PeruHop and me

2 weeks, a month, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, couples travel, holiday, hostel, itineraries, itinerary, return, review, travel, whirlwind

A colleague of mine. and fellow Peru lover, had recommended PeruHop following her trip to the incredible country.

Whilst I am usually the “you can go your own way” public transport kind of gal, I was also aware that I was attempting to see the whole of Peru (well as much as possible) in just over two weeks – just under half the amount of time that she had spent exploring the diverse country.

Expect to be fully immersed in Peruvian culture

With such little time but so much we wanted to see and do, we figured that the sensible option was to book with PeruHop – the seemingly smooth sailing company, for ease of travel.

Planning our route

After trawling the PeruHop website for which bus route we wanted to take we decided on the ‘Full South to Cusco’ option. The payment was quick, and when weighing up how much it would have cost us to take separate buses, flights, and taxi’s we were satisfied that the cost justified the journey.

The optional yet included cultural bus options, whereby the PeruHop gang whisk you away on a mini tour or take you for dinner en route, only further affirmed our ‘bang for your buck’ rationale.

Pisco tour sign at the entrance in Peru

One of the excursions included a free tour to learn about the creation of Pisco

The dashboard and PeruHop interface online is basic (in a good way). Your itinerary is laid out really clearly and you can change your pick up locations, dates, and times really easily.

Wanting to have as stress-free of an experience as possible, we organised most of our pick-up locations and hostels before arriving in Peru.

Tip; If you change your mind about where you want to stay, or be picked up from, you can always opt for editing your choices closer to the time which is great for rogue wanderers.

Hostel Pick-Up Points

My partner and I aren’t what you call “party people” so for us we were a little worried about the recommended hostel lists provided as pick up locations by PeruHop as we had heard that many of them were quite rowdy.

Instead of plucking any hostel from their lists uninformed, we did a little research into each hostel settling on some of the quieter and less popular options.Whilst you can book a hostel that’s not available on the pick-up list, we decided that we simply couldn’t be bothered with lugging our backpacks to and from pick up points, hence the choice of PeruHop’s.

Bananas hostel in Huaccachina Peru

Bananas hostel in Huaccachina was B-E-A Beauuutifulll

The Overnight Bus

During the two weeks we spent two nights on the PeruHop bus. We considered this another justification as to why this was worth the money. We would have paid around £20-30 for a private room anyway so this was definitely worth the money -that is, if we had a decent sleep whilst aboard.

Luckily enough the bus ride was smooth and we managed to sleep for a decent enough proportion of the night. The seats were

Arrivals and Departures

Having spent time in various places around the world I am all too aware that not everyone operates with the same efficiency in mind. With this open minded attitude I anticipated long delays, slow drop-offs, and late pick-ups. Yet, to my surprise, the bus was always pretty much on time and always where they said they would be.

Getting that free T-shirt

If You take the route that we took you will end up in Cusco. From the Main Square the office can be found by walking up the narrow alley until you eventually turn left.

Upon arriving at the office you will be welcomed by a friendly PeruHop member of staff. Then you be asked to complete a short survey about your PeruHop experience, (make sure you take note of the hosts names as you will be asked to provide feedback on your favourite guides).

So they complete its time to try on some shirts and select the comfiest size!

Is PeruHop for you?

For us, PeruHop Offered us an incredible service that made it easy to see everything we wanted to see and more in the diverse land of Peru.

Along the way we met many travellers that had used public transport for the bulk of their journey, but had decided to give this service a try to finish up their trip comfortably. The resounding reviews seemed to be very positive.

I’d seen on the website that many people had made lots of friends during their trips. Whilst this wasn’t our main aim when choosing PeruHop, we found ourselves heading to the market with a lovely Canadian couple, adding friends on Instagram, and joking around with people on the bus when they reclined the chairs just a little bit too far. Our Machu Picchu Pals

We loved PeruHop and we think you will too.

Hotels, Hostels or Homes? How to save money in your sleep whilst on Holiday.

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, hostel, hotels, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend, review, travel, Uncategorized

The decision of whether to stay in a hotel or not whilst on holiday is not usually at the forefront of many people’s minds. Most holiday goers will book their flights and then the top recommended hotel without even a second thought as to where else they could stay.

Why are so many of the population failing to remember that there are alternative, cheaper,  more immersive and entertaining options available. Or maybe they just haven’t been informed yet. Well in that case, let’s begin.

And a hostel in Venice offers comfy and private beds with a large communal area bar and kitchen. Very code to the train stationAt crazy affordable prices – Anda Venice offers comfy private sleeping areas, bar and kitchen areas, and a communal space that spans the entire ground floor.

Hotels: What are you paying extra for? Absolutely nothing.

If you enjoy late night strolls around a resort, listening to a British expat performing Whitney Houston Covers, and fighting other holiday makers for the sun lounger closest to the pool then hotels are definitely for you. Hotels are notoriously safer, and offer heightened security for families with private lockable rooms with en-suits and balcony areas. Great! But this is not the say that the same quality can’t be found elsewhere.

