4 great getaways from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

4 great getaways from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations for 4 great getaways from Barcelona, Spain.

The words “getaway” and “Barcelona” don’t sound like they belong in the same sentence. Why would anyone want to get away from Barcelona? Believe me, I am with you on that. I’m crazy about this city and am not shy to show it (it’s my favorite European city and in my top 5 of the world). So much so that I spent almost a month based here. And what a month it was!

Barcelona is easily worth a month (or more) of your time. However, it is still nice to get out of the city and explore other surrounding areas. The public transport system is easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Within just few hours you could find yourself in a totally different region or country.

Here are my recommendations for great getaways from Barcelona.

Heading to Spain? Check out my posts for Barcelona and Mallorca.

Montserrat (1 day)

Montserrat is the most well-known day trip from Barcelona. The monastery is just over an hour out of the city and easily accessible by a combination of train and rail or train and cable car. Alternatively, if you have a car, you can drive. There are many ticket options available on the website and it can be confusing. My friends and I bought our train and rail pass from the ticket office at Plaza Espana.

Once you arrive, there is no actual entrance fee unless you want to visit the Museum, Audiovisual Space, or take a ride on a funicular. Access to the grounds and the Basilica are free. Inside the church, you can view the famed Our Lady of Montserrat statue.

There are also numerous hikes, which were my favorite part. Visit the tourist office to pick up a map so you can find views like these.

Montserrat-Spain

Girona (1-2 days)

I visited Girona as a day trip, however, it could also be stretched into a lazy weekend. By train, it is 40 minutes from Barcelona Sants station and costs around €25 return. For photographers, this city is a dream with a mixture of cultures and architectures. A majority of the activities are free or less than €5 so it’s also a destination that suits budget-conscious travelers.

Here are some of the things you can do during your visit to Girona:

  • Walk through the Jewish Quarter and visit Europe’s smallest plaza
  • Visit the Santa Maria Cathedral and Arab Baths
  • Explore the garden and church ruins
  • Walk along the city wall and take photos of the incredible views
  • Eat delicious ice cream from Rocambolesc (there is also a location in Barcelona)
  • Visit the Cinema Museum.

River-onya-Girona-Spain

Valencia (2-3 days)

I visited Valencia for 2 and a half days and absolutely loved it. It takes 4 hours by bus from Barcelona, so is not possible as a day trip but you wouldn’t want to spend less time here anyway. Life is meant to be enjoyed in Valencia and there is absolutely no rushing.

Valencia is in the region of Comunitat Valenciana with the official languages of Valencian and Castilian (Spanish). English is also widely spoken. As a different region with a different language, it is nice to see the contrast to Barcelona (located in the region of Catalonia with the language of Catalan). it is also a University city, so there are also many young international students.

Read my 2 day itinerary for Valencia, Spain.

Plaza-de-la-Virgen-Valencia-Spain

Andorra la Vella (2-3 days)

Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, located on the borders of Spain and France, and close to the Pyrenees Mountains. From Barcelona, you can take a direct bus to the capital of Andorra la Vella in 3 hours.

Andorra la Vella is small but picturesque with a mountain backdrop. The city itself can be explored in a few hours and is probably not worth a day trip unless you are counting countries or looking to shop. The attached neighborhood of Escaldes-Engordany is like a giant outdoor outlet store.

The majority of visitors to Andorra come here for the skiing and stay up in the mountains. The other option for visitors to Andorra la Vella is one of their luxurious spas.

Andorra-la-Vella-Girona-Spain


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Adoration 4 Adventure's recommendations for 4 great getaways from Barcelona, Spain. Including Montserrat, Girona, Valencia and Andorra.

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Itinerary: Lisbon, Portugal (2 days)

Itinerary: Lisbon, Portugal (2 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for Lisbon, Portugal.

Portugal has become an increasingly popular destination and for good reason. The Portuguese are welcoming, warm and charming: just like their cities. The crown jewel of this Western European treasure is the capital, Lisbon. It is a global city with a provincial feel, and a destination that deserves a place on all European itineraries.

This was my second time in Lisbon but first time for my adventure buddy, Tamara. You may remember her from such posts as 2 day itinerary for Barcelona, Spain. Even though I’d been before, I still had a list of experiences I wanted to tick off and was excited to get started.

Here is our 2 day itinerary for Lisbon, including budget breakdown.

Planning a trip to Portugal? Check out how to find local cuisine and culture in Lisbon.

Day 1: Lisbon

Breakfast at Gat Rossio

While in Lisbon, Tamara and I had the pleasure of staying at Gat Rossio hotel. Each morning the hotel provides a buffet breakfast with breads, cheeses, cold cut meats, boiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, pastries, coffee, tea and juice. Not only is the food delicious but Gat Rossio is also conscious of guests with food preferences and allergies. There are lactose and gluten free options, all easily identifiable with labels. I was ecstatic to find oat milk to have with coffee!

Do you have a sensitivity or preference when it comes to food? Read my tips for traveling with a food allergy.

And if that wasn’t good enough, you can look forward to the Portuguese specialty of Pastel de Nata (cream pastry) each morning. Warning: these are highly addictive!

Breakfast-buffet-at-Gat-Rooms-Lisbon-Portugal

Exploring Barrio Alto

Another bonus of staying at Gat Rossio is its city center location. Barrio Alto has many historic and charming sites to visit including Praca dom Pedro IV and Praca do Comercio. Tamara decided to take a free walking tour with Sandemans New Lisbon (meeting point Martim Moniz at 10 am). I had gone on walking tour during my last visit so decided to hit the streets with my camera instead.

