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Namibia’s Skeleton Coast

Twenty-Something Travel via rss - 4 hours 47 min ago

It was one of those foggy days. My boyfriend and I left our lodge early to hit the road and drive all the way up Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. It was dark and cold. Everyone else was still sleeping.

We switch on the heater of our 4×4. The night before we filled up our tank. Where we’re going, gas stations are few. While sipping our warm coffee to help us wake up, Namibia National Radio keeps us company with a mix of English, German, and African songs. James Bay is on, singing something about lonely water and being caught against the tide. I put on an extra sweater. My brain is too sleepy to process the lyrics.

We’d started our road trip in the southern part of the country a couple of weeks ago and worked our way up via the Tsaris Mountains, Naukluft Park, and Swakopmund. It was low season and there were hardly any other travelers. The lack of visitors made an otherwise popular town called Solitaire truly live up to its name. We were lucky to have the Deadvlei completely to ourselves, and even managed to take a nap on its dry grounds in the shade of one of those dead trees famous from the travel guidebooks.

The Skeleton Coast stretches hundreds of miles, all the way up to the Angolan border. Its creepy name was daunting, always had been: the Namibian native peoples call the coastal strip ‘the land god made in anger’, and Portuguese explorers that passed by centuries ago named it ‘the gates of hell’.

It was obvious why: the many wrecks of stranded ships are the coast’s main attraction. The permanent, thick fog, the rocks hidden under the water, and the aggressive waves made the ocean difficult, if not impossible, for ships to navigate.

Ships that stranded hundreds of years ago were still being discovered to date. As recent as in 2008, geologists stumbled upon a 500 year old wreck of a Portuguese ship, completely buried in the sand. In 1533 it set off from Lisbon to India, and vanished near Namibia. Its crew members were never heard of again. The wreck was filled with gold, old coins and ivory tusks, estimated at a total value of $12 million.

After a couple of hours driving, we passed the first shipwreck. The sun was slowly rising, but the grey fog blocked its rays, preventing the air from warming up. The ship had stranded decades ago and was stuck just off the shore, the hull of its rusty body buried in the sand. While violent waves crashed into its skeletal remains on the rhythm of the ocean, it did its best not to give in and tumble over.

We drove our car as near the beach as possible to take some pictures. It was still cold and the fog limited our view. I thought we were the only spectators. There wasn’t a seagull in sight and the vicious waves and the wind were all I could hear.

But then, out of nowhere, a young Himba girl approached us. She lived by herself, in a tent somewhere nearby. Her family was in the north-western part of the country, where they live a life according to the traditions of their ancestors. But that wasn’t the life she wanted, and so she took off, taught herself how to get by in English, and was now trying to make some money selling precious stones to tourists. I’m sure she dug them out of the earth herself. She complained about how little tourists had passed by in the last couple of days, so for a couple of bucks I bought a tourmaline crystal so black it reminded me of death. According to the girl’s ancestors, it protects from negative energy and keeps away evil spirits. I figured it couldn’t hurt.

We continued our journey and mile after mile we drove further north along the coast. A signpost pointed towards a placed called ‘St. Nowhere’. It couldn’t have been more appropriate.

In stark contrast with other parts of the country which are famous for their wildlife, nothing seems to survive in the Skeleton Coast, except for a smelly seal colony that must have lost its way. In the war Nature vs. Men, nature clearly won this battle.

We marveled at the distances, the dryness, and the plain, vast nothingness. There wasn’t much else to see besides sand and rocks, yet it was fascinating. I imagined this must be what the moon looks like: bleak and beautiful.

Coastal villages were scarce. We had passed the last tiny settlement a while ago. Traffic signs were getting fewer. The last one we saw had animal skulls hanging from it. Our companion Namibian National Radio died off hours ago. We no longer had cellphone reception. The fog never seemed to disappear: the wind constantly blue it up onto the shores.

Every now and then we saw another isolated shipwreck. Some only visible depending on the tide, others so deeply ingrained in the sand that only their bow, or what was left of it, can be spotted.

We turned off the sand road in the direction of the beach to see another stranded ship that was supposedly located around there. I had heard this one was quite impressive. To my surprise, it was still a long way to the dunes and the sand was getting deeper and deeper. Even though we had a 4×4 I was terrified of getting stuck: it wasn’t going to be easy to pull the car out of the sand and we’d certainly not be able to get any help. After all, we hadn’t seen any other people in the last couple of hours and our cellphones didn’t work.

We decided to park our car and walk. I opened the door and stepped out. A strange feeling snuck up on me. The silence was deafening, reflecting the emptiness of the land and emphasizing the high-pitched howling sound of the wind. I wanted to tell my boyfriend and see if he felt the same way, but the sound of my voice didn’t seem to travel far enough to reach his ears. It was as if I was talking in a vacuum. I raised my voice, to no avail.

There wasn’t any path to follow and it was difficult to estimate how long it would take us to get to the ocean. Our vision obstructed by the fog, we set off in the direction where we thought the dunes were located. My steps squeaked in the sand, as if it were fresh snow.

To break the silence and focus on something other than my eerie surroundings, I started humming ‘Hold Back The River’. James Bay left more of an impression than I thought.

