6 tips for the best food experiences abroad

Food and drink are one of my favourite ways to experience a new place. Cuisine plays such a big part of the local cultures you will want to immerse yourself in when abroad. Sure, nowadays you can eat food from pretty much anywhere in your nearest city but it probably will never measure up to the authentic experience. Often times it isn’t the fancy meals that are the best when travelling but the authentic. Here are 6 tips for the best food experiences abroad.

Check if you can drink the tap water

In many places it isn’t safe to drink the tap water so never assume it is! This should be one of the things you research before you fly out so you are well prepared. If tap water isn’t potable either buy bottled water or boil tap water to be used for drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth. If you drink non-potable water you could be exposing yourself to bacteria which could make you sick and ruin your tip.

Research delicacies your destination is famed for

Another thing which is always on my list to investigate before I go off on a trip is what I should be eating and drinking when there. Are you visiting a famous wine region? Is there a local beer? Is there a signature dish that everyone associates to a country or city? Make sure you know what the must trys are for wherever you are headed to as well as a couple of eateries that are known for it to make sure you don’t miss out.

Eat at food markets / street food

Food markets are a brilliant way to snack your way through multiple local delicacies and can typically be much cheaper and more convenient than sitting down for a meal. My advice is to always try things even if you don’t think you will be a fan! It is better to have an experience once rather than to regret not having it. The smaller portions often typical of food markets means you can try multiple dishes and get a fresh and quick sweet and savoury fix.

Ask locals where they eat

Most hostels and airbnbs are happy to provide food recommendations and often have a prepped list for their guests. I usually ask locals where they eat when I am out and about too so I am not getting a recommendation to a place that hospitality staff think tourists will like or which are affiliated with my accommodation. If your friends and family have previously visited where your destinations, definitely make sure to get their favourites beforehand too!

Ask waiters for their menu recommendations

Although often times waiters simply will respond to this question with the most expensive thing on the menu or the special the chef wants to sell out of, it is always worth asking the question. With a bit of charm and rapport with the wait staff I have found I always get truly good suggestions on my trips and have never regretted a choice.

Share multiple plates with your travel buddy

Now I know some people won’t share food even with their mother but please relax your rules when abroad! I am someone who never knows what to choose on a menu because there is too much I like the look of. I have a couple of travel buddies who are always down to get multiple things to share which means we all get to experience and discover more than if we each just had our own singular plate of food.

Itinerary: Great Ocean Road & Grampians road trip

March 2016

Day 1: Drive to the Grampians

  • Pick up your rental car early and head out of the city to start the 3.5h drive to the Grampians
  • Stop off half way at a town for lunch and a driver switch
  • Spend some time admiring the kangaroos around Halls Gap and prep all your gear for a day of hiking
  • Sleep near the park to ensure you can have quick access to trails tomorrow

Day 2: Hiking around the Grampians

  • Start your day early and get a good breakfast in before a full day of exploring the park
  • Pick your trails before you head off and be realistic about how much you can fit in the day
  • My recommends: The Balconies from the Reek Lookout car park, The Pinnacle from the Sundial car park, and MacKenzie Falls via the MacKenzie Falls Walk

Day 3: Stops along the Great Ocean Road

  • Grab a coffee and pick up some road snacks in Warrnambool before heading towards Melbourne on the Great Ocean Road
  • Make your way along the Great Ocean Road making sure to stop at: London Arch, 12 Apostles, and Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet
  • Stay overnight at a coastal town such as Lorne or Port Campbell

Day 4: Drive back to Melbourne

  • Get in a coastal walk before setting off on your drive back to the city
  • Stop at Bells Beach for a picnic (and a show if you are lucky and there is a surf competition on)
  • Drive back to Melbourne in time to return your rental car at your agreed drop off time

A Great Ocean Road & Grampians road trip

March 2016

One of the best things about living in Melbourne is the number of amazing places at a reasonable driving distance, the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road being two of those gems.

Quick Bites

Why to go: Get out of the city
Where to stay: Camp, hostels, Airbnb
How long to stay: 1-2 nights at the Grampians and 1 night along the Great Ocean Road
Transport: Hire a car, go slow on the winding Ocean Road
Don’t miss: The amazing views from the mountains and coastline
Go with: A group of friends
Food: Make sure to always keep your driver happy and fed
Vibe: A breath of fresh non-urban air

Why this road trip?

The Great Ocean Road
The epic Great Ocean Road, it can be winding but it’s worth it

I studied abroad in Melbourne from 2015-2016 and one of the best things about living there is the number of amazing places at a reasonable driving distance, the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road being two of those gems. I did two Great Ocean Road trips during my year abroad, one with my friends, and one when my cousin visited in March. You can’t go to Melbourne and not see the Great Ocean Road, so when I had visitors there was no getting out of a repeat. However, there are so many stops along the route that you are guaranteed to see something you haven’t seen before. I decided to tack on the Grampians when my cousin came to maximise what she got to see whilst also diversifying the route for myself. I loved the mixture of sea and mountains. We went to the Grampians first as we didn’t want to have to return to the city exhausted from hiking, which meant we were able to make our way back down to Melbourne at our own pace alongside the sea. The drive to the Grampians from Melbourne is around 3.5 hours and once you get to the ocean from the Grampians the drive back along the coast is approximately 5 hours.

