Welcome,we are a travel forum by Baby Boomers for Baby Boomers. We share our Baby Boomer travel experiences, thoughts, aspirations and intentions as we travel. Age is not a barrier when it comes to travel.
Do you dream of travel? Travelling the country and abroad is a dream most people harbor – and everybody loves travelling. People will travel for numerous reasons, including work and for the fun of exploring new places and experiences. The one thing you should do to ensure that your travel vacation is memorable and stress-free is to have a travel plan.
Planning Your Dream Trips
Planning your trip can be intrinsically stressful. In addition, some people believe that travelling is expensive. You have to pay for tickets to your destination by air, rail or bus, spend on accommodation and food and you would probably like to include a tour of some sort as well.
Fortunately, travel shouldn’t be expensive, instead, you can have a wonderful holiday within and even outside the country without spending too much – on a reasonably low budget in fact! You can travel on the cheap, whether you are young, middle-aged or a retiree, as long as you invest in research.
You will also need some ingenuity to pull off the travel vacation of your dream especially if it is a world trip. Fortunately, to get you started on achieving your dream, here are a few tips you can follow.
Plan for your travel at least 90 days before your intended date of departure; this is even before you start saving for the trip. Create a detailed itinerary of places you would like to visit as well as the number of days you’d like to stay at each destination – and an estimated budget.
If you are considering hiring a car you should shop around and not just accept the first quote that you see online. Most car rental companies want to see the credit card that you have booked the car rental on when you collect the car, they can refuse your car rental if you cannot show the original card. We highly recommend that you read the conditions of the rental carefully. When you collect the car, take photos with your mobile phone (the photos are time and date stamped) of all the dents and scratches the car may have as proof that they existed before your rental.
Save, But You Don’t Need to be Rich to Travel
One of the best ways to save for travelling is by making travel a priority for you. Look at it this way, there will always be something you can spend your money on, but never enough for travel.
While you cannot anticipate every little detail about your trip, having a skeleton of the travel plans in place will allow you to plan accordingly – and figure out a few ways to save. Keep a close eye on your travel fund and work at constantly increasing it with regular additions from your paychecks. This discipline will also help you while on the road.
If you intend on travelling long-term, you’ll realize that you need to make a few changes to your lifestyle, including reducing the different ways of self-pampering or indulging. Second, keep a close watch on your spending and see what spending habits you need to cut out or reduce. Third, you can sell off a few possessions you no longer use through a yard sale, instead of hoarding them.
For us a travel budget is important and we use a travel budget app called TrailWallet. We can load our country travel currencies in, set a daily budget, and add our expenditure daily. It certainly keeps us on track.
Optimize Your Flying Experience
One of the best ways to get fair flying rates is by signing up for airline newsletters and liking their Facebook pages for great early alerts on money-saving sales. As mentioned earlier, check out your chosen airline and see if they have any special early bird specials. Fortunately, this is easy not only on commercial flights but even when looking for a quote on private jet charter flights to Houston by Stratos Jet Charters, for instance.
If you plan to travel to a foreign country, you can save lots of money by choosing off-line or indirect carriers. Indirect carriers operate flights only between your country and hub. While you’ll need to change flights to get to your destination, you’ll likely pay 10 percent lower than direct carriers.
Plus, if the transit time is over eight hours, you are offered free meals and accommodation during transit under a stopover paid by carrier system. If you’re lucky, you can use this time for short sight-seeing breaks of the city.
On the other hand, offline carriers don’t have a direct service in your country of origin. They fly you to a city where you can board their flights to your preferred destination. Offline carriers offer passengers discounts of as much as 30 percent.
Save on Accommodation
Accommodation and hotel providers have fantastic discounts for clients who book in advance. The Internet and apps available in smartphones are great ways of browsing different hotel deals.
For the best deals, you need to invest some of your time comparing the prices offered by the same hotel in different websites. In addition, lookout for sites of hotels with special offers not available if booking from another source. Some of the things you should consider include free breakfast for guests. For example, Hotels Combined search over 200 accommodation sites to bring you the best price e.g. London
Another option is to stay with locals free while couch-surfing. You can also leverage on the sharing economy to find cheap accommodation, rideshare options, tour guides and home-cooked meals.
Take Mass Transportation
Another huge travel expense people usually incur is taking cabs, which can wreak havoc on your budget. Instead, choose mass transit systems like shuttles, trains, and local buses, whenever possible. However, you need to lose your fear of getting lost in a strange city by taking a few simple steps.
When travelling, always carry with you a business card of wherever you are staying. In addition, carry the address in a local language that also includes some of the closest landmarks.
Fortunately, mass transit is also one of the best ways of fully exploring your destination. You have a chance of getting a glimpse of the real lives of natives of the places you are exploring. Plus, most public transit systems have passes that can help reduce the amount of money spent on local travel.
Do Not Skimp on Travel Insurance
We say ‘if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel’. Even the shortest of trips you should consider travel insurance.
The best time to purchase travel insurance is when you start to pay deposits on flights, accommodation, cruises or tours. You are then covered from that date if you have to cancel e.g. because of health reasons. Please read your insurance policy guidelines carefully. When you are travelling ensure that you know the 24-hour emergency number to use and that you have your policy number and details in a safe location so that you can access it quickly.
You can travel without spending too much money – even on a budget! Unfortunately, many travelers falsely believe that travelling during the off-peak season can save them money. This can be disastrous for your finances and holiday – the peak and off-peak seasons are usually dependent on weather conditions.
