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Your Holiday Tick-List

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Heading off on holiday is an exciting time, but it is also a time when you have so many things to remember (like replacing your E111 with an EHIC Card) so it’s quite easy to become stressed!

Packing is hard enough, without having to remember the vitally important things, but forget one of these items and, well, you could be putting yourself in a rather difficult position.

New rules and regulations in relation to travel are always ever-changing, and if you don’t stay abreast of developments, you could be missing out on something important. Flight security regulations are something which you certainly need to know about, to avoid problems at the security desk – the 100ml liquid rule is still in operation, and you now need to have enough charge on all electrical items to be able to turn them on and off if asked by security staff. Checking any updates or new rules before you fly is imperative.

On top of this you also need to think about your passport. Many destinations require you have to a minimum of six months’ validity left on your passport after the day you return home. If you find you are going to have less than this time, you can easily renew your passport early, to avoid problems. Obviously, check online with your particular destination to see if this rule applies to you, but it is the general guideline these days. You also need to think about whether you need a visa – more things to check out!

Many destinations don’t require a visa, however many also do. Sometimes you can head online and purchase your online visa, always ensuring you are using the correct and official website, and some destinations will allow you to purchase a tourist stamp at the arrival desk when you fly in. It’s worth mentioning however that some destinations also require a much more formal visa application process, and if this is the case then you will need to do this ahead of time, to avoid delays. Put simply, check out what you need for your particular destination in good time, and you should be fine.

One of the most important factors to also consider is your health. Do you need any extra immunisations for the place you’re visiting? Have you organised your travel insurance? Have you ordered your EHIC?

If you have no idea what a EHIC is, it stands for European Health Insurance Card, and it covers travellers from eligible countries, travelling to other EEU countries and Switzerland in terms of healthcare. If you have this card and you are eligible then you will receive healthcare to the same standard that you would back at home, thanks to a reciprocal agreement. Private treatment is not covered with this arrangement, however for emergencies and illness, this is a godsend in many ways. The EHIC replaced the old E111, which is no longer valid or in circulation, and you can easily head online and order your card for free. Every single person in your party will need a card, including children.

Once these important factors are organised, and your packing is done, the stress is then over and you can look forward to a happy and healthy holiday.

The Wonder of Jakarta

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When you picture the huge and bustling metropolis of Jakarta, what image first comes into your mind?

Is it the culture? Is it the busy nature? Or, is it the street food? Maybe it’s the hot, humid weather, or maybe it’s the fact that the city never seems to sleep, but whatever image first enters your mind, one thing is for sure – Jakarta is likely to surprise you.

Indonesia’s capital and biggest city is certainly an assault on the senses; it is large, it is busy, it is smoggy, it is fast-packed, and it is loud, but despite all of that, there is a strange peace and quiet about the place, which is basically based in its culture and is traditions.

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The false impression many people have of Jakarta is that it is dirty and far too busy to be able to see anything, but both of these visions are false. Yes, Jakarta is busy, it is a capital city after all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself into the freneticism of the place, and embrace it for everything it is. As for being dirty, well, it’s certainly not!

Of course, when visiting a city, you need to pay a lot of attention to your accommodation options, to ensure that you are basing yourself somewhere quite central, and to avoid too much commuting in and out, away from the main attractions you are wanting to explore. Le Meridien Jakarta is a great choice of central hotel, a must see now with all the amenities and facilities you need for a comfortable and luxurious stay; comfort is certainly something you will be needing at the end of a busy day in Jakarta, however you will certainly not struggle to find a hotel or apartment to suit your budgetary needs with the assistance of Traveloka.

Because of the size of the city, you certainly need to do some research ahead of time, to make sure you know what you want to see, and to make sure you actually know how to get there. J-Town is one of the most famous parts of the city, where you will find large shopping malls, history, gastronomy, and plentiful nightlife. This is probably the most modern and cosmopolitan part of the city, however the other parts of the city are definitely worth exploring too.

