Readers’ Tips
Below you will find some of the travel tips our readers have submitted

A van with a plan

If you’re planning on doing a van tour, get the best deal for a van by buying one in January. Check out Loot and when you find one get it checked over by the AA. For £70 they’ll tell you how roadworthy it is before you buy, which may save you thousands in the long run.
To keep it parked out on the street, make sure you get a council parking disk and deregister it. When the time comes to do the tour, get a warrant of fitness (WoF), registration and insure it. Stock up on canned food before you go, get all your booze in Calais and buy your petrol at French supermarket Carrefour. Enjoy.

Steven Buck, via email

Russian to get there

Getting a visa for Russia isn’t that difficult, you just need to be organised. Visit the Russian Consulate website to tell you everything you need — which includes an invitation and tourist voucher. I recommend you get hold of these through Get Russian. It’ll cost you about £20 and will be delivered in 24 hours. The single entry visa costs £45.

Phillippa, via email

Save your coin

When in Lisbon don’t waste 14 euros on a hop-on hop-off bus tour.
Instead grab a 24-hour travel pass at the metro station for 4 euros.
This will get you train, bus, tram and ferry access to all the tourist
sights of Lisbon. The 28 tram ride is a must too!

Richard, via email

It pays to check

If you are not a citizen of the EU/UK then you cannot use online check-in with Ryanair, but it gets worse — you have to pay to check in. If you read the small print on the website you will find that you can get this fee refunded: “Where a passenger is unable to avail of Online Check-in by reason only of not being the holder of either a valid passport or a National Identity Card, issued by the government of an EU/EEA country, any Airport Check-In fee paid will be refunded upon application.”

Rowan, via email

Taxi in Bangkok

In Bangkok, only take a tuktuk if you’re really desperate. The cheaper and more comfortable option to tour around the sites are the yellow cabs. Make sure you ask them for the meter and don’t accept a fixed price.

Steven, via email

Lend a hand in NYC

Help feed the New York homeless. Be a volunteer at the University Soup Kitchen located at the Church of the Nativity (44 2nd Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets). Simply arrive from 11am-11.30am on any Saturday. In return you’ll get a free lunch, meet some exciting people, and experience a part of New York most tourists miss.

Joanna, via email

US authorisation

If you’re travelling to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme (which includes Aussies, Kiwis and Brits) after January 12, 2009, you must have travel authorisation. See the website to complete the form. Once you’re registered, it’s valid for multiple entries to the US for two years, unless any answers on the form change or a new passport is required.

Catherine, via email

Getting to Gatwick

Book the Gatwick Express from Victoria to Gatwick airport through the EasyJet website and get a 10 per cent discount on your train ticket. I’ve often checked the price against the Gatwick Express website and it’s always been cheaper through EasyJet.

Lea Gibson, via email

Get a cheap bus

EasyJet operates a minibus service from Fulham Broadway (on match days from West Brompton) to Gatwick airport. It goes every 20 minutes and if booked online (in advance) the fare can be as low as £2 one-way. EasyJet also operates a service from the Baker Street area to Stansted. The service is primarily for EasyJet passengers but is available to everyone subject to availability.

Some National Express services from Victoria can be purchased as a Fun Fare if booked well in advance. Victoria to Gatwick can be as low as £4 one-way. You must allow plenty of time for traffic. Fun Fares apply only to internet bookings.

Jim, via email

Get high in LA

While I was in LA I met a security guard who informed me about the amazing 360 degree views that can be seen from LA City Hall (which also doubles as the Daily Planet from Superman). The view is from the 32nd floor and the best thing about it is that nobody knows! I was up there for 20 minutes and I didn’t see a single other person. It makes for some great photos and doesn’t cost a cent.

Luke, via email

Affordable Iceland

If holidays in the Eurozone are becoming too pricey, consider travelling to Iceland, traditionally an expensive destination, which is now affordable as the Icelandic krona is so weak. A pound will buy about ISK 200 – that’s almost twice as much as you would have got this time last year.

Iceland Express (Iceland’s budget airline) flies to Reykjavik from Stanstead and will fly from Gatwick from next May. Icelandair fly from Heathrow to Reykjavik or to the ‘capital of the north’, Akureyri. You can travel between these two Icelandic towns with domestic airline Air Iceland, or you can take a bus if it’s not winter.

Kel, via email

Magic in Prague

If you’re after a surreal experience in Prague, then pop into Magicka Jeskyne (which means Magical Cavern) on Mostecha 18, just off Charles Bridge. You’ll be transported into a mystical fairyland of weird and wonderful paintings – from goblins to mermaids and unicorns. The experience is accompanied with New Age music, and you get a free glass of wine.

Joanna, via email

Walk around Berlin

If you go to Berlin, make sure you don’t miss the free (other than a tip for the guide if you want) Alternative Berlin tour. Your crazy guide will takeyou on a mission round Berlin from day clubs and underground raves to street art and vintage markets, and even on adventures into abandoned buildings, not to mention the cheap buffet lunch stop at the Aotearoa Cafe.

