Category Archives: Travel

This best pilgrimages for modern travellers

Searching for spirituality or moral sanctuary? We unearth 10 of the best pilgrimages to cleanse the modern soul.

In a world of gadgets and instant gratification, a pilgrimage seems like an archaic concept. Something lifted from the pages of a medieval text, perhaps. But as increasing numbers of us seek refuge from the demands of modern life and its electronic distractions, venturing into the wilderness in search of spirituality has never seemed more appealing.

So we’ve picked 10 pilgrimage routes from around the world worthy of the long walk. Some are rooted in some of the world’s major religions, while others are simply about taking on a challenge and enjoying an authentic cultural experience.

The Way of St James, France

The Way of St James (or Camino de Santiago) is arguably one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in Europe, with over 200,000 people undertaking the journey to Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of St James, every year.

The most popular route is the so-called ‘French Way’. Beginning in the southern French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port, pilgrims cross the Pyrenees through Lower Navarre, and proceed through northern Spain to the iconic cathedral.

The long stretch weaves its way between picturesque towns and vast cornfields. Accommodation takes the form of basic, family-run hostels dotted along the route. The journey takes around three weeks in total.

How far? 725km (450 miles)
Where? Southern France & northern Spain
When should I go? June/July

Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Regarded as the holiest place in Islam, it is a religious duty for all able-bodied Muslims to attempt the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) at least once in their lifetime. The holy mission culminates in a visit to the Masjid al-Haram mosque, the largest mosque in the world, or more specifically the Kaaba, a cuboid building in the centre of the mosque, which all Muslims must face when performing salat (prayers).

Unfortunately it is strictly prohibited for non-Muslims to enter the holy city of Mecca. However, Medina, the second holiest city in Islam and burial place of the prophet Muhammad, does allow non-Muslims to enter, though certain areas remain restricted.

How far? Variable
Where? Mecca, Saudi Arabia
When should I visit? September/October/November

Sanctuary of Atotonilco, Mexico  

Known colloquially as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico, this church and popular pilgrimage site is an intense mix of beauty and brutality. The chapel’s spectacular ceiling, which took artist Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre over 30 years to complete, depicts – in rather gruesome detail – images of Jesus Christ being beaten and tortured, and has consequently led to the chapel becoming a pilgrimage site for those who engage in religious penance.

For 33 weeks of the year, people make the long journey to engage in spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, which include mortification of the flesh through flagellation and fasting. Over 5,000 people visit the chapel each week.

How far? Variable
Where? Guanajuato, Mexico
When should I go? August-November

Glastonbury Tor to Stonehenge, UK

Pagan traditions envelop these two mystical sites in the heart of the English countryside. A journey to the summit of Glastonbury Tor, a hill on which stands the roofless Grade I-listed St Michaels Tower, is said to lead the pilgrim on a journey of rebirth, returning from the journey as a new person. While this transformation may not be a guarantee, the unimpaired view of the Somerset countryside has many pilgrims flocking to the summit each summer.

Within hiking distance from The Tor lies the remarkable Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that’s thought to have been constructed as early as 2600 BC. The stone circle has long been the site of ceremonies for neopagans and druids. Time your journey right and you could join the 10,000-strong crowds who gather each June to celebrate the summer solstice.

How far? 68km (42 miles)
Where? Glastonbury, England
When should I go? June

Madonna del Ghisallo, Italy

A pilgrimage for those who prefer pedal power to power walking, the 17th-century Madonna del Ghisallo chapel in Lombardy is the mecca of the cycling world. Dedicated to Del Ghisallo, the patroness of cyclists, every inch of the chapel’s interior walls proudly display glass-framed jerseys from some of the best riders in the world. Along with an incredible collection of memorabilia, the chapel also burns an eternal flame for cyclists who have lost their lives competing in the sport.

The ride to the site from the nearby tourist town of Bellagio is suitably challenging, being around 10.6km in length and climbing 552 meters.

How far? 10.6km (6.5 miles)
Where? Lombardy, Italy
When should I go? May-September

Kumano Kodō, Japan

The Kumano Kodō is the name given to a series of ancient pilgrimage routes that criss-cross their way through the mountainous Japanese peninsula of Kii Hantó to the revered Kumano Sanzan temple complex, the birthplace of the Kumano cult.

The route through the mountains is breathtaking, both due to the rugged mountain landscape and the tiny traditional wooden villages that line the walkway. The most popular of the pilgrimage routes is from Tajijiri-oji, the gateway to the sacred area of Kumano, with an optional overnight stay in a traditional minshuku(budget version of a ryokan) at the tiny village of Chikatsuyu-oji. After completing the long trek to the sacred site, travellers can relax in the only UNESCO World Heritage hot spring open to the public in Yunomine – for the reasonable price of ¥750 (£5.50), the bath is yours for 30 minutes.

How far? 40km (25 miles)
Where? Japan
When should I go? September-November

The Lagoons of Huaringas, Peru

The 14 ponds and lakes of the Huaringas in Peru are a popular pilgrimage for those searching spiritual healing from the sacred Shaman or Witch Doctors that reside in the area. These ‘teachers’ perform ceremonies to those who are facing ills, often using Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink, which it’s claimed cures everything from depression to the common cold.

Pilgrims who have made the journey to visit the Shaman are inducted into special ceremonies. First, the weary traveller visits the lakes to bathe in icy waters which are said to absorb diseases and restore positive energy. This is followed by a more intimate ceremony that takes place at midnight in the home of the ‘teacher’. In a half conscious state the Shaman uses his invisible power of healing to cure all participants of their woes. Booking through tour operators is advised.

How far? Variable
Where? Huaringas, Peru
When should I go? June-October

Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

Cast into a rock atop this verdant peak is said to be the sacred footprint of Buddha. Competing claims are made by other faiths; Muslims say the impression is the first footstep of Adam (of Eve fame), Hindus believe it was made by Shiva.

Whoever it belongs to, this stunning summit in central Sri Lanka attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. Most climb in the cool of night, taking breaks from the steep ascent at one of the many tea shops en route. Time it right and visitors can watch a stunning sunrise over Sri Lanka before checking out the mystery footprint.

How far? 7km (4.3 miles)
Where? Sri Lanka
When should I go? January-May

Mount Kailash, Tibet

Every year thousands of people from numerous faiths make the pilgrimage to the remote Mount Kailash, believing that circumnavigating the mountain on foot will bring good fortune. Some claim the 52km trek must be made in a single day, while diehard believers crawl the entire route – a feat that takes roughly four weeks.

Officially, walking around the holy mountain has to be done on foot, pony or yak, which takes most travellers three days. Nobody has ever reached the summit of the holy Mountain, and while the path circling Kailash is widely used, it is strictly forbidden to attempt the climb.

