Luxembourg Card - Grund Luxembourg Card - Vianden Scenery Luxembourg Card - Free Entry to Vianden CastleLuxembourg Card - Free Bike Rental Lots of cities have passes whereby you pay a fixed amount to gain entry to a number of attractions in that city. Most of the time, I don't think that they are worth the money but of course, there are some gems if you look hard enough! When I visited Salzburg in 2016, we purchased "The Salzburg Card" and I was very impressed with the value for money - you can read my full breakdown of the costs here. So, when I was planning my three day trip to Luxembourg and found that they had an even more impressive card (The Luxembourg Card), you can only imagine my excitement!

The Basics

Let's get things straight, this isn't a "city pass", The Luxembourg Card is available for use over the whole COUNTRY - exciting right? As you would expect, a large number of the country's main attractions (including some lovely hidden gems) are free with the pass (or give you a discount on entry costs). However, the thing that really excited me was the fact that ALL train and bus lines in the country are free with the Luxembourg Card. Coming from a country like the UK where train costs are astronomical, this is completely mind blowing for me. If the UK had an equivalent all encompassing pass, I would be buying it every weekend! I won't list all of the available attractions here, but if you are interested in taking a look, they can be viewed here.

The Price

A card that encompasses an entire country including all of their transport links must be very pricey right? Think again. The card can be purchased for one, two or three days and there is an option for individual cards (1 person) or family cards (2 - 5 people). These prices are correct as at November 2017:
Individual (1 person) Family (2-5 People)
1 Day € 13.00 € 28.00
2 Days € 20.00 € 48.00
3 Days € 28.00 € 68.00
If you had a family of 5 visiting for 3 days, the cost would therefore be as little as €4.53 per person per day!

How Much Did We Save?

Below, you can see a breakdown of all of the things we did (over three days) and how much they would have cost without the card. All transport costs are taken as estimates from Rome2Rio.
Detail EUR
Travel (Hotel to Vianden) € 5.00
Vianden - Chairlift € 4.50
Vianden - Castle € 7.00
Travel (Vianden to Hotel) € 5.00
Travel (Hotel to Grevenmacher) € 5.00
Grevenmacher - Bike Rental € 12.00
Grevenmacher - Wine Tasting € 9.00
Grevenmacher - Butterfly House € 8.00
Travel (Grevenmacher to Hotel) € 5.00
Travel (Hotel to City) € 1.00
City - Bock Casemates € 6.00
Travel (City to Hotel) € 1.00
Total € 68.50
We travelled Luxembourg at a relatively relaxed and slow pace. We could have done so many more activities (e.g. there are so many museums in Luxembourg City that we never visited - we aren't big museum fans after all), so you could easily save even more money!With the Luxembourg Card costing €28 per person for three days and us completing activities worth €68.50, we managed to save a whopping €40.50 per person! If that's not a bargain, I don't know what is! If a group of 5 adults completed our exact itinerary using the group/family Luxembourg Card, the Card would cost them €13.60 per person saving an incredible €54.90 per person! If you want to read about all of the things we got up to in Luxembourg for this price, make sure you read these blog posts:

Where To Buy / Other Benefits

The Luxembourg card can be purchased online here as well as at many locations throughout the country. Along with the card, you should receive a VERY helpful leaflet outlining all of the attractions that are free or discounted - use this as your bible! We saw so much in the leaflet that we didn't know existed and could have easily spent another three days exploring other areas of the country!

Should You Purchase The Luxembourg Card?

The short answer - yes! The long answer - If you plan on exploring more than just Luxembourg City, this card will be perfect for you. Saving money is obviously a great advantage but it also means your plans can be more spontaneous. With the ability to hop on any bus/train and just see where the day takes you is fab (and saves time queuing/paying for tickets). However, be aware that a vast majority of the attractions available on the Card in Luxembourg City are museums and if you aren't big museum fans (like us), a pass may not be worth it if you are only visiting the City. Have you ever found a great city/country pass? Let me know where - I'm a big fan!

Disclaimer: While I was kindly gifted Luxembourg Cards by the Luxembourg tourism board, all opinions are my own and I certainly would purchase Luxembourg Cards for future trips. Danielle1

     

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[gallery type="slideshow" size="large" ids="11940,11941,11942"]
Kruger Safari Scenery on a Budget Kruger Zebra Watering Hole To experience animals in their natural habitat, not confined by cages or domesticated via human interaction is something that everyone should try to achieve in their lifetime. Safari appears on many people's "bucket lists" but is largely unattainable due to the (expected) sky high costs. While planning our recent trip to South Africa, we almost never made it to Kruger National Park given that is is on the opposite side of the country to the rest of our plans (Cape Town and the Garden Route). In the end, we decided that it would be silly to fly that far (UK to South Africa) and not tick off a bucket list experience.

