Tuesday, October 24, 2017

European Train Travel Hacks

One of the winners of people's choice prize in The 2018 Drone Photo Contest captures a breathtaking shot of a train passing through mountains in Landwasserviadukt in Switzerland. © SkyPixel

Rail Europe has released eight train travel hacks that aim to help travellers with their European holiday plans and budget.

Commercial Director Ingrid Kocijan says while many travellers are aware of the benefits of rail travel in Europe, many may not be aware of the different ways they can and should take advantage of rail passes to maximize their time and money's worth.

Here are her top hacks:

1. Consider Multiple Day Trips
Passes such as the Eurail Select ones, which include one, two, three and four countries as well as the Eurail Global Pass, allow travellers unlimited travel each given "day" on the pass within the 24 hours from midnight to midnight. Depending on the places of interest, travellers can often visit two or three small towns in one day without having to rush around.

2. Use the SaverPass
Groups of up to five people travelling together and on the same itinerary (i.e. making the same stops) qualify for the SaverPass, which is a discounted Eurail Pass. Booking the passes together as a group
translates to significant savings.

3. Apply Discounts and Bonuses
When booking any rail pass, travellers should be aware that numerous travel bonuses and discounts on buses, ferries, private railways, hotels, sightseeing tours and WiFi come with the pass. These are updated each year, so it is advisable to check the items on offer before making accommodation and tour arrangements.

4. Free travel for kids
Up to two children from the ages of 4-11 years travel for free with their parents travelling with any Eurail Pass. In Switzerland, children under 16 years old travel for free when accompanied by a guardian using the Swiss Travel Pass.

5. Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel Pass http://www.myswitzerland.com/rail grants the holder unlimited access to all Swiss public transportation including buses, trains and boats; allows up to 50% discount off mountain railways and cableways; and free access to 500+ museums around the country. This is unsurpassed value for money!

6. Avoid Seat Reservations Where Possible
Travellers embarking on routes serviced by both high-speed and regional trains may like to consider the latter option to save on seat reservation costs. (Note however that seat reservations are mandatory on all high-speed services and inter-country connections).

7. Travel During Off-peak and Shoulder Seasons
Travelling during the quieter months (usually spring and autumn) will also help with the savings in general. There is also the luxury of space on the trains as crowds usually tend to swell significantly during the peak seasons of summer and winter.

8. Book in Advance
Travellers who plan ahead can save up to 70% off their rail bookings. Eurail passes can be booked up to 11 months in advance, and seat reservations up to three months prior.

For more tips, deals, information and booking, head to www.raileurope.com.au.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

British Airways' top 18 must-see destinations for 2018.

British Airways has revealed its annual travel predictions for the year ahead, selecting the top 18 must-see destinations for 2018. 
Operating a daily service from Sydney, British Airways connects customers to London Heathrow Terminal 5 where they can connect to a network of over 200 destinations worldwide.

Highly-anticipated sporting events, new routes and TV programmes all influence the top travel predictions. The latest season of Game of Thrones has put Croatia firmly on the map, and a number of far-flung destinations rank among the top picks, including Barbados and Muscat.

As one of the most desirable holiday destinations, the Seychelles is a must-see for 2018. Famed as some of the most idyllic islands on the planet, the Seychelles has something for everyone, whether you're a sun-seeker looking for serious relaxation, or a thrill-seeker wanting to scuba dive or trek through the jungle. From 24 March 2018, British Airways will be the only airline to offer direct flights from the UK.

Nicole Backo, British Airways' regional general manager, South West Pacific, said: "Savvy holiday-makers are always looking for top tips to explore the latest and coolest destinations. We've built up years of experience to offer deals to suit all travellers, from city breaks, to fly drives to multi-city tours."

Customers can use British Airways Holidays to tailor-make their itinerary; stopping off at cities around the globe, adding car hire where needed and booking accommodation from a huge choice of hotels.


Ringed by glittering azure waters, white-sand beaches fringed with palm trees and lush greenery, this genteel island makes for a truly special holiday. Those looking for action will find exhilarating water sports, whilst those looking for relaxation will love the sandy shores and gentle surf.  Soak up the history in Bridgetown, enjoy a spot of afternoon tea at a 17th-century plantation before heading to the legendary Fish Fry for dinner.  Wander the scene with a Barbadian rum whilst enjoying the energetic Calypso background music.


