28 February 2013

Common Accidents When Travelling

Let’s face it. There are a number of things that could go wrong while travelling. After all, you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, exploring new and different areas where standards for health, safety and other regulations can be quite different than what you are accustomed to. But, your sense of adventure could end up causing you more pain than enjoyment.

Illnesses, accidents and injuries often occur while traveling. With that said, using common sense, maintaining a sense of your surroundings, staying calm and using extra caution goes a long way in ensuring your health and safety while you travel. Whether you’re in the same country or half way around the world, being in a different environment puts you at a greater risk for being in an accident and suffering serious head injuries.



Next time you set out to explore the world, remember to use and protect your head if you’re caught in one of the most common traveling accidents.

Road Accidents
 
If you plan to drive in another country, make sure you know the rules of the road ahead of time and study up on that country’s signage. Sometimes, accidents are unavoidable. A driver’s negligence can put you in danger and cause mild to severe harm like whiplash, a skull fracture or even death. Lawyers, such as those at Irwin Mitchell who specialise in head injuries, will tell you that whether at home or abroad, whether on a bicycle or in a car, traffic accidents are some of the most common causes of severe head injuries, and the impact on your life can be grave.

Intoxication
 
We all know the saying, “When in Rome.” Adopting local tradition and losing all inhibition may seem like a good way to have fun and “learn” about a certain culture, but drinking to the point that you are incoherent and unable to function, is not the wisest choice. Studies show that drinkers have a higher risk for accidents than nondrinkers and they are likely to suffer more serious injuries. Furthermore, a drunken state leads to impaired judgment and imbalance which are conditions that make you more susceptible to falling and injuring your head.

Extreme Sports and Water Sports
 
Yes, they are fun, exciting and thrilling, but sports are dangerous. Extreme and water sports in particular put participants at a greater risk. Mountain climbing, parasailing, bungee jumping, hang gliding and riding ATVs and jet skis are all risky sports. Even skiing can be dangerous if you don’t wear a helmet or ski outside the boundaries.

Acts of Violence and Assault
 
Travelling to violence prone areas is always precarious. Some cities have extremely high crime rates where you may experience a minor crime such pit pocketing or be the victim of a serious assault. It’s not always possible to avoid confrontations, but always do your best to protect your head from direct blows. In areas of political unrest or war zones, be cautious of any riots or delicate situations that could endanger you.

27 February 2013

More to Mumbai

Mumbai- the city of dreams, the dynamic financial capital of India and the hub of glitz, glamour and all things exciting, never ceases to attract. Undoubtedly one of the hottest destinations globally, Mumbai offers you so many places to visit that you may drop but won’t be done touring so easily! Myriad tourist attractions are spread across the length and breadth of Mumbai, and even at a distance from the mainland.



Gateway of India

The iconic Gateway of India is unarguably the most renowned monument of Mumbai. It’s a majestic structure of historical significance that was constructed to memorialize the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai in the early 20th century. It is located diametrically opposite the famed Hotel Taj and overlooks the vastness of the Arabian Sea and home to several glitzy, cultural and historical places and events in Mumbai.

Locations in Mumbai

At a stone’s throw away is the Queen’s Necklace, the famous boulevard in Marine Drive that lines the Arabian Sea and glitters like  a necklace at night. It’s the perfect place to wind down and attune yourself with peace in the frenzy all around. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is no less than any monument, being a historic railway station figuring on the UNESCO World Heritage site. Chowpatty is another major beach attraction, which is close to the famous Mahalaxmi temple where devotees for far and wide come. Don’t forget to relish the famous street food of Mumbai like bhel puri when you go there!

Haji Ali

Haji Ali, the famous mosque built centuries back is also visited by devotees irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Located in the heart of the sea, walking down the passage to reach the shrine is also a journey in itself. Nehru Science Centre and the Nehru Planetarium are stupendous places that Science enthusiasts will love to visit. Close by, Siddhivinayak temple is the revered, popular Ganesha temple which is situated in Dadar where people, including celebrities make it a point to go.

Bandra

Bandra, the queen of the suburbs, is also a place that’ll captivate your senses. Famous spots like the Bandstand and Land’s End sitting pretty by the shores are very popular, especially amongst youngsters as well as celebrities, quite a few of which reside there. Scores of restaurants, hotels, nightspots, The newly constructed Bandra Worli Sea Link, a gigantic bridge connecting two of the busiest places of Mumbai, is a new engineering marvel everyone wants to be on at least once.

A visit to Juhu Beach is mandatory for everyone who comes to Mumbai. It’s one of the biggest crowd pullers where you can really let your hair down, gorge on loads of delicacies in the food stalls lining the shore.

Amitabh Bachchan

The famous J W Marriott and Centaur Hotel are close by and so are bungalows of several stars, including Prateeksha and Jalsa, the residences of the legendary Amitabh Bachchan.

Further up north is the beautiful Powai Lake and the elegant residential Hiranandani Gardens, famous amusement parks Essel World and water Kingdom as well as Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the only urban national park in the world.  The ancient Kanheri Caves are also nestled inside and so are several animals, birds, safaris and more. Even these words, in a nutsheel, don’t suffice to sum up the magic called Mumbai!


