Ireland Backpacking Budget

Ireland Backpacking Budget

(Map of Ireland from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

This article refers to the Republic of Ireland rather than Northern Ireland which is covered in our United Kingdom backpacking budget. That said prices are pretty similar in Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland although the currency is different.


Daily Travel Costs in Ireland on a Shoestring Budget

US$60 | 55 Euros

The cost of travel in Ireland like much of Europe depends on the strength of the Euro at the time you visit. It has fluctuated considerably over recent years and Ireland briefly became quite a bit cheaper than the UK for example but is evening up again now. Dublin in particular is known for being quite an expensive city to visit with the cost of the main attractions regularly around 20 Euros while the city’s famous pubs are by no means cheap so if you are someone who likes a drink then you might struggle to stick our suggested Ireland backpacking budget of 55 Euros.

However you can still have quite a lot of fun on that sort of budget with costs generally a fair bit lower outside of the capital. It’s a relatively small country and the cost of travelling around isn’t that much so that is one positive and in terms of overall costs in ranks probably as an average Western European country. Accommodation and food prices are certainly more reasonable than somewhere like Scandinavia or France and given the large number of visitors the country receives, Ireland is pretty well equipped to cater for budget travellers.

See where Ireland ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all European countries


More Comfortable Ireland Backpacker Budget

US$75 | 70 Euros

The Irish are known to like a drink and although the country has plenty to offer in terms of rural charm, unquestionably the pub culture is a big appeal for many visitors to the country. Budgeting for 70 Euros per day will give you a lot more freedom to immerse yourself in that and with some form of live music and lively pubs almost every night even in the smaller towns, you will find plenty of temptation. Certainly if you are only on a short trip to Ireland you might want to allow for this sort of budget which will allow you to pack a lot more in. If you don’t drink then you can certainly get by on less.


Sample Prices in Ireland

Train from Galway to Dublin (2 hours 20 minutes) – €25

Meal at an inexpensive pub or restaurant – €12

Pint of lager or Guinness – €5-6 (a bit less outside Dublin)

Dorm bed – from €15/night

Cheap private double or twin room – from €50/night

Entrance to the Guinness Storehouse – €20 (includes a free pint of Guinness)


Money

Currency – Euros

£1 = €1.16

US$1 = €0.95

(All exchange rates are correct as of January 2017)

If you head north of the border, remember that British Pounds are used in Northern Ireland.


MFT Recommends

Dublin’s enormous Generator Hostel is one of the best places to stay in the Irish capital with budget beds, good conditions and a lively and pretty cheap bar that is nice for meeting other travellers.


ireland street art

street art in Dublin, Ireland (via Guiseppe MiloCC BY-NC 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Ireland recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016. Exchange rates were updated in January 2017.


Iceland Backpacking Budget

Iceland backpacking budget

(Map of Iceland from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Iceland on a Shoestring Budget

US$75 | 8500 Icelandic Krona

Iceland is a country high up on many a bucket list but its isolated location makes it somewhat difficult to fit into any other trip. The bad news for shoestring travellers is that Iceland is getting expensive again after a brief hiatus when the country’s three main banks all went bust during the economic crisis and Iceland suddenly became somewhat more affordable.

For starters there is the cost of getting to Iceland which can be quite high given it’s closer to Greenland than continental Europe and that isn’t even factored into our high suggested Iceland backpacking budget of US$75/day. A good chunk of that goes on accommodation which is very expensive and the cost of eating and drinking out is at least in line with any expensive country on mainland Europe. Then there is the cost and hassle of using the limited public transport. Given the population of Iceland is little over 300,000, the services are far from regular and quite costly so many travellers prefer to rent out a car to explore the island, which has many advantages in that you can stop off at any of the abundant natural wonders that catches your eye.

The only real good news for budget travellers in Iceland is that almost all the main places to see are free to visit. If you are travelling as a group, you might be able to get by on less than $75/day by renting out a car and preparing your own food. Camping and perhaps hitch-hiking are also good options in the warmer months and doing a fair bit of that could see you slip well below $75/day but it’s not for everyone.

See where Iceland ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all European countries


More Comfortable Iceland Backpacker Budget

US$100 | 11400 Icelandic Krona

To see the best of Iceland, you really want to be renting your own car for a few days, which certainly if you are a solo traveller is going to be expensive. Many of the best places to visit are some way off the main highway and not linked by public transport. On a budget of $100/day even a solo traveller, should be able to afford to do that for a few days at least to explore the more remote parts of the island and then perhaps spend a bit more time based in Reykjavík without a car and doing trips to the nearby places of interest that are more accessible.


Sample Prices in Iceland

Car Rental with full protection – from 8500kr/day (€60) + petrol

Large beer in Reykjavík bar or restaurant – 1000kr  (€7)

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – 2000kr (€14)

Camping in a designated campground (there are many) – 1500kr/night (€11)

Dorm bed – from 3500kr/night (€25)

Budget private double or twin room – 10500kr/night (€75)

Entrance to Þingvellir National Park – Free!


Money

Currency – Icelandic Krona

£1 = 139 Krona

€1 = 120 Krona

US$1 = 114 Krona

(All exchange rates are correct as of January 2017)

Some shops that cater to tourists do accept Euros and maybe US Dollars but it’s unlikely to be at a very good rate so get yourself some krona!