Moreover, most attractions are closed in off-peak season, depriving you of the joy of travelling. However, you can still travel during peak season without spending too much using the tips above.
Does your dream travel list include Greek Island Hopping? But how do you start planning your Greek vacation with over 6,000 Greek Islands along its 16,000 km coastline to choose from, lucky for travellers there are only 227 that are habitable.
The most popular Greek Island hopping region is the Cyclades. With short ferry journey times and more frequent schedules, the islands of Mykonos, Paros and Santorini are firm favourites for travellers.
The lights of Mykonos Town
If you decide to island hop in the Cyclades you are spoilt for choice for accommodation. There are many houses for rent in Greece and nothing beats staying in a villa with views over the Caldera in Santorini or relaxing at sunset by your private pool with a cocktail in hand with the twinkle of lights from Mykonos Town below you.
Villas with swimming pools overlooking the Caldera in Santorini
In Paros, our favourite area to stay is near the capital Parikia, with its seafront restaurants and charismatic cobblestoned streets and whitewashed churches and the iconic windmill by the Port.
To assist you in researching the best Greek islands that may be on your wish list, we can recommend the Lonely Planet Guide on the Greek Islands.
Where are the Cyclades
The Cyclades are a group of Islands close to the capital Athens in the Aegean Sea. There are over 220 islands in the group. The most popular ones are Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Ios and Tinos.
We prefer to travel the Greek Islands by ferry that we have organised ourselves. The ferries are very comfortable, all have restaurants, gift shops, ATMs and most offer Wifi on board. If you have only booked your first ferry journey, on arrival at the port there are tour operators who can assist with your further onward bookings.
If you are travelling in the high season months of July and August we would recommend that you book all your journeys before you start your Greek Vacation.
Examples of Crossing Times
Athens to Mykonos
If you are considering travelling from Athens to Mykonos the fastest journey is with Seajet taking 2 hours and 15 minutes or Blue Star Ferries 5 hours 15 minutes.
Mykonos to Paros
Fastest journey with Hellenic Seaways: 45 minutes
Golden Star Ferries: 1 hour 15 minutes
Paros to Thira (Santorini)
Fastest journey with Hellenic Seaways: 1 hour 45 minutes
Blue Star Ferries: 3 hours
Mykonos to Thira (Santorini)
Fastest journey with Seajets: 3 hours
Golden Star Ferries: 5 hours
Greek Island Cruises
Cruise ships in Santorini at sunset
If you prefer to have your Greece cruise organised for you there are many options to travel to and enjoy the Cyclades. Greece Tours are popular and we recommend booking in advance during the summer high season.
A 2-day tour from Athens to Santorini by ferry which includes accommodation with breakfast and port transfers. There are no organised tours on the island, you are free to wander Santorini at your own leisure enjoying the many restaurants available in Oia and Ammoudi Bay (which we can recommend a visit at sunset, it can be very busy during high season).
Our favourite restaurant in Ammoudi Bay is the Sunset Ammoudi Taverna (reservations required if you intend to dine at sunset).
Our favourite restaurant in Oia is Roka which is hidden down a back lane well from the tourist path with an excellent menu and great service. Reservations are required in the evening during high season.
A visit to the island of Mykonos must include a day out in Mykonos Town. Those iconic shots of whitewashed buildings with colourful bougainvillaea draped over wooden balconies, busy restaurants full of locals and travellers alike enjoying a meal under grapevine courtyards and cobblestoned streets are what will greet you when you wander the back streets.
The windmills of Mykonos
The 16th-century windmills of Mykonos are a photographer’s delight and a major tourist attraction of Mykonos Town.
For waterfront dining or just a coffee or a cocktail at sunset head to Little Venice in Mykonos Town. Little Venice is also popular for shopping and souvenir shopping. If you enjoy walking tours and learning more about Mykonos a walking tour with a local guide is highly recommended.
If Greek food is one of your favourite cuisines you can now enjoy a cooking class where you can learn the cooking methods and secrets of Mykonian food.
A perfect end to a day of dining and shopping in Mykonos is a sunset cruise, where you can enjoy a relaxing sail with a glass of wine or ouzo with some savoury snacks.
For the top ten restaurants rated by travellers for Tripadvisor click the link below.
Santorini is our favourite Greek Island. On our trips to Greece, we have spent over two months staying in Oia. When planning a trip to Greece it is worth doing some research on where you want to stay, you could consider Imerovigli, Firostefani or Fira which are located overlooking the Caldera (a cauldron-like volcanic depression) with stunning sunset views.
Sunset Cruise Santorini
One of the fun things we did in Santorini was the 5 hour Dream Catcher Sunset Cruise. Included in the cruise was a visit to the Hot Springs and the Volcano and we had time to swim and snorkel. A BBQ dinner was included, a perfect end to the day sailing the Aegean Sea with the stunning orange sunsets that Santorini is famous for.
We would recommend Oia and Fira for shopping. There are the usual souvenir shops but also some local craft and jewellery shops which are worth visiting, not to mention the olive oil and wine shops.
If you enjoy hiking we can recommend hiking from Fira to Oia or the reverse. The best time to start is just before sunrise before the heat of the day. You will visit the villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia along the way. It can take anywhere between 2 and 5 hours and we highly recommend that you take lots of water with you. The return journey can be made by local taxi or local bus.
If you are in Oia spend some time wandering around the back streets of the village. The scenic cobblestoned back streets offer many photographic opportunities. If you love taking photos of doors, geranium-filled window boxes and colourful bougainvillaea clinging to the sides of whitewashed cottages you will need to allow a couple of hours.
