Travel with a mate http://www.travelwithamate.com Travel advice, destinations and reviews from a family of travel addicts. Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:33:27 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Hidden gems of New York http://www.travelwithamate.com/hidden-gems-new-york/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 10:40:19 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30248 The big apple that never sleeps is one truly amazing city, filled with a diverse range of cultures, history, landmarks and tourist hotspots not to be missed. But in this sprawling metropolis there are plenty of hidden gems all over the city, even things locals don’t usually know about. While its always good to tick ...

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The big apple that never sleeps is one truly amazing city, filled with a diverse range of cultures, history, landmarks and tourist hotspots not to be missed. But in this sprawling metropolis there are plenty of hidden gems all over the city, even things locals don’t usually know about. While its always good to tick off some of the mainstream landmarks, real memories are made in these obscure and unusual places. So grab yourself a cheap flight over the atlantic and a silky smooth ride in to town with a pre-booked airport transfer. Then check out some of the truly amazing sights that you probably didn’t know about. Here’s my 3 favourite;

City Hall Station

Opened in 1904 the New York Subway, like many around the world, grew larger than its means with stations becoming out-dated and underused. One such station is City Hall which closed to paying customers in 1945. It really is like an abandoned station down there too with many of the old fixtures and fittings still in place. The New York City Transit Museum arrange special access a few times a year so its a real rarity to be able to visit such an historic and long forgotten landmark. Only members of the museum can attend but its well worth trying to get access if you can. You’ll find more info on their website here.

City hall station tours

Obscura Antiques and Oddities

New York in 19th and 20th century was a hotbed of medical science, experimentation and discoveries. Some of it a success and a whole lot of it rather gruesome and surreal too. Its often hard to find relics of this past but tucked away in an Antique shop on the corner of 10th and A on the Lower East Side of Manhattan you’ll find one such collection thats well worth checking out. The Obscura antique shop is a treasure trove of wonderful artefacts that are always a joy to explore. You’ll find all manner of things here that wouldn’t go amiss in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum. From anatomical models and 19th century medical implements, to strange mutated animal heads and jars of creepy crawlies too!

Obscura antiques

Please Don’t Tell

If ever a venue summed up this post its this one. While its maybe not entirely hidden from view its reason for existing surely is. There’s always a queue to enter this bar because its entrance isn’t what you’re normally expect. One tatty old phone booth at the side of a restaurant has an almost baffling queue of people waiting to use it. That’s because this is the entrance to cocktail bar in a part of town more akin to street food and corner shops. Inside you’ll find a bar filled with odd looking items and smug looking people, rightly so too as this is one of the coolest bars in town and a must on your visit to New York City. Check out this website for more details.

Please Dont Tell bar

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Our favourite travel bloggers to follow in 2016 http://www.travelwithamate.com/favourite-travel-bloggers-follow-2016/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 12:38:17 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30245 Travel blogging is all about joining an online community, where writers share experiences, stories and tips with their readers. An important part of being a travel writer is reading other blogs in the same field, connecting with the writers, and becoming an active member of the blogging community. We feel that capturing your experiences and ...

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Travel blogging is all about joining an online community, where writers share experiences, stories and tips with their readers. An important part of being a travel writer is reading other blogs in the same field, connecting with the writers, and becoming an active member of the blogging community.

We feel that capturing your experiences and spreading the word about what to see (or not see) is important to document, whether that’s via a video, review, or blog post. Of course, blogging doesn’t just help your readers discover new things, but also helps you to remember the most cherished parts of a journey. Writing something down when it’s fresh in your mind is vital, as years from now you might not recall those tiny details that can make a trip seem amazing.

Hopefully you’re inspired enough to go on your own journeys and want to get into the world of blogging. So before we launch into a list of our favourite travel writers of 2016, take a second to look at places like this, where you can pick up cheap domain names (a fun part is choosing a name for your site), get online, and then start your own travel blog.

Our Awesome Planet

Started in 2005 after a tsunami hit Southeast Asia, this travel blog has both interesting articles and stunning visual content. Dedicated to The Philippines and Asia, Our Awesome Planet offers advice and reviews of food, travel, festivals, and accommodation. It is not just the content that we admire, the overall layout and ethos is also appealing.

Nomadic Matt

Next on our list comes from the New York Times Best-Selling Author of ‘How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.’ Nomadic Matt is an excellent resource for finding tips on travelling for cheap and visiting your dream location becomes achievable with the help of this blog. Matt has been seeing the world since 2006 and created this blog to inspire others to travel the world without spending a fortune. His passion for globe-trotting shines through in his articles that offer tips only a veteran would know.

Adventurous Kate

Last but not least is the blog from a solo female traveller. Self-confessed adventurer, Adventurous Kate left her job in online marketing to become a professional travel writer. This is a good blog for any aspiring travel bloggers out there, because it offers tips on making money from travel blogging, and creating a successful marketing plan. With tips on affiliate marketing, branded content, and campaigns, there is a lot to learn about monetising a blog on this site. With tens of thousands of followers on social media, Adventurous Kate’s campaigns are worth paying attention to, for those who may be inspired to start their own blog and turn traveling the world into a sustainable career.

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Things to do in Dubai http://www.travelwithamate.com/things-to-do-in-dubai/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 04:22:07 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30217 Dubai is a fast-growing cosmopolitan city in the UAE. It is a vibrant place that combines modernity with centuries-old Arab-Islamic culture. From international-standard shopping to desert safaris, there is a great variety of things to do in Dubai for its visitors. Things to do in the deserts of Dubai: Go on a Dubai Desert Safari ...

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Dubai is a fast-growing cosmopolitan city in the UAE. It is a vibrant place that combines modernity with centuries-old Arab-Islamic culture. From international-standard shopping to desert safaris, there is a great variety of things to do in Dubai for its visitors.

Dubai safaris

Things to do in the deserts of Dubai:

  • Go on a Dubai Desert Safari in a 4×4 vehicle driven by an expert and feel the exhilaration of the Arabian desert. Drive up the dunes and ridges and enjoy an exciting ride from within the comfort of your Land Cruiser. Later in the evening, you can wind down from your ‘dune bashing’ activities with a beautiful desert sunset – a colorful spectacle against the crimson sands.
  • Enjoy traditional Arabic coffee and dates inside a beautiful Bedouin encampment in the desert. Learn about the culture and traditions of the people have have made the desert their home for centuries. Watch traditional tanura dance performance by beautiful belly dancers while you smoke a shisha pipe to get into the spirit of Arabia.
  • Soar high in a hot air balloon and see the infinite desert vistas. You might see some of the wildlife that live in the desert including wild camel and gazelle.
  • Take a camel-back ride around the desert sands, get traditional henna painting on your body, and take your pictures in traditional costumes with a falcon on your shoulder.

Things to do in the city of Dubai:

  • See the city from atop the Burj Khalifa, a masterpiece of architecture and engineering. With a height of 828 meters, it is the tallest building in the world. You can the see entire city from one of the two observation decks, one on the 124th floor (452m) and the other on the 148th floor (555m). If you prefer to dine with a view, there is a restaurant-bar on the 122nd floor.
  • Visit Dubai’s heritage sites which portray its rich history and culture such as the village of Hatta, Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, and Heritage Island.
  • Dubai has the best shopping in the entire Middle East and one of the best in the world. There are no sales taxes or VAT to pay so the prices are really good in Dubai. It has more than a hundred malls, not including hundreds of independent stores and the world-famous duty-free shopping at Dubai International Airport.
  • Another option for shopping is at the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world. With around 1200 stores in the mall, you are sure to find any well-known international brands that you are looking for. The mall also has a large ice rink, indoor theme parks, an aquarium and lots of food outlets.
  • Dubai is the undisputed ‘Skyscraper Capital of the Middle-East’. Take a tour of the city and see all the splendid buildings, bridges and landmarks of this ultra-modern city.
  • Cool down at the Wild Wadi Water Park and ride a water roller coaster, bodysurf on artificially created waves, plunge down high-speed slides, float down a slow and lazy river or just enjoy a relaxing time in the playground

Wild Wadi Waterpark

Useful information on Dubai:

  • Dubai has a tropical desert climate with hot and humid summers (April-October) and warm winters (January-March).
  • Dubai remains clear and sunny all year round, except between May and early July when sandstorms can hit the city.
  • December-March is considered to be the most comfortable climate of the year.
  • The official currency of the UAE is Dirham (AED or Arab Emirate Dirham) and it is a good idea to change your currency beforehand or carry a credit that can be used in the UAE.

Dubai has carved out a special place for itself in the world of tourism with thousands of visitors coming here every year. Combining the grandeur and technological marvels of the twenty-first century with strong Islamic roots, Dubai is truly a one of a kind vacation destination.

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Best Value for Money Festivals in Europe this Summer http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-music-festivals-europe-summer/ Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30208 Summer is coming into full swing in Europe, bringing with it a season of over 600 music festivals, an indication of just how strong the music and festival culture is in this part of the world. Many travelers make pilgrimages to infamous European festivals as the purpose of their trip, while others plan a tour ...

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Summer is coming into full swing in Europe, bringing with it a season of over 600 music festivals, an indication of just how strong the music and festival culture is in this part of the world. Many travelers make pilgrimages to infamous European festivals as the purpose of their trip, while others plan a tour of Europe and happily enjoy a consequential festival as they move through countries. Whichever your style of travel, attending a festival as part of a summer trip in Europe is almost mandatory.

But with so many festivals to sift through, how do you know which is the right one for you? We appreciate too that when traveling you’re more than likely on a budget, so can you really afford it? Recently travel search engine GoEuro compiled an Ultimate Guide for the European 2016 Festival Season that helps solve that tricky question of affordability and much, much more.

Best music festivals in Europe

With the help of a network of travel bloggers, GoEuro analysed nearly 100 music festivals in Europe, sorting them by duration, capacity and price. Beyond this, individual rankings of the top electronic, top alternative, top rock, size, family friendliness and the most low cost festivals were calculated.

Festival les Nuits Sonores

If price is really the thing holding you back from indulging in a festival experience this summer, the ranking of the Top 10 Cheapest Music Festivals in Europe 2016 is a great place to start your research. In the Netherlands the cheapest festivals were Welcome to the Future, € 52.50 for 1 day, Dance Valley, €65 for 1 day and Appelpop, which is 2 days and free! Vina Rock, less than  €110 for 3 days, SOS 4.8, less than €110 for 3 days, Arenal Sound, between  €35 and €100 for 4 days, and Barcelona Beach Festival, between $110 and $170 for 1 day, were the cheapest Spanish festivals. Beyond these festival hot spots Off Festival in Poland is less than  €110 for 3 days, Nuits Sonores Festival in France is less than  €100 for a solid 5 days and and Hip Hop Kemp in Czech Republic is less than €100 for 3 days.

Appelpop festival

But where can you find the most expensive festivals? Of the 13 most expensive festivals six harked from the United Kingdom, where some of our Great British Festivals featured, two were from Denmark, and one each from Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Norway and Spain.

Recognising that duration plays a part in the value for money of a festival, all collected information on cost and duration were compared to find the cost per day for festivals in each country. The results of this saw Norway top the charts as the country with the most expensive festivals in Europe, while Poland ranked as the cheapest.

