10 Good Reasons to Visit Italy!

There are many, many good reasons to visit Italy.

Experience extraordinary architecture, remarkable works of art, fascinating history, as well as delicious cuisine and glorious natural beauty.

Italy also has the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, and is top of the list for world-class tourist attractions.

 

1.Rome

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Rome is bursting with historical monuments, ruins and artifacts.

These include the world famous Colosseum, Roman Forum and Trevi Fountain.

Explore the Vatican city and see the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo and the incredible St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

2. Venice

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 Venice is world famous for its 117 small islands which are separated by sleepy canals and linked by exquisite bridges.

Add to that the gondolas and beautiful architecture, including Saint Mark’s Basilica, and create memories that will last forever.

 

3. Florence

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The Renaissance City of Florence is extraordinary in its beauty.

View the magnificent Baptistery, Michelangelo’s David and visit Piazza della Signoria, with its stunning statues and palazzi.

Stroll along the Ponte Vecchio, a Medieval stone bridge in Florence, best known for the many shops built along it.

 

4. Pisa

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Pisa is a city best known for its iconic Leaning Tower.

The Leaning tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower which stands next to the cathedral of Pisa, and started tilting during its construction in the 12th-century.

 

5. Siena

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Discover Siena, a picturesque medieval town in the heart of Tuscany, famous for its medieval brick buildings.

Admire the wonderful architecture on Piazza del Campo, including the the Gothic palace, Palazzo Pubblico,  and its tower, Torre del Mangia.

 

6. Bologna

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Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy, and is famous for its medieval towers.

It is also known for its food and where tortellini, mortadella, tagliatelle and ragù originated from.

 

7. Cinque Terre

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The Cinque Terre is a district where five centuries-old seaside villages are set along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline.

See the enchanting colorful houses and ancient vineyards clinging to the terraces, soak up the amazing views, and experience the sheer beauty of the place.

 

8. Italian Lakes

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Witness breathtaking views and serene surroundings when you visit the Italian Lakes region.

From Lake Lugano to Lake Garda and the Dolomite Mountains, bask in the peaceful beauty of it all.

Take a trip to Bellagio in the Province of Como, commonly known as ‘the pearl of Lake Como’, and be enchanted by this heavenly place.

 

9. Naples

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The cosmopolitan city of Naples is Italy’s third-largest city and boasts a vast assortment of  archaeological treasures.

This wonderful place is bursting with many historic palaces, monuments and statues, and the view as the sun sets on the Bay of Naples is outstanding.

 

10. Pompeii

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Visit the excavations at Pompeii and prepare to be astonished by this haunting experience.

Buried for centuries beneath volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, this  archaeological site lies preserved for all time.

The ruins of Pompeii are simply extraordinary, providing a fascinating insight into ancient Roman life.

 

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Quite simply, immerse yourself in the Italian culture and let your heart be captured by this wonderful country.

Tipping guidelines in Britain!

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Tipping has become increasingly widespread in all areas of the service industry, particularly in restaurants, cafes, bars and taxis worldwide.

The UK is no different, but knowing when to tip and how much can be confusing.

See below for some tipping guidelines when visiting Britain:

 

Restaurants

In British restaurants where you place your order with a waiter or waitress at your table, it is common to tip around 10%.

This can be done by either leaving a cash tip after paying the bill or adding an amount to your total bill if paying by credit card.

In some restaurants, a service charge of 10% – 12.5% is added to the bill, and this should be noted clearly on the menu.

Do not leave a tip if you are not happy with the service.

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Cafes and Coffee Shops

Similar to a restaurant, if you receive waitress service in a British cafe or coffee shop at your table, a tip of 10% would be appropriate.

In coffee shops, such as Starbucks or Costa, there may be a tip jar on the counter, but very few customers offer tips as you usually collect your own order.

In cafes, where you collect your food, place it on a tray and pay at the end counter, there is no need for a tip.

 

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Bars and Pubs

You do not usually tip barmaids or bartenders in British pubs and bars.

However,  you can offer to buy them a drink if you have had great service or are on friendly terms.

