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Once upon a time I reviewed the Arcido Novaya backpack, and I loved it.  I loved the whole idea of it i.e. a backpack for weekend breaks.  Now step up it’s successor, the Arcido Faroe, a shiny new backpack which, takes all the best bits of the Novaya, but streamlines them.

The result as you’ll see in the video below, is a super lightweight, slimline, versatile backpack.  Essentially it’s even MORE perfect for weekend travels and short breaks where you need to take your laptop AND a small wardrobes worth of clothes.

Here, take a look.

Video
Arcido Faroe Features

LARGE INNER POCKET:

Love a large storage area, with a suitable large opening flap.  None of that top loading only business here, the Arcido Faroe provides loads of storage and plenty of access to everything you’ve managed to pack.

PULL-TAB LAPTOP SECTION:

Love this …. but, the Novaya version was detachable, and I still use the detachable padding from the Novaya everyday.  However I get it though, this more slimline laptop section reduces the depth of the Faroe no end, and allows so much more room for clothes, shoes etc.

The Arcido Faroe still gives you laptop storage (obviously) so it’s the best of both worlds.

MATERIALS:

Made from a rugged, heather grey Blendex Kodra.

Kodra for those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t 5 mins ago) is an “air treated” Nylon fabric.  It’s often used in backpacks because of it’s being abrasion resistance and the fact it is relatively lightweight when compared to canvas materials

EXTRA POCKETS:

Super accessible whilst making your way through airport security, there is a pocket designed perfectly to house your passport and other important travel docs.

Likewise there is a shrapnel (loose change) and keys pocket.

Img source: https://www.arcido.com
Faroe Specs
  • Total Capacity: 35L
  • Weight: 900g
  • Dimensions: 55 x 35 x 20 cm

The above means that the Arcido Faroe currently qualifies as hand luggage for the following airlines, and potentially more.

Easyjet

Monarch

FlyBe

KLM

Ryanair

Air Lingus

Virgin Atlantic

British Airways
Price

RRP £120, but currently marked down by £30 to …

0
Where to buy?

You can buy the Arcido Faroe riiiiiiight ….

*******************

HERE

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Offers

The post The Arcido Faroe backpack – a review appeared first on Backpacks and Bunkbeds.

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Hot on the heels of my review of the Sungod Custom Classics Sunglasses, comes the latest Sungod customisable eyewear creation, the Sungod Pacebreakers.

Sporting the Sungod trademark adventureproof frames and lifetime guarantee, the first in the Sungod precision eyewear range is also fully customisable, so you are free to make them your own.

Sungod Pacebreaker Sunglasses

Adventureproof Flexible Frames

Adventureproof, i.e. flexible but no snapping, or signs of stress to the frames.  Great news from both a looks point of view, but also a safety one (no shards of broken plastic to go flying anywhere and everywhere).

Controlled Airflow

The design of the Pacebreaker frame has been optimsied to eliminate fogging, and to keep to your face cool, even when stationary. No getting all puffed out and red faced under those lenses.

Snap Lock Hinges

The Pacebreakers are either opened or closed, owing to their precision moulded snap lock hinges.  With no in-between this leaves you able to go one handed with putting the Pacebreakers on.

Grip Lock Ear Socks

Manufactured from a hydrophillic material, the grip of the ear socks only increases under sweat, therefore ensuring non slip even in the most testing conditions, whilst not becoming uncomfortable on your ears.

Pace Lenses

Interchangeable, precision lenses, engineered from an infused 2mm Polcarbonate Core.

The Pacebreakers 4KO lenses have been designed to offer enhanced contrast and optimum clarity under all different conditions, intensity or terrain.  To that end there is a range of colours, all of which offer 100% UV protection, but which also have different visible light transmission (VLT) percentages, and so perform best in different conditions, from bright and sunny to overcast and rainy.

The performance of the Pacebreakers are also enhanced by their extended field of view, no obstructed peripheral version here.

My experience

So my new Sungod Pacebreakers arrived last Friday, and as of Saturday morning I was sporting them as I lined up for my (almost) weekly ParkRun.

I do not own any other sports sunglasses, and so this was new for me.  I already have quite a lot of running equipment, what with wireless headphones, sweat bands, IT support band, sports armband, and now added to that lot, my sungod pacebreakers.  Overkill on the equipment front?

Aside from stunningly coloured 4KO lens, the weight and the snap lock hinges were and instant hit.  The grip of the ear socks and nose piece also gave me confidence that the pacebreakers wouldn’t be falling off at any point in the next 30 mins, save me taking a taking a tumble and falling ass over face.

During the run, I didn’t really notice my new eyewear, which is kind of the point I guess.  The only time during the 5km trail where I became aware of the was when I was attempting to keep myself ahead of my target pacer, who was running right on my shoulder.  The extended field of peripheral vision, which would have been obstructed if I was wearing any of my other sunglasses.

