A gentle bike ride around Amsterdam that takes you all around the city and then down the Amstel into the countryside (where you can add a windmill and cheese farm/clog factory to your sightseeing list).
Our guide, the irrepressible and engaging Egg, was incredibly learned on the city's history and liberal sex and drugs laws. All of which he assured us he'd researched in depth purely for our benefit. An excellent introduction to the city that makes you understand what Amsterdam is all about. Oh, and there's a free beer token in it too ... what more could you possibly want?
I’m not very fond of bus tours filled with tourists and less-than-interesting tourguides, but in Miami I went on a tour which had my kind of guide.
Started up in Boston and now one of the most popular tours in Miami: the Duck Tour. It owes its name to the fact that it can drive as well as sail, so that you can see and hear Miami from every possible angle. The guide shows you around Miami and talks about its citizens and history, which is nice, but the best part is when the Duck hits the water.
While on the water you sail along Miami’s little islands, which are packed with multi-million dollar mansions. It was great to look into the garden of Shaquille O’Neal, to spy on Diddy in his ‘dump’ and to see all the other residences of Florida’s richest inhabitants.
Back on the streets the Duck takes you to the Port of Miami, past Ocean Drive and the home of the late Gianni Versace. The whole tour is really educational, especially for the Hello readers amongst us.
One minor drawback of the Duck Tour is that they take their name too serious. The quacking the passengers have to perform during the one and a half hour ride is most embarrassing.
Miami Duck Tour, 1665 Washington Avenue, South Beach, tel: 786 276 8300;
These hop-on, hop-off tours are a fantastic way to start your sightseeing. Running out of Times Square, Gray Line do tours of Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn and a night tour. You can buy tickets from the many sellers in Times Square and your best buy is the All Tour pass, which is valid for two days for all the tours at about $46.
Each bus is open top and comes with a tour guide, who is usually true New Yorker and has plenty of information on the places you pass through, as well as plenty of recommendations for restaurants, shops, cafes etc.
The night tour is not to be missed as you go across to Brooklyn shore and get a beautiful view of Lower Manhattan. Be warned that it gets very chilly sitting up top at night, no matter how hot it has been during the day, so take a sweater.
The buses stop at all the major points of interest and run from 8am until 6pm, with the night tour starting around the same time until about 9pm.
Main point:Times Square or any stop
Walking tours around Rome. More expensive than other tours, but the tour guides are reputedly experts in their fields and group sizes are small. Our tour of ancient Rome (forum, Palatine etc) was excellent - just 3 of us plus the guide, who really seemed to know his stuff. Would definitely go on another tour with them if I go to Rome again.
I am travelling around the world for a year and my first stop was Rio. I excitedly got chatting to some of my fellow travellers who challenged my misconceptions concerning the favela tour. A favela is like a shanty town on a mountain side, where the poorest people live, and I thought a tour meant staring at the streets from a tour bus, showcasing the locals in a horrible, vicarious way. My new friends informed me that it was actually a walking tour given by a local, and that the money we paid was used for improving the school and day centre.
The favela, Rocinha, had the welcoming atmosphere of real and honest people; innocent lives plagued with the volatility of the drug world. It was hard to believe that we were walking through streets that only four days earlier saw the killing of the top drug lord by police. In the three days to follow a further five people were killed as they fought over the prestigious position and the power it provided. The tours stopped during this time and this emphasised the danger and uncertainty with which these people lived.
Our guide, Luis, took us to the day centre where our money was to be used. Before Luis set up the organisation (www.bealocal.com), children went unfed for days and were forced to beg, three years later they are off the streets, given three meals a day and are taught various arts and crafts; they then sell their wares instead of begging.
Looking round Rocinha, I now feel I understand the people of Rio on a much deeper level; with a strong, unyielding community spirit, they share the difficult times and, slowly but surely, set out to improve their situation. The tour manages to obtain the perfect balance, between educating and spreading awareness and providing genuine benefit where it is needed most.
