In April, we announced the exciting news that MyTravelMoney would be opening it’s first international office in Tel Aviv. So, what better destination could there possibly be to cover this month?
So far, so good. The team has fallen in love with Tel Aviv, it’s people and it’s attractions. We’re keen to share what is in Tel Aviv, some of the highlights of this fantastic city, which is the second most populated in Israel after Jerusalem.
Well, according to the ‘gematria’ – a mystical tradition which gives Hebrew letters numerological values – the Hebrew letters ‘Het’ and ‘Yud’ add up to the number 18, which represents good luck. In fact, it’s considered so lucky that Jews often give monetary gifts in multiples of 18.
1) Tel Aviv is the 5th most visited city in the Middle East and Africa and 2.5 million visitors a year can’t be wrong!
2) The city is home to some of the best restaurants on the culinary map – with more than 100 different sushi restaurants (the 3rd largest concentration in the world) and a strong Italian foodie scene. Seven of the best Italian restaurants in Tel Aviv have even received the Ospitalita Italiana quality seal from the Italian Government.
3) Known as ‘the city that never sleeps’, Tel Aviv has a vibrant 24-hour club scene which makes it Israel’s party capital – ideal if you’re young and looking for fun.
4) Surprisingly, Tel Aviv enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters – great short-wearing weather! Year-round sunshine is also a mainstay.
5) The city’s a haven for historians and those who appreciate great architecture. As well as some 4,000 notable Bauhaus buildings (collectively known as ‘The White City’ –
an official UNESCO World Heritage Site), there are nearly 500 working synagogues to admire including the marvel that is ‘The Great Synagogue’.
6) Tel Aviv has been dubbed ‘the next hot destination for fashion’ and while design is very much a developing area, its cosmopolitan city centre is ideal for dedicated followers to spot the trendsetters.
7) The city has thriving contemporary and performing arts scenes popular among young, arts lovers both in the city and beyond – thanks, in part, to its trio of top galleries: Noga, Dvir and Sommer Contemporary Art.
8) New boutique hotels are opening their doors every day meaning no shortage of accommodation choices ranging from shabby chic to the sublime.
9) Tel Aviv is a property developer’s dream with many of its former dodgy neighbourhoods now up and coming suburban areas – thanks to cheap properties being snapped up and modernised.
10) 10 miles of beautiful seafront lines the city and is a hub for a huge range of water sports, from surfing, waterskiing and diving to sailing and swimming.
11) Uber trendy cafes are popular hang-out spots and great bases for people watching.
12) There’s no end of visitor attractions to explore and one of our favourites is the Museum of the History of Tel Aviv which has been beautifully restored and houses an impressive collection of both contemporary and classic displays, as well as a photography exhibition put together with pictures from local residents.
13) The city is a shopper’s paradise – especially for those looking for some quirky homeware. Vintage furniture which has been salvaged from across Israel and restored can be found at Retro TLV.
14) Weekly farmers’ markets are great places to sample local cuisine and pick up a few delicacies to take back to the hotel. We’d recommend the one at the former Manshia Train Station, which has been revamped to house a four-acre leisure and shopping complex.
15) Tel Avivis are a friendly bunch and the city is surprisingly safe at night making it a great destination for female or solo travellers.
16) Tel Aviv is a great base from which to explore other Israeli cities, including Jerusalem, which is less than an hour’s drive away.
17) Its Nordau Beach has separate days for men and women – appealing to some orthodox women who don’t feel comfortable on the beach with men and giving others the chance to really let their hair down and have a truly girlie holiday.
18) Although the city is listed as the 31st most expensive in the world, flights are relatively cheap from the UK. By shopping around, flights needn’t set you back too much.
Finally, don’t forget to check out today’s best shekel exchange rates
Daniel Abrahams on Google +
It’s but a tiny speck of volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean but, just a five-hour flight from its governing country of Chile, and slightly less from Tahiti, Easter Island has held tourists’ imaginations captive for years.
Known as ‘Rapa Nui’ by the locals – who, to a large extent, still oversee the island’s tourism activity – the island is, in fact, a great pit stop when travelling the South Pacific and holds plenty of allure to warrant a four or five-night stay.
It is, in fact, the perfect haven for adventure travellers looking for new and exciting challenges – which present themselves, on the island, in the form of trekking, biking, cruising, sailing and wild swimming in the warm Pacific.
Needless to say, Moai (or the monolithic human figures which date back to between 1250 and 1500BC) are the main attraction – comprising hundreds of brooding – almost sinister – stone statues reminiscent of a Pink Floyd album cover.
