Founded in the 12th century, Tallinn with its ancient city walls, high church spires and red roof tops it was an irresistible sight. Walking around on the cobble stoned streets and alleyways lined with medieval houses in mixes of German, Russian, Swedish and Danish architecture, you feel as though you have stepped back in time. To add to the experience, shop keepers and restaurant waiters are all dressed up in medieval outfits. Some people might have found it a bit tacky, but personally I think it enhanced the feeling and made it easy to imagine what life would have been like a few hundred years ago.
To read more about our time in Tallinn, make sure you check out:
We’re in Tallinn Estonia the capital city of Estonia. We’re going to start the morning by visiting the beautiful Town Wall. The Town Wall dates back to the 14th century, and it’s one of Europe’s best preserved medieval fortifications. It’s really impressive. It used to be 2.4 kilometers long, and today, 1.9 is still standing. I think it’s what gives Thailand its beautiful, medieval, fairy tale charm. I think it’s so cute. When you’re a kid you hear about the fairy tales, and the knights, and the castles and the Princes, and you think it’s this wild imagination, but here in Tallinn, it’s real. It’s real. It’s so cute and it’s so amazing. Your imagination becomes a reality. It’s awesome.
Apparently, in the 17th century, this church behind me was one of the tallest buildings in the world. Let’s go and have a closer look. We were about to go in the church. You said it was the tallest building in the 17th century? We can’t go inside because there’s a wedding being held in there. I’ve never seen a steeple so tall before. It’s so long. Apparently, it’s been hit by lightning like for or five times, and each time it’s been burnt to the ground, so I’m really not sure why they built a steeple so high. We’re in Raekoja plats, the town square, which was a popular meeting place for locals and a few executions. One of the most famous executions was that of a priest who was served a really bad omelet, and he killed the waitress with an ax. Not exactly a good reason. Anyway, today there’s a lot of cafés around, so we’re going to go try and find some lunch.
Something I think really enhances the feeling of this Old Town are all the people here dressed up in medieval traditional clothes. I think it’s really cool. I just bought some roasted almonds from one of them, and they taste really nice. What Estonian people miss the most when they’re on holiday is the black bread. It’s Estonian rye bread, and it looks like this. It looks like a bloody brick. It’s so heavy. We bought—for two Euro, we bought 1.5 kilo of black bread. And it weighs a ton. This is crazy. Apparently, it tastes best with cheese. Let’s has a bite. That’s really good. That’s really nice. It’s really thick and very dark. Yeah really thick. Next we’re going to visit the most beautiful street in town. They say that this is the most beautiful street in Tallinn, and it really, really is pretty, but to be honest, I think the whole Old Town is just beautiful. Now we’re going to go check out Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral. We’re standing outside Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral, a Russian orthodox cathedral which has become sort of an icon of Thailand, which some of the locals find a bit annoying, because they see it as a symbol of oppression from the Russians. Let’s have a look inside. Well they wouldn’t let us inside. We have no idea why. No, that’s the second time it’s happened today with churches. I think it looks really cooler from the outside. Those dome on top are really colorful, it’s a great structure. Since we can’t go inside, we’re going to walk around the corner and apparently there’s a great view overlooking Tallinn. I think it’s the best way to finish our day here.
When I found out my next assignment was going to be in Acapulco, I immediately felt wary. I’m still a newbie to travel in Mexico, and I couldn’t remember exactly what I had heard about Acapulco but I had a feeling that it hadn’t been good.
Some online research only worsened my concerns, as I skimmed through articles talking about high levels of violence and blood-stained sand dunes. Part of me knew it was scare-mongering-hype, but some of the images were difficult to shake off.
So let’s cut through the fear-driven headlines and get real: Is it safe to travel to Acapulco?The Short Answer
Basically, yes, it’s safe to travel to Acapulco. Although the surrounding state of Guerrero is listed on US and Canadian travel advisories, Acapulco remains excluded from these lists. I spent 12 days alone in Acapulco, and I never felt like I was in any danger.The Long Answer
Acapulco and I didn’t get off to a good start. As my taxi from the airport turned onto Avenida Costera Miguel Aleman (the Costera), the city’s main tourist road, we pulled up directly behind a police vehicle.
The uneasiness this caused me wasn’t because the vehicle had six officers standing in the back of it; or because they were dressed in full uniform complete with rifles – but because they were pointing those rifles squarely at the surrounding traffic. So that’s how we drove down the street: Behind this mini-army and literally staring down the barrel of one officer’s rifle the entire time.
This wasn’t the last time I saw one of these police convoys during my visit, and it was always the same- guns never holstered, instead out and ready as if the officers might need to open a barrage on rush hour traffic at any moment.
In addition to these aggressive-looking vehicles, police presence in Acapulco was high across the board, with officers also standing watch over most beaches. I’m not sure if it’s all designed to make tourists feel safer, but it definitely has the opposite effect. Seeing all those officers created a tension that I don’t think I would have felt otherwise – an edgy sense that things could descend into chaos at any moment.
The beaches were packed with tourists, but I only saw maybe one or two other foreigners in almost two weeks. A few of the hotel managers I talked to told me that more Canadians and Americans visit during the winter, but I have a feeling that was just overly optimistic talk (particularly since Isla Mujeres, for example, was filled with foreign tourists only a few weeks earlier). Everything I read before visiting indicated that foreign tourists have been avoiding Acapulco over the last few years and everything I saw confirmed that.Safety Tips
When I was researching for the trip, the main piece of advice I received from other travelers was “don’t go into the hills” (a rather ominous-sounding recommendation). So that’s what I did – I stuck to the touristy area of the city that runs along the coastline. This road was busy with bars, restaurants, shopping malls, families with little kids, women in track suits doing calisthenics in the park, and all the other trappings of a normal city. I felt totally comfortable walking along this road to find a place to eat or pick up drinking water at the convenience store.
