Category Archives: travel

Visiting Europe on a Budget

If you were to ask U.S. travelers where they would most want to go on a big trip, they would most likely say that Europe is their number one choice. However, many travelers think that anywhere outside of the country is too expensive and unattainable. That’s simply not true, but American travelers aren’t sure how to reach their vacation goals sooner rather than later. By knowing when to travel, you can save almost half off a traditional vacation to a European destination. Here are just a few ways to enjoy a trip overseas for much less.
Prague
Prague – a destination with great value for your money.

Travel in the off-season. The busiest time of year for tourism in Europe is summer. All the kids are out of school and attractions are packed with travelers of all sorts. Any time of year outside of summer is a good time to go to beat the crowds, but if you also want decent weather, try visiting in late August, September or early October. Though attractions may be open fewer hours each day, you’ll be able to do more in a normal day because you won’t be standing in long lines everywhere you go.

Book airfare mid- to late-summer. If you choose to travel in fall, fare sales for Europe will appear near the end of summer or even midway through. You’ll notice how much fares can drop between the seasons – sometimes as much as 50 percent! Not only will this help you fit the flight costs into your budget, it also allows you to see how a slight change in travel plans can really benefit you when it comes to your choice of destination.

Book your meals with TopTable. You’ll probably be spending some time eating out on your trip, but that doesn’t mean you have to empty out your wallet to dine well. When you book a reservation with TopTable you can get exclusive dining discounts including affordable fixed-price menus and two-for-one meals. You can download the phone app and make reservations at restaurants on the go if you aren’t sure where you’ll be at a particular time before you leave home.

Buy a city pass. Another great way to save money on your trip is to purchase a pass for the city you’ll be visiting. Most large tourist cities offer them and you just have to do a quick online search to find it. For one price you can gain entry to a whole list of popular attractions without waiting in the ticket queues. Some even include transportation and other discounts at your destination.

Choose low-cost airlines. When traveling to Europe, not all airlines are created equal! Certain carriers, such as Ryanair and EasyJet, cater to budget-conscious travelers and have expanded their networks in Europe. Keep an eye out for discount carriers when you’re comparing airline prices, and plan to travel light so you don’t get stuck paying for extra baggage fees.

Shop at local grocery stores. Eating out at restaurants forevery meal takes its toll on your wallet, and often your diet as well. Seek out local grocery stores and shop like you normally would at home. To save money in Europe, plan to eat at least one meal this way per day. For example, you could stash breakfast food in your room and pack a picnic lunch so you can splurge a bit on a highly rated restaurant for dinner.

Stay in hostels. Although hostels aren’t as popular in the U.S., there’s still a huge hostel culture in Europe that’s social, safe, and fun. Contrary to popular belief, not all hostel stays are characterized by sleeping in a noisy 12-person dorm room with one overcrowded bathroom. Many hostels actually offer private rooms at a fraction of the cost of your average hotel.

Take buses and trains. Public transportation is the ultimate way to get around in Europe, so take advantage of the excellent bus and train systems here. Buses are generally cheaper than trains but take longer to reach your destinations. Save car rentals for days when you want to explore remote parts of the countryside, not city days where you’ll be faced with traffic and parking nightmares.

Find family-run businesses. Shopping and dining at “mom & pop shops” give the local economy a boost and connect you with the local culture. Avoid overly touristy areas and chain establishments in favor of more authentic experiences that you can feel good about and remember forever.

Pay with cash. As any traveler to Europe will tell you, ATM and credit card fees add up – not to mention the exchange rate. Keep in mind that in many smaller European towns, establishments only accept cash. When you arrive, take out an amount of cash you feel comfortable with and avoid exchanging cash at bureaus that don’t show the buying and selling rate.

Embrace free activities. Exploring a new place doesn’t have to be all about paying for expensive tickets and fancy meals. Some of the best ways to experience local culture is by simply sitting outside in a park while having a picnic and people-watching. Pick up copies of local newspapers and magazines when you travel to look for listings of free events and to learn about fun things to do nearby that aren’t listed in the guidebooks.

Do your research to avoid costly tours. Sure, guided tours can provide you with history and insights about a new place, but you can also do this research yourself to save money. When visiting museums and historic sites, choose self-guided audio tours over a personally guided tour, and read about places you plan to visit before arriving. With a little advance research, you can be your own tour guide and save hundreds of dollars in Europe without missing out on the famous sights.

When you travel to Europe outside of the summer months, you will notice that airfares aren’t all you’ll save on. Besides saving time by not having to stand in lines and elbow your way through throngs of tourists, you’ll also find that hotel rates are lower during the rest of the year. You’ll see more, do more and probably be amazed by how little you spent in comparison to what you thought it would cost you.

Visiting japan on a budget – free Sightseeing, cheap flights and hotels info

Visiting japan on a budget – free Sightseeing, cheap flights and hotels info

Japan is one of the world’s best travel destinations. There are incomparable natural wonders like Mount Fuji and Yaku Shima Island; world-class cities like Tokyo and Osaka; UNESCO World Heritage sites like Himeji castle and Gingaku temple; and a mysterious culture that is sure to both confound and excite you.