Generally though, tips are not expected.

 

 

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Taxis

It is not a requirement to tip in taxis, but most people round up the fare to the nearest £1 as a polite gesture.

If a minicab driver helps with your luggage on a longer journey or from an airport, you may want to tip a little more.

If taking a black cab or licensed minicab in London, a 10% tip is the average amount, although not a requirement.

 

Takeaway Food

When picking up food from a British takeaway restaurant, tipping is not required.

If your food is delivered to your hotel or apartment, although not required, tipping the delivery driver with the change or £1 would be a polite gesture.

 

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Hotels

In Britain, if a porter takes your bags to your room, a £2 cash tip is reasonable.

Tipping for food and drinks being brought to your room is at your discretion.

Again, leaving a tip for your chambermaid is at your discretion, but not a requirement.

Coach Tours and Guides

Tips are not included in the price of most tours.

However, it is customary to show gratitude to your tour director and driver for a satisfactory service.

CIE Tours recommend below the minimum amount Per person per day:

Driver/Guide (1 person crew) £5
Tour Director (part of 2 person crew) £3
Driver (part of 2 person crew) £3
Guide for walking or city tour £1
Driver for chauffeur vehicle £12

 

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Tips for Travelling to Britain and Ireland!

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Travelling to Britain and Ireland has become an attractive option for many people since Brexit.

The low British Pound and Euro has made the exchange rates very favourable indeed for those travelling from abroad.

Some may not be quite sure what to expect so see some handy tips below for when visiting Britain and Ireland:

 

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Coach Tours

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Depending on what coach tour company you travel with, on average, most British and Irish tours have around 40 passengers but can hold a maximum of 50 passengers.

Most tours travel during the daytime only. Departures can be early and are often very early on the first day if leaving from London.

 There is rarely any travel longer than 3 hours without a stop for sightseeing or a break. Tours are all planned and well paced to maximize sightseeing.

Most coaches have restrooms and make frequent rest/bathroom stops, usually at 2-hour intervals or less, for the comfort of all passengers.

The majority of coaches are not accessible for the physically disabled so travellers should be able to get on and off the coach unaided. However, most tour operators allow you may bring a light-weight foldable wheelchair if needed.

Again, depending on the Tour Company, children over a certain age are permitted to travel on coach tours and usually get a discount on non budget holidays.

Hotels on Tour

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British and Irish hotels usually come in 3 classes – first class (3 star), superior first class (4 star) or deluxe (5 star).

First class tours use these 3 options while budget tours often use hotels away from the centre of towns.

Bedding options are usually a choice of single, twin, double or triple rooms.

You will usually pay a single room supplement for a single room or you can opt for a twin share with another guest of the same gender to save money.

For a twin room you get 2 separate single beds. For a double you get a double bed which is king size or bigger.

If there are three people sharing a room then a triple room will usually have a double and one twin bed.

Most rooms should have TVs and hairdryers plus a shaver outlet in the bathroom.

Check-in times vary between 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm depending on the individual hotel.

 

 Documents Needed

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To enter Britain, a passport valid for the duration of your stay is required, except for EU Nationals holding a valid national ID card.

Visas for the United Kingdom are required by many outside of Europe.

Exceptions include Australian, New Zealand, Malaysian, Singapore, Canadian and US citizens.

 If you are not a citizen of the UK or Ireland, then you will require a passport and possibly a separate visa to visit Ireland.

 

 Currency & Credit cards

Different currency is used in Britain and Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland uses the euro, while in Britain and Northern Ireland the pound sterling is used.

In Ireland there are seven euro notes in denominations of €5 to €500 and eight euro coins used.

In Britain and Northern Ireland pound sterling comes in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50 and eight coins including £1 and £2.

High denomination bills are not readily accepted for exchange, even in banks, so it is better to carry smaller denominations.

Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Britain and Ireland.

American Express and Diners Club cards are less commonly accepted.

It’s always a good idea to use credit cards to avoid carrying large sums of cash.

Advise your bank that you are traveling overseas to ensure that they don’t block your credit cards as this can sometimes happen.

