BUS HOPPING AROUND KOSOVO, ALBANIA AND MACEDONIA: How to do it

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ITINERARY PLANNING:

We visited Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania over eight days, meaning that we only had one or two days in each place. This was enough to see the highlights, but it also meant lots of travelling around.

TRANSPORT:

It’s tricky to find information about buses online, but TripAdvisor forums had the best information.

Bus tickets can’t be booked in advance online, but we had no problem getting them on the day. Distances are short, but trips often take longer than expected because of the hilly terrain. Drivers can be mavericks – overtaking dangerously on a turn is commonplace.

Taxis are also available and not super expensive, although we didn’t use them.

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MONEY:

Everything was significantly cheaper than in the UK – even in popular places you never pay more than 10€ for a meal including drinks.

Kosovo uses the Euro, Macedonia has the Denar and Albania uses the Lek. Lek and Denars can only be exchanged in the country, but we had no issues with that.

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FOOD:

We did some research in advance, but it was easy enough to find veggie options and ask for vegan versions by removing some ingredients. Most people speak English enough to understand simple instructions like ‘no cheese’.

Yummy salads are available everywhere, as are pizzas. Portions are always generous. Fruit and veg are usually very fresh and delicious – as is the local wine.

Drinks aren’t always listed on the menu, but most places will serve the usual drinks (including plenty of coffee options).

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2017 TRAVELLING: The year in review

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It’s not every year that I get to travel for six months, so 2017 was full of adventures!

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  • In April we went flower-spotting in chilly Amsterdam;
  • Later in April we followed the steps of Indiana Jones in an eventful Egyptian journey;
  • In May we were lucky with the weather in artsy Oslo;

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  • In June I went to my friend’s fun wedding in photogenic Croatia;
  • In July I started my globetrotting eating the best food in India;
  • In August I followed the footsteps of Cezanne in Provence;

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  • In September we continued our little tradition of visiting the Biennale in Venice;
  • Later that month I train-hopped across some of my favourite places in Eastern Europe;
  • In October I had way too much fun getting lost in translation in Japan;

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  • In November I ate all the cakes in Greece;
  • In December I finished the year in style biking around beautiful Myanmar.

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I only have one trip planned for 2018 so far, but it’s a good one – so here’s to another year of exploring!

2016 TRAVELLING: The year in review

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This was another wonderful year full of travel and adventure!

  • Our first trip of the year was a lazy weekend in chilly Luxembourg;
  • In March we indulged in cheap fancy hotels in beautiful Malta – pure luxury!;
  • In April we spent a rainy weekend bar hopping in Cardiff;
  • I spent a sunny weekend sipping amazing cocktails with my friend in Milan;
  • We flew into Helsinki then took the ferry over to medieval Tallinn, where we had the best vegan lunch and spent hours losing ourselves in all the little alleyways;

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  • In June we spent a week watching football and exploring new corners of Paris – it was such a great time!;
  • In July I visited friends in Cumbria – so British and so scenic!;
  • We had a little break in our travels to get married, then we hopped on a plane for a cultural break in Pisa;
  • In November we had the trip of a lifetime spending our honeymoon in the Galapagos – who knew I would love swimming with sharks?;
  • We ended the year eating delicious food in one of my favourite places: Marrakech is always amazing!

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I can’t wait to see what adventures 2017 will bring!

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THE BORING SIDE OF TRAVELLING: Surviving long waits at the airport

I’m sure some people love wandering around duty free shops while they wait for their flights. I’m not one of them. And because I always get to the airport very early, I tend to wait around a lot.

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Here’s what you can do to make it better:

  1. Play a game: take a deck of cards or some other game with you and those extra hours will fly by. But remember: keep it small (as you’ll have to carry it around) and keep it simple (no one wants to focus really hard when they’re jet-lagged and half-asleep). Bananagrams, anyone?
  2. Make travel plans: this is the ideal time to finalise your itinerary. Open up that travel guide and get planning! And if you’re returning for a trip, you’re probably already missing your holiday, so check out the departure boards for unusual destinations and start dreaming of your next trip!
  3. Eat and drink: this one is a bit tricky, as some airports don’t really have that much to offer on that department. But when a good bar/restaurant is available, you should definitely check it out while you wait. It’s definitely better than waiting for stale airplane food.

Make the best of your travels!

TRAVELLING WITH A PURPOSE: Planning an artistic scape

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Sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere for a reason. I’m massively into art, so I’m always happy to travel to see a great exhibition. Here are my tips on travelling to see art:

Where to go:

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If you’re not sure where to go, a good starting point is focusing on the big European capitals. This way you’re almost guaranteed to find a great museum or exhibition to visit. And of course you will also get to enjoy everything else the city has to offer!

London, Paris and Rome are all perfect for a cultural break!

