Rome – My top 5 places to visit

Rome is a beautiful city, I did enjoy visiting it on my own, but it has made me realise that although I enjoy solo travelling Rome really is somewhere to explore as a couple, as it truly has a romantic atmosphere.

Regardless of whether you travel on your own, as a couple or a group here are my five top suggestions of where you must visit while in Rome!

#1 – The Colosseum


IMG_1673WOW! This is a must see, inside and out, if you are visiting Rome! For the admission ticket you get two separate tours. You get to go inside the Colosseum and you also get to go in to the Roman Forum (see #5) and the Palatine Hill opposite! Bargain! Take the audio (or even better video audio tour) if you go inside. Alternatively there are a lot of history students outside who can give you a guided tour, have pre-purchased group tickets (meaning you can skip the queue – not the security queue though) **top tip** as these are pre-purchased you can negotiate on the price.

IMG_1719The Colosseum took my breath away when I walked in to the main area! You really do feel like you are walking back in time!

The Colosseum is free of charge on the first Sunday of every month. I had already bought my tickets when I learnt this, however I am glad I did not wait to visit on the Sunday as the queues were very long and I heard some saying they had been queuing for nearly three hours. I went on the Friday and only queued for 40 minutes.

#2 – The Pantheon

IMG_2207Not only is The Pantheon the most complete ancient Rome building it is also free to visit! From what I understand it was a temple built to worship all the Roman Gods (source: Dan Brown’s Angel & Demon’s – yes you can see The Pantheon on the film).

This is a great place to go, not just because it is free to enter but it really does take you back in time! You approach this through the narrow IMG_2204streets of Rome and suddenly the streets open
up to reveal this ancient Temple. The Pantheon is still in use to today (it is now a church)
and now hosts the tomb of Raphael (although due to crowds I did not get to see this).

The Occulus (the large hole in the roof) is a wonder to see. When it rains the floor obviously gets wet – but look around and you can see how the Roman built drainage so the rain water quickly disappeared from inside the temple.

I highly recommend a visit to The Pantheon.

#3 – The Vatican City

This was a need to see while I was in Rome – after all it is another country to tick off your travel list (The Vatican City is the smallest Country in the world).IMG_2022.JPGI visited the museums and St Peters Basilica (although it is not a Basilica – it is a church). I did pay for a group tour guide, Sophia, she was an amazing 70 something year old woman. Sophia’s knowledge was amazing and she gave a lot of detail and able to answer any
question. She was also good at giving tips for other attractions.IMG_2108

You must see the Sistine Chapel – just to appreciate the work of Michelangelo.

The Pope blesses the local people on a Sunday at 12noon from his window in the Pope’s Palace. I therefore suggest if you want to see the Pope then go and watch and listen to him in St Peter’s Square – it is quite fascinating. It lasts in total for about 10 minutes. I returned on the Sunday to see this and it is something I will always remember. It is free to get in to St Peter’s Square to see the Pope but there is a queue to go through security.

#4 – The Trevi Fountain
IMG_1996All the travel books and review guides told me to visit the Trevi Fountain in the evening to avoid the large crowds that gather here. My experience is IGNORE them and visit during the day, the crowds were much more sparse and I could actually get right up to the fountain without pushing or elbowing my way through IMG_1997abundance of people!

The fountain is absolutely beautiful and a must see for solo travelers, couples and groups alike. From the excellent sculptures by Salvi and Bracci, to the colour of the water it is simply breath taking. What makes this extra special is it is the most unexpected of places, you weave your way through narrow streets and suddenly it appears, just like The Pantheon (which is only a short walk away)!

If you do visit during the evening there are lots of restaurants, shops and even a McDonalds nearby.

#5 – The Roman Forum

A walk back in history – let your imagination run wild. The Roman Forum gives you a real insight in to Ancient Rome.


Although much of this can be viewed (for free) from walking around the outskirts of the IMG_2154Roman Forum from the public highway I would highly recommend going in and seeing this up close and personal. Besides entry to it is included in your tickets for the Colosseum.

For me the Roman Forum captured the true beauty of Rome and every night I went back to see it light up at night. Top Tip – go round the back of Capitoline Hill for the best views of the Roman Forum, especially in the evening.


Barcelona Nudist Beach

So, it appears I have a liking for the nudist beach. Each time I do in search for the sandy shores I always end up finding the nudist area.

Barcelona, was no different. With seven beautiful beaches spanning the promenade front of Barcelona, it is only a short walk from the Port Olympic to the nudist area.

To find the nudist beach you need to walk with the sea on your right, the nudist area is the third beach you come to.

If you are thinking about going to a nudist beach please find below some ‘good’ and ‘bad’ points about stripping down on the beach. You might also find my blog article ‘Nudist Beach Etiquette’ useful as well.

The Good and the Bad of naked sunbathing…

GOOD. An amazing sense of ‘ Back to nature’. Getting your kit off and basking in the sunshine is very natural.

BAD. A painful sense of ‘Back to nature’. Sandfly bites on your delicious, exposed, tender bits.

GOOD. The lovely ‘warm feeling’ you don’t normally get on the white bits, soaking up the vitamin D. This was my favourite part, kind of like releasing a caged animal back into the light of day. Not a great mental picture there but that’s just how I see it.

BAD. The little Too warm feeling. Burning your bits has major drawbacks such as, 1. too painful to wear undies. 2. sex is definitely out. 3. The after sunburn peel, not attractive.

GOOD. Money saved on a swimwear. Can’t argue with that.

BAD. Lack of options. Not too many beaches can you swan about naked.

In conclusion, despite all of the Bad stuff I thought it was awesome! Take a little care with some suncream and get out there. I highly recommend getting your gear off and running around in the sand.

If you adhere to all of these points for nudist beach etiquette, and you bear in mind that there a few things you need to know what not to do on a nudist beach, I am fairly certain you will have an uneventful but liberating experience.

Maspalomas Beach; experience my first Nudist Beach and learning the etiquette.

While in Gran Canaria I had to experience the nudist beach. It is something I had always wanted to do but never had the confidence.

If, like me, you are going to a nudist beach for the first time (obviously I have now been on one) then you are always going to be a little bit self-conscious – am I too big, am I too small, what if someone stares at me or I start staring at someone else?

