Temps are low in Europe in February, but so are the crowds—and hotel rates. Isn’t that reason enough to get those 2020 travel plans off to a roaring start?
1 Madeira, Portugal
If you want to avoid the cold and wet weather that hits much of Europe in February, visit the island of Madeira, which sits in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa.
This environment makes Madeira the perfect place for outdoor activities, even during the winter months. Try hiking Ponta de São Lourenço, which is a nature reserve filled with red-streaked volcanic rocks that offers majestic views of the ocean. Or, if you don’t want to hike, but still want amazing views, visit the Cabo Girão Skywalk, which is a clear platform that hangs off of Europe’s highest cliff— definitely not for those afraid of heights. Be sure to sample some of the area’s wine while you’re here, too. Head to Blandy’s Wine Lodge, where you can take a tour and find out how this region’s wine is made.
You can also try paragliding, or even the famous street tobogganing. Plus, if you visit at the end of February, you can take part in the Carnival festivities.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
Explore the winding streets of Prague’s Old Town to admire the pastel-colored buildings this February. Take a walk down Karlova Street, which historically was the way Bohemian kings traveled to their coronations, and check out the local shops selling glassware, wooden toys, painted eggs, puppets, and other crafts that make great gifts.
Warm up from the cold by visiting one of the city’s museums, like the Prague Jewish Museum, the National Museum, or the Museum of Beer. For a unique experience, check out the Franz Kafka Museum, which is devoted to the famous writer.
3. St. Moritz, Switzerland
There’s no wrong time to visit this swish alpine resort town, which stuns both in summer and winter, but February is arguably the best. Ultra-luxe ski resorts are in full swing, the winter temps are at their warmest (ideal for lingering on the high slopes), and Switzerland’s world-famous White Turf horse-racing event takes over three weekends on the town’s frozen lake.
4. Paris, France
Paris is an obvious choice for a Valentine’s Day trip across the pond. The city is known as the most romantic in the world, and it certainly won’t disappoint if you decide to visit this winter.
Plus, February is often the cheapest month to fly to Paris, and you can enjoy off-season hotel prices and fewer crowds at the big attractions. Skip the lines and still get a chance to see some of the most popular tourist sites in the world, including the Eiffel Tower, Versailles Palace, and the Arc de Triomphe.
One night, take a Seine dinner cruise, where a heated boat will take you down the iconic river that flows through the center of the city. Consider booking a ticket to performances at the famous Moulin Rouge or Opéra Garnier for another exciting night in Paris.
5. Tenerife, Canary Islands
Your options are limited, but it is possible to squeeze in some European beach time during the second month of the year. While mainland Spain fluctuates from cool to cold, the southernmost Canary Islands—specifically Tenerife—are warm year-round. February is one of the best times to visit Tenerife’s southern beaches, when temperatures hit the low 70s and there’s less chance of rain.
Lounging by the water at Playa de la Tejita is requisite, but if you’ve got more time to spare, don’t miss a hike through the forests of the Anaga Mountains or a walk through Garachico, where you can also swim in rock pools formed by lava. Heads up: time your trip for the tail-end of the month and you’ll be just in time for the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival (February 19–March 1, 2020), a celebration of music, color, and life.
Beautiful, defiant and intense, Argentina seduces with its streetside tango, wafting grills, fútbol (soccer), gaucho culture and the mighty Andes. It’s one formidable cocktail of wanderlust.
Things not to miss
• Trying your hand (or feet) at the tango • Standing in the Playa de Mayo in Buenos Aires • Wandering the cobblestoned streets of San Telmo in Buenos Aires • Seeing the Iguazu Falls • Sampling a local Malbec, perhaps at one of the local parrillas, or steak houses • Sitting in the stands for a futbol match • Driving through the Lake District • Explore Cordova, a university town with Colonial architecture
When to go
The best time to travel to Argentina depends on where you want to focus your trip. Some factors to consider: Summer, December through February, is the best time to visit the extreme landscape of Patagonia. You’ll find fewer crowds in Buenos Aires during the summer, but it can get hot, too.
The prime time to visit Buenos Aires is in the spring (September through November), when the temperatures are cool and the purple jacarandas are in bloom. A great time to see Mendoza or the Lake District is in the fall, when the foliage pops—and there are fewer crowds.
Arriving in Buenos Aires is like jumping aboard a moving train. The modern metropolis whizzes by, alive with street life from busy sidewalk cafes, to hush parks carpeted in purple jacaranda blooms in springtime. Stylish porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) savor public life – whether it’s sharing mate (a tea-like beverage) on Sunday in the park or gelato under handsome early-20th-century stone facades. There are heaps of bookstores, creative boutiques and gourmet eats. Buenos Aires isn’t the only stunner – Córdoba, Salta, Mendoza and Bariloche each have their unique personalities and unforgettable attractions, so don’t miss them.
From mighty Iguazú Falls in the subtropical north to the thunderous, crackling advance of the Glaciar Perito Moreno in the south, Argentina is home to a vast natural wonderland. Diversity is a big part of it. The country that boasts the Andes’ highest snowbound peaks is also home to rich wetlands, rust-hued desert, deep-blue lakes, lichen-clad Valdivian forests and Patagonia’s arid steppes. Wildlife comes in spectacular variety, from penguins and flamingos to capybaras, giant anteaters, whales, guanaco herds and more. In this vast country, stunning sights abound and big adventure awaits.
Food & Drink
Satisfying that carnal craving for flame-charred steak isn’t hard to do in the land that has perfected the art of grilling. Parrillas (grill houses) are ubiquitous, offering up any cut you can imagine, alongside sausages and grilled vegetables. Thin, bubbly pizzas and homemade pastas also play central roles, thanks to Argentina’s proud Italian heritage. But there’s more. Buenos Aires fads are fun and fast-changing, bringing gourmet world cuisine to both upscale restaurants and the shady cobblestone neighborhoods. Grab a table, uncork a bottle of malbec, and the night is yours.
