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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top Tips and Places to Go When in Manchester With Family

Manchester is far from being just for the grownups – in fact, there’s a multitude of awesome activities, attractions and days out waiting to be explored by adults and children alike. Perfect as a day out or weekend break this summer, a trip to the city would be ideal for anyone wanting to break up the school holidays with something a little different from the norm.
If you’re traveling from further afield,  Travelodge’s hotels in Manchester city centre offer excellent value in the heart of the city, while the availability of family rooms mean that you and your children can stay in comfort, together, during your stay.
The main advice anyone can give before you head off for a city break with your kids is to plan in advance because if you don’t, your dreams of a stress-free visit will be shattered. There’s nothing worse than heading into the hubbub of a big city, with kids in tow, having absolutely no idea of what you want to do to keep them occupied when you’re there. Research the family-friendly options and plan your days – obviously not as strict as minute by minute, but have a vague idea of what you want to achieve and where you want to take your children during your stay.
As far as places to go are concerned, here are some of the fantastic options available within the city centre:
The Lowry
While The Lowry may be the home of umpteen cultural attractions that mainly adults would appreciate, it’s also a perfect place to spend some time with the brood. From the family shows at one of its three theaters to dance classes and drama workshops, you can guarantee that there’ll be something to keep them busy during a visit.
National Football Museum
This may not appeal to every child alive, but for those who love a bit of a kickabout, the NFM would be an ideal stop during your stay in Manchester. Completely family-friendly, there are plenty of activities within the museum dedicated to the younger visitors, including a Discovery Zone for 5’s and under, and FootballPlus+ simulations which would be great fun for those 7 and up. Homed in the prominent Urbis building, this brand new museum is an absolute must-see for any footie fan.
Manchester Museum
It doesn’t matter whether you’re 3 or 103 at Manchester Museum, there’s so much to see and do that age won’t affect your enjoyment.
From Big Saturdays and holiday events to object handling and Nature Discovery, you can guarantee that you and your kids will have a great day out here. You can enjoy a Big Saturday on the 29th June that focuses on trees and will include hands-on investigations as well as learning more about tree fossils and the opportunity to contribute to a tree installation. Plus, it’s completely free!
Make the most of quality time with your children when you have it. Don’t let life pass you by – enjoy their company while they’re young because they’ll grow faster than you realize. With affordable family rooms available from Travelodge’s hotels in Manchester city centre, you don’t even have to worry about funding the trip, meaning all you do need to focus on is having fun with your little ones.

Travel Hygiene: Are Travelers Dirty?

Often times, whenever I tell someone that I have been traveling, living and working around the world for the past 13 years or so, I receive a very similar response. It begins with a “Hmm…” and continues with a “You don’t look like someone who has been traveling for 13 years!
At that point, I’ll ask for some clarification.
And this is when such observations as “Your clothes are clean. Your hair isn’t a mess. You’re clean shaven. You don’t stink.” are mentioned.
I usually just smile and say “Yup.
The problem is that it’s quite common for some to think that long-term travel can only be accomplished in two ways – either with an endless supply of money or basically no money at all. And since I rarely take my Lamborghini with me on my adventures and I prefer to leave my Rolex locked up in the hostel safe, it is automatically assumed that I’m traveling on an extremely low budget. And if I’m traveling with such little money, surely I should fit the mold of what we think a person with such little money who bums around the world must look like…well, a bum. So, in conclusion, I should be disturbingly dirty and completely unhygienic, I should be someone who sleeps on the streets, eats trash, rarely showers, never washes my clothes and has forgotten what a toothbrush looks like.
But guess what?
Long-term travelers do laundry.
We take showers.
We even sleep in beds, usually!
And while I can’t speak for every long-term traveler out there, I personally travel with more than one shirt and more than one pair of underwear. My socks rarely smell too bad. I brush my teeth, every day, two or three times per day in fact! I shampoo my hair and I even shave. Heck, I also shave my armpits and even pluck my eyebrows. And I’ve found it quite easy to do all of these things and to avoid the transformation into a food-permanently-stuck-in-my-teeth, lice-infested, torn and stained clothes-wearing, disheveled and bedraggled mess. Amazing, right?
Not so much.