Nudist beach etiquette is quite simple and easy to learn; it is basically common sense. But, if you don’t take the time to know it, it would be most mortifying if you did something that really wasn’t cool.

Picture one of those situations when you are in public and something really embarrassing happens and you just want to die. Now imagine that situation and being naked at the same time. In short learn the do’s and don’t and avoid the embarrassment!

Before the tips I picked up I thought I would give a brief overview of where to find the nudist beach at Maspalomas.

2016-02-26 11.02.13To locate the Maspalomas Nudist beach follow the dunes, with your back to the lighthouse and the sea on your right. You will follow the clothed bathers, then enter the nudist zone, first you come to the ‘straight’ nudist area and a little beyond that is the gay nudist area, marked by a rainbow flag.

The Etiquette

1 Ensure the beach you are at is definitely a nudist beach You will soon be made aware if you have made this mistake.

2 If you are going with friends make sure that you are all in agreement that you will all be nude If you are unsure, do not be the first person to take off all your clothes so that your ‘friends’ can run away with them.

3 Sunburn Remember some areas of the body get more day to day sunlight than others so put plenty of cream on all areas of your body that are normally covered up.

4 Keep your eyes to yourself Everyone has seen it all before, there is no need to stare (although I admit sometimes you can’t help yourself – I find reflective sunglasses help).

5 Trim Down This one can vary depending on which country you are getting nude in. Some places are more accepting than others. You’re naked, you want to look as good as possible.

6 Insects There are creatures in the water, in the sand and in the air, all just waiting to feast on your blood. Spray before you strip off otherwise these tiny creatures an get into the most tiny of places.

7 Take something to do Always have a book to read, or cards to play or something to keep you busy. You really don’t want your hands to get absent-minded.

8 Guys – never go with an attractive lady Do I need to say any more?

9 Leave your camera at home Do you really need to take pictures of naked people? Even if you’re just carrying your camera you’re going to make others feel uncomfortable.

10 Remember it’s a nudist beach, not a hotel room People are there to relax on the beach, not watch you and your partner get to know each other. If you really need some ‘alone time’ with your other half wait until you get back to the hotel… although if you are wanting to have some private shenanigans (or even see some) you can go in to The Sand Dunes.




First thoughts… Gran Canaria (24hrs in)

So 24hrs hours after arriving in Gran Canaria what are my initial thoughts?

The hotel, Hotel Dunas Mirador, was really welcoming on arrival. With a big, open, clean and airy reception and smiling staff I immediately felt at home. After the compulsory checking passports etc (for Interpol watch list) which was quickly dealt with I was directed to my room.

image.jpegThe stairs and lifts were impeccably clean and my room… Wow… Big and clean! With both bath and shower (yet to find a time when the water is not hot). Inspected the room fully and no dust or hair anywhere! I am very impressed! The view from my balcony is good too… Looking around I think it is probably one of the best views of the pool area.

The view from my balcony

The pool is split over two levels (three if you include the raised jacuzzi tub, actually four if you include the child section as well), with a water slide connect the upper and lower level pools. There appears to be plenty of sun lounges too! There is also a circular pool bar overlooking the area.

Yesterday’s lunch was basic but tasty, as was yesterday’s evening meal but I had only been here a couple of hours by then and not sure I explored the full meal area! This mornings breakfast was very nice and plenty of options!

In the evening (after a few drinks at one of the many hotel bars) I decided to take a taxi down to the Yumbo Centre (which the hotel kindly arranged for me – it arrived within a minute and only cost €4.20). What a culture shock. Nothing like I was expecting. There was an open air drag concert going on and every where I looked there were drag queens and people with hardly any clothes on … In short it was pretty amazing hahahahaha!

Today’s plans are to go to the beach and explore what is in the area. I am thinking of hiring a bike for a few days so I can cycle around and get a feeling for the layout as well.

Insider travel tips & tricks: what I’ve learnt from travelling

From the logical to the funny, the serious to the silly, I present my list of top travel tips, tricks and nuggets of wisdom  from travelling the world.

1. Travel with less

2016-02-07 21.38.05Travelling with just hand-luggage should be your goal. Do you really need six pairs of shoes, tea bags, and an iron? Take less and you’ll travel cheaper (no check-in luggage fees), travel faster (no waiting for your bags), and travel easier (one bag means less to lug around).

For more hints on how to travel less see my blog article ‘A weeks worth of clothes in just 6kg‘ or ‘Travel toiletries: what to pack and what to sack‘.

2. Leave the guide book at home

2016-02-21 13.38.19Rather than taking your entire copy of the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet, just photocopy the pages you need, then discard after you have used them. Saves space and weight.

3. Never join the security queue with the kids

Go for the one with the ‘suits’. It will move much quicker.

4. Jiggle it (just a little bit)

If you’re petrified of turbulence during flights, try slightly jiggling your body when you hit some rough air. No one will notice because everyone is being moved around due to the aircraft movement. Sounds a little crazy but your movement will counteract that of the aircraft and you won’t feel the turbulence so much. It really does work!

5. Chose your seat-mate carefully

If you get the choice of plane seat, always sit far away from: babies, groups of friends who will chat, or women (men tend to need the toilet less often than ladies)

6. Ditch your friends

Travelling all by your lonesome might seem daunting at first, I know I found it daunting the first time, but it gives you a chance to really immerse yourself in the travel experience. I’ve met friends for life, learnt a new language, and had amazing experiences by travelling solo!

7. Travel in a hoodie

2016-02-21 13.29.52They may have become the uniform of unruly ASBO-teenagers, but hooded tops make excellent travel garments. Just slip up your hood to retreat from the world of noise and light when you want to sleep on a flight/airport seat/bus. Add your earphones for extra withdrawal.

8. Use body language

2016-02-17 14.58.00When there’s a language barrier, shouting in your own language is not going to get you far. Instead, use your body. It’s the most international language in the entire world. Don’t forget to translate a full stop with a smile.

But beware: see my blog article ‘Rude hand gestures from around the world‘ to make sure you don’t offend anybody by accident!

9. Pack a pack of cards

A game of cards is not only useful to while away the hours during the inevitable delays, but also a great cross- cultural barrier breaker.