Cultural activities abound here. Tango is possibly Argentina’s greatest contribution to the outside world. The steamy dance has been described as ‘making love in the vertical position.’ And what about fútbol (soccer)? Argentines are passionately devoted to this sport and, if you’re a fan, chanting and stomping alongside other stadium fanatics should definitely be in your plans. Add a distinctive Argentine take on literature, cinema, music and arts, and you have a rich, edgy culture – part Latin American and part European – that is thoroughly distinctive.
Thailand has reopened to vaccinated tourists from 63 countries this week, as officials significantly ease border restrictions.
The Thai government has approved (almost) quarantine-free entry to tourists from 63 countries ahead of its peak tourism season under the so-called Test-and-Go tourism plan. The new plan requires fully vaccinated arrivals to have COVID-19 insurance cover of at least US$50,000 (£36,600), and present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test before they depart for Thailand.
Welcome to Thailand!
It’s hard to summarize the diversity of travel to Thailand. Its capital, Bangkok, is a teeming metropolis with gilded temples and palaces, while the two coastlines, on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, have postcard-perfect beaches. In the mountainous interior, hill tribes live as they have for millennia. And wherever you travel in Thailand, there’s the food: fresh seafood, countless curries, and noodle dishes so delicious you’ll never want to return to your local Thai take-out.
Best time to visit Thailand
The weather in Thailand is split into three seasons: rainy (roughly May–Oct) cool (Nov–Feb) and hot (March–May).
The rains usually builds momentum between June and August, hitting its peak in September and October. The cool season is when travelling in Thailand is most pleasant, though temperatures can still reach a sticky 30°C. In the hot season, you’re best of hitting the beach.
The best time to go to Thailand is thecool season: more manageable temperatures and less rain, it offers waterfalls in full spate and the best of the upland flowers in bloom. Bear in mind, however, that it’s also the busiest season.
Where to go in Thailand
The clash of tradition and modernity is most intense in Bangkok, which forms the first stop on almost any itinerary. Within its historic core you’ll find resplendent temples, canalside markets and the opulent indulgence of the eighteenth-century Grand Palace. Downtown’s forest of skyscrapers shelters cutting-edge fashion in decor boutiques and some achingly hip bars and clubs.
Most budget travellers head for the Banglamphu district, where if you’re not careful you could end up watching DVDs all day long and selling your shoes when you run out of money. The district is far from having a monopoly on Bangkok accommodation, but it does have the advantage of being just a short walk from the major sights in the Ratanakosin area:
Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo
If you’re wondering where to visit in the northern uplands, then start with Chiang Mai. It’s both an attractive historic city and a vibrant cultural centre, with a strong tradition of arts, crafts and festivals.
Self-improvement courses are a strong suit – from ascetic meditation to Thai cookery classes – while the overriding enticement of the surrounding region is the prospect of trekking through villages inhabited by a richly mixed population of tribal peoples.
Plenty of outdoor activities and courses, as well as hot springs and massages, can be enjoyed at Pai, a surprisingly cosmopolitan hill station for travellers, four hours northwest of Chiang Mai.
Many colourful festivals attract throngs of visitors here too: Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places in Thailand to see in the Thai New Year – Songkhran – in mid-April, and to celebrate Loy Krathong at the full moon in November, when thousands of candles are floated down the Ping River in lotus-leaf boats.
The pick of the coasts are in the south, where the Samui archipelago off the Gulf coast ranks as one of the best places to go in Thailand. Ko Samui itself has the most sweeping white-sand beaches, and the greatest variety of accommodation and facilities to go with them.
Ko Pha Ngan next door is still largely backpacker territory, where you have a stark choice between desolate coves and Hat Rin, Thailand’s party capital. The remotest island, rocky Ko Tao, is acquiring increasing sophistication as Southeast Asia’s largest dive-training centre.
Tucked away beneath the islands, Nakhon Si Thammarat, the cultural capital of the south, is well worth a short detour from the main routes through the centre of the peninsula – it’s a sophisticated city of grand old temples, delicious cuisine and distinctive handicrafts.
With Chiang Mai and the north so firmly planted on the independent tourist trail, the intervening central plains tend to get short shrift. Yet there is rewarding trekking around Umphang, near the Burmese border, and the elegant ruins of former capitals Ayutthaya and Sukhothai embody a glorious artistic heritage, displaying Thailand’s distinctive ability to absorb influences from quite different cultures.
Even if you’re just passing through, you can’t miss the star attraction of Nakhon Pathom: the enormous stupa Phra Pathom Chedi dominates the skyline.
To get an idea of what shopping in Bangkok used to be like before all the canals were tarmacked over, many people take an early-morning trip to the floating market (talat khlong) at Damnoen Saduak. Sixty kilometres south of Nakhon Pathom and just over a hundred kilometres from Bangkok.
The Andaman Coast
Across on the other side of the peninsula, the Andaman coast offers even more exhilarating scenery and the finest coral reefs in the country, in particular around the Ko Similan island chain, which ranks among the best dive sites in the world.
The largest Andaman coast island, Phuket, is one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations and graced with a dozen fine beaches, though several have been overdeveloped with a glut of high-rises and tacky nightlife.
Beautiful little Ko Phi Phi is a major party hub, surrounded by the turquoise seas and dramatic limestone cliffs that characterize the coastline throughout Krabi province. Large, forested Ko Lanta is, for the moment at least, a calmer alternative for families, but for genuine jungle you’ll need to head inland, to the rainforests of Khao Sok National Park.
