5 Top Athens Hostels

Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece

Before Covid hit, annual visitor numbers to Athens, Greece were heading for 6 million. Many backpackers who visit Athens use it as a stepping off point for visiting the many other must-see sights in Greece, but the city i`tself contains a wealth of attractions. You’ll therefore be wanting somewhere comfortable to stay for a few nights, and to help you decide where to rest your head, here are my 5 top Athens hostels recommendations:

Mosaikon

Top Athens Hostels - Mosaikon

📍 Close to the main attractions, with great views from the terrace of Acropolis Hill
🛏️ Sturdy bunkbeds with clever privacy blinds, private reading lights and power points makes this one of the top Athens hostels
🚿 Modern, well-designed bathrooms
🍽️ Large, modern kitchen but this can only be used for preparing snacks (no cooking)
🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Stylish private rooms


City Circus

📍 Right in the heart of buzzing Psirri
🛏️ Although the bunks don’t come with privacy curtains, they are sturdy. Common areas are spacious and stylish
🚿 En-suite bathrooms for private rooms
🍽️ Lovely common areas including kitchen and serene roof terrace
🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Great value private rooms


Athens Hub Hostel

📍 5 mins from Monastiraki Square
🛏️ Light, roomy and airy dorms featuring cosy bunks with privacy curtains
🚿 Stylish bathrooms
🍽️ Chic common areas including terrace (no kitchen)
🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Private rooms at superb price


Bedbox

Top Athens Hostels - Bedbox

📍 Under 10 mins walk to the Agora
🛏️ Well-designed dorms. Bunks have privacy curtains and reading lights
🚿 Clean, plentiful bathrooms
🍽️ Gorgeous common areas, including spacious kitchen
🧑‍🤝‍🧑No private rooms, but the 4-bed dorms afford a lot of privacy


Nubian Hostel

Top Athens Hostels - Nubian Hostel

📍 Nestled in the alternative neighbourhood of Exarhia, close to the main sights
🛏️ Sturdy, semi-private bunks with reading lights and sockets
🚿 Clean bathrooms
🍽️ Beautifully artistic common areas with large eating area and kitchen with free breakfast
🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Amazing value private rooms

Covid travel corridors update

SPAIN UPDATE: click here

From Friday 10 July the government announced and initial list of 59 countries/territories UK tourists can travel to without the need to quarantine on return (in England anyway) – weirdly, though, you may be required to be tested or quarantine when you get to the country (or simply not be allowed in, even though the UK government says you can go). Below is all the Covid travel info I can get hold of. I’ll be doing my best to keep this page updated.

Jump to:

Please note that this is not official advice and that, apart from the travel corridors listed below, the FCO is still advising against all but essential international travel – if you go to destinations not listed below you will be asked to provide an address where you’ll self-isolate for 14 days (you can be fined £100 if you don’t complete these details, and you could be fined up to £1,000 if you fail to self-isolate). Please also note that this article is aimed at a UK (specifically, English) audience

Croatia - one of the travel corridors
Hvar, Croatia

Spain update

PLEASE NOTE: This is not official advice, this is all the information I have been able to gather so far. I will keep this updated as often as possible and when more information comes to light.

From 26 July if you arrive into the UK from Spain (mainland and islands) then you will need to quarantine in the UK for 14 days. Because the FCO is NOT advising against travel to the islands then some airlines – such as British Airways – are still going ahead, whereas others – such as TUI – have cancelled all flights and holidays.

If you were already in Spain when the announcement was made (on 25 Jul) then you should still be covered by insurance (sadly, though, when you return your employer isn’t obliged to offer you statutory sick pay for the quarantine period – you’ll have to work from home if you can).

If you’ve not yet travelled and your airline cancels your flight then you may be entitle to a refund . If they refuse a refund then look at getting a charge back or Section 75 from your credit card provider if you used credit card to pay. Even if your flight is not cancelled, the airline may also offer you the opportunity to change travel dates or receive a voucher for future travel – this is a good option, which airlines such as Jet2 and British Airways (via Manage My Booking) were offering, the latter under their ‘Flexible Change Policy’.

Please be aware that, even though they will allow you to switch flight (eg easyJet) some airlines may charge a change fee. Ryanair has stated that such a fee will apply, and that you will also have to pay any difference in fare (something which many other airlines are saying).

Package holiday operators such as Tui have said that they will not take travellers to destinations where there is a need to quarantine on return. This includes both mainland Spain and the islands. Tui have cancelled package holidays to the mainland and are working on cancelling holidays to the islands – you can choose to get a full refund, or amend your holiday for free (plus an additional incentive). Jet2 were allowing customers to change their holiday free of charge, but they won’t allow you to cancel. If your package holiday is cancelled by the company you were due to travel with then you are legally entitled to a full refund (legally within 2 weeks, although the travel industry is currently on its knees), but this may take time coming through.

If you decide to go ahead and travel to Spain, including the islands, then, because the FCO are now advising against all but essential travel, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be covered by your travel insurance.

If your airline hasn’t cancelled your flight and you don’t wish to travel then, if you had your insurance in place and you booked before the pandemic (most insurers agree this date to be 13 March), then you should get a refund from insurance. If you booked after this date then you’re unlikely to be covered (Nationwide Flex account may be an exception).

In conclusion, your best options are to look into government-backed ATOL travel vouchers, or changing your dates with your airline/holiday operator/hotel.

Sources: FCO website, Department of Travel website, Martin Lewis, British Airways, easyJet, The Independent

What happened to the traffic light system?

We now have ‘travel corridors’ instead. The UK government seems to no longer have a traffic light system, making all of the countries I listed below ‘Green’ – i.e. there’s no particular warning or list of countries specified by the government that you cannot travel to. HOWEVER, if a country is NOT on the list below then you WILL be required to quarantine for 14 days when you return to the UK.

NOTE: although the UK government sets rules on these routes, quarantining rules may differ between each UK nation. Each destination country may also have testing and/or quarantine regulations in place when you arrive.

Will I have to quarantine or be tested when I get there?

Possibly. It depends on each country. In the list of travel corridor countries below I have added a 🕒 next to countries which will require you to quarantine (usually for 14 days), a 🌡️ next to countries which will require testing (either before you leave or when you enter), a 📝 next to countries which require a form to be filled out, and a ✅ next to countries where there are no restrictions. Even though the UK government is letting us travel, some countries may refuse entry due to the relatively high number of cases here – I’ve marked these countries with a ❎ (it’s unlikely that airlines will fly from the UK to these countries, but, if they do, you may be turned back when you arrive).

Where can you travel to?

Click for Europe, Americas & Caribbean, Asia, Africa & Middle East and Oceania.

According to the government: ‘From 10 July 2020, unless they have visited or stopped in any other country or territory in the preceding 14 days, passengers arriving from the following countries and territories will not be required to self-isolate on arrival into England’ (note: not Scotland, Wales or N Ireland). This list has been taken from the Department of Transport site, not the FCO site (the two lists differ).

Click on each country name, ‘Flights’, ‘Trains’ or ‘Ferries’ for the latest offers, or click on the itinerary links if you want some detailed planning help. I’ve also added ‘info’ links if you want more details, such as extra measures for incoming passengers (see above for explainer).

Europe

🇦🇩 Andorra (free itinerary here) ✅ (info >) (Andorra removed on 8 Aug)
🇦🇹 Austria (free itinerary here) 📝 (no medical certificate necessary after 27 Jul) (info >)
🇧🇪 Belgium (free itinerary here) 📝 (travellers from Midlands, North East & Yorkshire, North West and Northern Ireland, Leicester, and Wales 🕒) (info >) (Belgium removed on 8 Aug)
Flights
Trains
Ferries

🇭🇷 Croatia (free itineraries here and here) 📝 (info >)
🇨🇾 Cyprus 🌡️📝(info >)
🇨🇿 Czech Republic ✅ (info >)
🇩🇰 Denmark
🇪🇪 Estonia ✅ (from 28 Jul) (free itinerary here) (info >)
🇫🇴 Faroe Islands ✅ (info >)
🇫🇮 Finland 🕒 (info >)
🇫🇷 France (free itinerary here) ✅ (info >)
Flights
Trains
Ferries
🇩🇪 Germany (free itinerary here) ✅ (info >)
Flights
Trains
🇬🇮 Gibraltar ✅ (info >)
🇬🇷 Greece (free itinerary here) 🌡️📝 (if you are clear of Covid 24 hours of testing you’re free to leave your accommodation. If you’re not clear then you will be 🕒 for 14 days) (info >)
🇬🇱 Greenland 🌡️🕒📝 (info >)
🇭🇺 Hungary (free itinerary here) 🌡️🕒 (info >)
🇮🇸 Iceland 🕒 (info >)
🇮🇪 Ireland (free itinerary here) 📝 (info >)
Flights
Trains
Ferries
🇮🇹 Italy (free itinerary here) ✅ (info >)
Flights
Trains
🇱🇻 Latvia ✅ (from 28 Jul) (info >)
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein (travel via Switzerland) ✅ (info >)
🇱🇹 Lithuania ✅ (info >)
🇱🇺 Luxembourg ✅ (info >) (Luxembourg removed on 31 Jul)
Flights
Trains

🇲🇹 Malta (free itinerary here) 📝 (info >)
🇲🇨 Monaco ✅ (info >)
🇳🇱 The Netherlands 📝 (info >)
Flights
Trains
Ferries
🇳🇴 Norway ✅ (info >)
🇵🇱 Poland ✅ (info >)
🇸🇲 San Marino ✅ (info >)
🇸🇰 Slovakia ✅ (from 28 Jul) (free itinerary here) (info >)
🇸🇮 Slovenia ✅ (from 28 Jul) (free itinerary here) (info >)
🇷🇸 Serbia ❎ (info >) (Serbia removed on 10 July)
🇪🇸 Spain (free itinerary here) 🌡️📝 (info >) (Spain removed on 25 July)
Flights
Trains
Ferries

🇨🇭 Switzerland (free itinerary here) ✅ (info >)
🇹🇷 Turkey (free itinerary here) 🌡️📝 (info >)

Americas & Caribbean

🇦🇮 Anguilla ❎ (info >)
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda 🌡️(maybe 🕒 as well) (info >)
🇦🇼 Aruba ✅ (info >)
🇧🇸 The Bahamas 🌡️📝🕒 (info >) (Bahamas removed on 8 Aug)
🇧🇧 Barbados (free itinerary here) ✅ (info >)
🇧🇲 Bermuda 📝 (info >)
🇧🇶 Bonaire ✅ (info >)
🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands ✅ (🕒 for 7 days on Jost van Dyke) (info >)
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands ❎ (info >)
🇨🇼 Curaçao 🌡️📝 (info >)
🇩🇲 Dominica ❎ (info >)
🇬🇩 Grenada 🌡️(maybe 🕒 as well) (info >)
🇬🇵 Guadeloupe 🌡️📝(maybe 🕒 as well) (info >)
🇯🇲 Jamaica 🌡️📝🕒 (info >)
🇧🇱 St Barthélemy 📝 (info >)
🇰🇳 St Kitts and Nevis ❎ (info >)
🇱🇨 St Lucia (free itinerary here) 🌡️ (info >)
🇵🇲 St Pierre and Miquelon 📝 (info >)
🇻🇨 St. Vincent & Grenadines 🌡️📝🕒 (from 28 Jul) (info >)
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago 🕒 (info >)
🇹🇨 Turks & Caicos ❎ (info >)

Asia

🇭🇰 Hong Kong ❎ (info >)
🇯🇵 Japan (free itinerary here) ❎ (info >)
🇲🇴 Macau ❎ (info >)
🇰🇷 South Korea 🌡️🕒 (info >)
🇹🇼 Taiwan ❎ (info >)
🇻🇳 Vietnam (free itinerary here) ❎ (info >)

Africa & Middle East

🇲🇴 Mauritius ❎ (info >)
🇷🇪 Réunion 📝 (info >)
🇸🇨 Seychelles ✅, although strictly limited (info >)

Oceania & Antarctica

🇦🇺 Australia (free itineraries here and here) ❎ (info >)
🇦🇶 British Antarctic Territory (how to get there on a budget (ish)) ✅ (info >)
🇫🇯 Fiji (free itinerary here) ❎ (info >)
🇵🇫 French Polynesia 📝 (info >)
🇳🇨 New Caledonia 📝 (info >)
🇳🇿 New Zealand (free itineraries here and here) ❎ (info >)

When might the restrictions change?