10. Just go!

If you have a strong urge to ‘go travelling’ or even just to see one specific place, start saving and go for it! Don’t delay. Don’t defer. Just do it, or you will regret it when you’re too old/attached/busy to travel.

11. Don’t be paranoid

Be wise and be wary, but try not to be paranoid. When I first travelled alone I found it difficult to relax for the first few days. I was convinced everyone was out to steal my money or diddle me. After two days I realised I was listening to media hype from home and friends who were scared of travelling on their own. Once I realised this and relaxed I had the best time of my life (and was not in any danger).

12. Hide your guide book

If you’re in out and about and need to ask directions then to stop people avoiding you, hide your guide book and map.

13. There is always Toblerone

img2296_06062011102517Got to the end of your holiday but forgotten to get gifts? No worries! It is a mathematical certainty that the world’s favourite mountain-shaped Swiss chocolate will always be available from every duty free airport shop on earth.

14. Saw your toothbrush in half

2016-02-07 21.28.01To save space and reduce weight, saw your toothbrush in half. The extra three cubic centimetres of space can be used to carry an extra sheet of paper (see tip 2).

For more tips on reducing the weight of your toiletries see my blog article ‘Travel toiletries: what to pack and what to sack‘.

15. Finally, pretend to be asleep.

2016-02-15 15.44.32If you fart during your flight, just pretend to be asleep.

Of course if you do this then don’t look at my post ‘The Rude & Selfish Traveller: Is it you?’ hahahaha

Rude hand gestures from around the world!

Just over two years ago I found myself in a foreign country struggling to make myself understood while asking for directions to my hotel. If, like me, you have been in a similar position you will have no doubt resorted to hand gestures. Little did I know I was actually telling the person they were an ‘A** Hole’, luckily they saw the funny side otherwise it could have ended with me in the nearest hospital.

From then onwards I have always been mindful of what I do with my hand gestures when speaking abroad. So to help you understand hand gestures and not offend the locals please read below to understand what is, or is not acceptable. Otherwise you could find yourself in trouble with the locals!

2016-02-17 17.36.07The Middle Finger is universally understood to mean F-You to the recipient.

Isn’t it nice not to worry about the meaning getting lost in translation?

Used: Worldwide


2016-02-17 17.38.15The W*nker is done by forming a hole with the hand and moving it back and forward. It is a joy to perform, calling someone a w*nker without the accompanying gesture does do this insult justice!

Used: UK

2016-02-17 17.40.14While the V Sign means peace in many parts of the world (no matter which way round you look at it) in the UK and some other common wealth countries it is more likely to cause outright war!

Used: most Commonwealth countries

2016-02-17 17.42.03

You Suck C*ck  is a w*nker hand with knuckles facing up with an open mouth (and optional tongue in cheek). It is a gesture pretty much understood across the globe.

Used: Worldwide


2016-02-17 17.43.52Often heard with the phrase ‘non mi frega’ which translates as ‘I don’t give a damn‘ – sweeping the hand from under the chin towards someone is a rather blunt way of saying you don’t give a damn.

Used: Italy


2016-02-17 17.45.04The A-Ok from insinuating that someone is a homosexual to calling them an A-Hole. The A-Ok sign doesn’t necessarily translate well when telling someone you are ok.

2016-02-17 18.46.54You might get away with The Thumbs Up in Thailand where it is the equivalent to sticking your tongue out but add in a thrust upwards and to most places around the world you are telling them to shove the thumb up there a*s hole.

2016-02-17 18.48.10While many of the offensive gestures above may bring you trouble The Dog Call might cause a fight. If you’re planning on seducing someone, think of another way to call them over!

2016-02-17 18.49.03The Corna is a favourite gesture amongst rockers but in other parts of the world it is a not so subtle way of saying ‘I am having it away with your wife’, use it with caution – unless you are swinging!

2016-02-17 18.50.09If you find yourself wanting to order five shots while in Greece don’t show the palm of your hand. You’ll be telling the barman you have an ‘off the menu delicacy’ you want to show them.

2016-02-17 18.51.00Sometimes insulting one person is not enough, that is where The Cutis comes in. Not only does it say F-You. It says F-your Mum, F-Your Dad, F-Your brother, F-Your sister, F-Your children, F-Your… you get the idea!

2016-02-17 18.52.11While is some cultures The Fig is used to ward off evil spirits in others it represents female genitals and can be an offensive way to to dismiss help from others!


2016-02-17 18.53.29A man’s biggest insult is insulting his manhood. So tread cautiously if you start wiggling your little finger at a strange man… you are probably suggesting he has a tiny weeny tiddler!

2016-02-17 18.56.15Not all the insults involve hand gestures. In some eastern cultures showing your bare feet is offensive as they are considered lowly (plus they often stink)!

So if someone offers you slippers when you walk in to their home – oblige and accept them otherwise you might get kicked out.


2016-02-17 18.54.42Who wouldn’t want to ‘live long and prosper’? Demonstrating your sympathy for the Vulcan race may seem like a good idea but if you are surrounded by Klingon’s then give it a miss!

If you can think of any more then please let me know and share your stories of accidental mishaps from miscommunication and/or hand gestures. I really am interested in hearing them!


The Rude & Selfish Traveller: is it you?

Don’t be a rude and selfish traveller next time you travel.

We have all been there, forced to sit on a bus next to the man with the worlds worst body odour or sat on the plane with a little brat of a child kicking your seat all the way from take off to landing.
A travel rudeness poll highlights the top common behaviours that piss other travellers off (including me) including poor hygiene, oversized carry-on luggage (see my previous blog article ‘A weeks worth of clothes in just 6kg‘) and arguing families as among the top travel peeves.

While Boarding

2016-02-07 21.38.05Topping the poll for the thing that annoys you most when boarding a plane… 30% of travellers get annoyed when people carrying-on more than their allocated hand luggage and baggage allowance. I know I spend a huge amount of time trying to get my hand luggage down to below the maximum weight (and I let you know about it through my blogs about baggage allowance and toiletries), so yes it pisses me off to when the person in front of me gets away with overloading their bag! Grrrrrr!