Further down the Thai peninsula, in the provinces of the deep south, the teeming sea life and unfrequented sands of the Trang islands and Ko Tarutao National Marine Park make this one of Thailand’s top places to go. There’s now the intriguing possibility of island-hopping your way down through them – in fact, all the way from Phuket to Penang in Malaysia – without setting foot on the mainland.
The greatest interest in the deep south is currently all over on the beautiful west coast, where sheer limestone outcrops, pristine sands and fish-laden coral stretch down to the Malaysian border.
Along Trang’s mainland coast, there’s a 30km stretch of attractive beaches, dotted with mangroves and impressive caves that can be explored by sea canoe, but the real draw down here is the offshore islands, which offer gorgeous panoramas and beaches, great snorkelling and at least a modicum of comfort in their small clusters of resorts.
Khao Yai National Park
Another regular in lists of the best places to go in Thailand, Khao Yai National Park – the country’s first national park – encapsulates the phenomenal diversity of Thailand’s flora and fauna. It’s one of the very few national parks to maintain a network of hiking trails that visitors can explore by themselves, passing dramatic waterfalls, orchids and an abundance of wildlife.
Spanning five distinct forest types and rising to a height of 1,351m, the park sustains over 300 bird and twenty large land-mammal species – hence its UNESCO accreditation as a World Heritage Site.
Rangers discourage visitors from exploring the outer, non-waymarked reaches unguided, partly for environmental reasons, but also because of trigger-happy sandalwood poachers. Sandalwood trees are indigenous to Khao Yai, and though oil collection does not usually kill the tree, it does weaken it. Guides can point out trees that have been cut in this way along the trails.
Few tourists visit Isaan, the poorest and in some ways the most traditionally Thai region. Here, a trip through the gently modulating landscapes of the Mekong River valley, which defines Thailand’s northeastern extremities.
It takes in archetypal agricultural villages and a fascinating array of religious sites, while the southern reaches of Isaan hold some of Thailand’s best-kept secrets – the magnificent stone temple complexes of Phimai, Phanom Rung and Khao Phra Viharn, all built by the Khmers of Cambodia almost ten centuries ago.
We may have already mentioned the Andaman Coast, but Phuket is worth looking at in greater detail. Thailand’s largest island and a province in its own right, Phuket is the wealthiest province in Thailand, with tourism driving the economy.
Some tourist developments have scarred much of the island, however, many of the beaches are still strikingly handsome, resort facilities are second to none, and the offshore snorkelling and diving are exceptional.
If you’re after a peaceful spot, aim for the 17km-long national park beach of Hat Mai Khao, its more developed neighbour Hat Nai Yang, or one of the smaller alternatives at Hat Nai Thon or Hat Kamala.
Despite over a million visitors a year, Ko Samui remains a top places to go in Thailand. Back-packers to bougie fortnighters come to this part of southern Thailand for the beautiful beaches. At 15km across and down, Samui is generally large enough to cope with this diversity and the paradisal sands and clear blue seas have kept their good looks.
The island’s most appealing strand, Chaweng, has seen the heaviest, most crowded development and is now the most expensive place to stay, though it does offer by far the best amenities and nightlife. Its slightly smaller neighbour, Lamai, lags a little behind in terms of looks and top-end development, but retains large pockets of backpacker bungalow resorts.
The other favourite for backpackers is Maenam, which, though less attractive again, is markedly quiet, with plenty of room to breathe between the beach and the round-island road.
How to travel around Thailand
Travel in Thailand is largely cheap, easy and efficient – though not always speedy. For instance, long-distance journeys on land can be arduous, especially if a tight budget means you’re sat in the unforgiving second-class seats and there’s no air con.
That said, the many transport options available makes getting around Thailand a whole lot easier than elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Buses are speedy, inexpensive and frequent, and can be quite luxurious.
Trains are slower, but safer and, there’s more chance to sleep during an overnight trip. It’s also worth nothing that if you’re travelling by day you’re more likely to follow a scenic route by rail than by road.
Songthaews (literally “two rows”) – open-ended vans with as many people squashed into the back as possible – supplement the bus network, especially in rural areas. Slightly more comfortable are share-taxis and air-conditioned mini-buses which connect many of the major towns and cities.
From late October to early November, visitors flock to Mexico for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Day of the Dead —that is a celebration of the continuity of life— is one of Mexico’s most important holidays, celebrated in November each year.
Here’s one thing we know: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. In 2008, UNESCO recognized the importance of Día de los Muertos by adding the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today Mexicans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds celebrate Día de los Muertos, but at its core, the holiday is a reaffirmation of indigenous life.
The Día de Muertos tradition
Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.
Calaveras are ubiquitous during Day of the Dead. The skulls are often drawn with a smile as to laugh at death itself. They take many forms such as sugar candies, clay decorations, and most memorable: face painting. Sugar skulls are decorated and placed on ofrendas of loved ones. A Calavera, or sugar skull, is a decorative skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar (called Alfeñiques) or clay which are used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead.
The calavera Catrina
In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same.
In 1947 artist Diego Rivera featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in his masterpiece mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” Posada’s skeletal bust was dressed in a large feminine hat, and Rivera made his female and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.” Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most ubiquitous symbol.
Flor de Muerto “Mexican Marigolds”
Marigolds are believed to be the pathways that guide the spirits to their ofrendas. The flower’s vibrant colors and scent attract the departed souls, as they return to feast on their favorite foods. They are called “Flor de Muerto” (Spanish for Flower of Dead) and they symbolize the beauty and fragility of life. Marigold flowers include around 60 annuals and perennials that are native to Mexico and Central America.
While the most recognizable aspects of Day of the Dead are the representations of skulls and skeletons, the tradition that holds the most meaning is the Ofrenda (Spanish for offering). The Ofrenda is what the whole celebration is about; it’s a collection of offerings dedicated to the person being honored.
