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Austria

Back into time in Vienna

The snow crunched under my feet as I turned the corner onto St. Stephen’s Square. The Cathedral, dominated the area. Medieval advertising – the insignia of the Hapsburg family – plastered the roof of the grand building. I stood with my hands in my pockets as I thought about the past.

For centuries Vienna has been one of the most important cities in Europe. In the medieval era, members of the Hapsburg family controlled an Empire that stretched from the borders of Austria, through Germany to the North Sea. Later, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand heralded the end of the line for the Hapsburgs and the descent of Europe into the flames of the First World War.

vienna trip

Since the end of the Second World War, Vienna once again found a place on the world stage, this time as the setting for a battle in the shadows waged by Cold War spies and more recently the secret services of the FSB and the counties of the European Union. That is not to mention the spy services of China, Israel and the US as disarmament talks drag on between the five nations and Iran.

trip to vienna in winter

The city is the perfect setting for such high drama. Vienna is a city grand old buildings, monumental palaces and large luxurious townhouses. Yet it also hosts modern glass fronted skyscrapers and the sprawling UN headquarters. The winter here is bleak, grey and cold. In Autumn the rain lashes across the streets, while the winter here is bleak, grey and cold.

vienna

I didn’t come to Vienna as a spy though. Neither did I come to the city to write a spy novel, I simply came here to enjoy the great food, the beautiful sites and the friendly people. Standing in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, I knew I had achieved one of those aims.

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Brazil

Visiting the Non-Beach of Brazil

With its collection of amazing beaches, Brazil has always been among the most visited countries for the beach culture alone. But there is definitely more to this South American country than its pristine beaches, Christ the Redeemer Statue and rhythmic samba music.

It is impossible not to talk about Brazil without mentioning the Amazon. The second longest river in world, the Amazon River is one of the most well known places in Brazil. You can go kayaking through the flooded jungle or go by foot and trek up rocky cliff tops to get a perfect panoramic view of the country’s natural beauty.

Hiking and Trekking is definitely not something that comes to mind when it comes to Brazil. But with its 76 national parks and an overwhelming variety of habitats, there is just too much to explore when it comes to experiencing local wildlife and viewing breathtaking panoramas. Ideally, the Atlantic and Amazon Forest is the best bet to start experiencing Brazil minus the beaches, but there are also the Pantanal wetlands to consider, the waterfall-covered chapadas and not to forget, the cerrado highlands of the Interiors.

Recommended hikes include a Rio de Janeiro day hike to the highest peaks located in the Tijuca National Park and a round trip trek to the granite rock of Sugar Loaf Mountain. If you want to experience a little bit of history on your hikes, head to the State of Minas Gerais, where one of its many trails may lead you to any of a dozen historic gold rush towns nestled in the mountains.

Another sought after activity in the Amazon includes climbing up any one of the giant trees that make up the jungle and experiencing an unforgettable view from the top of a 60-meter tree. There is definitely no other better way to immerse oneself in the Amazon rainforest than spending a night in the canopy of trees, listening to the jungle and watching colorful macaws fly right over your head.

Of course the other thing that every tourist has to experience is the countries national game, football. Brazilians are known for their love of the beautiful game. Due to their passion for the sport, Brazilians gave their country the name “o Pais do Futebol” or “The Country of Football”. The Brazilian Football team has the record for being the only team to qualify for every World Cup ever since the inception of the international football league. The National Football team of Brazil has won the World Cup five times.

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Travel Tips

Port Cities Worth Visiting

There is something about port cities that are truly inviting. The calming sound of the surf as it rushes towards the shore. The reflection of the city lights on the pristine waters and the waves that reflect the golden rays of the afternoon sun – these are but few of the scenes that make port cities a favorite among tourists.

Brisbane, Australia

The Brisbane River and the shores of Moreton Bay surround this capital of the state of Queensland in Australia. The Port of Brisbane is considered the 3rd most important port in Australia and is part of the Australia Trade Coast. The city is also popular because of the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. The gallery houses some of the most well known examples of modern art in the country.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Located in the Dalmatia Region on the Ardiatic Sea, this Croatian City is also referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. The city is popular due to its well preserved beautiful churches, palaces, monasteries and fountains that are built with Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architectural influences. The City is also considered among the top 10 medieval walled cities in the world.