Other things that annoy you while boarding are: 25% blocking the aisle(let me sit down for Christ sake), 21% crowding the boarding line (move – I want to get past and on my plane) , 16% careless luggage storage (please don’t forcefully push your heavy bag on top of my precious bag) and 8% using the overhead for small items (I really would like to get my bag in that space so please move your neck pillow – which does not need to be fully inflated right now). 1487

Most disliked passenger to sit next to

It is no surprise that the person we all hate to sit next to the most is the bloke (that is a man for those not in the know) with the poor personal hygiene (a polite way of saying the one that smells)…hopefully for the return journey they will think to steal some of the hotel toiletries!

In second place we hate to sit next to the person wit the cough or sneeze (please keep you germs to yourself – and WASH YOUR HANDS) I want to go on holiday to relax not to become unwell!

7332eb01ecb49ec3e010573eca70-should-obese-people-pay-for-two-airline-seatsIt appears we are all a bit fattist (someone who discriminates against fat people). We all love cake (well I do – man I love the cake) but when it comes to aeroplane seats we would sooner not sit next to someone who requires a seat for each butt cheek. And when it comes to suggestions on how an airline should deal with overweight passengers most of the travellers surveyed said they should be made to purchase a second seat!

In fourth place we prefer not to sit next to anyone who is a little chatty (unless they are really attractive). Personally, I put my headphones, even if they are not turned on, just so I don’t have to make small talk or pretend to be interested in photos of their children. Speaking of children apparently we hate to be sat next to them as well with their sticky hands and snotty noses!

Maybe I am blessed as I do not snore – so I expect others not to snore as well! Apparently you all agree too! The polls states that we all despise being sat next to a snorer on the plane!

Top rude behaviours

gregory-gopman-airplane-seatIn reverse order: unwelcome conversing (do as I said above – stick some earphones in, even if not listening to anything, to avoid the unwanted small talk), stincky food eating (for me this is the smell of salt& vinegar crisps **vomit**, for others it can be anything that has an odour – just because you like the smell don’t mean we all want to smell it), arm rest hogging (I am guilty of this, so, erm, no comment), seat reclining (my method to get around this is get to your seat before the person behind you does, then recline your seat from the beginning – that way thery will be none the wiser about their lack of leg room), loud talking (person on row A does not need to know that you, the person on row Q, is flying alone because your wife ran off with your best friend – actually that sounds interesting so tell me some more) and the thing that annoys travellers the most … seat kicking KEEP YOUR CHILDREN UNDER CONTROL.

Vacation Vices

3a3194d8Apparently when we are away from the comforts of home we pick up more vices. We are 55% more likely to eat, drink or smoke more when on holiday (who can resist an all inclusive bar?). 56% more likely to hook up with a stranger (remember to glove up when you hook up) but luckily you are 64% more likely to engage in sexual acts with your partner while on holiday (so if your partner has booked you a surprise holiday you know what they have in mind **wink wink**)

Common items take from the hotel

We have all been guilty of it but here are the hard facts 80% of all items take from the hotel are toiletries (see my blog article ‘Travel Toiletries: What to pack and what to sack‘ for tips on using hotel toiletries. While all other items in the hotel are less than 5% likely to be taken.2016-02-07 21.28.01

So what annoys youwhen travelling – please let me know in the comments below or on twitter



How I use my mobile cell phone abroad for less

If you’re not careful you can rack up a bill of £100s or even £1,000s using your mobile/cell phone abroad. A travelling friend of mine found this out last year when she was away for 5 weeks and came home to a bill of just over £700.

Receiving a call can cost as much as £2.50 per minute, while in some places you’ll pay £8 per MB of data to surf the web – yet there are simple ways to slash the cost.

imageIn many countries, there’s an easy trick to get free roaming simply by swapping your Sim. Elsewhere, it may be best to keep your phone turned off or stick to free Wi-Fi – but if that’s not an option, I’ll give you some tips on how to use your phone as cheaply as possible.

Use your mobile abroad and you’ll be “roaming”. ‘What is roaming’? I hear you cry!  Roaming is when you connect to an overseas network and calls are routed via that network provider instead of your home network, at a vastly increased cost.

It doesn’t just happen abroad – I have been on the White Cliffs of Dover and connected to a French network and on the beaches of Wales and connect to a Republic of Ireland network, both times without realising. A 10-minute call from your mobile could cost up to £1.66 when travelling in Europe (though EU roaming charges will be scrapped entirely by the end of June 2017), or a whopping £25 outside Europe, while data costs are even more inflated.

The cheapest way of using your phone abroad depends on which network you’re with and where you’re going – options include a trick to get free roaming in 18 countries, roaming add-ons for use within and outside Europe, and for frequent travellers, specialist local and global Sims. First, though, check these quick tips to keep your post-holiday bill to a minimum:

#1 – Switch off data roaming and use Wi-Fi – for calls as well as web browsing

There are two ways to access the internet via your mobile while abroad. You can use your mobile’s 3G or 4G signal, in which case you’ll pay your mobile provider (a lot) for data usage. Or you can connect via Wi-Fi, wirelessly hitching up to a local broadband connection.

IMG_0212If you can, it’s best to switch off data roaming and rely on Wi-Fi when you need it. It’s usually faster and much cheaper – in fact, you can often find free Wi-Fi hotspots in bars, hotels and cafes. Remember also that much of your phone’s functionality doesn’t rely on an internet connection at all – eg, if you want to use it for music, games, photos etc.

Wi-Fi doesn’t just offer a cheap way of browsing the web – you can use it for calls too. If you’ve got a smartphone and free internet access, download an “internet-to-phone” calling system like Skype before you go. If the person you’re calling also has Skype, you’ll simply need to find a free Wi-Fi spot to call for free.

#2 – Roaming rates are only capped in the EU – watch out for charges of up to £2.50/min further afield

If you’re staying within Europe, the good news is that roaming there is now relatively cheap, thanks to EU caps on the maximum cost of calls, texts and data to other EU numbers (you’ll pay standard roaming rates if it’s a non-EU number).

