Hackneyed though it may be, the hop on/hop off tourist bus in Havana makes a lot of sense. First off, in a city where transport is pricey for tourists, these CUC$5 are well spent if only as a means of getting around. Secondly, while you won’t be using the bus to explore the crumbling splendour of Havana Vieja’s side streets, you will hit other more distant spots like the Plaza de la Revolucion, with its somewhat scary murals of Che and Camilo Cienfuegos, and the artisan market. But nicest of all, in a city where much of the life (and best photos) happen one floor up on the bustling, colourful balconies, the open-top bus gives you some of the best views in town.
From the Hotel Inglaterra in the Parque Central, and various other points around the city.
Google map: bit.ly/e5glFN
It's a Hotel with spectacular panoramic views over the Kathmandu Valley. I'm recommending it for the views of the sunrise over the Himalayas and Everest. We travelled there during the start of October and it was spectacular. It has a good vibe and if busy is really good fun. If they offer it, take the 5.30am trip to the viewing point on top of the mountain, it's worth it.
Mahankal Temple, Nagarkot, Nepal
Google map: bit.ly/h5z9Tm
0977 - 1- 6680011 (mobile inside Nepal: 016680011)
0977 - 1- 6680109 (mobile inside Nepal: 016680109)
This is a really cool restaurant in Hamburg that's really worth visiting just to see how the food is delivered to your table - it only opened a few months ago and is a good reason to venture over to the other side of the river. You have to order your food through a touchscreen at your table and then all your food is delivered to you spiralled rails, on a small tray with wheels! The food is good and there is plenty of it. We ordered tons of food because the portions looked so small in the pictures when we were ordering but don't be fooled by them.
Taipei Uncovered is a mobile travel guide to Taipei. I am the author of the guide, and it was created in conjunction with Sutro Media.
Inside the guide you will find over 200 entries listing the best places to visit, eat and drink in and around the city.
It's only a tiny place near the Thistle Barbican among a row of small shops.
Me and a few friends used to come here on a Friday night after a few of pints in the white lion round the corner.
The staff don't know too much English but it's a pleasure watching them cooking the food on the gas rings in the back.
The food is always good with a wide selection.
For a takeaway its one of the best.
105-107 Lever St, City of London, EC1V 3RQ
+44(0)20 7490 8225
Google map: bit.ly/dKNhE8
This is one of the most beautiful national parks in the Caribbean, with coastal forests running down to untouched white beaches and a warm sea. Ok, so the travel there is not the 'budget' part, but all of the rest is! Fly to Santa Marta via Bogota, then get a cheap local bus (or taxi, for a bit more) to the main gates of Parque Tayrona at El Zaino. Walk, thumb a lift, or wait for a local bus from the entrance to the sea. Once there, you will need to be prepared to walk for 45 minutes along the most wonderful forest and coastal path, where you can hear howler monkeys, see bright blue morpho butterflies fluttering in the rays of sunlight, maybe even encounter an agouti. As you emerge on the beach at San Juan del Cabo, you will find a simple beach restaurant and some huts with hammocks for a pound a night, and toilet blocks too. You can also hire tents and lockers to lock up your valuables. You can spend days and days here, lying on the beach, snorkelling, hiking into the forest to visit indigenous communities, watching the formation squadrons of pelicans fly past, talking to the fishermen who will cook a delicious fish and potato soup on the beach and perhaps offer you a bowl, and, most importantly, walking along the beach in the morning to the local bakery serving cheese and chocolate bread, which has to be tried to be believed. Stand on the beach with your back to the sea, and you can look up into the Sierra de Santa Marta mountains, and see the snow-topped peaks.
Fly into Santa Marta with Avianca, the Colombian national airline, from Bogota www.avianca.com
Google map: bit.ly/hwnqHm
Catch a bus/taxi from Santa Marta to the Park's main entrance.
This beautiful urban 'casa' is situated right in the heart of Santa Clara - serious Che country - which is right in the heart of Cuba. Carlos and his family will look after you superbly and he enjoys speaking English. A little over 20 CuCs will buy you a fabulous room and great facilities and food. You're within easy, cheap and fast coach travel to both north and south coast beaches.
A hidden gem of an island in the Caribbean, in a place you were least expecting it: Nicaragua.
If you're looking for an island paradise but don't have a huge budget or want to get away from the crowds, Little Corn is your answer. The island has no cars, no chain hotels, no swimming pools - all transport is by foot (or helped by a wheelbarrow), accommodation consists of eco-lodges ($20-50) and beach side cabanas ($15-50), and there's plenty of room on the beach as well.
