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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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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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5 Ways to Stay in Shape While Traveling

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Going out of town or on a vacation or just a casual trip with friends; should not be an excuse to put on some extra pounds. Obviously you cannot continue your daily fitness routine or eat the same kind of food when you are in some other city, but it is not impossible to avoid those extra calories.

stay in shape while traveling

Keep in mind the following to avoid the famous question when you meet people after you come back from your trip; “you have put on weight, were you on a vacation?”

1) Avoid Overindulging

Exploring the dishes of a new place can be quite exciting and if you really like something in particular, you just can’t have enough of it. It’s no harm having a divine cheesy pizza or a rich chocolate truffle, but eat in moderation. Try things which are new, food which you might not get anywhere else. But remember, don’t over indulge!

2) Walk the Town

The best and simple way to stay fit is by taking a brisk walk every day. While on vacation, you can simply walk down to all those nearby museums, parks and other attractions which you want to visit. This will not only help you keep fit and healthy but also burn those extra calories which you had in your last elaborated dinner during your vacation.

3) Hit the Gym

You might just groan at the very idea of going to the gym on a vacation. However, it will only help you. Plan ahead and book a hotel which has a gym or a fitness center. Just spend an hour at the gym and you won’t have to be worried or feel guilty when you get tempted by that gelato ice cream.Don’t forget to pack your gym shoes.

You can also pack your own workout. Your dumbbells, skipping rope or yoga mat can come in handy if you don’t have a gym at your hotel.

 4) Don’t Drink Too much

Do you know your favorite cocktail might just contain more calories than your entire lunch? Go slow on liquor during the vacation. Drink a lot of water and keep yourself hydrated. Also, avoid sodas, cold drinks, iced teas and flavored drinks. Instead have different types of fruit and vegetable juices which are equally soothing and flavorsome.

5) Pack Some Healthy Snacks

It is usual that you will get hungry from all the traveling. Pack some healthy food, yogurt or fruits so that each time you feel hungry, you don’t open the hotel refrigerator and start munching those snacks. Also, avoid all claimed fat free food which replaces fat with sugar and is equally unhealthy. Keep your snacks light and healthy.

Chill, you don’t have to get too worked up to stay fit. It’s a vacation after all, sit and relax. Just take out some time for a little exercise or a short walk and keep 2/3rd of your daily meal slightly normal and healthy. Also, keep a calorie tester with you, your body will thank you for this. Eat healthy and stay in shape. But most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy.

 

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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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Top 10 Destinations for Food Enthusiasts

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One of the best thing about traveling is that you get to try different kinds of cuisines. Isn’t it? So, if you love Italian food, then probably your next vacation should be in some exotic location in Rome. Why not?

Indulge in best of both worlds with a ‘Culinary Vacation’ which means traveling to your favorite destination and experiencing the local scrumptious cuisine. Culinary tourism is quite the trend now and considered as a vital factor of the travel experience.

Food and Wine Tours

If you are the kinds who plan their vacation around food, then the following list will certainly help you. Read on to find out the destinations which can satisfy your taste buds like none other.

1)  Barcelona

Famous for Catalonia cuisine and Spanish wine, Barcelona is one place you shouldn’t miss on your culinary journey. Try various tapas combined with seafood, ham and cured meats. Visit the most impressive market, Mercat de la Boqueria known for the best ingredients available in the Mediterranean. Also, check out the various Pintxo bars and restaurants for some delicious and beautifully prepared cuisines with a beautiful view of the city. Experience the best with these food and wine tours exclusively for you foodies in Barcelona.

 2) Italy

Italy is the food heaven for all the true blue Italian food lovers. The restaurants around the city offers the best meat dishes, local cheeses, risottos, pizzas, pastas and everything Italy is famous for. It is difficult to choose a place to eat as all of them look equally tempting, but whichever place you choose, you will not regret it.

Go on a tasty Tuscany trip and treat yourself to the many delicious food of the Tuscany region. Also visit the beautiful historical market, the San Lorenzo Food Market in Florence to find the best fresh breads, cheeses, and wine in Italy. Relish your favorite Italian with these unique food and wine tours only in Italy.

