Destination Paris: Unconventional Things To See & Do In This Must-Visit European City

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Moulin Rouge, Champs-Elysees — there are so many incredible things to see and do in Paris. But, with so many major sights to check out, travellers often skip (or don't even know about) the other stunning museums, parks, and one-of-a-kind sights to experience in the city. In this post, we are leaving the conventional spots behind and taking a look at some lesser known or unconventional spots that are definitely worth adding to your must-see list.

Orientation

The city is divided into 20 arrondissements (or districts) that are walkable and fairly easy to navigate. If you are looking at a map or address, the arrondissement will be abbreviated as 1e, 2e, 3e, etc. The central arrondissements on either side of the Seine are where you will find most of the attractions. 

Getting To Paris

There are three airports near the city. The largest is Charles de Gaulle, and the smaller two are Orly and Beauvais. There are airlines flying into Paris from all over the world, you should have no problem finding a flight. 

Once you arrive, you heave a wealth of options to get you into the city centre. There are city busses, shuttle busses, the RER (train), and taxis available at all three airports. 

The T2 Transfer also offers a private shuttle service that will get to right into the city centre from the Charles de Gaulle airport, or take you straight to Disneyland Paris (see below for more info). You can pre-book on their website and even arrange extras like car seats for the little ones if you need them. 

Getting Around

Bring your walking shoes, because the best way to get around the city is using your feet. There is so much to see, and a many of the sights are relatively close together. In lieu of walking, you can always grab a city bus, the metro, or the RER (train). 

You can also rent a Velib bike from one of the many rental stations all over the city. The bikes are available 24/7 and there stations are located 300 m from each other in the city centre. 

What To See & Do

As I mentioned above, there are so many amazing things to see in Paris, so in this section I am skipping the biggest, most well-known sights and am going to introduce you to some other spots that are definitely worth checking out. 

The Catacombs
According to ancient Roman law, when Paris was founded, cemeteries were located on the outskirts of the city. It didn’t take long for the city to spread well beyond its walls however, and eventually these cemeteries were completely surrounded by homes, stores, churches and schools. With this growth in population came a growth in disease, plague, epidemics, and starvation, which filled the remaining spaces in the 200 cemeteries at an alarming rate. 

Finally, in 1785, the Council of State pronounced the removal of all bodies and bones from the city’s cemeteries, in order to try and stem the spread of infection. The bones were taken to the old quarries, tunnels that ran under the city left behind from excavating stone for building. These excavations were stopped in the early 1770s due to the risk of cave-ins on the Left Bank and the tunnels were never filled in. Now, the bones of over 6 million people are stored in the labyrinth of obscure galleries and narrow corridors that make up the Catacombs of Paris.

During World War II, the resistance set up headquarters in the confusing maze of tunnels and there is also speculation that secret societies have held meetings by candlelight in the eerie corridors at night. 

Tours are available every day except Mondays and holidays. 130 spiraling steps will take you 20 meters below the streets of Paris to narrow, damp tunnels (NOTE: Do not visit this attraction if you are claustrophobic).

 It is an incredibly moving and eerie place to visit. but after an almost 2 km walk through the cold mass grave, I couldn’t climb the 83 stairs back to the surface fast enough. I have never appreciated the sun more than I did stepping out of that damp, dead darkness. 

The Passages Couverts
If you are anything like me, one of your favourite things about travelling is finding those spots that transport you back in time, and for just a moment you can pretend that you are part of the era that gave birth to artistic genius, architectural marvels, or mysterious cultures.

The passages couverts (covered shopping passageways) in Paris, France are one of those spots. These shopping arcades emerged in the 19th century, during a time of relative peace, prosperity and the rise of the industrial class. Paris was notorious at this time for being overcrowded and not having any sort of sewage, drainage or walkways. These passages were the first places that allowed shoppers the ability to stroll from store to store, blissfully apart from the filth and noise of the street.

These passages soon became a top attraction in the city and were THE destination for those visiting from the surrounding provinces. At the peak of their popularity, there were more than 150 of these covered shopping and entertainment Meccas — shopping was not the only reason to pay these spots a visit. 