A brightly colored Oilcloth covers the table and on top of that sits a collection of photographs and personal items of the departed person. The lower portion of the altar is where the offerings are placed, from traditional Mexican cuisine to other items that represent the honored person’s particular tastes.
Food of the dead
You work up a mighty hunger and thirst traveling from the spirit world back to the realm of the living. At least that’s the traditional belief in Mexico. Some families place their dead loved one’s favorite meal on the altar. Other common offerings:
Pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, is a typical sweet bread (pan dulce), often featuring anise seeds and decorated with bones and skulls made from dough. The bones might be arranged in a circle, as in the circle of life. Tiny dough teardrops symbolize sorrow.
Sugar skulls are part of a sugar art tradition brought by 17th-century Italian missionaries. Pressed in molds and decorated with crystalline colors, they come in all sizes and levels of complexity.
Drinks, including pulque, a sweet fermented beverage made from the agave sap; atole, a thin warm porridge made from corn flour, with unrefined cane sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla added; and hot chocolate.
No Time To Die continues the established James Bond tradition of filming in exotic and cinematic locations around the world. The James Bond movies are escapist entertainment that allowed audiences to see parts of the world they might never otherwise have seen.
Filming a James Bond movie on location is a big deal, and often forever associates that location in the mind of the public with 007. For example, after The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed inPhang Nga Bay on the west coast of Thailand, the area was transformed into a major tourist attraction, with the iconic rocks becoming known as James Bond Island. Here’s some of the places movie goers will see Daniel Craig in his last outing as Bond.
Atlantic Road, Norway
If you’re an aficionado of the Dangerous Roads website – and anyone with a car and a death wish really ought to be – you’ll probably already know about this spectacular eight-kilometre stretch of tarmac hugging Norway’s north coast.
What to expect An easy journey from the nearby city of Molde, followed by a drive along the edge of the world, with a series of dizzingly undulating bridges carrying you from island to island. Bad weather – or Bond villains – can render it borderline terrifying, so pick your moment.
Italy has been one of Bond’s favorite escapes in recent movies. It’s been reported that filming happened in the small southern town of Matera, where a high-speed car chase takes place through the winding streets in the iconic Aston Martin DB5.
Matera is well known for its cave dwellings that are carved into the mountainside – you can even stay in a cave hotel to experience it firsthand. The incredible scenery found in this location has earned it a place on Unesco’s World Heritage List. Exploring this site makes a great adventure for any avid traveler, let alone Bond fans looking to pinpoint where the film’s most iconic scene takes place.
What to expect: In short? Rustic charm and off-the-beaten-track vibes, plus regional cuisine big on hot peppers, lamb and juicy belts of lagane pasta. Other movie locations are available in Italy, of course, but if you’ve seen Rome and Venice, Matera is a perfect slow-holiday destination for Bond nerds. And it’s only 30km from another key No Time to Die location: the Gravina aqueduct from which Bond will hurl himself in the film.
Kalsoy, Faroe Islands
No Time To Die filmed in the epic one-lane tunnels on the Faroe Islands (an archipelago situated in between Iceland and Norway). Past the one-way tunnels, the islands (18 to be exact) are a majestic set of green rolling hills and a hiker’s paradise. If you find yourself on the island of Kalsoy, everyone will tell you to hike up to Kallur Lighthouse. It’s mostly to see the exquisite panoramas of the Atlantic and the other islands in the distance, but it’s worth every minute of the climb up the rugged cliffs.
What to expect Precipitous crags, audacious hiking trails and lots and lots of puffins. Sure, they might end up on your plate, but the cuisine is mostly fermented mutton and fish, with the odd bit of blubber thrown in for good measure. The islands are also a great spot for spotting the Northern Lights – one good reason for visiting in the depths of winter.
Port Antonio, Jamaica
James Bond was born in Jamaica, at the home of author Ian Fleming. His villa doesn’t actually feature in No Time to Die, but the film begins with the reluctant spy relaxing near his creator’s hideaway in Port Antonio. We’re sure the movie will have its fair share of actual sexy bits, but the sleek shutters in Bond’s modernist home could well be hottest part of the trailer. This franchise adores a knowing wink to a previous instalment, and you may recall Jamaica was where Honey Ryder emerged from the sea in Dr No. Expect things to get just as steamy in Bond 25 too.
What to expect Wander into the rainforest and gaze at waterfalls cascading into river pools, or sail through the reeds on a bamboo raft. It’s a much quieter spot than a lot of Bond’s travel destinations, so lap up the sunshine and forget about the daily grind, why don’t you.
Driving loch-side is almost always a fraught task for 007, and here he is, speeding along Loch Laggan as a Land Rover careers down the hillside behind him. No matter – Bond is used to alarming interpretations of the Highway Code. His last outing to Scotland saw him reckon with his past at childhood home Skyfall, and witness the death of Judi Dench’s M. This time, he’s a little further east, in the Cairngorms national park: a beautiful location for a spot of dangerous driving and demon confronting. (Don’t drive dangerously on your visit, pls.)
What to expect Pine forests, glittering lochs, rare wildlife. Start at Aviemore, and enjoy the on-the-nose Scottish symbolism of faltering stags and peaty whisky. This town has a ski resort, too, so pack your Union Jack parachute and go full The Spy Who Loved Me by taking to the slopes.
There’s no doubt, Vietnam offers visitors a very unique experience.From bustling cities and gorgeous beaches to lush forests and breathtaking rice paddies – Vietnam has it all! The country which borders China, Laos, and Cambodia, is the perfect SEA destination for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in nature, history, culture, and some of the best culinary feasts across the globe.
