Travel Guide

Vietnam Travel Guide

Vietnam at a Glance: Located in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. With its stunning beaches, Buddhist shrines, lush mountains, sleepy rural villages, and bustling cities, Vietnam has everything for every type of traveler.

  • Hanoi: bustling city in the north of the country with lots of character

  • Sapa: small mountain town known for rice terraces and homestays

  • Halong Bay: take a boat cruise through these stunning rock formations

  • Hoi An: this beautiful UNESCO town is located in the middle of the country and has a charming architecture and a laidback vibe

  • Dalat: set in the mountains, this town is less hot and humid than the rest of the country and is known for adventure activities

  • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): modern and busy city in the south of the country

Currency in Vietnam: Vietnamese dong | 2018 Conversion Rate: 10000 VND = $0.43 USD

Tipping in Vietnam: In Vietnam, tipping is not customary but it is highly appreciated. The locals don’t have a habit of tipping unless you go to upscale restaurants or get a massage from spas. You could say that the tipping culture here is at its infancy.

Most of the tourist cities including Hanoi, Saigon, Hoi An and others are becoming more familiar with tipping. Some high-end services may add a service fee to your bills from 5 percent to 15 percent.

Headed to Vietnam soon? Don’t forget to get a visa lined up before you go! Not sure if you need one? We’ll explain if you need one and how to get a Vietnam Visa On Arrival.

Language & Helpful Phrases: Vietnamese

  • Hello = xin chào

  • Thank you = Cám ơn

  • Beer = bia

  • Delicious = Thơm ngon

  • Bathroom =  Phòng tắm

  • How much? = Bao nhiêu?

  • Too expensive = Quá đắt

  • Don’t want = Không muốn

Religion and Culture: More than 70 percent of Vietnam’s population are Buddhists. Other official religions recognized by the government are Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai. Most of the religion in Vietnam has been greatly influenced by the Tam Giáo, also known as triple religion – Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.

Transportation around Vietnam: When you’re in Vietnam, your transportation will depend on your budget, time, flexibility and love for adventure. The safest and best way to go around Vietnam is by car. Buses, on the other hand, can either be delighted or unpleased. It depends on your expectations. There are also trains running along Vietnam’s coast. Always book ahead if you are planning on traveling during the weekend.

Transportation Tip: 12go.asia is a great site is you want to book your transportation in advance or look at the time tables!

Vietnam Travel Guide: Ha Long Bay

Best Time To Visit Vietnam

For an in-depth guide on the regional seasons, weather patterns and other factors, check out our complete guide on the best time to visit Vietnam. We’ve also listed out some of the basics below to give you a general idea.

Climate in Vietnam

Vietnam’s weather differs between each region, so planning can be a bit tricky if you’re not careful.

Hanoi and The Northern Part of Vietnam:

  • Hot and rainy season: May to October

  • Cool season: December and January

  • Dry season: November to April

Central Vietnam:

  • Hot and dry season: January to August

  • Rainy season: September to November

Southern Vietnam:

  • Hot and dry season: November to April

  • Rainy season: June to August

Peak season for tourists is during the summertime around June and July. However, this time is also the monsoon season so expect a lot of rain showers.

Times to avoid traveling in Vietnam

  • It is best to avoid early February during the Tet or Vietnamese New Year, because the locals will be traveling as well and prices will be high.

  • Ho Chi Minh City: Avoid May to November because of the heavy rain. Often, there is flood on the main streets so it is best that you do not travel during this time.

  • Phu Quoc Island: Avoid the months June to October. This is often the time of strong winds and heavy rain.

  • Dalat: April to October is the raining season.

  • Nha Trang: Expect that there will be a lot of rain from September to December.

  • Hoi An: Heavy rains occur around August to December.

  • Halong: Avoid the local summer holiday around June and July.

  • Hanoi: Aside from the hot weather, May to September is the time of heavy rains and storms.

Major Festivals in Vietnam

If you wanna see Vietnam at its best, you should definitely check out the major festivals in the country. Here you will get up close and personal with the myths and culture of Vietnam.

Tet Nguyen Dan, around late January or early February: Tet Nguyen Dan is one of the major festivals in Vietnam. It marks the arrival of spring according to the Lunar calendar but most importantly, it is the Vietnamese New Year.

Hoi An Lantern Festival, every month: The Hoi An Lantern Festival is celebrated every month during the full moon. The lanterns are its biggest feature. At around 8 pm, you will witness the beauty of the floating lanterns.

Mid-Autumn Festival, September 15: Mid-Autumn Festival is unlike any other. It originates to around 20,000 years ago. Family relationships are celebrated and mooncakes are eaten.

Vietnam Travel Guide: Paradise Cave

Top Things to Do in Vietnam

Eat all the food that you can

When in Vietnam, you have to eat all the food that you can. One of the best places to be in is Hanoi. It has some of the best and cheap street food in the world.

Take a trek in Sapa

Just 6 hours away from Hanoi, Sapa boasts of stunning rice terraces and waterfalls especially when the weather is clear. Book a bus online from Hanoi to Sapa so you don’t have to worry about transportation when you’re there.

Visit Paradise Cave and Dark Cave

If you love caves, then you’ll definitely love Dark Cave and Paradise Cave in Phong Nha. In the Dark Cave, you can trek, zip-line, and swim in a cave lake. On the other hand, Paradise Cave is one of the most gigantic caves in the world. It used to be the largest cave until Son Doong took its place.

Go Canyoneering in Da Lat

If you are looking for more adventures, don’t miss going to Da Lat. You can go cliff jumping and repelling down waterfalls in this fantastic place.

Insider Tip: For the highlight of your trip to Vietnam, don’t forget to take the secret tour in Da Lat.

Did you know Vietnam is a great place to teach English? Find out how to get certified to teach English abroad.

Vietnam Travel Guide: Seafood Soup

Best Food to Eat in Vietnam

Most households in Vietnam eat vegetables and noodle soups. A typical meal would be a vegetable dish, a seafood or meat dish, soup, fish sauce, and rice.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Grilled Chicken: fresh and ordered half or whole

  • Banh Bot Loc: great as an appetizer with shrimp-stuffed tapioca dumplings

  • Banh Khoai: savory pancake

  • Bun Bo Hue: vermicelli noodle beef soup that’s spicy

  • Bánh mì baguette sandwich: cheap and tasty street food

  • Cao lầu: noodle soup

Insider Tip: Happy Cow is a great resource for finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants all around the country!

Vietnam Travel Guide: Hanoi Street

Typical Budget for Vietnam

Vietnam is a large country that offers a lot of things to do and places to see. For travelers on a budget, Vietnam is a dream come true. For as low as $20 per day, you can survive on a shoestring budget and travel around the country.

Good to know: If you know how to drive a motorbike, you can rent one on the cheap and save on your transportation costs. Plus, Vietnam has some pretty epic drives that are best discovered on two wheels!

How Much to Budget in Vietnam Per Day

Budget traveler: If you are on a tight budget and watch your spending closely, $20 – $30 could be a sufficient daily budget.

Mid-range traveler: If you want to have a few splurges and stay in nicer accommodation, plan to budget $30 – $50 per day.

Bed Accommodation
  • Dorm bed = $5-8

  • Budget room = $18-25

  • Mid-range = $30-45

  • Luxury hotel = $60+

Food
  • Street food = $1-$2

  • Mid-range restaurant = $3-$6

  • Fancy restaurant = $10+

  • Local beer = $0.88

Rides
  • Domestic flight = $36-$45 (Jetstar or Vietnam airlines)

  • Open bus tickets = $68-$70 through country

  • Taxi = $5-$10

  • Airport shuttle bus = $2

  • Trains = $11.50-$50 depending class and length of the route

Fun
  • Trekking in Sapa = $19 with a guide

  • Halong Bay Boat Trip = $64 for a 2-day cruise

  • Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi = $3-$5

  • Vietnamese Cooking Class in Hoi An = $30

Vietnam Travel Guide: Hai Van Pass

Responsible Travel Tips in Vietnam

We are very passionate about sharing tips anyone can use to travel more responsibly. Here are some easy ways you can travel better in Vietnam.

1. Plan your itinerary well

Vietnam can be a tricky place to visit. If you want to see the best that the country has to offer, it’s best to avoid forcing everything on your itinerary. Allow at least 3 to 4 weeks to explore the Vietnam from North to South. Book tours with ethical companies throughout the country. Check out reviews and discover organizations that are giving back to their communities. You can check our one-month Vietnam itinerary to help you.

2. Go easy on the haggling

Prices in Vietnam are cheap but most things don’t have fixed prices so you can haggle. However, with prices so low, inform yourself of what a good price is and don’t argue over 50 cents. The local people need make a living and tourism helps support that.

3. Say no to plastic straws

When buying a drink, ask for no straw (không rơm in Vietnamese) and start reducing your plastic use. A single plastic straw may look convenient and simple but it contributes a lot of harm to our environment. It is one of the top five items that’s found in most beaches and adds to the millions of plastic wastes in the oceans.

Related Article: Eco-Friendly Packing List for Responsible Travelers

Vietnam Travel Guide: Hoi An Lanterns

What to Pack for Vietnam

 Vietnam, loose-fitting, layers and lightweight stuff are what you should go for.  Don’t overpack. It’s impractical to bring all of those home comforts with you.

Here are some Vietnam-specific items we’d recommend packing:

  • bug repellant (solids are the way to go)

  • reef safe sunscreen

  • insulated water bottle

  • reusable straw & reusable bag (say no to single-use plastic!)

  • loose, lightweight clothes & layers

  • rain jacket (it can rain during any season, so you’ll want to be prepared!)

  • swimwear

  • diarrhea medication (in case you get hit by a stomach bug)

  • a quick-dry towel

  • small first aid kit

  • Chaco sandals (we’d recommend these instead of hiking boots as they are less bulky and are good for walking through water)

PHUKET TRAVEL GUIDE

 

limestone formations in Phuket

Phuket is one of the biggest destinations for travelers in Thailand.

Backpacking Phuket, visiting here on a holiday, coming to learn Muay Thai, or sitting on the resorts – everyone travels to Phuket eventually for something!

The island is the biggest all of the country and contains a wide range of beaches and environments to see.

This is where you see all the good and bad of Thai tourism – from overdeveloped beaches and sex tourism, to tiny towns with no tourists and authentic Thailand.

On the other hand, while most visitors, stick to the overdeveloped south, if you stay away from Patong Beach, you can avoid most of the over-development and crowds. The north part of the island is one of my favorite places to visit in all of Thailand.

It is a paradise without the crowds, prices, or crazy drunk tourists!

Phuket draws a lot of tourists, and if you really want to enjoy the area, get out of the main spots.

This travel guide to Phuket will give you the best places to visit, tell you how to save money, how to get around, give you costs, and help you plan the best trip to this island

 

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Phuket

1. Chill on the beach

Phuket is all about the beaches. If you stay away from Patong Beach, you can avoid most of the overdevelopment, expensive prices, and crowds and see how Phuket is a lovely destination. Check out Mai Khao, Surin, Freedom, and Naithon for the best beaches!

2. Visit the temples

Mostly, Phuket’s population is Thai-Buddhist and there are close to 40 Buddhist Temples located all over the island. Phuket’s Big Buddha is one of the island’s most important, Wat Suwan Khiri Khet; the only temple in Karon Beach, is small but attractive; Wat Chalong, which has been welcoming visitors for over a century.

Photo by Rob Taylor (flickr: @britsinvade)

3. Cruise Phang Nga Bay

Lined by limestone cliffs and collapsed caves, these glorious emerald-green waters form a delightful bay. It’s where the James Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun was filmed. Day trips can be had from anywhere on the island. Trips cost from 1,500 THB ($45 USD).

4. Visit the gibbons

Run by volunteers and financed by donations, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center rescues gibbons held in captivity. There is no touching but visitors can watch them from a viewing platform. There is no entrance fee, but you’ll have to pay a fee to the National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (40 THB/$1.25 USD).

Photo by Evo Flash (flickr: @evoflash)

5. Make a trip to the Similian Islands

Just 52 miles (84 kilometers) northwest of Phuket are the Similan Islands. It’s one of the few places in Thailand where there is some environmental protection! The Similan Islands are a nationally protected nature preserve of nine islands, but only two (#4 and #8) are allowed to have people on them.

Other Things to See and Do in Phuket

1. Skip Patong

The main tourist section of Phuket, filled with crowded beaches, resorts, hawkers, stores, bars, and sadly, a lot of sex tourists. Unless you want to get drunk a lot, try to avoid this beach at all costs (although I do still recommend taking a cooking class near here!). There are much better beaches around, like Hat Karon, Surin, and Mai Khao Beach.

2. Learn to cook traditional Thai food

When looking to learn some Thai cooking tricks, take a class at Pum’s Thai Cooking School. There are several of these schools in Thailand, and the one in Phuket is on Patong Beach. You can take classes ranging from 30 minutes to 6+ hours. Why not get a souvenir you can take back with you, and bring back the knowledge of how to make some of your favorite dishes from Thailand! Classes start at 500 THB ($16 USD) for a 30-minute mini-class, but a full class (3+ hours) starts from 1500 THB ($47 USD).

3. Watch some Muay Thai fighting

Furthermore, in order to see something truly Thai, book yourself in to watch some Muay Thai. This is a form of combat that combines striking techniques using fists, elbows, knees, and shins, and is known as “the art of eight limbs.” It requires extreme mental and physical discipline to train to be a Muay Thai fighter. The Saphan Hin Stadium is the destination to see regular matches or go to Patong Beach where you can watch these disciplined fighters in action. You can usually find tickets starting around 1,300 THB ($40 USD).

4. Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park

We recommend to make a trip to the Khao Phra Thaeo Conservation Development and Extension Center, a center focused on preserving the environment. The center contains a park which is home to a number of endangered animals, and also contains giant trees in the midst of dense a dense forest. Make sure to check out the Nam Tok Sai waterfall, which is located close to the park headquarters. There is also a floating restaurant located in the mangroves! Admission is 200 THB ($6.25 USD).

5. Stop at the Thalang National Museum

If you are eager to find out more about historical Phuket, then make a visit to the Thalang National Museum. The Museum holds an exhibition of ancient artifacts from Old Phuket and items used during the war with Burma. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the history of the island. It’s 30 THB ($0.95 USD) for entry.

6. Enjoy the viewpoints

Phuket has few unique viewpoints — there are 10 in total. Promthep tends to be the most popular, but another great spot is the Kata viewpoint. Nothing is better than watching a golden sunset from these points. Your camera will thank you!

