11 Top Istanbul Hostels

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a BIG city, and a must-see for any traveller to Turkey. Here are my 11 top Istanbul hostels recommendations:

Bahaus Guesthouse

Istanbul top hostels: Bauhaus
Bahaus Guesthouse Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ 6 minutes’ walk away from the Blue Mosque
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Dorms are spacious and clean, bunks are basic and have simple privacy curtains
๐Ÿšฟ New, clean bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Excellent breakfast is included in your stay. No kitchen, but superb terrace
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Doubles and twins with shared bathrooms


Cheers Lighthouse

Istanbul top hostels: Cheers Lighthouse
Cheers Lighthouse Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ 5 minute walk to the Blue Mosque
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Modern dorms with sturdy bunks and amazing views
๐Ÿšฟ Plentiful, clean bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Terraces overlooking the Marmara Sea. Excellent Turkish breakfast included
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Private rooms for 1-4 people, plus suite with sauna and Jacuzzi


Cheers Hostel

Cheers Hostel Istanbul
Cheers Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ Steps away from key sights Ayasofya, Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Spacious 6, 8 and 10-bed dorms with air conditioning
๐Ÿšฟ Good condition bathrooms on each floor
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Good value bar and restaurant on site
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Private rooms available in separate building


Wabi Sabi Hostel

Istanbul top hostels: Wabi Sabi
Wabi Sabi Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ 5 minutes from Taksim Square
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Excellent, new dorms with comfy bunks featuring reading lights
๐Ÿšฟ Nicely designed bathooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Free breakfast, rooftop bar and cafe with city views
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Private rooms with shared or en-suite bathrooms


Cheers Prive

Cheers Hostel Istanbul Prive
Cheers Prive Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ Very close to Cheers Hostel, and so also amidst all the action of the Old City
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Good bunks in spacious, light 6, 8 and 10-bed dorms
๐Ÿšฟ Stylish bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Breakfast included, really lovely bar
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Twin or 3-bed en-suite rooms in separate building


Jumba Hostel

Istanbul top hostels: Jumba
Jumba Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ 10 minute walk to Taksim Sq, 18 minute walk to Galata Tower
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Good bunks in 4 or 6-bed dorms. Characterful building
๐Ÿšฟ Plenty of bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Small kitchen, gorgeous communal areas
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Private rooms with shared bathrooms


Stay Inn Taksim

Stay Inn Taksim
Stay Inn Taksim Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ 10 minute walk to Taksim Square
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Superb bunks with individual lights plus privacy curtains
๐Ÿšฟ Decent bathrooms for each room
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Free breakfast, great cafe on site, outdoor terrace
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Double rooms with private or shared bathrooms


Bucoleon Hostel

Bucoleon Hostel
Bucoleon Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ Located in Old Town, 5 minutes from Ayasofya
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Large range of dorms. ‘Party’ hostel…
๐Ÿšฟ OK bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Good common areas, lots of organised fun, terrace with awesome views
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘Good value private rooms


Paris Hotel & Hostel

Paris Hostel Istanbul
Paris Hotel & Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ Just steps to the Blue Mosque
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Most shared rooms have beds, not bunks. Some are a bit cramped
๐Ÿšฟ Every room has a shower and toilet
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Bar, cafe and breathtaking rooftop terrace
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Some small private rooms


Cheers Vintage

Cheers Hostel Istanbul Vintage
Cheers Vintage Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ Next to the Blue Mosque
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Most dorms have OK bunks, but some dorms are a bit cramped
๐Ÿšฟ Clean, modern bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Excellent communal area, small terrace
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Good value private rooms with en-suites


HANCHI Hostel

HANCHI Hostel Istanbul
HANCHI Hostel Istanbul

๐Ÿ“ Historic area of Kumkapฤฑ
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Modern dorms with private lights and sockets
๐Ÿšฟ All rooms have stylish bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Various communal areas, including kitchen, bar and roof terrace
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Comfortable private rooms


If you’ve been inspired by Istanbul’s top hostels then get your free Western Turkey itinerary below, as well as a link to the best flight deals:

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Visit Western Turkey with this FREE 14-day itinerary

Cheap flights to Istanbul are available from most major cities worldwide, click the button for the best current deals

Luxembourg’s gorgeous gorges

Find out about Luxembourg’s surprisingly dramatic Mullerthal Trail

Mullerthal Trail
Beginning of Mullerthal Trail section 2 near Echternach

I was surprised as you may be to learn that there’s a long-distance trail in relatively small country of Luxembourg. I was pleasantly surprised to discover first-hand that it’s 112km of dramatic scenery and excellent infrastructure, and which is very easy to reach.