LAST UPDATE: OCTOBER 13, 2021Disclaimer: This information is collated from official sources but general in nature. Entry requirements are subject to change at any time. Keep checking for the latest advice from your local government, embassy, or consulate to confirm any visa or entry requirements before travel.
Most visitors need a visa to enter Vietnam, but luckily the process doesn’t take more than a few days.
Some European passport holders, such as citizens from the UK, France, and Germany, can enter Vietnam 15 days visa-free. Citizens from the US and most other nations do however need to apply for a visa. Some nationalities can also apply for a visa online – you can read more about it here.
When visit Vietnam
The humid south is warm year-round, and the warm May-Nov monsoon season brings brief, heavy showers that barely disrupt travel – but regions around the Mekong may flood.
The cold monsoon along the central coast occurs from Oct-Apr and is much less pleasant.
Oct-Dec are warm, sunny months in the north; from March it is unbearably hot.
May, June and September are the best times to visit Vietnam to avoid the crowds.
Halong Bay’s stunning combination of karst limestone peaks and sheltered, shimmering seas is one of Vietnam’s top tourist draws, but with more than 2000 different islands, there’s plenty of superb scenery to go around. Definitely book an overnight cruise and make time for your own special moments on this World Heritage wonder – rise early for an ethereal misty dawn, or pilot a kayak into grottoes and lagoons. Prefer your karst landscapes a little less… crowded? Try the less touristy but equally spectacular Lan Ha Bay, located a little way to the south, or Bau Tu Long, to the north.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Vietnam’s headline natural wonder is the jaw-dropping Hang Son Doong, one of the world’s largest caves, located in the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The images of ant-like travellers shining head torches around the vast, empty caverns tug on the wanderlust strings; however, unless you have a cool $3000 to spend on a tour, you won’t be able to enter this subterranean marvel. But fear not, Phong Nha-Ke Bang has a wealth of other caves that you can clamber, crawl, boat or zipline through for a fraction of the cost, including Hang En, which boasts its own beach. More so, there are plenty of attractions above ground, including guided treks around the oldest karst mountains in Asia, home to tigers, elephants and 300 species of bird.
Ho Chi Minh City
Increasingly international but still unmistakable Vietnamese, former Saigon has visceral energy that will delight big-city devotees. HCMC doesn’t inspire neutrality: you’ll either be drawn into its thrilling vortex and hypnotised by the perpetual whir of its orbiting motorbikes, or you’ll find the whole experience overwhelming (and some visitors seem to be perpetually seesawing between the two!). Dive in and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of history (the War Remnants Museum an essential stop), delicious food and a vibrant nightlife that ranges from beers on street corners to swanky cocktail lounges. The heat is always on in Saigon; loosen your collar and enjoy.
Lapped by azure waters and edged with the kind of white-sand beaches that make sun-seekers sink to their weak knees, Phu Quoc – way down in the south of Vietnam – is ideal for slipping into low gear, reaching for a seaside cocktail and toasting a copper sun as it dips into the sea. And if you want to notch it up a tad, grab a bike and hit the red-dirt roads: the island is relatively compact, and offers areas of natural, unblemished jungle alongside some newer, less-serene additions (a Vietnamese version of Disneyland and the world’s longest over-sea cable car as two examples).
Vietnam’s capital is a city with one foot buried in a fascinating past, while the other strides confidently towards tomorrow. Sample Hanoi’s heady mix of history and ambition by wandering the streets of the Old Quarter, sipping an egg coffee (coffee prepared with egg yolks) or slurping on a hearty bowl of bun rieu cua (a sour crab noodle soup) while watching businessmen breakfast on noodles or play chess with goateed grandfathers. When you’re done, check out the crumbling decadence of the French Quarter then zip up the cosmopolitan Tay Ho for fine dining options and the lowdown on Hanoi’s growing art scene.
Historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and charming town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befit its heritage. The face of the Old Town has preserved its incredible legacy of tottering Japanese merchant houses, elaborate Chinese guildhalls, and ancient tea warehouses – though, of course, residents and rice fields have been gradually replaced by tourist businesses. Lounge bars, boutique hotels, travel agents, a glut of tailor shops and vast numbers of daily tourists are very much part of the scene here. If it gets too much, hop on a bike to explore the town’s outskirts and pristine surrounds, where you’ll find that life moves at a much more sedate pace.
Ba Be National Park
Detour off the regular Vietnam tourist trail in Ba Be National Park, an essential destination for adventurous travellers. The scenery here swoops from limestone mountains peaking at 1554m down into plunging valleys wrapped in dense evergreen forests, speckled with waterfalls and lakes. The park is a haven for hundreds of wildlife species, including monkeys, bears and pangolins (the only mammals wholly-covered in scales) as well as the highly endangered Vietnamese salamander, while birders will want to keep an eye out for the spectacular crested serpent eagle and the oriental honey buzzard, which can be spied on boat trips or trekking excursions. After a day of animal-spotting, recharge in rustic homestays and village guesthouses of the local Tay ethnic minority.
The high-rise, high-energy beach resort of Nha Trang enjoys a stunning setting: it’s ringed by a necklace of hills, with a turquoise bay dotted with tropical islands. A sweeping crescent beach of white sand defines the shoreline, backed by an impressive promenade dotted with parks and sculpture gardens. Inland there’s a cosmopolitan array of boutiques and dining options, but as restaurant service winds down for the evening, nightlife cranks up – central Nha Trang is a party town at heart. Looking for a more tranquil vibe? The city also makes for a great launching pad for a beach crawl up the coast to the city of Quy Nhon, with stop offs at Doc Let, Bai Bau and Bai Xep.
