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Just want to get away and explore for a while but don’t have a bottomless budget? Here’s a few tips to help you save money wherever possible.

Forget Hotels

You can get the occasional hotel room very cheap but the chances of this happening are slim, by all means, have a look if you are travelling somewhere where it is their off season but 9/10 this will be the most expensive option.

Couchsurfing.org is a site where you can find people who are willing to let you stay at their home for free or sometimes in exchange for simple chores. If you’re worried that it sounds a little sketchy, check out the reviews…it’s got great reviews from travel critics and over 9 million member references, log in, take a look around and you might be surprised.

If you’re looking for a Hostel then Hostel World is a great site with a huge selection of properties.

If you’re not just passing through and want to stay in one place for longer then check out Roomorama who specialise in short term rentals, if there’s a few of you travelling, this could be a very worthwhile option.

If you have friends abroad, ask them if you can stay with them, you might save yourself a lot of money.

Volunteer and receive free board & lodging

Have you always wanted to mix Volunteering with Travelling but are put off by the costs? Well there are some volunteering opportunities that offer free board & lodging in exchange for volunteering.

World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms Offers you the opportunity to learn about Organic farming while receiving free lodging and board in many countries including; Canada, USA, Hawaii, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, The UK, Sweden, Israel, Portugal, Italy, Ghana, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, China and Sri Lanka. You can stay from as little as one week and up to well years if you want!

Does the Appalacian trail sound good? You can volunteer with www.appalachiantrail.org and help maintain the trail in exchange for basic accommodation and food.

Kill two birds with one stone: Get accommodation while you travel

Flying might be the quickest and easiest way to get from place to place but it’s expensive and usually not very enchanting!

Night trains are a great idea, they get you to your destination pretty fast and you get a bed for the night! Some routes are just magical  and it’s an experience everyone should have in their lifetime. Some of Europe’s best night train journeys include: Paris to Venice, Sofia to Istanbul and Moscow to St Petersburg.

Another option to consider if you need to travel across the ocean to your destination is on a cruise ship. Some of the best deals can be found on repositioning cruises (Starting and ending in different locations) and you’ll get to see even more places on your journey and have a much more luxurious one than any business class flight cabin could provide. Many of these are even cheaper than taking a flight, here are some examples; Travel from San Diego to Vancouver (3 Days) for $149 in May, New Orleans to Barcelona (13 days) $429 in April and visit Miami & Ponta Delgada on the way.

Befriend the Locals

You might be surprised how much you can gain just by talking to locals! Take an interest in the local history, ask about stories, just seem interested! Maybe you’ll be offered accommodation, maybe a lift, maybe a meal? It will cost you nothing to have a conversation with a local and you’ll probably end up remembering it for a long time. Tell people about your travels, tell them a funny phrase in your language, ask for advice and tips, people will usually be more than happy to offer advice and more.

Make an attempt to speak the local language, people really appreciate this. If you speak Esperanto…you can use the Pasporta Servo where you can receive free accommodation in exchange for just speaking the language!!! If you don’t speak Esperanto, learning it might come in handier than you imagined!

Stay Away from Tourist areas! 

This one should be obvious but just by walking a few streets down from a tourist area you’ll find things much cheaper. Don’t be tempted to buy tacky souvenirs from every place you visit, if you want a memento, take a photo or something that’s free. Take advantage of Tapas bars where for the price of a drink you can get enough free Tapas to qualify as your lunch. Always try and Barter, you’ll always pay the highest price if you don’t ask! (While in Cadiz, we managed to get enough food for 5 people and drinks for €10.) Sometimes places may offer things cheaper in a different currency, so if you have any left over that you’re not planning to use again on your trip, offer that. (I’ve used US$ in Tunisia & Malta.)

Do Your Research

Don’t travel to places while they have a big event on, prices will go up! Find out when are the cheapest times to visit certain locations, when the off seasons are. Research local culture, when their days of rest are, what times businesses and shops will be shut. If you’re travelling to a Port City, sometimes they put prices up when a ship docks, so avoid this. Booking bus and train tickets in advance will save you money, plan out your itinerary and make sure you account for missed/late trains/buses. A good resource for planning your budget is BudgetYourTrip.com. Planning down to every little detail can save you money. For example if you’re somewhere where certain things are cheap and travelling onto somewhere you know will be more expensive, buy your essentials there.

If you’re travelling in an area that is notorious for crime, carry a “fake” wallet with old credit cards and a small amount of money in. If you have a gun pointed at your head and someone is asking for your wallet, you’ll feel very glad you did this.

Decide where you want to go, then decide how you’re going to get from place to place then find accomodation. Account for all of this and then set yourself a daily survival budget and stick to it!

