Cinque Terre

How to use Airbnb

I am a massive fan of Airbnb.  I initially stumbled upon it when I was trying to find a place to stay in Cinque Terre and all of the hotels were either fully booked or exorbitant prices.  Now, whenever I’m going on holiday, one of the first places I look is Airbnb.  I’m going to be staying in another one when I go to Seville in September.  Here are some things you should know about Airbnb before booking (and a link for £25 off your first stay!):

1. It lets you live like a local. I love being able to wake up in a non-touristy area, and wander around local bakeries for breakfast, getting a smile and a ‘good morning’ in the local language,  instead of elbowing my way through a busy street, or eating warm cheese at the hotel breakfast.

2. It’s usually a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel. Sure, you don’t have room service, or reception, or someone to make your bed every day.  But, if you’re not bothered about any of that (and I always feel bad knowing that I haven’t made my bed up to standards, and someone has redone it for me), then this is a good option.  Sometimes, it can be as cheap, if not cheaper, than a hostel, depending on which city you’re staying in.

3. There are a lot of decently priced options close to tourist attractions. If you’re not bothered about staying in a local area, then you could stay near the ‘main attractions’ of the city.  Personally, I haven’t done this.  I prefer the locally areas, or areas that are near public transport.  Maybe in the future, though!

4. I’m a bit of an introvert, so being able to get the keys from the owner, and then not have to interact with anyone when I enter and leave the apartment is really nice. I’m useless at small talk.

5. You can cook your own food. Most of the Airbnb’s have kitchens so, if you’re not in the mood for eating at a restaurant, or you want to heat up some pizza you’ve bought by the slice, then you have this option.

6. You get the option of having an entire place to yourself, or to rent a room in someone’s house. I’ve only ever booked the entire place (again, crap at small talk), but if you’re a bit more extroverted, it might be nice to speak to the owner regularly.

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7. You have a lot of options. You can choose how many bedrooms you want, if you want wireless internet (always!), if there’s a hairdryer, towels, etc.

8. It’s great for group travellers. Have you ever tried to book more than 4 people into a hotel?  It can cost a fortune.  Airbnb’s are great as you can book an entire house for your group for a really reasonable price.  I stayed in one recently for my friend’s hen do in Aviemore, and there were 11 of us in a lovely little house – with a hot tub!  And it only cost around £100 altogether per person for the 3 nights we were there.

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9. If you apply for an apartment that is not an instant book, the owner has the option of rejecting you. This happened to me when I was going to Verona.  I applied for 3 different Airbnb’s and not one accepted (it probably had something to do with the fact that I was only staying for one night).  Eventually, I booked a hotel (it was really lovely, but a bit more expensive than I was looking for).  Luckily, you have the option of choosing apartments that have the ‘instant book’ option.  This cuts out the worry of the owner saying no.

10. Check the reviews. Sometimes, I’ll read a story about someone being scammed on Airbnb, so I always check to make sure the place I’m interested in has reviews, and that they’re decent.  I know that new hosts won’t have many (if any reviews), but you can usually tell who’s genuine and who’s not.

11. This is probably the most important one – ALWAYS conduct your transactions through Airbnb. If a host asks you to do a bank transfer, this is most likely a scam, and you will not be protected through Airbnb, so always, ALWAYS make sure to go through Airbnb.  Also, if a host tries this on you, report them to Airbnb and they will deal with it.

For those of you interested in staying in an Airbnb, if you sign up using this link, you’ll get £25 off of your first stay!  How amazing is that?!

Top 20 European Destinations

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Out of all the continents, Europe is the one that I have travelled the most (living in Scotland helps!  What doesn’t help is the fact I have to take at least 2 planes to get anywhere…).  I’ve decided to make a list of my Top 20 European Destinations.  Some of these I’ve been to, some I’m desperate to visit but I hope you enjoy my list!

Just a head’s up, this list isn’t in order of how much I like the destinations, as they’re too amazing to put in order!

                                                                                                       20. Dubrovnik, Croatia                                                                            telegraph.co.uk

If you wanna pretend you’re in Game of Thrones (although, you’ll probably end up killed off like the rest of the characters…), then this is the destination for you!  Dubrovnik is a beautiful, old town, full of amazing history and museums.