With this festival research now at your fingertips, which will you be touring to this summer? If you’re in need of further inspiration this breakdown of the Best European Countries for Festivals provides many more gems of advice and experiences to help you on your way.

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Finding Dory: Best places in the world to go diving http://www.travelwithamate.com/finding-dory-best-places-world-go-diving/ Fri, 17 Jun 2016 11:43:24 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30202 We’re very excited about the release of this year’s animation movie must-see, Pixar’s Finding Dory and once again, much like the first movie, demand for all things aquatic is peaking. There are some truly stunning places around the world to go diving, snorkelling and just generally hanging out with the Blue Tang fish. So we’ve ...

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We’re very excited about the release of this year’s animation movie must-see, Pixar’s Finding Dory and once again, much like the first movie, demand for all things aquatic is peaking. There are some truly stunning places around the world to go diving, snorkelling and just generally hanging out with the Blue Tang fish. So we’ve tried to pick a few of our favourites that you might want to consider for your next trip. It doesn’t have to be the core reason you travel to these destinations but it sure is a great reason to go.

The Great Barrier Reef

If you really want to go finding dory then one of the best places in the world is the Great Barrier Reef. A destination we hold very dear to our hearts as we visited in 2015 on our epic Australian road trip adventure. Day trips here are very easy and there’s even overnight stays on floating hotels if you want to get even more of the action. Its very easy to snorkel here as the reef stretches on for hundreds of miles in a shallow formation thats easy to get up close to. There’s also ample equipment for diving down a few meters to get a closer look.

Barrier reef see blue tang dory

The great thing about the Blue Tang fish is they like to stay put, contrary to the movie they don’t like travelling the world in search of their family, they find one spot of coral they love and they call it home their entire life. So local experts will easily be able to point you to the best spots for seeing these little blue fellas. Australia’s great barrier reef is one of the great natural wonders of the world and is very well set up for tourists, while not the cheapest place in the world to go diving it is definitely one of the best.

Indonesia

With over 17,508 islands to choose from, Indonesia has more than its fair share of coastline and coral. Situated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans its the perfect spot for Blue tang (or Paracanthurus hepatic to give the fish its full title) to hang out. There’s around 6,000 inhabited islands that are set up for tourists with a few of the more famous ones being the easiest to get to, Bali, Lombok, Sumatra and the Gili Islands to name just a few. Personally we adore Bali and the Gili Islands which is usually a quick hop from the Bali too.

Diving in Bali Gili islands

Bali has plenty of dive shops to get you out to the fish quickly but if you want a much quieter, secluded and special tropical destination then I highly recommend the Gili Islands where cars are banned and the pace of life feels all the more natural. The best time to visit is during the dry season in May to September. The wet season is cheaper of course but expect torrential tropical downpours that could interfere with your plans!

Seychelles

This beautiful island paradise may be a little on the pricey side but the old saying “you get what you pay for” is very true here. In the Seychelles you’ll find some of the most luxurious resort hotels with unparalleled coastal views. No wonder then that this is often a honeymoon destination of choice for newlyweds. The Seychelles is a collection of 115 islands situated in the Indian Ocean off the East coast of Africa, its well known for its natural beauty and amazing coral reefs too.

Where to see finding dory fish

The most popular island is Mahé which has an international airport so getting there is easy. Its not only home to some amazing resorts but also to our little friend Dory where you’ll often see Blue Tang making the coral here their home. The Seychelles is probably one of the easiest, most luxurious ways to go diving, snorkelling and generally enjoying the paradise coastline. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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Helpful Hints for Your Trip to Zanzibar http://www.travelwithamate.com/helpful-hints-trip-zanzibar/ Fri, 03 Jun 2016 14:26:59 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30189 There are few things more exhilarating than a trip into the new and novel. In the African nation of Tanzania, the beautiful Zanzibar resorts attract visitors from all across the globe. These hotels and villas are brimming with professional service, helpful hints, and the best views of the tropical beaches. Yet you may be a ...

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There are few things more exhilarating than a trip into the new and novel. In the African nation of Tanzania, the beautiful Zanzibar resorts attract visitors from all across the globe. These hotels and villas are brimming with professional service, helpful hints, and the best views of the tropical beaches. Yet you may be a bit concerned about your trip to Zanzibar, especially if this is your very first trip to Africa. Some research and attention to detail will help you plan the ideal vacation, as well as stay safe and satisfied throughout the entire trip. Get ready to pack your bags, because a destination vacation in Zanzibar should not be missed.

Book in Advance

A good expert time for everyone visiting Zanzibar resorts is to book in advance. Some of these hotels are quite popular, and the top-rated resorts are usually the first to be all booked up. When you take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa, you want to make sure that you are getting the best experience possible. You will never regret the decision to choose a high-quality hotel or resort with a grand reputation and a full service of amenities and features. So hop onto the Internet and get searching for the perfect room as soon as possible. Then, once you get traveling, there is so much less to think about.

Zanzibar travel tips

Plan Out an Itinerary

While you are at it with your hotel booking, continue scanning websites for some things to do in Zanzibar. Of course, Tanzania is a gorgeous African country filled with natural wildlife, a rich display of history and culture, as well as friendly folks and tasty cuisine. It can be difficult to schedule everything into your trip once you have already arrived to your resort. So try to plot out your itinerary while you are still at home. Many Zanzibar resorts are willing to help you out with booking different activities and pointing out insider tips to make your stay even more memorable. Keep in mind the types of activities you enjoy, which will help the planning process go smoother.

Why go to Zanzibar

Schedule Time to Relax

That being said, you want to be sure that you have ample time to simply enjoy the marvellous beaches of Zanzibar. Your resort will provide easy access to the white sands and turquoise waters that will whisk you away to a dreamland of no worries and instant calm. While exploring the neighborhoods and cultural centres is important, without that relaxation time at the beach, you might feel depleted of energy!

Zanzibar travel advice

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A travel guide to the Philippines http://www.travelwithamate.com/philippines-travel-guide/ Wed, 18 May 2016 08:56:28 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=6037 By Arienne Parzei  Made up of over 7,000 islands, the Philippines has so much to offer for travelers.  Postcard perfect beaches, back road adventures, delicious food, eco-tourism sites, scuba diving, jungles, caves, mountains, waterfalls, the liveliness and excitement all the big cities can offer, shopping, and the freshest mangoes you’ll ever eat. Located in the south ...

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By Arienne Parzei 

Made up of over 7,000 islands, the Philippines has so much to offer for travelers.  Postcard perfect beaches, back road adventures, delicious food, eco-tourism sites, scuba diving, jungles, caves, mountains, waterfalls, the liveliness and excitement all the big cities can offer, shopping, and the freshest mangoes you’ll ever eat.

My travel guide to the Philippines

Located in the south pacific, somewhat isolated from any other country, the Philippines is a laid back, flip-flop culture where no one seems to be in a rush.  Hospitality is unlike anything else, where you’re greeted with “hi ma’ams” and “hi sirs” anywhere you go.  The people are warm and friendly, willing to help but also know when to give you some space. And smiles almost seem like a Filipino pre-requisite.

In the cities you’re surrounded by booming American top 40 hits, the over powering smell of diesel fumes, and enough stores and shopping malls to shake a stick at.  But getting away from the hustle and bustle is probably the best thing going for the country.

Best beaches in the Philippines

Beaches in the Philippines

Regularly making Top Ten lists, the Philippines has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The most popular, but rather commercialized, is The White Beach on Boracay Island.  Once you wade through the shops and people selling everything under the sun to you, The White Beach is a slice of paradise.  White powdered sand that stretches not only for 3 kms down the beachfront, but for hundreds of meters into the water.  There is no seaweed or rocks to get tangled in. And when the skies are clear you can sit back with a San Miguel in hand amazed at the crystal clear water spanning the entire blue/green spectrum of colours.

Parks and attractions

Other highlights the country offers include the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, located on Palawan Island.  It’s reputed to be the longest navigable underground river at 8.2km in length but tourists can venture as far as 1.5km with a guided tour.  It’s quite the experience drifting through a cave, bats flying overhead, with only a 12V flashlight showing you the way. The island of Bohol is home to the smallest primate in the world, the tarsier, and The Chocolate Hills, naturally formed hills that resemble chocolate mounds in the dry season when everything turns brown.

Why go to the Philippines?

In the Luzon area, in the north of the country, are the stunning rice terraces and the hanging coffins in Sagada. But if you just want to relax and laze your days away, the beaches is where it’s at, and there’s no shortages of them!

Philippines culture

The Philippines is mainly Catholic and you’ll see its influences all around.  Beautiful cathedrals are a plenty throughout the cities, tricycles with “In God We Trust” painted on the backs, and a small prayer said before ferries embark on their trips are just some of the daily reminders.  An interesting experience happened when we were picking up some groceries. We were walking around the store, choosing some snacks for the next day when we became suddenly aware that no one else was moving. We then noticed that everyone was being led in prayer over the loud speaker. Out of respect we stopped and listened to the prayer and watched as everyone crossed them selves when it was finished.

Philippines culture

Holiday in the Philippines

Planning a trip to the Philippines can be a bit daunting. There’s so much to see! What to choose?!  The best thing to keep in mind though is to give your self a lot of time travelling between places. Since the country is made up of islands, you’ll either be flying or taking ferries between them.  Cebu Pacific is the most popular airline used within the country. They have countless routes, very affordable prices and booking is easy through their website.  But since they are a budget airline, don’t expect the same luxuries as the top airlines.  Pack a snack and be patient when the inevitable announcement that the plane is delayed comes over the loud speaker. You may just have a one-hour flight, but you can spend almost a whole day traveling to your next destination. And unlike the videos posted on YouTube months ago, there were unfortunately no dancing stewardesses on our flights.

It’s fast becoming a popular stop for travelers with many travel sites predicting that the Philippines will soon overshadow Thailand as the cheap-beach destination. Four to five weeks would be the ideal amount of time to really explore the country, but if you’re tight for time pick only 2 or 3 places that interest you most.

Arienne Parzei is a travel writer, videographer, and photographer from Toronto, Canada. Her insatiable curiosity for learning about different cultures first-hand has led her to some amazing destinations and experiences, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, living in South Korea for two years, and backpacking for eight months through China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. She shares her travel experiences on her website www.seeyousoon.ca and hopes to inspire you in the process.

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Top 5 party destinations in the world 2016 http://www.travelwithamate.com/top-5-party-destinations-world-2016/ Fri, 13 May 2016 14:18:20 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30035 Possibly the greatest thing about some of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful destinations is that they’re also the home of some of the best nightlife in the world for party-loving travellers to explore. Whether it’s clubs, beach parties or festivals, or anything in between, these five places give people the chance to enjoy the party ...

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Possibly the greatest thing about some of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful destinations is that they’re also the home of some of the best nightlife in the world for party-loving travellers to explore.

Whether it’s clubs, beach parties or festivals, or anything in between, these five places give people the chance to enjoy the party of a lifetime in some of the world’s most stunning surroundings.