Ever thought about running a Solar Eclipse Marathon?

Image from Solar-eclipse-marathon.com

Well on the 14th November you can in Port Douglas, Australia. The 26 Mile race starts when the sun emerges from behind the moon. You start on the beach and will run through the rainforest, along winding rivers and past old sugar mill train tracks and even past crocodile creek! You’ll reach altitudes of 378m but if that sounds’s too daunting there’s also a half marathon available.

For more information, or to book visit solar-eclipse-marathon.com

Had a recent windfall? Want to splash out? or just want to see what the rich spend their money on while on vacation. Here’s a list of the ten most expensive hotel rooms in the world.

#10 Gora Kadan, Gora, Japan. $1,459 per night.

#9 Saffire Freycinet, Cole’s Bay, Australia. $1,576 per night

#8 Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Maldives. $2,106 per night

#7 La Reserve, Ramatuelle, France. $2,112 per night

 

#6 Hotel Romazzino, Porto Cervo, Italy. $2,115 per night

#5 Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, Lithgow, Australia. $2,119 per night

#4 Hotel Cala di Volpe, Porto Cervo, Italy. $2,286 per night

#3 Royal Mansour, Marrakech, Morocco. $2,327 per night

#2 Hotel Pitrizza, Porto Cervo, Italy. $2,335 per night

And finally, the most expensive Hotel in the world is…

#1 Maia Luxury Resort & Spa, Anse Louis, Seychelles. $2,455 per night

So there you have it, the ten most expensive hotels in the world, pretty aren’t they.

This list was compiled by luxury-hotels.com. Rankings were based on average hotel rates for a standard double room between June and August 2011, rates were quoted directly from hotel websites/phone. 

With availability in Central London low and hotel chains raising their prices through the roof maybe it’s time to look at alternative options if you’re planning on visiting London for the Olympics this summer such as renting houses as opposed to renting Hotel rooms.

Sites such as onefinestay.com offer luxury city centre apartments with amenities such as wifi, iphone, roof terrace, maids and bell hops.

This luxury property might seem steep from £365 per night but it sleeps 4 so when you go on £92 per person, you’d be very hard pushed to find luxury like this at any central london hotel cheaper.

With the highly publicised sinking of the Costa Concordia, a lot of people must be worrying about just how safe cruises are?

Without conducting a thorough investigation, there’s no conclusive answer to this question but from the information that is available, we can get a pretty good idea.

If you are planning on booking a Cruise, ALWAYS do your homework on the ship. Was it built by the cruise line itself? How old is the ship? How strict are the cruise line’s safety policies? and if you are my mother…What nationality is the captain?!

Let’s take the P&O Adonia for instance, while you may trust in P&O, they purchased this ship from Princess where it was the “Royal Princess” where it suffered a serious engine room fire in 2009. Princess purchased the ship after it was seized from Renaissance cruises in 2001 and laid up for 2 years. So essentially, this is a ship that has been passed around and been under 4 names already.

Or how about the Thompson Dream? Which was formally the Costa Crociere and before that the Westerdam or before that the Homeric. The ship first launched in 1985 and is currently being “loaned out” to Thompson from Costa Cruises. Despite being 27 years old, Thompson advertise the ship as “Brand New” and 5*. More than 200 passengers who sailed on the Dream between May & October 2010 have filed a lawsuit against the cruise line for conditions that have been described by passengers as “Disgusting and highly unsanitary”.

Maybe you might wanna give those a miss?

As far as actual dangerous incidents go, here’s a chart to show you how the major cruise lines compare.

Copyright Brand New Eyes Travel

Now, you do have to take into consideration the size of the fleets, clearly more ships in the waters will increase the chances of accidents. Even so, some of these numbers are alarming.

Royal Caribbean have 22 ships that have incurred 26 Disabling accidents, collisions or fires since 2007. In addition to this, Royal Caribbean has an alarmingly high rate of sexual abuse/rape crimes onboard their ships. Possibly down to the type of younger clientele they attract but it’s still an unnerving statistic.

Carnival also has a high accident rate along with a large fleet, 23 incidents on 24 ships.

At the other end of the Spectrum, Celebrity Cruise line has a fleet of 11 and only incurred 3 incidents since 2007. Disney Cruise line has incurred only 2 incidents with it’s fleet of 4 (only 3 in service).

Another thing to consider is how the crew/captain react in emergency situations. Far too often we hear of the captain announcing that everything is fine when infact, there is a huge problem with the ship, while they may do this to reduce panic, they are only endangering lives. How well trained the crew are to deal with emergencies will make a grave difference to your safety.