The capital of the nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Hue is perhaps the easiest Vietnamese city to love and spend time in. Its situation on the banks of the Perfume River is sublime, its complex cuisine justifiably-famous, and its streets are relatively traffic-free. And that’s without mentioning the majesty of the Imperial City, a citadel-within-a-citadel, housing the emperor’s residence, temples and palaces, and the main buildings of state, within six-meter-high, 2.5km-long walls. Explore the city’s fringes to find some of Vietnam’s most impressive pagodas and royal tombs, many in wonderful natural settings.
Ha Giang province is Vietnam’s spectacular destination for intrepid bikers, with dizzying ascents up the Quan Ba Pass (Heaven’s Gate), jaw-dropping vistas on the epic ride between Dong Van and Meo Vac and the opportunity to venture to Lung Cu, a hilltop flag tower that marks the most northern point of the country. And with improved roads, new trekking routes, and a wider choice of guesthouses, homestays and restaurants in the province’s small towns and villages, Vietnam’s far north is firmly planting itself on the travel map as a hotspot for bikers and non-bikers alike.
Foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back to Australia until at least next year, the prime minister said Tuesday as he outlined plans for lifting some of the toughest and longest COVID-19 travel restrictions. In the meantime we continue dreaming of Australia.
Located between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Australia is the world’s largest island and its smallest continent. There’s a well-known vibrancy in its natural beauty, but don’t forget to seek out its history and culture as well. There’s plenty here to inspire your future travel plans so, go on, take a look around and let yourself dream of all the possibilities.
Temperature: 31°C high; 24°C low Season: April to September Flight time from UK: 20h 25 m from London
For its tropical climate, easy-going ambiance and close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is one of Australia’s most popular vacation destinations. Located on the northwest corner of Australia, Cairns is a provincial but stylish city with a population of around 150,000 people.
The city is bordered by mountains and the Coral Sea and is surrounded by sugar cane plantations and rainforest. There are enough good bars, restaurants and shopping options to keep visitors entertained before they head off into the stunning nature nearby.
Instead of a beach, Cairns features a saltwater lagoon in the center of the city. The Cairns Esplanade along the shore is lined with trendy cafés, bars and boutiques. Numerous beaches are located just to the north of the city and are easily accessible by bus or car. The City Botanic Gardens features plants used by Aboriginal people. Opposite the gardens, a boardwalk leads visitors through the rainforest to the Centenary Lakes, a habitat for crocodiles.
Opportunities for adventure sports abound in Cairns and range from snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef to skydiving and whitewater rafting. The Daintree Rainforest to the north of Cairns is considered the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, and a hike along an aerial walkway over the forest is an experience that many visitors won’t want to miss.
Temperature: 27°C high; 17°C low Season: September through November and from March to May Flight time from UK: 25h 9m from London
A modern city with a long history, Sydney is defined by its scenic harbor. The region’s first inhabitants lived along the harbor’s bank for thousands of years. The harbor was also the landing site for convicts sent to Australia during the 1780s. Today, ferries take visitors for cruises under the famed Sydney Harbor Bridge and past the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Adventurous travelers can take a ferry to Manly Wharf where they can rent kayaks to paddle the inlets of Sydney Harbor National Park or sign up for surf classes at Manly Beach. The Federation Cliff Walk is a 5-km (3-mile) long walkway that starts at the Raleigh Reserve Park, providing spectacular views of the sea, harbor and the Macquarie Lighthouse, Australia’s first and longest operating lighthouse.
Sydney’s beaches are the perfect place to spend a warm summer day, to swim or just relax on the sands. The most popular are Bondi Beach, Manly and Coogee, although many others have their own charms.
No visit to Sydney is complete without a tour of the Sydney Opera House. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed in 1973, the sailing ship-inspired performing arts complex is considered one of the world’s most distinctive architectural structures.
For adventurous visitors to Sydney, a heart-thumping climb on the harbor bridge is a must-do activity. For others, shopping at the historic Queen Victoria Building, hitting the clubs and restaurants the in Rocks district and visiting the world-class Taronga Zoo are can’t-miss activities. Visitors can count on cosmopolitan Sydney to accommodate every taste.
Temperature: 25°C high; 14°C low Season: September to November and March to May Flight time from UK: 21h 15m from London
The capital of the state of Victoria, Melbourne is Australia’s second most populated city. Located near the southeastern tip of Australia on the large natural bay of Port Phillip, Melbourne is considered the nation’s cultural capital as well as an important port. Due to its high quality of life, citizens from around the world have flocked to the streets. Its multicultural population is reflected in the delicious cuisine and the unique neighborhoods that make it such a fascinating place to explore.
Melbourne’s City Center district boasts the most attractions, including the city’s most recognizable landmark, the Flinders Street Railway Station. The multiple clocks hanging over the Edwardian Era station’s entrance is a popular meeting spot. The skyscraper Eureka Tower features an 88th-floor observation platform, the highest in the southern hemisphere. Visitors can step out onto a glass-enclosed compartment for panoramic views of the bay and the green Dandenong mountain range beyond.
In the Carlton district, visitors can explore the southern hemisphere’s largest museum. The Melbourne Museum showcases the nation’s rich social history, from its indigenous cultures to its fascination with football and horse racing, and has extensive exhibits illustrating Australia’s natural history as well.
Visitors looking for outdoor activities can enjoy the city’s parklands, many of which are shaded by large, mature trees. For swimming and sunbathing, Melbourne’s bayside beaches are ideal. For a retro feel, Brighton Beach features colorful bathing huts. St. Kilda Beach is one of the most popular beaches, both for its swimming and for the clubs and restaurants that line the shore. From dawn to dusk, visitors to Melbourne will never run out of exciting things to see and do.
Temperature: 24°C high; 10°C low Season: spring season between September and November Getting to Kangaroo Island: Kangaroo Island is easily accessible from Adelaide, South Australia’s capital. By air it’s just a 25-minute flight, by scenic coach and ferry transfers, it is around 2.5 hours.