To offer some tangible evidence of what Hotels offer lets look at ibis hotels.

Whilst staying in an ibis hotel I couldn’t fault the breakfast service, the room, or anything else for that matter really. Although, the common area was less of a common area and more of a standard entrance area into the hotel.

Ibis hotels make good on the buffet breakfast and provide you with all your breakfasty needs from cereals to continental meats you’ve probably never thought to eat for breakfast.

This is all well and good you might say, but why oh why am I paying £50 – £100 (or more) a night. One person, one room, one bed, one breakfast, and you are asking for £60. Call me a cheapskate (because I am) but I say this pricing is totally unnecessary!

Hote de Paul in Belgium Bruges is small but charming At over £50 a night Hotel De Pauw offers a breakfast buffet, close proximity to the main square, and a nice view of a church…

To be completely fair to ibis hotels, I searched the going rates across 10 countries in Europe, even ‘cheap’ countries and the prices were pretty similar across the board. Ibis hotels aren’t the only offenders of high prices for little in return, Premier Inn, Travel Lodge, Best Western, Hilton, Marriott…  You name it, it was all a little too overpriced for me.

In my opinion, if anyone is paying £50-£80 per night, this is the least you should be asking for:

  • Blackout Curtains
  • Sound Proof Walls
  • Breakfast and Dinner
  • A fun, free, functioning common room
  • Outdoor seating areas
  • Comfortable bed and en-suit
  • Tea and Coffee in your room

If your paying over £80 for a hotel room then firstly – what on earth are you thinking? And secondly, there had better be a huge heated pool and a sauna with onsite creche for the kiddies to play in.


 Hostels: It’s not all doom and gloom

Once you understand that not all hostels are as grubby as they seem in the movies your holiday savings will increase, and your holiday experience will change forever.

Hostels are available in almost every country in the world, and at a fraction of the price of booking a hotel you’d be silly not to consider it. Some of the nicest places I have ever stayed have been hostels costing no more than £13 a night WITH breakfast included. For more information about what staying in a hostel is really like read Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stay.

Bosnian hostel sign on the front gate entrance pink sign This is one of the most enchanting hostels in Bosnia. The host is friendly, helpful, and fun. The location is excellent and the vibes are chilled.

So, let’s address 3 of the main issues that people talk about when I suggest that they stay in a hostel.

1- “I don’t want to stay with 10 other people with no privacy or bathroom to myself.”

2- “It won’t be a safe environment for the kids to sleep in or to be able to walk around in.”

3- “I’m not sleeping in a dirty room where the sheets are gross and the bathroom smells”

I am happy to report that for the most part I have found none of this hearsay to be true. Read

Overall I have found hostels to be more welcoming, friendly, cleaner, entertaining, and helpful than any hotels I have previously stayed in. Private rooms are always a little pricier, but you get what you pay for after all. Booking is easy with sites like Hostelworld and HostelBookers offering a transparent efficient service to users.


Home Stays: Living like a local

Staying in someone else’s home can feel daunting, especially if the family are still in the vicinity during your visit. Unless you had selfish plans to trash the place there’s no reason to feel nervous at all, provided  that you have done your research beforehand.

Jemma Miguel Katie Juan Roxana jenifer Rocio Francisco Beth given Karen host famil picture in front of house in Nicaragua

Me with my incredible host family in Nicaragua. 3 months together and we were part of the family.

Whilst in Vietnam we stayed in a host home – accidentally.  The family had advertised their home on a hostel site. We were pleasantly surprised as, luckily, we got on well with the family. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and we learnt a lot from the experience.

Whilst some host family / home stays are advertised on the usual hostel sites your best bet is to head over to sites such as Homestay.com or simply type ‘host family stay’ into Google and check out the many country specific results available.

Another option is the increasingly popular Airbnb which offers a wide variety of options depending on your needs. You can rent a whole home, a room, or shared accommodation. The majority of places you find on Airbnb will be self catering, so you will miss out on the luxury meals you are used to at the hotel, but with thousands of yummy restaurants around every corner why not sample the real local cuisine in the streets. This also cuts out all of the moaning about the lack of diversity on the hotel menu.

When booking with Airbnb be sure to tick the ‘whole house’ option if you don’t fancy meeting the homeowners each day. Another mistake we made whilst in Paris was not ticking this. We didn’t mind ultimately, but we did find it strange that the owner was still at the house. That is, until we realised we hadn’t ticked the all important ‘home alone’ button.

Despite any booking errors we may have faced in the past, staying with a host family is always a very enriching experience. I’ll admit that it’s more of a solo traveller / couples travel option, but if children are welcome then why not just book the whole house instead for a fun family experience?


Will you take the plunge?

I think it’s clear to see that I am a hostel kind of girl. Be it a private room, or a communal room, it’s all good to me. Don’t forget to read my blog ‘Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stayfor a real insight into why I view Hostels as being the best.

