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Posted on May 20, 2013 in Australia, Guest Posts, Travel Destinations |

Choosing between Sydney and Melbourne when moving to Australia

Guest Post by Carla C. Burton Many people immigrating to Australia, also known as the land down under, find themselves torn between two cities, Sydney and Melbourne.  Sydney and Melbourne have long been rival cities, similar to New York and Chicago in the United States. Beginning in pre-federation times, one of the first disputes was over import tariffs.  Sydney, in New South Wales, had a free trade policy among other colonies while Melbourne, in Victoria, charged tariffs on incoming goods.  The dispute over tariffs delayed the process of federation.  In modern times, the rivalries include sports, nightlife, tourism, and lifestyle.   Both cities are vibrant and full of interesting things to do and see, so which one is best? SYDNEY When foreigners think of Australia, the first thoughts besides kangaroos and deadly spiders or snakes, are of classic tourist icons such as the bridge and Sydney Opera House.   Being in Sydney, near or on the bridge, for New Year’s Eve fireworks is an incredible experience and Sydney residents go all out to make the night like no other. City life next to one of the best beaches in the world makes a perfect combination since Australians love to be outdoors. Bondi Beach, known around the world for the best waves, draws in the surfing community.  The beach is as big a tourist attraction as the bridge and Opera House whether one surfs or simply enjoys watching the waves.   Some of the best wave and surfer photography is done from the waves at Bondi Beach. But of course, simply sunbathing and enjoying a picnic with friends is the way most residents of Sydney enjoy Bondi Beach. Nightlife is not lacking with Sydney boasting some of the world’s largest casinos and nightclubs with a new one opening every year or so, keeping things lively and competitive. Festivals such as Sydney Festival for the arts, or Festival of the Winds kite flying displays, and Vivid Sydney are annual events giving city dwellers even more outside activities to enjoy. MELBOURNE The city of Melbourne has an entirely different feel to it.  Best known for...

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Posted on May 20, 2013 in Guest Posts, Living Abroad |

Weird and Wonderful European Driving Laws

British citizens abroad are quick to take to the roads but they are often not aware of the dangers of travelling on foreign highways. UK tourists often hire cars and expats often choose to take their vehicles abroad with them when they book their moving company, with international classic car transport very popular in the UK. However, traffic laws and local driving habits abroad can differ hugely from home, resulting in high road accident levels. For example, Thailand, home to some 50,000 Brit expats, reported nearly 10,000 deaths in 2011, as opposed to only 2,000 in the UK. High numbers of crashes involving UK tourists and expats abroad have resulted in the Government launching a new safety tool to combat the problem. The app from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office attempts to make international driving information easily and concisely available to anyone planning to take to the wheel in a foreign locale. The app ensures drivers are aware of overseas laws which can sometimes wildly differ from home. For example, in France, as of July 2012, any driver failing to carry a breathalyser when operating a car or motorcycle will be subject to an on-the-spot fine of 11 euro and in Bulgaria it is a legal requirement to carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. To celebrate the launch of the app and to raise awareness of the sometimes weird and wonderful nature of foreign driving laws, here is a list of the six strangest European driving laws you might encounter on your next summer holiday. Belarus If you’re planning a holiday to Belarus, you might want to pack some car shampoo and a bucket as driving a dirty car is punishable by law. Estonia Obviously Estonians aren’t too comfortable with the concept of handbrakes, as they have a strange law, in which all drivers legally must carry two wheel chocks with them at all times. These are wooden blocks to be positioned under the vehicle’s wheels when stationary to prevent rolling. Luxembourg In Luxembourg traffic law, it is acceptable for a car on the road to be without...