Tauseef Hussain is a media blogger and writes for Essen Travels, the rent a car company that offers luxurious cars on hire in India. You can follow Essen Travels on twitter @essentravels

26 February 2013

Dubai Shines At World Travel Awards

Dubai is becoming one of the top tourism destinations in the world and this was demonstrated recently at the World Travel Awards where it took home an impressive collection of prestigious titles.

What Are the World Travel Awards?

The World Travel Awards are considered to be the “Oscars of Tourism” and are one of the most important and prestigious awards within the tourism industry. Only the very best hotels, tourist boards, airlines and destination are considered for these very high accolades.

The awards are intended to reward and celebrate excellence within the global travel industry and highlight tourist attractions which are exhibiting an especially high quality product.



The World Travel Awards were held on the 12th of December 2012 in New Delhi, India. They were capped off with a glittering Grand Final Gala Ceremony, a VIP evening attended by the some of the major players in the tourism industry.

Dubai Recognised in Award Ceremony

At this award-giving evening, Dubai performed exceptionally well and received many honours for the quality of its tourism offerings.

First of all, the emirate of Dubai was given the title of the World’s Leading Cruise Port. It was stated that due to the excellent quality and choice of shopping, it’s world-class restaurants and its hot and sunny weather, Dubai is a wonderful place for cruise passengers to stop and explore. Dubai has long dominated in this category and has won the price consistently every year since 2008. This award adds to another prize which Dubai won earlier this year which named it the Middle East’s Leading Cruise Port.

Dubai was also handed an award for being the “World’s Leading Sports Tourism Destination”. This award is a triumph for Dubai, as there has been an enormous amount of time and effort which has been invested into promoting sports in Dubai such as cricket, football and rugby. In recent years, a great deal of investment has been made into world class sporting facilities all over the city.

In addition to all of these awards, Dubai was also named the “Middle East’s Leading Meetings and Conference Destination”. This is a testament to the number of corporate events which have been staged in some of the venues throughout the city such as the Dubai World Trade Centre. Business visitors account for a large percentage of tourism revenue in the city; therefore Dubai is striving to expand ever further on its business facilities so that it can provide top-notch accommodation and conference spaces for businesses.

Dubai Hotels Also Received Awards

It was not only the city of Dubai tourism which was honoured by several accolades at the World Travel Awards; some of the excellent hotels in Dubai were also recognised.

The dazzling Burj Al Arab received three separate awards, including the very prestigious prize for “World’s Leading Hotel”. The hotel was also highlighted for winning the “World’s Leading All Suite Hotel” award as well as the “World’s Leading Luxury All Suite Hotel” award.

Another hotel in Dubai, the Armani Hotel, received the award for the “World’s Leading Landmark Hotel” at the ceremony. The iconic “Atlantis the Palm” resort of Dubai was named the “World’s Leading Landmark Resort”. There were also a number of other awards and honours for Dubai properties such as Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa and the Palm Jumeirah Residences.

The fact that Dubai was honoured with so much praise at the most prestigious and highly respected travel award ceremony in the world, demonstrates the incredibly high standard of tourism which is being offered by this destination. It is no wonder Dubai’s tourism numbers are growing in leaps and bounds and international investors from all over the world are being attracted to this amazing world city.


Mark Shepherd is a world traveller and international real estate investment advisor, who runs a blog tracking industry trends in the hottest investment destinations around the world. He writes for Select Property who specialise in property in the thriving Dubai Marina area.

22 February 2013

World Wide Wildlife

 Seeing some of the planet's most amazing animals in their natural habitats or on a wildlife safari must feature prominently amongst the travel wishlists of many.

From mountain gorillas in Rwanda and marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands to tigers in India and polar bears in the Arctic, there are hundreds of possibilities to get up close and personal with nature and the wonders of its fauna, often from the comfort of your open-top jeep.

The Travel Time Team has put together a selection of wildlife possibilities in case you feel up to following in David Attenborough’s footsteps!

Transylvania, Romania


For bear-spotting you don't need to travel half way around the world. The beautiful Carpathian Mountains of Romania are home to several thousand brown bears – nearly half the entire European population outside Russia. The area boasts a huge unbroken forest which is teeming with wildlife. You may not stumble upon werewolves or vampires but an encounter or two with grey wolves, wild boar, pine martens or even the Eurasian lynx is a serious possibility!

Húsavík, Iceland


This fishing village in north-eastern Iceland, nestled in Skjálfandi Bay, is considered by many to be the whale watching capital of Europe. Twenty-three species of cetaceans have been known to frequent the seas surrounding Iceland. Types of whales commonly sighted include minke, humpbacks and orcas as well as white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises. If you are lucky, you may even spot the largest animal on the planet and the Holy Grail for whale watchers - the mighty and magnificent blue whale!


Sichuan, China


Sichuan is home to the giant panda, one of the most endangered animals on earth and logo of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) since its founding in 1961. The must-visit location is the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre (approximately 6 miles from Chengdu) - it’s one of the largest giant panda reserves in the world, housing around 80 pandas on a 92 acres plot which replicates their natural habitat.

