Things to see and do in Portugal

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Guides, Travel Tips

Portugal in a beautiful country with a vast array of thing to do for the eager tourist. Here are our top destinations and attractions to see in Portugal:

1.    Ericeira – approximately 22 miles northwest of the capital Lisbon, Ericeira is a popular seaside resort with a range of sandy beaches and is home to Portugal’s largest surfing association. This traditional Portuguese town still has its old charm and is a great destination for those who want to chill out and relax or want to hit the surf.
2.    Feira de Barcelos – the Feira de Barcelos is a weekly market held in the main square in Barcelos. It features a plethora of local pottery and traditional handicrafts, as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables. Attracting tourists and visitors alike, Feira de Barcelos is a must see for those who want to get a feel for the culture and tradition of the area.
3.    Museu Gulbenkian – this museum in Lisbon is full of historical artwork and sculptures from all over the world including oriental and classical art from Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Armenian cultures. It houses some of the best gold and silver objects and furniture in the world and is well worth a visit when you’re in the city.
4.    Bom Jesus do Monte – The Bom Jesus do Monte just outside the city of Braga is Portugal’s most photographed church. It is most famous for its Baroque stairway that twists and turns its way up 116 meters to the church entrance. The church is an important tourist attraction for the city of Braga and offers a range of great photo opportunities and vast views of the city and surrounding countryside.
5.    Monastery of Batalha – the Monastery of Batalha is a marvel of Gothic design and took over a century to build. Finished in 1517, this huge monument was built to commemorate the Battle of Aljubarrota (1385) in which Portugal gained its independence. It is a must see attraction for anyone with an interest in history.

Picture: Loredana

City breaks that you’ll never forget

Author: jayzep  |  Category: City Guides, Travel Destinations

Today’s busy lifestyles tend to leave little room in the calendar for a fortnight of holidays, and if your diary is already looking a little too full to shoehorn one in, you might be feeling a bit depressed.  Fortunately, there’s one sure-fire way to perk yourself up, and that’s to pepper your year with a few short city breaks. 

UK-based breaks

Travellers don’t even need to leave the country.  London is one of the world’s most popular destinations for city breaks, offering diversity, multiculturalism and historical architecture on almost every street.  A typical day in London can include a trip to the Tower of London, followed by a spin round the London Eye and a wander past Buckingham Palace.  Everything is conveniently within easy reach, and riding the London Underground is a great way to avoid the busy roads.

Take your pick

It’s not just London that will capture your heart – the UK is spoilt for choice when it comes to iconic cities.  Take Liverpool for example – the name immediately conjures up images of the Beatles, the Royal Liver Building and of course the Mersey Ferry.  Travellers might also want to consider Edinburgh.  For starters, check out the zoo, the castle and the festival – but remember to stay warm!

Whichever city you choose to visit this year, make it count.  Do ample research before embarking and make a list of desired must-see attractions so nothing gets missed.  A UK city break will be an unforgettable experience, and you’ll learn so much more about your homeland in the process.

Picture: stewartmorris

Why choose an all-inclusive resort

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Tips

When booking a relaxing holiday, you’re likely to choose the easiest options to get the best service you can, but at the lowest price. That’s why it is often a good idea to book an all-inclusive holiday, and here are a few more reasons why.

If you’re planning a holiday with young kids, it can be difficult trying to keep them occupied while you’re relaxing can be a difficult task to undertake. All-inclusive resorts tend to have a kids’ club or some form of entertainment to keep them busy during the day.

When you’re working out the costs for your holiday, one thing you often forget to factor in is how much you will spend on drinks on top of food. The benefit of an all-inclusive resort is that all the food and drinks are paid for within the package, so there will be no unexpected surprises. You will most likely have a good range of options to choose from, and some hotels also offer an a la carte restaurant meal included in the price. Just remember that if you choose drinks that aren’t part of the deal, these will most likely be fairly expensive.

Not only that, but it’s much easier to deal with overall. All-inclusive packages usually include flights, transfers and excursions as well as accommodation and food. This means that as well as paying for everything in one go, all the aspects of the holiday are under one company, so if anything goes wrong, it’s a much more reliable service.

Picture: ambernambrose

UK Visa Guide

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Visa Advice

When applying for a visa to come to the UK it is important to choose the right one or you could be denied access into the country. Here is our quick guide to UK Visas.

Tier 1 Visas

Exceptional Talent

An Exceptional Talent visa as the name suggests is for those that are exceptionally skilled and talented in their field of expertise. Each application for this category of visa are judged on an individual basis.

General Visa

This visa is for highly skilled workers, but is no longer available to new applicants. It is instead used for existing visa holders to renew or extend their visa.