7. Rent a bike

Renting either a bike or motorbike will give you more freedom to explore Phuket. Find your way to Laem Singh Beach, a more secluded and laid-back spot with some great snorkeling opportunities. Be careful — biking in Phuket can be a little dangerous. You can expect to pay about 200 THB ($6.25 USD) a day for a bike.

8. Explore Sirinat National Park

This national park was founded in the early ’80s and consists of three beach areas along the northwest coast of Phuket. It includes a couple of beaches, including Nai Yang, Sai Kaew, and Mai Khao, as well as the mangrove forest where the saltwater and freshwater mix. This is a good place for camping. During the spring, endangered Leatherback Turtles come here to lay their eggs. Park entrance costs 200 THB ($6.25 USD).

9. Check out the Phuket Mining Museum

Located in Kathu, this museum is one of the most interesting in my opinion. There are a couple of neat models and even a recreation of an opium den! Some of the models seem so real, it’s like you are living it. You will get a chance to see some of the mining methods used back when Phuket was a major tin mining center. Entry is 100 THB ($3.15 USD).

10. Stroll the Phuket Weekend Market

Known as well as the Naka market, this market is located right outside of Phuket Town. It is a crazy assortment of local and secondhand goods, interesting objects, and a huge variety of food. The market is broken up into two sections- the covered section (everything from jeans to pirated DVDs), and the open market (food, food, food!)

11. Snorkel the waters

Phuket has over 33 beaches, all of them pretty incredible. While not all of them are great for snorkeling, some of the best are Laem Singh Beach, Ao Sane, Ya Nui, and Surin. You might want to bring your own gear, as renting can get a bit pricy. It is possible to buy some cheap gear in Phuket if you look hard enough.

12. Visit the Soi Dog Foundation

Soi Dog Foundation is a charity that helps the stray dogs and cats you see on the streets of Phuket. You can tour the facilities and meet and play with the animals. Longer volunteer opportunities are also offered, and donations are always welcome.

13. Explore some waterfalls

Some of the biggest and best waterfalls are in Phuket. The top three on island are Bang Pae, Ton Sai, and Kathu. They are all at the end of some scenic nature walks too, so double bonus. Don’t miss out! Kathu is free, entry to Khao Phra Thaeo National Park for Bang Pae and Ton Sai is 400 THB ($13 USD).

(Hey there! Wait one second! Did you know I also wrote an entire guidebook to Thailand filled with – not only even more detailed information on the things included on this page but also itineraries, maps, practical information (i.e. hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, prices, etc), cultural insights, and so much more? It has everything you want in a guidebook – but with a focus on budget and cultural travel! 

Hostel prices – Hostels are one of the best ways to save money on Phuket. Most hostels have dorms with 4-8 beds to sleep in. The cheapest bed in a dorm starts from about 130 THB ($5 USD) for a 10-person room, but you can find the same price for even smaller dorms. Most of the 6-bed dorms are in in the 250-300 THB ($8-9 USD) range.

Places outside of the main Patong area (like Kata Beach) usually cost around the same. Breakfast usually isn’t included in the cheaper places. Private rooms for two people with ensuite bathrooms start at 510 THB ($16 USD), although these rooms often come with a fan instead of air-con. Aside from saving money on this touristy island, you’ll also get to meet other travelers with all of the common spaces offered at the hostels on the island.

Budget hotel prices – A night in a centrally-located two-star hotel for one person starts around 350 THB ($11 USD) for a room with air-conditioning and free WiFi — cheaper than many hostels. About half of this selection includes free breakfast. Phuket surprisingly has some of the least expensive 5-star hotels in Thailand, often as low as 2,200 THB ($60 USD) per night! The Memory at On On Hotel is a great choice (and it was featured in the movie The Beach)! Prices remain fairly consistent across the island, even away from busy Patong.

On Airbnb, you can find a large number of shared rooms in apartments for around 383 THB ($12 USD), but oftentimes they’re actually hotel properties. There’s also a selection of entire apartments/homes starting from about 703 THB ($22 USD) per night for two people, while a jungle hut near Kata Beach or Karon starts from 480 THB ($15 USD) per night. I’d definitely look into staying in an Airbnb here since there are so many quality ones available!

Average cost of food – Compared to the rest of Thailand, food is a bit more expensive here. Lunch at a local Thai restaurant will cost around 150 THB ($4.70 USD). Western meals will cost around 330 THB ($10 USD), even for a basic margherita pizza. Dinner with drinks can typically cost around 270 THB ($8.45 USD) or more, but it can be more expensive if you’re right on Patong Beach. If you are having a fish meal or getting wine, expect to pay around 675 THB ($21 USD). In the major tourist area, you’ll probably pay 25% more.

You can grab a beer for about 60 THB ($1.90 USD), but on Bangla Road they’re 100 THB ($3.15 USD) or higher. A week of groceries with the basic staples should cost you around 1,040 THB ($33 USD). If you eat at the street stalls, the food is not only cheap, but it’s also utterly delicious! Remember that buying beers from 7-Eleven vs in bars and restaurants will save you lots of money.

Backpacking Phuket Suggested Budgets

On a very strict backpacker budget, you will spend about 1,117 THB ($35 USD) per day. This will afford you a bed in a hostel dorm, one local lunch per day (but cooking your meals the rest of the time), and a few beers from the 7-Eleven. You can also enjoy plenty of budget or free activities (like temples or beaches), one attraction per day like visiting one of the wildlife reserves, and taking public transportation wherever you go. If you want to party in Patong, you’ll spend a lot more.

On a mid-range budget of about 2,748 THB ($86 USD), you can stay in a budget two-star hotel, or a private room in an Airbnb. You can eat out for dinner each day (and enjoy some drinks!), but also cook at least half of your meals at your accommodations. You’ll be able to take public transportation everywhere but also spring for a Grab every once in a while. You can also enjoy more exciting activities like a guided boat tour or a ticket to see a Muay Thai fight.

If you want to travel Phuket in luxury, you can expect to pay around 5,430 THB ($170 USD) per day. This will get you a nice room in a five-star hotel or resort (yes, really!), three meals a day (including western meals, or local meals with drinks), two taxi or Grab drives a day, and more guided activities, like a cooking class in Patong.

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.

Accommodation
Food
Transportation
Attractions
Average Daily Cost
Backpacker:$5 – $35
Mid-Range: $11 – $86
Luxury: $60 – $170

Phuket Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips

Although Phuket is more expensive than many other islands in Thailand, there are still plenty of ways to save money. However, there are some ways you save money in Phuket:

  1. Eat street food – Speaking of street food, don’t be afraid to eat it. It’s safe – even safer than most restaurants. If it weren’t, the Thai wouldn’t be packing the stalls each day. You’ll find the best of Thailand’s food on the street, and it will cost you a fraction of what you pay at a restaurant.
  2. Buy beer at the 7-Eleven – Buy your beers from the supermarket as they are much cheaper here than anywhere else. Most bars don’t have corkage fees, so you can also bring spirits and just buy ice and mixers.
  3. Ride in a songtaew or rent a bike – These are converted pickup trucks are shared taxis that cost a lot less than a tuk-tuk or a taxi. If you are looking to get around on your own, renting a bike is also a great option, and can usually be done for about 200 THB($6.25 USD) per day.
  4. Come during low season – Prices drastically drop during low season! You can usually negotiate hostel/hotel fees during this time.
  5. Couchsurf – Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
  6. Bargain hard – When shopping at the markets, whip out your negotiation skills. The rule of thumb is the more you buy, the cheaper the prices will be. So shop in packs for the best deals.
  7. Use a water bottle with a purifier – It isn’t safe to drink the tap water in Phuket, and although buying bottled water is cheap, it does add up.

 

Where To Stay in Phuket

The backpacker scene is busy in Phuket, so you’ll find plenty of quality hostels here. These are some of my favorite places to stay in Phuket:

How to Get Around Phuket

Local Bus – Small buses connect Phuket’s Old Town with the main beach resorts around the island, like Patong and Karon. They’re slow because of the number of stops to make, but they’re cheap and reliable. Shared minibuses are also common. You’ll pay 100-200 THB ($3.15-6.25 USD) to get across the island, but it can be an exercise in patience.

Songthaews – Songthaews are covered trucks that have been converted into multi-passenger vehicles (the truck’s box is usually converted with two wooden benches for seating). There are no set stops like the local bus — you’ll just have to flag one down that is headed in your direction. There will usually be a sign on the dashboard to let you know where the final stop is. Negotiate your fare ahead of time. A ride in a songthaew usually starts around 25-50 THB ($0.80-1.60 USD).

A songthaew from Patong Beach to the airport costs 1,000 THB ($31 USD), and to other beaches (like Kamala, Kata, or Surin) it costs around 500 THB ($16 USD).

Motorbike Taxi – A motorbike taxi will cost on average 60 THB ($2 USD) per short journey around town. If you’re going a longer distance, we don’t advise taking a motorbike taxi. It’s not the safest option!

Tuk-Tuk – The tuk-tuks in Phuket look more like songthaews than the tuk-tuks in other parts of Thailand. These can be more expensive even than metered taxis because the drivers work together and they know not to undercut each other. Since there is no public transportation between the beaches, and because other transportation tends to stop early in the evening, tuk-tuk drivers know that they can charge higher prices. A 2-mile (3-kilometer) ride in a tuk-tuk can cost about 335 THB ($10 USD). Shorter distances average about 100 THB ($3.15 USD).

Taxi – Taxis are expensive, but sometimes they’re cheaper than tuk-tuks. Their fares start at 50 THB ($1.60 USD) per two kilometers. Non-metered taxis typically charge flat rates and are not really necessary for long distances. An hour-long journey from the airport to Patong is a minimum of 500 THB ($16 USD).

Car Rental – Cars can be rented for 1,000 THB ($31 USD) a day. I only suggest doing this if you’re with a family or a group who wants to split the cost.

Ride-Sharing – The Grab app is like the Uber of Thailand — prices are cheaper than taxis, and you’re driven by a local in his/her vehicle. You can pay via the app or in cash, and you’ll get a price estimate for your journey before you even get in the car. Having said that, on Phuket the prices are sometimes not much different than taxis. You can get from Patong to Karon for less than 200 THB ($6.25 USD), while Kata to karon is about 120 THB ($3.75 USD).

When to Go to Phuket

Likewise, the other islands in this part of Thailand, peak season in Phuket is from November to April. If you travel during May through October, you’ll avoid the busiest season and save quite a bit of money, although it may be rainy. However, November to April offers cooler temperatures and nicer weather, with constant sunshine and clear skies.

November to February are the coolest months, with temperatures between 73-86°F (23-30°C). February is the driest month and is the best time of the year to be a beach bum.

The end of March to mid-May is the hottest time of year. It’s just before monsoon season hits, so humidity is high and temperatures soar into the high 90s°F (30s°C). If you can’t tolerate the heat, don’t come during this time.

Mid-May to October is Monsoon season in Phuket. Although it rains for awhile each day, the temperature averages about 84°F (28°C) per day. If you don’t mind a bit of rain, this is an excellent time to come.

How to Stay Safe in Phuket

Phuket is safe, especially for solo travelers. It’s one of the easiest places in Thailand to meet other solo travelers, so you’re never really on your own. Petty theft (including bag snatching) is the most common type of crime in Phuket. If you’re worried about scams, read this post on travel scams to avoid.

Patong is a party destination. Most people run into problems here when they’re drunk and stupid. Don’t overdo it, and always be mindful of your drink. Although uncommon, travelers have been known to fail victim to druggings so they can be mugged or molested. Do not do drugs or participate in the sex industry. Both can have severe consequences.

Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.

If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Phuket!

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Phuket Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Phuket. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals!

  • Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
  • Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Thailand, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!

We hope this Travel guide was useful and motivated you to visit the beautiful Phuket!!

Stay tuned for more amazing Tips and Guides!

15 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

seoul attractions

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and probably one of the most impressive cities you could ever dream of visiting! There are endless things to do there, and if you are wondering why I say that, just check this list of great things to do in Seoul!

During my visit in Seoul, my list of potential places to visit only grew bigger and bigger. My initial plan was to travel around South Korea, but I liked Seoul so much I ended up exploring it for one full week! I have no regrets about that because there are so many amazing things to do there!

In case you want to travel to South Korea like I did, continue reading to find out more about the top things to do in Seoul as well as how to save money on sightseeing and tours during your vacation! You will find out what to do and where to go in Seoul, some tips on how to get around the city and save money on attraction tickets, where to stay and where to eat as well!

WARNING: There will be a lot of markets on this list!

1. WALK AROUND THE TRADITIONAL GYEONGBUKGUNG PALACE

Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1495 for the Joseon Dynasty but suffered with many partial destructions due to the Japanese invasions. Its last reconstruction finished in 2007. That being said, you will not see it as it was originally built but you will see an exact replica, so it’s close enough!

There are two things that I recommend doing while there: witness the changing of the guards’ ceremony that happens at 10 AM and 2 PM (everyday except Tuesdays), and dress yourself in one of the traditional hanboks.

A hanbok is the traditional Korean dress that reflects historical Korean ideas, customs, and forms, all illustrated in the colors and shapes of the material.

You might see many people wearing this traditional attire, and I really regretted not knowing about it in advance! You can find stores renting hanboks everywhere between the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Changdeokgung Palace. Once you have the dress on, you can walk around the palaces. By the way, it is pretty much the only place in the world where you can walk around in traditional clothes in the city and not look out of place!

The hanbok rental can be from 1.5 hours to a full day and the prices range between 5,000 to 15,000 KRW (US$4 to US$14). You will find a lot of stores around the palaces!

When traveling alone and want to have double the fun while playing dress up, join this photoshoot experience right on the Palace grounds.

NOTE: There is a ticket package called “Royal Palace Pass” that includes the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and the Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine for a price of 10,000 KRW (US$9). You can only purchase this ticket package at any of the palaces or the Ancestral Shrine ticket office.

TIP: If you are wearing a hanbok you will enter all the palaces for free! They’ll still give you a ticket so they can track the number of people inside, but I repeat, you don’t need to pay for it!

TIP 2: The best time to go is around 9 AM when there are hardly any people! I was basically walking around the Palace alone; then, by 10 AM, it was already much more crowded. The Palace is huge, so it took me about 2 hours to explore the entire property without rushing.

PRICE: The entrance fee to the Palace is 3,000 KRW (US$3) per adult. You can book your online ticket here.

2. GO OVER TO BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE

where to go in seoul

After visiting the Palace, I headed over to the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village since they are so close to each other. This is a traditional Korean village and it’s name means “north village” because it’s located north of the Cheonggye Stream.

The village is filled with traditional houses called hanok, and it’s a very cute area where people still live! Some of these hanoks are used as cultural centers, restaurants, and guest houses so you can go inside and immerse yourself in the traditional Korean culture.