How far? 52km (32.3 miles)

Char Dham, India

Char Dham is the ultimate pilgrimage for those looking to embark on a journey of cultural discovery. The Char Dahm, widely revered by Hindus, is a pilgrimage route that leads people to the four sacred sites of India; Badrinath in the north, Rameswaram in the south, Dwarka in the west, and Puri in the east. It is considered highly sacred to visit Char Dham (all four sites) in a Hindu’s lifetime.

The journey of 6,276km is a test both physically and mentally, and unlike many of the pilgrimages on the list, it requires travel by foot, motor vehicle and train. Many travellers struggle when selecting a route around this geographic goliath of a nation, but the perfectly square Char Dham itinerary provides a comprehensive, all-encompassing route, which will see you leave the crowds of Goa, Delhi and Mumbai in your wake.

Holiday Destination

March is a great time to travel – in many places it’s the shoulder season between chilly winter and Easter, when prices are hiked up, and in warmer climes, temperatures and humidity are usually low enough to make sightseeing a pleasure and not an endurance course. Fancy a trip to an exotic locale? Whatever your bent as a holidaymaker, we’ve got a stellar recommendation for you here.

One for the beach bums
Sayulito, Mexico

Hit the beach in Mexico for some March sun – but we recommend you skip the well-known resort areas like Acapulco and Cancun and instead head for the Riviera Nayarit on the Pacific coast. You’ll be able to find an all-inclusive or luxury hotel here if you wish, but the real appeal is a 200-mile stretch of coastline where you’ll discover authentic beach towns backed by jungle-clad mountains.

Probably the most popular is the bohemian surfer’s mecca of Sayulito, less than an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. Stay in a simple bungalow by the beach and feast on tropical fruit and seafood at one of the many alfresco restaurants, and look out for artworks by the local Huichol Indians, who use peyote-inspired visions for inspiration.

One for the thrill seekers
Death Road, Bolivia

Avid mountain bikers: how about Death Road in Bolivia? This 64km (40 mile) downhill stretch hurtles intrepid cyclists down a twisting descent of 3,600m (11,800ft) in 4-5 hours, from the chilly highlands to the humid Amazonian jungle, via a narrow road that’s 8ft wide on average and has sheer drops of up to 1,000m (3,280ft) on one side.

Many people have died on this route – it isn’t called Death Road for nothing – but since a new road for vehicles has been built, cyclists don’t have to swerve out of the way of trucks and cars coming in the opposite direction anymore.

If that’s not enough adrenaline, the ride ends in the town of Yolosa, where a 1,500m (5000ft) long zip-line whizzes eager participants over forest and valley.

One for the city slickers
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Still widely known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh feels in places like time has stood still – even if the people haven’t. Shabby French colonial villas and incense-filled pagodas sit in between shiny shopping malls and skyscrapers, and the streets are frenetic with the noise of moped horns. March is the perfect time to visit, as it’s less humid than at any other time of the year.

History buffs can walk back through time at the Reunification Palace, the largely unchanged former presidential palace where the final days of the Vietnam War played out, and underneath the city the vast, snake-like tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war can be visited on a tour. Back above ground, escape the midday heat at the Dam Sen Water Park, a huge outdoor pool complex with giant water slides and killer wave machines.

One for the avid skiers
Bansko, Bulgaria

A recent report from The Escape Travel Card found that a family ski holiday for four could cost nearly £3,500 more at a French resort than an Eastern European one. With such eye-watering figures being bandied around, we investigated where best to feel the powder and forget about the wallet.

Bansko resort in Bulgaria, set between the Rila and Pirin mountain ranges, peaks in March, plus more than a third of the slopes are designed for the beginner too; there’s also a lively après-ski scene.

The Rila Mountains are also home to the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. Today listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the monastery dates back to the 10th century and is home to approximately 60 monks. It’s the ideal day trip – a place to get blessings before your next black run.

This On the trail of Munch in Oslo

With swirling Nordic light, dark and mysterious fjords and soul-stirring views, Oslo is ready-made for an expressionist Munch painting. In the Norwegian capital, Norway’s most revered artist lived, loved, painted and did constant battle with his inner demons. Strike out on this Munch-focused tour, which takes you from his first scream to his final studio.

Ready to scream

Climb up to the lookout at Ekeberg Hill (ekebergparken.com), just southeast of central Oslo, and the whole city spreads picturesquely before you: from the architecturally innovative Opera House to the inky fjord and islands beyond. On a sombre winter day, a shiver seems to run down Oslo’s spine, draining the scene of colour. In midsummer, the light makes the city shine in all its short-lived glory. At any time of year, Oslo is a true Nordic beauty, swinging effortlessly from the urban to the outdoors. This is plain to see up here, where locals admire broad views as they hike along trails twisting through pine, fir and ash forest, occasionally stopping to ponder Dalí and Rodin nudes or James Turrell’s colour-changing Skyspace in the sculpture park.

Join the walkers and you too will be captivated by the vista from this bluff, which has prompted many an artist to pick up a paintbrush – none more so than Munch. The Munch Spot (ekebergparken.com/en/pakke/22) marks the lookout that inspired The Scream. Recalling a walk here with two friends in 1892, the artist summed up the moment thus: ‘The sun was setting. Suddenly the sky turned blood-red. I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence. There was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city. My friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.’

The skyline has changed somewhat since then, but you can still experience a ‘Munch moment’ at the viewpoint that fuelled the artist’s most famous work. Step inside the larger-than-life frame, created by performance artist Marina Abramović, and you can, in the spirit of Munch, scream to your heart’s content.

Munch on canvas

The Scream (1893) might have its origins up on Ekeberg, but the real deal – one of four originals: two pastels, two paintings – now hangs in the astounding Nasjonalgalleriet. Take tram 19 back into central Oslo, hopping off at Kontraskjæret. From here it’s a 10-minute amble north to the gallery. In the Munch room, The Scream grabs all the attention. Capturing the existentialist angst of the age, this acid trip of a painting mesmerises all who behold it. In the background, a hallucinatory, fiery sky shifts above the hills and fjord, in the foreground stands a haggard, ghostly figure, its mouth agape in a silent scream and hands held up to its face in fright. Evoking the anxiety and solitude of the world on canvas, the painting is a once-seen-never-forgotten icon of expressionist art – one that mines the depths of Munch’s troubled soul.

Born in 1863, Edvard Munch had a disturbed childhood in Oslo, then Kristiania, which was plagued by illness, insanity, poverty and death. He lost his mother and beloved sister, Sophie, to tuberculosis at an early age, events which profoundly affected his preoccupation with life and death. Though a doctor, his deeply religious, near-fanatical father struggled to keep the family above the breadline and remained emotionally detached towards his son. And so the seeds of anxiety and isolation were sown. ‘My sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art,’ said Munch.