All in all, the new Sungod Pacebreakers definitely aided my race.  I didn’t break any PB’s admittedly (a month off doesn’t exactly help form), but I did improve on my time from the previous Thursday evenings run, and in harsher, hotter and sunnier conditions.

Cost

With the ability to customise and add premium features, such as polarised lenses, means that there are different cost tariffs for the Sungod Pacebreakers.  Here’s a rough guide, but I think you’re best best is to simply visit the Sungod Pacebreakers page and have a play with the different customisation options. The cost of your perfect pair will be displayed on screen.

Full Pairs:

  • Non-Polarised Full Pair  £60
  • Polarised Full Pair  £85

Spares/Additional:

  • Non-Polarised Lenses  £30
  • Polarised Lenses  £55
  • Ear Socks   £8
Shop here – SUNGOD PACEBREAKERS

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Arriving in Santiago de Compostela for June 23rd was the most perfect of timing.  Only in town for the weekend, I assumed I would be only the cities main sights  (I use the word ‘only’ lightly, but you know what I mean).  Sights such as the cities stunning cathedral, or the blissful Alameda parklands. What I didn’t expect on my first night in town was a flown blown celebration of summer, aka Festas de San Juan, translation – Festival of Saint John.

Now who doesn’t love Summer? What more of a reason to celebrate than getting to feel the warmth of that big flaming ball in the sky, and in turn experience a bit of Vitamin D after months and months of cold, wind and rain I.e England most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, winter is cool too. If you’ve ever read my Blog before you may have gathered that I am quite the fan of the snow and snowboarding, but while those white mountain pistes are oh so alluring, I actually consider them more accessible than a sunny day in London, and so maybe cherish a proper summer that bit more.

Of course a ‘proper’ summer in the UK usually maxes out after around the 3 weeks mark, and that’s in a good year. Over in Spain though, the old currant bun appears in the sky a little more often, at you’d expect it to, and usually stays there for a duration.  When you know it’s coming and that it’s likely to stay that way for a while, summer becomes much easier to plan for, and in turn celebrate, and some of the best summer celebrations can be found in Santiago, Spain. 

Welcoming the sunshine and sizzling heat of summer requires only one thing, more heat. I jest, as a pale and delegate skinned Brit I can only handle so much heat before retreating to the shadows and proceeding to slap on copious amounts of aftersun. ‘Burnt under a light bulb’ is the phrase I believe.  

Not the people of Santiago de Compostela though, bonfires are the preferred and traditional means of welcoming summer, tall and roaring bonfires, spread throughout the city and accessible via what I have named ‘the bonfire train’ (see below, it’s a real thing ).

The people of Santiago celebrate the summer on the longest night, the night of San Juan.

Festas de San Juan

Noche de San Juan – The night of San Xoan, or San Juan.

Aka the magical night of St. John.

Aka St John’s eve

Aka June 23rd.

Aka the longest day of the year. 

No matter how exactly it is referenced, this is simply an incredible evening of celebration among a community which appears very tight nit.   Food, drink and music are shared, people dance and retail stories. It’s very heartwarming to bear witness to, and also very exciting as the music is faster rather than slower, meaning that the mood and spirits are upbeat, and everyone is in a good mood. A mood good enough to consider jumping over bonfires a grand idea.   

Fire

So as you may have guess from the above, fire plays a large part in the night of San Juan.

According to legend, it was the robin redbreast which bought fire from the sun. A symbol of summer, this sacred protective and purifying element must be looked after and cared for, it should not be allowed to dwindle.

The influence of fire on the San Juan celebrations is quite clear.  The bonfires, or ‘cacharelas’, spread about the old town represent purity, and the local custom is to leap and bound over the fires so to embrace the magical power of fire, and ward of evil spirits and spells.

In order for the fire hoppers to reap the benefits of their efforts, they must leap over the cacharelas an odd number of times. Usually between 3 and 9 efforts will do the trick.

The smoke pouring from the fires and streetside BBQs is also believed to provide protect for both man and animal from evil.  Also the ashes from the fires is also sometimes kept to provide protection from adverse weather and business relations.

Water

H2O, the most essential of elements for life.  During San Juan water is as of much importance as fire, evening if not so apparent in the celebrations.

For Noche de San Juan water is believed to be at its most powerful, more so than at any other point of the year, and come nightfall water based ritual performed at local fountains and springs aid the locals in protecting their bodies and souls, while at at the same time washing away dirts and diseases.

These rituals and any drinking from the fountains must take place before midnight.  Why? Well the city’s fountains are said to play host to both fairies (aka mouras) and evil beings.  Drinking from a fountain before the clock strikes twelve will bring positive energy and well being via the fairies.  However, should you take water after midnight and the effects are reversed, and one can be struck down ill, as they have disturbed the water whilst it was sleeping.