But that’s not all there is to see. Check out some of our other suggested activities:
Ballet Kari Kari – this ballet is unlike any other you’ve seen before and culminates in 90 minutes of traditional Polynesian dance to the Easter Island beat. The show is staged three times a week in Hanga Roa and there’s a great seafood restaurant just down the road.
Rano Kau – hiking to the peak of this 400m former volcano is a must for Munro and other mountain baggers, who won’t be disappointed with the panoramic views it offers of the South Pacific. Only from here can you get a true grasp on just how small and isolated this volcanic island is.
Anakena Beach – for wild swimming, Anakena Beach is THE one. Like a little Treasure Island, the sandy beach with its few palm trees is very pretty and again, being there, really hits home just how desolate Easter Island is. Perfect for living out any shipwrecked fantasies!
Orongo – this lake-filled crater, which was once the preferred site of the infamous Bird Man cult of the 16 and 1700’s, is a sight to behold and a joy to walk round. It gives yet another insight into the history of the island and there are more great views from its peak.
In short, the island is pretty and steeped in ancient mythology, cult legends and mystery – and there are more hotels offering round-the-year accommodation than you might think.
It might not be a dream destination, but if you’re in the vicinity of the South Pacific, it’s well worth checking out.
Picture credit: www.wikitravel.org
Of course, the event that’s on everyone’s lips this month is the Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, which is on-track for what promises to be the biggest and best launch yet on 14 March…
F1 World Championship – Melbourne
The programme will see a number of V8 Supercars take to the tarmac, a special appearance from global stunt masters Nitro Circus Live, a number of Australian celebrities go head to head in the Mazda 6 Celebrity Challenge, and the return of the Porsche Carrera Cup.
Find out more by visiting the official Formula One website.
‘Baa Baas’ World Tour – Hong Kong and Australia
Next up on our sporting calendar is the Barbarians Rugby Team tour, which kicks off with the Baa Baas taking on England in Twickenham.
Then the touring club will jet off to Hong Kong to throw down the gauntlet to the British and Irish Lions on 1 June before heading Down Under as part of a regional play-off before a three Test Series against the Australian Wallabies on the 22nd.
Check out the website for full tour dates.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – St Andrews
Between 26 and 29 September, Scotland will see the world’s golfing greats tee off at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie – on some of the most famous greens in the UK.
As one of the world’s leading golf events, the Dunhill Cup is not be missed and has also become popular with the people of St Andrews as well as tourists visiting the East Neuk of Fife.
In fact, because it’s such an international championship, it draws golfers from all corners of the globe and is one of the most talked about tournaments on the European Tour.
Again, for full times and events, go to the website.
Formula One Indian Grand Prix – Delhi
The F1 Indian Grand Prix revs into action on 25 October in the delightful city of Delhi. It promises to be a true show stopper on the still relatively new F1 India track, which is nearly 6km in length with one of the fastest average speeds of any Grand Prix circuit.
Cars can reach speeds up to 200 miles an hour on the $350 million circuit built by Formula One’s foremost race track designer Herman Tilke, who is also responsible for circuits in Sepang, Shanghai, Bahrain, Turkey, Korea and Valencia.
Book tickets, or find out more, via the official website.
The other following events below are, of course, also ones to watch:
The Masters 11-14 April
The Ashes (England) 10 July – 25 August
The Ashes (Australia) 21 November – 7 January, 2014
Wimbledon 24 June – 7 July
Tour de France 29 June
The Grand National 6 April
World Athletic Championships (Moscow) 10-18 August
Picture credit: commons.wikimedia.org
Looking for a paradise in the tropics in which to relax, rejuvenate and restore? Then head to Koh Samui!
It might be the third largest Thai island but it’s a little piece of heaven away from the hustle and bustle of modern Thailand and here are our top five spa packages to enjoy while you’re there:
1) Kamalaya Sleep Enhancement Programme
If you suffer from insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns then this wellness retreat is a good bet. Centred around a tiny cave temple where Buddhist monks used to meditate, Kamalya offers a tranquil setting with wellness activities from yoga and sound therapy to visiting spiritual gurus. Its Sleep Enhancement Programme includes a specialist consultation, body bio-impedance analysis, acupuncture and Ayurvedic massage.
Check out The Healthy Holiday Company for more.
2) Antara Bophut Golfer Indulgence
Indulge in 225 minutes of pure indulgence provided by MSPA International with a package tailored to avid golfers. Enjoy a ‘Skin Cooling Sun Soother’, a massage which focuses on the muscles most used when playing golf, and a skin defining facial which blends delicate techniques with nourishing plant extracts and Thai ingredients.
