12 October 2015

Visiting Prague

Prague, a place where the beer flows like water and is almost always dangerously cheap is one of the most bustling and buzzing cities on the planet. The current astounding appearance of Prague is gleaming with software company offices, scads of skinny model types gliding in and out and mushrooms of glitzy fashion shops - all of these squeezed to fit among the fabulously restored Baroque architecture and cobbled lanes of Old Town. Prague ranks the 6th most visited city in the Europe and more than 4.1 million visitors’ flock to Prague annually. 

At a glance over the skyline, you will see countless splendid views of the lovely domed churches and soaring old towers that consort together to make Prague one of the top rated attractions in Europe for its architectural gems. Any direction you look towards, you will witness fine examples of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau styles creating the perfect mish-mash for a city backdrop.

You can’t afford to miss the famous Charles Bridge over the Vltava River, the Jewish Quarter with its old synagogues and many other splendid historic churches. Being one of the largest cities of Europe, Prague is also a political, cultural, and commercially important center. Did you know that for centuries Prague has played the part of the capital of the Holy Roman Empire?

The capital of the Czech Republic is neither extremely cold in the winter, nor does it burn your skin in the summer, so any time you plan on visiting Prague is pretty much a good time. If you ask any local they’ll tell you that the best time to visit is probably during spring and the fall when the weather is still quite mild and the tourists have yet to start herding towards the city. In winter the city get rather chilly, and so it is the warmer summer months that the city witnesses the largest influx of tourists so if you’re inclined to visit Prague without any intention to push through crowds of fellow sightseers, plan a winter trip. The city tends to see a fair amount of snow with highs barely reaching the mid 30s, thus making it quite the picturesque location so you’ll be taking some great pictures if you visit this time of year too. 

If you decide to visit Prague in summer, make sure you book your hotel early on as finding great accommodation close to the center could prove quite difficult. The cafes and restaurants in Prague have also got their own charm where a lot of traditional Czech food is on offer. If you’re a meat eater then this place is pretty much heaven as the Czech cuisine is rather heavy on meat and carbs and you will find yourself walking past a restaurant every couple of minutes. The dishes of choice seem to be heaping plates of goulash and dumplings, bowls of sausage in dark beer sauce or carving boards bearing obscenely large pork knuckles. However like any major city of the world, you will also find an international array of choices including Indian, Thai, Greek, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and even Afghan cuisines, with Veggie options also abundant.

14 September 2015

Big Easy on a budget | New Orleans

The home of jazz and Mardi Gras should be on everyone’s bucket list—from Bourbon Street to tasting those sweet, sweet beignets, there’s a reason it’s one of the most traveled cities in America.

But for a young traveler like me, it’s not in the budget to spend like Gatsby and live like it’s 1922, so my trip to the Big Easy was one I planned in advance to keep the costs down.

Just because it’s a plan doesn’t mean you have to skimp on anything though—I like to call it being conscious rather than thrifty—and I lived it big by taking advantage of the free attractions, branching out from the tourist traps and doing just a little pre-trip prep.

So if you’re looking to save on the green while partying it N’awlins style, check out these tips for making the best of your vacation. 

1. Think about taking a cruise.

Want to get two vacations out of one? Take a cruise to (or from) New Orleans and get the tropical experience rolled into your Big Easy trip. Book a jaunt to the Caribbean with Carnival or Norwegian and head down to New Orleans a few days earlier to see the city—it’s like getting two vacations in one.  

To get an even better deal, book your cruise last minute; the longer you wait the more those dollars will just shave off the bottom line.

2. Go in the off-season.

Most of the tourists are going to visit between February and May for all of the festivals and the spring weather so why not decide to head down for Thanksgiving? Or Christmas?

One of the great things about New Orleans it’s temperate winter and for anyone who is used to 12 feet of snow come November, this could be the opportunity for you to take a break from the shovel. With an average high of 64 during the day and low of 46 at night, it’s coat weather but no need to bring a parka and it’s got the added bonus of being a thin time for tourists so you’ll get a better deal everywhere.  

3. Pick one meal to splurge and one to save.

You know what’s free? Water. With all the walking you’re doing while checking out the haunts of the French Quarter, you should be drinking a lot of it. Not only will it keep you from getting heat stroke (it’s really humid in Louisiana) but it’s also an easy way to say $2.50 at lunch.

Pick one meal a day--be it lunch, breakfast, or dinner--and make a budget. Lunch specials make this the easiest choice for the “save” meal and it’s a no-brainer to grab a piece of fruit for breakfast, which can save you upwards of $40 a day. Either you can use the extra money for a night out at the bars or a really nice dinner at R’evolution—either way, it’s more bang for your buck.

4. Check out the free attractions.

Mardi Gras is the biggest free attraction in New Orleans, but the city has many, many more festivals and things to do that are just as friendly for your piggy bank. Depending on when you’re heading down, the French Quarter Festival in April is the region’s largest free festival, and the jazz concerts in Armstrong Park during spring and fall, and both are great options for getting a taste of the local flair for less.

Take a stroll through the French Market, check out Jackson Square and it’s beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, hunt for azaleas in the Garden District, or head to Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. The options are endless!

5. Don’t waste money on an international phone plan.

If you’re not from the States, your trip to the Big Easy could get really expensive (and quickly) with as much as everyone is on their phones these days. Want to save the hassle of taking hundreds out of your bank account just for a few text message? Opt for a SIM card.

Found in all airport terminals and in local convenient and electronic stores (maybe even Walgreens if you’re lucky), the SIM card is your answer to saving on the essentials and they’re easy to use. Once you’ve bought card and unlocked your phone, all you have to do is install the sim in your phone and viola! Instant savings.  

6. Buy things off the beaten path.

The prices are always going to be artificially high in the tourist areas; everything from gas to groceries will have a price hike the closer you are to the most popular parts of town and New Orleans is no different.

If you need more sunscreen or want to grab a couple of groceries to make your own picnic one day, try going a few streets past St. Charles to get the better deals. Same goes for souvenirs; ditch the shot glasses and opt for something more personal, like a 1920’s postcard from an antique shop. Not only will it be a more personal gift, it will be a fraction of the cost and gather much less dust.

With these money saving tips it will make it easier for you to take it easy in the Big Easy, so sit back, relax, and enjoy your vacation in the heart of Southern Cajun culture!