Free public transport

Luxembourg is the only country in the world which has free public transport. I was walking section 2 of the Mullerthal Trail and to get to the beginning I needed to take a tram in Luxembourg City to the Thรฉรขtre stop, then a 110 bus to Echternach on the German border. From Echternach the trail begins, and rises steeply into the woods.

Mullerthal Trail
Gorges du Loup, near Echternach

So far, so free. Later this year Malta is also planning to introduce free public transport and you’ll also be able to travel for free in Tallinn and Dunkirk (where bus passenger numbers have spiked).

As a tourist it was a wonderful relief to not have to worry about prices, methods of payment or reservations. Simply turning up and stepping onto buses, trams and trains was a liberating experience.

What the average Luxembourgian taxpayer feels about free public transport I know not, but hopefully they appreciate the freedom too – it’s hard to know for sure because of the pandemic impact, but early signs were positive.

The terrific Mullerthal Trail

Having climbed from Echternach into the hills I found myself on a trail that passed through old forests, and then into a deep gorge. This was the Gorges du Loup, or Wolf’s Gorge. On either side steps had been built, or hewn from the rock, so that hikers can get a view over frosted forests from the top of the gorge.

Little bridges spanned gaps between the rocks, this was a sign of the excellent infrastructure I was to find all along the trail. The route gently curved around an escarpment, delving in and out of gorges and taking awestruck hikers past waterfalls.

As the day progressed I caught occasional glimpses of the surrounding countryside and was pleased to see my slope-climbing efforts had paid off. The total altitude gain along this 21km section is 700 metres; this isn’t a gentle stroll.

Mullerthal Trail
Huel Lee stone mine

At one point the Mullerthal Trail ducks through a series of gaps cut from the rock. Looking up I noticed the shape of concentric circles – this is where millstones were chiseled out from the sandstone during the Middle Ages. Beyond these old mines is the town of Berdorf, a not particularly notable location and so I pressed on and followed the signs down into yet another gorge

Caves and bridges

Bridges had been constructed through this next gorge, so that hikers can easily pass through them. Once again I was blown away by the effort put into providing easy passage for those hiking through this challenging terrain. Emerging from this gorge I was treated to another stupendous view over fields and forests.

There was plenty to amaze me below ground too. Caves could be found all along the trail, many accessible without any special equipment apart from a torch. These aren’t the grandest caves you’ll ever see, but it’s fun nonetheless to plunge so deep into the ground.

You’ll find plenty of opportunities to go spelunking along the trail, and at one point it even passes through a long cave (don’t worry, claustrophobes, there’s another way around).

Mullerthal Trail
Caves and rock formations

My one, fairly big disappointment on this trail was that there’s nowhere to grab a bite to eat from. I naively expected the village of Mullerthal to at lest have a cafe or two, however there was nothing but a tourist information office selling cold drinks from a fridge. So don’t make the same mistake that I did, be sure bring your own food and drink.

Back to the city

I was surprisingly tired by the end of the walk (possible because I hadn’t had anything to eat), but was still appreciating every detail I saw. Big cliffs, serene pine forests, pitch-black caves, and the Mullerthal Trail winding through them all.

It’s possible to complete the circle and return to Echternach, but I chose to leave the trail at Hersberg. Even on a Sunday there were regular buses back to Luxembourg City. I sunk heavily into the free seat and enjoyed the passing scenery, reflecting on what was an amazing, easily-accessible day hike.

Mullerthal Trail
One of the many streams along the trail

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Luxembourg City is the best place to find accommodation, particularly as it’s so easy to reach the rest of the country from here

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Fly direct to Luxembourg City from dozens of cities worldwide

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I travelled to Luxembourg by train from London, which was a simple and good value journey via Paris


Why I โค๏ธ Ecuador

A 3-minute read about the many reasons why I love Ecuador.

Sunset in Misahuallรญ, Ecuador

In 2008 the Ecuadorian government recognised the right for nature to grow and flourish, for humans to petition or protest on behalf of nature, and for the government to protect nature. Although this noble act hasn’t been followed perfectly in preceding and subsequent years (oil exploration is still an important part of Ecuador’s economy), it is a reflection of the exceptional natural wonder of this country.

Bears with spectacles, sharks with hammers

Head up into Ecuador’s cloud forests and you may, if you’re lucky, encounter a spectacled bear. When I worked in Ecuador’s cloud forests near the Colombian border in 2000 I sadly never saw these rare bears, although there was always plenty of evidence of their presence, mainly in the form of smashed frailejones up on the Pรกramo.