An ode to the artist’s seminal works, the Munch Room at the Nasjonalgalleriet also showcases paintings such as Madonna (1894) and the mortality-obsessed Frieze of Life series.

Trams depart frequently from nearby Stortinget to make the 15-minute trundle east to another unmissable gallery, brimming with Munch’s art: the Munchmuseet. Munch gifted many works to the museum’s permanent collection, the world’s largest collection of his paintings, sketches and drawings. Plans for an ultra-modern new museum on the Bjørvika waterfront are in the pipeline for 2020 but, for now, the excellent rotating exhibitions speak for themselves. At any one time you might glimpse such emotive works as the snowy Starry Night (1922-24) and Vampire (1893–95), otherwise known as Love and Pain, which depicts a red-headed, Medusa-like woman consuming her lover. The Sick Child (1925) alludes to Munch’s memory of his sister’s premature death aged 15. A similar sense of doom is tangible in works like The Dance of Life (1925) and Self-portrait Between the Clock and the Bed (1940-43), which Munch painted shortly before his death.

Karl Johans Gate

Munch’s work is not merely confined to gallery walls, however. Head back into central Oslo and you can get a sense of the man and his work with a stroll along Karl Johans Gate, the city’s stately, mid-19th-century thoroughfare, linking Oslo Central Station to the Royal Palace. This was one of Munch’s haunts when he did venture into society, and he immortalised it in Evening on Karl Johan Street (1892), which shows spectral, hat-wearing figures parading along it in a death-march-like trance. Munch cut his teeth as a young artist on this street, renting his first studio and staging his first exhibitions here.

In the Grand Hotel at No. 31 you’ll find the Grand Café, which opened its doors in 1874 and swiftly became a much-loved hangout of artists and bohemians in the late 1800s. Word has it that Munch once offered the painting Sick Girl in exchange for 100 steak dinners here. The cafe was a second home to Norwegian poet and playwright Henrik Ibsen, who came here every day for lunch –  a sandwich, beer and schnapps – and met Munch’s acquaintance. The artist captured the moment in his painting of the writer at his regular window table in Henrik Ibsen at the Grand Café (1898).

A few paces away at No. 47 is the University of Oslo’s ceremonial hall, the Aula (www.uio.no/english/about/culture/aula), home to a series of Munch’s expressionistic murals. Heavy drinking, public brawling and tormented love affairs pushed Munch over the edge in 1908; he suffered partial paralysis and started hearing hallucinatory voices. Following a stint in a sanatorium, he returned feeling more hopeful. His newfound optimism is reflected in the murals, which he created from 1909 to 1916, the centrepiece being a giant sunburst. Try to snag tickets for one of the public concerts held here to view the works.

Munch’s Oslo homes

From nearby Stortorvet, it’s a short tram ride north to Olaf Ryes plass and the neighbourhood of Grünerløkka. Right on the Akerselva (Aker River), this is the neighbourhood where Munch spent most of his childhood. The one-time factory district is now a pocket of contemporary cool, brimming with trendy bars, boutiques, second-hand shops and microbreweries, many of which are housed in revamped 19th-century buildings. While Munch’s former apartments are off limits, you can still take an interesting wander around the streets he once frequented. Stepping across the river and heading up the hill brings you to Vår Frelsers Gravlund, the graveyard where Munch lies buried alongside other notables including feted writers Ibsen and Bjørnson.

Out on its lonesome on the city’s western fringes is the Ekely estate (munchs-ekely.no/english), which you can reach from central Oslo by taking tram 13, and alighting at Abbediengen. Munch spent the last 28 years of his life here. Though wealthy and revered by this time, his one true companion remained his prolific paintbrush, which he used to convey his constant inspiration from the natural surrounds. He painted in every mood and moment: in autumn and spring, by moonlight and snowfall. He painted self-portraits and animal portraits, nudes and scenes of elegant ladies swanning around the gardens. In total, some 1008 paintings and 4443 drawings were discovered here after his death in 1944. On Saturdays from July to September, a Munchmuseet combination ticket allows visitors to explore his former studio, but in winter the place falls silent. And that seems fitting in the location where the angst-ridden creator of The Scream finally found lasting peace.

Here Romantic Destination in Europe

Romance is a deeply personal expression of love. It means different things to different couples.

While some define a stroll on the local beach as romantic, others may turn to having a glamorous city break in a foreign land. With this in mind, we have selected the 10 most romantic destinations in Europe – every place in our list is perfect for loved-up couples. If you are a hopeless romantic who is keen to surprise your significant other with a magical holiday, this is the list for you.

10) Bled, Slovenia

Set in the foothills of the mighty Julian Alps, the resort town of Bled is heart-meltingly beautiful. Like a pearl resting on a glazed surface, the island that sits in the middle of the emerald-green Bled Lake is a must-see. Hire a pletna (traditional wooden boat) to the island and climb up the 99 stone steps to reach the Assumption of Mary Church and its “wishing bell”. Legend has it, listening to the church bell and ringing it yourself will make your wish come true. Next to the church is a bell tower which houses a beautifully restored pendulum clock. For an even better view of the lake, stop by the 12th century clifftop Bled Castle and enjoy a fantastic meal by the large windows. The view, the food and the service are all first-class.

9) Prague, Czech Republic

Away from the stag strips and basement bars, the “City of a Hundred Spires” exudes an irresistible charm for romantics. Its winding cobbled streets, statue-studded Charles Bridge and magnificent buildings from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque era are primed for loved-up couples to visit, arm in arm. There is also a popular poem in Czech which starts “Late evening, on the first of May, the twilit May, the time of love…”, so on 1 May kissing your significant other under the blossoming cherry trees on Petrín Hill will guarantee your love to bloom forever.

8) Toledo, Spain

On first impression, Toledo can appear chaotic with its houses stacked closely together nonchalantly, but as you walk deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of cobbled streets, you will discover unrivalled cultural wealth in this old walled city. This is a place where Arabs, Jewish and Christians lived together for centuries. They left behind stunning monuments as well as a whimsical atmosphere which crosses time and space. Past, present and future all rolls into a singularity – this is a romantic experience you’ll never forget.

7) Dordogne, France

The winding river, the soft-green rolling hills, medieval châteauxs, and postcard-perfect villages of the Dordogne valley have long been a favourite destination for couples who have mellow souls. Head to the charming Beynac-et-Cazenac and enjoy spectacular French food and wine in one of the straw-colour stone cottages. Buy truffle and foie gras from the market in Sarlat. Rest in a magnificent château. Or simply find a quiet spot by the Dordogne river, let the sun kiss your skin and together watch the world float by. Dordogne is as blissful as love itself.