It really is not so difficult to practice good travel hygiene while out there in the world. Showers are plentiful (or at least a pipe with water coming out of it), even when you stay at the cheapest accommodation possible. Toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorant, shampoo, soap and even nail clippers can be bought everywhere. Laundry can be done in a sink at a hostel/budget hotel and laundry detergent costs as little as 2 US cents for a packet in some countries. In many parts of the world, you can bring your clothes to a laundromat and they’ll clean the lot for a few dollars. Even inexpensive new clothes can be purchased in just about any country in the event that your pants sustain a major rip across the crotch.
The point is that long-term travelers are not dirty folk and even on a budget of a few hundred dollars per month, it’s very possible to stay clean and healthy. There’s really no reason to live an unhygienic traveling lifestyle, unless you really want to, as you pretty much need to make a real effort to avoid showers, keep your clothes dirty and not give in to the temptation of clean teeth.
I personally feel good after taking a shower and I tend to enjoy life better when my feet aren’t itchy from a pair of socks that haven’t been cleaned in months. I know, I’m strange!

Feeling Dirty?

If you’re ever out there traveling and you do start to find that washing your clothes is becoming difficult or that keeping up good travel hygiene is not as easy as you thought, you might want to slow down your travel pace. You really might be moving too fast if you don’t have time to wash, clean, scrub, shave and brush. Stop for a week somewhere, relax and refresh, get your stuff in order, wash that massive bag of dirty clothes and even put some moisturizer on after a shower. You’ll feel good, believe me.
While you’re at, and this is important for all travelers, you might also want to ensure that you’re not only clean but in optimal mental and physical condition as well. Your travels will be infinitely more rewarding if you take a few minutes each day to really focus on yourself. Take some vitamins to supplement any potential deficiencies resulting from a constantly changing diet, try to eat as healthy as you possibly can, exercise often, either with simple hotel room workouts or even by walking as much as you can every single day (it’s a great way to experience a destination as well!).
Activities such as reading, meditation and silent contemplation, listening to music, yoga, even juggling your socks (preferably clean ones!)…they are all perfect travel companions. Anything that improves your mental and physical well-being and allows you to clear your head and keep your body in shape, is worth doing while out there on the road. Travel can be mentally and physically draining after all and if you don’t take care of yourself, it can easily lose its appeal after a while.
Stay healthy, stay fresh, stay clean and you’ll wake up every day with even more energy to get out there and experience life as a traveler. In fact, now that I wrote this post, I realized that I could use a little meditation session myself today and it’s also probably time I work on getting that piece of corn out of my teeth. That barbeque I attended here in Bucharest was almost three weeks ago.
Have you found it difficult to stay clean while traveling? Any concerns about maintaining hygiene for those about to travel? Anyone know how to get a piece of corn out of my teeth that’s really wedged in there?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Thailand has become synonymous with desert island holidays, which have been helped by popular Hollywood films. With its pleasant surroundings and laid-back lifestyle, it is easy to see why Thailand is consistently ranked as one of the top expat destinations, according to our Expert Explore survey.
However Thailand is more than just sun and beach and we scratch beneath the surface to explore what this charming South East Asian gem has to offer.

With evidence of humans living in Thailand for over 40,000 years, the cultural heritage in the country is rich with the assimilation of many Indian influences. Unlike its neighbours, Thailand was one of the few countries in the region that were not colonised by European powers and therefore has maintained its unique and distinct Thai identity which can especially be seen at the numerous Buddhist temples which number over 40,000 within the country.

Thai food is famous throughout the world however each region within Thailand has its own distinctive cuisine which is familiar to the country that borders each region; Burma to the North-West, Laos to the North, Vietnam and Cambodia to the East and Malaysia to the south. To demonstrate its popularity some popular Thai dishes featured in the world's most delicious food list including tom yam kung at number 8 and massaman curry being the most delicious food in the world.

Thai kickboxing or Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. The martial art uses both hands and feet and has become popular because of popular training regime required given the level of physical intensity required. In recent years especially the martial art has also grown in popularity after Thai fighters won a number of fights against other martial arts combatants.

Khon is a type of traditional dance in Thailand which is performed solely in the royal court by men in masks. A variation which is performed by females is called khon phu ying. Khon dancers do not speak during the performance however at the side of the stage is a chorus who tell the story. Khon is the most stylish dance and follows traditional choreography as supposed to being innovative like other Thai dances.  As with cuisine, each region of Thailand has its own unique style of dance.

If you’re an expat in Thailand tell us what your favourite things about the country? Leave us a comment in the box below.

Adjusting to life abroad

If you are already an expat you will know that moving abroad is big leap. It can be scary having to face a new country, culture and environment, especially if you are flying solo. Like any big change there are ways to make the transition period easier and in this post we explore some of the easiest and best ways to learn to love your new home.