There is also a tradition of collecting water on the eve of San Juan, but not in buckets.  The collection of the nights dew is also seen as very important, as it is seen as purifying.  Locals leave out not only woolen clothes and bedsheets, but also the seven San Juan herbs …

  1. Wood fern
  2. Male fern
  3. Laburnum
  4. St Johns wort
  5. Mallow
  6. Rosemary, and
  7. Lemon Verbena

Come morning, the sodden herbs will be used to wash oneself, with the aim of skin rejuvenation.

The Sun Dance

Santiago de Compostela is a university town, so its probably needless to say that the party goes on a while, all the way till dawn, but with good reason (not just because of booze)!

At dawn on June 24th, there is a traditional of finding an unobstructed view of the skyline, and watching the new sun and previous nights moon enjoy a short dance together, surrounded by all the worlds witches.

Verdict

Whilst I didn’t make it all the way to dawn to partake in the watching of the sunrise, I can still give two big thumbs up to the Festas de San Juan.

The bonfires, music and bbq were always going to be big hit with me, but the community spirit and general sense of joy and positivity was all too apparent as well.  The vibe was excellent, and if anything was missing from my experience, it was that I didn’t have anyone there with me to share in it.  Festivals on your tod maybe aren’t the one, but I still had a great time and would struggle not to recommend June 23rd as the best time to visit Galacia and Santiago de Compostela.

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Santiago de Compostela an amazing town located in the Spanish north west (above Portugal).  It is known as a university town, and also acts as a beautiful finishing line for many pilgrims who have trekked for days along the Camino de Santiago.  To top it all off, in 1985 the Santiago old town was designated a UNESCO world heritage site

Sounds like an amazing travel destination right?

Yep, no doubt about it, Santiago is a joy to visit and explore … but why is it that you so rarely hear it mentioned in the same breath as Barcelona, or Madrid, when talking about a weekend break destination?  No doubt both Barcelona and Madrid are great in the their own right, but within this blog post I am (no prizes for guessing) here to sing the praises of one of my new fave European cities – Santiago de Compostela.

Friday

travel to airport, board plane, snooze for a bit, land, collect bags. All pretty standard.

Making your way from the airport to the city centre is a relitively simple task, consisting of a 20 minutes cab ride, or a bus (3 Euro). I went with the cab option.

No matter which option you choose, my top tip at this point would be to either a) politely ask you cab driver to take you to Gozo monument first, or  b) get off the bus at San Marcos (depending upon how much luggage you have) and walk up the hill to visit the very same monument. Basically the view you get from atop the hill where the monument Resides is the same view of Santiago de Compostella which  the pilgrims of the Camino get to experience, and so many days on their feet. Being that It’s kinda of on your way to town, I would recommend taking in the views and spotting the 3 spires of Santiago.  

The Camino de Santiago (or in English, the Way of St James) is a network of pilgrimage routes, generally walked but also cycled, all which end with arrival at the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Reasons as to why someone might walk hundreds kilometres along one of the Camino routes varies, but typically include discovering something about oneself, spiritual reasons,  having suffered in some way and wanting to use the journey as a form of recovery and/or reflection.

The most popular route is the Camino Francés which extends a feet blistering 780 km (that’s roughly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz (France) to Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

Along the different routes, pilgrims are guided along the way by an extensive series of yellow arrows which can be found on trees, sign posts, tiles, rocks/boulders etc, and accompanying Scallop Shells, but more on those later.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Camino, check out this post by Flora The Explorer – You Know You’ve Walked the Camino When…

Visiting the Monte de Gozo should keep you occupied up until evening time, when I recommend a little more walking, so to reach some of the more authentic restaurants in town. 

Rua de San Pedro is a road littered (in a good way) with mouthwatering tapas joints.  One such establishment called Amaceta is where I spent my Friday evening, scoffing town fresh bread, croquettes, prawns and steak, all while sitting out in their lovely garden.

Of course there’s always room and time for a quick night cap before bed. How about a LARGE Pomada (Gin), or bottle of Estrella in one of the towns squares to see out your first day in Santiago de Compostella?!

… unless it’s Saint John’s Eve (Noche de San Juan), in which case you’ll want to carry on walking some more, until you find one of the many bonfires which have been lit within the cities old town.  What happens after you find one of these bonfires? … Well, all will be explained in a separate blog post, but here’s a little clue.

Saturday

Come Saturday morning and after a quick breakfast it’s market time. Head away from the tourist hotspots and down towards Mercado de Abastos, aka Santiago’s food market.