Find out more at MSPA.
3) ‘The Revitalise’ at LUXSA
What could be better than just over two hours of pure relaxation in the form of an aromatic oil massage, herbal steam and a romantic floral bath? Well, that’s exactly what you get at LUXSA Spa by boutique resort Hansar Samui in Bophut Bay – just minutes’ walk from the trendy Fisherman’s Village. The spa has six treatment suites, four double spa suites, two Thai massage suites and a dedicated treatment area for manicures and pedicures, as well as three outdoor salas against a tropical backdrop.
Find out more and view the picture gallery via the website.
4) The Jasmine Facial
Breeze Spa at Amari Palmreef Samui is laying on a special ‘Let it Glow’ programme for the upcoming Songkran festival in Thailand which promises sheer indulgent heaven. One of the highlights is its Signature 60-minute Restorative Jasmine Facial – based, of course, on the scent of jasmine which has been carefully selected as it’s representative of the annual festival, in which jasmine garlands are shared among loved ones. Jasmine is also scientifically proven to speed up the removal of unwanted toxins caused by stress, pollution and a busy lifestyle and is thought to actively ‘roll back the years’.
Find out more via ONYX Hospitality Group.
5) The Thaimazca Treatment
Six Senses Samui Spa offers a treatment which involves a spa mixologist presenting a singing bowl, which is then striked to allow the vibrations to fill the room three times. After a minute, the Thaimazcal journey begins. Nadhi Shodhanna breathing is practised to help clear and balance the room while calming and relaxing its guests. From here on in, meditation is key, followed by a mocktail of body scrubs which are finally washed away by passing a water delude.
Find out more via the website.
Heading to Thailand? Check out the best thai baht exchange rates . On the 11th March 2013, £1 buys 43.100 THB
Picture credit: samuipedia.com
If you’re looking for a cultural break this spring rather than sun, sea and sand, we think we have just the ticket.
Check out our five favourite walled cities with the ‘wow’ factor:
Pingyao – China
Far from the hustle and bustle of the likes of Shanghai and Beijing lies Pingyao county in the Shanxi Province in the North of China – a more traditional part of the country. Here you’ll find the small city of Pingyao – world renowned for its surrounding ancient wall which is remarkably well preserved. The city itself hasn’t really changed in the last 300 years and only the southern part of the wall has been reconstructed after its collapse in 2004. With its impressive six main gates and 72 watchtowers, the wall is one of the best preserved in the world and is certainly a sight to behold. From the top of the wall, you can get a great birds-eye view of the city and its traditional architecture – worlds away from the skyscrapers of China’s metropolitan capital. Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly popular with tourists looking to get a feel for the country’s original charm and thanks, in part, to its large number of hotels.
Best Chinese Yuan Rates – 8.960 (11 March 2013)
Toledo – Spain
Toledo, in central Spain, probably isn’t one of the first Mediterranean destinations which springs to mind when considering a spring or summer holiday but overlook it at your peril. The city’s history dates back to the Bronze Age and to Roman times when it was one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and, as such, is steeped in history. Its Empire days ended circa the mid 1500s when the royal court moved to Madrid but it’s remained awash with cultural heritage and stunning architecture. Some might even say this walled city contains the heart of Spanish history – and they’d probably be right. Surrounded by the River Tajo and contained within medieval walls, Toledo was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 given its former Empire status. At just 70km from Madrid, it makes for a great detour when touring this part of Spain.
Best Euro Exchange Rate – 1.1325 (11 March 2013)
Jerusalem – Israel
We’re pretty sure we don’t need to give Jerusalem an introduction but we will anyway. In short, Jerusalem is a holy city for many people – namely three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It’s the capital of – and largest city in – Israel, where the past (which dates back to the first century) co-habits easily with a more modern present, comprising high rise offices and skyscraper apartments. The walled part of the city, whose protective stone wall was rebuilt in the 16th century, is now known as the ‘Old City’ and is divided into four parts: The Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters. Needless to say, it’s a fascinating ancient city (or at least parts of it are ancient) to explore whether you’re religious or not and, these days, is a popular day trip from Egypt or cruises along the Red Sea.
Best Israeli Shekel Rates – 5.3190 (11 March 2013)
Itchan Kala – Uzbekistan
A trip to Khiva in Uzbekistan will have you thinking you’ve stepped straight into an old Turkish Delight ad because, despite being a former part of the Soviet Union, its fortress walls surrounding the inner town of Itchan Kala definitely conjure up images of a certain Eastern promise. The rectangular wall, with its sun-dried brick and four main gates at opposite ends, is postcard perfect despite being destroyed several times. Of course, it’s been rebuilt over the years and does well to compliment the town’s numerous 18th and 19th century monuments and historic houses. The country itself has an interesting history and, believe it or not, the fourth largest gold deposits in the world.