Camping serenissma in Venice Italy is a hostel and a camping ground pitch up a tent of stay in the bungalows pictured by the grassWhy not push the boat out and stay in a hostel camp site!? Camping Serenissma in Venice offers private bungalows or tent space, and even has a restaurant and pool!

Next time you book your accommodation for your holiday perhaps you may take a step back and consider just how much you could save to spend on enjoying expensive foods or activities, rather than on the £100 room that you could have got for £20 elsewhere.

Happy Booking!

Myth Busting: Hostels – To stay or not to Stay

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, accommodation, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, hostel, hotels, travel

A significant part of your travelling experience lies in the places that you choose to call home each night. Whilst you may not return home with wondrous stories about the incredible comfort levels hidden within the mattress, or the delicious breakfast you ate each morning – the chances are that you will always recall the things that made the accommodation terrible.

When booking my stay anywhere in the world I look at five factors. 1. Is it close to the main attractions. 2. Are the rooms clean and comfortable. 3. Am I paying a decent amount for what is on offer. 4. Will I have somewhere other than my room to hang out in the evening, and 5. How well has the space been rated by past experienced travellers.

I hope that by confronting some of your doubts and answering some of your questions with real experience I can bring you to book your first hostel stay somewhere.


1. You said: I’m not sharing a bedroom with anyone I don’t know. So I might as well just stay in a hotel room anyway.

I say: If you really don’t want to stay with anyone random then the answer is simple, don’t stay with random people. Booking a private room in a hostel is easy and will still save you a large amount of cash. Let’s look at an example I have stayed in –

Where we stayed: The Secret Garden Hostel – Krakow, Poland. 5 nights, two beds for £160 total.

For just £160 we stayed in a lovely private twin bed room with ensuing, TV, cleaning service, common room, kitchen area, and free city maps.

This hostel has family vibes – meaning you are unlikely to be awoken by noisy party goers at 2am in the morning. If you like your privacy and like being slightly out of the centre of town then The Secret Garden hostel is an excellent choice.

If you want breakfast included then you only need to pay a small fee for this, or why not pop to the grocery store just a 2 minute walk away and make your own?

If you opt for one of the many Hotels in the area you will notice ( with a quick search on booking.com ) that you will be lucky for find a room for 5 nights for two people, and under £350.

Choosing a private twin room in a hostel in Krakow saved us £190.

Secret garden hostel in Krakow Poland room with twin bed and green cupboards. This homely hostel got mums seal of approval with its pristine, pretty, and private rooms.

2. You said: Hostels are for young people.

I say: No they’re not!

Where we stayed: Basecamp Bonn – Bonn, Germany. Suitable for all ages.

This quirky hostel offers a very varied environment, and by varied I mean – you can stay in the train carriage a private caravan a tour bus and more, all housed in a giant warehouse of fun.

Whilst younger visitors might opt to stay in the entirely cramped tour bus, older travellers can opt for the privacy and spaciousness of a private caravan for the night. The hostel offers traditional fun boardgames for the younger visitors (not that it stopped us from playing) and a mature atmosphere for the older ones.

If staying in a caravan isn’t your thing then there are plenty of other options available for all the travellers in the world of hostels. All you have to do is set your preferences wisely when searching, and if mobility is an issue then check the facilities and the location before you book.

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!


3. You said: I’m not sharing a bathroom!

I said: Whilst it can be hard to find, hostels with private bathrooms do exist.

Where we stayed: Villa Varich – Chumphon, Thailand private ensuit.

Ok, ok, so this hostel isn’t on Hostelworld anymore because it wasn’t technically a hostel, but as the owner was just starting out these private villas were placed on Hostelworld and for bargain price. It’s just so great not feature it here. This does however raise an interesting point about being meticulous in your search for the perfect private bathroom.Once again I urge you to set your preferences to private ensuite and searching for a decent hostel with a private bathroom. Who knows you might just stumbled upon something is great as Villa Varich!

Jemma and irfan outside selfie by the river on the swing in Thailand With the villas on the river front it would have been rude not to take a self on the swing.

4. You said: I don’t want to party all the time. I just want to read with some light entertainment.

I said: party hostels are all around but if you search with the correct preferences you will find a hostel that suits you perfectly without all the loud music.

Where we stayed: Easy Tiger is an incredible hostel located in Phong Ngha, Vietnam.

Whilst from the booking websites this may seem like an incredibly rowdy hostel you couldn’t be more wrong. You’ll also be pleased to know (for those of you that wanted a private bathroom recommendation) that rooms with four beds in one private bathroom or available.

Upon entering your room you will be greeted by tiger print walls, floors, bedding – you name it! The rooms have thick walls keeping all outside noise out. Scheduled musicians and other interesting acts play in the evenings for your entertainment whilst you grab a bite to eat from their yummy restaurant.

I also recall there being a pool, pool tables, and a theme of supporting good causes.