I was getting thirsty. Our bottles of water were still in the car.

After a good 20 minutes of walking, still no dunes in sight, my boyfriend suddenly stops.

“We have to go back to the car NOW!” he screams.

“What? We should be almost there by now, it can’t be that much longer”, I replied.

He points to the white sand, just in front of his feet.

I see something that looks like vertebrae and ribs. Human vertebrae and ribs.

As the blood rushes to my head and the hair on my neck rises, I turn around to our car.

It disappeared into the fog.

Forced to follow our own footsteps back, we start running.

I feel the crystal in the pocket of my sweater.

It probably weren’t the shipwrecks, but the human skeletons that gave the coast its name.

Cindy Kroon is a serial expat. Originally from Holland, she’s currently living in the UK but is already contemplating where to move to next. She writes about her adventures, cultural clashes, and travel tips & tricks on her blog The White Rabbit in her own, no-bullshit way. She loves food, and doesn’t give a crap about how many countries she visited so far. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is a post from Twenty-Something Travel

Celebrate Thanksgiving While Flying Over The Grand Canyon On An Airplane Or Helicopter Tour

Travel Tips and Destinations - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 14:00
Best way to do Grand Canyon over the Thanksgiving holiday? By airplane, of course. But don't wait until the last minute. These flights quickly sell out. Learn more about these fantastic air tours. Read this article.

New York City: 5 Super cheap hotels in Manhattan

EuroCheapo via rss - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 08:38

Other than maybe a slice of pizza (around $3) or a walk in Central Park (free), New York is not known for its budget finds — especially when it comes to hotels! Start searching for a room and you’ll quickly be looking at rates that soar over $300 per night.

While many visitors turn to the outer boroughs to find a great deal, we like to stick close to Manhattan where most of the action is. And you’d be surprised at how many cheap and central hotels in New York City you can find.

Searching for availability on EuroCheapo three months out, we found fantastic rates in the heart of the Big Apple. All of these hotels are either close to Times Square, Midtown, Soho or Union Square — all amazing locations within walking distance of everything a visitor might have on their New York bucket list.

But maybe you still have some doubts — will you be sacrificing quality by staying at a budget hotel? No need to worry, as all of the hotels on this cheapo list earn customer ratings of 7.5 or higher. You might not be sleeping in pure luxury, but you will rest easy knowing your bank account will be happy.

Related: See all recommended budget hotels in New York City.

Rooms at Broadway at Times Square put you close to the action of Manhattan for a nice price.

Broadway at Times Square

From $115

Feel the bright lights of Times Square shining down on you when you stay at this 3-star hotel. Each of the 79 rooms comes with a flat-screen TV, iPod dock, and coffee maker. In the morning you can plan out your New York itinerary with the free Wi-Fi that is accessible throughout the hotel. And with a price of $115 for a queen room, you’ll have plenty of money left over to spend on a Broadway show. The TKTS booth is just down the block!

Read full review.

Rooms are small but modern and ultra-comfortable at Solita Soho Hotel.

Solita Soho Hotel

From $98

Hotels in Soho are notoriously expensive. However, this 3-star hotel offers budget travelers a break from the sky-high prices without sacrificing on quality or location. Walk south towards Chinatown to enjoy a bevy of cheap eats or walk a few blocks north to window shop along the chic streets of Soho. The rooms offer contemporary design with private bathrooms and free Wi-Fi. They’re small — but so are the prices. You can book a corner queen room for as low as $98 per night.

Read full review. 

Budget travelers will love the rates at Hotel 31 just steps from posh Park Avenue.

Hotel 31

From $80

This 2-star hotel certainly won’t win any design awards. But that doesn’t bother us one bit when you can score $80 double rooms (with shared bathroom). If you’re looking for style, just stroll down the street to Park and Madison Avenues. Rooms in this neighborhood usually command at least three times the price, so we’re happy to bed down in these clean and comfy rooms. And if you plan on riding to the to the top of the Empire State Building during your Big Apple vacation, it’s just a 5-minute walk away!

Read full review

It won’t win style points, but Hotel 17 is a champion of budget travelers with super cheap rooms.

Hotel 17

From $96

Looking to stay in a real New York neighborhood? Step away from the more touristy districts when you stay at this 2-star hotel located close to bustling Union Square. You can shop for snacks at the Union Square Greenmarket or stroll over Gramercy Park. With rates beginning at $96 per night for a double room with a shared bathroom, you’ll have plenty of money left over to visit a neighborhood diner for breakfast or grab a pint at a local pub to cap off your day.

Read full review.

Toast your vacation from the rooftop terrace of Pod 51.

Pod 51 Hotel

From $85

The rooms may be tiny (think boat cabin size) at this 3-star Midtown East hotel, but they are very efficient and well designed. Standard double rooms with a private bath begin at an incredibly low rate of $85 per night. You can walk to Grand Central Terminal or the United Nations or hop on the express bus just outside the door to go downtown to the East Village. Plus, how many budget hotels come with a stunning skyline view from the rooftop deck!

Read full review.

More hotel suggestions

Would you like to read more about budget-friendly hotels in New York City? Check out all of our picks in our New York hotel guide.