Admire the surrounding, and the fresh produce on sale at over 300 different market stalls. Home grown fruit, veg, bread, meats, fish and flowers appear to be the mainstays, but there is also some clothing and trinkets available. It’s quite probable that you won’t actually purchase anything (save maybe a pastry), but soak up the atmosphere of a market which first opened its doors(?) way back in 1873.

Probably best to do so before peak tourist time kicks in around midday.

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Sea kayaking is an obvious choice for adventurous visitors to the Balearic island of Menorca. 

With impressive coastlines, mysterious caves, and the obviously beautiful torques waters, it’s a super fun activity, with the added benefits of a good upper body workout and (sort of) escape from the heat … but of course you’ll still need sunscreen!

My Menorca sea kayaking adventure was organised by @traversevents, who had invited me to Menorca along with 50 or so other influencers, to experience all the greatness that Menorca has to offer.  In a week filled with amazing seafood, cheese, wine, gin, beaches, history and cities, I can look back on an incredible time, the highlight of which was my sea kayaking adventure with new friends.

Leaving our hotel in the early (ish) hours, we made our way west across the island to take on 3 hours at sea, but not before gearing up with all the proper equipment, and then having our awesome instructors give us a mini lesson on correct paddling technique, and a mandatory safety brief.  That said, it cannot have been more than half an hour before we all have our life jackets on, paddles in hand and valuables tightly sealed away in waterproof barrels. The barrels actually came with us, and were perfect for storing extra water, sunscreen and (if you’re brave enough) camera equipment.

One of the best parts of a sea kayaking adventure is being able to reach all those little hidden spots, which other, larger craft cannot.  Paddling across the open sea was great, but our kayaking adventure really came into its own once we left the sunshine behind and paddled into narrow caves and grottos, the kind where head torches are require and every sound echo’s deep.

From within those caves we were able to moor (sort of) our vessels and explore underwater via a spot of snorkeling, and to top it all off, once back above the waters surface beers were provided so to wash the taste of salt water out of our mouths.

Energetic, but ultimately very relaxing.  A Menorcan sea kayaking adventure is a great way to spend a morning/afternoon exploring the turquoise waters and stunning coastlines of this Balearic gem.

Sea Kayaking Video
Sea Kayaking in Menorca #MustSeeMenorca - YouTube
Special Thanks

Massive thanks to the Traverse and the Spanish Tourist Board for arranging my incredible visit to the Island of Menorca

Traverse: http://www.traverse-events.com
Spain Website: https://www.spain.info
Tourism Menorca: http://www.menorca.es/

Also a big thank you to Jet2 for getting me there and back safely!

Jet2: https://www.jet2holidays.com

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The 2017 edition of the North Face Surge backpack is upon us, built for the modern day traveller and combining comfort with ample storage (plus protection) for all of our tech which has now become central to the way we access information on the road.

As ever, I am never far from a new backpack, but had new owned a North Face backpack before.  Obviously I know the brand and their reputation, but when offered the chance to test out the latest edition of the Surge 33L backpack while travelling around Menorca it was an easy decision.

Lets have a look at how I go on, and dig a little deeper into what the Surge offers.

Surge 33L Backpack – My experience

Now Menorca and backpacking aren’t necessarily a match.  Menorca is a family friendly Balearic island, where each each thousand of brits pitch up on via a package holiday.  It’s beautiful no doubt,  but it’s hardly exploration off the beaten trail.

That said, there is plenty of opportunities for adventure, and with that comes the necessity of a robust bag, or backpack in my case.  Across my 7 days on the island I loaded up my new Surge 33L backpack each morning with all my camera gear, litres of water, litres of suncream (pale as a ghost over here), and swimwear, towel etc.  I may not have used all 33L each day, but it was a heavy enough load.

In terms of storage space there was plenty, and I appreciated the dedicated laptop pocket (more on that below).  In terms of comfort the backpack was super easy on my shoulders, no rubbing marks here.  There’s plenty of padding to go around, but admittedly while comfy, it also led to a rather warm back (read: sweaty).  Menorca in the summer months while wearing a dark coloured backpack is kind of asking for it though.

So in terms of a verdict I would say yes.  Yes to the Surge being a great backpack, or daysack depending upon how you intend to use it.  I stand by my ‘perfect for hand luggage only weekend breaks’, and I can see that this is exactly the backpack I would use for such trips in my own future travels.  Obviously the brand is super trendy right now, but I love the look of the backpack, and while it could be argud that all the different compartments limitd space (i.e. it could be 35+ litre if just one compartment), I really like how well thought out the design is.

I can certainly see the North Face Surge 33L backpack being my my backpack of choice for the immediate future. A genuine thumbs up from me.

Surge 33L Backpack – Comfort

While storage is seriously important with any backpack, if a backpack isn’t an easy wear and comfortable when you’re on the move, it’ll soon be listed on eBay or handed to a friend/colleague.