The island has been saved from mass tourism due to its small size and limited fresh water resources, which restrains the number of hotels you can build on the island. The island's character is also shaped by the complete absence of night clubs (and the crowds that flock there), but the flipside is a uniquely relaxed and peaceful atmosphere - you'll feel like you're on another planet.
The island is a haven for divers and snorkellers in particular, with over twenty dive sites within 15mins by boat and two dive shops with three to four dives every day. The diving is also among the most affordable in the Caribbean with 'fun dives' costing $35 (and multiple dive discounts available).
You'll need a flash light to walk home at night, as there are few street lights as you walk home through the jungle (don't worry - the creature you're most likely come across there is a hermit crab!), but when you get there, the night sky seems limitless because of the lack of artificial light on the island.
To get there, fly to Managua and catch either the morning or afternoon flight with La Costena, the Nicaraguan airline, to Big Corn Island (flight prices are fixed - return costs $164), and catch a 45min water taxi ride from the municipal port to Little Corn ($6). It may sound complicated, but once you arrive on Little Corn, you won't want to leave.
Information on the islands: www.bigcornisland.com/
Wikipedia page for Little Corn Island:
Little Corn Beach & Bungalow:
Nice accommodation in one of the fisherman villages, St Luce, in the south of Martinique. It is 15 minutes from the beach, has a swimming pool, air conditioning and a wonderful view of the sea and the island St Lucia.
+596 (596) 50 78 40
38 bis Acajou lot. Les Horizons 97232 Lamentin
Its totally free you just have to register. You can search through listings of people heading up to the hill and find a cheap lift. Alternatively you can post when you are driving up there and get other people to share the petrol costs.
The deserts of Egypt are on the doorstep of Europe. Egypt is just a five hour flight from London and you can do it on the cheap with budget airlines from most regional airports. The Sinai is the best known desert in Egypt and it's getting much more popular. Mount Sinai is the 'feather in the cap' for most tourists, travellers and trekkers, but it's not the best peak going - not by a long shot. Give the jaded sunrise itinerary a miss and head for Jebel Banet, near St. Katherine's. Jebel Banet means 'Mountain of the Girls' and it is said that two Bedouin sisters tied their hair together here and threw themselves off the sheer north face. They were distraught at their father refusing to let them marry the men they loved. The peak itself stands on the perimeter of the High Mountain Region: you can look right out to the Wilderness of the Wanderings from here, where the Israelites are said to have spent forty aimless years (the modern day Et Tih Plateau). From Jebel Banet you can go down past the dripping waterfall of Sida Nugra to the El Karm Ecolodge in Wadi Gharba. This uses solar power to heat the showers, and it uses candles for night lights. The furniture is all made from oversized blocks of stone and wood that make it look like a slightly bizarre insertion of Flintstone graphics into real life. It's well worth staying the night and you can pitch a tent for LE15. Rooms are LE65. The next day I'd recommend you hire a camel to get back to St. Katherine's. Go via Naqb el Hawa or 'Pass of the Winds': this is the old pilgrim route to the Monastery of St. Katherine, and it's the time honoured way to approach it. You have to experience the long, loping stride of the camel and it's far better here than at the pyramids. This is camel trekking at its best. You need a guide to go trekking in St. Katherine's as part of tribal law and they're super easy to find. My tip is to go to the Desert Fox Camp - it's owner is a Bedouin man called Faraj and the guides he employs have the edge over ones elsewhere.