TOP 10 food destinations

3)  Paris

The City of Lights has a lot to offer a foodie traveler. The best gourmet snacks, haute cuisine, excellent wines, French bread; makes Paris one of the most sunning place to dine in. The must try food are; Baguette- a long thin loaf of French bread usually served with meals, Au Vin- chicken cooked with wine, mushrooms, pork fat and seasoning; and Pot de crème - pot of custard. Your Paris tour will be incomplete without sampling the Patisseries- the French love their cakes and pastries, filled with fruit, cheese and other scrummy things. The food and wine tours can be the best way to have a memorable trip to Paris.

4)  Hong Kong

With a cosmopolitan population you will find different kinds of cuisines. From street cafes serving Asian fusion, to various local restaurants serving ethnic cuisine from Indian to Japanese; find it all in Hong Kong.

The most popular cuisine in Hong Kong is Chinese, which is eaten by one third of the world’s population every day. You can find your favorite Chinese option in almost all restaurants in Hong Kong. The world’s first Chinese restaurant Lung King Heen can probably be a wise choice. Don’t forget to try Steamed Lobster and Dim sum, the local specialty.

 5)  Delhi

Known for its culture, museums and ruins; but one of the best reason to visit Delhi is for its divine food. A combination of different cultures, the city has inherited a legendary culinary heritage. There are 4 categories of Indian cuisine: North, South, East and West. However, the most worldwide popular is North Indian, also known as Mughlai or Punjabi. The other categories mostly include vegetarian items, but are equally famous for their non-vegetarian items made of lamb, goat, chicken and fish with different spices and herbs.

You can find a wide range of restaurants in Huaz Khas Village and Khan Market offering all kinds of Indian cuisines, all set to please your tummy. You can also visit the Old Delhi for some delicious local street food.

Go slow if you are not used to fiery food. Indian food is hot and spicy, but once you get hold of the taste you will just not be able to stop gulping.

6)  Thailand

Thai is the only cuisine which perfectly balances the mix of hot, sour, bitter and sweet. The delightful range of Thai food alone can be a good reason to visit Thailand. Local dishes such as coconut and chicken soup, green and red curries, and a spicy beef salad can compel even the fussiest foodie. Try the raw beef or fermented fish paste, or deep-fried insect larvae if you want some adventure for lunch.

The fancy restaurants, the street-side food carts and Damnoen Saduak, Thailand’s busiest floating market are the must try. You can also learn to cook some of the delicious Thai dishes with cooking classes & workshops in Bangkok. The food and wine tours are ideal to have a delicious experience.

7)  Mexico City

Mexico is not just about luxurious resorts and beaches. A list of various dishes that combine colonial influences of American, Spanish, French and other cuisine; makes Mexican food favorite with everyone. Mexico City has the best food markets comprising both street food vendors and fine dine restaurants serving globally inspired restaurants.

Don’t leave Mexico without trying the popular Mexican dishes such as tacos, totopos, enchilada and tortilla. You can also find some tasty tequila in various part of the city. Make it fun with these scrumptious Mexican food and wine tours.

8)  Japan

Anyone who loves food should keep Japan on radar. Japanese food is rapidly becoming a worldwide trend. From Shushi to Wasabi to the simple rice and soybeans; Japanese cuisine just looks and tastes exotic. And you don’t have to keep a watch on those extra calories as almost all ingredients used in Japanese dishes are fat free.

Come with an open mind and be sure you try it all – noodles, rice dishes, rare and exotic fishes, interesting sushi.

9)  Greece

If you like to eat exotic food sitting in a beautiful location, then Greece is the place for you. Eating in Greece will definitely be different from the experience you have when you eat in Greek restaurants in your country. From hotel restaurants to local areas, finding food in Greece is a fun process which delights any traveler.

Since the country is known for its fresh fruits and vegetables and olive oil, you must try the Greek salad or horiatiki salata (village salad).Other abroad favorite dishes include Kalamari i.e. squid fried or sautéed with onions and red wine; and Gyros, a dish of roasted meat served with pita bread. While many visitors frown at the idea of eating the Grilled Octopus, however people who have tried it, found it to be unique and tasty.

10)  San Francisco

Vine me, wine me and dine me! There is just too much to eat and drink in San Francisco, the food and wine tours are a must try. With a vast variety of BBQ, fresh salads, and famous wines; travelers will be able to relish to the fullest. Outdoor eating is the best option, and the views are magnificent.

Enjoy travel and food with a dash of luxury. Rent a car and visit the many town and vineyard; and try some tasty wines, cheese, meat and more.

Hungry already? Instead of hitting the nearby restaurant, plan a trip according to your favorite cuisine.

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How to do Paris on a Budget?

