Tag Archives: bus

Travel | My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey

IMG_2380As a solo female traveller, and a backpacker living on a budget, I’m often asked about the cheapest and easiest ways to reach various locations around the world. Now much as I love flying and train journeys, they are not always the most practical or cost-effective option and, as I have discovered myself, sometimes the best choice can actually be kicking back on a coach from A to B. Not only do you get to relax and catch up on some Zzz’s, but you can often have saved a small fortune which can help you have the time of your life when you arrive at a destination. So many of us are put off by the thought of spending several hours on a bus for comfort reasons, but the truth is these days buses are some of the comfiest ways to travel with plenty of leg room, plug sockets available to charge your devices and even wi-fi. When you take into account all the rail disruptions we suffer in the UK these days and the price of internal flights – climbing aboard a coach really does start to sound like a great option.IMG_2319While it’s been a few years since I travelled by coach in the UK, I’ve found all over the world that it is more often than not the best and most efficient option. From crossing the border between Croatia and Hungary during the summer as I arrived in Budapest, to travelling huge distances up the East Coast of Australia and deep into the outback. And don’t let me forget those overnight journeys between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia – up to 24 hours at a time but easily one of the best ways to travel so you don’t miss a single second of adventure time. In Europe and Australia I was taken aback by the quality of the bus journeys available, not only were the buses comfier than most hostels but they had great wifi so I could spend the hours catching up on work uninterrupted. The highest ranked coach, bus and train service in the UK, NationalExpress.com, offers the best of the best when it comes to bus journeys – with coaches that are fitted with leather seats, toilets, power sockets and air conditioning. They asked me to write about what makes a good bus journey and what to take with you when you set off, so here is:IMG_2366

My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey:

  1. My number one will always be an iPod or MP3 player – music makes the journey and I can’t stand any long journey without a great new playlist. Take some time beforehand to download a few new albums, then sit back and enjoy.
  2. Snacks can make or break a journey – always take more than you think you will need, boredom brings out the hunger in us. I personally always eat ALL the unhealthy food on travelling days, calories don’t count when you’re between places. Chocolate, crisps, fruit and sandwiches always make good travelling food.
  3. Plenty of water, some buses stop every few hours, others not for 5-6 hours at a time depending on where you are in the world – don’t get dehydrated or the journey will feel like hell.
  4. A scarf or pashmina – air conditioned buses can seem draughty when you’re tired so it’s always a good idea to have something to wrap around you or use as a blanket if you want to sleep.
  5. A change of clothes can be a lifesaver, particularly if it is very hot or cold outside and the heating or air conditioning inside will feel like a dramatic contrast. These journeys are all about being comfortable.
  6. Any travel documents you might need – if you’re crossing borders be sure to have your passport and all visa information to hand, don’t leave it in the luggage hold of the bus.
  7. A good book can be a lifesaver in case you end up on a bus that is having problems with the wi-fi or is travelling out of range, or perhaps if you just don’t fancy looking at a screen.
  8. A laptop or iPad – if you work online it can be a great opportunity to catch up on work, I use the time to write blog posts/articles or edit photos. If you don’t have any work to do, why not watch a movie or Netflix? If you pre-download you can be sure it won’t be interrupted or slow.
  9. Any charging cables you need for your phone/laptop, you should have plug sockets available so make the most of them.
  10. Anything else you need to keep you comfortable/entertained – things like neck pillows and sleeping masks for those who want to chill, packs of cards and sweets for those who need something fun to do.

IMG_2383The more you pre-plan your journey, the better it will be! We’ve all had those trips where we spent the entire time thinking “oh man this would have been so much better with (insert item here)”. I’m all for spontaneous and adventurous travel, but when it comes to actual movements, a bit of pre-planning can be the difference between the journey from hell and a peaceful cruise to your next destination. Be smart and prepare, you’ll be giving yourself the opportunity to turn the journey into part of the adventure. If you’re planning to travel across the UK whether to the airport, a festival or gig, or even into Europe – look no further than National Express for the best in coach travel. Head to nationalexpress.com to book, or for more information.IMG_2309

Have you travelled by coach in the UK – how did it compare to other forms of travel? What is your favourite way to travel on a budget?