The post New York City: 5 Super cheap hotels in Manhattan appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

First Time to Europe? 10 Tips to Get You Started

Travel Tips and Destinations - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 09:28
If you are planning to visit Europe then this article will be very useful for you. In this article, we have mentioned a few tips which could help in making your trip easier and more fun than you have imagined.

Islands in Greece - Hopping the Most Popular Islands for Unforgettable Travel Experience

Travel Tips and Destinations - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 08:54
Are you finding a suitable island destination for escape from your daily life? If yes, then Greece is a synonymous alternative for islands. Exerting an enticing pull, the key island groups of the country offer endless opportunities for you to explore twisty mazes of cubic whitewashed houses, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and mouth-watering seafood.

The Best Travel Packages to Greece in 2016 - Top 3 Not to Miss Destinations

Travel Tips and Destinations - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 08:52
Greece is undoubtedly a perfect tourist destination in Europe no matter to which age group you belong or what you expect in your holidays. Surrounded with more than 6000 beautiful islands, the country hosts something unique for everyone's taste. Whether you want a peaceful vacation or enter into a fun-filled experience, Greece offers real treat for all.

A Budget guide to Mitte, the heart of Berlin

EuroCheapo via rss - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 08:45

In the first few years after the wall fell, Mitte was the place to be in Berlin. Artists, musicians, and Lebenskünstler (a bon vivant) flocked to the dirt cheap apartments in the neighborhood, many of which had been abandoned by East Berliners who had fled to the West in a flurry of new found freedom.

The streets were filled with experimental theater and art projects. Those in the know frequented hidden, illegal bars and impromptu jazz concerts taking place in the ruins of old factory buildings.

However, such underground hipness is now a thing of the past. Mitte has long since been gentrified and commands some of the highest rents in the city, meaning that, these days, the occupant of a spacious apartment on Rosenthaler Strasse is far more likely to be a media mogul than a starving ceramicist.

A subway stop in Mitte. Photo: Oh-Berlin.com

Located in the center of Berlin (Mitte means “middle” in English), the neighborhood is now also a hotspot for tourists, with many hostels, hotels, and vacation apartments to choose from. If you notice any of the locals grumbling, don’t take it personally. Because of the neighborhood’s popularity, it’s likely they were disturbed yet again at 5 am by the sound of suitcase wheels being dragged across cobblestones on their way to an early morning flight at Schönefeld Airport — a constant complaint of anyone who lives in Mitte.

But, all this aside, Mitte is still one of the most fascinating and historic parts of the city and well worth a visit. To help you best explore Mitte, follow these tips to save:

Stay in the thick of the action in Mitte at Hotel 38. Photo: Booking.com

Sleep for less in Mitte

Staying in Mitte puts you within walking distance of many of the top sightseeing spots, the Museumsinsel (Museum Island), grand buildings (like the Reichstag), and close to public transportation. Because it’s such a popular location, Mitte has lots of great hostels and hotels at a nice price for all you bargain hunters. You can search hotels in Mitte on EuroCheapo for rooms starting as low as $49.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Hotel 38
Nestled right in the heart of Mitte, this 3-star hotel features sleek rooms in a turn-of-the-century building. Layouts vary from tiny to spacious, but all rooms feature flat-screen TVs and come with a free breakfast. Double rooms start at around $90.

art’otel berlin mitte
Blending local art with modern decor, this 4-star hotel doesn’t look like a typical cheapo stay at first glance. However, if you book in advance, you can find “Art Double Rooms” for around $100. Join the diverse crowd of artists, tourists, and musicians for a fun Berlin experience!

Looking for culture? Head straight to Museum Island in Mitte. Photo: Daniel M.

Culture on the cheap

No doubt about it, if you’re a museum junkie, Mitte is the place for you. Museum Island alone has five major museums, including the Pergamon Museum. Even if you’re not in the mood for any art or culture, the island is worth a stroll for the views it offers over the Spree River as you cross one of the picturesque bridges.

Other museums here include the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) and Alte National Galerie, as well as the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial), which is free of charge. And don’t forget to visit the Naturkundemuseum (Museum of Natural History), home to the wildly popular T-Rex skeleton named Tristan — and a steal at only €8 for adults and €5 for children and students.

Related: 15 Berlin museums for free or under €10

Tips on how to save on culture

If you’re planning to visit several of the major museums in Mitte, you may want to look into buying the Berlin Museum Pass to save on admission fees.

The neighborhood is also home to several museums free of charge, including Tränenpalast and the Topography of Terror, and many museums with an admission fee of under €10 euros, such as the art museum Berlinische Galerie, Berlin’s city museum Märkisches Museum, and the Museum für Kommunikation, the interactive communications museum which offers plenty of fun for all ages.