Okavango Delta, Botswana


Following the reintroduction of rhinos, the Delta is one of the few places where you can see all of the "Big Five" (lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards and rhinos). Elephants are absolutely everywhere and with prey animals, like the Cape buffalo in abundance, all the major predators are present in some strength. Prides of lions and cheetahs are commonly seen in the open grasslands whilst spotted hyena and black-backed jackals scavenge as leopards haunt the forest margins; it is also arguably the best place to see the highly endangered African wild dog. If that wasn’t enough, the waterways are teeming with hippos and crocodiles and the area is home to over 400 species of birds with the ostrich, African fish eagle and crested crane to name but a few, making this an amazing destination for bird watchers too.

Borneo, Indonesia


The dense forests that straddle the borders of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia on the island of Borneo are home to Asia’s only great ape, the orang-utan (which translates to “man of the forest”). Tanjung Puting National Park, located in the Indonesian sector, is one of the more accessible national parks on the island with the traditional method, and most popular mode, of travel being by klotok boat. As you drift along jungle rivers, you will see orang-utans and the other famous native arboreal animals, the proboscis monkeys, swinging in the trees. The park is also the location of Camp Leakey Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre, established in the 1970s where the rehabilitated orang-utans roam free. Get an up close and personal view of the apes at the feeding station.

20 February 2013

Public Transport in San Francisco

Planes, Trains And (No) Automobiles: Public Transportation In San Francisco

San Francisco is a large city squeezed into a tight 47-square mile space, and many of those living in and visiting the city decide to forgo using a car to get around for many reasons. Not only is parking nearly nonexistent in many popular areas of the city, but it can be expensive as well. However, the public transportation options are varied and extensive for those traveling to and throughout this beautiful city. And nearly one out of every three residents in the city use public transportation to commute to work, a percentage that ranks the city third in the United States.


BART/Caltrain

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a mostly subway system that sends four of its five lines through the city. Although a significant percentage of the system is above ground, the vast majority of the tracks in San Francisco are below the surface. Trains going east head into the four-mile Transbay Tube and to Oakland and the East Bay. The four routes then terminate in Richmond, Bay Point, Dublin and Fremont. Trains heading south travel as far as Millbrae.

Caltrain is another rail service that serves San Francisco. Its northern terminus is a block from AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants that is located a short distance from downtown. Trains travel to and past San Jose as far south as Gilroy. There are three stops located within San Francisco, all on the east side of the city.

Muni

Muni (San Francisco Municipal Railway) is the seventh largest transit system in the country as it provides more than 210 million rides a year. It runs 54 bus lines throughout the city, and very few people in the city are ever more than a few blocks from a bus stop. There are also 12 overnight routes for those staying up late or getting a very early start on their day. One of these, the 91 Owl, has a 24-mile route, the longest in the system. The 29 Sunset is the longest daytime route at 17 miles.

The organization also operates Muni Metro, a light rail system that serves downtown and several other areas of the city. It generally operates underground downtown and above ground away from downtown. There are six routes. Two head to within blocks of the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the city: the N Judah and the L Taraval. Muni operates a heritage streetcar line, the F Market & Wharves, and three cable car lines as well. Its cable car system itself is a popular tourist attraction.

Three other bus-oriented public transportation systems serve San Francisco: AC Transit, SamTrans and Golden Gate Transit. AC Transit mostly operates in the East Bay, SamTrans provides service south of the city, and Golden Gate Transit serves the communities located on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco.

International Airports

Those traveling to San Francisco have three major airports to choose from: San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose International Airports. Travelers may take BART trains into the city from the San Francisco and, with the assistance of an AirBART shuttle bus, Oakland airports. A free ride on the Airport Flyer bus from the San Jose airport transports travelers to Caltrain’s Santa Clara Station for a train ride north into San Francisco.

Other options for those traveling into the city from outside the region include Amtrak and Greyhound. Trains arrive across the bay in Emeryville, and Amtrak Thruway buses provide direct transportation from that train station into the city. San Francisco’s Greyhound terminal is located downtown, two blocks south of Market Street.


Lexy Mulheim wrote this article for www.sanfranciscohotelguides.com. Lexy is a freelance writer with experience in many different areas but enjoys writing about travel and San Francisco.

19 February 2013

The Cyprus Barrier

Greeted with a mural of a hand dripping with blood, I feel like I don't even need to understand the words, presumably in Turkish, beneath it. This in itself is enough to impart a haunting feeling throughout my time exploring this eerie ghost land.



The border between the Republic of Cyprus and the northern Turkish-controlled section of the island boasts a bewildering array of official military blockades manned by armed guards in some areas, while in others flimsy sheet metal is piled just high enough to block the view to and from the other side.

Photography is of course strictly forbidden in this area, or so a sign reminds me as I tread nervously past, camera over my shoulder in plain view. Hiding it in a bag is an option, but it's always good to have the look of a confused tourist in this area, should you accidentally explore further than you're permitted to.

The Republic of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, with the northern half being declared by its community as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This move has not been officially recognised by the United Nations, which has declared it illegal. As such, the 'official' name for the northern half of the island is only recognised by Turkey and its inhabitants.

