Venice – Enjoying getting lost

I have been to Venice a few times and I can honestly say that it is probably the most unique city I have ever been to. Here is my advice for anybody thinking of taking a holiday or short break in Venice.

For many the joy of Venice is spoilt by the huge numbers of fellow travellers the head to the floating city to enjoy of its marvels.

However, while the great sites of San Marco’s Square, Rialto Bridge and the endless canals and bridges draw the crowds, by getting lost you can feel like your one of the first people to discover Venice

However you arrive in Venice from the mainland – by bus on the bridge, via vaporetto water bus or by private yacht – the city cannot fail to impress you with its unique character and architecture.

With the crowds in mind the best way to see the sites and not be flustered by the coach-loads is to arrive early, which is easy whether you are staying in Venice itself or in the mainland town of Mestre.

A great starting place is San Marco’s square. The sight of the Doge’s palace, the golden domes of Saint Mark’s Basilica and the surrounding colonnades cannot fail to impress. Looking out over the San Marco Canal and the entrance to the Grand Canal watching the main boats and gondolas you can find time slips away.

To first get your bearings – and an amazing view of Venice and its red tile roofs and churches – climbing Campanile di San Marco, the bell tower of San Marco, is a great idea. For those a little fazed by the innumerable steps there is a lift to the top. Beware though, as the bells strike every hour and Italian health and safety laws let you get a little to close for comfort.

If there are queues for the Campanile di San Marco, nearby down Calle della Vida, the Palazzo Contatini del Bovolo also offers a spiral staircase and some of the most romantic sunset views in Europe.

As the crowds at San Marco’s square start to arrive it is the best time to head out through Venice to discover what is on offer. Armed with a good map it’s almost impossible to get lost, but through the network of Calle you may find retracing your steps impossible. This is well to remember as unless you have a good guide or an impeccable sense of direction any restaurant you discover probably won’t be easy to find again.

As lunch comes the best place to head for to escape the obligatory tourist prices is the Jewish district of Venice. Not many tourists head up here and the restaurants tend to be family-run establishments with very warm atmospheres, a penchant for spoiling children and no menus in English.

The Jewish district itself is a delight, with washing hung between buildings over canals and the architecture quite different as the lack of space meant the only way for the growing population to be housed was through building up and up. The houses seem constantly on the edge of falling down.

Of the many galleries and museums to find in Venice, perhaps the most memorable is the Guggenheim Collection. The former home of Peggy Guggenheim still keeps is very homely atmosphere as you tour her bedroom, lounge, gardens surrounded by works by the greatest artists of the 20th century.

Looking down at a map of Venice you release by getting lost you’ll get a good feeling for the city, but in the end it is a place to return to again and again to get lost again and again.

Want Cheap Beer on Holiday ? – Where to Go !

We all love a cold beer whilst we are on holiday, but just how much does beer cost in our favourite holiday destination ?Well, after a bit of research I can tell you that the cheapest place to buy a beer is in India where it will cost you just 68 pence. In fact it’s not just beer that is cheap in India. A meal for two people including drinks will cost only £5 to £6. That’s what I call value for money !

So, if you are not going on a holiday to India but you are going on a long haul holiday how much will it cost you for a nice cold beer ?After India the next cheapest holiday destination for the cost of beer is Cuba where a cold bottle of beer will set you back only £1.07. If you are heading to South Africa to watch England in the World Cup then a bottle of beer will cost you only £1.16. The cost of beer then starts to rise a little  as a beer in Mexico will cost you £1.80.

A beer in Malaysia will cost you £2.24. The USA and Canada then follow as a beer will cost you £2.55 and £2.40 respectively.All these prices are far cheaper than it will cost you for a cold beer here in the UK. In most good bars you will pay at least £3 so if you are thinking of taking a holiday here in the UK and you like a few beers then it may be worth spending money on a cheap holiday abroad.