Sadly, it was the opening of the city's first department store in the mid 1800s that caused a sudden drop in popularity of these once bustling destinations and now there are only a few dozen left. They are completely worth visiting however, as they showcase some fantastic architecture and take you on a quiet, off-the-beaten-path-tour through some pretty cool parts of the city. Some of them are completely deserted, some still have shops, cafes, and even hotels in them, but all evoke images of 19th century men in tailored jackets and women with parasols shopping, socializing and being fabulous Parisians! 

Musee Rodin
Rodin is most well known for his sculpture The Thinker, but he created a wealth of work including sculptures of famous friends and politicians, and incredible studies of the human body. 

His sculpture is absolutely breathtaking in person, he had a way of making stone look deliciously supple and expressive. 

The work is displayed in the beautiful, historic Hôtel Biron, a stunning example of Parisian rocaille architecture. As an added bonus, the museum also comes with a manicured park that covers nearly three hectares — the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic in the sunshine. 

Admission to the museum and gardens is 10 Euros, but you can pay just 4 Euros to access the garden and outdoor sculptures. 

Jardin du Luxembourg
The Luxembourg Gardens are one of my favourite places to people watch and relax when visiting the city.

Locals flock to the park at the end of the day and weekends, enjoying live music under the trees, a cappuccino from the park cafe, a turn on the carousal, a stroll through the manicured pathways, or sitting on one of the green metal chairs in the sunshine. 

It is a lovely place to soak in the true Parisian way of life. 

Rue Mouffetard
I discovered this charming cobblestone street because it is where my favourite hostel in the city is located. Even if I don't stay there, I can't help making my way to the street on every visit — it contains all the stereotypical charm that you could hope for in Paris. 

Cobble stone streets lined with cafes (see image at the beginning of the post), bars, and restaurants have tables spilling out into the open air. There are grab-and-go spots for crepes, small squares with little fountains, and bakeries with fragrant breads and croissants on offer all day. It is located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, and right on the edge of the University area, so there is always an atmosphere of joie de vivre to be found! 

Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise
Taking a stroll through a cemetery might sound morbid, but in Europe, 19th century cemeteries are big attractions. Yes, there are ‘quirkier’ visitors that are there to hold vigil for hours in front of the graves of famous figures (Jim Morrison’s grave attracts crowds in droves), but the majority of visitors are your plain old average tourist.

Surrounded by thick stone walls that create a peaceful sanctuary, the Pere Lachaise is laid out like a city with street names and green spaces.

The opulent mausoleums are a study in architecture of the different time periods they were built in, and elaborate grave markers, representing the life of the deceased, turn these burial places into verdant sculpture gardens. In the light of day, these places are like beautiful, outdoor museums. 

There are maps of the cemetery available at the entrance (trust me, you'll need one!) 

Disneyland Paris
For those of you who are super-fans of all things Disney, visiting the European version will already be on your must-see list, but for those of you that aren't, here's why you might want to add it.

I admit that I was skeptical of visiting this attraction on one of my trips to Paris, but my travel buddy really wanted to go, and so I gave in. But I was pleasantly surprised.

True to Disney's style, the park is incredibly clean, full of food that reminded me of home (which was wonderful because I had been away from home for 6 months at that point in time), and had all the best rides and attractions that you would find at other Disney Parks. It was easy to enjoy in a day, not too busy, and a wonderful respite from the non-stop days of absorbing mind-blowing culture that we had been having. 

If you are looking for a silly escape or a reminder of home, I highly recommend it! The best part? You can get a shuttle straight there from the airport

This post contains affiliate links.

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Travel Tales: Catching A Ride With The Easy Riders in Vietnam

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


There is a white, round scar, about the size of a dime, halfway up the inside of my calf. Like the tattoo on the bottom of my foot, I forget that it's there sometimes, but as soon as I catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, it always makes me smile.

My travel buddy Michelle and I had just spent a long night on a sleeper train (if you ever get a chance to sleep in a bed on a train do it, it's the coolest feeling) from Hanoi to what we thought was Hoi An, Vietnam.

Little did we know that the train did not actually go all the way to Hoi An, but stopped about an hour outside of the city.