What to do at the Grampians?

MacKenzie Falls at the Grampians
The MacKenzie Falls at the Grampians

There are plenty of trails to choose from at the Grampians with varying levels of difficulty. We got to the campsite in the evening and woke up early in preparation to spend all day hiking around the mountains before heading to the Great Ocean Road. Below are three of the best spots not to miss in my opinion.

The Balconies

From the Reek Lookout car park, the walk to The Balconies jaw like structure is approximately 2km. It can get quite full of tourists and it isn’t a particularly big spot so it is probably one to visit first!

The Pinnacle

The Pinnacle is where I took the feature photo for this post, and it is definitely not a sight you want to miss. We took the easiest route from the Sundial Car Park which is around a 2km / 45 min walk and then spent a good bit of time there taking in the views.

MacKenzie Falls

I recommend getting up close to the MacKenzie Falls via the MacKenzie Falls Walk (2km return). There are some narrow steps to get to the bottom of the falls which of course you will need to climb back up, so bank some time to take a breather and chill by the water before you head back up.

Where to visit on the Great Ocean Road?

Split Point Lighthouse
Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet on the Great Ocean Road

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I did a Great Ocean Road trip more than once during my time in Melbourne and I liked seeing different things every time to shake up the experience. If I went again I would choose some new spots to continue exploring the area but the below are definitely my three favourites so far.

London Arch

London Arch is my favourite stop because you get the awe inspiring coastal formations with less tourists and quicker beach access. These stops are all beautiful from the lookouts, there is no denying that, but there is something special about walking on the beach alongside these structures. The experience gives you one of those ‘puts your life into perspective’ moments.

12 Apostles

The image of these coastline formations are synonymous with any Great Ocean Road trip and there is a reason they are so famous, but what I love the most is the beaches these formations are on. The lookout gets packed quickly with tourists so I recommend committing the time to walk on the beaches alongside it to take in these beasts.

Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet

The coastline around Split Point Lighthouse is stunning. Ultimately all of the coast is beautiful but I liked that Split Point was less packed with tourist than the famed 12 Apostles. The greenery around the lighthouse was also a nice contrast from the pale tan of the rest of the stretch of beaches along the road.

How long should and where to stay at each stop?

A kangaroo relaxing on the ground
Some kangaroos chilling at the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park

My cousin and I are quite possibly the fanciest people you have ever met and may or may not have slept in our rental car throughout the whole three nights on the road. Now, if you aren’t on a student budget I fully recommend camping or finding some cool hostels and/or Airbnbs on the way. Our trip was only 3 days and 4 nights given the short time my cousin had in the country but I think it was enough. I would recommend sleeping the night at the Grampians before a full day of hiking. Given you will be tired post hike, stay the night in the Grampians before heading off toward the Great Ocean Road to slowly make your way back Melbourne. Break up your drive back down and the stops along the way by staying the night at a coastal town midway.

Make the trip moments

London Arch on the Great Ocean Road
The London Arch along the Great Ocean Road
  • This being the first time I had driven since passing my driving test at 17 and having to deal with hook turns in Melbourne CBD and the winding roads along the coast
  • Spending approximately 30 minutes figuring out how to turn on the rental car and proceeding to graze it before leaving the parking lot (thank the travel gods I convinced my cousin we needed full cover)
  • Using KFC’s Wi-Fi to do an online test for university whilst eating others customers’ leftovers and a tupperware with tuna salad (one of my finer moments in this life)
  • Our Michelin star dinners of raw carrots and bacon and cheese dip
  • Getting back to the car to witness a parking ticket being slapped on our hood post a 5 minute stop, then backing into a pole when leaving late to return the rental car
  • Having our petrol gauge drop from half full to empty on the motorway on our way back to return the car with nearly 0% phone battery (we asked for a car with a USB port for charging, we did not get it)
  • Bringing a jar or gherkins along as if it was our favourite child, yes, there is a photo album of family pictures

10 tips for travelling with COVID-19 restrictions

Coronavirus has flipped the travel industry on it’s head. Airlines are struggling and nationwide lockdowns essentially ceased all but non-essential travel for a good while there. Are you thinking about going on a trip and are concerned about the restrictions and safety of this new environment? Here are my top tips as someone who has done a couple of trips during the summer of 2020. 

Check country restrictions before booking

Gone are the days when all you were checking before booking flights was whether you needed a visa. Entry requirements for countries are now super convoluted and changing daily so it can be hard to keep up. My favourite resource is the UK government travel advice site which shows up to date info on whether countries are open to tourists or not as well as any pre-requisites to entry. Check this before you book anything and ensure you are aware of the status of the country you are intending to visit as well as your own. Is your home country beginning to spike, meaning it may be blacklisted from entry? Assess the risk and book only if you are happy to take the chance of any quarantines upon return or entry being imposed.

Decide whether you can commit to a 2 week self-quarantine upon return

A lot of countries, particularly in Europe, opened their borders to encourage the tourism their economies rely on over summer. Rather than flat out blocking flights from different countries, the commonplace approach is now to impose a 2 week quarantine on people arriving from certain locations. If you are visiting a country with a worse COVID-19 status than your own, it is likely you will only be asked to self-isolate when you get back rather than when you arrive. Is it feasible for you to stay at home for 2 weeks following your trip with your job and responsibilities? Make sure it is before you hit that reserve button. If you need to quarantine 2 weeks at your destination, if the intention is travel, don’t do it. Two weeks in a hotel room is miserable.

