit the road.

Don’t let others put you off.  There are so many myths and negative perceptions about solo travel it’s enough to stop you from stepping out the front door and going to the local shops.  We give you the other, positive side of the picture and clear up misconceptions about travelling alone.

So plan that trip, book your tickets, pack your bags, lace up those walking shoes and head out the door.  Your experiences and adventures will enrich your life and make your travel dreams come true.

It is better to travel with someone

This is very often the first argument thrown at you.  This is debatable with several points in favour of having a companion.  However, it is not always better.  People you know well (or thought you did) and like can turn out to be awful travel companions.  You will discover resources, strengths and capabilities you never knew you had.

Your experiences, discoveries and memories will not be diluted or influenced by the tastes, priorities and plans of others.  You eat, drink, sleep, travel change direction, take pictures, chat with whomever and do whatever you want, whenever you want.  No need to check or adjust your itinerary with another.  It’s just you.

It’s a big, bad world out there

You cannot live your life in fear.  There are risks everywhere and to everything, even in your own town or city.  Life is full of perils and so is travel.  Some precautions you could take to lessen the odds of danger coming your way:  Avoid flaunting flashy jewellery; don’t wear clothing to advertise yourself as a tourist; struggling to read your map on the street or dangling that expensive camera from your neck.

So a pinch of caution, a teaspoon of intelligence, an ounce of alertness and a healthy dollop of intuition are the best ingredients for a great and safe solo holiday.

You will be lonely

Never!  In fact the opposite is true.  You may occasionally be alone but that is not the same as lonely.  Hostels and hotels along the tourist trails are full of friendly people who are doing more or less the same as you are.  You will meet like-minded fellow travellers, home-stay owners, knowledgeable fellow passengers and other wonderfully interesting people with advice, tips and information.  When you travel alone you will open up and reach out to people – almost unconsciously.  You will wind up sharing meals, jokes, stories and experiences.  You will hardly ever be lonely.  Really!  In many instances you will may need to escape to your room or a quiet spot just to be by yourself.

A Stranger is Danger

Don’t talk to strangers!  So what are you going to do?  Stare at the walls; bury your nose in a book throughout your trip? That advice made good sense when you were a child.  When you travel every one is a stranger.  Even other members of a safe, cosy package tour are strangers.

When you are on the road you have to make the effort to meet and interact with people, especially the locals.  It’s my belief that if you haven’t seen the sights, met the locals and eaten the food you have never really been there.  Those are the ways in which you will get to experience, understand and enjoy the local culture.  Your fellow travellers as well as locals will turn out to be interesting people with stories to tell.  They will tell you the best places to eat, get shopping bargains and give directions.  They can advise you on the quirks of local transportation and good times to visit the sights and a whole range of local conditions.  And you will make friends.

Trust your instincts to the hilt.  Walk away from someone who is annoying or making you uncomfortable.  If you have the slightest misgivings about somebody don’t hesitate to be blunt and tell them to leave you alone.

Language will be a barrier

Yes, it will be a hassle but not an insurmountable barrier.  In fact travelling alone, with no help, you will probably pick up a foreign language faster.  Of course, learning a couple of key phrases before you start out won’t hurt.

That said, you have to remember that English is spoken nearly everywhere.  Some of the accents and phraseology may baffle you (or make you giggle) initially.  I have been to Thailand and France on a solo holiday without knowing either language and managed quite nicely, thank you.  People really do make the effort to help.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Of course there will be problems, tests and glitches on your journey but finding solutions to them will serve you in good stead.  You will become so much more resourceful, resilient, positive and confident. And it will have come about by travelling solo.  Now that isn’t so bad, is it?

Risks of Solo Travel Are Just Myths

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5 Tips to Handle Money While Travelling

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Money!  Ah that happy medium of exchange, which keeps the world turning and your travel wheels too.  One of the biggest concerns when travelling abroad is money – and managing it.  Exchange rates, loss and safety of cash are issues.  Suddenly you find yourself neck deep in a whole lot of international currency calculations.

