If you’ve never visited Jesmond, you’re really missing out. This student suburb is one of the most popular areas in Newcastle. The streets are lined with chic bars and boutique shops, and it is home to one of the best green spaces in the city, Jesmond Dene. But the best thing about the area by far is the ample range of independent eateries. If you’re looking to support independent businesses and fill your belly too, read on to find the 5 best places to eat in Jesmond.
This crowd-pleasing café is one of my family’s absolute favourites. The extensive menu is full of tasty treats that are suitable for all dietary needs, including veggies, vegans and the gluten intolerant. There are so many mouth-watering options available that it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite, but particular highlights include the delicious deli sandwiches, incredibly filling burritos and the customizable breakfast sandwiches. For the health-conscious foodie, they also do a great collection of power bowls that are perfect for setting you up for the day ahead.
The portions at Cafébar One are seriously big, so make sure to build up an appetite before you go! And if you’d like to walk off your filling meal, you’re in the perfect location to do just that. Jesmond Dene is only a 5 minute walk away from the café, so make sure to pay it a visit.
If you’re looking for a huge range of tasty food right in the heart of Jesmond, then Café 1901 is the perfect place for you. I’m lucky enough to live just a few minutes walk from the café, and let me tell you, I’ve really made the most of it. Much like Cafébar One, the menu is extremely wide-ranging so you’re bound to find something that you’ll love. If you’re looking to set yourself up for the day, their vegetarian breakfast is one of the best I’ve ever had! It’s filling, it’s delicious, and the eggs are done to perfection — I don’t think this breakfast will ever be topped. But make sure to check out the lunch menu too, as it has some fantastic choices, ranging from smaller options like the soup of the day, to hearty meals like the fantastic selection of burgers.
And of course, I couldn’t write about Cafe 1901 without giving mention to their amazing selection of hot and cold drinks. Their nutritious and delicious smoothie range is great, especially the hangover cure (I can confirm that it actually works!). And if you’re a veggie or vegan who’s been missing out on hot chocolates that come with all the works, your prayers have been answered — the deluxe hot chocolate can be made completely vegan! If that hasn’t persuaded you to pay it a visit, I don’t know what will.
In the 10 years that Fat Hippo has been around, it’s gone from strength to strength. What started off as a small local favourite has now become a thriving chain of burger restaurants with 6 venues already established and another on the way. Two of the venues are in the Newcastle area, but the success story began in Jesmond, the birthplace of Fat Hippo. The burgers at Fat Hippo are towering, decadent and absolutely delicious. The vegan burgers are so luxurious, and unlike any that I’ve ever had before.
As someone who’s been vegetarian for 13 years, I remember when tomato pasta and margherita pizza were the only two things on the menu that I could eat. When I first saw the Fat Hippo menu, I felt completely spoilt for choice! A personal favourite is the Notorious VFC 2.0, which is made up of a plant-based patty, hash brown, vegan cheese and BBQ sauce. Although I’ve never eaten the meaty burgers myself, my partner can certainly vouch for them! He recommends trying out the Swiss Tony — a beef burger with swiss cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onion and truffle mayo.
I was never a big fan of Indian food — and then I visited Dabbawal. This restaurant makes your mouth water before you even taste the food — the gorgeous aroma fills the room, making the wait for your meal almost impossible. But when it arrives, it’s more than worth it. The menu offers a range of different portion sizes. As well as traditional main meals, there’s also a wide selection of small plates on offer. This is great if you’re visiting with people with vastly differing appetites, although even those who aren’t big foodies will find it impossible not to dig in!
The highlight on the menu for me is the Kadhai Paneer, which is an Indian cheese in tomato sauce, with the perfect blend of spices to give it just the right amount of heat. If you find that indecision makes it impossible for you to choose the perfect meal, then this is the perfect place for you. Order the chef’s surprise menu to taste a range of their best offerings, including appetisers, street classics, grills, curries, sides and breads.
The final eatery on this list is well-loved by all the residents in Jesmond — no, that is not an exaggeration. You have not truly had cake until you’ve sampled the delicacies that Cake Stories has to offer. They’re sweet, they’re gooey, they’re everything you could ever want from a dessert. If the staff went on the Great British Bake Off, Hollywood handshakes would be flying in left, right and centre.
There are so many great cakes on display, it’s almost impossible to choose. If there’s no such thing as too much sugar for you, then the super gooey salted caramel brownie is an absolute must. But if I were pushed to choose an absolute favourite, it would have to be the chocolate Biscoff monster cake — a moist chocolate sponge filled with a thick layer of crunchy Biscoff spread. As well as being completely mouth-watering, it’s vegan too! And if your sweet tooth can handle any more sugar, make sure to check out their splendid selection of hot chocolates and lattes. If you can’t get enough of Biscoff (who can?), give the extra special Biscoff latte a taste. You’ll probably be bouncing off the walls afterwards, but you won’t regret it.
Which one will you try out first? Let me know in the comments below!
As much as I love reading travel blogs, it can sometimes feel like an insider’s club that I’ll never be a part of. Trekking through the heart of a jungle or spending a month in a Nepalese village sounds fantastic, and it’s really interesting to read about. But it’s not exactly relatable for the majority of travellers. And if you’ve never been travelling before, it can seem pretty intimidating. But travelling doesn’t have to mean going to the most distant and least touristy countries. If you love the idea of backpacking but you’re also feeling a little trepidatious, these 5 countries are the perfect places for you to start your travel love-affair.
There’s a reason why Vietnamese tourism increases year on year — the country has everything you could possibly ask for. Whether you want to explore vibrant cities, chill out at the beach or discover the amazing wildlife, Vietnam is the place for you. And if you’re a history buff, you won’t be short of things to do here. As well as the many museums and landmarks dedicated to the American War, you’ll also find a number of museums that detail the country’s colonial past. And of course, I can’t discuss Vietnam without mentioning the emerald paradise. Halong Bay was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, and the natural beauty has been captivating tourists ever since.
Vietnam was the first country I ever travelled through, and I’m so glad for that. Not only did the wide variety of activities and sites give me a perfect introduction to travelling, but I got plenty for my money too. It’s generally agreed that Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in the world to travel, and it’s far better value than its more popular neighbour, Thailand. And if safety is one of your main concerns, you can relax as Vietnam is one of the safest countries for backpackers too. Aside from the inevitable scams and petty thefts in big cities, the country’s crime levels are extremely low. Maybe I’m biased, but I truly couldn’t think of a better country for travel newbies to explore.
Everyone has that one country that they’ve wanted to visit for as long as they could remember. For me, Italy was that country. And when I finally went in the summer of 2016, it didn’t disappoint. Like Vietnam, Italy has something for everyone. The main attraction for most visitors is the country’s rich culture and fascinating history — world renowned landmarks such as the Colosseum and Pompeii are evidence of this. But there’s far more to Italy than just the city life. From the breath-taking Lake Como to the mesmerizing crystal clear waters of Lake Braies, the country is brimming with natural beauty. And it goes without saying that the food is absolutely out of this world. Italian pizza will definitely spoil pizza for you from literally anywhere else, but it’s definitely worth it.
What makes Italy so friendly for new travellers is how easy it is to get from A to B. The country is set up for tourism, so you shouldn’t find it difficult to figure out short or long-haul travel. And like most of Europe, Flixbus operates throughout Italy, so affordable transport will always be an option. Speaking of affordability, it’s safe to say that Italy is not a budget destination. But compared to other central European countries, it’s definitely on the cheaper side. Budget hotels and hostels are relatively easy to find and seeing the major landmarks shouldn’t set you back by too much either. Even the mouth-watering cuisine is great value — so make sure to eat up!
There’s no better way to describe life in Costa Rica than by using the country’s proverb: ‘pura vida’. Literally translating to ‘pure life’, the true meaning of the saying is to appreciate life, no matter the circumstances you find yourself in. The laid-back atmosphere and easy-going nature of Costa Ricans is in part what makes the country so amazing. Life moves at a different pace here, making it the perfect place to sit back and relax. But if you’re an adventure seeker, don’t worry because you won’t get bored. There are plenty of activities on offer throughout the country, including ziplining, scuba-diving, hiking, canyoning and so much more. But for me, the best experience by far was going on a tree top walk. You really feel like you’re on top of the world, and the views were simply unbeatable. If you’re scared of heights, just make sure not to look down.
You’d be hard pressed to find a country as effectively set up for tourism as Costa Rica. The bus system in the country is superior to its Central American neighbours, and information about public transport is relatively easy to find. It’s easy to find information about the various activities on offer too. All the tourist destinations have at least a handful of tour operators operating – if you’re stuck for choice, make sure to ask the reception at your hostel or hotel for some advice. Although the country comes with a bigger price tag than any other Central or South American country, it’s definitely worth the extra cost if you’re a first time traveller.
There’s so much to see and do in Spain, it’s impossible to fit it all into this article. Whether you’re after a beach getaway or a city break, this country is perfect for you. One of the highlights of Spain is its most popular tourist city, and one of my favourite cities of all time — Barcelona. The city is full of awe-inspiring architecture, designed by the cities’ most famous former resident, Antonio Gaudi. Despite dying almost 100 years ago, his most well-known piece of work is not yet complete. The Sagrada Familia isn’t expected to be complete until 2026, so be sure to get there soon to take a snap for a before and after picture! If adventure is more your thing, you’ll find plenty of activities to keep you entertained, from kayaking to mountain climbing.