After Sinai I discovered the other deserts of Egypt. Everyone knows about Siwa and Bahariya in the Western Desert and it's a wonderful place to go: 100% recommended. But all the same it's old news and the real buzz frontier at the moment is the Gilf Kebir National Park. This is way down in the vast, empty south west of Egypt. You'll find a Great Sand Sea and the world's biggest meteor crater here. You'll also find an abundance of cave paintings from the neolithic era. These are one of the earliest sources anywhere in the world for the human experience in the desert. They're one of Africa's great cultural treasures. They depict trees, water and large animals, quite at odds with the surrounding environment. They gave rise to a myth of a lost oasis amongst locals, known as Zarzara: lush trees, waterfalls and birds of paradise were believed to be here, and many went looking. You can still see the whitewashed skeletons of people and camels who died in the hunt. Another thing to check out is Jebel Uweinat, a free-standing sandstone massif on the borders of Egypt, Sudan and Libya. This is topped by smooth, rounded peaks and it's dissected by deep, winding wadis. A 360 degree horizon opens up from the high points, with the silence unlike anywhere in the world: it's easy to feel something of the transcendental here. Coming to the Gilf isn't easy: this is real trailblazing adventure travel at the mo. You need permits to get here, and there's a mountain of bureaucracy to climb. But you won't have to have anything to do with it, fixers will sort it for you. If you're in Egypt get to Bahariya - you can get here by public bus in four hours from the Turgoman bus terminal in downtown Cairo (finding this needs a new post tip in itself!). In Bahariya you'll find people who know people. It can be pricey, up to $100-150/ day all inc. Before you go make absolutely sure your jeep is a good, modern one with no deficiencies. Gilf Kebir isn't the sort of place the AA visit. Also make sure you have enough supplies, mostly water. GPS is essential too and your guide MUST know how to work it. You'll have a police guard ride in the front of the jeep when you go: this is necessary as there have been reports of robberies from Sudanese groups in the area. If you're abroad you can try organising a safari through the following companies: www.zarzura.com/ or email Badawiya Safari at email@example.com. You can also try www.geographic-adventures.com and make sure you get this small pocket guide by Alberto Siliotti: //www.amazon.co.uk/Gilf-Kebir-National-Park-Pocket/dp/8887177848liotti:
Finally, there is Egypt's Red Sea Coast. At the moment, most folks go for Hurghada and other big resort towns, but the real thing to see is the Red Sea Mountains. This is a slice of Sinai from Sinai. The rock here is identical to the Sinai; both areas were part of the same crust until the Red Sea split them. You'll notice the same smooth domed red granite peaks and fertile green wadis. The area was explored briefly by the Royal Geographical Society explorer GW Murray in the 19th century but since then it's remained essentially untouched. This could be trekking heaven in the future and there are a number of peaks well worth a try: Jebel Gharib, Jebel Qattar and Jebel Shayib are amongst the best and their summits offer views across to the Sinai's main peaks, including Mount Katherina, Jebel Thebt and Jebel Sabbagh. You can even see the Hejaz of Saudi Arabia on a clear day (at night you'll see the Saudi coast in any weather, as the lights twinkle through the darkness). Aside from the scenery, you'll find giant leopard traps big enough to sleep in and isolated old hermit cells used by early Christians fleeing the persecutions. You'll find mysterious writing on the rocks and old tombs dotted on high west facing slopes. Bedouin tribes here include the Ma'aza, the Rashayed and the Ababda. All over the Middle East traditional Bedouin knowledge is being lost as it becomes less relevant to modern life, but here it is very much a survival necessity. They have no option but to maintain it. You'll see Bedouin hunting gazelles on the plains and digging down into the sand for water and of course you'll get the legendary hospitality for three and a third days in the remote areas. Culture here is much like it was hundreds of years ago. The downside of the Red Sea Mountains is access, and the police oscillate between saying you can have a permit and saying you can't go at all. It really depends on when you're there and how the situation is. Rely on unreliability. Check the situation out before you go with Hany Amr at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ahmed Musa at email@example.com. If you do manage to get into the mountains, they'll be able to help you sort guides too. Of course, you have the option of flaunting local law entirely and finding Bedouin who will take you into the desert hush hush, cloak and dagger: just remember you're taking a risk, for you and the Bedouin (and his tribe - the Egyptian police can be disproportionate when they want to be, especially to the Bedouin). For now, it's probably best to stick to other areas until the permit situation eases up, but just check if you're there. You might get lucky and the desert jewels here are fit to shine the finest crown of them all.
As a final few words I'd just say if you're going to the deserts of Egypt, do it in the transition from spring to summer. Summer is a bad time: you'll often be in the sun, so it won't be 'shade hot' it'll be serious blistering heat that'll feel over 50 degrees. Winter is cold - especially in Sinai and the Red Sea Mountains. Autumn can be lovely and it's the safest bet. Early spring is when the Khamaseen winds blow half of North Africa up into the sky: 'sandstorm season'. Around May is when the desert bloom comes out and a beautiful floral carpet spreads out over the sands. Hopefully, hopefully the Khamaseen will have died down. If so, it'll be perfect!
Some people I know recommend a pair of goggles if you're going in sandstorm season. In terms of equipment, the only thing I'd recommend 100% is a keffeyeh (the traditional Bedouin headscarf). You can use this for all manner of things - from a bivvy, to an arm sling and you can pull it over your head in a sandstorm.
Hope you enjoy the deserts as much as I did - good luck!
For the Sinai: www.desertfoxcamp.com/
For Gilf Kebir: www.zarzura.com/ and Badawiya Safari at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.geographic-adventures.com
For The Red Sea Mountains: Hany Amr at email@example.com and Ahmed Musa at firstname.lastname@example.org
This hostel in London is amazing. Beautifully surrounded by gardens and outside space which you don't usually get with hostels especially in central London. It's spacious, clean and the staff are so helpful and friendly. I stay there again and again.