For the top ten restaurants in Santorini rated by Tripadvisor reviewers click below.
Parikia (the capital of Paros) and the village of Naoussa are the main villages on the island of Paros. Most of the activities on Paros can be found here. The two best beaches on Paros are Golden Beach and New Golden Beach.
Parikia has traditional Cycladic architecture. If you wander through the back streets you will come across strikingly whitewashed cottages with bright pink bougainvillaea and blue domed churches. On our afternoon wander we came across small groups of local men playing dominoes in the shade with their glasses filled with the local Ouzo.
Seafood restaurants line the waterfront and we can recommend dining at Taverna Katerina. We spent quite a few lazy lunchtimes enjoying freshly grilled fish and our favourite dish – Greek Salad served with a chilled bottle of the local white wine.
There is a small castle that dates back to the 13th century in the town – it is known as the Kastro. Today all..
If you are based in Australia, New Zealand or Asia click here
For the latest cheapest airline deals we also check out CheapOair. Click here for their latest deals.
Specific Airlines – it is also advisable to check the airline’s website that you are considering using and check their current airfares. Airlines run regular travel deals.
How do you compare airfares?
Look at the return airfare first
Compare prices on a one-way basis
Look at airline specific hubs
Check several airports in the area you are travelling to
Check out budget carriers such as Spirit Airlines in the USA and Air Asia throughout Asia. Ensure that you understand their baggage policy and what is included in the base airfare.
Hotels Combined is our ‘go to’ website. They source over 100 accommodation websites for the latest deals on all types of accommodation. The website is user-friendly, we love how it compares so many sites for us to make an informed decision.
Booking.Com – not only is it an easy to use website with great prices they have a Genius program. If you book regularly with them you can receive further discounts on certain properties saving around a further 10%.
Agoda.Com – our favourite accommodation booking engine for Asia in particular, but they have properties worldwide
Hotels.Com – another favourite accommodation site, check them regularly for their hotel specials with up to 40%
Our Special $$ off Voucher for your first booking with Airbnb
If you have not booked an Airbnb property before here is your voucher to save your $$ off your first booking.
For example, if you are checking for the best value hotels in London: Click here
We are very happy using Get Your Guide in activities in cities that we visit. We love their ‘best price guarantee’ which means if we find the same activity by the same local tour operator in the same currency for less they will refund the difference. Currently they offer over 35,000 activities in over 7,600 locations.
The best time to arrange your travel insurance is once you start paying deposits on accommodation, cruises, tours or purchasing your flights. You are covered for cancellation from that date. It is not advisable to leave it till the day before you travel.
If you are based in Australia click here for travel insurance deals.
If you are based outside of Australia click here for travel insurance deals.
Have a safe trip!
To Travel Too E-Books
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Travel Insurance for Australian and New Zealand Travellers
We always say to our community if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.
Since we started our adventures in 2013 we have had to claim for:
theft of passports and credit cards at a bus station in Ecuador
health issues in Dubai
cancelled flights due to adverse weather conditions
new flights booked due to health reasons in Thailand
We would not even consider travelling without taking out travel insurance.
Have you made a claim?
When To Purchase Travel Insurance
The best time to purchase travel insurance is as soon as you have paid a deposit on an airfare, cruise, accommodation or tour. You will be covered from this date in case of cancellation for health reasons.
Travel Policy Conditions
Always read your travel insurance policy carefully, if you have any medical issues you may need to advise your Travel Insurance company when you purchase the policy. It is advisable to check first with the Insurer what is covered.
You may not be covered e.g. if you travel to Bali in Indonesia and you hire a motorbike and you don’t have a motorbike license and you have an accident. Travel Insurance companies won’t cover you if you have had alcohol and you have an accident.
Ensure that you take a copy of your policy with you. Also, ensure you have their telephone number for claims.
How To Claim
As soon as we know we need to make a claim we call the Travel Insurance provider and speak to them about the current situation. We check what documents they require and if we have to go to the hospital what is their recommended one (that is if you have time). Keep them informed every step of the way.
In case of theft, you will need a police report. If you are taking expensive equipment with you ensure that you have photos and receipts electronically that can be easily accessed.
For the latest Travel Insurance quote for travellers who are based in Australia or New Zealand:
The best time to purchase travel insurance is as soon as you have paid a deposit on an airfare, cruise, accommodation or tour. You will be covered from this date in case of cancellation for health reasons.
Always read your travel insurance policy carefully, if you have any medical issues you may need to advise your Travel Insurance company when you purchase the policy. It is advisable to check first with the Insurer what is covered and what is now.
For the latest Travel Insurance quote for travellers who are based in Australia or New Zealand:
There is nothing better than getting tips from locals who live in a destination that you want to visit, our guest writers Ros and Alan Cuthbertson have put together a great post on Things To Do in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai, Thailand’s 2nd largest city and capital of Thailand’s Northern Province is vibrant and more laid back than Bangkok. We loved our time that we spent there and you will too. We hope you enjoy these tips from Ros and Alan.
Chiang Mai Map
Living like a local in Chiang Mai Thailand
Our names are Ros and Alan Cuthbertson and we live a life of roving retirement. We spend most of the year travelling the world house sitting and part of the year living in the vibrant city of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
Many people ask us about our life in Chiang Mai and want to know about the good, bad and ugly sides of the city. Here are our thoughts on the top things to do in Chiang Mai Thailand for those thinking of expat living.