Praça-de-D.-Pedro-IV-Rossio-Lisbon-Portugal

Taking the tram to Alfama

Alfama is the colorful “old town” of Lisbon and only a fifteen-minute walk from Barrio Alto. If you are looking for an experience you might want to take the tram there. The 28E tram is very popular with tourists as it goes through different neighborhoods of the city. The ticket is inexpensive (around €1.25, paid with your standard metro card) but it can get crowded. Expect to wait for half an hour minimum, even if you get on from the first stop at Matrim Moniz.

Tram-28E-to-Alfama-Lisbon-Portugal

Alfama is a lot of fun to explore. Here you will find many restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. As a popular spot for tourists, some of the meal prices can be in the higher range, however it is still possible to find a cheap sit-down lunch at local restaurants. Basically, the places that don’t have English on the menu. If you don’t speak Portuguese but know Spanish, Italian or French you will see some similarities in some words (just don’t try speaking Spanish to the waiters – they are different languages!). Otherwise a bit of google translating, guessing and pointing goes along way.

I speak enough Portuguese to get around, and we found a quaint corner restaurant with meals from €5 each. The staff were incredibly friendly and when there was one word I was not familiar with, a Brazilian at the nearby table translated it.  I just love hunting for the more “authentic” places, especially if it means saving money.

Something to keep in mind when eating out in Portugal – waiters will often bring bread (sometimes also olives and cheese) to the table. These usually cost extra. Depending on the restaurant it can range from 50 cents to 5 euros for a bread roll (true story – happened to a friend of mine). Check the menu or ask your server before consuming.

 Lunch in Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal

Castelo de Sao Jorge and sunset at Zambeze bar

While in Alfama, it is worth taking a walk to Saint George Castle. There is an entrance fee, however, you can still see the castle walls and explore the alley ways outside. After a wander around, we went to the nearby Zambeze bar for a cold drink and a beautiful sunset over the city.

Sunset-at-Zambeze-bar-Lisbon-Portugal

Fado concert

As this was my second time in Lisbon, there were three things that I was determined to experience: Pastel de Nata (I got to eat every morning at Gat Rossio), Sintra (we visited the next day) and a Fado concert. Fado is a type of song that is used to express “saudade” (the feeling of missing someone or something). It originated from Portuguese women singing to express heartache when the men left on long sea voyages.

The area of Alfama is the traditional place to see a Fado concert and there are many venues to choose from. We asked Gat Rossio for their recommendations and subsequently made a booking at Parreirinha de Alfama. This venue is also recommended by the Lisbon Tourism office, so you know it’s really good.

We arrived at the reserved time of 8:30 pm and were shown to our table. The restaurant has an intimate setting with stone walls and mood lighting. The performance itself is included with the cost of the meal and guests are required to spend a minimum of €30 per person. Considering the quality of the concert and food, it was well worth the cost.

Parreirinha-de-Alfama-Fado-Concert-Lisbon-Portugal

Day 2: Sintra

Sintra is a Portuguese town located around 30 kilometers (18 miles) outside of Lisbon. It is a magical wonderland of palaces and castles that feel straight out of a fairytale. The area was once home to Portuguese nobles and is now open for the enjoyment of the public.

It makes a great day trip (or three!) from Lisbon. There are many places to see. You can try cramming in as much as possible with a guided tour or hop-on-hop-off bus. We decided to visit just a couple of sites and spend more time in each. Based on recommendations, we chose Quinta da Regaleira and Palacio da Pena.

Getting to Sintra is easy and inexpensive. From Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio station you can take a train direct to Sintra in about forty-five minutes. Don’t worry if you haven’t planned your trip in advance. Upon arrival, you will find the tourist information center inside the station, where you can pick up a map and directions.

Quinta da Regaleira

This stately home and lavish grounds is a short 15-minute walk from the Sintra train station. During our Fado dinner, we had met a couple who raved about the gardens. I have to agree – they don’t disappoint! Prepare yourself for underground cave systems, enchanting wells, and waterfalls. Entrance to the property and house is €6.00.

Quinta-da-Regaleira-Sintra-Portugal

Palacio da Pena

Pena Palace is a little further away. From the Sintra train station, it is an hour walk. Alternatively, you can buy a return bus ticket for €5.50 or enjoy the novelty of a tuk-tuk for €5 per person, each way. Pena Palace costs €6.50 for access to the grounds and €11.50 if you also want to enter the palace rooms.

The walk to Pena is a highlight on its own, as it goes through the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais. There are a lot of hills so you probably want to be in moderate shape at least. The park closes its gates at 5 pm sharp and the palace is open until 6 pm.

Pena-Palace-entrance-Sintra-Portugal

Dinner and drinks in Lisbon

There is no shortage of traditional Portuguese restaurants in Lisbon. As we were staying at Gat Rossio and tired after a big day, we decided to stay close to the hotel for dinner. We ventured a few streets away to Rua dos Correeiros to enjoy Bolinhos de Bacalhau (fried codfish balls) for €4 and a bottle of house wine for €5.

For nightlife, many friends had recommended “Pink Street” (or Rua Cor de Rosa) which is actually located on Rua Nova do Carvalho. The street is literally painted pink and packed full of bars and clubs. For my last night in Lisbon, I decided to head to a Couchsurfing event instead. There I enjoyed a beer while chatting with expats, locals, and other backpackers.


Gat Rossio Lisbon

Gat Rooms offer designer accommodation in central locations with a focus on value. The brand strives to embody the cat spirit (the word “Gato” is Portuguese for cat) with curiosity, friendliness, and playfulness. Gat Rooms have hotels in Berlin and Lisbon, with a new site opening in Barcelona.