The third-largest island in the country, Kangaroo Island lies just off the coast of South Australia. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, its delightfully untouched landscapes are home to incredible scenery and an abundance of wildlife.
Everything from huge dunes and towering cliffs to large caves and remarkable rock formations can be found in its numerous nature reserves. These are home to echidnas, koalas, and kangaroos, while penguins, sea lions and dolphins can be spotted offshore. Its diverse landscapes lend themselves perfectly to all kinds of outdoor activities, with hiking, sandboarding and scuba diving popular.
Besides its ample natural riches, wildlife, and recreation opportunities, Kangaroo Island also boasts lots of delicious local produce and fine wines for visitors to try. These can be sampled at any one of its four main towns or at the small farms and wineries that dot the island.
Temperature: the average maximum daily summer temperatures are between 17°C and 23°C and winter daily temperatures sit between 3°C and 11°C. Season: between December and February Getting to Tasmania: As Australia’s only island state, access to Tasmania is by air and sea only. Regular flights depart from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and fly direct to Hobart and Launceston.
The island state of Tasmania may be isolated from the rest of the country but it still remains one of the best places to visit in Australia; almost half of its area is protected as the government looks to preserve the natural riches.
With desolate wilderness and alpine plateaus interspersed with stunning white beaches, waterfalls, and forests, exploring its terrain is simply mesmerizing. Taking a boat trip along its craggy coast is equally rewarding and you can even see dolphins, penguins, and seals along the way.
With lots of great local produce, eating and drinking in the capital city of Hobart is an absolute pleasure and the restaurants and bars are divine. The island also hosts an eclectic range of great festivals throughout the year, where you can enjoy local beer and wine or arts and music events.
While many of Western Australia’s most impressive beaches lie in remote locations, you’ll find one of the state’s best beach attractions just a 30-minute drive from Perth. A favourite for both locals and visitors, Cottesloe Beach is divided into three sections. The main area of Cottesloe Beach is perfect for swimming and walking, while North Cottesloe Beach is home to Peter’s Pool – a great spot for snorkelling. South Cottesloe doesn’t have any sand for sunbathers, but it does have amazing waves for local surfers.
Near the Northern Territory town of Darwin is Mindil Beach. Although swimming isn’t recommended, the beach is still well worth a visit because of the festivities that happen along its shores during the dry season. At the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, you’ll find food from all over the world as well as an incredible view of the town’s famous sunsets. If you need to cool off, visit Darwin’s Waterfront Precinct. Located just a five-minute walk from the city centre, you’ll find a man-made lagoon for children, a popular wave pool, a saltwater beach and several great eateries.
As the coastal capital of South Australia, Adelaide is home to several metropolitan beaches. Henley Beach, home to white sand and gentle surf, is popular among locals and visitors. Walk along the jetty out to sea, or stop by one of the many bars and restaurants along the shore to taste local wine and beer.
Thousands of people soak up Sydeny’s beaches every year, but there’s more to explore than the big name beaches of Manly and Bondi. Manly Beach’s lesser-known neighbour, Shelly Beach, is not only great for surfing but also snorkelling and scuba diving. The shallow marine reserve offers sheltered water perfect for families as well. After your swim, take the easy track up the headland for scenic views out to the ocean. Alternatively, grab a bite to eat at The Boathouse Shelly Beach, one of the area’s buzzy cafes.
Because the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is landlocked, it doesn’t have any ocean beaches. However, you don’t have to go far to find a stretch of sand by the sea. Head to the Jervis Bay region of the South Coast, located in New South Wales about 2.5 hours from Canberra, for countless beautiful beaches. One of these is Pretty Beach. With glassy water and lush greenery, its name is well-deserved. You may even spot friendly kangaroos sharing the sand.
If you are passionate about tasting good food and drink while traveling the world, we’ve got the list for you! Adding culinary activities to your vaction itinerary is one of the best ways to experience the culture of your destination. From Buenos Aires to Shanghai and Madrid, this list contains 5 of the best places to go for foodies vacation.
Bon appétit !
Anyone who’s feasted their way through Shanghai won’t be surprised to see the coastal city claim this year’s top spot. The booming metropolis is a bonafide foodie playground, with a healthy mix of fine-dining heavyweights and street food heroes – both of which pull inspiration from every corner of the world. Diners can slurp xiaolongbao, splurge on steamed hairy crab, savor braised pork and devour glutinous rice balls. Drink, sleep, repeat!
2. Tel Aviv
A nail-bitingly close second place goes to Tel Aviv, where the culinary scene is absolutely jam-packed with hot newcomers, traditional Middle Eastern eats, an astonishing array of vegan-friendly joints and lively cafés that overflow into the streets. Once you’ve eaten your weight in shawarma, falafel and hummus, try something new – sabich (a pita sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs and tahini) or malabi (rose water milk pudding) should do the trick.
3. Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is synonymous with grilled meats and red wine – and you should sample plenty of both while you’re here – but the capital city is also brimming with excellent Mediterranean, Italian, Asian and Spanish foods thanks to a robust immigrant population (second only to the US). Munch on empanadas on the go, sit down and savor a pizza, explore one of the city’s indoor food markets and finish every meal with an alfajor – an addictive cookie sandwich that’s glued together with sweet dulce de leche.
Spain’s capital city is perhaps best known for its picture-perfect parks and epic art museums – but its food scene is destination-worthy, too. Your dining itinerary will be torn between some of the world’s best Michelin-starred restaurants, tried-and-true tapas bars and buzzed-about novices that are blazing a new trail. Don’t fret – if you find time to sip vermouth, savor a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich) and dunk churros into thick, piping-hot chocolate, you’ve done alright.