RELATED: You can view the rest of my African bucket list here

Re-jigging our itinerary to include Kruger was an overwhelming experience, there are so many options, so many choices and so many people giving their opinion on the "right" or "wrong" way to experience this magical land. It goes without saying that the prices of some options were also terrifying - so the aim of this post is to de-bunk the myths of Kruger safaris and help you plan a trip within YOUR budget. The bird in the photo below is basically me whispering into your ear, spreading the secrets of "cheap" safaris... Kruger Bird Antelope Whisper Kruger Kudu Camouflaged

COSTING

We flew into Johannesburg O.T International Airport and began our trip to Kruger from here. This is what many people that we met along the way were also doing, so for the purposes of this guide, I  have assumed that you will be doing the same (but of course, Kruger is accessible from other South African cities and even other neighbouring countries!) We spent 4 days in the Johannesburg/Kruger area, with the first and last days being mainly driving days and the middle two days being filled with game drives. Obviously, the time that you spend in Kruger will increase/decrease the price as appropriate! Costs are shown in South African Rand (ZAR) and where we actually incurred these costs, I have shown the GBP figure incurred on our credit card statements (September/October 2017), otherwise the prices have been converted using the approximate exchange rate of October 2017 (0.056). Kruger Giraffe Kruger Elephant Baby Crossing Road

HOW TO GET THERE

£ Drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport

Without a doubt, the cheapest way of getting to Kruger National Park (KNP) is to drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport. Car hire is cheap in South Africa and we weren't charged any surcharge for being below the age of 25 (which is always good)! Road conditions from the airport to Kruger are fantastic and there are plenty of places to top up your petrol or grab a bite to eat (although we did find that these places were closer to Kruger than the airport, so on the return journey, make sure you re-fuel early! The journey is easy as the entire journey is a straight line but it is long. Kruger is larger than many European countries and therefore the length of the journey will depend on where you are staying within the park. We were driving to Crocodile Gate which took around 4 and a half hours. Make sure you have plenty of snacks, a good playlist and maybe a few podcasts to keep you going! Our total car hire costs were R1,140.99 (approximately £73). We rented a brand new Ford Fiesta from Bidvest Car Rentals (booked through Drive South Africa) and this price included hiring a GPS, registering a second driver (even though I ended up doing none of the driving!) and the usual car hire costs such as topping up petrol when you return. We also spent R491.50 on filling up with petrol (approximately £27). Our total costs = R1,632.49 (approximately £100 per car = £50 per person).

££ Baz Bus 

Baz Bus is a South African backpacker's dream! If you aren't comfortable driving from Johannesburg to Kruger by yourself (I certainly wouldn't be if I wasn't travelling with Callum as I HATE driving), the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour is certainly a good alternative! The price for this option can't be directly compared to the other journey options given the fact that the Baz Bus tour also includes open vehicle game drives, meals as specified in the detailed itinerary and accommodation in permanent erected 2-person dome tents for the duration of the trip. Advantages of this option obviously include having everything planned for you and meeting lots of new people, however if you enjoy the freedom of exploring at your own pace and making your own decisions, maybe this isn't the right choice for you. Total cost = R8,000 (approximately £445 per person).

£££ Fly to Kruger National Park

If the 4.5+ hour drive to Kruger is too much for you to handle, there are regular flights leaving Johannesburg to three Kruger-serving airports. Depending on the area of Kruger that you are visiting, the airports you need are as follows:
  • Northern Kruger Park: Phalaborwa Airpor
  • Central Kruger Park: Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport
  • Southern Kruger Park: Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
We had the option of flying from Johannesburg to Nelspruit but at approximately R2700/£150 - R3600/£200 per person for a return flight (50 minutes each way), it didn't seem worth it to us. Especially as we would have had to wait in Johannesburg for a few hours between flights meaning the flying/waiting time would have been equal to the driving time! Once you arrive at your chosen airport, you will need to hire a car to take you to the park (Nelspruit is approximately a 1.5 hour drive to Crocodile Bridge Gate). The costs of which would have been largely the same as in option 1 (with less petrol usage - therefore estimated R1,140.99 per car (approximately £73 per car or £36 per person). Alternatively, our accommodation offered a transfer for R400 per person from the airport (approximately £23) Total costs would therefore be R3,100-R4,170 per person (approximately £173-£236 per person). Kruger Lion Sleeping Road Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge Affordable Accomodation

ACCOMMODATION

£ SAN Parks Lodging

South Africa National Parks (SAN Parks) have an incredible range of accommodation located in the heart of each of their national parks. This is originally the accommodation that we tried to book but availability was seriously low (at the time, we didn't know that we would be visiting the park on a South African public holiday). I would advise that if you want to take advantage of these cheap and cheerful lodgings, you book at least 6 months in advance. There are 12 main rest camps in Kruger National Park and the two which were of interest to us (due to their location in proximity to Johannesburg) were Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Rest Camp. There are lots of different choices of accommodation within the rest camps including a patch of land to pitch your tent, "safari tents" which are permanent basic buildings, adorable little bungalows fully kitted out with kitchen facilities for two people and larger guest houses for bigger groups. Prices vary depending on the type of accommodation, the number of people staying in the property and the rest camp chosen. We entered Lower Sabie Rest camp a few times to use their toilets/restaurant facilities and would have been more than happy to stay here! Rates for Lower Sabie Rest Camp can be seen here and vary from R305-R2,320 per night for 2 people (approximately £16-£128 for two people or £8-£64 per person).