MFT Recommends

Possibly the cheapest dorm beds in Iceland at a fraction under €20/night are found at the Grábrók Hotel and Holiday Homes near to the crater of the same name. A good option if you’d rather stay in natural surroundings than in the capital.


street art in Iceland

street art in Reykjavik, Iceland (via Rob YoungCC BY 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Iceland recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016. Exchange rates were updated in January 2017.


Spain Backpacking Budget

Spain backpacking budget

(Map of Spain from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 2.5)


Daily Travel Costs in Spain on a Shoestring Budget

US$50 | 45 Euros

Spain is cheap by Western European standards and considerably cheaper than neighbouring France while it is roughly the same as its neighbour to the West, Portugal. There is a good deal of regional variation though with the Southern part of the country certainly the cheapest, particularly Andalusia. Prices are a bit higher in Barcelona and Madrid than in the smaller towns but not considerably so and the same is true of some of the more tourist-orientated resorts, which line the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and Costa Brava.

Backpacker accommodation is plentiful and pretty good value but it is a good idea to book in advance during peak times and certainly national holidays and festivals of which there are many. Eating and drinking out is cheap if you are a bit savvy and head away from the tourist areas but a night out anywhere can still set you back close to our suggested Spain backpacking budget of 45 Euros with entry to clubs alone typically 10-20 Euros including a drink or perhaps two. On the plus side, drinking in squares and parks is generally tolerated and you can get a litre of beer for little over a Euro in the supermarkets.

Getting around Spain is fairly straight forward with plenty of budget flights around the country for longer trips and an excellent if quite expensive high-speed rail network that links the main cities. On a shoestring budget though you are probably best to stick to the inter-city buses which are almost always the cheapest way to get from A to B.

See where Spain ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all European countries


More Comfortable Spain Backpacker Budget

US$65 | 60 Euros

If partying is likely to be a big part of your trip or you are restricted on time and want to fit a lot in then you might want to consider stretching out to a 60 Euro daily budget. This will allow you to go out regularly and perhaps take the odd flight or train for those longer trips.


Sample Prices in Spain

Flight from Madrid to Barcelona (1 hour) – €35 + baggage fees (more at weekends)

Bus from Sevilla to Granada (3 hours) – €23 with Alsa

Meal in an inexpensive restaurant – €8-10

‘Jarra’ (large beer) in a Cerveceria Montaditos – €1.50

Dorm bed in Barcelona – from €15/night

Dorm bed in Madrid – from €12/night

Budget private Double or Twin Room – from €25/night (more during peak times)

Entrance fee for Granada’s Alhambra – €14

Compare that to the cost of travel in Italy.


Money

Currency – Euros

£1 = €1.16

US$1 = €0.95

(All exchange rates are correct as of January 2017)


MFT Recommends

In Barcelona, stay at Factory Gardens, a good value hostel close to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.

Read our full guide to seeing Barcelona on a budget.


street art in Madrid

street art in Madrid, Spain


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Spain recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016. Exchange rates were updated in January 2017.


UK Backpacking Budget

UK Backpacking Budget

(Map of UK from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in the UK on a Shoestring Budget

US$60 | £50

The UK is well known as being as an expensive country to visit but our UK backpacking budget of £50/day is by no means unrealistic. The biggest expense is generally accommodation which is not cheap. Couchsurfing is a good idea here and you can get by on much less than £50 per day if you do a lot of it. Travelling around isn’t that expensive as it is a pretty small country and flying is recently necessary at any point unless you want to visit Northern Ireland, in which case there are a host of budget airlines that cater for that with flights from £20 or less plus £10-15 for your backpack.

Getting around in the UK can be very cheap too, but it really does help to book trains and buses in advance. This can all be done online via The Trainline, while Megabus offer some extremely cheap coach travel between the big cities. Eating and drinking out remains expensive though and you can easily blow £45 on a night out alone in most UK cities. If you’re looking to save a bit of cash, then start your night in Wetherspoons, which is a popular chain of pubs that has the best deals on drinks and can be found all over the country, with most cities having several.

As a general rule London and the Southeast is considerably more expensive than the rest of the country but you can still get stung badly in cities like Edinburgh, which receives plenty of visitors.

See where the UK ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all European countries


More Comfortable UK Backpacker Budget

US$80 | £65

£65 per day is a lot of money to spend as a budget traveller but on this kind of budget, you can afford to stay in the best hostels and be a bit less rigid with your planning and just buy transport tickets on the day which is normally considerably more expensive than doing it in advance. One of the good things about the UK is that a lot of museums are free to visit, but many attractions can cost in the region of £20 for entry so you can afford to visit a few more of them on this kind of budget.

One other bit of good news for budget travellers in the UK is that since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, the Pound has taken several serious hits so visitors from around the world should now find it slightly more affordable.