The most expensive place that I have been to for beer is Norway. On my recent holiday to Norway I paid a staggering £13 for a pint and a half of lager !Choosing your holiday destination is usually about deciding what you want most from your holiday but maybe you beer drinkers out there need to factor in the cost of that cold beer that most of us love so much !

Call FREE on 0800 433 2300 to discuss your holiday requirements.

Free Travel Apps

Free, Handy Travel App’s

Our intrepid traveller and Travel TV presenter, Becky Hayes, has been looking at the best travel apps for smartphones so if you are  heading abroad on holiday or business don’t leave without downloading these handy, free apps first.

 Trip Advisor

Download this to find the best restaurants and attractions when abroad and all rated by customers like ourselves.

XE Currency

Convert every world currency on the go with this. It features live currency rates and has a calculator so you can calculate prices.

City Maps and Walks

This app offers self guided walking tours for over 470 cities worldwide. It uses your exact location to direct you to see the highlights and attractions in each city. Many of the tours come with audio narration. Plus you do not need the internet whilst using it so your data roaming can stay off!

Skyscanner

This app compares millions of flights on over 600 airlines to find you the cheapest fare.

iTranslate 

Translate other languages with this handy app. It has voice recognition so simply speak and instantly see your translation. You can also listen to high quality voices in other languages.

Tripit

This is a simple stress free way to keep all of your important holiday documents in one place. From flights, taxi pick-ups to key events, everything will be stored, checked and covered. You’ll never forget or miss anything!

UrbanSpoon

Urbanspoon is the gold standard in the U.S., London, Melbourne, and Sydney: Shake your phone, watch the dials spin like an old-school slot machine, and up comes the best guide to local restaurants yet. Free.

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4 girls in short dresses and high heels find grumpy people in Prague!

Our Travel TV presenter, Becky Hayes, has just returned from a short break in Prague with 3 girl friends. Here she describes how they couldn’t find a stag party anywhere, despite a thorough search and also that wearing short dresses and high heels in Prague may make you stand out from the crowd a little more than you wanted!

It was my friend’s birthday and she decided she’d love a weekend away with the girls. Something cheap and cheerful but somewhere we’d never been before. Barcelona and Marrakesh were banded about but a few of us had been before. Then we saw a great deal to Prague; £169 each for flights and accommodation for 3 nights. Perfect!

My pre conceptions of Prague were that it would be stag do city however I couldn’t have been more wrong. We didn’t see a single stag party the whole time we were there and believe me, we searched high and low!

It’s a beautiful city with a real old fashioned feel, like you are in some kind of fairy tale. Prague Castle stands proudly elevated in the middle of it and the river with its restaurants and bars either side creates a romantic feel.

I now sound as if I’m creating some sort of magical place but let me stop you there. The people in Prague are so rude! I mean really rude. If they want to get past you, they will manhandle you out of the way. If you need help with something, they will either shrug or shout Czech obscenities at you. I had one particular encounter with a lady behind the desk of the metro. I couldn’t work out where to buy my ticket from and she bellowed at me as I cowered in the corner!

Also in Prague it is very casual. On an evening out, people are quite under dressed. It’s all about jeans, jumpers and scarves. Now we are 4 girls who like to dress up in the evenings, go for dinner and drinks and then a club. I kid you not, when the 4 of us dressed in short dresses and heels hit the centre of Prague on our first night, it felt like the whole city stopped dead to stare at us. Every bar we walked into or every restaurant we walked past people would gawp at us as if we were aliens that had just landed from Mars. It was the most bizarre thing! We actually found it quite embarrassing to start with but we soon got over it with a vodka or two!

Here are my top places for an evening out in Prague (just don’t get too dressed up!):

 Nebe (Heaven) –This is a relatively new bar just by the museum metro stop. It’s modern and serves a lot of great cocktails. It has a small dance floor and the music is a lot of chart stuff from the UK. Also it’s free entry!

Duplex – This is a gorgeous club just down the street from Heaven. It has 2 floors and an outdoor terrace. It’s mainly commercial dance music played here and it has a great atmosphere. There are dancers on in the main room too.