Central Jakarta is where most of the business buildings are based, however this is also where you will find Lapangan Merdeka, the world’s biggest city square. You will find some very old buildings to explore here too, with the Palace, and the National Museum, as well as Istiqlal Mosque.

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For something a little more eclectic, head to West Jakarta, and the bright and vibrant Chinatown. Mangga Dua is a great shopping area for those on a budget, and the nightlife here is a little lower on the budget range too, compared to that found in J-Town. North Jakarta is an altogether quieter affair, with a pretty harbour to explore, and plentiful old architecture. The market stalls here sell handcrafted goods, and the street performers will keep you entertained during your day.

Put simply, Jakarta is a city that has to be explored in order to truly understand it. Don’t fall foul of false impressions, and don’t judge a book by its cover – Jakarta is a city that proves these points to be true.

Best Places to Eat in Rome

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No trip to Italy’s ancient city is complete without an exploration of la cucina Roma. From amazing sandwich bars to fine dining restaurants that make your taste-buds sing “La Dolce Vita”, Rome offers a huge choice of venues where pasta, pizza & co are just a fraction of what has made Italian cuisine one of the most popular in the world.

Here are a few tips of where to eat out when in Rome:

Bar Rossana 1946

Located at Via del Chiavari 16/18, Bar Rossana 1946 is just a short walk from Rome’s famous Pantheon. Serving delicious sandwiches and steaming hot coffee Italian-style, the family-run bar is a great place to recover from sightseeing. Tel. +39 066861018

Rome’s Pantheon was erected on the site of a much older building dating back to Marcus Agrippa and the reign of Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD). What visitors see today is the building Emperor Hadrian completed in ca. 126 AD. After refuelling with Bar Rossana’s amazing sandwiches, be sure to visit the Pantheon. It boasts the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. It’s also great place to take selfies, watch fashionable Italians stroll by and meet friends. Used as a Catholic Church, the Pantheon can be visited for free during Masses on Sundays and during weddings, if you can cadge an invite!

I Vicini Bistro

Situated at Via Di Torre Argentina 70, this French-style bistro and wine bar serves amazing top range wines with their menu. The chef uses predominantly fresh ingredients produced by family members and friends. Prices range from £7.00 to around £22.00 without drinks, so it’s very reasonable for central Rome. The I Vicini Bistro is very close to Rome’s lovely Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.

Pane & Vino

For snacks in between meals, this American-style snack bar serves more than just “bread and wine”, despite its name. Located at Via Ostilia 10, a short walk from the Basilica di San Clemente, it serves hot-dogs as well as yummy porchetta sandwiches, a great Roman classic. Prices range from £4.00 to ca. £7.00. Tel. +39 0677591009

Ciacco&Bacco

The rustic, but friendly and intimate Ciacco&Bacco is a restaurant you’ll want to visit again and again, if only to down a refreshing limoncello de su mama on a hot day! A little hard to find, the restaurant takes its inspiration from small Tuscan shops, where they sell the very best of regional Italian food products. Situated at Via Dei Ramni 28-30 in the San Lorenzo district, some 50 metres from Piazzale A. Moro, the restaurant serves great salads, food platters and “cutting boards” with wholesome delicatessen ingredientss. Prices range from £2.00 to £18.00 approx. Tel. +39 0631051857

Likeat

Renowned for their delicious porchetta, this sandwich bar at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 310 serves great Italian fast food and delicatessen. Prices range from just £3.00 to £4.00 for most things. Friendly service with a smile comes free! Tel.+39 349 706 1072

Sadly, travel insurance doesn’t cover travellers against gluttony, but you’ll wish they did when eating out in Rome!

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

Moving House?

Photo Credit: Moving On via photopin (license)

Photo Credit: Moving On via photopin (license)

Your must-do checklist

If you’re buying a house, you will no doubt be very up to date on all the jargon that comes along with it, and you’re probably stressed out of your mind too. Moving house is up there with the most stressful things you can do in your life, and even before you get to find a house, you’re swimming in a world of viewings, estate agents, and property prices, to the point where you wonder why you’re doing it.