Be aware that refunds may take time

Lots of airlines are cancelling flights these days given they can’t fill all the flights they would normally have scheduled. If this happens to you you are entitled to your money back, however, given all the travel disruption during this pandemic airlines are being slow to process these refunds. A lot of airlines are also pushing to give their customers vouchers for future flights rather than cash. I advise patience with the travel industry at this time and some empathy for the pressure it is under. Only choose to travel if you are in a position where you can comfortably wait for any refunds to be returned to you in months rather than days.

Check your travel insurance and get cancellation cover

If you want peace of mind, ensure your travel insurance offers some COVID cover. Not all companies offer support for cancellations or getting ill when abroad so make sure you are informed and have coverage you are comfortable with. I would also advise paying that little extra to secure cancellation cover for your flights during these times. Even if there aren’t formal restrictions on travel, you may decide against your trip and will only get your refund with this kind of protection.

Check country requirements 72 hours before flying

Countries are now implementing self assessment forms for people looking to enter. These forms typically ask you to confirm that you have not had any COVID symptoms in the last 48 hours and that you haven’t been to any countries they deem high risk in the last 14 days. Often upon completing these forms you are sent a QR code which airline staff request to see before allowing you to board. Check the UK travel site to ensure you have the required forms completed WELL AHEAD OF TIME. Some countries request you complete their forms 48h before departing. Don’t rely on your airline to inform you about these forms as it is on the passenger to be prepared for their flight. Also be mindful of any forms you may need to fill out on your return to your home country, for example the UK requires forms to be filled to confirm where you will be self-isolating when returning from countries that demand it.

Bring a medical mask

If you have a cute, quirky, and/or washable mask by all means bring it with you, however, ensure you also have at least one medical grade mask in your carry on. In all the airports I have visited masks are mandatory at all times as well as on your actual flight. When returning from Sardinia recently I was also stopped and told I could proceed without a medical mask, and thank goodness I had one with me!

Go to your gate as soon as it opens & board early

If you have done your due diligence, you should have everything you need to board your flight without issues. My advice is to not leave anything to chance. I missed a flight because I didn’t have a form filled out and sat waiting for the boarding line to recede before approaching. The airline shockingly didn’t announce that any forms needed to be presented and when I finally joined the queue towards the end of boarding, the staff were unhelpful and I had the gate close on me 1 minute before I had the form filled out. If you are missing anything and you find out towards the start of boarding, you have time to figure it out.

Bring your own food on the flight

I tend to do this anyway because flight food and airport offerings can be expensive and mediocre at best. In this environment there are limited food options at airports and if you bring your own food you reduce your interaction with others and thus the risk of contracting the virus.

Give yourself extra time for security checks

It isn’t guaranteed that the security check process will take longer than normal. Actually a lot of airports have more security lanes open to encourage social distancing. However, the only constant throughout this pandemic is unpredictability. It is better to be safe than sorry, so give yourself some extra time to get through the airport, especially at smaller airports.

Be smart about your itinerary

If current pandemic restrictions allow you to travel, do so responsibly and respectfully. The effects of the pandemic are here to stay and my approach is to work with this new normal. I don’t want to stop doing something I love if I can do it safely for myself and those around me. Yes, these are weird times and most destinations won’t be what they usually are, however, this does not make them not worth visiting. Take advantage of the fact that top tourist destinations will be less busy and focus on more nature heavy and outdoors itineraries when thinking about travelling. Bank on the fact that many places will be closed, this is not the time to do a city escape packed with museums.

How to keep things ethical when interacting with animals abroad

Seeing wildlife is an amazing motivator for travel. Unfortunately in many parts of the world animals are abused by our fellow humans, and in particular exploited for the benefit of the travel industry. Here are some things to consider to ensure your interactions with animals stay ethical.

Put yourself in their shoes

Animals deserve respect. My favourite way to ensure I check my behaviour when encountering wildlife abroad is by putting myself in their shoes. Would I like some random person to start petting me, invading my personal space, destroying my home? No. Treat animals the way you would want to be treated in the same situation.

Don’t touch or ride animals

It is called wildlife for a reason folks. Animals are supposed to be wild. Wildlife is not supposed to be in a cage, lined up for tourist selfies, or forced to hug us. As soft as a koala may be, if you are hugging it you are ethically blurring lines, even in a sanctuary. Sure a sanctuary may keep animals in decent conditions and fund conservation projects but it still doesn’t mean that we should be partaking in anything more than observation.

Observe

Watching an animal in its natural undisturbed habitat? What an honour! This is the best way to appreciate a creature, not how soft its fur is! Watch for long enough and you can get a sense of an animal’s character and mannerisms, a much more valuable interaction than a threatening approach which scares it off.

Consent

Now, I am not trying to argue that you should never interact with any animals. However, only ever engage if an animal approaches and touches you and you deem it safe to respond. Much like you shouldn’t be touching another human without consent, let animals make the first move to engage with you to ensure it is something they want and not something that will distress them.