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Paris is the world center of luxurious goods, the fashion capital, owner of some of the best gourmet restaurants and home to the world famous iconic monuments and museums. Certainly all this makes Paris one of the most expensive city.  But, if you are thinking you will have to spend a fortune to enjoy the City of lights, then the answer is No!

paris tours

You don’t have to win a jackpot for a fun vacation in Paris. It is absolutely possible to have an economical trip. Here are some ways to save some euros as you explore the best.

Travel During off Season

Although the summers and springs are the most beautiful, but the low season has its own charm. The crowds are thin and the top attractions which are usually jam packed with tourists are comparatively less crowded.  The airfares also go down, plus the posh hotels may then fit your budget.

Travel and Transportation

Paris has an excellent transportation system which offers Paris bus tours, Hop-On, Hop-off bus tours and likewise with top attractions and picturesque routes. The Paris public bus system is a great accessible option for getting around the city and is also budget friendly.

Paris by Foot

There’s no better way to see Paris than on foot. Navigate a trip along the city’s neighborhood without spending a penny. It is not only a pleasant experience, but you will discover why Paris is considered as one of the most romantic destination.

You can enjoy the great outdoors in sprawling and well-manicured Parisian Gardens. The best urban escapes include the Jardin des Tuileries, with overlooks the Louvre and the Seine and the super-sized palace Jardin du Luxembourg. The Parc de la Villette is the best spot in the city for kids with endless opportunities for fun with 10 themed gardens with climbing structures, unusual sculptures and a tall and twisting dragon slide.

Paris Night champs Elysees Tour

Parisian churches are beautiful with classic artwork and architecture; and live music attracting a lot of tourists. Entry to the Notre Dame Cathedral is free, though it does cost money to explore the towers. Saint-Merri Church hosts free concerts on Saturdays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.

You can also visit places like, the Latin Quarter for café hopping, lively restaurants and jazzy bars. Montmartre for panoramic city views and charming streets. And for a truly romantic and magical experience take a walk after dusk and watch the city sparkle with thousands of dazzling lights. Watch the Eiffel Tower fully illuminated in all its glittering glory and take a walk along the banks of the Seine.

Free and Discounted Museums

No trip to Paris is complete without visiting the world famous artwork at the city’s best museums. You can explore museums for no charge at all, check out the free permanent collection at the Petit Palais and the Musée D’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

For other famous museums you may buy a Paris Museum Pass to save money on entrance fees for museums including the LouvreMusee D’OrsayMusee RodinCentre Pompidou, Versailles and the Arc de Triomphe.

versailles tour

 

Cheap Eats

If you know where to go, then eating is quite cheap in Paris. Nosh on one or two nice meals of cheap and delicious Paris street food. You can stock up your food baskets from the outdoor markets; selling ready to eat food, fruits, veggies, meats, cheese, etc. which are readily available all over the city. You can relish on scrumptious Parisian cuisine from a good-value restaurants and cafés in the capital such as, Foyer de la Madeleine, Le Bambou, Le Baratin, Breizh Café, Le Hide,etc. You can also enjoy a picnic and laze away the day under the Eiffel Tower or in any of the city’s park.

Shop the Sales

If you are visiting Paris in January or July, you may notch some bargains during the citywide sale period. Otherwise, you may save some cash surfing at the city’s great flea markets or window-shopping along the Champs-Elysees.Other famous outdoor markets are at Porte de Clignancourt and Marché aux puces where you can find cheap, imported goods to antique wears and fancy clothing. Another option for shopping can be the dozens of vintage shops in Paris where you can find quality of vintage items on sale. Find these vintage shops at Montmartre, behind metro Abbesses, Chine Machine. Near Hotel de Ville and the Centre Pompidou is another top spot for tons of vintage shops.

After reading this you may now plan a strategy, pack your bags and have the long awaited trip to Paris without breaking the bank. Happy journey!

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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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A Traveller’s Guide to Staying Safe

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One of the ingredients to the joy of travelling is leaving familiar, comfortable surroundings to head off to parts new, unknown (well sort of) and different.  That desire to experience something other than the routine; to dip into the sounds, smells and sights of other places are some other items in that rich fruity cake of travelling.

Along with your passport, ticket and toiletry you should pack healthy portions of caution, alertness and prudence.  Not to sound alarmist but the very lure of the unfamiliar, the novel and the uncertainty of what awaits may also contain elements of risk and unpleasant encounters that can spoil your whole adventure.  There is no better target, for the unscrupulous, than an unwary traveller.

safe travel tips

We catalogue several safety tips to ensure your roving is a pleasure.  Some may seem self-evident and obvious and for those very reasons need reminding.