Well, when the stress hits the ceiling, remember this, it will be worth it in the end! You just need to get through the hard stuff first, and the best way through that is to be organised.

Of course, every person’s circumstances are different, but on the whole there are several things you should always remember to do when you finally find your dream home, and you’re ready to set the moving ball in motion. Consider this your checklist.

Tell your current landlord and give notice – Your notice period may vary, but overall its usually a month. You will need to arrange a time to do the final check before you move out, in order to get your bond or deposit back; this is usually the day you hand in your keys.

Cover your insurance needs – Call your home insurance company and inform them of your moving date, your new address, and make sure your cover begins on the day you move house.

Gas/Water/Electric/Internet/TV companies etc – Just like with your insurance company call your gas/electric/water companies and tell them the same information, e.g. when you’re moving and where to. You will need to ask for a final bill and pay this up to avoid falling into arrears or owing money without realising it. The same goes for your TV company, such as Sky for example, and you will need to arrange a date for them to come and install in your new home, as well as your Internet provider.

Inform doctors and dentists – Same again, give your doctors and your dentist a call and tell them you’re moving, keeping them up to date. If you’re moving out of the catchment area then you will need to register with a new doctor and tell your old ones. The same goes for dentists too.

Arrange a removal company – It’s a good idea to phone around and see who you can find as the cheapest before deciding. This is where you do an internet search, or grab the Yellow Pages if you’re old school! Once you’ve decided, finalise and book.

Discuss with your bank – Give your bank a call and let them know of your change of address and dates. If you need to make any changes to Direct Debits, e.g. with gas, electric, or water etc, then do this at the same time to avoid forgetting.

Redirect your post – Pop into the Post Office and arrange for your post to be redirected from your moving date. There is a fee for this.

Start packing – I find that doing this slowly is the best way, to avoid a last minute rush. Maybe start with rooms that you don’t use so much, and gradually work your way around. This also gives you time to accumulate those all-important empty cardboard boxes!

Collect your keys – Give your Estate Agent a call and arrange to collect your keys to your brand-spanking new home. This is the exciting bit with no stress!

And finally … move!

Shop ‘til you Drop!

Retail therapy, window shopping, spending the pennies, whatever you call it, when you go away on holiday you will no doubt want to purchase a few souvenirs to take home for loved ones, and to remember your time away by. Do you head to a large shopping mall, enjoying the mainstream shopping experience? Or do you head to the markets and try your hand at haggling? Whatever you do, if you can manage to save money before you go away, you will have a bit more free to splurge when you head off on your holiday shopping trip, but how can do that?

Well, aside from trying to find the cheapest possible flights and accommodation, obviously still suiting your needs, then you can save money with add-ons to your travel plans. For instance, you have to get to the airport somehow, unless you live within walking distance, which for most of us just isn’t the case! I always drive myself to the airport and park up, using Airparks to book my parking spot, no matter where I’m flying from. Look at it this way, if there are four of you traveling, and you decide to go by train or coach, then you have to pay four times, right? On top of that, you have the stress of travelling on public transport, however when you drive yourself, you pay just once, and you can go at your own speed, stopping whenever you feel the need. It’s simply a more stress-free and cheaper approach. Like I mentioned, you can find this service at most large UK airports, with parking at Gatwick offered for great rates. Saving money doesn’t have to be on the big things, the small things can keep cash in your pocket too!

You can obviously save money here and there on other things too, like booking an all-inclusive break, so you don’t have to budget for food and drink, or eating in if you go self-catering. However you choose to do it, the cash you keep in your pocket should be used to enjoy your time away – you’ve worked hard for it, why shouldn’t you enjoy it!

Shopping obviously begins before you’ve even left the country with duty free most people’s Achilles heel! My advice is to not splurge too much at this point, because a lot of the time, you’re not buying because you need or want, you’re buying because it’s cheap, however if you weren’t needing or planning to buy in the first place, then it’s a false economy! Save your money for your time away instead.

