Nice not for profit people who put you in touch with providers, direct with no middleman. You save money and the locals still do far better.
No financial risk as you pay when you arrive; visit local houses, cruise on a felucca, visit the sights with proper guides who know what they are talking about.
They are based in Germany, but the website is all in English. Also, you can get to Luxor on Easyjet from London, and they can pick you up if you don't fancy the train.
Could have not agreed with my friends. This was truly the most inviting experience of the Sahara desert for me. Special thank you again to Abdel and Hicham. The tour has certainly opened our eyes as well as taking the non-tourist areas, where we learned about local projects they support to help educate women and children. The camel trek and camping under the stars was fantastic as well as the food. Don't forget to bring a bottle or two of bubbly for a toast at sunset : )
My wife and I visited Cambridge last weekend. Prior to visiting, however, we came across a concierge company that offers independent concierge services. We were intent on doing the usual stuff, like punting down the River Cam and looking at the University buildings, and maybe seeing a play or two, but weren't really sure what else we could do. Anyway we ended up arranging the whole weekend via the private concierge company. Upsides - we found out about some places in Cambridge we definitely would not have done otherwise. Downside - it was a little bit more expensive than doing everything yourself. To be honest though, I didn't mind paying the extra bit, as we could call them anytime during the weekend if we had any problems etc, or just wanted some advice on extra places to go. I'd recommend it:)
You cannot visit the Distillery District without having a beer, and the Mill Street Brew Pub, which is located in the original Gooderham and Worts tankhouse, is the place to go for one or two. This open-concept brewery produces handcrafted beers and ale, offers extensive pub-style food, as well as tours and sampling. My favourites include the Original Organic Lager (with 100% certified organic ingredients) and the Coffee Porter, which is similar to a stout with notes of coffee.
Malawian Style are a fantastic tour operator that cater for all markets. They know all the hotspots from safaris to the mountains and of course magical Lake Malawi. Their scheduled tours take you around and all at the right price but you could do what we did and join a group tour for half the trip and let them plan a self drive to some more upmarket places and give you a bit more privacy away from the group.
Wow, where can I start - we have just come back from a wild seven days in the Sahara desert. The tour took us right into the desert and followed paths leading to lush palm plantations of oasis. Our host Abdel was excellent both in character and manners as well as very informed about the region. Good point is they are very much into conservation of the region and preserving their culture whilst entertaining and educating tourists about the berber and nomad life.
Would highly recommend this tour.
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My wife and I spent three-plus hours with Lawrence Owens, who led us on Context Travel's incredibly informative "Hidden London" walking tour. Lawrence's expertise is matched by his entertaining personality, all of which makes receiving the yield of his vast knowledge quite an enjoyable experience.
Rather than offering a walking 'lecture,' Lawrence engaged us in conversation about London's past and present. It felt like we were being led around 'hidden London' by a good friend who happens to be an archaeological scholar.
It comes as no surprise that Condé Nast named Context Travel co-founder Paul Bennett a 2011 Top Travel Specialist.
I participated in a Photo Safari in April during a short holiday to the States. I had been to NYC before and wanted to try something different. I thought I was just going to have someone show me where to take the pictures but instead I got real instructions on how to actually make the picture better! It was a complete surprise and a delight. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot and was able to return home with some pictures I'm proud to share too.
I'm just delighted with my experience and can't recommend it enough.
Running Copenhagen offers running sightseeing tours in Copenhagen with a local guide.
It was great as it combined exercise, sightseeing and local knowledge. We did the City Tour which cost 20 Euros on the first day we were in Copenhagen and we covered all the main sights within 1.5 hour of running. The guide took pictures of us along the way which we later received by email and could view on Facebook. She also recommended a handful of bars, restaurants and cool galleries, which meant that we spent the rest of our holiday visiting some truly cool places.
Even if you are not the next Paula Radcliffe, you can still join this tour and experience Copenhagen in a fun and active way.
The Hans Christian Andersen Statue by the Copenhagen City Hall
Bit like a tour, but with a small group of mates. When I went, there were just four of us and a guide and we were taken around the East End of London, Shoreditch and around Old St/Brick Lane down to the canal and also went backstage to see a rehearsal. It was a really good trip.
The guide was really chilled and friendly.
The CityPass is a booklet of vouchers you can buy in advance of your trip to NYC which gets you into a number of tourist hot-spots for a discounted price.