Post-Study Work Visa

This type of visa is designed for foreign students who wish to work in the UK after their studies. Visas are granted depending on the skills and education obtained while studying.

Entrepreneur Visa

An Entrepreneur Visa is for those who have the expertise and funds to start a business in the UK.
Investor Visa

This visa is open to those who have made large investments into the UK economy.

Tier 2 Visas

Work Permit

A work permit is a temporary UK visa for those who have been offered a job in the UK. The company must meet the minimum point’s requirement to qualify.

Change of employment permit

This permit allows people who already have a work permit to change jobs. The applicant must have a job offer from a UK company before applying for this visa. The company must also meet the minimum point’s requirement to qualify.

Intra-company Transfer (ICT)

An ITC work permit allows an employee of a multi-national company to transfer to a UK based office.

Tier 4 Visa

UK Student visa

A UK student visa is designed for foreign students to study in the UK. The applicant must have an acceptance letter from a British educational institute to qualify.

Deciding which visa you need can be a daunting task, but thankfully there are numerous companies that can help you out. Visa help specialists IXP Visas helps over 20,000 people to get the right visa each year. You may also want to check out the governments UK Border Agency website, which offers lots of information about visas and immigration.

What to do before, during and after a cruise

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Cruise Holidays, Travel Tips

Going on a cruise is truly an unforgettable experience.  To make it even more memorable, make sure to do three things: check, do not check, and check again.

Before the cruise, check your tickets, passport and cash.  Check that you have the correct clothes.  Cruise ships, especially the major ones, are equipped with all sorts of entertainment facilities.  Bring elegant clothes to wear to dinner, sports attire for fun activities, casual clothes to walk around comfortably, and swimwear.

Check that you do not forget to pay the bills, finish work assignments, empty the fridge, and so on.  Make sure you are well prepared and ready to leave your home for a number of days.

While on a cruise, there are some things you should not check.  Turn off your computer and do not check work.  If you have to check emails, make sure it is not work related.  Do not check to see if everything back home is fine.  You should have settled everything before leaving.

After the cruise, check again.  Check all the pictures and video footage you have taken.  Post your pictures and let everybody know how much fun you had.

Picture: kansasphoto

Christmas markets

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Tips

It might feel a bit early to be thinking about Christmas already, but it’s now only a few months away, stores are starting to bring out decorations and advent calendars, and people are already preparing gifts for loved ones. One way to find some unique gifts for your family and friends is to explore the Christmas Markets that take place around the world at this time of year.

If you want to stay close to home, the UK has a number of spectacular Christmas markets. Manchester is one of the most popular, with its market hosting more than 300 international stalls and being spread throughout 9 different locations in the city centre.

To get into that Christmas spirit a bit more, you can take a weekend break and head over to the continent to fulfil your festive needs. There are frequent trains and ferries that will get you across the channel in a matter of hours. Belgium is known for being the perfect place for a quick Christmas Market break.

But if you have a little longer to spend, Berlin captures the Christmas magic perfectly at the site of the Charlottenburg Castle. You’ll find everything from handcrafted wooden toys to works of culinary art and choirs. Surrounded by snow and the smells of mulled wine and cinnamon, it’s enough to get even Scrooge in the Christmas spirit!

Picture: Carsten Pescht

Becoming a Travel Agent

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Tips

If you’re interested in travel and have good organisational skills, then a job as a travel agent could be ideal. Travel agents are the first port of call for many people when booking a holiday for business or pleasure and having a well informed and courteous travel agents can make the experience even better.

To become a travel agent there is no need to have any specialist qualifications, so no coursework, but it may be useful to have at least a few good GCSE results. Travel employers will be looking for someone who is enthusiastic, has good customer service skills and a good telephone manner.

What does a travel agent do?

Travel agents are usually based on the high street, but they could also be based in call centres, their work includes:

•    Helping customers to find the right package holiday and travel destination.
•    Checking the availability of holidays for customers through the telephone or computer.
•    Collecting holiday deposits and filling out booking forms.
•    Contacting customers when their tickets arrive.
•    Informing customers about any changes or cancellations and arranging alternative travel.
•    Exchanging currency for customers before they travel.

A travel agent will also advise customers about their passports and tickets plus any other travel documentation that may be needed such as, travel insurance, visas and even vaccinations.

One of the perks to being a travel agent is staff discounts on holidays; sometimes your employer may also send you on short trips abroad so that you can improve your knowledge of a particular resort or test out the features of an entirely new resort before the customers get a chance.