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Travel | Why a fear of flying shouldn’t stand in the way of taking the plunge

img_2080As I travel further and further around the globe, I meet so many inspiring people along the way. People who have defied the odds, who have left behind whole lives, careers and even loved ones behind to pursue their love to travelling. I’ve met some amazing men and women who have put their fears aside and who have broken free of the norm in order to keep exploring the world around them. Some of them fighting fears that have previously left them shaken and restricted, instead channeling their worries into finding a solution to living their travelling dreams. One of my very good friends has become a total inspiration to me after she refused to let an almost crippling fear of flying stand in the way of her travelling the world. Instead of letting it hold her back and squash her dreams she has used her fear to become more creative in the ways she travels. Now, years later, she has explored around 30-40 countries by making her way over land and sea to places like China and Russia, even braving the flight to Australia! By facing her fears she has achieved so much and that is endlessly inspiring, she may still be afraid of flying but she has shown herself, and others, that she won’t let it stand in her way.

When you think of exploring the world around us, many jump straight to the thought of long-haul flights and gap years, but there are so many different options available to us. No matter what kind of traveller you might be, there is always a travelling style to suit you. It might mean inter-railing around Europe, sailing around the Caribbean or motorbiking around Vietnam, but there are countless ways of getting out there and exploring the world around us. While I do love flying, it isn’t always the most cost effective way to travel and I’ve found myself keenly using buses, trains and cars to get around. Here are some of my favourite ways to travel without flying:img_2376

Top ways to travel without flying

Cruise the coastline

As I experienced in Greece and more recently, in Bali, it can offer you a whole other experience to travel by boat. Whether a cruise liner or a smaller boat trip, you get a totally different perspective on the landscape and, in turn, the country. I haven’t yet had the experience of a full cruise liner but I have enjoyed boat trips of several days in the Whitsundays during my time in Australia, in Bali and Vietnam, and in Greece. It was a great way to travel and gave us plenty of opportunity to spot some incredible wildlife in its natural habitat while spending our days snorkelling, diving and paddle boarding. Cruises come in all shapes and sizes – from the shorter few day-long trips to those of several weeks that span rivers, oceans and more.

And If you fancy exploring other countries, there is a whole new selection of cruises departing from the UK heading to places like Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Greece and Gibraltar.img_2375

Hit the road

Road trips are a fantastic way to see the countryside and get off the beaten track. You have total freedom over the route, the stops and, most importantly, the snacks! Road trips around Tasmania and Bulgaria have been some of my favourite trips in the last few years and I’ve loved the chance to explore the wilderness at my own pace. Plus it gave us great options to stop off and camp along the way – I’m planning to do the same when I travel the West Coast of Australia next year. Check out my guide to the perfect Aussie road trip on a budget here.

Train for your trip

The train is a method I’ve used less so far but having friends who have raved about their experiences inter railing around Europe, Russia, India and Sri Lanka, I know it’s something I’ll be trying out a lot more in future. It gives you the best of both worlds – no chance to get sea-sick, no stress of driving on unfamiliar roads – instead you can just sit back and relax with a good book as the countryside slips by the windows. If you’re travelling on a strict time schedule, overnight sleeper trains can be a life-saver by allowing you to catch some precious zzz’s as you move between one destination and the next as I found in Vietnam.img_2379

Bus it up

Overnight buses are either great or really bad in my experience – some are spacious and comfortable with good drivers and snacks. Others are cramped and traumatic from start to finish, but I can’t deny they are a great way to get from one place to the next – I lived on them in Asia and Australia and they were often the best, if not the only, way to get between places.

Don’t let a fear stand in the way of what could be the best time of your life – whether it’s a holiday or long-term trip you’re planning. The only way to beat a fear, is to face it head on. You never know, you could have the time of your life!

Have you faced a fear to travel? Tell me about your experiences with dealing with fears when on the road.

