Abu Dhabi

Ras Al Khaimah’s best hotel villas

Sumptuous spas, first class restaurants, bedrooms bigger than your London flat, conscientious concierges – yes, there’s a lot to love about luxury hotels.

However if you want to be able to wander to the kitchen for a midnight snack, connect your iPods to the central sound system or relax by a pool without being bothered by the chatter and splash of other guests, then a hotel villa is invariably the answer.

Happily for anyone headed to Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) to make the most of the mountains, deserts, pristine white-sand beaches and some of the best hiking in the Middle East, the UAE’s northern most emirate is home to a handful of hotel villas just begging to be booked.

And fortunately for you, dear reader, Best in Travel has done the hard-work. Here we round up RAK’s best hotel villas – just don’t forget to send us a postcard…


Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach Villas
The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach – the second luxury resort for The Ritz-Carlton brand in Ras Al Khaimah – features 32 luxurious tented villas, each with its own pool and direct beach access, offering comfort and privacy complemented by breathtaking views and indulgent amenities.
Guests can choose from two types of villas. The Al Naseem Villas feature local design elements inspired by traditional Bedouin architecture and offer an elevated level of seclusion, while the Al Bahar Villas include open views and private beachfront access. Both are a tonic for trammelled travellers.

The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert
Set in the midst of 500 acres of desert in the northern part of Ras Al Khaimah, the resort has 101 villas, spread across the protected Al Wadi Nature reserve.
Each of the stand-alone villas features a large outdoor furnished terrace with private infinity pool, some with steps directly down to the dunes, while others are more enclosed for those seeking extra privacy.
Inside, guests can hunker down in front of the huge television in the living room, snuggle up in a spacious bed or take a bath with Asprey amenities in a stand alone tub so large you’ll never want to get out.
Anyone opting for a tented villa, should expect Ia glass-enclosed rain shower,  free-standing tub with views out to the pool and desert dunes and a dressing room with double wardrobes. Tempted? You should be.

The Cove Rotana
Welcome to The Cove Rotana – Rotana’s first property in the emirate that everyone is talking about.
The resort – which is located on an idyllic water inlet on the Ras Al Khaimah beachfront overlooking the Arabian Gulf with 600m of pristine beach – offers  78 one, two and three bedroom villas that are perfect for those who want to enjoy all the privacy and intimacy of a villa experience while still being able to take advantage of the hotel service. 
All villas are furnished in contemporary Arabic styles and offer every comfort and amenity that a discerning traveller would expect.https://www.rotana.com/rotanahotelandresorts/unitedarabemirates/rasalkhaimah/thecoverotanaresort/accommodation/villas

Jannah Resort & Villas Ras Al Khaimah
Ideally located in Al Mina, Ras Al Khaimah, just a 45-minute drive from Dubai International Airport, Jannah’s villas consists of 4 four-bedroom beachfront villas boasting temperature-controlled private pools and private gardens that are only steps away from the beach.
No need for four rooms? There’s also 15 three-bedroom garden-view villas and 5 three-bedroom pool-view villas, situated a stone’s throw from the shoreline, with 348 square meters of space. Stay a little while and you may never want to leave…


Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah Resort
RAK’s hotel villa scene has never been shinier, smarter or more exciting than it is right now, thanks to a slew of stylish openings that have dramatically changed the hitherto forgotten emirate.
But the upcoming opening we’re most excited about is Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah Resort. Set to open in 2020 – just two short years, people – the resort will feature the first Maldives-inspired overwater villas of their kind in the emirate and embrace guests in authentic luxury. We can’t wait.