££ Off-Site Mid-Range Lodges

With the SAN Parks accommodation fully booked, we panicked thinking that there were no other affordable options. Various google searches showed results that would a) give me a heart attack and b) bankrupt me beyond belief. Then I turned to my trusty Booking.com to see if there were ANY alternatives - it turns out there is! We settled for Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge which is located in Marloth Park (a quick 10 minute drive South of Crocodile Bridge Gate to Kruger National Park). Our booking included both breakfast and dinner every day (both of which were absolutely gorgeous) and we were very happy with our choice! The lodge was absolutely stunning and really felt like a "safari lodge" but without the hefty price tag! In September 2017, we paid R2240 per night for 2 people (approximately £124 per night for 2 people or £62 per person).

£££ Luxury Private Reserves

I am a member of many travel groups on Facebook and the number of people that think luxury private reserves are the ONLY option when booking a safari is unbelievable. With safari being a bucket-list luxury, prices can be hiked accordingly (and in many instances, extortionately). My lovely fellow travel blogger Lucy recently had the opportunity to stay at a luxury private reserve called Klaserie Sands and boy did it look gorgeous! There are plenty of these private reserves available throughout safari destinations in Africa and a quick google will help you find the lodge of your dreams. Prices at Klaserie Sands are currently R10,200 for two people per night (approximately £566 for two people or £283 for one person). Kruger Safari Jeep Girl Kruger Kudu

GAME DRIVES

£ Self Drive

The cheapest way to view the animals is to self-drive around the park. If you are on a strict budget, this is without a doubt the best way to view the animals. You don't need a 4x4 to access the park but be warned that the roads do get quite bumpy! The downside to self-driving is that you don't have the knowledge and expertise of an experienced guide and being in a car (which is much lower than a safari jeep) means that the animals are often harder to spot as you may not be able to see over bushes/plant life. On the plus side, you can spend your time exactly as you wish. Self-drive is as expensive as you decide to make it - Free! (Other than petrol)

££ Guided Drive

With only two full days to explore Kruger, we decided to splash out and join guided game drives (despite the fact that we had a car). Our accommodation (Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge) arranged the game drives for us using their trusted guide (Solomon - you're the best!) and they were AMAZING. I would highly recommend doing a guided drive if it is within your budget. Safari guides are very talented at spotting wildlife (you don't realise how well camouflaged animals truly are until you see them in their natural habitat) and know the best spots to see certain creatures. Our accommodation charged us R670 for a full game drive plus conservation fees of R306 for each day. This price was applicable whether you did a full day (around 5am to 5pm) or a half day (times dependent on availability). The total cost for a full days game drive would therefore be R976 per day per person (approximately £54). Kruger Warthog Pumba Kruger Baboon Sitting in Tree

SUMMARY OF OUR COSTS & VERDICT

ZAR GBP
  Total  Per Person Total  Per Person
Car Rental + petrol R1,632.49 R816.25 £100.00 £50.00
3 x nights accommodation & food R6,720.00 R3,360.00 £372.00 £186.00
2 x full day game drives R3,904.00 R1,952.00 £215.00 £107.50
R12,256.49 R6,128.25 £687.00 £343.50
£343.50 for a once in a life time's experience - was it worth it? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY. Of course, that price is still out of reach for many people, but remember, you could make it much cheaper! Pitch a tent in the SAN Parks accommodation to ensure you're not wasting money on a hotel you won't spend much time in and self-drive to save on guide fees. We did debate doing the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour and if I was travelling on my own, this definitely would have been my choice. However, when travelling as a couple, it was cheaper for us to drive ourselves, stay in a mid range lodge and pay for guides (£343.50) vs pay for a tour (£445). The tour does look truly great however and takes you to some other points of interest during the driving days such as Blyde River Canyon (which looks amazing). I also feel that our accommodation was incredible and I'm glad that we didn't pay another £100 for the Baz Bus tour to sacrifice our gorgeous lodge for camping. Have you ever been on a safari? Was it as expensive as you thought?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

  Safaris are crazy expensive right? Think again! We recently did a trip to Kruger on a budget and it was amazing! Here I outline all of your options, how much we spent and how you could make it cheaper!  
Budgeting European City Breaks Macedonia Ohrid Wall "How do you afford to always travel" is something I get asked by certain friends/family members of mine on a regular basis. Yet said individuals have been known to spend 2 weeks every year in an all-inclusive resort that costs around £1,500+ per person just for those two weeks which just isn't my style! In 2016 I went on less European city breaks than I would have liked too - I had to spend too much annual leave on exams/study time unfortunately! I only managed 5 city breaks, but the total cost was £1,405.21 (average £281 per trip for flights, accommodation and spending money). When I've told people this, they've seemed shocked and confused - so I thought I'd set it all out in a blog post!