You’ll often find that the better a cruise line treats it’s staff, the more effective they will be in an emergency situation.

Out of the cruise line’s mentioned in the graph, if there’s one that takes your safety as a passenger into consideration the most, it’s Disney Cruise Line. Crew on Disney undergo constant safety and customer service training as well as regular drills. With all the fleet being American ships they have mandatory passenger safety drills upon the sail away of every cruise. Their safety record is quite impeccable when you consider they carry another danger no other cruise line does…Fireworks at sea. They are they only Cruise line with permission to have firework displays at sea and weekly. However there was one instance of a stray firework that started a small fire in the restaurant on the top deck but rest assured no one was injured and the fire was promptly dealt with and the restaurant re-opened for dinner the next night.

Another instance where disaster has struck Disney Cruise line but was dealt with promptly and properly and no one injured was in 2002 when one of the funnels caught fire. Instead of telling passengers everything was ok and under control, they announced at 5am that all passengers should put on their lifejackets and report to their assembly stations. All set to abandon ship (in about as an orderly manner as you can get in a cruise ship disaster) the crew fire team managed to get the fire out and the cruise carried on as normal with the only set back being arriving 1hr 30mins late to the next port.

Basically the lesson is, do your research. Disaster can strike any ship but it’s more to do with how the crew deals with these emergencies.

When you’ve looked at the safety, take a look at customer ratings…

Bit of a no brainer. I’ve been unable to find the source of this list, a friend posted it. If anyone knows where it’s from, let me know.

All of the opinions expressed in the above article are my own and I am not affiliated with any Cruise Line. The incident stats were collated by myself. 

How do you define safe? Well every year a Global Peace Index (GPI) is published that ranks countries on a number of different categories including terrorism threat, wars & conflicts, homicide rate, political instability, imports of major weapons, percentage of prisoners and the public’s perception of safety.

In the 2011 report the top ten safest countries in the world were classed as;

  1. Iceland
  2. New Zealand
  3. Japan
  4. Denmark
  5. Czech Republic
  6. = Austria & Luxembourg
  7. Finland
  8. Canada
  9. Norway
  10. Slovenia

Iceland and New Zealand switched round from the 2010 report where New Zealand came top, coupled with the low cost of living there makes New Zealand seem like the best choice when you combine safety with cost of living. Czech Republic is a country where safety is quickly improving, jumping up from #12 last year and #17 in 2008.

At #12 on the list just missing out on the top 10 is Qatar…which some people may find surprising, yet a reminder that not all middle eastern countries are unsafe. Qatar is due to host the 2022 fifa world cup and their economy is the fastest growing in the world.

Here’s where some other major countries ranked;

Australia – #18, United Kingdom – #26, Spain – #28, USA – #82

Now on to the most dangerous countries in the world, places where you should perhaps avoid visiting unless necessary.

  1. Somalia
  2. Iraq
  3. Sudan
  4. Afghanistan
  5. North Korea
  6. Democratic republic of Congo
  7. Russia
  8. Pakistan
  9. Israel
  10. Central African Republic

Unsurprisingly Somalia tops the list as the most dangerous country in the world mainly down to the government not having control for over 20 years now add in problems like active pirating and it doesn’t look like the idea vacation destination. At number 11 on the list, Libya has gone from the 56th safest country in the world in last years report to one of the unsafest.

It is worth noting that these figures that make up the GPI are taken from the country as a whole and while the country may be dangerous it doesn’t mean to say there aren’t relatively safe cities there. For example, while Israel continues it’s conflicts with Palestine over the Gaza Strip, the city of Tel-Aviv has low crime rates, considerably lower than say Birmingham, England.

But wherever you go, stay safe. There are countries where it’s common not to lock your doors at night but you are only increasing the danger levels if you don’t. Any city has it’s rough parts and you should always be aware of pick-pockets in crowded areas.

Copyright Brand New Eyes Photography

The Disney Magic will be returning to Europe in June 2013, with Barcelona once again the departure port. It will be revisiting ports such as Villefranche, La Spezia, Civitavecchia and Naples but exploring new ports like Croatia, Venice, Turkey, Palma de Mallorca and the Greek Islands.

Beginning December 23rd 2012 the Magic will set sail from Galveston, TX and visit the Bahamas & the Western Caribbean. (Nassau, Key West, Castaway Cay, Cozumel and St Marteen)

The Wonder will continue sailing in Alaska but also setting sail from the port of Miami.

Rates start at just $440 for 4 & 5 night cruises departing from Miami.

