Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Exploring Italy’s Beautiful Cinque Terre

If you’re looking for beautiful scenery then the world is packed with opportunities, however one such destination you might not be aware of, which is certainly more beautiful than it is given its already great credit for, is Cinque Terre. This is one of Italy’s most quaint, traditional, and beautiful destinations, and if you’re into walking, you have double the bonus.

Cinque Terre means Five Lands, and that is because there are five beautiful coastal villages which make up the region – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Because of their natural beauty they are on the UNESCO World Heritage List to protect them, which tells you a lot about their picturesque qualities, and olde-worlde charm.

Let’s look at each one in turn.

Riomaggiore

The most southern of the villages in the region is quaint and beautiful, which is a term you’re going to be hearing a lot! Full of fishing boats heading out at night in order to catch their fresh fare, such as anchovies, and an ancient stone castello, which makes up one of the monuments in the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. You can sit and watch the world go by with a delicious Italian coffee on Via Colombo too.

Manarola

Quaint, again! You’ll find fresh produce in abundance here, with fishing boats again heading out for the daily catch. Swimming is good here, and you can jump from the small pier and explore the caves along the coastline and the underwater rocks.

Corniglia

More swimming opportunities await you in Corniglia, as you arrive along a road filled with fragrant lemon trees, and lilies. This particular village feels smaller than the rest, but that’s part of the charm. To get to the town you need to either get the bus, if you’re feeling less than active, or climb the 365 steps from the train station to the top of the hill; if you do that however, the view is amazing.

Vernazza

You can walk to Vernazza from Coriglia along a dirt path which starts off in an olive grove and then leads along the coastal path; this isn’t particularly strenuous, but do watch out for steep parts. The town itself is deceivingly quiet during the day, full of winding streets, however the night life is certainly bright and varied.

Monterosso

Monterosso is actually split into two by a road tunnel, and one side is old, the other is modern. This is probably the most touristic of all the towns or villages within Cinque Terre, and offers the best of both worlds.

In order to reach this picturesque part of Italy you can either fly to Pisa or Genoa, or you can get the train from Milan to Genoa, and swap to the local line from there. Once you’re in the region, getting around is easy via the trains which link all areas, but the most popular way to see the area is to get your walking shoes on. Now, it’s worth mentioning that the risk of landslides does occasionally close some of the trails around Cinque Terre, so do check ahead of time regarding availability. If you do head to the walking coastal paths then you will need to buy a pass, which at the time of writing is 5 euros, and you buy this at the tourist information offices in each village/town.

The main attraction of Cinque Terre is without a doubt the breath-taking scenery, and if you get the chance to explore this beautiful region of Italy, jump at it.

Photo Credit: Pank Seelen

How to Manage Your Money When You Travel

Whether you pack a huge suitcase, or you take a small carry-on bag and be ruthless with your travel items, one thing you have to take regardless of your luggage status, is money.

Now, managing your money during your travels can be split into two categories – firstly, how to keep it safe, and secondly, how to actually make it last for the duration of your travels.

Saving up before you go is always the best bet for making your money stretch, but if you can work on the go too, that’s always to be recommended. You can do this through a variety of different ways, be it working freelance over the internet, being a digital nomad as it were, or picking up bar or waiting-on work in whatever destination you’re in. Of course, when you choose to work in a foreign country, you should always do a little research into employment laws, i.e. whether you’re legally able to actually work there, but that is all down to the destination you’re heading to.

Keeping your cash safe

Many people swear by money belts, but they are a little old news these days, and it’s never advisable to carry all your worldly cash on you at any one time. Instead, you need to look at other ways to keep your cash around you, but safe.

Speak to your bank about the cost of taking money out of ATM machines overseas and see if the cost isn’t too high; if not, using your debit card is a good way to keep your cash safe. Alternatively, you can buy pre-paid top up currency cards at most travel agents on the high street these days, which has basically taken over the mantle from the travellers cheques of old.