Krakow, Poland

Krakow Poland Auschwitz
  • Flights = £81
  • Hotel = £72.50
  • Spending Money = £110
  • Total = £263.50
  • Dates = Friday 18 March - Tuesday 22 March 2016
  • Total days = 5
  • Annual leave = 3

Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid Macedonia Church Budgeting City Break
  • Flights = £51
  • Hotel = £43.86
  • Spending Money = £64.94 (see full breakdown here)
  • Total = £159.80
  • Dates = Sunday 22nd May - Wednesday 25 May 2016
  • Total days = 4
  • Annual leave = 3

Salzburg, Austria

View Salzburg Austria Budgeting Europe City Break
  • Flights = £38 (after using £50 RyanAir gift card)
  • Hotel = £124
  • Spending Money = £152.15 (see full breakdown here)
  • Total = £314.12
  • Dates = Friday 3rd June - Monday 6 June 2016
  • Total days = 4
  • Annual leave = 2

Cologne, Germany

Burg Eltz Cologne Germany Budgeting
  • Flights = £60.98
  • Hotel = £73.69
  • Spending Money = £170
  • Total = £304.67
  • Dates = Friday 26 August - Monday 29 August 2016
  • Total days = 4
  • Annual leave = 1
  • Bank holidays = 1

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Scotland Budgeting City Break
  • Flights = £83.96
  • Hotel = £81
  • Spending Money = £198.16
  • Total = £363.12
  • Dates = Thursday 1 September - Sunday 4 September 2016
  • Total days = 4
  • Annual leave = 2

Summary

  • Total spending = £1,405.21
  • Number of days abroad = 21
  • Total annual leave days used = 11
  • Percentage  of fun had = 100%

Booking.com

So What Are my Top Tips?

Work out what your priorities are £1,400 is still a lot of money, but in 2016 travelling was a priority for me and was worth every penny. I don't spend money on clothes and accessories (although I definitely used to!) and that definitely helps to save. This £1,400 was spent over the course of a year, so if you want to experience the 5 city breaks listed above, you'd need to save £116 per month - given that my main blog audience are 18 - 25 year old females (much like myself), making the huge assumption that you are in a full time job without the responsibilities of kids or a mortgage, this could be entirely achievable depending on your priorities. In 2017, I haven't taken half as many trips as this but I'm currently saving every penny and thinking about getting on the housing ladder - priorities change and that's okay!

RELATED:  Find out what I've given up in order to save money for travel here

Travel at non-peak times where possible I could have been FAR stingier with my spending on travel during this year. A prime example is my trip to Cologne. I was limited on annual leave by this point and had to utilise the August bank holiday weekend meaning flight costs rocketed. Our £60 return flights from London Stansted with RyanAir can be snagged for £18 most of the year (these seats are also always included in RyanAir's sales). And generally speaking, flying mid-week will be cheaper than utilising a long weekend (something I am a big fan of given my lack of annual leave), so if you work unusual hours, you could be quids-in! Be flexible I have the Skyscanner widget on my Android phone homepage, so I am constantly able to see what the cheapest flights from London in the next month are. When Skysanner were advertising £25 flights to Ohrid (Macedonia), I knew that I HAD to have them. I hadn't even heard of this city, but I know it's not normally in the "cheap flight" category! After a quick google, I knew it was beautiful and I knew I had to go.

RELATED: Have you seen any cheap flights to Ohrid? If you manage to catch them, read all about my time there here! You won't be disappointed! 

Make sure you understand the budget airlines So above I mentioned that I saw £25 flights to Ohrid but I actually paid £50, what happened there?! Well, budget airlines have to make their money somehow and Wizz Air make you pay for normal sized cabin bags. Where possible, I fly with RyanAir who allow you to have one normal sized cabin bag and one small personal item (like a handbag, backpack or laptop bag) included in the price of your ticket!

RELATED: Do you know what's included in your ticket price? Read my guides for RyanAir and Wizz Air!

How Could You Save More Money Than I Did?

My biggest downfall when travelling in 2016 was having to make lots of little short breaks, this means that I was continually paying for return flights to the UK. I spent a total of 3 weeks in European cities during the year - so if you could get 3 continuous weeks off work and pick cities that are relatively close to one another, using public transport to get from one to the other will be much cheaper than continuously flying to and from the UK! Also, you'll notice that my spending money in a city is normally on par with the flights and accommodation. This is because I like to FULLY immerse myself in a city and do absolutely everything that's on offer. I rarely leave a city without having ticked off all of the "must see" tourist attractions. If you slow down and don't feel the need to spend money on every single entrance fee, you will definitely save money.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     
After dipping my toes into the realm of UK travel last year and discovering two of my favourite cities (Edinburgh and York, you are beauties), this year I have vowed that I will see more of our glorious little nation. My first port of call in 2017 was the "Island City" of Portsmouth - did you know Portsmouth is technically an island? I didn't - you learn something new every day! Myself and my buddy Alex jumped in the car early one Saturday morning to visit our uni-going friend Graceybum (who would probably prefer to be referred to by the name Grace but that's boring) and we had the BEST weekend. I am now very concious of the fact that Grace has shown my blog to her uni buddies and they are probably sniggering at the fact that someone could write a travel blog post about Portsmouth... shut up guys, I promise I have super exciting posts about Morocco and Canada coming up. When I returned to work, all I heard was "what is there to do in Portsmouth!? That must have been boring" - oh how wrong they are! When you live somewhere, you don't tend to truly explore the area like a tourist would, so we decided to make Grace visit all of the touristy areas! Get ready for the ultimate tourist-fest!