Unfortunately, most budget travelers don’t visit Japan because they figure it’s too expensive. What they, and perhaps you, don’t know is that a vacation in Japan can be quite affordable. The practical travel tips presented below were assembled by a foreigner who taught English in various parts of Japan for more than 10 years. Please note that prices are given in Japanese yen. Check here for current exchange rates.

Flights

The high price of airline tickets to Japan, especially for travelers from North America and Europe, usually scares people off. Japan, after all, is an island nation in the Far East. However, the airfare is going to fluctuate from season to season, so if you shop around and follow these tip, you’ll get a great deal.

Avoid peak travel times. During holiday periods in Japan airfares and hotel rates increase dramatically, so avoid traveling during these periods if possible.There are three distinct holiday periods in Japan: (1) Year-end and during New Year holidays — December 27 to January 4; (2) Golden Week holiday season — April 29 to May 5 and bookend weekends; and (3) Obon festival season — three days centered on August 15.

Fly regional or national carriers. Small, regional airlines and certain national carriers frequently offer discounted airfares. All airplane companies must adhere to certain standards and regulations, so you do not need to worry about not flying brand name. Some of the best options include China Airlines, Aeroflot Russian Airlines, and Asiana Airlines.

Local Transportation

While you are in Japan, utilize public transportation. This will save you a lot of money since taxis and renting vehicles can be expensive. Consider buying a bus pass if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing. This will save you money since bus passes typically offer deals when you purchase them. You can also consider renting bicycles, scooters, and any other form of transportation that is not expensive on the wallet but will allow you to get around.

Trains. Railway networks are extensive, fast and efficient. Japan Railways (JR) connects all major cities nationwide while private railway companies operate in each region. Large cities also have their fair share of subways and monorails. The Japan Rail Pass is a very economical and convenient method of accessing unlimited travel on JR lines within Japan, including the Shinkansenm (the Bullet Train).

Buses. In big to mid-size cities in Japan, like Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Osaka, buses function as a secondary means of public transportation, complementing the train and subway networks. In small cities, as well as in cities with lots of historical sites like Kyoto and Kamakura, buses are the main means of public transportation. Also, buses routes extend far into rural and infrequently accessed areas, so buses can be used to transport you to small villages, hiking trail-heads, and other places not usually visited by tourists.

Travel Passes. There are several types of unlimited-ride passes.The Japan Rail Pass is a popular option for tourists because it provides unlimited travel on JR lines, including the Shinkansen. The pass must be purchased outside Japan from overseas offices of well-known Japanese travel agencies like JTB International and the Nippon Travel Agency Co. However, the Japan Rail Pass is expensive, starting at about ¥30,000, so unless you plan on touring the country by train, you should avoid the Japan Rail Pass. Better options are the Suica and PASMO cards. These are prepaid cards that can be purchased and reloaded at ticket kiosks in train stations. They can be used on most trains, subways and buses in East Japan. They can also be used as electronic money. With a quick swipe of the card, you can pay for goods in many convenience stores, kiosks, restaurants and fast-food shops. Increasingly, many vending machine also accept Suica and PASMO cards.

Accommodations

A wide range of affordable accommodations are available in both Japanese and Western styles. Rates range from around ¥2,000 per person for a bed in a dormitory to over ¥50,000 per person for high-end hotels.

Capsule Hotels. With rooms not much larger than a coffin, capsules hotels are the very epitome of efficiency. Each capsule has a futon, TV, a small table and a few other amenities. A shared bathroom and coin lockers are usually provided. One important note is that women usually are prohibited from capsule hotels. Room rates are ¥3,000 to ¥4,000 per person.

Hostels and Dormitories. Hostels offer room and board for the most frugal budget traveler. Japan Youth Hostels, a member of the International Youth Hostel Federation, operates more than 300 hostels across Japan. Room rates are ¥1,500 to ¥4,000 yen per person

Manga Cafes. Manga cafes provide seats or booths where you can read manga (Japanese comics), play video games, and surf the internet. Many of them are open 24 hours and allow you to stay overnight for about ¥1,500 to ¥3,000 per person.

Minshuku. These family-run bed and breakfast offer Japanese-style rooms, and often include one or two meals in the price. Prices depend on quality and location, usually from ¥4,000 to ¥10,000 per person.

Ryokan. These are traditional Japanese inns with Japanese-style rooms. A stay at a ryokan usually includes dinner and breakfast and is recommended to all travelers to Japan as it gives you the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese lifestyle. Prices range from ¥6,000 to ¥30,000 per person.

Temples. It is possible for tourists to spend the night at some Buddhist temple lodgings (shukubo). Accommodations are spartan, but an overnight stay often includes two vegetarian meals and the opportunity to join the morning prayers. A donation of ¥3,000 to ¥10,000 per person is expected.

Western style hotels, including international and Japanese hotel chains, can be found across Japan, especially in large cities. Budget business hotels are the least expensive, offering simple Western-style rooms. Some business hotel chains include APA Hotel, Route Inn, and Super Hotel. Rates during low season can be as low as ¥4,000 per room.

Food

There are numerous interesting, convenient and cheap eating options for travelers in Japan. Below are some of the most affordable types of restaurant as well as the most popular convenient stores, where you can grab a quick and healthy bite to eat.