Although the area is not what would typically be described as a seventh heaven, there is something inherently captivating about picking a deserted street and trudging down it until you find the road has been blocked off.
Those with any interest in history or conflict will find the border an exhilarating place to visit, and those without any prior awareness of the Cyprus divide will undoubtedly find themselves wanting to expand their knowledge, even if they find the experience a little nerve-jangling at first.

The difference between the two sides of the island would be evident even if there was no physical border. Spires of churches dot the skyline of the Greek side of the island, and mosques dominate the landscape of the Turkish side, perhaps the most poignant reminder of not only the physical barrier between the two communities, but the social differences the two are now divided by.

Stumbling across the most perplexing sight at the border, my eyes are forced to do a double-take as they notice a basketball hoop erected just metres from the dull yellow brick border. A bright red and clearly very serious sign sits just behind it, designating the land past the wall a forbidden area. My mind can't help but wonder who would play basketball in such a place. It also can't help but hope that whoever does play here is a confident shot; I for one would not want to fetch the ball from across the boundary after a stray throw.
But this is not the most surreal sight to process in this man-made area of desolation - it doesn't even come close to the mysterious ghost-town of Varosha. Indeed, there is no real mystery about why Varosha, once a lively tourist suburb of Famagusta on the east side of the island, is now devoid of human life - aside from the Turkish army patrols, that is.

But that doesn't stop you feeling a real air of apprehension and mystery when you gaze at its crumbling buildings.

After the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 the area was fenced off and no-one except Turkish and UN forces has been allowed to enter since.

Simply looking through binoculars from the edge of the exclusion zone tells you more than about the impact of the conflict than anything else ever could. Clothes which were left hanging out to dry and then hastily abandoned by their former owners still flap softly in the gentle breeze and bushes grow by the road side and up the walls of the once busy hotels.

Cracks in the roads reiterate the amount of time that has passed since anyone cared for this town, and how nature can so quickly reclaim what was taken from it.

A frail yet enthusiastic local man, Alexis, told me he visited 'the fence' to view Varosha once a month, and explained how he had seen the buildings and infrastructure decay over the past 34 years.
“For a long time after they sealed it off you could still see the lights shining brightly, that's until they grew darker, eventually to a red colour and burnt out of course,” said the 74-year-old. “After such a long time I can notice when things fall or change from the last time I was here, and I keep coming back to remind myself that nothing should be taken for granted in this world, especially here.”

Looking through my binoculars one last time at the hollow, deserted hotels once bustling with tourists, and the derelict houses formerly home to generations of families, I can't help but agree with him.

is a regular traveller and loves getting to know the locals whenever she's abroad.

14 February 2013

Captivating Cyprus



We’re a lucky bunch. We can travel to some of the most beautiful and diverse places in the world without flying for more than just a few short hours. From Atogoholidays in the south of Tenerife to city breaks in the lovely Portuguese city of Lisbon, there’s a world of choice right at your fingertip.

One Mediterranean beauty that never fails to disappoint is Cyprus, and it’s not hard to see why. This glorious island, said to be the birthplace of the mythical Aphrodite, is all golden sands and sparkling azure seas. It’s right up there in the ‘picture perfect’ stakes, and what’s more it’s got a cracking climate too. The summers are scorching, perfect for catching up with some much-needed R&R on the beach, while the winters are refreshing yet still mild. During the cooler months, most of the time you can wander around in a t-shirt, which is a welcome change after the stifling heat of the summer.

Beaches aside, the island is home to the magnificent Troodos Mountain range - a string of stunning peaks that is home to hidden monasteries and ancient buildings that cling to the hillsides. It’s seriously breathtaking, so it’s well worth bringing a picnic to make the most of your time here... and to soak up the views at your leisure.



One of the many great things about Cyprus is that it’s easy to reach. Whether you choose low-cost Cyprus package holidays, a quick weekend getaway or whether you choose to get here under your own steam, you’ll find plenty of choice. The best prices are often found by booking ahead, so take heed where possible and book as far in advance as you can. It just means that whatever you save at the booking stage you can enjoy as spending money once you get here. Perfect!

East Village Cocktail Bars NYC

The Best Cocktail Bars That New York’s East Village Has To Offer


Although the Volstead Act prohibited the sale or distribution of alcohol in New York, the amassment of secret underground bars continued to provide a haven for people in the city between 1919 and 1933. Tucked away round street corners and alleyways, the allure of these bars was constant, meaning a variety of strict measures had to be put in place to ensure their survival. 



The thrill of the chase kept many of these bar owners trading, and with threats of life imprisonment, the penalty seemed worthy of the survival of the uprising and continued business. Nowadays however, these bars are rife with customers, providing New York’s East Village with one of the business drinking-strips in the city. Take a look at the best cocktail bars that New York’s East Village has to offer, and see whether you can be enticed into making a trip to the big apple! 

PDT (Please Don’t Tell)


This bar no longer needs the shroud of secrecy to keep it in business, and to this day it remains one of the busiest and cultured ‘secret’ bars in New York. Serving food until the early hours of the morning, many customers keep PDT’s reservation number on speed dial. Cocktails may be a little pricy, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the interior décor, most of it left exactly the same as when it first opened. To avoid missing out, it’s essential that you make a reservation at PDT, as queues outside this bar can be hefty. 