We stayed in their Lisbon location, Gat Rossio, and were awed by the helpfulness of the staff. The Gat Rossio team went above and beyond to make sure that we had a great stay in Lisbon. Which is not hard to do when you are staying in a hotel as nice as this!

Gat-Rooms-Lisbon-Double-Standard-Room-Portugal.

My friend and I shared a double standard room which comes with an ergonomic “5-star” bed. The furnishings and fittings are very sleek with fresh, bold colors.The custom lighting control panels above the bed let you set the mood of the room with dimming. Or allows guests to read on their side of the bed while their roommate sleeps.

On the second level at Gat Rossio, you can find the kitchen, terrace and lounge area which is called “Roomroom”. Roomroom is a great place to chill, work, or message your friends to brag about the great time you are having.

Location: Rua jardim do Regedor, 27-35, 1150-193 Lisboa

Website: http://hotelgatrossio.com/

Gat-Rooms-Lisbon-Portugal-Terrace

My friend and I were complimentary guests of Gat Rossio, however, my opinion is my own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to my readers.


Budget breakdown: Lisbon

All costs are quoted for one person and in the local currency (EUR). See below for the average daily spend including currency conversion to USD and AUD. I always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with my readers. If you know of a better deal, tell me about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: Gat Rossio is a design-lovers hotel located in the center of Lisbon. They offer single, double and triple rooms as well as junior suites. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Rooms.

Food: Gat Rooms Lisbon provides a daily buffet breakfast to all their guests.

Day 1 – Coffee and muffin (€2.20), lunch in Alfama (€7.50), beer at Zambeze (€2.00), dinner at Parreirinha de Alfama, including Fado concert (€35.50).

Day 2 – Lunch in Sintra (€8.00), hot chocolate at Pena Palace (€2.50), chocolate cake (€1.20), dinner and wine in Lisbon (€7.25).

Activities: Entrance to Quinta da Regaleira (€6.00), entrance to Pena Palace gardens (€6.50).

Transport: Metro card (€6.30), 24-hour train ticket to SIntra (€10.25).

Average daily spend: €47.66 each* ($50.21 USD and $66.38 AUD as of 4 March 2017) excluding accommodation.

*This daily amount could be reduced by choosing cheaper activities. Also, I made an error with my metro tickets and paid more than I needed to.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for Lisbon, Portugal exploring Barrio Alto and Alfama as well as a day trip to Sintra.

Have you traveled to Lisbon or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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Itinerary: Valencia, Valencian Community, Spain (2 days)

Itinerary: Valencia, Valencian Community, Spain (2 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for Valencia, Spain.

Valencia is a Spanish city located on the eastern coast, around four hours by car from Barcelona or Madrid. It is most known for its Valencia oranges and as the original birthplace of paella.

For me, Valencia was a tranquil and charming break from the pulsing energy of the bigger cities. A place to take your time, have daily siestas and multiple cafe breaks. I spent a large part of my time wandering around with a serene smile, stopping to take photos whenever I felt like it or just sitting down in the plaza to people watch.

In total I spent two and half days in Valencia, however, it could easily be fit into two days without rushing.

Here is my two day itinerary for Valencia, including budget breakdown.

Heading to Spain? Check out our posts for Barcelona and Mallorca.

Day 1

Plaza de la Virgen and free walking tour

A great way to get orientated and learn the basic history of a destination is to go on a free walking tour. Most cities will have at least one walking tour, which you can find by asking your hostel or hotel reception desk, or by searching online. The free tours are on tip basis, so you pay what you think it is worth. I have also found this to be a great way to meet other solo travelers, making friends on previous walking tours in Barcelona, Porto and Amsterdam.

The free walking tour that I took in Valencia started in Plaza de la Virgen. Luckily for me, it was just a few minutes walk from my hostel. The guide led us around the center, showing us the main attractions and giving a brief overview of Valencia in two and a half hours. The pace is quite relaxed and overall we didn’t do that much walking (the center is quite small). I started chatting to another girl from Seattle and we decided to go exploring after the tour ended.

Plaza-de-la-Virgen-Valencia-Spain

Mercado Central 

The walking tour included a stop in the central market of Valencia, however, I think that it is worth a trip (or two!) on its own. Many major cities around the world have these public food markets. They can be really fun to explore and get an idea of the local produce and cuisines.

The typical Valencia snack to purchase here is horchata and farton. Horchata (orxata) is a local drink made from ground tiger nuts. There are similar versions in Latin American countries. The farton is a sweet pastry which tastes somewhat like a doughnut. The custom is to dip your farton into the horchata, however as I am not a big fan of horchata, I had mine with coffee instead.

Mercado-Central-Valencia-Spain

Plaza de la Reina and Torre de San Miguelete

A short distance from Plaza de la Virgen is Plaza de la Reina. This is a busier square with more restaurants and traffic (both pedestrian and vehicles) but it still retains that relaxed vibe. Rising above the square is the San Miguelete Tower and Santa Maria Cathedral. Both require a ticket to enter. If you are really into churches and don’t want to pay then you can visit the cathedral in Plaza de la Virgen for free.

The cost to climb San Miguelete tower is only two Euros and definitely worth it for some amazing views of the city.

Plaza-de-la-Reina-and-Torre-de-San-Miguelete-Valencia-Spain

El Carmen street art

When I had arrived the previous night by bus from Barcelona, I couldn’t help but notice all the street art I saw while walking to my hostel. This area is called El Carmen and is a maze of decorated alleys close to Plaza de la Virgen. There are also a ton of cafes and restaurants littered throughout this area. A Spanish friend of mine who lived in Valencia told me that this is where she used to go for drinks.