Tips to Handle Money While Travelling

Before you set off to see the world you need to do a little homework to stretch your hard-earned and precious savings.  We provide the following 5 options for your consideration.  What we advocate is a sort of mix and match approach to get the most out of your travelling funds.

Budget your expenses

Just the thought of having to sit down and work out what your expenses are going to give you a headache.  That pre-travel exercise, however, may make the difference between having a happy or stressed holiday.

Take the time to identify your priorities – essential, non-essential.  Work out your average daily expenses.  Try to categorize these daily spends.  Then calculate how much you could possibly need for shopping and other incidental costs.

Credit Cards

These are really good on the safety front.  They spare you the constant worry of carrying large amounts of cash.  They are also handy for making large payments such as hotel bills and air tickets.

A plus point is credit card purchases, in foreign currency, have the best rates on conversion fees.  They are lower than if you exchanged your currency for the local one at a change bureau.  Shop around because there are several cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees at all.

Before you set out call your bank and inform them of your travel plans.  Otherwise sudden international transactions could result in your account being frozen or trigger your issuer’s fraud alert system.

Debit Cards

Besides the safety factor, debit cards are the most convenient way to get cash in local currency.  The exchange rate of cash withdrawals are the same as that of credit cards.  They also work in the same that credit cards do.  A cautionary note here: if you lose your debit card or it is stolen you must report it within two business days.  If you wait any longer, you could be responsible for hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges.

Before you set out call your bank and inform them of your travel plans.  Otherwise sudden international transactions could result in your account being frozen or trigger your issuer’s fraud alert system.

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Travellers Cheques

In days gone past, travellers cheques were the best and secure means of carrying money abroad.  While they are not so popular anymore they do serve as a back up and an alternative to carrying cash.  They can be replaced immediately if lost or stolen.  They are very useful if you find yourself in a place without an ATM or at a store that does not accept cards.  Yes, there are still places like that.

However, they do suffer in comparison to credit and debit cards when it comes to exchange rates.

Cash

Before you leave home it is advisable to obtain some foreign currency.  This is to tide you over for the initial period that you are in a foreign country.  You will need it to pay for the taxi to your hotel or a meal till you locate an ATM.

Bear in mind that there still exist restaurants, hotels and shops that don’t accept cards of any kind.  You may also find yourself in locales that do not have facilities to handle cards.  Cash is also handy for local travel, tips and small purchases.

To get the best bang for your buck we suggest you employ a mix of cards, cheques and cash when travelling abroad.   They should give you the peace of mind to explore the country and meet new people rather worrying about money.

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Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations this summer

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Miles of beaches of white powdery sands; acres of green meadowland; serene lakes; pale blue skies; orange sunsets; azure and warm waters and forest clad mountains stretching into the misty distance.  These are just some of the locations that honeymooners look for when making that ‘once in a life time’ choice.

There are a wide range of options from a shack on a beach with views of the sunset to a log cabin on a mountainside.  So much so it can be quite a tough (if thoroughly enjoyable) task deciding on that ideal romantic getaway.

We hope our list will make your task just that bit easier.

1) The Seychelles

A group of some 115 islands the Seychelles is a paradise of dazzling white beaches, clear blue waters.  There is tons of privacy with most of the accommodation being separate villas. Located off the east coast of southern Africa it is a balmy and truly exotic haven with guaranteed spectacular panoramic views.

Seychelles Tours

2) Bali

Bali is called “the island of a thousand puras (temples).”  However, it is the incredible beauty and mystical, magical environment of this tropical isle that envelopes you.  Balmy breezes, swaying palm trees, gentle and cheerful people and the fabulous Indian Ocean as a backdrop are enough to make you want to stay forever.  Superb seafood and spas round off the near spiritual experience that Bali offers.