Singapore, Singapore

Considered the Lion City, this sovereign city-state is among the most beautiful places to visit in South East Asia. The thriving city-state is well known for its arts and culture. The government of Singapore has been promoting the city-state to be the cosmopolitan gateway between the west and east. This is evidenced by the construction of the Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay, which has helped to make Singapore such a great place for those who are into performing arts.

Due to the vast improvement of the city-state, particularly its economy, Singapore is considered one of the Four Asian Tigers.

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Considered one of the world’s largest ports, Rotterdam is also the second-largest city in the country of Netherlands. In Europe, the port of Rotterdam is considered the largest industrial and logistic hub.

For tourists, the cities museums are among the reasons why the port of Rotterdam is frequented. Rotterdam is also home to some of the most iconic buildings in the whole of Europe, such as the 186 meters tall Euromast and the tallest office building in Europe, the Maastoren.

Busan, South Korea

The metropolitan city of Busan is the second largest metropolis in South Korea, after Seoul. The Busan city port is the largest in South Korea and considered the fifth busiest port in the world. Busan is popular for its numerous department stores and discount stores. In fact, the city port is home to the largest department store in the world, the Shinsegae Centum City.

The Busan city port is also popular for its resorts, beaches and parks. Here you will find the Busan aquarium, the largest aquarium in all of South Korea. There are also plenty of major developments planned for the city as Busan will be the venue of the 2018 winter Olympics.

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China

A Look into China’s Mega Cities

Everyone knows Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China and the seat of the famous Forbidden City. This fast changing metropolis, which combines old and new is also the political, educational and cultural centre of the country. It is rich in historical sites as well as significant government and cultural institutions. A trip to this historic city wouldn’t be complete without walking through Tiananmen Square, a climb up the Temple of Heaven or a trek along the Great Wall of China.

But like any other historic city, Beijing is chock-full of hidden alleys full of character, underrated parks and quaint cafes. And if you are adventurous enough to venture out of the city, you might also find yourself standing in the middle of a classic Chinese village.

Here are a couple of Beijing attractions you won’t find written down on your regular travel brochure:

Tianqiao Le Cha Yuan Theatre

If you are a lover of the arts, stepping into the Tianqiao Le Cha Yuan Theatre is like stepping back in time. You will find yourself riveted to your seat as you soak up a cultural experience rich in acrobatic performances. You’re lucky if you chance upon a show with English subtitles, but if not, then brace yourself for a truly Chinese show dripping with that old Beijing variety charm.

Renmin University’s English Corner

What better way to connect with the locals than spending a whole day conversing with them? Held every Friday, the University’s English Corner offers a unique way for English-speaking foreigners to meet new friends while simply conversing with them using the English language. Students, as well as workers come in droves and if you’re up to it, be ready to spend a few hours talking about something you are passionate about and earn yourself a couple of new local friends.

White Pagoda Temple

The fact that this temple retains the majority of its original structure makes it the oldest temple in the city. It is said to have been designed by a Nepalese architect and built in a strict Tibetan style. A series of temples located right in front of the pagoda will give you a chance to see unique and stunning examples of Tibetan art and brass work.

Baoguosi Flea Market

Forget about the usual souvenir shops selling the usual souvenir wares. If you are on the look out for something unique to take home, head over to the North End of Guangan Dajie in the Xuanwu District where this flea market is open daily, attracting locals selling a unique and interesting mix of antiques and old toys, books and a whole lot of cultural revolutionary relics.

Fengnian Guanchang

Located along Longfu Temple Street in the Dongcheng District, Fengnian boasts being one of the places that still serves traditionally prepared guanchang, a savoury snack of steamed sweet potato drizzled with garlic juice. They have been serving it the same way for the past 60 years, making them one of the oldest restaurants in the city.

Yubai Village

Hidden away from Mentougou’s bustling tourist centre, Yubai is your quintessential Chinese village. The place is surrounded by mountain vistas with a nearby lake to boot. Aside from the usual trekking activities, you can also go fishing in the reservoir. Spend a night at one of the local family guesthouses to complete that authentic Chinese village experience.