Day One

Drive!  First job of the day was to jump in the car and drive our ass' to Portsmouth - it takes us around 2 hours to get to Portsmouth from our near-coastal towns in Essex, so it's the perfect journey for a weekend! Alternatively, Portsmouth has great train connections to London and the surrounding areas. Grab an Amazing Late Breakfast / Brunch IMG_4841 v2IMG_4843 v2 Before arriving in Portsmouth, Grace had expressed that she wanted to visit The Tenth Hole for breakfast/cake/both. We obviously happily obliged and I shouted from the rooftops to anybody at work who would listen about how amazing the cake in this cafe looked, so obviously this was our first stop. I opted for the the breakfast bruschetta followed by a GIANT slab of chocolate fudge cake and they were both incredible! (If you're reading this The Tenth Hole, please have your bakewell in stock next time I visit - the photo on your website looks TOO good to be true)! Play a Round of Crazy Golf (... or two) IMG_4858 v2 The Tenth Hole is situated on a golf course, which lead to the revelation that Alex had never played golf of any kind before (not even crazy golf), which obviously meant we had to enlighten her on the sport of champions. So we headed down to Treasure Island Mini Golf and completed both crazy golf courses like the absolute cool kids that we are. If crazy golf isn't your thing (I refuse to believe that you visited the sea-side if you didn't play a spot of crazy golf), there are fairground rides and Clarence Pier in this general area - or you can skip to the next stage of the journey... Enjoy the Beach!  IMG_4855 v2IMG_4867 v2 A beach? In England? In February? Yep, you're right, we were blessed with some freaky weather during this weekend and a stroll across the beach was just what the doctor ordered. Splash The Cash at Gunwharf Quay A few years ago, you could count on me for a shopping trip, I'd have been recently and I'd know exactly what each shop is selling at that present moment  right now, I couldn't care less. So it's very strange for me to really enjoy a little shopping area! Gunwharf Quay is an outlet designer shopping centre right in the middle of the city - it's sleek, it's modern and it's surrounded by loads of fab looking restaurants - perfect! Take a Trip Up the Spinnaker Tower IMG_4945 v2IMG_4905 v2IMG_4894 v2Tile 2Now, for perhaps the most touristy item of all - if you're only in Portsmouth for a short period of time, it would be rude not to visit the Spinnaker Tower really! This led to lots of freaking out on my part while trying to get onto the glass floor section of the viewing area - note to self: you don't like heights. Annoyingly, the Spinnaker Tower's windows are tinted blue and whilst the view is fab, taking photos is an absolute nightmare!

Day Two

More Amazing Breakfast... Duh IMG_4919 v2 After yesterday's amazing breakfast, we knew that day two's breakfast would have to be pretty damn good to top it. We headed to Feed and the food was unreal - I opted for the Eggs Benedict (apparently I had an fixation with eggs this weekend) but all of the full English options looked amazing! The Historic Dockyard IMG_4926 v2 Another big "must" if you want to be the ultimate Portsmouth tourist is a trip to the Historic Dockyard to see the likes of the likes of the Mary Rose and the HMS Victory. Tickets looked pretty pricey, but as we were entering,  a nice security man told us that there's a free ticket available if you just want to wander around and not actually enter any of the ships - so we opted for that! Portsdown Hill  IMG_4953 v2Slowly running out of ideas for things to do in Portsmouth, we turned to trusty old TripAdvisor and decided to take a drive up Portsdown Hill for pretty views of the city and the opportunity to play with horses! Grace says that the view from Portsdown Hill is even prettier at night when the city is all lit-up and pretty! Fort Nelson IMG_4987 v2IMG_5001 v2 On the way up to the viewpoint on Portsdown Hill, we drove past Fort Nelson and were sold at the "FREE ADMISSIONS" sign glaring in our faces, so on our way back down the hill, we decided to make a pit-stop. The fort was MUCH bigger than we had expected and is the perfect activity to fill a few hours without breaking the bank (although you would need to drive there). Take a Trip to Southampton Tile 1 On the weekend of our visit, Southampton's Westquay was having a "Festival of Light", so we decided to head down in the evening to check it out and attempt to take some nice photos (emphasis on the word "attempt"). Eat More Food We tried so hard to find Bills, only to be turned away at the door (apparently everyone else at the festival also wanted to eat in Bills) but we stumbled across Thaikhun and fell in love with their Thai food - I'm very upset that they don't have any Essex / London branches! With very full stomachs, we jumped back in the car to start our 2 hour journey back to Essex. After a surprisingly good weekend (tourist attraction-wise, I knew the company would be good!), I'm looking for more UK cities to explore for the weekend - where would you recommend? Have you been a tourist in your own city recently? I'd love to hear about it!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