6) Copenhagen, Denmark

The capital of the happiest country on Earth, Copenhagen is effortlessly romantic and very ‘lagom’ (pronounced ‘lar-gohm’) which means to say it’s ‘just the right amount of everything’. Pay a visit to Cupid at the Thorvaldsen Museum. Enjoy a quiet stroll along the waterfront. Experience the city’s sophisticated café culture with a cup of hot coffee and some mouth-watering pastries. Take it all in, one step at a time, and you will soon realise the perfect dosage of romance has already synchronised with your pace.

5) Isle of Skye, Scotland

A land of Norse legend, the Isle of Skye impresses all who visit her with otherworldly scenes that appear almost straight from a Tolkien epic. The jagged mountain ranges, vast lochs and dramatic waterfalls make this unspoilt terrain a romantic destination without any glamour or pretense. Put on your hiking shoes and head to the Old Man of Storr. Go for a wild swim at the Fairy Pools. After experiencing the magic of Skye, you will realise romance has a supernatural facet too.

4) Fussen, Germany

At the end of the 400km (249 miles) theme-route Romantic Road (Romantische Straße), you will arrive in Füssen and be spellbound by the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle, half expecting Prince Charming to arrive on horseback at any second. If this castle looks familiar to you, that’s because Disney based the designs for its Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, California on the Neuschwanstein. Visit the castle and create your own chapter of a fairy-tale story here amidst the magnificent Bavarian Alps.

3) Lapland, Finland

If your utopia is riding a snowmobile into the wild and watching the aurora borealis (northern lights) dance across the night sky, then Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, is the place for you and your loved one. Once you have enough of luminous green and blue hues flowing above you, you can retreat back to a cosy and intimate log cabin complete with sauna and crackling log fire. The outside world is a distant memory and you only have eyes for each other.

2) Cinque Terre, Italy

The Cinque Terre region is arguably the most charming destination in the Italian Riviera; its five colourful fishing villages boast cute terrace buildings that seemingly defy gravity, bravely clinging to the rugged cliff-faces. Head to Manarola, perhaps the oldest town in the Cinque Terre, for a photo that will make your friends envy. Don’t forget to take a stroll on The Way of Love (Via dell’Amore) with your loved one. If the perfect setting doesn’t put you in the mood, the local wine Sciacchetrà certainly will.

1) Santorini, Greece

Your heart will likely skip a beat when you stand before these classy white-washed buildings with blue domed roofs in Santorini, with Aegean Sea below you and the glare of the sun flickering above you. This is the place of romance for countless couples. While most people unwind at Fira, head to Oia for a lovely beach retreat. You’ll need to take over 200 steps to reach the Ammoudi bay – but expect soft sands, warm blue waters and plenty of sunshine. With one of the world’s most romantic destinations as your backdrop, you’ll feel loved, contented, and incredibly happy. Such is the magic of romance!

Highlight Destination In New York

What’s left to say about The Big City? The famed sidewalks bellow smoke, and prisms of light scatter through the myriad towers and skyscrapers, casting long shadows over the millions of souls hurrying about below. New York is a global city with very few comparisons.

New York City can only truly be understood through its five historic boroughs, as each distinct area has a character and charm all its own. Central to them all is Manhattan, the island city with a population of more than 1.5 million. On weekdays, Manhattan sees an influx of workers and tourists that more than doubles that number to nearly 4 million people – that’s over 170,000 per square mile.

When you can get a millimetre of pavement to yourself, treading New York’s sidewalks is an endlessly fascinating exercise. One minute you’re in a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the next you’re Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, or walking down Jones Street feeling like The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan darting for Greenwich Village.

Built by migrants, New York has always been a meeting place for world cultures, a port city welcoming arrivals to the shining beacon of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a place where you can still experience the frenetic buzz of Chinatown, a wealth of black culture in Harlem and the aromatic flavours of Little Italy along Mulberry Street, all in the one afternoon.

Bewildered and wondering where to start? Our New York Travel Guide is the perfect companion for a trip to the city that famously never sleeps.

When it comes to travelling to New York City, it might be one of the best connected metropolises in the world, served by not one but three international airports: JFK, La Guardia and Newark Liberty. Getting around New York is a breeze too, with help from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and its well-connected system of buses, trains, bridges, tunnels and 24-hour subway service which, all together, claim more than 11 million passenger journeys on an average weekday. Otherwise an iconic yellow taxi can whisk you downtown in a sea of horns and flashing lights – elbows out if you want to catch a ride at rush hour though.

A hotbed of bohemianism that gave birth to the American folk music revival and built the legendary Café Society, New York City has been inspiration for everyone from The Sugarhill Gang to The Ramones, Paul Simon to Gloria Gaynor. New York’s legendary nightlife has recently ballooned beyond its old epicentres in Soho, East Village and Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to trendy Brooklyn neighbourhoods Williamsburg and Greenpoint. TheBowery Ballroom is still the city’s most buzzworthy music venue, an art deco house of worship that delivers the faithful a stream of the latest artists emerging from the worlds of indie and alternative music. Pre-booking tickets is recommended.

New York City has contributed more than its fair share of dishes to our menus over the years – it even lays claim to being birthplace of eggs benedict, the humble hamburger and of course its eponymous classic, the New York cheesecake. For a traditional taste of Big Apple cuisine, try the hand-rolled bagels at Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway), the homegrown hamburger phenomenon Shake Shack (Madison Ave) and the legendary deep pies at Bleecker Street Pizza (7th Ave South). If you still have an appetite after all of that, see our New York restaurant guide.

New York is the city that never sleeps but you’ll be out like a light when you check in to one of the city’s many exemplary hotels. Legendary names, like the Waldorf Astoria and Roosevelt Hotel, abound in Manhattan but a growing number of boutique establishments, aparthotels and homestay options have signalled a revolution in New York accomodation.

Part-owned by famous Manhattanite Robert de Niro, The Greenwich Hotel in the Tribeca neighbourhood is one the newer additions to the Lower West Side and offers a rich combination of exotic style and decadence. Just avoid the toxicity of Trump Towers and check out our top New York hotel recommendations for an unforgettable stay in the city.

Wild Nature Travel

Spotting some of the world’s most charismatic animals on a traditional African safari is surely one of travel’s greatest pleasures. But there’s so much more to wildlife and nature tourism than seeing a lion, elephant or leopard from your seat in a convoy of four-wheel drives.

From tracking down tigers to watching wrestling dinosaurs (okay, not quite – but close), here are a handful of alternative ways for travellers to admire the unparalleled spectacle of the natural world.

Looking for tigers in northern India

Tiger numbers have crept up in recent years according to official statistics from the Indian government: in 2016, India was estimated to be home to 2500 of them – 70 percent of the global population. But in a country this vast, it’s still hard to see one.