I always try to head to the local markets when I’m in resort, because I always find the more unusual souvenirs here, and whilst haggling might seem scary or even odd at first, once you’re into it, it’s actually quite good fun, and you will more often than not come away with some serious bargains! Try it, simply go with the flow and be a little cheeky!

The only thing to remember? Don’t over-pack your suitcase with purchases for the journey home, having to pay a small fortune out on excess luggage really will defy the point of saving money, and no souvenir is worth that!

Five United Arab Emirate Universities for International Study

Five United Arab Emirate Universities for International Study

If you’re considering study abroad to obtain educational qualifications then the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offers a wealth of highly ranked colleges. This country is undergoing a rapid economic growth especially in fields such as technology, tourism, finance and oil and gas, meaning that students are in a prime employment location after graduating.

Here are just five of the many first class learning institutes in the UAE that welcome international students.

American University of Sharjah

The AUS is an independent non-profit institute located in the emirate of Sharjah, the third largest in the UAE. Recognised as one of the leading comprehensive universities in the Gulf, the AUS is based on the higher education system of American learning institutes. Undergraduate degrees are diverse and include art and design courses, sciences, mathematics, industrial engineering and business management, to name just a few. More than 5,000 students per year from around the world choose to study at the AUS.

Higher Colleges of Technology

The HCT is regarded as the largest higher educational institute in the UAE and is home to almost 20,000 students across 17 campuses. Based in Abu Dhabi, this is the highest ranking university in the UAE. Students from around the world arrive here to study technology, engineering, business, education and health sciences. The Sharjah HCT is especially well equipped with state of the art laboratories, a planetarium and an Olympic-sized sports facility.

United Arabs Emirate University

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The UAEA is the oldest government sponsored higher educational institute in the UAE and is located in Al Ain, the second largest city of Abu Dhabi. Founded in 1976 this research intensive institute is home to around 14,000 UAE and international students, and has been ranked as the 370th best university in the world. Undergraduate programmes include business and economics, engineering, social sciences, law, medical sciences and information technology. Students who attend this university are within easy travelling distance of the capital city as well as Dubai.

University of Dubai

Dubai is arguably the most popular city in the UAE and is home to many universities including the University of Dubai. This institute focuses on providing high quality education through affordable tuition fees and smaller class sizes. Programmes at the UOD include business admin, information technology and general education. International applications are welcomed at this university and students will be living in one of the most world’s most cosmopolitan and affordable cities.

American University of Ras Al Khaimah

This independent higher educational establishment provides an American-model learning system with a wide range of courses. International students are welcomed here and programmes include mass communications, biotechnology, business admin, accounting, marketing, computer sciences and engineering.

There’s sure to be a university offering a programme you wish to study across the seven emirates. Beautiful locations, year round sunshine and modern facilities make this a country well-worth considering as an international learning destination – now you just need to decide on which one.

Images by A Vahanvati and College Degrees 360, used under the Creative Commons license.

Family Fun in the Scenic South West

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If you’re planning on a family holiday within the UK, you’re probably going to be a little spoilt for choice. You have the seaside fun of the many coastal resorts, such as Scarborough, Skegness, Blackpool etc, with the Punch & Judy UK seaside traditions, or you can head south west and enjoy a British coastal area with a slight difference – my personal favourite.

Now, Devon and Cornwall are just as enjoyable as beach holidays, but the difference is this – the scenery is more dramatic, the outdoor sporting opportunities are more plentiful, and the holiday you experience will have a more continental vibe.

I’ve been to most of the big-named coastal resorts around the country and my favourite will always be a choice between St Ives and Newquay, both of which are great options for a family holiday destination.

Why? Well, check out these reasons to your left for why you should be choosing Devon and Cornwall, according to Blue Chip Holidays, and I’d agree with all of them. Every single one of these reasons is a deal breaker in its own right, and many of them just aren’t available anywhere else in the country.

For keeping the kids happy, you’ll find countless activities, not least surfing. Newquay is world famous in surfing circles, but you don’t have to start off big, and you can learn your skills at one of the many surf schools around the area. A day on a Cornish or Devon beach will be exactly what you picture of a family holiday, with sandcastles, ice creams, sunbathing, and splashing in the surf.