El-Carmen-street-art-Valencia-Spain

Ruzafa

At the time that I was in Valencia, the place to go drinking seemed to be Ruzafa. So much so that I actually ended up here two nights in a row. There is a range of bars from craft beer to jazz clubs, and I tried to visit as many as possible on a crazy pub crawl.

One famous Valencia drink is “Agua de Valencia”. This is consists of cava or champagne, vodka, gin and orange juice. Usually served by the glass or in a jug. I bought a jug to share but have to say that it was very overpriced. The Agua de Valencia I tried was similar to a mimosa which is very common in the USA and Australia. Apart from that, the drinks are generally well-priced starting from €1 for a tap beer.

Day 2

Bluebell Coffee Co.

While in Valencia, I upped my caffeine intake. It wasn’t to stay awake (I was still having daily siestas) but rather for the taste and pleasure of sipping on the hot beverage in between my leisurely strolls. The only issue was all the milk that I was drinking. I suffer from a lactose sensitivity, which means that I can’t consume dairy in large quantities. With all my coffee breaks, I really needed to switch to something light for my stomach.

Do you have a sensitivity or preference when it comes to food? Read my tips for traveling with a food allergy.

For those who have lactose sensitivities or prefer their specialty coffees, this can be a little tricky when traveling in Spain. Most cafes will only serve the standard types e.g. cafe con leche (coffee with milk) or cafe negro (black coffee). And if you are after soy milk, forget it. There more expensive options available are Starbucks and Costa Coffee, however, I tend to get sick of visiting chain coffee shops and crave the experience of an independent cafe.

And that’s what I found in Bluebell Coffee Co. A quiet and cute cafe with specialty coffee and fresh breakfast options.

Bluebell-Coffee-Co.-Valencia-Spain

Turia Gardens

When I asked a friend of mine what I should do in Valencia, she enthusiastically responded “Go to the river!”. The so-called river actually no longer exists but has been filled in and covered with a beautiful parkland that extends from Parque de Cabecera, in the west, almost all the way to the ocean in the east.

The park is full of people exercising, walking or just taking a relaxing. There is also a huge children’s playground in the shape of Gulliver from the book “Gulliver’s Travels”. I would recommend hiring a bike for a day and riding the entire length of the gardens to the sea. If you do go by foot, be aware of the different paths for cyclists, joggers, and walkers. I was almost run down when I didn’t look before stepping out onto a bike track.

Turia-Gardens-Valencia-Spain

Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias (CAC)

The City of Arts and Sciences is a huge complex of futuristic buildings within Turia Gardens. Each building is unique creation and contribution to the education of arts and sciences. There is an entrance fee to the science museum, aquarium, and 3D cinema or you can just wander around gaping at the science-fiction type architecture.

City-of-Arts-and-Sciences-Valencia-Spain

Playa de la Malvarrosa

If you bike east through the length of Turia Gardens then start to head north after the City of Arts and Sciences, you will find yourself at the sea! I actually walked the distance from Plaza de la Virgen to Playa de la Malvarossa and it took over an hour (I got the bus back).

The area around the beach is quite nice with a harbor, walking paths and Rollerblade park. The beach itself is calm and wide. Restaurants are lined up behind the shore and there is a feeling of merriness in the air. Especially if you visit on a sunny day like I did.

Playa-de-la-Malvarrosa-Valencia-Spain-Chantell-Collins


Budget breakdown: Valencia

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (EUR). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to USD and AUD. I always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with my readers. If you know of a better deal, tell me about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: 2 nights’ in a 6-bed female dorm (€22.20).

Food: My hostel provided free breakfast with tea and coffee however as the quality wasn’t very good, I bought my coffee and breakfast out of the hostel.

Day 1 – Coffee and farton at Mercado Central (€2.20), lunch and a beer (€6.40), latte with soy milk (€3.30), slice of pizza (€1.50), icecream (€1.50), beers in Ruzafa (€6.00).

Day 2 – Breakfast and coffee with soy at Bluebell Coffee Co. (€6.50), 1-liter bottle of water and bag of candy (€2.40), little sandwiches and fries at 100 Montaditos (€4.50), latte with soy milk (€3.30), slice of gourmet pizza (€2.50).

Activities: Tip for the free walking tour (€10), entrance to Torre de San Miguelete (€2).

Transport: Bus from Playa de la Malvarrosa back to Turia Gardens (€1.50).

Average daily spend: €37.90* ($40 USD and $52.14 AUD as of 22 February 2017).

*This daily amount could be reduced by cooking your own meals or sticking to drinking more water.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for Valencia, Spain exploring Mercado Central, Turia Gardens, City of Arts and Sciences, and Playa de la Malvarrosa.

Have you traveled to Valencia or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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The ultimate guide to finding travel accommodation on a budget

The ultimate guide to finding travel accommodation on a budget

Adoration 4 Adventure’s ultimate guide for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

In addition to flights, one of the biggest costs associated with travel is accommodation. I am always looking for ways to save money and rarely ever pay the full price for a hotel or hostel. This means that I can travel to more places or spend longer in destinations for the same amount.

Here are the methods that I regularly use to find low-cost or free travel accommodation.

Working for food and accommodation

What if I told you that you could get free accommodation by working for a few hours a day? The idea of an exchange of goods or services is not new, however, there are now websites that make these transactions even easier to find.

The most commonly known platforms are Help X, Workaway and WOOFing. Each of these usually has a yearly subscription fee but once you sign up, you can then browse for exchange opportunities in the location of your choice. I’ve used another platform called Worldpackers, which charges a small fee for each assignment. By referring friends you can receive discounts off your placements.

Sign up for Worldpackers and search for your first host.