With accredited naturalists working as guides, Himalayan Footsteps (himalayanfootsteps.com) offers a 13-day trip taking in the Bandhavgarh and Kanha national parks. Sightings are by no means guaranteed, although it’s said the best time of year to see tigers is between February and April, so it’s smart to plan ahead. If you don’t spot one, you’ll stand a better chance of seeing sloth bears, jackals and grey mongoose. Bandhavgarh is also home to 250 species of birds, so make sure you pack your binoculars.

Birdwatching in Peru’s Islas Ballestas

Don’t listen to anyone who dismisses Peru’s Islas Ballestas as ‘the poor man’s Galapagos’; these uninhabited islands might not have inspired Darwin when HMS Beagle passed this way in the 1830s, but they are home to a huge seabird colony, as well as sea lions and fur seals.

Due to the fragile nature of the islands, visitors can’t make landfall, but boats can be chartered along with dedicated guides from nearby Paracas. Peruvian pelicans and Humboldt penguins vie for real estate on these rocky outcrops, sea lions howl above the din of crashing waves, while blue-footed boobies, related to the gannet, dive-bomb the surrounding waters in a desperate search for fish.

Komodo dragons and orangutans in Indonesia

Indonesia is home to many natural wonders, but few spectacles compare with the sight of two Komodo dragons locked in claw-to-claw combat.

A visit to the eponymous island home of the world’s largest lizard – the next best thing to a dinosaur, basically – is a highlight of Responsible Travel’s 13-day trip (responsibletravel.com) through the archipelago. Another major stop on the itinerary is Borneo, one of the last redoubts of the beautiful, endangered orangutan, who share their home with proboscis monkeys, gibbons and macaques, to name but three of the rare creatures sheltering in the rainforest.

Northern lights ‘safari’ in Nellim, Finland

Three hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and just 9km fromFinland’s border with Russia, Nellim is one of the best places in Scandinavia to see the aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights.

The light pollution is negligible, but due to temperamental weather staying in a single spot slashes your chances of seeing the sky lit up. The Aurora Zone runs ‘safaris’ in conjunction with the Nellim Wilderness Lodge (theaurorazone.com), chasing the lights after dark. Wrap up warm and be patient: you can drive as much as 250km in a single night if it’s cloudy. Daytime brings the chance to see herds of reindeer roaming the boreal forest from dirt tracks that surround the village. Lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of brown bears or wolves.

Orca watching in Orkney, UK

Ninety percent of orca sightings in the UK occur off of the coast of the Shetland Isles and Orkney. The latter’s wild shores and turbulent waters are the best place to see these beautiful creatures.

While most pods of orca are small, it’s been known for a group of 150 to appear east of the main island. You don’t need your sea legs to see them either, with the high clifftops on the island of Hoy affording superb views during the summer months. Cannock Head and the Old Man of Hoy are both recommended by local whale watchers. If you’re lucky, you might also see pilot whales, minke whales and bottlenose dolphins. Keen twitchers should also keep an ear out for corncrakes, a rarely seen bird with a distinctive call that’s native to these Scottish islands.

Horseback safari in Laikipia, Kenya

The Laikipia Plateau, which sits across the equator, is one of the ultimate places to see the traditional ‘Big Five’ (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino) in Kenya.

Unlike popular parks across eastern and southern Africa, however, trips here cross private land, meaning tourist numbers are low and the chance to see Africa’s big beasts away from the crowds is much higher. The best way to do so is on horseback. Offbeat Safaris (offbeatsafaris.com) offers an epic 10-day ride crossing the savannah and climbing the Loldaiga Hills, with fully accredited guides who know the area intimately. A long way from bumper-to-bumper drives, this is African safari at is wildest and most wonderful.

Searching for sloths in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park

Despite taking up just 0.03 percent of the Earth’s surface, Costa Rica is home to six percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Inevitably, that makes this tiny Central American country a magnet for wildlife lovers. The elusive jaguars which roam its cloud forests are hard to spot. But slow-moving sloths are easier to find, especially in Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast, where you’ll also find a large number of capuchin monkeys.

Finding a good guide is a must, especially if you want to understand the creatures’ habitat. Travel Excellence (travelexcellence.com) employs first-rate guides with knowledge of the area’s wildlife and terrain that’s second to none. They’re keen birdwatchers, too, so if you’re lucky they’ll help you catch a glimpse of toucans and perhaps even the beautiful bright green quetzal.

Tips To Travel Solo

Ditching your companions and hitting the open road on your own is one of the fastest growing travel trends of the 21st century.

According to one survey by the site BookYogaRetreats.com, more than 50% of respondents will travel alone on their next trip. Fancy trying it yourself? Our six point guide will let you make the most of your trip so one isn’t the loneliest number you’ll ever do.

Tip one: ditch the well-made plans

Wasn’t it Woody Allen who first said if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? Travelling solo is one of the few times in life when you can throw all your plans out the window if you want, or just not make any at all. Unlike going on holiday with friends or – worse still – the family, you don’t need to compromise. Forget lengthy discussions over financial planning, the challenges of badly rehashed route maps and squabbles over who gets the bottom bunk; travelling solo is all about you.

If you’re a people-pleaser to a fault or have a tendency towards OCD then this is the way to go, free from all the obligations and stresses an infuriatingly disorganised friend or selfie-stick addict brings.

Tip two: don’t ditch the friends

Travelling solo doesn’t mean going it wholly alone, though. While the appeal of disconnecting with everything and everyone back at home might be strong, try to keep in touch with family and friends as you go. Sharing over Skype and investing in international call-time credit can really help gain perspective on your adventures and also keeps a much-needed link to life back home. Pre-download the essential apps like Skype, FaceTime, Viber and WhatsApp and you won’t have a hefty phone bill at the end, either.

Another tip is to follow the growing crowd of travellers hiring mobile Wi-Fi devices to keep them connected every second of their trip. Companies like TEP (www.tepwireless.com) and Xcom (www.xcomglobal.com) are changing the face of travel in a digital age.

Top three: make new friends

Far easier said than done, especially in an age where the soft glow of a smartphone screen uplights every sorry drinker, sat lonely at their bar stool with thoughts of their next whiskey on the rocks. This is where an old school charm offensive comes in good use. Hostels, hotel bars, and clubs are still the best place to start – places where like-minded solo travellers can stop, unwind and quench a thirst.

If you don’t fancy your chances mixing ice-breakers with weary old-time travellers why not up your odds? Almost every major city around the world hosts a sightseeing tour of some kind, and you might not be surprised to find out that we recommend a late night guided bar crawl. Another sure-fire way to feel at home in any city is to experience its karaoke culture, even if you find yourself joining in with a particularly bad rendition of ‘All By Myself’.