Of course, it’s not all water-related, because you can head off to some of the more historic and cultural areas around the region, such as Land’s End, or Tintagel, where the myth of King Arthur comes alive; the kids will love exploring the legend of the Knights of the Round Table.

There are many camp sites and holiday parks around this part of the country, and many of them are aimed towards family fun, with waterparks, entertainment, and trips on offer. If you prefer to head off on your own steam however, visit Torquay and dodge the seagulls, or visit the animals at Paignton Zoo, perhaps grab a cream tea in St Ives, or jump in a battered camper van and explore this beautiful area in your own time.

However you choose to explore beautiful Devon and Cornwall, there really is nowhere else in the country quite like it, and like most people who do head in this direction, it probably won’t be your last time!

Interesting Hotels Across Europe

Photo Credit: ell brown via photopin cc

Photo Credit: ell brown via photopin cc

One of the true beauties of Europe is its diversity and this stretches to its hotels too. Pack a suitcase, secure yourself with an cheap holiday insurance and venture off to explore one of the many interesting hotels found across the continent!

1. Airplane Suite – Teuge, Netherlands
In the heart of the Netherlands lies an old plane converted into a luxury suite for the comfort of couples with a bit of cash to splash! The aircraft once flew politicians and was later adopted by commercial airlines, visiting destinations such as Cuba, China, Vietnam and Russia. Nowadays, it’s become a destination in itself, complete with jacuzzi, sauna, shower, mini bar, flat screen televisions, entertainment and kitchen facilities on board.

2. La Balade des Gnomes – Durbury, Belgium
La Balade des Gnomse boasts ten extraordinarily-decorated bedrooms inspired by fairytales from all four corners of the world. The star suite is that of the Trojan Horse, a stunning replica of the mythical gift offered by the Greeks at the battle of Troy. This hotel is truly ethereal, defying all norms and using incredible imagination to achieve something quite magical.

3. Ice Hotel – Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Since its creation in the early 1990’s, the original Ice Hotel has inspired many others across the globe. However, with over 65 rooms and suites, the Ice Hotel in Sweden remains the most impressive and authentic of its kind. Rebuilt each winter from thousands of tons of snow and ice, it’s an incredible project to maintain but the outstanding result is every bit worth the effort.

4. Sala Silvermine Underground Suite – Sala, Sweden
Also in Sweden, the Sala Silvermine offers a rather different experience. Set 155 metres below ground, this converted mine is a sensational treasure chest containing winding galleries, vast caverns and magical lakes. Professional guides will explain the industrial history of the silver production which once occurred in this damp, dark but beautiful setting.

5. The Old Railway Station – Chichester, England
In the Great British countryside, you’ll find an old, vintage Pullman train with carriages converted to beautiful bedroom suites to reflect the bygone era of luxury train travel. Whilst some features have simply been restored, others have been greatly improved, such as fully equipped, en-suite bathrooms for the comfort of guests.

With so many extraordinary options available, travelling Europe can be even more mysterious and exciting than you may first have imagined. Do your research before you travel and you’ll be sure to find something quite amazing!

Christmas Gift Ideas for Travelling Teens

Photo Credit: John.Karakatsanis via photopin cc

Photo Credit: John.Karakatsanis via photopin cc

With Christmas fast approaching, you should be turning your attention to gift ideas for those near and dear to you. Some people are easy to buy for, some not so much, but if you have a teenager in your life who is forever upping sticks and disappearing to different parts of the world, a travel teen if you will, then what do you buy them?

Of course it has to be portable, and it should also serve a purpose, but it’s also a gift, so you don’t want it to be too functional and no fun!

If you’re struggling with what to buy your male or female travel teen, then here are five ideas you might like to consider this Christmas.

iPad or tablet

This is an obvious one but it’s also probably the most useful piece of kit you can get anyone on the go. Having said that, even someone staying in one place would love an iPad or tablet! Great for keeping in touch on the go, with a Wi-Fi connection of course, a tablet doubles up as an e-book, internet source, a way to learn languages, a way to read about the places they’re visiting, and some even have cameras. Multi-purpose, and endless fun! You can get good priced tablets these days, and even certain iPads, such as the Mini, aren’t as expensive as they once were.