Specialized Japanese Restaurants

Many restaurants in Japan specialize in just one type of food like

Kaiten-zushi are inexpensive sushi restaurants, where the sushi dishes are presented to the customers on a conveyor belt. Customers can freely pick the dishes that they like as they pass in front of them or order dishes which are not available on the belt. The sushi is priced per plate with differently colored plates corresponding to different price tiers (typically 100-500 yen per plate) or by a flat rate. In the end, the plates are counted and the total amount is determined. Prices range from ¥700 to ¥2,000.

Soba-ya specialize in soba and udon noodle dishes. Most noodle dishes are served in a hot broth or come cooled with a dipping sauce on the side. The noodles may be ordered with different toppings (tempura, vegetables, etc.), and the menu often changes with the seasons. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

Ramen-ya specialize in ramen dishes, Chinese style noodles served in a soup with various toppings. Every ramen-ya has developed its own soup, the most crucial ingredient for a restaurant’s success. Several other dishes of Chinese origin, such as gyoza and fried rice, are also usually available at ramen-ya. Prices range from ¥300 to ¥2,000.

Gyudon-ya specialize in gyudon (beef domburi). Gyudon-ya are among the most inexpensive fast food style restaurants and found all across the country. Prices range from ¥300 to ¥1,000.

Yakitori-ya specialize in yakitori, grilled chicken skewers which are usually grilled to order over a charcoal fire. They are particularly popular among salary men after work, and, together with ramen-ya, a popular place to go for a late night snack after drinking. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

General Restaurants

The following are some restaurant types that offer a broader range of dishes than specialized restaurants:

Izakaya, like pubs, are casual drinking establishments that also serve a variety of small dishes, such as robata (grilled food), yakitori, salads and other finger foods. They are probably the most popular restaurant type among the Japanese people, and many of them are found around train stations and shopping areas. Dining at izakaya tends to be informal, with dishes shared amongst the table rather than eaten individually. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

Family restaurants (famiresu), such as Gusto, Royal Host, Saizeria and Joyful, are casual dining restaurants that typically belong to a nationwide chain and offer a variety of Western, Chinese and Japanese dishes. Family restaurants are more commonly found in the countryside than in large urban centers. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

Yatai are movable food stalls that sometimes include seating space inside a tent. They are commonly found during festivals, but they also operate year round along busy streets. Fukuoka is particularly famous for its yatai. Commonly sold items include fried chicken (karaage), okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yakisoba, oden and ramen. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

Foreign Food

Many restaurants in Japan specialize in a foreign cuisine such as Korean, Chinese and Italian cooking. American style fast food also enjoys a great popularity.

Yakiniku-ya specialize in Korean style barbecue, where small pieces of meat are cooked on a grill at the table. Other popular Korean dishes such as bibimba, reimen and chige are also usually available at a yakiniku-ya. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

Yoshoku-ya specialize in yoshoku ryori, Western dishes that were introduced to Japan during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and were subsequently Japanized. Typical dishes served at yoshoku-ya include omuraisu, hambagu and hayashiraisu. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

Hamburger fast food restaurants can be found all across Japan. They include major American chain like McDonald’s and Burger King as well as local chains like Mos Burger and Lotteria.

Convenience Stores

Convenience stores, known as konbini, can be found on just about every street corner Japanese cities. Strong competition between the major operators, such as Seven Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart, constantly produces new innovative products and services and makes Japanese convenience stores truly convenient. Most convenience stores are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Some of the many convenient and inexpensive food options include

onigiri (rice balls)
sandwiches
obento (lunch boxes)
instant ramen
microwave meals and hot foods like fried chicken, nikuman and oden

Sightseeing

While Japan has plenty of enjoyable sightseeing attractions that are free, most museums, temples, castles and gardens charge an admission of at least a few hundred yen. Yet there are a variety of discounts that can decrease your sightseeing expenses a little bit.

Free Sightseeing

Hiroshima. Hiroshima Peace Park with its almost free museum (50 yen), Mazda Museum and climbing Misen and visiting Daishoin Temple on nearby Miyajima.

Kyoto. Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Imperial palaces and villas (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sento Palace, Katsura Villa, Shugakuin Villa), Nishiki Market, walking the Philosopher’s Path and exploring the historic districts around Gion and Kiyomizudera.

Nara. Yoshikien (foreigners only), Heijo Palace and strolling through Nara Park and Naramachi.

Tokyo. Tsukiji Market, Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace and East Gardens, Sensoji Temple, observation deck of the Tokyo Government Office and people watching and window shopping in bustling Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara and Ginza.

Yokohama. Kirin Beer Village and exploring Minato Mirai and Chinatown and the pleasant waterfront promenade in between, featuring Osanbashi Pier and Yamashita Park.

Discounted Sightseeing

Discounts for Foreigners. Look for discounts offered to foreigner travelers, such as some Tobu Nikko free passes that combine travel and admission to the sights around the Nikko and Kinugawa areas. Other notable discounts for foreigners include free admission to all the prefectural sites in Nara and discounted admission to selected attractions around Matsue. You should go tourist information centers to find out what deals are available, and note that you may need to present your passport to qualify for the discounts.