Hills and mountains in phong nha Thailand by easy tiger hostelThe entire hostel is surrounded by incredible 360 views such as this. You also get an awesome wrist band upon entry.

5. You said: I’ve heard stories. Hostels just aren’t safe!

I say: To date, I have yet to be robbed of anything, nor attacked in some dark hallway. I’ve thought that I’ve been robbed a few times by then realise I just dropped my things next to my bed.

Where we stayed: Asta Venice, Venice, Italy. The locker is under your bed, and bag storage options are available.

some hostels have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to security, but we were pleased to see that Asta has nailed the locker system. Although Asta has done a good job, always travel with a minimum of two padlocks as most hostels or not supply them for you free of charge.

Many of the newer hostels you will notice have cameras around the building and outside rooms (which by the way most hotels only have cameras in the lobby). If you notice any suspicious behaviour, notify the staff (as you would anywhere else) and you will be just fine.

Anda Venice hostel entrance sign. Modern Art DecoAnda Venice is the trendiest hostel inVenice offering security, young fun vibes, and funky decor.

A whirlwind tour of… Belgium

1 week, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel, whirlwind

Country: Belgium

Time spent: 2 nights and 2 days

Places Visited: Bruges and Brussels

Friday: Hoping to spend as much time as possible in Belgium we set off on the Eurostar on Friday night from London St. Pancras. With French border control in a pleasant mood I was able to obtain a brand new stamp in the passport. Begging is required.

We arrived promptly in Brussels Midi Station. Feeling tired and ready for bed we headed straight for the metro. A short ride later we were in Louise, and (overestimating my map reading skills) headed down the Long main road towards the hotel… Or so I thought.

Louise by night was a pleasant walk. Charming street lamps, modest nightlife, and high end shops made the walk bearable.

45 minutes of walking later it was clear that I had made a mistake. What should have been a 5 minute walk had taken us 2 miles in the wrong direction. With help from a couple of friendly local women we were put back on track and finally arrived at our hotel – Beau Site.

The man on the reception desk was entirely helpful and welcoming, just what we needed after having dragged our bags around the city. We jumped in the lift, went in the room, took one look at the beds and crashed.

The walk that should not have taken 45minutes.

Saturday morning: Rising early we sat down to a big breakfast before setting out on foot to explore Brussels.

Taking our bags with us to save having to go back to the hotel, we grabbed the tram to go and see the Royal Palace of Brussels and it’s gardens.

With the temperature soaring we lingered just long enough to take in the scenery, some selfies, and sun rays. We then crossed the road and began exploring the surrounding gardens. The gardens were lovely. The statues were interesting, the ducks were swimming in the ponds, and the trees offered shade in the sweltering heat. Approaching the Government Office we made a left and headed for St Michael’s cathedral.

St. Michael’s Cathedral is free to enter with the option to make a donation if you would like to. The interior architecture is a beaut. Walking around you can see why it has taken a decade to renovate. The stain glass windows, statues, and gothic style walls are well worth heading inside for.

If you prefer to observe from the outside take a seat on one of the benches in the park opposite and take in its immense size.

Saturday afternoon:

By the afternoon Brussels had become rather busy and London-esque, we decided to walk to the Central Station just 3 minutes away and head to Bruges.

With trains departing regularly to Bruges there is never any rush to make the next train. We grabbed a quick snack for the journey and hopped aboard the 50 minute train.

Arriving in Bruges it was clear that we had two options. Taxi or bus. Not wanting a repeat of Louise we opted for a taxi to our hotel ‘Hotel de Pauw’ for 14 euros.

The hotel stands opposite a small church which made navigating there was easy. We checked in, dumped our bags, and started exploring.

Strolling down the river we came across a giant blue whale made from recycled plastic by fluke. The whale is a sad yet true poignant reminder of how our oceans are being destroyed by plastic pollution.

We found ourselves sitting and staring at the whale for a good twenty minutes before continuing on our way towards the market town.

Saturday evening:

The market square is the perfect place to spend a half day shopping, eating, and exploring. The road leading to the tower are full of restaurants and so we sat down to an early dinner/late lunch.

Feeling full we continued down the road towards the market square where we were greeted with an impressive view of the tower.

We spent to rest of the evening looking around. Walking under the tower gives you an insight into just why Bruges has its UNESCO status. The history museum (the pictured building on the left with the flags) is great for all ages. We even discovered a virtual reality gaming room if you walk straight through the museum to the other side.

After buying some souvenirs we continued to explore the surrounding streets until we needed up in another square. During the summer months free concerts are held in Bruges. Luckily today was one of those days so we grabbed a bench, enjoyed the music, and soaked in the wonderful buildings surrounding the stage. Eventually the heat got the better of us and we headed back towards the river to chill out and then onto the hotel for a well earned sleep. As we walked through the town there was a notable quietness. It seems that everyone hangs around the main square. This wasn’t a problem, but it was eerily silent.

Sunday morning:

With an early check-out time we rose early and filled up on yet another continental breakfast. With no solid plans for the day I nabbed a couple of bread rolls to feed to the ducks on the river on the way through.

