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Four Ways to Enjoy an Adventure in Montenegro

 Montenegro—you’ve probably never heard of it, but neither have many other people, and that’s part of its charm. Easy to reach on a cheap flight from the UK, with a very low cost of living, this is one place to visit that won’t blow all your tax savings in one foul sweep.

 

Montenegro is sandwiched between Serbia and Albania on the coast of the achingly beautiful Adriatic Sea. It is known for its delicious seafood, cooked with an Italian influence. It’s unbeatable when paired with local Montenegrin wines such as Vranac or Pro Corde,which are cheaper than the cost of a bottle of Evian back home!

 

Culture and History

Kotor is right on the protected waters of the Bay of Kotor, close to the Lovcen National Park and surrounded by rocky peaks and forested hills. If God were planning an outdoor adventure park, it would probably look very much like this. Hiking, kayaking, cycling and outdoor adventures surround this charming city with its landmark domed churches and red-tile roofs.

 

Kotor has several unusual places to stay such as the four star boutique Hotel Astoria in the UNESCO Listed 13th century Buca Palace. For Montenegrin charm, it’s hard to beat the Apartments Parteli, just 250 metres fromthe beach, or the Apartman Na Pjaci Od Muzeja in the Old City, which has a courtyard and all mod cons.

 

Kotor Bay is actually the southernmost fjord in Europe and is suitably impressive.The protected waters make it the ideal place for yachting, fishing, waterskiing and wakeboarding. Hire a boat complete with skipper, watersports equipmentandfuel for a very affordable day’s adventures on the water. Alternatively, kayak to the island of Our Lady of the Rocks with a church on top. Unlike the neighboring island of Sveto Dorde, with its ancient Benedictine monastery, Our Lady is actually a manmade island in Kotor Bay which was created by sinking numerous old ships and filling them in with rocks!

 

You’ll probably want to start by orientating yourself with a stroll around the best preserved medieval walled town anywhere in the Mediterranean, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 20-meter high walls are over 1,000 years old and the cobblestone alleyways and streets are even older. Head uphill and start the 1,000 step climb to the fortress. It’s a great workout and the views across Kotor Bay are worth it. This is the first stretch of a 15km hike up Vrmac mountain which peaks at 710m above sea level.

 

After dark, Kotor has a surprisingly lively nightlife, due to it being a backpacker haven. When the pubs, taverns, cafés and bars finally close around 1 a.m., the nightclub Maximus, just outside the city walls, is just warming up.

 

Beautiful Beaches 

If you fancy putting your feet up on a comfy lounger on a sandy beach, head down to the Almara Beach Club at neighboring Tivat.Kick back and relax or snap your fingers for beach waiter service when you fancy a few beers. Did I mention that swimming is excellent in the clear blue Adriatic waters? The snorkelling and diving near the cliffs at Tivat are pretty awesome too.

 

 

Whitewater Rafting at Tara River Canyon

Head inland through Montenegro’s dramatic mountain scenery to explore the natural attraction in Durmitor National Park. Hiking trails abound around the glacial lakes, and outdoor adventure companies offer a variety of activities.

 

The ultimate attraction is white water rafting down the Tara River Canyon, the longest in Montenegro and the second deepest in the world. Rafting trips are wild as you grapple with the flow through stunning gorge scenery. The river is an unusual turquoise colour due to the glacial minerals it carried down from the ice melt. In summer, guided rafting tours cover 18km of river. In between spells of rafting you can swim in tranquil pools and enjoy a lunch of local cuisine.

 

Hiking in Montenegro 

Hikers and trampers will want to tackle the big four hikes of Montenegro. Take your pick from guided walks to Lake Skara Waterfall, Orijen Mountain Hike,  Vrmac Ridge Walk or the Obod Pools and Caves Hike, available through companies such as Undiscovered Montenegro and Wilderness Travel. Happy trails!

Sparties and Trabants - Only in Budapest!

 

So, you’ve saved a few bucks, pounds, dollars and shekels with T2UK top tax tips and you want to reward yourself for your thriftiness with a weekend away. Why not get yourself a cheap flight to Budapest and see just how quirky this former communist capital city can be!