One of Jatun Sacha’s tremendous trees

Having worked in the 3100- t0 3600m-high Pรกramo, I then moved down to the Amazon rainforest, where there’s more than double the number of bird species as there are in North America. Here there are also uncontacted indigenous tribes, as well as forests teeming with wildlife.

I worked near the village of Misahuallรญ and returned 20 years later to see if the Jatun Sacha project was still succeeding in holding back developers and oil companies. Thankfully it is, which means you can still experience this intact natural wonderland.

The 200,000 km2 marine miracle

From highlands to tropical lands to under the sea, which is the best place from which to enjoy the Galapagos islands. Ecuador’s government recently announced a 60,000 km2 expansion to the marine reserve. You’ll probably be only to see a tiny snapshot of this, but what a snapshot it will be.

The very first time I put my head under the water, on my very first trip to the Galapagos, there beneath me was a hammerhead shark. I looked up and managed to squeak my disbelief to the guide, who just smiled knowingly back at me.

Everything you have heard about the Galapagos being an exceptional place for wildlife spotting is true. Very little effort is required to see turtles, seals, marine iguana, sharks, rays, and seahorses. On land and in the air are vast numbers of frigate birds, boobies, lizards, tortoises, crabs, penguins and finches.

White-tipped reef sharks

A concentration of wonders

Ecuador is roughly the same size as the UK, or Uttar Pradesh, or Wyoming, yet it packs in the lofty forests and plains of the Pรกramo, 15 volcanoes over 4,000 metres high, hot springs, thick Amazon rainforest, ancient cities will well-preserved colonial centres, fascinating indigenous markets, beautiful tropical beaches, and Incan ruins. And that’s just the mainland.

Take a bus through Ecuador and you’ll be treated to one of the most spectacular shows on Earth. My favourite routes are through the Avenue of Volcanoes (no further description necessary), from Quito to Tena (stopping at the colourful Otavalo Market), and from Quito to Baรฑos via Misahuallรญ – if you can keep your eyes open along the precipitous roads then you’ll see vast hills covered in rainforest, raging rivers and numerous waterfalls.

If you’ve the money then the Tren Crucero offers views of this stupendous country from the luxury of an opulent train (sadly they no longer allow you to ride the roof along the switchbacks of the Devil’s Nose section). But it’s on the plentiful buses where you meet Ecuadoreans and where I’ve enjoyed long conversations. Such friendly, welcoming people.

A peek at the Tungurahua above Baรฑos

So, this is a country with natural wonders and a transport system which, if at times may seem chaotic, also allows you to travel everywhere on a tiny budget. Although it could do better at preserving the environment (see below the change in the landscape along the Napo River since 1984 – Jatun Sacha takes up the bottom-left quarter and just to the right of centre an airport appears), there’s also an appreciation of the value of nature. It may not be a big country, but it sure does pack an awful lot in.

Change in the landscape along the Napo River, 1984-2020

Ecuador is perfect for people on any budget – get your FREE, highly details 15- 17-day itinerary

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The best value flights go to either the capital, Quito, or to Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil


Sharjah Safari

Although it’s possible to replicate a safari, nothing can beat the genuine experience. In this 2-minute read I express concerns and hopes for replica safaris.

Cheetah, Serengeti

Last week the ruler of Sharjah opened the $272 million Sharjah Safari, described as the largest safari in the world outside Africa. There are many ‘safari’ parks outside of Africa, here in the UK we have six. But they’re not really safaris, are they? To me, the use of the word ‘safari’ (which is Swahili for ‘journey’) is an example of cultural appropriation, and that nothing would ever come close to the experience of a real safari in Africa.

Rainbow continent

‘Safari’ is too often interpreted as driving around in open-top vehicles among lions, zebra and giraffes. But the type of safari available in Africa is as diverse as the continent itself.

Elephant, Addo National Park

In Botswana you can embark on a watery safari through the Okavango Delta. In Uganda a safari can take you through the forested mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. In Namibia safaris take you over the impressive dunes of the Namib desert. The landscapes and animals you can see on an African safari are hugely diverse and go far beyond what we typically think of as a ‘safari’.

Of course, there are also safaris which involve open top vehicles, lions, zebra, giraffes etc. But when you are on such a safari in Africa there is no doubt whatsoever that you are in Africa. The sky is quintessentially African, the landscape is pure Africa, put your hand on the ground and feel soil that is somehow, undoubtedly African.