EL TRUNCO, EL SALVADOR

What’s so great about El Trunco is that you’d have no idea there was any kind of party spirit if you headed down to the beach during the day. You’ll find families and backpackers alike just chilling, soaking up the sun. However, sun down in this small Salvadoran town brings about something unimaginable – boy do they know how to party.

EL TRUNCO, EL SALVADOR

Locals, surfers and backpackers all join forces on the beach. It’s one of the most spectacular beach parties you’ll ever experience, more so for the beautiful reasoning at the centre of it. This lively beach party with alcohol and music aplenty, is essentially a celebration of the sun and a great excuse to gather in front of one of the most amazing sunsets you’re ever likely to see.

LAS VEGAS, USA

As a city that never sleeps, Vegas truly deserves a place on the list. Home to some of the most opulent hotels and nightclubs in the world, party animals will be spoilt for choice in this adult’s playground. One of the best things about Vegas is that visitors can party around the clock. Expect pool parties in the day and dancing to world renowned DJ’s at night. Popular destinations include Marquee, known for hosting rooftop pool parties, and Hakkasan, where Calvin Harris is just one of the resident DJs.

With temperatures soaring to over 100°F during the summer months, visitors are well advised not to walk around for long periods and stay hydrated. You can pick up more tips in this survival guide.

IBIZA, SPAIN

Renowned throughout Europe for its seasonal party atmosphere and considered the dance music capital of the world, Ibiza is a hive of activity between May and October with teens and young adults looking to experience the raucous nightlife this, otherwise traditional Spanish island, has come to be associated with.

Ibiza, Spain

During the party season, the world’s biggest DJs flock to this party hub home to some of the world’s hottest clubs including Privilege – the largest nightclub in the world. Visitors party hard from sunset to sunrise before seeking solace at the swimming pool and eventually rising again at midday to do it all over again. If you’re a lover of all things dance and aren’t afraid of the hefty price-tags then Ibiza will provide you with a party experience that’ll take some beating.

NEW ORLEANS, USA

If you’re looking for a buzzing atmosphere then the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans simply must be experienced. Expect colours, costumes and craziness as you get swept up in one of the most out of control parties on earth.

New Orleans

The locals love these annual celebrations so much they shut down the streets to ensure it’s a success. Remember, the colours of the festival are purple (justice), green (faith) and gold (power), so if you do find yourself heading to one of the craziest street parties on earth, be sure to dress for the occasion!

KO PHA NGAN, THAILAND

As it gets close to a full moon, this island sheds its otherwise tranquil skin in preparation for the unforgettable events that are about to occur. Known around the world for their full moon parties, the beach of this small Thai island houses more than 20,000 people as they dance, drink, skinny dip and have competitions over flaming skipping ropes all in celebration of the full moon.

KO PHA NGAN, THAILAND

It’s crazy to think that this whole tradition was started by a couple of backpackers having a beach party coincidentally on the night of a full moon. Nowadays it’s renowned throughout the world for beach barbeques, eclectic music and perhaps most importantly, alcohol that’s sold by the bucket!

So there you have it, carnivals, the biggest nightclub in the world and everything in between. Here are our five top party destinations that should fulfil every one of your 2016 partying dreams.

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Africa – My top 10 places to go this year http://www.travelwithamate.com/africa-top-10-places-go-year/ Fri, 13 May 2016 14:03:58 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30021 Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world and Africa in particular. Africa has both natural and cultural heritage resources that have the potential to attract many tourists from around the globe. This puts some African countries at the edge of competing with other regions rich in tourism resources. Africa boasts ...

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Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world and Africa in particular. Africa has both natural and cultural heritage resources that have the potential to attract many tourists from around the globe. This puts some African countries at the edge of competing with other regions rich in tourism resources. Africa boasts a rich selection of attractions including man-made monuments, pyramids and other stunning natural landscapes that have been inscribed by the UNESCO. Africa has it all – from the wildlife to ancient wonders that features authentic African history and cultural heritage traditions.  So here’s my top 10 list of the best places to go in Africa this year. Where will you go?

Pyramids of Giza in Egypt

The Giza pyramids and sphinx are found in Egypt situated on the Giza plateau. The pyramids are one of the oldest and largest man made archeological sites in Africa and the last remaining of the 7 surviving natural wonders of the world. There are three major large pyramids that are said to have been built during between 2589 BC and 2504 BC by the three ancient Egyptian rulers Khufu, Kafre and Mankaure. These pyramids are essentially massive tombs where kings and their descendants were buried. In front of the pyramids sits the great sphinx, carved out of stone and appear in a cat like sculptures. High on everyone’s bucket list, the pyramids of Egypt are a must for any traveller.

Giza Pyramids in Egypt

The Omo River Region in Ethiopia

The Omo River region is found in southern Ethiopia and it’s popularly known for the cultural diversity, with more than 50 unique tribes living in the river valley. With traditional African customs its become one of the best tourist destinations in Ethiopia. Due to the unique tribes and traditions that still exist in modern society; the Omo River was declared a world heritage site by the UNESCO in 1980. The tribes include the pastoralists, cultivators, hunters who are still practicing their old customs, traditions and lifestyles, having survived for centuries in the harsh desert like climatic conditions.

Omo River Region in Ethiopia

The ways of life of the Omo tribes plus the diverse beautiful landscapes with volcanic rocks, grasslands, riverine forests together make the region an interesting destination to visit. Some of the traditions include horn blowing, body paintings as a sign of identification; women appear more beautiful and photogenic with their lower lips pierced, decorated and dotted clay plates and jewelry. Above all these the tribes of the omo river region are friendly and welcoming to all who visit.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest volcano in Africa rising to an elevation of 5,896 meters above sea level. The mountain is a popular destination for climbing as its located in northern Tanzania on the border with Kenya. Adventure travellers visiting Tanzania often climb the mountain to witness the 5 distinctive vegetation zones that features unique wildlife. The peaks of Uhuru, kibo, Mawezi and shira can all be climbed by foot.

Best places to go in Africa

The lower slopes of the mountain are a home to the big five mammals and other species of primates, the wide range of plants and animals make the mountain a great attraction worth visiting, however the climb is very challenging and climbers must be physically fit and well equipped with climbing gears. The reward is worth the effort.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

The Volcanoes national parks Rwanda is one of the most popular Gorilla trekking destinations in Africa. Part of the great Virunga conservation region which borders Uganda with Mgahinga national park and the Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Home to endangered mountain gorillas and the famous base of Dian fossey the American zoologist who built her research Karisoke base between volcanoes Bisoke and Karisimbi. Aiming to protect and conserve mountain gorillas which were massively threatened and on the verge of extinction.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

An encounter with the rare mountain Gorillas is one of the most memorable adventures you’ll ever experience. Situated just 2 hours from Kigali international airport, its quite easy and convenient for travellers to reach Kinigi park head offices without persevering long distance drives as it is in Bwindi or Virunga gorilla parks.

With the main principle of mountain gorilla conservation, Rwanda gorilla trekking is conducted in a very organized manner guided by professional staff that have been trained and well informed about gorilla tourism. Volcanoes national park comprises of 10 mountain gorilla groups available to be visited by 8 tourists each day for one hour and hence 80 gorilla permits are available everyday. The park also offers a number of other attractions including golden monkey tracking, mountain hiking as well as treks on Mount Karisimbi and mount Bisoke.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is the jewel of South Africa and is located on the southwest coast in the shadow of the ragged table mountains. It is the second largest city in south Africa featuring the most cultural diverse heritage sites, south African parliament, several art galleries and museums, beautiful architectural buildings, wine manufacturing industries, botanical gardens and the infamous Roben islands where the former south African president and first black president of the country was imprisoned for three decades. Strategically located beneath the Table Mountains and overlooking the two great oceans of the Atlantic on the west side and the Indian ocean on the east side.

Cape Town

You’ll find a wide range of tourist activities and festivals taking place annually including deep ocean diving, wind surfing, wine tasting and much more. All of these combine to make cape town a great destination for all travellers from around the world.

The Maasai-Mara National Reserve

The Maasai-Mara national reserve is found in south west Kenya, popularly known for the great Wildebeest migration and other thousands of hoofed mammals. They migrate annually from Kenya to Tanzania in search of greener pastures. The reserve is found in the great rift valley of open grasslands and African acacia woodlands that are home to a variety of animals including the big five mammals. There’s all sorts of wildlife to see here including 95 species of mammal and over 400 species of birds. Its no wonder they call this the “the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife”.

Maasai-Mara National Reserve

Safaris to Kenya nearly always include the Maasai-reserve because it gives you the best chance of seeing the all important big five mammals . You’ll see prides of lions, herds of buffalos, African elephants, black rhinos and leopards too. Other predators include cheetahs, spotted hyenas, jackals and foxes.

During July to November visitors flock to the grasslands to view the migration of over 1.5 millions wildebeests mixed with thousands of zebras too. During the migration you’ll also see Gazelles, buffalos, elephants and many species of antelopes such as waterbucks, Oribi and the eland ,Africa’s largest antelope. You’ll also get a chance to meet the Maasai people who are nomads and survive on farming and livestock rearing. They are easily identified by their red cloth and are famous for their dancing and traditions.

The Victoria Waterfalls

The Victoria waterfalls are located between Zimbabwe and Zambia on the Zambezi River that separates the two countries. Its one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is also the largest waterfall in the world with a width of 1,708 meters. There are two islands that divide the waters to create the strongest falls, the Livingstone Island and the Boaruka Island on the western bank of the river, forming great view points of the cascading water. The area experiences a rainy season and the river floods between February to July when water sprays form mists that is quite a beautiful sight and can be seen from a distance of about 20 km.

Victoria Waterfalls

Tourists either visit from Zimbabwe or Zambia where various tourist centers have been established. Visitors enjoy the hiking and walking on the rocky platforms with beautiful views and refreshing mists. You can walk across two bridges with clear views of various gorges. The natural wonders of the world are not to be missed and this is definitely one of the most dramatic. Highly recommended!

The Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a popular honeymoon destination consisting of several islands located in Tanzania at the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean. It is the biggest of the 50 islands and it features a rich history and heritage as a centre of world trade between Europe, Asia and Africa. Today Zanzibar is loved for its pristine white sand beaches, lush green spice gardens and a chance to see coral reefs too. Several islands offer unique attractions like the stone town where you’ll find  shops, mosques and palaces of the former sultan.

Zanzibar

Zanzibar has been regarded as a tropical paradise with some pretty merchant towns including the UNESCO heritage town of Stone. This town can be easily explored on foot to see markets, mosques, old Arab houses. A very different African experience not to be missed.

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech is found in western Morocco and is a major economic center in the north Africa region. A former imperial city, Marrakech is where the former Moroccan Berber empire dominated the region. The city is culturally diverse with several building constructed in red sandstones giving the city its nickname as “The Red City“. Today Marrakech is a popular cultural, religious and trading center for sub-Saharan Africa and a major tourist destination too.