 

Treasure Hunt in a Trabant!

Don’t get stuck in a dreary museum, castle or shops - there’s far more fun to be had exploring the quirkier side of Buda and Pest with a more unusual mode of transport.Forget buses and trams and look for Segway tours, chairlifts, bike tours, boat cruises and heli tours which will all give you a great first impression of this amazing Hungarian city.

 

Better still, why not rent a Trabant? These iconic East German cars frequently featured in comedy sketches, but they are now trendy collectors’ items.

 

After an initial driving lesson, you can drive through beautiful countryside beside the River Danube to a Renaissance restaurant in Visegrad where a Royal Feast awaits. Costumes are provided for those who want to really get into the spirit of living like a Lord! Take part in a Knight’s Tournament, and if your feasting and merrymaking leaves you over-the-limit for driving home, you can return to Budapest by ferry on the Danube.

 

Your faithful “Trabbi” can also be used to take part in a Treasure Hunt where various tasks must be completed as you explore the sights in the area.

 

Ready to Sparty?

If you like to party, then you’ll love to Sparty! These Saturday night pool parties take place in Budapest’s thermal baths, either at Szechenyi or Lukacs Baths. Organized by Cinetrip, the great party music is accompanied by a spectacular LED lights show which transforms the baths into a surreal psychedelicdream world without the drugs!

 
Dress code is easy – bring a swimsuit, towel and flipflops. The warm thermal waters ensure you’ll be warm enough even if the temperatures outside are sub-zero!

 

Down Under in Budapest!

Those same thermal spa waters are responsible for carving out many natural caves around Budapest which have to be seen to be believed. Discovered by accident in the 1900s, the two most famous cave systems in the hills of Buda are the Pál-völgyi Stalactite Cave and the Szemlő-hegyi Cave.

 

The Pál-völgyi Cave is the longest cave in the area stretching over 4 miles (7km). It is a labyrinth of multi-level caves and passageways decorated with clusters of stalactites and amazing rock formations that are literally“as old as the hills!” Expect to do some climbing and squeezing along narrow passages on this 45-minute guided tour.


If you are interested in crystals then the unusually beautiful Szemlő-hegyi Cave is for you. It’s an easy one hour walk through the airy caves, admiring the beautiful crystal formations as you go.

 

Another underground treat is a tour of the caves and cellars beneath Castle Hill. This 6-mile long labyrinth was a prison in the 15th century when its most infamous prisoner was Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Count Dracula. It has also been used as a harem, a military base and a hospital during World War 2. Guided tours are available daily but the lantern-lit tours at night are truly awesome!

 

The Invisible Museum

If you’re still “in the dark” about what you want to do in Budapest, consider the Invisible Museum. It’s the chance to appreciate what it would be like to live life in the dark, as a blind person. Your guide takes you up stairs and through various furnished rooms as you navigate around familiar objects. Of course, you’ll need to think up a suitably impressive story to explain those impressive bruises from bumping into things!


The visit ends in a café where you have a drink and snack – still in total darkness. Optional extras are a massage in the dark and an Invisible Dinner.

 

Top T2UK Travel Tip 

Budapest is known for its high quality craft beers such as Foti, Legenda and Tavoli which can be sampled in most pubs.Cheers! or should we say “Egészségedre!”

Frances Petit Venice

 

France is one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations, we constantly here about Paris and the cheeses that melt in the mouth, and I remember from my first French phrasebook that life is too short to drink bad wine, but what naive travellers we make when many of the jewels in Frances crown lie mor'e or less untouched by the international traveller. The jewel that we are going to introduce you to today can be found nestled at the foot of the Rhone-Alpes, with its own pristine mountain lake and historic town centre lined with canals, arched with stone bridges and adorned with excellent culinary delights, it is befitting the title of the Venice of France: it is the little town of Annecy.