Pegasus launches five new destinations in Russia and the UAE

Pegasus Airlines is launching new B737-800 services from London Stansted to four destinations in Russia plus Abu Dhabi, via its Sabiha Gokcen hub on the Asia side of Istanbul


Attention travel lovers! Pegasus Airlines is launching five new destinations from London Stansted - including Grozny, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod and Volgograd in Russia and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  

With the addition of the new flights, the low cost Turkish airline will now fly to seven Russian destinations including its current Russian routes to Moscow, Krasnodar and Mineralnye Vody.  Meanwhile Pegasus’ Middle Eastern network will now extend to five destinations with the addition of Abu Dhabi to its current Gulf destinations of Kuwait, Bahrain, Doha and Dubai.  The total Pegasus network now extends to 103 destinations in 40 countries


Pegasus’ thrice weekly flight to Grozny launched earlier this month on the 12 April, while the new flights to Samara and Volgograd will commence on the 19 June with flights to Nizhny Novgorod and Abu Dhabi scheduled to start on 20 June.

Prices to the new Russian destinations start from £130 one-way including taxes and charges. Elsewhere prices to Abu Dhabi – capital of the UAE –start from £118 one-way including taxes and charges.

Pegasus’ new flight routes couldn’t come at a better time for travel industry insiders following the recent announcement that World Travel Awards – the travel industry’s leading awards programme – has  chosen to host its prestigious Europe Gala Ceremony 2017 in Russia and its Middle East Gala Ceremony 2017 in the UAE.

Saint Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development will welcome World Travel Awards to Russia for the first time, with the Europe Gala Ceremony set to take place in the capital of culture on Saturday 30 September.

Meanwhile Armani Hotel Dubai will host WTA’s Middle East Gala Ceremony 2017 on Sunday 29 October in Dubai  - the sun kissed UAE emirate that is the Cinderella story of the travel industry, having exploded from a sleepy fishing village into a futuristic metropolis.

This will be the second time that World Travel Awards has visited Armani Hotel Dubai, following a glittery ceremony back in 2011.

 “The prestigious World Travel Awards are a benchmark for excellence in the hospitality business globally, and we are delighted to be hosting leading industry figures at Armani Hotel Dubai for the second year,” said Mark Kirby, General Manager at Armani Hotel Dubai.


For more information about World Travel Awards, visit www.worldtravelawards.com.

For more detailed information, log onto  www.flypgs.com/en

View the post here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Worldtravelnews365/posts/gMF7nMyYHPw


Ferrari Land to roar into Spain this summer

Vrrrroooooom! A new Ferrari Land theme park is opening in Europe

Start your engines. Luxury car firm, Ferrari, will open its first European theme park on 7 April 2017 next door to the PortAventura resort near Tarragona, Spain.

The new 1000million-euro (£83million) adventure park - a smaller version of the original Abu Dhabi Ferrari World theme park which opened its gates in 2010 - will be home to five rides based on the sports car brand including, star attraction, the Vertical Accelerator.

Clocking in as the tallest roller coaster in Europe, the Vertical Accelerator will launch riders up a towering spike reaching 368 feet at 112 mph in just five seconds - ensuring passengers experience the same sensations felt by Formula 1 drivers.

The park will also pay homage to the legendary red and yellow car brand’s Italian heritage: expect to see replicas of Rome's Colosseum, La Scala opera house in Milan, Piazza San Marco in Venice and the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence - alongside a number of Italian themed restaurants - all designed to transport visitors to Italy.

Other attractions include Ferrari Land Gallery (an interactive exhibit that takes you through the history of the legendary Italian car maker), a racetrack, free fall tower and F1 simulators, plus a pit stop.

It is hoped that the park, approximately an hour’s drive south of Barcelona, will attract around one million visitors in its first year.

Tickets for Ferrari Land are on sale now, with a price of €60 for adults and €52 for children. For more information, visit www.portaventuraworld.com/en/ferrari-land




Travel tales

I was born and bred in Watford, a town labelled by Lonely Planet as “the kind of place that makes you want to travel.”They weren’t wrong. I spent five years living and working abroad before returning to motherland in the run up to the 2012 London Olympic Games. Here's a snapshot of the destinations that I have called home..

As recently as two decades ago few Brits had heard of, yet alone been to, Dubai. Now the emirate is a permanent fixture on the winter sun scene thanks to its promise of guaranteed rays, without the need to fly halfway around the globe.