Acapulco has a few bus systems that run along the Costera, which are the easiest way to get around. I mostly stuck with taxis because I was changing hotels every night for my assignment, and dragging a lot of expensive camera gear around. I asked the hotels to hail taxis for me, so that I could be sure they were licensed.
There are a lot of places in the world where I feel ok having a beer with dinner and then walking back to my hotel, but Acapulco isn’t one of them. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I did feel I needed to have my guard up 100% at all times. This was a subjective decision, of course, and it’s best to trust your own instincts.Should You Go?
I wanted to come home telling everyone how beautiful and misunderstood Acapulco is, but the truth is that I can’t see myself ever going back.
For one, the beaches just don’t measure up, with their coarse sands and border of aging hotels. Acapulco’s other main draw is nightlife, which is not something I seek out as a traveler – particularly when I’m traveling alone. With so many people advising me to stick to the main streets, I couldn’t really do the aimless wandering I like to do when exploring a new city. It also meant that most of the restaurants I ate at were geared towards tourists – maybe I was just unlucky, but pretty much all the meals I had in Acapulco were overpriced and not that good.
That doesn’t mean Acapulco doesn’t have anything going for. Although I found the beaches a bit disappointing up close, the classic view of curved Santa Lucia Bay bordered by hills dotted with houses of all shapes and sizes is undeniably striking. Every time I looked at that vista, I understood why Acapulco became a hotspot for celebrities in the mid-20th century. Also, with so few foreign tourists, it’s definitely a perfect place to practice Spanish and chat with locals. And if you are into the clubbing and partying scene, there’s a lot of it.
So is Acapulco safe? Yes. Is it worth the trip? Maybe not.
Camera NIKON D200
Focal Length 18mm
Exposure Time 1/60
Many people forget about Tasmania when visiting Australia. Given its location off the mainland of the country, it takes a bit more work to get there, so it is a place that people often leave “for later”.
That’s too bad, because Tasmania offers something very different from the rest of the country. Most of Australia is a desert, however, Tasmania is quite green. The forests have some of the tallest trees in the world. I even saw snow on the top of Mount Wellington when I was in Hobart, something you will rarely see in the rest of Australia.
It’s common for travelers to make the practical option of staying in an inexpensive hotel or hostel. After all, in most cases you really just need a safe, comfortable place to sleep in at the end of a busy day that’s spent sightseeing and other outdoor activities. However, some tourists do prefer to extend their pursuit of exploring and encountering new experiences to their choice of accommodations as well. This is why there is a rise in the popularity of unusual hotels. Themed hotels are popping up all over the world, and they aim to offer something new that will set them apart from other hotels out there. People are now given more options that extend beyond just a comfy bed and a clean room, to hotels that offer a unique, unforgettable experience to their customers. Oftentimes these hotels will cost a bit more than your typical hotel and hostel, but if you’re willing to set aside extra funds for adding some extra flavor during your stay, it should be a new experience that you can add to the memories you’ll be making throughout your trip. Here are 5 notable hotels that you are worth checking in to.Unusual Hotels Around The World
When they say “capsule”, they mean it literally. You basically just have bed space, and you are enclosed inside a capsule. For just around 3,500 Yen per night, you get a comfortable, enclosed sleeping space. While a bit futuristic and definitely unconventional, Capsule Inn is gaining quite the popularity among travelers and locals who travel on business who seek for practicality. Their tagline says “More reasonable than a business hotel, better sleep than an Internet café!” and it definitely says it all. Sleeping in capsules will definitely save your money. Capsule Inn is a great choice for travelers, especially backpackers who are on a shoestring budget, who don’t mind not having the luxuries of a real hotel. It may be uncomfortable at first to be enclosed in a tight space, but if you don’t have real issues such as claustrophobia, then this is a great choice that you should consider when you’re in Tokyo.
For ladies, these hotels also have a “Ladies Only” floors if you are a lady traveller and would prefer some extra privacy. A popular misconception about these hotels is that only men check into Capsule Inns. But a lot of women are also considering these hotels as convenient, budget-friendly, and safe space to spend the night. Capsule Inn has several branches all over Tokyo, specifically Kanda, Shinjuku, and Shinsaibashi.Dog Bark Park Inn – Idaho, USA
In a small town in Idaho called Cottonwood, you can find a dog bed and breakfast. But, it’s not what you might think at first because it’s actually a hotel that’s shaped like a giant beagle, located in a prairie. This dog-shaped inn is built by a couple, who are both chainsaw artists, back in 1997. They specialize in dog-themed art, and they initially became famous for their line of dog-shaped carvings. Earnings from these dog artworks were used to fund the construction of this inn. They only have 1 room available for $98 per night, which includes a beautiful, doggie-themed room with folk art dog décor, full amenities, a beautiful array of breakfast foods and homemade pastries, recreational activities in the form of books, puzzles, and games, as well as a relaxing atmosphere without distractions such as TVs and phones. Guests are even treated with some sweet dog-shaped biscuits for them upon checking into their room. Another highlight that guests can enjoy in this place is their family recipe of the best fruit granola, using fruits that are harvested from the prairie.
This place is a must-see destination for dog and animal lovers. Dog Bark Park Inn’s booking period is only from April 1 to October 31, and since there is only one room (that can accommodate up to four people), you will have to book several months in advance. Dog Bark Park Inn is of course, friendly to pets as well, and can accommodate your furry pals for an added fee. This place offers a wholesome, fun experience that’s surely unforgettable.