It’s not just the animals and landscapes that make a safari in Africa incomparable. The people you meet also create an experience that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Arabian safari

Let’s take another look at that word ‘safari’. Yes, it’s a Swahili word, but its origins are actually from the Arabic word ‘safar’, which also means ‘journey’. The Sharjah Safari may not be guilty of cultural appropriation after all. But why import 288 African animals and pretend to be something you’re not? There’s nothing necessarily wrong with zoos (although many are abhorrent), and many, like Sharjah Safari, help to preserve rare species. But there’s a risk that they encourage people away from genuine experiences. I’m not ignoring the fact that many can’t afford to travel, and that a zoo may be the only way in which they can come face-to-face with exotic creatures. But if you can afford it, why not do the real thing?

Sharjah also offers visitors the chance to visit the Sharjah Desert Park. Here you can see Arabian leopard, as well as that beautiful and rare creature the oryx (which features on the Qatar Airways tailfin). The park has a breeding centre for endangered Arabian wildlife and anyone who visits will experience a slice of the rich Arabian culture – the real thing -, which is surely why many come here in the first place.

Sossusvlei, Namibia, many years ago…

I’m sure there are many good reasons for why the Sharjah Safari has been created, and any aim to preserve wildlife is a worthy one. My main concerns are that it will divert people away from Africa, that tourists won’t have genuine experiences, and that the idea of ‘Africa’ is reduced to simply its animals rather than the magnificent, rich cultures to be found throughout its 54 countries.

Market in Lalibela, Ethiopia

I hope that the people who visit safari parks outside of Africa feel motivated to go and experience the real thing, in much the same way that I hope that those who visit museum exhibits from far off and fascinating places also get the urge to see where they came from. But places such as Sharjah Safari have, I feel, a responsibility to promote the real Africa, and that what they offer, while impressive, is just a facsimile.


I’ve not taken many safaris in Africa, but my favourite so far is the one I experienced in Tanzania, which you can do as part of this 18/19-day itinerary

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Find the best value flights to Tanzania here (I recommend flying into Kilimanjaro and out of Zanzibar for the full Tanzania experience)


Please do let me know your comments on this article. Did I get it wrong? Have you experienced particularly good/bad safaris (in Africa or elsewhere)? I’d be interested to know your thoughts!

Mass transit in the sky

This short article showcases the magnificent La Paz cable car system, and how it has made a huge difference to the city. Don’t miss the sublime video at the end!

La Paz cable car
La Paz cable car, Bolivia

It sounds like something from a futuristic fantasy book. People floating above the city on their way to work, or to go shopping, or for a night out. Even though Medellรญn, Colombia was the first city to use cable cars for mass transit, it’s La Paz in Bolivia which has made them the backbone of the city’s public transport system.

Plus รงa change

I first visited La Paz in the year 2000. At the turn of the century the city was heavily reliant on buses to whisk people around the city. ‘Whisk’, however, is probably the wrong word for commutes which could take up to 3 hours, one way.

View from La Paz cable car system Mi Telefรฉrico
View from Mi Telefรฉrico

The La Paz metropolitan area has sprawled so far that it has absorbed the city of El Alto. Formed in 1903 and with a population approaching one million people – almost all of whom are Amerindian -, El Alto is La Paz’s poorer cousin. A strongly socialist president (Evo Morales) decided to help the people of El Alto feel more of a part of La Paz. And so, in 2014, Mi Telefรฉrico was opened.

Returning to La Paz in 2018 I noticed that the city hadn’t changed all that much. Ladies in bowler hats still sold piles of produce in Mercado Rodrรญguez. The 18th century Basรญlica de San Francisco still stood grandly over Plaza San Francisco. Poverty was still apparent. But some things had changed.

It was no longer possible to take an unofficial tour of San Pedro prison. A hideously ugly new presidential palace in the form of a glass skyscraper had sprouted above the historic centre. And cable cars had appeared. Everywhere.

Flying high

When you’re in La Paz you’re already standing pretty high up in the air. 3,640 metres, to be precise. El Alto is even higher. At 4,000 metres it’s the highest major city in the world. If the altitude doesn’t take your breath away, then the views from the cable cars certainly will.

There are 11 La Paz cable car lines stringing together the various parts of the city. My favourites were the Sky Blue, Green and Purple lines. First the Sky Blue line lifted me from the bustle of Prado and between the downtown skyscrapers. Below the pollution-choked Choqueyapu River glooped through the city.

La Paz cable car passengers
People in traditional dress on cable car

12 minutes later, at Chuqui Apu (which is also the Aymara name for La Paz), I switched to the Green Line. The station names have both Spanish and Aymara names (Chuqui Apu station is called ‘Libertador’ in Spanish) and are modern and shiny new. In fact, this modernity provides a wonderful juxtaposition to the locals in traditional dress

The Green Line sails over some small hills, on which are spread large houses and mansions. Apparently many of the wealthy inhabitants of these properties have moved out, not wanting to be looked down on by the travelling public. For me, the view into luscious lawns and azul pools was part of the attraction of this line (sorry, wealthy La Pazians).