Checkpoint Charlie is worth a quick (and free) look. Photo: Craig Nelson

Tourist attractions for less

In Mitte, you’ll also find many of Berlin’s major non-museum tourist attractions. These include:

  • the world famous Brandenburg Gate
  • the Night of Shame Monument on Bebelplatz, in remembrance of the infamous Nazi book burning ceremonies that once took place there
  • Deutscher Dom, Berlin’s largest church,
  • Gendarmenmarkt, a square filled with architectural masterpieces designed by the famous German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, among others
  • the Reichstag building with its modern glass dome
  • the haunting Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, whose columns are easy to get lost in
  • and Checkpoint Charlie, the former east-west border checkpoint during the Cold War era

Luckily most of the attractions listed above are free to visit and admire. Although several of the building on Gendarmenmarkt charge admission, as does the Deutscher Dom and the museum at Checkpoint Charlie, in most cases a peek from outside is all you need to get a feel for the place and, of course, won’t cost you a dime.

Shopping in Mitte

Berlin’s major shopping street, Friedrichstrasse, is lined with chain stores like H&M as well as high fashion boutiques by the likes of Gucci, Prada, and so on. You’ll also find several shopping malls and department stores near Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz.

If you’re more in the mood to browse small, fashionable boutiques and design stores, check out Hackescher Markt, Rosenthaler Strasse, and Tor Strasse. Although you’re not likely to find many bargains in any of these areas, they do boast unique shops that are fun to browse. And window shopping is always free!

Tips on how to save on shopping

Avoid the touristy shops on Unter den Linden. You can find all the typical tourist ware and souvenirs at most department stores in Berlin at a slightly lower price.

Germany also still follows two standard yearly sales, Sommerschlussverkauf, the official summer sale, and Winterschlussverkauf, the official winter sale. Although the actual dates can vary year to year, the summer sale is usually for two weeks in July, and the winter sale for two weeks in February. During these sales, you’ll find many deals and discounts at both big box stores as well as little independent shops.

Our tip: Some of the best deals can be found a few weeks after each sale when unsold sale goods are marked down even further.

Warm up with a cheap and tasty bowl of soup at Gaststätte Suppengrün in Mitte. Photo: Metz

Cheap food & drink in Mitte

Like many touristy districts around the world, Mitte is not the best place in the city to search for cheap eats. Many of the restaurants and bars are overpriced and mediocre, particularly around the major tourist centers, such as Friedrichstrasse, Potsdamer Platz, and Alexanderplatz. You’ve been warned!

A few cheap eats we recommend are:

  • Co Co Banh Mi Deli (Rosenthaler Str. 2), a popular place for Vietnamese sandwiches
  • Dada Falafel (Lininenstrasse 132), which makes one of the city’s best falafel sandwiches
  • Gaststätte Suppengrün (Inselstrasse 1a), a lunch-only café with many fresh and delicious homemade soups and salads on offer for around €5. Although the café is standing room only, when the weather is good you can take your food to go and enjoy it in the lovely park around the corner near Märkisches Museum, once home to two actual bears housed in a small, outdoor cage.

Tips on how to save on eating out

If you do get hungry in one of the more touristy areas, head for a bakery or German grocery store. Bakeries in Mitte all offer small sandwiches and salads for less than €5 and many grocery stores (located in the basement floor of every mall) also sell pre-packaged snacks and meals, as well as beer.

For less than a euro, you can grab a beer to pop open and sip or gulp down on the go.

Your Mitte tips

Have some tips to add about saving on your trip to Berlin’s Mitte neighborhood? Share with us in the comments section below!

The post A Budget guide to Mitte, the heart of Berlin appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

A Haunted Hotel in San Diego

Twenty-Something Travel via rss - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 04:54

It’s pretty tough to travel around the globe and not hear a ghost story or two. I’m not sure if I am a Casper the friendly ghost, full on believer yet, but I can appreciate a good haunting story and love when it is part of the culture of a place.

But would you stay in a hotel that was well known as being haunted?

The Grande Colonial hotel in La Jolla, California is the town’s oldest original hotel. It opened its doors in 1913 and therefore has a very rich history. Rooms go for over $300 a night and many have spectacular views of La Jolla cove where the sea lions shack up.

The hotel is well known for its hauntings, and raucous ghostly inhabitants and enjoy hearing new accounts from guests.

During one of the two nights that I was at the Grande Colonial, I had an experience.

Like I said, I don’t know how I feel about ghosts, whether I really believe in them or not, but man I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone else was in my room the entire time I was there. It was weird. I didn’t know the hotel was haunted until after I left too which makes it even more weird.

When I was falling asleep one of the nights I had this absolutely vivid face come to my mind. It was almost like a flash and he was right in front of me. He was older, in his 60s or 70s and had a crack in his head and behind him was a table and a brick.

I wasn’t asleep and the flash was as clear as day. I jumped. Turned the lights on, talked myself down, read a book for a little while and slept with the lights on.

After staying there, and talking about it to others, more ghost stories emerged!

One person said they had a friend that worked there and one night there was a really old woman dressed like she was from the 1800s standing in the lobby. He went up to her and asked her if she needed anything and she asked for a cup of tea. He asked her where she’d like to take it, meaning in the lobby or if she’d like it brought up to her room and she silently pointed at the fireplace. He thought it was weird but turned to go get it, and second guessed himself and turned back around to clarify and she was nowhere to be seen.