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Exploring Malta, Gozo and Comino – from hidden caves to edible delights

I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately about one of my favourite holidays ever – my 2012 trip to Malta with my boyfriend. Despite not being the most exotic, or the longest-haul journey I have ever been on, it was definitely up there as one of my favourites because there was quite simply so much to learn and explore.

We settled on Malta after realising that we could not afford to go to Italy with everything else we had planned and from our research we believed that Malta held many similarities, at least enough to keep us happy and not feel like we were sacrificing our summer holiday. Being a very inquisitive pair, we get bored easily and although we wanted to come back feeling refreshed and relaxed, we also wanted to have the opportunity to learn about a different culture by exploring the history and sights. Well, we certainly picked the right place because Malta boasts a rich heritage and culture that had us out almost every day walking across the rocky shores and through the bustling city of Valletta.

We stayed in Mellieha – an area more often chosen for holidays by Italian, Greek and German families as we found out, but which worked well to our advantage as we hate to go abroad and find ourselves surrounded by English people. It was beautiful, very hilly and incredibly traditional – the building pictured above was at the top of a steep hill leading down to the sea and the view at the top of this post is from the very top of the hill looking across the bay. Here we are enjoying a nice cold local beer (Cisk) at a tiny bar for locals we discovered after walking right to the top of the hill.

The fantastic bus services and ferry service (far superior to the UK in every way!) meant we were able to get out and about independently, even organising ourselves on to boat trips out to nearby islands Gozo and Comino. The size of the islands also meant it was very easy to travel right across the island several times during the day as you went between the sights.

I loved the boat trip over to the nearby islands – we travelled around the bay to see the caves surrounding the island and into Gozo harbour, then on to Comino where were able to get off the boat for a few hours.

This is me standing at the top of a rock looking over the Blue Lagoon on Comino – stunning clear waters between the two beaches that enticed us so much we decided to walk across the shallow bay and carry our bags above our head – it was deeper than I expected and being a shortie I did have to swim some of the way while my boyfriend laughed at me.

During the 10 days we spent in Malta we also took a trip to Valletta where we explored the cake shops hidden in the winding streets, explored the harbour and the cathedral, the Grandmaster’s Palace, museums, the forts and library. It was an incredible day packed with history and culture, but unfortunately you were not allowed to take pictured in all of the places we visited so I only have the following:

It was a great day and I would heartily recommend that anyone visiting Valletta makes sure to pop into the Grandmaster’s Palace to watch the changing of the guard, the fortifications, and St John’s Co-Cathedral is nothing else – make sure to wear clothes covering your legs and arms out of respect.

Our hotel organised an evening visit to a Festa in a nearby village – a Saturday night packed with food, live music and entertainment, and fireworks. Perfect.

We had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbour in the village, fresh pasta and seafood – delicious, before heading round to the festa.

It was a lovely evening and one I would really recommend – the music was great and the fireworks were VERY impressive!

Then we spent a day trekking around Gozo and visiting all of the sights, we didn’t make it to the temples unfortunately but managed to see a lot of other sights. One of my favourites was the Citadel which surrounded the town. Here I am standing at the top in the baking heat.

Then we moved on to the Azure Window – another favourite. Amazing to see the crashing waves powering through the window while we swam in a small tidal pool beneath – I loved visiting this spit and didn’t want to leave, especially when we discovered a secret beach behind it and locals sitting by their “beach huts” next to the lagoon. This was the reason we missed the temples, but it was worth it.

This was followed by a trip back across the harbour as the sun was setting.

Malta was definitely one of my favourite countries I have ever holidayed in because there is just so much to do, but it is still a spectacular place if you just want to sit by the pool and relax – we did plenty of both, but my absolutely favourite thing we did there was EAT!

The food was incredible everywhere we went, from the local bakery where they sold spinach and cheese pastries, to The Arches restaurant which sold the finest quality (expensive but worth it) venison, lamb and wine – so good we went twice! If you ever travel there, be sure to eat and drink for it will make you very merry!

Pictures are all my own.