Disappointed that the country you planned to travel to isn’t yet part of the travel corridors? Don’t fret. If daily active cases in the UK and/or the country you wish to travel to continue declining, then the government will be more likely to include that country in the travel corridors, particularly if it’s a popular tourist destination.

Estonia, for example, is waiting for the UK’s number of cases per 100k to drop below 25 before starting to permit tourists from this country. Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia and St Vincent and the Grenadines will be added to the list of travel corridors from 28 July. Portugal is very much in the spotlight as there are strong calls to remove the quarantine for this country (the FCO has deemed the Azores and Madeira ‘safe’). Latvia is open to UK travellers again but, for some reason, the UK government still requires you to quarantine on return – I imagine that will be changed soon. Cyprus is due to open to UK tourists from 1 Aug (as long as UK cases continue to improve). Japan is closed to UK travellers until at least the end of August. I’ll try to keep this page updated as often as possible.

Is it safe to travel?

Even though flight, train and ferry companies have put in place many new Covid travel safety rules, it would appear that your safety is still almost entirely down to the responsibility of fellow passengers. Many travel corridors destinations are insisting that visitors at least take a test on arrival.

Flights

When you get to the airport you will be instructed on how to queue at check-in, security and when boarding. You will also see instructions on where to sit when waiting for your flight.

Airlines are requiring passengers to wear a face mask at all times, and to replace face masks every four hours (note that some destinations may require different types of masks to the UK). All airlines have put in place advanced disinfecting techniques. Some airlines, such as British Airways, are giving passengers a personal protection pack containing an antibacterial wipe and hand sanitiser – all but Emirates and Virgin Atlantic require you to bring your own mask(s). Take a look at the government advice for more detail. Virgin Atlantic also have a useful page detailing the measures they’re taking, as do easyJet and, slightly less useful, is Ryanair’s Covid page.

Airlines aren’t, however, keeping seats free between passengers and so social distancing along travel corridors is not possible. The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization has provided guidance to all airlines, but it’s not enforceable.

Trains

Similar to flights, you will need to wear a face mask for the duration of your train journey. You will need to supply your own mask. Every other seat on board Eurostar has been left empty and so it will be possible to maintain some level of social distancing (more details on their site). Train companies have also put in place advanced disinfecting techniques.

Ferries

Ferry companies aren’t currently requiring you to wear a mask (although their staff will be). This, therefore, may be the most comfortable form of travel. In addition to making reserved seats and cabins compulsory, so as to ensure social distancing, ferry companies have put in place advanced cleaning operations. You can see more details about Britanny Ferries Coronavirus response here, P&O Ferries here, DFDS here, and Irish Ferries here.

Hotels and Hostels

Hotels are, perhaps, one of the safest places to be. Hotel managers are, after all, used to the idea of deep cleaning rooms. Although you may not be able to eat in their restaurants, room service should be available.

Some countries have implemented special training for hotel supervisors and have put in place rules for check-in queues, the removal of non-essential decorative items, as well as for keeping rooms empty for several hours between guests.

Of all the accommodation types I have seen preparing for guests during this crisis, it is probably hostels which seem to have been doing the most thorough job. Numbers of guests – especially in dorms – have been restricted by many hostels

B&Bs

AirBnB have asked their hosts to enact enhanced cleaning protocols, flexible cancellations and longer stays are being encouraged, and hosts have been given a vast array of advice on how to stay open during the crisis. HomeAway have been less insistent that their hosts put into place enhanced cleaning, but they do have guidance for their hosts. Unlike hotels, B&Bs are less tightly regulated, and so your safety is in the hands of your host.

Covid travel insurance

This is still an extremely unpredictable situation. Buying good insurance is, therefore, highly recommended. If you’re travelling in the EU, make sure that you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as you will still be able to receive treatment in local hospitals (UK citizens will no longer be eligible for EHIC after 31 Dec 2020).

Remember where I mentioned the FCO in the intro to this page? Well, that’s key to whether you’ll be covered by insurance. If the FCO advises against travel to a destination, then it’s highly likely you won’t be covered by insurance (this is true regardless of pandemics).

If you booked your trip and had travel insurance in place before the pandemic hit (most insurers use 12 March for this date) then you should be covered if you wish to cancel. You’ll find a vast wealth of information about cancellations and your rights on the MoneySavingExpert site.

Nationwide, Staysure, the Post Office, Alpha Travel Insurance, Insurancewith, JS Insurance, Trailfinders and Saga all now reportedly have Covid travel insurance in place which covers the virus, although some only cover cancellations and not medical treatment, plus most won’t let you cancel without good reason (i.e. not in the event that you change your mind about how safe it may be).

For more info and to compare insurers, click here.

What will travel be like?

It’s travel, Jim, but not as we know it.

You may well be required to take a swab test on arrival to your destination. Some may even insist that you remain in quarantine (which begs the question ‘is it actually worth travelling?’).

Flights will involve quiet, socially-distanced airports. Restaurants in airports will be closed, but pharmacies, some shops, and takeaway food retailers will be open. You may have to go through additional screening. Onboard your flight you will have to wear a mask for the duration and food may be limited, or non-existent. You’ll be sat directly next to other passengers, movement around the cabin may also be restricted and toilet visits managed by the crew. In short; air travel isn’t going to be much fun.

Train travel will feel much freer than flying – it will be easier to get up and walk around and you’ll have much more space, with every other seat on Eurostar left empty. Masks will still be required. However, if you take the Eurotunnel, you can drive your car up to the train, stay in your car for the journey, and then drive off 35 minutes later – perhaps the safest way to travel.

Ferries will offer the most freedom to roam and you won’t be required to wear a mask, although, again, restaurants will be closed and you will have to keep socially distant from other passengers.

When you arrive at your destination the cities will likely be much the same as the UK: quieter than usual, and with restaurants and some – if not all – cultural attractions such as museums shut down (although countries which have handled the crisis better than others will have already opened attractions – the Acropolis in Greece, for example). These restrictions are planned to ease further in July (the Louvre will re-open on 6 July), but the situation may change quickly depending on number of cases.

Beaches, bars and pools may feel emptier and you will likely be asked to keep your distance – a beach bar owner in Greece is even going so far as to put up plexiglass barriers between sun loungers.

In conclusion, going to countries with whom we have travel corridors is going to feel very strange and very unsociable. If you’re desperate, then you should be OK if you follow the rules, but otherwise I’d just wait until life gets much further back to normal

How do I know all this?

That’s a valid question. As I stated at the beginning, this isn’t official advice. I’ve put together all of the information here having followed the stories about air bridges since they first appeared many weeks ago. I note the confirmed information broadcast by UK travel journalists, I watch their video updates and I listen to their podcasts. I track government announcements, I monitor the FCO site, I listen to Parliament TV (so dull) and I read reports in local country media about travel corridors. I’ve also taken information from the sites of various tourist board, accommodation, airlines, ferry and train companies. Finally, I like to think that I can identify reliable sources having worked in travel for 20 years!

This blog is all about planning for travel and so I know how important it is to have as much accurate information as possible – if you have found it helpful then I would greatly appreciate a small donation (link below) if you can afford it. Happy (and safe) travels!

Questions?

Leave a comment below and I’ll reply asap, or find me on Twitter for a faster response:

🇷🇺🇲🇳🇨🇳 TRANS-MONGOLIAN

Trans-Mongolian itineraryThis is one of those journeys-of-a-lifetime, where you get to experience the fascinating history of Moscow, the vast expanses of Siberia, the beauty of Lake Baikal, the Mongolian wilderness and the wonders of Beijing. Click for Luxury, Mid-range or Budget.

Here’s your Trans-Mongolian itinerary:

Luxury Moscow, Russia (Trans-Mongolian itinerary)
1 To Moscow
(✈ Book >)
Dep: Morning Arr:
Afternoon
🏨Four Seasons Moscow (Book >) All hotels >
Wander around Red Square and down Ilinka and the Kitai Gorod lanes where you’ll see ancient churches. Continue on to Lubyanka Square, where you’ll see the KGB base, and down to the Russian parliament I recommend the agency Svezhy Veter for booking your Trans-Mongolian itinerary train tickets – they can help with visas too
2 Start with a visit to Lenin’s tomb then stroll along Tverskaya to Pushkin Square. Admire the Tsarist-era interiors of Yeliseyevsky Supermarket and the upscale GUM. Experience the regal metro and take the red line to Sportivnaya where you’ll find the Novodevichy Monastery and be able to see the resting places of famous Russians in the cemetery. Go back two stops on the red line to Park Kultury and pay a visit to Gorky Park Try to get familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet before you visit Russia – it may not be as hard as you think and can help when reading street signs
3-4 🚄Moscow to Yekaterinburg (Info & Book >) Dep: 23:55 (Wed) 🏨Train
On your last day in Moscow visit the Tretyakov galleries and the magnificent Kremlin. Day 4 is your first full day on the train, which you can spend gazing out at the vast landscapes of Russia Make it clear to your agency that you want a private 1st class cabin
5 🚄Moscow to Yekaterinburg Arr: 03:44 (Fri) 🏨Hyatt Regency Ekaterinburg (Book >) All hotels >
A horrible time to arrive, and so I recommend getting two nights in your hotel. When you’re ready to emerge from your room it’s a 30-min walk in one direction to Ganina Yama and a 25-min walk in the other direction to the Church On The Blood Try to learn a few common Russian phrases
6-8 🚄Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk Dep: 12:15 (Sat) 🏨Train
Onwards along the edge of Siberia. Relax, read a book and watch as you glide by endless silver birch forests and rustic rural villages. You’ll pass through Omsk at 02:31, Novosibirsk at 12:53 (worth getting off the train for a few minutes, but don’t linger long (take your passport in case the train leaves without you!) and Krasnoyarsk at 02:06 The train runs on Moscow time, which can get a little disorienting the further east you go
9 🚄Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk Arr: 21:15 (Tue) 🏨Hotel Sayen (Book >) All hotels >
Another day to enjoy the serene life aboard the Trans-Mongolian The Trans-Siberian Handbook offers a great guide to the kilometre posts you see alongside the track
10-11 Set off on a two-day tour to Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal. It takes about 5 hours to get there but the journey is truly worth it Bring clothes for all climates – it can be hot during the day and very cold at night
12 🚄Irkutsk to Ulan Bator Dep: 08:08 (Fri) 🏨Train
Back on the train and more time to gaze at the endless vistas. The tracks go along the edge of Lake Baikal, a real highlight of this trip There are hot water samovars in each carriage, very handy if you bring tea or coffee
13 🚄Irkutsk to Ulan Bator Arr: 06:50 (Sat) 🏨Accom. not included, contact tour company
Begin your 8-day tour of Mongolia (Book here >). Your guide will collect you from the train station and take you to the stunning natural scenery of Terelj National Park. Horse riding tours and tours to other parts of Mongolia are also available. Many roads in Mongolia are gravel and very bumpy. This can get uncomfortable so remember to bring travel sickness pills
14-20 Over the next several days you will visit a mini-Gobi desert, 8 Lakes base camp, an overnight horse riding trip by Shireet Lake and the Buureg Valley (staying in a nomadic family’s ger), see the Tsutgalan volcanic waterfall in the Orkhon Valley, relax in Tsenher hot spring and visit fascinating Kharkorin. You’ll return to Ulan Bator at around 16:00 on day 20 (I recommend the Kempinski Khan Palace for the night of day 20) Being vegan, or even vegetarian, isn’t easy in Mongolia – read this blog for tips
21 🚄Ulan Bator to Beijing Dep: 06:50 (Sun) 🏨Train
The final leg of this Trans-Mongolian itinerary. From the window you’ll see the edge of the Gobi desert and, when you cross the border to China, you can watch as the wheels are changed for the different gauge of tracks Don’t miss the opportunity of going to the very back of the train (to the ‘caboose’) and watching the rails unravelling beneath you
22 🚄Ulan Bator to Beijing Arr: 14:35 (Mon) 🏨Four Seasons (Book >) All hotels >
After the serenity of the train, the busyness of Beijing may come as a shock. There’s a lot to see here so you may want to extend your trip by a day or two Beijing can’t easily be seen on foot – buy a smart card (aka Yikatong card) for the metro
23 Beijing to Home
(✈ Book >)
Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening Connect this Trans-Mongolian itinerary with the China or Japan itinerary.
A little more time this morning to see the sights of Beijing before transferring to the airport
Mid-range Karakorum, Mongolia (Trans-Mongolian itinerary)
1 To Moscow
(✈ Book >)
Dep: Morning Arr:
Afternoon
🏨PR Myasnitsky BoutiqueHotel (Book >) All hotels >
Wander around Red Square and down Ilinka and the Kitai Gorod lanes where you’ll see ancient churches. Continue on to Lubyanka Square, where you’ll see the KGB base, and down to the Russian parliament I recommend the agency Svezhy Veter for booking your Trans-Mongolian itinerary train tickets – they can help with visas too
2 Start with a visit to Lenin’s tomb then stroll along Tverskaya to Pushkin Square. Admire the Tsarist-era interiors of Yeliseyevsky Supermarket and the upscale GUM. Experience the regal metro and take the red line to Sportivnaya where you’ll find the Novodevichy Monastery and be able to see the resting places of famous Russians in the cemetery. Go back two stops on the red line to Park Kultury and pay a visit to Gorky Park Try to get familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet before you visit Russia – it may not be as hard as you think and can help when reading street signs
3-4 🚄Moscow to Yekaterinburg (Info & Book >) Dep: 23:55 (Wed) 🏨Train
On your last day in Moscow visit the Tretyakov galleries and the magnificent Kremlin. Day 4 is your first full day on the train, which you can spend gazing out at the vast landscapes of Russia I recommend asking for a private 1st class cabin for the longer stretches on the train – you’ll really appreciate having your own space
5 🚄Moscow to Yekaterinburg Arr: 03:44 (Fri) 🏨Renomme Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
A horrible time to arrive, and so I recommend getting two nights in your hotel. When you’re ready to emerge from your room it’s a 30-min walk in one direction to Ganina Yama and a 25-min walk in the other direction to the Church On The Blood Try to learn a few common Russian phrases
6-8 🚄Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk Dep: 12:15 (Sat) 🏨Train
Onwards along the edge of Siberia. Relax, read a book and watch as you glide by endless silver birch forests and rustic rural villages. You’ll pass through Omsk at 02:31, Novosibirsk at 12:53 (worth getting off the train for a few minutes, but don’t linger long (take your passport in case the train leaves without you!) and Krasnoyarsk at 02:06 The train runs on Moscow time, which can get a little disorienting the further east you go
9 🚄Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk Arr: 21:15 (Tue) 🏨Hotel Sayen (Book >) All hotels >
Another day to enjoy the serene life aboard the Trans-Mongolian The Trans-Siberian Handbook offers a great guide to the kilometre posts you see alongside the track
10-11 Set off on a two-day tour to Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal. It takes about 5 hours to get there but the journey is truly worth it Bring clothes for all climates – it can be hot during the day and very cold at night
12 🚄Irkutsk to Ulan Bator Dep: 08:08 (Fri) 🏨Train
Back on the train and more time to gaze at the endless vistas. The tracks go along the edge of Lake Baikal, a real highlight of this trip There are hot water samovars in each carriage, very handy if you bring tea or coffee
13 🚄Irkutsk to Ulan Bator Arr: 06:50 (Sat) 🏨Accom. not included, contact tour company
Begin your 8-day tour of Mongolia (Book here >). Your guide will collect you from the train station and take you to the stunning natural scenery of Terelj National Park. Horse riding tours and tours to other parts of Mongolia are also available. Many roads in Mongolia are gravel and very bumpy. This can get uncomfortable so remember to bring travel sickness pills
14-20 Over the next several days you will visit a mini-Gobi desert, 8 Lakes base camp, an overnight horse riding trip by Shireet Lake and the Buureg Valley (staying in a nomadic family’s ger), see the Tsutgalan volcanic waterfall in the Orkhon Valley, relax in Tsenher hot spring and visit fascinating Kharkorin. You’ll return to Ulan Bator at around 16:00 on day 20 (I recommend the Kempinski Khan Palace for the night of day 20) Being vegan, or even vegetarian, isn’t easy in Mongolia – read this blog for tips
21 🚄Ulan Bator to Beijing Dep: 06:50 (Sun) 🏨Train
The final leg of this Trans-Mongolian itinerary. From the window you’ll see the edge of the Gobi desert and, when you cross the border to China, you can watch as the wheels are changed for the different gauge of tracks Don’t miss the opportunity of going to the very back of the train (to the ‘caboose’) and watching the rails unravelling beneath you
22 🚄Ulan Bator to Beijing Arr: 14:35 (Mon) 🏨Hunan Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
After the serenity of the train, the busyness of Beijing may come as a shock. There’s a lot to see here so you may want to extend your trip by a day or two Beijing can’t easily be seen on foot – buy a smart card (aka Yikatong card) for the metro
23-24 Beijing to Home
(✈ Book >)
Dep: Evening Arr: Morning (next day) Connect this Trans-Mongolian itinerary with the China or Japan itinerary.
A little more time this morning to see the sights of Beijing before transferring to the airport
Budget Beijing, China (Trans-Mongolian itinerary)
1 To Moscow
(✈ Book >)
Dep: Morning Arr:
Afternoon
🏨ART Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Wander around Red Square and down Ilinka and the Kitai Gorod lanes where you’ll see ancient churches. Continue on to Lubyanka Square, where you’ll see the KGB base, and down to the Russian parliament I recommend the agency Svezhy Veter for booking your Trans-Mongolian itinerary train tickets – they can help with visas too
2 Start with a visit to Lenin’s tomb then stroll along Tverskaya to Pushkin Square. Admire the Tsarist-era interiors of Yeliseyevsky Supermarket and the upscale GUM. Experience the regal metro and take the red line to Sportivnaya where you’ll find the Novodevichy Monastery and be able to see the resting places of famous Russians in the cemetery. Go back two stops on the red line to Park Kultury and pay a visit to Gorky Park Try to get familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet before you visit Russia – it may not be as hard as you think and can help when reading street signs
3-4 🚄Moscow to Yekaterinburg (Info & Book >) Dep: 23:55 (Wed) 🏨Train
On your last day in Moscow visit the Tretyakov galleries and the magnificent Kremlin. Day 4 is your first full day on the train, which you can spend gazing out at the vast landscapes of Russia When booking train tickets ask for 4-berth cabins
5 🚄Moscow to Yekaterinburg Arr: 03:44 (Fri) 🏨RedLine hostel (Book >) All hostels >
A horrible time to arrive, and so I recommend getting two nights in your hotel. When you’re ready to emerge from your room it’s a 30-min walk in one direction to Ganina Yama and a 25-min walk in the other direction to the Church On The Blood Try to learn a few common Russian phrases
6-8 🚄Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk Dep: 12:15 (Sat) 🏨Train
Onwards along the edge of Siberia. Relax, read a book and watch as you glide by endless silver birch forests and rustic rural villages. You’ll pass through Omsk at 02:31, Novosibirsk at 12:53 (worth getting off the train for a few minutes, but don’t linger long (take your passport in case the train leaves without you!) and Krasnoyarsk at 02:06 The train runs on Moscow time, which can get a little disorienting the further east you go
9 🚄Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk Arr: 21:15 (Tue) 🏨Rolling Stones Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Another day to enjoy the serene life aboard the Trans-Mongolian The Trans-Siberian Handbook offers a great guide to the kilometre posts you see alongside the track
10 🚐Irkutsk to Olkhon Island (Book >) Dep: 08:45 Arr: 14:45 🏨Sunny Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Take a transfer to Olkhon Island – the perfect place to enjoy stupendous views of Lake Baikal. This afternoon pay a visit to the Khuzhir Museum (usually free) There are no ATMs on the island, so take out cash in Irkutsk before you depart
11 Contact your hostel for help with arranging tours on the island, but don’t miss out on experiencing the Buryat culture, including the Shaman Rocks Bring clothes for all climates – it can be hot during the day and very cold at night
12 🚐Olkhon Island to Irkutsk Dep: 09:00 Arr: 15:00 🏨Rolling Stones Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Back to Irkutsk where you should have time to squeeze in a visit to the Prince Vladimir Temple You’ll need tram stop Detskaya St (ул. Детская) for the temple
13 🚄Irkutsk to Ulan Bator Dep: 08:08 (Sat) 🏨Train
Back on the train and more time to gaze at the endless vistas. The tracks go along the edge of Lake Baikal, a real highlight of this trip There are hot water samovars in each carriage, very handy if you bring tea or coffee
14 🚄Irkutsk to Ulan Bator Arr: 06:50 (Sun) 🏨Accom. included in tour
Begin your 7-day tour of Mongolia (Book here >). Your guide will collect you from the train station and take you to Genghis Khan’s ancient capital Kharkorin. Many roads in Mongolia are gravel and very bumpy. This can get uncomfortable so remember to bring travel sickness pills
15-20 Over the next several days you will visit the Tsenkher hot springs, Tuvkhun monastery, Orkhon Waterfall, Naiman Nuur lakes, Shireet Lake and the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes, occasionally staying in traditional gers. You’ll return to Ulan Bator at around 16:00 on day 20 (I recommend the Khuvsgul Lake Hostel for the night of day 20) Being vegan, or even vegetarian, isn’t easy in Mongolia – read this blog for tips
21 🚄Ulan Bator to Beijing Dep: 06:50 (Sun) 🏨Train
The final leg of this Trans-Mongolian itinerary. From the window you’ll see the edge of the Gobi desert and, when you cross the border to China, you can watch as the wheels are changed for the different gauge of tracks Don’t miss the opportunity of going to the very back of the train (to the ‘caboose’) and watching the rails unravelling beneath you
22 🚄Ulan Bator to Beijing Arr: 14:35 (Mon) 🏨Kellys Courtyard (Book >) All hostels >
After the serenity of the train, the busyness of Beijing may come as a shock. There’s a lot to see here so you may want to extend your trip by a day or two Beijing can’t easily be seen on foot – buy a smart card (aka Yikatong card) for the metro
23 Beijing to Home
(✈ Book >)
Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening Connect this Trans-Mongolian itinerary with the China or Japan itinerary.
A little more time this morning to see the sights of Beijing before transferring to the airport