A definite must-do when visiting Rio, it will enlighten your life and provide a unique insight into a fascinating place.
Visit www.bealocal.com and book online, they will pick you up from your hostel/hotel and drop you off afterwards.
Get a Zone 2 Travelcard rather than Zone 1. Then go to Westminster Pier and take a boat to Greenwich (£6.80 single). There is a very informed commentary on all the sites you pass. When you get to Greenwich you can visit the Cutty Sark, market and Maritime museum, then use the Docklands Railway to get back and see all the modern sights of the East End.
Along with the road along the Amalfi coast and the highway from LA to San Francisco, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is one of the world's best coastal drives.
Starting at Torquay (SW of Melbourne) it travels nearly all the way to the Sth Australian border. Driving along it, you discover the breath-taking coastline of south-west Victoria by travelling on one of the world's most scenic roads through an extended area that includes the world-famous Twelve Apostles, the Otways rainforest, Bells Beach, and the Surf Coast.
The road goes thru Lorne and Apollo Bay, the coastal cities of Warrnambool and Portland, and through the historic villages of Port Campbell and Port Fairy. The road itself was built by returned WW1 diggers and a memorial dedicates the road to these soldiers
It starts at Torquay..an hours drive SW of Melbourne
Melbourne is one of the few cities left in the world with its original tram network and we are lucky to have some of the original tram cars (modernized for safety and comfort) turned into high-class travelling restaurants. These dark burgundy coloured trams can be seen negotiating the roads of Melbourne at lunch times and dinner times daily.
They present a very high level of dining with the only restriction being the number of choices for each course (the kitchen and the cooking facilities on board are restricted in size obviously).
You travel behind tinted glass sightseeing Melbourne whilst enjoying your meal with a glass of wine. A booking is essential.
The trams leave and return to the terminus in South Melbourne opp. the western end of the Crown Casino, cnr Clarendon and Normandy Sts Southbank
Lasted three hours, costs about the same as the Statue of Liberty trip. We had the same views of the statue plus toured the rest of Manhattan. No x-ray/search as per Statue of Liberty and Empire State so much more enjoyable and relaxed.
It leaves from pier 83, which is right next to the air and space display and concorde so all in all great value plus you don't get the disappointment of finding out after the security etc to get to the Statue of Liberty that you can now only go up the base not the actual statue.
IF you are in Tokyo and it is a bright sunny day ... ditch your plans and get an ODAKYU line Hakone Free Pass from Shinjuku Station (Cost 3,400-5,000 Yen depending on day of travel and duration of pass). This will pay for your train to Odawara then train a beautiful zig-zag ride through gorgeous mountains and trees up to Gora, where you get on the cable car (known as a ropeway in Japan) ... see the sulphur springs and the gorgeous view of Mt Fuji, which appears from out of nowhere in awesome symmetrical beauty...
Go down to Lake Ashino and either take a bus to your choice of four ONSEN areas or back to Odawara and Tokyo OR take a tacky Pirate ship across the lake. If Fuji-san is in view ... it may be worth the Pirate ship experience for the views.
For the truly luxury oriented, stay at a traditional Ryokan for a night to enjoy the ONSEN and JAPANESE FOOD experience. It will cost around 15,000 yen each ... but it is truly worth it. Remember the Free pass will pay for everything including the cable car, funicular and buses. It is really good value for money. Family passes are also available.
IF you have time, get of at the stop BEFORE GORA and visit the Hakone Outdoor Sculture Museum.
ODAKYU HAKONE FREE PASS from SHINJUKU ST, TOKYO OR ODAWARA ST. (SHINKANSES runs to ODAWARA for JR PASS holders)
MAPS are available from there.
1. English speaking Ryokan
Senkei Ryokan and Hotel HAKONE YUOMOTO
PLEASE REMEMBER TO TIP YOUR MAID IN THE RYOKAN....WE DIDNT REALISE...VERY EMBARRASSING.