 

 

Touring Tuscany!

TUSCANY

 

 

Tuscany is a region in central Italy with spectacular medieval hill towns and wonderful scenery. It is also one of Italy’s top holiday destinations.

Tuscany attracts tourists in their thousands because there are so many amazing places to see in its 8,900 square miles, most notably Florence, the regional capital.

With its historic cities, Renaissance art, hill towns, beaches, and beautiful countryside, there’s little wonder that Tuscany is so popular with tourists from around the world.

 

Florence

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Florence can be found in the heart of Tuscany, and is often regarded as the “pearl of the Renaissance”.

This culturally rich and beautiful city is full of delightful Renaissance architecture and some excellent museums.

Take a guided tour of Florence’s Cathedral, with its famous dome. Visit the Uffizi art gallery, home to the works of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Rembrandt and Van Dyck.

 

Pisa

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To the north of Tuscany, you will find Pisa which is famous for its extraordinary leaning tower.

This famous leaning tower has tilted since it was built over six hundred years ago and still remains one of the most popular tourists attractions around the world today.

Join a guided tour and take a selfie which looks like you are leaning on the tower itself.

 

 

San Gimignano

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San Gimignan is a beautiful city southwest of Florence and is well known for its amazing Towers.

This medieval walled hill town has 14 surviving medieval towers which create an outstanding view from the surrounding countryside.

You can also see medieval houses and fountains as you take a guided tour through this enchanting market town.

 

 

Montepulciano

 

Montepulciano is another walled city in Tuscany which is built on a sloping and narrow limestone ridge.

Montepulciano also has an impressive main square as well as many beautiful Renaissance buildings to wonder at.

You can try some exquisite wines in nearby Montalcino, which has a castle at the edge of the town that has wine tasting.

 

 

Siena

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Siena is a wonderfully classic medieval hill town in Tuscany famous for its large fan-shaped piazza, the Piazza del Campo. It is one of the finest medieval cities in the world.

The Piazza del Campo now stands where the Roman forum once stood, and is dominated by the red Palazzo Pubblico and its tall bell tower, Torre del Mangia. Climb the 500 steps or more too experience a wonderful view of Siena and its extraordinary surroundings.

There is still more plenty to see on a guided tour, including the Civic Palace, Civic Museum and Siena’s Beautiful Gothic Cathedral.

 

The Chianti wine region

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Particularly popular among travellers, the Chianti Classico wine region lies between the larger cities of Florence and Siena. This region is renowned for its picturesque villages,  beautiful countryside and very special wineries.

A delightful drive through the cypress and olive groves will bring you to some beautiful places where you can explore medieval castle, taste local produce and explore many artisan shops and cafes.

Touring the region also provides a chance to visit wine-makers to get an insight into their wine making process. This allows free wine tastings and soaking up the glorious atmosphere – perfect!

5 Places to Visit in Magical Wales!

The Welsh football team have been in the news lately for their historic run in the European Championships 2016.

Not since the 1958 World Cup  has this inspiring team got this far, their first finals in 58 years.

They have demonstrated what true team spirit is all about, and gained mush admiration around the world for their comradeship.

 

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But this demonstration of football support and unity is hardly surprising since Wales is a nation of proud people who have a distinct cultural identity.

This includes culturally rich customs, glorious music and its very own language.

Wales is known for its singing and has thus acquired its popular image of the “land of song”.

Over 560,000 people who live in Wales speak the welsh language, with the majority of the population living in the north and west speaking it.

The daffodil and leek are symbols of Wales, and a fiery red dragon stands at the centre of the Welsh national flag.

 

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Wales is also famous for its largely mountainous terrain, with high peaks in the north and centre.

See below some enchanting places to go next time you visit Wales:

 

1. Snowdonia

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In Snowdonia, you can travel by coach and find a beautiful range of hills and mountains consisting of 14 majestic peaks over 3,000 ft high.

Mount Snowdon is the most famous and highest peak in Wales and can be reached by the ‘Snowdon Mountain Railway’.