3) Hawaii

One of the most beautiful honeymoon destinations ever, any one of the Hawaiian Islands is a great place to drop out of the world and enjoy your honeymoon.  The pristine and quiet beaches, rugged volcanic mountains draped with thick colourful vegetation serve as a marvellous setting for unforgettable memories.  The warm, welcoming natives and their rich and colourful culture and tasty Mai tais are added ingredients that make for an intoxicating romantic getaway.

Hawaii Tours

4) Ireland

The Emerald Isle is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Its countryside serves as inspiration for poetry, music and art.  The colour green takes on new and wondrous lustre here.  To that, add its ancient history characterised by castles, forts and picturesque, timeless villages.  Snug centuries old pubs that serve stimulating Irish whiskey and ale will warm your heart.  This beautiful island with its tales of fairies, elves, dragons, magic and mystery will live on in your memory long after you and your spouse have returned home.

5) Croatia

Croatia is an unheralded jewel.  It has a marvelous Mediterranean climate made even more glorious by the moderation of the Adriatic Sea.  It has also managed to preserve its wonderfully colorful historical and architectural heritage.  It is a terrific mix of the ancient, medieval and modern.

Plentiful and thickly forested mountains vie for attention with beaches, achingly beautiful lakes, sparkling streams, musical waterfalls and a thousand picturesque islands.  This treasure house has winding roads running through the picture-postcard countryside and ancient pretty villages that haven’t changed in generations.

6) Lake Como, Italy

It is with good reason that movie stars and other celebrities holiday here.  In a country that has innumerable gorgeous locations, the Lake Como province of Italy is a stand-out.   For centuries people have been holidaying here so that they can experience its fresh air, mountains and marvellous weather.  The “Y” shape of the lake is relatively flat at the southern end turning mountainous as you head north thus providing changing landscape and variety.

Lake Como, Italy Tours

The region has beauty and uniqueness all its own.  The little towns and villages in combination with elegant villas dot the region giving it its characteristic atmosphere.

7) Los Cabos, Mexico

You want serenity and plenty of distance between you and other holidaymakers to enjoy your honeymoon?  Then get yourself and your loved one down to Los Cabos in Mexico.  Poised on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, the area has vast acres of deserted beaches, shimmering blue waters and a fabulous coastline including the iconic “El Arco” rock formation.

The life here is laid back but the facilities, hotels, nightclubs, all-inclusive resorts, dining options and activities are plentiful and world class.

8) Paris, France

With doubt the most romantic city on the planet, Paris has been the destination for more honeymooners than any other.  It is packed with gorgeous gardens, iconic and historic monuments.  The River Seine does more than its share of adding to the romantic side of this great city.

The city has a plethora of lovely, cobble-stoned streets full of charming bars, cosy bistros and street-side cafés with outside tables.  Paris’ nightlife is legendary and the sheer numbers, variety and quality of entertainment choices can be happily overwhelming.  The best part is that Paris loves lovers and knows how best to treat them.

Paris Tours

9) St. Barts

The entire Caribbean is one great romantic pond yet St. Barts manages to stand out.  Officially a department of France, the island has incorporated all the glamour and chic of that country.  It is just eight square miles. Yet it manages to house two of the world’s best and fabulous white-sand beaches, which are un-crowded.  It also has an eclectic mix of designer shops, a bay populated by luxury yachts and celebrities.

The island’s spectacular scenery, warm breezes, swaying palm trees, clear blue skies sells itself and does not need any high-pitched advertising.  St. Barts is that authentic, too-good-to-be-true tropical island paradise.  Something every honeymooner dreams of.

10) New Zealand

The ‘land of the long white cloud’ is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  It seamlessly combines South Pacific Island and European alpine scenery.  It has stunning diverse landscapes and a moderate climate.  So spending your honeymoon here will give you every option you could want.  Stroll along pristine beaches or ski down snow clad slopes – all in one country and same period.