Child and Senior Discounts. Many attractions offer child and senior discounts. Child rates typically apply to those younger than 12 years old, although some places also offer discounts to high school and university students. Students may need to present a school ID or international student card to qualify for the discount. Senior discounts typically apply to those 65 years or older.

Grutt Museum Pass. The Grutt Museum Pass provides free or discounted admission to over 60 museums and zoos in the Tokyo area. The pass costs ¥2000 and is sold April – January at participating museums and zoos and at selected convenience stores and travel agents. The pass is valid for two months from its first use. A similar pass exists for the Kansai Region.

Traveling to Japan is not as expensive as you may think and you can easily enjoy a trip on a budget. The most important thing to remember is that you are wise with your choices and you avoid unnecessary things that you do not need. As long as you are flexible you will be able to enjoy Japan on a budget without spending all of your savings.

Florianopolis Destination Guide

Florianopolis Destination Guide

Overview

Located in southern Brazil, Florianopolis is a top destination for surfers, beach-goers, and nightlife-lovers. However, there are some quaint fishing villages, adventure sports, and amazing seafood restaurants to experience here as well. Here are the top things you need to know before visiting this budget-friendly destination.
Peak Season Population Language(s) Currency January Climate July Climate
December to early March 421,203 Portuguese Real Average high 28.0 °C Average high 20.4 °C

Must-See Attractions

The beach and the nightlife are the top two reasons to visit Florianopolis, which has been named the party destination of the year by the New York Times. One of the best places to party is Lagoa de Conceição. If you plan your trip during the annual Santa Catarina Pro event, you can watch some of the world’s best surfers strut their stuff. There are over 40 beaches in Florianopolis, and the beaches in the south are generally less crowded.

If You Have Time

For a unique Florianopolis experience, give sandboarding a try! This sport involves gliding down white sand dunes on a wooden board and hourly board rentals are pretty cheap. Paragliding and windsurfing are also popular adventure activities for tourists. If you have a car, make a point to visit the Sao Joaquim National Park, which is a beautiful place to go hiking and view wildlife and plants. History buffs will enjoy exploring the old forts, which date back to the 18th century Spanish invasion.

Free Things to Do

Lounge on the beach without a care in the world.
Hike around Lagoinha do Leste between Pantano do Sul and Matadeiro to get active with beautiful views.
Listen to some great live Samba music at a local bar.

Transportation

You can reach Florianopolis via Hercílio Luz International Airport, which is about 12 kilometers from the city center. There are dozens of buses that go around the city and to the beaches. However, some of these bus routes involve long layovers and take several hours. Renting a car in Florianopolis can be expensive, however, it makes exploring this beautiful region much more enjoyable.

Recommended Restaurants

There are some great dining options available to both travelers on a budget and those willing to splurge a bit. This is also a great place for vegetarians, as there are some delicious pay-by-weight salad bars that are filling and meat-free.
Restaurant Cuisine Location Price Notes
Hong Ju – Restaurant Vegetariano Vegetarian Rua Deputado Antonio Edu Vieira 750 – 784, Budget Great options for vegetarians, but can be crowded
Toca da Garoupa Brazilian Rua Alves Brito, 178 – Centro Splurge Both the seafood menu and the historical décor are exceptional
Bar do Arante Brazilian Praia do Pântano, South Island Moderate Quirky vibe and the seafood is highly recommended

Money Saving Tips

For cheap eats, look for restaurants where you pay by the kilo for your food.
Research the local bus routes in advance and plan for layovers if you want to avoid renting a car.
Consider staying at a hostel and stocking the kitchen up with groceries from the local market
Check out our homepage to view price comparisons for flights, hotels, and rental cars before you book.

Floripa-view

Azores Destination Guide

Azores Destination Guide

Overview

The Azores is an enchanting region of Portugal that’s made up of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. Compared to many island destinations, the Azores aren’t touristy, noisy, or polluted. Instead, travelers can expect to discover untouched nature, stunning panoramic views, and charming villages with rich cultural traditions. Here are the key details you should know to begin planning your trip to the Azores.
Peak Season Population Language(s) Currency January Climate July Climate
June to September 245,746 Portuguese Euro Average high 60.8 °F Average high 74.5 °F

Must-See Attractions

Nature lovers will be thrilled to discover all of the outdoor excursions available to them in the Azores. This is a prime spot for hiking, diving, fishing, and whale watching. Some of the top outdoor sights to see include the calderas of Lagoa das Sete Cidades and Lagoa das Furnas and Pico Island, where you can climb the tallest mountain in Portugal. Sao Miguel is the biggest and my populated island, and there are lots of historic homes, restaurants, hotels, and shops here.

If You Have Time

Although Sao Miguel is the most popular place to visit and stay, the other islands of the Azores are certainly worth a visit as well. The most southern island of Santa Maria has great beaches and is accessible from Sao Miguel by ferry. Try to visit the Port of Angra in Terceira, which is a World Heritage Site and in close vicinity to the hundreds of traditional bullfights that are held every summer. Head to the most westerly island of Flores to see the picturesque coast lined with wildflowers and grazing sheep.