To make it worth its money, you do need to try and use most of the vouchers and I would say that you need at least four days in NYC to allow yourself enough time to do so.
The vouchers get you entry to:
The top of the Rock or the Guggenheim
Empire State Building
Statue of Liberty or Cruise around NYC.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Natural History Museum
The Museum of Modern Art
I really enjoyed all the things apart from the cruise - it was utterly tedious after the first 15 minutes. I'd strongly advise anyone to go for the Statue of Liberty option instead.
The absolute best thing about the pass was that it constantly allowed us to jump the often very long queues of people and get priority access. This was absolutely fantastic and saved us so much time.
Had a fantastic long weekend in Bordeaux recently and spent a day touring vineyards with Caroline of Bordeaux Uncorked.
It felt like the obligatory thing to do (when in Rome, etc) but the wealth of local knowledge and personal service provided by Caroline really made the whole trip for us. I don't think we would have had access to many of the vineyards on our own and having Caroline greeted everywhere by first name made us feel like we were visiting old friends, with very impressive chateaux and wine cellars!
Highlights of the trip: Chateau Figeac and it's ancient cellars. Also recommend lunch in the courtyard at L'Envers du Décor in Saint Emilion.
In Bordeaux itself, pay a visit to Max Bordeaux - a must if you love wine but restricted by budget. Here you can taste some of the most expensive wines by the (small) glass. Taste the liquid gold of Chateau Yquem for under €15? Not a problem. Thanks Bordeaux Uncorked!
We paid 1400 Baht each (£28) for the full day countryside tour. Our tour guide Piu was sweet and friendly with good English but a bit shy and we would have liked her to talk and explain more along the way without waiting for us to ask questions. We boarded the train in Bangkok after a quick look round a local market to kill time and picked up our bikes at the other end which were in need of a good service but did the job. No helmets are provided. We were never cycling for more than 20 minutes at a time with frequent stops to look at local herbs and plants, try fried bananas from a foodstall and look at a temple. There were bottles of cold water provided and refreshing chilled wet wipes. We didn’t see another tourist all day which made a nice change but we didn’t have much chance to interact with the villagers we came across and expect they are very used to seeing Westerners on bikes as the same route is used every day. We had a lovely home-cooked lunch in a Thai house but ate separately from the family. We went on a Saturday so missed out on visiting a local school which was a shame but some local kids still came up to talk to us. It is a long day but if you tot it up, 3-4 hours in total is spent waiting at the station and then on the train which does feel a bit of a waste of time. In hindsight having travelled to other parts of Thailand and Cambodia this now seems on the expensive side for a day trip bearing in mind what you get for your money but you are helping the local economy and also paying for the privilege of an experience you would be hard pushed to do independently. If you are on a city break for a few days and want to do something different and get out into rural Thailand it is ideal but if you are travelling further afield for example to Chiang Mai then you will find far more lush countryside as around Bangkok the landscape is flat and full of paddy fields.
Dearly Departed is a small company that runs a number of different tours. I recommend the Hollywood Movie Tour, in which you get to see the locations of around 50 movie scenes, from Glen or Glenda to Back to the Future. The guides know a ton about Hollywood history. It's less polished than your standard studio tour, and that's what makes it fun. We picked up a lot of trivia and interesting info.
Germany’s capital Berlin is, for me, one of the best cities on the continent. Berlin is exciting and packed full of history; the best way that I’ve found of getting the most of it is the walking tour and pub crawl run by the New Berlin Guide. The tour starts mid morning and lasts for four hours, it covers a comprehensive range of Berlin's history not just the recent world wars - although this naturally dose get a big share of the time. The tour is done almost chronologically and starts by discussing the Prussian empire and the founding of Germany, after passing through the Brandenburg gate it discusses the beginnings of the European unrest that led to World War Two at the base of the Reichstag, it moves through several key sites and finishes on museum island to discuss the falling of the wall and the origin of the term “Big Lebowski”. At the end of the tour the friendly and knowledgeable guide will inform you of the pub crawl taking place that evening and, should you want to indulge in the debauchery, they will give you a stamp which will entitle you to a reduction (the walking tour is free but the pub crawl does charge a nominal fee). The pub crawl manages to avoid a lot of the shortcomings I’ve found on other such ventures: you aren’t herded around, the organisers don’t feel it necessary to shout every instruction and you don’t have to wear a “look I’m a tourist” T-shirt (although the fact that you are a tourist is not, I shouldn’t imagine, difficult to notice). The “crawl” itself goes to very peculiar bars and doesn’t stick to the generic pubs and clubs that you’d expect. A highlight is the Beach bar – a load of shacks selling beer behind a squat house come art studio. At another bar we were told to show our stamps because they were Serbians on the door and “they don’t take any shit.” After this we jumped on a tram and headed out to a club where the night was finished and we were left to our own devices. Not for kids and not for grownups Berlin, and the New Berlin experience, is for inquisitive young people looking for a good time – I liked it so much I went back two years after my first visit to do it all again!