First impressions of Chiang Mai
We had been to Thailand many times in the past and places such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket introduced us to the magic of Thailand.
We knew very little about Chiang Mai, we imagined a small town where hill tribes cultivated opium poppies. What we found was thriving city where the modern and traditional co-exist to create a friendly small-town vibe.
Opium poppies have long been replaced with organic fresh produce an initiative introduced by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to enhance the life of the Hill Tribe people through his Royal Project Foundation.
Our love for the city began from the moment we stepped off the plane at Chiang Mai International Airport. The warmth of the local people, lively pace of life and laid-back charm attracts visitors to the city time and time again.
What we love about Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is alive, it has a vibrant nightlife, diverse restaurant and cafe scene, stunning Buddhist temples, exotic festivals, fascinating markets and home to a fabulous array of attractions.
The cost of living in Chiang Mai is another winner for those looking for a cheaper retirement destination. Housing, food, internet and electricity are all cheap compared to many western countries.
Most expats living in Chiang Mai enjoy a quality of life they could only dream of in their home country. Dining out and meeting up with friends for a fun night out become a regular occurrence rather than something you only do on special occasion.
Living in this exotic location is thrilling, I love Chiang Mai’s unique differences. Simple things such as riding through the back streets in a local bus called a Songthaew can often take my breath away.
Quail Egg Vendor
I marvel as I watch the quail egg vendor walking quickly through the streets balancing baskets of quail eggs from a pole on his shoulder.
I smile as flower sellers gossip and laugh as we drive past the flower market, the air heady with the scent of flowers that are intricately woven into exquisite flower arrangements.
In the centre of Chiang Mai, you will find the moated old city. Within the moat, you will find a treasure trove of restaurants.
The Tikky Café is a small restaurant located down a little lane, it has a range of authentic Thai dishes and smoothies. The food is simply delicious, and the staff are friendly and welcoming.
Location: 2/2 Arak Soi Sriphum
Dash Restaurant is set within a traditional teak house, a gorgeous setting to discover top quality Thai cuisine. The portions are massive and there is also has a range of Western dishes on the menu.
Location: 38/2 Moon Maung Road Soi 2
Dada Café is a serves a large range of healthy sandwiches and delicious Thai and Western dishes. The Dada Cafe also caters to vegetarian and vegan diets, but make sure you bring an appetite as the portions are huge.
Location: 20/1 Ratmakka Road Phra Singh
By Hand Pizza Café is tucked away in a small lane and well worth a visit for those times when only pizza will do.
Location: 33/12 Chareon-Phathet Chang Klan, Mueang Chiang Mai District
Street Pizza and Wine Houzz Restaurant
Street Pizza and Wine Houzz has a charming old-world atmosphere and serves a great selection of pasta and pizza, the place to come for a fun night out.
Location: 7-15 Tha Phae Road, Amphoe Mueng Chiang Mai, Chiang Wat
Nakara Jardin Restaurant
The Nakara Jardin Bistro is nestled within a pretty garden on the banks of the River Ping. The peaceful setting will transport you back in time as you relax with a luscious Nakara Jardin afternoon tea platter or a dish from Nakara Jardin’s classic French menu.
Leon de Nimman
Location: 11 Soi 9 Charoenprathet Road T. Chang Klan
Chiang Mai is a city full of Buddhist temples, each of them stunning in their beauty and serenity. All Chiang Mai’s Buddhist Wat’s (temples) are lovely but two stand out, Wat Chedi Luang in the Old City and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on Doi Suthep mountain.
Wat Chedi Luang is a large temple complex with a magnificent ancient Chedi a number of striking temple buildings within its grounds. Those interested in Buddhism can participate in Monk Chat, a great way to get a better understanding of this peaceful religion.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep gazes down over Chiang Mai from the heights of Doi Suthep mountain. A sacred Buddhist relic is housed within its golden Chedi which shines brightly in the midday sun emitting a dazzling ethereal glow.
To get to the Wat Phra That you can make merit by walking up the 306 stairs of the decorative Naga (serpent) staircase or take the cable car. Once at the top you will see one of the most beautiful temples in Northern Thailand and spectacular views of Chiang Mai in the valley below.
Always remember that the temples are a place of worship, be respectful and dress appropriately covering your legs and shoulders.
Chiang Mai has many colourful festivals which showcase the traditions of this fascinating region.
Highlights include the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, a striking festival of bright flower-adorned floats, beautiful traditionally dressed women, music and dancing. The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is held in February.
Songkran is held on April 13th and celebrates Thai New Year. It is the time to wash away the bad and prepare for good blessings of the new year ahead. Traditionally it is the time to visit the temple and make merit by pouring water over the Buddha statues and making food..
Brisbane, 38 years since we last visited, and in one week we found 100 things to do in Brisbane and more. We were impressed with the changes and from what we gather chatting to the locals it came about due to World Expo in 1988. It ran for 18 months and had over 18 million visitors coming to Brisbane. It turned Brisbane from being a ‘boring’ capital city into a city that was exciting to live in and to visit. A new food scene was established, as one local said ‘you could now get more than a Chiko roll (for those that remember them) from the local chippie’. Today Brisbane has a vibrant and stylish restaurant, cafeand bar scene. A wealth of cuisines on offer and some of the most stunning outdoor eating areas that you could ever wish for. There are many Brisbane activities to enjoy, don’t rush your visit, plan at least 7 nights and even then you won’t have seen all the things to do in Brisbane Australia.