But while it is a challenge to do so, prize yourself up off your sun lounger so as to see glimpses of ‘traditional’ Dubai. People, perhaps understandably given the emirate’s penchant for publicising its outlandish projects, have the wrong idea about Dubai – believing it to be all about  malls and modernity. On the other hand, these popular misconceptions only go to show that there is an awful lot to discover about Dubai beyond what you know from the glossy brochures.

Scratch beneath the shiny surface and you’ll find another side to the ‘city of gold’. Alongside the skyscrapers like the Burj Al Arab (the self proclaimed seven star hotel, shaped like the sail of a dhow) and the Emirates Towers on Sheikh Zayed Road, sit historical sites such as Bastakiaand the creek – arguably the heart beat of Dubai.

Here you can watch abras and dhows weave their way across the water, as they have done for centuries. For further local flavour, factor in a tour of Jumeirah Mosque before sauntering through the bustling souks.

For more glimpses of the ‘real Dubai’, explore ethnic residential districts such as Satwa and colourful Karama where you’ll get to mingle with the melting pot of cultures – there’s an incredible influx of expats from all over the world – that make up modern day Dubai.

Cayman Islands
Like most things that are worthwhile, reaching Grand Cayman can be hard work (there are no direct flights from the UK) but the pay-off is pure heaven. For while the island’s association with offshore banking and the rich and famous means that Grand Cayman is often thought of as an over the top sort of place, it isn’t like that all.

Rather it’s a small island (despite its name Grand Cayman is just four miles by 22 miles and home to a mere 45,000 people ) whose pristine powder fine beaches and balmy waters offer a welcome charm for travellers tired of city life.

Any tour of the island is bound to include a visit to Seven Mile Beach – a five and a half mile (don’t ask) stretch of sand that glints in the sunshine with the sparkle of a newly wed’s solitaire and is pictured on every postcard. Nonetheless for all its fame, Seven Mile Beach remains remarkably unspoiled (the government does a good job of keeping the temptations of development in check and no hotel is allowed to be built higher than the tallest palm tree).

A boat trip to Stingray City Sandbar, a sandy shallow spot where you can meet the Cayman Islands’ most famous residents – southern stingrays – is another must. On any brilliant day, you’ll find hundreds of black, velvety stingrays doing what they have done for eons: feeding and frollicking in the waves.

All told, Cayman is one of Caribbean’s top treats and a great place to call home whether for a week’s vacation or a whole lot longer…

Few cities exude such a tangible sense of up to the minute cachet and cool and everyone from your dentist to your best friend and their old flame, has a trip booked to Beijing. And rightly so. While the rest of the world has been feeling the chill of the economic recession, Beijing – capital of the country that everyone is talking about – has come out relatively unscathed. Sure Shanghai (the more foreigner friendly city) may dominate the headlines but if you want to see the real China, you come to Beijing. The Imperial capital is significantly richer in local colour than its southern sibling: Beijing’s bustling streets are alive with rickety tuk tuks and vibrant smells of food stalls and English is most definitely a foreign language.

Beijing is also a historical treat and archaeology buffs will be astounded by the thousands of years of history at their feet from the ancient sites of the Forbidden City and the Great Wall to Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. Yet while it’s steeped in history, Beijing is striving forward and cutting edge architecture abounds signalling Beijing’s intent to become a world city. Check out the CCTV building and the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium for starters.

Of course China’s capital has its problems – corruption and pollution prevail, while historic hutongs are being destroyed forcing families out of homes they have lived in for generations. Nonetheless there is a real reason for optimism and to overlook Beijing is to miss out on the big travel destination – China – and its most dazzling city.

And last but by no means least: London! The UK capital has everything you could want in terms of activity and accessibility. Brilliant bars and restaurants catering to every palette and pocket? Check. World class carnivals, museums, theatres and art galleries? Check.  Gorgeous gardens and parks? Check - 30 per cent of the capital is given over to green space. Sure London can be eye wateringly expensive but I figure - usually after visiting my relatives in other cheap but not especially cheerful parts of the UK - for good reason.