TIP 1: I recommend stopping at the Tourist Information Center inside the village and picking up a map, then following the wonderful walking route that will get you to all the main points! You can also get a free map outside the Angok Station if you arrive by metro.

TIP 2: For wonderful photos, again, you can use the traditional hanbok (the classic Korean dresses); you will see plenty of people doing so!

PRICE: Free

3. HEAD OVER TO MYEONG-DONG FOR SOME SHOPPING

Myeong-dong is the go-to area for shopping and also one of the most popular shopping hubs of Seoul!

Walk along the Myeong-dong shopping street to find everything from the latest Korean cosmetic trends to all kinds of clothes and shoes you can think of!

You will find a diversity of retail stores, family restaurants with Korean, Western, and Japanese dining options, and you can even stumble across hair salons and banks there.

By the way, if you are interested in going for some Korean cosmetics, my brand suggestions are MisshaTony MolyNature Republic, and Skinfood.

Even if shopping is not exactly your thing, we still recommend visiting this street. First of all, for people watching – because it is such a big part of Korean life, there is no better place to see the local culture in action! I think it was only more interesting to people watch in Harajuku in Tokyo! And secondly, it is worth visiting because of the many restaurants and food stalls where you can find some great local dishes!

4. ADMIRE THE LOVELY CITY VIEW FROM N SEOUL TOWER

seoul sightseeing

N Seoul Tower also known as Namsan Seoul Tower was initially built to broadcast TV and radio signals back in 1969, but has been opened to visitors and is now a local landmark of the city!

The view is very nice, but in my humble opinion it is only worth it if you go on a weekday. On weekends it gets so full of visitors you will feel like you are in a packed shopping mall where everyone wants to take a picture with the fake tower background, and you might even miss the show projected on the wall.

I went on a weekend and still remember how horribly long the line was to buy a ticket. That is why, if you really need to go on the weekend, I recommend going for a skip-the-line ticket; no need to struggle with transportation up the hill or fighting with the line. I used it myself!

At the Namsan Pavilion you can even find some cultural performances so check out the schedules here. The tower, pavilion, Baekbeom Square, and Namsan Cable Car are located at the Namsan Park, the largest park in Seoul.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • You can take the cable car from Myeong-dong Station; the ride takes a few minutes and costs 7,000 KRW for a one-way ticket (US$6)
  • You can also take the bus (No.02, No.03, or No.05 lines) for a price of 1,200 KRW (US$1).

TIP: My suggestion is to take the cable car up and the bus down (though I remember I had to wait for the bus for about 20 minutes).

TIP 2: I don’t recommend going on weekends because it’s too crowded to enjoy! Same applies for Seoul Sky.

PRICE: 11,000 KRW (US$9) on the official site, but 5,500 KRW (US$5) if you book here.

5. VISIT NAMDAEMUN MARKET, THE LOCALS’ FAVORITE

Yes, Seoul is all about markets, that’s why they are on my list!

Namdaemun Market is not the trendiest market, but it is the oldest and most traditional one. It opened in 1964 and it is found between City Hall and Seoul Station.

The market covers about 66,000 square meters where there are about 10,000 retailers, vendors, and wholesalers!

You will definitely find cheaper souvenirs here, but you can also find a diversity of products from food supplies to electronics which made me think it is more of a market for locals.

TIP: Starting at 11 PM is probably the best time to visit the market when all the shoppers are going around looking for the best deals and sampling some of the street food stalls! By the way, just like finding your way around a new city, the best way to enjoy the market is by wandering through the maze of shops.

OPENING HOURS: The market is closed on Sunday

6. VISIT AND EAT AT A THEMED CAFÉ

Poop Cafe in South Korea.
Ddo-Ong Cafe

This is probably the most fun activity for anyone tired of going to the classic coffee shops!

You can get completely out of your comfort zone and head over to a themed café – Seoul has everything from cat and dog cafes to even poop cafes!

what to do in seoul

Below I will recommend a couple of great themed cafes in the city:

  • Ddo-Ong Cafe – this one has the craziest theme of them all – a poop theme! This place has decorations full of squat toilets and pooping dolls. Although the menu selection might not have the most appetizing names, it’s hilarious! It might be the most difficult to find; it is on the roof level (4th floor) of the Insa-dong’s Ssamziegil shopping complex.
  • Blind Alley Racoon Café – this one goes wild and welcomes raccoons onto the property! Plus, they also have pigs and a corgi that lives there!
  • Banana Tree Cafe – it is a different cafe, where your cake is served in a plant pot and your spoon actually looks like a tiny shovel!
  • Thanks Nature Cafe – this one is among the wildest cafes I’ve seen because you can actually have a drink while petting the sheep!
  • Princess Diary – it is a fun and beautiful cafe where you can play dress up with gorgeous dresses and feel like a princess while having coffee in their fairytale areas.
  • 221 B – Sherlock Holmes-themed cafe in Gangnam neighborhood

7. TAKE A TOUR AROUND CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE

best places to visit in seoul

The Changdeokgung Palace (also known as Changdeok Palace) is part of the Five Grand Palaces made by the Joseon Dynasty Kings. But just like the other buildings, this palace suffered structural damage during the Japanese occupation.

The rear garden at the palace was done to create the ideal resting place for the royal family members – I definitely recommend checking it out!

TIP: You can book an inexpensive tour with a local and ask for specific Seoul attractions you want to visit; they will gladly give you the t

TIP 2: As I mentioned earlier, there is a ticket package called “Royal Palace Pass” that includes the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and the Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine for a price of 10,000 KRW (US$9). You can only purchase this at any of the palaces or the Ancestral Shrine ticket office.

PRICE: Palace building entrance is 3,000 KRW (US$2.50). Book your online ticket here or purchase a ticket at the gate.

8. BUY SOME KOREAN BEAUTY PRODUCTS

Ladies, this is paradise! Korean cosmetics are known to be the best in the world, and it is crazy cheap to buy them here in the motherland!

Being a travel blogger who is continuously on the road, I hardly buy anything other than a magnet, but I couldn’t help myself and following the craziness bought many cute things in Seoul. Seriously, how can you not? So my advice is to bring some extra cash for that!

TIP: If you are staying a couple of days in the city, I would first buy samples, try 2 or 3 and figure out the ones your skin likes the most, then buy a huge box of it (it’s cheaper if you buy in big quantities!).

From my experience, I can recommend some good stores to shop for beauty products such as Olive YoungNature RepublicBanila Co, and Skinfood. They sometimes give you free samples so that you stop and maybe buy something, no obligation.

TIP 2: Don’t forget to ask for your tax refund form. You will be able to get 10% of the cost of your purchases back at the airport, so save the receipts!

9. GO TO INSA-DONG IF YOU LOVE SOUVENIRS AND TRADITIONAL CRAFTS

Insa-dong is another great option for shopping for souvenirs and traditional crafts. Head over to this street for the antique shops and art galleries that offer a selection of pottery, antiques, and unique souvenirs.

If you are feeling hungry and you aren’t in a shopping mood, there are plenty of food options here as well! The street food is probably Insa-dong’s best attraction!

Insa-dong Street has many alleys and smaller streets that branch from it which create a street food paradise with food carts all along the way. You will find many options for dumplings, hottoek, and local corn cookies filled with ice cream.

By the way, all the districts I mention in this article are in the city center, so walking from one to another takes no more than 15 – 20 minutes.

10. SEE HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA

seoul day trips

National Museum of Korea has been a center of studies and research of Korean history through archaeology, history, and art. It houses the greatest artifacts to tell Korea’s fascinating story from ancient eras to modern ages.

The museum is divided into a Main Exhibition Hall and a Children’s Museum, with galleries holding many national and international pieces. Throughout the year, there are different educational events and cultural programs that visitors can be part of; you can see the updated program here.

PRICE: Free

11. RELAX AT CHEONGGYECHEON STREAM

seoul points of interest

Cheonggyecheon used to be a neglected stream covered by an elevated highway after the Korean War, but is now part of a modern urban park! The entire stream is about 11 km long – it goes from Cheonggye Plaza under a total of 22 bridges before meeting Hangang River.

I stayed near the stream in the city center and was really impressed and enchanted by the view while walking right next to the stream! While you’re there, you can also go to Cheonggyecheon Museum that shares the story of the stream with a scale-model of it and old photographs.

12. TRY SOME KOREAN BBQ

Korean BBQ anyone? Yes, please! 

If you’ve never heard of or tasted Korean BBQ before, let me explain it! The amazing part of this dish is that in most restaurants you will get your own personal grill on the table. The server brings the meat you ordered (we ordered pork and beef, for example) and you put it on the grill together with some mushrooms and onions.

You will have many other little plates on the table around the grill such with items like kimchi (cabbage), salad leaves (for you to wrap your meat in), marinated sliced garlic, soups, sauces, and salt.

The food was absolutely delicious! I just had a flashback of that great meal while typing. I definitely recommend you to try this, unless you are a vegetarian.

The most popular version is called bulgogi (sliced marinated beef sirloin) or galbi (marinated beef short ribs).

Maple Tree House is a fantastic place to try the best Korean BBQ in the city! Although they have a variety of Asian dishes, their BBQ is still a highlight. Their most famous version is the one with hanu (Korean beef) cut in thin stripes.

FUNNY FACT: You can store your clothes (jacket etc) in a special plastic bag while you eat so they don’t smell like BBQ afterwards.

13. DISCOVER THE COOL STUFF AT DONGDAEMUN DESIGN PLAZA

Is Seoul worth visiting

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a major development landmark built with a neofuturistic design that has become the city’s fashion hub!

There are maaaaany shopping malls and markets in this area that form a district.

Make sure to walk inside the Design Plaza where you will find the coolest and most unusual stuff such as a walkable park on the roof! Some shops might be a bit pricey, but you can always go inside for some window shopping only!

Dongdaemun Design Plaza statue

The building is divided into five halls, each with a different purpose:

  • Art Hall – there are numerous conventions, exhibitions, fashion shows, and concerts there
  • Museum Hall – you can find a design playground, a museum, and an exhibition hall there
  • Design Lab – works as an incubator for local and international product designers.
  • Design Market – convenient for some late night shopping
  • Dongdaemun History & Culture Park – the park shows what the area used to look like during the military training of the Joseon dynasty.

14. ADMIRE DEOKSUGUNG PALACE

top things to do in seoul

Deoksugung Palace started out as a royal family house but was named a palace after the main palaces had been destroyed during the 1592 Japanese invasions.

By the way, Deoksugung Palace means “palace of virtuous longevity”!

The Palace is divided into three main halls, each with a different style and purpose:

  • Jeonggwanheon Hall – the first extension to the palace and King Gojong’s favorite place to spend his free time. The back of the hall included a secret passageway to the Russian Emissary, and is still in existence
  • Seokjojeon Hall – a Japanese art gallery opened to the public. It also holds the palace treasure exhibition and the National Museum of Modern Art
  • Junghwajeon Hall – the base for all political discussions and national affairs during the Korean Empire.

TIP: Don’t forget to stop by the Daehanmun Gate to see the changing of the Royal Guards, everyday at 11 AM, 2 PM, and 3:30 PM (except Mondays).

You can check out the Palace with a free guide service (there is no option to book, but you can check the tour schedule here) to actually understand what you are admiring.

OPENING HOURS: Tuesdays through Sundays from 9AM to 9PM. Check the updated opening hours here.

PRICE: Entry fee to the palace is 1,000 KRW (US$1), pay it at the entrance

15. RELAX IN A KOREAN SPA

seoul korea things to do
This is not how it actually looks like, Korean saunas are usually inside and they have gender-separate areas, where pictures are forbidden for obvious reasons

How can a Korean spa differ from any other spa worldwide? Only one word – jjimjilbang!

Jjimjilbang means “bath house”, and comes from the word “Jjimjil” which means heating. A jjimjilbang consists of gender-segregated public baths or saunas mostly frequented by locals, but you can definitely go there if you want to unwind after a full day of walking and shopping.

In most of these spas you can find traditional kiln saunas, massage tables, and hot tubs, as well as heated salt rooms, ice rooms, and sleeping quarters. Another great idea is going for a seshin, which is a full body scrub that has to be booked with the “room manager” who will let you know when it is your turn.

Most of these jjimjilbangs are open 24 hours and have a lot of visitors on the weekends.

Okay, but how can you choose a good Jjimjilbang out of all the choices? It’s not easy, but I handpicked a couple of options for you:

  • Dragon Hill Spa & Resort – one of the best in Seoul because of the service and facilities! They have a spa, sauna, golf course, KTV, and cinema.
  • Itaewon Land Sauna is a less touristy Jjimjilbang. You can find a big traditional oak wood sauna with a 300 m underground spring of water there.

PRICE: about 8,000 – 16,000 KRW (US$7 – US$14)

CONCLUSION OF THE TRIP:

Seoul is such a unique, colorful city that offers so much – from spicy local dishes to fun theme parks and cultural attractions, its range of activities is perfect to fit any travelers’ preferences and budgets!

This was my complete list with my 18 best things to do in Seoul as well as some bonus activities, attractions to see, best hotels to stay in, local cuisine recommendations, and even some tips to save money on several tickets!

I must say that I stayed in Seoul for one week and I always found plenty of new things to do in the city! The must-visit list will just get bigger because Seoul has everything you can think of! It is heaven on earth for all foodies and shoppers.

I hope you enjoyed my Seoul travel guide and you will have a great time during your visit to Seoul!

 

TRAVELWITHEASE TEAM

The Ultimate Travel Guide to London

The Best Things To Do, See & Much More!

Ultimate Travel Guide to London

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London: the heart and soul of the UK is a vibrant and eclectic city with plenty to offer every visitor. Historically important and culturally diverse, modern-day London is a hub of famous landmarks, iconic buildings, and innovative attractions on every level.

From the hipster heart of the East End to the tree-lined avenues in the West, London is a collection of unique and individual boroughs all pulling together to create one the greatest cities on Earth.

Whether you are visiting London for business or pleasure, you will always be made to feel at home. The tourist heart of theatre land in Shaftesbury Avenue and the shopping mecca of Oxford Street are always busy, always lively, and always the place to be.

But if you want to step away from the hustle and bustle, you’re never more than a few minutes away from inner city parks and open spaces. Eat lunch with the pigeons in Trafalgar Square or have a picnic with the penguins in London Zoo; London is a city for creatures from all walks of life.

Furthermore, while you are here, you must visit the Queen! Buckingham Palace is one the most iconic and revered royal buildings in the world, surrounded by a raft of equally important historical buildings that make London such a charming and fascinating destination.

If you’re looking for the best hotels in London, head over to our dedicated article.