Budding explorers must take a visit to Scandinavia's coolest capital.  Innovation is the theme here in Denmark's capital city, which is home to a thriving design scene, new and old architecture, quirky bakeries and pop-up bars.  Perfect for a long weekend, visitors should take a stroll into Tivoli Gardens, stop by and see The Little Mermaid by the coast and relax by the harbour.


Croatia's rare blend of glamour and authenticity have made it one of Europe's hottest holiday destinations. Customers can fly British Airways to the fashionable setting of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik, to the coastal city of Pula and to the capital Zagreb.  Festival fans will be delighted to know that, with no Glastonbury happening in 2018, British Airways flies directly to Split. Situated at the heart of the Dalmatian coast, this city is bursting with energy and a charming Mediterranean vibe set against a backdrop of pine-fringed coastline and mountainous landscape, and is a convenient driving distance to Hideout festival, a leading European music festival.


A small and compact city, Inverness is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, a diverse and spectacular region of wilderness renowned for its lochs, sweeping glens, imposing mountains and rugged coastline.  Ideal for adventurous holidaymakers, the highlands offer mountaineering and climbing during the summer, and skiing at Aviemore in the winter months.  For a more relaxing day trip, Speyside is located just south of Inverness and has the largest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland.  With British Airways offering direct daily flights to Inverness from London, customers can be in Scotland in no time.


The Portuguese city of Lisbon sits on several hills rising from the northern banks of the Tagus river.  A beautiful and historic city, a mini-break to Lisbon offers traditional colourful culture and beautiful beaches alongside a modern foodie scene and busy nightlife amid picturesque, pastel coloured surroundings.

6.    MALTA

Discover remarkable history, glistening hidden coves and timeless villages by visiting Malta, one of the smallest counties in the world and a melting pot of Mediterranean culture.  Made up of three tiny Islands on the southern edge of Europe, a must-visit is Valetta, Malta's capital and a 2018 European Capital of Culture.  This remarkable city is small and easy to explore on foot, bursting with ancient palaces and baroque churches.


A firm favourite amongst sun seekers, Mykonos is a must-visit due to its picture perfect beauty, fascinating history, spectacular beaches, cultured old town and whitewashed villages.  By day, holidaymakers enjoy snorkelling, diving and exploring the hidden coves and beachfront bars whilst waiting for night to fall, when some of Europe's best nightclubs come to life.


A brand new route to Music City will be music to travellers' ears, as from May 2018 British Airways will be travelling directly from Europe to the home of country music and good living.  Discover Nashville through its streets, stories, and the stars on its pavements.  Must-sees include the famous Bluebird CafĂ© and The Country Music Hall of Fame, whilst must-dos include a whiskey tour of Jack Daniel's distillery followed by a huge traditional Southern meal of delicious crispy fried chicken and shrimp.


It has never been easier to get to New Orleans; the birthplace of jazz, rock 'n' roll and R&B. Famous for its Mardi Gras, customers can make the most of the city by visiting during the historical celebrations to catch the popular parades and electric atmosphere.  Plan a visit to the architecturally fascinating French Quarter, followed by an evening out on the monumental Bourbon Street.


Wake up in the city that never sleeps by treating yourself to a long weekend in New York in 2018.  With an iconic skyline, energetic nightlife, bounty of museums and endless shops, a trip to the Big Apple is guaranteed to leave you dazzled, and you'll find it easy to see why it's been voted The Best City in the World in the Conde Nast Traveller Readers Awards 2017.


Those seeking out the modern face of Arabia while still wanting to sense its ancient roots will enjoy the magic of Muscat, Oman's charming capital city.  The balance between tradition and modernity is well established, with medieval forts, palaces and bazaars sitting beside modern malls and opulent resorts.  Visit the Mutrah Souq where Muscat comes to life with in clouds of incense, glittering gold jewellery and precious Omani artefacts.


Oakland's booming tourism this year, particularly among millennial travellers, has raised its profile and helped it hit the hotlist for 2018.  The city offers museums and historical sites, a vibrant arts scene, innovative restaurants and bars, and boutique shops. Catch the train for a short journey to San Francisco, a small city which is big on food, eclectic sights and history.