I adore seeing the old and the new side by side: the London Eye towering over the Thames, the tatty fabric shops in Broadwick Street market nestling between Soho’s multi million dollar film companies. I love waking up in the mornings and knowing that the rest of the city is waking up too. The hustle and bustle… the healthy cosmopolitan (37 per cent of the population were born outside the UK and over 300 languages are spoken) mix. To see the streetlights! To hear the taxis! The sheer, unadulterated energy of it all!

Or in the words of Samuel Johnson: “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Read more of Kaye’s work at www.kayeholland.com

Top tips for first time expats

It’s that wet, miserable time of year when thoughts turn to paradise - and plans for 2014. Thinking about a fresh start - perhaps somewhere sunny? Former expat, Kaye Holland, has some advice to help you realise those overseas ambitions

Every year, thousands of people quit their jobs, pack their bags and move abroad after becoming disillusioned with UK life. I should know: eight years ago I was one of them. The start of 2006 saw me suffering from a severe case of the January blues. Cold, tired and broke, I began to dream about living in a place where the sky wasn’t permanently the colour of porridge and subsequently made my way to the Middle East – with its promise of year round sunshine. Stepping on the plane I believed that, after a fun filled year in the sun, I’d be back in London. Little did I know then, that five years would pass - via stints in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the Cayman Islands and Beijing - before I would ‘properly’ return home. For me, moving abroad was a life enhancing experience but before you uproot, here are a few things you need to know...

Do your research
Find out all you can about the country you intend to relocate to. For example it’s well known that it’s a punishable offence to drink, or to be under the influence of alcohol, in public in the UAE. However not everyone knows that the UAE and its Khaleeji brothers - take a bow Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia – deem homosexual acts unlawful. (It’s illegal to be gay in 78 countries - the aforementioned included -  with lesbianism banned in 49). Meanwhile even seemingly innocuous films such as the Adam Sandler vehicle I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry were banned by censors while I was living in the UAE. My message? It’s not great - something a couple of my former Time Out Dubai colleagues can attest to - for gays living in the Middle East. Do your homework before you travel.

Visit first
If you can afford to do so, visit the destination you have decided on first to get a feel for it before you jack everything in the UK. I took a step in the dark in relocating solo first to the UAE and then to the Cayman Islands -  having never previously stepped foot in either country. I was a little more familiar with my third posting - Beijing - having backpacked around China in my early twenties, but far from clued up. Time and funds permitting, my advice would be to do a test run before committing to moving to check that the location is a good fit for you - and your family. During my time as an expat I met many people who realised soon after landing that the UAE (too blingy), Cayman (too quiet) and China (too alien) wasn’t for them after all and consequently caught the earliest flight back to Blighty. A costly mistake to make...

The grass isn’t always greener
The days of lucrative expat contracts are - sadly - long gone. Once upon a time companies offered annual return flights home, all expenses paid accommodation and often covered expats’ shipping costs and childrens' school fees. Not so in the noughties - or at least for anyone wanting to work abroad in the media. I had to find and finance my flight to both Cayman and China, and likewise was on my own when it came to accommodation. Salaries too aren’t all that impressive. A deputy editor in Dubai and Cayman can earn around £2,400 tax free in 2014 which is substantially more than a similar position pays in the UK but not wonderful when you consider that, save for petrol, everyday goods are more expensive: 90 per cent of food in the UAE and Cayman is imported, meaning that even a jar of marmite can be pricey. In China I was on just under £1,000 a month, as an editor. I was able to get by on this in Beijing but had to forgo flying home (one return economy flight to London can cost upwards of £900) for family and friends’ weddings. So why go? For the chance of living and working - especially when job opportunities are thin on the ground in the UK - in another country, the challenge of trying to comprehend it, better weather and the opportunity to mix with people from all over the planet. In my mind, that's something you can't put a price on.