 

A Savoyard Secret

When travelling to this part of the world -  no greater way to arrive other than the train. If travelling from the UK or most of northern Europe then we suggest the train from Paris in the early afternoon - which takes you through some beautiful French countryside before joining the mountain ranges of the Rhone-Alpes. You will arrive in Annecy in that case in the new side to the town which is somewhat unimpressive on first meeting and marginally nicer than Stratford, though it does have its charms and is actually rather lovely and quiet. But the old town, which along with the lake makes up the larger part of the town and houses many of the hotels (we suggest heading a little further out to either the excellent lake side Imperial Hotel or one of the Old Towns smaller but perfectly situated offerings) is simply wonderful. Strutting around the cobbled pathways, whilst admiring centuries old architecture, one just cannot help but be struck by the similarities to Italy s Venice, but this little piece of French heaven has a character and charm all of its own. At the weekends we were mesmerised by the food and antiques market. If you are a fan of Londons Portobello Road and Borough market - but want them all rolled into one, then you will be glad to know here is a place where you can get just that. Hunting through the various stalls though, it came apparent, that this is a much more rewarding experience then either of those markets with its broad collections of traditional Savoyard pots and pans, vintage postcards, dolls and cameras and even vintage perfumes and jewellery - all nestled between the exquisite scents of Raclette cheese being freshly scraped from the wheel on to eager potatoes below... Really, if you have not tried it - I suggest a quick round trip to dip your taste buds into culinary, or at least fromage nirvana! 

As if that is not enough to whet the appetite, just a short stroll away from the old town is the Lake - emerald in colour, dotted with boats and seated at the foot of the alps - it is a sight to behold. Though if you are the kind of person who cannot have fun in a small town surrounded by green and blue, then you are probably not going to stand more than a couple of days here - but for us, this is a dream destination. The locals are interesting and pleasant and there are enough activities to be had to keep you busy for months - boating, mountain biking (the bike roads here are often included in the iconic Tour de France), jet skiing, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning and of course there is the architecture - centuries old castles, medieval prisons and imposing mountain top cathedrals and the food - which many would refer to quite simply as mountain fare - but it can be much more than that if you only dare to dig a little deeper. 

 

A Tale To Be Told

One day, floating away on a the lake on a small but perfectly capable boat, we stared up through the dark lenses of our glasses at a beautiful big blue sky, the mountains poked it from all angles and the water glistened, and there was just a hint of background noise far away towards the banks of the lake. We sat in silence in a state of bliss, but then a turning point came. The water began to rock us to and fro, the powdery blue blanket above us became a mess of grey and a crack of lightning lit the sky, quickly followed by a heavy rainfall. At first we deigned to rush back to the shores with the rest of the boats, but looking up at the mountains provided us with a previously unknown cinematic experience. The mountains had all but disappeared into the smog of cloud, and the rain was beating down hard, but for the next few minutes our eyes were fixated on the lightning, illuminating the mountain tops, striking continuously to a chorus of loud bass heavy thunder and the consuming sound of the rain hitting water. We watched until the cold bit too hard and headed back to the shore where we succumbed to the majesty of nature and a nice hot cup of chocolate. 

 

Nightcap

We suggest heading to one of the old town restaurants, La Chalet, which is conveniently located right on the canal just a short walk away from the old prison - the Palais de I Isle. Sit inside and enjoy the dim lighting that gives the Chalet like interior a homely atmosphere - accompanied by an open fire in the colder months - and order a cheese Fondue to cap off the true and proper mountain fashion!

Traveller Beware 12 Common Scams to be Aware of!

 

What makes tourists such a target for scams? If you are in a strange city, feeling (or looking) slightly disorientated, loaded down with desirable gadgets and a pocket full of cash, you can see why you may be targeted by prowling swindlers and scam artists. Even the most worldly-wise traveller may get conned by a few of these audacious tricks, so read on to make sure you don’t become the next victim.


1. Street Performers


We’ve all stopped to watch street entertainers, but they are not all as innocuous as they appear. While the performer engages you in a fun game or illusion, such as guessing which card is the ace, his accomplice is likely to be right behind you, picking your pockets.