According to the hotel, when they recently remodeled to add the infamous Nine-Ten restaurants, the ghosts were not happy. Workers in the restaurant noted quite often that the stove would turn itself up or off on its own, pots would move themselves to different shelves or would wall off the wall without anyone touching them, doors would slam themselves and more. Apparently things quieted down once they got used to the renovations but the ghosts really must have a sweet tooth as the bakery is still one of the most active places to hear noises and voices still today!

The Grande Colonial doesn’t try to hide their haunted rumors and I love that about it. It’s the oldest hotel in La Jolla and has a lot of history and their haunted rumors are part of it. I think it adds to the charm of a place. As long as the rumors aren’t that ghosts torture and kill guests, of course.

Would you stay at a haunted hotel? I didn’t know it was haunted at the time, but now, I may have thought twice!!

A Haunted Hotel in San Diego is a post from Twenty-Something Travel

3 of the Greatest Elite Chopper Excursions at the Grand Canyon

Travel and Leisure - Mon, 10/24/2016 - 18:00
There's two kinds of Grand Canyon chopper excursions. They're basic and deluxe. Undoubtedly, deluxe tours are the best. First, they include more perks. Second they use the better chopper. Find out more. Look at this article.

The Top 3 Deluxe Helicopter Tours Of The Grand Canyon From Las Vegas Or The South Rim

Travel Tips and Destinations - Mon, 10/24/2016 - 12:31
There's two types of Grand Canyon chopper excursions. They're basic and deluxe. Hands down, deluxe trips are the best. First, they have more benefits. Second they use the higher quality heli. Find out more. See this article.

Top 3 Things Not to Miss While Booking Greece Holiday Packages

Travel Tips and Destinations - Mon, 10/24/2016 - 10:12
A mere mention of a historical country like Greece can create a flowing imagery of sparkling waters and white sandy beaches under the sun-drenched sky in your mind. The magic is not in its name but in its picturesque beauty that compels every individual to pay a visit to the country several number of times.

Spooky Travel Week

Twenty-Something Travel via rss - Mon, 10/24/2016 - 04:23

I love Halloween. I love everything creepy and macabre. And travel gives you plenty of opportunities to uncover the strange, unexplained and creepy parts of the world. So this week, while I still while away on maternity leave, we’re going to celebrate the spooky side of travel.

Do you have a spooky or creepy travel story? Share it below!

Spooky Travel Week is a post from Twenty-Something Travel

10 ways to save on hotels in France

EuroCheapo via rss - Fri, 10/21/2016 - 11:22

From small family-run hotels to international hotel chains, France’s hotel scene has something for every type of traveler. At EuroCheapo, we’re always partial to budget-friendly independent hotels, although we’re happy to offer advice for ways to save when booking any kind of accommodation in France.

Before you hit “book” and reserve your hotels for your upcoming trip, keep the following tips in mind in order to score the best rate possible. After all, you’ll sleep tighter when you save a few euros.

1. Your hotel budget goes much further outside Paris.

First-time travelers to Paris often gasp when they first walk into their hotel room. “That’s it?” they stutter, as the door hits the side of the bed.

Yes, for the most part, affordable hotels in Paris have very small rooms, when compared to rooms that you’ll find in smaller towns in France or even in other European capitals (the average hotel room in Berlin, for example, is much larger than in Paris).

To top it all off, that tiny room in Paris can be quite expensive. It could cost you €135 … or more … and that would still be a good deal for Paris.

Fortunately, as you head outside the major French cities (especially Paris and Nice) into smaller destinations and the lovely French countryside, things change dramatically for the better. From Brittany and Normandy to Provence, hotels for the most part offer a better value (and have larger rooms!) than what you’ll find in Paris.

Then again, if you need to sleep near Paris, consider staying in an affordable hotel in a nearby suburb.


The Vieux Relais et Commerce, a Logis hotel in Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire. Photo: cjp24

2. Sleep in a village inn or on a farm.

When traveling through France’s smaller towns, villages, and countryside, you’ll see plenty of hotels, but you’ll also see signs for other types of accommodation, including “chambres d’hotes” (guestrooms), “gites” (guest houses), and “Logis” (a network of small inns).

Logis (formerly Logis de France) is an association of independently-run rural inns, most of which offer fine regional meals in addition to accommodation. Logis sends undercover auditors to test out the guestrooms and restaurants at participating hotels, and classifies them by assigning a number of chimneys (for the hotels) and pots (for the restaurants). Logis serves a wide variety of budgets, offering everything from tiny cheapo-friendly village properties to extravagant chateaux, but nearly all have an abundance of charm.

Another French favorite is the “farm stay”, a sort of rural bed-and-breakfast option (although many offer delicious dinner options, often with locally sourced food). The best part? These can often be booked for less than a standard hotel! Check out the Gites de France website for more info.

3. Stars can be overrated.

We’ve written extensively about this before, but it’s worth repeating: Be savvy when considering a hotel’s star rating. Stars are a classification given to the hotel by a tourism board or government agency, and reflect the services,  amenities, and room size — they do not reflect the quality of the hotel or user rating.

Many hotels game this system by adding lots of extra “stuff” to the room in order to get bumped up to the next star category. For example, a standard two-star hotel can throw in a hairdryer, cosmetic mirror, and safe in the closet… and suddenly get bumped into a three-star.