A Short History of Brisbane
Matthew Flinders, a European Explorer, was the first European to set eyes on the Brisbane area visiting Moreton Bay in 1799. The area was inhabited by the Jagera and Turrbal aboriginal people who had settlements around Brisbane River. The Brisbane River was their source for food and water. In 1823 the then NSW Governor Thomas Brisbane sent Sydney’s most dangerous convicts to settle in Brisbane. On the 6th September 1859, Brisbane was declared a municipality.
James Street in Newfarm is a bustling food scene in Brisbane for great bars and cafes as well as some great shopping to be had with exclusive designers such as Camilla and even a David Jones boutique store.
Located at 221D Macarthur Avenue in Hamilton, Eat Street Markets have over 180 eating establishments to enjoy whilst listening to music. There is an entrance fee of $2.50 for adults and free for kids. The hot tip is to get there early as it tends to get very busy.
Opening Hours: Friday and Saturday 4.00 pm to 10.00 pm and Sundays 12.00 pm to 8.00pm.
The Glasshouse Mountains 31km from Brisbane were once Aboriginal tribal lands. They have a range of walking trails and abseiling locationsand also are the location for Australia Zoo. For full day tour details from Brisbane to Australia Zoo click here.
Springbrook and Mt Tamborine are only a 60 minutes drive south of the city. You can enjoy wandering their beautiful lanes and short walks through the subtropical rainforest. Click here for prices and availability for tours.
If you go North DEFINITELY go to the Sandstone Point Hotelon Pumicestone Passage– definitely one of Queensland’s best pubs (if you can even call it that it’s more like a fun park…with great food and great views). Pumicestone Passage runs for 35km, a narrow waterway between Bribie Island and the mainland.
If you go to the Gold Coast stop off at Hope Island on the way and have lunch at the BoardwalkTavern. If you take the Airtrain from Brisbane you will need to get off at Helensvale.
75 More Things To Do in Brisbane
Discussing the sights and sounds of Brisbane with a Brisbane Greeter
When you visit Brisbane we highly recommend that you put aside 3 -4 hours of your morning and enjoy one of the Brisbane Greeterscheduled Brisbane tours.
Highlights of our Brisbane Greeters City Tour:
Our Brisbane Greeter was Elizabeth McPhee who enthralled us with her knowledge of Brisbane. Elizabeth was born in Brisbane and has lived there all her life. Here are some of the highlights of our tour (we will not steal Elizabeth’s thunder and detail all that we learned),..
Northern Norway is now on our bucket list! Is it on yours? When David Nikel, author of travel guide Moon Norway, reached out to us with his article Why You Should Visit Northern Norway we were delighted to publish it on our website. We have been talking about visiting Norway for ages and now that we have some great insider tips from David it has given us a boost to start planning a visit during our next European adventure.
Moon Guide Norway by David Nikel
Experience magnificent fjords, historical cities, and magical northern lights with Moon Norway.
Why You Should Visit Northern Norway
The West Norwegian fjords might steal the headlines, but they’re also suffering from record numbers of visitors. Good luck squeezing on a fjord sightseeing trip at the height of summer! While the fjords are absolutely well worth visiting, you can see just as much of Norway’s spectacular scenery with a lot less people in the way by looking to the north.
It’s not cheap, but there is value
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room right away. Norway is an expensive country to visit, but that doesn’t mean everything is bad value for money.
Self Catering Cabins
If you hire a small car and choose to stay in well-equipped self-catering cabins on campsites, you can explore the best of the country for much less than you might expect. Perhaps more so than any other region, enjoying the north is about experiences. Grazing over a picnic on a secluded hillside with the midnight sun as your backdrop is a memory that will stay with you for a lifetime but cost almost nothing.
A coastal cruise
One option is to take the famous Hurtigruten coastal ferry. Although advertised as a cruise, it serves dual-purpose as a daily liner service for much of the remote Norwegian coastline.
The full route from Bergen to Kirkenes and back takes 12 days, but you could start and finish in Trondheim or Bodø to cut costs and focus on the north. This method covers your food and accommodation costs, with optional excursions if you want to see what lies beyond the beautiful coastline.
But if sleeping on a boat isn’t your thing, hire a car and create your own itinerary from these recommendations.
Tromsø: The Paris of the North
Nobody’s quite sure who first gave Tromsø its nickname, but spend a couple days in Arctic Norway’s biggest city and you’ll soon find yourself agreeing with it. As a regional capital, it punches way above its weight in cultural attractions.
The Artic Cathedral
The Arctic Cathedral (actually a church, but who ever let facts get in the way of marketing) is their Eiffel Tower. If you visit at the height of summer, try to catch one of the Midnight Sun concerts, which start at 11pm every evening.
A trip up the recently renovated cable car is a must for a spectacular view back across the city’s gorgeous island setting. Stick around to watch planes land, or see ships come and go. During the summer the service runs until 1am to allow for midnight sun snaps.
An alternative main destination is the eye-wateringly beautiful Lofoten, which has drawn artists, fishermen and hikers from across Europe for generations.
The best option to reach the archipelago is the ferry from Bodø to either Svolvær or Moskenes. The crossing across open ocean can be rough, but you’ll be rewarded with the sight of Lofoten’s dramatic granite mountains looming on the horizon.
Once on the islands, head to the westernmost villages Å and Reine for some of Scandinavia’s most iconic views, or pick a side road to find your own slice of paradise on a quiet secluded beach.