Ready to send your senses soaring? Consider a trip to Thailand’s capital, where food is an art form that goes way beyond pad Thai (though, you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating it while you’re here). Carve out ample time to explore the city’s vibrant street food scene, where noodles, seafood, meat skewers and soups are on full display.
Autumn is arguably the most visually stunning season of the year in Nova Scotia. Whilst the leaves of many species turn yellow, the pigmentation of red oak, mountain ash, blueberry and huckleberry leaves, for example, turn red, whilst sugar and red maple leaves run the range from yellow to purple.
The key to finding great spots to take in thefoliage is, of course, identifying places with a variety of trees and brush—and perhaps most importantly, places that offer perspective. In many cases, that means finding woods with an elevation or a body of water to fully appreciate the canopy. This colourful time of year doesn’t last long—mid-October is when foliage tends to be the most vibrant in Nova Scotia—so take advantage while you can.
Cabot Trail, Cape Breton
There are dozens of incredible hiking trails and lookoffs around every turn—even just driving the Cabot Trail means experiencing kaleidoscopic colour and scenery—but some of the best vistas can be found on foot.
The Acadian, Aspy, Cape Smokey and Franey trails are among the most jaw-dropping in terms of look offs to highland-covered canopy.
The ‘Cape George Scenic Drive’ also gets labelled the ‘mini Cabot Trail’ (after the ‘real’ Cabot Trail, one of the world’s great scenic drives); that’s going a bit far, but this is still a delightful and scenic little diversion.
Lovers of lighthouses, magnificent coastal scenery and hiking should include this detour (or side trip from Antigonish) in their itineraries.
Mersey River, Kejimkujik National Park
Surrounded by a spectrum of vivid maple trees, explore this gorgeous river by foot or canoe. Several walking trails are located along different points of the river, including one with access to Mill Falls. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at Jakes Landing to take in the scenery by water.
Although best known as the largest of the province’s few downhill-skiing destinations, Wentworth and the Wentworth Valley are popular year-round with lovers of the outdoors.
When the snow has gone, the hilly region is ideal for hiking – there is a network of over 25km of hiking trails all centred on the Wentworth Hostel and nearby Wentworth Provincial Park – and biking. In autumn, the high proportion of maple trees contributes to a fine display of colours.
Exploring exotic places doesn’t have to cost a fortune and you certainly don’t need to win the lottery to travel the world – not if you know how to watch your pennies. We’ve complied 10 tips for traveling on a budget.
Traveling is such a wonderful opportunity, and being able to travel on a budget makes it more accessible to people. Also, if you spend less on one adventure, you have money to spend on another. Budget travel doesn’t have to be any less fun either. There are cheap places to travel to all over the world, including plenty of places to travel on a budget in Europe. There are lots of ways to save money when you’re traveling, from planning your travel budget carefully before you leave, considering backpacking and car-sharing, through to the choices you make (e.g. food) when you are on your trip.
Here are the 10 tips for traveling on a budget:
1. Come up with a plan
Traveling spontaneously is great, if you have the luxury of time and money to spare. But if you’re travelling on a budget, the first thing to do is come up with a plan. You don’t have need a tight, hour-by-hour itinerary, but you should at least have an idea of how long you’ll be spending in each city or country, and know the route that your epic adventure will take. Leaving less to chance means less unexpected spends; last-minute flights and accommodation are often far more expensive.
2. Travel out of season
Avoid trips during the school holidays, this is when the travel industry hikes up prices to take advantage of families who can only travel during these weeks. Research the best time to visit your intended destination, and then travel just before or after these dates. This is called the ‘shoulder season’, where you’ll still have a great trip but maybe the sun won’t shine quite as brightly (and, on the plus side, it won’t be quite as hot.) Hotels and airlines lower their prices to attract customers during this time.
3. Pack properly
Make sure you bring everything you need so that you don’t have to shop while you’re away (apart from a few souvenirs). No matter where you’re heading, take at least one pair of long jeans, warm hoodie and waterproof jacket for unpredictable weather incidents. For some in-depth advice, check out our ‘Travel like a pro’ guide to packing for every kind of trip.
4. Book in advance
Last minute deals can be a godsend, but it’s often cheaper (and less stressful!) to book transport, accommodation and activities well in advance.
5. Or, in less touristy destinations, be spontaneous
Accommodation isn’t always advertised online and you may save money by booking directly with the owner, especially for places in small towns or in homestays. It really depends on where you’re going!
6. Embrace public transport
Buses and trains are cheaper than planes. It’s that simple! A journey on an overnight train also mean you have one less night in a hostel to pay for…
7. Fly mid-week
Flights are more expensive at weekends, because more people are free to travel. Try and fly between Tuesday-Thursday, if you can.
8. Get a local SIM
Data roaming or paying for WiFi abroad can be extortionate. One way to save money when you’re traveling is to get a local SIM card with locally priced data packages. You’ll want the data for navigating your way around and keeping in touch with home!
9. Search for free things to do in your chosen destination
A great top tip for traveling on a budget is to look for free things to do wherever you’re heading. It could be that certain museums are free on certain days or that there are local events on. Don’t forget the classic ‘free walking tour’, a great way of seeing the city you are visiting. Just remember that it’s customary to tip at the end.
10. Get recommendations from the locals
The locals definitely don’t want to pay tourist prices for food, drink and activities. Speak to someone from the area (perhaps someone at the hostel reception) and find out their favourite hotspots. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
10 (extra) Decide on your budget, and stick to it
There are very few places that can’t be travelled on a low budget. There are free things to do in every destination, so you just need to manage your expectations of how many expensive activities you can do there or how often you can eat out at restaurants, for example. Once you’ve planned your budget, try not to overspend; it’ll only cause you more stress later on your trip or when you get home.
Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip
Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.