Sample Prices in the UK

London to Birmingham by train – from £6 (booked in advance), £15 on the day

London to Manchester by train – from £20 (booked in advance), £80 on the day

Day Travelcard on London Underground – £12

Pint of Beer in a pub – £3-4 (£4+ in London)

Meal in an inexpensive restaurant or pub – £8+

Cheap dorm bed in a city – £12-15+ (often considerably more at busy times)

Stonehenge admission fee – £15.50 adults, £13.90 students


Money

Currency – Great British Pound

€1 = £0.86

US$1 = £0.82

(All exchange rates are correct as of January 2017)

Apart from the odd retail store with dubious exchange rates, Euros are not accepted anywhere in the UK with the exception of a few parts of Northern Ireland which are close to the border to the Republic of Ireland, which uses the Euro. If you are considering hopping over the Irish Sea then read about the cost of travel in Ireland.


MFT Recommends

Stay at a proper British pub! The Exmouth Arms, conveniently located near Euston Station has 6 and 8 bed dorms above the bar.


street art in bristol

street art in Bristol, England

(photo may be re-used with a link to this page)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve travelled in the UK recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016. Exchange rates were updated in January 2017.


Funky 100 – 5 Things to do in London

ACCRA | LONDON | LISBON

Send in your contribution to the Funky 100!


Funky 100 – Number 19

5 Funky Things to do in London


Why you should Visit…

Steeped in history and swamped in culture, it’s no secret that London is an incredible city to visit. So on your next sojourn to the Big Smoke, here are a few of the lesser-known landmarks that also deserve a spot on your itinerary.


1. Highgate Cemetery

funky things to do in London

Get lost in a labyrinth of Egyptian sepulchres and Gothic tombs in Highgate Cemetery. The final resting place of painters, poets, princes and paupers, this crumbling necropolis has many famous occupants, including the grandfather of communism Karl Marx and the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams. Just watch out for vampires.


2. Bagels on Brick Lane

different things to do in London

If you fancy a late night bite, ditch the dodgy kebab and head to a 24-hour Jewish bagel bakery on Brick Lane. Hordes of hungry Londoners flock to these East End institutions for freshly prepared bagels stuffed to their deliciously doughy rafters with either salt beef or smoked salmon.


3. Sky Garden

visiting London's Sky Garden

For the finest views of London’s landmarks head to the Sky Garden, the city’s highest public park. Sitting on the summit of the distinctive “Walkie-Talkie” skyscraper, the Sky Garden offers a 360° panorama of the city, uncrowded by taller neighbours, as well restaurants, bars and an open-air terrace. Entry to the Sky Garden is free, but booking in advance is essential.


4. The Good Mixer

Camden Pub

More dive than bar, join the ranks of tattooed skinheads slugging pints and potting snooker balls for a quiet drink at the Good Mixer. Once the epicentre of Britpop, The Mixer claimed Amy Winehouse, Blur and Oasis as locals and stories of raucous punch-ups between pop gods still do the rounds. This buzzing old boozer is as classic as a Camden pub gets.


5. Welcome Collection

weird things to do in london

Explore what it means to be human at the Welcome Collection. This free museum provides an in-depth look at how science and medicine connects with art and our lives. On display are thousands of fascinating, and often grisly, curios ranging from Napoleon’s toothbrush to Darwin’s walking stick.


BIO

Thanks to Lizzie Shephard for these great tips on different things to do in London.


PREVIOUS CITY | FUNKY 100NEXT CITY


Read about the cost of travel in the UK!

This article was published in April 2016.


Top 10 Cities for Watching Football (Soccer)

Note these cities are in no particular order! They are all great places to take in some football for different reasons and each offer unique experiences, which are hard to rank.

Best Cities for Watching Football


1. Dortmund

Dortmund - One of the best cities for football
The Yellow Wall

Truth be told, Dortmund isn’t one of the world’s great travel destinations but the experience of taking in a match at Westfalenstadion is a must for any hardcore footy fan. The enormous single tier Südtribüne (South Bank) is the largest terrace in European football with 24,000 packing it on matchdays and creating the famous Yellow Wall, which generates an incredible atmosphere. British supporters, who long for the days of standing at games arrive in their thousands every matchday to experience it and it is certainly one of the continents growing football tourism venues. The on-field action isn’t bad either with Borussia playing an attacking brand of football that usually produces plenty of goals. With fellow Bundesliga clubs Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Köln and Borussia Monchengladbach not far away you might even be able to squeeze two games into your trip.

2. Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires football
A mini Maradona looks out colourful La Boca

The Argentine capital is home to more professional football clubs than any other city in the world and to say the sport is taken very seriously here, would be an enormous understatement. 16 of the 30 teams in the Argentine top flight are based in Greater Buenos Aires with Boca Juniors and River Plate the most famous within the city itself. River fans may think otherwise but a trip to La Bombonera in the colourful working class district of La Boca is a real highlight. It is one of the iconic football stadiums and produces an incredible matchday atmosphere with club legend Diego Maradona often in attendance in his own private box. For the ultimate South American football experience make sure you’re in town for the Superclásico when River Plate and Boca Juniors meet in perhaps the biggest local derby in world football.