A little disoriented, and hungry, we walked out of the station at around 8 am hoping to come upon a bus that would take us to our final destination. But, other than a few sketchy looking cars, there weren’t any options. To make matters worse, the only food that had been available on the train was half-cooked, pretty sketchy looking chicken (which we obviously did not eat) and my blood sugar was well past low and I was headed dangerously into the hangry zone.

After buying some chocolate covered wafers from the station store, we pulled out our Lonely Planet travel guides to try and figure out our next move.

That was when Hal and Mr. T saw us.

Clad in leather and denim — with tattoos and flashy jewellery to match — these two looked like members of a hardcore biker gang. Extremely skeptical, we watched them out of the corner of our eye as they left their bikes parked by the curb (these were actual motorbikes, not the scooters that take over the streets of the country) and approached us.

We were two wide-eyed, disoriented-looking white girls, backpacks and guidebooks in full sight — we looked like the perfect targets and we knew it.

Expecting some sort of proposition or scam, I was pleasantly surprised when they walked up and introduced themselves as Easy Riders.

That was a name I was familiar with.

According to fellow travel buddies — and my trusty Lonely Planet — the Easy Riders started off in the early 2000s as a crew of about 30 freelance motorbike guides that offered reasonably priced excursions all over the country.

Though some were better than others in terms of customer service, I had heard no stories of any scams, kidnappings, or worse coming out of taking a ride with these bikers.

Clearly reading our skepticism, they pulled out dog-eared notebooks full of testimonials written by tourists that they had driven around. Written in all languages, in different writing, and from people all over the world, it was a very convincing artifact, and one that the Lonely Planet stated was a sign that they were legit members of the Easy Riders. (I know, I put a lot of faith in my travel books).

There is a certain sense of immortality that comes with travelling, and so after some consideration, and negotiation (we settled on the equivalent of $5 each for the hour ride) we entrusted ourselves to Hal and Mr. T, ready for whatever adventure our decision may bring.

They strapped our massive packs to the back of the bikes, supplied us with helmets (a rarity in Vietnam), and giving each other a nervous-excited glance, we jumped on the backs of the bikes. Hal and Mr. T said something to each other in Vietnamese, and then we were off!

It was a clear, humid day, and the breeze was a welcome relief from the already scorching sun. I leaned back on my bag, stared up at the sky and smiled.

We zoomed past China Beach (where the movie Good Morning Vietnam was filmed), and through small towns where the children jumped up from their games to wave at us.

China Beach, Vietnam

I threw my arms up in the air and wondered how I would ever go back to normal taxis in my North American life — and how could I ever explain the feeling of freedom that comes from careening down an ocean road on the back of a motorbike in Vietnam?!

It was while getting off the bike in Hoi An that I received my scar — a shoestring-travel-battle-wound and a lesson on why motorcyclists wear long pants — by pressing my leg against the tailpipe for a mere second.

It hurt like hell but couldn’t dull the feeling that came with an exhilarating new experience, and the beginning of a new adventure! 

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Destination Budapest: What You Need To See and Do While Exploring Hungary's Capital City

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


The capital city of Hungary, Budapest is a fascinating city. It's perched right on the border between Western and Eastern Europe and with that comes a complicated history. Until the late 1980s Hungry was communist, not moving to a democratic government until 1989. There is also a heavy influence from ancient Roman and Turkish occupation that has led to an interesting mix of architecture, culture, and historic spots to visit.  

Orientation 

Budapest is actually a combination of two historic cities Buda and Pest (no, this is not a joke). The two cities were separated by the Danube river and were combined in 1873. Buda is the hilly area west of the river which is home to Castle Hill, elaborate medieval buildings, and upscale neighbourhoods. Pest, located on the eastern side, is where you will find the major sights, nightlife, restaurants, markets, and places to stay. 

The city is divided into 23 districts, most of the major sights are located in Central Buda and Central Pest. 

Currency

Though the country is a member of the European Union, they don't use the Euro but the Hungarian forint (HUF). Find the current exchange rates here, but this is where they were at when this post was written:

1 CAD = 219 HUF
1 USD = 293 HUF
1 EUR = 310 HUF
1 GBP = 358 HUF
1 AUD = 223 HUF

Getting Around

The city is extremely walkable, you can get to most sights by foot — especially if you stay central. It also has an easy-to-navigate metro system. 

