Travel hacks for a Luxurious Break

To begin with, the word luxury can have different meanings for different people. For some it could be dining in a Michelin Star restaurant; for others it could be staying in the most popular and top luxury hotel without having an iota of worry about the expenses. One thing is quite clear in any luxury experience; it equates to shelling a lot of money. In fact, luxury and budget are oxymoron and it can be quite challenging to enjoy the best of both the worlds.

Lonely girl with suitcase at country road dreaming about travel.

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With a hectic routine round the year, you surely deserve a luxury break. Your heart wants it but your brain won’t allow you since it might mean breaking your bank to afford the hefty price for the trip. Even while planning a romantic honeymoon, a celebratory vacation or a trip to propose, you wouldn’t want to settle for something ordinary; rather you will want to go for something which is a cut above the standard. This doesn’t mean that you have to win a lottery to get such a lifetime experience but you can certainly get luxury vacation on a budget. Here are a few tips which can help you transform your budget trip to a luxury trip:

  • Be flexible with the dates: This is a no-brainer. If you don’t have any constraints, then it is best to go for end of the season breaks. You can easily get cheaper flights at that time of the year which can be channelized towards the rest of the trip.
  • Choosing the place of stay: Often your accommodation costs sizable chunk of the trip and this is where you would want to save a few bucks. One way is to pick the smallest room in the best hotel rather than opting for a bigger room in a budget hotel. As we mentioned above that for some people a luxury vacation might mean staying in the best hotel during the vacation. You won’t regret spending the amount at your place of stay as the quality service and facilities will leave you delighted during the trip. You can also check for coupons and promo codes which are generally available on certain booking websites.

If you are still not convinced to stay at a luxury hotel, then luxury B&Bs are a great option that you may consider. Beautiful and chic bed and breakfasts are coming up and have impressive facilities to offer in addition to the great surroundings they offer you. Since the concept is gaining popularity, you can rest assured that your stay will be a comfortable one since the staff offers you a more personal and attentive experience. With the only exceptions of being homes and available at cheaper prices, B&Bs are similar to hotels and resorts and apparently much better.

  • Quality over quantity: Go for a shorter stay since it is better to compromise the time as compared to the quality of the stay. In the end, you want to keep your trip memorable; so staying at an uncomfortable place just to stay for a bit longer will not make you happy. After all, luxury is all about the experience you get at a place.
  • Purchase lounge passes: There is often a misconception that you need to travel first class to avail the lounge facilities. Availing lounge facilities is a good idea to get a hassle free experience; after all who wants to miss free wi-fi, delicious snacks or drinks! But you can avail these facilities even without a first class pass. You simply have to purchase lounge passes which are way much cheaper than going for a first class ticket. Even better if you are travelling long haul; you can even enjoy a warm shower in the lounge.

There are certain websites which will make your task much simpler while you are researching for all the information. The Luxury for Less product by Travelex is one such platform where you can get details such as flight cost, hotel expenditure and other suggestions about travelling smart and the recommended dates. The results are customized based on your inputs such as the budget and other travelling details. This travel inspiration engine is something you should surely try if you want to plan a luxury travel in the near future.

Hikers with backpack

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Besides, the platform which promotes Luxury for Less i.e. Travelex solves all your travel related problems whether its currency exchange or money transfer. It doesn’t cost you a bomb as there are numerous deals and vouchers which can be availed for the Travelex services. So before you plan your travel, make sure that you have researched long before so that you get incredibly low prices on a range of services.

Planning a luxury holiday is possible at a low budget. All you need to do is smart planning and smart travel.

Surprise Your Taste Buds in Thailand – 5 Must-Try Thai Dishes

If you are heading to Thailand in the near future, keep in mind that you are going to have to eat. While there are McDonald’s restaurants and other fast food in Thailand, that’s a terrible way to experience the local culture. The cuisine in Thailand is something that you simply won’t find anywhere else on earth; the Thai food in the United States is often a poor imitation of what actual Thai cuisine tastes like so don’t forget to try these five amazing dishes during your next visit to Thailand.

Red Pork Noodle Soup

First up is Red Pork Noodle Soup, one of the most delicious Thai dishes that you will ever eat. You won’t be able to find this in the restaurants in Bangkok, but you can find it throughout the market at street vendors. The way that it is made might give you pause (the broth sits for a really long time) but it is absolutely delicious. The broth is made of boiled pork bones and onions, and it is combined with noodles, slices of red pork, sprouts and bok coy. You can eat it with sugar, fish sauce or even chili. You definitely need to check it out at least once while you are in Thailand.