  • Take out travel and medical insurance.
  • Take the recommended shots and vaccinations for the places you are visiting.
  • Give a copy of your itinerary to family or good friends before you leave home.  Update them on your activities and location regularly.
  • Make and carry photocopies of your passport, ID and other documents.
  • Blend in as much as possible.  Don’t mark yourself as a tourist.  Refrain from loud, colourful clothing.
  • Pretend you know where you are going or doing.  Don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk looking lost or consulting a map.  Instead step into a shop or café and gather your thoughts and bearings – and consult that map.
  • Put away your camera, in a small bag, as much as possible.  No other item marks a tourist like a neck-dangling camera.
  • Don’t attempt to hitch a ride or use un-official cabs and taxis. Use the public transport even if it is a little irregular and rundown.
  • Use credit cards and travellers cheques; avoid cash as much as possible.  Carry them in a cash belt or hang it in a little bag under your shirt or upper garments. Better still spread your money around your person.
  • Do not carry your wallet in the back of your jeans/trousers.
  • There is no need to broadcast your travel plans, where you are staying or next destination.
  • Avoid obviously run-down and badly lit areas of the city.
  • Don’t wear/display or carry expensive jewellery. Travel in a foreign country is no time to ‘shine.’
  • Beware of scams.  Conmen posing as police officers, tour guides and overly helpful/knowledgeable locals who know the ‘best’ deals are just some common tricks of their trade.
  • Don’t accept drinks or food from strangers.
  • Watch out for people who seem to be too interested in what you are doing and turn up where you are – too often.
  • Don’t leave your bags and other belongings unattended in public spaces.  This is probably the commonest loss cause.
  • Last (on this list at least) but the most important item on your safety checklist is don’t be heroic.  If you should, unfortunately, be the victim of a holdup or mugging don’t resist.  It is much, much better to lose your wallet and a few small possessions than sustain an injury in a strange city in a foreign land.

Travel safe!

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New Year’s Eve Fireworks in London (2014)

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“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…,” wrote Samuel Johnson.  Mayor Boris Johnson (no relative) is determined that no man or woman tires of London – at least, not during the New Year’s Eve Fireworks, and other festivities to welcome 2015.

london tour

The New Year’s Eve fireworks display was first staged on the South Bank in 2003 and it most certainly set the Thames alight.  A mere 100,000 folks witnessed the show.  Ever since then the fireworks in London have grown bigger and better.  So has its popularity.  Every year has seen more and more people from Britain and across the world turn up to witness the dazzling pyrotechnic display over the skies of London.

Over 12,500 fireworks shooting off 50,000 projectiles fired from 5,500 cues.  There will also be 2,000 lighting cues.  To keep the extravaganza one of the best in the world 30 tonnes of equipment on the three fireworks barges will be situated on the river in front of the London Eye.

On New Year’s Eve 2014 about half a million revellers turned up in central London to enjoy the fireworks.  However the stupendous popularity of this year end spectacle and the humungous number of spectators has meant that changes had to be made.

This year, in order to manage the numbers and for safety reasons, the best fireworks viewing areas will be cordoned off.  Only 100,000 visitors will be allowed in and around the show area.  Access to these areas will only be for ticket holders.  Priced at £10 each, the ticket money will go towards safety measures for the night.

While it may seem kind of restrictive, there are a couple of advantages to this plan.  First of all ticket holders will get the best fireworks viewing seats.  The other advantage – and this is a biggie – is you don’t have to get to the Thames embankment at 3pm or 4pm on a cold, damp London afternoon to set up camp somewhere along the Thames just to find a good viewing spot.  You save yourself 8 or 9 hours of misery.

The designated and ticketed viewing areas are between Westminster Bridge and Embankment Station.  The second is between Embankment and Temple Stations and the third allows ticket-holders access to the rear of the London Eye and on Westminster Bridge.  While those are prime locations there are many other non-ticketed locations where you can watch the London night sky light up in a blaze of colour.

london eye  tour

You need to keep in mind that Oxford Street, Elephant and Castle, Vauxhall Bridge and Southwark Bridge will be closed.  The closures will begin from 2pm with most of the closures in place by 8pm.  Public transport services will be free from 11:45pm to 4:30am on New Year’s Day!