Budgeting

Now, making your money last for the duration of your travels is perhaps the hardest thing, but there are a few ways you can do that. Firstly, if you are working on the go, give yourself a wage on one particular day of the week or month, and make sure you make that last you until you pay yourself again.

If you’re not working, look at how much cash you have and split it between the weeks or months you’re away. Some people swear by the envelope trick – that is splitting your cash between envelopes for each day and not going over what is in that envelope; if you have anything left at the end of the day, it rolls over for the next day. Easy!

Do some research before you go into the cost of eating and drinking out in the destination you’re heading to, so you’re not in for any nasty surprises, and try and eat away from the tourist streets if you can, as you will always find costs lower if you go where the locals go, not to mention a more authentic experience. On top of this, if you’re staying in an apartment or somewhere with cooking facilities, eat in a few nights, to cut costs as much as possible, and take a water bottle out with you during the day and keep topping it up at water points, if there are any available.

Budgeting your money for your travels is about being savvy and careful. Split your cash into pots, i.e. going out money, eating money, special event money, travel cost money, and don’t dib into the pots for other things. If you can successfully budget and manage your travel cash, you will stay away for longer, and experience more as a result.

Photo Credit: Pictures of Money

Five of the Best Dive Spots in Asia

Under the sea!

What lies beneath the surface of the ocean is often even more spectacular than what sits on dry land, and getting underneath and exploring is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have. Of course, where you go all depends on your level of experience and expertise, but generally you will find dive spots for beginners, intermediates, and advanced divers at most destinations.

If you are an advanced diver, and you want to get out and explore some of the most diverse and breath-taking dive spots the world has to offer, then Asia is certainly up there with some of the best in the world. Not simply full of marine-life, but also jam-packed with the weird and wonderful, there are far too many top class dive sites in this region of the world to list. If you’re curious about where to go however, here are five you might like to check out.

Similan & Surin Islands – Thailand

With over 50 dive sites in the region, this archipelago sure has plenty to pack in. One of the main perks here is that visibility is renowned as being excellent, offering up to 40m on a clear day. Countless species of marine-life call this region home, with coral walls to explore, and many undersea caves for the weird and wonderful which lurk inside. October to May is a particularly optimum time for diving in this region.

Banda Islands, Indonesia

The deep waters around these small volcanic islands are filled with countless species of colourful fish, not to mention swooping manta rays and hammerhead sharks. There has been a distinct lack of fishing around this area, as it is quite undiscovered, which means plentiful marine-life to visit, as well as the rather deadly scorpion fish.

Mergui, Myanmar

March to October is the best time to visit this veritable feast of diving heaven. There are around 50 dive sites in this region, home to a large amount of marine-life, including manta rays, dolphins, sharks, and the blue ringed octopus, to name just a few. The coral around here is also stunningly beautiful. Myanmar in general is a beautiful country, yet what lies beneath the ocean is just as mind-blowing.

Raja Ampat, New Guinea, Indonesia

This is often considered one of the best diving areas on the planet, mainly because the marine-life is said to be the highest on earth, with 75% of the world’s coral species residing here, as well as a huge 1309 different types of fish! October to December is the best time to visit, with great visibility as standard.

Andaman Islands, India

Undisturbed by human influence, mainly because this has only just opened up to tourism, the Andaman Islands are a weird and wonderful diving destination, with volcanic lava setting the landscape. There are a variety of sharks which roam around this region, including hammerheads, nurse, and leopard sharks, as well as a huge number of different species of fish and coral varieties.

These are just five of the top rated dive sites around Asia, with countless more on offer. For anyone wishing to explore what lies beneath, Asia is certainly your go-to.

Photo Credit: Stefan Krasowski

Five Places You Should Go in 2016

There comes a time when your regular vacation hotspots become a little, shall we say, tiresome? If you’re keen to discover somewhere new, somewhere a little interesting and different, then it’s time to grab a map and have a look at some of the undiscovered and possibly off the beaten track destinations that may appeal to your interests. Of course, you don’t even have to head to weird and wonderful places to discover something wonderful, because destinations are changing all the time.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these five places you should be heading in 2016.

