Jul 4, 2017

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Exploring Sri Lanka’s hill country by train

Exploring Sri Lanka’s hill country by train

Our maroon train chugged through the sun-drenched Sri Lankan countryside, past palm trees, forests filled with firs, and wooden huts with bonfires crackling outside, writes Caroline Howley. We hung out of the open door, enjoying the warm breeze and watching the endless greenery sail past, before quickly withdrawing into the carriage as the train entered a stone tunnel. These same trains had once been used to transport colonial-era Brits up to the cooler climes of the tea plantations, and riding in the antiquated carriages was very evocative of this long-ago time. After one night in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo we’d boarded the train to Kandy, but had abandoned our air conditioned first class compartment to ride the train in the local tradition. Not only is the train an exhilarating and beautiful way to travel through Sri Lanka’s hill country, but it’s also incredibly cheap. Booked online ahead of time, our first-class tickets had only cost £10 each for a three-hour journey. Later in our travels, we’d purchase two third-class tickets for the famously beautiful Kandy-to-Ella route, which takes six hours, for just £3. The holy city of Kandy Kandy – a UNESCO world heritage site – was once the country’s capital, and it remains a major city in Sri Lanka. The city’s hectic pace and tuk tuk-filled roads contrast sharply with its intensely spiritual nature and luscious mountain surrounds. Any tourist in Kandy will have the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic firmly at the top of their itinerary. This incredible building is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world, and is said to house the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Inside you’ll find gilded decoration, ivory tusks and golden Buddhas, while monkeys scamper up and down the wooden pillars and colourful Buddhist flags are strung from the rafters. The entry fee is 2,000 LKR (around £12), but there are a few ways to avoid having to pay extra. Firstly, both men and women should ensure they are well-covered, or you’ll be forced to buy an expensive sarong on arrival. Furthermore, the Temple of the Tooth is not an attraction that requires a guide, so say a firm “no thank you” to the people offering to show you around can help you avoid busting your budget. After the temple, it was time...

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Jun 23, 2017

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Revealed! The cheapest airport to fly from in the UK is…...

Revealed! The cheapest airport to fly from in the UK is…

We receive many comments on our blog from northerners complaining that southerners have far more choice when it comes to airports and that it’s always cheaper to depart from London. Yet southerners tend to respond that demand is so high in their area that flights are often nearly sold out, resulting in higher prices in the end. So, to put an end to the debate, we’ve done some research to find out who actually gets the cheapest airfares in the UK to five popular destinations. And after a lot of number crunching* using our flight deals search tool, the results are in – find out if you’re a winner in the airport lottery! Malaga  Cheapest flight: London Gatwick – £85 Second: Birmingham – £98 Third: Leeds Bradford – £103 Whether you’re heading to Marbs and Puerto Banus with the jet set, flying in to stay in your timeshare or villa, or simply enjoying the sheer value of the Costa del Sol, this is one of the busiest destinations for British holidaymakers. As expected by many, Gatwick came out as the cheapest UK airport for this sunshine hotspot, although Birmingham and Leeds Bradford weren’t far behind.  Unfortunately for Belfast (£156) and Cardiff (£158), flights moved from there started at above the £150 mark. Interestingly, London Heathrow (£193) was the most expensive place to fly from in the UK – a massive difference of £108 from the cheapest option at Gatwick. Tenerife  Cheapest flight: London Gatwick – £164 Second: London Stansted – £177 Third: Manchester – £180 The Canary Islands offer year-round sun and Tenerife is by far the busiest of these, with Brits flocking to enjoy some much-needed warmth. Plus, there are non-stop flights on offer from most UK airports, making it a great-value option for a break. It’s a fairly close affair between the top three, with two London airports coming out with the cheapest fares. Birmingham was next in fourth, with £184, before the fares started to creep up over the £200 mark for other airports. This time Cardiff fared the worst on fares (£305). At a difference of £141 between the that and the cheapest price for London Gatwick, the cost is almost double. Barcelona Cheapest flight: London Gatwick – £85 Second: Manchester – £111 Third: Cardiff and Birmingham – £112 Spain’s second city...

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Jun 21, 2017

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Themed hotel rooms that the kids will love...