The Snowdon Mountain Railway is a narrow gauge rack and pinion that travels the 4.7 miles from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon and all its glory.

Snowdonia National Park is one of the most popular hiking and climbing destinations in Britain and is included in the gruelling National Three Peaks Challenge!

 

2. Caernarfon Castle

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 Caernarfon Castle was built by King Edward I in the 13th Century for the first Prince of Wales.

It has 13 towers and two gates, making it one of the largest castles in the country and best-preserved medieval fortresses in the whole of Europe.

In 1969, HRH Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, had his investiture take place there.

Today, you can visit the castle by car or coach and take in many interesting and informative exhibitions and displays throughout the towers.

 

3. Brecon Beacons National Park

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Brecon Beacons National Park is a hiker’s paradise which has mountains in excess of 2,000 ft to explore.

This most beautiful part of Wales is also famous for its ponies or Welsh cobs, one of the world’s oldest and prettiest horse breeds, which can be found on the uplands of the Brecon Beacons.

 Again, you can get there by car or coach as well as train, so be sure to explore the park’s many enchanting mountains, caves and waterfalls.

 

4. Conwy

Conwy is a beautiful walled market town on the north coast of Wales.

Take a guided tour of the stunning castles, medieval architecture and amazing walls.

There are also many shops to explore and cafes to indulge in a coffee and while away the time.

You can also find the Smallest House in Great Britain, also known as the Quay House, on the quay in Conwy.

 

5. Llandudno

Why not take a coach trip to Llandudno?

Llandudno is a seaside classic, the largest seaside resort town in Wales, and often regarded as the “Queen of the Welsh Resorts”

This picturesque tourist destination is located on the north coast next to the Great Orme, a prominent limestone headland now run as a nature reserve.

The best views of the town and breathtaking outlook across the Irish Sea can be seen from the summit of the Great Orme, easily accessible by the heritage tramway.

Llandudno also boasts a unique Victorian promenade which doesn’t have the usual seaside shops and cafés, making it a more peaceful and delightful experience altogether.

10 Tips for Responsible Travel!

 

Travel is one of the best ways to broaden our minds and enrich our lives, and to do this, we explore our environment in as many places as we can, either on our own or from guided holidays.

It is therefore our responsibility to protect these places we set out to explore, including its communities, culture, and environment.

If we travel responsibly, we leave a positive impact, which creates a positive image of visitors, encouraging the growth of travel and tourism as a whole.

See below 10 tips for responsible travel:

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LOVE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

 

1. Book direct flights

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A large amount of a plane’s carbon emissions occur during take-off and landing.

 

2. Help towards a cleaner atmosphere.

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Rather than hiring a car, use public transport, hire a bike or walk to explore a new destination.

 

3. Take only pictures and only leave footprints.

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Catch memories on camera, not by taking souvenirs from the natural environment which can leave devastating lasting effects.

 

4. Tread lightly as you travel.

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Stick to designated trails, leaving structures and the natural surrounding untouched.

 

5. Recycle.

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Separate glass, plastic, paper and metal and recycle whenever possible.

 

6. Share holiday books and brochures.

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Pass them on to family and friends when you have finished with them, or recycle them.

 

6. Minimize waste.

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Take your own reusable water and shopping bags for the duration of your trip.

 

7. Unplug before leaving home.

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Unplug lights and appliances not is use before leaving for your tour.

 

8. Use water sparingly.

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Use water sparingly when showering and brushing your teeth at your hotel.

 

9. Reuse hotel towels.

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Reuse hotel towels at least for another day instead of having them replaced daily.

 

10. Switch off.

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Turn off hotel lights and air conditioning when not in your room.

Things to know before you book a coach tour!

When thinking of booking a coach tour, most people want a number of questions answering first.

This can be from asking whether children are welcome to how many guests are usually on each trip.

Find below Trafalgar Tours frequently asked questions:

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Before I Book

Will I be travelling with people from other countries?

The beauty of taking any guided holiday with Trafalgar is that you’ll have the opportunity to meet and travel with people from all over the globe.

 

How many people will be on my trip?