Use your voice in defence

If you are going on safari or want to visit a sanctuary, do your best to choose responsible and ethical providers. Take things a step further by speaking up if you see any cruelty against animals whilst travelling, particularly if the cruelty is inflicted for the sake of tourism. Opt not to ride the elephant. Leave reviews exposing the treatment of animals where you have had bad experiences and alert the local animal services if they exist.

How to complain when your travels go wrong

In my past there have definitely been situations where my easy going nature has dissuaded me from making a fuss in less than desirable travel situations where I probably should have. One of my friends is super talented at voicing her complaints when things aren’t up to standard and she has been given plenty of free stuff as a result. Travelling with her has opened my eyes and I now see her as my boss-guru what taught me to own that as a customer I have rights and am entitled to what I paid for and nothing less. Here are some top things to keep in mind when your travels don’t go as planned and you want to say something about it.

Do not feel guilty

You have entered into a transaction, you are paying for a product or service, you are not paying to suffer inconvenience so that you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. You have the right to receive the quality you pay for. Sure, complaining can be awkward at first, but remind yourself you are not being unreasonable, you are merely seeking a provider to make good on what was agreed. Never feel guilty for demanding what you have paid for in a mutually agreed deal.

Calm disappointment

Kill them with kindness. Ok not kindness, but a reasonable, firm, and disappointed demeanour rather than rudeness. It boils down to the fact that you paid for something that you either didn’t get or wasn’t up to scratch so you are entitled to be disappointed, have a right to complain, and should expect the provider to try and make amends. If you are calm, providers more often than not see reason rather than immediately going on the defence if they feel attacked.

No expectations

I think it is important to complain or feedback if something isn’t right, however, I don’t recommend doing it just to seek free stuff or money back. You should have no expectations. Whilst with certain well known travel names you will likely get some form of compensation, in many cases things won’t play out the way you would like. Don’t let this ruin your trip! Stay positive! It is a mishap which in my experience can make for a funny story. Only complain because it feels right to you, to get it off your chest, and never do it seeking a certain response or remorse which you may not get.

Complain early

Something wrong with your hotel room? Make a fuss immediately. If you do, the managers can’t say that you never raised an issue if they still haven’t taken action by the end or your stay. If you complain straight away you may be looking at a room upgrade rather than an inconvenient stay and a discount. Raise issues from the get go, and you throw in the added benefit of freeing yourself from the frustration which could affect your trip.

Demand to speak to the manager

Employees will always take you seriously when you request to speak to management. Rather than this needing to sound threatening, the ask shows that you are serious and expect a resolution and to be respectfully heard. A good manager should put you as the client first even if a poor employee hasn’t.

Play the review card

Management not playing ball? If you really feel hard done by and want to ensure they do right by you, mention the fact that you are going to have to give them poor reviews for not assisting you with your complaints. The travel industry is so competitive that reviews literally translate to profit or loss. You are completely in your right to write an honest review and the intention reminds providers that you may be one person but your voice can have significant impact.

Print proof

Certain deals can disappear one day to the next and when you go to claim what you paid for providers can deny that it existed. It is always a good idea to have a printed confirmation of bookings to avoid any confusion if what you paid for is not available. If complaining after the fact for a refund but have messages that you complained during your travels, this is powerful evidence you should always include too.

A road trip around Malta

March 2018

If the sound of hiring a car, and roaming around a place with an interesting past, divine food, and some stunning seaside cliff views is up your street, Malta is for you!

Quick Bites

Currency: EUR
Why to go: Rich history, good food, & beautiful scenery
Where to stay: Airbnbs with parking
How long to stay: 1-2 nights at each place
Transport: Hire a car, drive on the left
Don’t miss: Area around St. Peters Pool and Ras il-Fniek
Go with: A group of friends
Food: Famed for rabbit
Vibe: Easy going, slow pace

Why go to Malta

Mini natural pools at the ocean's edge
An amazing spot we found after getting lost on our way to St. Peter’s Pool (just northeast of St. Peter’s)

My cousins and I selected Malta for our first international trip as a group of three slightly disastrous humans. I won’t lie, it was chosen off the ‘Everywhere’ list of destinations on Skyscanner as it met our budget, none of us had ever been, and we were seeking some sun. However, having now experienced the islands in the archipelago, I am a firm fan. From one side of Malta to the other is less than an hour by car, making it perfect for a shorter trip that still feels very much complete. If the sound of hiring a car, and roaming around a place with an interesting past, divine food, and some stunning seaside cliff views is up your street, Malta is for you!

Where to visit in Malta

The Maltese archipelago consists of the islands of Malta (the largest), Gozo, and Comino (the smallest). Given time constraints, we opted to only visit Malta and Gozo stopping at various places on our way round with the car. Below is a selection of our top spots we found on offer during our Maltese road trip.

Sliema

A perched bird overlooking the walled city of Valletta
The walled city of Valletta

Sliema works as a perfect base for day visits to Valletta. It is cheaper to stay here overnight than Valletta itself and you get an awesome view of the city which you would not get from inside the walls. There is not too much to call out here in terms of sight seeing but we had the best food of the trip at a restaurant called Ta’ Kris which we could tell was top class due to all the local clientele. It’s a reasonably small place with hard worked staff, so don’t expect speed, but if you get yourself a booking you are really in for a treat. Rabbit is a Maltese specialty and the rabbit dishes here were super tasty!