A Brief History of London

The history of London stretches back as far as Roman times, when Londinium was established as a civilian town founded on the point of the river. As a strategic location that provided easy access to much of Europe, London was used as a base for many early conflicts.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Saxons took over the founding city, where it flourished for centuries until they fell at the hands of the Vikings.

Fast forward several hundred years, and the London that we know and love today really started to take shape during the 16th and 17th Centuries. While the city suffered dramatic and devastating losses during the plague of 1665 and the Fire Of London in 1666, it was still able to rise from the ashes to become a bigger and more eminent capital for the Britons than ever before.

During Edwardian and Victorian times, London was (as it still is) very much at the heart of British royalty and Government. With 2 World Wars destroying parts of the city, the one thing that never disappeared was the determination and community spirit of residents, or their love for the city they call home.

With so much history before us, and as a world-leading city for innovation, London really is the undisputed capital of the world.

Hot Tip:Want to fly to London using the minimum amount of cash? If so, check out our in-depth guide on the best ways to fly to London using points and miles!

London Fact File

Every borough of London has its own distinct character and ambiance. From the curry houses of Brick Lane to the Victorian terraces of Chelsea, London is a collection of suburban villages that together create one of the most interesting and eclectic cities in the world.

Wherever you find yourself in the city, some facts remain the same.

Here a few useful factoids about the city as a whole:

Population: 8.6 million

Area: 610 sq miles (1,584 sq km)

Official Language: English

Other languages spoken: Throughout the city there are as many as 250 different languages spoken by residents of all the different boroughs.

Official Religion: London, as with the rest of the UK is a Christian (Church Of England)/Anglican province.

Current Prime Minister: Teresa May (Conservatives)

Time Zone: GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) applies from late October through until March. When the clocks are adjusted after daylight saving time, the UK joins British Summer Time (BST), which is GMT + 1

Currency: Pound Sterling – GBP – £

Country Dialing Code Prefix: +44

Emergency Numbers: Dial 999 and ask for the service your require (police, fire service, or ambulance)

Open space: 33 percent (including regional, district, and local parks)

Black Cabs: 21,000

Number of Pubs: 7,000

Nature reserves: 144

Westminster Station
Image Credit: Marianna via Pexels

Getting There & Around

Getting There

The city of London is easily accessible by land or air, and it is just as easy to make your way around once you get here.

Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton airports are all important transportation hubs, both for the UK/Europe and the rest of the world in general. With direct flights from over 190 destinations and over 650 flights a day from Heathrow alone, London airports are some of the busiest and best in the world.

London City Airport is just a few miles east of the commercial center of the city, and is well-placed to service the needs of business travelers, as well as tourists and holiday makers from certain countries.

When you land in the UK, all of the airports offer fast and efficient access to the West End and the city of London via road or rail.

From Heathrow

Train:

Heathrow Terminal 3 offers direct rail service to London Victoria Station. Trains run approximately every hour and the journey time is around 50 minutes. You can pick up one-way tickets from as little as £25.00, depending on the time of travel.

The Heathrow Express runs between London Paddington and all 4 Heathrow terminals. Trains run from just before 6:00am to 11:00pm (approx) and costs from £22.00 for a 15-minute journey.

If you find yourself turned around at the airport, use this guide for navigating between terminals at LHR.

Bus:

You can jump on a National Express Coach from Heathrow Airport Central Bus Station for a 50-minute journey into London Victoria for as little as £5 per journey. Coaches run around the clock.

From Gatwick

By Train:

Trains run from Gatwick Airport Mainline Station to London Victoria every 30 minutes and cost from around £16.00 for the 30-minute journey. Alternatively, you can travel from Gatwick to London Victoria on the dedicated Gatwick Express service from £14.00 one-way for a 30-minute journey.

By Bus:

You can catch a National Express Coach from Gatwick Airport Bus Station for the 90-minute journey into London Victoria for as little as £10 per trip. Coaches run around the clock.

From Luton

Train:

Thameslink Trains run regular services from Luton to London Victoria throughout the day. The journey takes approximately 1 hour, and prices start at £20.00 one-way.

Bus:

National Express Coaches run from Luton Airport to London Victoria regularly throughout the day, with prices from just £5 one-way for a 40-minute journey.

From Stansted

Train:

Stansted Express trains run regularly from Stansted to London Liverpool Street throughout the day. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes, and prices start from £10.00 one-way.

Bus:

National Express Coaches run from Stansted Airport to London Victoria regularly throughout the day, with prices from just £5 one-way for a 40 minute journey.

Getting Around

Tube:

London is home the world-famous London Underground system spanning the central and greater metro area. The Underground (also known as the “Tube”) is one the most efficient public transport systems in the world.

First built in 1863 to service 6 intermediate stations between Paddington and Farringdon, the network now covers over 402km using 11 separate lines and stops at 270 stations.

The colored lines and easy-to-read maps make traveling on the Tube simple. Transport for London offers full details of timetables, ticket prices, and station information at www.tfl.gov.uk

Bus:

The London bus network is equally famous the world over, with its iconic red rear-entrance Routemaster double-decker buses delivering passengers throughout the city day and night.

Buses have been used on the streets of London since 1829, and although the iconic Routemaster has been retired from service on all but one route, the London bus network still undertakes over 4.4 billion journeys every year.

The night bus is also available to carry weary partygoers back home all night long. Again, Transport for London offers full details of timetables, ticket prices, and station information at www.tfl.gov.uk.

 Taxi:

Black cabs are a familiar sight on the streets of London, and they are an integral part of the capitol’s culture and community. Black cabs can be hailed on sight from anywhere in the city, and their drivers are legendary for having friendly personalities and extensive general knowledge.

Alternatively, you can call up an Uber and book where you want to go and when by using the app on your smartphone.

Payment:

Cabs, Ubers, and other private hire vehicles will accept most forms of payment, including cash, credit, or debit card. Most taxis can also be pre-booked using any form of electronic payment.

The London Underground and London buses, however, are accessed using a pre-payment Oyster Card that can be purchased during your stay and topped up as necessary. You can also use a contactless credit or debit card on the Underground system.

Hot Tip:Don’t forget to use a card abroad that’ll earn you lots of valuable points – such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card which earns you 2pts per $1 spent on ALL travel and dining purchases. This is our #1 recommended card. But – at the very least, do make sure you’re using a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees! Finally, make use of all the lounges opportunities that are available at London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted by having a credit card that gets you airport lounge access – it’ll make for a much more relaxing experience at the airport.

Covent Garden
Covent Garden. Image Credit: Monica Volpin via Pixabay

Top 10 Neighborhoods you will enjoy visiting in London

It’s true what they say: a man could truly lose himself in London. To ensure that you don’t, here are some of the most interesting, unusual, and downright delightful neighborhoods in London that you should definitely visit while you are there.

1. The West End, Soho, and Covent Garden

The West End of London is the beating, bustling heart of the capitol with something to see and do on every corner. Enjoy a little retail therapy in the famous shops and boutiques of Oxford Street, or rest a while in one of the many first-class restaurants or bars dotted throughout the area.

Step back from the main road to explore the avenues behind, and you will find yourself in the energetic and eclectic streets of Soho. Take in a show on Shaftesbury Avenue, or stop to see the famous digital advertising boards at Piccadilly Circus.

The West End also encompasses the wonderful Covent Garden with the Royal Opera House, Italianate piazza, and streets packed with designer boutiques and high-end bars and restaurants. The West End has some of the most iconic landmarks in London, and you can access the area from a choice of tube stations including Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, and Piccadilly Circus.

Where to stay:

Where to eat:

2. Camden

If you like cool music, people, and fashion, Camden has you covered. You won’t find a more diverse, warm, or energetic part of London anywhere else. Camden may be famous for its younger vibe, but it’s perfect for anyone who is young at heart. Chock full uber-cool bars, restaurants, and funky little shops, Camden is at the heart of the live music scene in London —  you can catch every kind of band here.

To really enjoy Camden, take the time to wander the streets and be sure to look in all the shops (even the strange ones!), as everybody is lovely and welcoming.

Undoubtedly its most famous attraction is Camden Market. Eclectic to the max and offering a smorgasbord of unusual gifts and funky food stalls, it even has its fair share of well-known brands like Dr Martens, Shelleys, and other stores for you to peruse and enjoy.

Camden is also about the atmosphere. You can spend a day there without spending a penny as you watch the world go by. The best tube stations to use are Chalk Farm Road or Camden Town.

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3. Shoreditch & Spitalfields

Things don’t get much more hip and trendy than they do in Shoreditch. Eye-wateringly cool and oozing with fantastic little pop-up bars plus some of the best cafes and restaurants in London, Shoreditch is a hit with hipsters of all ages.

The music scene in the area is on top of its game, and you can catch anything from a country music shindig to an electropop extravaganza in its East End streets.

Spitalfields Market on a Sunday offers cutting-edge fashion, interiors, and original artworks as well as food. Meanwhile, the ultra-chic and ultra-cool Hoxton is just around the corner with its great selection of bars, boutiques, and eateries.

Shoreditch has been heavily regenerated in recent years and is now an area of innovation, experimentation, and super fresh ideas. If you are looking for something different during your stay in London, you will probably find it here. The best station to use is probably Old Street, although Liverpool Street station is only 5 minutes away.

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4. Peckham

While not on many visitors’ itineraries, Peckham is well worth a visit as it is slowly becoming the Camden of the South. Trendy cafes, art studios, and pop-up bars are appearing everywhere…and the locals don’t seem to mind one bit. If it’s a bit of traditional London you’re after, Peckham has that too, with plenty of pie ‘n’ mash shops, traditional pubs, and the odd market here and there.

Visitors hoping to see Only Fools And Horses-related things will be disappointed, however. The show may have been set here, but it was filmed elsewhere entirely.

The secret of Peckhams’ success as an up-and-coming area is its diversity. All cultures meet here to share their combined love of the London vibe, making it an area that is packed full of music, food, fun, and parties.

Peckham is best reached by the overground rail network stopping at Peckham Rye Station.

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5. Notting Hill

World-renowned for its annual Caribbean Carnival, Notting Hill is also a mecca for those who like to browse unique boutique shops. Expect hefty price tags in some shops, though, as the area is awash with money, supermodels, film stars, and directors…such is its rating on the cool scale!

The world-famous Portobello Market is close by too, where you will find a universe of street foods, fashion, curiosities, and all sorts of things to grab your attention. Saturday is the best day to visit the market, as this is when the street stalls are out. Street food in London is second to none, and this market is the epicentre of culinary greatness in the capital.

If the weather is pleasant, take a wander from Notting Hill Gate to Portobello Road and check out the quirky backstreets and pretty front gardens of the beautiful terraced houses that date back to Victorian times. The best station for the area is Notting Hill Gate.

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6. Kensington and Chelsea

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (to give it its proper title) is an affluent area to the west of the City of London. Bordering the Thames, the area has some lovely parks and conservation areas, as well as amazing views along the riverside.

If you like football, world-famous Chelsea FC play home games here in their enormous stadium, complete with its own 5-star hotel.

For everyone else, there are a myriad of designer shops, boutiques, super car showrooms, and beautiful people to be seen. Kensington is close enough to Harrods (with over 330 departments and 1 million sq ft of shopping!) to be worth a visit, if only to see what being a millionaire could get you.

Dining in the area is a life-defining moment (as well as a wallet-busting one), but treat yourself at least once and you won’t forget it! The best tube stations are West Brompton or Fulham Broadway for Chelsea and High Street Kensington for Kensington.

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7. Mayfair

The reason why Mayfair is the most expensive property on the Monopoly board. Take a wander around this exclusive area and you’ll soon see why. Mayfair contains some of the most expensive properties in London, usually with some of the most expensive cars parked out front.

Many of the world’s embassies are in Mayfair, and it can be a relaxing walk to tour the streets looking at the grand houses, hidden green spaces, and tranquil squares tucked away behind them. Hyde Park also borders the beautiful streets of Mayfair and is a stunning spot all year round.

Other local attractions include the Royal Academy of Arts and super-posh shopping strip Regents Street. As you might expect, food and drink are world-class in Mayfair, and your taste buds will thank you forever if you dine here. The best tube station to use for the area is Bond Street Station, just a short walk away.

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8. Brixton

Colourful, lively, and vibrant are just some ways to describe Brixton. Here you’ll find the always-excellent market with its street foods and amazing stalls, plus a myriad of incredible smells coming out of the various Caribbean cafes and other food outlets. You’ll never not hear music coming from somewhere in Brixton, usually accompanied by laughter as Brixton residents are some of the friendliest people in London.

For gig lovers, there’s the famous Brixton Academy, which always has something cool going on, though you’ll have to book (usually very far) in advance. It’s worth just coming down for lunch if you have a busy day elsewhere, as this really is London’s finest kitchen!

When your belly is full, walk off those calories with a wander through the area and enjoy the amazing murals and artwork painted throughout the neighborhood. The nearest tube for Brixton is, usefully, Brixton, which sits at the end of the Victoria Line.

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9. Greenwich

Britain invented time (sort of), and Greenwich is the place you can stand with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one in the Western. It’s also the place to visit Greenwich Naval College and learn about Britain’s naval history, from it’s earliest beginnings to the modern day.

Be sure to see the Cutty Sark too. This beautiful tea clipper was once the fastest ship in the world, and she’s every bit as grand as you would expect her to be. Take a walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs underneath the Thames to Island Gardens on the North Shore…then take the DLR back if you don’t fancy the walk again.

Greenwich also has lots of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as a theatre. Being a historic river town, it’s also handy for grabbing one of the many sightseeing boats that head upstream to Westminster and beyond.

The best station for Greenwich is Cutty Sark on the Docklands Light Railway line.

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10. Hampstead

Hampstead is a village within a town within a city. It’s a peaceful place surrounded by protected parkland, with a wonderful view down onto the London skyline below.

Hampstead Heath is the city’s largest ancient wetland and park. Take a walk through picturesque Swiss Cottage, which looks exactly as it should given the name.

Stop at any number of lovely almost-countryside pubs and eateries, or check out some of the local museums. Despite feeling like you’re in the depths of the English countryside, excellent transport links will whisk you back into the heart of London within minutes.

The best tube stations to use for the area are Swiss Cottage, Belsize Park, and Hampstead.

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London Eye
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Top 10 London Attractions

London has more places to see and things to do than you could ever manage in just 1 visit. With this in mind, here are 10 of the top London attractions that you definitely should try to see on your trip.

Some of these attractions have specialized guided tours too so not only do you get to see the best of London, but you get a guide to tell you all the ins-and-outs along the way!