Tip four: make friends ‘appen

Ignore the traditional stranger-tapping methods and just make sure you have some juice in your phone. Travelling in the 21st century is all about digital connections. Backpackr (www.backpackr.org) and Travel Buddies (www.travel-buddies.com) are the leading apps for making travel companions in this brave new world, while Tinder (www.gotinder.com) is branching out too, giving users a chance to swipe right on their next travel adventure and find a new pal with more than just a night in with Netflix on their mind.

Tip five: you don’t have to talk to strangers

Travelling solo doesn’t necessarily mean coming home with a phone full of names and numbers you’ll never hear from again, either. For many, solo travel is all about escaping the idle chitchat and inanity of the everyday and substituting it with the clarity of me, myself and I. The trend for self-reflective tourism – whether in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment or not – is booming, with monasteries reporting a surge in enquiries for retreats completed in near silence (with exception of the daily chanting, of course).

A stay at the Insight Meditation Society (www.dharma.org) in Massachusetts, for example, starts with 5.30am wake up call, is inclusive of daily chores and meals, and allows guests the use of 240 wooded acres of land, perfect for a meditative stroll on your super-silent Sunday afternoon. No whistling allowed.

Top six: write a blog

It was Socrates who once said the unexamined life was not worth living, now it seems the undocumented life is just as worthless. Clichéd though it may be, writing a travel diary really can help put everything in perspective and gives you a way to share your holiday experiences – even if no one is reading them.

Place family adventure in the wintry Canadian Rockies

There might be no better time than winter to round up the kids and head to the Canadian Rocky Mountains for some unforgettable adventures. Pack plenty of pull-overs, bribe the little ones with hot chocolate, and grab enough outdoor paraphernalia to ensure you remain upright in this vast and powdery playground. That includes skates, skis, snowshoes, cleats, snowboards, and maybe even an off-road fat-bike.

The best downhill skiing in the Canadian Rockies

Many Canadians start skiing as soon as they can walk. As a result, the Rocky Mountain area has plenty of facilities for children on its slopes. For a full-on downhill experience, the local national parks (Banff and Jasper) are particularly well-endowed offering four major ski resorts with several others perched temptingly on the periphery.

Top of the pile in more ways than one is Banff’s Sunshine Villagewedged high up on the Continental Divide and famed for its heavy snowfalls and ski-in hotel. Next comes diminutive Mt Norquay, an under-the-radar day-use area located just outside Banff town.

However, the prize for the most family-friendly ski resort in the Rockies has to go to Lake Louise. Named for the robin-egg blue lake that enamours hikers and honeymooners in the summer, Lake Louise is the second-largest ski area in Canada (after Whistler) and offers an impressive web of 145 varied runs including lots of beginner terrain. Adding to its kudos are a tube park, bags of ski schools, guided wildlife tours (on snowshoes), and the finest snow-encrusted mountain views you could ever wish to see. In the unlikely event that your kids get bored or knackered, stick them on the Lake Louise gondola, a spectacular 14-minute cable-car ride worthy of a National Geographic documentary. If they’re really young, there’s a reputable childcare facility at the mountain base that offers kinderski classes for three- to four-year-olds. The resort’s only real drawback is that, despite its size, it gets pretty busy (read: long lift lines), especially at weekends. Crowd-haters might want to head to smaller, quieter Nakiska in Kananaskis Country just outside the national park, a favourite among in-the-know families from the nearby city of Calgary.

Cross-country skiing in Canmore and beyond

People with kids often dismiss cross-country skiing as too difficult, the lofty preserve of ridiculously fit Norwegian Olympians with hearts the size of elephants. But, while it might not have the rollercoaster appeal of downhill, cross-country skiing has a long Canadian heritage and it’s the only effective way to explore the Rockies’ rugged trails in winter.

A good initiation to the sport’s energy-efficient push-and-glide technique is the Canmore Nordic Centre. Nestled in the crock of the mountains to the west of town, this huge trail centre was originally developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. In summer it’s one of the most comprehensive mountain-bike parks in western Canada, with over 65km of trails. In winter, many of the trails are specially groomed for cross-country. With its well-mapped network of terrain graded for different skill levels and anchored by a warm clubhouse that plies refreshments and offers equipment rental and lessons, this is one of the safest, family-friendly ski resources in Canada. The national Olympic team regularly use it for training.

With your confidence cemented at Canmore, the whole cornucopia of the Rockies is at your disposal. The real beauty of cross-country skiing is that it allows you to venture out and explore less crowded corners such as Yoho National Park in BC or the Great Divide trail at Lake Louise. Think of it as a faster, more fitness-enhancing version of hiking. Kids with their low centre of gravity and innate sense of balance will master it as readily as adults.

Skating

Skating is a national obsession in Canada and one of the most sociable ways for families to keep warm. Forget traditional rinks. Indoor skating is considered anathema in the Rocky Mountains, where ponds and lakes etched against a backdrop of heavenly scenery regularly freeze over for months at a time. You’ll never want to skate inside again once you’ve experienced the beauty of the world’s most spectacular ice rink, aka Lake Louise, framed by an amphitheatre of glacier-covered mountains.

Further north in Jasper, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sweeps a large floodlit area for skating on Lac Beauvert, as well as another Zamboni-cleared oval on nearby Mildred Lake. Enterprising locals set up benches for sunny relaxation, while spontaneous hockey games erupt and free hot chocolate reinvigorates shivering youngsters.

Fat-biking

Fat-bikes are sturdy off-road bicycles with over-sized, low-pressure tires that are ideal for riding through snow. They’re perfect for Jasper National Park, Banff’s wilder, steelier northern neighbour. Jasper is revered by insiders for its extensive network of multipurpose trails. In contrast to stricter US parks, cyclists experience few limitations here and, over the years, the park has developed some of the most varied and technically challenging bike rides in North America. These trails have recently experienced a winter renaissance thanks to the relatively new sport of fat-biking. Jasper has plenty of fat-bike options from easy ambles through the Athabasca Valley to bracing workouts that will stretch, challenge and entertain teenagers and young adults. Numerous local operators rent bikes.

Ice walks

In winter, many of the Rockies’ iconic waterfalls freeze solid. Equipped with rappels and ice axes, fearless climbers can be seen tackling the slippery behemoths with breath-taking agility. Those with more modest ambitions (and who may have kids to entertain) can study the trippy ice formations, including ice caves, on a guided ice walk while observing the climbers vicariously. Wildlife sightings, an oft-forgotten winter attraction in the Rockies, will keep children happy along the way. Excursions to Banff’s Grotto Canyon and Jasper’s Maligne Canyon are organized by local tour operators. Warm boots and cleats are provided.