 

2. Not-so-Free Services


Beware of “free” services. They might be a windscreen wash while you’re at a red light, an unsolicited massage on the beach, or a free shoe shine, sometimes to thank you for picking up the shoe brush he dropped at your feet. The act will be followed by a persistent and threatening demand for money. It can be an unnerving encounter, best avoided by declining firmly at the outset.
In a similar vein, rappers in New York City hand out what appears to be a free CD and then demand money, refusing to take it back. Don’t pay out of embarrassment; simply put the CD on the ground and walk away.

 

3. Monkey Business


You may be lured to hold a pet monkey or feed it tidbits, but these “little monkeys” are trained to steal your camera from round your neck, remove your glasses, or even deftly pick your pockets. The owner will offer to get the item back, but for a generous “tip”.

 

4. Camel Rides


In Egypt, there will be plenty of willing hands to help you mount the camel once you’ve paid the agreed fee. However, once there you may be held to ransom until you have paid another fee for the camel owner to order the camel to kneel down and allow you to get off.

 

5. The Dirty Jacket


You’re walking along enjoying the sights when you get food or a drink splashed on your jacket. People quickly offer to help clean up the mess with napkins, all the while patting you down and relieving you of your valuables. If this happens, assertively decline any help and make for a restroom or bathroom where you can clean up yourself. It’s cheaper in the long run.

 

6. Not-So-Helpful Taxi Drivers


Stay with your luggage when a taxi driver unloads them and offers to bring them into the hotel for you while you make your way to check in. You may find he drives off with at least one of your bags still in his possession. Try to note the taxi license number displayed in the cab during the journey – just in case.
Taxis provide many other opportunities for lightening your pockets. If you don’t know the area, the driver may take a long detour, or even load the meter with a toll or charge that is not applicable. In Bangkok it is common for tuk-tuk taxies to take you to your requested attraction, but on the way tell you that it is closed for a local holiday. They will offer to take you somewhere else – usually a friend’s jewellery shop or an alternative attraction that gives them a kickback.

 

7. Hire Cars


Nothing screams “tourist” louder than a hire car. Scam artists may puncture your tyre when your car is parked, and then follow you, flag you down and help you change the wheel. Other swindlers may deliberately bump you to get you to pull over. Make sure you stop in a well-lit area in such an emergency, where there are plenty of people to help you – and keep your eye on your luggage if it is unloaded to reach the spare tyre.

 

8. Fair Exchange…


There are all sorts of ways con artists get you to open your wallet. They may ask for change for a large note, or ask for a donation for coffee or a bus ticket. As you hand over the note, they ignore it and snatch your wallet.

 

9. The Photographer


How often has someone offered to take a photograph of you and your partner at a beauty spot? Be aware that once the snap has been taken, the generous stranger may demand money for the return of your expensive smartphone or camera, or they may just take off with it.

 

10. The Friendship Bracelet


Here’s one “friend” you can live without. The scam artist approaches and charmingly offers to make a friendship bracelet. Despite your protests, they begin weaving a pretty bracelet on your wrists. While you are incapacitated, the accomplice is free to pick your pockets clean.

 

11. Expensive Pizza Delivery


You may find a pizza flyer slipped under your hotel room door. When you place an order, and give your credit card details, it’s not a pizza that they charge to your account.

 

12. The Free Meal Scam


A common scam on American visitors in London is for a local to attach themselves to you as an amiable and friendly guide. They will walk with you, winning you over with some useful tips and lively local stories and will then suggest a wonderful (and expensive) place to have lunch. By now you’re perfectly comfortable in the company of your new local friend and enjoy the entertainment over drinks and a meal. At some stage, your “guide” will make an excuse to visit the bathroom, and will never be seen again, leaving you to settle the bill. Most tourists consider they got good entertainment value for their money, but it’s best to control the situation from the outset.


Stay alert, be naturally suspicious, and always think “scam”. That way the losses that befall other travellers will probably not happen to you.

Sail the Turkish Turquoise Coast and Sleep in a Treehouse!

 

If you feel the need to shake off the city bustle and spend a few days chilling out, sailing peacefully around the stunning Turkish coast could be just the trip for you. These cruises are ideal for singles and adventurers looking for a different experience and can be just as short as 3 nights/4 days.