Categories
Travel Tips

Personal Security App for Traveling

Do you travel a lot? Whether you are a frequent globetrotter, a business traveller or you simply just can’t stay put in one place for a long time, there is so much more to traveling than simply going from point A to point B.

What are your essentials when it comes to traveling? Do you have certain rules for yourself or do you just go about and whatever happens, well, happens?

Those who spend most of their lives on the road (or in on a plane or at sea, if you will) have their own travel essentials. The world of travel has now evolved from simply getting to a new place and getting lost into new sights, sounds and smells, to going digital with the advent of smartphone technology. Mobile apps have now replaced even the most basic travel tools like flashlights and maps. And you no longer have to manually compute the exchange rate, thanks to a sheer variety of currency converter apps available to download anytime.

But a seasoned traveler will tell you that among all these nifty and cool mobile apps, those that can actually help in ensuring your personal safety while traveling, especially if you’re on your own, tops the bill. A new mobile app that focuses on personal security and easy access to emergency sources does just that.

With its wide coverage, available in 39 countries across the world, you are sure to be able to get in touch with someone in case of extreme emergencies. For travelers, this mobile security app proves to be a godsend since with a simple touch of a button you can be connected to an emergency number to call almost anywhere in the world. Which saves memorising all of those different emergency numbers that are out there.

The app has many other unique features that are mostly centred on personal safety for alone travelers.

It can be a real lifesaver for those who are adventurous enough to travel the world on their own. Everyone wants to be able to enjoy new sights when going around a new place. There is nothing that can ruin a good vacation more than not having the peace of mind knowing that you can always rely on something in an emergency, when you are stuck in an unfamiliar place. React Mobile can give you that peace of mind.

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Travel Tips

Camping Destinations

I remember my first camping trip. I was seven years old and spent a thrilling weekend swapping ghost stories with my classmates in the evening next tot the bonfire while we stuffed our faces with roasted marshmallows. When it was time to go to sleep, I had to contain my excitement as I huddled inside my new tent listening to the woodlands alive with the sound of the night creatures and the occasional snapping of tree branches.

Camping, may be as simple as pitching a tent in your backyard or something as rugged as sleeping against jagged rocks, should always be a whole new outdoor experience each time. Let Holiday Backpack show you the five best places to travel to where you can set up camp and create your own unforgettable camping experiences.

1. Sahale Glacier Camp, Washington

If you’re looking for a relatively simple climb that will end with a stunning panoramic view of the Cascade Pass peaks, you might want to try the popular route up Sahale Peak via the Sahale Arm and Sahale Glacier. A gentle, sloping ascent down Sahale Arm will bring you into the middle of meadows exploding with lupine, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers. After a final ascent, you will reach a ridge where the Sahale Glacier Camp is located. There you can pitch your tent and spend a night experiencing the true majesty of the North Cascades.

2. Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Experience one of the best alpine trails in the world by trekking Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash. Satisfy your lust for a hard and exhilarating hike amongst jagged mountains, azure lakes and vast skies and get lost in the Peruvian summits. One of the unique attractions about the Huayhuash landscape are the friendly locals who abound in the area. You not only experience a true alpine mountain paradise peppered with edelweiss and purple lupine, but you also get a touch of culture if you attempt to go trekking alongside Peruvian farmers or camp at any of the villages.

3. Lake Myvatn, Iceland

Considered as the most dramatic and beautiful place in Iceland, Lake Myvatn is a breathtaking place with amazing lava fields and unique rock formations. Camping by Lake Myvatn also means experiencing unique bubbling mud flats, lunaresque volcanic craters, newborn lava fields and even grassy shoals teeming with waterfowl. The land surrounding the lake is marked with several Pseudo craters and dotted with geothermal activity. During the summer, a sheer variety of birds flock the surrounding areas making it also a choice camping destination for bird watching enthusiasts.