Marocco Marrakech

The city is a designated heritage site by UNESCO following the rising concern about cultural heritage loss. Situated at the foothills of Atlas Mountains, expect beautiful views of snow capped peaks. The main features of the city include the ancient Saadian tombs, museums and art galleries, handicraft shops and restaurants with traditional Moroccan menus. There’s also some wonderful national festivals and some beautiful green gardens with walk ways, pretty flowers and a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Djenne Town

Djenne is found in central Mali in the Niger Delta region about 570 km from the capital city Bamako and believed to be the oldest continually inhabited town in Africa since 250 BC. The town later became a market center for the gold traders of sub-Saharan Africa with traditional houses that have survived the ages and the weather!

Djenne Town

The old town has a sacred ancient building made from fabrics of mud red bricks as well as terracotta artifacts that were used to build the mosque that dominates the market square. You’ll find evidence of pre-Islamic civilisation too which attracts various pilgrimages including students from across West Africa and various traders who come for sell their goods in the city.

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A guide to Uganda Gorilla Trekking – My advice http://www.travelwithamate.com/guide-uganda-gorilla-trekking-advice/ Fri, 13 May 2016 12:23:53 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30013 Visiting the critically endangered mountain gorillas deep in the jungles of central and East Africa is a humbling and torching adventure. With over 1000 individual mountain gorillas surviving in the central and East African tropical rain forests, mountain gorilla trekking is the main funding source for the conservation and sustainability of these intriguing manlike endangered ...

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Visiting the critically endangered mountain gorillas deep in the jungles of central and East Africa is a humbling and torching adventure. With over 1000 individual mountain gorillas surviving in the central and East African tropical rain forests, mountain gorilla trekking is the main funding source for the conservation and sustainability of these intriguing manlike endangered giants. Each Uganda gorilla safari is a direct contribution for the protection works of mountain gorillas in Africa and hence, each gorilla permit purchase is a contribution to gorilla conservation and local community sustainability.

In the 20’s, mountain gorilla tourism has become a popular safari adventure – top bucket list for all Africa travels, and hence a great need to guiding information for all travellers planning a gorilla tour in Uganda’s Bwindi national park and Mgahinga national park.

Which National park to choose

Uganda had two gorilla national parks – Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park, both situated south west of the country and can be reached both by road and air transport.

Access

By Road, Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks are 8-9 hours drive from Kampala capital city. By charter flight from Kampapa, just 30 minutes from Entebbe to Kisori air strip and Kihihi air strip.

From Kigali – Rwanda is a shorter distance crossing into Uganda with 3 – 4 hours drive into Bwindi or Mgahinga national parks.

Best Gorilla Park – Bwindi impenetrable forest or Mgahinga national Park?

Bwindi forest national park is the most popular gorilla park for travelers looking at visiting gorillas in Uganda. Bwindi forest is home to half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population – about 500 gorillas, with 12 habituated gorilla groups, 2 gorilla habituation adventure groups. This means Bwindi offers travelers diversity of gorilla groups with no chance of missing out on gorilla permit and a 100% guarantee to seeing gorillas in the jungle.

virunga gorilla trek

Secondly Bwindi gorilla forest offers a typical wild jungle adventure for adventure seekers. Bwindi is called impenetrable because of its thick vegetation cover and a typical hiking adventure. Bwindi comprises of a mountainous terrain for hikers and a gentle terrain for non hikers.

Mgahinga national park has one gorilla group, which in the past Used to periodically migrate with the the Virunga conservation region which has for long settled in Mgahinga national park.

Best Time to visit gorillas

Visiting gorillas in Uganda can be done all year round, but the dryer season is more preferred than the rainy seasons. The dry season runs from December through early March and June – September and the rainy season Late March – April and november.

When to see Gorillas

During the rainy seasons the Uganda Wildlife Authourity (www.ugandawildlife.org)  gorilla permits are discounted to $450 from $600 to encourage traveler to come see gorillas even during the rainy seasons at a reduced price!

All in all Uganda is a tropical region with generally cool temperatures all year round and  can rain any time of the year even in the dry season or even not rain some days in the rainy season.

Buying Gorilla Permits / Requirements / Costs

Its a must for every visitor to buy a gorilla permit to see one or more gorilla groups, or go for gorilla habituation experience.  Uganda gorilla permits go for $600 during the dry / high seasons and $450 during the low / rainy seasons.

Each gorilla family can be visited once each day, but a group of 8 people. Uganda currently has 12 gorilla groups hence, 96 gorilla permits are available each day with 8 others for gorilla habituation experience newly introduced in Bwindi gorilla forest for visitors wanting to stay longer with gorillas as take part in gorilla habituation experience.

Buying your gorilla permit

If you book through a tour company, the company will obtain your permit for you. If visiting independently, you can book your permits directly from the Uganda Wildlife authority website at ugandawildlife.org.

Which Group to choose and level of difficulty

Bwindi national park offers 11 gorilla groups with 2 other groups for gorilla habituation experience. reeking each gorilla group is quite different from the others. Bwindi has both  easy, medium and tough hikes, and its necessary to inform your guide of which trek you can manage. Some groups are near the park boundaries ad hence easy to find while others are far away in the mountains and hence require hiking.

Top Tip; Work on your fitness even if going for a simple hike – gorillas are wild animals and keep moving.

Gorilla Trekking Rules

Importantly, don’t go when sick – gorillas are just like human being – we share 98% DNA hence human diseases easily catch gorillas but they have less immunity to fight illness unlike us humans. Gorilla tourism is generally aimed at conservation of mountain gorillas and not to kill them. Don go when sick! Inform your guide and can have a refund

Gorilla trekking advice

  • Camera – No Flash light allowed when photographing gorillas. That spontaneous light can scare off the gorillas and he can become violent.
  • Keep a distance of 7 meters say form the gorillas. Meeting the gorillas makes you vulnerable and emotional. You feel you want to comfort them, but no!! Keep the regulated distance to protect the gorillas
  • Avoid eye contact, it could threaten the gorillas
  • Don’t eat or drink when with the gorillas

More information

For more useful information go to adventureugandasafaris.com

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Why Mauritius is the Perfect Island Getaway http://www.travelwithamate.com/mauritius-perfect-island-getaway/ Fri, 13 May 2016 08:59:15 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30002 When it’s chilly and grey at home, your thoughts are bound to turn to getting a bit of warm sunshine in your life. If there’s one place on Earth that can provide that, it’s Mauritius. From its golden, sun-soaked beaches through its incredible natural beauty to its friendly and welcoming people, this jewel set in ...

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When it’s chilly and grey at home, your thoughts are bound to turn to getting a bit of warm sunshine in your life. If there’s one place on Earth that can provide that, it’s Mauritius. From its golden, sun-soaked beaches through its incredible natural beauty to its friendly and welcoming people, this jewel set in the Indian Ocean has it all.

Mauritius beaches
Mauritius activities

Despite its small size — it has a land area of less than 800 square miles — there’s no chance of you getting bored on a trip to Mauritius. Even if you usually prefer simply to enjoy relaxing on the sand, the warm waters that surround the island make it a wonderful place to get a little more active. There’s a whole range of adventures to enjoy, ranging from boat trips to snorkelling, with expert diving instructors on hand to make sure everything goes — well — swimmingly.

Mauritius diving
If you have a love of nature, Mauritius offers a superb variety for such a compact country. The Black River Gorges region is one of the most spectacular you’ll find anywhere in the world, with deeply wooded steep hillsides, rushing rivers and tropical wildlife galore. You may well see some of Mauritius’s world famous pink pigeons, fruit bats and, if you’re really lucky, the rare but beautiful Mauritius kestrels. You’ll quickly realise that you don’t have to go to Brazil for a rainforest adventure!

Black River National Park
Mauritius culture

Mauritius is a real cultural melting pot, with influences from Africa, Asia and Europe combining to give it one of the most interesting music scenes on the planet. The island’s own speciality is sega; despite its name, this has nothing to do with a certain blue hedgehog! This is derived from traditional dances performed by slaves and always has a strong emotional element. The infectious percussion beat and the swaying, almost hypnotic movements of the dancers make an evening sega concert — ideally around a camp fire — something not to be missed.

Sega dancing
Like Mauritian music, Mauritian cuisine is a fascinating mixture, with local people having taken Indian, Chinese or French dishes and given them a distinctive local flavour. One dish you should certainly try is vindaye, often made from fried fish preserved in a spicy sauce of garlic, chilli and mustard. Curries are also very popular, but the Mauritian variety are subtly different from Indian curries. You’re more often to find them seasoned with thyme than coconut, and you shouldn’t be surprised to be offered octopus curry. It really is delicious!

Mauritius food vindaye

Getting to Mauritius

It’s simple to get to Mauritius from Britain: UK citizens do not need visas, and both British Airways (from Gatwick) and Air Mauritius (from Heathrow) operate regular scheduled flights to the island. You can also fly via Dubai with Emirates. Mauritius’s airport is tucked away in the southeast of the island, so you’ll need to allow around an hour to make the transfer to your hotel. If this isn’t included in your package, budget for about £30 to pay for a taxi. For more info check out Holiday Taxis.

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Four things to do in Rome this year http://www.travelwithamate.com/four-things-rome-year/ Wed, 11 May 2016 15:16:40 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=29993 Rome is a city famous for its spectacular history, cultural delights and gastronomic delicacies, but there are many reasons why 2016 is the perfect year to head out there. No matter what your preference in entertainment, you’ll be sure to find something, so here are the top four things to do if you’re planning a ...

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Rome is a city famous for its spectacular history, cultural delights and gastronomic delicacies, but there are many reasons why 2016 is the perfect year to head out there. No matter what your preference in entertainment, you’ll be sure to find something, so here are the top four things to do if you’re planning a trip.

Take in an opera

What better place in the world to indulge in a bit of vocal culture than in the motherland of opera itself. If this is your passion, there are so many places for you to go. If you’re a traditionalist, you can head over to the majestic Teatro Costanzi (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma). For those who prefer something a little more romantic, how about a magical opera under the stars at the Terme di Caracalla? You should always book tickets in advance though via romeoperatickets.com, as showings tend to sell out fast.

Opera in Rome

Plus, during the summer season, there are many opera and ballet showings held at the Baths of Caracalla, a third-century public bathing complex. You can sit in the warm night air surrounded by ancient marble ruins from April to mid-June.

Listen to music in the open air

Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica is always a popular tourist destination, but this year has an added twist. Throughout the whole of July, the Auditorium will host its eleventh annual open air concert series, Luglio suona bene 2016. The summer festival will see many international artists take to the stage under the stars, and from Electronica to Classical, you’re sure to find something you love.

Luglio suona bene 2016

Head to the famous food and drink market

The Campo dei Fiori market is Rome’s oldest, and you’ll be in paradise if you’re a foodie. You’ll find the best catch of the day straight off the boats, the freshest fruit and vegetables, as well as towers of cheese for you to taste. You definitely won’t go hungry in this authentic Roman market, and you’ll be able to stock up your picnic basket ready for that concert under the stars.

Campo dei Fiori market

Find a hidden treasure in the street art exhibition

Via Margutta is a narrow, cobbled street that you’ll find right at the very heart of Rome. It’s home to many antique shops and fashion sellers, but it also serves as a strong cultural attraction for art lovers. “I Cento Pittori di via Margutta” (One hundred Painters of Via Margutta), is one of the most popular exhibitions in Rome.