Major museums:

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Another easy choice is to visit famous museums. Of course the Louvre has a crowd of tourists around the Monalisa, but just across the hall you can see four other Leonardos side-by-side (by the way, this is the only place in the world you get to see this) and there will be much less people around there. Last year I went to Amsterdam to visit the newly-renovated Rijksmuseum and it was absolutely amazing!

Major museums are perfect to see masterpieces by famous artists: wandering around room after room of great art can be a lesson in art history in itself!

Great Exhibitions:

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Another great thing to do is finding specific exhibitions to visit. The Venice Biennale is completely mind-blowing, or you can check out what’s happening in the world at Time Out and take your pick.

But make sure to book in advance: popular exhibitions may sell out. Virtually all museums and galleries have easy options for booking online, and often you don’t have to wait in a queue if you already have your ticket!

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Go get inspired!

THERE’S A WHOLE WORLD OUT THERE: How I choose where to go

A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to visit every European country. The plan was to go somewhere every month until we’ve seen it all.

Two years later and we’ve had some amazing times: we saw the northern lights in Iceland, discovered Ljubljana is really nice, had a fabulous time in Prague, and much more!

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So far I’ve been to 24 European countries (there are around 50 depending on how you count it, but we use this list here). But we also spend a lot of time going back to places we love, or travelling further afield, outside of Europe.

I read a lot about travelling, and inevitably I add more and more places to my wishlist. I also change my mind about where I want to go: somehow I’m really keen on going to Japan at the moment, but the country didn’t really interest me before!

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But mostly I’m always happy to hop on a plane (or a train!) and go somewhere for the weekend. I’m in no rush to tick every country off my list – I’m in it for the journey!

FLYING ON THE CHEAP: Making the most of budget airlines

My friend suggested the topic for this post, and it got me thinking of when I first discovered budget airlines. This was when I first moved to Europe: I was shocked (shocked!) at how cheap flights could be. Back then I’d check out Ryanair for flights to no matter where, simply because they were so cheap.

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Those were the days when you could get free flights and simply pay the tax charges. Those days are mostly gone, but there are still plenty of good deals around. Here’s how I do my research for flights:

1. Search sites

I always start by looking at different search sites to get an idea on prices. Skyscanner, Kayak and Momondo are my favourites. Each site has a slightly different set of options, so it’s good to browse around.

2. Know your airports

The thing with budget airlines is that they don’t always arrive at the best airports. Ryanair can leave you over an hour away from your destination and airport transfers can be expensive, so do your research and make sure to land somewhere convenient. Otherwise all your savings on the cost of the flight may end up being spent before you even get to leave the airport!

In London I tend to prioritise Gatwick where possible, as it’s the closest to my place and it’s cheap to get there by train.

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3. When to book?

This is the trickiest. I’m actually never sure on when to book my flights, but sooner tends to be better.

In theory you can get good deals if you book 3-5 weeks in advance as sometimes airlines do sales to make sure flights are full. However, if you’re travelling to European capitals for the weekend (which is often what I do), flights will always be full, so just book it as early as possible, up to about 4 months in advance (more than that and sometimes not all options are available).

4. When to go?

Travelling mid-week, during the day or off-season will get you a better deal. If this is an option for you, you’re in luck! But because I have a full-time job with a limited holiday allowance, this is simply not an option. But again if you book in advance this shouldn’t be a problem.

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5. Watch out for extra charges

As a rule, I always travel light. But budget airlines often have strict luggage policies and once you add £30 per piece of luggage each way you might as well travel BA. They are also generally less flexible, meaning that if you want to change your booking you’re better off making a completely new reservation.

6. Choosing airlines

There are lots of cheap airlines around, but it’s not always just about price. Here are some thoughts on specific companies I’ve travelled with, but really there are many more around and most of them are good enough:

  • Ryanair: I haven’t travelled with Ryanair in years, and honestly I don’t miss it. They are really at the bottom end in terms of service, but their prices can be tempting.
  • Easyjet: I fly a lot with Easyjet, as they seem to have the most options, and they are normally the cheapest airline other than Ryanair. Service is good, but flights at the end of the day are frequently a bit late as each plane does so many flights every day.
  • Norwegian: Norwegian doesn’t go to as many places as Easyjet (at least not from London), but when available they are great. Very good service and very good deals: £90 return to Stockholm, and return flights to New York starting from £250 (although it’s quite hard to get these).
  • Wizz Air: This is a Hungarian airline, and it’s a great option if you’re travelling to Eastern Europe. They have some amazing deals and go to unusual destinations like Ljubljana.
  • Icelandair: Icelandair doesn’t fly to many places, but it’s a great airline. If you’re going to Iceland, their holiday packages are the best. And they also have free stopovers (I said free!) in Reykjavik if you’re flying to America or Canada.

Happy booking!