Much like Italy, travelling through the country is made easy and affordable thanks to Flixbus. If your Spanish isn’t perfect, don’t fret as a lot of the transport ticket booking machines can be operated in a range of languages. Additionally, many Spanish citizens have a great grasp of the English language, but don’t rely solely on their knowledge. It’s important to make an effort to speak the language of your host country – and they’ll definitely be thankful for it too.
Your Home Country
Last, but certainly not least, there’s no better way to ease yourself into travelling than by making the most of what your home country has to offer. When we think about travel, most of us tend to think about exploring an exotic international destination. But this isn’t the only way to travel. In fact, travelling your home country is a really important thing to do. Because it doesn’t matter how many countries you visit or how long you spend backpacking — if you can’t learn to appreciate your own home, then you won’t be happy in the long-term. It’s easy to claim that your home country isn’t interesting or exciting enough to spend a month travelling through it. But once you start to explore, you’ll discover the diversity and beauty that attracts other tourists to your neck of the woods.
Not only is exploring your home country far more exciting than you may think, but it’s so easy too. Firstly, you already know about the culture, customs, and how to communicate. This sense of familiarity is something that you can’t get in other countries, which makes your homeland the perfect place for your first travel experience. Secondly, there’s a lot less planning that needs to be done in comparison to international trips. When travelling to a foreign country there are so many things to consider, including dealing with a different currency, visas, vaccinations and so much more. Whereas when you’re travelling at home you just need to account for the basics: accommodation, transport and budget. This allows you to get experience of travelling whilst not having to deal with all the admin hassle.
Finally, and most importantly, travelling in your own country is great for the local economy — and after this awful year, supporting local business is more important than ever. So many industries have taken a hit this year, but none have been dealt as bad a hand as the travel industry. With international travel becoming almost impossible, tourist businesses are heavily relying on domestic travel just so they can keep themselves afloat. So, take some time to explore your homeland, and help out local businesses as much as you can.
Where are you going first?
Are you going to be visiting one of these countries for your first travel adventure? Or are you going somewhere completely different? Let me know in the comments below!
So after rushing around the shops last Christmas Eve, you promised yourself that you’d be more prepared this year. And then 2020 happened. If you’ve only just started your Christmas shopping (or if you haven’t even got that far yet), all is not lost! If you want one less gift to worry about, use this handy list to find the perfect present for your favourite backpacker. There’s something for every budget on this list, so whether you’re after high-end or cheap and cheerful, read on to find your perfect gift.
A Lonely Planet Book
Whether you want to help the backpacker in your life plan their perfect trip, or just give them some inspiration, there’s nothing better than a Lonely Planet guide. They have a book on every destination you can think of, from Brazil to Botswana. What makes Lonely Planet stand out from the rest is how easy the writing is to digest. They provide travellers with all sorts of information, including top activities, shopping hotspots, the best accommodation in the area and so much more. And if the person you’re buying for is more into weekend getaways than long-haul travel, there are some great pocket city guides for you to choose from. Country guides range from £10 to £20, but if you’re on a budget, the city guides are a steal at just £7.99.
However, buying a travel guide can be tricky when your backpacking buddy seems to have a new destination in mind every 5 minutes. If you have no idea what guide would be best for them, check out the travel advice and inspiration section of the online shop. Here, you’ll find a wide range of books providing top travel tips and general inspiration for their next big adventure. If you can stretch your budget to £40, I can highly recommend The Travel Book. My partner got this for me a few years ago, and it’s my go-to guide for deciding where to visit next. The book provides a brief summary of every country in the world and lists the best things to see and do there, as well as the best time of year to visit. And the pictures are absolutely breath-taking too, making it the perfect book for travel inspiration.
If you choose to get something from the Lonely Planet shop, make sure to subscribe to their mailing list to get a 20% off code so you can stretch that Christmas budget a little bit further!
A Reusable Water Bottle
Travel is thirsty work, so keep your favourite backpacker hydrated with a good quality reusable water bottle. Keeping healthy on the road is so important — after all, you can’t enjoy your time travelling if you spend half the trip in bed! And keeping yourself hydrated is one of the best ways to protect your health on the road, as drinking water helps you boost your energy levels and fight off infections.
To find the perfect water bottle to take on the road, there are a few things for you to consider. Firstly, if the gift recipient prefers to travel in hot climates you should try to find a bottle that’s well insulated, as this is what regulates the temperature of the drink. There’s nothing worse than taking a sip of your water to cool yourself down to find it’s turned lukewarm. If you want to splash out on a big brand, Chilly’s water bottles are popular, stylish and you can even buy a bottle with their favourite city on. But if you’re on a tight budget, my Wilko’s insulated water bottle costs just a fiver and after a couple of years it still gets the job done.
However, if you’re travelling to a country without safe drinking water, keeping hydrated can be pretty tricky. To make life easier for your favourite backpacker (and help them cut down on their single use plastic too), gift them with a filtered water bottle. Prices for these can range from £15 all the way up to £100, so you should be able to find one for your budget. Use this list from Water Filter Magazine to check out the best ones on the market.
A Passport Cover
If the travel lover in your life is anything like me, the front of their passport will be almost unrecognizable. Obviously, a passport is an absolute essential for any traveller. As well as needing one to explore different countries, they can also be used as ID, and in some countries you need to show your passport when checking into accommodation. It feels like you need to take your passport out of your travel wallet every five minutes, so it’s no surprise that the cover can become pretty knackered in a short space of time.
To protect their most prized travel possession and add a touch of glamour to it too, buy them a passport cover. For a reliable choice that every traveller will love, this world map passport cover is perfect. It’s sleek, stylish, and it comes with matching luggage tags too! If you think that your travel bestie would prefer a minimalist design, this personalised passport holder is ideal. It’s simple, elegant, and you can even have their initials monogrammed in the corner. But my personal favourite is this cover from Etsy that will let your loved one explore their creative side. It allows your friend to personalise the cover themselves by stitching in the countries that they’ve visited. This is perfect for the friend who seems to have visited so many countries that they’ve lost count!
A Travel Inspired Print
It might be a while before most of us can travel internationally again, so for the time being we’re stuck daydreaming about jetting off on our next adventure. To bring a taste of the world into their own home, treat your favourite globetrotter to a travel print this Christmas. There are so many different kinds to choose from, so you’re bound to find the perfect one for them.
To start with, check out Junique’s collection of stunning travel prints. There’s an enormous range of designs to choose from, and the quality is amazing for the price. You can buy the poster on its own, but if you want your gift to be ready to hang straight away, they have a good range of affordable frames starting at just £15.
As great as it is to have so many options available, sometimes you want to make your gift a bit more personal. If you’re on a tight budget but you still want to make your gift special, why not try making a display of your own? It’s cheap, it’s quick, and you don’t have to be artsy to do it either. A couple of years ago, I surprised my partner at Christmas with a frame consisting of vintage travel postcards of our favourite destinations, and he loved it. A 30cm by 40cm frame from Ikea only costs £8, and sets of travel postcards can be found on eBay for less than a fiver. Once they arrive, all you have to do is stick them in the frame and your work is done! It’s touching, heartfelt, and I can guarantee you that they’ll be so grateful.
An eBook Reader
Between the long-haul flights and endless bus journeys, you tend to have a lot of free time when you go travelling. And what better way to spend it than getting stuck into a good book? Of course, if you’re away for months at a time, you won’t have the space in your backpack to pack the entire contents of your bookcase. So, allow your friend to save on space and treat them to an eBook reader. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a souvenir as a thank you for the gift and the extra luggage space!
This gift is a bit pricier, so you should only choose this option if you can stretch your budget. If you’re after a reliable and popular brand, you should check out the different options available at kobo.com. The cheapest option available is the Kobo Clara, which is currently priced at £89.99. It comes with ComfortLight PRO and it has the space for up to 6000 eBooks. Although there are more expensive Kobo readers available, the Clara has everything that a traveller needs, so I wouldn’t say it was worth paying extra for a seemingly better model. If you want to treat your backpacking buddy to their first book as well, purchase an eGift card so they can dive straight into their favourite novel.
An Online Course
Does the travel lover in your life want to make money from their time on the road? Maybe they’re an aspiring travel photographer, or maybe they want to write about their experiences. If so, why not buy them an online course to help them achieve their dreams? Not only is this a really thoughtful gift, but hopefully it will pay off for them in the long run too.
There are a huge range of online course providers, which makes it very daunting to find one that’s legit and good value for money. From personal experience, I can highly recommend Udemy. There’s a huge range of courses, and there’s often a sale on so you can get some great discounts too. At the start of lockdown I purchased 4 courses for £30 in the sale, and I saved over £200! All the courses have reviews and are rated on a 5-star system, so it’s easy to see which course to spend your money on. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a few highly rated courses for you to explore.