La Paz cable car
View of one of the city’s wealthier neighbourhoods

From the highest point of the Green Line I could see beyond the city, where the desert takes over. At the end of this line is Irpawi station. I hadn’t intended to come here to see anything in particular, and the fact that the military museum here was closed helped that endeavour. For me the main attraction was the cable car system itself, or rather the views from it. And I had saved the best ’til last.

A near miss

Back in the centre of the city I sought out Lรญnea Morada, or the Purple Line, which departed from Utjawi station. This was the line which connected El Alto to La Paz, and was perhaps partly responsible for El Alto’s growth. With around 250,000 people/day travelling by cable car, the Purple Line has certainly prevented road congestion from getting much worse and has reduced the commute to minutes for people living away from the centre.

La Paz is clustered in a canyon, and El Alto is on the rim. It is spread out along the altiplano and it’s where you’ll find the international airport, although the cable car system sadly doesn’t go there. From Utjawi the gondola is hoisted up and up and up out of the canyon. Below you can see Mercado Rodrรญguez, then the prison, then the blocks of housing clinging onto cliffs. You can also see all the way across La Paz to the point where the city disappears around a distant canyon corner.

Not having any plans today for fully exploring El Alto, I disembarked at Tiquira station. It had been one of the most dramatic public transport journeys I’ve ever taken, and it cost me only about $0.30. In fact, I enjoyed the journey so much that I wanted to see what the view was like at night.

View over La Paz from a cable car at night
La Paz cable car at night

Beneath a full moon I returned to the Purple Line. I paid my 3 Bolivianos and boarded the gondola. These little cabins can accommodate about 6 people comfortably, but I was always able to find one all to myself. At night the city takes on a fascinating new look from above. The constellation above is mimicked by myriad artificial lights below. Down there is a football match being played under floodlights, or someone struggling up steep steps lit orange by streetlights.

At Tiquira station I realised that I had made a mistake. I had just stepped off of the last cable car of the night. It was only 9pm, but at that time on a Sunday night (in 2018, at least), this particular line stopped for the day. Thankfully the lovely station staff agreed to run one more car down and, relieved, I enjoyed the view all over again. This experience did, however, make me face the prospect of an hours-long bus journey back to the centre, and it was only then that I fully appreciated how important this amazing cable car network was to the population far beyond the centre.


Take 5 minutes out of your day to watch this surprisingly relaxing footage I took of the Mi Telefรฉrico system during both the day and night, and featuring several of its lines.


With the launch of the Gold Line Mi Telefรฉrico is now complete. You can experience this incredible car car system as part of this FREE 14 day Bolivia itinerary

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I stayed at the wonderful Loki Boutique. La Paz has a great choice of accommodation, view deals by clicking the button

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Fly to El Alto International Airport and either take a bus downtown to Prado, or a cheap taxi


7 Top Rome Hostels

Top Rome Hotels
Rome, Italy

Travel to Italy and you have to see Rome. Thankfully there’s a wealth of great value accommodation in the Eternal City, but with some being better than others I’ve sought out the very best. Here are my 7 top Rome hostels recommendations, with the 8 best guesthouses below:

The Beehive

Top Rome Hostels - The Beehive

๐Ÿ“ Two streets away from Rome Termini train station
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Basic bunks with private reading lights. Lockers in dorms. Female-only dorms
๐Ÿšฟ Clean, modern bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Kitchen available for self-catering, plus small and great value cafe
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ 7 private rooms with 5 shared bathrooms, plus some private rooms with private ensuites


Free Hostels Roma

Top Rome hostels - Free Hostels Roma

๐Ÿ“ 20 minute walk to the Coliseum, 18 min walk to Termini
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Cleverly designed stylish dorms with extremely private ‘nests’
๐Ÿšฟ Each dorm has its own bathroom (max. 6 beds), free towel use
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Relatively new kitchen, common areas include outdoor terrace
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Private double rooms with ensuite bathrooms


Yellowsquare Rome

Top Rome Hostels - Yellowsquare Rome

๐Ÿ“ 8 min walk to Termini, 38 min walk to the Pantheon
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Sturdy bunks, some with privacy curtains and reading lights
๐Ÿšฟ Bathrooms are…OK
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Cheap bar, loads of common areas, music venue, new coworking space, not quiet!
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Small private rooms with ensuite bathrooms