In Oregon, you can find this unique hotel that features tree house accommodations. This “treesort” offers a nature-filled, offbeat experience for outdoorsy folks, adventurers and tourists alike. Located beside Siskiyou National Forest, this bed and breakfast offers more than just cozy tree house accommodation, but also boasts a ton of activities you can do on the site. Out ‘n’ About is comprised of a total of 9 tree houses, and a series of ladders and staircases are used to access these structures. Hanging bridges and catwalks also connect some of the treehouses together. The most popular activity here is their expansive zip lines, and they have several zip lines that are highly enjoyable and offer a unique view of the forest. For adrenaline thrill-seekers, they have a Tarzan Swing is a 50 feet pendulum swing hung atop the tall trees.
Rafting, tree climbing and hiking are also among the many outdoor activities you can do at this place. They also offer arts and crafts classes, volleyball, Ping-Pong and basketball too. There’s a lot in store for recreational activities for everyone in the family. This is a refreshing and incredible destination for family vacations, and stepping away from the city environment to get a dose of nature. For those people who are on the fence about camping, perhaps sleeping in a tree house will sound more appealing and comfortable, as some of these tree houses have built in bathrooms as well. They offer delicious, homemade breakfasts as well. Reservations to this place should be made at least a year ahead as this place gets a lot of guests for obvious reasons stated above.
With eco-tourism on the rise, and people waking up to pursue more sustainable lifestyle choices, Whitepod in Switzerland is a great destination for those who would like to enjoy a more down-to-earth, nature-filled experience without harming the environment or disregarding comfort. Located atop a mountain, above the village of Les Cerniers, several white “pods” or structured tents are pitched atop wooden platforms. Guests are treated to breathtaking views of the great Swiss landscape and Lake Geneva. Pods are equipped with comfortable, luxurious amenities such as organic bedding, wood-burning stove, tea kitchen, and a terrace. During winter, this place becomes a winter wonderland, filled with fluffy, white snow, and it’s a great destination for enthusiasts of snow activities such as skiing and sledding. They also have 2 wellness centers for guests who are looking for some rest and relaxation.
What’s great about Whitepod, aside from giving tourists a chance to reconnect with unspoiled nature, are its advocacies. They take positive steps to ensuring water and energy consumptions are reduced. They promote biodiversity, and try to minimize the use of lights in the evening for the benefit of the animals and wildlife cohabiting in that area. Aside from that, the pods change in color depending on the season that enables it to blend with the surrounding nature, so it changes from green to white. They also advocate the reduction of waste by purchasing their supplies in bulk to reduce the use of single-use packaging, which then reduces the use of fuel and carbon emissions.Attrap’Rêves – France
If you’ve always wanted to sleep in nature, under the stars, but dislike the idea of sleeping inside an uncomfortable, pitched tent in the middle of the forest, Attrap’Reves in France will be very appealing to you. This hotel’s rooms are actually transparent bubbles that allow you to sleep beside nature, but still remain protected from the elements such as rain, mosquitoes, animals, and so on. These bubbles are fully furnished, with comforts of a typical hotel. Each bubble is located in a secluded spot away from all the other bubbles, which provide a sense of privacy, if that’s your concern. However, there are also bubbles that offer a bit more privacy by being just partially transparent, too. Noise-free blowers keep these bubbles inflated and acts as the air filtration and recycling system. Each bubble is equipped with a shower area and running water with a sink. Food, Jacuzzis and other amenities are available in a main building. They also have telescopes and star charts on site, which guests can use for stargazing activities. Attrap’Reves, as of this writing, has 5 locations in France: Allauch, Forcalquier, La Bouilladisse, Montagnac Montpezat, and Puget Ville. Each location has only 6 bubbles on site, which helps preserve the tranquil, serene atmosphere, and ensures that the level of privacy is always high. These bubble rooms are great options to stay for a unique but comfortable experience to be surrounded by beautiful, natural scenery.
The next time you travel to these countries, stray away from the norm of commercial, luxury hotels, and do give these unusual hotels to your itinerary. Though, for most of these hotels you’ll have to book in advance to secure your stay, since these places draw in crowds who are looking for a unique accommodation experience.
Preparing for an upcoming trip to Paris and looking for the perfect place to stay for your budget? The options can be a bit overwhelming, and the room rates rather shocking. How many stars should you book? Which neighborhood is recommended… and which should be avoided? What’s for breakfast? Why are the rates so high?
We’ve got you covered with some advice that will show you how to find the perfect hotel at the right price. Read on!A quick love letter to small hotels in Paris
First, a quick personal note. I love Paris’ small family-run hotels. Even in this age of globalized, normalized and homogenized travel experiences, Paris is still home to a good crop of independently owned and operated hotels. I’ve been visiting and reviewing these hotels since we launched EuroCheapo in 2001, and you can read all of my hotel recommendations here.
On EuroCheapo, we really dig smallish hotels with a unique sense of style, a fun history, interesting proprietor, or other unique angle. And while the city is also filled with standard chain hotels, an ever-increasing number of boutique hotels, and countless apartment rentals (all of which can be great, if that’s your thing!), Paris also still offers a wide array of interesting and independent small hotels that won’t blow your budget.
So, how can you save on these hotels? Here are my top 13 tips:1. Know your seasons
While you’ll always find tourists in Paris no matter what time of year you visit, some seasons are simply busier than others and thus, more expensive. The city’s three main tourist seasons are, roughly speaking:
• Low season: November – March (excluding the holidays)
• Shoulder season: August, October, and April
• High season: May – July, and September
Low season, as we discussed in this article, is obviously the cheapest time to visit, although it also has the dreariest weather. However, hotel occupancy is way down in the city, leading to great deals on hotels that would normally be way to rich for our cheapo blood. Other advantages include no lines at museums, wide-ranging cultural offerings, and the chance to see everyday Parisians at work and play.