Alternatively, you can search for exchanges the old-fashioned way by contacting the host directly. We all have skills that can be valuable to others. Consider your own experience and what could be useful for an accommodation provider then get in touch with them to see if they are interested in the offer.

Jobs can range from manual tasks (such as cleaning and construction) through to experienced (such as website design and photography). Depending on the level of skill required, each job will have different requirements and provisions. The higher the skill you have, the fewer hours you will need to contribute and the more you can expect to receive in return e.g. meals, drinks, activities, etc. It is important to note that as these are exchanges, usually no money is paid and it is up to you to secure the correct visa for that country.

Worldpackers exchange in Barcelona Spain

Paying with points

If you participate in any points programs (hotel or air miles) then you may be able to redeem these points for a stay in a hotel. When visiting Portland, Oregon I used my frequent flyer points to pay for a two nights stay in a 3-star hotel with no extra cost for tax or fees.

Before choosing this option, I would recommend considering the value of the points as there may be better ways to spend them, for example, flights with a greater monetary value.

Discounted hotels and hostels

Last minute booking sites will often give great discounts on hotels. In the U.S.A., I mainly use Priceline or Hotwire, however, I’ll still shop around at other websites to see if I can find a better deal. By using a discounted hotel website, I was able to stay in a luxurious hotel on the Vegas strip for a fraction of the normal price.

The Luxor, Las Vegas

I also like Booking.com because it’s easy to use and usually has a flexible change and cancellation policy (check before you book). While on a 5-week backpacking trip around Europe, I had to cancel 5 hostel bookings which I did with a few clicks in the app and no penalty fees.

Make your next Booking.com reservation and receive a $15 USD ($20 AUD) credit after your stay.

When using booking sites, always make sure you check for additional cleaning fees, resort charges, and taxes which may not be included the advertised price. I have been caught out before and had an exorbitant cleaning fee waived because it was not obvious when I booked online.



Booking.com

Hotel alternatives

For long-term stays (3 nights or more) I like to use Airbnb. This is a great concept where you pay to stay in someone’s home. Depending on your budget and level of comfort, you can rent a whole house, private or shared room. For my first month in Vancouver, I rented a master bedroom with en-suite through Airbnb. It was great because it’s fully furnished and the utilities are included in the costs. I received a discounted rate because I booked for a whole month.

Airbnb also has a program that lets you earn credits towards your next stay when you refer friends or family. They receive a credit by signing up and you also receive one. By using my Airbnb credits, I was able to rent a private room in Barcelona, right near La Rambla for less than AUD $20 per night.

SIgn up to Airbnb and receive a $20 USD ($28 AUD) credit for your first stay.

Most Airbnb property profiles are filled out in full, however, you can also read references left by previous guests to get a better idea of the owners and the property. As with the booking sites, check for additional fees before booking.

Airbnb-Barcelona-Spain

Camping

While on road trips, I will camp as often as I can (weather permitting). There are often free campsites which you can find on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website in the U.S.A. or using the Wiki Camps app in Australia.

Camping in National Parks will often have a nightly fee attached however it’s a small price to pay to experience the wonder of being close to nature.

Mt Ashland, Oregon, USA

Camper van

For the ultimate freedom, try hiring a camper van for your next trip. Not only will you have your own set of wheels, but also a bed and cooking implements. This can help you save money on accommodation and eating out.

Read my six day road trip itinerary for Ireland and Northern Ireland including budget breakdown.

Aces-Wicked-Camper-Wicked-Campers-Belfast-Northern-Ireland-Chantell-Collins-Adoration-4-Adventure.

Hospitality exchange websites

Hospitality exchange websites are more than just about a free place to stay – it is about a cultural and sociable experience where you will spend time with and get to know your hosts.

Since 2010, I have used Couchsurfing to host over 20 surfers, stay with over 20 hosts, and make countless friends all around the world. Other hospital exchange websites include BeWelcome and Warmshowers, however, have not personally tested them.

Before sending a CS request, I would suggest doing the following:

  • Make sure that your profile is completed in full. Tell your future hosts and surfers who you really are!
  • If you don’t already have references, ask a close friend or family member to give you a personal reference.
  • Use the filters when searching for a host. I personally only look for hosts who have their profile set to “Yes” (not “Maybe”) and only contact hosts who have over an 80% response rate.
  • Read your potential host’s profile very carefully. Are they someone that you can see yourself getting along with? Do you have interests in common?
  • Check their references. Even if they don’t have negative or neutral references, it pays to read the positive references to get more of an insight about the person.
  • When sending a request, include a short introduction about yourself and why you are traveling there. Highlight why you think it is a good match. Make references to multiple points on their profile to show that you have taken the time to read it.
  • Avoid sending copy and paste requests. And don’t forget to include their name at the beginning!

See an example of a completed Couchsurfing profile.

Once you are accepted by a host, I would also try to take a gift along (such as wine, cake, etc.) as a token of our gratitude. Some surfers will offer to cook a meal instead, to say thank you. Recently I couchsurfed in Ibiza, Spain for three nights and we shared many meals and good conversations together.

Couchsurfing-in-Ibiza-Spain

Staying with friends and family

One of my favorite things about traveling is the people you meet along the way. I have made some incredible friendship connections which have lasted long-term from a long distance.

While traveling in Europe on a 5 week backpacking trip, I planned the majority of my stops around where my friends were living. I loved hanging out with them in their city and having a personal tour guide.

I have been so lucky to have such amazing friends and been welcomed by incredibly kind hosts, whom I hope we can also return the favor when they come to visit.

Staying with friends in Edinburg, Scotland


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Adoration 4 Adventures ultimate guide for finding travel accommodation on a budget. Methods I regularly use to find low cost or free travel accommodation.