IMG_3296 v2 What Is The Essex Pass?  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have heard about my love for The Essex Pass. Despite my blog name, I'm not ALWAYS trying to escape Essex, in fact I love finding new things to do in the local area. That's where the Essex Pass comes into play - 12 months membership will cost you a mere £9.99 and will give you loads of discounts in Essex (most of which are 2 people for the price of 1)! If you live in Essex and want to find some new things to do (like me), or you will be in the area for a short period of time and want to do more of the touristy attractions in the area, I couldn't recommend this card enough! I've recently visited the Original Great Maze and also Hazle's Pottery Barn using the pass, but this was the first time we had used it for a FULL day out - so I thought I'd share it all with you because it was a really great day (although it included a very strange mixture of activities - from sports, to history to animals)! Rope Runners IMG_3269 v2IMG_3271 v2IMG_3284 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £28 per person
  • Essex Pass Price: £28 for 2 people = £14 each
  • Website: http://www.roperunners.co.uk/
If you want to complete the full day of activities listed in this post, you'll need to book on to a 10am Rope Runners course. The booking lasts for 2.5 hours and your get to do as many courses as you like in that amount of time as possible! There are 6 rope courses in total, 2 at ground level, 2 at medium height and 2 high up courses. Being completely afraid of heights, the medium levels were quite enough for me but Callum completed all of them (with only a few little moans on the high levels). Each course ends with a zip-wire (there's a brilliant video of me being terrified on the podium and refusing to do it, before doing it, realising it was fun and then falling on my face at the end - not sure that video will ever make it to the internet!). And there's also a huge stand-alone zip-wire which we both also completed. The staff were super helpful and friendly, so if you want a fun activity-based day out, this is the place for you! They also have archery, air rifle, paint balling and water-zorbing to choose from, so there's something for everyone! You can tell I'm not built for sports however.. it's the day after and my legs hurt... Secret Nuclear Bunker IMG_3293 v2IMG_3300 v2IMG_3339 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £7 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £7 for 2 people = £3.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm (5pm on weekends in Summer)
  • Website: http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com/
If you're visiting Rope Runners, it would be wrong not to also visit the Secret Nuclear Bunker as they are located right next door to each other! This photo made it's way round social media a while back as the "secret" bunker is clearly not much of a secret! You enter the bunker through what looks like a normal little house before picking up an audio guide - I think the tour took us about 2 hours but it was great! According to the website, this is the biggest and deepest Cold War bunker that's open to the public in the South East of England. After the heat of the Cold War died down, the bunker was no longer needed and the Government sold it, hence we are now able to visit it as tourists! It's so strange to see something of such historic importance so close to your home! Hopefield Animal Sanctuary IMG_3344 v2IMG_3359 v2IMG_3400 v2IMG_3444 v2
  • Location: Sawyers Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Ln, Brentwood CM15 9BZ
  • Normal Price: £5 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £5 for 2 people = £2.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm
  • Website: http://www.hopefield.org.uk/
Located a mere 20 minute drive away, I couldn't help making a quick visit to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary! The sanctuary isn't huge, and it won't take you much longer than an hour to see all of the animals on display. Even so, there's a great range of animals to see including many horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, raccoons, various reptiles, birds and many more! The sanctuary is a non-profit organisation caring for around 200 unwanted, sick or mistreated animals. They require donations and volunteers to continue their great work - so if you're in the area, make sure you stop by! Even the former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis is a huge supporter of the work they do! There are plenty of other ways you can help out including volunteering and adopting an animal. And for only £20 you can have a full animal experience day - my sister has already asked me to buy her this for her birthday! Highlight of the day: I didn't know that Racoon Dogs exist - but apparently they do, and I love them so much. So god damn cute. And in Conclusion... We had a really great day out! The close proximity for these three activities means that it's easy to do all three in one day (providing you get to Rope Runners early)! The full day out would normally cost £40, but with The Essex Pass, it will cost you a mere £20. For three activities spanning 10am to 4pm, I think that's a pretty great deal! Plus, given The Essex Pass only costs £9.99, you've already made your money back! Apart from the Secret Nuclear Bunker, without The Essex Pass, I wouldn't have known these activities exist and I can't wait to find out about more hidden gems near home! Does your local area have a discount pass? Have you ever used it?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Copenhagen Hostel Generator Common Area and Recpetion Copenhagen Hostel Generator Dorm Sleeping Area Ljubljana Slovenia Zeppelin Hostel Common Area Fun
The photos above are from various hostels that I have stayed in, however all photos are taken from Hostel World and credit is given to the original authors... apparently I make too much mess to keep a hostel photo-worthy!
Last year I took my first solo trip and therefore experienced my first proper hostel experience (prior to this, I'd stayed in private rooms in hostels with friends). So, for anyone that's a newbie on the scene like I was, this is your ultimate guide to what you can expect!

RELATED POST: Why I love solo travel! 