Free Things to Do

Visit the beach to take a dip in the comfortable 70-degree water
Take the five-hour trek to the peak of volcanic Mount Pico
Go birdwatching to see some of the Azores 300+ species of birds
Take a stroll around the 15th century town of Angra do Heroismo to learn about local history

Transportation

Most travelers will arrive to the Azores by plane through the Ponta Delgada Airport, and although each island has its own airport, flights often only depart once daily. The best way to get around the Azores is by car, and there are some really scenic drives to experience here. Buses operate around the islands, but service can be infrequent and unavailable on Sundays and holidays.

Cycling should only be attempted if you are in great shape because the terrain is rugged and steep. It’s especially enjoyable to take boat to get from island to island, since most towns have ports and are along the shoreline.

Recommended Restaurants

There are many dining options available to Azores travelers, depending on their budget. The best cuisine is Portuguese, however, you can find Italian and vegetarian restaurants as well.
Restaurant Cuisine Location Price Notes
Saca-Rolhas Taberna Portuguese Rua Da Corujeira, No. 3 – Relva, Sao Miguel 9500-657, Portugal Moderate/Pricey Restaurant can be difficult to find but the incredible seafood is worth it
Restaurante Marisqueira Ancoradouro Portuguese Rua Joao de Lima Whitton, Areia Larga, Madalena, Pico 9950-302, Portugal Budget/Moderate Lovely terrace with beautiful views
Restaurante Tony’s Portuguese Largo do Teatro 5, 9675-036, Furnas, Portugal Moderate Fish specialties are the Bacalhoad and Fried Moreira

Money Saving Tips

Consider flying SATA International, which connects to four Azores islands
Explore outdoor sites on your own instead of hiring a guide
Frequent local bars and restaurants instead of touristy ones
Check out our homepage to view price comparisons for flights, hotels, and rental cars before you book

Copenhagen Destination Guide

Copenhagen Destination Guide

Overview

The modern and navigable city of Copenhagen combines the best of European café culture and Scandinavian architecture and design. It’s charming and compact, with lots of local history to dive into. Although spending time in Copenhagen can become expensive, there are many ways to experience the city on a budget as well.
Peak Season Population Language(s) Currency January Climate July Climate
July-August 579,513 Danish Danish Krone (DKK ) Average high 1.9°C Average high 20.4 °C

Must-See Attractions

Like Amsterdam, Copenhagen is one of the world’s best cycling cities. To see the city with ease, rent a bike or take a small group tour to see the sights, including the Little Mermaid, the island of Amager, and the community of Christiania. You can also take a canal boat tour to see the city from a unique perspective. The Tivoli Gardens offer a sense of romance in the evenings, and there are some excellent museums to explore. Make sure to add the National Museum/Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, and the Museum of Art and Design to your travel itinerary.

If You Have Time

Beer lovers will enjoy learning about the brewing process and tasting some samples at the Carlsberg Museum. And fashionistas will enjoy taking a stroll down Strøget to browse designer goods, jewelry, and china. For a unique take on the standard museum experience, make a point to visit the Experimentarium and Museum Erotica during your stay. If you visit between June and August, it might be warm enough to take a swim at Copencabana on Vesterbro or Havnebadet at Island Brygge on Amager.

Free Things to Do

Pitch and tent and camp along the Mølleå River for a night or two.
Go for a swim in one of Copenhagen’s harbor’s free pools.
Take a free walking tour from the city center. One starts every day at 11 am from the steps of the City Hall at Rådhuspladsen.
Browse the Open Air Museum, Frilandsmuseet, which houses over 50 farms, mills and houses dating back to the 1600s.

Transportation

Kastrup Airport is how most visitors arrive to Copenhagen by plane, and it typically takes less than 15 minutes to get from the airport to the city center by mainline train. Public transportation is easily accessible from the Central Station and Nørreport Station, which are hubs for intercity trains and buses. Canal boat tours are the easiest way to see the city’s attractions. Cycling is the fastest and most flexible way to get around, and it’s a refreshingly pedestrian-friendly city as well. Take a stroll down Strøget, the longest and oldest pedestrians-only shopping street in Europe.

Recommended Restaurants

Even though food in Copenhagen can be on the pricier side, there are lots of great budget and moderately priced restaurants here too.
Restaurant Cuisine Location Price Notes
Ida Davidsen Sandwiches Store Kongensgade 70 Budget Choose between over 200 sandwich variations!
Café Victor Danish/French Ny Østergade Moderate Artsy, laid-back lounge with an international mix of cuisines
Kokkeriet Danish ronprinsessegade 64 Pricey Intimate, modern setting with traditional Danish favorites

Money Saving Tips

Find local sandwich shops to eat like the locals do and give your wallet a break. Try an open rye sandwich with cold meats, mackerel, onions, egg, and dill.
Museum lovers should look into the Copenhagen Card, which provides free entrance to about 60 museums and other attractions too.
Consider visiting Copenhagen in autumn, when it’s a little chilly but accommodations become much cheaper than in the summer.
Check out our homepage to view price comparisons for flights, hotels, and rental cars before you book.