1. The Tower of London & Tower Bridge

The Tower of London is home to the Crown Jewels and is at the heart of much of Britain’s history. Guided tours start from £14.00 per person, and the Tower and visitor center is open from 9:00am–4:30pm almost all year round.

From the Tower you can see what is arguably the most famous bridge in the world. Opened in 1894, Tower Bridge is particularly impressive when it opens to let river traffic pass below. London Bridge walkways and visitor center are open daily and cost £8.70 per person. The nearest Tube station for both attractions is Tower Hill.

2. Buckingham Palace & the Changing of the Guard

Buckingham Palace is the London home of the British monarchy and a much loved tourist attraction. Visitors can tour the famous State Rooms from July to September, and the Changing of the Guard can be seen from 11:00-11:45am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from January to March, weather permitting.

For guided tours you can expect to pay £24 per adult (2018 prices), and the nearest tube stations are Victoria, St James Park, and Green Park.

3. The British Museum

Opened in 1753, the British Museum houses some of the world’s greatest treasures from throughout history. You can easily spend the whole day wandering the halls and still not see everything!

The 2001 renovation of the Great Court is also worth a visit. The museum is open daily and is totally free of charge, as are all museums in London. The nearest Tube station is Tottenham Court Road, about 500 meters away.

4. Big Ben & Parliament

The Palace of Westminster, which houses Parliament, was opened in its current form in 1870, although a palace has existed on the site since 1060. St Stephen’s Tower, home to the bell commonly known as Big Ben, sits at the eastern end of the palace. Various tours of the sprawling palace are available at various prices. The nearest tube station is Westminster.

5. Westminster Abbey

Opened in 1090, Westminster Abbey has hosted many royal weddings and funerals, so there are many Kings and Queens buried within the Abbey grounds. It is one of the most photogenic sites in London and sits right next to Westminster Palace. Open all year round, tickets cost £22 per adult (2018 prices). The nearest tube station is Westminster, which is a modern marvel in its own right.

6. The London Eye

For the best views of central London, take a trip on the London Eye. Opened in 2000, the giant ferris wheel will take you on a birds-eye tour of Westminster and the Thames over the course of 30 minutes. Tickets start at £25 and include entry into the 4D Cinema Experience.

The nearest tube station is Waterloo, although getting off at Westminster and walking over Westminster Bridge adds to the fun and affords some great views of the city too.

7. The Victoria & Albert Museum

Opened in 1852, the V&A Museum is one of the world’s largest (and best) collections of art, design pieces, and artifacts. It’s always worth checking out the website, as exhibitions and attractions change throughout the year. The museum is open daily and entry is free.

The nearest tube station is South Kensington, where the museum is just a short walk from the station through tree-lined avenues.

8. St Paul’s Cathedral

The original Cathedral was opened in 1300, although the one standing today was rebuilt and reopened in 1697. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and has survived fires, plagues, and wars unscathed.

Visitors can tour this amazing feat of engineering, built by Sir Christopher Wren, and experience the delightful Whispering Gallery every day. Tickets start at £16 per adult (2018 prices), and the nearest tube station is St Paul’s.

9. Tate Britain & Tate Modern

The Tate Britain opened in 1897 and today houses a massive collection of British art dating back to Tudor times, including most of the works by Turner. Entry is free and the museum is open daily year-round. The nearest tube stations are Pimlico or Westminster.

The Tate Modern was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 2000. It houses the world’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art and always has special exhibitions going on. Entry is free and the gallery is open daily year-round. The nearest station is Blackfriars.

10. The London Dungeons

Opened in 1974, this horror- and history-themed attraction houses some gruesome and fun exhibits chronicling London’s sometimes-bloody past. Genuinely fun for all the family, it’s a must-see when visiting the capitol.

Tickets start at £21 per adult (2018 prices) and vary greatly depending on how much horror you can handle! The London Dungeons are open daily all year round. The nearest tube station is Waterloo.

Hot Tip:Don’t miss out on earning valuable points and miles when you’re abroad. If you don’t have long until your departure, you can always sign up for an instant approval credit card which will give you the card numbers instantly!

8 Unique & Quirky Things to Do in London

If you like your sightseeing to be a little bit off the beaten track, London has plenty of unique and unusual sights for you to see.

1. Dennis Severs House

The house is a time capsule of what a silk-weavers house would have looked like in the 18th century. Put together over many years, Dennis Severs House is a fascinating and detailed museum of early London life down to the finest detail. If you like historical recreations, the house is well worth a visit.

Open most days of the week, tickets start at £15 per adult. The house is on Folgate Street and the nearest tube is Liverpool Street or Shoreditch.

2. Clowns Gallery-Museum London

Situated in a former church, the Clowns Gallery-Museum is all about everything to do with clowns, from galleries of clown faces where no 2 faces are like, to clown stained glass windows, and props and gags from throughout the ages. Rumor has it the best part of the exhibition is hidden in the basement, if you dare!

Open on the first Friday of every month, entry is free and the nearest station is Dalston Junction on the Overground.

3. Graffiti & Street Art Tour

If street art is your bag and Banksy is your boy, then this fascinating Graffiti and Street Art guided walking tour should be right up your alley. Kicking off in Shoreditch near Liverpool Street Station, this tour takes you to see some incredible pieces of graffiti and street art, with explanations and interesting facts thrown in along the way.

These tours take you deep into the heart of London, and even into areas that some Londoners may not know exist! The tour will take about 3 hours and cost you £15 per adult.5. Hackney City Farm

An oasis of calm in the middle of the East End, Hackney City Farm is home to a wide variety of rescued and abandoned animals. There are always things going on at the Farm, from art classes to conservation programs and much more. If you have little explorers with you, it is the perfect place for them to get involved and learn about caring for animals and conservation on a wider scale.

Open every day except Mondays, entry is free but they do welcome donations. Hoxton and Cambridge Heath are the nearest tube stations.

4. Kayak on the Thames

Seeing London from the river is a great way to enjoy the many different sites the city has to offer. Take the plunge and kayak along the River Thames on one of many routes past Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and Little Venice. You can even do it at night.

These guided tours are safe and undertaken by a qualified instructor. Prices vary; for example, the Big Ben and Back tour starts at £39. Based near Battersea Bridge, the nearest station for the tours is Imperial Wharf on the Overground network.

5. Chislehurst Caves

Many visitors (and some Londoners too) don’t know that London actually has its very own underground cave network. Chislehurst Caves is a 22-mile long cave system that can be fully explored via a guided tour.

From London Bridge station, take the train to Chislehurst and the caves are just a short walk away. Open Wednesday to Sunday and every day during the school holidays, tours cost £6 per adult (2018 prices) and last about an hour. No booking required.

6. Stay Overnight in London Zoo

Want to see what goes on at London Zoo when everybody goes home? Now you can stay the night in a lodge and get an exclusive after-hours tour of the zoo, including dinner, breakfast, and 2 days of zoo entry. The lodges offer first class accommodation, and you will get the opportunity to see what really goes on behind the scenes at a world-class zoo and conservation center.

A stay at the Gir Lion Lodges at London Zoo costs from around £438 per lodge, based on 2 adults sharing and includes a host of extras. The nearest tube stations are Camden Town and Regents Park.

7. Lee Valley River Park

If you are feeling the need for an adrenaline rush, why not have a go at white water rafting on the very same course that was used for the London 2012 Olympics? Set within the glorious Lee Valley River Park on the northern edges of London, this massive venue hosts a myriad of outdoor activities, sporting events, and an impressive bar and restaurant to boot.

Tickets start at £50 per person (2018 prices) and are for those over 14 only. The park is open all day, every day. The nearest train station is Waltham Cross station, a 10-minute walk from the park.

8. Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Glide around London on your very own vintage Routemaster double-decker red bus, while sipping tea and eating cakes as you take in the sights and sounds of the city from your top deck vantage point. You can choose from an Afternoon Tea Bus Tour or a Gin and Jam Tour. Prices start at £45 per adult (2018 prices). The tours depart from various locations (see website for details) and are available year-round.

Primrose Hill London
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Top 10 Green Spaces & Secret Gardens in London 

London may be a densely populated city, but you are never more than a few minutes away from hidden gardens, open spaces, or a tranquil oasis perfect for a picnic lunch or a few minutes meditation.

Enjoy any one of these below, or maybe discover your own favorite space as you step away from the major tourist hotspots and explore the city at your own pace.

1. St Dunstan in the East

A stunning reminder of the strength of the city, St Dunstan in the East is the bombed out shell of this 900-year-old church. Now, it’s covered with trees, ivy, and has wall climbing flowers winding through its once grand arches. Tucked away behind the city, this hidden garden is a poignant testament to the destruction the city suffered at the hands of the Luftwaffe.

The garden is open from 8:00am-4:00pm daily, and the nearest tube station is Cannon Street.

2. Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park

Find your inner Zen in the Kyoto Gardens. The gardens were donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in recognition of the Japan Festival held in London in 1992. This peaceful and serene “park within a park” is one of London’s most well known and frequented “secret” gardens.

The park is open daily from 7:30am until 30 minutes before dusk, and the nearest tube stations are Kensington High Street or Notting Hill Gate.

3. Culpeper Community Garden

Described as a “green oasis in the midst of streets, estates, and inner city bustle” the Culpeper Community Garden is a tranquil retreat for all to enjoy. Used as both a public park and an environmental community project, Culpepper Community Garden is managed by the people, for the people.

A true example of the community spirit of London, the park is open every day from 8:00am until 7:00pm. The nearest tube station is Angel.

4. Hampstead Hill Garden & Pergola

With its exotic flowers, overgrown vines, and faded grandeur, the Hampstead Pergola is both eerie and inspirational in equal parts. Formerly the home of Lord Leverhulme, the stunning raised gardens and the pergola itself are a delightful surprise set in the middle of Hampstead Heath.

The park is open daily from 8:45am until approximately 30 minutes before dusk, and the gardens are just a short walk from either Hampstead or Belsize Park stations.

5. Japanese Roof Garden

For instant tranquility in the heart of the city, the Japanese-inspired roof garden at SOAS, University of London, provides a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of busy London streets. Perfect for a spot of relaxation and meditation, the garden is accessed via the first floor of the Brunei Gallery.

The gardens are usually open 10:30am-5:00pm Tuesday to Saturday, and the nearest tube station is High Street Kensington.

6. Richmond Park

The largest of the 8 Royal Parks in London and home to over 650 deer, Richmond Park is a beautiful and vast open space in an upmarket area of West London. Popular with cyclists, runners, dog walkers, and those looking to enjoy the splendor of it all, Richmond Park is a perfect example of the quintessential English parkland.

The park is open from 7:30am until dusk all year round, and the nearest station is Richmond.

7. Epping Forest

Forging a link between London and rural Essex, Epping Forest includes 2,400 hectares of forest and open spaces offering a variety of activities all year round. You can take a walk, try cycling, go fishing, visit Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, and explore the remains of 2 large Iron Age forts tucked within the forest grounds.

The park is open all day everyday, but the visitor centers and conservation centers are open from 8:00am-3:30pm daily. The nearest station is Epping Forest.

8. Walthamstow Wetlands

A recent addition to London’s vast selection of open spaces, the Walthamstow Wetlands conservation center just opened in 2017. Situated just 15 minutes from central London, the site offers 13 miles of footpaths and cycle tracks between 10 reservoirs, 8 islands, and London’s largest heronry. Despite being so close to the city, it has the feel of a rural English idyll…just smack dab in the middle of London.

The Wetlands are open to the public daily from dawn to dusk, and the nearest tube station is Walthamstow.

9. Hyde Park

Perhaps the most highly regarded of all of London’s parks and open spaces, Hyde Park is set right in the heart of the West End and is perfect for boating, tennis, horse riding, jogging, cycling, or just enjoying the beauty of it all. The park famously hosts festivals and live music year-round and is open daily from 5:00am until midnight.

The nearest stations are Marble Arch, Knightsbridge, or Green Park, depending on which of the park’s many entrances you’re heading for.

10. Regent’s Park

Still resplendent with all of its Victorian grandeur, Regent’s Park is the largest grass area for sports in Central London. There is plenty to do and see there, including: the famous Open Air Theatre, the extensive London Zoo, beautiful gardens, and even a boating lake. Opened to the public in 1835, it remains a perfect example of London’s love of green spaces and gardens.

Open daily from 5:00am until dusk. The nearest tube station is Regent’s Park.

The Shard
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Top 10 Best Views in London

The London skyline is one the most famous in the world. With iconic modern architecture, industrial skyscrapers and historical spires all living comfortably together, London offers a whole world of opportunities above ground level.

If you are looking for the very best views of London, the sky is literally the limit. Try out some of these ideas for breathtaking vistas and unique aerial experiences.

1. The Sky Garden

Situated at 20 Fenchurch Street, The Sky Garden offers superb views across the city and beyond. The enlarged glass dome offers 3 stories of landscaped public gardens, observation decks, and an open-air terrace. Yes, gardens on top of a building — how amazing! You can book to eat and enjoy the views, or try your luck and turn up as a walk-in.

Open 10:00am-6:00pm Monday through Friday, and 11:00am-9:00pm on weekends. Bookings for free visits are released every Monday, and the nearest tube station is Monument.

2. One New Change

As a recently constructed retail development in the heart of the city, The Roof Terrace at One New Change overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral and offers further views out over the city. You can visit the roof for free from 6:00am-midnight every day, or enjoy cocktails and tapas in Madison restaurant and bar. You can even book a yoga class on the roof terrace, and different events are held all year round. The nearest tube station is St Paul’s.

3. The Monument

The Monument was built in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and celebrate the rebuilding of the city. It’s in an iconic piece of British architecture and provides outstanding views of London in all directions from a height of about 160 feet. Due to the limited space in the viewing gallery, a maximum of 33 people are allowed inside at any one time.

Tickets cost £4.50 per adult, and the gallery is open from 9:30am-5:30pm every day, except for the December 25-26. The nearest tube stop is Monument.

4. Primrose Hill

First appropriated by Henry VIII to extend parkland available to the poor for open-air recreation, Primrose Hill is still a beautiful spot for everyone. With rolling hills and vast open spaces, it is situated 63 meters above sea level and offers views as far away as Hampstead and beyond.

The park opens at 5:00am and closing times vary throughout the year. The nearest tube stations are Chalk Farm and Swiss Cottage.

5. The Shard

The building that revolutionized the London skyline, The Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building. This whopping 95-story skyscraper is one of the most recognized landmarks in London, and as you would imagine, the views from the Shard are pretty spectacular.

Offering panoramic views stretching for up to 40 miles in every direction, you can enjoy your visit with tickets starting from £29.00 per adult, or an additional £15 for a 45-minute guided tour. The Shard is open daily from 10:00am and closing times changes throughout the year. The nearest tube station is London Bridge.

