8 things I've learnt as a traveller

Not all trips are created equal. Fact. With this in mind, here are my top tips - honed over a lifetime of travel - for a successful escape

Ditch the all inclusive
Some people adore all inclusive breaks, taking full advantage of the fee flowing bars and buffets before frying themselves silly on a sun lounger. TNT readers, I suspect, aren’t those people. If I’m correct and you’re not interested in swapping flopping on a sofa for flopping by a pool - what a waste of your annual leave - then say no to all inclusive packages. They really aren’t worth it.

There’s no such thing as the right time
Want to travel? Just do it. There’s never a right time for anything - and that includes travel. There’s always going to be something - a possible promotion, your cousin’s wedding, your best mate having a baby, a football game, lack of cash or the weather- in the way. Make no mistake: someone or something will always been telling you to wait.
Don’t wait. The right time will never exist. To paraphrase Paul Coehlo “Travel is […] a matter […] of courage.”

Go solo
Solo travel rocks. Seriously. Travelling with your other half is intense and can make or break the relationship. Going in a group isn’t any easier, either. The worst trip this writer ever had was to Mexico, with two so called ‘friends’. We ended ended up falling out over food, finance and pretty much everything under the sun.
My message? Don’t be daunted by the prospect of solo travel. Besides - cheese alert - you never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you.

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Pack lightly
“Travel like Ghandi, with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind.” So said Rick Steves.
The American travel author and television personality is right. A suitcase stuffed with shoes, clothes et al isn’t going to ‘make’ your trip. Quite the opposite: more stuff, simply equals more stress. Who wants to be lugging a heavy bag about for a fortnight, worried about all your Apple products?
My advice when it comes to packing is this: lay everything you’re thinking of packing out on your bed. Now half it. This is what you should take.

Practice understanding
It pays to be nice. Or as the late Patrick Swayze put it in the film, Road House: “Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.”
Remember this when you’re tempted to give airport or hotel employees a piece of your mind. Staff can’t control delays/the weather etc etc so keep your emotions in check. The more understanding and appreciative you are, the more they will go out of their way to upgrade you or send a complimentary bottle of vino or basket of fruit to your room, as a form of compensation.

A is for Airbnb
As a travel journalist, I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some seriously swanky hotels - here’s looking at 45 Park Lane in London and the Grand Hotel Wien in Vienna. That being said, I have a soft spot for Airbnb - the San Francisco-based room/house letting website.
My best trips have been those when I have been able to stay with Airbnb hosts in Argentina, Hawaii, Hungary, Colombia, China and Chile - to name but a few countries - most of whom have enjoyed sharing their abodes and hometown with me. From Lily, my host in Bogota, who insisted on taking me out salsa dancing during my stay to Mati and Cande in Buenos Aires who regularly invited me to asados (Argentine barbecues) on the rooftop of their apartment and whom I now count as family.

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Be flexible
Leave your Type A behaviour behind, when on the road, and live like a local. Only a philistine would Mexico and start the day with soggy cornflakes instead of Huevos rancheros (a classic, not to mention, sensational Mexican breakfast of tortillas, rice, beans, and eggs smothered in a spicy red sauce). Or trek to Thailand only to eat McDonalds most days.
Sure you might not like the local delicacies (the Filipino favourite balut – an 18-day-old fertilised duck egg – certainly made me squirm) but how do you know if you don’t give them a chance? In the words of one James Michener: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”

Learn to love the long-haul flight
Chances are there aren’t many people who use the word ‘love’ and ‘long-haul flights’ in the same sentence. Me? I’m more than happy on a long-haul flight. London to Buenos Aires, London to Sydney, London to Honolulu… I’ve done my fair share of long-haul flights - and I’ve loved them all.
I’m often asked how I cope - with the lack of sleep, the bad food, the layovers, the crossing of several time zones, lost luggage, flight delays, I could continue - but the truth is that I view a long-haul flight as a mini holiday in itself. Long-haulers allow me to turn off technology, read the book that has been sitting on my bedside table since Christmas and watch the films I missed first time around, while being fed and watered. Amen.

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Read the article here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/8-things-ive-learnt-as-a-traveller/

Beijing on a budget

Looking for a break that blends blockbuster sights, historic hutongs, cutting edge architecture and stellar street grub? You’d better make a beeline for Beijing. Check out TNT’s tips on how to make the most of the Middle Kingdom on a budget…

 

Seek out street markets
Chances are ‘chi fan’ (lets eat), is the phrase you’ll hear most often. Beijing has a thriving local gastronomic scene but, if money is too tight to mention, avoid high end dining joints like Beijing Da Dong Duck (www.dadongdadong.com, even if the restaurant does serve up superior versions of Beijing’s signature dish) and head to a night market like Donghuamen. The latter isn’t for the faint hearted (Beijing is city that adores its meat and subsequently you’ll see vendors peddling silkworms, scorpions, seahorse, snake and starfish and such) but it’s certainly lens friendly! Select your food-stall and then sit and feast with locals eating street nosh like noodles and jiaozi (steamed dumplings) that are guaranteed to have you keeling over in bliss.