4. Tree Camping in Waldseilgarten, Germany
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If you’re up for an extreme camping adventure, you might want to try out Tree Camping in Waldseilgarten, a mountain resort in Bavaria, Germany. Although there is a variety of camping ground options at the resort, sleeping 6,000 feet in the air and waking up to an amazing sunset view as you hang from a cliff or a tree is one for the bucket list. Aside from the usual trekking activities where you can enjoy the plush mountain greenery, you can also partake in other extreme activities available such as tree swinging and zip lining.

5. Bay of Fires, Australia
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The campsites at Bay of Fires are wild and rugged and are some of the most beautiful spots in Tasmania. You can camp anywhere along its long curve of pristine white sandy beaches that are generally deserted and you can stay for up to weeks for free. There is no trekking nor hiking involved, instead you can go fishing, surfing, diving and snorkeling. Massive granite boulders with characteristic red orange lichen surround the whole area, where wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and black cockatoos abound.

Categories
Philippines

Getting Away in the Philippines

Catanduanes is one of the Philippines’ most underrated tourist destinations. Its capital of Virac is a well-kept secret rich with rugged mountains for hiking and spelunking and ribboned with pristine beaches. This island province has also just recently become the new go-to place for both local and foreign surfers looking to ride new waves and experience a more laid-back beach bum vibe.

A 45-minute plane ride from the country’s capital city of Manila is the fastest way to get to Virac. But if you’re one for long scenic rides, catch a 10-hour bus ride bound for the nearby province of Tabaco, Albay and from there board a ferry for another 3 hours of travel before finally reaching this somewhat sleepy island. Once in Virac, you now have a choice to either visit Maribina Falls first and go for endless cannonballs into the cool refreshing lagoon, go spelunking at the stalagmite and stalactite ridden Buyo Caves or visit any of the old churches, specifically the one located in the small town of Bato.

Puraran Beach, located at the nearby town of Baras, boasts of its so-called “Majestic Waves,” which are known to lure surfers from all over the world. What’s perfect about this beach destination is it can actually serve as a one-stop shop for anyone looking for the complete beach holiday. Aside from the surfing experience, you can also choose to go snorkeling and sailing, or simply lounge by the beach and soak in the tropical sun.

Virac is also a gateway to another well kept paradise. Imagine virgin limestone islands surrounded by glittering beaches and the clearest waters, all scattered lazily in the Pacific Ocean. When you’re done exploring Virac, hop on a slow boat and head out to the Caramoan Islands.

To better experience Caramoan, it is recommended to take a full island-hopping tour that spans 2-3 days. Hop from one island to another, exploring lagoons, trekking its rugged peaks or snorkel and dive into its rich marina. Some of the bigger islands are now home to resorts complete with amenities, but if you prefer to soak in the island way of life and fit in with the locals, you can camp out on any of the islands and spend a night or two sleeping with the powdery white sands on your toes and be lulled by the sound of thecrashing waves.

With so much beach destinations in the Philippines to choose from, one can get easily lost in a haze of waterfront cottages, hotel rooms with infinity pools and parties by the beach being offered by most of the other well-known destinations. If you plan to go on a trip that involves lots of communing with nature and less getting drunk on the beach, then Virac and Caramoan are perfect for setting the stage for that desired beach holiday.

Categories
Travel Tips

Cheap Weekend Getaways from the UK

How does a weekend getaway to Amsterdam for 29 pounds sound to you? Like its too good to be true? Well, its not. That’s all you’ll pay for transport and a private in suite room on one of DFDS Seaways “Mini Cruises” to Amsterdam. Truth be told, that rock bottom rate is an “early bird special” reserved for groups of four or more, but still – it’s a hell of a deal. I’m pretty sure you can grab three of your mates or make a couple’s weekend out of it if you want, or better yet a stag or hen party.

The mini cruise to Amsterdam is a two-nights–at–sea affair, which includes a stop in Amsterdam where you can spend a half-day doing what you please. Half a day in Amsterdam really isn’t an ideal amount of time for a two-day trip, but the cruise ship, which has cabins for up to 1500 people, is part of the escape. After all, the plan is to get out the UK for a weekend.