🇳🇮🇭🇳 NICARAGUA & HONDURAS

Granada, Nicaragua - Nicaragua & Honduras itineraryPerfect beaches, awesome volcanoes, grand colonial-era cities and fascinating Mayan ruins. Travel in Nicaragua & Honduras may be an adventure, but it is absolutely worth the journey. Click for Luxury, Mid-range or Budget.

Here’s your Nicaragua & Honduras itinerary:

Luxury Ometepe, Nicaragua
1 ✈To Managua (Book >)
🚐San Juan de Sur (Book >)
Dep: Evening 🏨 In flight!
2 Dep: Morning Arr: Morning
Arr: 2.5hrs later
🏨Morgan’s Rock Hacienda (Book >) All hotels >
If you’re connecting this Nicaragua & Honduras itinerary with Costa Rica then you can get a taxi for about $20 from the border, or a transfer from Liberia airport. Visitors from most countries do not require a visa to enter.
3 Spend an additional day enjoying the beautiful beaches Be cautious about walking around town at night
4 🚕San Juan del Sur to San Jorge taxi
⛴️San Jorge to Ometepe ferry (Info >)
Dep: 08:30
Dep: 09:30
Arr: 09:15
Arr: 10:50
🏨Totoco Eco-Lodge (Book >) All hotels >
Enjoy the ferry across Lake Nicaragua to San Jose del Sur. Once on Ometepe Island take a taxi to the hotel. You then have the choice of climbing Maderas (challenging) or Concepcion (even more challenging) volcanos or, for something more sedate, taking a trip to San Ramon waterfall – you may want to stay an extra day The ferry ride can be a bit choppy so you may want to take motion sickness tablets
5 ⛴️Ometepe to San Jorge ferry (Info >)
🚐San Jorge to Granada minibus (Book >)
Dep: 07:30
Dep: 10:00
Arr: 08:50
Arr: 12:00
🏨Real La Merced (Book >) All hotels >
Take the ferry back to San Jorge (and maybe spot a freshwater shark along the way) before journeying on to the beautiful city of Granada. Climb up the bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced to get your bearings, then stroll around the central park and admire the cathedral and colonial-era houses The roads in Nicaragua can get a bit bumpy, so keep those motion sickness tablets handy
6 Today you can go on a full-day boat trip to the Isletas de Granada, where you’ll see monkeys and a volcano, as well as have an opportunity to kayak on the lake Remember to pack a good filter water bottle
7 🚐Granada to Leon minibus (Book >) Dep: 09:00 Arr: 12:00 🏨Hotel El Convento (Book >) All hotels >
One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Leon is packed with history. Don’t miss the UNESCO-listed cathedral and the amazing Museum of the Revolution. If you have more time you can climb some of the nearby volcanoes Although it looks tempting, street food here should be avoided unless you have a particularly strong stomach
8 🚐Leon to Managua minibus (Book >)
✈Managua to San Pedro Sula flight (Book >)
🚕San Pedro Sula to Copan Ruinas taxi
Dep: 08:30
Dep: Afternoon
Dep: Afternoon
Arr: 10:30
Arr: 14:00
Arr: Afternoon
Arr: Evening
🏨Hotel Marina Copán (Book >) All hotels >
After a long day of travel to Honduras, relax in your hotel and soak up the splendid town of Copan Ruinas Take a look at the Mid-range itinerary for alternative routes to Honduras
9 Start early to explore the incredible Mayan ruins, avoiding the mid-day heat. Don’t miss the Sepulturas complex, outside of the main ruins site. Guides can be hired, or you can find more info on this blog If you don’t feel like the 2km walk to the ruins there are plenty of taxis
10 🚕Copan Ruinas to San Pedro Sula taxi
✈San Pedro Sula to Roatan flight (Book >)
Dep: Morning
Dep: Afternoon
Arr: Afternoon
Arr: Afternoon
🏨Xbalanque (Book >) All hotels >
Arrive into the exquisite Bay of Islands in time for sunset Bring insect repellant and an eco-friendly sunscreen
11-12 Relax on your hotel’s private beach, or visit the marine life on a snorkelling or diving trip. You could also visit the island of Saint Helene or go kayaking along a mangrove forest If you’ve ever been tempted to learn SCUBA diving, Roatan is an exceptionally good value place to do so
13-14 ✈Roatan to home (Book >) Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening (next day) Connect this Nicaragua & Honduras itinerary with the Costa Rica or Cuba itinerary
Book your transfer to the airport.
Mid-range Roatan, Honduras
1 ✈To Managua (Book >)
🚐San Juan de Sur (Book >)
Dep: Evening 🏨 In flight!
2 Dep: Morning Arr: Morning
Arr: 2.5hrs later
🏨Revata (Book >) All hotels >
If you’re connecting this Nicaragua & Honduras itinerary with Costa Rica then you can get a taxi for about $20 from the border, or a transfer from Liberia airport. Visitors from most countries do not require a visa to enter.
3 Spend an additional day enjoying the beautiful beaches Be cautious about walking around town at night
4 🚌San Juan del Sur to Rivas bus
🚕Rivas to San Jorge taxi
⛴️San Jorge to Ometepe ferry (Info >)
Dep: 08:00
Dep: 09:00
Dep: 09:30
Arr: 08:45
Arr: 09:15
Arr: 10:50
🏨Totoco Eco-Lodge (Book >) All hotels >
Enjoy the ferry across Lake Nicaragua to San Jose del Sur. Once on Ometepe Island take a taxi to the hotel. You then have the choice of climbing Maderas (challenging) or Concepcion (even more challenging) volcanos or, for something more sedate, taking a trip to San Ramon waterfall – you may want to stay an extra day Buses frequently depart San Juan del Sur – ask for Rivas terminal and, when you arrive, don’t accept the first taxi fare you’re offered
5 ⛴️Ometepe to San Jorge ferry (Info >)
🚐San Jorge to Granada minibus (Book >)
Dep: 07:30
Dep: 10:00
Arr: 08:50
Arr: 12:00
🏨Real La Merced (Book >) All hotels >
Take the ferry back to San Jorge (and maybe spot a freshwater shark along the way) before journeying on to the beautiful city of Granada. Climb up the bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced to get your bearings, then stroll around the central park and admire the cathedral and colonial-era houses The ferry ride can be a bit choppy so you may want to take motion sickness tablets
6 Today you can go on a full-day boat trip to the Isletas de Granada, where you’ll see monkeys and a volcano, as well as have an opportunity to kayak on the lake Remember to pack a good filter water bottle
7 🚐Granada to Leon minibus (Book >) Dep: 09:00 Arr: 12:00 🏨Posada Fuente Castalia (Book >) All hotels >
One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Leon is packed with history. Don’t miss the UNESCO-listed cathedral and the amazing Museum of the Revolution. If you have more time you can climb some of the nearby volcanoes Because hotels here are good value it’s worth getting a room to leave your bags in and rest before being picked up at 2AM by your minibus
8 🚐Leon to La Ceiba minibus (Book >)
⛴️La Ceiba to Roatan ferry (Info >)
Dep: 02:00
Dep: 16:30
Arr: 16:00
Arr: 17:45
🏨Splash Inn Dive Resort & Villas (Book >) All hotels >
After such a long journey to Honduras you have earned a few days of relaxation in the beautiful Bay of Islands Bring insect repellant and an eco-friendly sunscreen
9-10 Relax on the beach of Half Moon Bay, or visit the marine life on a snorkelling or diving trip. You could also visit the island of Saint Helene or go kayaking along a mangrove forest If you’ve ever been tempted to learn SCUBA diving, Roatan is an exceptionally good value place to do
11 ✈Roatan to San Pedro Sula flight (Book >)
🚌San Pedro Sula to Copan Ruinas bus (Book >)
Dep: Morning
Dep: 10:45
Arr: Morning
Arr: 14:00
🏨La Escalinata (Book >) All hotels >
Enjoy the town of Copan Ruinas, or pay a visit to the Sepulturas complex I strongly advise buying bus tickets in advance, where possible
12 🚌Copan Ruinas to Guatemala City bus (Book >) Dep: 15:00 Arr: 20:30 🏨Barceló Guatemala City (Book >) All hotels >
Start early to explore the incredible Mayan ruins, avoiding the mid-day heat. Guides can be hired, or you can find more info on this blog If you don’t feel like the 2km walk to the ruins there are plenty of taxis
13-14 ✈Guatemala City to home (Book >) Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening (next day) Connect this Nicaragua & Honduras itinerary with the Costa Rica or Cuba itinerary
Visit Parque Central and Palacio Nacional in the morning before the flight home
Budget Copan, Honduras
1 ✈To Managua (Book >)
🚐San Juan de Sur (Book >)
Dep: Evening 🏨 In flight!
2 Dep: Morning Arr: Morning
Arr: 2.5hrs later
🏨The Beach House (Book >) All hostels >
If you’re connecting this Nicaragua & Honduras itinerary with Costa Rica then you can get a taxi for about $20 from the border, or a transfer from Liberia airport. Visitors from most countries do not require a visa to enter.
3 Spend an additional day enjoying the beautiful beaches Be cautious about walking around town at night
4 🚌San Juan del Sur to Rivas bus (Info >)
🚌Rivas to San Jorge bus
⛴️San Jorge to Ometepe ferry (Info >)
Dep: 08:00
Dep: 09:30
Dep: 10:30
Arr: 08:45
Arr: 09:45
Arr: 11:30
🏨Hospedaje Soma (Book >) All hostels >
Enjoy the ferry across Lake Nicaragua to Moyagalpa. You then have the choice of climbing Maderas (challenging) or Concepcion (even more challenging) volcanos or, for something more sedate, taking a trip to San Ramon waterfall – you may want to stay an extra day – island bus times here Buses frequently depart San Juan del Sur – ask for Rivas terminal and, when you arrive, the bus to the port departs every 30 mins from the parallel road to the north
5 ⛴️Ometepe to San Jorge ferry (Info >)
🚌San Jorge to Rivas bus
🚌Rivas to Granada bus (Info >)
Dep: 09:00
Dep: 10:15
Dep: 11:15
Arr: 10:00
Arr: 10:30
Arr: 13:15
🏨De Boca en Boca (Book >) All hostels >
Take the ferry back to San Jorge (and maybe spot a freshwater shark along the way) before journeying on to the beautiful city of Granada. Climb up the bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced to get your bearings, then stroll around the central park and admire the cathedral and colonial-era houses The ferry ride can be a bit choppy so you may want to take motion sickness tablets
6 Today you can go on a full-day boat trip to the Isletas de Granada, where you’ll see monkeys and a volcano, as well as have an opportunity to kayak on the lake Remember to pack a good filter water bottle
7 🚐Granada Calle Vega to Managua UCA microbus
🚐Managua UCA to Leon microbus (Book >)
Dep: 10:00
Dep: 12:00
Arr: 11:30
Arr: 14:00
🏨Poco a Poco Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Leon is packed with history. Don’t miss the UNESCO-listed cathedral and the amazing Museum of the Revolution. If you have more time you can climb some of the nearby volcanoes. Spend the evening resting before being picked up at 2AM by your minibus Microbuses only depart when full and so there aren’t any timetables, but they do depart frequently throughout the day
8 🚐Leon to La Ceiba minibus (Book >)
⛴️La Ceiba to Roatan ferry (Info >)
Dep: 02:00
Dep: 16:30
Arr: 16:00
Arr: 17:45
🏨West End Dive Resort (Book >) All hostels >
After such a long journey to Honduras you have earned a few days of relaxation in the beautiful Bay of Islands Bring insect repellant and an eco-friendly sunscreen
9-10 Relax on the beach of Half Moon Bay, or visit the marine life on a snorkelling or diving trip. You could also visit the island of Saint Helene or go kayaking along a mangrove forest If you’ve ever been tempted to learn SCUBA diving, Roatan is an exceptionally good value place to do
11 ⛴️Roatan to La Ceiba ferry (Info >)
🚌La Ceiba to San Pedro Sula bus (Book >)
🚌San Pedro Sula to Copan Ruinas bus (Info >)
Dep: 07:00
Dep: 09:30
Dep: 14:00
Arr: 08:15
Arr: 13:00
Arr: 17:45
🏨Iguana Azul (Book >) All hostels >
Enjoy an evening in the pretty town of Copan Ruinas I strongly advise buying bus tickets in advance, where possible
12 🚌Copan Ruinas to Guatemala City bus (Book >) Dep: 15:00 Arr: 20:30 🏨Central 10 Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Start early to explore the incredible Mayan ruins, avoiding the mid-day heat. If you have time visit the Sepulturas complex, outside of the main ruins site. Guides can be hired, or you can find more info on this blog If you don’t feel like the 2km walk to the ruins there are plenty of taxis
13-14 ✈Guatemala City to home (Book >) Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening (next day) Connect this Nicaragua & Honduras itinerary with the Costa Rica or Cuba itinerary
Visit Parque Central and Palacio Nacional in the morning before the flight home