Como – This restaurant is a must! We went here for my friend’s birthday meal and the staff couldn’t do enough to make our night enjoyable. They had decorated the table with rose petals and brought out a birthday cake at the end! The food was fantastic and very reasonably priced. For 4 people our bill came to approx £30 per person and that included a starter, a main, a glass of champagne each, a bottle of wine, bread and a birthday cake. It’s very chic inside with a singer and a piano player entertaining you throughout the evening.

Whilst in Prague we stayed at The Panorama Hotel. It’s about 4 metro stops from the city centre and is about half an hour away from the airport. It has great facilities including a rooftop pool (inside), gym, casino and a bar and restaurant that serve cocktails and very nice food. Also there is a big, modern shopping centre just round the corner that has everything you could need in it!

Call Global Holidays for a price on a city break to Prague

Sneaky Ways to Holiday like a VIP!

Wanna travel like the rich and famous but don’t have the cash? Don’t fret, here are some ways you can holiday and feel a little bit special.

We sent our intrepid TV Presenter Becky Hayes to the airport to put our theories to the test!

At the airport

Lounge it up – If you fancy a plush departure lounge with free booze and snacks then you don’t have to spend the earth or be travelling Club Class. You can book them for as little as £13 and it’s a relaxing start to your holiday. Visit Holiday Extras . Most of them also have Sky TV and free internet access.

Pretend to be staff – At check in you can tell the check in person that you managed to get a staff standby ticket (a standard class one) and that you work for that particular airline. They could check your story but it will delay boarding so most just upgrade you!

Get the best seats on the plane – If you want to get seats with extra legroom or be in a quieter end of the plane to be able to get some shut eye then it’s worth visiting Seat Expert.com . It shows you the best seats for whatever you are after on your flight and how you can get VIP Service.

 At your hotel 

Check In – If you are looking for an upgrade, then the best time to check in is in the early evening. By this time staff will have more of an idea of how many nicer rooms/suites they have available. You could also email the hotel direct before you go to ensure a nice room and mention that it’s a special occasion i.e. anniversary, birthday, etc.

Book lunch at a Posh Hotel – If you’re hotel isn’t quite hitting the mark, book lunch at a nicer hotel nearby and often you will be able to use the hotels facilities. So take your bikini as you can sleep off lunch at their luxury pool!

Travel out of season – There are some great deals to be had if you travel out of peak season. You can stay in 5* hotels for half the price. For example if you travel to Dubai between May-September you can stay at The Atlantis on The Palm for £970pp. Similarly at Al Qasr on Jumeirah Beach you can stay for a week for £950pp with free half board thrown in. Normally both of these hotels in peak season would be around the £3000pp mark for a week with just B&B. Quite a difference!

 When you return

Flattery gets you everywhere – If you are planning to return to the same hotel then make sure you email/write a letter of thanks to the General Manager. People remember this and the chances are you’ll be very well looked after on your next visit with most getting an upgrade and a bottle of wine.

Looking for a luxury holiday?  Call Global Holidays FREE on 0800 433 2300

How to Survive a Shark Attack and more on Holiday!

As more and more people are going to far away holiday destinations and going on so called “Adventure Holidays” there may come a time when you need to defend yourself against an attack by one of the local species of wild animals. We thought we would have a look at what advice we could find to help you should you venture a little bit further than you should do off the beaten track!

How to survive a crocodile attack

There are many countries in the world where you might encounter one of these ferocious creatures, and one of the most likely places is in the Northern Territory of Australia. An average of two people are killed each year in Australia by saltwater crocodiles, known locally as “salties”, which can grow up to seven metres (23 feet) long and weigh more than a tonne.

Recently an Australian man had to jab a crocodile in the eyes to force its jaws off his arm after it leapt from the water and bit him during a fishing trip and that seems to be the only way that you will get the croc to let go. It’s certainly worth a try should you find yourself in such an unfortunate predicament.

