Isla Holbox is technically a peninsula but you can only reach it by ferry following a three hour bus trip from Cancun. The roads are all made of sand and you get around by golf cart or on foot. On a trip there this past November tourists were conspicuous by their absence and we had the long beach pretty much to ourselves. The Ida y Vuelta hostel provided a good base just a block from the beach - a simple, clean cabana with bathroom cost just $20 a night. You can eat at the food stalls around the town square for next to nothing or splurge $10 on a whole grilled fish for two at Miriam's. Compared to other beach resorts and islands in the Yucatan Isla Holbox is still unspoiled - however the mosquitos can be bad in the wet season and the crowds arrive in the summer for the whale sharks.
Marken Gjestehus is an award winning hostel in the heart of Bergen (only 250 meters from the train and bus station). I have stayed there twice myself, and can definitely recommend this place. I stayed in the dorms, but they also have private rooms. In dorms you also get a locker with a key, so you can safely store luggage. Everything is very clean and nice. Great kitchen, fully equipped with everything you need. The staff are very helpful and nice. I will definitely stay here again next time I go to Bergen.
Hostel opened few months ago near from Plaza Serrano (place with a lot of bars, restaurants and clubs really great at night!) well located! nice house,rooms are clean, cool and relaxing atmosphere, great music. We even made a barbecue on the terrace.
You'll appreciate the contrast between the crazy Buenos Aires and this haven.
Nelson, a small town in the interior of British Columbia, wonderfully designed by the architect Francis Rattenbury - who also designed the parliament buildings in Victoria - will make you reassess what you think civilisation should be like. It was made unique by a huge influx of American draft-dodgers during the Vietnam War, and has been kept unspoiled by constant overshadowing courtesy of the Rockies and their ski towns. Its many intellectual inputs (Russian pacifists settled there, sponsored by none other than Tolstoy himself) and its beautiful setting, folded compactly onto the shores of lake Kootenay by the underrated Selkirk Mountains, combine the majestic Canadian wilderness with the best minds and values our species has created. To top it off, the most beautiful YHA hostel I’ve ever seen ‘The Dancing Bear’ is located right in the centre.
Most people go think that doing the last 200kms to Santiago is what the Camino is about. Don't do this! Start in France (from Paris, Vezelay, Le Puy or Arles) and do part of it this year. You need a guide and a Pilgrim Passport (from the Confraternity of St James), accommodation is cheap and so is travel, but once you’ve started you’ll want to go back and complete the journey and that is when it will begin to change your life!
If you're looking to relax and unwind after a hard day's trek along the vertical slopes round Darjeeling, then don't come here. Hasty Tasty is frenetic, hectic and loud. Packed from the minute it opens (9.30am) till it closes (around 8pm) this strictly vegetarian cafeteria delivers exactly what it promises, fast and delicious food.
Choose from the vast menu displayed above the long counter, pay (around a quid) for your meal, grab a piece of paper with a number scribbled on it, and see if you can bag a table by the window. As you wait for the waiter to call your number - and if it's a clear day - you can gaze at Kanchenjunga, India's highest mountain, the third highest peak in the world. If you've had enough of mountains (is that possible?) I recommend some simple people watching: a cavalcade of characters swiftly passes through, mainly very cold-looking domestic Indian tourists in idiosyncratic get-ups (the women in be-jewelled, kitten heeled sandals, the men in extravagant bobble hats and tight gilets).
We ate here several times, and a typical meal would include two enormous bowls of (veg) chow mein and two lassis for 120INR (around £1.50).
The kitchen is behind the counter, so you can watch all the food being prepared and cooked in front of you. It doesn't get much fresher.
Opening hours: 09:30 to 20:00
13, Nehru Road, Darjeeling
Google map: bit.ly/xbCQ9e
Once you've booked your first casa particular you enter an unofficial chain where the owners of your present casa will offer to book your next one and arrange for you to be picked up at your point of arrival. We were gently bounced from one casa to the other up and down Cuba. Of course they're taking a cut but it does make things easier for you.
Do get yourself some pesos and buy food from the stalls/windows. It's delicious (freshly made egg tortillas, oyster cocktails, flan pudding hot from the tin), ridiculously cheap and completely safe - food hygiene is fanatically enforced. Also, it's a lovely change from the endlessly repeated chicken/pork/prawns/lobster plus rice plus symbolic amount of salad combo you get in the restaurants. Hard to believe as it is, you can get very tired of lobster.