Skills needed to be a travel agent

•    A good telephone manner
•    Organisation skills
•    Customer service skills
•    Be computer literate
•    An interest in travel
•    An interest in geography
•    Willing to work as a part of a team
•    The ability to work under pressure, especially at busy times

Picture: Irwandy Mazwir

Travel mistakes

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Tips

Going away on holiday is supposed to be a time of relaxation and recuperation, and most people want to get away with this on the smallest budget they can while still enjoying it. Unfortunately, small things can be the most annoying and cause you the most stress, so here are some travel mistakes that many people make and how to get around them.

When booking flights, you tend to search around a bit to find the cheapest one to your destination as possible. Sometimes this means booking at one that’s outlying or in another city. This might not be a smart money saving idea in the long run though because it means that you have to arrange extra transportation to your final destination, which can be expensive and a lot of hassle.

Searching the internet for the best looking hotel and resort can be really fun, but you need to be careful about choosing somewhere just based on the website’s pictures. Make sure to check out other sites such as Trip Advisor for ‘real’ photos; don’t just rely on the cleverly angled marketing ones.

Trying to do too much in one trip can be a major problem. You’re bound to find somewhere you really love and want to spend more time there, but have only scheduled a day to see it all. Likewise, trying to fit in too much in one day means you end up feeling tired and overwhelmed at the end of it. Spend more time seeing and doing things you really want to do.

Picture: elitatt

Ideas if you missed out on your summer sun

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides, Travel Tips

If, for whatever reason, you missed out on your annual summer sunshine holiday, there are plenty of places that you can enjoy lovely sunshine before the long winter nights draw in. As the next week or so closes the Mediterranean resorts begin to empty and package deals and flight prices also begin to drop, so now is the time to grab a late deal.

September in the Mediterranean resorts are still pretty reliable as far as the weather is concerned, but later, although it can be very pleasant, it can break and you could find yourself having to find somewhere out of the rain instead of reading on the sun bed. If you wish to go in October, then the answer is to go a bit further south than you might in earlier months and for example Cyprus may be a safer bet than Majorca or Corfu. The Canaries is always reliable for sunshine in the later and very early months of the year, but of course it is at this time that the Islands are very popular and the prices still hold.

Cyprus is an excellent late summer destination and whilst the major towns of Limassol and Larnaca have attractions, getting into the Limassol foothills, as well as into the capital Nicosia is no more than a couple of hours away on excellent roads.

Malta offers plenty; blue skies, blue seas not forgetting the delicious Mediterranean food. Steeped in history Valletta is a perfect place for a base for sightseeing across the Island. In the town itself, you can stroll around soaking up the atmosphere and taking in all that the Grand Harbour Valletta, which is protected on all four sides by vast sixteenth-century bastion walls, has to offer.

Lanzarote has been busily transforming itself from a cheap and cheerful destination into something a bit more up-market; it can be described as eco-friendly, offering cycling, walking, surfing and excellent local wines. There are plenty of sunshine spots fabulous beaches and a handful of idyllic waterside fish restaurants.

Further afield but with virtually guaranteed sunshine in the 20’s centigrade in the winter Florida has not be called the “Sunshine State” for no reason. We would not recommend the high summer but in the period March to early May and mid-October to late November it is near perfect.

Picture: luc.viatour

Things to see and do in York

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides, Travel Tips

York is one of the most important historical cities in England and has been the backdrop to many a major event throughout its history. York was founded by the Romans in 71AD where it has been an important city ever since. Here is our guide to the best places to visit in York.

York Minster

No trip to York is complete without a visit to the impressive York Minster Cathedral. It is the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and still dominates York’s skyline. Free guided tours of the cathedral are offered every day except Sundays every hour between 10am and 3pm; you can also climb the towers 275 steps to experience the spectacular panoramic views of York.

JORVIK Viking Centre

The JORVIK Viking Centre is a must see for those visiting the city and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the UK outside London. Take a walk through reconstructions of Viking streets and see archaeological finds that show how the Vikings really lived.

The JORVIK Viking Centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm and admission starts from £6.75.

National Railway Museum

During the 19th century York became the hub of the Railway network and is now home to the largest railway museum in the world, the National Railway Museum. The museum houses a huge collection of locomotives and railway equipment and is a great day out for the whole family.

York Dungeon

York Dungeon is not for the faint hearted or indeed small children, but its well worth a visit for for the older clientele. The dungeon experience lasts for around 70 minutes and takes you on a journey through more than 2000 years or York’s darkest history.

The experience brings together a cast of actors, special effects and scenes where you will come face to face with York’s most sinister characters and learn a bit more about York’s darker side. Tickets start from £11.40, but are considerably cheaper if you book in advance online.

Picture: Neil Melville-Kenney