Via Margutta

The outdoor art exhibition lines the streets of this area between 28th April-1st May, from 10am to 9pm every day, and the best part of all is that it is free of charge to attend. It showcases 100 Italian and International artists organized by a society called ““Associazione Cento Pittori via Margutta” since 1953.

We hope you get the chance to experience these events this year. If you’ve heard of any others taking place, we’d love to hear about them so please leave us a comment.

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Indonesia Travel Guide for 2016 – Where to go and what to do http://www.travelwithamate.com/indonesia-travel-guide-2016/ Wed, 11 May 2016 11:31:00 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=29981 Indonesia is a beautiful country spanning some 17,000 islands close to the equator in Asia. This vast country has some astounding statistics that you probably didn’t know. Its home to nearly 250 million people making it the 4th most populous country in the world and is a melting pot of religions, languages and cultures. It has ...

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Indonesia is a beautiful country spanning some 17,000 islands close to the equator in Asia. This vast country has some astounding statistics that you probably didn’t know. Its home to nearly 250 million people making it the 4th most populous country in the world and is a melting pot of religions, languages and cultures. It has everything from mountain peaks and active volcanoes, to beautiful island paradises and thick rain forests. There’s plenty to see and do here so lets five in to the best that Indonesia has to offer in 2016.

Getting to Indonesia

With such a large population and a prime location in Asia, Indonesia is very easy to get to. The main populous islands are well connected both with international flights and an ever growing market for domestic ones too. Most local people travel by boat between islands so an island hopping itinerary is very easy to do here. if you’re flying internationally its likely you’ll enter via the capital city of Jakarta on Java Island if its a direct flight or possibly another island airport on Sumatra, Kalimantan, Bali, Tenggara or Sulawesi if you’re flying in from a neighbouring country. Its very easy to find cheap flights to these islands thanks to stiff competition and a growing trend for budget airlines like Air Asia. By sea there are plenty of major ports and harbours with regular ferry services. The trips often taken a day or so between some of the larger islands but most have sleeping accommodation  if you book in advance. There are a few car ferry services but rooms on these are rare, you’ll most likely have to sleep in your car so factor that in if you’re thinking of driving over multiple islands in Indonesia.

Indonesia travel guide 2016

Hotels in Indonesia

As you’d expect with a very populous and touristic country Indonesia has no shortage of great hotels. It really depends where you’re staying and your budget ignorer to find best hotels. The islands offer great beach side resort accommodation while the cities offer a great level of luxury and features.  A good example of this is the Pesona Alam Resort & Spa in the city of Bogor with its, spa treatments, private pool, luxurious rooms and a growing trend towards private suites and apartments too. There’s plenty of competition here and the large population of travel hungry locals, coupled with a healthy international tourism base means you’ll always find accommodation thats right for you and your budget.

Hotels in Indonesia

Best Islands to visit

This really depends on what you’re after but there are some obvious choices. Bali has always been a very popular choice especially with Australian tourists. You’ll find plenty of beaches and activities on this island along with the hustle and bustle of a popular tourist hotspot. For a more remote experience try the Gili Islands for some excellent diving opportunities and a chance to get back to nature.

Gili islands

The main island of Java is an experience all by itself. A visit to Jakarta is a must to experience modern Indonesian life, its easy to venture out to other cities and towns on the island too and there’s some truly stunning beaches on this islands. Be sure to check out the beautiful waterfalls in Purwokerto, the historic temples of Yogyakarta, the epic Mount Bromo volcano and head to Karimunjawa for the perfect white sand beaches.

Jakarta tourism

When to visit

Thanks to the amazing amount of cultures and religions in Indonesia there’s always a good time to go and check out plenty of local festivals, cultural events and gatherings. Whether wise there are only two seasons here, hot and wet or hot and dry! Expect temperatures around 28C in the daytime with the dry seasons starting around May and ending in September. So rainy season is from October to April for most of the islands. The only island that has a slightly different weather pattern is Sumatra where the rainy season is October to January in the north of the island and January to February in the south.

Bali weather

Personally I’d recommend visiting during the dry months unless you’re happy to have a few rainy days, again it depends what activities you’ll want to do. Don’t let a little thing like rain stop you and you’ll often find much cheaper deals on flights and hotels in the wetter months. Just remember if your activities are likely to involve trekking or rougher roads then the dry months will be much easier. Expect humidity at any time of year, typically higher than 70%.

So much to do!

There really is so many islands and so much to do in Indonesia that one trip will never cover enough. If you have the time I highly recommend island hopping to make the most of it. Transport is relatively cheap in the lest touristy areas and getting around is very easy thanks to the large population and diverse range of breathtaking locations you’ll want to visit.

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Australian holiday rentals – Our top tips for finding the best http://www.travelwithamate.com/australia-holiday-rentals-tips-finding-best/ Mon, 09 May 2016 13:44:39 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=29972 There is no doubt that Australia one of the top destinations in the world. With the beautiful beaches and scenic landscapes, you will surely have the time of your life in this beautiful part of the world. As gorgeous as Australia may be, you will have more fun if you obtain the right rentals to ...

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There is no doubt that Australia one of the top destinations in the world. With the beautiful beaches and scenic landscapes, you will surely have the time of your life in this beautiful part of the world.

As gorgeous as Australia may be, you will have more fun if you obtain the right rentals to go along with vacation packages. It is obvious that you will not enjoy the beach if you do not have a pleasant place to stay in.For this reason, it is a must that you consider the different factors that might affect your decision.

Location

You should have already heard real estate brokers talking about the three important factors when choosing a property. These are location, location, location. There is really not much difference when it comes to choosing your vacation rentals.

Basically, Australia is a great destination and there are some spots there that are more blessed with picturesque sceneries. Thus, it is important that you choose a vacation rental that has beautiful views and stunning sunset or sunrise, pristine sand beaches, and fresh air. Make sure that it is close enough to the beach but not too far from public facilities such as the police station, fire department, hospital, and transportation terminals.

Australia beaches

Accommodation

Not all vacation rentals are made equal. There are those who offer more irresistible treats than others. For example, some rentals put forward wider space compared to others. They also offer exclusive rooms or beds for adults and children. In addition to this, you need to consider the amenities available in the vacation rentals. If you want your kids to have more fun, choosing a rental place with private pool can be a great idea. Or if you want to watch sports or movies in a big screen, choose a place where there is a theater room.

Private pool short term rental

Quality of the Place

Obviously, you are on vacation so you want to really experience the warmth and glow of the place. It will be hard to be on “vacation mood” if your rented place is not clean, not decorated well, and just stacked with low quality furniture. When you visit these rentals, have an ocular inspection on their lobby. In most cases, the lobby will talk much about the quality of the place. If they cannot afford an impressive lobby, then there is no wonder if they cannot provide you with impressive rooms.

Short term rental vacation advice

Rental adviceBudget

Budget may be is the most determining factor when it comes to choosing vacation rentals. If you are wealthy or have the money to burn, then this is not a problem for you. But if you are tight in budget, you can still find decent and competitive rental offers.

 

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My best places in America http://www.travelwithamate.com/my-best-places-america/ Fri, 06 May 2016 09:41:33 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=29959 When thinking about going on a holiday in the United States, it’s important to be well prepared and have your research done. There are so many cities to explore and discover that it can become overwhelming. By being well-prepared, you ensure that you’ll get to enjoy all of your time rather than worrying about silly ...

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When thinking about going on a holiday in the United States, it’s important to be well prepared and have your research done. There are so many cities to explore and discover that it can become overwhelming. By being well-prepared, you ensure that you’ll get to enjoy all of your time rather than worrying about silly things.  Read on as we help you decide where to go in America.

1. Maui, Hawaii

Maui is the perfect destination for people who love spending time at the beach and the island is truly magnificent. A must visit is the Haleakala Centre, where you’ll find both locals and tourists who want to witness the spectacular sunrise and sunsets. Maui is a very peaceful, calm and serene place which will help you give a better appreciation of Mother Nature. It is also a haven for scuba diving and snorkelling. You can experience swimming with various types of sea animals like turtles, fish and dolphins. While you’re there, you can also try zip lining, which will give you the best view of the island. On days when you want to chill out and just relax, you can spend the entire day enjoying the beautiful beach. Maui is truly one of the best holiday destinations you can visit in America.

Hawaiian Sunset Maui

2. Yellowstone, Montana

Yellowstone National Park is in every nature enthusiast’s bucket list. A lot of people consider it as the most beautiful place on earth. It has an extremely attractive waterfall which has countless of mountains in the background. It also has steaming geysers, bubbling hot springs, multi-coloured pools and hiking trails. The park really is every nature lover’s dream destination. People who love animals would enjoy visiting the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre. Another great place to visit in Yellowstone is the Lamar Valley, where you’ll get to enjoy seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. You can see different types of animals like buffalo, foxes, deer, and many others. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest hot spring in the world and the biggest one in America. It is popularly known for its striking appearance, which imitates the colours of the rainbow. Outdoor enthusiasts are guaranteed to have the time of their life in Yellowstone.

Grand Canyon in Yellowstone River

3. San Francisco, California

When people mention the amazing city of San Francisco, the first thing that comes to mind is the Golden Gate Bridge, popular because of its magnificent span; one-mile-wide and three miles long. The Golden Gate Bridge was originally built in 1937 and was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Alcatraz Island is also a great place to visit while you’re in San Francisco. The island was originally developed to have a military fortification, military prison, federal prison and a lighthouse. The Fisherman’s Wharf is another must see destination. A lot of tourists swarm the area so it’s best to go there early. It has various shops, restaurants, events and sights which let tourists experience what it’s like to live as a local.

Baker Beach, San Francisco

4. New York City, New York

New York has been associated with many titles such as The City of Dreams, The Big Apple, Empire City and many others. It is truly one of America’s busiest and most exciting cities. The first place you shouldn’t dare miss is Central Park. It hasn’t been featured in countless films for no reason. It’s a serene sanctuary you can enjoy while taking a stroll, having a picnic, riding a bike, going skating or visiting the zoo. There are plenty of activities for the entire family in Central Park. If you’re lucky, you can even get to see concerts which are occasionally held there. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an extraordinary collection of artworks, but it is always packed with tourists so it’s best to come early in the morning. Even if you’re not an art enthusiast, you will surely appreciate the work of talented artists displayed all throughout the museum. The best view of New York can be experienced at the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. It’s well worth spending a few dollars to be able to get the best vantage point of the city.

New York Harbor

5. Orlando, Florida

If you’re going on holiday with your kids, you shouldn’t miss Orlando, home to Disney World and Universal Studios. If you and your kids are a fan of Harry Potter, you will surely enjoy visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You will get to experience living in his magical world and even sample the Butter Beer! You’ll also have the opportunity to ride the Hogwarts Express, the mode of transportation wizards use to get to Hogwarts. There is also a candy shop where you can enjoy purchase the Chocolate Frog, popular both in the books and in the movies. For fanatics who dream of becoming a wizard, you can purchase different broomsticks and other Harry Potter related merchandise. Discovery Cove is great for both children and adults alike. Swim with dolphins for an experience like no other. If you’re not into theme parks and water parks, you can visit Madame Tussauds, an incredible wax museum which showcases famous pop culture and historical figures.