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Hold your nerve and haggle hard
Beijing’s trendiest shopping street is without a doubt the pedestrian-only Wangfujing , but it’s also one of the most expensive. The budget conscious would do well to seek out the Silk Market or Yashow where industrious bootleggers will be happy to test your conscience by offering DVDs of Hollywood blockbusters long before they hit screens for a couple of quid. Here - so long as you haggle hard - you can pick up a pair of Louboutin look-alikes for a snip. Lastly if you’re in town on a Saturday or Sunday, head for the colourful Panjiayuan Antique Market – Beijing’s biggest and best-known arts, crafts, and antiques market and a photographer’s dream.

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Park life
Worried about all the calories you have been consuming on your hols? Your worry isn’t misplaced. Beijing adores the body beautiful - and that, my friend, demands a devotion to exercise. Ditch the gym though and tune into the Beijing vibe, by practicing Thai Chi, for free, in Ritan Park – easily one of Beijing’s prettiest parks. China’s capital city is punctuated with parks and, for most Beijingers, they are akin to a second home – a place to socialise, relax and yes stay fit.
 

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Walk this way
Walking is the best way to see Beijing - everywhere has something of interest - and happily it’s a free form of transport. However if you’re suffering from sore feet, hop on the subway which is cheap, clean, efficient and easy to use. Alternatively take a taxi. Drivers rarely speak English which can prove problematic if your Mandarin is miserable but they are inexpensive and (unless it’s raining) in plentiful supply.

Enjoy time out in Tiananmen Square
Only a philistine would leave Beijing without visiting the free attraction that is Tiananmen Square. Standing at 880 metres long and 500 metres wide, the world’s largest public square has enough space to accommodate up-to one million people. The square was originally designed and built in 1651 but has been enlarged four times since and is considered the symbol of the People’s Republic and the centre of Beijing’s landmarks. The iconic square owes its name to to its location - it’s situated in front of the south gate (Tiananmen) of the Forbidden City.
 

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Karaoke calling
Sanlitun - a popular nightlife destination - is where Beijing’s elite and expatriate population head when they want to let their hair down in a hip (read eye-waveringly expensive) haunt. However if you want to party for peanuts like a local and not a laowai (foreigner), look to a karaoke (KTV) bar. Karaoke might not top your Saturday night agenda back home in Blighty but trust TNT when we say that once you pick up the mic and play air guitar, you’ll soon discover that it’s actually a whole heap of fun. Prices for room hire vary according to time (as a rule, the earlier you go the cheaper it is) but as rule of thumb, expect to pay around 200RMB per room, per hour.

Try TCM
Body aching following a long flight? Try TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). TCM aims to balance your yin and yang and ward off disease and illness through a combination of nutrition, exercise and treatments such as acupuncture (where fine needles are inserted into the skin), moxibustion (an alternative to acupuncture which involves a therapist moving a heated cup of herbs above your body), mediation and traditional Chinese massage. All of the aforementioned can be tried on the cheap in any street corner parlour.
 

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Go to the Great Wall
Built between the fifth and 16th centuries, The Great Wall of China - the longest wall in the world - is arguably the symbol of China and no visit to Beijing is complete without making a pilgrimage to this UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Or as Mao Zedong himself once put it: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall, is not a true man.” 
However as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, guided tours to the Great Wall - built to function as an impenetrable line of defence - can be crazy expensive. If you don’t fancy forking out a fair amount of dosh, skip the official excursion and travel to the wall (we recommend the less touristy Mutianyu or Simatai sections) independently by bus. 
 

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Tea time
China is celebrated for its tea, which first rose to popularity during the Tang Dynasty over 1,000 years ago. As such, lost-in-time tea houses abound. You can while away a whole afternoon in a tea house enjoying an inexpensive cup of scented tea (spring), green tea (summer), Oolong tea (autumn), or black tea (winter) while watching Beijingers eating, drinking, doing business, chatting, playing chess and simply enjoying each other’s company.