Valletta

Quirky buildings with multicoloured windows around Valletta
Many of the buildings in Valletta have these quirky multicoloured windows

Valletta was gorgeous to walk around. The city is a unique mix, housing beautiful churches, quirky coloured apartments, and a spattering of some ‘hipster’ bars. It is the ultimate cool city with a laidback vibe packed with a serious historical punch. You want to give yourself time to get lost amongst the streets here but make sure to visit some of the museums to ensure you leave with an appreciation of everything the country has seen in its past. I recommend The Malta Experience for a short movie which explains the history and the War Memorial at the ocean end of the city for some awesome views of the forts surrounding Valletta. Finish your day here watching the sunset from the upper Barrakka Gardens when you are too tired to walk anymore.

A bar sign which reads: we have beer colder than your ex's heart
One of the great signs on offer for your viewing pleasure at the bars in Valletta

Gozo

Gozo has plenty to offer, so although we only spent one day and night here, I would recommend tacking on a day or two. We started our visit by taking in the megalithic Ġgantija temples to get an understanding of how ancient the land is.

Following our cultural visit of the day we headed to Marsalforn which considering it was March was quite empty. However, during high season a lot of tourists stay around here, particularly those looking to dive, as the town hosts a few diving shops. It was nice to walk around the dock area and I can definitely see the outdoor restaurant spaces packed in summer with tourists enjoying an Aperol Spritz or two.

Next we headed to the Azure Window and Blue Hole site. The Azure Window has actually collapsed now so you can’t see the arc structure which used to stand at this location. Either way this is a breathtaking area at the edge of the island of Gozo with cliffs a plenty to fulfil your sit, stare, and contemplate life needs.

A shot of a cliff and the Mediterranean sea bordering it
Captured whilst clambering around the rocks at the Blue Hole/Azure Window
Two women walking around flat cliffs with a view of the ocean behind
Visting the Azure Window in the morning and wandering around free of tourists
The cliffs at Gozo with the sea in front
The stunning cliffs near the Azure Window site

I recommend visiting Victoria at night. It is the main city on the island and boasts the stunning Ċittadella. At night the walls are lit up similarly to Valletta and it makes for a killer view. Walking around the place without other tourists made me feel like I was creeping around a castle in Dorne in Game of Thrones in the dead of night and I was all for it.

Mdina

Mdina is another of the incredible walled cities Malta has to offer. We started our visit here during the day getting lost around the city streets. At night, once again the city lit up which gave it that important castle feel. The streets are peppered with classy bars and restaurants, so although it is the old capital, you get the sense that people really socialise there rather than just treating it as a tourist destination.

Marsaxlokk

Maltese luzzu boats docked at port
Typical Maltese luzzu fishing boats docked at Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is known as the best place to see the famous Maltese luzzu fishing boats. The boats are typically painted bright blue yellow and red with a pair of eyes on the bow. This small fishing village did not disappoint on the boat front and we had a stellar seafood lunch to boot.

The Mediterranean sea with a long cliffside in the distance
The view of Ras il-Fniek from the hidden private pools near St. Peter’s Pool

My favourite part of the whole trip was our hike from Marsaxlokk to the St. Peters Pool area. The walk is super nice, giving you a bird’s eye view of the village you leave behind from a path bordered by old beige walls, cacti, and yellow flowers. We actually took a wrong turn and happened to find the most beautiful place of the whole trip. We never made it to St. Peter’s Pool but found an area of multiple natural pools which were bordered by the Mediterranean, almost like natural infinity pools. There was no one around seeing as most tourist traffic heads to St. Peter’s, so it became our own little paradise. What made it was the view of the Ras il-Fniek cliffs to the left whilst we bathed!

How long to stay in Malta

Red and blue coloured benches parked in front of a port
Cute colourful benches we found at the waterfront on the walk from Sliema to Valletta

Malta is ideal for short trips because it is so small. Crossing the main island of Malta on it’s longest side takes less than 1 hour by road, so if you hire a car you have your independence and can check out as much of the country as you want. We stayed 6 days including our departure and arrival days and we squeezed so much in. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. However, we did not visit Comino. If you have the luxury of time and want to see absolutely everything, give yourself a full 7-10 days and you will leave feeling like locals.

Transport in Malta

A path lined by yellow flowers with a small port village in the background
The view of Marsaxlokk from the hike towards St. Peter’s Pool

Malta does have a public bus system which many opt for to get from place A to B. Many also just visit Malta as a beach destination and spend most of their time in one spot. Our intention was to see as much of the island as we reasonably could and a road trip gave us the freedom to do that. If you have the time, I am sure the bus is cheaper, however, we didn’t want to find ourselves having to wait 1 hour after missing a bus (which would be typical of us). Also, be aware that in Malta you drive on the left hand side of the road!

Where to stay in Malta

A woman sleeping on the doorstep of a closed hotel title 'Hotel Ritz'
Us being high class and sleeping at the Ritz in Marsalforn because we are that boujee

Parking isn’t the easiest in Malta if you are not a confident driver. It is a small place so you can imagine it is a lot of parallel parking situations on small streets. Given the best way to see Malta is by hiring a car, I would recommend trying to secure Airbnbs with some parking space to make your life easier. That said, we predominantly used Booking.com to secure hotels and hostels at reasonable prices. In all honesty, the important thing here is proximity to where you are visiting as once you have arrived, the best thing to do is leave the car close to your accommodation and walk around given the size of the place.