What To Do 

Vajdahunyad Castle
The fairy-tale towers of this castle overlook an artificial lake that is used for boating in the summer, and in the winter is transformed into one of the most impressive outdoor skating rinks in Europe!

The structure itself is made up of two Transylvanian castles (medieval Hungary included the country of Transylvania — now Romania) and a Renaissance courtyard where regular concerts are held in the summer. 

It's free to visit, beautiful, and definitely worth wondering through. It is also perched on the edge of a public park that is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or rest your feet after a day of exploring! 

Coffee Houses
In Central Europe, coffee houses are the social club, home, and haven for journalists, writers, lawyers, and everyone in between. Oozing charm, this is one of the best spots to spend an afternoon people watching and soaking up local culture while sipping on a frothy cappuccino or a cold beer. 

St. Stephen's Basilica 
I love visiting churches in Europe (though I am not religious), because they are usually perfectly preserved examples of the city's history of art and architecture. 

The stunning St. Stephen's Basilica does not disappoint. 

Located in a huge square in Pest, the church took over 50 years to build and has a dome that is 96 m high (approx. 315ft)! The interior of the colossal basilica features frescos, carvings, and chapels in impeccable condition that are absolutely beautiful.

It is free to visit the church, but if you want to check out the treasury or dome, there is a small fee. 

Markets 
There is no better spot to find authentic souvenirs and food than at a local market, and Budapest boasts a plethora of them including some large covered markets. Beautiful fabrics, wooly hats, and delicious treats can be found in abundance. 

If you only make it to one, the Nagycsarnok or Great Market, is so big you could get lost in it! The first floor is packed with traditional food, and the top floor is where you will find folk costumes, dolls, scarves, embroidery, hunting knives, and more! 

Terror House
The former headquarters of the country's dreaded secret police, this eerie looking building is a disturbing monument to those who suffered the terror that afflicted the country during and after World War II.

The photos plastered on the wall showing the faces of former prisoners (pictured) is incredibly moving, and prepare yourself before you visit the underground torture chambers, they are pretty graphic.

A full price ticket is 2000 HUF. 

Jewish Quarter
Not much remains of this historic quarter that was hit hard during WWII. It is home to a holocaust museum located in the Great Synagogue, but my favourite part of my visit to this quarter was located behind the synagogue. 

A stunning Holocaust Memorial sculpture (pictured above) in the shape of a weeping willow was funded by actor Tony Curtis and is dedicated to those who perished in the death camps. 

Baths
There are two famous thermal spas to visit in the city.

Located in Buda, the most famous is the Gallert Baths with majestic domes, Turkish tiles, and beautiful Art Nouveau architecture that you can enjoy while soaking in the warm waters (both indoors and outdoors) and relaxing in the stunning saunas. It is like soaking in a bit of history! 

Admission is 5300 HUF on weekdays and 5500 HUF on weekends.

The Szechenyi Baths were built in 1908 and are located in Pest in the City Park. There is a giant outdoor pool that is open year-round and feels like you are a guest at some opulent hotel, as well as indoors thermal baths, saunas, and massage areas. 

Admission is dependent on the time of year and time of day you are visiting. They can be pre-bought online. Visit the website for details

Art Museums
There are three major art museums that I would recommend. 

First up, the Szepmuveszeti Museum, or Museum of Fine Arts, is packed full of art from all over the world, including a large collection of pieces by the painter El Greco, a selection of Egyptian art and artifacts, and some incredible classical sculpture. 

NOTE: The Museum of Fine Arts Budapest is closed for renovation of the building until the spring of 2018. A selection of 50-60 artworks from the Museum’s collections will be on show in the Hungarian National Gallery (in Buda Castle, building C). The artworks of the collections can be browsed on the gallery's website in the meantime.

Across the street is the Muczarnok, a huge contemporary art gallery that displays works by both national and international artists. Admission is 400 HUF. 

The building housing the Museum of Applied Arts is absolutely incredible. It is a prime example of the Hungarian Art Nouveau movement (built between 1893 and 1896) with its elaborate tilled roofs and sweeping lobby (pictured above). Exabitions include furniture, architecture, treasures, and more. Admission for all exhibits is  3,500 HUF.