Orlando, Florida, USA downtown city skyline from Eola Park.

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Singapore’s historic locations and fascinating heritage http://www.travelwithamate.com/singapores-historic-locations-fascinating-heritage-singaporelive/ Mon, 25 Apr 2016 15:19:22 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=29070 Singapore has built a reputation for being economically progressive and ultra-modern. Its shining CBD area and iconic buildings are a testament to its financial success over the decades since independence some 50 years ago. You’d be wrong for thinking that Singapore was a cold corporate place filled with glass, steel, concrete and people in suits, with ...

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Singapore has built a reputation for being economically progressive and ultra-modern. Its shining CBD area and iconic buildings are a testament to its financial success over the decades since independence some 50 years ago. You’d be wrong for thinking that Singapore was a cold corporate place filled with glass, steel, concrete and people in suits, with no love for the antiquated or historical. In actual fact there is so much more to Singapore and on a recent trip to the Lion City thanks to the Singapore Tourist Board and Unlisted Collection I had a chance to explore the wonderful heritage, history, culture and trend for preservation that can be found all over this Asian country. Here’s some of my highlights.

Tiong Bahru

If you like Art Deco architecture then this is the area to come to. Tiong Bahru was the location of Singapore’s first government land improvement schemes starting in the mid to late 1920s and was where my hotel was situated too. It feels fantastically close to the centre of Singapore yet still retains its beautiful architectural charms. With a mixture of Chinese shop houses and “streamline moderne” style art deco buildings there’s a lot of character in this area.

Heritage trail Singapore

I went for a fantastic photowalk with some locals who showed me some of the clean and pretty streets around here. You’ll find trees and small parks on nearly every street corner and amazing residential blocks that put some modern architectural styles to shame. Even the backs of apartment blocks here are pretty with spiral staircases and wonderful lines and angles all around.

Tiong Bahru staircases

This was once a neighbourhood for high society in Singapore but times have changed and its now a thriving artistic neighbourhood with plenty of book shops, local coffee shops, bars, fantastic restaurants like Esquina and a few choice hotels like 1929 and, my home for the week the New Majestic Hotel. I loved the vibe in Tiong Bahru, it felt so clean, safe and with no shortage of history and a legacy worth preserving. Take your camera, allocate a good few hours here and take a wander. There’s plenty of places to stop for refreshment and buy a book or two as well.

New Majestic Hotel

Clifford Pier

This was once the first sight new immigrants had of this colonial city. Clifford pier was situated right on the south coast of Singapore and while it hasn’t moved the shoreline definitely has with massive amounts of reclaimed land now stretching a mile or so further out to sea. Clifford Pier holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the places I visited when I first came to Singapore in 2005. Back then it still served as a pier where you could catch Chinese junk boats out of Marina Bay and over to islands like Kusu, a pretty little place filled with temples and turtle sanctuaries. I remember buying food from a street vendor and waiting in the hot and humid building for our boat to arrive. Something I’m sure many immigrants and locals alike may have experienced for many decades.

Clifford Pier Singapore

While the building remains, its purpose has most definitely changed. Marina Bay was turned in to a fresh water reservoir in 2006 with the building of a dam that closed the mouth of the bay, thankfully Clifford Pier was given a new lease of life with the extension of the famous Fullerton Hotel and its “One Fullerton” neighbour right on the bay’s edge. Clifford Pier is now a fine dining experience that I thankfully go to experience in 2016. It was surreal walking in to a fully air conditioned venue with luxurious furniture and formal dining under the pier’s archways. I spent most of my time looking around and remembering my first visit here some 11 years earlier.

Historical sights of Singapore

The building has lost none of its charm and its so great to see an icon of Singapore’s past right in the centre of the modern CBD which will be preserved for many years to come. My guide recalled how his father first saw the “red lamp” that hung at the end of the pier when he first arrived as an immigrant many decades ago. Clifford Pier undoubtably has a symbolic connection to almost all Singaporeans. Definitely worth checking out when you’re in town.

Haw Par Villas

Talking of symbolic connections for many Singaporeans, one unusual place that should not be overlooked is the wonderful Haw Par Villas. Built by the brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par who created  Tiger Balm, a very popular product in Asia, they built a park in the grounds of their house back in 1937, free to all who wished to visit. Originally called Tiger Balm Gardens this was the most popular attraction in Singapore in the 70’s and 80’s and a place that every family bought their children to. The steep park is filled with statues and dioramas of ancient Chinese mythology, some colourful and curious, others surreal and comical.

Haw Par Villas Singapore

I’ve definitely never been to a place like this before and delighted at meandering through the park taking in all the sights. The park is a lot quieter these days, especially during the week but back in the day this place was packed with locals, immigrants and tourists taking photos of their loved ones. In fact I met a Chinese family who last visited some 40 years ago when the woman was only 6 years old, she was so excited to stand in the same spot once more for a new photo.

Historical Singapore Sights

In recent years Haw Par Villas popularity has wained but things are set to change here with a major investment from the Singapore Tourist Board, hopefully bringing new life to a real slice of Singapore’s tourism history. With new food stands, yoga workshops, souvenir stands and visitor’s centre, it looks like a whole new generation of tourists both local and international will get to enjoy this most quirky of attractions. Well worth a visit as the park is free although I highly recommend a guided tour for just $10 to really make the most of it.

Tiger Balm Gardens

Pulau Ubin

Singapore is a very clean and well organised country with plenty of money invested in infrastructure, housing, business districts and parks. Its also a very small island nation where escaping the hustle and bustle of modern living could easily be perceived as almost impossible. Thankfully this definitely isn’t the case and a trip over to Pulau Ubin will show you another side to Singapore and a step back in time too.

The island can be found just a few minutes ferry ride away to the North East of the mainland at Changi Point, near to the international airport. Changi Point is a small ferry terminal where you’ll find local ferrymen and their simple wooden boats that will take you over to Pulau Ubin for just $3.

Bike hire on Pulau Ubin

The journey only takes about 5 – 10 minutes and on the island there’s some wonderful rural walks and no shortage of mountain bikes for hire. I had the pleasure of exploring the island with my guide on old but perfectly working bikes,  following a number of trails that are fairly well maintained and easy to cycle.

Cycling on Pulau Ubin Singapore

This tiny island was once home to thousands of early settlers who remained here right up to the 1960’s, since then numbers have declined to just a few hundred but the island serves as a time warm back to simple Malay “Kampong” houses and a rural way of life. Cycling around is the best way to see the island and you might even spot a few elusive wild Boar whilst you’re there. I headed to Chek Jawa which has a fantastic coastal walk on a modern boardwalk that gives you great views of the coastline.

Chek Jawa coastal walk

Chinatown Heritage Centre

Nearly every street of Chinatown feels like stepping back in time, with colourful buildings all around and no shortage of tourist souvenir shops to empty your wallet. This was once (and arguably still is) the beating heart of Singapore and very popular with tourists not only for some cheap shopping but also for its temples, especially the impressive and slightly curious “Buddha Tooth Relic Temple” which is impossible to miss. Tucked right in the heart of Chinatown I visited the Heritage Centre which sits inside 3 beautiful shophouses.

Chinatown Heritage Centre

Inside is a walk back in time to the 1950’s when tenancy in Chinatown was at its peak and space to live and work was at a cramped premium. Each room depicts a different family and their professions, highlighting the living conditions, daily struggles and atmosphere that filled much of Chinatown at the time. It really brings to life the ever increasing immigration to Singapore and its impact on the city, with plenty to learn on 3 floors. I visited the Chinatown Heritage Centre thanks to Singapore Airlines and their “Singapore Explorer Pass” which got me access to many paid attractions across the city for 1 day. Definitely worth considering if you’re flying with Singapore Airlines.

With thanks to the sponsors

A big thank you to the Singapore Tourist Board for their support on the #SingaporeLive campaign and to my wonderful guide Toon Hee for showing me the sights. Also huge thank you to the New Majestic Hotel and Unlisted Collection for their hospitality. If you’re looking for someone to stay in the heart of Singapore’s cultural and historical districts then I can highly recommend checking them out.

Tour guide Singapore Toon Hee

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The best new tourist attractions in Singapore with #SingaporeLive http://www.travelwithamate.com/singapore-best-new-tourist-attractions/ Mon, 18 Apr 2016 13:54:35 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=29072 Singapore is country I love to visit, having been here many times of the past 11 year  either on business or to catch up with good friends. Its an island nation most people only think to pass through or stop for a day or two on their way to other continents. Of the many experiences I’ve had ...

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Singapore is country I love to visit, having been here many times of the past 11 year  either on business or to catch up with good friends. Its an island nation most people only think to pass through or stop for a day or two on their way to other continents. Of the many experiences I’ve had here I’ve seen first hand the incredible amount of things to see, do, taste and experience in Singapore and the number of great tourist attractions, cultural hotspots and wonderful views only increases each year. Thanks to a recent trip to Singapore working with the Singapore Tourist Board and Singapore Airlines on the #SingaporeLive campaign I got to some new fantastic tourist attractions that should definitely be on your list. I highly recommend extending your stay in Singapore and making the most of one of the world’s most impressive and culturally rich city.

Future World – Art Science Museum

Located at Marina Bay Sands right in the heart of Singapore, the museum is an iconic architectural masterpiece in itself. Built in the shape of a lotus flower, its houses many temporary exhibitions and now and permanent one that’s perfect for adults and children.

ArtScience Singapore entrance

Stepping in to this exhibition is like being transported to another world of futuristic technological approaches to sensory experiences. A room filled with projectors puts you in the middle of a virtual yet utterly natural wildlife wonderland, while other rooms are filled with interactive toys where the tangible meets the virtual. My favourite room was the last one where you walk through a room filled with vertical strips of colour changing LEDs. Animations in 3D fly through the room in all directions. A visually stunning experience like nothing I’ve seen before. Head to their website for the last exhibition news.

Future world at ArtScience centre

S.E.A Aquarium

Touted as Asia’s biggest aquarium you’ll find it located on Sentosa Island, a tourist’s playground and very popular with Singaporeans too. Its right by the Universal Studios entrance and offers more than just fish tanks. There’s some interesting history on Singapore and nearby Malaysia before you enter what truly is an amazing collection of all marine life. The tanks are huge and only increase in spectacle was you venture further in to this aquatic wonderland.

Shark tank at SEA Aquarium

The shark tank you walk through was one of my favourites, with a diver inside cleaning the glass, giving me a wave as he did so. But the last tank has to be the most impressive here. Walking in to a theatre style room with steps and even a restaurant in one corner, this massive panoramic tank before you seems to defy physics buy holding back millions of gallons of water and giving you an unprecedented view of stingrays, hammer head sharks and all manner of other fish swimming around before your eyes. Easily the best aquarium I’ve ever been to, check out their website here.

SEA Aquarium Singapore

Pulau Ubin

Boat to Pulau UbinAside from the ultra modern and mega-sized tourist attractions in Singapore there are some local attractions that take you away from the Urban sprawl and show you a more natural side to Singapore. A short drive out to Changi Point (near the airport) you’ll find a very traditional little ferry terminal where you can get a little wooden boat ride over to Pulau Ubin. The ride costs just $3 SGD and takes about 10 minutes to cross the narrow water, passing some big ships in the process.