If you’re roaming within the borders of the European Economic Area – which is comprised of all 28 EU member states, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (but not Switzerland) – you won’t pay more than €0.19/min (16.6p incl VAT) for outgoing calls, €0.05/min (4.4p incl VAT) for incoming, €0.06 (5.2p incl VAT) for texts and €0.20/MB (16.9p incl VAT) for data. A full list of EU and EEA member states can be found on

Yet outside Europe costs can sky-rocket to £2.50/min and it can cost as much as an eye-watering £8/MB – that’s what Orange charges in the US, for example. Given a 30min TV programme can be 500MB, that could potentially add up to an astronomical £4,000.

#3 – When you’re roaming you’ll pay to receive calls, but not texts – so get friends back home to message you instead

If you use a UK number while abroad (including a local or global Sim with a UK number), it won’t cost friends and family at home any more to call you. They’ll be charged the standard domestic rate. However, you will pay to receive calls when you’re roaming abroad, and although this is capped within Europe, it can cost as much as £2.50/min elsewhere.

You can avoid this by buying a local Sim card when you arrive at your destination, giving you a foreign phone number – but then those at home will be charged international rates for calling it. If you’ve Wi-Fi or data access, get them to call you via Skype, avoiding these costly rates.

However it’s free to receive texts anywhere worldwide, so ask friends to message you, not call. Then, as it can cost as much as £1/text to reply outside Europe, condense your reply (lrn 2 spk txt) and it’s still relatively cheap. Don’t go back and forth, though.

Alternatively, use your mobile as a pager – get people to text if they want to chat and then use a cheaper way to call back.

#4 – Beware voicemail – outside the EU you can be charged £1/min to receive them and another £1/min to listen

EU regulations mean your provider can’t charge you when someone leaves you a voicemail if you’re travelling within Europe. However you can be charged if you listen to a voicemail message – within Europe, it’ll be capped at the usual call rate but speak to your provider before you go to see how much it’d be.

Outside Europe it can be much more expensive. Outrageously some networks – notably EE and Virgin Mobile – will actually charge you if someone leaves you a voicemail, whether you actually listen to it or not. Furthermore the amount you’ll be charged is not capped so you could find yourself in a spot of bother if anyone decides to leave you a message.

If your network charges for this it’s safest to disable voicemail for the duration of your trip. You should be able to do this by calling customer services.

#5 – Beware watching TV, films or downloading music

This one’s simple – never, ever use your network’s 3G signal to download or stream films, TV or music when you’re abroad. Doing so can use up huge chunks of data, potentially leaving you with a bill of £100s or even £1,000s when you return.If you do have a Wi-Fi connection, though, it’s a different story – though if you’re paying for it still beware of how much data you’re downloading as charges can add up fast.
#6 – There’s a €50 data roaming cap but add-ons often opt you out, so watch out
While roaming rates are only capped within Europe, thanks to EU regulations even if you’re roaming OUTSIDE Europe, providers now have to cut you off when you’ve used €50 (around £49 including VAT) of data in a month.This can be a useful backstop given it’s often unexpected data charges that result in massive post-holiday roaming bills – but there’s a catch. If you sign up for a mobile provider’s add-on package to cut costs, you may be automatically opted out of the EU €50 cut-off limit.This means you’ll have to monitor your data usage carefully, otherwise you could arrive home to a big bill.
#7 – Got a Kindle Keyboard? Pack it for free web access
If you’ve got an older model of the 3G Kindle Keyboard, don’t forget to pack it before you go, as it offers free mobile internet access across most of Europe and other countries around the world (see coverage maps).The idea is that while overseas you can download books or newspapers at no additional cost, even without a Wi-Fi connection.In the “experimental” option in the menu, however, there’s also a web browser. It’s black and white, and pretty basic. You can’t watch videos or high-end graphical content, but for scanning info sites it’s functional. It’s also good for checking web-based email accounts like Gmail.
#8 – Get special apps to compress the amount of data you use
The currently free app Onavo says it compresses data downloads for other apps like Facebook, so you can do more with your download limit. It works in 90 countries around the world, which will help minimise expensive roaming rates.Onavo says it could reduce data usage by 80% and is totally secure as it doesn’t store your data. It can’t compress downloads for apps that stream content like the BBC iPlayer or YouTube, or VoIP apps like Skype. It’s available for iPhones and Android. Onavo says it will start charging a subscription but it’s free for now.Alternatively, web browser Opera also offers a free data compression app for web surfing. The “Mini” mobile version of the browser is available for iPhones and Android phones.
#9 – Download maps before you go or use Wi-Fi
Google Maps, available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, now allows you to store maps for offline use. Since data isn’t required for the GPS function on a smartphone, this means you can navigate around the place you’re visiting without paying roaming charges.When you’re connected to Wi-Fi, open the app and search the area you want to save. Once it’s on-screen click on the bar that has the place name you search for and then select the menu button in the top right hand corner. To save it select Save Offline Map. For more information see Google help.
Many travel apps work this way and some, such as Time Out’s app, include reviews.
wifi abroad
#10 – Keep your phone secure in case the worst happens
Losing your phone or having it stolen is enough to ruin anyone’s holiday. You obviously hope it’ll never happen – but there are practical steps you can take now to limit the damage to your wallet if it does.

  1. Consider insurance. You should always take out travel insurance if you’re going abroad, but many policies don’t cover gadgets, or if they do, the cover is often very limited. The alternative is dedicated mobile phone insurance that covers loss/theft – our current top pick for most phones, Insurance2go, includes cover abroad for up to 90 days a year. Always think about whether you really needmobile phone insurance before shelling out for cover.
  2. Lock your handset. Many people instinctively lock their phone – this is especially important to do if you’re abroad, where you may be more vulnerable to theft and (thanks to roaming charges) the consequences of the loss may be more catastrophic. Here are screen locking instructions for iOS (the Find My iPhonefeature is also useful), Android and Windows Phone.
  3. Lock your Sim. Even if your handset is locked, it’s still possible for those with light fingers to remove the Sim and use it in another phone, potentially racking up huge bills on your contract. To prevent this you can lock your Sim with a PIN which will be required whenever it’s put into a new device. Follow these steps if you’ve an iPhone, Android phone (may vary by handset) or Windows Phone.