Kerepesi Cemetery
I know that visiting a cemetery might seem strange, but like the famous cemeteries in other parts of Europe, this one is a mix between park and sculpture gallery. There are approximately 3,000 gravestones and mausoleums, and there are free maps at the entrance to help you navigate. It's a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. 

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You Don't Have To Quit Your Job To Travel The World!

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


You don't need months of spare time and huge amounts of money to see the world. Really, I promise! 

I've been to 27 countries and 4 continents (and counting!), and TRUST ME, I am definitely NOT made of money or time.

There are lots of different ways to travel long term, or short term, while on a budget and still have unforgettable experiences. You don't need a trust fund to go to Europe and you don't need three months to enjoy an adventure in Cambodia — really!

But international travel is expensive! Isn't an all-inclusive in a sun-destination just easier, and a better deal?

You've got me at easier.

I can't deny that clicking "purchase" on an all-inclusive package is easy. And even I have done one before. But I found that I got bored staying within the walls of the resort, I never ate or drank enough to really make it worthwhile, and the paid excursions were kind of boring and forced me to spend time at gift shops that I could have been spending at a beach or exploring a local hot spot on my own. 

If that sounds like you, putting in a little extra effort to plan your own trip might just be right up your ally! 

Your largest expense (especially for those of us travelling from North America) is the flight. But, thanks to airlines now offering regular deals to major cities all over the world, and discount travel websites, you can now find incredibly cheap flights as long as you plan ahead. I've found flights to Europe for $450 over the last year — an incredible deal!

Also remember that once you get to Europe you can use cheap airlines to get around to other countries. For example, if I want to go to Portugal, I will look for a flight to London or Paris, as I know that are often less expensive. Then I will book a RyanAir or EasyJet flight separately to save hundreds of dollars. These discount airlines offer one-way flights for as little as $20 sometimes! Always look at the option of booking segments of your flight separately. Sometimes it can work out to be a lot cheaper!

Once you've got your flight sorted out, like at home, you could pay hundreds of dollars for food, fun, and a bed OR you can choose the more budget friendly options.

You probably aren't going to be spending a ton of time actually in your room. You will be out seeing the sights, trying out local food, and exploring. Do you really need a giant room with a view? Or will a more budget-friendly option work?

When it comes to fun, or seeing the sights, remember that a lot of museums and cultural attractions are free or affordable to make them accessible to everyone. And sometimes the best way to see a city is to just walk around it — that doesn't cost a cent!

When it comes to food, costs can add up if you eat out for every meal. But, if you self-cater from grocery stores, eat from street stalls, or check out local bakeries and grab-and-go spots, it doesn't have to cost a lot! If you want to eat out one meal a day, lunch tends to be cheaper, but just as good, than dinner at restaurants. 

Let me put it this way — if you are willing to spend $1,700-$2,500 for seven nights at an all-inclusive, why not spend $700 on flights to Portugal, $40 a night at a B&B, and the rest on having the adventure of a lifetime?

But how do you solve the time thing? What if you only have one week?

You do not need to have two months at your disposal to go to Europe, Asia, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter.

On one of my more recent trips, I travelled to Sweden for just seven days. I flew through Iceland, but because there was a minimal layover, my travel time was actually shorter than it would have been if I had taken a flight down to Mexico, which would involve longer layovers!

Yes, the flight itself might be a few hours longer then if you were to head somewhere closer to home, but the reward will be spending a week somewhere totally new that will give you a new perspective. I find that the more I am shoved out of my comfort zone, the longer it feels like I'm away. 

What about jet lag?

Yes, jet lag can interfere a bit in long-distance adventures, but there are ways to avoid and minimize symptoms.

Also remember that when you are travelling the only demand on you is to have an amazing time, relax, and soak in new cultures. Feeling a little tired or dehydrated is completely manageable under those circumstances! 

Booking.com

Here are some other ways that you can travel outside of an all-inclusive or set vacation:

1. Voluntourism
The first international trip I took was to build houses in Honduras. I got there through fundraised dollars and spent just a week (that felt more like a month because it took me so far out of my comfort zone) being exposed to a whole new world.