SEO 2020: Complete SEO Training + SEO for WordPress Websites: If your loved one wants to get into travel blogging, an understanding of search engine optimization (SEO for short) is essential. I’m in the middle of taking this course myself and I can thoroughly recommend it! Arun has made it beginner-friendly, and it’s split up into manageable chunks too. With a 4.4/5 rating from over 11,000 reviews, this course is great value for money.
Last, but by no means least, a notebook is one of the best possible gifts a backpacker can receive. Of course they’re going to take a bunch of photos, and they’ll never forget how much fun they had on their trip. But sometimes memories can become fuzzy and slip through the cracks in your mind. To stop that happening to your favourite backpacker, buy them a notebook for them to write down all their precious memories. This isn’t just a gift to be used whilst travelling — it’s something that they’ll treasure for the rest of their life.
This is a gift that will suit every budget — you can spend as much or as little on it as you want on the present. If you want to spend a little extra on your notebook, this personalised one found on Etsy is absolutely perfect. It’s extremely durable with a gorgeous minimalist design, and you can even personalise it by adding your loved one’s name and choosing a charm that you think they’d love. If you’re on a budget, these pocket notebooks from Waterstones are less than a fiver, and they’re ideal for making notes on the go. No matter what your budget is, you can’t go wrong with a gift as thoughtful as this.
Have you found the perfect gift?
Hopefully I’ve given you some inspiration for your quest to find the perfect gift for your favourite backpacker. Have you found the perfect present for them? Or maybe you’ve given in to the temptation and bought one for yourself? Let me know in the comments below!
No one forgets their first time travelling. Whether the trip is a month or a year long, it’ll stick with you for life. It’s an adrenaline pumping, nerve-wracking, incredible experience – but it takes a lot of work. From finding the perfect hostel to cramming your life into a 40-litre backpack, preparing for your first big trip can be pretty overwhelming. Despite being a complete type A, I still often find myself feeling snowed under by the whole process. If you don’t know where to start with planning your first trip (or even your fiftieth), use this step by step guide to make the process a little less taxing and a lot more fun.
Stage One: Deciding Your Destination
Obviously, this is everyone’s favourite step. Scrolling through Instagram for inspiration and reading the Lonely Planet’s ultimate travel list? These aren’t chores, they’re my favourite hobbies! Some people can take all the time in the world umming and ahing over their ideal destination, whilst others just know by instinct. But even if you’re convinced that your mind is completely made up, don’t skip this step. It may be handier than you think.
Make a List
You’ve probably got a fair few travel ideas floating through your head, so it might feel impossible to choose one. To start off with, write down every travel destination you want to explore. Yes, every single one. Even if it takes up half of your notebook. Whilst some countries will spring to your mind instantly, others may be harder to find. But the destinations off the beaten path can be the best ones, so make sure you do your research. Now you have a list the size of your arm, it’s time to start narrowing it down. Start off by cutting it down based on preference. This can be difficult, but remember that it’s not now or never. You have your entire life to explore the rest of the countries on your list. Once this stage is complete, the next two steps will help you cut down based on practicalities.
Set Your Budget
This step will make your wallet wince, but it needs to be done. Figuring out your budget early is crucial. Not only will it give you time to earn more money for your trip, but you’re far less likely to overspend. As well as the obvious cost of food, transport and accommodation, there are a few hidden costs that are easy to forget. Many travellers neglect to budget for things like visas, appropriate travel-wear, souvenirs and vaccines. So, make sure to be ahead of the game and keep these in your mind when planning your budget. It’s also worth padding it out with a bit of emergency money. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if it comes to the worst, you’ll definitely be glad you have it. There’s no denying that travel is expensive and a real privilege. But there are some very affordable destinations, so don’t be disheartened if your perfect destination isn’t affordable.
Check the Weather
Although a little bit of rain never hurt anybody, you don’t want severe weather to put a damper on your trip (pun intended). This step is one that’s easily forgotten, but it’s so important. The weather is becoming more and more unpredictable every year, but for now we can still use weather patterns and forecasts to work out the best time to travel. The weather has a great impact on the three tourist seasons: peak, shoulder and off-peak, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. Although travelling in peak season may seem like the best idea, this isn’t always the case.
Firstly, it depends on what type of weather you’re after. I travelled to Chile last year in the country’s off-peak season, and I absolutely loved it. Whilst I’m sure I’d have had a great travelling there in summer months, the trip wouldn’t have been the same. Warming up my frozen hands on a submarino whilst viewing the breath-taking snow-capped mountains in Santiago was one of the highlights of my trip. Plus, shoulder and off-peak seasons tend to be cheaper, so you can stretch your budget that little bit further. However, you should still avoid travelling in monsoon seasons. Not only may it disrupt your trip, but it can be pretty dangerous too.
Stage Two: Planning and Paying
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. Planning and booking will take a lot of time, and a good chunk of your budget too. But once you’ve done it, you’ll feel so much closer to the trip. This is the stage where it all starts to feel real. So, get prepared to feel excited, and probably a little nervous too.
Planning the Route
This step requires a lot of time and patience. Like seriously, a lot. Because you’ve already researched your destination, you’ll have at least a vague idea of the places you want to stop. Now you have the task of linking them all together. It might seem impossible at first, but nothing beats the satisfaction of creating your perfect route.
To start with, make a list consisting of the following three categories: stops that you simply cannot miss, stops that you’d love to go to but could potentially leave out, and stops that you can take or leave. Now take the first two categories and see if you can make an itinerary that doesn’t include 20-hour bus journeys or multiple layovers. If you can, that’s great, and you’re very, very lucky. But if you can’t, it’s time to do some more research. Yes, it can be time consuming finding more destinations to visit, but you might find somewhere that you completely fall in love with. If you’re really struggling with a route, you’re in luck. The chances are that you can find a route for your chosen country posted by another travel blogger, so a quick Google search should be all you need.
Accommodation and Transport
More often than not, these are the two main travelling expenses. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t be done on a budget. If you’re travelling far, your first big expense will be the ticket for your long-haul flight. There’s no way around it, it’s going to be expensive. But there are a few tricks to bagging yourself a cheaper ticket. Use SkyScanner to find the cheapest time to book, and make sure you search for your flights on incognito mode. If you don’t your cookies will be saved, and you’ll see your prices soar. Check out Jack’s Flight Club for more great money saving tips when it comes to long-haul journeys.
But the cost of transport doesn’t stop there. It’s important to research the modes of transport within your destination country. They may vary a lot in terms of price and safety, so it’s important to think ahead. When considering how much to spend on your travel, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons. Travelling by plane is expensive but travelling on land may cut a big chunk out of exploring time. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but I’d advise taking a balanced approach. Don’t splurge on the fanciest transport but try not to spend half your trip on a bus – even a really fancy one.
This balanced approach should apply to accommodation too. Although a 5-star hotel with a king-sized bed and a rooftop pool sounds ideal, you probably won’t be spending much time in your accommodation anyway. At the same time, you don’t want to spend your night cramped in a boiling dorm room that has an aroma that can only be described as a cocktail of despair. When it comes to booking your accommodation, there are an endless number of sites that you can search. My personal favourite is Booking.com. It gives you a great breakdown of facilities and reviews, and it’s easy to find refundable rooms, which is especially important at the minute. Hostelworld is another great resource for backpackers. Most of the accommodation is affordable and the website is so easy to navigate.
The Boring Admin Stuff
This is definitely going to feel like a drag, but it’s something that needs to be done. When planning your first trip, you’ll be surprised by the amount of paperwork that goes into travelling. There are two really important bits of admin that can take up a lot of your time and money. Firstly, there’s travel insurance – an absolute necessity. It’s always been important, but it matters now more than ever. Your insurance can cover as much or as little as you want it to. Most policies cover the three main bases: health, transport and luggage. But if you want to go the extra mile, you can even get insurance for specific valuables, like your phone or laptop. As boring as it may be, make sure that you spend plenty of time researching the different policies available. And don’t forget to read the small print, since companies can be pretty sneaky with what they hide in there. My personal favourite price comparison website is Compare the Market. It takes less than 5 minutes to fill out your quote, and the site is super easy to navigate.
The next big piece of admin to sort out is the visa. You may not even need a visa depending on your location and length of stay – use this handy tool to find out if you need one. If you do end up needing a visa, it isn’t necessarily something that should be purchased in advance. Many countries allow you to receive one on arrival instead, but be prepared for a lot of queuing if you end up doing this. Getting a visa in advance can be a long process, so it’s worth leaving yourself plenty of time to sort this out. And if purchasing a visa online, make sure it’s from a reputable source. It’s easy to get caught out when buying visas online, so make sure to check out active travel forums to suss out whether the site you’re buying it from is legit.
The good news is that once your insurance and visa is sorted out, the rest of the admin will be a breeze. Make sure to take your vaccination records with you, as well as any other necessary health documentation. It’s also worth making a list of emergency information and contacts to carry with you at all times. And make sure to bring photocopies of all your travel documents in a separate folder, as well as a copy of your passport and spare passport appropriate pictures.
Stage Three: Before you Go
You’ve finally made it through the pile of boring admin, and your trip feels so close that you can almost taste it. But you still have a little way to go yet. This stage should start around 6 – 8 weeks before your trip and run all the way until you’re ready to set off. If you’re feeling impatient, you might think that this stage will drag on forever. But believe me, it’ll end up flying by.