We checked out, took one last look at our church across the road, and went to wake up a little more by the river.

With the swans and ducks of Bruges fed, we decided to head back to Brussels. The quick bus ride back to the station gave just enough time to plan what we were to do in Brussels until our 8pm departure back to England.

We finalised our plans on the train to Brussels. We were going to see the Royal Palace.

After the quietness of Brugge the centre of Brussels was a shock to the system with people flying everywhere. Not wanting to hang around in crowds we marched out of the station and followed the signs for the palace.

There it was! A ten minute walk from the station. Whilst you can go into the palace we opted to admire it from the outside instead picking a nearby restaurant for lunch.

Despite being an obvious trap for tourists we were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices and large portions. Belgians sure do make an excellent club sandwich!

With our time short we used our last hours people watching, art scanning, and statue observing., before heading back to Midi-Station to await the Eurostar home…

And of course, I asked for a passport stamp!

I hope your time here is equally as lovely.

Bruges:What is it good for?

  • Quite strolls down the river
  • Leisurely bike rides
  • Chocolate shops
  • Beer experiences
  • Architecture
  • Chilled town vibes

Brussels: what is it good for?

  • Busy city vibes
  • History tours
  • People watching
  • Shopping
  • Chocolate shops
  • Museums

Thailand, Vietnam – Mini Reviews: The Good And The Bad

2 months, a month, backpack, backpacker, beaches, destination, holiday, itineraries, itinerary

mahut attire at the elephant jungle sanctuary

Howdy!

After having spent a few months exploring the popular, and not so popular, sights of Thailand and Vietnam it’s time to help you all in choosing where you want to go. Whilst I’ve only included a few reviews, we travelled more of the countries and I would strongly recommend you do too!

Whilst in both countries, the big kid on the left and I purposely chose to visit some destinations that weren’t in your average itinerary. The destinations on this list can be visited in depth if you allow a month and or so in each country.

Below you can find the following mini reviews.

Thailand: – *Ayutthaya – *Bangkok – *Chiang Mai – *Chiang Rai – *Chumphon – *Lopburi – *Phuket

Vietnam: – *Dalat – *Ha Long Bay – *Ho Chi Minh – *Hôi An – *Phong Nha

good and bad things about Thailand reviewing the fun and not not fun stuff

Bangkok review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the countryreview the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the countryreview the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

Happy travelling!

Berlin: Things to know before you go

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend, return, review, shock, travel, volunteering

Getting in:

Flying into Berlin is a pain free, quick, and easy process that is truly reflective of that good old stereotypical German efficiency .

Shame about the train stations… The train stations that baffle and bewilder many a tourist ruin the efficiency illusion in an instant and, if you don’t speak German, will have you wishing that you had listened more in German class (if you even had the option to learn it).

Unless you have arranged a pickup, I strongly recommend that you research the route to your chosen destination BEFORE you get on the plane. If you are staying in Berlin then you will probably find that the S Bahn is your best option. Type your route into google maps and print it before you leave home. Google maps has a tendency to be rather incredible without shoving your stupidness in your face.

blue sky clouds Germany

 

When to go:

Berlin is a city that can be visited all year round with no real limitations to activities due to weather conditions. Just bare in mind that if you want to climb a tall building (because there are so many here) to get a great view, this is not going to happen when it’s poring with rain or foggy outside.

Remember that Sunday afternoons and public holidays can be quieter, with many museums and shops being closed.

Money:

The currency is Euro. Berlin can be expensive in and around popular tourist sites. Despite this, it is easy enough to find cheap food if you venture into the suburbs. Kebab shops, burger stops and chippies are never more than a five minute pace away.

Getting around:

The Sbhan is the easiest way around the city. If underground trains aren’t for you then grab a map and explore on foot. Many attractions are close to each other so you shouldn’t have to walk too far between sights. Typical to most European cities, Berlin’s inhabitants do fall prey to telling tourists that “it’s too far to walk” and that they should “take the train because it’s faster and easier”. At least once I challenge you to ignore the nice citizen and go on foot to see if it really is too far. And if come back and it was too far… Well, I’m sorry and I’m sure you made memories that made it worth it anyway right!?

Things to do:

Reichstag dome – Tickets must be purchased online in advance of your visit or you will be refused entry. Allow 15-20 minutes to get through the quick security checks before you enter. Upon entering through the mini airport security you will be transported by an elevator up into the huge dome that sits on top of the reichstag. Audio guides are free and automatically feed you information as you scale higher and higher into the sky. If you are scared of heights you may want to think twice as the majority of the dome is glass, so not looking down is not really an option! germany architecture berlij

Brandenburg Gate & Around – The gate is situated near some of Berlin’s other main sights and is usually tourist heavy. Before heading here have a walk through the Jewish Monument situated a ten minute walk away. Both the gate and the monument make a big impression at night when the lights come on.