Cuba

This sun-drenched Caribbean island is about much more than cocktails on the beach, and the good news for US citizens especially is that the embargo which has stopped them travelling to Cuba for many years is now being relaxed somewhat, with direct flights from New York to Havana in the pipeline. Of course, if you’re not a US citizen then it’s not that difficult to travel to Cuba, and in that case you should definitely be booking a flight. The capital, Havana, is a bright and vibrant deal, with a party on every corner, and the sun-drenched all-inclusive heaven of Varadero is perfect for both relaxation and partying fun. On top of this, Cuba is jam-packed with history and stunning scenery to boot.

Mongolia

This landlocked country, located between China and Russia might not have been on your radar to date, but if you’re searching for emptiness, serenity, and peace and quiet, then you’re not going to find anywhere as vast as this. The nomadic lifestyle is still very prevalent here, and it is also named the Land of the Blue Skies, as there are reputed to be around 250 days of bright sunshine throughout the year; despite that the winters are cold at best. There is an abundance of history and sights to see in Mongolia, such as Arkhangai and the beautiful capital of Ulaanbaatar. Hovd is also worth a visit, where you will see traditional Mongol culture, as well as nature in abundance at the eco-reserve of Gun-Galuut.

Iran

Iran is slowly opening up to tourism and that is a wonderful thing for anyone wanting to experience history and culture in the best possible way. You might not be aware, but Iran was formerly called Persia, and is a very large Middle Eastern country, which has in the past been difficult to travel to. History is on every corner, but there is also much to see and do aside from that too, such as skiing at Dizin, which is one of the highest ski resorts in the world, and enjoying the sights of the capital, Tehran.

The ‘Stans

The ‘Stans of Central Asia have been difficult to visit in the past, plagued with visa bureaucracy, and although there is still some of that remaining, it is easing somewhat. For instance, Kyrgyzstan is now visa-free, and one of the easiest countries in this area to visit, full of stunning mountain scenery. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked nation, and full of activities for outdoor fans. Tajikistan is a little off the beaten track but dripping in culture, Turkmenistan is vast and full of ancient ruins, and Uzbekistan is full of old Silk Road history to explore.

Myanmar

Formerly known as Burma, there aren’t many countries in the world as beautiful and unspoilt as this. Again, a country which was totally closed to tourism but is now opening up, it’s best to get there before everything changes, as tourism tends to have that effect on places over time. Located in South East Asia, Myanmar is full of nature, religion, culture, and basically an awful lot of beauty to behold.

If you’re feeling inspired, these five should certainly be on your visit list.

Photo Credit: Patrik M. Loeff

Fiji Island Guide

Welcome to paradise!

When you picture paradise, the image of Fiji should be what is in your mind. Full of idyllic beaches, blinding blue sea, endless skies, white sand, and swaying palm trees, Fiji is the epitome of serenity. You might be under the impression that Fiji is expensive to visit, and whilst it’s true there are several five star, all-inclusive resorts which will stretch your budget a little, there are also countless others which are tailor-made for the budget traveller.

If you’ve never really read too much into visiting Fiji, perhaps because you falsely thought it was too expensive, then maybe it’s time you did.

This huge collection of volcanic islands sit pretty in the South Pacific Ocean, around two thirds of the way between Hawaii and New Zealand. They are a little remote, but that’s what adds to their beauty. This stunning archipelago includes 332 islands, and out of that, only 110 of them are inhabited.

Viti Levu is the largest island in the group, and the most developed and commercial. Here you will find the capital, Suva, and you should certainly dedicate a little time here. The capital is full of architecture, temples, mosques, markets, and vibrant nightlife, making it the ideal place to stock up before you continue on your Fiji exploration.