2. CHEAPER Minshiku, especially for foriegners with private outside and inside onsen for family or couple use.
FUJI HAKONE GUEST HOUSE, SENGOKUHARA
If passing through Singapore's Changi Airport and you have five hours or more between flights, you can have a FREE tour of Singapore. Just look for the Free Tour Desks and sign up. They take you on a quick coach tour into the centre - you get a short trip on a "bum boat" as well - and bring you back to the departures lounge. Its easy to do and its free!
Singapore Changi Airport
You don’t have to agree with killing a bull to take a tour of the ring, its baroque façade and its underbelly. Beneath the stands you will be shown the operating theatre for unlucky matadors and the museum of fighting treasures – suits and statues of the famous.
Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza; Paseo de Colón, 2; www.realmaestranza.com/
The best (and cheapest) way to get to know the centre of the city is to take the #1 or #2 tram around the Ring, the main road around the centre. This route takes you past all the main sights and attractions for a fraction of the price of a fiaker, and is an excellent way to get your bearings before exploring!
These guys are township specialists and one of the first to show the "other" side of Cape Town. They'll take you into New Rest and show you a really personal tour. This is highly recommended and a real eye opener.
Cape Town is cosmpolitan and sophisticated, however the drive from the airport will remind you that there is another very different side to the city. Township tours give you a glimpse of the townships which is both humbling and inspiring, a world away from the smart tourism of central Cape Town, but the everyday experience of millions of black South Africans. The tours provide a historic background, and opportunities to see and support community projects.
There are several companies that will take groups on township tours, as it is not advisable to visit them without a guide. The Tourist Information Office in town has information on most of them.
Trabi Safari is a 90-minute guided tour around Berlin in one of the iconic former DDR cars. The highlight of this tour is that you are the driver. A great and fun way for you and three friends to see the city and engage with a piece of Berlin history.
The Palast der Republik's ugly copper shell is a familiar site to anyone who has been to this part of Berlin. A former parliament building for the GDR, it was built by Erich Honicker to show off the wonders of socialism to international visitors. Since 1990 it's been closed because of problems caused by (British-supplied) asbestos. This has now been stripped out - along with much of the interior in preparation for redevelopment, and the building is now safe for visitors.
Tours are conducted, in German only. They run hourly on weekend afternoons during September and October, ahead of the building's demolition next year.
Tours advertised on the fence of the Palast on Unter den Linden. Nearest station Alexanderplatz.
On Location Tours specialise in guided tours to locations around New York and New Jersey which have been used in film and TV shows. I recently did the Sopranos and Sex and the City tours. If you're a fan of either show I would highly recommend them. The Sex and the City Tour is particularly good for finding out about good bars and restaurants in the city.
I thought long and hard about going on the tour of Rocinha, Rio's largest favela or shanty town. The voyeristic and danger sides to it did not appeal but after speaking with others that had been on the tour I was ready to see the unique kind of city dwelling made famous in the movie 'City of God'. The tour started on the back of a motorbike, racing up one of the only streets in a huge favela, where house upon house is built, up the jungle-covered mountain. At the top we slowly walked down through the tiny passageways, stopping to visit an artists' studio, a kids' day-care centre and some friendly locals who were learning about the politics and laws of living in a place where police and rubbish-disposal removers rarely enter.
The favela was far from scary and we realized that it is truely a city within a city, home to some 300,000 of Rio's citizens most of whom are not teenage drug gangs, although we did see some members armed with gold-plated guns which was a little too close for comfort. Overall the tour company was highly sensitive and respectful to the residents' privacy. It operated what could potentially be a dangerous and non-PC tour in such a way as to show the real side to daily life in the favela, complete with internet cafes and supermarkets. The company, 'Be a Local', also takes tourists to Rio's amazing Baile Funk parties - like their own home grown grime scene but with more smiles and bass.
Rocinha Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro. Recommended tour company: www.bealocal.com phone: +55.21.9643-0366
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