In an innovative piece of PR, DFDS actually decided to produce an online app, which discusses some of the many plus points associated with taking a relaxing cruise. The app can be found here:if you are interested in checking it out. I’ll cover a few of what I thought the key points they brought up were in the next few paragraphs.

DFDS ships have loads of entertainment much like the massive luxury cruise liners that ply the waters of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. This includes numerous bars and clubs with a wide range of entertainment. For the footy fans they have a sports bar, for those who want a chill atmosphere and easy conversation there’s a laid back lounge and for the partiers among us there’s a dance club and a club with live music.

In addition to the bars and clubs, there’s a vast array of restaurants, shops, cafes and even a few cinemas. I brought a couple of books and my iPad for the cruise thinking it would be a good chance to relax, catch up on my favorite TV series, and maybe even crack into a novel, but in the end I just found myself eating, drinking and partying with friends the whole time. Then we found ourselves in Amsterdam and carried on where we left off.

It turns out DFDS Seaways also has loads of great ferry deals connecting the UK to France, The Netherlands, and Denmark, as well as connections across the Baltic between various Scandinavian states. They also have loads of group deals for conferences, youth and school trips as well as hen and stag parties. All in all they do a pretty solid job and are well worth a look, especially if you want to catch a weekend escape on one of their Mini Cruises.

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Laos

A Look Into Forgotten Laos

Laos is quickly becoming a hot tourist destination for the budget inclined. For travel on a budget, this country is in a league of their own. Add beautiful mountains, accessible lodging accommodations and delicious food, and you might be wondering why you haven’t considered traveling there before. Many popular tourist activities in Laos cannot be found anywhere else in the world. For example, take a unique tour of Vang Vieng with a rubber tube on the Nam Song River while visiting bar after bar along its banks. The majestic Buddhist temple, Pha That Luang, is a unique structure with terraces representing the stages of enlightenment. Ruins of the temple Wat Phu date back to the 11th century. Caves that served as an underground city for communist forces during the Vietnam War are worth visiting, regardless of your political views regarding the war. There are so many great reasons to go to Laos that I started to thinking seriously about how I might finance the trip.

I played with a travel budget calculator in order to estimate how much it would cost to spend five days in Laos. If I select the least expensive food and hotel room options, the trip would only cost $20USD/day. On a side note, one really cool feature on the calculator is that you can factor in a drinking budget. If you would like to drink five beers per day, that brings the daily total up to $35. You can definitely afford to keep a drinking habit while on vacation there. Beer Lao is the only brewery, but they offer several different lagers with which you can stay fairly drunk without breaking the bank.

Your biggest expense will obviously be your plane ticket. There are no direct flights from Australia to Laos which would mean a stopover in either Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore. Flights from Sydney to the Laotian capital, Vientiane cost approximately AUD $700-$1000. Most people think they need to save up before they take a trip or use credit cards to finance their travel, even though they know credit cards can hurt their finances with exorbitant interest rates. There is a third way that most people are not aware of.

travel to laos

It is possible for you to go sooner with a range of unsecured loans from Greater Building Society. An unsecured loan does not require an asset as collateral, so it is very accessible for most people who have good credit. A person qualifies for this type of loan based solely on their credit score. It only takes a few hours to find out whether or not you qualify for this type of loan. It might be possible for you to seize the day and pay for the trip later, without the damage credit cards can cause.

While you’re planning your epic trip do keep in mind that US Dollars are used with ease in Laos. If you’re planning to travel to countries bordering Laos, USDs might be your best bet. You can stock up on USDs before you make your journey if you so choose, even while applying for your loan. You can also convert AUDs to Kips before you go, with an exchange rate of around 1: 7,465. It can also be helpful to brush up on your French as Laos was a former French colony which is obvious with the vast array of baguettes available!

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Travel Tips

Budget Travel Tips for Europe

Travelling around Europe is an unforgettable experience, whether you’re exploring the beautiful narrow streets of Lisbon, tucking into a delicious pizza in Naples or enjoying a romantic weekend in Paris. This diversity of culture and tradition is unique to Europe, and there are a lot of cheap flights to be found nowadays. However, if you are not travel savvy, then there are risks that you could put a real dent in your wallet – with the average family holiday to Europe costing around £2,000. Fortunately, there are cost-effective tips which will allow you to have the best experience possible whilst keeping some money in the bank!