Vanua Levu is the second largest island, another good choice for tourism, as well as Taveuni. The Yasawa Islands are popular for budget travellers, especially those wanting to island hop, perhaps over to the equally as popular Mamanuca Islands, which are also easily accessible as a day trip from Nadi. The beaches here are idyllic, the surfing fantastic, and there are countless diving and snorkelling opportunities too.

The Kadavu islands are easily accessible from Viti Levu, as well as the Lomaiviti Islands. The Lau Islands are a group of smaller land masses towards the east, and the most remote has to be Rotuma.

It’s impossible to list every island and state what there is to see and do on each, as there are far too many. The best advice is to decide what your type of vacation is about – be it romance, a honeymoon perhaps, a family break, or a hopping adventure on a budget. The romantic resorts tend to be set in the more remote areas, and are generally adult-only hotels and resorts, but the main islands offer family-friendly breaks too, with plenty of attractions and facilities to keep the kids happy.

If you’re budget island hopping, then provided you’re careful with where you eat out and drink, and perhaps stick to shared taxis rather than single ones, you can easily save money and get out and see more of this beautiful region of the world, without breaking the bank.

It’s worthwhile mentioning about visa requirements, as some nationalities do need to apply for a visa ahead of time to visit Fiji; the best advice is to check online for your particular circumstances.

Fiji is beautiful, there’s no denying it, and with lower costs than ever before, perhaps it’s time you visited paradise.

Photo Credit: JD Lasica

Four Best Shows in Las Vegas in 2015

“Viva Las Vegas!” sang Elvis Presley, and when you visit this neon-lit madness, right in the heart of the desert, you’ll be amazed at the sights that will greet you. Nothing is too weird or wonderful for Vegas, and if you want loud and brash, you’ll find it and then some.

Of course, Vegas is just as famous for its shows as it is for its casinos and gambling fun, and over the years the Strip has seen some of the biggest names grace it, including Celine Dion for instance. Anyone who is anyone has played a Vegas show, and if you haven’t played one, well, you haven’t quite made it.

If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Vegas this year, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the shows on offer, however because time is precious, you’ll be wanting to look towards the best ones. Be careful with your show tickets, and never purchase on the streets, always go to the Box Office, but if you’re wanting to grab tickets to the hottest shows on the Strip, you’ll need to do it well ahead of time.

Here are four of the best and most popular shows gracing Vegas this year.

Cirque du Soleil “O”

Held at the beautiful Bellagio, it’s no wonder that Cirque du Soleil is up there with some of the best shows in the world. You will find several shows by the company across the city, however this one is simply mind-blowing. One word to describe it could be ‘magical’, however even that doesn’t do it justice. Performers rise and sink into a huge water tank, and the show itself is all about fire and water, imagery to blow your mind, and bend your brain, making you wonder how the tricks you’re seeing are real. A true stunner.

Absinthe

Now, this isn’t one for the faint-hearted, however if you like your shows a little on the raunchy side, then this is for you. Held at Caesar’s Palace, this cabaret/acrobatics show is held inside what is designed to look like a circus tent, with the performance taking place almost a finger’s touch away from the audience. Tightrope walkers precariously glide over your head, as you listen to what can only be described as hilarious humour with a touch of the naughty thrown in for good measure.

Elton John

We don’t really have to elaborate on this one too much, as the name speaks for itself. Performing some of his biggest tracks over the decades, together with imagery and a set that is bigger than even the songs he is singing, Elton John’s Colosseum show is one you may struggle to get tickets for; if you can, grab them with both hands!

Le Reve – The Dream

Held at the beautiful Wynn hotel, Le Reve’s latest show is something to behold. Hydro and pyrotechnics have been added to what was already an amazing set, with performances through fire to make you gasp and hold your breath. A little like Cirque du Soleil in the amazement stakes, Le Reve is certainly a popular choice of show.

If you can grab a ticket for these four hot shows on the Vegas Strip this year, you’ll be guaranteed a top night.

Photo Credit: Mike Boening Photography

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