RomeHello hostel

Top Rome Hostels - RomeHello Hostel

๐Ÿ“ 16 min walk to Trevi Fountain, close to Termini
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Sturdy bunks with reading lights and sockets in spacious 4, 8, and 10-bed dorms
๐Ÿšฟ Each room has good-sized bathroom
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Lovely, modern kitchen, terrace with table tennis and foosball, bar with live music
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Twin, double and triple en-suite private rooms


Roma Scout Center

Top Rome Hostels - Rome Scout Center

๐Ÿ“ 6 minute walk to Bologna metro station
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Stylish 4-bed dorms (female, male, and mixed) with private reading lights
๐Ÿšฟ Large shared bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Breakfast included, good value restaurant/bar, but no kitchen
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Doubles, twins and mini-suite, all with ensuite bathrooms


La Controra Hostel

Top Rome Hostels - La Controra Hostel

๐Ÿ“ 14 minutes from both the Trevi Fountain and Termini station
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Spacious dorms with up to four beds, towels included
๐Ÿšฟ Plenty of modern bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Small kitchen and communal areas
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Private rooms with ensuite bathrooms


MEININGER Roma Termini

Top Rome Hostels - MEININGER Roma Termini

๐Ÿ“ 8 minute walk to Termini
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Usual good quality dorm bunks and beds (319 in total!), with private reading lights
๐Ÿšฟ Chic ensuite bathrooms with all dorms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Relatively small kitchen, but great value bar/restaurant
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Plenty of spacious private rooms with ensuite bathrooms


…and here are Rome’s 8 best guesthouses:


Blue Hostel

Top Rome Guesthouses - Blue Hostel

๐Ÿ“ Once a 17th century convent, located 8 min walk from Termini
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms, largest configuration room is for 3, plus a 4-bed apartment
๐Ÿšฟ Each room has beautifully designed private bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ No common areas or kitchen, apart from in the apartment
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘All of the boutique rooms are private and well-designed


Trani B&T Rooms

Top Rome Guesthouses - Trani B&T Rooms

๐Ÿ“ Just steps to Termini
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms, four private rooms one of which can accommodate up to 8 people
๐Ÿšฟ Some room share a bathroom
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ No common areas
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ All rooms are private and, although somewhat dated, amazing value


Hostel Mosaic Central

Top Rome Guesthouses - Hostel Mosaic Central

๐Ÿ“ 10 minute walk to Termini, 16 minute walk to the lovely Villa Borghese
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms, max. 3-bed basic rooms
๐Ÿšฟ Clean shared bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ No kitchen, small lounge area, complimentary breakfast
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Double rooms available


Dreaming Navona Rooms

Top Rome Guesthouses - Dreaming Navona Rooms

๐Ÿ“ Conveniently located 10 mins to the Pantheon and 18 mins to St Peter’s Sq
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms, 2-, or 4-bed rooms, tastefully decorated, in characterful old building
๐Ÿšฟ All rooms have basic bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ No communal areas
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ All rooms are private


Night And Day

Top Rome Guesthouses - Night And Day

๐Ÿ“ Just five minutes from Trevi Fountain
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms
๐Ÿšฟ Rooms have clean, spacious bathrooms
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ No communal areas
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Rooms can sleep up to four people


Downtown Accommodation

Top Rome Guesthouses - Downtown Accommodation

๐Ÿ“ Superbly positioned within easy walking distance to the main sights
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms, air conditioning is an extra charge, good soundproofing
๐Ÿšฟ All rooms come with an ensuite bathroom
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ No communal areas
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ All six rooms are double, some can accommodate an extra bed


Campanella3

Top Rome Guesthouses - Campanella3

๐Ÿ“ Perfectly located for exploring Vatican City
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms, five tastefully decorated rooms
๐Ÿšฟ All rooms come with an ensuite bathroom
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Small kitchen and dining area, breakfast included
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Most rooms are double, some can accommodate up to four people


Agnes Roma B&B

Top Rome Guesthouses - Agnes Roma B&B

๐Ÿ“ Located in the Trieste area, known for its nightlife
๐Ÿ›๏ธ No dorms, elegant and clean rooms
๐Ÿšฟ Clean bathrooms (towels included)
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ No guest kitchen, free breakfast in dining room
๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Double and twin rooms, all with private bathrooms


If you’ve been inspired by Rome’s top hostels and guesthouses then get your free Italy itinerary below, as well as a link to the best flight deals:

FREE travel plans

Visit Italy with this FREE extensive 16-day itinerary

Cheap flights to Rome are available from most major cities worldwide, click the button for the best current deals

7 memorable airline logos

Airline logos are too often dull and forgettable, but these select few really stand out for their design, or sheer creativity.