Picture 02619. Saas-Fee, Switzerland

I need to go back here.  Saas-Fee is amazing for skiing.  Only electric cars are allowed in the town, which is full of cute buildings and amazing shops (and hot chocolate!)

                                                                                                                18. Monaco                                                                                              hotel-r.net

The world’s second smallest country (after the Vatican), Monaco is one of the glitziest places in the world and I badly want to visit it.  It’s very expensive, though!

                                                                                                          17. Barcelona, Spain                                                 timeout.com

I’m desperate to visit Barcelona and see the Sagrada Familia, get lost in the alleys, and enjoy everything Gaudi!

DSC_025216. Prague, Czech Republic

One of the most beautiful places I’ve visited, Prague is full of amazing architecture, history and everything is so cheap!  And you need to try a trdelnik – they’re so good!

                                                                                                      15. Amsterdam, Netherlands                                                           digital.fespa.com

Full of brilliant museums, Amsterdam is also famous for its biking, culture and history.

Edinburgh114. Edinburgh, Scotland

I lived here for 4 years, so Edinburgh will always have a special place in my heart.  Make sure you visit the many museums and the castle (and palace!).  And you must get lost in the small back streets! (The above photo is the street I lived on – isn’t it gorgeous?!)

                                                                                                       13. Budapest, Hungary                                                                            lvs.luxury

Budapest is probably up there for culture and architecture.  And I’ve heard it’s a good place to travel to if you’re on a budget.

DSC_073212. Verona, Italy

I love Verona.  It’s so small, cute, rustic and full of history – and it’s so easy to get away from the crowds as well!

                                                                                                     11. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic                                               czechtourism.com

Another small, cute town, Cesky Krumlov reminds me of The Grand Budapest Hotel (one of my favourite films!)

                                                                                                             10. Athens, Greece                                                                   lonelyplanet.com

I love anything to do with Ancient Greece, so what better place than Athens?

                                                                                                             9. Lisbon, Portugal                                                           worldwanderista.com

Lisbon is up there as one of the places I’m probably going to visit soon (fingers crossed!).  This beautiful city is full of amazing culture, great food, and gorgeous, tiny streets.

                                                                                                                8. Colmar, France                                                              thousandwonders.net

Probably the cutest town in France – how can you resist all of those gorgeous, brightly coloured houses!  And they’re next to a river!  Can’t go wrong there 🙂

                                                                                                             7. Ronda, Spain                                                                    malagatogo.com

I badly want to visit this cliffside village – imagine the views!  And the history of the place is amazing.

Picture 0046. Paris, France

The romantic City of Lights, there’s so much to do in Paris – amazing nightlife, culture and food, to name a few!

                                                                                                          5. Dordogne Region, France                                                       leseyzies-tourist.info

So many castles!  I need to go here!

                                                                                                         4. Santorini, Greece                                                                                   foundtheworld.com

You’ll recognise the pictures – the gorgeous, white buildings with blue roofs.  I’ve also heard the sunsets are amazing.

DSC_00053. Venice, Italy

I love Venice.  It’s so unique and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before.  It’s impossible to walk over a bridge and not take a photo of the canals.

                                                                                                            2. Seville, Spain                                telegraph.co.uk

As well as the history and the amazing architecture, Seville is also famous for tapas, flamenco and sangria.

DSC_00681. Cinque Terre, Italy

Five gorgeous, small towns by the coast.  Hike or catch the train between each town.  Be prepared, though – there’s not a flat area anywhere.  It’s all hills or stairs.

Is An Interrail Pass Worth It?

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My first trip abroad alone!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my (sad) reasoning for finally deciding to travel solo was the fact that I turn 26 in October (sad face) and Interrail tickets seem to double in price.  So, I bit the bullet, got over my fears of travelling alone (sort of – I was still super nervous until I was actually sat on the plane), and booked.

I chose the Interrail Italy Pass, which cost me around £170 at the time ($244 or 215 Euro), for 8 travel days.  I’d heard pretty decent things about the trains in Italy and I wasn’t fussed about 1st class, so I booked everything 2nd class (which saved me about £100!).

I’d decided to travel Italy by train, as I’ve been told that train travel is the best way to get around Italy (plus, I was desperate to go back to Venice!).  Those people were not wrong – trains in Italy are amazing and they get you into the centre of each city or town you arrive in!  There are noticeboards all over the stations, which tell you each individual stop, and the time the trains are arriving at each stop.  The people who worked at the stations were also happy to help if I needed (but everything was so straightforward that this hardly happened).  I would definitely recommend travelling Italy by train.