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Posted on May 20, 2013 in Guest Posts, Travel Destinations |

Three City Break Destinations That Stand Out From the Rest

There are plenty of cities around the world which are perfect for the short break holiday, offering as they do a range of attractions, landmarks, monuments, parks and museums which together form an impressive collection. Three or four days is usually enough time to see and do all you need, and at the end of your trip you can go home with some pleasant memories, a bagful of souvenirs and a few dozen attractive photographs. And while you might be happy visiting such cities once or twice a year for a midweek break or perhaps a long weekend, it’s important to remember there are a few destinations – only a few, mind – which require far more time to get the whole experience. This exclusive group could perhaps include only three genuine members, and although the subject might spark some debate, most travellers would agree that these cities in particular are the ones which have that extra little wow factor. Brioche, boulevards and beauty The French capital of Paris is regarded by many as the finest example of just how a major city should be. It’s home to impressive landmarks, a cultural scene that most places can only ever dream of, wide avenues, elegant stores and an atmosphere that has no equal. The food would be enough to make a trip to Paris, but of course there are so many other good reasons. If you’re a fan of culture, you should make sure you set aside some time to visit the sensational Louver museum and art gallery. Hamburgers, hustle and heart There’s only one Big Apple, and it’s a city that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetimes. For most visitors, especially perhaps those from Europe, nothing prepares them for the assault on the senses that occurs on that first walk through the streets of Manhattan. They say you can always spot the first-time tourist, because he or she is constantly looking upwards at the huge skyscrapers. Even something as mundane as wandering through a park can seem exciting and action-packed in New York. Pubs, pomp and...

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Posted on May 20, 2013 in Guest Posts, Travel, Travel Destinations |

Thorough Online Research Means a Perfect Holiday

While some people like to visit a holiday destination they know very little about, most of us would always prefer to have some advance information about the place before we set off. There is something to be said for a journey into the unknown, of course, but having worked hard all year and spent a small fortune on travelling and accommodation, it can be rather deflating to arrive and soon realise the choice of location was a completely inappropriate one. Therefore, the shrewdest tourists tend to make use of the web these days before selecting a specific destination. First and foremost, they will check out the various travel information sites to see why a particular place is popular, and what attractions, sights, landmarks and facilities are on offer to the visitor. There’s no point whatsoever in choosing a resort that won’t offer all or at least some of the factors that you happen to be looking for. Google Earth and Google Maps are also useful resources for the curious potential tourist, because they will give vital information about the destination and the surrounding area. And of course, such data is completely neutral, so there’s no need to worry about whether it’s fair and balanced. Even scouring photos of the region via Google Maps can be helpful, especially if you’ve never been to the area at all in the past. Check out the views of others There are plenty of reviews, opinions and comments on the web to be made use of as well, and these can prove extremely informative. They will often cover everything from the condition of the beaches and the friendliness of the locals to the quality of the restaurants and the conditions in the hotels. Be warned, however, that some people just like to be controversial and negative for the sake of it, so you might sometimes need to be a little selective about which opinions you fully listen to. As is always the case, one person’s idea of paradise is another’s version of hell, and this will be reflected in the range of comments on...

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Posted on May 13, 2013 in Guest Posts |

Shake it Up: 4 Things to Make the Most of Your Los Angeles Vacation

Sunshine and shining stars are just two of the things that Los Angeles offers. But this city has so many more experiences waiting for visitors, from the natural and serene to the slightly kooky. Here are four things to do in Los Angeles that maybe you had not thought about. See a Concert As much fun as head-banging, celebrity-featuring concerts are, you might consider doing something different by spending an evening at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. The Los Angeles Philharmonic often performs there, so you can catch a concert that is both classy and classical. If that is not your style, it will still be worth your time to stop by the concert hall and take the free audio tour. It will take you through the inside and the outside of the building. Even though the tour does not get you access to the concert auditorium, it will still give you insight into this unique and outstanding feature of downtown Los Angeles. Once you finish at the concert hall, you can traverse the short distance to the Staples Center where you can experience the thrill that comes along with having Los Angeles Lakers tickets. See Thai Elvis Nightly, starting at 7:30pm, the Palms Thai Restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard comes to life when their award-winning Elvis impersonator starts to sing. A blogger on iflipforfood.com says, “…Thai Elvis certainly doesn’t disappoint. His enthusiastic rendition of ‘Don’t be Cruel’ proved nearly as memorable as the meal itself, and that’s no knock against the food.” Don’t expect an orderly show free of distractions. The bustle and noise of the restaurant are integral to the experience. If you are looking to delight your palate with authentic and spicy Thai food, stop at the Palms Thai Restaurant for a fun, quirky dinner out. Take a Hike Los Angeles is more than glam and glitz. Griffith Park is a super popular spot where you can step away from the craziness of the city and enjoy the richness of Southern California nature. Going to Griffith Park at night will open up a different perspective...