Lofoten is increasingly popular during the Norwegian holiday month of July, so book up accommodation well in advance, or plan a trip in May or September when the campsites – and the hiking trails – are much quieter.
Rock carvings in Alta
Alta Rock Carvings
Although there’s not much to keep the curious traveller occupied in Alta for more than a day or so, the city has one major thing going for it. The UNESCO listed rock art centre is a must see for anyone passing through.
The carvings – many of which have been coloured red to make them easier to see – depict scenes from days long gone, specifically hunting and gathering, fishing, rituals, and social occasions, harking back to a time when people believed nature possessed a soul. A wooden pathway of several miles leads visitors around the otherwise boggy ground, and is split into two loops, making a shorter visit possible if time is tight.
Meet the Sami
Alta also serves as a base to explore the fascinating culture of the Sami, northern Scandinavia’s indigenous people. Within a few hours’ drive are the small communities of Karasjok and Kautokeino.
Here, around four in five people speak Sami as their primary language of everyday life, and throughout Finnmark county you will find road signs and place names listed in Norwegian, Sami, and possibly a local dialect too. One in three Kautokeino residents work in the reindeer business, which has sustained the Sami people for years and continues to do so today.
The road to Nordkapp
When people ask me if it’s worth the journey to Nordkapp, mainland Europe’s northernmost point, I’m never quite sure how to respond.
For me, the journey there is fascinating. I stayed in remote communities and met all sorts of interesting people who somehow manage to make a living up here. But the North Cape itself is rather underwhelming. It is after all just a very expensive car park. The visitor centre has some items of interest including a giant gift shop, but you absolutely don’t need to go here just to see the midnight sun. That’s available for free across the entire region!
If you have time to spare then sure, go ahead, especially if you plan to stay in Honningsvåg, the closest town to Nordkapp, or one of the remote campsites on the barren Magerøya island. But if you want to spend days driving to Nordkapp and back just to say you’ve been, there’s far better things you can do with your time.
Lesser known stories of World War II
Finnmark, Norway’s north-eastern county, suffered greatly in the latter days of the Second World War. When the Nazis push against Leningrad failed, they retreated and any place that could offer shelter to what the Nazis thought would be the pursuing Red Army was destroyed.
Much of Finnmark was reduced to rubble. Thousands of buildings were burned, Hammerfest was reduced to ashes, bridges and ports were destroyed. The rebuilt Hammerfest is now home to the Museum of Reconstruction, which tells the story of how the community recovered from the tragedy.
Other wartime reminders in the region include the Tirpitz museum outside Alta, where you’ll find one of the largest collections of photos and artefacts from the battleship Tirpitz, which was anchored in the waters of Alta during the war. There’s also a small war museum in Svolvær on Lofoten, which tends to only open for Hurtigruten arrivals.
Chase the northern lights
If you can stand the cold, a visit to northern Norway in the winter is worth it for one truly spectacular reason: a chance to see nature’s own one-of-a-kind light show.
The northern lights come out to play at their strongest from mid-September to mid-November and from mid-January to mid-March. Cloudless, dark skies are required, which means heading as far away from built-up areas as possible.
Even if you don’t catch the lights, there’s plenty more activities to keep you busy and make your trip a success. From dog sledding to snow-shoeing and even whale watching, winter in northern Norway is guaranteed to be a memorable experience, whether the tricky lady makes an appearance or not.
Something for everyone
Whether you prefer active experiences, or you’d rather spend your time indoors in galleries and museums, there’s something for you in northern Norway.
You won’t be able to fit all of this into your Arctic adventure without spending several weeks in the region. Distances are vast and you’ll need a big budget. Instead, use this list as a starter for your research and pick the area you’d most like to focus on. Wherever you choose, I guarantee you a good time!
About David Nikel
Our Guest Writer – David Nikel
British writer David Nikel moved to Norway in 2011, and now calls Trondheim his home. He is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, and runs a popular website all about living and travelling in Norway.
Were we nervous? Actually, yes! We had just arrived at Kochi Airport, Kerala after spending 10 days in Dubai. Our first trip to this enormous country with the 2nd largest population in the world and we had nothing planned but the first 3 nights at the Waterfront Granary Hotel in Mattancherry, Kochi. What were we thinking? Who arrives in an unknown country like India at 7 pm at night with no plans at all? Guess we do, would we do the same again? Yes, of course. We would like to share with you what to do in Kochi Keralawhen you have no plans or even when you have plans you will find lots of tips and recommendations here.
A few years ago we were chatting with a fellow travel blogger who had started running tours to India and we never forgot his words of wisdom – “spend a month at a time in India and start in the more relaxed states of Kerala and Goa”. Boy, are we glad we took his advice.
Where is Kerala, India
Kerala is situated on the Malabar Coast of Southern India. To the North and North East, it is bordered by Karnataka, to the East and South the state of Tamil Nadu and to the West the Lakshadweep Sea. The South of India which includes Kerala and Tamil Nadu is situated between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Kerala is the 13th largest state of India and its Capital is Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the official language spoken in Kerala.
The state of Kerala has been described as a ‘palm-fringed paradise’. A small Indian state full of silvery white beaches, breathtaking views, lush green valleys and mountains, stunning tea plantations and calming backwaters to relax on in rustic old rice boats. A state that offers innovative and delectable cuisines, friendly and warm people, and a range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. Kerala is a ‘dry state’, but you can purchase alcohol at Government shops and some restaurants, bars and hotels.
It is worth doing some research before you visit Kerala and what better than a Lonely Planet Guide Book.