Firstly, How To Find Your Perfect Hostel? There are plenty of different types of hostel to choose from (as with hotels). If you're travelling style is to move from one party to the next, then a party hostel is where you will be happiest! Whilst party travelling isn't my style, I've heard pretty mental things about Retox in Budapest. If you want to stay in a cosy hostel where everyone socialises in the social area and has a chilled out vibe (my favourite), look for a smaller hostel. My favourites are the ones run by ex-backpackers, they know exactly what you will need! The Zeppelin Hostel in Ljubljana is perfect for this. If you want a hostel that feels more like a hotel, try a large hostel. I stayed in the Generator Hostel in Copenhagen in a private room with friends and it felt just like being in a hotel! My friend referred to it as a "posh-tel". The same goes for Safestay Edinburgh. My favourite website to find hostels is Hostel World, make sure you read all of the reviews from fellow travellers to make sure your needs will be adequately met. What To Pack  Staying in a hostel is very different to hotel and that starts with the things you need to bring!
  • A Padlock - I'm not ashamed to admit it, I made the ultimate rookie error on my first hostel experience - I forgot a padlock. Luckily, the hostel had a bunch spare that I could use for a small fee. This obviously wasn't the strongest or most secure padlock but I was in a lovely little hostel and didn't feel like my stuff was unsafe in the locker.
  • Flip flops - Flip flops will become your best friends in communal showers. You don't want to get foot fungus from showering where so many people have already planted their dirty feet! Short of a) demanding the area be deep cleaned before every shower you have or b) not showering at all (that's one way to not make friends in a hostel), flip flops are the only option!
  • Towels - This isn't a five star resort, don't expect animal sculptures on your bed made out of towels every night you arrive back at your room. In fact, don't expect a towel at all. Once that towel is safely packed, you also then need to remember to actually take it to the shower from your dorm room! I did have to rescue a traumatised Belgian girl who had got into the shower without remembering to pick up her towel... I think I'm safe in saying she probably didn't make that mistake again.
  • Ear plugs - I'm not a fan (I'm sure my ear holes are smaller than the average human, those plugs just don't co-operate with me), but if you struggle sleeping, I'd recommend ear plugs! You never know what kinds of snorers will be in your dorm!
  • Toiletries - As well as the towels, make sure you always bring your own toiletries, you won't be getting any freebies! And remember to pick them up when you leave the shower, or someone will be quick to snap them up! Don't fret though, normally the hostels have a big box of toiletries that have been left behind. If there's something you're desperately in need of, you could be in luck!
  • Sanitary Items - You might also want to pack some tissues and hand sanitiser - the best hostels will always make sure the toilets are well-stocked but you might be caught out!
A Few House Rules
  • Ditch The Introvert Side To You - I get nervous in a lot of situations, I am by no means the most confident person in the world. But if you're going to make the most of your time in a hostel, don't let nerves get to you. You get that booty into the common room and chat to people, I guarantee you are bound to make life-long friends.
  • Staying Up Late - This won't really be an issue if you're in a party hostel, but if you are in a quiet hostel, be a bit considerate when you come fumbling back into your room late at night. But by all means, go on that pub crawl, have the time of your life, you're only young once.
  • Early Mornings - On the other hand, you don't want to be the person bashing through their bags early in the morning. This was me once and I haven't yet forgiven myself for it! I was in a top bunk and accidentally dropped my TINY locker key to the floor at 7am in the dark and I had to be on a tour at 8am. At first, I thought it was in the bunk below me, so had to sneakily rummage through a guy's bed while he slept. He woke up and helped me (without asking too many questions). Big shout out to that guy - you're a legend.
  • Don't Be a Snob - If you will only settle for 5 star luxury accommodation, it's probably best to steer clear of hostels. If you come in with the wrong attitude, you're destined not to like it.
  • Clean Up After Yourself – A number of hostels have a communal kitchen area, and a lot offer a free breakfast each morning. Usually it’s a “do it yourself” breakfast – make sure you clear away all of your used cutlery/crockery – nobody wants to be cleaning up after you!
  • Have The Time of Your Life – You love travelling, you’re surrounded by other people that love travelling. Everyone has the common mentality to have the time of their life. Yes, I have plenty of friends and family that I could travel with, but pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and meeting new people from all over the world will be an experience you never regret!
Now, this isn't a complete bible on how to act/pack when staying in a hostel. But it can be a pretty daunting prospect (I know plenty of people who swear they will never do it!), so hopefully this post helps somewhat! Have you ever stayed in a hostel, what was your first experience like?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Whats The Deal With Guided Tours? Guided tours are a controversial topic in the travel blog world because "if someone just shows you around, r u even travelling?!". But screw convention, I'm going to talk about one particular tour company here, because they definitely deserve some recognition & I'm a massive fan of a guided tours! I'm especially a huge fan of free walking tours, I find that they are the perfect way to orientate yourself when arriving in a new city. You get to know your way around, learn some history about the city, hear some interesting stories and best of all, if the tour guide was a bit pants, you aren't obliged to pay a penny! Having said that, I have never not tipped a guide! Another tour style that I'm a big fan of is a well structured day trip. As I have to plan my travels around work and study commitments, recently I have been going on a lot of city breaks rather than extended travels. Sometimes it's great to escape the city and take a day trip to somewhere new. You can read about a few of my guided day tours here:
  1. Alpine Fairytale - Slovenia - Roundabout Travel 
  2. Karst And Coast - Slovenia - Roundabout Travel
  3. Countryside & Windmills - Netherlands - Tours & Tickets

So Who Are The Hairy Coo? 

The Hairy Coo are a tour company operating from Edinburgh who take tourists around the Scottish Highlands in a manner that combines my two favourite tour structures. Yes, that's right, they offer whole day tours including transportation for FREE.

Our tour guide stressed the fact that The Hairy Coo company was set up to provide anyone, of any budget range, the opportunity to explore the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Something that I very much agree with - everyone should visit!

Is It Really Free?

You enter the coach without having paid a single penny. Of course, a tip to the tour guide is expected at the end of your tour, however, you are free to pay the amount that you believe the tour is worth.