High season, running from early May to late July, and September, is the most popular time to visit, quite frankly, because many visitors simply don’t have a choice. Given vacation and academic schedules, this is the only time they can come. If this is your situation (and it is for the majority of our readers), make the best of it. Hotel rates will be at their peak, and lines will be long at top attractions. But hey, the weather will probably be great and you might wind up with a nice tan. (Here are some tips for beating those lines.) Note that September is also considered high season, as it’s a very popular time and the weather tends to be perfect.
Shoulder season, the transition period between high and low seasons, is an excellent (and cheaper) alternative to high season travel. Kids are back in school, lines are far shorter (or nonexistent), and the weather mild and comfortable. Hotel rates also drop considerably, as they compete for fewer travelers. If you have flexibility in your schedule, but still want decent weather, try coming during this period.2. Find lower rates in August
August in Paris is a peculiar time to visit, as many of the city’s residents bolt from town on the first weekend of the month, taking off for several weeks of vacation. This leaves behind a city of tourists (along with some locals who either couldn’t or didn’t want to leave town). The hotels, however, remain open, but lodge fewer tourists than the earlier summer months and are thus forced to lower their rates.
The feeling in town is a bit odd. Everyday shops, food stands, and restaurants pull their grates down and lock up for several weeks, leaving behind just a handwritten message about the date of their return. Tourists wander the streets, many of them just fine with the fact that the tourist/local balance has been upended. (Read more about the pros and cons of visiting in August.)
Visiting Paris in August can be great for budget-conscious summer travelers, as deals abound. The same hotel room can be had for quite a bit less in August than it would have cost in June or July.3. Watch out for fashion week and conferences
If you’re searching around for hotels for your dates and everything is coming back sky-high, you might be planning your trip during a fashion week or while a big convention is in town. While it can be fun to see the city packed with models and industry types, they also drive up hotel rates (and tend to take over museums with their special events!).
Avoid these upcoming fashion weeks:
• September 29, 2015 – October 7, 2015 (Ready to Wear)
• January 20 – 24, 2016 (Men’s fashion)
• January 24-29, 2017 (Haute Couture)
• Read more on the “Mode a Paris” website.
These days, it can be difficult to know whether or not to book your hotel in advance or wait around until the last minute to snag a deal. As we discussed in this post on when to book your hotel, it really depends on when you’re traveling and what your priorities are. Here are a few tips:
• Visiting during low or shoulder season and just want the best deal? You could probably wait until the last minute for rates to come down. This would be a good strategy if you just want to find a last-minute deal on any three- or four-star hotel.
• Visiting during high season? Book in advance for the best selection at the best rates, especially if you’ll be in town from May-July. Waiting too long runs the risk of limiting your options, and could cause you to book something expensive in a less-than-ideal neighborhood.
• Visiting anytime and have a specific hotel you’d like to stay in? Book it in advance to secure your room. Especially if you plan to book any of the city’s most popular hotels (like those on our list of the “Top 10 best budget hotels“), they will fill up.
• Feel like playing the game? Another strategy that’s recently become popular: You could also book a hotel well in advance with a refundable rate that allows you to cancel. As the travel date gets closer, you could continue to search around for a better deal. However, take note: You often pay a premium for these refundable rates, as the non-refundable rates for the same room might be 10-15% less. Also, be sure to read the terms for cancellation, as many “refundable” reservations actually become non-refundable several days before check-in. If you’re going to play this game, know the window during which you can cancel.5. Understand that stars are not user ratings
Most of the hotels that we’ve reviewed on EuroCheapo are two- or three-star hotels. Note that these stars don’t reflect a customer rating, but rather the hotel’s category, from 0 to 5, given to the hotel by the city’s tourism board. The more services and amenities a hotel offers, the higher the star rating. Tourism officials regularly visit the hotels, inspect and check off the amenities: elevator, breakfast room, air conditioning, safe… check, check, check, check!
However, as I wrote about in this article, star ratings can offer a lopsided view of hotels, especially in Paris where it can be difficult or impossible to obtain permits to do renovations (like adding elevators or expanding bathrooms). This can limit the star power of properties in old buildings, and keep perfectly fine, spic-and-span hotels stuck in the one- or two-star category. Meanwhile, other properties sloppily game the system, adding a long list of ho-hum amenities and services that you’re unlikely to use (laundry services, telephones, DVD players) in order to inflate their star rating.
In short: Don’t corner yourself into thinking that you absolutely need a four-star or three-star hotel. If possible, be flexible, fall back a star, and you could find some great savings.
Check out this list of recommended two-star hotels in Paris. Many actually offer better hotel experiences than “fancier” and (more expensive) three-star hotels.6. Be comfortable, but don’t pay for amenities you don’t need
At the same time, understand what you need in order to be comfortable. Find the right balance: Choose a hotel that offers those things you need, but don’t pay for services and amenities that you won’t use. Here’s a cheat sheet:
• Are you willing to share a bath with another room (or several rooms)? If so, you can sleep very cheaply at these one-star hotels.
• Do you need an elevator? Private bath? Free Wi-Fi? It’s possible to find all three in a well-run one-star hotel (like the Hotel Tiquetonne). However, these three amenities will generally put you in two-star hotel territory, where you’re also likely to find rooms with TV and nicer bathrooms (with hairdryer).