And conversely, perfectly good hotels can’t add certain services (like an elevator or a breakfast room) because of zoning laws, and thus get stuck in two-star territory.

So be smart about this and don’t strictly limit your options to only one star category. A charming two-star hotel may very well offer a much better experience than a hum-drum three-star hotel.

A cheapo-friendly Hotel F1 located north of Avignon. Photo: catorze

4. Try a budget chain hotel for a surprise-free night.

Sometimes you just need an inexpensive night’s sleep. In France you’ll find several budget chains competing for your reservation. Unsurprisingly, many of these are located outside the center city, in industrial-feeling shopping districts, or just off major highways. Two of the largest budget chains are:

Ibis: The largest economy hotel chain, by far, is Ibis, which operates 1,800 hotels around the world (mostly in Europe). Ibis operates three categories of hotel, regular old perfectly-pleasant Ibis, swankier Ibis Styles, and super cheap Ibis Budget (formerly Etap Hotels).

Hotel F1: A cheaper option than Ibis, F1 (short for “Formule 1”) hotels line the main French highways and city outskirts. We’re fans of F1, as rooms are clean and seriously cheapo… from €22, with free parking.

5. Watch out for extra charges.

When searching for hotels in France and comparing your options, be sure to see what’s included in your room rate.

  • Is Wi-Fi free? It should be at this point, but there are still some hotels charging for it.
  • Is Breakfast included? (See my next point.)
  • Do you need a late checkout? Compare the hotels’ policies.
  • Is parking offered? Is it free? (More on this below.)

Note that in France a tourism tax, called the “taxe de sejour“, is charged per person per night. This charge is almost never included in the room rate that you see when you book your room, but is mandatory for hotels located in most tourist destinations in France.

Until recently, the tax was set at a standard €1.50 per person per night, although this has changed slightly recently due to a new law passed in 2015. In any case, expect to pay a couple more euros per night in tourism-related taxes.

It’s gorgeous! But how much did it cost? Photo: dorlino

6. Ask what’s for breakfast before you pay for it.

Speaking of breakfast, a hotel breakfast in France is usually a bit less robust than what many North American travelers are expecting. A typical French hotel breakfast includes a choice of pastry (usually croissant, sometimes also pain au chocolat) and part of a baguette, butter and jam, coffee or tea, and juice. Possible additions include fresh fruit, yogurt (and muesli), hard boiled eggs, cheeses, and fruit. In all but the ritziest four-star hotel buffets, you can forget about omelets, bacon, sausage, etc.

You’ll be asked at check-in if you’d like to have breakfast. As the options are usually pretty limited and breakfast is almost never included in the room rate, it’s best to ask in advance what the breakfast consists of before committing to it. Or, at the very least, only commit to one day of breakfast if you’re staying for several days. You can test it out, and then see if you can do better elsewhere. You’ll most likely find a nearby cafe that offers something even better at a more reasonable price.

Related: How to save on breakfast in Paris.

Where you gonna park? Driving into the pedestrian heart of Angers, France. Photo: alainrouiller

7. Driving? Think about parking when choosing your hotel’s location.

When choosing your hotel’s location, consider your parking options. I’m always a fan of sleeping in the old center cities of French towns. In Avignon, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Chartres, Aix-en-Provence… I tend to look for hotels that are in the historic old town (“centre ville”), and sometimes within the old walls, too. It’s where all the action is, including the top sights, restaurants, and activities.

While these central spots are often convenient for those arriving by train (many stations are within a quick walk of the old center cities), those arriving by car might have an expensive surprise awaiting them. Be aware that many of these historic centers are pedestrian-only zones, and hotels in these areas almost never offer free parking for guests.

This shouldn’t dissuade you from choosing a hotel here, of course, as parking options will be offered by the hotel — however, you’ll most likely have to pay top dollar for it. Garages inside the “old centers” tend to be the most expensive anywhere. When comparing hotels, you might find hotels within a quick walk of the old center that offer free onsite parking. It might be worth the walk to avoid an overpriced garage.

Related: Tips for renting a car and driving in France

8. Should you book early or last minute? It depends.

As I wrote in my article about when to book hotels for the best rates, if you have your eye on a particular hotel, book it. If it’s a popular, top-rated property, or you’re visiting during the high season, you should just go ahead and secure a room as far in advance as possible.

However, if you’re more flexible about where you stay and you’re not traveling during peak travel times or when a local festival or business conference is happening, you could take a chance on scoring a last-minute deal. It only makes sense to play “wait and see”, however, if you do preliminary hotel searches and see lots of availability for your travel dates. If you see only a few hotels available, you’d be better off booking something right away, as waiting could force you to stay in a far-flung location or pay through the nose.

9. Finding super high rates? Be wary… and be flexible.

If your hotel searches are turning up surprisingly expensive rates, you might have stumbled into festival or conference dates. (This is a regular issue travelers face when unwittingly booking Paris trips during fashion weeks.)

Try adjusting the dates back or forward a week. If you see a big change, visit the website of the city’s official tourism office to determine if your visit is coinciding with a special event or business conference. If you have flexibility with your itinerary, it might be wise to change course and visit at another date.