6. Tower 42

Built on the site of the former NatWest Tower, Tower 42 is the third tallest skyscraper in the City of London. At the top and 600 feet above pavement level sits Vertigo 42, a champagne bar that offers some of the finest views out across the city.

You can book to enjoy champagne and tapas Monday to Saturday from noon until 2:15pm for lunch, and 5:00pm to 9:30pm for dinner. The restaurant is open until 11:00pm, and the nearest tube stations are Bank or Liverpool Street.

7. Heron Tower

Situated at 110 Bishopsgate, Heron Tower is a 230-meter skyscraper in the heart of the city. At the top are 2 highly-regarded eateries that both offer outstanding views of the city.

The Duck and Waffle is an unusual take on traditional British food and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sushi Samba offers Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian cuisine from noon until 1:00am. The nearest tube station is Liverpool Street, but Heron Tower is also accessible from Bank.

8. Oxo Tower

You can enjoy fabulous views across the river from the 8th floor of the Oxo Tower if you book a table in the rather swanky Harvey Nichols Restaurant, Brasserie or Bar. The lower floors offer shops and galleries for you to explore, and the Tower is just a short walk from Southwark or Blackfriars tube stations. The restaurant is open from noon to 11:00pm daily.

9. St Paul’s Cathedral

Visiting the inside of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is a magical experience. Visitors can climb 259 steps up the dome to find The Whispering Gallery, which runs around the interior of the Dome, or go even higher to enjoy some of the most spectacular views over London from the Stone and Golden Galleries.

Admission costs £18 per adult and the Cathedral is open to the public from 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Saturday. The nearest tube station is St Paul’s.

10. Emirates Air Line

The Emirates Air Line is a cable car link that will transport you across the River Thames offering exciting views over the capitol. If you’re feeling adventurous, you will enjoy this opportunity to see some of London’s most iconic spots from the air.

Tickets cost £10.50 per adult and the attraction is open from 7:00am-11:00pm in summer, and closes at 9:00pm in winter. The nearest tube station is Emirates Royal Docks on the DLR line.

Hot Tip:If you need a great place to stay, check out these hotels in London that you can book with points.

Top 10 London Shopping Areas & Markets

From the designer boutiques of Bond Street to the cool and quirky stalls of Camden, London truly is a shopping mecca to suit all budgets.

Whether you are looking for designer handbag or antique table, you won’t struggle to find what you seek in London. Great shops, malls, and markets can be found throughout the city, but here are some of the best.

Camden Market

As eclectic as they come, Camden Market is home to secondhand clothing, furniture, and antique stalls, as well as fabulously funky food stalls, bars, and restaurants. The market is open from 10:00am daily and is just a 5-minute walk from either Camden Town or Chalk Farm stations.

Portobello Road Market

Portobello Road Market is the world’s largest antiques market, and it regularly features over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible you could ever imagine. From tiny trinkets to one-of-a-kind furnishings, Portobello Road Market has something for everyone. The Market is open every day except Sunday. Times vary and every day is dedicated to different types of stalls.

Borough Market

Borough Market is one of Britain’s finest food markets, offering fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, and delicacies from every corner of the earth. The market is held every day from 10:00am until 5:00pm (6:00pm on Fridays), although it only offers limited stalls on Mondays and Tuesdays. The nearest tube station is London Bridge Station.

Old Spitalfields Market

More of a collection of markets than just a single one, The Spitalfields Markets offer cutting-edge fashion and interiors, original artworks, and secondhand clothes and goods. There are plenty of great bars and places to eat too, so you can make a real day of your visit.

The covered Victorian hall markets are open from 10:00am-8:00pm daily, while the outside traders are there from 10:00am-5:00pm. The nearest station is Liverpool Street.

Covent Garden

Known for its beautiful architecture, open markets, and designer shops, Covent Garden is the perfect place for a bit of retail therapy. You can explore the shops in and around the Italian-style piazza, as well as the pedestrian streets surrounding it.

Most shops are open from 10:00am-7:00pm 6 days a week, and 11:00am-4:00pm on Sundays. The nearest tube station is Covent Garden.

Oxford Street

One of the most famous shopping destinations in Europe, Oxford Street offers plenty of famous brand shops and restaurants for you to enjoy. With flagship stores on almost every corner, you will not find a better selection of High Street goods anywhere in the UK. Most shops are open from 9:30am-9:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 11:30am-6:00pm on Sundays.

Carnaby Street

Once the epicenter of the swinging 60s, modern-day Carnaby Street still has plenty to offer with over 100 shops and 60 different places to eat and drink. Most shops are open from 10:00am-7:00pm Monday to Saturday, and 12:00pm-6:00pm on Sunday. The nearest tube is Oxford Circus.

Soho

The streets of Soho are jam-packed with independent fashion outlets, record stores, and vintage boutiques. Where quirky meets classy, Soho offers plenty of unusual shops, great restaurants, and late night bars and clubs.

Opening hours will vary depending on the shops you’re planning to visit, with many clubs and bars staying open until the early morning hours. The nearest tube stations are Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus.

Bond Street

Home to some of the most prestigious shops in the West End, Bond Street boasts one of the biggest and best concentrations of designer shops in the world. If your wallet is up to the task, most shops are open 9:30am-9:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 11:30am-6:00pm on Sundays. The nearest tube station is Bond Street.

National History Museum
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15 London Travel Hacks

A trip to London is a wonderful experience, but it can also be an expensive one. You can help to keeps costs down however, by learning a few simple budget-busting tricks from the locals. Here are just a few to get you started:

1. Skip the Tour Bus

Save money on expensive bus tours by purchasing an Oyster Card instead. At no more than £4.40 a day for unlimited bus travel, you can save yourself a fortune. Routes 11 and 453 are considered the best, as they pass some of the most iconic sites in London and still operate using iconic red Routemaster double deckers.

2. Clip at a Pace Along the Thames

Don’t waste money on expensive river boat cruises, clip along instead! The Thames Clipper is a regular boat service that travels from Putney to Greenwich, taking in many of the city’s prime locations along the way for as little as £4 for a single ride.

3. Travel Outside of Peak

Unless you need to commute for business, travel outside the peak hours of 6:30am-9:30am and 4:00pm-7:00pm Monday to Friday. Transport systems are very busy and fares are more expensive at these times of day, so try to avoid them when possible.

4. Avoid the Stairs

The London Underground is just that, built a long way under the ground. When it’s busy and escalators are packed, don’t be tempted to take the stairs! Congested stations clear quickly enough, and you would be better waiting your turn than collapsing with exhaustion after climbing hundreds of steps to street level. Convent Garden and Russell Square stations are the worst stair offenders.

5. Know Your Exits

The London Underground platforms can get very busy. Native Londoners save time and energy by getting to know where to stand to quickly board and alight from their regular journeys. If you are a visitor, keep your eye out for groups of Londoners hovered around a space on the platform; this is where the doors will be when the train pulls into the station.

6. Skip the Express Trains

Most London airports offer a dedicated “Express” service into the city. The only thing that is different about them from regular public transport is the price! For example, the Heathrow Express charges £34 to take you into central London, but you could actually jump on the Piccadilly Line for less than a fiver…the journey takes about the same amount of time.

7. Group Buying Websites

The internet has given us many great things, and group buying sites are one of its greatest blessings. Sign up to find excellent discounts for eating out and entertaining yourself in the capitol. Restaurants, theaters, attractions, and many more companies often offer discounts via WowcherGroupon, and many more.

8. Cheap Nights Out

Nights out in London can be pricey. Drinks, cabs, and entrance fees can quickly add up. If you are feeling cheeky enough, take some pictures of yourselves, tag your preferred venue on Instagram or Twitter, and see if the promoters will offer you a free VIP table or discounted entrance. It might not work, but it is certainly worth a try!

9. Get Cultured for Free

London may have a reputation for being expensive, but there is actually quite a lot to see and do for free. Like most museums in the UK, the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern are all free to enter. Great for your cultural growth, and somewhere warm to hide from the rain!

10. Walk, Don’t Tube

The tube is worth experiencing and some fares aren’t particularly expensive, but don’t be a slave to it. In Central London it can be just as quick to walk between Tube stations, with the average journey of 3 stops or under being equivalent to a 20-minute walk at most. Walking around helps you to save money and take in more of great sights as well.

11. Stay Outside of Zones 1-3

Central London is easily accessible from all zones. To save money, don’t pay central London hotel prices; find somewhere outside of Zone 3 instead. AirBnB properties and hotel prices are always much, much cheaper outside of the central zones.

12. Free Personal Shopping

If London fashion has got you feeling frumpy, Top Shop at Knightsbridge and London Oxford Circus has your back! Book a personal shopping appointment and you can select anything from a 30-minute “perfect jeans” session to a complete 120-minute “wardrobe overhaul.” Fabulous, darling!

13. Snap up Bargain Theater Tickets

Theater tickets can be very expensive in London, but if you’re smart you can see the best shows for a fraction of the full ticket prices. It you are between 16-25, you may be lucky enough to pick up one of the limited numbers of £5 tickets available at Cambridge Theatre (see website for details). Alternatively, matinee tickets are often much cheaper than evening performances and can be picked up at the box office of many of the theaters in town.

14. Find Free Entertainment on the South Bank

The South Bank stretches 2 square miles along the southern bank of the Thames. Every day there is a wide variety of free entertainment to be found in and around the Southbank Centre. Free lunchtime concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, free poetry, festivals, street entertainers, and lots more can be found here, along with a brilliant atmosphere and fabulous views of the river.

15. Charlotte Street: One of London’s Best Kept Secrets

Charlotte Street is a hidden gem in the heart of London. In the swanky sounding area of Fitzrovia, you will find a wealth of restaurants, shops, and bars all tucked away from the main tourist areas. Undiscovered by many visitors, the area has a great vibe and is full of Londoners enjoying their hometown.

10 Fun Facts About London

London is full of unique and often surprising secrets. As a city so rich in history, there are myths and urban legends that have lived on for centuries…and many of them are actual true stories handed down over the years. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Big Ben Is Just a Bell

As one of the most iconic landmarks in London, you may be surprised to hear that “Big Ben” is actually just a big bell. The clock face and the tower it is housed in was actually just called the Clock Tower until the structure was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee.

2. Great Ormond Street Owns Peter Pan

The Great Ormond Street Hospital actually owns the copyright to Peter Pan and receives royalties from all associated works and performances. Author J.M. Barrie gifted the rights to this children’s hospital in 1929, despite having no children of his own.

3. The City Has Plenty of Streets, But No Roads

No, that’s not a riddle. Up until as recently as 1994 there were no streets named “Road” in the City of London, and today there is still only 1: Goswell Road. There are plenty of “Lanes,” “Streets,” and “Ways”…but public paths weren’t generally referred to as roads until the 16th century.

4. Hidden Histories

Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment houses a time capsule hidden underneath the monument. It is said to contain a capsule from 1878 with cigars, a razor, a portrait of Queen Victoria, copies of 10 daily newspapers, and pictures of 12 “English beauties of the day.”

5. Abandoned Underground

Abandoned tube stations are the stuff of legends, making great film sets and venues for private parties. These include The Strand, Down Street, Brompton Road, and Mark Lane, which is now a pub.

6. Get the Knowledge

If you want to become a Black Cab driver in London you need to successfully master “The Knowledge.” To complete the test you must learn all 320 basic routes, all 25,000 streets, and about 20,000 landmarks and places of interest.

7. St Paul’s and the Pineapples

St Paul’s Cathedral nearly had a couple of stone pineapples placed on the top of the dome. Sir Christopher Wren saw them as “a symbol of peace, prosperity, and hospitality,” and he wanted them to be seen by the whole of London.

8. Pet Cemetery

Hyde Park is home to a hidden pet cemetery that is rarely open to the public. Dating back to the 1880s, the cemetery contains the remains of over 300 animals marked in graves with teeny tiny headstones. At certain times of the year, you can book a guided tour to visit this dark part of the park.

9. Keep Well in Westminster

Feeling a bit under the weather? You should probably give The Houses of Parliament a miss then. Ancient law decrees it illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament. This is thought to be because anyone who dies in a Royal Palace is eligible for a state funeral.

10. Back to Bedlam

The Bedlam asylum was one of the most popular tourist attractions of 18th century London. Visitors paid a penny to watch suffering, and entry was free on Tuesdays. Thankfully, there are now many more wonderful and politically correct things to see in the glorious city that is London.

Bath UK
Image Credit: Andrea Smith via Pixabay

Top 5 Day Trips From London

If you’ve got a bit of extra time and fancy seeing a bit more of the country, here are 5 destinations you should consider within easy reach of London.

Bath

Bath is a historical city in the southwest of England. Famous for its stunning 18th-century architecture and natural hot springs, the city is surrounded by rolling English countryside. Visit the Roman baths, the majestic medieval abbey, or just spend time strolling through this beautiful British city. Perfect for a day away from London, you can reach the city of Bath by road or rail.

Trains run from London Paddington into Bath Spa station daily, and an off-peak adult ticket will cost you from £35.00 one-way for the 2-hour journey.

Stratford Upon Avon

As the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon is a world-famous market town in the county of Warwickshire. Take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, take a barge along the Stratford Canal, or just spend your time enjoying the stunning medieval architecture that can be found throughout the town during your visit. Stratford Upon Avon can be reached by rail or road.

Trains to Stratford Upon Avon run from London Marylebone Station and the journey takes approximately 2 hours 10 minutes. Prices start from £30.00 for an off-peak adult single ticket.

Oxford

The university town of Oxford is famous for its 38 colleges, medieval architecture, students on bicycles, and plenty of stunning buildings and dreaming spires. Modern-day Oxford still centers around university life and is truly a picture-perfect town to visit. You can reach Oxford by rail or road, and the town is the gateway to the glorious Cotswolds if you want to travel further.

Trains run from London Marylebone to Oxford daily, and you can pick up an off-peak adult single ticket for as little as £25.00. The journey time is just over 1 hour 30 minutes.

Brighton

Sometimes referred to as “London On Sea,” Brighton is a lively, energetic, and eclectic seaside town in East Sussex. With beautiful beaches when the sun is shining and plenty of attractions to see if it’s not, Brighton makes for a great getaway from the city. Close enough to get there and back in a day, Brighton is easily reached by rail or road.

Trains run from with London Victoria or London Bridge stations and reach Brighton in just over an hour. Off-peak tickets cost as little £18.00 for a one-way journey.

Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour

Opened in 2012, the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour is a very popular tourist attraction based a short distance outside London. It can get very busy, and you will need to book well in advance…but once there you get to enjoy a fun-packed day exploring the set and scenery of the world-famous Harry Potter films.