Take advantage of the 72-Hour Free Transit Visa
Thanks to blockbuster sights such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City, Beijing is top of the bucket list for a lot of travellers - but obtaining a tourist visa isn’t exactly hassle free. The amount of detail required on the application (expanded from two to four pages back in 2011) plus the steep fee proves a little off putting to say the least. The good news, however, is that passport holders from 45 countries - including the UK, the US and Australia - can make three-day visa-free visits to the Chinese capital provided they have a valid passport as well as a confirmed flight ticket (to a third country or region) that will depart within 72 hours.

Read the article here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/beijing-on-a-budget/

Kent calling



Don’t let autumn get you down. Recharge the batteries with a wellness getaway in the Kent countryside, says Kaye Holland


My feelings about London are complicated. The very things I love - the hustle and bustle, bright lights and sheer size - are also the things that threaten to overwhelm me.

If, like me, you need a reprieve from grey, drizzly mornings, busy commutes and the general urban crush, allow me to suggest Green Farm Kent. 

Those in the know are so passionate about this small farm estate in the Kent countryside, that they might resent the fact that I’m spreading the word. So hush: this is just between you and me.

Nestled amidst 12,000-acre ancient woodland - and yet a mere 40minute train ride away from London St. Pancras - Green Farm Kent represents the perfect tonic to the frenetic pace of urban life.

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A wealth of rural skill honing activities is on offer from exploring enchanting Fairyland - a natural opening in the forest, replete with fabulous oak trees and wonderful ancient woodlands that’s surely the stuff of childhood fantasies - to feeding the farm animals (egg laying hens, lambs, ducks and cows are all present and correct), clearing the head on a countryside walk and visiting the community vegetable garden.
 

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They also offer regular yoga and fitness classes, while art and garden flower workshops can be arranged. Or you can just follow in my footsteps and float in a hot tub under the canopy of a graceful weeping willow, while enjoying a glass of bubbles… I wouldn’t blame you.

However if you’re visiting in October - a time when indoors matters more than great outdoors, when comforts and pleasures of home are paramount - you’d be forgiven for spending most of your stay in the beautiful Grade 11 listed country house itself.

Setting foot in the recently refurbished barn that was originally a Kentish Hall House built 600 years ago (around the time that Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field), is akin to stepping back in time to an older, simpler world.

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A strong sense of character prevails throughout the house - which the owners bought on an auction in September 2008 - from the individually decorated bedrooms to the living room that boasts an Inglenook fireplace, to curl up in front of with a good book. (Although with so much on offer at Green Farm Kent, I didn’t manage lay a finger on my book the entire weekend).

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Other standouts include the boot room with its well, which its still in use today, the conservatory offering, as it does, arresting views across the orchard and fields and last, but not least, the dining room with its beautiful beams.

This is the place to enjoy hearty yet healthy meals- think freshly baked bread and fragrant curries, that use home grown ingredients from the farm’s community garden - washed down with organic wines. Make no mistake: the food can’t be faulted.

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Yet while it would be easy, at this time of year, to hole up in the house with the amiable owners Mary and Martin - who go out of their way to welcome you like family -  it would be a terrible shame not to take in a treatment at the luxurious on-site spa. (www.greenfarmkent.co.uk/spa)

The range of therapies – all of which use ESPA products – is mind boggling but I can vouch for the skin radiance facial, aka 55 minutes of bliss that myskin feeling baby soft and begging to be booked in for further treatments with spa therapist, Helen, and her magic hands. Seriously: I can’t count number of people who said I had a certain glow about me, upon my return to the big smoke.

Yet Green Farm’s real charm -  those that get under your skin - is its attentive and always smiling owners and staff. I was made to feel like I belonged and enough to know that one day I’ll return.

All told, Green Farm is the perfect spotto switch off without having to jet off.

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NEED TO KNOW

Address:
Green Farm
Church Lane
Shadoxhurst
Kent
TN26 1L

Tel: +44 (0)1233 733 997
Email: info@greenfarmkent.co.uk
Web: www.greenfarmkent.co.uk
 

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Getting there:
By rail

Located just 10 minutes taxi journey from Ashford International Station, The high speed train from London St Pancras takes just 37 minutes. Trains from Charing Cross / Waterloo East / London Bridge take about 75 mins and Eurostar trains from Paris take 90 minutes.

Read the article here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/kent-calling/

World Travel Awards Africa winners revealed

Rwanda has taken the top title at the World Travel Awards Africa Gala Ceremony 2017.

On a night of high drama in host city, Kigali, the Land of a Thousand Hills was recognised as Africa’s Leading Destination.

Also among the winners was Durban. The South African seaside city - which underwent a major makeover in the run up to the 2010 World Cup, with a sleek new stadium and a revamped waterfront - was hailed Africa’s Leading Meetings & Conference Destination. Meanwhile Durban International Convention Centre picked up the award for Africa's Leading Meetings & Conference Centre.