Shots, Shots, Shots
This is the absolute worst stage of the process, and I refuse to hear otherwise. As much as I hate vaccinations, I can’t deny the importance of getting them. When travelling, looking after your health should be your top priority. After all, what’s the point of setting off on this amazing trip if you end up spending half of it in bed feeling sorry for yourself? To check whether you need a vaccine, head to Travel Health Pro to find all the information you’ll need about travel vaccines in one place. If you do end up needing vaccines, be prepared to shell out more than you may have thought, since they can be pretty pricey.
If you’re a UK citizen, there are 4 vaccines which you can get for free: cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and a jab which covers polio, diphtheria and tetanus. But the rest are going to cost you, with the most expensive costing upwards of £250. The good news is that once you’ve been vaccinated, you’re likely to be covered for a long time – maybe even for life! There are a few places to get your vaccines done. While most travellers still go to their GP to have them administered, both Boots and Superdrug offer the same service, and they usually have more availability too. As well as vaccinations, you may also need to take antimalarials. These can also be pretty pricey, but they are highly effective, so you shouldn’t go without them. They have a number of side effects, but most are very mild and tend to ease off after a few days.
Yes, it’s time to spend more money. Hey, no one ever said travelling was cheap! The bulk of your currency should go on a card. You could just use your debit card, but most travellers agree that prepaid travel cards are the best way to go. They tend to have cheaper ATM withdrawal rates, and they’re pretty easy to manage too. For a good worldwide card, my personal favourite is Caxton. This card can be managed on a handy app, and it comes with no additional ATM fees. Plus, it’s seriously secure so you can spend less time worrying about money and more time exploring. And on the few occasions that I’ve had to contact them to cancel a lost card, the customer service team has been great. There’s no hanging around for hours on hold, and my problem has always been solved within minutes. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Despite the fact that card is king in most countries, it’s always handy to have a bit of local currency before you get to your destination. After a 12-hour flight, the last thing you want is to trek through the entire airport to find a working ATM, before you can get the taxi to your hostel. Believe me, I’ve been there. So be kind to your future jet lagged self and make sure that you’re prepared.
Pack Your Bags
Some people absolutely hate this part of travel prep, but I love it! It makes the trip feel so real, and finally managing to cram everything into your bag is honestly so satisfying. To start the packing process, make a list. Seriously, this list will prove to be a godsend, so don’t just wing it. Seeing everything written down in one place will help you visualise all the items you need, which makes it far easier to cut down when you inevitably end up packing too much. And it’s worth taking your list with you to keep track of all your items whilst you’re travelling.
Making a list from scratch can be hard. Fortunately, there are plenty of templates available online that you can modify if necessary. This list from Smarter Travel can be printed off as a PDF, and it has pretty much everything you can think of. But you may need to modify the list when it comes to clothes packing. Make sure everything you bring with you is weather appropriate. You don’t want to get caught in a torrential downpour wearing your favourite sundress and flip-flops. Finally, and most importantly, leave room for souvenirs. Not just for others, but for yourself too. You’re going to have the time of your life – you’ll want mementos to remember it by.
Stage Four: You’re Ready!
You’ve finally made it. You’ve completed the guide and you now know all the work that goes into planning the perfect trip. Yes, it’s a lot. And no, it doesn’t necessarily mean that things will go smoothly. In fact, it’s pretty much guaranteed that something will go wrong. But it’s all part of the travel process. So, enjoy the fun parts of planning your trip, like scoping out the best hostel and finding fun activities. But enjoy the mundane stuff too. Because the visas, the insurance, and even the vaccines are taking you one step closer to your first big adventure.
If you hadn’t already figured it out, I absolutely love travelling. Trying new food, exploring different cultures, making memories to last a lifetime — in my eyes, there’s nothing better. However, spending months on the road can have some downsides. Of course, the struggles that come with travelling are completely outweighed by the countless positives. But one struggle that can make or break your trip is the difficulty of protecting your health on the road. Fortunately I have a few tips for preventing illness whilst travelling, so make sure you use them to get the most out of your adventure.
Have Some Shots
No, not the fun kind — vaccinations. This is hopefully something that you’d do anyway, although surprisingly many travellers opt out of getting them. But this is a seriously risky move. Vaccinations don’t prevent minor bugs or viruses that can be shaken off after a few days. Instead they protect you against a whole bunch of life-threatening nasty diseases, including rabies, measles, hepatitis and so many more.
I sympathise if you’re reluctant to get a vaccine, I really do. I absolutely hate getting them and they can cost a fortune. Plus, I was left bed-ridden for a few days after my rabies vaccine (don’t worry, this is very, very rare!), so the thought of getting travel vaccines makes me feel sick to my stomach. But even after my rubbish experience, I would never go without one.
Think of it this way. Worst case scenario, you have a bad reaction like I did, and you have to pay up to £200 for the pleasure. This is still far better than coming down with a serious disease at the beginning of your adventure and spending the rest of your trip (and the rest of your budget) in hospital. Of course, it isn’t just the money or trip that you have to worry about. The most serious diseases like rabies are life-threatening. So for the sake of the trip, your wallet and your health, you must get the appropriate vaccines. Use this handy tool to check which vaccinations you need for which country.
2. Pack Some Multivitamins
After years of my Mum nagging me to take my vitamins, I have to admit that she’s right. Multivitamins should be taken whether you’re at home or abroad, but they’re even more important when you’re backpacking. Because when travelling, especially in a different country, your body goes through a lot of changes. Taking multivitamins is the perfect way to prepare yourself for whatever your adventure might throw at you.
When looking for the perfect multivitamin, there are a few things that you need to consider. Firstly, make sure it has vitamin B12. When you travel, you’ll find that you use a lot more energy than you usually do, thanks to all the walking and exploring you’ll be doing. Taking vitamin B12 is one of the best ways to keep your energy up, as it helps your body convert food into glucose. And make sure your multivitamin has a good dose of vitamin C too. This vitamin helps you stay healthy by protecting your immune system, which is especially important when travelling to a new country and mingling with lots of new germs. And if you’re still not convinced in the power of the multi-vitamin, they also help your body fight off jet-lag! Is there nothing they can’t do?
3. Balance Your Diet
When backpacking, it’s inevitable that your diet will change in one way or another. The first time I went travelling, I couldn’t manage more than a meal a day (which is very, very unlike me). I’d never been anywhere as hot as Vietnam, and I had no idea how much my appetite would be affected. It isn’t just the weather that can mess with your diet though — travel bugs, low budgets and the often impossible task of cooking in a hostel kitchen all play a role too.
But as difficult as it can be, getting enough calories and maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for your health. As much as you want to be out exploring the world rather than stuck in the hostel cooking with appliances that should’ve been chucked out 10 years ago, you aren’t helping yourself by surviving off of snacks and instant noodles. Although I’ve just sung the praises of multivitamins, they still can’t give you everything you need. Make sure to eat plenty of fresh fruit and veggies to get a healthy dose of vitamins. If you want to keep a close eye on your vitamin intake, consider downloading a vitamin tracker to keep an eye out for any deficiencies.
If, like me, you’re struggling with eating enough thanks to the heat, try having multiple small meals throughout the day. This is a great way to keep your energy levels up, and you won’t feel too full either. But don’t fret if your diet isn’t perfect when you’re travelling — no one’s is. Just try your best to look after yourself, so you can have the best time ever.
4.Keep in Touch
It isn’t just your physical health that you need to protect when backpacking. Travelling can take a toll on anyone’s mental health. Because despite all the highs of travelling, there can be a few lows too. When something goes wrong or you just have a bad day, all you want to do is get back to the comfort of your own home, have a cup of tea and have a moan. But this is pretty much impossible if you’re on the other side of the country, let alone the other side of the world.
So make sure to protect your mental health whilst travelling by keeping in touch with loved ones. This is important for anyone, but especially if you’re a solo traveller. Life on the road can get pretty lonely. Even if you find a good group of friends whilst travelling, they don’t know you like the people back home do. Sometimes, all you need is a catch up and a sense of familiarity to boost your mood. It’s completely normal to become lonely and down when travelling, but remember that there are ways to pick yourself back up again.
5.Take Time Off
There’s no getting around it, travelling is exhausting. When I’ve returned from trips away and I’ve told people how tired I am, they usually scoff. After all, all I did was go on holiday, so how can I be tired? Whilst travelling can effectively be a long holiday, this doesn’t mean that it’s not absolutely knackering. Because even if you’re having the time of your life, you’ll still become fatigued if you push yourself too much. And if you’ve been working whilst travelling, you’re likely to feel even more shattered.
So make sure to look after your body by giving it a break every now and then. I know that there’s so many things you want to see and so many places you want to go, and I understand that you need to make the most of your big adventure. But when you push yourself too hard, you simply won’t enjoy it. You don’t want to arrive at the landmark that you’ve been dying to see ever since you got off the plane, only to find yourself wishing you could crawl back into your hostel bed. If you don’t take a rest day every so often, you’re going to slow yourself down in the long run, and you just won’t have a good time.