Be bank savvy
Before you up sticks, pay off any outstanding debts - credit cards, loans and the like - as you’ll need a letter of reference from your UK bank in order to be able to open an account abroad (and thus be paid). Furthermore make sure you have some savings. In the UAE and China, I had to pay six months accommodation up front. In Cayman this wasn’t the case but l still to cover the first month’s rent and deposit, electricity and water bills plus car hire and other extras such as setting up a local phone contract, all before the first pay cheque arrived. Additionally anyone emigrating also needs to be prepared to pay for health care. We Brits may whinge about the NHS but at least it is free - unlike the system in say America which leaves millions of people unable to afford basic healthcare. Check what healthcare services are available and how much you will need to pay. Lastly you’ll need money for socialising - especially in your first month. It’s important to integrate yourself with both locals and expats alike from the get go, so as to avoid suffering from loneliness. If you’re relocating en famille, you have an advantage in this area as you’ll meet others without even trying through the school run and so on. If you’re going solo, as I did, you’ll need to make more of an effort. Try Internations which connects expats in more than 390 cities, across all countries of the world. I went to several Internations events on arrival in Beijing and met like minded people, many - hello Em, Geraldine, Amanda , Anna and Fernando! - of whom have become firm friends for life. In Cayman, I joined the local amateur dramatics group and in Dubai I signed up for a PADI diving course. My passion for deep sea diving didn’t last but happily the friendships I forged on the course, did.

Learn the lingo
I’d recommend learning the local language. It’s not always necessary - particularly in the UAE where English is the lingua franca -  but will help integrate you into the community. In China, mastering at least some Mandarin is a must if you want to be able to eat and explore with ease. Don’t worry about pronunciation if - like me - you’re not a natural linguist. Too many of us panic about pronunciation and fear that we will look like a fool. But, in my experience, most locals will be impressed that you’re making the effort to learn their language - always remember that you are a guest in someone else’s country -and forgive you for any pronunciation mishaps. The most important thing is just to get the basics down pat.

Be adaptable
It was while living in Beijing that I discovered the benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which, in my mind, is one of China’s biggest gifts to the world -  right up there with the noodle. Throughout my 20s, I struggled with severe IBS and ‘coped’ by popping painkillers to alleviate my symptoms. Unable to afford the crazy prices that western hospitals were charging for medication in Beijing, I decided to see a TCM doctor. Ihad my tongue and pulse points checked and was advised to avoid over processed western food, and follow an oriental diet. For while Chinese food has a bad reputation in the UK, conjuring up images of deep fried, fatty dishes such as sweet and sour pork and prawn crackers, real Chinese cuisine is super healthy: the majority of the meal is made up of stir fried vegetables and washed down with green tea.  One week after my first TCM session, my swelling had subsided and happily I haven’t had any stomach problems since. All of which has helped me realise that the most effective cure for complaints isn’t always to be found on the shelves of the pharmacy, but within ourselves. I now actively seek out TCM, as opposed to pumping myself full of pricey pills and chemicals. On another note, prior to arriving in Beijing I’d never been to a karaoke bar but in China, karaoke - aka KTV - quickly became a way of life and a wonderful way to relax and unwind after work with colleagues. When in Rome... Be flexible and make the most of your expat experience.

Prepare yourself for going home
Returning home can - in many cases - be tougher than moving abroad in the first place. As an expat I expected to feel like an alien overseas, but I didn’t expect to feel like one in my home country. While away, I looked back at life in Britain through rose tinted glasses and romanticised how wonderful it would be to return to the comforts of home. However after the initial honeymoon period, the creature comforts –  clothes that fit, familiar food, faces and surroundings – quickly became monotonous. Don’t expect repatriation to be a breeze and give time, time. It took me at least 12 months to truly readjust to life in London and even now, two years down the line, I still have days when I dream of living abroad again. Be prepared for 'reverse culture shock'.