The fireworks will kick off when Big Ben strikes midnight.  Although the fun does not stop when the last rocket of NYE 2014 blazes across the night sky; the last whizz-banger goes off and you have joined hands to belt out Auld Lang Syne.  That is when the partying begins in right real earnest.  And there are loads of events, parties and places to work off your own personal fireworks.

When London celebrates she does it in style.  New Year’s Eve party ideas and events range from masquerade balls, vintage theme parties and boat parties to classy dinner parties.

london tours

Felice Navidad and a Happy New Year!

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Christmas Festivities Galore in Dubai

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Dubai’s original attraction was its fantastic shopping. It still holds good even today.  That well earned reputation was built around its many jaw-dropping and dazzling malls.  While the city has developed other wondrous commercial facilities and economic avenues it is still the malls where the action is.  So it is no wonder that the Christmas hotspots are concentrated in and around them.

The Dubai Christmas Fest 2014 held over three days at the Media City Amphitheater saw a record number of visitors, whether they were full time residents or those on holiday in Dubai.  Many people turned up to enjoy the fake snow with visitors gathering around and taking pictures of each other and the Christmas trees covered in dazzling ornaments and decorations.

Nearly every mall or public space was given over to machines spewing out snow every hour.  There were snow fight zones that had the children absolutely thrilled.  The malls outdid each other in creating dazzling and profuse displays with enormous glittering, hanging ornaments.  Some displays were populated by dancing and polar bears.  Giant lit up Christmas trees helped create the jollity and festive cheer.

Skating rinks were also well populated.  There was a variety Christmas events in Dubai and entertainment performances to keep people engaged.  Christmas carols played all the time over sound systems that kept the Christmas tone well and truly joyful.  Through all this the many Santa Claus’ and their elves were kept busy by children lining up to meet him.

Traditional food dishes, cakes and sweets are a major part of the yuletide experience.  In that regard all the food courts, restaurants and hotels in Dubai continue to serve up mouth-watering meals and buffets.  Stuffed golden roast turkey with cranberry sauce and all the trimmings, barbeque meats, mince pies, cold cuts, special goose, German pudding dinner and traditional desserts are all the hottest items at the moment.

While it may not be a Christmas activity but the Dubai Camel Racing season takes place around this time.  It is one of the region’s oldest traditions and has to be witnessed to be believed.

Dubai makes a special effort during the festive season.  This makes the expats feel at home and locals get a taste of the festive atmosphere of Christmas in Dubai.

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New Year Travel Resolutions for 2015!

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Next Year I Will _____________

As this year is quickly ending, have you taken time to plan for next year? We always hear the same New Year’s resolutions, lose weight, work less, travel more and eat healthy, save money but in 2015 let’s resolve to be more specific! If you have made travel a priority, make your goals and stick by them.

New Year Resolutions 2015

Here are some of the New Year resolutions that you could add in the list of resolutions:

1) Pack Smarter & Lighter: Choose clothing made of lighter materials, leave the bulky, heavier apparel at home. Pack items in your wardrobe that are versatile and neutral in color (think black, white), so you can easily pair things up when putting outfits together. Roll your clothes versus folding them to maximize space.

2) Invest in a good gear:  Investing in a gear that is designed to help you travel with less can make all the difference.  Compression sacks, quick-drying and lightweight clothes, and the right toiletries are worth the investment.

3) Go Solo: Solo travelers are never really alone unless they want to be, and that there is always someone to talk to, eat with, or explore alongside. Many solo travelers also say they meet more people than when they travel in a group, as they are more approachable alone. If you’ve never gone on a trip by yourself, make this the year you do, even if it’s just for a weekend.

travel resolutions

4) Learn a New Language: It’s always fun, when you can converse with the locals while you travel in their city. Keep a translation dictionary with you. As soon as you come across a phrase or word you don’t understand, look it up and repeat it to yourself several times. Take a beginner language class in the country. You’ll get a chance to learn along with other students.

5) Eat something that scares you: To the max, you might throw up, but what if you love what you just was so scared of trying.  Eat something you’ve always been scared of trying.

6) Talk to Strangers: If someone comes up to you and strikes up a conversation, do not be afraid. In most cases, they might be solo travelers just wanting to speak to you, do not be afraid.  Be engaged in the conversation and be genuinely interested in the person.

“It doesn’t get any easier, you aren’t getting any younger, and there will never be a perfect time”.

 

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