Cafe Jospehine is a very restful bar-cum-restaurant next to the water and only 15 mins by metro from the city centre. It is full of books and has one room that is decked out like a library. Very ornate and luxurious, yet less expensive than most bars in the city centre, good bar staff who serve coffee the traditional Dutch way with a glass of water with ice and a shot of rum with cream. My local in Rotterdam and former favourite student haunt
Oostplein, metro Oostplein.
Google map: bit.ly/aNGSCl
Before you start shopping check whether the supermarket operates a savings card. If it does, sign up by completing a short form and when you have completed your shop the checkout assistant will swipe the card and you will get cash discount on some items. We saved on lots of items including fresh food and wine.
We used these cards at Vons, Safeways, Albertsons and Cala Foods/Bell Markets
Fantastic ski lodge in the secluded, picturesque village of Annupuri. Two hours from Sapporo airport by local bus and 20 minutes by free shuttle from the larger resort of Niseko, Annuprui Lodge offers home cooked meals, log fires and modern, comfortable double and bunk rooms. All facilities are shared but kept spakling by the in-lodge host and hostess. Walk to the piste or try the local onsen if the powder is too deep to ski. From Y5500 per night (GBP42)
482-2 Aza Niseko, Niseko
Abutagun, Hokkaido 048-1511
from abroad: 81-90-1851-6663
Most British people don’t live in London so it’s easy to forget what a great place it is for a City Break. No one wants to be in a stuffy city in the summer, so London is ideal for a winter break: Nov/Dec have the added bonus of Christmas lights and outdoor ice rinks (I’d recommend Somerset House, but book early) and if we are lucky enough to get bright, crisp, sunny days early in the year its perfect weather for a stroll down the South Bank or a clear view from the London Eye, without the summer haze. If it rains then take advantage of the FREE museums – we have some of the greatest art, history and science museums in the world. Then there is the theatre and musicals too –check out cheap tickets online before you go. My personal favourite is Borough Market; a fascinating and atmospheric spot for lunch.
Best of all it’s a cheap and eco friendly destination – no flights and if you plan ahead you can get a decent price on the bus or train. And most of us have a friend or family member who lives in our capital – call them up and bunk down on the sofa for a night. Or if you can’t think of anyone try the newly updated St Pancreas YHA; dorm beds are about £25 a night – get a group together and plan the trip.
In the heart of the trendy neighbourhood of El Born just minutes away from the chaos of Las Ramblas you will find this gem of a pizzeria run by a group of young friendly Argentinians.
The offering consists of a wide variety of delicious crusty deep base pizza by the slice made with quality ingredients. I recommend the pineapple and bacon and anchovy and tomato. They also have savoury tarts and empanadas. Each item costs a very reasonable €1.80.
If you feel like something sweet they have a range of typical Argentinian desserts that are worth a try.
The place is quite small, catering mainly to the locals and is usually always packed- a good thing since pizza is always fresh.
If the weather is obliging you can get take away and have it on one of stone benches outside.
The Camino Real to Guane is an ancient paved track leading down the precipitous slope to the east of Barichara, and though fields and woods all the way to the colonial village of Guane. It's nine kilometres of good walking, and in Guane you can get a huge meal for about five quid (at the restaurant in the road leading up on the left hand side of the church), wander around the village, and try chicha (alcoholic Horlicks) and sabajon (a milk-and-liquor mix). It's not a challenging trek, it's just a great day's walking.
Google map: bit.ly/90aLal
This is a great deal if you want to see a fair number of museums and places of interest in your stay. 24 of them are free with the card and others are discounted. That's a fee boat trip, free Belfry and Dali Exhibition, free Brewery Tour (de Halve Maan), and so many free museums from the Memling (fantastic medieval hospital to the Groeninge (all flemish art) to the Choco-Story and the Friet(chips) museum. Every major museum is included so you can dip in without taking any risks. There are discounts off cycling, ballooning, buses and much more. It costs €33 for 48 hrs and €39 for 72 hrs.
We just enjoyed ourselves walking the canals, eating and drinking and seeing whatever we fancied - and somehow we saved €30 each on two days of entertainment, without really trying. The Belfy & Dali exhibition are €18 together to start with - so you can see how the savings add up quickly.
You may be given a card if you're in a grand hotel but the rest of us end up buying one - and it's great value!
You get a visitors' guide with it too.
Buy the card at the Concertgbouw Information Centre (on T-Zand) and at the Station Information Office. Details on www.bruggecitycard.be
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com