Carcassonne – France
The romantic French city of Carcassonne is the largest walled city in Europe and, incidentally, where parts of the 1991 blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (and THAT Bryan Adams video whose soundtrack stayed at number 1 for 16 weeks) was filmed. Its defensive wall has been well preserved after being carefully constructed over a long period of time, during which it housed the Catholic Inquisition, which leaves its own legacy with the ‘Inquisition Tower’ still described as such today. Not only is the medieval walled city beautiful but the surrounding area is too and a major tourist draw.
Pictured above is Carcassonne. Credit: Holiday France Monthly
By choosing to holiday in a European destination which hasn’t switched to the Euro, you might find yourself bagging a bigger bargain in terms of the cash you’ll spend while you’re over there.
Most non-Euro countries tend to be cheaper when it comes to food, souvenirs, excursions, hotels and so on because they’re not affected by poor Euro exchange rates or, indeed the ‘Euro Crisis’.
One of our favourites is Serbia, where the official currency is the Dinara – only available within the country itself and cannot be changed back once you’ve swapped your hard-earned Sterling or Euros.
We found that, while in Serbia, it was almost impossible to spend the money we had changed and so will know not to exchange half as much the next time!
Really affordable restaurants, bars and clubs and favourable exchange rates left us handing over huge tips to the waiters just to try and shift some of our Dinara which would be useless back in the UK – or anywhere else for that matter.
So, with this in mind, we’ve decided to share our other top five destinations which are Euro free and might well mean a cheaper holiday in the long run…
Bulgaria is becoming an increasingly common destination for summer sun – among the Club 18-30 revellers, families and the more discerning or mature traveller. It’s blessed with a luxuriously warm climate, gorgeous surroundings and is classed as ‘mid-haul’ when it comes to getting away. Its Black Sea coast spans an awesome 230 miles – meaning one of the most impressive portfolios of sandy beaches in Europe. It’s steeped in history, culture and is also popular for adventure holidays or at least those who like mountain biking, walking and hiking. The currency here is the new Lev, which is available from most good currency suppliers.
Ironically, more and more Polish people are settling here in the UK, while Brits are fast discovering the charms of their homeland. While we wouldn’t recommend it for a beach break, it certainly has lots to offer. It’s a beautiful country which is growing and developing all time, with some of its larger cities being surprisingly cosmopolitan. If you’re prepared to wrap up warm and try local delicacies such as roast Carp (yep, that’s goldfish, pretty much), try some therapeutic mud, perhaps, and take stock of its vast history, museums and other cultural sights then you’re in for a fab European break. Of course, Poland’s currency is the Zloty, which is available to order online from the likes of MyTravelMoney.co.uk.
A favourite among nudists – and other seasoned travellers, so don’t worry – Croatia is a stunning holiday hotspot with its beautiful rugged coastline, turquoise seas and safe sandy beaches. One of its most popular resorts, of course, is Dubrovnik, which has much to offer. Shaped a bit like a croissant, Croatia is both Central European and Mediterranean – sharing a border with some of the other former parts Yugoslavia – now known as Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina – and, believe it or not, Italy in the Adriatic Sea. Its currency is the Croatian Kuna.
Surprisingly, neither Denmark nor Sweden have converted to the Euro yet are not particularly ‘cheap’ destinations – unless you know where to spend and where to splurge. But don’t get us wrong, there are definitely savings to be had. Denmark is a small Northern European kingdom which can be distinguished from its neighbours because of its 7314km of coastline and 406 islands – making it, overall, much larger than it might first appear. Its highest point is only 170m above sea level and, just like the UK, has four seasons – giving it a diverse range of different weather, from warm summer days to undeniably cold and snowy winters. Its currency is the Krone and, if there’s one thing you can be guaranteed of, it’s damn good bacon!
Okay so we’ve already touched on Hungary but we can vouch for the excellent and incredibly purse friendly food you’ll find here. Different cuts of roast meat are the order of the day for a typical Hungarian meal and if you venture towards the Serbian border, you’ll encounter the fantastic city of Subotica, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from Hungary itself. Venturing into this area gives you a great opportunity to explore two former Yugoslavian territories at once – which are both similar and yet very, very different. Unlike Serbia, however, Hungary’s currency is the Forint.
Pictured above is the city of Novi Sad, Serbia, at night. Credit: Ian Sheppard