The tour departs daily from Alexanderplatz TV tower, in front of the Starbucks. Bring yourself and a travel pass.

Chantal, via email

Get arty in Bilbao

If you’re going to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, don’t miss the Fog Sculpture which appears only once an hour, on the hour, in the museum lagoon. It’s best when you find yourself sitting in the middle of it.

Anna, via email

Cheap eats in Venice

For a cheap lunch in Venice head towards the Rialto Bridge from St Mark’s Square. When you get to a statue that looks like Captain Cook, take a left down the dark alleyway. Walk 50m and you’ll find a restaurant for locals serving the best and cheapest food.

Steven, via email

Cable-lock your bag

Concerned about your backpack while you snooze on a sketchy overnight train or ferry? I always carry a small bike lock and cable when I travel. Loop the cable through several handles on your bag and chain it to the seat post. While this may not stop a potential thief it will certainly be a deterrent and make it more difficult for them to steal your bag. If there is nowhere to chain the bag to, simply chain all the bags in your travelling group together. Try stealing 80kg of backpacks in one go!

Rowan, via email

The right change

Make sure you have €10 notes for S-Bahn tickets if you are arriving at Munich airport late at night. The machines wouldn’t take higher denominations at 11.20pm, making catching the 11.30pm train a stressful experience.

Lisa, via email

Handy time-fillers

Collect a dozen crosswords from newspapers and magazines and stick them in your guide book. They weigh nothing, cost nothing, make good bookmarks and are very handy for long-distance bus and train rides.

Renata, via email

Get there via Kayak

Next time you’re looking for flights, try It’s a great comparison airline site, which checks against a number of websites (both those of airlines and intermediate travel sites) and shows you the best deals.

It even has time sliders so you can select how late or early you want to arrive, or how much of a stopover you want, and will only show you the flights you’re interested in.

Because it checks multiple sites you can get some good deals there. I flew to Turkey for Anzac Day for £300, booking via a cheap ticket website on Kayak. If I’d booked the same flights direct with the airline it would have cost me more than £1000.

John, via email

Lighthouse option

Anyone visiting the north-west coast of Scotland should stay in the Rua Reidh Lighthouse near Gairloch (01445-771 263;

It’s a fabulous old building that has been converted into an intimate B&B at the end of a one-horse track. Beds in the small dorm start from £10 a night, but there are double and family rooms available as well, priced from £32 per room per night.

Maia, via email

Exchange rate sucks

When purchasing items abroad and given the option to purchase in sterling, always choose the local currency as the exchange rate is often appalling. If you are going to Spain, be especially careful. Some Spanish banks have started to ask UK card holders if you want to have your money converted to sterling when withdrawing euros from ATMs. Always say no — the rate you get is often much worse.

Sophie, via email

Swiss cycle hire

If you’re in Geneva, why not pick up a free bike from any of the Geneve Roule offices around the city? Their main office is just behind Gare de Cornavin, but there’s also one on Quai du Mont-Blanc on the lake front and at three other locations around the city. Hire is free for the first four hours, and one euro an hour after that. There are a couple of excellent cycle paths that take you out of the city to the vineyards — which makes for a very pleasant day of wine tasting and cycling. Geneve Roule can provide you with a map. And if you can’t face the ride back, as long as you can make it to the nearest station you can get the train.

Sarah, via email

When in Rome…

Most people head straight for the Colosseum and stand in the huge line waiting for eternity to see a glimpse inside the impressive ruins. My tip is instead of heading to the Colosseum first, go to Palatine Hill in the Roman forum (next to the Colosseum), where you can buy a ticket that gets you into both the Colosseum and the Hill. You can either have a look around the Hill or, if you can’t wait any longer, head to the Colosseum and just walk straight through the gates. There is never a line at the Palatine Hill for a ticket as people already have their ticket from the Colosseum.

Trina, via email

Recycle in Germany

When you’re travelling in Germany don’t throw any cans or plastic drink bottles in the rubbish bin. Instead, make sure you return them to a reverse vending machine which are found in most supermarkets and service stations. For each can or bottle you return you get 25 cents bank. Note that the cans/bottles must have been purchased in Germany — the reverse vending machine checks the barcode before it gives you the refund.

Sally, via email

Take a free city tour

There is a great tour company called New Europe that operates in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Munich, London, Edinburgh and Madrid. They run free walking tours in each city — all they ask is that you tip the guide at the end. They also offer specialist tours such as a red light district tour in Amsterdam and a trip to Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin for under €15. And their pub crawls are a cheap and safe way to go out in a foreign city. See

Angus, via email

Keeping it clean

Make sure you stay spick and span on a big trip by packing yourself hand sanitiser, baby wipes and some tissues.

