Most major cities have their own tourist cards, promising discounts on sightseeing and transport, but it’s not always easy to tell which ones are worth paying for. However, when it comes to the Lisboa Card, Lisbon’s equivalent, the benefits are certainly tempting enough…
How much does it cost?
There are 24, 48 or 72 hour cards available, priced at €18.50, €31.50 or €39.00 for adults, or €11.50, €17.50 and €22.50 for children. Bear in mind there’s hardly any price increase from 48 to 72 hours, so you might as well pick the longer option, especially as this gives you access to exclusive restaurant discounts (not available on shorter options).
I recently blogged about the Freedom Pass from Dublin Sightseeing, but my city break also involved another sightseeing card (yes, I like to spread my favours): the Dublin Pass, which gives tourists free entry to 33 leading attractions.
Adult prices vary from €39 (£29) for one day or €61 (£45) for six days’ access. My three day option cost €71 (£52), which worked out at €23.66 (£17.33) per day, and I was determined to see as much as possible during that time.
So what sealed the deal? As with my Freedom Pass experience, the convenience factor is one big incentive: carrying less cash saves time. With the Dublin Pass you get a free one-way Aircoach transfer, and you can skip the line at some of the city’s most popular sights. To get your attraction tickets, the staff scan your pass using a mobile app. Here’s my verdict…
Dublin is mostly a walkable city and, though you can navigate it easily, there are always extra things to be seen from the road and from the experts. When I visited last week for a short break with my parents, I knew a bus tour would be on our agenda, but we wanted to get the best value for our Euro.
I chose Dublin Sightseeing’s Freedom Pass as it seemed like good value for money: €33 (or £24) provides three days’ unlimited hop-on hop-off bus travel on two sightseeing routes, plus public bus travel (the blue and yellow buses you see everywhere), a free Pat Liddy walking tour and free entry to the Little Museum of Dublin, alongside a range of attraction discounts. Not bad for the equivalent of €11 (£8) per day. But would it be useful in reality?
“Ah – it seems you’ve found a bit of old sewage pipe,” says Fiona. Perhaps not what you want to hear when you’re seeking buried treasure along the Thames foreshore. Luckily this doesn’t come after hours of searching – Fiona, an inter-tidal archaeologist, is talking to an amateur mudlark, who laughs and heads off to continue scouring the shoreline for more unknown treasures (or unsavoury bits of piping) during the last few minutes of a Thames Beachcombing Walk. This is their idea of fun on a Saturday morning, and it’s contagious, so I’ve come to find out more.
Back in the early days of visiting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I’d always look forward to the long train ride up north and watching the world go by from my window seat. However, after a fraught train journey last year, involving delays, confusion and crouching in a packed corridor for several hours, I decided to try the Caledonian Sleeper for this year’s trip home.
Would it be worth swapping a hotel room, or an early evening train and a night in my own bed, for a night on the tracks in a Standard Sleeper Twin Berth? There was only one way to find out…
Checking into a government-owned national monument isn’t usually on the cards when I travel, but the Hotel Nacional de Cuba was worth making an exception for. Its nuclear bunker, neatly cut into clipped lawns in front of the building, is a reminder of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Just a few yards away are antique cannons, and inside there was once a casino created by the Mafia. You couldn’t make it up.
The list of previous guests at the Nacional is embarrassingly vast, with their names and photos covering the walls of the Hall of Fame Bar; Winston Churchill, Rita Hayworth, Simone de Beauvoir and the Backstreet Boys are among those who have walked through the doors. Now it was my turn to follow them.
There are no four star hotels in Valletta. This is somewhat surprising, given that the city is Malta’s capital, and it’s due to be dubbed the Capital of Culture in 2018. Instead, visitors to Valletta can choose between two, three or five star properties, which range from tiny guesthouses to sprawling complexes with dramatic views.
All I knew when I planned a recent family holiday to Malta were our rough requirements for accommodation: close to the city centre, with good reviews, free Wi-Fi, and a secure place to leave luggage before or after our stay.
This year I’m determined to travel differently. Though I’ve taken self-catering holidays before, I’d never booked an apartment, so when I was recently introduced to SACO (the Serviced Apartment Company) the time had come to see what I’d been missing. Apartment rentals are a rapidly growing part of the travel industry, celebrated by 2015 trend reports and highlighted by the likes of Travel + Leisure magazine. But what gives a serviced apartment the edge over other types of accommodation?
Jetlag, insomnia, irritating plane passengers, hyperactive children and loud hotel neighbours… just some of the things you don’t want to encounter when you’re away. I’m all too familiar with a lot of these bugbears, and I’d do pretty much anything to avoid them, but a lot of the methods I’ve tried have only been partially effective. Earplugs can be fiddly, eye masks can be uncomfortable, and switching hotel rooms or plane seats is often impossible.
Desperate to find a product that would help reduce noise and distractions whilst travelling, I tried out the SleepPhones® Volume Control Headband Headphones, which offer noise control and allow users to play their own music (preferably something relaxing) through the headphones to help them sleep.
Picking a hotel in London isn’t an easy task, even in the Internet age, but when I was nudged in the direction of the Mercure London Bridge, I soon stopped dithering; it has a four star rating and comes recommended by Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com. I recently checked in for a one night stay, armed with my camera and notebook to report back to you.
If you’ve never heard of the brand before, here’s a quick primer. There are over 700 Mercure properties around the world, often with unique selling points, including the Ink Hotel in Amsterdam (part of the MGallery Collection), based in a former Dutch newspaper office. Closer to home, Hythe in Kent has the Imperial, a sprawling Victorian house complete with a spa and golf course. London has several different hotels under the brand, from Kensington to Greenwich, and a Hyde Park branch will open in October 2015.