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Posted on May 13, 2013 in Guest Posts, Living Abroad, Travel |

4 Things An Experienced Traveler Can Teach A Beginner

Experienced travelers are like old sages: they know what’s what and they’ve been everywhere. They have a lot to teach to younger, fresher travelers. Here are some of the essential tips experienced travelers would like to tell beginners. How to Be Diplomatic With new travelers there is often a lot of culture shock. People have to be careful not to apply their own cultural values to those of other nations. Experienced travelers would tell beginners to keep their opinions to themselves, and to try to see things from a local perspective. They would also suggest trying as many things as possible. If the locals enjoy eating bugs and worship cats, then the travelers should respect those values while they are visiting. Daring travelers should take it a step farther and try the bugs: anything that doesn’t harm you or put you in danger will become a great memory. How to Save Money There are ways to save money that experienced travelers would love to share with beginners. All too often young travelers spend a lot of hard-earned cash on things that could be a lot cheaper. Here are some of the savvy ways to save money: Research Airlines: Some airlines have better deals on their own sites, and others have deals on external sites, such as Aer Lingus. Call the Front Desk: You might save money by calling the front desk. Let them know how much sites are asking for, and ask if they can beat it. Be Flexible: Traveling during off-season might save you as much as 50%. Check online calendars to find out when to travel, and what you’re risking (for example, off-season might also be hurricane season). When to Save and When to Be Extravagant While it’s important to save money, it’s also important to know when to splurge. Experienced travelers would suggest that beginners buy one amazing souvenir rather than 15 cheap ones. The nicer souvenirs will be enjoyed for decades, whereas the cheap ones will be forgotten within weeks. Another time when it pays to be extravagant is on excursions. If you desperately want to...

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Posted on May 13, 2013 in Guest Posts, Travel |

One day at the Magic Kingdom

Guest Post by Carla C. Burton Known as the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom can keep you busy and entertained all day.  Here’s a guide to help you enjoy one full day at Disney’s, Magic Kingdom. EARLY MORNING I suggest starting with the earliest possible seating for breakfast at Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace.  Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). Pick up a Times Guide bulletin and a map upon entering the park or at any one of the shops or restaurants on Main Street USA.  Keep for reference for parade and fireworks times and attraction locations.  If you haven’t already made dinner reservations, go over to Town Hall on the left upon entering the park, and see someone in guest relations about priority seating for Tony’s or Be Our Guest. AFTER BREAKFAST Stroll up and down Main Street USA taking in the sights, sounds and smells of The Magic Kingdom, making mental notes of where to return later for a snack or souvenir. FAST PASS Head to Splash Mountain in Frontierland for a Fastpass allowing you to return with no wait.  Proceed to Big Thunder Railroad next.  Note: You can obtain a Fastpass every couple of hours throughout the day, while they last, for certain attractions. From Frontierland, go to the adjacent Adventureland and ride the Pirates of the Caribbean followed by the Jungle Cruise, also a Walt Disney classic and cheesy as it is, not to be missed. By now, it’s time for your Splash Mountain ride.  This is 20 minutes of fun with the potential of getting soaked so bring a ziplock bag for cell phones and cameras. After Splash Mountain, head directly to Liberty Square and experience the 999 ghosts of the Haunted Mansion. AFTERNOON If needing refreshment, try a Dole Whip sold at Aloha Isle.  It is a bit of backtracking but worth it for the pineapple refreshment. If you have little ones, head next to Fantasyland.  Grab a Fastpass to Peter Pan’s Flight and wait in line at Small World and Mickey’s Philharmagic.  Note: Peter Pan is a childhood favorite but the lines are...

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