Comfort is of the upmost importance when travelling, and that extend past airplane seating.  A good bag/backpack which spreads weight evenly and doesn’t cause you any discomfort is just one part of a great travel experience.

The Surge 33L backpack delivers comfort via its FlexVent suspension system which ‘features injection-moulded shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel with a spine channel, and a wicking lumbar panel for impressive support and ventilation’.

Add to that its padded handles and you really do have a comfy and protective backpack. In case of need there is also a sternum strap!

Surge 33L Backpack – Storage

As the title of this review would suggest, the North Face Surge allows you a generous 33 litres of space to play with.  From the outset my mind was thinking ‘perfect for hand luggage only weekend breaks’.

Unzip the various compartments of the backpack and you’ll find a Dedicated, lay-flat, fleece lined laptop compartment.  A sizeable ‘main’ comportment for clothes and/or document folders.  A slightly smaller front compartment with another fleece lined pocket, zipped pocket and additional elastic webbing to secure any unusually shaped items.  There really is plenty of space in each of the compartments, but just in case you’ve already filled each of those the Surge also have two exterior water bottle holders, an easily accessible sunglasses compartment, and what I call a ‘passport pocket’ at the very front.

That’s seven different storage compartments to cover your various packing needs. I like.

Surge 33L Backpack – Specs

Image Source http://www.millets.co.uk/

Image Source http://www.millets.co.uk/

  • Fabric: 500D Cordura nylon matter ripstop, 600D polyester heather ripstop, 420D nylon
  • Dimensions: 50x35x22cm
  • Laptop sleeve dimensions: 26.6×33.6cm
  • Weight (approx.): 1460g
Surge 33L Backpack – Pricing

At the time of writing, the price of the Surge 33L backpack is current £88.00, which is down form the original RRP of £110.00.

The post Review: North Face Surge 33L Backpack appeared first on Backpacks and Bunkbeds.

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Well the snow is gone.  As summer approaches, my new Sungod Custom Revolts snowboarding goggles are now well and truly packed away under the bed.  Hibernating until winter rolls around again.  Lucky for me though the guys at Sungod actually started out with producing sunglasses.  Hello summer, hello my (also) new Sungod Customer Classics².

#Adventureproof®

Hash tag #Adventureproof.

The Custom Classics² offer a timeless and stylish design which is perfect for the fearless traveller. Super-duper flexible frames, which are also scratch proof btw, make for one robust pair of sunnies.

Bundle in Sungods 4KO® lens technology and your optical experience is looking up! … not literally, figure of speech.

Sungod Custom

As with the Revolts Snowboarding Goggles, their Classics² are fully customisable in terms of frame colour, lens colour and symbol colour.

New colours are being added on quite a regular basis, so this is a great opportunity to create your own eyewear to best suit your personality and personal tastes.

… just be warned that there are a LOT of options and combinations.

Specs
  • Adventureproof® flexible frame material. High-tensile, durable and lightweight for all day wear.
  • Cool matte finish with brushed metal icons and secure steel pins.
  • 100% UVA + UVB protection exceeding EN ISO 12312-1:2013 (CE) and ANSI Z80.3 (FDA) standards.
  • SunGod 4K Optics® Polycarbonate lenses with impact resistance.
  • Triple-layer scratch resistant coating + anti-reflective inner lens coating.
  • Advanced polarised filter for enhanced optical clarity and precision (optional).
  • White 100% Microfibre cleaning/storage pouch.
  • Covered by the SunGod Lifetime Guarantee.

My experience

Now as you may or may not know, I wear glasses full time.  A couple of years back I took the plunge and invested in a pair of prescription sunglasses, and to be honest they’ve been brilliant.

So brilliant have they been in fact, that I am really quite protective of them (read: always scared of breaking them).  While my Sungod Custom Classics² may not be prescription, they do created the perfect foil to my sunglasses which I rely on for driving in the sun, reading etc.

In my Custom Classics² I can dive around on a sandy beach, cannonball into water, play sports, go sandboarding etc.  No worries about breakage, and in turn no worries about not being able to drive home while a low lying sun streams in through the cars front window screen.

It may seem slightly odd that I carry around 2 pairs of sunglasses, but it works for me, and gives me piece of mind that I have a pair which I can rely on to be robust and durable, not to mention stylish.

Dubai: Sandboarding in the desert (Apr 2017)(GoPro 4K) - YouTube
Pricing

The Custom Classics² retail at £60 per pair (plus P&P).

There are also also two other options however, the Sungod Mavericks and Renegades, each with their own price.

I’ve reviewed the Custom Classics² because they are what I own, but check out the alternatives if you want a slightly different style.

Purchase your Sungod Custom Classics² here.

Disclaimer:

I am an official ambassador for Sungods.  Purchasing their products via links in this review post may result in my earning a small commission.  I hope thats cool!