History:

It is almost impossible to go to Berlin and not learn a little about the history it possesses. Going down to see the remaining wall is an interesting visit along with Checkpoint Charlie (be warned that it gets very crowded with tourists), and free museums such as the Topographie des Terror (a highlight of our trip).

Not so central – Venturing out of the centre is highly recommended. Just in the train and explore outer Berlin for some spectacular sights and entertaining things to do. Parks, museums, and more are easy to find.

olympic rings outside berlin stadium

A place to stay:

If you are looking for a decent place to stay then Plus Berlin Hostel is great. The hostel is by far the biggest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and with a swimming pool, family friendly rooms, common rooms, restaurant, gardens and even its own art exhibition,it’s as though this hostel made love to a hotel and produced this huge beast. Staying in a dorm here was strange. The rooms were cleaned daily with cute chocolate pieces left on your pillow. Fresh towels were on the foot of the bed when you came back from a days adventures ( see! Just like a hotel right). The pool was a great addition. On one of the days when it was raining we opted for a swimming session which was totally worth it. The food was reasonable for dinner, and the all you can eat breakfast buffet was delicious. Every smart traveller knows – get up a little later and make the buffet a brunch instead of a breakfast for optimum money saving.

plus berlin hostel in central berlin

Extras:

 

Vibes- The general vibe in Berlin is a friendly yet equally standoffish vibe. Kind of like London but with less rushing and more chit chatting. An example of the humour and lightheartedness of Berlin was when I asked a guy if he would take a photo of us. He joked saying that he could not… I didn’t get the joke and stood apologising for even asking, embarrassed. My boyfriend, the comedian, and his friend found it hilarious and laughed at my expression.

Bears, green men, and red women-

If you really pay attention to your surroundings you will notice things that people often miss. Sadly for the unobservant (and I’ve asked around) many people return from Berlin having not seen a single bear statue. Considering its significance here it is sad that they have not one photo or memory of seeing one. Sadly, these same people also have no idea what I’m taking about when I ask them what they thought of the traffic light people. They stare at me blankly… “There are entire shops dedicated to the little people inside the traffic lights! How could you miss them?!” It turns out they just weren’t looking hard enough. Therefore, my recommendation is to pay close attention.

Overall thoughts:

Berlin for me is a standard city of art, culture, history, business and pleasure. Personal preference sways me to feel no real urge to return. A controversial feeling I am aware. Personally, having seen Potsdam, Dresden and Bonn I find that I prefer these smaller jewels for reasons of which I’m not quite sure. But why does it matter? Make up your own mind and get to travelling! berlin map on the berlin wall british and german

5 Things You Learn From… Travelling With Your Boyfriend

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Before jumping aboard the “couples travel” train I was quite against the idea of exploring with anyone other than myself. Why exactly? I’m not quite sure. I guess there is a common misconception that travelling alone means that you have more freedom of choice. I have learnt from travelling with a partner that this is (thankfully) not necessarily true, and that travelling with a partner can actually cause you to end up going to places you love that you had you been alone wouldn’t otherwise have gone to.

Here is what traveling with him has taught me:

1) You should always, always, always pack an extra day bag. Our first trip away together was to Rome. It was a dream for the following reasons. Whilst we explored… A) I carried my stuff. B) He carried his stuff. The end.

By the second trip away together however, we had obviously got comfortable with each other because well, let’s just say that if I have to carry his stuff because he forgot to pack a spare bag AGAIN then there will be trouble.

Now every time we plan a trip and start packing my first conversation with him is “have you packed a spare bag” to which his answer is usually “na, I’ll just carry my stuff in my hands”… (what he means is, “no i’ll butter you up and you’ll be carrying my stuff before you know it”

Berlin Wall. Irfan Chaudhary No Bag Hoodie Nike

Enjoying the Berlin Wall museum… Bagless

 

2) When he suggests going to somewhere you think you will hate you should just say yes and go along. The most notable examples here are Disney Land Paris and Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Dead set against going to Disney I moaned as he pressured me into coming with him. (By pressured I mean that he bought tickets and I thought meh it’s free why not.) When we arrived at Disney Land I absolutely transformed into a huge child. It became less about him geeking out, and more about me wanting to have a photo taken with Mickey Mouse and watch the princess show. Our time there was nothing short of FUN. Possibly the most fun ever.

The Olympic Stadium also hadn’t appealed to me. Being the supportive girlfriend that I am I said yes. It’s only fair that you both get to see things you enjoy right? Although it wasn’t quite as thrilling as Disney World I had to admit that the stadium was an impressive site, and I left there happy to have seen it in the flesh.