A view of a small port and apartments in the background
The waterfront at St. Julian’s

Make the trip moments

A woman sat on a cliff's edge looking at the ocean below
The stunning cliffside view at the Azure Window/Blue Hole area on Gozo
  • My first trip with some of my favourite humans, being the disastrous triplet cousins we are
  • Screaming on our way to Sliema from the airport after getting volunteered to drive us as the one who is ‘used to’ driving on the left
  • The flashy lights around the churches all over Malta
  • The food at Ta’ Kris (R.I.P. the leftover pasta we forgot in the fridge)
  • Taking photos of us sleeping everywhere to curate a beautiful album for our parents
  • Falling asleep during The Malta Experience movie – I swear it was good but two thirds of us are pale and the sun hit us hard
  • So many cats, cats everywhere, cat sanctuaries in the middle of more than one Maltese town
  • Initiating our cousin into our sleep in the car habits in Gozo
  • Watching Black Panther in Victoria one evening just because (favourite Marvel film)
  • Doing everything last minute: renting a car, finding accommodation, you name it we did it
  • Loving Cisk beer and not loving Kinnie so much (acquired taste)
  • The ‘private’ natural pools near St. Peter’s Pool

Malta itinerary: Malta and Gozo in 6 days

March 2018

Day 1: Sliema

  • Fly into Malta in the morning and pick up your rental car (hopefully you are more organised than us and booked ahead)
  • Argue over who has to drive first in this foreign land, and when that is settled, head off to Sliema to drop off your stuff (once again, hopefully you are not booking accommodation in the car on the way to the town like us)
  • Make a reservation for dinner at Ta’ Kris and go walk around Sliema and the waterfront, getting a glimpse of nearby Valletta all lit up in the dark
  • Make yourself comfortable (seriously, service was slow) at Ta’ Kris for the best food of the whole holiday – be sure to try the rabbit dishes

Day 2: Valletta

  • Wake up early and shake off your food hangover because it is time to drive to Valletta (see if you can find parking in one of the towns in between Sliema and Valletta and walk the rest of the way as you won’t need the car)
  • Spend the day roaming the quirky streets of the walled city, being sure to make time for some museums (I recommend The Malta Experience for a short film summarising the history of the island) and the War Memorial from which you get a great view of Fort Ricasoli
  • Watch sunset at the upper Barrakka Gardens accompanied by an ice cream

Day 3: Gozo

  • Stop at Għadira Bay for breakfast by the sea before heading to the ferry station near Cirkewwa to purchase a return ticket to Gozo
  • Kill the time until the ferry arrives by taking in the views at Sunset Spot
  • Enjoy the 30 min crossing to Mġarr and upon arrival make your way straight to the Ġgantija temples for your daily dose of Maltese history
  • Drive to Marsalforn for lunch and a nosy around the waterfront
  • Continue on to the Azure Window (collapsed but still beaut) and the Blue Hole and spend some time jumping around the rocks and letting the stellar cliff views sink in
  • When night falls, head to Victoria to spend the night, but only after wandering about the lit up Ċittadella without the bustle of the day tourists

Day 4: Mdina & Dingli Cliffs

  • It is finally time for a beach day, up to you where, but I would recommend Ramla which is one of the most popular on Gozo (be sure to pick up ice cold Cisk beer and some crisps)
  • Get the ferry back to the main island and drive to the Dingli Cliffs for a walk and sunset
  • After sunset, make your way to Mdina, park up and get lost around the awesome old fortified capital at night

Day 5: Marsaxlokk & St. Peter’s Pool

  • Drive over to Marsaxlokk and spend some time at the waterfront checking out the luzzus (traditional Maltese fishing boats which are brightly coloured with eyes on the bow)
  • Leave the car at Marsaxlokk, pack a picnic, and hike over to St. Peter’s Pool and Ras il-Fniek to take in the phenomenal cliffside views
  • Get a little lost and head just northeast of St. Peter’s Pool to find your own private little paddling pools with infinity style views of the ocean

Day 6: St Julian’s

  • Wake up and enjoy a farewell breakfast in St Julian’s followed by a walk along the waterfront
  • Head off to the airport with plenty of time to return the car
  • Bust out the cards, and enjoy the last moments before you fly off reminiscing about the best moments of the trip whilst absolutely dominating at any and every game

10 items to pack in your first aid kit when travelling

You don’t want to be caught short when away and are desperately in need of a plaster or paracetamol. Sure, depending on your destination some typical first aid items may be easy or hard to get, but if you can, it is always best to come prepared. Why suffer on your trip without these when you can have them ready to go!

Aloe vera or after sun

I have certainly had a painful, bright red, ‘I am clearly not from here’ burn before. Ok, ok, I have had several. The thought of aloe vera on your toasty skin should be enough for you to pack this and I should not have to convince you more. Also, if you don’t burn easily, this is still a must to hydrate your skin after harsh sun.

Sun cream

Let’s all be kind to and take care of our bodies and lather up when we are spending full days roaming around outside. Remember, just because it is not sunny, it does not mean you are not getting hit with that UV.