Spicy Beef Salad

Beef salad is pretty amazing on its own. You can find it in restaurants throughout Thailand and it is made of succulent strips of beef that is combined with a whole bunch of things to give it a unique flavor like coriander, spearmint, lime, dried chili and onions. This salad can be enjoyed on its own but that’s definitely not the best way to eat it. As your Thai friends will tell you, you must experience spicy beef salad with warm delicious bread and covered in fish sauce. You can even make spicy beef salad at home if you want to fondly remember your time in Thailand.

Som Tam

Som Tam is one of the most prevalent foods in the Thai diet and you will find it being sold everywhere around you among the street vendors. The way that this dish is made is with shaved papaya fruit combined in a mortar and pestle with things like sugar, fish sauce, lots of chilies, peanuts, tomatoes and more. It is really spicy and if you can’t handle it, then get it made without the chilies. Even so, the mortar has a bunch of chili seeds already present when they start making yours, so you will get a little spice regardless.

Banana Pancakes

These aren’t your dad’s banana pancakes and you will be surprised just how prevalent this dish is within the marketplaces that you visit. The Thong Lor market in Bangkok has dozen of stalls selling this stuff. What is actually consists of is friend dough that is much more similar to a scone than a pancake, which is filled with chopped up banana and then topped with chocolate, or sugar mixed with condensed milk.

Krathong Tong

Our fifth dish on this list is the absolutely amazing Krathong Tong. This is an appetizer that you won’t be able to resist once you taste it for the first time. Fried appetizers have become more and more common in Thai cuisine and this is one of the best things to come from the Portuguese cuisine that has introduced them to the area. You probably won’t be able to find them unless you visit one of the nicer restaurants in Bangkok but they are very thin fried shells filled with chicken, corn, carrots, potatoes and a delicious, creamy mystery sauce.

Staying Safe On The Road

There’s nothing more important than your own safety. When you’re at home, you always make sure that you lock all your doors and windows, that you get taxis home from parties, and that you don’t make too much small talk with strangers. But for some reason, the second we start travelling, all that caution often tends to fly out of the window. Here are some tips on how to stay safe when you’re travelling…

Budget Carefully

It’s important to make sure that you don’t blow all of your money too quickly. It can be tempting to buy tons of souvenirs and to splash out on exciting new food, but the fact is that you need to make a daily budget and stick to it. The best thing about money isn’t what you can buy with it – it’s the freedom that it gives you. If you have spare money then you can leave that bed bug infested hostel with the scary hulking guy in the corner of the shared room, and stay in a nicer hotel for the night while you regroup. Money means that you can get a taxi home instead of waiting on a street corner for a night bus for an hour. Make sure that you budget for things like that as well as fun treats.

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Know The Area

Obviously it’s impossible to know absolutely everything about a city that you’re travelling to, but you should get to know the local public transport system to some extent so that you know how you’re going to get home whenever you go out, and you should also make sure that you have a local taxi company number in your phone in case you want to get home quickly. Google around on sites like www.travelsphere.co.uk to find out where you should go in the local area, and make sure that you talk to fellow travellers to figure out where you shouldn’t go by yourself, particularly at night.

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Don’t Carry Too Much

You should make sure that you’re as mobile as possible at all times – wear comfortable shoes and make sure that you haven’t over packed. Not being able to carry your backpack and move properly really isn’t a particularly safe way to be. When you go out in the evenings, make sure that your passport is in the money belt around your waist instead of in your bag, and that you aren’t carrying too much money. You should also ensure that all your expensive things are locked away at your hostel in a safe.

 

Trust Your Instincts

Your instincts are the most important things that you’ll travel with. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, don’t feel any shame or embarrassment about getting out of there immediately. Your own safety should be your priority at all times, and your instincts might have picked up on something that the rest of your brain hasn’t quite caught up with, like someone sitting too close to you or looking at you in a threatening way. Make sure you use the cab number in your phone or hail a licensed taxi to get back to wherever you’re staying.

 

8 Palaces/Castles in Europe You Never Thought of Visiting

Are you done visiting some of the most famous and colossal palaces of Europe, like Versailles Palace in France, Buckingham Palace in England, Schönbrunn Palace in Austria, or Alhambra in Spain? How about some other notable palaces or castles that Europe has to offer to its visitors that many people don’t know about? I have tons in my mind but here are 8 that are worth visiting and will surprise the guests with lots of secrets:

  1. Chateau de Godfrey de Bouillon, Belgium: Godfrey of Bouillon was one of the heroic knights from the 11th century and his castle is a major asset in Belgium. Built in the 11th century,  Chateau de Godfrey de Bouillon offers some thrilling views of Semois Valley, the river, and town below. Godfrey’s Chateau has a huge complex of medieval defense with old walls and stone buildings. Other than some exhibitions, tourists can see a medieval torture chamber and an underground prison. If you are in Brussels, this would make a nice trip to the Wallonia side of the country.
Godfrey's Castle and its surroundings in Bouillon, Belgium

Godfrey’s Castle and its surroundings in Bouillon, Belgium

2. Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark:  This palace once used to be the official residence of the Danish Royal Family, but presently is used as the Danish Parliament and Supreme Court. The original building of Christiansborg Palace  dates back to 1167. At 106 meters high, the tower of Christiansborg Palace is the highest among all the other palaces in Copenhagen.