Although the studio is only located about 20 miles from Central London, there is no direct rail route or nearby station. You can take the train from London Euston to Watford for around £23.00 one-way, and catch a shuttle bus from Watford Station to the attraction. Alternatively, you can book a pre-paid coach excursion from various pickup points around the city.

For the post part, transport networks in the UK are very good. With a bit of pre-planning, you should be able to make your way all around the country using public transportation without it costing you a fortune.

Booking tickets in advance and not traveling at peak times will help reduce ticket prices and guarantee you seats. If you want to plan your journey before you visit, The Train LineNational Express Coaches, and Transport For London all offer timetables, fares, and plenty of useful advice on how best to use their services.

How to Stay Safe in London

Overall, London is a very fun, safe, and vibrant city to visit. But like all big cities, there are incidences of crime — and knowing how to protect yourself or who to call if the worst should happen is always important when visiting somewhere new.

Emergency Contacts in the UK

  • If you are the victim of a crime, are unwell, or need urgent assistance with a fire, call 999 or 112 to contact the police, ambulance, or fire department.
  • For non-urgent crimes or advice on whether you need to contact emergency services, you can dial 101 and an advisor will be able to assist you.
  • Information about any major incidents in the capitol will be found on the Met Police website, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

If you need travel information, updates of disrupted or canceled services can be found on the Transport for London website.

Keep Safe In The City

Common sense and an awareness of what is going on around you are always important in big crowds of people or densely populated areas.

To ensure you are not an easy target for pickpockets or would-be thieves, follow these simple rules:

Eating Out

  • Keep mobile phones, wallets, and purses safely tucked away, and never leave them in plain sight.
  • Keep your handbags or briefcases tucked away under your chair in bars and restaurants, or use a table clip if the venue provides one.
  • Never accept drinks from strangers — incidences of “spiking” are relatively low in the city, but it’s always best to be cautious

Visiting Public Places

  • Never leave your bags unattended. Apart from the potential risk of theft, unattended items often lead to unnecessary security alerts.
  • Always carry your wallet or purse close to you, and never carry too much cash around. Keep bags close to you in busy areas, and carry your backpack forward facing on your chest.
  • Mobile phones and other devices are incredibly tempting to thieves. Ensure that you always keep yours out of sight when not in use.
  • Before you travel, make a note of your electronic serial numbers (ESNs).
  • If you do lose your valuables, dial 101 for the nearest police station. You will need to make a full report with them as soon as possible. If you lose your card or it’s stolen and you don’t have a backup, consider an instant approval credit card that’ll show you your numbers and card details instantly online. That’ll allow you to make online purchases (travel purchases such as train/airline/hotel tickets etc) without waiting for the card to come.
  • If you are using an ATM, be sure that there is nobody looking over your shoulder as you enter your PIN.

At Your Hotel

  • Always keep your passports and other valuables in a locked room safe if one is available.
  • Keep a note of the address of your hotel and contact number with you at all times. If you get lost, you can use this to find your way back.

Traveling on Your Own

Always have a point of contact that you check in with during your stay, whether they are in the UK or another country. London is one of the safest cities in the world, but it is good to keep in touch with folks back home.

Although most areas of London do not pose any particular threats to single (or group) travelers, use your own common sense when walking around late at night. Stay on main roads and in well-lit areas.

Always Be Aware

Just as in any busy city, incidents can occur. To help stay safe during your stay, you can do some research before you visit. Watch the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) video with advice on what to do in the rare event of a firearms or weapons attack, and download the free CitizenAid app on Android or Apple, which gives advice on immediate actions in case of an incident.

Maximize Points

There are so many opportunities while traveling to earn lots of valuable points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, earns you 2x points per $1 spent on all travel and dining purchases (worldwide).

Don’t forget that the “travel” category is very broad and includes taxis, tours, parking meters, bus fare, and tube rides. There are also many other ways to earn Chase points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards are so valuable which is why we wrote up the best ways to use Ultimate Rewards points for incredible redemptions on both flights and hotel stays!

Tarifa Travel Guide and Tips

When getting off the bus coming from Algeciras and felt the strong wind hitting my face, I did not imagine that I would end up falling in love with Tarifa. I’d had a long journey, I had not slept much, and with every step I took, the strong bursts threw me back a few meters. “What I am doing here?”, I thought to myself.

The days passed and the wind did not stop, but my affection towards Tarifa began to grow. I spent most of my time in the historical center (where the wind was not so strong), and enjoyed walking peacefully through Tarifa’s small, lovely streets surrounded by two-story white houses.

I have been often wished that the wind wasn’t so strong and annoying, as I really wanted to enjoy Tarifa’s white sand beaches and crystal clear sea. Still, I cannot deny that I left Tarifa with the feeling that, someday (not so far away in time), I would come back to this beautiful place.

When passing over in favor of more famous Andalusian destinations, Tarifa has so much to offer and should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Read on to discover everything you need to know about visiting Tarifa. How to get there; what to see; what to do; where to eat — everything is covered here.

Let’s go!

Where is Tarifa?

Tarifa, an Andalusian city in the south of Spain, has the peculiarity of being the Spanish city that is closest to the African continent. In fact, boats leave (as long as the wind permits) to Tangier (Morocco) every day.

Tarifa has its tourist peak during the months of June, July, August and September, when the wind is not so strong and the weather is more than pleasant. The locals say that during these months, cars queue up to three hours to enter the old town.

Very close to Cadiz and just a couple hours away by car from Seville and Malaga, Tarifa is one of the favorite summer spots for the Spanish people.

Woman standing by the sea, Tarifa, Spain

How to reach Tarifa

Getting to Tarifa is not as easy as getting to Madrid or Barcelona. Tarifa does not have an airport, so you have to arrive by land or water. But don’t allow that to stop you! There is always a friendly option for the budget backpacker or digital nomad on the go.

Getting to Tarifa requires a bit of extra planning and careful consideration about which option suits you best, in regards to both time and budget. Here’s a breakdown.

  • Plane

As previously noted, Tarifa does not have an airport. Therefore, if you are thinking about flying, you will first have to fly to one of Tarifa’s neighboring airports, be it Malaga, Seville, Jerez de la Frontera or Gibraltar (remember that Gibraltar belongs to the United Kingdom, and not to Spain).

Once you arrive at one of these airports, you will have to find a way to go to Tarifa by land; either by car, or by bus.

In my case, I arrived at the city of Malaga on a night flight, spent the night at the airport and, at around five in the morning, I was picked up by a Bla Bla Car that brought me to Algeciras. I then took a 45-minute bus that finally left me a few blocks away from my hostel. I mentioned that getting to Tarifa can be complicated, right?

 

  • Car

 

Tarifa is well-connected to all the major cities in Spain (and even some of Portugal’s) so getting there by car should not be an issue.

If you come from Malaga, the road takes around an hour and 45 minutes. If you come from Seville, it’s about 30 minutes more, approximately.

The old town of Tarifa can be very chaotic to navigate with a car (especially during the high season), but having your own means of transport can also be extremely helpful, especially if you are planning to spend a few days in this magical town. There are many places worth visiting that are 20 minutes away by car (Punta Paloma and Playa de Bolonia, for example).

In the case that you come to Tarifa by car and want to use it during your stay, do not take it into the historical center. Park outside Puerta de Jerez in the wide and quiet streets where you will easily find a free parking spot every day.

Pro tip #1: Are you familiar with the concept of carpooling? Carpooling — or ride-sharing — happens when a person making a trip by car is willing to share fuel expenses with other travelers. Carpooling is just one of the many perks of the collaborative travel community, and is a fantastic advantage for travelers looking to travel on a budget.

I used carpooling to get to Tarifa (via Bla Bla Car), and paid significantly less than I would have had I taken a bus.

Pro tip #2: If you don’t have the budget to rent a car, it is very common to hitchhike around Tarifa. In the summer months, you will see tons of people hitchhiking to and from the most touristic points of Tarifa and the surrounding area.

If you don’t have a car, don’t get frustrated. People from Tarifa are very friendly and they will happily take you wherever you want to go!

 

  • Train

 

 

 

Yep, you guessed it. Tarifa does not have a train station either. Therefore, if you want to use this means of transport, you will have to take a train to Malaga, Seville, Jerez or Algeciras. I personally wouldn’t recommend going to Tarifa by train, as I don’t think it’s worth the hassle. But hey, if you love traveling by train, feel free to do it!

  • Bus

Regretfully, there is not a great bus supply to get to Tarifa. The schedules are a bit limited and they change according to the day of the week. For example, if you travel on a Sunday, the schedules are much more restrictive.

In my case, I used carpooling to get to Algeciras and from there, I took the bus to Tarifa. That bus cost me around 3 Euros, one-way. I did some research and found that the buses from Malaga to Tarifa cost around 17 Euros — not such a nice price for budget backpackers, if you ask me.

That’s why I always recommend looking at different carpooling platforms to see if someone else is heading the same place! Carpooling is almost always cheaper. In the worst case scenario, it will be the same price as a bus or train, but at least you’ll be in a car full of like-minded travelers.

  • Boat

Since Tarifa is so close to Africa, boats leave constantly to and from Tangier, Morocco. Therefore, if you are in Africa and you want to travel to Europe, do not discard this option.

Pay attention to weather conditions because if there is a lot of wind, boats will be canceled. And, believe me, it happens quite often.

Sunset, Tarifa, Spain

What to see and do in Tarifa

Tarifa is a town in which to simply be. Please do not forget this. It is place to relax and tune in to the flow of energy that Tarifa’s magical Andalusian streets give to the world.

But this doesn’t mean that there are not things to do in Tarifa. As always, I will not recommend places just for the sake of recommending. For me, places have to have something special. If I recommend a cathedral, it is because of what I experienced inside it. If I recommend a beach, it’s for a particular reason and not because everyone visits it.

That being said, the days I was in Tarifa there was a lot of wind, and I could not visit places I would have visited had the wind not been there. That’s why this list is not only subjective, but also based on my personal experience visiting Tarifa.

Showtime.

1. Watch the sunset at Playa de Los Lances

Playa de los Lances is the closest beach to the old town of Tarifa and can be reached by foot from the historic center in 15-20 minutes. The beach is wide, with clear sand and turquoise water.

You can visit Playa de Los Lances at any time of day, but whatever you do, don’t miss sunset! The sun sets in a truly unique way and it seems that at dusk, the world is on mute and allows you to fully immerse into a meditative state.

Seeing the sand blown by the wind, the sun setting behind soft clouds and people walking peacefully by the sea makes this moment a piece of art. Take a coat because it might be a bit cold.

Pro tip: There are heaps of cozy bars facing the sea where you can sit to watch the sunset. You cannot leave Tarifa without having seen the sunset from one of these bars. Demente, Café del Mar or any bar you want — you choose. But be ready for one of the best sunsets of your life.

2. Kite surf!

Tarifa is the biggest spot for kitesurfing in all of Europe! 

Kitesurfing is a sport has been slowly but steadily gaining popularity. Although I do not practice it, I would love to do it. A year ago I bought a kite but I never even took a class. I deeply regret it.

Tarifa is one of the most famous places to practice kitesurfing because of the wind and consequent perfect waves at the beaches that surround the town. There are more than 20 points where you can kite surf (and windsurf) in Tarifa! Some of these spots are near town, while others are a few miles away.

I spoke with people who stayed in the same hostel as me and they were SO happy because they were kitesurfing all day, every day. If you are interested in kitesurfing or already love this sport, you simply cannot leave Tarifa out of your bucket list.

3. Visit Punta Paloma and Playa Bolonia

Punta Paloma and Playa Bolonia are absolutely stunning and not to be missed. Although they are a little away from Tarifa, you can get to them by car in about 20 minutes. And it is one hundred percent worth it.

The landscape you see on both beaches is simply dazzling. The sea has incredible colors and will leave you hypnotized. You could easily spend hours watching the waves hit the shore’s white sand.

Like I said before, if you visit Tarifa during the high season, tourism will be extremely high and you will encounter a lot of other people with the same itinerary you have. Better to avoid the high season and visit when you can have magical places like Punta Paloma and Playa Bolonia to yourself!

4. See a flamenco show in La Almedina

I have been to many different parts of Andalusia and in all of them, I always searched for the opportunity to see a traditional flamenco show. And although I tried many times to see one of these shows, I never actually went through with it.

Why? Because all the options shown were always SO touristic. And of course, at prices that I could not afford. Shows made for tourists and not for locals. I mean, why should I watch something produced purely and exclusively for tourists?

Luckily this finally changed in Tarifa. Every Thursday, in La Almedina, you can watch a flamenco show for free! No high prices for tourists, or tours that offer things that are not authentic. You simply go to La Almedina (try going at least half an hour before the start of the show), drink a beer with the local people of Tarifa, and enjoy a gorgeous performance.

When hands begin to clap and feet hit the ground, the audience becomes completely silent. I was instantly lost in the magic of the show, enraptured by the artistry of the dancers and the beauty of the music.

When leaving La Almedina so happy. I had seen a local Flamenco show and fulfilled one of my major bucket list goals for the region of Andalusia.

5. Learn about the history surrounding Tarifa

It’s undeniable that Tarifa is a fairytale town surrounded by incredible beaches and crystal clear waters. So of course, it only makes sense that Tarifa also has a unique history worth exploring.

There are many beautiful churches to enter and visit, such as San Mateo, San Francisco and Santa María.

Make sure to visit Puerta de Jerez — Tarifa’s only entrance through the old Moorish city walls that remains today! The Jerez Gate will take you directly to Tarifa’s historic center.

The Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno is also worth a visit. This castle and fortress overlooks the sea and the coast and mountains of Morocco are visible from its towers!

Lastly, the Archaeological Complex of Baelo Claudia is incredible. This archaeological site and National Monument is what remains of an ancient Roman city, and is surprisingly so well-preserved that it has become the most complete Roman urban complex on the Iberian Peninsula.

 

Aerial view of Tarifa, Spain

Where to stay in Tarifa

Being a popular tourist destination during the European summer, Tarifa has a lot of different options for accommodation; hostels, hotels, Airbnb, guesthouses, etc.

However, you should know that during the low season, some places close their doors as the amount of tourism that reaches the town drops considerably.

  • Hostels

During my stay in Tarifa, I stayed at La Cocotera Boutique Hostel and Coworking, a hostel in the heart of the town that has a detail that makes it especially unique. It has a co-working space on the top floor! Perfect for digital nomads who always need good WiFi and a place to focus for a few hours each day.

Not only does La Cocotera have a co-working space, but it also has more than comfortable rooms, with beautiful decor and a lovely terrace, perfect for having a nice breakfast breathing Tarifa’s fresh air (as long as the wind allows it, of course).