You can relax in privacy on the beaches of the Coromandel oast; or take in the fantastic coastline along Malborough Sound or cruise down Queen Charlotte Sound.  Or maybe you could have an activity packed honeymoon in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.  Calm or hectic, New Zealand has it by the bucketful.

New Zealand Tours

 

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Florence: A Guide for First Time Visitors

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When you see Florence for the first time you cannot believe your eyes or luck.  It packs in so much fantastic beauty, art, vibrancy and culture that your eyes will water.  It is no wonder that Florence is ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful cities.  Here you will find architectural and artistic remnants from every historical era.  However, it is first and foremost a Renaissance city – a cradle of that fabulous and glorious period.

Florence Tours

Yet it is not a city stuck in the past or frozen in an architectural time warp.  It is a very lively, cosmopolitan place with both feet very firmly planted in the present and eyes on the coming years.  Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region.

If you are a first time visitor it would be well to keep several important facts in mind to make your Florence sightseeing hassle free. Here are some tips on Florence.

From a weather perspective, the best time to take a Florence vacation is from spring to early summer and end of summer to end of autumn.  In summer, Florence could roast you with temperatures around the 40oC mark.  The winter can be really cold with the mercury dipping below zero and very rainy too.

If you are arriving by air then it is most likely that you will land at the Galileo Galilei airport in Pisa.  This is because the smaller Peretola airport in Florence cannot handle most international long haul and bigger aircraft.

The train or bus ride into Florence from Pisa takes just over an hour.  It is advisable to take the train as there are often traffic jams and if you have a flight to catch you could possibly be late and miss it.

Florence is a very popular destination.  It can get extremely crowded between the months of March and September when tourists and school trips fill the place.  As a result accommodation can be very expensive and often hard to find.  It also means that you could spend hours in queues to enter a monument, church or museum.

As a first time Florence tourist arranging accommodation in can be a bit like navigating a maze.  The various types of hospitality options are Hotels, Historic Residences, Pensions, Rooms for Rent, Hostels and Bed & Breakfast establishments.  Figuring out what you get at each is not easy so check and confirm at the time of booking.  Many Bed & Breakfast places don’t serve breakfast.

A Florentine peculiarity is the address numbering!  It is dual system involving red, black and blue, which quite independent of each other.  Red street numbers are for businesses, commercial establishments and shops.  Blue or black numbers (on a white plate) are for hotels and houses.  So don’t be surprised if you find a red 27 right next to a blue 8.

One essential and crucial fact to keep in mind is that museums and public monuments are closed on Mondays!  Also visiting hours are different for each so you need to check before going.

During the peak tourist season (March to September) large crowds throng the various museums and other hot spots.  It is possible to book tickets in advance to avoid the long queues (especially in the summer time).  Unfortunately, there is no single ticket you could use for all museums.

However, there is the Firenze Card (firenzecard.it), which is a pretty good one.  It gives you 72 hours of public transport and queue-skipping admission to all the city’s main museums and historical attractions, including the Uffizi and Accademia galleries.  It is quite expensive, though.

Besides its many architectural and historical marvels Florence is also wonderful in another way.  It is a very compact and fairly small city.  Most of the monuments, museums, churches and shopping areas are all within walking distance of one another.

Here is a list of some of the most famous and not-to-be-missed things you should see on your maiden visit to Florence.

The Basilica Santa Maria Novella near the main railway station; San Lorenzo; the various Medici Chapels; the open air museum of Piazza of the Signoria which is also the location of the world-renowned Uffizi Gallery with its numerous priceless treasures.

Uffizi, Florence

The Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s statue of David, is a must.  The Duomo (Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore) from where you can get incredible views of Florence is another.  The Santa Croce church is another not to be missed site because it contains the remains of Michelangelo, Enrico Germic, Galileo and also a memorial of Dante Alighieri.

Most of Florence’s churches charge an entrance free, except the Duomo.

Art and history aside, Florence is a great place to shop for leather bags, unusual and innovatively designed jewellery and other fashion accessories.  Check out the flea market of San Lorenzo, delle Pulci and the Mercato Nuovo.