Volunteer organizations will often cover the costs or your room and board (and sometimes even your fight) while you are giving your time to their cause.

Here are some websites that have some great volunteer abroad information:
Go Abroad
Projects Abroad
Volunteer Canada
Go Overseas
United Planet: Construction Projects

2. Take A Class
I attended a semester of University in Italy and the tuition was the same as it would have been at home! The cost of room and board was actually cheaper than it would have been at home, making the only real additional large expense the flight there. After the semester ended, I took advantage of already being in Europe and stayed for an additional three months. 

You can join a dig, take a language course, or even learn a local handicraft. Look into class exchanges or international programs at your local university. You don't have to be a young student to attended one of these programs either! They are often offered to anyone, any age, whether you are attending the university or not!

Here are some examples: 
Archaeological Fieldwork
Languages Abroad
Art Classes in Greece

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Train Travel 101: Here's Why You Should Travel Through Europe By Train + All The Train Travel Planning Resources You Need

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


I love the traveling part of traveling, and — if you have the time — there is nothing better than train travel. Europe has an incredible network of trains criss-crossing countries, passing through incredible scenery, and giving you access to off-the-beaten-path towns and villages. 

I know what you're thinking — why travel by train when I can get a quick, inexpensive flight on Ryanair, EasyJet, or some other discount airline? Hear me out. If you factor in the time it takes you to get to the airport (discount airlines are usually flying out of secondary airports further away from the city centres), plus the time it takes to check-in and wait for your flight, and then the time it takes to get to the centre of your destination city, is traveling by train really that much longer? Plus, don't forget to factor in additional costs that come with a flight like checked baggage and over-priced snacks to eat on the flight. 

On a European train trip, you can take your own food and water, and the size of your bag doesn't really matter. There are no security lines to get through, and you can wander around the train from the minute it leaves until your destination — no need to fasten your seatbelt! Plus, trains will take you directly to the city centre station, or to a station that will connect you to a metro or city bus that will take you where you want to go. 

If you are traveling by train in the off-season, I wouldn't recommend a Eurail or Interrail pass, as you can usually find day-of train tickets that will end up being cheaper (see the resources below for more information).

If you are traveling during the high-season (May-August) or to multiple countries in a short period of time however, a Eurail pass or Interrail Pass is definitely a good choice. The travel pass requirements and specifications for both can get a bit complicated, so make sure you read through all the info on their websites before purchasing. 

Here are some changes to the Eurail passes in 2017, that is making it even easier to travel by rail:

  • Youth Eurail Passes (which are up to 35% less expensive than the adult pass) are now available to those that are under 28! (They used to be only for those that were under 26)
  • You have up to 11 months to use your pass from the time of purchase (it used to expire after six).
  • The Eurail passes are a lot more flexible than they have been in the past, making it easier to jump on and off the train.

There are three Eurail passes that vary in price depending on what European countries you are planning to travel to by train: Global Pass, Select Pass, and One Country Pass. In my experience, the One Country Pass does not always save you money, as some countries have really inexpensive tickets day-of (even in the high-season).

Do some research before you buy any pass by checking out average train ticket prices online in the countries you are planning on visiting — most rail companies have an English version of their website for tourists. 

  • AustriaOBB has great prices for train tickets in Austria and also offers night trains to other parts of Europe. 
  • BelgiumBelgium Rail has a really clear website that breaks down the different types of train tickets helping you pick the best one for your train travel through Belgium.
  • Czech RepublicCD has lots of great train ticket options for the Czech Republic including all-day tickets in Prague and trains with cinemas for children.
  • Denmark — DSB has ticket information and planning tools for Denmark's train routes.
  • Finland — VR not only helps you plan your train travel in Finland but train trips to Russia too!
  • FranceSNCF is where you can reserve train tickets and geolocate your train anywhere in France!
  • GermanyDeutsche Bahn is a great site for trip planning and offers train tickets in Germany starting at just 19 Euros!
  • GreeceRail CC contains all the info you need to plan your train travel in Greece, including night trains and special offers.
  • HungaryMAV is a simple website, but you can still find train ticket prices for travel in Hungary.
  • Ireland — Irish Rail has information on Ireland's train schedules, ticket prices, and more.
  • Italy — Italia Rail is a great website for booking train travel in Italy with quick route options from major cities like Florence, Rome, and Venice. 
  • NetherlandsNS has everything you need to easily book tickets for train travel in the Netherlands.
  • NorwayNSB is where you can purchase tickets for the train and find out about any delays
  • PortugalCamboios De Portugal has train ticket info and info on how to get to major events.
  • Spain Renfe is the best website to find cheap train tickets for traveling in Spain.
  • SwedenSJ helps you discover Sweden by train and even has a handy budget calculator!
  • UK — National Rail Enquiries has a great site that is easy to use and purchase train tickets on. 