The post Sungod Custom Classics – Review appeared first on Backpacks and Bunkbeds.

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As it stands, the Monzo Mastercard is the travel money card you both want and need … probably.

Why? Well primarily because it’s a debit card which will save you money versus your regular debit card (as evidenced below), but also because it can help you no end with the monitoring of your spending habits, via its secure app, and from which you can even download spend reports for further scrutiny of your outgoings.

While I’ve only had my Monzo card for a short while after being recommend it by a travel buddy, I’ve already made a fair saving during my recent trip to Dubai, and can so easily see how other travellers would welcome the Monzo card into their travel arsenal.

So far I have nothing but positive words to say about the Monzo.

Quick disclaimer:

I am not a financial advisor and so if you rack up a ton of debt using the Mastercard I have written about in this post it’s your own fault, I will not be held responsible.

Who or what are Monzo?

Monzo are a bank, full authorised and unrestricted.

Started back in Feb 2015, their goal was to build the best current account in the world, achieved not only through internet and banking wizardry, but also through open and transparent communications with its customers, the same customers who voluntarily helped fund Monzo in the first place (via The fastest crowdfunding campaign ever ).

As per their website, Monzo is a bank ‘with everyone, for everyone’, and is more than happy to work with its ever expanding community of users who are free to suggest additional features, or report any bugs/issues.  It’s a team effort!

At present I guess you could call Monzo a Beta, but that’s not to say its limited, quite the opposite, as they current offer a positive (in my eyes) bank solution, and have some serious plans for the future.

So in short the current Beta offers a prepaid Mastercard and is what I will be talking about in this post.  This card and its associated app offer …

  • Help with budgeting
  • Real time transaction data
  • Zero fees
  • Contactless payment

Once everything is in place however, the following can also be expected.

  • Current accounts
  • Direct debits
  • FSCS protection
  • Overdrafts
The Monzo Prepaid Mastercard

So as above, this is a Beta, but still an awesome one in my opinion.

In short the Monzo is a prepaid Mastercard, so you basically crack on as you usually would in terms of contactless spending, chip and pin spending or withdrawing cash from ATMs. 

Apart from your having to remember a new pin, very little else is required in order for you to pay for new experiences, food, drinks, reading materials etc.

The Mono app

I love this app, mainly because I’m a numbers kinda guy and like to see that all my finances are in order, but also because I know the app is secure within my phone and also because the app allows me to top up easily and also freeze my card if needs be.

As per the below screen shots you can see examples of itemised spending, along with details of spend location and exchange rates.  The app also allows you to attached receipts, categorise your spending, split bills and make instant transfers with other Monzo cardholders.

It’s all very clever and is present very clearly so that you finances become much easier to understand.

Topping up

So being a prepaid card, topping up is required but it’s easy as pie.

There are two possible ways you can top up funds onto your card. One is almost instantaneous, the other takes a bit longer, but both are actioned via the app (below).

With the debit card transfer, all you need is an internet connection to top up £100 at a time. It’s really easy.

Benefits for Travellers

Where to start with this one!? Well the benefits are tenfold, allow me to give you a little rundown … 

  • Zero withdrawal fees!!
  • Better exchange rates than high street exchange bureaus and your regular card
  • Secure app (finger scanner can be enabled – as below).
  • Usage notifications … and failed pin attempts/withdrawls (as below).
  • Ability to top up your funds via your phone, all you need is a wifi connection.
  • Ability to Freeze your card yourself, rather than have to ring a customer service agent to do it, should you be unfortunate enough to lose your card of have it stolen.  
  • Itemised spending.
  • Spend reports available to download via the app (as below).
  • Ability to add reciepts.
  • Ability to split bills.
  • It’s a MasterCard! … accepted most places.
  • Contactless payment.

… oh yeah, and it’s FREE!

Saving money with Monzo

Note:

A quick note on my use of the word ‘saving’ in this post.  Use the Monzo card will not gain you cashback, or somehow allow you to build up some kind nest egg.  My use of ‘saving’ in this post refers to your spending less per transaction based on a better exchange rate offered by Monzo, and their zero withdrawal fees.

The zero withdrawals fees is massive, that used to be a perk of my Nationwide debit card and saved me a small fortune on my gap year.  Since Nationwide reintroduced withdrawal fees I’ve found myself taking out larger sums of cash to avoid them, but then as a consequence end up carrying around more cash than is probably recommended.

Combine the above with improved exchange rates versus your high street debit card or credit card, and this is where Monzo shines as a route to save you money, and here’s my evidence as promised earlier in this article.

So that’s the full detail above, but let me breakdown and summarise the savings via Monzo.