I would highly recommend that you book your tour online in advance. When I booked our tour, we only had the choice of one day during our stay in Edinburgh as the others had all sold out. There were only 2 spare seats on our coach once all of the pre-booked passengers were on board, these were swiftly taken by two girls who had turned up hoping there would be spare spaces.

On booking, you are sent an email stating that your card will be charged £17 per person if you fail to turn up or cancel your place less than 48 hours before the tour is to take place. This is quoted as being the "cost" per person. Further to this, the website claims that the tour has a market value of £37, so bare these figures in mind when you determine your tip!

So What Was Our Day Like?

We were only in Edinburgh for 4 days and were dying to get a glimpse of the Scottish Highlands, so this seemed like the perfect way to do it. Ideally, of course we would have road-tripped the area over a few days, but time was not on our side!

We met at Deacon's House Cafe at 8.30am. We actually ate in this cafe twice during our stay in Edinburgh (once for lunch and one for breakfast) and would highly recommend it - great food in a cosy setting!

After being greeted by our tour guide Don (one of the founders of The Hairy Coo), we knew that we were in for a great day! Don was hilarious, well-informed and you could tell that he had a real love for Scotland. He wasn't afraid to give his stance on current affairs and since he grew up in the areas that we were visiting,  his anecdotes were funny and a great addition to an already great factual & beautiful tour!

You can view the entire itinerary for the trip on their website here. But I'll talk just explain the two highlights for me and let the photos do the talking for the rest of the trip (because those Highlands are blimmin' beautiful)!

Highlight #1) BABY HIGHLAND COWS

Yes, you read that right. You get to meet baby highland cows. The Hairy Coo have a "top secret" spot where you can feed a small herd (3 adults & 3 calves) and learn more about these gorgeous creatures.

Even the bus used by The Hairy coo is disguised to look like a Highland cow - it's orange and has a little fringe across the top of the windscreen - adorable!

Highlight #2) Loch Katrine

Many of the larger tour companies will take you straight to hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Loch Katrine is lesser known, but it is beautiful and definitely shouldn't be missed! Enjoy a leisurely walk around the beautiful loch and spend lots of time taking photos!

Would I Recommend?

Without a doubt, yes. This tour was well constructed and I can't sing Don's praises enough - one of the best tour guides I've ever experienced! I've paid around £50 for similar style tours in other countries, and if the tour/guide was rubbish, that's £50 down the drain!

They also offer a paid tour (£45) which visits the Loch Ness, Glencoe and a Whisky Distillery. If I had longer in Edinburgh, I would have most definitely paid to take this trip too! After taking the free tour, I know I would have been in good hands!

The Hairy Coo are a small business and many of the larger companies would like to see them shut down as they are rightfully gaining more custom. When you book your tickets, you have to provide your debit/credit card details to ensure that you are a real person as other tours have been known to fill the seats with fake customers - it breaks my little heart!

So, if you're in Edinburgh any time soon and want to explore the Highlands (duh, who doesn't), give these guys a shout!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. I rightfully paid the tip that I felt appropriate for my tour like all other customers. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Y'know that big shiny building affectionately referred to as "The Walkie Talkie"? The one that accidentally melted cars when it was first erected? Well... it turns out that on the top floor of this building (155m high!), there's a super cool bar set in a garden themed area. And best of all? It's free! The Sky Garden is a glass dome at the top of the building which spans 3 storeys and offers 360 degree views of this beautiful city. You can expect delicious cocktails, gorgeous views and funky tunes (yes, there is a DJ in amongst all the greenery!). How to Book Like I already mentioned, the Sky Garden is free to visit but you do need to make an online booking prior to arrival. Time slots are available online 3 weeks beforehand and can be booked up to 1 hour before your arrival. If you're planning on visiting on a weekday, the booking process should be easy peasy. However, the weekend slots are notoriously hard to get, so make sure you're online 3 weeks beforehand!

RELATED: Thinking of heading to the Sky Garden? Check out my "London Bucket List" to see what else you can do during your time in London! 

Why You Should Go
  • Let's not beat around the bush, London is an expensive city, so any free activity is a good one! Friends of mine have said that the Sky Garden is better than the Shard which you have to pay to visit - I can't comment as I've never visited the Shard! I feel somewhat reluctant to visit now that I've had such a great experience at the Sky Garden.
  • The cocktails are absolutely insane. Whilst they are slightly pricey at around £11 each, I've paid up to £16 for a cocktail in the city and given the fact that this is such a touristy attraction, I don't think £11 is too bad! Each cocktail takes a little while to make, so make sure you order as soon as you arrive (we had dinner reservations booked in Central London, so had to down our drinks super quickly and run out the door once they had been made - that will teach me for taking so long admiring the view and taking photos beforehand...).
  • If you're a fan of London, the view is a pretty damn good one.
  • There are also two restaurants to dine in being the Fenchurch Restaurant and the Darwin Brasserie. I've heard good things about both and would absolutely love to try one (or both!).
Why You Shouldn't Go
  • As you can see from my above photos, there's a big chunk of glass separating you from the lovely view, so my photos are a bit crap. But I suppose having crap photos is better than plummeting to my death from 155m... I suppose.
Have you been to the Sky Garden? What Did You Think? Do you have any other recommendations for free things to do in London?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1