Entering Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

Entering Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Reception Hall consists of several important rooms of the castle, like the Throne Room, Great Hall, Dining Hall, Alexander Hall, and others. Each room is decorated with luxurious and elegant look. The beauty of the old furniture, tapestries, chandelier, art/paintings, decorative doors, lamps, vases, candle-holders, marble fire-place is beyond any expressions. If you have one day in Copenhagen, this would be the one place that one must visit.

Great Hall inside Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Great Hall inside Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

3. Chateau de Blois in Loire Valley, France: This is one of many castles in the Loire Valley of France. Chateau de Blois was the residence of several French kings during the middle ages. Joan of Arc came here in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop before driving the English from Orleans. Also, this is where Queen Catherine de’Medici (wife of King Henri II) died in 1589. The main façade of this château was my favorite part. Interestingly, different parts of the palace features different era and style, like Gothic, Flamboyant, Renaissance, and Classicism.

One of the noble rooms of Chateau de Blois, France

One of the noble rooms of Chateau de Blois, France

4. Dresden Zwinger in Dresden, Germany: The palaces of Dresden Zwinger is the main attraction of the city. It’s a big garden surrounded by old Baroque palace buildings on all sides including Semper Building, Glockenspiel Pavilion (Clock Tower), Crown Gate, Rampart Pavilion, Nymphs’ Bath, and Marble Hall. This is a beautiful place to walk around and enjoy calm gardens and exquisite palace buildings.

Dresden Zwinger - Glockenspiel Pavilion (clock tower) on the right

Dresden Zwinger – Glockenspiel Pavilion (clock tower) on the right

5. Trakai Island Castle in Lithuania: The city of Trakai is beautiful  a lake resort area and the main attraction is the Trakai Island Castle. Sitting quietly on Lake Galve, construction of this Gothic masterpiece started in the 14thcentury. Upon entering to the main front courtyard, you can see beautiful fortress of red bricks in all three sides. Trakai History Museum is spread around the castle and linked via many arrays of wooden steps and dark spiral staircases. Soldiers’ barracks, Great Hall, and other small rooms are filled with some original furniture, decors, ceramics, potteries, and etc.

Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve in Lithuania

Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve in Lithuania

6. Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal:  The Pena Palace is the finest examples of 19th century Portuguese Romanticism and  is considered as the most important part of Cultural Landscape of Sintra.  Main façade of the castle is decorated with geometric patterned Moorish-style tiles and watch towers were built in various shapes, sizes, and colors making it look like a Disney fairy-tale castle. The oldest foundation of this place dates back to the 12thcentury. This is a great guided trip that can be taken if you are in Lisbon and have an extra day to roam around out the capital.

Breathtaking location of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal...as we saw it from Queen's terrace

Breathtaking location of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal…as we saw it from Queen’s terrace

7. Malaga Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain: Alcazaba de Malaga, a Moorish palace/fortress that has been standing on a hill since the Muslim era in Andalusia in 11th century and is one of the emblematic monuments of this town. The Nasrid Palace, Orange Patio and Patio de la Alberca (with a pool) are remarkable areas of Malaga Alcazaba. Among few other Moorish palaces of Spain, this Alcazaba is one of the best preserved palaces and a must-see.

Malaga Alcazaba - a Moorish castle in Malaga, Spain

Malaga Alcazaba – a Moorish castle in Malaga, Spain

8. Keukenhof Castle, The Netherlands: Many people don’t know about Kasteel Keukenhof in The Netherlands. Thousands of people from all over the word come to Keukenhof during the Tulip festival. When you are there, take a 5 minutes walk to this castle and you won’t be disappointed. The most amazing part of  Keukenhof Castle is that many of the furniture and belongings of this castle are from the original owners from the 17th century. It is a guided tour to visit inside the mansion but stay as long as you want in the garden.

An original Venetian chandelier, look at the detailed work

An original Venetian chandelier, look at the detailed work

Exterior of Keukenhof Castle

Exterior of Keukenhof Castle

Craving for Old Europe? Here are Top 7 Cities to Visit !!!

It’s not just the European food or people or cultures that attracts millions of people to visit the continent each year. Yes, those are appealing, but for the most part, it’s the unique medieval charms of Europe that people can’t get enough of when they are getting lost in the narrow alleys of small towns in Europe, looking at centuries old cathedrals or  ruins of ancient fortresses,  or walking on cobbled stoned squares from the middle ages.