Egypt may not be known for its beer, but if you visit Egypt you may want to try a local Stella (not Artois) during the course of your stay. If you want to drink it where the locals drink, then you’ll need to find a ‘baladi’ bar (‘baladi’ roughly translating as ‘local’ in Egyptian). Some of these bars are real ‘spit and sawdust’ places, but they’ll all offer you a beer and a glimpse into drinking beyond your hotel bar. The Stella Baladi Map will help you find your way around.
* Alip is our Been there local for Cairo. Her page is here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/cairo-local-alice-allsop.jsp and you can follow her tips directly here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/alip
We arrived in the city late in the day, and no-one was more relieved than me to discover the hotel I'd booked wasn't half bad. I chose the no frills Hotel Trimoorti off Elgin Road. Its common parts were basic, resembling a cheap serviced office corridor, but the kingsize bed, crisp white sheets and modern, faultless bathroom of the 'super deluxe' room made up for no view and no hotel lounge. Speaking to the owner at the end of our stay, he explained that all the hotel's resources had been concentrated on comfortable rooms and efficient room service. At 8190 INR for three nights in a state capital, including a/c and breakfast, I'd happily recommend the hotel. (In my experience the best room in a cheap hotel beats the worst room in a top hotel any day.) The room service was fast and faultless and the food, particularly the local breakfast, excellent.
My favourite Christmas was spent in Nature's Valley on the Garden Route in South Africa – a wild and remote area tucked between the Tsitsikamma Mountains and the rolling blue Indian Ocean. In South Africa, Christmas is mainly celebrated on Christmas eve and it's a very laidback, low-key affair. I stayed in a homely, rustic backpackers called Wild Spirit, where dinner was eaten together in a log cabin overlooking the native forest below, followed by a few ice-cold Black Labels round the camp fire. On Christmas day, myself and some of the other guests hiked part of the famous Otter Trail in Tsitsikamma National Park, then drove to Jeffrey's Bay for the surf and parties. Of course, you can always add in the highest bungee in the world! It doesn't get much better than this.
This hostel felt like staying at home! It is run by Miriam, Lucas and Hector, a lovely Argentine family that treat you like you are part of their family. The hostel is charming and clean, and the staff helped book excursions and make the best of my time in Ushuaia. The breakfast is better than most hostels - including Argentine medialunas, or croissants.
Banda Island is part of the Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria, Uganda. Only 1km by 2km, it is owned by Dominic, an eccentric British Kenyan ("I was going to move to Paris but I thought fuck - why don't I buy an island instead") Dom has built stone huts for his guests, while settling for a modest castle for himself, with views of the lake and hammocks on the beach. The guest toilet is in a circular building in the middle of the rainforest, with a throne like toilet in the middle.
Like turning up at Glastonbury Festival after the crowds have gone home, to find a few stragglers left by a campfire, Banda Island is a place where people intend to stay for a few days but end up staying months. A typical day involves eating, lounging, hippo-spotting, making your way through the donated book selection, and sitting around a fire on the beach - all accompanied by Dominic's homemade banana gin in a plastic kettle.
Cape Maclear on the southern lakeshore of Lake Malawi, about a 4hr journey south of the capital Lilongwe, is a magical and mystical enclave that abounds with small secluded beaches, where most are used by local fishermen and their families to sort fish, or are used by local children as a giant paddling pool. A few are attached to backpackers lodges that become bars and clubs in the evenings where you can dance for hours to South African house music or see live performances from Malawian artists. An African beach can't get much better than sitting on white sand, under a shady tree, looking out on a sun-kissed lake, sipping a cold Kuche Kuche beer. It has an extremely chilled atmosphere you can do everything: Take trips out to do some fishing, do some watersports, have a bbq on the beach, head down to the Lake of Stars music festival (in September), or simply do nothing. I've had some amazing times and met amazing people. It is one of the most incredible places in the world, where tourists, travellers and locals mix freely and is a must-do stop-off for any traveller.