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Close to death: Travelers share their scariest stories

Close to death: Travelers share their scariest stories

Adoration 4 Adventure’s collection of travelers’ scariest stories – “Close to death”.

This collection includes travelers’ most frightening experiences that occurred while traveling. Tales from Spain, India, Mongolia, Cambodia and the United Kingdom.

Want to avoid common travel blunders? Read my top 10 travel mistakes.

Rescued off a cliff face by emergency services

Chantell Collins

www.adoration4adventure.com

Until earlier this year I’d thought I was pretty educated about the dangers of hiking in the wilderness. Back in Australia, you often hear of people who wander off the track, get hopelessly lost and need to be rescued. However, this was the last thing in my mind when I decided to go on a hike in Mallorca, Spain.

My Couchsurfing host told me about a cave that had a hole in the roof called “Avenc de Son Pou”. He had been before and said it would be about an easy one hour hike each way. I invited another girl, Maggie, that I’d met through Couchsurfing to come along. She was visiting from Berlin and had never been hiking before.

We arrived at the entrance of the track, a little after 2:30 pm. We had come along with a small backpack with water, snacks, and our cameras (or camera phones). Everyone was in great spirits, chatting and laughing as we walked along the trail. In the first 15 minutes, we saw a beautiful waterfall that had us beaming with huge smiles.

After the waterfall, my host seemed a little confused about which path to take. He’d done the hike before but starting from a different entrance. Maggie and I were so relaxed and busy chatting to each other, that we let him make the decisions about which direction to go in. After all, he was the local and we were just visiting. We trusted his judgment.

Soon the path disappeared and we were climbing over rocks, heading towards a large mountainside. Maggie and I became a little concerned and made our thoughts known. My host responded that we should keep going in that direction, as the path was just over the hill and it would be quicker rather than go back the way we came. I remember joking “How do you know we aren’t going to come over the top of the hill and find ourselves on a cliff face?”.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. We scrambled our way along the side of the mountain and came over the ridge. It was very slippery and Maggie lost her footing a few times. It was starting to get a little scary but we kept trusting that our guide was leading us in the right direction. Once we came up over the top, the descent was very steep. There were many trees and bushes, so at first, it was hard to see exactly what was in front (or below) us. Our guide helped us climb down a small slope onto a ledge. The brush cleared and we could see that we were actually on the side of a cliff.

Did I mention that I am terrified of heights? I found myself sitting on a small ledge, looking down at a sharp drop. To go back up, would mean scrambling up a rocky ledge and putting ourselves in danger. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was also after 5:30 pm and already getting dark and cold. I could see that my host was really out of his depth but was trying to keep it together. At that point, Maggie announced that she could go no further and it was an emergency. I agreed with her.

The emergency service workers in Mallorca were incredible. They responded to our phone call immediately and told us not to move from our location. They continued to keep us updated via Whatsapp messages on the progress of the rescue workers. A team arrived by car and two experienced men climbed up to us and checked on condition first. Maggie had a few minor cuts and scrapes and was a little shook up. They gave us something sweet to eat to get sugar into our blood and made sure we had water.

The men used their flashlights to locate the best route down, which was back over the ridge. At this point, it was very dark and although we still were slipping over, it was far more safe than if we had of attempted to get down ourselves. Once we reached the path, we were greeted by the rest of the team including a police officer and firefighters. A few tears of relief and hugs were shared. The workers then pointed to an opening in the mountain and asked if we wanted to go in and see the cave that we had been searching for. Worn out and still in shock, I laughed and responded “proxima vez” (next time).

Close to death- rescued off a cliff face by emergency workers


A forced dip in the frozen river during Chadar Trek in India

Medhavi Davda

www.ravenouslegs.com

Chadar Trek is a frozen river trek on the river Zanskar in Ladakh, India. It is considered to be extremely difficult because one has to walk on the frozen river in winter when the temperature ranges between -15°C and -30°C. The ice on the river keeps forming and breaking and in such cases one has to take an alternate route through the snow-covered steep rocks. It can snow at any time and leave the trekker guessing if there is ice or water beneath the snow cover.

One of the days, I fell into this trap while I was walking on thin sheets of ice. My leg broke the thin layer of ice and made its way through to the water flowing beneath. The ice cold water numbed my leg and my brain together. I controlled the panic inside me and tried to lift up my leg only to realise that my other leg sunk in too. I was inside the flowing river chest-deep and my hands above the chadar. It was this moment when everything around me became blur and I sensed the rare possibility of my survival.

I somehow gathered my senses and waved my trekking pole and called for help. There were locals on the trek carrying food items and other necessary camping equipment on the sledges. They saw me and ran towards me. They pulled me out alive and took me away from that trail and made me rest on the sledges to let me catch my breath. They even helped me change into fresh clothes soon. My boots were filled with ice. Socks, double layer of pants, down jacket, gloves, camera, everything was frozen, rock hard. Luckily I had clothes waterproofed in my backpack. And the only way to warm myself again was to start hiking again. I remember how happy I was to have experienced this “FORCED DIP” in chadar and survived too!

Medhavi Davda


Don’t Trust the Mongolian Horse Meat

Meg Atteberry

www.foxintheforest.net

My eyes opened slowly, the scene gently falling into focus. Where am I and what on earth is that music? Some barley-English rendition of Celine Dion’s “I Will Always Love You” was coming from beyond the headboard. I groaned and tried to roll over. Tubes. Needles. Monitors everywhere. So that wasn’t a dream? I mused. I glanced around the dark room, listening to the soft beep of the machines. I looked at the clock 2:30 am. I didn’t have the effort for much else, so I succumbed to the sounds of karaoke and passed out again.