Every time I’ve visited the big or tiny towns in Europe, I was taken back in time. I could feel and see the life that existed hundreds of years ago. It was like an open museum that has surprises in every corner of it. From big cities like Rome to one of the smallest ones, like Cyprus have medieval elements scattered though the cities.

After visiting more than 130 cities in Europe (it’s not enough for any continent, let alone for Europe), I had hard time hand-picking cities that will give the tourists most medieval experience of Europe. Oh yes, there are plenty of these towns where you can go and feel like you traveled to the past thru a time machine in this continent. But here are 7 not-so-common places that you should visit to experience some enticing old European charms. They are not in any particular order…enjoy

  1. Toledo (Spain): Once the capital of Spain, Toledo, is a must-see city when you are in Madrid. The history of this town dates back to 192 B.C. which became a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich cultural and historical monuments. Some spots to hit in Toledo are Cathedral of Toledo, Monuments of Greco, Old city wall, the synagogue, San Martin Bridge, and finally the magnificent Alcazar.
An overview of Toledo with River Tagus and Puente de St. Martin

An overview of Toledo with River Tagus and Puente de St. Martin

2. Volterra (Italy): This is a perfect day-trip if you are in Florence or Sienna in Italy. Volterra is one of many walled cities of Toscana and it attracts thousands of tourists every month. Other than its sweeping beauty of its countryside and other small hill-towns, it has those cozy piazzas, like Piazza dei Priori, a roman theater, couple good museums like Alabaster Museum and Pinacoteca Museum, and finally an old baptistery…Santa Maria Assunta Church. To finish off the day, have some gelato from a local store.

Old Town of Volterra, Italy

Old Town of Volterra, Italy

3. Plovdiv (Bulgaria): Dating back to more than 4000 B.C, Plovdiv is one of the oldest towns in whole Europe. The town is very well-preserved and many old buildings, paved streets, fortifications, walls, water-supply, and sewerage survived from its early period. Visit the Virgin Mary Church, St. Dimitar Church, Roman Theater, ancient Stadium of Philippopolis, and Djoumaya Mosque from the 14th century. Plovdiv would make a perfect trip if you are in Sophia and have an extra day to taste the old Bulgaria.

Roman amphitheater from the 1st century in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Roman amphitheater from the 1st century in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

4. San Marino (San Marino): This is one of the littlest countries in Europe yet it claims to be the world’s oldest republic. San Marino not only  offers impressive views of the surrounding hills, countryside, Adriatic Sea, and Italy, but it also has spectacular historic landmarks for its visitors. If you are in the Tuscany region in Italy, San Marino would be a perfect day-trip from there. Visit the Old Town, 1st Tower – Guaita, Basilica di San Marino, Piazza Publica, and enjoy its great Italian cuisine in any restaurants.

Walking thru the old cobble-stoned alleys of San Marino

Walking thru the old cobble-stoned alleys of San Marino

5. Luxembourg City (Luxembourg): This is probably one of my most favorite capitals to visit in Europe. The history and the beauty of Luxembourg City will truly make your trip a memorable one. Here are some places to see here: Gella Fra Monument, Notre Dame Cathedral, Grand Ducal Palace, Bock Casamates, and finally the whole town. This should be on your top list if you are visiting Belgium…too good to miss.

Walking around the old ruins of Luxemburg (Casamates)

Walking around the old ruins of Luxemburg (Casamates)

6. Valletta (Malta): This is a unique place where rich history, good Mediterranean food, scenic beauty, and colorful atmosphere come together in harmony. Malta’s capital, Valletta, was one of the earliest sites that got listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site for its old world splendor and magnificent Baroque architectures. While in Valletta, make sure to take a boat ride to the unforgettable Islands of Gozo and Comino. But in the city, roam around its old part and enjoy places like, St. John’s Cathedral (and many other old churches), Upper Barracca Garden, National Library of Malta, St. Fort Elmo, and Great Siege Square.

Valletta, Malta -the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Valletta, Malta -the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

7. Dinant (Belgium): Situated by River Meuse, Dinant is a French-speaking (Wallonia) part of Belgium. This is the hometown of Adolphe Sax…the inventor of saxophone that dates back to 800 B.C. Visit the Dinant Citadel (and enjoy stunning view from there), Collegiate Cathedral of Dinant, Saxophone Bridge and River Meuse, and get lost in the old alleys that are packed with local goods and cafes. Another sweet trip if you are ever in Brussels.

Breathtaking view of the city and river from Dinant Citadel in Belgium

Breathtaking view of the city and river from Dinant Citadel in Belgium

 

 

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