This airline name has been resurrected like a phoenix from the fire, but the bird featured is a hummingbird, common in Ecuador. The sleek dark blue, yellow, and aqua blue bird appears to fly at speed over a modern font with an “A” that reminds me of the country’s many volcanoes.

Memorable airline logos - Ecuatoriana
Memorable airline logos - Air New Zealand

The Mangลpare is the Mฤori symbol for hammerhead shark, and features prominently in Air New Zealand‘s logo. It also makes me think of ๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ emoji; a gust of wind up there where aircraft fly. I also love the bold, confident font.

A legendary airline with a legendary logo, which first began to take this form in 1955 (28 years after the Pan Am’s formation). Representing the globe and its meridians, combined with the speedy font this logo screams travel even 30 years after the airline ceased operations.

Memorable airline logos - Pan Am

This memorable airline logo features a flying elephant called Skypower. How could you possibly miss those oversized ears on the runway? Nigeria Airways (which ceased operations in 2003) had, of course, the Nigerian flag as its background.

Back to modern times, and this neat logo from Qatar Airways. It packs in large text, the airline’s name in Arabic, a roundel featuring shrinking lines that denote speed, and an elegant Arabian onyx. Impressive. I also like the use of sophisticated burgundy, befitting this 5-star airline.

Memorable airline logos - Niki

Well, this is certainly bold. It also reminds me of the Intel logo. It’s actually the logo of now-defunct low-cost Austrian airline Niki, and stands out thanks to its unusual (for airline logos) ellipse, handwriting font and thick lines.

This is Sir Turtle. He’s the best part of the Cayman Airways logo (I’m not a fan of the outdated font). Originally created by designer Suzy Soto for a holiday resort and sold to the Cayman Islands government for a bargain $1, at first glance it appears as though Sir Turtle has a peg leg and sword. On closer inspection he does actually have a peg leg and sword, plus natty red flying scarf added in 1978.

Memorable airline logos - Cayman Airways

20 years of Middle Earth

The first Lord Of The Rings movie was released 20 years ago. How has it changed New Zealand, and what is the best way to see this country?

New Zealand's Mount Ngauruhoe
Mount Ngauruhoe AKA Mount Doom

The first Lord of the Rings film came out in December 2001. After the final movie in the trilogy was released, tourism to New Zealand – where all three movies were filmed – had risen by over 30%. Having taken my now wife to the second film in the series on our first ever date, we were both inspired by the incredible landscapes on the big screen.

Although New Zealand didn’t have Hobbits, orcs, and other such figments of Tolkien’s imagination, the creatures we saw there were equally magical. In fact, I think that the LOTR director Peter Jackson missed out some of the best parts of this incredible country. To be fair to him, though, it would be hard to fit places such as the stellar glow worms of Waitomo Cave into the original tale.

Yeah, but is it really that good?

Near Milford Sound, New Zealand
On the road to Milford Sound

No, it’s even better. Jackson did an admirable job of showcasing his country, as is evidenced by the increase in tourist numbers there. Maybe it was because of the LOTR trilogy that we decided to spend so long (about 7 weeks) in New Zealand. Even that wasn’t enough time.

Instead of Gandalf’s trusty steed we travelled the country in an old Toyota Hiace, converted to function as a small campervan. Our agenda was to see New Zealand’s most dramatic sights, some of which happened to include LOTR locations.

A landscape made for epic tales

We visited New Zealand in 2008, almost 5 years after the final movie premiered. I had been expecting LOTR-themed everything. Hobbit Hikes, LegolasLand, Walks with Orcs etc. But there were in fact very few mentions of the movie. This is a country where the landscapes are more than capable of attracting visitors without Hollywood making a fuss over it.

Even though visitor numbers have grown strongly since the LOTR movies were released, they had already been growing exponentially since the mid-80s. The franchise did, however, help numbers reach a plateau that didn’t drop off during the 2008 crash.

New Zealand's Forgotten World Highway
Not the Gates of Moria, but a tunnel on the Forgotten World Highway in New Zealand’s North Island

Find your own pace

As you may have by now realised, this post isn’t going to be a list of LOTR filming locations. There are many, many other sites which have already covered that. What I wanted to do with this post is celebrate a movie which I love and in which the main star is a country that is best enjoyed without an agenda.

Te Anau, New Zealand
Nets are a necessity in parts of the South Island where sandflies thrive

Some planning is necessary, particularly when visiting popular locations, and even more particularly when embarking on the incredible multi-day hikes. But the prevalence of fantastic Department of Conservation campsites means that, more often than not, you can just rock up somewhere and decide to spend the night in a landscape so spectacular you can’t quite believe that Hollywood has yet to discover it. This is an experience we had over and over again.