Cabin Down Below


This bar is a tad edgier than PDT, and is a product of a few East Village hipsters (most notability Matt Romano of the Strokes). Celebrities are frequently spotted lurking around this watering hole, and with a number of secret entrances and even more bouncers, you’ll do well to get your name on the Cabin Down Below guest list. The interior looks and feels like a warm cabin, however the furniture provides a chill-lounge vibe. 

Cienfuegos Above Carteles


If you’re looking for a little Havana in New York, then the Cienfuegos Above Carteles is the spot for you. This bar is a hub for Hispanic music, with bottles of tequila and rum lining the bar. The colours of the walls even represent Cuban culture, with mint green and lime around every corner. Although the bar is quite big, it is often busy with local Hispanics racing to try the home-cooked tapas, so it’s best to book a table. This bar has a very rustic feel, with tabs and bills arriving in cigar boxes, and if you’ve got a spare $15, the cocktails won’t fail to disappoint. 

Angel’s Share in Village Yokocho 


Hidden away on the second floor of Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho is Angel’s Share, a renaissance and cultural haven for creatives everywhere. With heavy curtains and burgundy wallpaper, this bar is a stark contrast to the vibrant colours of the Village Yokocho restaurant downstairs, providing a large variety of whiskeys and bourbons as well as excellent table service. 

If you’re not from New York but still fancy checking out the best cocktail bars head on over to Cheapflights.com to book your flights to New York.

10 February 2013

European Jaunts in 2013


Whatever you wish to achieve from your holiday this year, the multitude of destinations that Europe covers will surely satisfy your requirements. Whether you’re looking for sun, sea, sand or snow, the various climates and terrains of Europe will come up trumps. Take a look at some of the fantastic options for your 2013 sojourn. 

The Lycian Coast 

 


Flotilla holidays are extremely popular in this area, giving you the chance to cruise the open seas whilst exploring the harbours and coves you espy along the way. With longer passages between ports, there’s plenty of time for you to relax, unwind and bask in the beautiful sunshine. Pack your snorkel gear and take advantage of the transit time and take a dip in the azure waters to see what marine life resides there. 

Kitzbuhel 




If you have a hankering for a mountain escape, the Alps are an excellent spot for a European break. You can affordably ski in Austria, with plenty of options for a range of capabilities. Kitzbuhel, nicknamed the ‘Glitz of Kitz’ is a fantastic ski area, home to the legendary Hahnenkamm ski run. 

Lake Garda

 

 

Walking, hiking, cycling and watersports – it’s all available in and around Lake Garda in Italy. From the gentle strolls around the rustic villages to the more challenging descents higher in the hills, Lake Garda is more than just a lakeside retreat. Enjoy windsurfing in the northernmost region, where the prevailing winds are ideal, or stay in the south for some gentler activities, including kayaking and boating. 

Wherever you decide to base yourself for your 2013 European vacation, whether it’s one of the flotilla holidays, watersports, or you decide to ski in Austria, you can be sure that a retreat to Europe will be an unforgettable one that will be in your memory forever.


08 February 2013

Visiting Edinburgh

Getting to Edinburgh

Scotland’s capital city is well connected by transport links, with regular trains to and from all the major UK cities. If you’re heading up from London, the train takes around four and a half hours. Flights from London to Edinburgh take just over an hour, so it’s perfect for a convenient trip any time you’re in the UK.
If you arrive at Edinburgh airport there’s a short journey into town, either on the inexpensive and regular bus service or by taxi. The bus service is particularly simple to use. All the buses leave from just outside the airport and go straight to the city centre.

If you arrive by rail, then you’re in for a treat – as Edinburgh’s main railway station, Waverley, is located in the heart of the city, and as you take the escalator up to Princes Street, your eye is met by the stunning architecture of this world-renowned city.



Getting around Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a compact city, and as such it offers plenty of opportunities to get around on foot and see the sights, of which there are plenty. But if you’re looking to get from A to B there is a very good bus service, and of course the city’s tram line will augment the city’s public transport – although work on it is still in the process of being completed.

City sightseeing

There’s loads to see in Edinburgh, so why not grab your tour guidebook, head up to a café on the Royal Mile, and plan your day.



Of all Edinburgh’s sights, Edinburgh Castle is probably the most famous of all. Built high on volcanic rock, the castle is an impressive building that can be seen from miles away as you approach the city centre.
Take some time to savour the views as you make your way up the castle’s forecourt (the esplanade) and view the magnificent panoramic cityscapes that it affords.

In late summer Edinburgh plays host to the world’s biggest arts festival, and the atmosphere is electric. This is a great time just to walk around and soak up all that’s going on. During the Festival the Royal Mile is a truly exciting place to be, with street theatre, music and throngs of tourists turning the street into a vibrant blur of activity.

With the stunning old and new towns, the splendour of George street and the trendy Shore area of Leith, this is a city not to miss – and with its winter and summer festivals, there are plenty of great times to visit during the course of the year.