From party capital Moscow to culture capital St Petersburg, Russia is a brash, exciting and fascinating place to visit blessed with so many cultural and national treasures that it would take several trips to see them all.  Take advantage of British Airways flights to Moscow and St Petersburg, which are both proud host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


Stretching 4,300km from the driest desert in the world to massive glacial fields, few countries can boast the rich contrast of Chile. Santiago provides the perfect base, a colourful and cultural feast for the senses.  By day the sights, vineyards, coastline and mountains are all within easy reach of this city, where by night the streets are thronging with partygoers.  British Airways now offers direct flights to Chile's leafy capital from London.


The futuristic capital of South Korea, where modern skyscrapers and pop culture meet Buddhist temples and street markets, is a must-visit for 2018.  Explore the fascinating culture of Seoul in one of the most authentic ways possible – through its local cuisine.  For those who prefer an activity holiday, hiking is a popular activity in Seoul, and there are world-class golf course and ski resorts within driving distance.  Snow sport lovers should plan to visit in February to tie in with the Winter Olympic Games being held in Pyeong Chang.


A paradise for honeymooners, families and sun worshippers, the Seychelles is famous for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and colourful coral reefs.  Made up of 115 diverse individual islands, there is something on offer for holidaymakers seeking ultimate relaxation or adventure, from snorkelling and scuba diving to wandering through exotic markets or relaxing on the blissful shores of the numerous white beaches.  From March, British Airways is the online airline to fly directly to the Seychelles from the UK.


2018 will mark the 100th Birthday of the Republic of Estonia, with celebrations aplenty across the country.  These will be led by the capital, Tallinn, a vibrant city whose historic centre has a UNESCO World Heritage status.  Fusing modern and medieval with its ancient cobbled streets, glass skyscrapers, baroque palaces and trendy cafes, Tallinn is a fairy-tale city which is perfect for a weekend break.


Treat yourself with a trip to Toronto, the biggest city in Canada and a metropolis with fantastic art, culture, sightseeing, restaurants and nightlife.  Time your visit during the star-studded Toronto Film Festival, which draws global crowds and is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world attracting over 480,000 people annually. With direct flights from London to Toronto year round, find your way to a vibrant city which is perfect during sunny summer days or snowy winter evenings.

To book and for further information please visit ba.com.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Ten Reasons to Cruise in Asia this Summer

It's so close to Australia

The cruising hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong are so close to Australia, meaning it takes half the time to fly to either of these port cities than to Europe. Once you get there, sit back, relax, and leave the rest of your holiday in the hands of the experts, allowing you more time to enjoy the holiday experience, onboard and off!

You can visit places not accessible by car, train or bus

Cruising in Asia offers travellers the ability to visit hard-to-reach places that are inaccessible by car, bus or train. On cruise lines such as Azamara Club Cruises, the boutique size of ships such as Azamara Journey, means they can fit into smaller ports such as Borocay in the Philipines, Komodo Islands in Indonesia, or sailing up Thailand's Chao Phraya River to dock right next to the bright lights of Bangkok overnight. The line will also launch 30 brand new ports worldwide in 2018, allowing guests to see more of the world's hidden gems. The majority of these new ports will cater to smaller ships, such as Georgetown (Penang) in Malaysia and Hambantota in Sri Lanka – the gateway to the beautiful Bundala National Park, which teems with flocks of greater flamingos.

Forget overcrowded, overnight trains and buses!

Many travellers delight in experiencing local modes of travel, but cruising allows guests to swap Asia's famed crowded buses and trains for luxury. Forget airports, stations, transfers and check-ins! Whilst on board, guests on lines such as Azamara can indulge in health, beauty and restorative treatments at Sanctum Spa, hair styling and a mani-pedi at The Salon, a dip in one of the pools, or acupuncture. What's more, ships such as Azamara Journey cater to a maximum of 690 guests, which keeps the experience intimate and the service personal.