As they are priced per person, not per cabin, this makes them surprisingly affordable, so you don't need to feel you are squandering those hard-earned tax breaks. On the other hand, it does leave you with plenty of pocket money to splurge on a couple of add-ons, if you fancy them.


As well as swimming and snorkelling from the boat there are opportunities to hike to ancient monuments for a stunning sunset, visit the Sunken City, go paragliding, diving and enjoy some serious partying with new friends.


One great adventure at the end of the cruise is to stay a couple of nights in a treehouse – a genuine wooden chalet built in the treetops at Olympos. It makes a fantastic base for some additional sightseeing and activities such as white water rafting or hot air ballooning. Interested? Here's the lowdown!

 

Sailing between Fethiye and Olympos

Located in the Antalya Province of Southern Turkey there are several companies that offer Mediterranean cruises with a difference. Forget the floating hotel cruise ships that clutter the glitzy Mediterranean ports; these cruises are aboard elegant twin-masted Turkish-built gulets which can sneak into scenic coves and deserted bays that larger boats simply cannot reach.


With just 12 to 20 other guests, these cruises are fun and friendly. Accommodation is in shared cabins for 2-4 persons, each with a private bathroom, or for a supplement you can have a private single cabin. Best of all, the surprisingly affordable price (under €260 for 4 days/3 nights) includes all meals, afternoon refreshments, port fees, snorkelling equipment and crew services. Drinks can be purchased onboard, including water. Pack your towel, toothbrush and some beachwear and you'll be all set up for a great trip.


Most cruises depart from Fethiye, Olympos, Kas or Marmaris and last for up to 8 days. Get a cheap flight to Fethiye, book a night in a hotel and the cruise company will pick you up and transfer you by bus to your awaiting adventure.


Itineraries vary but cruises around the Dodecanese Islands include stunning bays, ancient archaeological sites, quaint harbour villages, churches and monasteries as well as bars and nightlife. Many of these amazing sailing cruises include visiting places that can only be accessed from the sea. Swim and snorkel at places such as Oludinez Beach, said to be the most beautiful beach in Europe, and visit Butterfly Valley where you can hike to a waterfall. If you want to paraglide, this is the way to do it, for sure.


Sail to the Sunken City at Kekova Island where you can snorkel and swim in the turquoise waters. The ruins of this 2nd century city destroyed by an earthquake, the unique Lycian rock tombs and amphitheater at Myra and the church of Santa Claus are just some of the treats that will have you reaching for your camera.


Snorkel in the warm clear waters of the appropriately named Aquarium Bay or step ashore and go shopping on local markets for handmade jewellery, bottles of "raki" and souvenirs. The great thing about this trip is that you leave the crowds behind, even in August, and have charming ports and sandy coves pretty much to yourself. If you hanker for company, some evenings the boats are moored in harbours where you can go ashore and party in local tavernas or simply relax onboard and count the stars.

 

Tree Houses and Shore-Based Add-On Adventures

Add on a couple of days at the beginning or end of your cruise for some more unique experiences. Drift across the stunning rock formations and landscapes of Cappadocia on a hot air balloon flight or ride the Aerial Tram to the peak of Mount Olympos for stunning views of the remarkable Turkish landscape. Now's your chance to sleep in a tree-house, go rock jumping, kayak to hidden caves, hike the ancient Lycian Trail and pay homage to the Chimera flames on Olympos Mountains.Enjoy days of activity from your eco-friendly treehouse and socialize after dark with like-minded strangers around the campfire. Surrounded by ancient history and so much natural beauty, you can still stay in touch with the "real world" through the internet. Some treehouses have computers which are ideal for sending photos home to family, friends and workmates if only to make them green with envy!

Relax in Reykjavik

Relax in Reykjavik with Glaciers, Geysers and Geothermal Attractions

Unless you originate from New Zealand, geothermal attractions are likely to be a fascinating novelty. A short visit to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a great way to see geysers, thermal pools and smoldering volcanoes by day, and the chance to participate in amazing nightlife after dark.