But would I do it again with an Interrail pass?  That I still haven’t decided, and here’s why:

IMG_0814(Double-decker trains in Italy!  These were a novelty for me)

First things first, if you do decide to go Interrailing, you must choose between an Interrail pass and a Eurrail pass.  Simply put, an Interrail pass is for people who live in Europe, and a Eurrail pass is for people who don’t live in Europe.  As I live in the UK, I chose an Interrail pass.

I chose the Italy Pass with 8 travel days, as I wasn’t sure how many trains I was going to need (I officially knew I was going to be travelling for 6 days, so I used my 2 leftover days for all of the trains around Cinque Terre).  On a travel day, you are allowed to take as many trains as you want, which is extremely handy.

A lot of trains in Italy (and other countries) require seat reservations.  This was a bit of a pain, as it meant that I had to pay around 10 Euro just to reserve a seat for at least half of my trains (trains in Italy are strict.  If the train requires a reservation, you are not allowed to just hop on and stand in the aisle, or at the end of the carriages – you need to have a reservation.  And if you are caught without one – or without a ticket on a non-reserved train – then you get an on-the-spot fine of around 200 Euro).  So keep in mind that this has the potential to get very expensive.  Visiting certain cities (like Milan) require you to get a reservation for every train you catch going into and out of the city, so if you were to visit the Lakes (which is roughly a 30 minute journey), you would be paying 10 Euro on top of the ticket price, just for one journey.  Unfortunately, seat reservations are not included with the Interrail pass, so do your homework beforehand and look at the regional train websites (like TrenItalia) and work out if it would be cheaper to just buy an individual ticket (for some reason, it’s cheaper to buy some tickets individually with the seat reservation included, than to just buy the seat reservation).

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I wouldn’t recommend an Interrail ticket for Eastern Europe, as my friends who have travelled by train there have told me that the trains are so cheap that it wouldn’t be worth it – and when I visited Prague last year, I found out exactly how cheap everything was (except trains, which I didn’t have time to try out).

However, travelling in Western Europe, yes, having an Interrail Pass certainly does make things easier (less tickets to carry around), the pricing works out roughly the same as buying individual tickets (but if you were to do this, buy in advance as, obviously, trains get more expensive, closer to the date of departure!)

I’m definitely going to travel Italy again by train, but next time I think I will try buying individual tickets, just to see if the pass was actually worth the money (it was definitely worth the experience, as I loved every bit of it!)

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Top 5 Things to do in Cinque Terre

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Cinque Terre was definitely a highlight of my trip – everywhere was beautiful and everywhere had an amazing view (even the train stations!).  This is my list of the Top 5 things that you must do when visiting Cinque Terre (which you need to go and do now!).  Be prepared – there are virtually no flat areas – it’s all hills and stairs everywhere!

DSC_06355. Eat some gelato

I think I had gelato every day that I was in Cinque Terre and I do not regret it one bit.  Look at the view you can have while eating it!

IMG_09204. Go on a train journey from Riomaggiore to Monterosso

I don’t think I’ve ever been on a train journey with a more beautiful view before.  Definitely worth travelling the entire length by train (it’s only roughly 30 minutes).  I would have gone on one of the hiking trails but, unfortunately, they were all closed when I visited.  At least it gives me an excuse to go back (not that I need one!)

DSC_05623. Church of San Lorenzo in Manarola

This was definitely my favourite church out of the five towns (and Manarola was my favourite town!).  The inside is beautiful (and there’s a really friendly cat that hangs around outside – I saw it every day I was there!)

Vernazza2. Wander and get lost

Definitely the best way to see the towns – although, they’re so small that it’s almost impossible to get lost!  I met a lot of cats – which I’m not complaining about!

IMG_08701. Visit all five towns

This is a given if you’re visiting Cinque Terre.  My all-time favourite town was Manarola – and I was lucky that Manarola was the town I was staying in – followed by Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Monterosso and then Corniglia – which I climbed a bunch of steps to get to and immediately realised when I reached the top that I could have caught a bus.  I counted the steps on my way down and realised that I had climbed 382 steps in 25 degree heat – with barely any water!  I was melting by the time I reached the top – but I don’t regret it!

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