Watch the sunset in one country, wake up in another

What other form of travel allows you to watch the sunset over the network of rivers, streams and canals of Cochin, India, then wake up in the lush serendipity of Colombo, Sri Lanka? Asia isn't the sort of destination you can skim over or whiz through; with so many rich cultures and phenomenal sights to explore, an Asia cruise allows you time to immerse yourself within the destinations.

Go to places on the top of your bucket list, as well as those you've never considered

Countries such as Japan, Indonesia and Thailand are at the top of many Aussie bucket lists, but an Asia cruise allows you to combine these destinations with those you wouldn't have otherwise considered. Why not get a taste of Salalah, Oman, the perfume capital of Arabia, or the bright lights of Yeosu, South Korea, or the leafy streets and colonial architecture of Yangon, Myanmar?

Courtesy of Robert La Bua, Tourism Oman

It's a Balinese villa at sea… only better

Balinese-style villas are a top travel trend that fill today's social media feeds, but an Asia cruise offers guests the opportunity to experience this level of luxury on a grander scale AND immerse themselves in multiple exotic destinations at the same time. Suites onboard an Azamara voyage include ocean views, sea breezes, plush cotton robes and slippers, French bath products, fresh flowers, fine linens, private verandas, complimentary drinks, 24-hour room service, a stateroom attendant and assistant, and a butler who can assist with restaurant and spa reservations, private parties, dinners for two and more!

No stress, no language barriers, no organisation – leave to someone else!

One of the downsides about travelling – especially in a country that doesn't speak your language – is the stress of planning, travelling between destinations and organising activities. Fortunately on an Asia cruise with a line such as Azamara, guests needn't bother with this hassle as expert teams curate custom experiences for every travel style, whether it be experiencing local life behind the scenes (Cruise Global, Meet Local), food and wine (Cruise Global, Taste Local), exclusive, custom after-dinner experiences (Cruise Global, Nights Local), or cycling (Cruise Global, Bike Local). Guests also won't be bothered by large crowds, with each excursion catering to a maximum of 25 guests, to preserve the intimacy of the local experience.

The best of Asian cuisine, both onboard & on shore

The countries of the Asian continent have incredibly rich and diverse cultures, influenced by thousands of years of history, customs, rituals and languages – all of which have shaped a fantastic array of culinary experiences waiting to be discovered. A cruise in Asia allows guests to explore local cuisines both onboard and on shore, as ship chefs often visit local markets to inspire their creations, whilst on shore excursions might see cruisers sample the local speciality such as Okonomiyaki in Osaka, Japan, explore local markets and souks with the ship's chef in Dubai, or take a local cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Escape Christmas with the in-laws & enjoy a luxurious Christmas onboard, amongst the best of Asia

This year, why not ditch the hassle, chores and family chaos of the festive season, by escaping on a stress-free Asia Christmas cruise. An Azamara Asia cruise will put a twist on the traditional Aussie Christmas, making for an unforgettable holiday; everything will be taken care of onboard – from Christmas dinner and decorations to festive activities – and you get to explore spectacular, new exotic destinations every day!

Chinese New Year!

One of the most exciting times to cruise in Asia is during Chinese New Year. 2018 will see the Year of the Dog welcomed in from 16th February with celebrations continuing into early March. Visit the local New Year Markets during on shore excursions, which will usually be decorated with lanterns, and pick up New Year goods such as clothing, decorations, food and small arts, or enjoy the local New Year traditional cuisine.

Guests can discover the wonders of Borneo, Vietnam and Thailand on a 14 night round-trip cruise departing Singapore, 25 March 2018. Sailing on Azamara Journey, the cruise makes calls to Bintulu, Bandar Seri Begawan, Kota Kinabalu, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Ko Samui. Fares start from AU$3,499/NZ$3,719 per person, twin share for an Interior Stateroom.

Or, guests can explore the delights of Indonesia on a 7 night Borobudur and Bali cruise, sailing on Azamara Journey. Departing Singapore 14 January, 2018, the cruise visits Samarang, Surabaya, Celukan Bawang and finishes up in Bali. Fares start from AU$1,999/NZ$2,139 per person, twin share, for an interior stateroom.

To make a booking or for further information visit www.azamaraclubcruises.com, phone 1800 754 500 or contact your local travel agent.

*Terms and conditions apply, see www.azamaraclubcruises.com for full details.

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