Lonely Planet South India & Kerala Guide Book
The Lonely Planet Guide has 82 maps to help you plan your itinerary around the State of Kerala, India.
Where is Kochi
Map of Kochi
Map of Kochi
Cochin or Kochi? You will see two different types of spelling, the official spelling is Kochi as declared in the 90s. Cochin was the name the British used for Kochi. Kochi is one of the most popular destinations in India.
Kochi is an island linked by bridges to Willingdon Island and then onto Ernakulam on the mainland.
Kochi was an important centre for spice trading and was known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea from the 14th century onwards. It is the commercial, financial and industrial capital of the state of Kerala.
Places to Visit in Kochi:
St Francis Church
The St Francis Church is located at St Francis Church Road and has 2 claims of fame. It is the oldest church in India built by the Europeans in 1503 and the famous explorer Vasco de Gama was buried there for 14 years before his body was removed and reburied in his homeland.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Chinese Fishing Nets at Sunset
Sunset near Chinese Fishing Nets
Located between Vasco de Gama Square and the local ferry to Vipin you will find the Chinese Fishing Nets. The best time to visit is at sunset. It will be busy as it is a major tourist attraction and don’t be surprised about the amount of rubbish lying around, it is just India.
Fishing nets are fixed to bamboo and teak poles. A mechanism lowers the nets into the sea for approximately 4 -5 minutes, then they are raised with the meagre catch of fish. The number of Chinese Fishing Nets has diminished over the years and so have the fish.
Check out our Youtube video.
Kathakali Cultural Dance
Kathakali – Make Up Application
A visit to Kochi would not be complete without attending a Kathakali dance performance at Greenix Village located on Calvathy Road. Kathakali is a cultural dance based on the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The evening starts at 5.00pm where you can watch the actors apply their makeup, which is a very detailed process and well worth attending. We are really not sure what they must be thinking as we take photos and videos of their hour-long process, but it does assist in the understanding of the dance. The performance starts at 6pm with some time spent learning the intricate facial and hand expressions and how they are played out in the dramatic performance. It finishes at 7.00pm.
Current cost as of 2018 for two people for the 2 hours INR700 (USD11.00).
Check out our 2 Youtube videos of the performance:
The Dutch Palace
The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in 1545 AD and gifted to the Rajah of Cochin. The Palace was later known as the Dutch Palace due to the renovations by the Dutch in 1663. The building is famous for the murals inside on the walls depicting the great Indian stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Open 10.00 – 17.00 every day except Friday.
The Jewish Synagogue that we visited recently in Barbados whilst on a walking tour has a similar history to the Jewish Synagogue in Kochi. Both are the oldest in their countries and both built around the same time. Kerala’s Jewish Synagogue houses the great scrolls of the old testament.
Life on Bazaar Road
Be prepared for the hustle and the bustle and the strong aromas of spices as you walk down the 2km Bazaar Road of Kochi. Here you will find old warehouses selling wholesale spices such as cinnamon, peppers, chillies, bay leaves, cardamom and cloves. The aroma is intoxicating, the area teeming with sellers, buyers and trucks unloading their goods.
Local goats wander the street
Everyone is happy and smiling, even the goats that wander around in the shops and stop the traffic on the very busy dusty road.
Enjoy a wander around the foreshore
As you wander around Fort Kochi beach you will come across an old Gunnery which was part of Fort Emmanuel which was built in 1503 to protect the port of Kochi from attack.
If you would like to take a tour of Kochi here are some suggestions for you:
We stayed at the Waterfront Granary at 641 Bazaar Road, Mattancherry and enjoyed our breakfasts and dinners at the restaurant that looks over Vembanad Lake. The food was excellent, the staff warm, friendly and efficient and the location perfect for an escape from the hustle and bustle outside. The Waterfront Granary is not only a hotel but a museum with some interesting antiques and Indian pieces of art, part of the owner’s personal collection.
Happy Hour at Killian Hotel
After a busy day sightseeing, happy hour at the Killian Hotel is a great way to spend a few hours before heading off to dinner.
Address: River Road, Fort Kochi, Kerala
Breakfast at the Celestial Cafe
A special find is the Celestial Cafe located at 481 Calvathy Road Fort Kochi. The Celestial Cafe is excellent for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner and includes a great variety of vegan organic dishes on their menu. It is closed on Fridays and closes at 6.30pm. Their cakes are to die for.
Hotel Seagull – restaurant over the harbour
Our favourite starter – onion bhaji
The waterfront Seagull Restaurant is worth a visit, not only for the water views but their food as well. It is one of the few restaurants and bars in Fort Kochi that sells alcohol.
What can you see and do with one week in Cuba? After spending a whole month in Cuba we realized it is not a country to rush, but a country to travel slowly through and enjoy the people and the culture. Cuba is changing rapidly and if you want to experience the real Cuba now is the time to travel there. Your trips to Cuba will be unlike any other country you have visited. It tickles all your five senses.
We get a lot of questions on ‘what to do in Cuba?’ so we have put together a Cuba itinerary which will cover 1 week in Cuba, other posts will cover 2 weeks and 3 weeks and a mega post on 4 weeks in Cuba. They will cover the best places to visit in Cuba, where to stay, where to eat, information on wifi and money changing and how to travel around safely.
Another question we get asked all the time: “is it safe to travel to Cuba?” From spending 1 month travelling around we can say it is a safe destination, not once did we feel insecure. The people are lovely and incredibly helpful. Even when our bus broke down on the way to Bayamo, the locals on board who were also heading that way, took us under their wings, arranged a private taxi for all of us to go to Bayamo and another taxi to take us to our accommodation at 8 pm at night.