And remember, that resting doesn’t need to be boring! If you’re spending the day in the hostel, try finding some new travel companions. Or if you want to get out of the hostel for your rest day, head to the beach, park or a local café. This might even end up being your favourite day of the entire trip.
How Do You Look After Yourself On The Road?
I hope you find these 5 healthy travel tips handy. Do you have any of your own that you can share? Let me know in the comments below!
4 and a half years ago, I had the adventure of a lifetime when I travelled for the first time ever. Being the first country I ever visited, Vietnam will always have a piece of my heart. So you may call me biased when I say that this country is one of the best in the world. But it won’t take you long to find plenty of others who agree. The destination soars in popularity every year amongst all types of traveller. Whether you want a jungle adventure or a beach chill-out, travel in luxury or on a budget, Vietnam has something for you. From bustling cities to idyllic islands, use this list of unmissable destinations to plan your perfect Vietnamese adventure.
This was the first place I visited in Vietnam, and it really set the bar high. The capital of Vietnam has an atmosphere like nowhere else. The city is definitely lively, and you’ll never be short of things to see and do. Despite the fast-pace, locals will always make time for you if you let them. One of the many highlights of Hanoi is the Old Quarter, which you can find in the north of the city.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, the Old Quarter truly captures the essence of this beautiful country. The mixture of colonial architecture, Confucian temples and modern buildings perfectly demonstrates the old and the new merging to create the unique identity of the city. Many of the streets in the district are dedicated to one specific craft, as all of them once were. It’s the perfect place to get yourself a souvenir (or several…), so make sure to leave room in your luggage! There are so many things to see and do in Hanoi. From exploring the temples to seeing the resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the list is endless. I’d recommend spending 5 days minimum in this city to explore as much as you can.
You’ll probably recognise Halong Bay, even if you’ve never heard of it. Every travel guide and tourism ad uses a picture of this famous landmark to draw in tourists from across the globe. This is hardly surprising — it’s a thing of beauty. The shimmering emerald bay is full of limestone islands draped in greenery. The water is calm, the surroundings are peaceful: it’s the closest to paradise that I’ve ever been. Most travellers book their trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi. This is what we did, and it couldn’t have been easier. We used Lily’s Travel Agency, and I can’t emphasise enough how helpful the team were. They explained each option to us in detail, and they were so patient when we took our time deciding.
When it comes to the amount of time you want to stay, that depends on what you’re after. If you don’t have much time or you’re more interested in exploring the cities, a day trip might be enough for you. We went for a 2-day cruise and it was ideal for us. We got to do plenty of exploring, without feeling like that we missed out on anything.
Once you arrive, you’ll get the opportunity to kayak around the bay and explore the depths of the caves. But the best part of the trip by far is the view you get from the top of Sung Sot Cave. From here, you’ll get to see those amazing images that are plastered all over Vietnamese travel guides in person. And believe me, it’s even better than it looks in the pictures. A visit to Halong Bay will make your trip truly unforgettable.
This is the underrated gem of Vietnam. Although many backpackers choose to skip it, some of my best memories come from the time I spent in this endearing town. Hue seems to move at a slower pace than the rest of Vietnam, and it’ll definitely be a welcome break after the hectic energy of Hanoi. Take some time to amble along the Perfume River and admire the view, or if you want to get out on the water then use a paddleboat to explore.
Make sure to pay a visit to the Imperial Citadel too. This fortress was once the capital of Vietnam and home to the emperor Gia Long. Although large parts of the citadel were destroyed in the American War, there’s still plenty for you to see. You’ll definitely leave the fortress with a lot more knowledge of Vietnamese history.
There’s so much to see and do in Hue, it’s almost impossible to pick my favourite experience, but exploring the abandoned theme park is definitely up there. This might not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of all things creepy it’s a must-do. No one knows why the park closed or why it was left completely abandoned, which makes the experience even spookier.
If you want to get out of the town and get into nature, pay a visit to Bạch Mã National Park. This natural beauty was one of the main fighting grounds of the American War. As a result, it was declared a protected area in 1962. Explore the many trails that the park has to offer, and swim through the clear freshwater lakes. Just make sure that you bring a jacket since it can get pretty nippy thanks to the high altitude.
The third largest city in Vietnam lies slap bang in the middle of the country, between the two largest cities Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Although not the most visited tourist spot, it’s become a lot more popular in recent years since tourism to Vietnam exploded. This is in part thanks to the global sensation that is the Golden Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge wasn’t constructed until 2018 — two years after our visit. But from pictures alone, you can see that this is a remarkable feat of engineering. The bridge is held up by two hands on either side, made with fibreglass and steel. The 150-metre long bridge isn’t just a beauty in itself, but it offers amazing views too.
However, this isn’t the only impressive bridge in the city. The Dragon Bridge is one that we were fortunate enough to see, and it’s seriously impressive. A dragon was chosen to be on the bridge as a symbol of power and good fortune. Considering the growing popularity of the city, this definitely seems to have worked! Make sure to view it at night, as it’s even more impressive when it’s lit up.
Da Nang isn’t just about bridges — there’s plenty of other things to see too. Why not visit the city’s Cathedral? This picturesque pink building is the only church in the city — probably because no other church could possibly top it. Make sure to keep an eye out for the rooster on top of the bell tower. If you want to get out of the city, travel to Sơn Trà Mountain for some amazing views. You may even see a monkey if you’re lucky! Da Nang is the perfect place to have a chilled out day too. Head over to one of the many beaches in the area, slap on some sun cream and spend the rest of the day lounging around. You’re on holiday, you deserve it!
This picturesque riverside town is by far one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam. It seems that every one who goes there falls madly in love with the culture, the aesthetic, the food, and pretty much everything else that this town has to offer. I have to be honest — me and Hoi An just didn’t click. This is through no fault of the town itself, but rather through circumstance. We only visited Hoi An as a day trip, and it ended up being one of those days where everything went wrong — I lost my purse, I felt ill the entire day and it was impossible to escape from the blistering 38° heat. My experience could certainly have been better. But in retrospect, I still have some very fond memories of this charming little town.
One of the things people love most about Hoi An is the range of independent clothes shops. The items aren’t only high quality, but you can get them for a great price too. My now go-to summer dress cost me the equivalent of £2! You can also get your clothes tailored for a reasonable price too. If you make enough room in your suitcase, you can even buy yourself a tailored suit for a fraction of the price that you would at home. But make sure to shop around before making your purchase, since quality and price can vary widely from shop to shop.
Another popular activity is exploring the ancient town. An entry ticket costs around £4, but for the amount of sites you get to see it’s definitely worth it. The colourful architecture is remarkable, with many of the buildings being over 5 centuries old. Highlights of the town include the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation. After you’ve spent at least half a day exploring the old town, the night will be drawing in. This is the perfect time to head down to the waterfront. My fondest memory of Hoi An was the boat trip we took along the river. Seeing the flickering lantern light hit the river made the whole day worth it… almost.
This popular seaside resort city is the perfect place to kick back and relax. Nha Trang is most well known for its beaches, and it’s not hard to see why. The white sandy coastline stretches for as far as the eye can see, and the shimmering blue sea looks even better in person. When you’ve had your fill of relaxing underneath the warm sun, check out some of the water sport activities available on the beach. You can try your hand at snorkelling, diving or even water-skiing! And make sure you check out some of the nearby islands too. Hon Mun island is particularly popular for snorkelling thanks to its calm waters and amazing coral. But don’t forget to visit Monkey Island too. As well as being home to some seriously cute and cheeky primates, the islands’ secluded location makes it one of the most tranquil locations in Nha Trang.
Of course, there’s far more to the city than just beaches — there’s a rich history too. Po Nagar Cham towers were constructed in the 11th century as a tribute to Po Nagar, a goddess who was ruler of the Cham Kingdom. Today, the temples are worshiped by the Buddhists, Cham, Chinese, and Vietnamese alike. The towers themselves are works of art, in particular the North Tower. Take the time to admire the amazing pyramid roof. And don’t forget to go behind the grounds to get some great views of the city.
Another place for remarkable views is on the platform of the Buddha statue. But you may find yourself a bit distracted — it’s impossible to take your eyes off the statue itself. Standing at almost 50 feet high, this giant white statue can be seen from across the city, so you definitely won’t miss it. At the base, you’ll find statues in commemoration of several monks who set themselves alight in 1963, in protest of the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. It acts as a sobering reminder of the history of the country, as well as the strength and bravery of the Vietnamese.
Ho Chi Minh
Whilst it’s somewhat more polished than the capital, this is still one of the most chaotic cities I’ve ever been to. Although Vietnamese officials changed the name of the city to Ho Chi Minh in 1975 after the American war, many of the locals still refer to it as Saigon. This acts as a reminder that although the war is finished, tensions still exist between the North and the South, more so than many of us realise.
Anyone who visits Vietnam must take the time to educate themselves about the war, and the War Remnants Museum is the perfect place to do just that. Outside the museum you’ll find various modes of transport and equipment used in the war, such as tanks and helicopters. When you get to the exhibits inside, prepare to be shocked. Gruesome pictures and documentaries show the audience the true price of war. Whilst the museum is upsetting, learning the history of the country is vital to understanding and appreciating it.