If your phone does end up getting stolen, make sure you report it to the police and let your network know as soon as possible. This is important for preventing unauthorised use of your service, and may also be critical for insurance claims (most insurers only give a 12-hour window to report an incident after it occurring).


Mobile / Cell Phone Network Reviews for travelling abroad.

Roam free in 18 countries incl the US, Australia, France, Spain & Italy

wifi abroadWhen it comes to making roaming affordable, Three is leading the charge. Its Feel at Home feature allows contract and pay-as-you-go users to use their normal allowance of minutes, texts and data abroad in 18 different countries exactly as they would in the UK – and if you’re not already a Three customer, there’s a trick to get this for free:

Even if you’re not a Three customer, you can grab its Feel at Home offer. Just order one of its free pay-as-you Sims to pop into your handset while you’re away. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Order a free PAYG Sim from the Three  website – it’ll work in any unlocked 3G or 4G phone, and using it in the UK costs 3p per minute for calls, 2p per text and 1p per MB. You can also buy one in-store – it normally costs £1, but the fee’s waived if you top up at the same time. You will need to top up with a minimum of £10.
  • Step 2: To use Feel at Home, you’ll then need to use your credit to buy a Three add-on bundle of calls, texts and data. They cost from £5 to £25 – as an example, £20 will get you 300 minutes, 3,000 texts and all-you-can-eat data. To do this, log into your My 3 account, or call 333 using your new Sim.
  • Step 3. Feel at Home works automatically when you arrive in any of the 18 countries. You’ll be able to use the allowance in your add-on the same way as in the UK.

To do this you might have to unlock your phone though – as some networks can take up to 10 days to do this make sure you leave plenty of time. 🙂

If you’re heading to Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Macau, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland or the US, this is an unbeatable way to use your mobile abroad. Here’s how it works:

  • Any calls or texts to UK numbers and any data used comes from your allowance (though you’ll be charged international rates for dialling foreign numbers, eg if you call the restaurant down the street from your hotel). Receiving calls and texts is also free.
  • Feel at Home should work automatically when you arrive in one of the 18 countries. You’ll get a text confirming there’s no extra cost for calls and texts to the UK, and another with international rates.
  • You can only use 3G data abroad, even if you get ‘superfast’ 4G in the UK.
  • ‘All-you-can-eat’ customers can use up to 12GB, 3,000 mins and 5,000 texts abroad – so your allowance isn’t technically unlimited, though in practice it should be plenty.
  • Three’s terms and conditions say you can’t use your phone for tethering (in other words, use it as a portable hotspot to connect other devices to). However we have had people say it does work – we asked Three about this but it refused to be drawn on the consequences, only referring us to the out of allowance call charges if tethering takes you over the 12GB allowed if you have all-you-can-eat data.

As discussed near the beginning of this blog, in June 2017 we will see an end to roaming charges in Europe, but until then, costs are capped: won’t have to pay more than 16.6p/min for outgoing calls, 4.4p/min for incoming, 5.2p for texts and 16.9p/MB for data. But that can still add up to a hefty bill, especially if you’re used to unlimited allowances in the UK.

First check if the countries you’re going to are part of Three’s Feel at Home service. Within Europe, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Spain and Sweden are covered – if you’re going to one of those destinations, you may be best off getting a Three Sim if you don’t already have one.

Otherwise, if you’re a monthly contract customer it’s worth checking if you can get an overseas calls and texts or data add-on from your network. Here are the major mobile providers’ offerings:

What are the other mobile / cell phone network providers doing to cut costs?

Other network providers have deals with ‘Add-ons’ to cut costs within Europe.
EEPay £2/day for unltd texts and calls & from £3/day for 50MB/day

EE, Orange and T-Mobile customers can pay £5/day to get three bundles covering calls, texts and data for while they are travelling in Europe.

  • Euro Talk and Text Unlimited gives you unlimited calls and texts to European numbers while abroad in Europe for a flat rate of £2/day. Once you’ve opted in, the add-on applies automatically once you start using your phone in one of the available countries. This bundle is not available on pay-as-you-go for Orange and T-Mobile customers.
  • Euro Roaming Data Add-on customers who pay £3/day can get a 50MB daily allowance in the EU. Or you can get a higher allowance of 100MB for £5. This bundle is for both pay-as-you-go (except on Orange) and pay monthly customers.
  • Euro Pass is available to EE customers only. It lets you pay £4/day for unlimited calls and texts, plus 500MB of data per day (data speeds will be slowed down after the first 100MB). Once you’ve opted in, the add-on applies automatically once you start using your phone.How do I use it?
  • For the Text & Talk package and the Euro Pass, you’ll only be charged for the days you make or receive calls or send a text. If you’re planning on sending just a couple of texts or a quick call consider paying standard European rates as this may be cheaper.
  • With EE and T-Mobile, the data add-on can only be purchased while abroad – turn on data roaming and open your browser to get it. Once you’ve used the allowance in the bundle, you’ll be given the option to buy another. If not, the internet will stop working.
  • The following countries aren’t included: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus (North), Faroe Islands, Gaza Strip, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, West Bank.
  • On EE and T-Mobile you can’t use internet abroad without a bundle, so when it runs out you either have the option to buy another or stop using data altogether. On Orange, you’re automatically charged for another bundle up to 20 times.
T-Mobile£7.66 travel allowance for customers on older contracts

T-Mobile customers who joined or moved to a new contract between 1 February 2010 and 31 January 2012 get to choose one free “Booster” as part of their plan (data is not included). They can also access older Boosters no longer available on new contracts, such as the Euro Talk & Text Booster which gives a travel allowance of £7.66 to use when travelling in Europe.

How does it work?

  • You can choose how you want to use the allowance but it could be spent on 20 minutes of call time, receiving up to 65 minutes of calls or sending up to 74 texts.
  • For shorter trips or when you think you’ll be using your mobile more, the unlimited calls and texts bundle for £2/day detailed above is a better option – it’s also the only bundle available to newer T-Mobile customers.
O2Pay £1.99/day for unlimited data and special calling rates

O2 pay-monthly customers paying £1.99 a day can get unlimited data in Europe with the O2 Travel* service. Pay-as-you-go customers receive 50MB per day. There are extra costs for calls and texts.