3. Glasgow

Visiting the Old Firm Derby
Rival fans at the Old Firm Derby

Forget London, Liverpool or Manchester, British football’s most passionate supporters can be found North of the border in Glasgow. Scottish football may have fallen on hard times and that is especially true of Rangers, who are still fighting their way back having been relegated 3 divisions for severe financial troubles. However the Old Firm Derby will be back in the top flight before too long and Rangers against Celtic is unquestionably the biggest rivalry in British football with deep political and religious divides providing a sometimes ugly under-current. Glasgow is a city that lives and breathes football and it’s another city that avid football fans need to tick off their list.

4. Barcelona

The Nou Camp from the sky
More than a club – FC Barcelona

The Camp Nou almost certainly receives more tourists each matchday than any other football stadium in the world and that can take the edge off the atmosphere a little bit. Apart from El Clasico against Real Madrid or big European games, it certainly isn’t anything like as intense as some of the other clubs on this list but when you’re watching one of the great football sides of the modern era and in Leo Messi, one of the best players to have ever graced the game it is certainly worth the entry fee, which can be as low as 20 Euros for most matches. A stadium tour of the 99,000 capacity Camp Nou and visit to the wonderful museum can take up an afternoon too and with an abundance of budget airlines flying into Barcelona from around Europe it’s a very easy place to get to. Oh and it’s a great city too!

5. Istanbul

Watching football in Istanbul
Pre-match atmosphere at Galatasaray

The Istanbul football experience is unlike anything else in Europe. Fans often arrive and start unveiling flags, flares, banners and chanting as much as 3 hours early with the atmosphere reaching boiling point by kick-off. The city is home to 3 major clubs in Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahçe, who play on the Asian side of the city at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. Traditionaly Galatasaray against Fener is the biggest rivalry in Turkish football but the 3 clubs tend to dominate the domestic game and all are regulars in European competitions. Visiting fans and teams at Galatasaray’s old Ali Sami Yen Stadium used to be welcomed with ‘Welcome to Hell’ banners and although all the clubs now have new modern stadiums, Istanbul is still widely regarded as having the most intimidating atmospheres in European football and a visit is not for the feint-hearted.

6. São Paulo

Sao Paulo fans
Corinthians fans and a fairly large flag

Rio de Janeiro may be the first city that springs to mind when you put the words football and Brazil together. However the São Paulo clubs are traditionally the more successful and even the Campeonato Paulista (São Paulo State Championship), which precedes the Brazilian Serie A, is an incredibly tough competition. Brazilian clubs play an enormous amount of football which only very briefly pauses for a few weeks around Christmas and with so many clubs you won’t find it hard to find a match to attend in the city. The National Football Museum is also excellent and is located at Pacaembu Stadium. Corinthians, São Paulo FC and Palmeiras are the biggest teams but if you head 35 miles out of town to the coast, you find Santos, which acts like a conveyor belt of the world’s best footballers with the likes of Pele and Neymar having risen through the clubs academy.

7. Rosario

Rosario Central supporters
Rosario Central fans and an enormous flag!

Rosario is another Argentine city that is fanatical about football and is home to Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central, who both provide the biggest challenge to the virtual monopoly that the capital region holds on football in the country. The two clubs both attract large crowds to their old-fashioned English style stadiums, with fans right on top of the action. If you’ve already made it to games in a lot of the places on our countdown of the best cities for watching football and want something old-school then head to Rosario, which is a real throwback to how football was decades ago in Europe. You might be the only tourist but you’re sure to get an unforgettable match-day experience.

8. Hamburg

St Pauli flag
The iconic skull and crossbones flag of St Pauli.

Hamburger SV might be the city’s most successful club with a bigger stadium and regular Bundesliga action but it is Hamburg’s other club, FC St. Pauli that is of most interest here. Over the decades it has developed a real cult following and despite only playing in the 2nd tier of German football, it boasts fans from all over the world. The matchday experience is more akin to a rock concert with Hells Bells by AC/DC greeting the teams onto the field and a crowd that is a little bit punk-rock. The club is very left-wing and supporters pride themsevles as being strong opponents to racism, sexism, fascism and homophobia. A visit to the Millerntor-Stadion is certainly a refreshing change in a sport that is often slow to take a stance against some of those issues.

9. Sevilla

Real Betis fans
Real Betis fans at the Seville derby

Sevilla is perhaps a surprise inclusion but anyone who has taken in a game at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan or Estadio Benito Villamarín will testify to the fact that attending a game of football in the city is a special experience. It is the only city in Spain outside the capital to have two Primera Division clubs that both regularly attract crowds of over 30,000. If you’re in town for the Seville derby between Sevilla FC and Real Betis, you will experience Spanish football’s most fiercely contested local derby but regular matchdays are also pretty lively affairs. Another interesting facet to football in the Andalucian capital can be the kick-off times which are sometimes as late as 11:00pm to avoid the heat in what is mainland Europe’s hottest town. Check out this Spanish football blog for more on soccer in the country including a handy guide to catching a game in Seville.

10. Rio de Janeiro

Rio beach soccer
A beach football game in Rio

Last but by no means least Rio de Janeiro makes it in as one of the best cities around the world for watching football or soccer for the benefit our American friends. The iconic Maracanã hosted the World Cup final in 2014 and hosts domestic action virtually every week throughout the year with Flamengo and Fluminese playing most of their home games at the ground. In Rio though you don’t even need to be at a stadium to take in skillful footy action. Just head to the Copacabana beach or indeed any of the beaches that circle this amazing city and it won’t be long before you encounter a game of beach soccer and witness locals demonstrating the slickest of skills.