A box of waterproof plasters

Scratches, cuts, and/or blisters. You are pretty much guaranteed to get some (at least if you are as clumsy as me) and you can avoid any unnecessary discomfort if you have some plasters handy. Be sure to pack a box with various sizes for choice!

Antiseptic wipes

If you need to disinfect a cut on the go before plastering it up, these are lifesavers. The wipes are individually packaged so you don’t need to bulk up your luggage with the box.

Mosquito repellent (with DEET)

A MUST. Please do yourself a favour and avoid as many annoying and itchy bites as you can. I know repellent can smell super strong but it is better to be cautious with mozzies particularly in malaria risk zones.

Paracetamol/ibuprofen

If you are prone to headaches, hangovers, and/or you know your monthly pal is coming, make sure you have some with you. Ditch the box to reduce the bulk in your first aid kit.

Lip balm with SPF

Cracked and sore lips are never fun. If you are somewhere hot you are going to be dehydrated with dry lips, if you are in a cold spot, your lips will suffer equally. Pack the balm, and make sure it has SPF protection for that extra self love.

Tweezers

Tweezers always come in handy in case you need to remove a splinter or tick. Secondary use being to keep those eyebrows looking FINE.

Antidiarrhoeal medicine

If you have never got the shits travelling have you even travelled? I certainly have, during unbelievably long bus journeys when all I wanted to do was avoid the public toilet. Once again, do yourself a solid (pun was not intended but shall leave as funny) and pack this!

Hydration tablets

You can feel pretty low on energy after a bout of diarrhoea. Hydration tablets can support you in recovering more quickly and have been my best friend in destinations such as Peru where many days were physically demanding hikes.

5 ways to switch off when travelling

Travelling is one way which people try and ‘escape’ their normal. For some it is super easy to be present and mindful of their surroundings when abroad, but for other workaholics it may be a challenge. Here are 5 tips for quieting your mind and zoning into the here and now.

Turn off all notifications

This is the first thing you should do in your destination if you are addicted to your phone (like most of us). A notification is a cry for attention, a message to react rather than relax! No! You are in an awesome destination in a completely unique moment that you will never relive. This is no exaggeration. Sure, you can return to a place you have been before, but it will a different time, you will be older, your circumstances will have changed, you may not be with the same people, and so on. This moment in time is yours and irreplaceable, do not let this be intruded upon by work or friend drama you can address later. I’m not telling you to forgo tech (you will need Google Maps) but limit yourself to an hour in the evening where you answer your messages and check your emails.

Think of 3 things you like in your destination that you do not have at home

Giving yourself a thought exercise of this nature will allow you to focus your mind and attention on where you are. Sometimes I find myself wandering around new places and missing the details. Challenging yourself to reflect on the place you are in can help you tune in to all the characteristics that make it so special.

Be still and people watch

People watching is a brilliant way to learn about the customs and culture of a place. A destination is not just about the natural beauty or tourist hot spots, but about the inhabitants! A good hour of watching passers by also means you have to be still for an hour which will encourage your mind to be also. Whether it be sipping a coffee at a cafe or sat on a bench, how often do we actually permit ourselves to be calm and not constantly in motion either physically or mentally? When you are travelling you hopefully have left behind the time pressures and responsibilities of your everyday life, so spoil your soul and sit still! In this day and age it is a luxury and one of the things I look forward to the most when travelling.

Wander without a particular destination

This works particularly well in cities or towns where you are staying. If it is safe to do so, meander around the streets without necessarily having a destination. If you are not distracted by getting somewhere you need to go you can discover hidden gems and most importantly be more aware of what is around you rather than following that Maps route.

Move that body

The benefits of exercise for mental health and focus are still very much the same wherever you are in the world. Hopefully, your destination may offer opportunities to be active in ways that are a little bit different from home, but do not forget to move whether that be swimming, windsurfing, hiking, or yoga. The more it diverges from your normal activities the better!

10 things to do when it rains on your trip

It is sure to happen at some point during your travels, you will be hit by a miserable rainy day (fingers crossed it will be an exception rather than the rule). Particularly if your destination is about the weather and the outdoors, this can really suck, I feel for you, and sometimes it is hard to perk yourself up or know what to do. Here are 10 ideas that I pull from when stuck in this shituation.

Indoor local/artisan markets

If you are in a city or even a small town, there are likely to be markets you can spend some time nosing around! Think farmers markets for treats, vintage markets for some stellar finds, or art markets to find that unique piece that just needs to be in your living room. Markets are often indoors and if not sometimes have some sort of protection for bad weather so they are good spots to leave for a day you know the weather might turn on you.

Food/bar/pub crawl

Are you somewhere that is famed for its food and drink scene? Indulge! Hopefully you are with company and you can share some bites and get some drinks around town. It might be a bit more spenny than your typical day but you can visit the best spots in the area, find some gems, and you will definitely sleep well after.

Museums, galleries, & libraries

Enrich yourself with some local culture. I am not just talking about taking in the exhibitions themselves, but also witnessing the architectural beauty of these buildings which can be sights to behold. Maybe you don’t usually prioritise museums and galleries, so now is your chance, and they are particularly great if you didn’t do too much reading up on the history of your destinations beforehand. Once again, good to plan to visit these kind of sites if you know there is going to be a rainy day during your stay.