Stephanie, via email

Seeing Swiss falls

If you’re going to see Rheinfalls in Switzerland (the biggest waterfall in Europe), don’t take the tourist route by train to Schaffhausen and then bus to the falls. Get a train to Neuhausen (one hour from Zurich) and then take a half-hour stroll along the emerald-coloured river. It’s lovely and lets you see the falls as you get closer.

Anna, via email

Texas calling

I recently travelled to Texas and found it was a beautiful part of the States. Before I left, everyone I spoke to was full of negative comments about rednecks and racists who love George Bush.

While there was certainly a tiny bit of that, it was by far and away outweighed by the colourful local characters who were friendly as hell and couldn’t have been more welcoming to visitors.

John, via email

Back on the bus

Sure, riding the bus isn’t the most glamorous way of travelling. But it’s worth looking into next time you want to travel somewhere.

I recently booked a trip to Amsterdam that saved me a packet compared to a flight.

It might take a little longer to get there, but it can often be cheaper, plus you don’t have the cost and hassle of getting to the airport.

Sam, via email

Split ticket

If you arrive at the airport at Split in Croatia, don’t bother paying for a private driver or taxi. Regular buses run straight to the city centre from outside the airport, and cost less than £3.

Rita, via email

Changing money

One of the worst places to change your money is at the airport. Some foreign exchange counters at airports claim they charge zero per cent commission — but don’t be fooled, as they usually place a loading on the exchange rate.

I have found a great website that searches companies for the best deal. It’s

Sophie, via email

Seeing Croatia

Most people seem set on sailing trips when they visit Croatia, but I would like to offer a word of warning to people travelling there.

The problem with many of the sailing trips is that as you’re trapped on a boat, you only have a very limited time to explore the islands.

And if the weather turns rough — as it did on my recent trip — you’re likely to get green around the gills and spend half the time throwing up over the side.

I enjoyed my second week in Croatia a lot more, when we weren’t stuck on the boat and had the freedom to decide how long we wanted to spend on each island. Much more fun!

Nikki, via email

Fooling thieves

If you’re going backpacking, fill a wallet with old plastic cards such as supermarket reward cards, old student cards etc. Also add a few old foreign coins and a wad of US $1 bank notes. If you’re unlucky enough to get mugged, you can hand over this wallet instead of your real one. It’s also useful for museums when you have to leave your ID at reception.

Sara, via email

Free ride in Belgium

If you travel to Brussels by Eurostar, your ticket is automatically valid for onward rail travel to any Belgian city within 24 hours of arrival. Similarly, the return portion is valid back to Brussels within 24 hours of your journey home. So, for example, you could get to Brussels in the evening, check into your hotel and go for a beer.

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, catch a train to, say, Ghent, and have a look around. From there a boat trip along the canals will take you to Bruges, and from there you can get the train back to Brussels in the morning, giving you a day to look around before catching the evening Eurostar service back to London.

Claire, via email

Every budget airline

Unlike, which doesn’t show all budget airline options available, allows you to choose either your departure city or arrival city and shows you every budget airline that services that route with links to the airline’s website.

Not only have I saved a fortune, but also found flight times that better suit my travel itinerary.

Rowan, via email

Windsor in advance

To avoid the huge ticket queues at Windsor Castle buy your tickets online in advance (the price includes booking fee), but if you are heading there by train, use South West Trains from Waterloo and ask for the Windsor Castle deal. Not only do you get your tickets in advance, but you save £2.80 in the process.

Kim, via email

Currency in Serbia

If you’re travelling to Serbia, make sure you bring either US dollars or (preferably) euros. I have just returned from there and no one was exchanging pounds. Otherwise, there are plenty of cash machines around Belgrade and Novi Sad.

Michelle, via email

Find a park in Tallinn

If you’re going to rent a car in Estonia be sure to pick it up when leaving Tallinn or drop it off when you arrive in the city. The Old Town is an entire tow-away zone, which is strictly enforced. Designated car parks can be as much as £2.50 per hour, while on the outskirts of the Old Town it’s around £15-20 per day and further away it’s apparently free. Otherwise make parking a consideration when booking your accommodation.

Lance, via email

No need to rough it

For people who like the idea of camping, but don’t like the hassle that comes with it, Featherdown Farms has added a campsite in France to its portfolio of farmstays in the UK. It’s basically posh camping in permanent tents, with mod cons such as toilets, etc, and pitched on working farms so you can chat to the locals and get back to nature. See

Maia, via email

Keep email back-ups

Scan your important documents before you leave such as passports and visas and email them to yourself, just in case they get lost.

Carlton, via email


Lonely Planet’s Tom Hall will give you the benefit of his infinite wisdom if you email your questions to If he answers your question, you’ll win a Lonely Planet guide of your choice. TNT readers can also get 20% off all Lonely Planet guides valued at over £12.99. Enter the promo code PTNT01 at the Lonely Planet Shop.