For making and receiving calls, you’ll be charged a 50p/call connection fee. You can then talk for up to 60 mins per call. Texts cost 5p each.

Pay-as-you-go customers don’t qualify for these calling rates. Calls cost 16p/min, receiving calls costs 4p/min and texts 5p each, plus you only get 50MB of data – if it runs out, you have to buy the add-on again to get more.

How do I use it?

  • Before travelling check you have O2 Travel on your account by calling customer services. If not, text TRAVELON to 23336 (on pay monthly) or 21300 (on pay-as-you-go) to activate it.
  • Once activated, you’ll only be charged on the days you use your phone. There’s no charge for receiving texts.
  • A day is classified as midnight to 11.59pm, UK time.
  • If on pay-as-you-go and you reach the daily limit, the service will stop. If you want to use more you can reset your allowance for another £1.99 by texting MORETRAVEL to 21300 or wait for your allowance to be reset automatically at midnight.
  • The following countries aren’t included: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gaza Strip, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, West Bank.
VodafonePay £3/day and use your UK price plan in Europe

Vodafone customers paying £3/day can use their UK price plan in Europe with the Vodafone EuroTraveller add-on. You’ll only be charged on the days you use your phone and you can receive calls for free.

If you’re on a 4G contract and travelling in one of the eligible countries, you’ll also get 4G when roaming if you pay for EuroTraveller.

For pay-as-you-go customers, the add-on’s slightly different – you pay £3/day to take your Big Value Bundle minutes and texts with you, and you get 100MB of data for each day you use your phone while away.

How do I use it?

  • To opt in to Vodafone EuroTraveller, call 5555 or text ADD to 40506 from your Vodafone phone before you go. If on pay as you go, text EURO to 2345, the phone number is the same.
  • A day is from is classified as midnight to 11.59pm, local time.
  • The following countries aren’t included: Belarus, Gaza Strip, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, West Bank.
  • EuroTraveller uses your UK price plan’s inclusive allowances. If you exceed your inclusive UK allowances, you will be charged as if you are still at home.
  • By opting in to Vodafone EuroTraveller, you’ll automatically opt out of the monthly spend limit for internet in its Europe Zone.
ThreePay £5/day for unlimited EU data

If the country you’re visiting is one of Three’s Feel at Home destinations, you can use your UK minutes, texts and data allowance for free without having to buy a pass. If it’s not or you need more, then the Euro Internet Pass gives you unlimited access to mobile data for just £5/day.

How do I use it?

  • Buy the pass before you travel – or Three will send a text prompt to buy when you first turn on your phone in an EU country. To get it, visit the Three mobile site.
  • The add-on can’t be used in a number of European countries – see the full list.
  • Standard EU roaming charges of 17.4p/MB apply if you don’t buy a pass every day. Before your Euro Internet Pass expires, you’ll receive a text with the option to buy another pass for the following day. You won’t be charged after your pass expires until you re-purchase a pass or accept standard EU roaming charges.
  • You can’t use it for video streaming or tethering, and streamed music may not play as well as in the UK. If you have an active Euro Internet Pass and you travel to a country where the pass isn’t valid, you’ll be charged for data at standard EU roaming rates.
  • Three allows you to have one of each add-on per month, which means you can’t use the Euro Internet Pass alongside the International Saver, for example.

Add-ons to cut costs outside Europe

Outside the EEA it’s a different story altogether. Providers can charge what they like for calls, texts and data, and other than the €50 (roughly £43) monthly limit on data charges, costs aren’t capped (and if you take out an add-on, you may be opted out of this cap anyway).

Some providers charge as much as £3/min to make a call and £2.50/min to receive a call, and it’s easy to rack up bills running into £100s.

The table below shows just how steep the cost of using data outside Europe can be:

Data roaming costs outside Europe compared (incl VAT)

US N/A £6/MB £8/MB Free N/A £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after
India N/A £6/MB £8/MB £3/MB N/A £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after
Turkey N/A £6/MB £8/MB £3/MB N/A 45.9p/MB
Australia N/A £6/MB £8/MB Free N/A £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after
Cuba N/A N/A £8/MB N/A N/A £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after
1 EE and T-Mobile customers can’t use the internet on their phone abroad unless they buy a data add-on or Travel Booster. The company says this is to prevent users running up large bills. Table updated 2 october 2015.

How to cut the cost

The first thing to check is whether the country you’re heading to is covered by Three’s Feel at Home service.

Outside Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and the US are covered – if you’re going to one of those destinations, you may be best off getting a Three Sim (as mentioned above) if you don’t already have one.

Otherwise, if you’re a monthly contract customer it’s worth checking if you can get an overseas data bundle from your network. We list the major providers’ offerings below – bear in mind though that even buying a bundle can work out extremely expensive (some cost a gargantuan £120) so you may be better off keeping your phone off or sticking to free Wi-Fi.

EEPay from £3/day for 20MB/day & from £6/mth for calls or texts

EE customers can buy varying packages of minutes and texts to make or receive calls anywhere in the world to or from the UK and add a data bundle on top.

  • Pay monthly and pay-as-you-go EE customers can sign up for a roaming data add-on* when travelling outside of Europe. Prices start from £3/day for 20MB, with larger allowances lasting up to seven days also available. Bundle costs may depend on the country you’re visiting, so check with EE before you go.
  • The cheapest text bundle starts at £6/month for 100 texts, or you can opt for 30 minutes for the same price. There are also more expensive bundles available, which can be found on the EE website.How do I use it?
  • The data add-ons can only be purchased while abroad – turn on data roaming and open your browser to purchase it.
  • Once you’ve used the allowance in the data bundle, you’ll be given the option to buy another. If not, the internet will stop working.
  • The talk and text add-ons run on a monthly rolling contract, but if you activate it part way through your billing cycle you’ll receive an adjusted add-on charge and allowance until your next cycle begins.
VodafonePay £5/day for 25MB/day or to use your UK allowance

Vodafone customers have the option of paying £5/day to use their normal UK allowance (including data) while abroad or paying the same price to opt for a specific data bundle.