• If you need air conditioning, you’ll almost certainly have to bump up to the three-star category, where you’ll also likely find a minibar, safe, and other extras. Keep in mind, however, that you’re really only likely to take advantage of the air conditioning during the warmest summer months (July and August). Some AC systems won’t even work during non-summer months.7. Consider budget-friendly hotels in the center
I visit Paris several times a year to stay on top of our hotel listings, and when I do, I tend to sleep in the city center. I’d actually rather choose a one- or two-star hotel in the center, than have a three- or four-star hotel in the outskirts of town. Why? I like being able to walk out the door of my hotel and get to the Louvre, or dinner, or a park quickly. I love to walk in Paris or take a Velib’ bike — and a central hotel makes getting around easy and limits the number of times I take the Metro (and makes cabs unnecessary).
My favorite sleeps in the center include:
Cental Right Bank:
• Popular and cheapo pick: Hotel Tiquetonne
• Marais country cottage: Hotel Jeanne d’Arc
• Gilt-y pleasure in the Marais: Hotel de Nice
• Hidden romancer: Hotel Chopin
• Colorful and convenient: Hotel du Nord
• Bastille hotspot: Hotel Daval
• Upper Marais and reliable: Hotel Paris France
Central Left Bank:
• Kooky Notre Dame neighbor: Hotel Esmeralda
• Jazz Age favorite: Hotel La Louisiane
• Old school charmer: Hotel Saint Andre des Arts
• Mural-filled fun: Hotel de Nesle
• Luxembourg Gardens neighbor: Residence du Palais
• Friendly and family pick: Hotel Marignan
• Academic and quiet: Hotel des 3 Colleges
• Blvd St-Michel old timer: Hotel de Suez
• Balconies a-plenty: Grand Hotel des Balcons
The counter argument to this, of course, is that if you’re willing to ride the city’s efficient Metro system to and from your hotel, you could choose a hotel situated farther afield, including in the nearby suburbs, and find an excellent deal (including on three- and four-star hotels).
This might seem a bit obvious, but it’s worth mentioning to those new to searching for hotels online: When doing a hotel search for your travel dates, whether on EuroCheapo or any other site, use search filters to drill down to find properties that works for you. Don’t just assume that the hotels on the first page are going to be the best bet for your trip. In many cases, these might be too expensive or not fit your needs.
Instead, use filters strategically to limit hotels to those in your preferred neighborhoods, star rating, price range, and user review score. The deals are there, but they might take a bit of clicking to uncover.10. Consider a trendy new hostel
While we’re at it, why not consider sleeping in a hostel? They’re not just for “youths” anymore — most don’t have any age limit, and many offer rooms with private bath. Here’s a list of reviewed hostels in Paris.
Also to consider, the brand-new Generator Hostel, with swanky new rooms and a cool location near the Canal St-Martin.11. You might need to call to reserve
Paris is unusual in that many of the city’s most popular small budget hotels are actually not bookable through online reservation websites (for example, Booking.com, which powers EuroCheapo’s online reservations). Look at the list above of my favorite central hotels. More than half of these are not actually available to book through our system.
So why are we listing them? Well, because we still think they offer an extraordinary value. However, you’ll need to call or email them directly to reserve, or book through their own website. (We include phone numbers and websites in our reviews.) Don’t want to mess around with that? Then simply stick to our “bookable” hotels. Do a city-wide search from the search box above (or on our Paris homepage) to see what’s available to book immediately.12. Watch out for extra charges
When searching around for your hotel, read the fine print to see what’s included.
• Wi-Fi: It should be — and is free in most, but not all, hotels in Paris. If it’s not included, be wary.
• Breakfast: It almost certainly is not. Check to see how much it costs. More about this below.
• Safe: Most hotels will let you leave valuables in the hotel’s safe or will provide you with a safe in your room. Check to see if it’s free to use. Most are, but some hotels will nickel-and-dime you here.
• Water: How thoughtful of the hotel to leave bottles of water for you in your room! Watch out, it isn’t free. In fact, it probably is exorbitantly expensive and should only be gulped down in the direst of circumstances. Instead, head to the grocery story to buy water as soon as check in, and pick up other goodies and snacks.
• Minibar: Please, for the sake of your budget, resist. Pick up snacks at the grocery store.
In Paris, hotel breakfasts are a huge up sell for hotels and tend to be not worth the cost. When you’re checking in, the receptionist will ask you if you’ll be joining for breakfast every morning. Take the opportunity to ask what’s included and how much it costs. Is it just a piece of baguette, croissant, jelly, juice and coffee? (This is likely.) You can get the same thing at a neighborhood cafe or (better yet) bakery for much cheaper — and, in the case of the bakery, it will still be warm!
Conversely, some hotels will offer a full buffet, but usually with a hefty price tag (some up to €20!). We’d rather start with something cheaper outside, and then splurge one of these budget-friendly prix-fixe lunches a few hours later.Search hotels in Paris
To see hotels available for your travel dates, do a search in the box above or from our Paris homepage, where you can also see a list of our reviewed and recommended budget hotels.
Camera NIKON D300S
Focal Length 500mm
Exposure Time 1/125
During my 2014 G Adventures photography tour in South Africa, we had pretty good luck. One day we actually saw all of the Big 5 before lunch, which hardly even happens.
However, that doesn’t means everything was perfect from a photography standpoint. We saw rhinos and lions, but they weren’t on full display. The rhinos were off in a distance and the lions were behind trees or, as you can see in this photo, lying in the grass.
That is one of the things you have to accept when doing wildlife photography; the animals are not on your schedule. I’d love to go back to Africa and spend several weeks photographing wildlife, as I think it is endless fascinating.
