Check out our expert travel advice column from Lonely Planet's Laura Lindsay
Question: I am looking at doing the Trans-Siberian Railway next year. What are the must-see destinations to stop at along the way, and what’s the approximate cost of the trip? Also, is it best to book through a travel agent, and are there any agencies in London that specialise in this trip? ?Jenny, via email
Laura Lindsay says: There are a number of ways of doing the Trans-Siberian railway. Booking the journey independently gives you the flexibility to decide the cost and time taken, depending on how many stops you want to make. This is because with independently booked trips, each time you break the journey you have to purchase a new onward ticket. There is a great website that lets you calculate the cost of your ticket once you input each of your desired journey legs (realrussia.co.uk). Book your tickets well in advance to ensure it all goes to plan.
An alternative is to go with one of the many agents offering organised tours; they vary depending on whether you choose to go for a luxury carrier. Railbookers offer packages which include hotels (railbookers.com). Man in seat 61 (seat61.com) offer a comprehensive guide to booking the journey.
Highlights include Lake Baikal, where you can hop on a railway that circumnavigates this stunning body of water. Moscow certainly deserves a few days exploration. Also try to fit in an excursion to Tomsk, Siberia’s prettiest city, which has quaint wooden architecture.
Question: I have travelled to Alaska, Finland and Iceland and am still yet to see the Northern Lights! I want to travel to Norway either this year or early next year, but want to know the best time to have a chance at seeing the display. But I also want enough daylight to do some trekking in the Fjords. Can you recommend the best months to go? Nadia, via email
Laura Lindsay says: There is no perfect formula for spotting the Northern Lights, but there are a couple of ways in which you can strengthen your chances. Firstly, the further north the better; secondly, avoid full moon dates; and, thirdly, travel in early autumn or spring.As you are keen to trek, and so need plenty of daylight hours, I would recommend you plump for March. At this time of year, there is a good chance of seeing the lights and enough daylight to enjoy the stunning landscape.Tromsø in northern Norway is ideally located?to view the Northern Lights and is a buzzing city to boot. A recommended excursion is to the Lyngen Alps where, away from light pollution, you will improve your Northern Light-spotting chances and there’s also great hiking opportunities for during the day. There are some great resources to help you plan your trip, including northern-lights.no, which details plenty of information about viewing the lights and excursions for during the day. It also recommends you set aside a whole evening for chasing the lights. Good luck!
Reader Travel Tips
Dry shampoo spray
Recently, I bought some dry shampoo spray for my weekend away at T In The Park. Whoever came up with this concept is a legend and a half. If you don’t want to have to carry around shampoo and conditioner all the time while travelling, invest in this spray and your hair feels like it has just been washed. Plus it gives you that sexy, “I’ve been travelling around Europe” look.
Istanbul: taxi from airport
Two years ago, I went to Istanbul for New Year. I would highly recommend it. What I would not recommend, however, is arriving in the middle of the night. We flew into Sabiha Gocken airport, which is about 20 miles outside of Istanbul, at around 2am. The last airport shuttle bus is at about 9.30pm, so we hopped in a taxi, not fully appreciating the length of the ride. Also, we didn’t know that taxis cost double at night. We ended up shelling out £90 before our holiday had even started. We could have cried, but drowned our sorrows in raki instead.