The glittering event took place at the five star Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre - one of the most recognised modern structures in Africa - alongside the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and AviaDev Africa, with hospitality leaders from across the region, in attendance.

World Travel Awards Founder and President, Graham E Cooke, said: “It has been an honour to visit Rwanda for the very first time.

"We have recognised the leading lights of African tourism tonight and I wish to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all of our winners.

"Rwanda has proved a wonderful host for our Africa Gala Ceremony, cementing the country's reputation as Africa’s rising star."

Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa was also celebrating after scooping the award for Africa's Leading Hotel Suite and South Africa's Leading Hotel Suite.

Elsewhere Kempinski Hotel Fleuve Congo Kinshasa was voted Democratic Republic of Congo's Leading Hotel and Democratic Republic of Congo's Leading Hotel Suite, while the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre, Kigali, was presented with the trophies for Africa's Leading Conference Hotel,  Rwanda's Leading Conference Hotel and Africa's Leading New Hotel.

Satguru Travels was named Tanzania's Leading Travel Agency and Nigeria's Leading Travel Agency,

The ceremony - part of World Travel Awards Grand Tour 2017 - was compered by CNBC Africapresenter and producer, George Ndirangu, and passionate DJ and media personality, Makeda Mahadeo. Entertainment was provided by Inganzo Ngari, Rwanda’s most acclaimed traditional dance group, and the Neptunez band.

Winners from the event will go forward to complete in the World Travel Awards Grand Final, this year taking place at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa in Vietnam on the evening of 10th December.

In the aviation sector, Kenya Airways was selected by voters as Africa’s Leading Airline and Africa's Leading Airline - Business Class, while Cape Town International Airport walked away with the trophy for Africa's Leading International Airport.

The travel industry’s leading awards programme also unveiled the host of the 2018 World Travel Awards Africa Gala Ceremony as the Durban International Convention Centre. Conveniently situated in the heart of South Africa’s third largest city, this world-class facility was opened by former president Nelson Mandela in 1997 and has successfully staged some of the world’s most prestigious and complex events.

A full list of winners from the World Travel Awards Africa Gala Ceremony can be seen at: www.worldtravelawards.com/winners/2017/africa

World Travel Awards arrives in Rwanda

World Travel Awards (WTA) has touched down in Rwanda ahead of its Africa Gala Ceremony 2017.

The prestigious event will take place in the country’s thriving capital, Kigali, on 10th October, with hundreds of leaders from across the hospitality industry expected to attend the glittering red carpet ceremony.

Local stars, George Ndirangu and Makeda Mahadeo – both hugely experienced as hosts and presenters – will compere the event which will take place at the five star Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre, alongside the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and AviaDev Africa (10th-12th October).

The leading hotel investment conference that connects business leaders from the international and local markets, driving investment into tourism projects, infrastructure and hotel development across Africa, AHIF is attended by the highest calibre international hotel investors of any conference in Africa.

Meanwhile AviaDev Africa is a unique event bringing together airports, airlines, governments, industry suppliers and tourism authorities to determine the future air connectivity and infrastructure development of Africa. The event provides an opportunity for the aviation and hotel development communities to share intelligence on their future plans, catalysing tourism development on the continent.

Speaking ahead of the event, WTA President and Founder Graham E. Cooke said: “It is an honour for World Travel Awards to be here in Rwanda, for the very first time.

"The heart of Africa, Rwanda has become rightfully known for its spectacular scenery – think thundering waterfalls, towering mountains and virgin rainforests – and rare wildlife.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for Rwanda to claim its rightful place as Africa’s rising star and I can’t wait to welcome all our nominees next Tuesday, as we recognise the leaders among them."

A full list of nominees can be viewed on the World Travel Awards website.

World Travel Awards was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry.

Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark to which all others aspire.

Each year, World Travel Awards covers the globe with a series of regional gala ceremonies staged to recognise and celebrate individual and collective success within each key geographical region.

World Travel Awards Gala Ceremonies are widely regarded as the best networking opportunities in the travel industry, attended by government and industry leaders, luminaries and international print and broadcast media.

For more information about World Travel Awards, please visit the official website, www.worldtravelawards.com.

Notes to Editors

About World Travel Awards
World Travel Awards celebrates its 24th anniversary this year and is acknowledged across the globe as the ultimate travel accolade.

Attended by senior executives from major travel companies, operators, destinations, WTA events are universally respected as providing established, top level networking opportunities, regionally and globally.

The brand aims to celebrate those organisations who push the boundaries of industry excellence.

Contact

World Travel Awards™ Public Relations
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7925 0000
Email: pr@worldtravelawards.com
Web: www.worldtravelawards.com
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