Flashback to 8 hours earlier. The 4×4 was bouncing along through the gates of the city of Ulaan Bator. The sudden influx of cars, people, and pollution overcame me quickly after spending a week out in the remote steppe of Mongolia. My stomach started to churn, and I had a headache. My newfound road warrior buddies and I arrived back at the hostel.

“I’m going to lay down and get some rest, I’m not feeling well. Amy, would you mind taking my wallet and picking up some camel felt slippers for my brother while you guys are shopping?”

“Sure thing.” She replied. Without thinking I handed her my travel “wallet” which consisted of a bag with handful of cash, my credit card and passport.

“I’ll see you guys in a couple of hours.” Wrong. What ensued over the next several hours I can only describe as the most violent illness that has ever overcome me. I’ll spare you the details. But between vomit sessions and bathroom trips, I managed to get the attention of the hostel owner.

“I think you’ve been poisoned!” She exclaimed. Rather quickly my situation deteriorated and I could no longer stand. Before long I couldn’t feel my face, arms, legs, or even open my eyes. Things were getting pretty dire. A Peacecorps worker phoned the hospital and the embassy. It turns out Mongolia has only two western hospitals in the entire country – and they needed to open one for me.

“Western doctors take a long time to get ready. Do you mind if I use traditional medicine?” The owner asked. She could have told me that she was lopping off a limb with a rusty saw and I would have agreed. A few pin pricks to my knuckles later and the acupuncture was done. Suddenly, my stomach felt some relief as the indescribable pain subsided. But it was too late – I had lost too many fluids – I needed an IV and fast. Before I knew it the doctor was ready and I was holding on for dear life en route to the hospital.

That’s the story about my first real solo trip to Asia. Upon my arrival to the hospital, I was treated despite having no ID and no cash. My new found travel friends showed up a few hours later – wallet in tow. Both of them stayed late to take care of me in the coming days and make sure I made it home safely. It took me nearly 2 months to fully recover.

Don't Trust the Mongolian Horse Meat - Meg Atteberry


Fighting with dengue fever in Cambodia

Karin Ardila

http://girlastray.com/2017/02/03/avoid-dengue-fever/

I never thought I would ever be the one to catch a tropical disease; I had all my vaccines in check and besides, those things only happen to the other people, right? I was so convinced of this that when high fever struck me in Cambodia, I attributed it to the common flu or a food poisoning. I could not have been more wrong!

Along with serious pain and temperature at almost 40°C, I had to run (better say, crawl) to the bathroom every few minutes. Still, I wouldn’t go to the hospital – I did feel bad (I never felt so much pain in my life before or after) but for some reason, I believed a dengue would hurt more.

After three days of sweating and shaking in my hotel room, I finally gave up and decided to seek a doctor. I was barely able to walk – fortunately, my travel buddy helped me downstairs, loaded me into a tuk-tuk and dealt with all our luggage.
At the hospital, I found out that not only I did have dengue fever, but I also contracted a nasty kidney inflammation. My immune system wasn’t able to deal with it as it was struck with the virus and as the doctor informed me, would I have waited more, it could have caused me lifelong consequences.

While it is almost impossible to completely avoid dengue fever in hot and humid regions, recognizing the symptoms would have made me seek medical help a bit earlier. I spent three more days in the hospital bed and a week more sleeping day and night and barely walking, however, it took many months until a somewhat complete recovery.

Hopefully, you won´t have to deal with the same problem, however, knowing a little bit about the symptoms of local illnesses is always helpful – and so is traveling with an insurance.

girlastray-dengue-fever


Missed airplane landing

Joanna Davis

www.theworldinmypocket.co.uk

“10 minutes until landing!” the captain announced, while the big bird was descending slowly from 36000 feet. After 12 hours in the enclosed metallic tube, crossing the Atlantic, I was happy at the thought that I would be with my feet on the ground again, back in control. Even if I travel very often, I am an extremely nervous flyer and I go through a million emotions at every takeoff. Landing is usually very comforting.

As the plane approached, I could see Heathrow airport and the runaway underneath us. The flight data on my screen was showing an altitude of 25 feet. A few seconds and we would be on the ground. But all of a sudden I could hear the engines roaring and in a fraction of a second the angle of the plane changed and we were going back up. I was violently pushed into the chair by the force of gravity and all I could see was the airport getting smaller and smaller. A few seconds more and we were back into the thick grey clouds, at 6500 feet.

I freaked out. I grabbed the hand of the woman sitting next to me and squeezed it hard. My heart was going 2000 miles per hour, my eyes were watery, my entire body was trembling and all I could think about was that we are going to crash and I am going to die. The woman next to me was trying to comfort me but I felt like I was in my worst nightmare.

It was another 10 minutes until the pilot talked again. He said that we didn’t receive landing permission and that we will try the approach again. By now, I was terrified. No permission to land? Why where we 25 feet from the runway then? Why did we almost land? Was there another plane in front of us? Did the pilot go back up so rapidly to avoid a crash?

I guess I’ll never know….

The World In My Pocket Joanna


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s collection of travelers' scariest stories - "Close to death". Including tales from all over the world. 

Have you had a scary travel experience? Tell us about it below!

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Local guide: Milan, Italy

Local guide: Milan, Italy

Adoration 4 Adventure’s local guide for visitors to Milan, Italy by A4A guest writer, Cinzia Ferri.

Local guide posts provide recommendations for destinations from locals who are currently living or have lived in that particular place. Including information on the top places to eat, drink, stay and how to get around with an emphasis on saving money.