To soak up the culture and history of the city, make sure to check out the Jade Emperor Pagoda. This impressive Taoist shrine was built in 1909 to honour the Taoist God, otherwise known as the King of Heaven. The pagoda is surrounded by trees, making it an oasis of tranquillity in the middle of the bustling city. Admire the many statues and beautiful architecture, and remember to keep an eye out for turtles in the ponds around the pagoda! The shrine is still used by many of the locals, so remember to be respectful of your surroundings. To round off your day, make your way to the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower for a view like no other.
There’s so many other things that you must do too. The Mekong Delta, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Cu Chi tunnels — the list is endless! One thing’s for sure, you’ll never never get bored in this lively city.
Last but by no means least, is the paradise that is Phu Quoc. This island is located off the south coast of Vietnam, and it’s actually closer to Cambodia than the country itself. The island’s main attraction is its selection of stunning, sandy beaches. The laid back and tranquil vibe of the island makes it the perfect place to spend a few days relaxing on the beach. And if you’re a swimmer, you’re in luck. The sea is perfectly calm and it’s always the perfect temperature for a dip. A lot of the beaches have a restaurant nearby, or even on the seafront, if you need to grab a bite to eat or use the facilities. Make sure to head down to the beach for the sunset, you’ll get views like nowhere else.
If you’ve had enough of the beaches (although I doubt you ever will on this island), there are plenty of other ways to spend your time. Rent a moped for the day to explore as much of the island if you can. Or if you’d rather, get your partner to ride one and cling to the back of them for dear life like I did. If you’re a big foodie, check out some of the local markets that sell local delicacies and national dishes. You might also enjoy going to the fish sauce factory — just make sure to bring a nose plug! And if you’ve got a lot of energy, try hiking to the Suoi Tranh Waterfall. Take a picnic with you, sit back and admire the view.
Where do you want to go first? Let me know your favourite place in the comments!
Looking out at the thick and murky clouds on the drabbest of days, it’s hard not to wish to be somewhere completely different. Sipping cocktails on the beach under the roasting sun sounds much more appealing than bleak winter’s day in Britain. But some days, the magic of the North East sets my heart alight, and I realise that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And the time I visited Hareshaw Linn was one of those days.
The journey to Hareshaw Linn is almost as beautiful as the walk itself! It’s just under an hour’s drive from Newcastle, and half an hour’s drive from Hexham, the nearest big town. Make sure to look out the window for the last 15 minutes of the journey to see some gorgeous views of the Northumbrian countryside. We went on quite an overcast day, and the low-hanging clouds gave the scenery such a mystical aura.
And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the local wildlife! As well as plenty of sheep dotted around the field, you might also find pheasants roaming the road. When you arrive, in the village you’ll find a pretty small car park. As we went on a Monday afternoon, there was plenty of space for us. But bear in mind that at peak visiting times it can get pretty crowded.
The Walk Begins
Once you’re parked up, you should see a signpost that reads ‘Hareshaw Linn 1 ½ miles’. You won’t miss it, thanks to its colourful winter jumper. From here, the route is pretty straightforward – just keep following the path. But if you need some guidance just in case, use this route map from the Northumberland National Park website. The walk should take around 1 ½ to 2 hours, but if you want time to enjoy the stunning views I’d recommend making this a half-day trip.
If you’d like to have some fuel before you go on your walk, make sure to bring a picnic. You don’t have to venture far to find the perfect spot – there’s a picnic area just 5 minutes into the walk. The sound of birdsong and the rippling river gives this area the perfect ambience. I guarantee that you won’t find a more relaxing place to tuck into your lunch. Next to the picnic area, you’ll also find the first of the many mini-waterfalls that you’ll come across on the route. Head towards the slope at the edge of the picnic area, and make your way down the set of steps to admire this gorgeous view. Just make sure to mind how you go, as the stones can get very slippery when wet.
When you’re ready, make your way up the track to the right of the picnic area. From here, you’ll find yourself on a narrow stone path that winds through the forest and towers above the river. We visited Hareshaw Linn in the winter, so most of the trees had shed their autumn leaves. The naked trees combined with the mist and frost gave the forest an amazing ghostly vibe. Of course, this walk would be beautiful no matter what the season was. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife around this area – this is where I saw a red squirrel for the first time! Unfortunately, he was camera shy.
At the end of this path, you’ll find the first of six bridges that you’ll come across on this route. The walk becomes a bit trickier from this point onward, due to an uneven path and stray tree roots poking through the path. We have a little bit of countryside walking experience, but we aren’t avid walkers. If you don’t have accessibility issues this walk should be fine for you, but if you do, make sure to keep an eye out for upcoming posts which will be based on more accessible routes!
Make sure to admire the gorgeous views from each of the bridges. When we visited, the minerals in the water transformed the river into a beautiful copper colour, making the scenery even more breathtaking. The further you walk, the even more impressive the views become. Each waterfall was more magnificent than the last, so we thought that the final one couldn’t possibly top them. But nothing prepared us for the view that lay at the end of the route.
The Main Event
The final waterfall completely took my breath away. The rest of the walk was absolutely beautiful, but this was something else. It felt like stepping out of Northumberland National Park and into a rainforest in Costa Rica – even the chilling 5°C temperature didn’t spoil the illusion! This is the perfect spot to come if you want to step back into nature. My eyes were mesmerised by the water cascading down the 30-foot drop, my ears heard nothing but the bubbling river – I felt completely serene.
When you think of UK travel, the first thing you probably think of is big cities like London and Edinburgh, or maybe the Lake District if you’re outdoorsy. Before discovering Hareshaw Linn, I had no idea that this country even had views like this, let alone that they were an hour’s drive from my front door. So let this be a reminder to you. As tempting as it may be to escape to a sunny Caribbean island or a lively, bustling European city, don’t waste your life away wishing you were somewhere else. There’s a beautiful world outside your front door that’s waiting to be explored – make the most of it.
Santiago is easily one of the worlds’ best cities. This might seem like a bold claim, but anyone who has already had the pleasure to spend time in Chile’s bustling capital would agree. It has everything that a traveller is looking for — a diverse culture, a rich history, and views that will take your breath away. Last year, I was fortunate enough to spend over a week in Santiago. When travelling, I tend to make my stops quick — no more than 4 days — so I can fit in as many destinations as possible. But even after a week, I didn’t want to leave. That being said, a weekend is enough to experience the main highlights of the city, whilst still leaving you with a craving for more.
Plaza de Armas
Start your visit to the nation’s capital by visiting the heart of the city. The square was set up by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia in 1541. It’s surrounded by some of the most important buildings in the city, including the Cathedral of Santiago and the Central Post Office Building, which is built on the lot of Pedro de Valdivia’s former residence. The square has a pretty gruesome history. In the colonial era, it was a large public execution site, with gallows acting as the centrepiece. But you wouldn’t guess this by visiting Plaza de Armas today — palm trees adorn the charming square and a fountain sits where the gallows used to be. Take some time to wander through the square and view the impressive architecture surrounding it. And make sure to take a seat and do some people watching — there’s always something to see here.
Museum of Memory and Human Rights
Once you’ve had your fill of the square, go to the Plaza de Armas Metro Station and take the Line 5 metro to Quinta Normal. This 10-minute journey takes you pretty much directly to your next stop – the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. The Museum was created to educate visitors on the human rights abuses that Chileans suffered under Pinochet’s dictatorship, from 1973 to 1990. The museum was inaugurated by former Chilean President and current UN high commissioner Michelle Bachelet, whose father was killed by Pinochet’s government.
Entry to the museum is free of charge, but if you aren’t fluent in Spanish it’s definitely worth paying for the audio guide. For the equivalent of just £2, you’ll get a much deeper understanding of the exhibits. The museum uses a mixture of video footage, photographs and audio to depict the atrocities of the dictatorship. The use of Newspaper front covers caught my attention most. I always thought I understood the power of the media, but this exhibit opened my eyes to just how dangerous it can truly be if it’s controlled by the wrong people. But by far, the most powerful, gut-wrenching part of the museum is the wall filled with images of the 3000 people executed by Pinochet’s government. This stark reminder of this dark period of recent history brings home the message of the museum: we cannot let this happen again.
Cerro Santa Lucía
After your museum visit, take the Metro back to Plaza de Armas and make your way over to Cerro Santa Lucía. If you’d rather spend less time walking you can get off at Bella Artes instead, but Santiago is such a picturesque city that you probably won’t mind the extra 10 minute walk if it allows you to soak up even more of this marvellous city. In the 19th century, then governor Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna made the decision to turn the remnant of a 15 million-year-old volcano into a park. The park itself is beautiful, with plenty of picturesque buildings scattered throughout. But the views are what makes it. Standing at around 230 meters above the rest of Santiago, you’ll be able to see for miles. The mesmerising snow-capped mountains towering over the rest of the city are truly something to behold.
I cannot enthuse enough about this cafe. It’s been over a year since my visit and I still can’t get it out of my mind. I’m pretty sure I ate here every day I was in Santiago. The cafe is just a 2-minute walk away from the entrance of Cerro Santa Lucía. It’s the perfect place to relax after your walk, and cool down or warm up, depending on the season you’re visiting in. You’ll find adorable trinkets and beautiful artwork dotted throughout this cosy sanctuary. But most importantly, by jumping down the rabbit hole into this Alice in Wonderland inspired cafe, you’ll find some of the best food that Santiago has to offer. Highlights from the menu include afternoon tea, the South American staple Submarino, and the best bagels that you’ll ever taste. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to get a chocolate brownie freakshake. You’ll be so full that won’t be able to move afterwards, but it’ll be worth it.
National Museum of Fine Arts
Start your second day in Santiago by visiting the National Museum of Fine Arts to get your fill of culture. This art museum was created in 1880, making it the oldest one in South America. Although there’s so much to see inside, the building is a work of art in itself. Make sure not to miss the artwork above the entrance, as well as the stone flowers on the archway. Once you enter the building, you’ll find that the glass dome roof fills the room with light, which allows the work to be seen in its best form. A large section of the ground floor is dedicated to marble statues, which are an absolute must-see. Another highlight of the museum is the room dedicated to the artwork of Israel Roa, a Chilean born expressionist painter. Once you’re done, cross the road to wander through the beautifully peaceful Parque Forestal.
The next stop is my favourite in Santiago. You don’t have to venture far for it either — the entrance to Metropolitan Park is only a 15-minute walk away from the National Museum of Fine Arts. One of the best parts of the park is the journey you’ll take to get there. The park rests atop two hills and is most easily accessible via funicular or teleférico — a form of cable car. We opted for the latter, and the views of the city were unbeatable. The teleférico first stops at Tupahue, where you’ll find Casa de Cultura Anahuac. This cultural centre offers a wide range of musical performances, and has a large collection of artwork out on display. The second stop is the peak of Cerro San Cristobal. Not only are the views phenomenal from this height, but you’ll find an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary too. Standing at 14 meters high, this statue has been a symbol of the city since its creation in 1908. The statue sits atop a chapel, which was visited by Pope John Paul II.
The penultimate stop of the weekend is the highest observatory in Latin America. To get there, head to Salvador metro station, which should be no more than a 20-minute walk from Metropolitan Park. Take line one to Tobalaba (the coolest sounding metro station ever!), and from there it’s a five minute walk to the Costanera Center. The observatory deck is on the 62nd floor of the building, and it stands at 300 meters high. For the price of £15, you get to experience 360° views of the city, as well as the amazing backdrop of the mountains. For the best views try to get here around sunset — the mountains look even more beautiful with a pink hue. And if you’re in the mood for a shopping trip, you’re in the right place. The Costanera Center has the largest mall in South America. Although it’s mostly filled with international brands, there are a few independent shops so make sure to keep an eye out for them to get your hands on some great souvenirs.
Finally, no trip to Chile is complete without drinking pisco. Although Chile claims that their national drink originated from the country, Peruvians dispute this and claim the pisco they create is of a higher quality. But wherever the drink originated from, there’s no doubt that drinking pisco in Chile is a must. The best way to consume the liquor is in the form of a Pisco Sour; a cocktail comprising of sugar syrup, lime juice, egg whites, and of course, pisco. For a great night out, and an even better pisco, head to Bellavista. This hipster district of the city has the best bars and the liveliest atmosphere. For the perfect end to end your perfect weekend, visit Azotea Matilde. Boasting amazing views of the Andes, this rooftop bar is the perfect place to enjoy your pisco sour and commemorate your amazing weekend, in an amazing city. ¡Salud!
Europe is a continent full to the brim with beauty and culture. The awe-inspiring architecture, vibrant arts scene and mouth-watering food, amongst so many other things, are enough to make anyone fall in love with the continent. But we don’t appreciate it anywhere near as much as we should. Most of us have fully explored at least one of the most popular European destinations, like Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. Of course, these cities are popular for a reason, and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone visiting them. In fact, Amsterdam is one of my favourite places in the world. But there are so many other destinations waiting to be explored. If I’ve inspired you to take a chance on a less well-known destination, check out my top 5 underrated European cities.
A city that’s as beautiful as it is impossible to spell. Despite being the country’s capital, Ljubljana is incredibly small. In fact, the 280’000 residents could fill London 31 times over. But this doesn’t mean the city has little to offer – far from it! Start your day by visiting Prešeren Square. Lying in the heart of Ljubljana, this square is named after the poet France Prešeren, whose statue takes pride of place. Grab a coffee from one of the square’s many cafes, sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. It stays pretty lively here throughout the day, so there’ll always be something to see! Once you’re done, take a stroll over to the Triple Bridge. This amazing feat of architecture was designed by Jože Plečnik, and it remains one of Ljubljana’s most famous landmarks. But make sure you check out the rest of the beautiful architecture too – the city is full of it.
A great way to view it all in one go is to head up to Ljubljana castle. Some parts of the castle date back to the 16th century, when it was rebuilt after an earthquake caused considerable damage to the city. But it was in disrepair for a long time, so a lot of the architecture only dates back to 1969. The castle grounds are free to roam, and they boast a beautiful view of the city. If you don’t mind paying €10, you can take a look inside the castle too, and catch an even more spectacular view from the clock tower.
Of course, I can’t talk about Ljubljana without giving Lake Bled a mention. Although it receives a lot more attention than Slovenia’s capital, it’s still criminally underrated. A bus to Bled from Ljubljana takes just under an hour and costs around €7. Once you get there, take a boat over to the island and visit the Assumption of Mary Church. Make sure to ring the church bell and make a wish, as it’s believed that anyone who does will see their wish come true. If you’d rather explore the lake yourself, rent out a boat and get paddling. Just make sure you don’t lose track of time. You don’t want to end up rushing back to shore to get your deposit back like I did.
This picturesque city that lies in the South of Bosnia and Herzegovina is one that cannot be missed. Going to Mostar was a bit of a last-minute decision thanks to some plans that fell through, but I’m so glad they did. I fell head over heels for this city, and I’m sure you will too. The moment I arrived, I felt like I was stepping into a fairy-tale. To start your day off, head down to the Old Bazar. There’s a wide range of items on this cobbled market street, each one more beautiful than the last. You’ll struggle to find the room in your suitcase for all the art, clothes, jewellery and trinkets that you set your eye on, amongst so many other things. Once your shopping trip is complete, make sure to take a break at one of the nearby cafes. Sit back, admire the beauty of the market and watch the world go by.
For your next stop, head to the world-renowned Stari Most bridge. This work of wonder was constructed in the 16th century, and its wide arch and unique design solidified the bridge’s status as a triumph of Ottoman architecture. But disaster struck in November 1993, when Stari Most was destroyed as a result of the war (more on this later). Fortunately, UNESCO began restoring the bridge to its’ original design in 1998. The construction of the bridge that you see today was completed in 2004, and it’s just as beautiful and popular as it once was. Before you step foot on the bridge, you’ll see a small but powerful stone inscribed with just two words: ‘don’t forget’. Take a minute to reflect on the atrocities that this country endured, and the strength and bravery of the citizens who endured them, most of whom are still alive today.
Another must-see in this idyllic city is the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. Although not the largest mosque in the city, it’s by far the most beautiful. Like Stari Most, the mosque was also substantially damaged in the war. It was fully restored by 2001 and it’s now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Highlights include a beautiful carpet which was gifted by the Austrian Monarch Franjo Josip, and a minaret which has stunning views of the old town. Go here at sunset on a clear day for a view that you’ll never forget.
This port city was never supposed to be a big stop on our European trip, but fate had other plans. Fortunately, we ended up falling in love with everything this city has to offer. Bari is most well-known for the Basilica San Nicola, one of the most important churches in Europe. Constructed at the end of the 12th century, this Norman church acted as a sanctuary for the relics of Saint Nicholas – a.k.a. Santa Claus! The fascinating history of the church combined with its beauty makes it the number one tourist attraction in Bari. Although Bari Cathedral fails to steal the limelight from San Nicola, it’s definitely still worth a visit. The highlight of the cathedral by far is the crypt. Pay €3 to head down there and explore the relics hidden beneath.
There are plenty of things you can see and do in Bari, from churches to the castle and everything in between. But by far the best thing to do is just amble through the city. Head to the old town and admire the Italian architecture and window shop for your ideal Italian getaway home – mine’s the one with the biggest balcony and prettiest shutters. Make sure to get yourself some gelato too, as the stuff I had in Bari is the best I ever had. And speaking of food, you’ll find some of the best in Italy here. Focaccia and olive oil is a simple classic that Bari does better than anywhere else. In the evening, soak up the atmosphere of this traditional Italian town by heading down to Port Vecchia. People-watching beneath the sunset is a memory I hold close to my heart. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Yes, Bosnia and Herzegovina takes up two spots on this list. But the country as a whole is so underrated, it definitely deserves it. The country’s capital is certainly not to be missed. Start off by going back in time and exploring the charming and historic old town. The bazaar is the cultural centre of the city, and simply being there is an experience in itself. All your senses will be elevated as you wander through the narrow cobbled streets. The shops are ablaze with colour and the scents from the restaurants are so good that you can almost taste them – it’s impossible to not get drawn in. To bring yourself back into the present day, try strolling through the modern part of the city and keep an eye out for street art – Sarajevo’s famous for it. Make sure to look out for a Sarajevo Rose. These are craters from the war which had been filled in with red resin, to symbolise the lives lost in the city.
Next, head to the river to admire the Latin bridge. Not only is it a triumph of Ottoman architecture, but it has a rich history too. In 1914, after 3 attempts, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was murdered by Gavrilo Princip. This sparked a huge uproar, not just from Austria but from countries throughout Europe. To keep a long story short, this bridge is basically where the First World War started. Keep an eye out for the plaque which stands where the Archduke and his girlfriend were murdered. Standing in a spot with so much history behind it is pretty indescribable. Whilst you’re in this area, check out the City Hall too. The architecture is simply remarkable, inside and out. The stained-glass ceiling is a particular highlight.
Of course, no trip to the capital is complete without learning about the history of the country. Gallery 11/07/95 is by far the most educational but heart-breaking art gallery I’ve ever visited. The rooms are filled with photographs taken during the war, as well as videos of war survivors sharing their stories. It gets dark, it gets emotional, and you’ll find the information hard to process. This might not sound like most people’s idea of a good time. But it isn’t supposed to be. Instead, the museum acts as a stark reminder of the brutality that the citizens of this country had to endure, in incredibly recent history. It shows us the human cost of war. Visiting this museum won’t be the most fun part of your trip to Sarajevo, but it will be the part that sticks with you the most. And one thing’s for sure – after your visit, you’ll have nothing but admiration for the citizens of Bosnia.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Is putting my home city on the list a little bit biased? Maybe. But I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe that it was worth a visit. Whenever I see a list of the best places to visit in the UK, I can’t help but feel a twinge in my heart when Newcastle is inevitably forgotten. The city has so much to offer. If you’ve never been, you need to change that pronto. Start your day off at Grey’s Monument. Standing at 135-feet high is a statue of Charles Grey, who oversaw the abolition of the slave trade in the UK. The Monument is the heart of the city, and there’s always something going on there. From buskers to protests, it’s certainly never dull! If you want to admire the Monument from a distance, go to the top floor of Waterstones opposite Monument, grab a tea from the cafe, (Earl Grey preferably) and enjoy the view.
When you’re ready, make your way down Grey Street and take in the beautiful architecture that surrounds you. Keep an eye out for the Theatre Royal at the top of the street – this grade I listed building truly is something to behold. At the end of this street, you’ll reach the Quayside. Take a stroll alongside the river, until you reach the Millennium Bridge. Not only is this a masterpiece in itself, but standing in the middle will give you a view of Newcastle’s infamous Tyne Bridge. If you’re a fan of modern art, head to the other side of the bridge to check out the Baltic. It’s completely free, and there’s always something interesting to see. Even if you’re not an art fan, it’s still worth the trip just to get to the viewing platform on the top floor.
If you’ve had enough of the bustling city and you want a more chilled out experience, take a bus or metro over to Jesmond Dene. This sanctuary of calm is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. Grab a drink from the cafe and walk along the river. The park is huge, so there are plenty of paths that you can choose from. I’ve lived here for 5 years and I’ve visited for all of my life, and I still don’t feel like I’ve fully explored it! If you’re a nature lover, make sure to visit Pet’s Corner to see all the animals- the goats are my personal favourite!
Where are you going first?
We’re all guilty of sticking to visiting the ‘touristy places’ most of the time. When you’re ready for your next holiday (which is pretty much the day after your last one, right?), make sure to look back at this list for some inspiration. Where do you want to visit first? Let me know in the comments below!
The age-old question for travellers. Should I create an itinerary and know each step of the journey ahead? Or should I hop on a plane without booking a single hostel? Time for some honesty: I’ve never winged it. I often wish I could. Travelling with that much spontaneity and adventure means that there’s never a dull moment. But I have the type of brain that tends to jump to the absolute worst-case scenario. What if I arrive and can’t find a bed for the night? What if I lose all my luggage and I end up with no one to turn to and nowhere to go? Yes, the likelihood of this happening is slim (touch wood). But if it’s a possibility, my brain will still latch onto it and panic. That being said, there are a number of positive aspects to each approach.
Planning It: You Can Save Money
If there’s one thing that all backpackers can agree on, it’s the satisfaction of saving money. Whether it’s from haggling that little bit further for a souvenir, or managing to split the price of a taxi, we’re always trying to find ways to cut the cost of travelling. One of the ways you can do this is by booking things in advance. Pre-booking your accommodation will give you so many more options to choose from than waiting until you arrive. This is especially important if you’re travelling in peak season. Although cheap accommodation may still be available on the day you arrive, the quality of it will likely be questionable. And it’s not just accommodation that you can save money on. You can get a great deal when booking in advance for transport too. Trains and planes can be pretty pricey, and by booking ahead you can save up to 50%. This will give you more money to spend on the fun things, like souvenirs and activities, so it’s definitely not to be sniffed at.
Planning It: You’ll Have More Time
Planning a trip takes serious time and dedication. You have to plan your route, figure out transport, and find accommodation that is cheap, in a good location and doesn’t make you want to disinfect your entire body after spending the night there. It’s hard enough to plan a trip in the comfort of your own home, where you can be fuelled by an endless supply of tea and biscuits. But planning it as you go along? It’s tough, and it can take up a good chunk of your time too. You want to spend your trip exploring, trying new foods, having the experience of a lifetime. You don’t want to spend it holed up in your hostel, trying to figure out the logistics of how to get to your next stop. By planning it in advance, you’ll get the most out of both your time away and the money you’ve spent to get there.
Planning It: Your Journey Isn’t Set in Stone
When we talk about planning our trip in advance, it makes it seem so final. Having an itinerary to follow can make backpacking feel less spontaneous, and more like a regimented school trip. But it doesn’t have to be like this. You can still plan ahead and allow yourself room for flexibility. When booking accommodation in advance, you should always try to make sure that it’s refundable. That way if your plans change, the only thing that you’ve lost is the time you spent booking it in the first place. When it comes to transport and accommodation, it can be a bit trickier. Whilst some transport can be refundable or partly refundable, you may struggle to get any money back. If your chosen accommodation or transport is non-refundable and you still want to go ahead and book it in advance, don’t worry too much. I’ve done this a few times, and it’s always worked out for me. If you want to have a plan but you also want the flexibility, you can still make a note of the transport you’re planning to take and then just book it at a later date. This will make it easier and quicker to book if you decide to do so. And although you might not get the same discount as you would booking in advance, you’ll still end up saving money if you change your plans.
So far, planning your trip seems like the perfect way to go, right? Well even though it’s my chosen method of travelling, there are plenty of benefits to winging it too.
Winging It: You Can Save Money
Experiencing some déjà vu here? We already know that planning in advance makes us big savings. But you can still get a pretty good deal when booking last minute, if you go about it the right way. You may be able to find cheap accommodation on the day if a hostel has had a cancellation and they’re keen to fill the bed. You can look online, but offers will be snapped up quickly so don’t hesitate. If you’re able to, visit the accommodation in person. You can often get an even cheaper rate than booking with a third party. If the price still isn’t cheap enough for you, you can try haggling for a better price if you’re brave enough. You may also be able to bag yourself some cheap transport when booking last minute. Closer to the departure date, demand becomes lower, which means that prices often do too. But bear in mind that this is usually just for short haul trips. Make sure to book long-haul journeys well in advance to get the best price.
Winging It: You Can Leave Whenever You Want
No matter how much you’ve loved your trip, you’ll always look back and wish you spent a little less time in that one place. Maybe you loved it but you hung around just that little bit too long. Or maybe you just didn’t gel with the place – that’s fine, it happens to all of us. Whatever your reason for wanting to leave, it can be hard to do so when plans are already in place. If you decide to wing it, it’s far easier to move on and do some more exploring. When planning in advance, you’re likely to book multiple nights in one. So if you decide to leave early, you have to pay for the remainder. But by winging it and booking on a nightly basis instead, you get to stay as long as you want to. This goes for transport too. Maybe you’ve decided that you want to take a different route. If you’ve paid for your transport in advance, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to make the change. And if you do, that’s a big chunk of your travel budget gone in the blink of an eye. But when you wing it, you have the flexibility to go wherever you want. You can even travel halfway across the globe if you heart desires. The world is your oyster.
Winging It: You Can Travel With Your New Friends
When travelling, a lot of your best experiences come from the friends you make. There’s something so life-affirming about being in a room full of people from different walks of life, who all share one true passion: travelling. And these aren’t slow-burning friendships that blossom over time. After hearing them snoring and letting them see your morning hair, you bond fast. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to part with your new bestie at some point. But to extend that holiday friendship a little while longer, why not travel with them for a while? Well if you decide to wing your trip, this is something you can do with ease. Now you’ll have someone to share your travel experiences with, as well as help you with the practical things like splitting taxi fares and watching your valuables when you can’t. And who knows, after travelling the world together you may have even made a friend for life.
Which Approach Do You Prefer?
There are clearly positives and negatives to each approach, so my only advice is for you to do what’s comfortable for you. When we’re able to travel safely again, I’d like to think that I’ll push myself out of my comfort zone and do a wing it trip. But the truth is, I’m always going to be a planner. And that’s fine with me.