1. Camp Nou (FC Barcelona) 

Whether or not you like Barcelona, you can’t deny they have a wonderful ground with an amazing atmosphere. Built in 1954 and taking 3 years to complete the total cost of the build was around 173 million Euros. Today it’s capacity stands at 99,354, with plans to expand put on hold due to the current economic crisis. The Camp Nou isn’t just a football stadium it has also played host to some of the world’s great music performers over the years including Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Madonna. No trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to the Camp Nou.

2. Old Trafford (Manchester United) 

Copyright Brand New Eyes Photography

Nicknamed “The Theatre of Dreams” you can feel the pre game buzz and excitement before you even step foot in the stadium as you pass the many fast food bars and stalls as you approach Sir Matt Busby Way and pass by the Old Trafford Cricket ground but it’s when you walk up the steps into the stadium that it really takes your breath away. Built it 1909 and only taking a year to complete it was designed by Scottish Architect Archibald Leitch at a quoted cost of £60,000 that later rose to £90,000. A German air raid in 1941 destroyed much of the stadium during world war II but was rebuilt and play resumed in 1949. The stadium holds the current Premier league record attendance at 76,098 set against Blackburn Rovers in 2007. Old Trafford will host some of the Olympic football matches including the women’s Semi-Final and hospitality packages for all fixtures are available from the official club website.

3. San Siro (AC Milan & Inter Milan) 

The San Siro hosts both Italian giants AC & Inter Milan and if there’s something that’s certainly not lacking it’s atmosphere. The Italians, much like most things, are very passionate about their football. It has a current capacity of 80,018 and was built in 1925 and took a year to complete. The average attendance for the clubs has exchanged ever since it was opened with Inter being higher in the last 2 years but AC the previous 2. A great experience to add to your itinerary of a trip to Milan. A free bus from the Metro station to the stadium is available.

After the tragic fate of the Costa Concordia last Friday when it sunk after hitting rocks and running aground, it begs the question, What does this mean for the cruise Industry?

Costa cruises are owned by cruise giant Carnival, who own 11 cruise lines including; P&O, Princess, Cunard, Holland America and of cause, Carnival Cruise line. This takes up a huge portion of the cruise line market and Carnival saw their shares down in November and they fell a further 18% over the weekend. Carnival are estimating ¢95m loss from the Concordia being out of service alone.

My guess is a lot of people, especially first time cruisers are going to think twice before booking right now. Financially, this disaster couldn’t have happened at a worse time, with January – March being the peak cruise booking period.

The way I see it, this is a great time to pick up a bargain cruise. Safety is going to be huge focus right now so if anything, you’ll be even safer on a cruise ship.

One thing that did alarm me about the Concordia disaster is that it happened only hours into the cruise, BEFORE the passenger safety drill had been carried out. Apparently it is only British and American ships that carry out their safety drill upon the sail away, something I hope they enforce on all ships and a positive to come out of this disaster.

My advice, don’t let this put you off, book, find a good deal but stick to a decent cruise line. It all depends on what you’re looking for, stay tuned for my Cruise line guide.

Portugal topped the Post Office Travel Money annual Worldwide holiday cost barometer. The survey collected prices of 8 common items to buy while on vacation in resorts and compared the total costs. The items compared were; A cup of Coffee, Bottle of Beer, Can of Coke, 1.5ltr bottle of Mineral Water from a supermarket, Suncream, insect repellent, pack of 20 cigarettes and a 3 course evening meal for 2 adults with a bottle of house wine.

A Typical street in Lisbon, Portugal. Copyright Brand New Eyes Photography

With the total cost of those items being just £32.84, Portugal led the list, with Australia being on the other end of the scale where the same items would set you back a whopping £157.51.

Other bargain holiday hot spots high on the list were Spain (£36.68), Czech Republic (£37.98) and Bulgaria(£39.39).

If you want to travel further afield and can budget for the flight cost, good deals can be found in Sri Lanka (£40.62), Thailand (£44.26), Mexico (£45.36) and Malaysia (£47.68).

Thailand was actually very cheap on all items except the 3 course meal for 2, at £34.82, it takes up a large portion of the total costs, with a can of coke only setting you back 28p there, compared to 89p in Portugal so this could be a great option if you are planning on going full board with your meals already accounted for.

New Zealand polled in at 33 out of 36 with a total cost of £111.37 for the 8 items, showing that while it may be a cheap place to live, it’s not so cheap to vacation there.

Other places to stay away from if you are on a budget include; Hong Kong (£138.64), Canada (£119.32) and Barbados (£111.27).

The cheapest cigarettes can be found in Indonesia, a steal at only 95p for 20 marlborough lights, the same pack in Australia will set you back around £8.42.