How to survive a shark attack

The majority of shark attacks occur in the USA but it is the fear of sharks in most of us that creates a feeling of fear rather than the actual chances of being biiten by a shark. Going swimming in the sea will always have its risks. You can get stung by a jellyfish, tread on a sea urchin and in very rare cases be attacked by a shark. However, did you know that shark attacks are rarely fatal and 80% survive the attack. In 2010 there were 79 shark attacks worldwide and 6 of these were fatal. The majority of shark attacks are in the USA, South Africa and Australia.

The best way to survive a shark attack, of course, is to prevent one happening. You can do this by avoiding swimming alone, heeding shark warnings, avoid swimming in the dark and not provoking a shark. If the worst case scenario happens and you are attacked then you should fight back. A sharks, eyes, gills and snout are its most sensitive so you should try and hit it where it hurts. If you are biiten then you need to get out of the water as sson as possible because  a shark can smell even very tiny amounts of blood and it may well come back. If you are a surfer you should carry something that you can use as a tourniquet.

How to survive a snake bite

The first thing that you should know is that deaths from snake bites are very rare. In the United States about 10 people a year die from snake bites but the majority of these deaths came after the person provoked the snake. If you get bitten by a snake the first thing you need to try and find out is whether the snake is poisonous. 50% of snakes are not poisonous. If there are fang punctures, pain and swelling within a few minutes the its likely that the snake bite contained poisenous venom.

You need to get to the hospital as soon as possible but if you can’t get to the hospital you should lie down with your head slightly lower than the rest of the body and try to remove the toxin by using a suction device out or squeezing it. Don’t try to suck the venom out using your mouth like you may have seen in films…it could travel to your heart and kill you within minutes!

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Holiday Essentials – What to Take on Holiday

Holiday Essentials – Guest post by Becky Hayes

As I write this blog, I am myself packing like a crazy woman to go away on holiday to Thailand. I’m always in a mad rush and as we drive to the airport I have that dreaded feeling in my stomach that I’ve forgotten something.

Also when I am on holiday, I always get holiday essential envy i.e. “Ooooh she looks nice in that sarong. I wish I’d brought a nice beach cover up!” It then goes on my mental next years holiday list but then promptly gets forgotten.

So to help you out here is my list of holiday essentials:

Transparent Plastic Bag – I always keep these bags from my last holiday and reuse them. At the airport they charge you for these and they are essential as you can’t go through customs without one if you are carrying liquids under 100ml. I have lip gloss, moisturiser, hand cream, etc in my handbag and before a flight any liquid must be put into the separate see through bag as you go through customs. Or you could use a sealable sandwich bag.

Facial Water Spray – This is great for the plane and when you are on holiday. You can buy some mist spray or just get a spray bottle and fill it with water. It keeps your skin from going dry and cools you down.

Holiday Document Wallet – It’s a horrible feeling when you are scrambling around in your bag looking for your passport and your holiday documents. It is so much easier if you buy a wallet/holder to put everything in, then you know that you passport, tickets and parking details are all in one secure place. They sell them at the airport or you can get cheap ones from www.ifsogo.com for £7.98.

Comfy plane socks – I think it’s always nice to get a pair of really comfy socks for the plane, whether it’s a short or long flight. It just makes it a bit more enjoyable and feels as if you are sat on your sofa at home watching a good film! You can get some really cheap fluffy ones from Primark from £2.

A good beach bag – Whilst on holiday you will probably use this everyday so it is well worth investing in one. So many times in the past I’ve gone away with no beach bag and either one of two things happen 1. I end up trying to carry books, sun cream, magazines, the room key and a hat whilst walking to the beach and dropping it all or 2. I grab a spare carrier bag, shove it all in and feel very un-chic as I pass all of the other nice beach bags en route to the sun loungers! H&M do some great ones and they are only £10 or so.

Dry Shampoo – This is a holiday must have for men and women. If you can’t be bothered to wash your hair before you hit the beach then no problem, just spray some dry shampoo up top and voila, your greasy roots will be instantly refreshed and volumised. The best I have found is the Batiste range which can be bought from Boots or Superdrug for £2.99.