 

These sort of lists are always controversial. If you think we’ve missed a city out, let us know by commenting below and explaining why it is a great city to watch football!

 


This article was published in October 2015.


The definitive top 10 places to visit in Germany this summer

The definitive top 10 places to visit in Germany this summer

(Sponsored Post)

Plan your perfect German vacation

 With fairy tale landscapes, white beaches and cultural cities, Germany offers something for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of the best places to visit.

In comparison to its Mediterranean neighbours Spain and France, Germany is somewhat underrated as a holiday destination. However, with its stunning countryside, rich history and fascinating cities, Germany is actually a fantastic location for your next summer holiday. With so much variety, it can be difficult to decide where to go. We’ve put together a list of the top ten places you should visit in this beautiful country.

Rugen Island

Rugen Island in Germany

Germany is not traditionally associated with beach holidays, but Rugen Island in north eastern Germany offers visitors beautiful white sand beaches and charming seaside resorts. Away from the beach, the island has its own national park for you to explore, and each summer, visitors can experience the island’s theatre festival.

Berlin

Berlin has soared in popularity in recent years, earning itself a reputation as a hip, edgy city packed full of culture. The city has a wealth of galleries and museums to explore, including the five institutions located on ‘Museum Island’. Visitors can also get an insight into the city’s history by visiting famous landmarks such as the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate. As well as history and culture, Berlin is also a great place for foodies and revellers alike, making it the perfect city break location.

Romantic Rhine

Rhein River in Germany

Between Bingen and Bonn, the Middle Rhine – or the Romantic Rhine as it’s commonly known – flows through the dramatic Rhine Gorge. With its stunning scenery, terraced vineyards, castles and medieval villages straight out of a fairy tale, it’s little wonder that the area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best way to explore this beautiful part of Germany is with a riverboat cruise.

Cologne

Located on the banks of the River Rhine, Cologne is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany – and with good reason. The city is home to impressive landmarks including the famous gothic Cologne Cathedral and the Twelve Romanesque Churches. Cologne is also viewed as a cultural centre with a wide array of art galleries and museums, and, with its many bars and clubs, visitors will find plenty to do when the sun goes down.

Black Forest

If you love the great outdoors, head to the Black Forest near the borders of France and Switzerland. Its romantic setting inspired many of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales and it offers numerous opportunities for hiking, cycling and boating. Base yourself in the nearby famous spa town of Baden-Baden, or if you’re a fan of medieval architecture, head to the ancient university town of Freiberg.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg Castle

Located in south western Germany, the town of Heidelberg attracts thousands of visitors with its picturesque appearance and old-world charm. Heidelberg Old Town houses a number of historic treasures including the Church of the Holy Spirit, the medieval Old Bridge and the magnificent Heidelberg Castle which towers over the town. Heidelberg also offers a variety of nightlife options with more than 300 bars, pubs and clubs.

Schoenau am Koenigssee

Another great destination for active, outdoorsy travellers, Schoenau am Koenigssee in Bavaria offers amazing views of the Berchtesgaden Alps. Enjoy the scenery while hiking or mountain biking, or choose the more relaxing option of a boat trip on the clear, emerald waters of Koenigssee Lake. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a gondola ride to the top of Jenner Mountain for an unparalleled view of the stunning landscape.

Munich

Munich is perhaps most famous for the Oktoberfest festival which takes place each autumn. However, people visiting the city during the summer months will not be disappointed. A great destination for culture-vultures, Munich is home to many art galleries, theatres, royal palaces and historic churches, and its attractive city centre is the perfect blend of modern and traditional architecture.

Rothenburg

Rothenburg Germany

Rothenburg, with its preserved medieval old town, is popular with tourists from all around the world. Visitors can walk along the top of the city walls, or, alternatively, climb to the top of the 200 foot town hall tower for views of the entire town. For something a little different, those with a strong stomach should head to the slightly gruesome, yet extremely interesting, Medieval Crime Museum.

Seebad Heringsdorf

Another destination for beach lovers, Seebad Heringsdorf is a popular resort town on Usedom Island in Western Pomerania. One of three ‘Emperor’s Spas’, the area is known as the ‘Bathtub of Berlin’ and features long sandy beaches and scenic architecture. It has a history of attracting the upper classes and even royalty, including Emperor Wilhelm II.

With so many must-see destinations in Germany, it’s really difficult to narrow it down to just ten. Whether you want to spend your summer relaxing on a beach, exploring medieval villages, taking in the country’s rich culture, or hiking through the mountains, Germany really does have something for everyone.

 


This article was published in August 2015.


Backpacking in Tallinn, Estonia

Life After the Iron Curtain in Tallinn

Tallinn is the small but enchanting capital of the Baltic nation of Estonia. Estonians have lived through centuries of foreign rule in various forms interrupted by brief periods of independence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia once again became an autonomous country in 1991.