About the author: Sarah W. writes  on behalf of Malmaison Edinburgh  for a number of travel blogs and websites in the UK.

04 February 2013

Exploring Cambodia

Quickly becoming a popular tourist destination find out about Cambodia's beautiful beaches, peaceful temples and unspoilt landscapes.

Cambodia was once known for its regime of terror under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, but this beautiful country is now becoming a favourite with tourists to South East Asia. Gorgeous beaches, peaceful temples and unspoilt landscapes mean that when you choose to go backpacking in Cambodia then you will be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.



Take in the Sights


The Temples of Angkor are a must-see destination during your stay. They are beautiful monuments which date back to the 9th century. Situated in Siem Reap, there are over a thousand temples to see, some just ruins and others which have been restored.

You will find the most magnificent beaches in Sihanoukville. Some can get a little crowded, so check out Otres Beach for a little more peace and quiet.

Tonle Sap Lake is also well worth a visit. This huge lake is a fascinating place, with its floating villages constantly moving around to where the water is at its highest. It is also the natural habitat for a wide range of birds, reptiles and mammals and is home to freshwater fish, turtles, crocodiles and snakes.
You can also enjoy some delicious local food during your stay. Rice and noodles are the staples, with black pepper, coconut milk, fish paste and ginger other favoured ingredients.

Be Prepared

Before you go it is vital that you plan your trip with care. You will need a visa to enter Cambodia, which you can get from Cambodian embassies or consulates or when you arrive at one of the country's two airports. If you're going as a tourist then your visa will last you for 30 days, while a business visa lasts for two months and allows you multiple entries to the country. You will also need to carefully choose the right type of insurance for your trip and it is a good idea to compare a number of quotes when you look for cheaper travel insurance.

It is essential that you don't outstay your visa. If you're still in the country when you shouldn't be, you will at the very least receive a substantial fine but you could be sent to an illegal-immigrant holding pen. This won't be a pleasant experience so if you need to stay longer then make sure you extend your visa accordingly.
When you travel anywhere, it is always a good idea to know a few words of the local language. The main language in Cambodia is Khmer, although French is sometimes spoken in the country. However, you will find most people in the major towns and cities speak English and market vendors generally have enough English for you to engage in a transaction.

Exploring Cambodia is a life-changing experience and you will create some wonderful memories which will last forever.


Article by Chris Rowlands

03 February 2013

Destination Dubai

With plenty of sparkle at every turn, Dubai certainly knows how to shine, but look further than the world-class restaurants, designer shopping and spectacular hotels and you will find a city that also has an abundance of unique charm.



Take advantage of the varied landscapes to enjoy extreme sports, have dinner on the beach, or simply take the opportunity to wander around this much-talked about destination, making your own mind up about what exactly makes it tick and forms its universal appeal. There are endless options when it comes to experiencing Dubai and here are a few ideas:

See the sands


The Dubai sand dunes are truly magnificent and what better way than to marvel at their riot of colour than to test your skill on a desert safari? By hiring a jeep, you have a unique vantage point and can enjoy an action adventure while taking in the spectacular landscape which abounds.



There are a variety of operators organising guided and self-drive tours and these can be taken at various times throughout the day and evening. The high temperatures mean that it is important to arrive fully equipped with sun protection and water, even if you are likely to be in an air conditioned vehicle for much of the time.

Going for gold


The souks throughout the city are world famous, with gold being a particular attraction and available at good prices, providing you barter. The Gold Souk is great for all that sparkles and you can take a water taxi to Deira to explore the more traditional souks where spices, jewellery, clothing and much more is on offer for a bargain price. Trading hours are generally 10am until 10pm and it pays to shop around, with competition keeping prices reasonable.


Surprise yourself

For fifteen years, the city has celebrated summer with its own flamboyant spectacle; the Dubai Summer Surprises, usually held in mid-June. Since its beginnings in 1998, the city has pulled out all the stops to host a festival across its beaches, infrastructure and shopping centres. With a festival atmosphere that is infectious, head to one of the many shows put on or avail of excellent discounts across the entertainment scene.

Learn to ski


Yes it may seem bizarre, but in the land of desert and sand dunes, there are also opportunities to ski, principally with Ski Dubai an indoor resort in the Mall of the Emirates. With 22,500 square metres, the ski area is immense and even has visiting penguins! Lessons are limited and should be booked in advance.

Explore the deep sea


There is no pretty reef to explore in Dubai, but it does instead boast some incredible wreck diving opportunities suited to the more experienced diver. When booking dives, make sure you visit a PADI registered school such as The Pavilion Dive Centre, where instructors are qualified and will help you get the most out of the experience.

At around 50 euros a dive, prices are perhaps higher than those at other dive sites across the world, but you will not be disappointed. With strong currents and fairly low visibility, wreck diving is not for amateurs, but dedicated divers will be rewarded with some wrecks dating back to before the first Gulf War.

Take to the skies

There really is no better way to see every part of the city than to experience it from above, while taking a once in a lifetime helicopter trip. Offering panoramic views, this exhilarating trip takes either 15 or 25 minutes and takes in the coastline and city from a vantage point that is second to none. Don't forget your camera!