Hit the hot springs

Up here, the ultimate post-adventure winter indulgence is a hot bath, preferably taken in a steaming outdoor pool where you can still feel part of your frosty surroundings. The Canadian Rockies has three hot springs, two of which remain open during the winter. First is the family pool at Banff Upper Hot Springs, which sits at the base of the Sulphur Mountain and looks out at the giant geology lesson that is Mt Rundle. Quieter and less famous is Radium Hot Springs in BC, where, unlike Banff, the pools are odourless. Radium’s westerly location also provides a good excuse to explore the snowy wilderness of Kootenay National Park.

A base to stay

The quintessential base for most Rocky Mountain adventures is the town of Banff, the hub of Canada’s oldest and most popular national park. Banff’s appeal is legendary. It’s close to a ton of snowy activities including three major ski areas; there’s a wide variety of shops and restaurants; plus there are plenty of travel agencies and rental shops splayed around town to sort you out with gear, guides and gizmos.

Banff’s popularity means it’s relatively expensive, gets booked up months in advance, and is not everybody’s idea of an away-from-it-all Canadian wilderness experience. Purists in search of more tranquillity can head north to Jasper, which gets less than half the visitors of Banff. Jasper offers guards plenty of affordable hotels and B&Bs and – for ultimate adventurers – keeps one of its campgrounds open year-round. If budget is a major consideration, it’s also worth looking at accommodation further south in the sports-mad town of Canmore, which has good deals for families in apartments and apart-hotels.

Info South Korea Travel Guide

South Korea can come across as inscrutable at first glance. It’s a land of stark contrasts and wild contradictions; a place where tradition and technology are equally embraced; where skyscrapers loom over ancient temples; and where the frantic pace of life is offset by the serenity of nature. The country’s unique customs and etiquette can seem like a trap laid for foreigners, but arrive with a smile and a respectful attitude and you will be welcomed with open arms by some of the friendliest folk on the planet.

Koreans are fiercely proud of their country, and with good reason. The Korean peninsula has a storied history and this colourful heritage is woven into the fabric of this land. The capital, Seoul, is home to a number of historic highlights, including the spectacular Joseon-era Gyeongbokgung Palace, “the great south gate” of Namdaemun and the eerie Seodaemun Prison – all tucked away amid gleaming offices, giant shopping centres, world-class restaurants and hipster bars.

The rest of the country is also littered with fortresses, temples and palaces. Visitors will enjoy the grassy burial mounds of ancient kings in Gyeongju, the Seokbulsa Temple in Busan, which has been carved out of a rock, and the infamous demilitarised zone, a biodiverse no-man’s-land separating South and North Korea. It is a scary place, where acres of barbed wire are patrolled by heavily-armed guards on both sides, yet the tension is so trumped up it feels like you’ve stumbled onto a Hollywood film set.

But it’s not all about history. When it comes to nature, South Korea is wonderfully diverse, with spectacular national parks, remote sandy beaches, hot spring islands and rugged mountain peaks. Gastronomes are well catered for, too, but you may have to open your mind before your mouth; local specialities include kimchi (pickled cabbage) andmakgeolli (rice wine).

South Korea can sometimes seem like the most foreign place on Earth; an unfathomable destination of curious customs, strange food and jarring paradoxes. Ultimately, that’s what makes it so exciting.

Travel Advice

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Crime

Crime against foreigners is rare but there are occasional isolated incidents. While most reported crimes are thefts, there have been some rare cases of assaults, including sexual assaults, particularly around bars and nightlife areas.

Take extra care of passports, credit cards and money in crowded areas and be careful in areas visited by foreigners, like Itaewon. Take care when travelling alone at night and only use legitimate taxis or public transport.

For emergency assistance, or to report a crime, call 112 for police (a 24 hour interpretation service is available) and 119 for ambulance and fire.

Political situation

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Korean peninsula has been divided by a de-militarised zone (DMZ) separating the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. Peace has been maintained under an Armistice Agreement.

The level of tension on the Korean peninsula can change with little notice. For example, it increased after the sinking of the South Korean Navy Ship Cheonan and an artillery attack against Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, and following artillery fire in the DMZ in August 2015. Tensions can increase, particularly around the time of the regular South Korean-US military exercises.

The DPRK conducts frequent missile and nuclear tests, and there has been an increase in frequency in 2016. In the past, these have not affected daily life, but you should keep in touch with news broadcasts and check this travel advice for any updates.

Demonstrations

Public demonstrations take place regularly in central Seoul. These are mostly peaceful and well-policed, but you should take extra care as in any crowded place.

Civil emergency exercises

The South Korean authorities sometimes hold civil emergency exercises. Sirens are sounded, transport stopped and some people are asked to take shelter indoors, including in designated metro stations or basements. Shelters in Seoul are marked with a special symbol. Participation by foreign nationals in these exercises isn’t obligatory but you should follow any instructions by local authorities during any exercises.

Road travel

You’ll need an International Driving Permit to drive in South Korea. Make sure you have fully comprehensive insurance.

Car and motorbike drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving motorcycles or pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common when accidents result in injury, even if guilt is not proved. Watch out for motorcycles travelling at speed on pavements.

Taxi drivers tend to speak little or no English. Have your destination written in Korean, if possible with a map.

In 2014 there were 4,762 road deaths in South Korea (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 9.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.

Mobile telephones

Older (non-3G) phones bought outside South Korea will not normally work in the country, and fitting foreign phones with local SIMs (e.g. to avoid roaming fees) is not usually possible.

Info Indonesia Travel Guide

Draped languidly across the equator, Indonesia is a series of emerald jewels scattered across a broad expanse of tropical sea. This is one of the world’s great adventures in waiting – hidden away in dense jungles on secret islands are tribes almost untouched by the outside world and animals hardly known to science.

The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored. The archipelago boasts more than 18,000 islands, from tiny islets not much bigger than a palm tree to the mighty expanse of Borneo, shared with the Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak and the kingdom ofBrunei.

Many come specifically to discover their own island paradise, complete with white-sand beaches, swaying palms and emerald waters. Offshore are some of the world’s best dive sites, swarming with huge sunfish, giant rays, sharks, porpoises, turtles and a blindingly colourful array of tropical fish.

For others, the attraction is cultural. A fascinating range of civilisations have grown up on these tropical islands, from animist tribes in remote jungle villages to the elaborate Hindu kingdoms of Bali and Java. In Indonesia, timeless temples jostle for space with golden-domed mosques and beach resorts crowded with sun-seekers and surfers. The surf resort of Kuta has become one of the world’s favourite tropical escapes, and the beach party raves through till dawn every day of the week.

For some, Kuta is the very vision of Asia. For others, the true escapes lie elsewhere, on the volcanic islands that drift eastwards towardsAustralia. Here are towering volcanoes to be climbed, national parks to be explored and tropical rainforests to be trekked. You might even get lucky and meet an orang-utan on Sumatra or the world’s largest living reptile on the island of Komodo, home to the eponymous Komodo dragon.