Medieval Tallinn

Toompea CastleToompea Castle

Built in the 13th Century, the impressive castle looks over the city from the upper part of the old town. Admission is by guided tour only but if you don’t fancy it this it is still a great place to wander around with your camera taking in the views from Toompea Hill.

Old Town

The medieval old town is still in fantastic condition and easily one of the most impressive in Europe. As you wander around the cobblestone streets which are at their best in the bitter winter when snow turns the old town into a medieval winter wonderland. There are plenty of cathedrals, quaint squares and mysterious little archways which make this a beautiful yet eerie city.


Life behind the Iron Curtain

Museum of Occupation

Museum of OccupationsFor just 2 Euros will give you a good idea of Estonia’s long battle for independence. It focuses on the period of Nazi and especially Soviet rule with various video screens with real footage from the era. You can also visit a replica of a gulag (Soviet labour camp) where many Estonians were sent to a life of hardship in desperate conditions which killed the majority of them.

Ex-KGB Headquarters

This building is now owned by the Estonian government and generally not open to the public. It was once a hugely significant place that rightly generated fear amongst the residents of Tallinn. Suspected dissidents were sent here where they were inflicted to torture and beatings before often being sent to the labour camps in Siberia.

Song Festival Grounds

This was the place where Estonia’s peaceful Singing Revolution took place. As the Soviet Union began to fall apart, Estonian nationalism grew and large crowds gathered here to sing traditional Estonian folk song and wave the national colours. Nowadays it hosts the All Estonian Song Festival which attracts thousands of performers from across the country.

 

Tallinn Today: Party in the Baltic

For a city of under 500,000 people the nightlife is incredible. It is also very cheap which makes backpacking in Estonia all the more enjoyable. Weekends are by far the liveliest when dozens of late opening cellar bars and night clubs party on well into the small hours. There are also some excellent and very friendly hostels in Tallinn with great local staff and these are good places to party or at least meet travellers to hit the bars with.
Tallinn Old Town
The Estonian capital does have some more unsavoury elements. Sex tourism is quite big here with a large number of strip clubs and it attracts many large groups of men from Western Europe and especially the UK. Some of the nightlife is a bit tacky and occasionally tries to rip off tourists but you won’t have to wander far to find somewhere cool to spend the evening. There is occasionally trouble between Estonians and Russians who still make up a large chunk of the population, many of whom don’t speak the native language.


Backpacking in Tallinn – Fitting it in to a trip around the region

Overall Tallinn is a great place to go for a few days. Its size makes it easy to navigate and experience all the main sights. Locals are very friendly and welcoming of travellers and seen as Estonia is only a small country it’s easy to fit in with visiting others in the region. Helsinki is only a short ferry ride across the freezing Baltic Sea from Tallinn taking a couple of hours or so. You can get a 50% discount with a Euro Rail Pass.

You can also head south from Tallinn to the countries second city, Tartu a popular university town. Keep going and you can check out the other two Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania. If you’re finding the Soviet period fascinating, you might want to head into Mother Russia with St Petersburg, only a short hop over the border.

Check out our backpacking route in the Baltics for an idea of how to do this!


This article was published in June 2011.


The Uprising – visiting Poznan

The Uprising- Poznań, March 2013

poznan square
A guest post by Ben Gould.

Day 1 – Greeted by machines

A ticket to my weekend lodgings bought from the tourist desk for less than a quid leaves me prematurely beguiled. The number 59 to Kaponiera roundabout and I’m off. Two Frenchmen (I think) on the bus loudly converse in English about the approaching 10-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. An elderly woman beside me is reading a gossip rag. I can’t see anything through the fog stamped on the window save intermittent flashing light.

Poznań was a city I never envisaged seeing, and a few weeks prior didn’t know existed – an offhand remark from a chap at work informing me that it’s Poland’s fifth largest city, and formerly the nation’s capital, initiated a Ryanair bargain hunt. Krakow was tempting, and being in the throes of alcohol withdrawal syndrome the last time I was there, I subsequently longed to experience it in a different frame of mind/shape of body. When a set of return flights are a mere £40, though, a pauper opts for the cheaper option.

Roundabout: a glance at Google maps back home suggested a rudimentary, perfectly normal circle that cars go around; instead there are diggers, cranes and various other machinery ripping holes where the circle should be, and the darkness doesn’t help matters. This calls for an emergency, and I manage to rendezvous with my friend Lewis in the underpass, he having been here and checked in since the morning.

We spot an off-licence en route to the hostel, where after some deliberation I purchase a few bottles of Desperados beer and 1 litre of red vermouth, attempting in vain to converse with the proprietor concerning the awesome cheapness of his booze stock. He politely smiles, no doubt wishing I’d exit the shop and stop broadcasting the cocktail potential of my items.

I check in. The dwellings are post-modernistic, minimalist, with this silver sheen that only serves for me to draw futuristic parallels with the ‘machines’ at the roundabout – the progress of industry. James Cameron’s Terminator films are in my head with a slash of Kubrick’s 2001, and only vermouth will extinguish these thoughts. There are no souls in the hostel save us. No party music (it’s Friday evening), no mandatory screaming. This is unusual. I’m scared.