Gecko Lounge has a particularly lovely beach, and good food, accommodation etc. www.geckolounge.net/
+265 999 787 322
Google map: bit.ly/sxqZzx
Cape Mac Lodge is the higher end of the market www.capemaclodge.com/index.html
+ 265 9 621 279
P.O Box 2269 Blantyre , Malawi
Google map: bit.ly/vrZgbl
To get there fly to Lilongwe from Heathrow and then get the local minibus service down (part of the experience) followed by a ride on the back of a pick-up to Cape Maclear as the roads are too bumpy for minibuses - although of course a luxury jeep can be arranged.
Honest Ed’s is more than just a store – it’s a Toronto landmark that locals have shopped in at least once and where tourists must visit before they leave the city.
It is named after its founder, Ed Mirvish, who opened the store in 1948 and ran operations until his death in 2007. Running the length of an entire block, this building can be seen several metres away: the exterior is covered with thousands of huge red and yellow signs lit up like a theatre marquee, advertising the name of the store. There are also several slogans covering the exterior, with puns such as, “Our prices are for the birds – they’re cheap, cheap.”
The 160,000 square foot place sells all sorts of kitsch, as well as low-priced goods ranging from clothing, kitchenware, hardware, toys, furniture and appliances, grocery and pharmaceutical items.
The walls of the very modest interior are crammed with autographed photos of personalities such as Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Lauren Bacall, and many others. There are also posters and photos from old film and stage productions from theatres that Mirvish owned in Toronto and London.
Once you’re done looking and buying, the surrounding neighbourhood, called Mirvish Village, has unique boutiques, book stores, antique shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Last December I took my teenage niece to Krakow. For under £100 we had three nights in a clean, warm, twin room with our own bathroom. Even breakfast was included; it was pretty basic but who cared? We were surrounded by cheap and wonderful eateries and fun bars. Our hostel (better than hotels for meeting other young people) overlooked Rynek Główny, Europe’s largest medieval town square, with its massive underground museum (advance booking recommended) and a lovely Xmas market. Between us we bought loads of interesting presents: parents, boyfriend, grandparents, toddlers, school friends. There was some rubbishy tat, but not much, and Kay still had change from her Saturday job money. And on one day we went to Auschwitz. The tour was very informative and, of course, harrowing. It certainly put the commercial pressures of Christmas into perspective and, as Kay put it: “Made me so grateful to be born when I was, into the life I have.”
Recommended for anyone looking for a flavour of the older Boracay before it developed into a more tourist-y focused Asian resort. Situated just to the back of Station 3, Melinda's is a selection of authentic Filipino nipa cottages set in a delightful tropical garden. Each cottage has its own verandah and hammock where you can relax after a hard day sipping the San Miguel beers on the famous White Beach. Run by the very hospitable German, Horst - one of the original Boracay adventurers of the 1980s - this is an ideal spot to find a little peace in an increasingly busy tourist environment. Very reasonable prices, too.
This was the best value hotel we found for our recent stay in Lyon. Rooms were small but the rooms were clean.
Seems to be part of a budget chain in France though we paid £50 per night via a well known hotel booking website which was the cheapest we found and yet not what we would automatically call 'cheap'.
Excellent strength free Wi-FI.
Location was fairly central - the only 'issue' was that while it is situated on the south of Presqu'ile (central area) it could be quite confusing getting to the north of Presqu'ile due to the mass of motorways and train lines crossing the Presqu'ile forming an almost impenetrable Berlin Wall. The easiest way was to go through the Perrache train station which may not appeal to all, especially at night.
24, quai Perrache, 69002 Lyon
+33 4 78 37 16 64
Google map: bit.ly/nyroGg
London Road is home to probably the most diverse range of eateries in the city. Along it you will find pretty much everything from Chinese to Indian to Thai to Italian to Vietnamese to Japanese and to Turkish and a few more I'm sure. Take a wander up and choose one that takes your fancy. Zeugma (Turkish) and Royal Orchid (Thai) are my two favourites at present. Prices are generally budget friendly. Afterward, drop in to The Cremorne pub for a nightcap.
London Road, from the city centre to Woodhead Road. Bookended by Baan Thai at the bottom and Wasabisabi at the top.
185 London Road, Sheffield S2 4LH
+44(0)114 250 9974
Google map: bit.ly/p88rhq
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