Before the pandemic hit, visitor numbers to New Zealand had risen to almost 4 million. Despite the LOTR hype, and despite the (until recently) sustained rise in tourists, this remains one of the least densely-populated countries in the world, with just 18 people per square kilometre. As you stand alone looking at Mount Ngauruhoe, or paddling along the Waiau River, it’s easy to imagine a Hobbit wandering by.


Visit New Zealand’s South Island with this free 20-day itinerary (for Budget, Mid-range, and Luxury travellers).

Home to many of the Lord of the Rings locations, explore North Island with my free 17-day itinerary for all budgets.

๐Ÿจ

I’ve detailed the very best hostels and hotels in the itineraries above, but if you are able to hire/purchase a campervan then I believe that this is the best way to see New Zealand. If you do want to book accommodation then, for the best value, I can recommend both Trivago and Hostelworld.

โœˆ๏ธ

Find the best flight prices to New Zealand on Skyscanner (if you’re flexible with dates then you can find some good deals).


How I saved ยฃ468 on a ยฃ1031 holiday

Big savings are possible if you know the tricks…and have some patience

Travel money saving tips: Paris
Montmartre, Paris

In February we’re spending 3 nights in Luxembourg and 1 night in Paris on the way back. We’ll be travelling by train and staying in highly-rated 4* hotels in central locations. Here’s how I saved ยฃ468 on this 4-night holiday for 2 people (don’t miss my travel money saving tips at the end):

ItemHow I savedSaving
EurostarNovember saleยฃ162
Paris hotelExpedia Member Pricing (free to create account) -20%ยฃ37.54
Luxembourg hotelExpedia app booking -10%ยฃ36.60
Paris hotel8% discount codeยฃ10.92
Luxembourg hotel8% discount codeยฃ26.25
Luxembourg hotel2,386 Expedia points gainedยฃ17.04*
Paris ><Luxembourg trainSNCF railcard sale (โ‚ฌ25 instead of โ‚ฌ49) saving 1/3 on French ticket priceยฃ38.17**
Paris hotel19,494 Expedia points appliedยฃ139.25
TOTAL SAVING:ยฃ467.77

*The ยฃ17.04 can only be used on a future trip
**This is the saving after I’ve deducted the cost of the railcard

In addition to the above I will get a free bottle of wine and room upgrades (subject to availability) as an Expedia VIP. For a 4-night trip to Luxembourg and Paris, staying in 4* hotels and including all transport, I’ve paid a total of ยฃ281.86 per person.

My travel money saving tips

  1. Choose an online travel agent and stick with them to gain points over time (Expedia are my favourite because they offer points, member savings, and VIP benefits)
  2. Wait for sales (Black Friday, Boxing Day, end of December-January for flights, January for cruises)
  3. Get the Shopping in Microsoft Edge addon, which will show you any applicable voucher codes
  4. Book via apps, which tend to offer additional savings and loyalty points
  5. If your train journey is looking expensive then see if buying a domestic railcard would, overall, save you money
  6. Sites such as Trivago often show the best prices across a range of sites

Do you have any travel money saving tips? Please share below!

Black Friday Travel Deals

The best Black Friday travel deals 2021

I’ve trawled through hundreds of Black Friday Travel deals and curated some of my favourites below. Please note: some of these links are to my affiliates which, if you purchase with them, will really help to keep this blog going.

Hotels and Hostels
Flights
Rail
Tours and holidays

๐Ÿจ Black Friday Hotel Deals + Hostels

Trip.com
ยฃ20 hotel coupon

Trivago
Usually picks up the best hotel offers

Expedia
Sign up and get 30% or more off hotels, and 4x reward points on app. Also, use code EXPEDIA15OFF


Hostelworld Sale
300+ hostels offering savings of up to 55%. Top 5 destinations:
1. Madrid
2. Prague
3. Budapest
4. Barcelona
5. Cancun

โœˆ๏ธ Black Friday Flight Deals

Skyscanner have put together this handy page to find the best deals. I will be adding below some of the best prices I find on the day

DestinationFromAirlinePrice

๐Ÿš† Black Friday Rail Deals

SNCF Railcard
Reduced from โ‚ฌ49 to โ‚ฌ25

Interrail
10% off + FREE refunds (save up to โ‚ฌ120)

๐Ÿ–๏ธ Tours and holidays Black Friday Deals

G Adventures
Up to 30% off 2022 holidays

Trip.com
15% off tours

Black Friday travel deals correct as of 18:32 Nov 17 2021