10. Book on EuroCheapo!

Naturally, we can’t wrap up the article without mentioning that EuroCheapo offers reservations at thousands of budget-friendly hotels (and gites!) in France. Sleep better knowing your not blowing your budget in your sleep.

Your tips?

Have a tip about ways to save at hotels in France? Share with us in our comments section below!

The post 10 ways to save on hotels in France appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

10 Reasons You Need To Get To Australia's East Coast Now

Travel Articles - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 08:13
Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Byron Bay… the route along Australia's east coast is the country's most popular backpacker trail for a tonne of good reasons. Whether you hop on and off public buses or DIY with a few mates in a campervan, here are 10 reasons why you should pack your bags and head there now.

How to Meet People While Traveling as a Couple

Twenty-Something Travel via rss - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 04:23

Meeting people from all over the world is one of the most rewarding parts of traveling, but it’s something that a lot of couple travelers miss out on. Most people seem to have no problem approaching solo travelers or even groups of friends, but often hesitate when it comes to couples — maybe worrying about becoming a third wheel or interrupting the couple’s private time together. Whatever the reason, the result is that it’s easy for couple travelers to become an isolated unit. Here are a few tips for preventing the couple bubble when you’re traveling with your SO.

Stay in Social Places

Staying in hostels is pretty much the top piece of advice for solo travelers interested in meeting people on the road, but it’s equally good advice for couples. Sometimes my husband and I stay in dorms and other times we opt for a private room, but in either case, we always take advantage of the opportunity to meet other travelers in the common areas and join in hostel social events.

Lately AirBnB has been replacing hostels as our go-to type of accommodation, so we typically choose private or shared rooms rather than renting an entire home/apartment. This gives us the opportunity to interact with the hosts, as well as other guests if the home has more than one room. When the dynamic is right, we’re able to form a little family with our hosts and the other guests for a few days, sharing stories and cooking meals together, and it can be a really wonderful experience.

Couchsurfing is another awesome option. Of course, it doesn’t really work for couples if the host has a literal couch (although if there are couples out there that can make that work, I’d love to know!), but tons of hosts have sofa beds or standard beds. The added perk is that there are regular Couchsurfing meet-ups in tons of cities around the world, which can be great opportunities to socialize with local hosts as well as other travelers. Even if you’re not Couchsurfing in a certain city, you can still attend an event there if you’re part of the network.

Be Outgoing

Other couples will occasionally strike up a conversation with us, but for the most part, we’re usually the ones to initiate conversations with other people. As I mentioned above, people often seem to assume that couples aren’t interested in socializing with others, which means you have to make the first move.

It’s not always easy. I know how nerve-racking it can be to simply say “hi” to a random stranger. I wish I could say I’m fearless about introducing myself to people whether I’m alone or with my husband, but frankly, I find it easier to be outgoing when we’re together. If the person doesn’t respond well or doesn’t seem interested in chatting, being able to simply go back to talking to one another kind of takes the edge off the rejection!

When it comes to connecting with locals, learning a few words of the local language is always helpful. I’m the first to admit that speaking a language you hardly know can be intimidating, but that’s exactly what makes it a perfect ice-breaker. Stumbling over words definitely makes you come across as more approachable, and the fact that you’re trying to have a conversation despite your less than stellar language skills demonstrates how eager you are to socialize.

Get Involved in Group Activities

Group activities are a fantastic way to mix-up the routine of doing everything as a pair. Tons of cities around the world offer free walking tours. I love them because in addition to socializing with other people on the walk, the tours usually provide a nice overview of the city and a sense of the areas we might want to explore in depth later.

If you’re visiting a place for a bit longer, language classes are one of my favorite options. Not only do you meet people in class, but learning the local language increases the number of people you’ll be able to communicate with in the future. If you don’t want to sign up for a formal class, you can usually find free language exchanges through hostels, Facebook groups, or Meetup.

Group activities that involve learning a new skill are always a safe bet. There’s something about a shared learning experience that naturally brings people together. Depending on the destination, you can take lessons cooking, diving, surfing, flower arranging — you get the idea.

Make the Effort

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but whenever my husband and I find that we’re not meeting people on the road, it’s because we’re just not trying to. It’s so much safer and easier to lazily retreat into the couple bubble instead of putting ourselves out there. Ultimately, the key to meeting people while traveling as couple is continuing to push outside your comfort zones. Keep reminding yourselves that it’s worth the effort, because travel takes on so many incredible new dimensions when it’s shared with new friends.

How to Meet People While Traveling as a Couple is a post from Twenty-Something Travel

5 Things To Do At A Ski Resort That Don't Involve Skiing

Travel Tips and Destinations - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 06:58
Skiing is a favorite pastime for many vacationers, especially during the winter months. It is not uncommon for resorts to fill up their reservations at a record pace once skiing season hits, and yet many people still don't know how to ski or simply don't enjoy it. Why would they bother booking reservations if they are not interested in the number one activity the resorts are meant to cater to? Because, there are many other fun things to do at a ski resort many of which don't require skiing at all. Here are 5 things to do besides go skiing.