Bangkok Destination Guide

Bangkok Destination Guide

Overview

Travel in Bangkok is often described as a whirlwind – it’s hot, chaotic, crowded, and full of exotic energy. This popular tourism destination is a city of extremes with majestic temples, floating markets, romantic rooftop restaurants, and a wide range of accommodations to suit every budget. But before you start feeling overwhelmed, read through our brief guide to learn about this exciting city and begin planning your itinerary.
Peak Season Population Language(s) Currency January Climate July Climate
November to February 8,280,925 Thai Thai Baht Average high 32.5 °C Average high 33.2 °C

Must-See Attractions

Bangkok is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East” because of its network of canals, so take a boat tour to see sights like the Khmer wats and the riverside dwellings. While exploring the city, you’ll definitely want to sample some of the eclectic street food options – often fresher and more unique than in the surrounding restaurants! To get a dose of Thai culture, visit the Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, Wat Parkeaw, and Wat Pho.

If You Have Time

The waterways around the Chao Phraya River are some of the most scenic areas around Bangkok, and the Chatuchak Weekend Market is a good place to browse if you have a bit of time. To experience Bangkok’s “East meets West” vibe, head to Khao San Road to browse market stalls and grab a cocktail. The city’s Red Light District always provides an interesting experience for the adventurous traveler!

Free Things to Do

Take a free meditation class at the International Buddhist Meditation Centre inside Wat Mahathat.
Visit the temples. With the exception of a few like Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho, most are free and open every day.
Watch a free Muay Thai boxing match at MBK Shopping Center.
Relax and watch a free music concert at Lumpini Park.

Transportation

There are two airports that serve Bangkok, Suvamabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport, and both are located about 30 kilometers from city center. Most travelers who fly into Suvarnabhumi take the airport rail link to get downtown. The most important train station to know is the Hualamphong station, and railway lines extend in all directions. It’s not a good idea to travel around Bangkok by car since traffic is very congested.

Recommended Restaurants

Food is a big deal in Thailand, and there are plenty of cheap eats, high-end restaurants, and street food delights to keep your taste buds satisfied every meal.
Restaurant Cuisine Location Price Notes
Lung Yai Isaan Din Daeng Rd. Budget Off the beaten path and never touristy
Issaya Siamese Club Thai 4 Soi Sri Aksorn, Chuaphloeng Rd. Moderate/Pricey Order a mix of chef recommendations to try something new
Bankara Ramen Japanese 32/1 Sukhumvit Soi 39 Budget Try the signature ramen with chashu

Money Saving Tips

If you love to shop, look for bargains on high-end designer goods. You’ll often find much better deals here than in Singapore or Hong Kong.
Rent a free bicycle to explore the city, courtesy of Project Bangkok Smile Bike.
Hop in metered taxis but decline rides from drivers who haggle on the price.
Check out our homepage to view price comparisons for flights, hotels, and rental cars before you book.

Amsterdam Destination Guide

Amsterdam Destination Guide

Amsterdam is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, famous for its beautiful canals, top art museum, cycling culture, and Red Light District. It is the capital and most populous city in the Netherlands and often referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of its expansive system of bridges and canals. Here are some of the key points to remember as you plan your trip to Amsterdam.
Peak Season Population Language(s) Currency January Climate July Climate
May to October 813,562 Dutch Euro Average high: 5.8 °C Average high: 22.0 °C

Must-See Attractions

Most visitors begin their Amsterdam adventure in the Old Centre, which is full of traditional architecture, shopping centers, and coffee shops. Don’t miss the Dam Square and the areas around Spui and Nieuwmarkt. The infamous Red Light District is also in this area, and definitely worth a visit to see what the hype is about. You’ll also want to check out Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter in the South District, which is great for shopping at the Albert Cuyp Market and having a picnic in the Vondelpark. The top museums to visit are the Rijksmusuem, the Ann Frank House, and the Van Gogh Museum.

If You Have Time

There are several other unique districts in Amsterdam, and you should try to explore as many of them as time allows. The Canal Ring is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was originally built to attract wealthy home owners and is a hub for celebrity spotting and nightlife today. The Plantage area has most of the city’s museums, including the Jewish Historical Museum, the Scheepvaart Museum, and the botanical gardens.

Free Things to Do

Have a picnic and bring a bottle of wine to relax and people-watch in Vondelpark
Soak up some sun at one of the city’s beaches
Take a stroll along the canals, smell the flowers, and browse markets along the way
Hop on one of several free ferry services across the IJ River for lovely city views

Transportation

Travelers should be aware that Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of the busiest airports in the world. This airport is located about 15 kilometers southwest of city center. You can catch a train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central Station, which has many connecting routes. It’s typically not a good idea to drive a car to the city center because traffic is congested and parking is difficult to find. Cycling is incredibly popular here, and it’s easy to find cheap bike rentals around town. Amsterdam has a flat terrain and is a great city to explore on foot.