Eating or dining costs in Florence swing to the extremes – from the cheap to the very expensive.  The reasonably priced restaurants are around the railway station while the up-market ones are located around Santa Croce.

Before you leave lovely Florence walk under the Mercato Nuovo, rub the nose of the Il Porcellino and drop a coin into his mouth.  These acts will bring you good fortune.

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Travelers’ Guide to Avoid Being Pickpocketed in Rome

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You are as likely to be pick pocketed in Paris, Bangkok and Istanbul as in Barcelona. Rome however enjoys a rather well-known and unwelcome reputation for this particular type of larceny.  So when visiting the city and its remarkable treasures you need to be just that little bit more alert.

tours in rome

We have put together a few tips to help ensure your trip to the eternal city is not forever ruined by a lifted wallet.

Try to blend in: Of course you will never achieve a 100% blending but try and be as inconspicuous as possible.  Pickpockets are great at identifying their mark and especially tourists.  A good way to attract pickpockets’ attention is to flaunt your bling and expensive camera.  Don’t!  The idea is not to be their target.

Be attuned to your surroundings: This is probably the best and most helpful thing to keep in mind.  It applies at all times – whether you are in a crowded area or quiet/deserted one.  Don’t get so lost, in that perfect photo shot or conversation or an item you are examining in the street stall, that you forget all else.

Crowded places and popular public places are happy hunting grounds for pickpockets – solo acts or gangs.  Crowds at railway and bus stations and markets provide great opportunities for pickpockets and purse-snatchers. In Rome some of the more high-risk areas where you should stay alert are the Termini (train stations), Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum.

Keep your wits about you.

Don’t make a pickpocket’s work easy: The most vulnerable spaces are your back pockets.  Don’t put your wallet or anything valuable in them.  Keep your attractive possessions out of sight or better still keep them in your hotel.

Wear a money belt strapped under your shirt.  Don’t put all your cash in it though.  Figure out how much cash you would need during the course of the day and spread it around your person and not all in one pocket.  This is so you avoid exposing yourself in public every time you pay for something.  This may be just a tad inconvenient but better that than cashless in Rome.

Don’t use a fanny pack.  Nothing screams ‘tourist’ louder.  It puts you squarely in the crosshairs of pickpockets’ sights.  Don’t leave your purse, bag or backpack dangling off the back of your chair or on the ground near your feet.

If you must carry a purse or bag then make sure that it has a zip and not an open topped one.  Even then carry it at the front of your body with your arm around it.

Don’t place your camera, mobile phone or purse on a café table or shop counters.  It is easy for thieves to grab your valuables and take off.

The pickpockets’ bag of tricks: Pickpockets are a very talented lot and don’t need your help or carelessness to ply their trade.

Pickpockets have a wide range of scenarios designed to separate you from your valuables.  Many of their plays involve several cast members seemingly unrelated to each other.  Here are some frequently used tricks to be alert to.

If you’re in a crowd and you suddenly get a shove – watch out!   It is at that precise moment when you are unbalanced and distracted that your wallet will be taken.

Other favourite situations for pickpockets are in crowded buses or metro compartments.  When there is obviously no room, they will push their way in and work their talents as they squeeze past you.  Or they will board the metro just before the doors close, snatch your bag, purse or wallet and exit as the doors are closing. A variation is surprising you by shoving your first.

Then there is the scam played out on streets, in markets or around popular tourist sites.  It will involve a child or two and a group.  The modus operandi has the kids pester and distract you while other members of the gang lift your wallet or valuables.

When you witness a disturbance or commotion avoid it.  It is quite often a cover used or created by pickpocket gangs to distract lookers-on while members of the team ply their trade.

When all’s said and done, a little pre-planning, awareness, steering clear of badly-lit, deserted areas and a spoonful of prudence should see you safely through your travels.

Travel carefully – travel happily!

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