Scale dizzying heights


Whether you love or hate it, there's no denying the impressive nature of the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which stands tall at 828m, dominating the skyline. From the 124th floor, visitors can enjoy jaw-dropping views and take in a range of exhibits explaining the building, which features 160 floors and was constructed using more than 26,000 glass panels. Allow at least an hour and purchase tickets in advance to benefit from fast tracked admission.

Experience Zuma

Dubai is not short of exceptional restaurants, but widely regarded as one of the very best is Zuma, a Japanese eaterie where reservations are essential. The unique atmosphere, mouthwatering cuisine and vibrant surroundings make for a memorable dining experience. Zuma can be found in downtown Dubai, in the heart of the international financial district and once you have arrived, you won't regret it!

Messing around on the river

There are many ways to relax during a visit to Dubai and one of the best is to take advantage of a river cruise, such as the Bateaux Dinner Cruise, which takes in the major sights and affords great views of Dubai Creek whilst also providing exceptional food and drinks. Sailing takes place daily and guests should be aware that smart casual dress is mandatory. An adult ticket costs around  £69, while child prices are less.

Shop until you drop


No trip to Dubai on holiday is complete without at least a brief overview of its incredible shopping opportunities and especially those at Dubai Mall, where even the most reluctant consumer can be gently persuaded to part with their money and feel a sense of awe. This five-floor, man-made paradise has over 1,265 shops and even has its very own ice rink and aquarium vying for attention. Allow a few hours to explore this vast space and see if you can resist its allure.

So there it is in a nutshell  a city that never sleeps, yet has the energy to keep going at an astounding pace, living life to the full and demanding that its many enthralled visitors do exactly the same, making memories and having the time of their life!

David Wilcox is a travel writer for TravelSupermarket. He combines his passion for writing and travelling to talk about all things relating to travel.

01 February 2013

Five Fabulous February Travel Suggestions

February is supposedly derived from the Latin term februum, meaning ‘purification’. Various rituals would take place to purge or clean the self after the dark months. Whilst we generally dislike this frosty month for the extreme cold, there are many festivals being held, particularly in the northern hemisphere, to celebrate the seasonal transition from winter to spring!

So why not take the opportunity this February to cleanse your winter weariness with a bit of uplifting travel! The Travelling Times Team looks up some likely destinations around the world.

Carnival of Venice – 1st to 12th February 2013


Carnevale is known for its elaborate baroque costumes with masks and its origins can be traced back to at least the 15th century. The festivities begin on the Friday afternoon with la Festa delle Marie, a grand procession through the city. Over the next 12 days there are jousts and other mock-military tournaments, as well as musical and theatrical performances throughout the city. Watch or partake in calcio storico – a medieval team sport that seems to be a cross between football and rugby with a bit of bare-knuckle boxing thrown in for good measure! Definitely, not one for the faint hearted... but the real showpiece is the Grand Masked Ball held inside a classical Venetian palace and anyone with a proper costume and mask is allowed in!

Super Bowl XLVII – 3rd February 2013


Widely regarded as the marquee event in American professional sport, this year’s showpiece of the NFL season will be staged in New Orleans (the 10th time the city has held the event) and sees the Baltimore Ravens clash with the San Francisco 49ers for the prized Vince Lombardi Trophy. What’s more, it’s being held right in the middle of The Big Easy’s carnival season with Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”) falling on 12th February. As they say in New Orleans, laissez les bon temps rouler (that’s “let the good times roll!” - considered to be the city's unofficial motto). Maybe, this could be that unique St Valentine’s treat for you!


Rio Carnival – 9th to 12th February 2013


The first festivals of Rio date back to 1723 and although carnivals are held in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio’s is considered the biggest, boldest and brightest in the world with two million people each day on the streets. Although colourfully-clad women and pulsating rhythms are what first come to mind when you think of the Rio Carnival, the true heart of today’s celebration is the Sambadrome (official name: Passarela do Samba Darcy Ribeiro), designed by world renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1984 and built in a record 110 days! Prior to the construction of the Sambadrome, the parades were held on Avenida Presidente Vargas, one of the largest streets in Rio’s downtown area.

Chinese New Year – 10th February 2013


The origin of the Chinese New Year Festival can be traced back thousands of years through a series of colourful legends and traditions; nowadays it’s arguably the most widely celebrated holiday worldwide! One of the liveliest parties in the world can be found on the small island of Hong Kong where the New Year is kicked off by the Night Parade, as traditional floats and performers in lion and dragon costumes follow the route around Tsim Sha Tsui, set to a backdrop of loud percussion music and the pop of firecrackers! The second day of the three day holiday is marked by an enormous fireworks display as pyrotechnics are launched from barges in Victoria Harbour. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be getting an early night!

Sky Lantern Festival – 24th February 2013


In Pingxi, a little mountain town in north-eastern Taipei County, Taiwan, sky lanterns used to have a practical application whereby those who worked or farmed in the mountains used them to inform their families that they were safe. Today, the act of sky lantern launching has evolved into an all-out celebration with people writing wishes on the lanterns before releasing them! Lanterns are launched throughout the 15 days from Chinese New Year and peak on Yuan Xiao, the fifteenth day of the Lunar New Year (this year it’s 24th February), when more than 1,000 lanterns are launched simultaneously - a truly spectacular sight! This festival normally has a theme and this year it is ‘love’ because 2013 is a homonym of "love you for a lifetime" in Mandarin. Maybe, your loved one deserves a break?