Recommended Restaurants

Amsterdam is a top destination for foodies, so it can incredibly difficult to narrow down your dining choices. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Restaurant Cuisine Location Price Notes
Foodism Mediterranean Nassaukade 122, 1052 EC Budget-moderate – dishes from €20 Portions are tapas-style so order 2-3 dishes per person
Ciel Bleu French Hotel Okura. Ferdinand Bolstraat 333, 1072 LH Extravagant – set-price menus from €110 for dinner Make advance reservations and ask for a table by the window

Money Saving Tips

Unless you really want to see the tulips blooming, avoid booking between mid-March and mid-May. This is when hotel and flight prices surge.
Look for accommodations in Amsterdam’s South District, where rates are generally cheaper than in the city center.
Buy train tickets at the machine instead of the counter to save a bit of money
Instead of hiring a tour guide, hop on a canal boat. They’re inexpensive and will give you a unique point of view of the city.
Check out our homepage to view price comparisons for flights, hotels, and rental cars before you book.

 

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7 Things Flight Attendants Notice About You When You Board A Plane Safety is always their biggest concern.

7 Things Flight Attendants Notice About You When You Board A Plane
Safety is always their biggest concern.

By Suzy Strutner

Flight attendants may seem chipper and carefree, but don’t be fooled: While pouring bubbly and chatting with travelers, these trained first responders are also keeping a close watch over the plane for threats, starting the very moment you board.

“Passengers think we are just greeting them at the door,” Jay Robert, a flight attendant and founder of Fly Guy, told HuffPost. “But they’d be surprised at the number of threats we eliminate at that stage of the flight which would have caused a delay or even harmed their health and safety.”

We asked flight attendants to name the first thing they notice about passengers when they board a plane. Most of their answers have less to do with judging your in-flight look and more about keeping you safe. The right boarding behavior could score you better service, too. Here’s what the cabin crew notices:
If you look them in the eye.

″[I notice] who makes eye contact with me and who doesn’t. More often than not, the ones who don’t make eye contact make me investigate… Are they scared of flying? Are they feeling okay? Are they dealing with a personal issue? These are things people don’t tell you outright, and a facet of my job is making sure everyone is having a comfortable flying experience.” ― Stephanie Mikel, Southwest Airlines
If you’re drunk.

“Intoxication and aggressive passengers are prime suspects we try to identify at the doors. We are trained in basic taekwondo techniques to handle acts of aggression in the sky, but stopping them before they get up there is our main goal.” ― Jay Robert of Fly Guy
If you’re in shape.

“I’m looking for able bodied persons who can assist with security problems inflight, as well as someone who appears willing and able to assist in an emergency evacuation. Typically, this is someone who is traveling alone and in street clothes, looks like they are in above average physical shape or is known emergency service personnel.” ― Zac Ford, flight attendant with a major carrier
Hinterhaus Productions via Getty Images
If you talk to them.

“When I say hello and a passenger responds back, I notice and think, ‘wow, that person is really nice.’ If I ever needed help with something, I’ll probably ask the nice passenger. [And] if a passenger ever needs help from me, I’ll probably go above and beyond the call of duty for a nice passenger.” ― Heather Poole, American Airlines
If you’re under the weather.

“It’s important to check if my passengers are fit to fly. Once all doors are closed and we’re airborne, it can get very challenging to handle medical emergencies. During boarding is the perfect time to take a look at who will be on my flight.” ― Claudia Sieweck, TUI fly
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If you’re pregnant.

“I’m searching women to see if they are hiding baby bumps with loose clothing. After a certain point in a pregnancy, women need a doctor’s certificate to travel, and after a set period they are no longer allowed to fly.” ― Jay Robert of Fly Guy
If you’re nervous.

“I ask passengers if everything is alright if I have the feeling something isn’t perfect. Passengers with fear of flying get my special attention: I love to care for them and to make them feel comfortable.” ― Claudia Sieweck, TUI fly

Happy travelling

Happy travelling

Travelling is joyful. You don’t need any research to come up with that conclusion. But it’s not just being in a different destination that transports us to a “happy place”. From planning a trip, through to the post travel glow, there’s a lot of ways that travelling can boost our wellbeing. Rachel Grunwell has the low-down on why and how travelling makes us happy

Shawn Achor, who is Harvard University trained and viewed as one of the world’s leading experts on happiness and positive psychology, answers some questions about travel and happiness. This comes in the wake of a Booking.com global survey of over 17,000 travellers who were asked about what parts of the travel experience they love the most. Achor also talks about what happens to our brains when we experience the “travel high”.

What are the happiest parts of travelling i.e. before, during etc?

The brain struggles to differentiate visualization from actual experience, so when we are imagining a trip we are in a sense experiencing it in the present. Moreover, when we are planning a trip, we visualise it in pristine form. We see beautiful photos of the accommodation and location online, but none of the stress to find the bus ticket counter, or the smells of a garbage truck that passed by. Once we’ve made a decision, for example about where to stay, we also need the reassurance of an instant confirmation to ensure uninterrupted enjoyment of this trip anticipation.

The Booking.com study found a strong correlation between enjoying the booking experience and happiness during the trip. That means that one of the best predictors of a happy vacation is to have an enjoyable booking process. People who did not enjoy their booking experience were significantly more likely to have a worse vacation.

Yet, all the anticipation in the world can’t replace the happiness of actually being on holiday. In fact, the research showed how almost nine out of ten (87 per cent) say it’s the first day of a holiday and seeing their accommodation for the first time (83 per cent) that are the happiest holiday moments.

Is there a general low when you return from holiday though?