  • If you’re travelling to one of the 26 selected countries, including Australia and the US, you can also opt for Vodafone’s WorldTraveller* add-on. This costs £5 and lets you use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data without any additional roaming fees. If your plan at home gives it, you’ll also get 4G data if you’re travelling in one of 58 eligible countries.
  • Vodafone’s Data Traveller* add-on can be used outside Europe in any country in its Rest of World Zone 1, and gives 25MB/day for £5/day. If you use more than this in a single day you’ll pay standard roaming rates. The cut-off limit is £36.39/month (including VAT) – if you want more data, you’ll have to arrange it with Vodafone.

How do I use it?

  • To get WorldTraveller, text ADD to 40508 from your mobile to opt in. See Vodafone for more details. You’ll be charged £5/day every time you use your phone, it’s a good idea to do all your calls/texts/web surfing on one day, or limit it to just a few days of your trip, so you’re not charged every day.
  • A day is from is classified as midnight to 11.59pm, local time.
  • Call 191 free from your Vodafone Mobile to opt in. Then, you’ll only pay for the days you go online. Once you’ve used your allowance you’ll pay standard data rates – £3/MB up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB thereafter.
O2Pay £120/month for 200MB

O2 offers a Data Abroad Bolt on for pay monthly customers travelling out of Europe, which costs a whopping £120/month for 200MB. We don’t recommend you sign up for this one.

How do I use it?

  • Opt-in to the Bolt On by logging into your My O2 account.
  • The standard data roaming rate outside Europe is £6/MB, which is what you’ll pay after exceeding your allowance. O2 automatically caps your data usage at £40 per month while you’re abroad.
  • If you exceed the allowance you’ll be charged at its standard roaming rate of £6/MB, but O2 will cap your usage at 50MB (£40) per month. If you want to lift the limit you can do so by calling customer services, although this isn’t recommended given the cost.
  • Only the Blackberry Data Roaming Bolt On is available for pay-as-you-go users, which costs £5/month for 10MB. This only gives email and messenger services on Blackberry devices.

REMEMBER! Call up and cancel your package when you get home

If you have any questions or queries please comment in the box below or use the contact link at the top of this site and I will reply.

Free Travel health care with the European Health Insurance Card, but for how long?

I am always an advocate for thinking ahead and expecting the worst, maybe because I am a little clumsy. Whether you are accident prone like me or not with a little forward planning, you can protect your health when travelling and avoid unexpected medical bills.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is free for all European Citizens and entitles you to free or reduced-cost treatment in certain European countries. 

IMG_0011 (1)The EHIC is valid throughout the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The EEA consists of the European Union member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

But how long will this last for us who live in the UK? With politicians trying to score electoral points with bigots and fascists could the many benefits that we get from being members of Europe be about to come to an end, including the EHIC?

**political rant over – all though I encourage all UK readers to vote to stay in Europe**

IMG_0002The EHIC enables you to access reduced-cost, sometimes free, state-provided healthcare that becomes necessary during your trip because of either illness or an accident. It also covers you for pre-existing conditions, which for me is excellent as I suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a genetic condition apparently – however, I am the first mutation in my family; not a cool mutant though like the X-Men).

Routine maternity care is also covered on the EHIC, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth or seek treatment.

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. As my friend found out a couple of years ago, the EHIC does not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. It is also not valid on cruises.

It is therefore important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy in place before you travel. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC, and many will waive the excess if you have one.

For more information about what is covered in each country, see NHS Choices country-by-country guide.

EHICs are valid for up to five years. You should apply for a new one before its expiry date – you can apply up to six months before your old card expires. The easiest way to apply is online by clicking this official EHIC government link.

There is also a EHIC smartphone app from the European Commission’s website so you can easily access information about EHIC while you are abroad.

Remember the EHIC is free and please be aware of any  unofficial websites, which may charge if you apply through them.

Note: The European Health Insurance Card does not replace travel insurance!


Wet, Windy but Wonderful Whitby, UK.

1923487_46025050818_486_nWhitby is one of our most perfectly quaint seaside resorts known, not only for its fishing history but also the location of where Bram Stoker created Dracula, with the vampire entering England after his ship crashes into the town’s pier, my journey in to Whitby was a little less traumatic (a near scrape in the car park maybe – due to the wind and rain – and dodgy parking of other visitors) but still not as damaging as almost taking out Whitby’s light house!

IMG_9956For those that have known me for many years, I once played Professor Abraham Van Helsing (he guy who discovers how to kill Dracula) in a school production of Dracula. So visiting Whitby, with its Dracula connection, brought back fond memories for me (and sadly for you, my knowledge of Bram Stokers story – possibly some Dracula references in this blog post).

IMG_9955The best place to eat fish ‘n’ chips, in my opinion (sorry for the blood thirsty vamps but the only red stuff here is ketchup), is the Magpie Cafe. With wonderful views over the harbour from the first floor, this venue can be located by the queues of customers waiting to get in (even in the pouring rain).

I have never tasted better fish n chips. Yummy!

420830_4655056941275_1417360677_nTowering over the seaside town are the ruins of Whitby Abbey on the East Cliff. With 199 steps leading up to the Gothic abbey my ascent can only be described as much more leisurely than Mina Harker’s frantic dash up to rescue her friend Lucy from the fate Dracula had install for her, for I, like many other tourists, kept stopping to take photographs over red pantiled roofs to the harbour below. As well as the Abbey being at the top of the steps so is 
St Mary’s Church which is well worth a look (and use as a resting point after the climb).

1931258_45142825818_2362_nThe 199 steps is worth the climb for the Abbey alone. Perched high on a cliff, it’s easy to see why the haunting remains of Whitby Abbey were inspiration for Bram Stoker’s gothic tale of ‘Dracula’. Sink your teeth into years of history, amazing views and a packed events programme, just a short climb away from the picturesque Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby.

IMG_9963On the decent down from the Abbey take a stroll through the cobble lined streets in the old town, and if ou are feeling flush why not look in the jet jewellery shops. I highlu recommend W Hammonds, Whitby’s original seller of jet jewellery! The displays are simply stunning!

In short – I love Whitby and if you visit you will fall in love with this dramatic seaside village!

p.s. please excuse some of the dramatic photographs – I took them for a photography project. All images are original to me!

Travel Blog

%d bloggers like this: