Posted May 5, 2011 by Booking Buddy
1. Don't forget the extras: In general, you can safely buy by price, even through opaque sites, but make sure your price comparisons include all the extras, taxes, and fees.
2. Bigger companies provide more support: Renting from a small, independent company can be cheap, but a multinational network is a big help if something goes wrong. If possible, rent from a company that does business in your home country in case you have a subsequent dispute.
3. Don't skimp on comfort: Make sure to rent a car that is truly big enough for your travel party. You have to rent at least the "intermediate" or "midsize" car, station wagon, kombi, or crossover for a rear seat roomy enough for an adult. But steer clear of the "full size" class. Most of those are no larger than intermediates. They're just more upmarket.
4. Go standard transmission to save: These days, almost all but the smallest rental cars in Europe and the U.S.A. are air-conditioned. You no longer have to pay a big premium. Automatics, however, remain expensive.
5. Pay up front for a lower rate: Prepaid rates can sometimes be lower than pay-at-return rates, but make sure the prepay rate includes all the extras.
6. Pick up your car downtown: If possible, when renting in Europe, avoid picking up your car at a "premium station," including major airports and rail stations. In some countries you pay a big surcharge: For example, 20 percent in Germany, 19 percent in Switzerland, 15 percent in Austria, 15-17 percent in Italy. In other countries, including Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the U.K., the premium station fee is a one-time charge of 25 to 60 euros per rental. Rental companies in the U.S.A. typically add on a long list of fees and surcharges, which vary by location but are typically higher at airports than at downtown locations. Usually, even when you pick up your car at a downtown location, you can return it to a premium station without any extra fee.
7. Watch for borders: Check for any geographical limits on where you drive. Many European renters do not allow you to take their cars into Eastern Europe Many U.S.A. renters do not allow you to drive into Canada, and hardly any allow you to take cars into Mexico. Some U.S.A. renters even limit the states where you can take the car, and they can follow you through GPS.
8. Buy your own fuel: Your best fuel option is almost always to take the car with a full tank and return it full.
Posted March 10, 2011 by BookingBuddy
The Amalfi coast is famous for some of the most breathtaking scenery in Europe – higgledy-piggledy houses perched precariously on the sides of cliffs, white sailboats on top of brilliant blue water, and market squares thronged with people. Amalfi takes on a yellow tinge in the warmer months, thanks to the lemons that grow all around here. Quench your thirst with a chilled glass of locally-produced Limoncello as you sit on an outdoor terrace taking in the brilliant sunsets.
Ristorante Caravella – This Michelin-starred restaurant may not have the best views, but who has time to look out to sea when you’re faced with food this good? The menu makes is heavily seafood based. There’s spaghetti served with seafood, ravioli cooked with cuttlefish ink, and fried olive and mozzarella balls.
Hotel Residence – Set in a palatial old mansion, the Hotel Residence sits on the seafront overlooking Amalfi’s magnificent harbour. All 27 rooms here have been furnished with original antiques, in a style that remains sympathetic to the building’s origins. Room rates start from £120.
Amalfi Cathedral – This ancient cathedral is unmissable – its formidable bulk looms above Piazza del Duomo, where a set of steps lead up to the marbled, arched entrance. Spend some time admiring the gilt mosaics on the cathedral’s gable, or enter the Romanesque nave through the magnificent bronze doors, which now sport a patina of green. The bell tower looks over Amalfi’s harbour, and is covered with majolica tiles.
Check here for Amalfi travel information.
Posted March 9, 2011 by BookingBuddy
The smallest of the Emirates, Ajman is far removed from the glitz and glamour of its neighbouring states. Ajman has its fair share of shopping centres, but this quiet state offers a welcome rest from the hyperbole on show in other Emirates states. It’s worth spending a day or two here just for the beach – miles of white sand, bordered on one side by warm water and on the other by palm trees.
Ajman Museum – The building currently housing the Ajman Museum has been through many guises in the two centuries since it was built. First constructed as a fort, it then became the palace of Ajman’s ruler, before being turned into a police station in the 1970s. Visitors these days will be able to view a collection of archaeological finds, as well as old weapons and religious artifacts.
Kempinski Hotel Ajman – Nestled on the shores of Ajman, the Kempinski Hotel is one of the most popular hotels here, perhaps due to its stretch of private beach. The luxurious rooms and sophisticated furnishings may be just a little over the top, but there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy yourself here. Head to Hai Tao for an indulgent Chinese meal, or visit Sabella’s for intimate Italian dishes. The stuff can also arrange a romantic, candlelit dinner on the private beach. Room rates start from £70.
Bukhara Restaurant – Tucked away in the grounds of the Kempinski Hotel, the Bukhara flies the flag for Indian cuisine in Ajman. The open kitchen allows guests to enjoy the spectacle of kitchen life. Enjoy platters of tandoori-cooked meat or seafood, accompanied by stacks of fresh naan bread and refreshing dips.
Check here for Ajman travel information.
Posted March 8, 2011 by BookingBuddy
First time visitors to Croatia may find themselves pleasantly surprised at the country’s balmy Mediterranean climate. Croatia’s long coastline hugs the Adriatic, providing it with a multitude of sandy beaches that are perfect for spending lazy summer days on. Head to Dubrovnik to find out why Lord Byron proclaimed this World Heritage listed city the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’. The ancient city of Split is full of historic attractions, and ruins left over from Roman times.
Hotel President – Located beside the open-air market at British Square (Britanski Trg), the Hotel President offers a peaceful respite from city life in the Croatian metropolis. Guests can visit the market to shop for fresh food or antiques. The hotel itself is refreshingly modern, and the rooms are finished with roomy beds and colourful paintings on the walls. Room rates start from about £90.
Kamenice – Grab an outdoor table at this popular hangout and feast on fresh local cuisine. ‘Kamenice’ means oysters, and you’ll find plenty of that on the menu. There are also steaming platters of mussels, fried fish and squid, and a variety of omelettes.
Diocletian’s Palace – Built by the Roman emperor Diocletian in the 4th century, the imposing Diocletian’s Palace is a city within a city. The magnificent edifice was built with imported marble, and finished off with Egyptian sphinxes and columns. The Palace is in remarkably well-preserved, although there are still several areas undergoing restoration. Visitors will need to spend several hours taking everything in – the palace is a wonderful example of Roman excess, from the huge Peristyle to the basement with its soaring vaulted ceilings.
Check here for Croatia travel information.
Posted March 3, 2011 by BookingBuddy
If you still think of Eastern European countries as cold, grey outposts, then a visit to Bulgaria will soon change all that. It has emerged from the shadow of the Iron Curtain, and is fast becoming a popular holiday destination. Visitors have plenty to choose from – sandy Black Sea beaches, lush mountainscapes, hidden villages and colourful, cosmopolitan cities.
Rila Monastery – If you’re heading to the Rila Mountains, make a pit stop at the historic Rila Monastery for a look at this World Heritage listed landmark. The monastery was built near the cave where the hermit Saint Ivan originally spent his days. The modern day complex encompasses not just the cave, but a whole series of magnificent buildings, churches and towers.
Hebros Hotel Restaurant – Located in the Hebros Hotel, this restaurant offers diners a slightly upscale version of traditional Bulgarian dishes. Start off with a choice of soups salads, and move on to homemade meatballs, breaded pork fillets, or rabbit stewed with plums.
Dedeman Trimontium Princess Plovdiv – Look past its fairly uninspiring facade, and you’ll find a comfortable, spacious hotel with pleasantly neutral furnishings. The hotel is perfect as a base for visitors who wish to explore this ancient city. It is only 10 minutes walk from Old Plovdiv, the city’s atmospheric old town. Room rates start from around £40 per night.
Check here for cheap flights to Bulgaria.
Posted March 2, 2011 by BookingBuddy
Paris may be more hyped up, but Prague is the real city of romance. The Czech capital has more than its fair share of spectacular architecture - the majority are clustered within the historic centre, but those willing to venture further afield will be rewarded a more cosmopolitan view of the city. Sightseeing can take its toll on your feet, so sit down in one of Prague’s great cafes and enjoy a rich hot chocolate or glass of Czech wine.
Old Town – It may be full of other camera-wielding tourists, but to entirely skip the Old Town wouldbe unforgivable. Prague’s historical nexus is filled with a staggering variety of architectural wonders.Take a look at the Astronomical Clock, or Orloj. It built more than 600 years ago and features an array of animated figures that appear every hour. Visit the exhibition in the Old Town Bridge Tower to find out more about the significance of the famous Charles Bridge, and to enjoy the bird’s eyeview of the Old Town from the top of the tower.
Alchymist Grand Hotel and Spa – The opulent surroundings might be a bit much for some, but if over-the-top Baroque style is your cup of tea, then a stay in the Alchymist Grand Hotel and Spa might just be the thing for you. This boutique hotel is housed in a magnificent mansion a few short steps away from Prague Castle. The interior courtyards here are full of old-world charm, and are just the spot for enjoying a quiet tea break. Room rates start from about £170.
Grand Cafe Orient – Cubism reigns supreme in the Grand Cafe Orient, designed by architect Josef Goscar (his bust greets customers as they enter the cafe.) The interior harks back to Cubism’s heyday in the early 20th century, with elegant Cubist-inspired furniture and fittings. The menu itself features a variety of Czech cafe favourites, interspersed with a few international offerings.
Check here for cheap flights to Prague.
(Photo: Vera Kratochvil)
Posted March 1, 2011 by BookingBuddy
Celebrate the start of Spring with a short break away from your work desk. The sunny but cool days are perfect for exploring the streets of a new city, or rediscovering the hidden corners of a familiar one.
20% off at Sol Y Mar Shark’s Bay, Sharm el Sheikh
Don’t worry about Jaws getting hungry - the Sol Y Mar Shark’s Bay boasts its very own private beach for guests to relax on. With 20% off your bill, you’ll be able to enjoy the sun and sand with one less thing to worry about. (Found on expedia.co.uk. Check availability.)
50% off at Newport Beachside, Miami Beach
With fine sandy beaches and clear blue waters, the private beach at Newport Beachside is likely to be the beach of your dreams. If that’s not enough to entice you, perhaps a whopping 50% off will? (Found on hotels.com. Check availability.)
£35/night at Mission Valley Resort, San Diego
Relax and discover San Diego’s attractions, most of which are mere minutes away from the Mission Valley Resort. You’ll be even more laidback when you discover that room rates start from only £35 per night. (Found on vivastay.com. Check availability.)
20% off at Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu, Tokyo
Explore the vibrant Shibuya district and enjoy wonderful views of Tokyo’s night lights from you room at the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu. Book early and get 20% off your bill. (Found on expedia.co.uk. Check availability.)
10% off at Park House Hotel, Galway
See Galway in bloom while relaxing at the elegant Park House Hotel, conveniently located in the city centre. The hotel is currently offering 10% to guests staying one or more nights. (Found on hotels.com. Check availability.)
Posted February 24, 2011 by BookingBuddy
Now that the days are getting longer and the air is warming up, there’s hardly any excuse for you to stay cooped up inside all the time! There’s no shortage of events this month that will entice you to come out and enjoy some sun.
6th March – Maslenitsa Festival, London
Kickstart Spring with a dose of Russian flavour at this festival in Trafalgar Square. The Maslenitsa event will feature live bands and choirs performing traditional Russian music on stage. There will be a range of kiosks and food stalls around Trafalgar Square, serving up an array of Russian delicacies such as blinis and borscht.
17th – 20th March – Antiques For Everyone Fair, Birmingham NEC
Ever dreamt of making a fortune from a dusty little ceramic vase – like those folks on the Antiques Roadshow? Visit the Antiques for Everyone fair and you may just pick up a few tips and some valuable antiques at the same time. The fair is crammed with over 400 dealers and millions of pounds worth of items ranging from teddy bears and textiles to kettles.
25th – 17th March – Hawick Reivers Festival, Hawick
The Scottish town of Hawick steps back in time this weekend, to commemorate the town’s turbulent and colourful history. A concert kicks off the proceedings, followed by a parade through town. Actors dressed in 16th century costumes will re-enact a series of trials on Saturday, with workshops, lectures and performances taking place throughout the weekend.
(Photo: Rob Wiltshire)
Posted February 23, 2011 by BookingBuddy
Ayia Napa has been a paradise for partygoers for years, so if you haven’t been there yet, it might be time to consider a trip soon! The clubs are far from the only attraction here – Ayia Napa’s incredible beaches, with their fine white sand and clear blue waters have drawn many visitors over the years. Relax on Nissi Beach and top up your tan with the beautiful people, or head to Cape Greco for a possible sighting of the mythical Ayia Napa Sea Monster.
Ayia Napa Monastery – Visit this historic monastery for a tranquil respite from hung over clubbers and sunburnt beach bodies. Ayia Napa Monastery sits in the centre of town, on the site of an illuminated icon discovered by a hunter. The sycamore tree by the gate is thought to be over 600 years old, and the cool fountain in the courtyard was built nearly 500 years ago.
Napa Mermaid Hotel – Forget the cheap fittings and crowded public areas of other resorts on Ayia Napa – the Napa Mermaid Hotel offers guests a chance to relax in quietly elegant surroundings. The rooms are decorated in neutral, luxurious furnishings, and look out over the sea. The facilities include both an outdoor pool and a heated indoor pool, as well as a gym, tennis court and spa. Room rates start from £60.
Clarabel Restaurant – This family-run restaurant offers an array of Mediterranean and Cypriot dishes on its menu. Enjoy a variety of mezes, or enjoy the flambé dishes, cooked on a portable flambé trolley right in front of your table!
Check here for Ayia Napa travel information.
(Photo: Paolo Neo)
Posted February 22, 2011 by BookingBuddy
If Ayia Napa is the only thing that comes to mind when you think of Cyprus, then it may be time for another visit to this sunny Mediterranean island! History buffs will have a great time exploring archaeological sites or simply wandering through the historic streets of Nicosia. The Troodos Mountains covers a significant portion of the island, is home to some of the oldest trees on earth! It is also a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders.
Bellapais Gardens – Set in a romantic landscape of fertile gardens and meandering paths, the Bellapais Gardens in Kyrenia is the ideal destination for a relaxing getaway. With only 17 self-contained cottages, you’ll be sure to enjoy some tranquillity while staying here. Most of the cottages come with a terrace when you can enjoy views that stretch all the way to the sea. Bellapais Abbey is only a minute away from the hotel, and can be seen while you have a relaxing swim in the spring water pool. Room rates start from around £50.
Nicosia – A tale of two cities unfolds daily in Nicosia – it is the capital city of both Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, with the Green Line dividing Nicosia in half. On the Cypriot side, the picturesque Old City is popular with visitors. The narrow streets are filled with the scent of jasmine and lined with a multitude of shops. The historic Famagusta Gate houses a cultural centre, and the Ledra Observatory Museum gives visitors a bird’s eye view of Nicosia.
Antonaros Tavern – This unassuming little restaurant in Limasol has only mezedes on its menu, so you’ll be able to sample a wide array of local dishes at once. There are plenty of familiar items, such as dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), halloumi and soulaki. You’ll also find some seafood dishes here, and freshly grilled fish.
Check here for cheap flights to Cyprus.
(Photo: Paolo Neo)