Obviously, the prices change depending on the time of year you visit Tarifa, but a bed, in a dorm for six, will cost around 20 Euros. La Cocotera also has private rooms and finished studios complete with facilities!

Pro tip: If you are a van lover and traveler, La Cocotera will let you use their hostel facilities for a fixed fee (per day).

If La Cocotera is not of your taste, there are several other hostels in Tarifa. I recommend searching for something in the old town or near Puerta de Jerez.

  • Apartments

Renting apartments is getting more and more popular. It’s often cheaper than staying in a hotel, and also allows you to save money when it comes to daily meals, since you can cook your own breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Apartments in Tarifa are generally more expensive than hostels, but cheaper than hotels. Prices also vary according to the season.

  • Hotels and guesthouses

Tarifa has several hotels and guesthouses, located throughout the historic center and the surrounding area.

Personally, I almost always prefer staying in hostels to hotels as I feel it’s more conducive to having a social life. But hey, it depends on the trip you are on, right?

  • Worldpackers

 

Worldpackers offers an incredible variety of work exchange opportunities in Tarifa! You can even exchange your skills for accommodation at La Cocotera, the hostel I stayed at!

Where to eat in Tarifa

Tarifa has incredible Andalusian gastronomy! And not only that, but many of its best places to eat are cheap! For less than 5 Euros, you can eat delicious, quality food, surrounded by locals. What more can you ask for?

1. Mesón Siglo XIX

Located in the heart of Tarifa, a few meters away from the Church of San Mateo, Mesón Siglo XIX  is where I tasted one of the best Spanish Tortillas I’ve had. Homemade and made to order. What’s more, they do not serve you a piece of tortilla, but they serve you the WHOLE tortilla. The best part? It only costs 2 Euros. Really. A whole tortilla and a pint of beer for 4 Euros!

2. Bar Los Melli

Bar Los Melli is a very typical Tarifan bar where locals always go. So of course, you must also go! The croquettes in this bar are unique and their flavors will teleport you to another dimension. And as is the case in most places in Tarifa, you can eat well and drink a beer for 5 Euros or less!

One day, I sat at the bar and ate for less than 3 Euros. Incredible.

3. Café Azul

If you are a lover of good coffee, Blue Coffee is your place. Owned by an Italian, Café Azul serves exquisite coffee and healthy breakfast and brunch dishes for more than fair prices.

I ordered a cortado and a bowl of homemade yoghurt and cereals.

Nightlife in Tarifa

Although Tarifa does not have big discos like Barcelona, it has great nightlife. Tarifa’s nightlife is social; everyone meets in the same bars, and talks and laughs until late at night. You ask for a drink in a bar, chat with friends, go to another other bar, meet other friends, ask for another drink, and so on.

In the summer months, Tarifa’s bars — which are all mostly located in a central square — are full of people. The crowds can get so big that it’s often difficult to even walk through the square! (This is also the reason why the people of Tarifa are not their happiest during the summer months.)

If you want to keep on partying once the main bars close, you can always find a disco open until late (Café Del Mar is a great option).

Woman on the beach, Tarifa, Spain

Personal recommendations

1. Go to Tarifa in September

I know that this is very specific and not everyone has the chance to choose a particular month to go to a certain place. But if you can visit Tarifa in September, do it. The weather is still good, and tourism goes down a lot. Locals say that this is the ideal month to enjoy Tarifa at its best.

2. Stay several days

While it may seem that there’s not a lot to do in Tarifa, stay for several days. Tarifa is a place to be, and not just stay. It is a place to walk, meet locals, make new friends, go for tapas or beers, and enjoy the sunset. Trust me and stay in Tarifa for at least five days or a full week.

3. Travel to Morocco

This is something I didn’t do and would have loved to. It’s a shame that with Morocco so close, I didn’t step on African soil for the first time. Boats to Morocco leave almost every day, and there are even tours that take you to Tangier and bring you back the same day (for a fixed price).

4. Walk through Tarifa

Public transport in Tarifa is almost null and this almost forces you to walk. Do it. Walk Tarifa. Get lost in its little streets. Go without a map. Let yourself flow and free your mind. Tarifa is the perfect place to get lost.

Male silhouette on the beach at sunset, Tarifa, Spain

I literally got to Tarifa without knowing very well what I was going to find. Having already traveled to so many touted-about magical places, I was even a bit skeptical of the hype. But when I left, I promised to return.

Tarifa is a quiet corner in Spain that maintains its peaceful way of living, its beautiful rhythm, its vibrant culture and its unique way of seeing life. Whether right or wrong, I’m not sure. But I love visiting places like these ones.

U.S. Passport procedures

us passport

A passport is not merely an official document; it is the proof of your nationality. Whether you get a job overseas or are planning a vacation outside the country, the passport is perhaps the most important document that you would require. In the United States of America, the US Department of State is entrusted with the responsibility of issuing passports to the US citizens. Unlike many countries which follow a tedious process while issuing fresh passports to the applicants, the US Department of State follows a very simple yet stringent procedure.

 

In the US, all applications for passports have to be accompanied with some necessary documents. These include two passport size photographs of the applicant, proof of nationality and a valid photo ID. A person can apply for passport in one of the two ways. He/she can approach the US Department of State in person. Alternately, the passport application form can be easily downloaded from the internet.

 

First time Passports

For first time passport applicants there are two ways for receiving the passport after processing the application. These are the Routine Service and Expedited Passport Service. The routine service processes the application within 10 to 12 weeks whereas in the expedited passport service the processing time is usually 2 to 3 weeks. In both services, the application fee and execution fee are kept at the same level.

However, while opting for the expedited passport service, applicants are required to pay for the expedited service cost as well.

To gain more information on how to get a passport interested applicants may visit the official website of the US Department of State.

Touring the Dark World

Thanatourism catacombs

 

Owing to the growing rates of natural disasters and changing life styles of people, a lot of new concepts are seeing daylight these days. Moreover, people do not flinch anymore to show their inclination towards such things these days, and on the contrary, they provide their active participation.

No we are not talking about anything kinky here, what we are really aiming at is the concept of grief-tourism or dark-tourism, which involves touring those places where some kind of disasters have taken place earlier or where people were murdered. The destinations of such tourism involve the likes of the place where the mighty Titanic had sank, or the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz in Poland or the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi, where 13,000 PoWs, 80,000 Asian laborers and 1,000 Korean and Japanese guards died while working in the most dreadful circumstances conceivable. Grief-tourism.com is a site, which deals with this kind of tourism. They can offer very competitive plans for most of the grief tourism destinations all around the world.

 

Thanatourism

Thanatourism is another type of dark tourism, but it is a lot more intense, as in this kind of tourism people go to such destinations where they can encounter death, or the rituals that are performed after human execution. For example, the ritual of Sky Burial in Tibet is great tourist attraction, where the human corpse is hacked into pieces and fed to condors, as alms.

Although, this might seem a bit weird to a few of you at the beginning, especially, to those who certainly do not share the fervor for touring these kind of destinations. However, if you see closely then you will understand, that this is just another variety of tourism, and going to these places is perfectly normal and you will also understand the significance of the presence of grief tourism in pop culture.

 

Image By The original uploader was MykReeve

Amsterdam – The city of freedom and good vibrations

travel to amsterdam

Amsterdam, a city rich in history.

Amsterdam is the city that is surrounded by good spirits and positive people. It gives you the enormous feeling of beauty, goodness and above all – the freedom. You feel free to wear whatever you like, to do in the streets whatever you like, to stare for hours at some of the gorgeous canals and make it a wonderful day to remember.

Capital of the Netherlands, although the parliament and the main institutions of the state are located in The Hague. Amsterdam is also the largest city in the Netherlands with a population of nearly 750,000 inhabitants.

Amsterdam is a city rich in history. In the seventeenth century, this city was the trading capital of the world. The period from the sixteenth and seventeenth century is called the Golden Age of Amsterdam and at the same time the Golden Age of Dutch culture, especially painting.

 

Tip: Amsterdam: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus with Boat

 

The city and its layout is the perfect combination of modern and old. Modern buildings are well harmonized with the exterior facades of the seventeenth century. Advantage of the big tourist city is its medium size, which allows tourists to see and experience all of its beauty in a short period. Amsterdam has over 3.5 million tourist visits annually.

The central, which is a major tourist destination, lies between the canal in the form of semicircles go one after the other until the canal Spiegel (Spiegelgracht) which is the boundary of the core city center – the so-called Old Town (the place where Amsterdam was founded). Canals are the hallmark of Amsterdam and one of the reasons why some parts of this city are called “Northern Venice”.

 

Amsterdam Squares

 

One of the biggest tourist attractions of Amsterdam is Dam Square. While in Amsterdam you find much nicer parts, quieter and neater, the square with its magnificent facade of the Royal Palace, New Church and museum Madame Tussauds is certainly worth your time. It is a place of special historical importance. On this square once made the handover of Napoleon back in 1808th year.

In Amsterdam there are two important squares: Square Leidseplain and Rembrandt Square. The two squares are centers of entertainment in Amsterdam and a place where tourists spend most of their time.

Among the other attractions of this city, the ones that stand out are red zone and park erotic, where photography is prohibited; the Magere Brug, which in translation means the most famous bridge. This bridge is of similar importance as the Tower Bridge in London, even in the same way and it works (is raised to let ships). This bridge is made even 1670th year, but was reconstructed several times.

Finally we should mention Albert Cuyp Market, which is one of the best known and most popular open market in Europe. Thousands of visitors a day walk the drinking, especially a large number of Saturdays. Here you can find everything from fresh food to clothing.

Amsterdam is definitely a city to see and experience. It is one of the capitals of Europe that the whole continent can be proud of.

Why Sailing the Seas Can Help You Relax

sailing a boat

Sailing was once thought of only as a pursuit of the wealthy or privileged. Bobbing up and down on the waves, learning to navigate, tack and control the boat and feeling the sun on your face. It seemed that all these things were only possible if you owned your own yacht or kept a second home in the Florida keys. But recent years have seen community sailing groups and affordable yacht clubs open up this world of relaxation for anyone to enjoy.

 

So what is it about sailing that makes people recommend it so highly for easing the strains of daily life?.

 

 

The Perfect Stress-Relief

Whether you need a good two-week break or just want a weekend’s sail with the family, getting out onto the open waters can make you feel light-years away from your troubles. When asked, a significant majority of people claim to feel at their most relaxed beside the sea, whether it’s because of the gentle sound of the tide moving in and out, the distant call of gulls or just the salty breeze blowing inland.

Add to this the chance to spend a few days or weeks in some of the world’s most scenic coastal spots – Naples, New Zealand’s Auckland harbour or even the idyllic shores of Suffolk – and you have the perfect recipe for a peaceful getaway.

The Physical Challenge

It’s true that exercise is one of the most important things you can do to keep both body and mind healthy. with a skipper or crew to manage the boat, many more will allow you to have a go at the ropes yourself. The physical effort and agility required soon gets unused muscles working, refreshes a tired mind and gives you a completely different workout to being stuck indoors at the gym or swimming at the local pool.

 

 

Social Interaction and Team Building

The biggest testament to sailing’s capacity to relax is that there are organisations which actively promote it as a form of therapy. One such organisation in California is Heart of Sailing, which was set up to provide trips for those with special needs along with their family and friends.

A sailing team takes people of all ages and with all kinds of developmental disabilities and encourages them to join in with the communal chores on board, interact with each other and improve things such as motor function and hand-eye co-ordination. In addition, they have found that levels of confidence soar when the participants learn to manoeuvre the boat or take charge of the helm.

Sailing has also become a popular opportunity for leadership and team-building exercises and other corporate training events. Though the challenges of working together on deck can be tough, the development in both individuals and the overall team can be inspiring and immensely enjoyable. Sailing is one of the most relaxing hobbies you can take up and with trips for both beginners and seasoned sailors alike, the stress-relief can start whenever you’re ready.

 

Tom Harker is a water-sports enthusiast and writer for various online journals and blogs. He first started crewing boats around Europe as a summer job from university with yachting clubs (Malaga and the Caribbean) and has formed a life-long passion for sailing ever since.

Travel to Australia for Studying – A Prospective Student’s Guide

student australia

With fees at English universities rising and a recession biting, many British people are studying abroad. Australia, with its attractive climate and laid-back lifestyle, is highly popular, but what do you need to know before you go?.

 

Why Australia?

Australia is the third most popular destination for international students and home to seven of the world’s top 100 universities, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 2012-13. Fifteen Nobel Prize winners have come from Australian universities and if you go there to study you can choose from 22,000 courses at 1,100 institutions. This, combined with lots of sunshine and seemingly endless beaches, makes Australia extremely tempting to many students looking to broaden their experience of education and of the world.

British students travelling to Australia do, of course, have an advantage in that they already speak the language of their destination country, which greatly eases their transition into the new culture.

 

The Paperwork

To travel to Australia as an international student on a student visa, you must be accepted onto a course and at an institution, approved by the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses (CRICOS). CRICOS-registered institutions are not all providers solely of formal, academic education as vocational education is covered, too. If you do not wish to travel purely as a student, you can combine work and travel by enrolling on the Working Holiday Maker Programme. Other options include student exchanges, study tours and distance education.

 

How Much Does It Cost?

If you are accepted onto a course in Australia, the cost will naturally vary according to the institution and the level/subject of study. However, as a rough guide you can expect to pay:

  • Vocational education: AUS$4,000 to AUS$22,000
  • Undergraduate/bachelor’s degree: AUS$15,000 to AUS$33,000 (more for expensive subjects such as medicine)
  • Post-graduate masters degree: AUS$20,000 to AUS$37,000
  • Doctorate: AUS$14,000 to AUS$37,000 (more for expensive subjects such as medicine)

The fees above are course fees and must be paid in full before you begin studying. You must, of course, budget for living costs on top of this. The Australian Government invests AUS$200,000,000 annually in international scholarships, so that may be an option.

 

Conclusion

If studying in Australia is an option for you, there is a great deal to gain from pursuing it. The experience of living in a new culture, high quality education, the glorious climate, beaches, outdoors lifestyle and natural wonders of this great country will create lasting memories and leave you well equipped to follow whatever path you choose in life. The logistics of moving to Australia may also be rather easier than you think. Searching on the net you can find lots of practical information on how to get all your belongings, from computer desks to cars, out to Australia for the start of term.

When the time comes for you to return to the UK, many Australian institutions offer support and information on the practicalities and of course when you come home you can get help with transporting your belongings on the return leg of your journey. However, above all, be sure to enjoy your experience of studying in Australia, it is a life-changing opportunity.