1. Finding a Great Flight

It is beneficial to book your flights in advance in order to locate the best airline deals; there are many flight packages which can be found for discounted prices. Do some comparative online research on websites such as cheapflights.com. You can save a lot of money by booking flights as a group and knowing which seasons allow you to book the cheapest flights.

2. Make Use of Public Transport

If you’re travelling on a budget, it’s safe to assume you won’t be taking a cab between your destinations. It is a great idea to learn about the public transportation system in each city you visit, as many cities offer short-term travel passes for public transportation. An alternative option would be to rent a bicycle and explore the city; for example, this would be perfect if you were travelling to Amsterdam, whereby cycling is a fundamental part of their culture. By taking the time to do this, it would be possible to save an astronomical amount of money.

3. Choosing Your Hotel

Selecting the right hotel is always challenging – does it have a pool? Is it located near a beach, a bar or an airport? Is it affordable? To solve these pressing questions, it is advisable to visit a hotel comparison website such as Trivago. These companies offer reviews on almost every reputable hotel in Europe, which will allow you to make an informed decision on the cheapest and most tailored hotel to suit your holiday. It is just as important to get the best deals on airport hotels in the UK. Recently, it has become increasingly common for tourists to stop-off at airport hotels in order to the reduce the stress of travelling. It is highly advisable that, for example, you identify the best deals on gatwick airport hotels via a quality provider, before travelling to Europe.

spend less on your travel

4. Prevent Waste Whilst Enjoying the Taste

By now, if you have followed the travelling tips suggested, then you will have saved a lot of money on your airfare, local travel and accommodation. However, unfortunately, you have checked your balance back home and realised you have reached your credit card limit. What is to blame? Restaurants bills. Most tourist do not know where or what to eat. If you don’t pay attention to the cost of your meals, you will waste the majority of your budget. Fear not, by using restaurant guides to research the prices in advance, or by visiting local markets that offer fresh, affordable food, you can prevent wasting money whilst still enjoying the taste of European culture.

5. City Passes

Most of the beautiful and vibrant European cities offer passes which allow you to access various key attractions. If you are seeking a highly cultural trip then these all-in-one passes are the perfect companion, allowing you to get the most out of your holiday for the lowest prices. For example, if you were taking your family to visit Rome, instead of separately paying for access to the Colosseum, the Vatican or the Pantheon; it would make cost-effective sense to purchase a city pass.

6. Family Packages

Who said that travelling with your children was expensive? Most attractions offer large discounts for children and teenagers, so purchase a family package deal for your airfare and accommodation. Give them life-long memories without breaking your budget!

7. Travel on Weekdays

Trains, flights and attraction tickets tend to be more expensive during weekends, so plan your trip to fall on a weekday to avoid the crowds and extra-fees. Travelling between Monday-Friday will save you a lot of hassle.

how to travel in budget

8. Cost-effective Airport Parking

If your journey to the airport requires you to drive, then it is highly recommendable to choose a form of cost-effective airport parking. This does not take much time at all, for example, you can purchase Stansted parking from Holiday Extras from around £8.25 per day in a matter of minutes; which could save you enough money to afford one more night out at your favourite tapas bar in Barcelona. Overall, it makes sense to save money and ensure the security of your vehicle for the duration of your holiday.

9. Travel Insurance

It is vital to have travel insurance, but often you can be faced with overpriced offerings which attempt to make money through fear factor. Essentially, when travelling around Europe, your best friend is the European Health Insurance Card – this will cover most medical costs. However, if you suffer from Diabetes or another kind of serious medical condition, contact the relevant organisation, such as ehicplus.com to receive a specific low-cost offering to cover the extras the standard EHIC card does not.

Bon Voyage!

Hopefully you have followed these travelling tips and are fully-prepared to get the most out of your holiday to Europe, whilst cutting-out all of the unnecessary costs. We would love to hear about your holiday experiences and your own money-saving tips which can be shared around the travelling community – have a fantastic time!