After pretty much drinking all of our bottles we order a taxi to the main square. A paradigm of the old – museums, taverns … architecture not being torn up by robots – it is a lovely sight, and immediately recalls to me squares I’ve visited from previous continental adventures. It has – much like Bruges, Tallinn and Prague’s old town centres – all the mod cons, in particular the bars that are calling our names.

The salient establishment is Medieval in interior, dimly lit, green ceilings with swords piercing out of them; it’s at least how I see it, though I am a little prone to hallucination whilst under the affluence … I mean influence (see what I did there?). It is disconcerting to not hear English voices in an alien drinking den; one feels paranoid that at any moment someone will take offence at your boorish non-indigenous ‘craic’, that you are indeed intruding. We proceed outside to track down and explore other bars, but are denied entry to their quaintly beer bosoms for I am slurring my words like a tribute to the Denzel Washington drunken couch scene in Flight (2012). No one will let us in. I think we go home at this point.

Day 2 – Museums, restaurants … bars

poland 1956 memorial poznanAfter a run – during which I get lost for 20 mins before realising I’m on an adjacent street – we eat breakfast in an exceptionally priced restaurant; even after 4 drinks with the meal it’s still under £20. There’s a film crew over the road – students most likely – filming a drama piece beneath some monuments. We edge out of the way in case we’re ruining precious tape, segueing to a museum about the 1956 uprising, a lovely little exhibit, your usual mandatory educational enclave for these kind of trips. It’s eerily bereft of humans, only a shy curator at the desk who refuses a tip, then ‘facepalms’ as I take a photo of Lewis sitting astride a plastic mock-up tank. Telling ourselves that in 1956 we’d verily be running from a batch of legit tanks instead of lusting for a decadent kamikaze of cocktails, we do feel a little bit grateful for our current modus operandi, and decide upon seeing another museum before hitting the sauce.

We arrive back in the square from the night before, via a newsagent where I buy some cigarettes and a bottle of Desperados, which I blithely drink from whilst slightly stumbling down the street. This museum is chock-full of paintings and nothing much else. The softly-spoken lady at the desk kindly asks us to remove our jackets, ominous for there are no other items on the wall hooks – without my cloak I would be lost and naked in Poland. We compare the portraitures to people we know, which is highly amusing, the staff curiously observing from a safe distance, praying we hastily depart.

We do so, venturing into a plush but tumbleweed-embracing cocktail cafe by the square, indulging in piña coladas and Mai Tais before gracing another bar, this one of the McDonald’s variety – it actually reminds me of McDonald’s. A McDonald’s in Texas. Not that I have ever been to Texas, though Tennessee is in that region. Kind of. I think. Too much bourbon in this saloon ….

On our return to the hostel we stumble across a Lidl and I’m overwhelmed with joy. I purchase some more beers and a bottle of vermouth for indoor drinking. Boozing back in the dorm, it occurs to us that we’ve not bumped into anyone who speaks native English yet, which really is a first. I’m also convinced that Poznań is an extended transit area of an airport. It’s a stopgap between more populous Polish delights. Pleasant yet not quite serene, normality approaching the perfunctory, ethanol is the crucial ingredient required to make the city that little bit transcendental.

We promptly polish off our supermarket findings, end up in a taxi, and then a series of bars, the only remaining narrative from any of them a nice relaxing tavern where we have an epic conversation about something I will one day remember, the exterior featuring a vexed local screaming “English c***s” at us. Another night for the books ….

Day 3 – The same as Day 2 but with a market

poznan market

It’s 3:00 p.m. and we’re just up. No gut-busting run – there is no energy. Even the shower is a trying test. We eventually scale the hostel walls and graduate to a stroll around the square that is now a Sunday market. We shimmy in and out of stalls looking for treats to present to loved ones, but see nothing really of interest save some very authentic-looking air rifles, the tables the most densely populated of the array.

Breakfast is eaten at about 5:00 p.m. Its denizens keep leaving the door open, the cold draught an annoyance forcing me to drink more. Yesterday’s cocktail bar really can’t be resisted after this. Sat inside, we get sniggers from the staff, surely mocking our ‘girly’ cocktail choices. The prices never cease to astonish me, to the extent that it’s the centrifugal aspect of discussion. I declare I could visit some parts of Poland every weekend instead of ‘partying’ in Edinburgh, and end up a richer man. It’s feasible.

A last joyous visit to Lidl as it’s the final night. Amaretto is purchased along with a coffee liqueur concoction. I can’t find the milk. The checkout operator is clearly exasperated with my checkout behavior (putting a carrier bag over my head), and spouts out information – perhaps vitriol – I cannot discern. I quickly move on. It’s dark now, my lovely Lidl bag masquerading as a beacon for any cowardly cyclists moonlighting on the pavement. Not that there’s anyone about; the place is a ghost town.

visiting PoznanIn our hostel dorm sits the first human we’ve come across, a Polish dentist in his 30s. He seems bemused at our chat, and then swiftly concerned as I get increasingly intoxicated with the emptying of the amaretto bottle. Lewis shows him a copy of a book I wrote; the gentleman is genuinely gobsmacked that the inebriated presence before him has ever written anything in his sordid, decadent life.