Ghost Cities around the World

Throughout recorded history, mankind has populated at a rapid rate, and areas once rich in mineral wealth or fertile soils eventually become barren, forcing residents to adapt, or leave for greener pastures. This has led to towns and villages remaining intact but empty - standing as an eerie testament to forgotten civilizations and populations. 

Of course, a lack of resources isn’t the only reason populated areas are deserted, and war, disease, famine, and natural disasters also have a role to play

Balestrino, Italy


This lush area, filled with flower blooms, hills, and olive groves, was once owned by a Benedictine abbey in the early 11th century. It was a picturesque little settlement that grew into a beautiful town. However, seismic activity in the 1800s disrupted the residents’ lives and forced them to move on, leaving behind a relic of medieval and modern life. Quakes in the area are still fairly common, and though the city still stands, no one is certain how much longer it will be around. 


Yashima, Japan 


The abandoned city on the Yashima mountain plateau stands on a site of historical importance, as it was the site of the Genpei War that took place in March, 1185. During the 1980s six hotels were built, along with several parks and trails, as well as an aquarium, in an attempt by residents to try and create more tourism in the region. Regrettably, interest in visiting the mountain plateau didn’t increase, so the hotels, shops, and cableway, eventually shut down, causing the city on the plateau to became desolate one more. However, you can still visit the Yashima temple, which is one of the numerous temple and shrine stops for those undertaking the Shikoku pilgrimage. 

Bodie, California


Before becoming a well-known ghost town, Bodie was a thriving mining community during the 1800s, with a whopping 60 saloons, a small Chinatown, and around 10,000 inhabitants. However, when the mines ran dry, people had to move on and find new work, and one by one the families left. In 1962, the town was renamed as Bodie State Historic Park when the very last family moved out, and those who visit, will find that the houses, though decaying, still contain selective goods and produce from the original residents. 

Pripyat, Ukraine 


Situated close to the border of Belarus, Pripyat was once a city that housed not only a fairly well-off population, but also the majority of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers. As most of us know, Chernobyl had a melt-down in 1986, and this city was evacuated because of the nuclear fallout threat. Even now, 25 years later, the radiation levels in the area make habitation of the city impossible, though that hasn’t stopped looters from stealing everything not bolted down – toilet seats included.


Kolmanskop, Southern Namibia 


A prosperous diamond mining town quickly turned into a ghost town when the diamonds in the area ran dry shortly after the First World War. If you’re keen to see it, it’s only a short drive away from the port, Lüderitz, and is cooperatively run by Namibia-DeBeers. Fairly different to the other ghost towns, the shifting desert conditions mean your tour will take you past half-buried houses and shops, giving you a glimpse of entropy at work. 

Author Bio: Rose McBain has a love of the outdoors, having braai’s with friends, and travel. She is a writer for TravelGround, a Marloth Park self-service booking and accommodation website.

Images

The ghost city of Balestrino, Italy. By Martina Rathgens (Flickr) - http://www.flickr.com/photos/riviera2008/3059125685/sizes/l/in/photostream/
Pripyat in winter, looking out onto desolate streets. By Keith Adams (Creative Commons) - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Pripyat01.jpg

Three Short Haul Spots in the Sun for 2013


Forget post-festive blues, it’s all about looking forwards, not back, and January is an excellent time to start looking and booking your summer 2013 stints in the sun. 



Choosing your ideal escape from the array of distinctive destinations available can be tricky, but whether you opt for a Cyprus holiday or a Balearic break, there’s something for everyone out there.

Cyprus


Known as the ‘island of love’ Cyprus is an excellent choice of destination for couples looking for a romantic rendezvous or honeymooning newlyweds. 

As well as the obvious connotations with Aphrodite and romance, Cyprus is also famed for its rich Greek heritage, fabulous food, brilliant beaches and vibrant nightlife.

Balearic Islands


Located under two hours away from the UK, the Balearic islands, off the east coast of mainland Spain is an excellent choice for any group of travellers who want to feel the sand between their toes, sharpish. 

Menorca, as the calmest of the islands, offers a great base for couples or families with young tots. In contrast, Majorca is a versatile island where party spots are juxtaposed perfectly with tranquil resorts.

Although booking in is highly advisable to ensure the best choice of holidays, last minuteIbiza holidays are a superb option for young adults.

Egypt


Situated to the north east of Africa, Egypt offers the best of both worlds – stunning golden sand beach resorts, and breath-taking ancient ruins.

Whether you opt to stay on the Red Sea Riviera and enjoy a week or two of beach bathing, snorkelling and scuba diving, or you choose to head into the cultural paradise of Luxor, Egypt is definitely one of the best short haul hot spots of 2013.

Start browsing for your break online today, and book your 2013 holiday as soon as possible. Secure the best deal on your ideal getaway.