Jemma and Irfan in front of the disney Land castle in paris

Disney For Life

 

3) You will become a pro at masking your embarrassment (usually to do with his bad habits) and, at lying to other travellers to cover your partners back. I won’t go into too much detail here, but when your sharing a dorm in a hostel and your other half blocks the toilet, in one of the coolest and cleanest hostels ever, because “the plumbing is different than England”… you will find yourself pretending you know absolutely nothing about it. “Yea I know it’s gross, it was like that when we got here” you will say to the desperate, tired travellers who really need to pee but can’t. Your boyfriend will smile at you in solidarity, and you will never speak of it again. Until the next blockage. (Or you decide to write about it in your blog) – sorry Irfan ❤️

Sitting above the elephants on the right hand side in our mahut clothingAn embarrassment free day at the Elephant Nature Park.

 

4) You will always end up playing the role of 1) the head of logistics 2) linguistic guide and, 3) chief ideas generator.

“I’m taking you somewhere” he will say beaming from ear to ear. You will arrive in the country of his choice and await his instructions on where to go from the airport. Only to be greeted with “how are we getting to the hostel?”

This truly is when you realise how much you like them, because if you didn’t you would probably just walk away and make your own way there without them.

Being the loving person that you are you will get your phone out, google maps the data right out of your phone, walk up to random strangers and ask for directions in your best GCSE level French – all whilst he tags along behind you until a solution is found.

Note that he WILL make the trip excellent. He just won’t make the journey from the plane to the hostel an easy process.

Irfan Chaudhary and Jemma Reid stood outside the Lourve museum in ParisSometimes getting lost leads to the Louvre!

 

5) You learn how to live with them.

For couples that don’t already live together, travelling with a partner is an excellent test of whether or not you would survive/ put up with/ work well living together. Whether you are travelling for a weekend, a month, or longer seeing how you both cope in stressful situations is a great indication of how you will function as time goes on.

Lucky for us we have found that travelling together is no issue as long as you give each other space sometimes. Whilst on our travels we have met every kind of couple. The ‘glued at the hips’, the ‘I’ll go my way and they’ll go theirs’, the ‘this relationship only works at homes’… We have seen it all.

I’m not saying that we are ‘couple of the year’ (although we come pretty close) but one thing we have definitely learnt is that when you respect each others boundaries and let each other do their own thing, travelling together is easy and fun.

Tips: Exploring Thailand? had enough of staying in dorm rooms? Treat both yourselves to a private villa when in Thailand by staying Villa Varich in Chumphon.

standing on the edge of a cliff in Vietnam whilst on a motorbike tour in Da Lat. Look at that viewVietnam: Separate motorbikes, same shared experience.

 

Happy travels.

Travel Fashion That’s So Bad You Just Have To Try It Out

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Ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you that fashion is not something I consider as a priority. That’s why when I’m travelling I’m more than happy to embrace local dress or copy the ‘quirky backpackers’ in the hostel’s fashion choices. I look like an idiot in many a photo, but I strongly recommend you try these fashion ideas out whilst exploring… Here are some tried and tested items.

When in… South East Asia:

Printed trousers (also known as ‘Gap Yah Pants’) – These are the epitome of backpacker fashion and scream “I have a care free attitude’ to all the non shoestring budget travellers. They’ve got zero stretch, making the most basic activities hard, but who cares when you look this cool ?!

Hippy Head Scarf/Wrap – So you were at the vegan hostel for a night and now you think you’re a Greenpeace representative? You bought a cool hippy scarf and you’re ready to show the world how organic you are with your head wrapped in a multicoloured cloth. Yeah, it will probably never see the light of day after your trip… but it makes an excellent sweat band in the ridiculously humid temperatures. Plus you look like a lovely free spirit.

When in… South America :

Never before worn hiking boots – There’s always that one backpacker that’s hobbling behind the rest of the gang because they didn’t wear their boots in. Despite the pain they will carry on because they look super outdoorsy and adventurous. If you’re nice you’ll give them the blister plasters your mum told you would “come in handy”.

When in… any country in the world:

Universally accepted alcohol advertisement shirts – When I went to Tanzania advertising the local beer ‘Tusker’ (hilarious as I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet). It may have been the elephant on the front, or the slogan “baada ya kazi” (enjoy your drink) written on the back that made me so compelled to buy it. Regardless, I bought it, and 8 years later I still have it, along with multiple other beer shirts from other global locations. The funny thing is. I don’t drink beer. Weird right?

Bracelet heaven. Forgotten what your wrists look like? Me too. When you get bored of buying magnets for your eclectic fridge it’s time to switch to bracelets. The best part is being able to tell a story about your travels to all those who admire them. The worst part is when you lose one or it falls off. When my Tanzanian bead bracelet snapped in a hostel in Germany I may have had a little cry in the middle of the dorm 👀.

When in… Europe:

The borrowed life guard jacket – All you need to know is that I borrowed one, did a slow motion Baywatch run down the beach, had a photo, pretended to be a life guard, freaked out when a kid hurt himself and thought I could help, and have the jacket back. Why wouldn’t you get one?

Socks and sandals – You know it’s a bad look when people would rather see your bare feet than what you are currently displaying to the world… Let me just clarify one thing. I do not endorse this look. Especially if you have sandals that go in between your toes. How do you even grip the shoe??? Anyway, if you are a wearer of the sock and sandal. I salute you for your courage, but I do not applaud you.