If you compare your current life to the novelty and relaxation of a vacation, then your ordinary life will seem mundane and less happy. If, however, you savour the trip upon return by sharing it on social media or you return to work with greater levels of energy, you can create a different comparison point: instead of comparing your vacation to work, you can compare having not gone on the vacation and still working versus returning from a vacation renewed. And if you want to get over any post-holiday blues, immediately start planning and dreaming about your next trip.

While GPS systems and Sat Navs are old news, there’s plenty of room in the market for increased sophistication. The apps of today offer a more complex view of getting around offering traffic avoidance, and voice activation for saftey. You can find apps that tell you when your bus is due, or apps that show you delays, arrivals and departures in real time. There are even apps to facilitate the global game of hide and seek; Geocaching, and apps that link to your fitness band. Click here for some of our favourites.

Why does travel make us so happy?

In a world where every dollar and hour count, travellers are looking for a higher return on their investment of time and money. Why take time off and pay money to be more stressed and less happy?

The study highlights how, whatever your type of vacation and wherever you’re planning to stay, whether that’s hostels, hotels, villas, Bed & Breakfasts, travel planned well (from research to booking), and ultimately enjoyed in line with our expectations, can dramatically improve our happiness. This links to my previous research published in Harvard Business Review indicating that, unlike the average vacation, well-planned, low stress vacations have a 94 per cent chance of returning you to work with greater levels of energy, engagement and happiness. Based on a decade of research, the greatest competitive advantage in the modern world is a positive and engaged brain. In fact, I recently found that people who take all of their vacation days are not only happier, they are 34 per cent more likely to receive a bonus over the next three years. Happy travel pays!

What can help with happiness when we travel – i.e. to make the experience even better?

Based on research, we know that the keys to a low stress, high return vacation are:

1) going far from home
2) staying in an accommodation that feels like home
3) planning well, to make sure your trip lives up to expectations
4) making a social connection on the trip
5) savouring the trip when you get back.

People who take all of their vacation days are not only happier, they are 34 per cent more likely to receive a bonus over the next three years.

What happens in our brain when we travel?

Dopamine, the neurochemical associated with pleasure, not only makes us feel happier but it turns on the learning centers in the brain. We strive not only to decrease pain, we actively pursue pleasure. Moreover, when the human brain is positive, our success rates rise dramatically. As I showed in The Happiness Advantage, the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engage brain as it raises every single business and educational outcome we know how to test. So perhaps our brains seek happiness via travel knowing that it causes greater well-being and thriving.

· Are there any tips on helping to make the travel high last?

You can extend a travel high by reliving the experience. The brain can’t tell much difference between visualization and experience, so by looking back at old photos, making a video about the trip, or sharing on social media doubles the impact.

· Do tropical islands make us happiest or adventures, or simply any difference in landscape out of the norm?

Different climates make different people happy, but everyone’s brain craves novelty so find a vacation climate or nature that is different from your norm.

What’s your personal ultimate travel destination and why it makes you so happy?

I love nature and long to see parts of the world that return me to child-like awe. I felt it on a safari in Africa, and I have felt it in fjords in Europe. My dream vacation is to take my wife and son somewhere remote but safe where we could discover a new species and create a scientific name for it after my wife. Beyond that, I love any place where I get to have a long meal with someone and really get to know how their life is different and similar to my own.

Muslims buying from Starbucks will go to hell, says popular preacher

Muslims buying from Starbucks will go to hell, says popular preacher

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta
Muslims buying from Starbucks will go to hell, says popular preacher A Starbucks Coffee shop in New York on April 17. (AFP/Hector Retamal)
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A popular preacher is under fire on Twitter for saying Muslims who buy from Starbucks will go to hell.

In a 52-minute video uploaded by Islamic channel Fodamara TV on Youtube, Abdul Somad, the preacher in question, says that Muslims will be thrown into hell if they buy from Starbucks, as the coffee shop openly supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

He made the statement when answering a question from a member of the audience on whether Muslims are allowed to buy from a café that supports LGBT rights.

He said: “In the afterlife […] the angels will ask the [LGBT community], ‘How did [your community] grow so big?’ [The LGBT community] will respond, ‘Because of the donations [given to us]. ‘Who gave you the donations?’ ‘Those who are in heaven.'”

God will pull out those who are in heaven and throw them into hell for donating to Starbucks, he added.

Although the video was uploaded in October 2017, it went viral on Thursday after several Twitter users uploaded snippets of the video on social media and criticized the cleric for being ridiculous.

One of them was Muslim scholar Akhmad Sahal, who said Somad’s logic was contradictory as the social media channel that the cleric uses also supports LGBT rights.

“Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, all of them support LGBT rights. Based on his logic, wouldn’t that mean its users will go to hell too?” Sahal said on his Twitter account.

“My penniless fellow, you are free from hell’s torment now,” wrote another Twitter user.

But not everyone agreed that Somad’s statement was ridiculous.

“I don’t really get what people are fuming about. As far as I’m concerned, Somad only said what he believes in. Don’t agree with him? Go get your Starbucks and stop watching his videos. Make it easy for yourself. Won’t tell you again,” wrote one user. (dpk/ahw)