Other resources worth checking out while planning your train travels through Europe include Rail Europe, a one-stop-shop, that combines maps, schedules, and fares from different train companies across Europe. And, if you are looking to hit as many countries as you can, Interrail offers a 30 countries rail pass that allows you to easily explore all of Europe by train. 

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Travel Trends: Book A Layover Instead of Trying to Avoid One

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Avoiding long travel layovers and international stopovers when travelling long distances by air used to be the goal when it came to booking tickets. But, thanks to some outstanding recent campaigns by airlines like Icelandair (I know that I can't go a day without seeing gorgeous photos of Iceland's blue lagoon popping into my newsfeed), a long layover is not only something not to avoid, but an air travel trend that is now being sought out — it's two vacations in one! And, multiple airlines are getting on board. 

Icelandair 
The most well known stopover deal, Icelandair's long layover is ideal for those traveling between North America and Europe. You can stopover in the country for multiple nights with no additional fee, and they will even arrange accommodation and tours for you (for an additional charge) if you wish as well! 

Emirates
You can pre-book a stopover in Dubai with Emirates, but will need the help of a travel rep (see the info on their website), as they will have to apply for your no-fee visa. This stopover does come with an additional charge, but it can be as low as around $60. 

Singapore Airlines
This airline offers a multi-destination booking option that allows for a long layover in Singapore with no additional charge. For a small fee you can pre-book transfers and a hotel room with your flight so the stopover is as easy as possible! 

Thai Airways
This airline offers free travel stopovers in Bangkok(see my post on 22 Things to Love About Thailand if you are wondering what to do in Thailand!), a perk that is advertised to Aussies travelling to Asia or Europe and back. The airline also runs regular promotions for a free night's stay during your stopover as well.

TapPortugal
With this discount airline in Portugal you can book a layover in the country for up to three nights for no extra charge! They also have a comprehensive website to support this campaign that includes ideas on what to do during your layover, an app, and hotel deals. 

Air Canada
If you are travelling to Europe or Asia from the United States, you can take advantage of Air Canada's Toronto Stopover Program that allows you to spend up to seven days on an long layover in the city for no extra charge. 

Qatar Airways
Well not an overnight stopover, Qatar Airways will give you a free tour of four major landmarks in Doha, including the stunning Museum of Islamic Art, if you have a long layover. 

I don't know about you, but these layover options are definitely going to have me rethinking the way I book my travel in the future. I can't imagine anything better than breaking up a long travel day with a new culture and a bonus adventure! 

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13 Travel Quotes That Will Inspire You To Pack Your Bags

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


"Surely of all the wonders in the world, the horizon is the greatest."
—Freya Stark

"We travel for romance, we travel for architecture, we travel to be lost."
—Ray Bradbury

"Jobs fill your pocket, adventures fill your soul."
—Jamie Lyn Beatty

"People don’t take trips, trips take people."
—John Steinbeck

"The most beautiful thing in the world is, of course, the world itself."
—Wallace Stevens

"Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere."
—Isabelle Eberhardt

"I travel because I’d rather look back at my life saying ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of ‘If only I had…’"
—Florine Bos

Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life (and travel) leaves marks on you.
— Anthony Bourdain

"Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go, this is my station.’"
—Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

"The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends."
—Shirley MacLaine

"One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are."
—Edith Wharton

"Solo travel not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, it also pushes you out of the zone of others’ expectations."
—Suzy Strutner

"I travel because seeing photos in books and brochures wasn’t good enough for me. To be there, that was everything."
—Wiremu Ratcliffe

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