Whatever your quirky travel fashion choices are, continue to embrace them as I continue to observe, laugh, and join in!

Croatia, Dubrovnik: Seeing It All – 4 day Itinerary

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Dubrovnik, Croatia:

A practical blog with practical advice.

Scroll down for the itinerary.

But first… The practical stuff –

Getting in: Arriving in Croatia was a complicated mess of passport control, unoccupied help desks and tourists eager to get into the country before the other tourists. Luckily the airport is small and getting lost in it would require considerable effort on your part. If you are staying in or near the Old Town then work your way (unaided by no one other than equally baffled tourists) to the bus ticket shop.

The shuttle bus takes you down the beautiful coastline from a great height. Eventually after fretting over your drivers ability to drive on the edge of a cliff you will gain an incredible view of (cue Game of Thrones music) King’s Landing!!!! – I mean, The Old Town. At 40 croation kuna for a one way ticket this is the best way to head into town from the airport.

When to go: April was a strange time of year. With not many tourists around it was great to be able to walk round without having thousands of people pushing you out of the way or photobombing every shot. In the evenings however the atmosphere in Lapad, Gruz and other surrounding areas was non existent. The locals were all at home and, the tourists seemed to have gone to bed. Perhaps summer is the better time to experience night life.

Jemma Reid standing in the middle of the rocks of Lokrum Island in Croatia. You can see the sea in the background with more islands behind that where Croatia lie.

Money: Anything within the walls of the Old Town is expensive so we ventured a little outside of the vicinity for cheaper goods. Most places accepted Kuna and Euro. When paying with Euro we learnt to expect to receive change in a well calculated (yet highly confusing) mix of Euro and Kuna.

Getting around: Bus tickets can be purchased on the bus for 15kuna or at a ticket shop. We were tipped off that if you buy the ticket from a shop the price is 12kuna. Score! Money saved!!

The transport staff were notably miserable I’m sorry to say. We found no word of politeness from any transport staff. Whilst we knew that they owed us nothing, it was still a shock to be grunted at every time we jumped on the bus.

If you were slow entering or exiting the bus you would be either left behind or shut in the bus doors ( I was shut in the doors no fewer than two times ).

Fun Activities and things to do:

Walk the walls – If stairs are your thing then head for the walls and keep walking up. You will need to pay to do this and your fitness will need to be at a good level to get up the never ending steps. If you don’t fancy climbing your way into an asthma attack then opt for staying at ground level and following the wall around from the lower levels.

Cable Car

Why you should use the cable car in Dubrovnik. Information about the cable dar in Croatia and it's service information

How Long: Fast and Furious – If you intend to take day trips to Montenegro or Bosnia ( p.s. 1 day in Bosnia is not enough) then consider 5-6 days. If you are just intending to stay in Dubrovnik then 4 days in perfect.

Slow and Steady – If you tend to spend an hour or two a day people watching, or drinking a bottle of wine at dinner then you may want to add a day onto the fast and furious itinerary.

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4 Day ITINERARY

Lokrum Island is full of rocks and beautiful game of thrones artifacts this is a panoramic view of the edge of the island where the sea crashed against the rocks in Dubrovnik Croatia

Day 1. Arrive midday to see the old town lit up. Find somewhere on the Main Street for dinner before heading to your hotel. The further away from the main street, the cheaper the food – is a good general rule to go by.

Day 2. Grab a bus to Pile gate, walk around the back of the fortress and jump aboard the cable car. You can spend a good few hours exploring up here. Have breakfast in the restaurant before looking around the museum taking selfies and staring into the distance. Head back down before lunch and walk to the old town. You can spend the entire afternoon and evening here trekking in and out of the hidden alleys. Gasp at the Game of Thrones locations, walk the walls and marvel at the curious items in the museums. In the evening you can stay in the old town or head to Lapad for a quiet meander and a drink.

The Dubrovnik cable car in Croatia

Day 3. Islands are on the itinerary for today. If you want to see a few then opt for the three island tour. A less common (and less rushed idea) is to grab a boat to Lokrum island. Lokrum is a beautiful diverse island full of peacocks and rabbits. Wear your swimming costume under our clothes if you intend to swim in the mini cove on the island. Stroll around the monastery, botanical gardens and park before scrambling through the rock pools. You can also find the Iron Throne which is somewhat of a hidden gem as there is little advertisement to suggest it is even on the island! Following your visit to Lokrum head to the old town to revisit any areas you missed on the previous day.

On the Island of Lokrum sits a beautiful peacock on top of a small piece of ruins in Dubrovnik. It has a long feathered green tail sweeping from its dark blue body

Day 4. If you aren’t planning any onward travel or day trips use today to take the three island tour or a day trip to Cavtat. Enjoy the Game of Thrones Scenery, the crystal blue waters and, the historic fortress. Have an incredible time in Dubrovnik.

Bon Voyage!