If you visit Berlin or Munich don’t miss the free walking tours by Sandemans New Europe. The guides are amazing, friendly and knowledgeable and they take you on a very interesting tour of the city. They cover the city’s history, sightseeing sites, anecdotes and funny stories all for a tip at the end of the tour. They also like giving you useful tips of stuff to see, what to eat and where, pubs and bars to go to and any other information you may need for your stay. Their “non-free” tours are also well worth it. Highly recommended.
West Berlin Pick-Up Point 10:30 AM & 12:30 PM- Zoologischer Garten, in front of Dunkn’ Donuts. (S/U-Bahn Zoologischer Garten)
East Berlin Start Point 11:00 AM & 1:00 PM- Brandenburg Gate, in front of Starbucks. (S/U-Bahn Brandenburger Tor)
Hauptbahnhof Pick-Up Point 10:00 AM & 12:30 PM- Meet at the Starbucks inside Hauptbahnhof beside Platform 11
Marienplatz Start Point 10:45 AM & 1:00 PM- Meet in front of the column on Marienplatz
Chefchaouen (local calls it Chaouen) is one of the prettiest towns in Morocco. It's in the Riff mountains. I only had a short time so I wanted to have a guide to show me around. I contacted Gite Talassemtane Tours and asked probably 100 questions to make sure the trip plan is perfect. Fatima from GT answered each question with care and she was just great taking care of my needs. Their speciality is rural Chaouen. Most of the westerners visit just the medina but don't make the mistake. You gotta see the rural Chauen and for it, you gotta use someone like Fatima
Hampi is just breathtaking. The ruins of this ancient city built on trade in the 1300's are sprawling and beautiful. The whole area is surrounded by natural sculptures of monolith granite boulders that are piled in impossible ways, rising out of a lush green landscape. The Monkey Temple is deemed the birthplace of Hanuman, 600 steps straight up the rock face! But well worth it and the sunset is not to be missed. I reached Hampi with LiveIndia Motorcycle Tours on a Royal Enflied Bullet. 14 days starting in Goa and swinging inland up through Karnataka and the Western Ghats in sweeping loop. There were too many amazing sights and experiences to list. The tour group was tiny, the guides Andy and Nitin, were knowledgeable, attentive and endlessly flexible. The entire experience was faultless. As a biker the Indian roads were a totally engaging experience - beautiful black top that suddenly became rubble; buses carrying hundreds lumbering towards you on your side of the road and goats on the motorway! India is a country soaked in history and has learned to absorb the ebb and flow of life's challenges with grace and humility. We stopped in many remote villages for chai and lunch. We were strangers in a strange land but were always greeted with warm curiosity and a dazzling smile. Motorcycle touring puts you right in the landscape and engages all of your senses all of the time. A perfect way to see India.
What can we say? The trip with these guys was fantastic! We did five days in the Sahara desert and it's something you must do once in your life. We spent the next four days doing some day tours: quad biking and day tours into the ourika valley. Will highly recommend the experiences!
For tailor-made trips to Morocco, I highly recommend Mountain Voyage Morocco and in particular their Marrakesh representative Rachid. From an initial enquiry, Rachid designed a wonderful trip for us including beautiful accommodation in Marrakesh, a car and driver (Amin seems to know everyone in Morocco) to take us over the Tichka Pass, staying in a Berber encampment, camel riding in the dunes, walking in the Todra Gorges and returning to Marrakesh via Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou. All this was calmly, efficiently and economically handled by Rachid despite our having to cancel our original booking because of the pre-Christmas snow in the UK -- everything was re-arranged at no additional cost, and I can't imagine getting better treatment anywhere.
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