  • £793.34 – this is how much my better half and I actually spent, using both my Monzo and Tesco Credit card to pay for different things.
  • £805.01 – this is the figure I have calculated as a total cost, had I used my Tesco credit card for the entire trip (using the average rate of the purchases made with that card pre trip).
  • £731.89 – this is the figure I have calculated as a total cost, had I used my Monzo card for the entire trip (using the average rate of the purchases made with that card during the trip).
  • £73.12 – this is the savings value/difference I have calculated, between using the Tesco credit card for the entire trip vs the Monzo card.

So the above calculations have been worked using average values and on the premise that I paid for the entire trip on the same card, as a result the £73.12 figure is not 100% accurate.  I used an average because it was easier and simplified this example, but you get the point right? – the Monzo card offers better exchange rates than my Tesco credit card.  I also worked the 2 scenarios whereby the entire trip was paid for using each card so to better highlight their difference in values.

In reality I used a combination of the two cards and so made a more modest saving of around £10 (approx).  But this is no doubt due to paying for the more expensive items on the Tesco card.

Now £10, or even £36 might not sound life changing, but remember that this was over just 4 days, in an expensive country. Imagine if you were interailing around Europe for a month, or even travelling to Australia or New Zealand for a year.  I haven’t personally tested it, but I dare say having and using a Monzo card would save you a lot of money versus using your regular card.

What in turn could that saving mean? … Another week on the road?  Another month?  The additional funds to splash out private room instead of a dorm?

All I’m saying is that this card looks legit, perfect for travellers.  I’m so glad my buddy introduced me to it, and hopefully I’ve now perked your interest, not because I’m here to promote Monzo for affiliate reasons, or because I’m being paid to write this (I’m not), but because I see it as a route for travellers like me to stay on the road longer, or enjoy a greater experience in new (or old) destination.  Even if that greater experience is achieved through being able to afford just one more ice cream.

Maybe you don’t want to take my word for it just yet, until you’ve seen further proof/evidence, but just know that even Buzzfeed (via 19 Surprising Ways To Save A Little Money) are on the case about this card and heaping praise on it.  Certified!

Drawbacks

I can only think of two, which are minor if you take the view that your Monzo card is a travel top up card, and not a regular bank.

  • Lack of interest accrued

The money you have topped up will not acrue interest while in your Monzo account.  Interest is obviously something you will be used to and come to expect from a bank, but with the Monzo and travelling, I doubt you’d have too much money in your account at any one time anyway, so personally I am taking the view that this is a minor drawback, but it does depend entirely upon how you handle your own accounts.

  • You cannot transfer funds back out to your regular bank account

Have you topped up too much? Sadly you cannot simple move money back into your regular account. You’d need to visit an ATM and withdraw the money as cash and then deposit that sum with your regular bank. It’s a bit of a pain, but is unlikely to happen on too many occasions. I should also add that I’ve seen requests on the Monzo message boards for this functionality to be added, so this is a possibility that this function could be added in time. 

Getting your own Monzo card

Getting hold of your Monzo..

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Dubai is not an overly budget friendly city. It is a city built around extravagance and excess, bright lights and all things shiny. So what exactly was the cost of 4 days in Dubai?

Before touching down in the UAE, I didn’t really clock that Dubai was an odd destination for me to visit until another blogger commented.  She was right though, Dubai is not a place you would associate with backpacks and/or bunkbeds. There may be the odd backpacker passing through by way of a hostel or guesthouse, but for the most part it’s people looking for luxury and whom have a decent credit card limit. 

And that’s why I’m actually glad I visited Dubai, to see how travel can be different, and to step outside of my comfort (budget) zone and experience something different. I realise it’s not necessarily in keeping with the theme of this blog, but I do think that by experiencing what you could call ‘luxury travel‘ every once in a while, will allow me to write more balanced posts. Well, that’s the plan/hope at least.

Anyway, on with the show.  First a little about Dubai itself, and then we get into the numbers, and look at the cost of 4 days in Dubai.

Getting Around Dubai

First up the metro is pretty awesome … to a point. It runs smoothly and on time, is clean, air conditioned and safe (there are women only carriages). It may be a little crowded, but it’s really affordable, and on that basis was a winner with the Mrs and I! 

However, similar to to NYC and its metro, there was a lack of lateral options, leaving you quite often using the metro to land you roughly where you needed to go, and then hiring a taxi to complete the journey. 

Payment for the metro takes the form of NOL cards, and while you can queue up and buy a card for each journey, it’s worth considering an Oyster Card esq topup number. 

The exception to this rule was the JRB, Palm and Marina area, which was its own mini tram system, but which is linked to the metro and used the same NOL card payment method. 

The taxis/uber like the metro offer good value. There are PLENTY of them around, and some of the taxi’s will accept card, but others will claim their card readers do not work – heard that one before. On the whole though, taxi’s are a good bet when in Dubai, and again in terms of safety it is possible to order yourself a ride with a dedicated female driver if you wish.