We say our goodbyes, as he’s working the next day. I’m not sure if we get a taxi or walk into town but it’s definitely cold either way, my cheeks a purple hue, hands shaking. All this research about trams and bus routes and it’s only walking or taxis we’re experiencing. It is indeed a frightfully small town, and we stick out like a sore thumb. BRITS: OVER THERE.

A very tall chap in a bar bickers with the patient member of staff pouring his pint. Aggressive, excruciatingly loud, I put ordering a drink on hold in case he overhears my accent. Sat at the table, peering out onto the deserted square, I register that all this drinking would be more logical if there was a community of travelling backpackers to legitimise the indulgence – peer pressure, I guess.

I never thought I’d be one for being successfully accosted by leafleting strip club staff but, well, it’s happened. When in Poznań. There doesn’t seem to be anything else to do so we decide to venture into this anachronistic decadence on the edge of this pious – beer excepted – old town square, and don’t emerge for 7 hours ….

Day 4 – Getting out of Dodge

poznan squareMy phone alarm clock generates a beeping noise I’ve never heard before in its existence and I try in vain to locate it. I finally do, almost tossing it across the room. It’s time to check out. A quick shower is necessary. I’m all over the place and nearly slip twice. Nothing will fit in my bag. I bequeath the hostel my underwear and some airport-purchased toiletries. That was nice of me.

We return to the restaurant we endowed our presence with on the Saturday. After that it’s the bus to the airport. Glorious duty free: Poznań-themed coffee-filtered cigars, and a cute lighter. And two miniature spirit bottles – Jack Daniel’s and Cointreau. And a bottle of Żubrówka. Yes! I have some of Poland to take home with me. We take off, departing what was essentially a three-day jaunt to an archaic multiplex of bars. It is not the milieu that remains, but the sheer temerity of the alcohol induced, and yes, it did facilitate some very gnarly chit chat. Farewell, Poznań. We may return one day, but Krakow must surely now beckon ….

by Ben Gould

 


This article was published in March 2013.


5 Great Places to Visit in Andalusia

5 Great Places to Visit in Andalusia

Malaga and its surrounding coastlines make for a popular destination for hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers in Europe each summer but few of them manage to get out and truly explore beautiful Andalusia. As one of the largest regions of Spain, you have to cover a fair distance to get around but with excellent cheap transport links between all the main towns, it’s not too difficult to see the best the region has to offer in a couple of weeks.

While Malaga itself is not without its hidden charms and is well worth exploring for a day or so, most travellers use the city as the transport hub which it has become thanks to what is by some distance the largest airport in the region. Flights to Malaga are plentiful and generally very cheap from cities all over Europe so it is one of the continent’s most accessible cities.

From Malaga, you are within 3 hours travel of almost everywhere in Andalusia and these are 5 of the best places to get out and visit:

1. Ronda

ronda bridge

For less than 10 Euros and typically in under 2 hours by bus from Malaga you can arrive in the stunningly set town of Ronda. It is surrounded by a deep gorge and boasts an impossibly tall bridge which offers up beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Ronda once attracted famous writers and poets who gazed out and drew inspiration from the rolling hills while enjoying the cool air which is certainly absent on the coast. Nowadays you can pay a visit to some hugely impressive caves and take a trip to the oldest bullring in Spain. Also check out this yoga retreat if you fancy a longer stay in a beautiful part of the world.

2. Sevilla

Andalusia’s largest city and capital is one of the grandest in Spain with elegant plazas and a bustling old town. It is the heart of the Spanish Flamenco scene and hosts a week-long celebration each April when the whole city comes out to party for the Feria de Sevilla, a couple of weeks after the more somber Easter processions. There is plenty to see and do in town including the enormous Gothic cathedral and the real Alcazar, a beautiful Moorish palace. It also features on our backpacking route for Spain.

3. Cadiz

cadiz

While Northern Europeans usually head to one of the plentiful resorts along the Costa del Sol, Spaniards are more likely to head to Cadiz, which is home to what many locals claim is the country’s best beach. It’s also a great place to hang around if you want more than your average beach resort as this is the oldest city in Iberia and perhaps all of Western Europe which means there is plenty of history to be found. It also hosts a wild and witty Carnival and some lively markets, while if you’re after some more typical Spanish nightlife this may also be the place for you.

4. Sierra Nevada

It’s a little known fact that Southern Spain is home to the highest mountains on the Iberian Peninsular with excellent skiing and hiking opportunities little more than an hour from the Costa del Sol. A visit to the Sierra Nevada is easily combined with a trip to Granada, as the city lies on its foothills and some of the peaks, which are upwards of 3,000km tall are easily visible from the city on a clear day.

5. Granada

granada

The magnificent La Alhambra palace is the highlight of any trip to Granada but its winding streets and very obvious Arabic influences give it a vibe unique to almost everywhere else in Spain. Like Cadiz it has been inhabited by people for over 2,000 years and it is home to plenty of fascinating districts such as the gypsy dwellings of Sacromonte. Its altitude gives it a cooler feel than the other big cities in Andalusia and it’s easily reached from Sevilla or Malaga by bus or by using Spain’s fast and efficient train network.

Let us know your thoughts on these and other great Analusian destinations by commenting below:

 


This article was published in August 2015.