The Majesty of El Nido, Palawan: Top 3 Activities To Do When Visiting Paradise

Travel Articles - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 21:19
Palawan is also a home to newly discovered species of animals and some species that's just waiting to be discovered. They can be found in the forest areas and the marine zones of the area. Indeed, this place is just full of mysteries when it comes to the animal inhabitants.

9 Shopping Streets of London for Photography Addicts

Travel Tips and Destinations - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 08:57
London has a its own lifestyle and at each footstep, one will experience something new which is quite beneficial for a man who has passion about capturing moments of life with his camera. In the city, many shopping streets are busy with not only with shoppers but one can experience eccentric scene for a good photography here.

Where to Go in Greece for a Romantic Holiday

Travel Tips and Destinations - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 08:27
The word romance creates a distinctive picture of heart-stopping vistas, soothing breeze flowing through and intimate moments with your beloved. Yes, when it comes to a romantic holiday, you will find no better destination than Greece that offers perfect backdrop to revive the feeling and passion of love in your life. You can visit numerous places in this placid country of islands and beaches to make your romantic getaway, marriage proposal or honeymoon moments even more memorable.

How to Fight with Your Significant Other While Traveling

Twenty-Something Travel via rss - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 04:16

Traveling with someone you love is fantastic in so many ways… until it’s not. Close confines and stressful conditions mean that bickering is pretty much inevitable and, if you’re not careful, it’s easy for silly conflicts to mushroom cloud into nuclear arguments.

This is something I know a thing or two about. For over six years now, pretty much our entire relationship, Mike and I have been traveling together. Like they say, it’s the best way to truly get to know someone. While we make pretty great travel companions now, that first year was not always easy. We argued our way through China, Thailand and Vietnam, then the next year through South America. The good times outweighed the bad by FAR, but I think we could have saved ourselves some long, silent bus rides with a little better knowledge of how to deal.

So while I’ve written before on how to survive travel as a couple, I wanted to talk about something a little more specific: The inevitability of the travel fight.  Here is what I’ve learned about how to keep a little disagreement from turning into a big one, and how to still love each other even when you feel like murder.

Check Your Blood Sugar

This is the face of hanger (He’s gonna kill me for posting this)

Seriously, this is my biggest piece of relationship advice on the road (or maybe even not on the road). Hangryness is real, and it effects us all.

It took me months to figure out that 95% of the time when Mike was cranky or angry, he was really just hungry. Some people go total Jekyll and Hyde when their blood sugar drops, and my husband is one of them. I on the other hand, get overly-emotional when hungry. That’s a great combination as you can imagine.

Now at the first sign of unreasonable crankiness I insist we eat something. When we travel I usually carry snacks in my purse- granola bars work great, and it has made all the difference in the world when it comes to avoiding pointless spats.

Other Stressors

In my experience, 99% of all travel fights can be traced to one or both parties being hungry (see above), tired, or stressed. Travel is so fun but it can also be really stressful, especially in more difficult countries. It’s really easy to channel that annoyance are your surroundings into annoyance at your partner.

When I find myself getting irritated with Mike on a travel day I try to check myself: Am I annoyed at him or annoyed in general? Sometimes a quick stop for a coffee or a beer, or maybe a nap, can save a mood that’s otherwise circling the drain. If you’re constantly at each other’s throats, consider the idea you may be traveling too fast, and slow down for some relaxation.

Practice Alone Time (Even Together)

Spending 24 hours a day together, every single day can make even the best relationship crack under the pressure. All of a sudden your partners adorable quirks are just infuriating and literally everything they do is annoying as hell.

The best way to stay off each other’s nerves is to find some time to be alone. Split up for the day and spend a few hours by yourself. It may seem counter-intuitive, you’re traveling to be together after all, but it allows you to regenerate some of your good will. Plus you will have something new to talk about at dinner!

If it’s really not possible to spend time apart, learn to practice alone time together. Mike and I can sit in the same room for hours, each doing our own thing, not speaking. He’ll play a computer game maybe, I’ll read a book. Is that sad? It can be a valuable skill when you’re trapped in a tiny hostel room together.

Communicate (when calm)

Sometimes you will have serious issues that crop up during travel and need to be hashed out. Try to have these conversations while calm and ideally, while sober. Nobody wants to be that drunk couple screaming at each other outside the hostel.

Instead of hurling accusations, work towards resolving the problem with a compromise or a solution.

Keep Things in Perspective

One of the worst travel days, turned pretty nice at the end.

Otherwise known as choose your battles. Are you super pissed off that your partner ate the last granola bar/ didn’t check the opening hours for the museum/ had a total directions fail and now you are hopeless lost? Understandable, and maybe worth some quiet stewing, but once your blood pressure goes down a bit, remind yourself that you are on an amazing adventure with someone you love (who probably has some redeeming qualities despite their inability to read google maps)- how lucky is that?

You can’t control how other people act, but you can choose your response. You shouldn’t bottle up your feelings, but you can choose a measured response, or a sense of humor, over anger. Ultimately your attitude is going to dictate your trip.

When things just seem too much, there’s always tomorrow. A good night’s sleep can cure most disagreements, then you can get back to enjoy your vacation, and each other.

How to Fight with Your Significant Other While Traveling is a post from Twenty-Something Travel