Yup, that’s a kangaroo. No, I didn’t take a random swerve down to Australia, this was taken just about an hour outside of Seattle in Snohomish County at the Outback Kangaroo Farm in Arlington.
I’ve been home most of July (aside from that one day excursion to Vancouver for the Women’s World Cup Final Match!), which has been really nice. Friends from out of town, brewery excursions, lazy weekends and blogger game nights have been keeping me nice and busy. Oh yeah, and work.
In other news, my Mom is in town! I am showing her around the sites and introducing her to our life out here on the West Coast. On Saturday, we are leaving for a week long mother-daughter cruise to Alaska with Princess Cruise lines. This is her first time in Alaska and both of our first times on a cruise ship, so it should be an interesting experience!My Work
What I do when I’m not here and not romancing baby kangaroos:
How to Survive Summer in Europe– TripIt
Why You Should Travel with a Baby– Wild Junket– I don’t know, it looks kind of fun?
Six ethical dilemmas I encountered as a traveler. What will you do?– Bunch of Backpackers– Here is some interesting food for thought.
Take FLYTE: How you Can Help Students Get a Better Education and Travel More– Nomadic Matt– Proud of my friend Matt and his new non-profit. It’s worth checking out!
Salt Roads and Skeletons– Hecktic Travels– If you saw Mad Max: Fury Road, you will enjoy these photos of desolate Namibia. Maybe even if you haven’t seen Mad Max.
5 More Reasons to Go Solo Camping– Unbrave Girl– I don’t know, it looks kind of fun?
I am sure that by now most European travelers have heard of the many virtues of river cruising. I must say, river cruising is a wonderful way to discover or rediscover small town Europe, as well as numerous world class capitals.
While river cruising is generally not considered a budget vacation, with a little planning and a solid understanding of your cruise options, most budget conscious travelers can get on board and experience a high quality, memorable time. And, as we point out below, there are several ways to save when planning a cruise.
Here are nine tips to help you get the best value out of your river cruise:1. Book early for selection or book late for discounts
River cruises tend to be booked almost a year in advance. If you have cabin preferences, I recommend that you book early. The suites and the lowest priced cabins are usually booked early.
On the other hand, when certain cabins aren’t booked within a few months of sailing, companies tend to offer discounts. So, if you don’t have your heart set on a specific cabin or even a particular itinerary, you might save money by booking late.2. Ask questions about what’s included
For example, ask what “all inclusive” means. The definition varies from one cruise company to another. With some companies, it means that your booking price includes port charges and all excursions; but not so with others. Or, you might not care that all alcohol drinks are included if you are not much of a drinker. So, ask before booking and expect clear answers.3. Consider opting for a “French balcony” for more space
I have been on river cruises where I had a regular balcony and on cruises where we had a French balcony. When you consider the square footage of a cabin, that number includes the space on the outdoor balcony, a space that is generally not available to you as living space. Whereas, with a French balcony, the sliding glass panel opens to give you fresh air and a great view without reducing living space. I now prefer French balconies!4. Compare apples to apples
Take a good look at the square footage of your cabin and remember that all river cruise boats are the same length and the same width. The locks and bridges that need to be navigated determine the size of the ship. So, if a river cruise ship allows 128 passengers and another holds 190 passengers, guess which will have more spacious cabins? Pay attention to cabin size and pricing. Why spend more for a tiny cabin?5. You can save by booking a lower deck cabin
The least expensive cabins on river cruise ships are on the lower deck and they do not have French balconies. They are partially under water, so they have high windows that do not open, though they are generally as large as the other regular cabins. You may feel some motor vibrations in these cabins, but I have not heard many complaints.
So, if you are of the type of traveler who says “I don’t spend any time in my room anyway,” I say, go for it. Lots of people must feel the same way, because these cabins tend to book very fast.6. Organize a group and save
If you can put together a group of 10 people (five cabins) for a cruise, there are perks for you and your group. Talk to your river cruise specialist, who can give you the money-saving details.7. Ask about discounted airfare
Every river cruise company offers discounted, round-trip airfare from your home city to and from your cruise-embarking city. And, you will usually get airport transfers included. There may be restrictions, but it is often a very good bargain.8. Ask about pre- and post-cruise options
Buying pre- and post-cruise tour extensions can be expensive if arranged by the cruise company, so if you want to extend your stay a few days on either end of the cruise, ask your travel agent to price-out some independent travel options, or plan your own adventure.
One advantage to using the cruise company to arrange a pre- and post-travel extension is that they tend to choose only very good hotels and they generally include excursions and tours.9. Book through a professional for the same cost as booking directly
Finally, if you find cruise advertisements that sound too good to be true, they probably are. I have seen some pretty ragged looking river cruise ships in port and when I looked online after getting home, I found that the cruise company was misrepresenting the condition of their cruise ships. I can only imagine how disappointed some cruise customers may have been upon seeing the cruise ship in port.
There are many river cruise companies out there, so it is important to enlist the aid and services of a travel agent or cruise specialist who has the knowledge and experience of selecting and booking river cruises. A river cruise specialist will help you find the right itinerary and the right cruise company to meet your individual needs.
And, of great importance, it costs you no more to book with a river cruise specialist than with the company directly. In fact, you can actually save a bundle because the cruise specialist knows where to find the best buys. I, therefore, strongly recommend that cruise customers avoid buying on-line before consulting a professional river cruise specialist. Ask your travel agent for more information, or feel free to contact me directly.Some popular cruise lines
Here are some of the most popular and well-regarded river cruise lines in Europe:
5-Star all-Inclusive: Scenic
This line, which is out of Australia, has been around for a long while, but is now marketing to the American Market. Scenic accepts 128 to 169 passengers aboard their Europe-based ships.