If you're up for it, swap your pounds for Icelandic krona, book a 3 hour flight to Reykjavik, and send a silent thank you to the T2UK tax fairy for making this fun trip possible!

 

Reykjavik

This quirky capital city is a colourful waterfront city with scenic views of Mt Esja (pronounced eh-shyuh). Concrete houses make up for their unimaginative architectural style by sporting colourful roofs in vibrant reds, blues and green.

One of the first things you'll notice is the fresh air. All the houses, businesses and even the pavements are warmed by unlimited heat sourced from the hot springs. This means there's no air pollution, no smoke and definitely no dirty coal-burning power stations to worry about. The only downside is the slight whiff of sulphur in the bathroom when you run a shower.

As well as offering fantastic shopping, Reykjavik city centre has some interesting museums and the landmark Hallgrimskirkja. You can look around the church for free, but there's a small fee for climbing the tower to enjoy the superb views of the city and bay.

 

Sleep, Eat and Drink in Reykjavik

Such a one-of-a-kind destination deserves a quirky place to lay your head. The Kex Hostel offers accommodation within the old biscuit factory (Kex is Icelandic for biscuit!) The décor is borderline salvage/retro with industrial undertones. On the plus side, it has a café/bar serving hot drinks and biscuits, of course, and there's a heated outdoor patio, Wi-Fi and gym.

Outside the city, try booking a night in a cosy A-frame mountain hut at Kerlingartjoll. It's a great base for hiking, close to Iceland's largest geothermal area. Cabins include double beds, bathrooms and kitchens along with a hot pool for socialising.

There are plenty of international restaurants in Reykjavik, but if you want to try some of the local delicacies you'll find Minke whale, puffin, smoked sheep's head and even rotten shark on the menu. The best way to try these cultural treats is with the "Jar Menu" at places such as Tapas Barinn and Tapas Husio where small tastes of these unique foods are served in small jars.

Since the collapse of the Icelandic krona, you'll find your money goes a long way in what is reputedly an expensive tourist destination. Beer, wine and spirits in Iceland are more expensive than in the UK, but less expensive than Dubai, so overall not too shocking. You may want to pace yourself if you join the "runtur", the raucous all-night pub crawl that takes place from midnight to 5am on weekends around Laugavegur.

If you see strange lights in the sky, it's probably not the drink but the fabulous Aurora Borealis. This natural phenomenon is caused by electrons colliding with air particles to create dancing red, green and purple lights flashing across the night sky like a demented disco.

 

Geysers, Trolls and Waterfalls on the Golden Circle Tour

Book yourself a place on a guided Golden Circle Tour and you'll have the most fun seeing the main geothermal sights around Reykjavik. Trolls, elves and hidden folk are a very real part of the Icelandic culture and make for a very entertaining commentary from your guide!

The tour includes the UNESCO Thingvellir National Park which spans the ever-shifting tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia. Fissures and cracks can be seen in this unusual landscape along with the country's largest lake. You'll be entertained by stunning geysers such as Strokkur which blows steam and hot water spray 100 feet into the air every four minutes.

Along with steaming geothermal pools and hot springs, the tour includes another unmissable highlight - the Gullfoss waterfall. It is so large and impressive that it creates rainbows in the spray on a sunny day.

Other tours can take you to see a Viking Longhouse, hike a glacier, or tour the geothermal power plant, depending upon your particular interests.

 

Blue Lagoon

One final unique experience just outside Reykjavik is the massive Blue Lagoon. The geothermal spa waters of this surreal spa maintain a steamy 40°C (104°F), so do pack your swimwear. Surrounded by black lava rocks, the milky aquamarine waters provide a warming spa experience even when air temperatures are well below freezing. There's a swim-up bar, steam rooms and saunas making this a truly unique place to wallow in the mineral-laden spa waters and muse over the amazing sights that Iceland has to offer.

 

Tip: Pick up duty-free alcohol on arrival in Reflavik Airport and save around 30% compared to Vinbudin, the state-run liquor stores! 

Travel destinations?

 

Send us your next European travel destination and we'll write an article containing some useful T2UK tips and ideas solutions@transitionlluk.com

 

 

 

 

 

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