Buses, erm not for me this one. Trying to catch a number 7 bus at. Business Bay left me in a state of mini meltdown.  The buses just did not stop where they were indicated as to stop, essentially leaving us running up and down the different stops in the hope of finding a bus and being able to jump on it. Never been a fan of buses anyway, but this just put the nail in the coffin.

Things to do in Dubai

So much to do, but so little time! 

We had 4 nights in Dubai which, we did not however reckon on loosing the hours between 11 and 2 due to the heat.  These hours effectively became siesta time, and allowed us to catch up on some sleep after another late night. As such we found ourselves breaking our days down into AM and PM sessions for taking in the sights and doing things, always retreating to the safety (read: air con) of our hotel room around lunch. 

So either side of naps and cooling down sessions, here’s what we got up to in and around Dubai.

Sandboarding (AM)

Having been sandboarding once before while in South Africa, I couldn’t wait for another change to get out into the desert and ride a knackered old snowboard down some dunes.

I jest, sandboarding is seriously good fun but also incredibly hard work climbing back up the dunes!  The drive out to the dunes is also an eye opener in terms of seeing more of Dubai outside of the tourist area, and the dune bashing required to reach your sandboarding site is also great fun.

One of the more expensive items of my cost of 4 days in Dubai table below, but also one of the more unique.

Dubai: Sandboarding in the desert (Apr 2017)(GoPro 4K) - YouTube

Shopping at the Malls (AM)

Shopping, it’s not my cup of tea and I certainly didn’t get along with the extreme crowds and somewhat aggressive nature of The Dubai Mall, but what I could appreciate was the vast and stunning waterfall complete with swan diving human sculptures , its epic food court, and the massive aquarium.  If however shopping is your thing and you don’t mind the hustle, you could easily spend all day(s) at The Dubai Mall and/or Mall of the Emirates. 

We chose to visit The Dubai Mall on the basis of its proximity to the Burj Khalifa, but maybe the Mall of the Emirates, and its indoor snow centre would have suited me better.  Snowboarding in the desert anyone?

Spa/massage (AM)

Again not really my thing, but the mrs gave it the thumbs up having enjoyed a 30 minute massage at our hotel.  Dubai is not short of spas, so it could well be worth shopping around, although the connivence of having one within your own hotel cannot be easily overlooked.  

Beaches (AM)

Ah the beach, much more my thing, just maybe not my skins favourite thing. 2 hours in the sun lathered in factor 50 and I had still turned a lovely shade of red.  

I’m as pale as they come, but a lack of shade options on the public beach of Jumeirah is a bit of an issue in my eyes, but the beach is free so you cannot have too many complaints I guess.  I would however recommend the purchase of an umbrella or two before hitting the sands beneath the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.

If you want a slightly more shaded and luxurious beach experience, there is the beaches of the Jumeriah Beach Hotel, but that costs in excess of £50 per adult a day (ouch!).  Somewhere in the middle could be the Jumeirah Beach Park.

Either which way, you’re not short of beach options in Dubai.

360 Bar (PM)

As day turns to night, Dubai lights up like an Xmas tree and with that visitors don their best threads and head out in the night. An incredible evening experience can be had by visiting the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and its 360 bar, which sits on a small spit just off the mainland. 

The location and 360 views (duh) are phenomenal, and you pay for it when ordering drinks (£11 a beer), but we found it to be worth it, especially as we arrived on Ladies Nights (Tuesdays – an idea we stole/borrowed from Jane at Girl Tweets World) and as a result the GF received four of her drinks for free.

Great views, great music, great food and drink, great company – definitely worth the bar bill.

Outdoor Cinema (PM)

Wow, what an amazing place to watch a movie.  OK so going to the movies may not be considered particularly cultural, but I do love me a trip to the flicks, especially when there’s a bit more room to move around and not lose the feeling in my legs.

The VOX outdoor cinema sits atop of the Galleria Shopping Mall, and offers a really great cinema experience, combining your movie choice with great weather, views, and a tasty dinner.

The Lost Chambers Aquarium – the Palm (PM)

First up, riding the Palm monorail to reach the Lost Chambers Aquarium is a great, inexpensive way to see the enormity and brilliance of the palm.

The Aquarium itself is pretty amazeballs, but does come at a fair old cost (as you will see in my cost of 4 nights in Dubai table below).  We had a great time, but feel that a lot more could have been done with the story of the ‘The Lost Chambers’.  It verged on a Stargate Atlantis story, but never quite got there in terms of full engaging us and making us believe if you know what I mean.

Still, the sealife on show was incredible to witness, and the ‘Seven Sage Chamber’ provided a hypnotic viewing experience. We also loved the mini albino alligators :)

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