Scenic includes your own butler, gratuities, transfers, and all on-board beverages (alcoholic and non) in the cruise rate. It also offers several dining options, complimentary Wi-Fi, personal GPS and electric bikes. There are always sales, but booking early is recommended.
4- Star: AMA Waterways
This line is American, based in California, but owned by pioneers in the River Cruise industry. AMA Waterways accepts 158-162 passengers aboard their Europe-based ships.
I have taken two AMA Waterways cruises and can highly recommend this line. The food is excellent, and the service is fabulous. Wine and beer are included at lunch and dinner. Look out for their sales; they make their cruises very affordable.
4-star: Avalon Waterways
Part of the Globus family, Avalon has designed a new concept called panorama suites. Avalon accepts up to 168 passengers aboard.There are no outside balconies; there is a wall of windows that open for a unique balcony experience.
Wine and beer are included at dinner. Avalon has great pricing and offers lots of sales and promotions.
4- star: Viking
Everyone has heard of Viking because of their enticing commercials. And, their ships are beautiful; we took a Viking cruise last winter. Viking accepts up to 190 Passengers aboard. Because of the many passengers and smaller lounge space, we found it a bit crowded, but our room was spacious and the service was impeccable.
Viking serves their own wines at meals, so I missed tasting wines from the regions we were visiting.Comparing the costs of a 7-night Danube cruise
Below, we compare these cruise lines for a seven night cruise on the Danube in late April 2016. As you can see, prices are quite comparable, but make sure you are comparing all the amenities and inclusions.
Beginning standard cabin 160 sq. ft. $2995 pp
Balcony Suite: 205 sq. ft. $4025 pp
Royal Suite: 360 sq. ft. $5290 pp
Beginning standard cabin 160 sq. ft. $3399 pp
French/outside balcony: 210 sq. ft. $4798 pp
Suite: 300 sq. ft. $6598 pp
Beginning standard cabin 160 sq. ft. $2999pp
Panorama Suite: 200 sq. ft. $4098 pp
Royal Suite: 300 sq. ft. $3898 pp
Viking River Cruises
Viking cruises are always on sale. These prices reflect the latest 2-for-1 sale, and we’re showing the per person price:
Beginning standard cabin 150 sq. ft. $2856 pp
Veranda 205 sq. ft. $4056 pp
Veranda Suite: 275 sq. ft. $6156 pp
Have you taken a European river cruise? Tell us about it, and how you saved on your cruise, in the comments section below.
The post European River Cruises: Tips for getting the best deal on your cruise appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
Camera NIKON D300S
Focal Length 200mm
Exposure Time 1/200
The one bird I’ve seen in more places around the world than any other is the flamingo. I have seen flamingos in North America, South America, Europe and Africa. Flamingos are one of the few global species which can be found on most continents.
When planning a trip to Anaheim, Disneyland has become the first spot for any tourist. It is, after all, the happiest place on earth! While that famed amusement park can easily take a day or 2 (or more!) to fully explore, there are other places in this area that can make your trip even more worthwhile and fun, even for families and kids of all ages. Anaheim has so much to offer, and there are a lot of options for not only amusement parks, but interesting, unique activities as well. Here are a couple of recommended things to do in Anaheim.
The Walt Disney World Resort spans over an area that is bigger than the island of Manhattan, as such, it serves as the main attraction for tourists to come to Anaheim, Orlando. While many visitors never venture beyond the six theme and water parks, there’s really a lot more that you can do in Anaheim.Things to Do in Anaheim – Besides Disneyland Enjoy The Orange County Beaches
Orange County comes with over 42 miles of beautiful coastline. During your stay in Anaheim, you can take a drive to any of the lively beach towns. Whether you’re on a family vacation or on a romantic getaway with that special someone, the warm California sun is an ideal place to relax. Take surf lessons during the day, and have a bonfire cookout at night, there’s always something to do.Hit the ballpark at Angel Stadium of Anaheim
Sometimes’ a good ol’ ball game is really what you need to make your weekend extra exciting. Catch the Major League Baseballs’ Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, as well as Rally Monkey, their famous mascot who is well loved by the kids. The stadium offers deals that can make it cheaper for you to bring the entire family on a game. Angel Stadium is one of the older stadiums, but it is well maintained and beautiful. It even has a waterfall in the centerfield, and fireworks displays on selected occasions. The stadium is also known for their extensive selection of meals and alcohol, which delights everyone. They sell several kinds of alcohol, from craft beer, to gluten-free beer and cider, and tastefully selected imported beers.Bring the little ones to Adventure City
If you didn’t get enough of Disneyland, or you would like to seek for alternatives for amusement parks for children, Adventure City is worth considering. It’s a wholesome, interactive children’s museum that has 12 attractions, an arcade hall, a petting zoo, and a pizza party hall. While this place is quite small (the whole area can be explored within 30 minutes or so), it’s a great place for younger children as the rides here are for the younger set. There are a lot of things to keep the kids occupied for a fun day out. The Thomas the Train play area and Rescue 911 are a must. Adventure City is affordable, and at around $17 only per person, it’s a great place to bring the whole family without spending more than a hundred dollars. Food and drinks are fairly priced, unlike a lot of the concessionaires in most amusement parks that have inflated prices.Savor Some Wine In Temecula
If you enjoy wine tasting, the Temecula Valley is the place to go. It is considered the heart of California’s South Coast wine region, and just an hour drive from Anaheim. Here, you can take in the beautiful landscape – rolling hills covered with vineyards, – and taste wine at over 30 world-class wineries. There’s special events related to wine and food held year-round, too.Spend some time with nature at Yorba Park