About the author – Becky Hayes is a TV and Radio presenter and writes travel articles for online travel agent Global Holidays

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Where to stay in Las Vegas

We are often asked whether we can recommend a hotel in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas can be  part of a USA multi centre holiday itinerary which also might include Los Angeles and San Francisco or you could spend all your holiday in Las Vegas. That’s what I did last time I went to Las Vegas. I spent a week there and flew to the Grand Canyon for a day.

So, where can we recommend you stay in Las Vegas ? Well, of course, it partly depends on your budget. There is such a huge choice of hotels in Las Vegas which is good news because you will always find that there are special offers and bargains to be had. Las Vegas has suffered from a decline in visitor numbers because of the recession and several hotels have closed but there are still more than enough hotel rooms to go around.

Las Vegas is a city in the desert. It is only about 30 minutes by plane to the Grand Canyon so it is possible to easily go there for the day. Las Vegas is mainly about The Las Vegas Strip or “The Strip” as it is called. This is where most of the hotels are and it is a wide busy road lined with very large hotels, casinos, restaurants, shops and bars. This is where you need to be staying and your hotel needs to be as close to the centre of The Strip as possible. As a rough guide, the centre is where the Bellagio Hotel is located. Having said that, anywhere on the Las Vegas Strip is good to stay as there is a monorail system that connects many of the hotels.

To read more about where to stay in Las Vegas click the “Read More”  link below.

Continue reading “Where to stay in Las Vegas”

Milan to Lake Como

What’s the best way to get to Lake Como from Milan airport ?

We are an independent travel agent and every day we provide advice for our customers about their holidays. One of today’s questions was about the best and cheapest way to get to Lake Como from Milan airport. This is the advice we gave our customer.

Lake Como is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe. The southern tip of the lake lies about 40km north of Milan towards the border with Switzerland and it is surrounded by mountains and forests.

If you are arriving at Milan’s Malpensa airport the the easiest way to get from the airport to Como is by using the Malpensa Express train. You will need to catch the train to Saronna and then transfer to the LeNord train to Como. The train from Milan airport runs from Terminal 1 and the whole journey takes about 1hr and 20 minutes.

There is a bus station just over the road from Le Nord Como Station where you can catch a bus to all the towns along the west coast of Lake Como. The cost of the train journey is about 9 Euro.

If there is a group of you we can arrange a mini bus that takes upto 8 people. The cost of a return mini bus from Milan Malpensa to Como is £300, but if there 8 of you that only equates to £19 per person each way and you will be dropped off at your hotel. If there are 2 of you travelling from Milan to Lake Como then the cost is £200 return using a private taxi so it is much cheaper to travel by train although if you have luggage it is not as convenient.

More travel advice we have given

Car hire in New York

Travelling from New York to Washington

Travel Advice

Car Hire in New York

Todays Question from a customer

Question – I want to hire a car in New York City. What are my options?

Answer :

It is possible to hire a car in New York city. There are several car rental companies that have offices on Manhattan island. The nearest car rental office to Midtown Manhattan is probably on West 52nd street.

Whilst we would not recommend driving in New York city itself due to the sheer volume of traffic (It’s easier to use the Metro or taxi), you may want to drive out of New York city to explore outside New York city itself.

One thing to bear in mind that car rental prices for a drop off and New York JFK are more expensive that a drop off at Newark Airport, so if the flight prices from the UK to JFK or Newark are the same then I would recommend flying into Newark to get the advantage of cheaper car hire prices from Newark Airport.

Also, some car rental offices in New York City itself are closed on a Sunday so this is something to bear in mind.

Once you have navigated yourself out of the city there is plenty of beautiful destinations to explore. Depending on the time you have available you could for example drive out to the very end of Long Island and see towns like Montauk  or drive into New York State.

For a car hire in New York please call Global Holidays for a quote FREE on 0800 433 2300.