Digital camcorder

Keeping on a technological angle, capturing the sights and sounds they see along the way is truly precious, and this is something that still cameras alone generally can’t do. Tesco do some great value models of digital camcorder, so simply have a look at what you can find. These have really come down in price over the last few years, and are much smaller than they ever used to be, so perfect for those on the go.

Funky luggage

This is a functional idea but if you make it bright and colorful, then it will be a gift they enjoy receiving as well as serving a purpose! Lightweight suitcases these days are a godsend, allowing us to take more of our belongings with us on our travels. You can buy lightweight cabin cases too, so this helps with the endless types of technology teens tend to cart around with them these days!

A comfortable hoodie

An odd one you might think, but bear with me! Planes, trains, and automobiles are either freezing cold or boiling hot, never any middle ground, and I know from experience than when it’s freezing cold you’re not going to be comfortable. Buy a fashionable, funky, but comfortable hoodie and you’ll be thanked forever, as well as giving them something to remember you by whilst they’re off on their adventures.

A boxed filled with travel toiletries and cosmetics

Without wanting to be stereotypical, teens aren’t really known for their organisational skills when it comes to the practical things they need to take away with them! Find a nice gift box and fill it with travel sized treats, such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, face wipes, antibacterial gel, toothpaste, and a few home-remembering treats too. This is quirky, and shows real thought, which is what Christmas gifts are all about.

Happy shopping!

US Still Way Out in Front as Competition for Foreign Students Hots Up

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

So where do the brightest and the best foreign students go if they don’t want to study for a degree at a university or college back in their home countries? You’ve guessed it, the good old US of A, that’s where.

Data recently released by the IIE – the Institute of International Education – confirms once again the US is the most popular country in the world when it comes to foreign students studying abroad.

The data can be found in the 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, published by the IIE in partnership with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. And it’s crammed full of interesting facts, figures and insights.

Learning fast

Of course, American students have also always studied abroad, too, with varied destinations ranging from the United Kingdom and other European countries to the United Arab Emirates universities in the Middle East and well beyond.

But the rest of the world is learning fast and becoming ever more competitive, attracting an increasing number of American students to study out-with their country. According to IIE figures, a total of 289,408 US students studied abroad for academic credit from their US colleges and universities during the 2013/14 academic year, a two-fold increase over the last 15 years.

Just so you know, the Open Doors report was released on the occasion of the 15th annual celebration of International Education Week, a joint initiative of the State Department and the US Department of Education. The initiative aims to prepare Americans for a global environment and to attract future foreign leaders to the United States to study, learn, and exchange experiences.

Here are a few of the report’s highlights worth mulling over:

During the 2013/14 academic year, there were 886,052 international students studying at colleges and universities in the United States, an eight percent increase and a record high.

The US hosted more of the world’s 4.5 million globally mobile college and university students than any other country in the world.

The 886,052 figure quoted above was almost twice the number hosted by the United Kingdom, the second leading host country.

The overall number of international students in the US has grown by 72 percent since the first International Education Week briefing was held in the year 2000.

And since 2000, there are now five times as many Chinese students on US campuses; almost two-and-a-half times as many Indian students; seven-and-a-half times as many Vietnamese students; and more than 10 times as many Saudi students.

Fastest growing region

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA), says the report, was the fastest growing region this year, with a 20 percent increase in students enrolling in US higher education. Strong support of the US-led public-private partnership, 100,000 Strong in the Americas, resulted in an eight percent rise in student numbers from Latin America and the Caribbean. Asian student numbers were also up eight percent in total, driven by a 17 percent rise in Chinese students.

And the contribution made by foreign students to the US economy in 2013? The US Department of Commerce calculates the contribution at more than $27 billion. Not exactly loose change! Read more about the IIE here.