Our top tip is to research, research and research before you go. This is one destination where we would recommend that you take a hard copy guide on Cuba. The internet is still not widely available and most of the time you will be sitting in parks, open to all types of weather, just trying to login.
We found it was cheaper to fly to Cuba from Mexico, and we flew with Interjet from Cancun. Not only was it a short flight and good value but the visa cost was only USD20 which was issued to us when we were checking in. Visa costs in the USA at the time of travelling was USD120.
On arrival Havana Airport
When changing your Mexican Pesos, British Pounds, Euros or Canadian Dollars at the Airport you may experience quite a queue. These four currencies are the easiest ones to bring into Cuba. US Dollars carry a 10% tax on them whilst all currencies carry a 3% tax when changing.
It is quite easy to change your currency at a Cadeca (money changer) your accommodation hosts usually know the closest one to you. Check with your accommodation hosts first as they may change your currency for you. Hotels normally have currency exchange services.
If you would like to prebook a shared shuttle in advance click here for more information.
Getting from the Airport to Your Accommodation
Our Airbnb hosts arranged a taxi service for us, this is the easiest way to arrive at your destination. There is an information desk at the Arrivals Hall on Level 2 check with them for an approximate price for your journey to Havana if you are going to use a local taxi. It takes about 30 minutes to get to downtown Cuba which can cost anywhere between USD25 – USD30 (CUC25 – CUC30).
Our Recommended One Week in Cuba Itinerary – 7 nights/8days
Arrival into Havana and check into your accommodation.
There are 2 journeys a day both costing USD12 per person
Depart 09.00 Arrive: 12.40
Depart 14.30 arrive 18.20
Vinales – we recommend the horse riding tour to the tobacco fields (see below for more activities)
Bus from Vinales to Havana with Viazul Buses USD12.00 per person
Depart 08.00 Arrive 11.20
Depart 14.00 Arrive 17.30
Havana (see below for recommended activities)
Places To Visit in Havana Cuba
We stayed in the Vedado area and walked into Old Havana via the Hotel Nacional and Central Havana. Vedado is a lot less touristy than Old Havana and positioned well for being able to walk everywhere. Vedado has some of the most beautiful architecture in Havana. Old colonial mansions that have been restored to their former glory and others that are crumbling and falling down crying out to be renovated and given a new lease of life. There are long leafy boulevards leading down to the Malecon, with cafes and restaurants in the most unlikely places. To walk this area gives you a feel of what Havana was like in its heyday. Don’t rush it.
A visit to Havana’s Hotel Nacional should be on your ‘what to do in Cuba’ list. The Hotel Nacional is Havana’s 5-star luxury hotel with history and stunning views over the Malecon in the Vedado area. When you arrive at the front entrance of the hotels and check around the doors and you can still see bullet holes from the battle on October 2, 1933, known as the Battle of the Hotel Nacional. The battle took place between the non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the Cuban army who supported Batista and the Cuban army.
In December 1946 the Mafia held their Havana Conference there. If you have seen The Godfather II Movie, the Havana Conference was reenacted in one of its scenes.
Nat King Cole was due to sing in the Hotel Nacional in 1956, but because he was black he was turned away. Many famous people have stayed in the hotel over the years including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jimmy Carter, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill to name a few.
Central Havana is a photographer’s dream for those location shots you see everywhere of Havana. Dusty dirty streets, crumbling old buildings, washing hanging outside, classic cars and kids playing in the street whilst adults are chatting, drinking or smoking pungent cigars keeping an eye on them.
We walked through Central Havana three times and still did not have time to wander down all the back streets. We felt that we were in an old 50’s film set and we were the extras, (unpaid of course).
Plaza Vieja also was known as Old Square and was originally called Plaza Nueva where bullfights, executions took place as well as processions and celebrations. You can enjoy an artisanal beer at La Factoria whilst enjoying the local music in the Plaza.
The Capitol Building reminds us of Washington’s Capitol building but in fact, it is modelled on Paris’s Pantheon. It was the seat of Cuba’s Congress up until 1959 when it became the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the National Library of Science and Technology till 2013. As of 2017, it was still under reconstruction with a completion date of 2018 to be the home of the National Assembly of Cuba.
Ernest Hemingway’s Two Famous Bars
La Bodeguita del Medio
La Bodeguita del Medio at Empedrado #207 is one of Havana’s most popular bars. The mojitos are ok but very expensive, you can get better mojitos elsewhere. At times it is very hard to even get to the bar!
A famous saying of Hemingway is “my mojito in La Bodeguita and my daiquiri in El Floridita”.
El Floriditaat Obispo #557 is another one of Hemingway’s haunts. We attempted twice to squeeze in but it was just too packed. Hopefully, you will have better luck than us.
There is a tour available – On The Trail of The Ernest Hemingway Tour which includes a historical tour of Cuba, a visit to the Hemingway Museum at Finca Vigia, exploration of the town of Cojimar, a visit to Floridita Bar and more. Click here for more information.
El Morro Castle sits proudly at the entrance to the bay of Havana. Construction was completed in 1630 and it was used to protect the city from attack. Opposite El Morro is La Punta Castle. An iron chain would be raised between the two forts if an attack was imminent preventing ships from entering the bay. Today you can visit the Fort’s museum for a small fee. There are great views to be had over Havana.
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