Stepping off the boat at Pulau Ubin is like stepping back in time, where Malay style shacks and rural houses from decades past are mostly hidden amongst the trees and vegetation of this quiet island. Renting a bike here is a must and there’s plenty waiting for you right after the jetty. The roads and paths are easy to cycle with only a few uphill moments to make you do some proper exercise. There’s a fantastic coastal walkway here that takes you out amongst the wetlands and around the bay where you’ll see fish darting around in the water and possibly the odd swimming lizard too! The island is home to wild boar who appear from the woodlands, cross a road and disappear back in to the jungle before you’ve even had a chance to get your camera out of your pocket. I saw 2 while I was there but sadly didn’t have my camera ready either time!

Coastal walk on Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin is a great place to get away from it all and get back to nature, popular at weekends with Singaporeans, its distinctly different during the week so for that relaxing and naturally quiet experience avoid the weekends if possible. For more information go here. One recommendation is to keep an eye on your return ferry. The little boats only leave when they have enough paying passengers so if no one else is there you could be waiting up to an hour or more. You can of course pay for empty spaces and at $3 each it might be worth it if you’re short on time.

Gardens By the Bay

This tourist attraction has quickly become one of Singapore’s biggest icons. Built upon reclaimed land behind Marina Bay Sands this park cost around $1 billion to build and is free for all to enjoy. While there’s plenty of natural vegetation all around, there’s also the iconic man made trees here with plants growing up their walls and extending out above you. A great place for some of the best photos you’ll get of Singapore’s CBD, one of the super-trees is also a restaurant offering great views and great food too. There’s also a “skywalk” linking two of the trees together with a walkway offering a great feeling of floating amongst these futuristic trees.

Gardens By The Bay super trees

There’s also two bio-domes here with reasonably priced tickets (included in Singapore Airlines Explorer pass) showcasing two very different climates. The mediterranean biome currently has a very impressive tulip exhibit with thousands of colourful flowerbeds that you’re sure to take plenty of photos of. There’s also trees and cacti from Australia, America and Europe. The building itself is just as impressive as its contents.

Gardens by the bay

The other biome has a spectacular man made waterfall right in front of you as you enter and you can ascend its mountainous internals to access walkways that pump out clouds of moisture every 2 hours. The climate in here is a cool highlands feel with dense vegetation clinging to almost everything and some great paths to explorer around the waterfall. For all the latest information on Gardens By The Bay head to their website.

Whats inside gardens by the bay?

Singapore Art Museum

Known locally as “SAM” this beautiful historic building was once a school and now houses some interesting and artistic contemporary art installations. All the shiny new corporate skyscrapers in Singapore could easily have you fooled that this modern city lacks cultural importance, especially in the contemporary world. Head to SAM and you’ll see art is very much alive and kicking here. Currently the gallery is hosting “5 Stars: Art Reflects on Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy and Progress“.

SAM galleries

There’s some technologically impressive pieces here, my favourite being the amazing pipes where tiny actuators tap out a musical percussion that bounces around the room. A guided tour enhances your experience the whole exhibit can be completed in around 40 minutes. Check out their website for all the information.

Singapore Arts Museum

With thanks

I recently visited all of these attractions during the #SingaporeLive campaign. A big thank you to the Singapore Tourist Board for making this possible and Singapore Airlines for their support. Also thanks to Unlisted Collections for their hospitality at both the New Majestic Hotel and at numerous fantastic restaurants. You can read my review of these restaurants here.

 

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Amazing restaurants of Singapore with #SingaporeLive http://www.travelwithamate.com/amazing-restaurants-singapore-singaporelive/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 10:26:26 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=29068 Singapore is truly where east meets west, both culturally and culinary. Dining experiences are in my opinion second to none. There’s tough competition here for your hard earned money creating ever more impressive dining options and fusions of cuisines from all over the world. Having so many great restaurants to choose from can be a daunting prospect ...

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Singapore is truly where east meets west, both culturally and culinary. Dining experiences are in my opinion second to none. There’s tough competition here for your hard earned money creating ever more impressive dining options and fusions of cuisines from all over the world. Having so many great restaurants to choose from can be a daunting prospect but thanks to a recent trip to the Lion city as part of the #SingaporeLive campaign from the Singapore Tourist Board I got to try some of what can easily be considered the best dining experiences available right now.

With the help of Unlisted Collection, STB and Singapore Airlines, here’s my dining experiences at some of the best restaurants in town. Well worth checking out when you next visit.

Esquina

Tucked away on Jiak Chuan Road in Outram Park, It’s easy to find this place on any evening, just look out for the heaving crowds that flock to this Tapas restaurant to sample some of the city’s best Spanish tapas. The dishes here are sublime with authentic approaches to some of Spain’s best loved tapas and others with a wonderful twist to bring something different to the menu. Sitting at the bar is a must for the full experience, watching master craftsmen and women producing exquisite looking (and tasting) dishes you’ll want to Instagram immediately! This little bar is adorned with a familiar industrial feel that many of the Unlisted Collection restaurants and bars do so well in Singapore.

Esquina tapas in Singapore

To avoid fighting the fanatical crowds in the evening head to Esquina at lunchtime where the vibe is distinctly different. I can highly recommend the Pigeon as well as the Spanish Nigiri, a wonderful Spanish take on sushi. The biggest surprise for me was the Octopus, not something I’d usually order but would gladly have again at Esquina. Check out their menu here and if you’re happy to eat away from the bar its worth making a booking for dinner upstairs or take your chances and hopefully get an evening seat at the bar for the best show in town!

Best tapas in Singapore

Bincho

Singapore has a growing trend for fantastic restaurants and bars that are hard to find. Hidden down passageways, unsigned entrances and unsuspecting doorways make it all the more fun when you arrive and are rewarded with some of the best dining experiences in Singapore. Bincho is one such restaurant that, by day is a traditional kopitiam (coffee shop) facing Moh Guan Terrace in Tiong Bahru. Serving simple Mee Pok during the day, its at night that Bincho is awoken and the venue is transformed. Its front doors shut and its cosy little Japanese Yakitori restaurant opened with only a small dimly lit back door the only entrance. Inside you’ll find a cute little bar and a truly amazing Japanese dining experience.

Bincho Teppanyaki in Singapore

Like Esquina a seat at the bar watching the head chef Asai Masash is an absolute must. The attention to detail on every dish is impressive and trying some of the more unusual menu items will reward you with surprising favours and textures you’ve not had anywhere else. The Yakitori “Shio” Platter is one such collection of chicken anatomy I’ve never had before and now remember very fondly. There’s three types of menu here with items changing often to suit the freshest ingredients at the time. You’ll leave feeling well fed, entertained, surprised and with a true appreciation of Asian fine dining. Check out their wonderful website here for more details.

where to eat in Singapore

Labyrinth

A much easier restaurant to find but no less rewarding. Unlike Europe, Asia has no qualms in locating award winning restaurants inside bustling shopping malls. Labyrinth is one such eatery offering what head chef and owner LG Han likes to call an “holistic dining experience“. In truth its part dining experience, part history lesson, part cultural education with exquisite flavours from traditional asian dishes fused with modern takes and unusual approaches in both texture and presentation. Its true to say you’ve never had a meal quite like this. I sampled the Discovery Menu, one of two fantastic set menus on offer.

Unusual restaurants in Singapore

The menus are really a narrative arc and the set menu approach is the perfect way to experience the flavours flowing from one dish to the next. Each item features two titles, its traditional asian background and its new ingredients that are wildly different from the original dish. Truly a sensory dining experience where tastes, textures and memories of traditional cuisine all collide. Quinoa, Chicken Mousselline and Clay Potatoes representing Hainanese Curry Rice. The soft-shell crab with chilli ice cream is also a surprising and delicious must! Of all the meals I’ve had in this culinary rich city this was the most surprising and ingenious. Definitely top of your list when you’re in Singapore! You’ll find Labyrinth in the Esplanade Mall just behind the theatre so its perfect for a night out in the heart of the city. Check out their website for more details.

Fantastic restaurants in Singapore

Dessert at Labyrinth is not what it appears to be.

The Market Grill

Located just a short walk from Telok Ayer MRT station, right in the heart of Singapore’s wonderful Chinatown district. There’s no shortage of dining options in this area but The Market Grill really stands out from the crowd with its eclectic menu and its attention on the freshest of seafood. Perfect for lunch, its a small eatery with more tables at the kitchen bar than anywhere else. Seating around 30 or so at peak times, this place is often packed full of happy diners with a fantastic atmosphere you can’t help but get swept up in. There’s so many good menu options here, a real highlight for me was the “Lobster Roll” with hearty chunks of the freshest Lobster sitting atop a tasty brioche roll.

The Market Grill Singapore menu

There’s also some great signature burgers here cooked to perfection. Head chef’s signature Portobello Burger was fantastic especially if you like your beef rare and juicy. I was wonderfully surprised by the Cod fish burger too which worked so well and is a lighter option if you have a busy afternoon schedule! Just be sure to leave room for the awesome Rum Banana Pocket dessert, the perfect ending to a wonderfully western meal in Singapore! Check out their full menu here.

IMG_1425

Red House

There is of course one dish that no trip to Singapore would be complete without. The famous Singapore Chilli Crab has to be experienced in all its spicy glory but there are yet more great seafood options in the Lion city. Red House is undoubtably the place to go for the best authentic Singaporean seafood in town.

Best chill grab in Singapore

The Chilli Crab is a no brainer but there’s plenty more on the menu to shout about. The Creamy Custard Sauce Lobster was divine with generously chunky and supremely fresh seafood. Check out their mouth watering menu here and be sure to book a table for dinner. Its very popular with locals and its new location at 68 Prinsep Street puts it right near Orchard road and plenty of other popular central destinations. There’s also another Red House situated at The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay, just a short walk on from Clarke Quay which is bound to be on your itinerary at some point.

#SingaporeLive best food in Singapore

These dining options barely touch the surface of the exquisite and eclectic dining options in Singapore. In fact food is sure to play a very high role in your Singaporean travels.

A big thank you to the Singapore Tourist Board and Singapore Airlines for their support during the #SingaporeLive event. For more information on Singapore check out yoursingapore.com and to book flights head straight to singaporeair.com

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Singapore Airlines SQ308 Changi to London http://www.travelwithamate.com/sq308-singapore-london/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 07:23:58 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=24368 After a very enjoyable 2.5 months in Asia, catching up with good friends and exploring more of both Singapore and Malaysia, it was time to head back to England via London Heathrow. Singapore Airline’s SQ308 would be our flight of choice for our return journey. We chose this flight for a couple of reasons. Firstly its ...

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After a very enjoyable 2.5 months in Asia, catching up with good friends and exploring more of both Singapore and Malaysia, it was time to head back to England via London Heathrow. Singapore Airline’s SQ308 would be our flight of choice for our return journey.