Themed hotel rooms that the kids will love

The summer holidays are just around the corner, and a number of hotels have recently launched themed hotel rooms designed specifically for younger guests. Tamara Hinson rounds up some of her favourite kid-friendly crash pads… Stayokay Miffy Suite, Stayokay Hostel, Utrecht, Holland Located just a few metres from Utrecht’s Miffy Museum, Stayokay’s Miffy suite is a tribute to the cute white bunny created by illustrator Dick Bruna, who lived nearby. Step inside this four-person room and you’ll find Miffy-themed...

Jun 21, 2017

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When is the best time to buy holiday money?...

When is the best time to buy holiday money?

The pound is in a bit of a state right now. Brexit uncertainty and the UK’s current state of political turmoil have caused its value to drop significantly, leaving Brits going abroad with considerably less spending power than they would have had a few years ago. Yet it’s not all doom and gloom – if you’re reading this, the chances are you’re about to go on holiday soon, so chin up! If you’re savvy and willing to put a bit of...

Jun 15, 2017

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Two days in Naples: Pizza, passion and plenty more besides…...

Two days in Naples: Pizza, passion and plenty more besides…

With its perfect pizzas, passionate people and thousands of battered, beeping scooters, Naples is a delightfully chaotic place. The port city hugs the curve of the Bay of Naples, where elegant boulevards and hectic, twisting alleys sprawl under the ominous shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Italy’s third-largest city was a popular stop on the Grand Tours undertaken by upper-class young chaps in times past, but today it’s noticeably less touristy than the high-culture Renaissance cities of the north –...

Jun 14, 2017

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11 of Spain’s best Blue Flag beaches...

11 of Spain’s best Blue Flag beaches

It’s official: Spain now has more Blue Flag beaches – those that meet the organisation’s high standards of water quality, safety and other environmental criteria – than any other country in the world. Hearing this news, we decided it was high time to root out the best of the bunch in Spain – and with 579 to choose from, that’s no easy feat. However, we’ve given it a bash and here are the ones we feel are worthy of your beach towel. If...

Jun 8, 2017

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Beyond the beach in Cyprus: the Troodos Mountains...

Beyond the beach in Cyprus: the Troodos Mountains

The rugged Cypriot coastline provides some of the most idyllic beaches in the Mediterranean. Paramali Beach in Limassol, Aphrodite’s Rock in Paphos – these are the sorts of relaxing oases that pop up on your friends’ social media feeds and make you weep with envy. But there is a lesser-known, equally stunning part of Cyprus that offers outstanding natural beauty, cultural fascination, and a palpable sense of tradition and heritage: the Troodos Mountains. Platres – home of the...

Jun 7, 2017

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The situation in Qatar: will it affect my travel plans?...

The situation in Qatar: will it affect my travel plans?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen have all severed ties with Qatar following allegations that the country backs certain Islamist terrorist groups. Qatar has denied these allegations, but the current political situation is affecting air travel in the region and beyond. As a result of this event, a number of airlines have indefinitely suspended flights to Doha, the capital of Qatar. The above countries have also closed their airspace to Qatar Airways,...

Jun 7, 2017

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From Absinthe to Whisky: the world’s best distilleries you can visit...

From Absinthe to Whisky: the world’s best distilleries you can visit

Fancy yourself as a bit of a cognac connoisseur, a true aficionado of Cuban rum and Mexican tequila, or a good ol’ sour-mash-sippin’ boy from Tennessee? Robin Gauldie’s guide showcases some of the best distilleries around the world where you can sample your favourite tipple in the place it’s produced. Absinthe – Prague, Czechia Mystique and ritual are part of the absinthe experience, and Prague is the world’s absinthe capital. The Absintherie is the place to sample the ‘green fairy’ for the...

Jun 6, 2017

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What does travel insurance cover you for?...

What does travel insurance cover you for?

Lots of us take out a travel insurance policy simply because we know we’re supposed to have it when we go on holiday, buying the cheapest insurance available and not giving it a second thought once it’s purchased. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems down the line – if you don’t fully understand your policy and pick the right one, you could end up without adequate cover. To avoid any unpleasant discoveries about your travel insurance policy, here we...