Embrace it
Accepting that you are likely to experience a culture shock will make your move that bit easier. There’s no point in fighting against your new way of life… because it will win and leave you feeling frustrated and annoyed. Instead, embrace your host country and everything about it. Grab the opportunity to learn a new language, try new foods and adjust your daily activities to reflect your surroundings. For example, if you’ve moved to Spain why not take advantage of the relaxed afternoons and later evening meals?

Stick with it
Try to avoid falling at the first hurdle. There will be times when packing up and going home with your tail between your legs will seem much more appealing but remember…you are not alone! Use social networking sites to find other expats who are or have been in a similar position to yourself – they will be able to guide you through the adjustment and offer first hand advice. As well as the expat community, use the wider local community. If you speak the local language then talk to locals, they will help you find your way around and hopefully share their insider knowledge on great places to visit or hang out.

Explore it
There’s no better way to get to know a new place than getting out and experiencing it for yourself.  Don’t bother with a map – unless there are specific sites you’re keen to see. Getting lost is always good fun and helps you find your bearings….eventually. A well as your local area try and venture a bit further afield to surrounding cities or even countries.

Think about it
Planning for accomodation should be something that you do ahead of your move. Where you live can make a real difference, especially if you are far away from local transport or don’t have access to a vehicle. Think about being based somewhere where you can connect with locals or other expats. An area with a strong sense of local community will not only feel friendly but there’s likely to be activities for your to become involved in.

Ultimately, adjustment takes time but the rewards of sticking with it can be invaluable. Eventually your new expat destination will become your new home away from home…until the next time!
What helped you adjust to life abroad? Feel free to leave us a comment in the box below. Alternatively, help other expats by sharing your tips for a happy transition on our Hints & Tips site. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Some of the 10 Best Treks Around the World

Break out the hiking boots and slap on the sunscreen, it’s time for an outdoors and adventurejaunt! One of the best ways to discover a foreign country is to walk the land, sleep under the stars, admire the natural beauty and swap smiles with locals in far-off villages. Here are 10 of our favorite hikes around the world.
Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Annapurna Circuit


This ancient trade route has been open to foreign trekkers since 1977 and is one of the most beautiful hikes on the planet. The total length of the route varies between 100 and145 miles, and takes anywhere from 15 to 25 days to complete depending on your speed. The highlights include reaching an altitude of almost 18,000 feet at Thorung La summit pass and watching the sun rise over towering peaks at Poon Hill. Leave your camping gear at home; there are cheap hotels all along the route.
Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Peru

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu


The section of the Inca Trail (there are thousands of miles of Inca Trail) that leads to Machu Picchu is one of the most traveled routes in the world, and for good reason -- it’s strikingly beautiful. There’s a mix of everything on this relatively short walk, ranging from the snow-capped Andes to luscious tropical jungle. On day 5 of your trek you pass through the majestic Sun Gate, and your eyes are bombarded by the most beautiful view you’ve ever seen -- the ancient city of Machu Picchu (hopefully not covered in clouds).
Camino de Santiago, Spain

Camino de Santiago


The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times and is now a super highway of hikers from all over the world. The trail stretches from the Pyrenees in France, across the top of Spain and finishes in Santiago de Compostela, a distance of about 500 miles. This is a very social trek and can be crowded during the summer months, so if you’re looking for solitude, try going in the off-season. Here’s some added incentive: There’s afuente de vino, a fully functional fountain of wine along the route, cheers!
The Snowman Trek, Bhutan

The Snowman Trek


Trekking this route is not for the faint of heart, or lungs. This high-altitude ball-buster crosses 11 passes over 14,000 feet along the Tibet-Bhutan border. Along the way you’ll visit magical Buddhist monasteries clinging to the sides of cliffs and pass through secluded villages full of windblown smiles. It takes about 24 days to complete, and the window of perfect weather is very small, mainly in October.
Kungsleden (The Kings Trail), Sweden

Kungsleden (The Kings Trail)


Northern Sweden is absolute heaven during the summer months and this 275-mile trail will treat you to vast, untouched wilderness and endless sunshine (bring eye patches to sleep!). The trek starts in the village of Abisko in the north and ends in Hemavan farther south, with plenty of rustic huts along the way for shelter. Kungsleden runs through 4 national parks and a nature reserve, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see some of Santa’s reindeer.
West Highland Way, Scotland

West Highland Way


Walking through the Scottish Highlands on this 96-mile trail will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the movieBraveheart, minus the battle-axes. If you like the color green, you’ll be seeing lots of it here; this route passes through the incredibly picturesque and romantic Scottish landscape. The weather is always unpredictable, even in summer months, so make sure to pack plenty of warm-weather and rain gear.
Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Trail), Italy

Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Trail)


If you’re looking for mind-blowing beauty and a manageable trail for the whole family, this is the one. The Blue Trail connects the 5 villages of Cinque Terre and can be completed in a day. The route hugs the rocky coastline and passes through picture-perfect vineyards and the coziest little villages you’ve ever laid eyes on. At the end of the day, your neck, not legs, will be the most sore body part due to the constant distraction from beauty in every direction.
Pays Dogon, Mali

Pays Dragon


Africa may not be on the top of most people’s list of places to hike, but this hidden gem is sure to please your inner Indiana Jones. This trail is set in the plains of West Africa and passes through the majestic Bandiagara Escarpment and abandoned cliff dwellings (very similar looking to Mesa Verde). The exotic natural beauty of the area will surely please your eyes, but the warm people will make the most lasting impression.
The Routeburn Track, New Zealand

The Routeburn Track

New Zealand

This relatively short walk (3 days) is big on scenery and natural beauty. The nearly 20-mile trek passes through 2 national parks, Flordland and Mount Aspiring, and you’ll be treated to the sight of wild birds, as well as breathtaking views of mountain peaks, lakes, waterfalls and rivers
Haute Route, France and Switzerland
Jackph, Wikimedia Commons

Haute Route

France and Switzerland

This stunner is the Mercedes of the trekking world; you’ll get to gaze upon some of the world’s most famous peaks, Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. The trail’s name means "high route," and it takes about 12 days to hike the 111 miles from the Chamonix valley in France to Zermatt. Switzerland. Brush up on your French; it’ll help to communicate in the small villages along the way.

Vacation Faceoff: Ocean City, MD VS Ocean City, NJ

They might have the same name but each of these 2 East Coast beach towns has its own distinct beach culture. Decide for yourself which one of these beaches can lay claim to being the best Ocean City!


BEST BOARDWALK TREAT: Thrashers French Fries, a boardwalk favorite since 1929, is best topped with vinegar and Old Bay seasoning.BEST BOARDWALK TREAT: Johnson's Popcorn sells buckets of warm caramel-coated popcorn at 3 locations on the boardwalk.
FAMILY FUN: Ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and old-school carousel at Trimper's Rides on the boardwalk.
FAMILY FUN: Ride the 141-foot tall Ferris wheel at Gillian's Wonderland Pier at 6th and the Boardwalk.
WACKY LANDMARK: An Ocean City institution, the Ocean Gallery World Center attracts celebrities and film crews to its boardwalk shop with an over-the-top exterior display of strange signs and unique paintings.
WACKY FESTIVALS: Miss Crustacean Pageant, the original beauty contest for hermit crabs, is held here every summer, as well as the 104-year-old Baby Parade, the oldest baby parade in the US.
WHAT THE LOCALS SAY: “Goin’ down to the ocean, hon.”
WHAT THE LOCALS SAY: “I’m going down the shore.”
BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE SUNSET: A long tradition at Fager's island Restaurant & Bar, the 1812 Overture plays every night, ending just as the sun drops below the horizon.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE SUNSET: The Bayside Center, a vintage home from 1910with a covered pavilion, fishing docks and picnic tables is a great place to catch the sunset.
DINING TRADITION: Crabs and more crabs. Grab your mallets, and get ready to feast on hard-shelled crabs for hours at Hooper's Crab House.DINING TRADITION: A shore tradition, grab a slice (or 2 … or 3 …) of thin and crispy pizza at Manco & Manco.

BEST ICE CREAM PARLOR: Step back in time to the ice cream parlors of the 1940s at the ever-popular Dumser's Dairyland and indulge in a sundae, shake or float.
BEST ICE CREAM PARLOR: Hobby Horse Ice Cream Parlor is family-run, local favorite. Even with its old-fashioned d├ęcor, it keeps current with flavors like ginger, red bean and pumpkin.
NIGHTLIFE: Notably the most iconic beach bar here is Saecrets. There are 18 bars in this Jamaica-inspired entertainment complex. You can even get their signature “Pain in de Ass” frozen cocktail served to you while you lounge on a raft
in the bay.
NIGHTLIFE: Founded in the late 1800s as a religious retreat, the town strives to uphold its title of “America’s Greatest Family Resort.” The town is "dry," meaning there is no alcohol served or sold in town. The place to be at night? The boardwalk.

You be the judge, which city do you prefer? Ocean City, MD, or Ocean City, NJ?