Located along the Santa Ana River, this park is a great place to spend a relaxing day in nature. There are beautiful walkways, picnic grounds and trees, and ponds to kick back and unwind in on a sunny day. This is also the perfect venue for having picnics and barbecues (they have barbecue pits in the park). Yorba Park has an expansive selection of play areas, too, which the whole family will surely enjoy, and perfect for active kids. Since the area has trails, you can rent a bike and ride over a mile long of paths. For sports and recreational activities, there are baseball fields, volleyball courts, playgrounds and horseshoe pits. You can also spend some time on the river, as they have paddleboat rentals and model sail boating. You can also bring your dogs as well!Get a dose of local culture at Muzeo
Anaheim is home to numerous museums, including the MUZEO, which regularly features eclectic art. It has had exhibits on topics such as “Rome” or “Chocolate.” Interactive programs always accompany each exhibit so that the art comes to life. Ideal for art lovers and families alike. On the other side of the fun-filled Anaheim is its cultural side that’s worth checking out if you’d like to balance out all the amusement park adrenaline with a quiet, introspective visit at Muzeo. This is an accessible place for tourists, that’s great to add to your itinerary and give your trip some variety. Muzeo showcases art and culture, and is a regular venue for such kinds of events that range from educational to artistic (travelling exhibitions). If you’d like to delve deeper into history, they have a Heritage Center. Admission fee is at $10 for adults, and $6 for children.Soak up on local sights and sounds at Art Crawl Experience
Held only four times a year, this quarterly gathering takes place at Anaheim Boulevard, Harbor Boulevard, and Center Street Promenade, and gathers the community of artists and foodies. If you are travelling to Anaheim, it’s best to schedule it during the dates of the Art Crawl if you’d like to do something different from amusement park hopping and baseball games. Artists showcase their work in public through pop up galleries, as well as crafters and indie makers who run pop up shops where you can purchase unique creations. It is also an event for foodies, as food trucks are aplenty, providing a variety tasty meals and drinks all throughout the event. There are also local performers to keep things alive and buzzing.Race Some Italian Carts
At K1 Speed, you can experience the thrill of wheel-to-wheel racing in high-performance Italian karts – it’s the largest indoor karting facility on the west coast, spanning over 100,000 square feet with over 3,000 feet of racing excitement – so get ready for an adrenaline kick.Step on the pedal at Speedzone
This 10-acre activity park is a large entertainment center that has a lot to offer in terms of excitement. First off, you get to race several types of cars across several racetracks—imagine an advanced bump cars game, where you can actually speed off and feel the wind in your hair whilst competing with your family and friends. There are Go Kart races suitable for small children as well. Aside from car racing, they also have mini golf for those who would like to relax a bit. They have 18-hole miniature golf courses, an activity suitable for groups. Lastly, they have a bowling alley for a classic, fun and competitive experience with no age restrictions. They don’t require special shoes, and the ball sizes are just one, so they’ve made the bowling experience less fussy. Lastly, they also have an arcade, perfect for killing some time in between races and mini golf.Fly a jet at Flightdeck Air Combat Center
If you are really looking for something quite extraordinary to do in Anaheim, where you’d find difficulty finding the same experience elsewhere, then Flightdeck Air Combat Center will be for you. Perfect not only for those who are enthusiasts of military combat and warfare, but also for the genuinely curious and adventurous enough to try an authentic military flight simulator. The graphics and simulation, as well as special effects, go hand in hand in providing a unique and unforgettable flying experience. You’ll learn how to fly a jet from start to finish, and even engage in air combat with other jets. You can also try the Boeing 737 simulator if you’d like to experience flying a commercial airliner. It is also said that real pilots also go here for practice when they’re assigned to fly other types of planes. While this might sound complicated, there’s no experience or skilled required. There will be short training sessions beforehand, so you are sure to get the thrilling experience you are hoping for. This place is highly recommended for the big boys, too!Take a wild ride at Knott’s Berry Farm
Located at Buena Park, Knott’s Berry Farm is one of the quintessential amusement parks in Anaheim, aside from Disneyland. This place has grown a long way, from what used to be a family berry plantation, to now a place that will guarantee an all-out amusement park experience. They have 10 roller coasters, and the most notable one is the Silver Bullet. They have a couple of thrill rides such as La Revolucion, Supreme Scream, and Rip Tide, to name the most popular ones. This is great for thrill seekers both young and old. This place also features high-class family rides. Step back in time and experience the Calico Gold Mines and the Calico Railroad, or you can also opt for water log rides, and even 4D interactive games. Lastly, they do have a water park, too! What’s great about Knott’s Berry is the variety of fun things you can do here.Stroll around Anaheim Garden Walk
For a leisurely time, Anaheim Garden Walk is a great place to unwind, catch up with friends, and a great destination for a romantic date. Restaurants are aplenty and nightlife is vibrant here. It is also a convenient place to do some shopping for travelers and tourists situated in the Anaheim Resort District. As for activities, there are cinemas, children’s playgrounds, and bowling alleys.Jump high at Sky Zone Trampoline Park
For highly active folks, this trampoline park is a must-see destination that’s sure to keep your energy high. It is actually the world’s first indoor trampoline park, and it’s equipped with quality trampolines. This park is guaranteed to give you that insatiable high from jumping and bouncing around high up in the air and then landing on foam cubes. And, did you know that jumping around in trampolines can actually be healthy? It improves circulation, and boosts your cardiovascular health!
While this destination is generally heaven for people who like to stay active, there is a wide range of things to do at Anaheim that will suit every tourist. It’s a great idea to mix up your activities with not only the many amusement parks here, but also add some culture, nightlife, and nature to your trip.