We chose this flight for a couple of reasons. Firstly its a fully daytime flight which is unusual for a 13.5 hour journey. Leaving at 9:05am and losing 7 hours on the way (as it was summer time in the UK) meant we’d be landing at around 3:30pm UK time. It’s hard to work out which has the bigger effect on jetlag, the time difference or the hours away on a plane as I don’t sleep all that much when flying. All the other Singapore to London flights I’ve done have involved some overnight travel which usually cause more jet-lag. So it would be interesting to see if this flight would.

Secondly we chose SQ308 as its one of Singapore Airline’s Airbus A380 planes, the huge double-decker that on this flight was configured with all business-class on the upper deck. Some of their Singapore to London flights have extra economy seats upstairs so if you’re looking for more seating options, or possibly more business class seating options, check which type of A380 you’re booking on. There’s some notable differences when flying on an A380 that, for me make it well worth hunting out.

Leaving Changi Airport

Changi AirportThere’s probably no better airport on earth than Changi. It has everything you’d expect and a whole lot more. In fact in many ways it redefines what a good airport should be like. The Check in area is quiet and very bright with high ceilings and lots of space. Border control takes a minute if that, I’ve never seen much of a queue there, they seem to handle staff numbers very well unlike some airports I’ve flown from. There’s no security at this point which speeds things up immensely. That’s handled at each gate which makes a huge difference. There’s no shortage of things to do once you’re in the departure lounge. Check out the free cinema, get a panoramic view of the runway and planes being serviced. Use the internet for free, enjoy the sunflower garden outside or even the wonderful butterfly sanctuary. There’s no time to be bored here.

Boarding the A380

SQ308 A380 Singapore to LondonConsidering its size, the Singapore Airlines A380 configurations only carry a maximum of 471 people, fairly low compared to most carriers with A380s at the moment. Changi is fully equipped to handle these giants too, being the first airport and national carrier to fly the A380. The departure gate has 2 ramps to board either the upper or main deck. So depending on your seat you’ll be directed to the entrance that will get you to your seat quickest. Boarding time didn’t seem any longer than any other flight I’ve taken. We were soon pushing back and taxi-ing to the runway. There was a delay of some 40 minutes before take-off due to congestion on our flight path but the surroundings were comfortable enough to relax in.

Take off

Its worth noting the take off of an A380 as its quite unlike any other plane I’ve flown on. Most planes push you back in your seat with a roar of the engines when they begin to hurtle down the runway. This doesn’t happen with an A380 as it weighs up to 700 tonnes! There’s no feeling of acceleration at all as this process takes a little longer. Airbus also boast that the A380’s superior sound insulation reduces outside noise by 50%. This is most apparent when taking off as you can barely notice any difference. Take off becomes quite a relaxing experience, almost a non-event. Take off out of Changi Airport was smooth and quiet, perfect for anxious flyers.

In-Flight Entertainment

A380 Singapore Airlines in flight entertainmentAs with all major carriers these days there’s on-demand facilities showing a handful of the latest blockbusters and a decent collection of other movies, TV and music. The current entertainment offering on the Singapore Airlines A380s is an older system first introduced in 2008. While its fully featured I’m looking forward to when the airline update their A380s in line with their new entertainment service on their Boeing 777s which definitely offer a bit more. Never-the-less the choice of movies was very impressive. Catering for both a western and Asian market. All the latest movies including some indie movies I’d never heard of but were worth watching. They also had entire movie franchises which is something I’d not seen before. If movies aren’t your thing there’s a decent amount of TV shows and even some live music concerts from the likes of the Rolling Stones. As this was a day flight I had no problem consuming 5 movies and a couple of episodes of an american sitcom. The only difference with Singapore Airlines compared to some European carriers is that with Singapore you can’t start watching movies before takeoff and during landing. Something which I found enjoyable to pass the time during these parts of the flight. Hopefully this will change as more airlines allow this.

Comfortable seating

Singapore Airlines foodWe were lucky enough to have bulk-head seats during this flight which were comfortable and offered a little more leg room. I’m tall so didn’t have a chair in front of me that usually rubs against my knees. Singapore Airlines do seem to have a level of quality in their seat upholstery that makes them more comfortable and cleaner looking too. This A380 features a cream and almost orange interior in one section. With a light blue in another, you could describe the interior as “inoffensive”, it’s not the most exciting but it is relaxing and comfortable. The plane also features a colour changing LED lighting system which the crew can control to simulate sunset and sunrise. A wonderful way to be woken up or sent off to sleep. Of course with this being a night flight it wasn’t really needed although for some reason I did see the lights go through sunset and sunrise modes a number of times. There was no need for everyone to pull their window blinds down so there were patches of darker and lighter parts of the plan interior where some had and some hadn’t. Maybe this was the reason.

Conclusion

Considering the 14 or so hours we spent on the aircraft, the journey seemed to go by so easy and effortlessly. The food was great, Singapore do have some of the best inflight meals and rather than push drinks trollies around we could go up to the galley and help request any soft drinks and alcoholic drinks we wanted, along with small snacks too. The flight crew were friendly and attentive, always willing to help with a smile, all dressed in the very unique Singapore Airlines uniform. I’ve flown long haul many times now but that was definitely the easiest flight, a combination of day time flying, comfortable surroundings and a smooth journey all the way. Helped by the beautiful beast that is the Airbus A380. I definitely recommend flying on this aircraft if you get the chance.

SQ308 flight review

Our thanks to Singapore Airlines for their hospitality on SQ308 from Singapore to London.

  • From London: Singapore Airlines offers 28 nonstop flights per week, or four times daily from Heathrow, with Airbus 380-800 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
  • From Manchester: Singapore Airlines operates daily flights from Manchester to Singapore via Munich with Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
  • For more information visit www.singaporeair.com

 

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Best cheap things to do in Singapore http://www.travelwithamate.com/cheap-things-to-do-in-singapore/ http://www.travelwithamate.com/cheap-things-to-do-in-singapore/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 07:55:34 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=11673 Most people have heard of Singapore and many of you have no doubt passed through Singapore on your way to other destinations. It’s long been known as a travel-hop and a business hub, but Singapore has much more to offer tourists than just a concrete jungle or a place to catch a connecting flight. While ...

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Most people have heard of Singapore and many of you have no doubt passed through Singapore on your way to other destinations. It’s long been known as a travel-hop and a business hub, but Singapore has much more to offer tourists than just a concrete jungle or a place to catch a connecting flight.

While Singapore can be a very expensive place to visit it can still be done on a budget. Here’s 10 things you can easily do without burning a hole in your pocket!

Read bridge Clarke Quay

Where to go in Singapore on a budgetClarke Quay is a nice but expensive place to hang out of an evening in Singapore. A great way to combine people watching with a drink but still stay on budget is to take a beer along to Read Bridge. Sit on the edge along with many locals, socialising and people watching too. There’s a 7 Eleven shop just 30 seconds away from the bridge selling beers. A popular hang out for backpackers and a great atmosphere.

National Museum of Singapore

Visit the national museum in SingaporeAt $10 this museum is a must for any budget traveller in need of a cultural fix, it is home to 11 national treasures and has a large variety of events and exhibitions throughout the year. The Singapore History gallery section also has free guided tours in English, Mandarin and Japanese at pre-set times everyday except public holidays.

Observation deck at Marina Bay Sands

At the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel the observation deck boasts a 360 degree view of Singapore. On a clear day you can see both Malaysia and part of Indonesia not to mention stunning views of the CBD and Marina Bay. To get access you go to Tower 3 hotel lobby and purchase a ticket, currently $20, then take a very fast elevator to the top! This ticket only gives you access to the observation deck, not the infinity pool, but you can spend as long as you like snapping away at this truly unique view of Singapore.

View from the Skypark at Marina Bay Sands

Southern Ridges

What to do in Singapore on a budgetThe Southern Ridges is a trail spanning 3 parks and is 9 km in length. It is a wonderful place to spend a few hours just strolling along the forest and canopy walks admiring views of Sentosa on one side and Little India and alike on the other.

The Henderson Waves bridge is a particular highlight. At 274 metres long and 8 metres wide it’s the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. It is based on the mathematical SIN wave and is a beautiful architectural structure.

To get to The Southern Ridges you can either get the North-East MRT line to Harbourfront followed by bus 491 up Mount Faber (costing $1) or at the other end you can come in through Kent Ridge Park using the circle line, alighting at Kent Ridge MRT.

Sentosa

What to do ion SentosaThe cheapest way to get to Sentosa is to walk across on the Sentosa Boardwalk. With the aid of travelators, a pleasant garden atmosphere and cover you can use this come rain or shine. The cost is $1 over and free on the way back and you can use an Eze link card for speed.

Once over on Sentosa you don’t have to spend a fortune. There are, of course, many forms of entertainment from riding the Luge to Universal Studios but there are also many free attractions. At 9pm each day is the crane dance and at 9.30pm there is the Lake of Dreams show. The walk from the boardwalk to the beach takes you past Imbiah lookout and the Merlion and once at the beach you can take a rest watching people riding the waves at the Wave House Beach Bar.

East Coast park

Where to go in SingaporeAt 185 hectares this is Singapore’s largest park. Built on reclaimed land with a man made beach there are numerous activities for the budget traveller. There are cheap eats at the East Coast Hawker centre, you can watch people wakeboard on the lagoon at Ski 360° or you can just walk along the lengthy beachfront stopping for a picnic at one of the many BBQ pits provided.

Go for a walk around Marina Bay

What to do in Singapore on a budgetThere is a nice walking circuit around the entire Marina Bay which offers a different atmosphere depending whether you are there by day or night. In the day go down and have your picture taken by the famous spouting Merlion and stroll along the Helix bridge. At night enjoy a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants at One Fullerton whilst watching the light show put on by the Marina Bay Sands resort.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

cheap things to do in SingaporeNow more accessible due to the opening of the new circle MRT line these gardens are a must see for all visitors to Singapore. Admission is free and for that you can have a full day taking in the 3 lakes, healing gardens, rainforest and much more. The gardens are also expanding with a new learning forest opening in 2012. The Orchid Garden is the only place where you are asked to pay an entry fee but at only $5 most budgets can stretch to this. Find out more on the Singapore Botanical Gardens website.

Visit the Marina Barrage

The Singapore BarrageA dam stretching across the bay from Marina South to Marina East is an unusual tourist attraction but this one is a little different. There are many statues and water features to visit as well as the solar park and a walk across the dam itself. You can pre book your free tour online which gives you detailed information on what a feat of engineering the dam really is. To get there you get the MRT to Marina Bay and then either the SBS bus 400 or Marina Barrage shuttle bus to the site.

Eat at Lau Pa Sat hawker centre

Lau Pa SatPopular with tourists and locals alike this hawker centre is one of the best in Singapore. It’s Victorian architecture contrasting with the mass of skyscrapers around it make it an unusual sight. Situated just 5 minutes walk from Raffles Place MRT it is a vibrant place for a cheap meal. Try the famous Singapore Chilli Crab or grab some tasty chicken satay sticks from the street. Go on a Friday or Saturday night and listen to the live band playing in the centre of the market. Visit the Lau Pa Sat website for more details.

More things to do in Singapore

You’ll find awesome hawker centres all over Singapore, each with a distinctive style and history too. Check out the wonderfully named “Chomp Chomp” in Serangoon for some tasty noodles or the Golden Mile for some of the best Thai food in town.

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