Cooking class

I absolutely love tasting all the different cuisines around the world, and the flavours my palate has experienced abroad has definitely influenced my cooking at home. A cooking class can be a way to learn how to spice your food, balance sweet and sour, or even just nail the cooking of a fresh piece of fish. If cooking is your passion, there is nothing better than some hands on experience and local culinary wisdom.

Hit a local hotspot

I am talking about finding a popular game pub (board games, ping pong, darts, anything), a karaoke bar, a bowling alley, a pool/billiards hall, or an arcade. Some of my best memories on my trips are hanging, chatting, and laughing with my friends at establishments like these. This is a chance to see how people from different places spend their leisure time and what niche haunts are on offer, whilst potentially giving you a chance to try and beat the locals at a game of pool.

Cards, a book, and a coffee shop

Live like a local, in my opinion it is the best way to travel. Find a quirky coffee shop, or if you are alone, google a rad hostel with some awesome communal areas to find some company. I always bring a pack of playing cards with me when I am on a trip and love learning new games from my friends on a commute or a down day. Spend the day drinking good coffee, living that cafe scene life, and getting sucked into your book du jour or hell even a good Netflix binge.

Get out if you’ve got the gear

If you are in Peru or some other destination where you knew you would be out and about with the possibility of rain, hopefully you have come prepared. If the rain is not awful and you have got a cagoule, get out there! The weather can clear up mid-hike and hey, sometimes, it is part of the fun, or why the memory stands out later on. One of my favourite stories from a trip to Toronto was getting absolutely drenched whilst helping my two friends carry a mattress about 20 blocks (long story and definitely not dressed appropriately). If it is just rain, get out there!

Trip admin

If we are talking a full on storm, windy as fuck, no chance you are going out kind of day, use the time to journal about your trip for future reference, plan the rest of your trip, and declutter your photos, because hunny you know you need the extra storage space!

Crafts class

Google what is on offer where you are staying. It could be kite making, glass blowing, jewellery making, paper lantern making, or a pottery class, the possibilities really are endless. If you want something a bit more mobile, try a dance class!

Go to a local gig

See if you can find a bar that has live music on! This is a great way to discover the local music scene. Another tip would be to check out whether they have Sofar Sounds gigs where you are. I have been to a couple of them before and highly recommend them. The organisation puts on intimate gigs at ‘secret’ spots where you can bring your own drinks. In London, I have had the privilege of seeing some really awesome local flats through this company which made perfect makeshift stages for the artists.

Croatia itinerary: Split to Pula road trip in 6 days

September 2018

Day 1: Split

  • Fly into Split airport and pick up your hire car, opting to drop it off in Pula
  • Drive to your airbnb, drop off the luggage and off you go to the old town to explore
  • Wander around the cobblestoned streets and stores of the old town as the sun goes down, followed by a dinner in a plaza
  • Grab some cocktails in one of the many bars along the sea front before hitting the sack ready for an early start the next day

Day 2: Hvar

  • Drive to old town Split to board one of the ferries heading out from the port to Hvar (it is about 1.5 hours one way so bring your headphones, cards, and books)
  • Arrive at Hvar in awe of the docked yachts and take in the old town whilst in search for a haunt for lunch
  • Following lunch, embark on a seafront hike in search of a more secluded beach away from town
  • Have a swim at your secluded spot and start your hike back before the sun goes down
  • Get the last ferry back (check the times beforehand as they don’t run too late)
  • Go out for a night on the town on your last evening in Split 😉

Day 3: Krka National Park

  • Pack up all your stuff, load the car and embark on the 1 hour drive to Krka from Split
  • Park the car and pay for your entrance with or without the bus to the main trail (we opted not to, exercise is healthy, and young adults can be bad at saving money)
  • Grab your towels and water bottles before setting off and follow the trail around the park, taking a dip at the waterfalls!
  • Hopefully you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny day and you can dry off in the sunshine before your walk back to the car
  • Head off to Šibenik straight from Krka, the drive should take approx. 1 hour

Day 4: Šibenik

  • Wake up and make your way to (you guessed it) the old town to wander around checking out the cute cobbled streets, the cathedral, the plazas, the charming shops, and the St. Michael Fortress
  • Get a ticket and wander around the St. Michael Fortress, the views are worth it
  • Following a nice lunch and a smoothie, find the car and head off to your next destination, Zadar, the drive should only take 1 hour again (ideal)

Day 5: Zadar

  • Set off towards old town and start by wandering around Queen Jelena Madijevka Park before you lose the light of the day
  • Grab an ice cream cone before having a nosy around the markets before sunset kicks in
  • Sit down and take in sunset accompanied by wave music at the Sea Organ and the sun induced light display at the Sun Salutation
  • Following the sunset get yourself back to the bar in the park for a cocktail and a shisha before calling it a night

Day 6: Pula

  • Pack the car and head out towards Pula, it is a 4 hour drive so leave some time for stops and ensure you have some snacks
  • Drive alongside the E65 for as long as you can to benefit from the coastal views and a sunset drive!
  • Arrive at Pula, drop off the car (dent free ideally) and go grab a bite to eat before the festival opening concert if you are going to one
  • If you aren’t going during festival season, be sure to check out Fort Punta Christo and the amphitheatre alongside the beach!