Planning a trip to Italy? Check out the local guides to Cinque Terre, Rome, and Udine.

Overview of Milan

Milan is the second biggest city in Italy, after Rome, and one of the most underrated places in the country. If you ask Italians about Milan, they most likely will tell you that it’s an ugly industrial town, full of traffic and noise, absolutely not worth visiting. Well, that might have been true for Milan twenty years ago, nowadays – thanks to the Expo 2015 as well – it has become one of the most interesting, modern, vibrant, international Italian towns. Milan’s beauty is not as obvious as that of Rome, Florence, or Venice, but the city really has a lot to offer.

milano_galleria vittorio emanuele

Top 5 places to visit

5. Porta Nuova

This area has been completely redesigned and amazing buildings have been built in the past five years or so. The heart of the area is Piazza Gae Aulenti, a modern square titled to the famous female architect. From there, you can see all the works of architecture which have been created, most of which have also received important architectural prizes. The most important buildings are il Bosco Verticale (vertical forest), a complex of two buildings designed by Stefano Boeri, which host approximately 900 trees, the amazing Unicredit Tower by Cesar Pelli and the Palazzo della Regione Lombardia (Lombardy Region Headquarters).

4. I Navigli

The Navigli are the center of Milan’s nightlife, but they are absolutely worth visiting during the day as well. They are a network of canals, partly designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. In the past, they stretched all around the city, what remains now are just two canals: the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese. The area around the canals is quite busy at night, while during the day is a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the city center. Walking there, you’ll feel like being in a small town with cozy restaurants, small shops, and art galleries.

milano_navigli_day

3. Pinacoteca di Brera

The Pinacoteca di Brera is an outstanding museum of art which contains one of the most important art collections in Italy. There you can see paintings and works of Raffaello, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, the famous Kiss by Francesco Hayez, and many other paintings by incredible masters. When you are done with art, you could visit the adjoining Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden), which is really old and fascinating. Tickets for the museum are 10 euros, but the entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month. Entrance to the Botanical Garden is free.

milano_pinacoteca_brera

2. Cenacolo Vinciano

The real jewel of Milan is in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and its Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper. This incredible mural painting is one of the most famous in the world and you definitely cannot miss it. Unfortunately, it has been damaged over the years, due to humidity, bad restoration attempts, and even some bombings during World War II, but it somehow managed to survive and it has now been properly restored. The entrance to the Cenacolo is strictly limited and must be booked in advance. Tickets are 12 euros.

milano_cenacolo_vinciano

1. Il Duomo

The Duomo, Milan’s Cathedral, is the symbol of the city and the most loved place in town. Locals have a particular fondness for this place and for the Madonnina, the golden statue of Virgin Mary which protects the city from high above the roof of the church. The Cathedral is totally worth visiting (entrance is 2 euros), but a visit to the roof is not to be missed as well (entrance is 9 euros if you are willing to go up the stairs) as the view is great. Close to the Cathedral is the Museo del Novecento, an amazing collection of 20th-century art (entrance is 10 euros, but it is only 6 euros every Tuesday after 2 pm and two hours before closing).

milano_duomo

Eating and drinking

Milan is incredibly full of dining and drinking options. As in every big European city, you can find more or less everything you want. Prices are not exactly cheap, though. If you are on a budget, you can solve the problem of eating something buying a slice of pizza or a sandwich in a bakery and then eating it in a public park. A true Milanese tradition is to get a panzerotto, some kind of fried turnover, at Luini: a filling and cheap option right in the city center, a few steps away from the Duomo.

Another very popular place is Spontini, which serve pizza by the slice in various city locations. If you are looking for some trendier solutions, you can try the Navigli or the Isola neighborhood, they are packed with restaurants and hipster cafès, offering all kinds of drinks and food.

milano_navigli_night

Transport

Getting around the city is very easy. There is quite an extensive public transport system: there are many metro, bus and tram lines, which take you more or less everywhere. A single ride ticket is 1,50 euros (it is valid for 90 minutes since validation, with one metro ride only), a daily ticket is 4,50 euros and it is valid for 24 hours since validation. Tickets can be bought at the automated vending machines in every metro station, at kiosks and newsagents’ around town, but not on board. Tickets must be validated before boarding.

Milan has a bike-sharing system too. You’ll find many bike stations to pick up and drop off bikes in the city center. To use the bikes you have to register on the BikeMi website. Daily subscription is 2.30 Euros, while the weekly one is 6 Euros. You’ll find all information you need regarding both public transport and bike-sharing on the ATM Milan website.

Accommodation

Milan is undoubtedly one of the most expensive Italian towns when it comes to accommodation. Finding a cheap hotel in the city can be really difficult, then. The best solution for sleeping in the city would be renting an apartment via AirBnb, which gives you the opportunity of finding accommodation in the city center without being ripped off. There are thousands of good flat and apartments around town and you can find affordable ones even in the very center.

If you are more of a hotel type, instead, it would be better to look for solution outside the city center, like for example the area of San Siro Stadium or other less central neighborhoods, from which you can easily get into the city with the metro.


Cinzia Ferri_bioA4A guest writer – Cinzia Ferri

Hi, Cinzia here! I live in Italy, I adore travelling and I am my own boss at Instantly Italy, where I help people enjoy Italy at its best. I teach Italian and create custom travel guides for independent travelers who want to see Italy with the help of a local.

Follow Cinzia at http://instantlyitaly.com/, on Facebook and Instagram.

All photos in this article are courtesy of Turismo Milano Website and flickr.


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Adoration 4 adventure's local guide for visitor's to Milan, Italy. Including top places to eat, drink, stay and how to get around on a budget.

Have you visited Milan or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.