Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Beautiful Table Mountain at Cape Town, South Africa

On a recent visit to Cape Town, booked through statravel.com, I had the privilege of taking a cruise in the famous Table Bay. This is the bay where Dutch commander, Jan van Riebeeck arrived on the 6th of April 1652, founding the nation that is South Africa today. Since 1488 when Bartholomew Diaz set eyes upon Table Mountain for the first time, sailors have been captivated by the natural beauty and splendour of this magnificent mountain. I was also captivated by this beautiful natural wonder and went up the cable way that gives one the opportunity to travel to the top of the mountain.










Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Tips on Travelling with a Toddler

Travel Advice for Parents travelling with young kids


Many parents put off their dream overseas holiday until their children are older under the impression that travelling with young children might spoil an expensive overseas holiday. I’ve decided to explore this opinion a bit further, having travelled with small kids to exciting destinations myself.
Holiday travel is big business these days with lots of operators offering varied travel packages for all kinds of travel groups, from 75 year old’s to the independent traveller. Family travel has also entered this spectrum with travel companies locking onto the void in the market.


So why must you as a parent be concerned in travelling with your youngsters to far off lands? I can speak from my own experience and the concerns I had before I took my small children to Egypt in 2010. My boys were 3 and 5 years old at the time.
Some of the concerns I had were the following:
  • ·         What if my children become ill on the trip?
  • ·         Will we as a family be safe?
  • ·         What if my children become rowdy and unmanageable affecting other travellers?
  • ·         What if they become bored spoiling my experience?
  • ·         Will there be enough kid’s related entertainment?
  • ·         Will it be a lot more expensive to travel with the kids?
  • ·         Will my kids remember their experiences if they are so young?

Kids Travel advice for Parents
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

So I had quite a lot of concerns to deal with. To make things even more interesting in my situation was that I also included the grand parents in my travel plans. This added further strain as I also had to ensure travel insurance for over 75 year old’s were taken out. Let me however focus on the kids for now. (I will include travelling with the aged in a later post.)
I had to make a well informed decision to proceed with the travel plans or to stay at home. I worked through each concern, looking at the probability of any of it occurring.
·         What if my children become ill on the trip?
o   There is 50/50 chance that something like this can happen. One however has to plan correctly to limit kids getting ill. So what can one do?
§  Never travel to extremely cold destinations with young kids. Remember that if you travel to a different hemisphere the seasons are swopped. Best Seasons to travel to certain popular countries are the following:
·         Europe – Summer, early Autumn
·         Middle East / Egypt – Autumn, Winter
·         Australia, New Zealand – Summer
·         South Africa – Spring, Summer
·         Tropics Africa, South America, Asia – Winter (Dry season – less risk of malaria)
·         United States, Canada – Spring, Summer
§  Ensure that you take preventative inoculations where required.
§  Take the necessary cold, flu and diarrhoea medicine with you.
§  Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance for those unfortunate situations where you need a doctor or a hospital.
·         Will we as a family be safe?
o   Ensure that you are well aware of world politics and international safety notices. Don’t take your kids into dangerous territories. You also need to be aware that kids are not always allowed on adventure sports, so if you plan this, remember you will require a baby sitter.
·         What if my children become rowdy and unmanageable affecting other travellers?
o   This you will have to manage as it happens and believe me, there is a very good chance that your children will act up. Kids will be kids.
·         What if they become bored spoiling my experience?
o   Here you will have to go through the necessary planning to organize a well-balanced itinerary that will have the necessary aspects that will make it interesting for the kids.
·         Will there be enough kid’s related entertainment?
o   As mentioned in the previous item, you need to ensure you have a balanced itinerary with enough activities for the kids included.
·         Will it be a lot more expensive to travel with the kids?
o   This is one of the biggest misconceptions that parents have. Travelling with kids does not add massive extra expenses to the trip budget. There are usually big discounts tied to kids travelling.
·         Will my kids remember their experiences if they are so young?
o   This is where you as the parent needs to play a big role in ensuring you keep the memories alive. Take as many videos and photos during your holiday. It will ensure the memories stay fresh in the minds of your kids.


Overall I feel that you should not exclude your children from the magic of travel. Every trip is an adventure with new discoveries for you and your kids. Family travel is fantastic to make families grow closer as a unit. Enjoy the time with your kids before they go off to college.

Image of Parthenon:Photo by Steve Swayne.License: CC-BY-SA 2.0

Monday, 30 January 2017

Is Egypt still safe as a Holiday Tourist destination in 2017?

Felucca on the Nile
I've visited Egypt a couple of times and has an intense love affair with this country that has bestowed the world with a wealth of mystery and suspense. Travelling in Egypt is an adventure on its own. I did not backpack in Egypt and possibly wouldn't advise that, in the current political situation. I however don't see any problem with booking a place on an organised tour. The tour operators are up to date with the current situation on the ground in Egypt and they will advise of any risks.
Security Alert: You can also go to my Egypt specific page on this blog, where I have links to the United States and United Kingdom Travel alerts, as well as fantastic advice relating to travel in Egypt.

News: Egypt Tourism figures at a 20 year low.

My last trip to Egypt started in Cairo and included a train trip down to southern Egypt from where we took a Nile cruiser up north again from Aswan to Luxor. We visited all the famous sites, including the pyramids up north at Giza and the Valley of the Kings in the south at Luxor.

Please see below a small subset of photos of my last trip. Enjoy.
Statue of Female Pharaoh Hatshepshut


Dusk in Luxor - with the Aten clearly visible
- that is to say if you were the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten



Pyramids at Giza


Rams at Karnak in Luxor

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Backpacking to Vilnius in Lithuania

Vilnius in Lithuania, has continuously been voted a top destination for the young at heart backpacker. I've decided to have a quick look, to understand why this city, in a fairly 'obscure' part of Europe is ranking so high on most respected travel publications and web sites. Big was my surprise when I started my research to find out what a spectacular city, Vilnius is and what it actually offer tourists. So here are my findings: (Please note that I haven't visited Vilnius yet, but it is on my bucket list!)

Vilnius Town Hall
Vilnius is located in Lithuania on the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. Lithuania used to be part of the Eastern Block during the Cold War and such it was a no go area for most Westerners. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 most Soviet satellite states became independent, including Lithuania. This also opened up the treasure that is Vilnius, to the world.

Vilnius is a medieval town with lots architectural masterpieces. The city was developed around its town square, with the town hall the main focus.

The population is fiercely patriotic to their homeland and this is very visible in the streets of Vilnius.

Some of the top sites of Vilnius for tourists are the following:
The Museum of the Victims of Genocide:
Lietuvos apeliacinis teismas. 2006-08-10"
by Algirdas  Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania:

Zamek Dolny w Wilnie" by Poznaniak - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Vilnius:


St. Peter and St. Paul's Church Exterior, Vilnius, Lithuania -
Diliff" by Diliff - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
There are many more sites in Vilnius that makes a visit to this Baltic city worthwhile.

You can search below for good accommodation in Vilnius:

Monday, 17 August 2015

Planning a Backpacking Trip to Europe.

Are you planning an exciting backpacking trip to Europe, but not sure where to start, then the below advice will hopefully help?

Critical Items

  1. Decide the route that you want to go.
  2. Decide your means of travel - Train, Bus etc.
  3. Decide if you are going to do a circle route or fly into one city and fly out from your final city.
  4. Decide how you want to lodge - Hotels, Hostels, Bed and Breakfast etc.
  5. Decide and confirm your budget.
  6. Confirm if you require any Visa and also if your passport is still valid.
  7. Decide when you want to go - weather can be a crucial factor especially in Europe.
The St. Bartholomew's chapel on the Königssee in Bavaria is a popular tourist destination.
Copyright: M.tesch at de.wikipedia


Important Items

  1. Electronic copies of all important travel documents and booking confirmations.
  2. Email critical documents to an email account that you can access while you travel.
  3. Take a couple of certified photocopies of your passport long as well as passport size photos in case you lose your passport and you need a new one urgently issued.
  4. Keep a Facebook account updated with progress of your travel so that family and friends know your last whereabouts in case they lose contact with you.
  5. Decide how you want to keep in touch with family while travelling. Mobile costs can be expensive.


Sample Itinerary

I decided to do a backpacking trip from Paris to Rome. I had +-18 days available and decided to travel as follows:

I decided to use the European Rail service and bought my Rail Pass on www.eurail.com.
I used the www.hotelscombined.com website as it offered the best price comparisons and cheapest hotel rates I could find.

You can click on each city on the itinerary to see some great hotels, B&B's and Hostels available in these cities.

  • Start in Paris - stay 3 nights
  • Travel to Geneva - Stay 2 nights
  • Travel  to Nice - Stay 3 nights
  • Travel to Venice - Stay 3 nights
  • Travel to Florence - Stay - 3 nights
  • Travel to Rome - Stay - 3 nights
  • Fly Home
Map of Sample trip above.















Take Note:
Read as much as possible about the places you will be going to during your research phase, so that you can build your itinerary before you start doing any bookings. The reason for this is also to ensure that you don't get to Europe unprepared and in the end waste money by not using the time to see some great sites.

On a personal note:
If your ancestors were from Europe, it is always an idea to go back to where your family originated from and walk in their ancient footstep. This can be very, very rewarding.

I will be expanding further in subsequent posts on how to expand this European itinerary and save lots of money.




Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Can I still travel to Greece during the current economic trouble?

Many tourists that were planning to travel to Greece in the Summer of 2015 is now unsure if they should cancel their plans or still proceed. The answer to this question will be different for different individuals.
Greece, public unrest. Photo: AFP

So let us review the current situation in Greece.

Before I dive into the below items - The most important item to make sure off before you leave home for any overseas trip, is the following  -
Ensure you take out Travel Insurance!

Money

  • All banks are closed until at least 15 July 2015.
  • Daily ATM withdrawals are capped for all Greek issued cards. The current cap is 60 EUR. This does not apply to foreign cards.
  • Card transactions in store are unrestricted, but not all business accept cards.

So firstly, if you are going to travel to Greece, take cash with you. This is the best advice, especially if you are an independent traveller. Package tourists should also take cash, but you will be able to get around with less cash as most of your trip should be covered in your package costs.

Personal Safety
The next important aspect is to ensure your personal safety. As the country is going through a political upheaval there are potential for demonstrations and street violence. This will be quite important if you are travelling in Athens. It is therefore important to avoid all areas where demonstrations are taking place. Areas to avoid when riots occur includes the following:

  • Syntagma Square
  • Monastiraki
  • Omonia 
  • Exarchia.


You need to use your own judgement on the matter obviously, as it might actually be interesting to see the population of the city acting out their emotions, which has been so hurt over the past couple of years. If you travel to the main holiday islands like Crete and Rhodes, you should be fine as these islands are very much focused on the tourist industry. Overall Greece is a European country with first world safety standards, so you should not be concerned for any other safety issue other than the current political/economic crisis.

Transport
This is also a very important aspect to consider when planning to travel to Greece. Currently all public transport and airports could be impacted as a result of possible strike action against any further austerity measures. So if you are a backpacker (or just an independent traveller) ensure you keep your schedule flexible to allow for delays. Plan to be Athens a couple of days prior to your departure flight - or book your flights into Italian airports and do for example the Ancona to Patras ferry route. Package tourists should hopefully be protected by the travel agency through which the tour got booked to ensure the necessary alternate arrangements are made.

These are the most important items related to the current uncertainties in Greece. You need to decide if these items are really that serious, to lead to a cancellation or delay of your trip to glorious Greece. I feel that these are no different than normal circumstances when travelling to a Third world country, so why cancel or delay!

Accommodation
If you are going to book a trip to Greece, the below hotels, hostels and resorts are some of the best in the country.

Andromeda Villas, Santorini -Awesome! 
Villa Popi, Santorini - Hostel

Herodion Hotel, Athens - Great specials at the moment.

Sunrise Beach Hotel, Agrari, Mykonos

In summary, Greece is still a great destination for holiday makers. You just need to be a bit more disciplined currently than in years gone bye. Be bold and go for it!