Taking the train to Antwerp & Bruges

Eurostar’s service to continental Europe departs just ten minutes from where I live. Having realised that I don’t make the most of this train, I booked a trip to Belgium and the cities of Antwerp and Bruges.

The train departed the magnificent St Pancras station and arrived into Brussels just two hours and ten minutes later. I transferred immediately onto a train to Antwerp and, less than six hours after I’d left my front door, I was checking into the Indigo Hotel in Belgium’s second-largest city. My Eurostar ticket allowed me to travel to or from any station in Belgium within 24 hours of arriving into/departing from Brussels.

I’d visited Bruges, Brussels and Ghent before, now I had two days to see the resplendent architecture of Antwerp. A free walking tour (tips strongly encouraged) showed me all the main sights. I was struck by the number of beautiful 16th Century buildings, many of which were topped with gold leaf. The city’s train station is also an architectural marvel – one of the finest I’ve ever seen.

  • Grote Markt, Antwerp
  • Antwerp architecture
  • Wooden escalator to pedestrian tunnel under river
  • Medieval door, Antwerp
  • Antwerp skyline
  • Antwerp shopping mall
  • Antwerp architecture

I also sought out one of Antwerp’s famous brown cafes (so named because of the colour of the walls, stained from the days of indoor smoking). The drinks in the Den Engel cafe, on the corner of Grote Markt, are great value for money and the atmosphere is full of friendly charm.

Perhaps Antwerp’s most surprising delight is the neighbourhood of Zurenorg. Walk along the streets of Transvaalstraat, Cogels Osylei and Waterloostraat for a cornucopia of grand Art Nouveau buildings. To get a great view of the city as a whole, head to the fantastic MAS Museum. At the top of this is a free platform from where you can see for miles around.

Confession time; although I’d been to Bruges before and the key reason I wanted to go back was for the hot chocolate. Specifically, the hot chocolate in The Old Chocolate House, where you’re served with hot milk, a generous portion of chocolate drops (you choose the chocolate from an extensive menu) and a whisk. Delicious.

Of course, there are many other reasons to return to Bruges. There are the charming canals, the historic churches and the cobbled streets – all so incredibly picturesque you feel as though you’re walking through a postcard. I’d made the most of my Expedia loyalty points and stayed at the Hotel de Orangerie which had it’s own canal-side terrace and was once a nunnery – such a fascinating building in which to sleep.

With my Eurostar ticket covering the return journey from Bruges, I hopped on a comfortable SNCB train to Brussels Midi, made the easy transition to the Eurostar terminal and, within just a few hours, was unlocking my front door. My bag was, of course, laden with chocolate and my mind filled with thoughts of returning to Antwerp and Bruges.

Night-time bells ringing across the canals of Bruges

🇱🇦 LAOS

Laos itineraryLandlocked, but moving to the aquatic rhythm of mighty rivers such as the Mekong, Laos is a country full of dramatic scenery and adventure. The itineraries below differ due to budget, and range from 14 to 17 days in length. Click for Luxury, Mid-range or Budget.

Here’s your Laos itinerary:

Luxury Vang Vieng
1 ✈To Pakse (Book >)
🚕Pakse to Champasak taxi
Dep: Morning 🏨 In flight!
2 Arr: Afternoon 🏨The River Resort (Book >) All hotels >
If you’re travelling from Cambodia then you can fly from Siem Reap, departing and arriving in the afternoon
3 Take a day trip to the Bolaven Plateau, which can be arranged by your hotel. Relax in the evening with a stroll around the resort grounds and relaxing by the infinity pools Anyone not from Japan or the ASEAN countries will need a visa for Laos
4 Journey to the beautiful 4000 Islands area (which can also be arranged by your hotel) Save the environment by using a good filter water bottle
5 🚕Champasak to Pakse taxi
✈Pakse to Luang Prabang flight (Book >)
Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening 🏨Hotel Sofitel (Book >) All hotels >
Arrive in Luang Prabang in time for sunset by the Mekong river. Dress conservatively when visiting temples
6-8 So much to see over the next couple of days! Start with the early morning alms-giving (which starts at 05:30 in summer and 06:30 in winter) on Sisavangvong Road. Visit the Royal Palace and the Golden Buddha Phra Bang within. The top of Mount Phousi is a wonderful place from which to watch sunset. Wat Mai palace, Wat Visoun and Xieng Thong are also worth some of your time. Pick up some souvenirs from the morning market (06:30-10:00). Take a tuk tuk to Kuang Si Falls. This blog post offers guidance on how to behave respectfully at the alms-giving.
9 ⛴️Luang Prabang to Pakbeng ferry (Book >) Dep: 07:00 Arr: 17:00 🏨Luang Say Lodge
Embark on your tour up the mighty Mekong. Today you’ll visit Pak Ou cave and a hill tribe village. Pack plenty of sunscreen – the sun is especially strong on the river
10 ⛴️Pakbeng to Huay Xai ferry Dep: 08:00 Arr: 17:00 🏨Nakaraj Princess (Book >) All hotels >
You’ll make more stops today including, after lunch, a visit to a traditional Laotian village of Ban Gon Dturn, before arriving in Huay Xai on the border with Thailand. The border closes at 18:00 and cruise staff on both sides of the border can help with travel to Chiang Rai.
11 🚕Huay Xai to Luang Nam Tha taxi Dep: 10:00 Arr: 13:00 🏨The Boat Landing (Book >) All hotels >
Once you’ve arrived in Luang Nam Tha take a look at the Golden Stupa and enjoy dinner at the bustling night market. Be aware of pick pockets in busy market areas.
12 Book a one-day trek in the verdant, magnificent Nam Ha National Protected Area, where you’ll taste some local food as well as visit a Khmu village. Trekking here is mildly challenging – bring insect repellant.
13 ✈Luang Nam Tha to Vientiane flight (Book >) Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening 🏨Crowne Plaza (Book >) All hotels >
Relax in a traditional herbal sauna before flying to the capital. Luang Nam Tha is close to the Chinese border, should you wish to add to your Laos itinerary.
14-15 ✈Vientiane to home (Book >) Dep: Evening Arr: Morning (next day) Connect this Laos itinerary with the Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia & Borneo or Cambodia itinerary
Spend the morning chilling in the roof garden infinity pool before heading to the airport.
Mid-range Luang Prabang
1 ✈To Pakse (Book >) Dep: Morning 🏨 In flight!
2 Arr: Afternoon 🏨Athena Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
If you’re travelling from Cambodia then you can fly from Siem Reap, departing and arriving in the afternoon.
3 Your hotel can help arrange a taxi to tour around the Bolevan Plateau – a superb day trip from Pakse. Anyone not from Japan or the ASEAN countries will need a visa for Laos
4 Today you’ll go on a day trip to the 4000 Islands (book here), departing Pakse at 08:00 and returning at 14:00. Spend the rest of your day visiting pretty Wat Luang. Save the environment by using a good filter water bottle
5 ✈Pakse to Luang Prabang flight (Book >) Dep: Afternoon Arr: Evening 🏨Mekong Riverview (Book >) All hotels >
Arrive in Luang Prabang in time for sunset by the Mekong river. Dress conservatively when visiting temples
6-8 So much to see over the next couple of days! Start with the early morning alms-giving (which starts at 05:30 in summer and 06:30 in winter) on Sisavangvong Road. Visit the Royal Palace and the Golden Buddha Phra Bang within. The top of Mount Phousi is a wonderful place from which to watch sunset. Wat Mai palace, Wat Visoun and Xieng Thong are also worth some of your time. Pick up some souvenirs from the morning market (06:30-10:00). Take a tuk tuk to Kuang Si Falls This blog post offers guidance on how to behave respectfully at the alms-giving
9 🚐Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw minibus Dep: 09:30 Arr: 14:00 🏨Mandala Ou Resort (Book >) All hotels >
There are many hikes around Nong Khiaw, including to the nearby Phatok Caves. If you prefer to get on the water then go on a kayaking trip along the Nam Ou, or maybe hire a bike and visit the Khmu and Hmong villages in the area. Ask your hotel for help with booking a minivan to Nong Khiaw
10 🚌Nong Khiaw to Oudomsay bus Dep: 11:00 Arr: 15:00 🏨Namkat Yorla Pa (Book >) All hotels >
A couple more hours to enjoy the countryside around Nong Khiaw before taking the bus to Oudomsay. When you arrive you can walk up to the stupa and admire the views from the top, or hire a motorbike and visit Nam Kad Waterfall. Oudomsay is also known as Muang Xay and Udom Xai (many places in Laos have multiple names)
11 The tourism office offers a 1-day tour to Ban Chom Ong village and the Chom Ong cave – the largest in Laos and a breathtaking sight to behold. Remember to bring insect repellant and sunscreen
12 ✈Oudomsay to Vientiane flight (Book >) Dep: Afternoon Arr: Afternoon 🏨Crowne Plaza (Book >) All hotels >
In Vientiane you may have time to visit the That Luang stupa. In the evening head to the Mekong riverfront for a memorable sunset. From Oudomsay you can also travel by bus to China or Thailand via Luang Nam Tha, should you wish to add to your Laos itinerary.
13-14 ✈Vientiane to home (Book >) Dep: Evening Arr: Morning (next day) Connect this Laos itinerary with the Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia & Borneo or Cambodia itinerary
Spend the morning chilling in the roof garden infinity pool before heading to the airport.
Budget Luang Nam Tha
1 ✈To Pakse (Book >) Dep: Morning 🏨 In flight!
2 Arr: Afternoon 🏨Chato Hostel (Book >) All hotels >
If you’re travelling from Cambodia then you can take a bus from Siem Reap at 08:00, arriving into Pakse by 18:00
3 Your hostel can help arrange a tour around the Bolevan Plateau – a superb day trip from Pakse Anyone not from Japan or the ASEAN countries will need a visa for Laos
4 🚌Pakse to Vientiane bus (Book >) Dep: 20:30 🏨Bus
Today you’ll go on a day trip to the 4000 Islands (book here), departing Pakse at 08:00 and returning at 14:00. Spend the rest of your day visiting pretty Wat Luang before your night bus to Vientiane It’s also possible (and considerably faster, but more expensive) to fly to Vientiane
5 🚌Pakse to Vientiane bus
🚐Vientiane to Vang Vieng minibus (Book >)
Dep: 10:00 Arr: 06:30
Arr: 14:00
🏨Jasmine Vang Vieng Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
While Vang Vieng is known to be a party town, it’s also an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding countryside. After you’ve arrived hire a bicycle and visit the Blue Lagoon Save the environment by using a good filter water bottle
6 Beat the crowds and go on a tubing trip earlier in the day. If you like to be more active then kayaking is also available This Wikitravel page offers some advice on unscrupulous practises in Vang Vieng.
7 🚌Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang bus (Book >) Dep: 09:00 Arr: 15:00 🏨Mad Monkey  (Book >) All hotels >
Arrive in time for sunset from the top of Mount Phousi Dress conservatively when visiting temples
8-9 So much to see over the next couple of days! Start with the early morning alms-giving (which starts at 05:30 in summer and 06:30 in winter) on Sisavangvong Road. Visit the Royal Palace and the Golden Buddha Phra Bang within. Wat Mai palace, Wat Visoun and Xieng Thong are also worth some of your time. Pick up some souvenirs from the morning market (06:30-10:00). Take a tuk tuk to Kuang Si Falls This blog post offers guidance on how to behave respectfully at the alms-giving
10 🚐Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw minibus Dep: 09:30 Arr: 14:00 🏨Pho Sai River View (Book >) All hotels >
There are many hikes around Nong Khiaw, including to the nearby Phatok Caves. If you prefer to get on the water then go on a kayaking trip along the Nam Ou, or maybe hire a bike and visit the Khmu and Hmong villages in the area. Ask your hostel for help with booking a minivan to Nong Khiaw
11 🚌Nong Khiaw to Oudomsay Dep: 11:00 Arr: 15:00 🏨Amphon Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
A couple more hours to enjoy the countryside around Nong Khiaw before taking the bus to Oudomsay. When you arrive you can walk up to the stupa and admire the views from the top, or hire a motorbike and visit Nam Kad Waterfall Oudomsay is also known as Muang Xay and Udom Xai (many places in Laos have multiple names)
12 The tourism office offers a 1-day tour to Ban Chom Ong village and the Chom Ong cave – the largest in Laos and a breathtaking sight to behold Remember to bring insect repellant and sunscreen
13 🚐Oudomsay to Luang Nam Tha minibus (Info >) Dep: 11:30 Arr: 14:30 🏨Zuela Guesthouse (Book >) All hotels >
Once you’ve arrived in Luang Nam Tha take a look at the Golden Stupa and enjoy dinner at the bustling night market Be aware of pick pockets in busy market areas
14 Book a one-day trek in the verdant, magnificent Nam Ha National Protected Area, where you’ll taste some local food as well as visit a Khmu village Trekking here is mildly challenging – bring good walking boots
15 🚌Luang Nam Tha to Huay Xai bus (Info >)
🚌Huay Xai to Chiang Rai bus (Info >)
Dep: 09:00
Dep: 16:00
Arr: 13:00
Arr: 19:00
🏨Na-Rak-O Resort (Book >) All hostels >
Once you’ve arrived in Chiang Rai (Thailand) you’ll have time in the evening to visit the night bazaar. Luang Nam Tha is close to the Chinese border, should you wish to add to your Laos itinerary.
16-17 ✈Chiang Rai to home (Book >) Dep: Evening Arr: Morning (next day) Connect this Laos itinerary with the Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia & Borneo or Cambodia itinerary
Take a trip to Wat Rong Khun and the Black House before heading to the airport.

Airlines waiving fees due to Covid-19/Coronavirus

Wing tip

With Covid-19/Coronavirus causing great uncertainty in the travel industry, many airlines are either waiving change fees or being more flexible with flight changes for bookings made in March or beyond. There’s some useful links at the end of this post and here’s a list I’ve compiled of all those airlines I’ve seen who are adopting this policy – if you’re in any doubt about booking travel then now you can feel more assured about booking that flight (plus, in addition to waiving fees, there are some superb bargains to be had at the moment):

Aer Lingus
Aeromexico
Air Arabia
Air Canada
Air France
Air India Express
Air New Zealand
Air Transat
Alaska Airlines
Alitalia
American Airlines
Avianca
British Airways
Cayman Airways
Copa Airlines
Delta
El Al
Emirates
Etihad Airways
Frontier Airlines
GoAir
Hawaiin Airlines
Icelandair
IndiGo
JetBlue Airways
Jetstar
KLM
LATAM
LOT Polish Airlines
Lufthansa
Norwegian
Qatar Airways
Qantas
SAS – Scandinavian Airlines
Singapore Airlines
Spirit Airlines
SWISS
TAP Air Portugal
Turkish Airlines
United
Virgin Atlantic
WestJet

You can find more excellent advice on the Skyscanner website, and you can find which routes have been suspended to mainland China and Hong Kong on the Reuters website – other destinations, such as South Korea and Italy, are also seeing many flights cancelled. This site has a list of many airlines’ waiver policies.

🇧🇪 BELGIUM

PROMO: 5% OFF Eurostar this summer. Click here >

Bruges Markt Square - Belgium itineraryA week visiting Belgium’s best cities? I have all you need to know below. Click for Luxury, Mid-range or Budget.

Here’s your Belgium itinerary:

Luxury Bruges
1 To Brussels
( Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Evening Arr: Evening 🏨Hotel Amigo (Book >) All hotels >
Enjoy an evening stroll around the Grand Place before bed. Book a transfer to your hotel.
2 🚄Brussels to Antwerp train (Book >) Dep: 13:52 Arr: 14:27 🏨Maison Nationale City Flats & Suites (Book >) All hotels >
Spend the morning visiting Mannekin Pis and, on a much grander scale, Saint-Michel Cathedral and Place Royale. You may want to add a little more time in Brussels to see the excellent Belgian Comic Strip Center. In Antwerp you’ll have the rest of the afternoon to walk to the magnificent Zurenborg district, resplendent with Art Nouveau architecture. This Brussels-Antwerp train is on a high speed Thalys. Plenty of other, slower trains depart throughout the day. If you travelled by Eurostar your ticket is valid to any Belgian city within 24 hours of arriving into the country
3 A full day in which to marvel at Antwerp’s medieval buildings and ornate cathedral in the city centre. Nearby you’ll find the MAS Museum – packed with artifacts and with a free viewing platform on the top floor. Antwerp is famous for its Brown Cafes – so-named because of the walls stained from previous years of smokers.
4 🚄Antwerp to Bruges train (Book >) Dep: 10:06 Arr: 11:35 🏨Hotel de Orangerie (Book >) All hotels >
Take a stroll around the Markt square and then climb the steps to the top of the belfry. The Basilica of the Holy Blood makes for a peaceful and interesting visit, as do the Church of Our Lady and nearby Sint-Salvatorskathedraal. The Markt square hosts a food and flower market every Wednesday.
5 See the city on foot a free walking tour (remember to tip at the end!), then by water on a cruise along the canal. Old Saint John’s Hospital – a building dating to the 12th century – makes for a fascinating visit. The Old Chocolate House makes superb hot chocolate!
6 🚄Bruges to Ghent train (Book >) Dep: 14:44 Arr: 15:07 🏨Pillows Hotel Grand Reylof (Book >) All hotels >
In Bruges you’ll have time to walk to the windmills via Jeruzalemkirk and see any sights you may not yet have had time to visit, before setting off for Ghent. Taxi to the hotel should cost around €27 (at the time of writing this Belgium itinerary).
7 A Ghent boat tour will take you past key sites and is a good way of spotting places to revisit (including quirky Baudelostraat warehouse). Try a raspberry-flavoured cuberdon sweet from a street stall
8 🚄Ghent to Brussels train
Brussels to Home (🚄 Book >)
(✈ Book >)
Dep (SNCB): 16:25
Dep: Evening
Arr: 16:55
Arr: Evening
Connect this Belgium itinerary with the France or Germany itinerary >
If you’re travelling with Eurostar your ticket will be valid from Ghent.
Mid-range Bruges at night
1 To Brussels
( Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Evening Arr: Evening 🏨Art de Séjour Bed & Breakfast (Book >) All hotels >
Enjoy an evening stroll around the Grand Place before bed. Book a transfer to your hotel.
2 🚄Brussels to Antwerp train (Book >) Dep: 13:52 Arr: 14:27 🏨Hotel Indigo (Book >) All hotels >
Spend the morning visiting Mannekin Pis and, on a much grander scale, Saint-Michel Cathedral and Place Royale. You may want to add a little more time in Brussels to see the excellent Belgian Comic Strip Center. In Antwerp you’ll have the rest of the afternoon to walk to the magnificent Zurenborg district, resplendent with Art Nouveau architecture. This Brussels-Antwerp train is on a high speed Thalys. Plenty of other, slower trains depart throughout the day. If you travelled by Eurostar your ticket is valid to any Belgian city within 24 hours of arriving into the country
3 A full day in which to marvel at Antwerp’s medieval buildings and ornate cathedral in the city centre. Nearby you’ll find the MAS Museum – packed with artifacts and with a free viewing platform on the top floor. Antwerp is famous for its Brown Cafes – so-named because of the walls stained from previous years of smokers.
4 🚄Antwerp to Bruges train (Book >) Dep: 10:06 Arr: 11:35 🏨Hotel Navarra (Book >) All hotels >
Take a stroll around the Markt square and then climb the steps to the top of the belfry. The Basilica of the Holy Blood makes for a peaceful and interesting visit, as do the Church of Our Lady and nearby Sint-Salvatorskathedraal. The Markt square hosts a food and flower market every Wednesday.
5 See the city on foot a free walking tour (remember to tip at the end!), then by water on a cruise along the canal. Old Saint John’s Hospital – a building dating to the 12th century – makes for a fascinating visit. The Old Chocolate House makes superb hot chocolate!
6 🚄Bruges to Ghent train (Book >) Dep: 14:44 Arr: 15:07 🏨Pillows Hotel Grand Reylof (Book >) All hotels >
In Bruges you’ll have time to walk to the windmills via Jeruzalemkirk and see any sights you may not yet have had time to visit, before setting off for Ghent. Taxi to the hotel should cost around €27 (at the time of writing this Belgium itinerary).
7 A Ghent boat tour will take you past key sites and is a good way of spotting places to revisit (including quirky Baudelostraat warehouse). Try a raspberry-flavoured cuberdon sweet from a street stall
8 🚄Ghent to Brussels train
Brussels to Home (🚄 Book >)
(✈ Book >)
Dep (SNCB): 16:25
Dep: Evening
Arr: 16:55
Arr: Evening
Connect this Belgium itinerary with the France or Germany itinerary >
If you’re travelling with Eurostar your ticket will be valid from Ghent.
Budget Antwerp
1 To Brussels
( Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Evening Arr: Evening 🏨2go4 Hostel (Book >) All hotels >
Enjoy an evening stroll around the Grand Place before bed. Your hostel is next to Grand Place and easily accessible on public transport.
2 🚄Brussels to Antwerp train (Book >) Dep: 13:52 Arr: 14:27 🏨Abhostel (Book >) All hotels >
Spend the morning visiting Mannekin Pis and, on a much grander scale, Saint-Michel Cathedral and Place Royale. You may want to add a little more time in Brussels to see the excellent Belgian Comic Strip Center. In Antwerp you’ll have the rest of the afternoon to walk to the magnificent Zurenborg district, resplendent with Art Nouveau architecture. This Brussels-Antwerp train is on a high speed Thalys. Plenty of other, slower trains depart throughout the day. If you travelled by Eurostar your ticket is valid to any Belgian city within 24 hours of arriving into the country
3 A full day in which to marvel at Antwerp’s medieval buildings and ornate cathedral in the city centre. Nearby you’ll find the MAS Museum – packed with artifacts and with a free viewing platform on the top floor. Antwerp is famous for its Brown Cafes – so-named because of the walls stained from previous years of smokers.
4 🚄Antwerp to Bruges train (Book >) Dep: 10:06 Arr: 11:35 🏨Snuffel Hostel (Book >) All hotels >
Take a stroll around the Markt square and then climb the steps to the top of the belfry. The Basilica of the Holy Blood makes for a peaceful and interesting visit, as do the Church of Our Lady and nearby Sint-Salvatorskathedraal. The Markt square hosts a food and flower market every Wednesday.
5 See the city on foot a free walking tour (remember to tip at the end!), then by water on a cruise along the canal. Old Saint John’s Hospital – a building dating to the 12th century – makes for a fascinating visit. The Old Chocolate House makes superb hot chocolate!
6 🚄Bruges to Ghent train (Book >) Dep: 14:44 Arr: 15:07 🏨Hostel Uppelink (Book >) All hotels >
In Bruges you’ll have time to walk to the windmills via Jeruzalemkirk and see any sights you may not yet have had time to visit, before setting off for Ghent. In Ghent take tram 1 from Perron 2, alight at Burgstraat
7 A Ghent boat tour will take you past key sites and is a good way of spotting places to revisit (including quirky Baudelostraat warehouse). Try a raspberry-flavoured cuberdon sweet from a street stall
8 🚄Ghent to Brussels train
Brussels to Home (🚄 Book >)
(✈ Book >)
Dep (SNCB): 16:25
Dep: Evening
Arr: 16:55
Arr: Evening
Connect this Belgium itinerary with the France or Germany itinerary >
If you’re travelling with Eurostar your ticket will be valid from Ghent.

🇮🇪🇬🇧 IRELAND

Cashel, Ireland - Ireland itineraryMagnificent countryside, dramatic scenery, countless historic sights and lively cities reward every visitor to the island of Ireland (or Éire in Irish) This itinerary takes in the best bits of the country of Ireland, as well as Northern Ireland.  Click for Luxury, Mid-range or Budget.

Here’s your Ireland itinerary:

Luxury Dublin, Ireland
1 To Dublin
(✈ Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Morning
Morning
Arr: Morning
Afternoon
🏨The Merrion Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
When you arrive you should have time to pay a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle. If you’re planning to visit several sights then invest in a Dublin Pass.
2-3 Fans of Guinness will no doubt already know of the Guinness Storehouse, but any visitor will enjoy looking around this impressive brewery. More of a whiskey connoisseur? Then the Old Jameson Distillery is for you. Non-alcohol sights include O’Connell street, Ha’penny Bridge, Christ Church Cathedral, Trinity College Library and the Flea Market. In the evenings the pubs of Temple Bar is where to be. Get a Leap Card, which will save you money on public transport in several Irish cities including Dublin.
4 🚗Dublin to Killarney (Hire car >) Dep: 09:00 Arr: 18:00 🏨The Killarney Park (Book >) All hotels >
Driving to Killarney you’ll join the Ring of Kerry drive and enjoy stunning countryside scenery. On the way to Killarney you’ll pass the Rock of Cashel – worth a stop for this historic site. You should also divert to Blarney Castle and kiss the famous stone. Country roads in Ireland can be narrow – I recommend hiring a smaller car.
5 Spend a day in Killarney National Park and be sure to visit Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall. The town of Killarney is itself bursting with charm. A Heritage Card can save you money if you plan to visit several Irish heritage sites.
6 🚗Killarney to Portmagee
🚗Portmagee to Dingle
Dep: 08:30
Dep: 13:00
Arr: 09:45
Arr: 15:00
🏨Dingle Benners Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
On your way to Dingle stop off at Portmagee and take a ferry tour to Skellig Michael. Start your visit to the Dingle Peninsula with a drive across Conor Pass Come prepared for rain. Lots and lots of rain.
7 🚗Dingle to Doolin Dep: 15:00 Arr: 18:15 🏨Hotel Doolin (Book >) All hotels >
Continue your visit to the Dingle Peninsula with a drive to picturesque Annascaul, dramatic Slea Head, the panoramic views from Mount Brandon and the villages of The Gaeltacht – you may need more time. You’ll find plenty of lively pubs in Doolin, famous for its music scene. You’re likely to hear a lot of Irish spoken in the Gaeltacht areas – learn a few words and make a good impression.
8 🚗Doolin to Galway Dep: 13:00 Arr: 14:30 🏨Glenlo Abbey Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
Doolin is the gateway to the Cliffs of Moher, where you’ll spend the first part of today. Unesco-listed Galway offers medieval walls, the fascinating Galway City Museum, cosy pubs, cute streets and the seaside Salthill Promenade. Seeing the Cliffs of Moher on a boat tour is highly recommended.
9 🚗Galway to Belfast Dep: 09:30 Arr: 14:30 🏨The Merchant Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
A little more time to enjoy Galway before driving to Belfast, where you can enjoy sights such as Titanic Belfast and Crumlin Road Gaol. Remember to bring both GBP for Northern Ireland and Euros for Ireland.
10 Take the car north to Dunluce Castle. Next to this is the geologically impressive Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The coast around Giant’s Causeway is great for hiking, if you have time in your Ireland itinerary.
11 🚗Belfast to Dublin Dep: 10:00 Arr: 13:30 🏨The Merrion Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
You can either return home from Belfast, or drive back to Dublin via the prehistoric monument of Newgrange. Be aware that road signs switch from MPH to KPH, travelling from N Ireland to Ireland.
12 Dublin to Home
(✈ Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Afternoon Arr: Afternoon Connect this Ireland itinerary with the Bruges & Ghent or France itinerary.
The ferry port and airport are far apart – choose your car rental location accordingly.
Mid-range Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
1 To Dublin
(✈ Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Morning
Morning
Arr: Morning
Afternoon
🏨Clayton Charlemont (Book >) All hotels >
When you arrive you should have time to pay a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle. If you’re planning to visit several sights then invest in a Dublin Pass.
2-3 Fans of Guinness will no doubt already know of the Guinness Storehouse, but any visitor will enjoy looking around this impressive brewery. More of a whiskey connoisseur? Then the Old Jameson Distillery is for you. Non-alcohol sights include O’Connell street, Ha’penny Bridge, Christ Church Cathedral, Trinity College Library and the Flea Market. In the evenings the pubs of Temple Bar is where to be. Get a Leap Card, which will save you money on public transport in several Irish cities including Dublin.
4 🚗Dublin to Killarney (Hire car >) Dep: 09:00 Arr: 18:00 🏨Killarney Plaza Hotel and Spa (Book >) All hotels >
Driving to Killarney you’ll join the Ring of Kerry drive and enjoy stunning countryside scenery. On the way to Killarney you’ll pass the Rock of Cashel – worth a stop for this historic site. You should also divert to Blarney Castle and kiss the famous stone. Country roads in Ireland can be narrow – I recommend hiring a smaller car.
5 Spend a day in Killarney National Park and be sure to visit Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall. The town of Killarney is itself bursting with charm. A Heritage Card can save you money if you plan to visit several Irish heritage sites.
6 🚗Killarney to Portmagee
🚗Portmagee to Dingle
Dep: 08:30
Dep: 13:00
Arr: 09:45
Arr: 15:00
🏨Dingle Benners Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
On your way to Dingle stop off at Portmagee and take a ferry tour to Skellig Michael. Start your visit to the Dingle Peninsula with a drive across Conor Pass Come prepared for rain. Lots and lots of rain.
7 🚗Dingle to Doolin Dep: 15:00 Arr: 18:15 🏨Hotel Doolin (Book >) All hotels >
Continue your visit to the Dingle Peninsula with a drive to picturesque Annascaul, dramatic Slea Head, the panoramic views from Mount Brandon and the villages of The Gaeltacht – you may need more time. You’ll find plenty of lively pubs in Doolin, famous for its music scene. You’re likely to hear a lot of Irish spoken in the Gaeltacht areas – learn a few words and make a good impression.
8 🚗Doolin to Galway Dep: 13:00 Arr: 14:30 🏨The Twelve Hotel (Book >) All hotels >
Doolin is the gateway to the Cliffs of Moher, where you’ll spend the first part of today. Unesco-listed Galway offers medieval walls, the fascinating Galway City Museum, cosy pubs, cute streets and the seaside Salthill Promenade. Seeing the Cliffs of Moher on a boat tour is highly recommended.
9 🚗Galway to Belfast Dep: 09:30 Arr: 14:30 🏨Hampton by Hilton (Book >) All hotels >
A little more time to enjoy Galway before driving to Belfast, where you can enjoy sights such as Titanic Belfast and Crumlin Road Gaol. Remember to bring both GBP for Northern Ireland and Euros for Ireland
10 Take the car north to Dunluce Castle. Next to this is the geologically impressive Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The coast around Giant’s Causeway is great for hiking, if you have time in your Ireland itinerary.
11 🚗Belfast to Dublin Dep: 10:00 Arr: 13:30 🏨Clayton Charlemont (Book >) All hotels >
You can either return home from Belfast, or drive back to Dublin via the prehistoric monument of Newgrange. Be aware that road signs switch from MPH to KPH, travelling from N Ireland to Ireland.
12 Dublin to Home
(✈ Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Afternoon Arr: Afternoon Connect this Ireland itinerary with the Bruges & Ghent or France itinerary.
The ferry port and airport are far apart – choose your car rental location accordingly.
Budget Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
1 To Dublin
(✈ Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: Morning
Morning
Arr: Morning
Afternoon
🏨Jacobs Inn (Book >) All hostels >
When you arrive you should have time to pay a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle. If you’re planning to visit several sights then invest in a Dublin Pass.
2 Fans of Guinness will no doubt already know of the Guinness Storehouse, but any visitor will enjoy looking around this impressive brewery. More of a whiskey connoisseur? Then the Old Jameson Distillery is for you. Non-alcohol sights include O’Connell street, Ha’penny Bridge, Christ Church Cathedral, Trinity College Library and the Flea Market. In the evenings the pubs of Temple Bar is where to be. Get a Leap Card, which will save you money on public transport in several Irish cities including Dublin.
3 🚌Dublin to Cashel
🚌Cashel to Cork
🚌Cork (South Terrace) to Blarney
🚌Blarney to Cork (City Hall)
🚌Cork to Killarney
(Book >)
Dep: 08:00
Dep: 12:05
Dep: 13:55
Dep: 16:28
Dep: 17:30
Arr: 10:25
Arr: 13:45
Arr: 14:30
Arr: 17:12
Arr: 19:05
🏨Black Sheep Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Driving to Killarney you’ll join the Ring of Kerry drive and enjoy stunning countryside scenery. On the way to Killarney you’ll pass the Rock of Cashel – worth a stop for this historic site. You can also divert to Blarney Castle and kiss the famous stone. Missed a bus? They are pretty frequent, so don’t worry.
4 Spend a day in Killarney National Park on a tour or by hiring a bike and be sure to visit Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall. The town of Killarney is itself bursting with charm. A Heritage Card can save you money if you plan to visit several Irish heritage sites.
5 🚄Killarney to Tralee (Book >)
🚌Tralee to Dingle (Book >)
Dep: 10:20
Dep: 11:00
Arr: 10:58
Arr: 12:02
🏨Hideout Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Once you arrive in Dingle head straight out on a hike to Annascaul, taking the bus back. Come prepared for rain. Lots and lots of rain.
6 🚌Dingle to Tralee (Book >)
🚌Tralee to Limerick (Book >)
🚌Limerick to Ennis (Book >)
🚌Ennis to Doolin (Book >)
Dep: 09:30
Dep: 11:00
Dep: 13:25
Dep: 14:30
Arr: 10:33
Arr: 13:05
Arr: 14:25
Arr: 15:35
🏨Aille River Holiday Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
You may want extra time to explore the Dingle Peninsula, but if not then head on to Doolin – famous for its music scene – where you’ll find plenty of lively pubs. You’re likely to hear a lot of Irish spoken in the Gaeltacht areas – learn a few words and make a good impression.
7 🚌Doolin to Galway (Book >) Dep: 13:33 Arr: 15:30 🏨Galway City Hostel (Book >) All hostels >
Doolin is the gateway to the Cliffs of Moher, where you’ll spend the first part of today (check bus times here). Unesco-listed Galway offers medieval walls, the fascinating Galway City Museum, cosy pubs, cute streets and the seaside Salthill Promenade. Seeing the Cliffs of Moher on a boat tour is highly recommended.
8 🚌Galway to Dublin (Book >) Dep: 10:15 Arr: 12:40 🏨Jacobs Inn (Book >) All hostels >
You probably didn’t get to see all of Dublin’s sights on day 2 of this Ireland itinerary, so here’s your chance to make up for what you missed. Remember to bring both GBP for Northern Ireland and Euros for Ireland.
9 🚌Dublin to Belfast (Book >) Dep: 08:15 Arr: 10:35 🏨Botanical Backpackers (Book >) All hostels >
Once you arrive into Belfast visit sights Belfast such as Titanic Belfast and Crumlin Road Gaol. Save money by taking a free walking tour (but don’t forget to tip).
10 Take the 09:30 tour to the Giant’s Causeway, on which you’ll also visit Carrickfergus Castle, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Dark Hedges. A Heritage Card can save you money if you plan to visit several Irish heritage sites.
11 🚌Belfast to Dublin (Book >)
Dublin to Home
(✈ Book >)
(🚄 Book >)
Dep: 09:45
Dep: Afternoon
Arr: 11:40
Arr: Afternoon
Connect this Ireland itinerary with the Bruges & Ghent or France itinerary.
The ferry port and airport are far apart – choose your bus route accordingly.

Antarctica on a budget (ish)

M/V Ushuaia in Antarctica
M/V Ushuaia in Paradise Bay

Can you visit Antarctica on a budget? No. Well, not unless your budget is much less than $5,000/£4,000 (or if you manage to find work there). But it is possible to see this incredible continent without being hugely wealthy, as I recently did. Here’s how.

Jump to:
Getting to Ushuaia
Your low-cost ship
Booking your cabin
When to go
Equipment
Working in Antarctica
Spending time in Ushuaia

Getting to Ushuaia

Flying into Ushuaia (Antarctica on a Budget)
Approaching Ushuaia

The lowest-priced ships sail from Ushuaia in Argentina. To get to Ushuaia you can either travel overland (take a look at my Northern and Southern Argentina itineraries for inspiration) or, if you don’t have weeks to spare, the low cost airline JetSmart have just started flying there from Buenos Aires on either a Monday or Friday.

You can take a low-cost flight from the UK to Buenos Aires with Norwegian. You’ll need to change airports, though, and so I highly recommend spending a few nights in the wonderful Argentine capital.

Your low-cost ship

M/V Ushuaia in port (Antarctica on a Budget)
M/V Ushuaia at port in Ushuaia

The M/V Ushuaia isn’t a luxurious cruise ship. It was built in 1970 by the US Navy as a spy ship which operated around Cuba. Antarpply purchased the ship and converted it so that it can take 84 passengers. You can find out more about this ship on my YouTube video, but few other ships (if any) take passengers to Antarctica for less money.

Booking your cabin

M/V Ushuaia cabin bunk beds (Antarctica on a Budget)
Standard Twin cabin, M/V Ushuaia

You have two choices for booking Antarctica on a budget:

  1. Book as early as possible – I’d recommend at least 11 months in advance
  2. A month or two before you wish to depart, contact Freestyle Adventure Travel in Ushuaia and ask to join their WhatsApp group. This agency will broadcast the latest Antarctica deals to the group and cabins go on a first-come-first-served basis so be vigilant and be quick! Although M/V Ushuaia cabins are often cheapest (and rare), other bargains can be had with this excellent, friendly agency.

When to go

Group of Gentoo penguins (Antarctica on a Budget)
Gentoo penguins, Antarctica

The cheapest time to go to Antarctica is November. However, the notoriously rough Drake Passage is still particularly choppy at that time and storms may shorten your time in Antarctica. Penguin chicks will also not yet have made an appearance. When you do make it across, though, you will find few other people, thousands of adult penguins and intact snow. Perfect.

Equipment

Wearing lots of layers (Antarctica on a Budget)
Toastier than a piece of toast in a toaster

Booking your cabin with Freestyle Adventure Travel means that you don’t need to invest in expensive clothing as they will provide most of what you need. Don’t forget to bring your own thermals though.

The ship also provides motion sickness tablets and so you can save money on these too. Although it has a bar, you can bring your own alcohol on board (in moderation). All meals are included.

As well as having fewer passengers (and therefore the ability to spend more time off the ship), the advantage of voyaging on this smaller ship is that you have access to the bridge, where they keep binoculars for spotting wildlife. No need to bring your own!

Working in Antarctica

Camara Base
Cámara Base, Half Moon Island, Antarctica

If you want to spend a lot more time on this awesome continent, then there are also opportunities for working in Antarctica. You’ll spend months here, rather than just a few days, and you may not earn anything beyond board, transport and lodging. But wow, what an experience, and this really is seeing Antarctica on a budget. There is a fascinating post on the These Vagabond Shoes blog about what it was like to work at the Penguin Post Office. Here are some of the English-language sites I found for finding work in Antarctica:

Spending time in Ushuaia

Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina
Tierra Del Fuego

If you’ve booked your low-cost flights in advance (which I recommend for visiting Antarctica on a budget) but find yourself with days to spare before or after your cruise departs, then Ushuaia is a good place to hang around.

There are plenty of apartments to rent, as well as some good hotels, and you can embark on hikes straight from town (Martial Glacier and Laguna Esmeralda are favourites). You can also take shuttle buses (prices are the same amongst all the companies – book at the tourist office or at hostels/hotels) to Tierra Del Fuego National Park, where you’ll find a plethora of hikes.

Please note that I don’t earn any commission from these links, apart from those linking to airlines or accommodation.