Best of all, flights and ferries link all of the islands, so you can island-hop right across the archipelago, stopping only when you find your own perfect piece of Southeast Asia.

Travel Advice

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visitwww.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Crime

Be aware of the risk of street crime and pick-pocketing, particularly in busy tourist areas in Bali, where there have been reports of bag-snatching. Take sensible measures to protect yourself and your belongings. Avoid having bags obviously on show and carry only essential items. Take particular care of your passport and bank cards and avoid travelling around alone.

Credit card fraud is common. Don’t lose sight of your card during transactions. Criminals sometimes place a fake telephone number on ATMs advising customers to report problems. Customers dialling the number are asked for their PIN and their card is then retained within the machine.

Beware of thieves on public transport. If you’re travelling by car keep doors locked at all times. Only book taxis with a reputable firm. You can ask your hotel to book one for you, or use taxis from Bluebird, Silverbird or Express groups. These are widely available at hotels and shopping malls in central Jakarta and at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Take care to distinguish Bluebird and Silverbird vehicles from ‘lookalike’ competitors. Don’t use unlicensed taxi drivers at the airport or anywhere else. Their vehicles are usually in poor condition, unmetered and don’t have a dashboard identity licence. They have been known to charge extortionate fares and to rob passengers.

Alcohol and Drugs

Drinks served in bars can be stronger than those in the UK. In some cases, over drinking and taking drugs has resulted in accidents, injuries, robbery, assaults and lost travel documents and some British nationals have suffered psychiatric problems caused by alcohol, drugs and a lack of sleep. You should drink responsibly and be aware of your limits.

Drink spiking

There have been reports of sexual assaults and drink spiking in Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands. Make sure drinks are prepared in your sight and be careful about accepting drinks from strangers at clubs and parties, or leaving drinks unattended. Tourists have also been robbed after taking visitors to their hotel rooms, and in some cases have found that their drinks were drugged.

Methanol Poisoning

There have been a number of deaths and cases of serious illness of locals and foreigners in Indonesia caused by drinking alcoholic drinks contaminated with methanol. These cases have occurred in bars, shops and hotels in popular tourist areas like Bali, Lombok, the Gili Islands and Sumatra. Criminal gangs have been reported to manufacture counterfeit replicas of well-known brands of alcohol containing high amounts of methanol. Take extreme care when buying spirit-based drinks, as bottles may appear to be genuine when they’re not.

There have also been cases of methanol poisoning from drinking adulterated arak/arrack, a local rice or palm liquor.

If you or someone you’re travelling with show signs of alcohol induced methanol poisoning or drink-spiking, seek immediate medical attention.

Local travel

Use a reliable and reputable guide for any adventure trips, otherwise you may have difficulties with local authorities if you need their help. For longer journeys, notify friends of your travel plans, contact them on arrival and where possible travel in convoy/with others. Always carry a reliable means of communication with you.

Central Sulawesi Province

The political situation in Central Sulawesi Province is unsettled. Take particular care in Palu, Poso and Tentena and be alert to the potential for politically-motivated violence.

Maluku Province

Maluku Province has experienced unrest and violence between different religious and tribal groups. Take particular care in Ambon, including Haruku Island (Pulau Haruku).

Aceh

Aceh has emerged from a long period of internal conflict. Although violence against foreigners is rare, a British national was abducted in June 2013 and there were three separate incidents in November 2009 targeting foreigners. There have been reports of Shari’a (religious) police harassing foreigners.

Be alert to the risk of politically-motivated violence and take particular care in remote areas. Sharia law is in force, visitors should be particularly careful not to offend local religious sensitivities (eg not drinking alcohol, not gambling, avoid wearing tight fitting or revealing clothing). Keep up to date with local developments and avoid large crowds, especially political rallies.

Papua and West Papua

Political tensions in Papua province have given rise to occasional violence and armed attacks between Free Papua Movement (OPM) and the Indonesian authorities, particularly in the Central Highlands area around Puncak Jaya (including Wamena), but also including in Jayapura, Abepura, and Sentani on the north coast, and Timika town on the south coast.

Clashes in previous years have at times resulted in civilian deaths. If you’re travelling in the region, you should exercise extreme caution. Papuan separatists have kidnapped foreigners in the past. There is a heavy security presence in some areas, especially along the border with Papua New Guinea.

Political tensions have also given rise to occasional mass demonstrations in cities in Papua.

Should you need medical attention, there are limited hospital facilities in Papua and West Papua provinces and the likely destination for a medical emergency is Darwin, Australia.

The situation in West Papua province is calmer although there remains the possibility of unrest. Monitor the situation and be alert to changing circumstances.

Road travel

You can’t drive in Indonesia using a UK driving licence. You can drive using an International Driving Permit issued in Indonesia. International Driving Permits issued in the UK may need to be endorsed by the Indonesian licensing office in Jakarta. Before driving, riding or hiring any type of vehicle, ensure that you have the appropriate licence to do so, and check with your travel insurance company to confirm that you’re covered.

Traffic discipline is very poor. Foreigners involved in even minor traffic violations or accidents may be vulnerable to exploitation. Consider employing a private driver or hiring a car with a driver. Some multinational companies don’t allow their expatriate staff to drive in Indonesia. Make sure you wear a helmet if you’re riding a motorbike or moped.

If you’re involved in an accident or breakdown, make sure someone remains with your vehicle. If you have any concerns for your security, move to another location safely. You should make yourself available for questioning by the police if requested to do so.

Air travel

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

With the exception of Garuda Indonesia, Mandala Airlines (not currently operating), Airfast Indonesia, Ekspres Transportasi Antarbenua (operating as PremiAir), Indonesia Air Asia, Batik Air, Citilink and Lion Air, all other Indonesian passenger airlines are refused permission to operate services to the EU due to safety concerns.

British government employees are advised to use carriers which are not subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the EU unless this is unavoidable.

Sea travel

Inter-island travel by boat or ferry can be dangerous as storms can appear quickly, vessels can be crowded and safety standards vary between providers. In 2015, the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency recorded 633 boat accidents (of which 24 were in Bali and Lombok), resulting in injuries and deaths. Make sure you are satisfied with safety standards before travelling, including safety equipment and life-jackets. Life-jackets suitable for children aren’t always available and you should consider bringing your own.

There have been attacks against ships in and around the waters of Indonesia. Mariners should be vigilant, reduce opportunities for theft, establish secure areas on board and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.

Political situation

The overall political situation is stable, but external as well as internal developments, including the Middle East, can trigger public protests or unrest. You should avoid all protests, demonstrations and political rallies as they could turn violent with little notice.