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You’ll find an average of 40 to 45 guests on trips throughout Europe, and a maximum of 52 guests on trips throughout the United States and Canada.

 

Will I have free time?

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Each Trafalgar itinerary offers the perfect balance of free time and guided experiences. You are also given the opportunity to tailor your trip with Optional Experiences. So you may choose to enjoy some of the best seats in the house at the world-famous Moulin Rouge in Paris, or maybe take a magical early-morning balloon ride over the beautiful Napa Valley when exploring California.

 

What are the coaches like?

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Trafalgar Tour Coach

Trafalgar pride ourselves on having the finest fleet of fuel-efficient, fully air-conditioned coaches with on board WiFi. All coach seats are reclining and there are on-board restrooms. 

 

Are the hotels air conditioned?

Trafalgar select their hotels for their quality, comfort and impeccable service, with the majority of them having air-conditioning, though few hotels in the northern Alps or Europe have air conditioning due to the colder climate.

 

What is a Travel Director?

Tour Director in Prague

Tour Director in Prague

Trafalgar Travel Directors all share a passion for travel and their home countries. These experienced professionals show you what the guidebooks can’t – a true insider’s perspective of each destination. Each Travel Director has been through a made-to-measure development  training programme, and many have at least five years’ experience under their belt. From checking you into your hotel room to recommending a local eatery, your Travel Director’s aim is to make travelling easy for you.

 

Can I book a group?

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Trafalgar take the hassle out of booking a group holiday – and offer some great discounts for five or more people. Groups of five to eight people will receive 5% off the land-only part of their trip, and larger groups will save even more.

 

Does Trafalgar promote sustainable tourism?

Trafalgar is a founding partner of the TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2008. So far, the charity has donated more than US$2 million to help underprivileged communities and support sustainable tourism around the world.

 

What is the single traveller supplement?

If you prefer the privacy of your own room, you can opt for a single supplement. The cost will depend on your trip and can be found in the pricing section of the itinerary. If you’d rather not incur the additional expense, consider the single traveller room share option where you will be accommodated with a fellow guest of the same gender, on a twin-bed basis.

 

What if I have special dietary requirements?

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Trafalgar can accommodate guests who are vegetarian and can assist with diabetic, gluten-free and other medically-recommended diets. Please advise at time of booking. Unfortunately, meals in accordance with strict religious requirements such as Kosher or Halal cannot be supplied. Also, salt-free,  requests for specific dietary supplements such as soya milk, and high protein or low-carb meals cannot be provided.

 

Are children allowed on coach trips?

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Children are welcome on all Trafalgar tours with a minimum age of 5 years.

 

 

A Guide to Iceland!

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The beautiful country of Iceland has been in the news lately because of its football team and the fact that they beat England in the European Championships 2016. With a population of just 332,529, and the fact that most players are part time footballers, it’s hardly surprising. However, if you take a look at the overwhelming support of their fans and the teams celebratory “Viking cry” at the end of each match to show their appreciation, it’s no wonder this dedicated team is on a roll. You can be talented up to a point, but it takes your state of mind and drive to succeed to take you all the way! We all like an underdog so now England have spectacularly gone out of the competition, it’s only natural that we wish Iceland the best, well I do anyway.

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Iceland has also been on the telly lately because of its food. English celebrity chef and television presenter Rick Stein filmed a new television series based on food around the world, in which Iceland was included. This gave us a real insight into Iceland, especially the culinary delights of Reykjavik, and the search for the perfect Icelandic cod.

 

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This may be all well and good, but the real attraction to Iceland is the overwhelming beauty of the place. It is quite literally a world of natural phenomena, from the hot-springs at Geysir to the mighty waterfalls at Gullfoss , stunning landscapes of every shape and form can be found at every turn. A guided coach tour could take you to some of the most wonderful places on earth.

 

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This utterly mesmerizing land is also home to Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe, breathtaking fjords and Eyjafjallajökull, which is a volcano completely covered by an ice cap, which erupted as recently as 2010! Because Iceland is volcanically active, lava fields are prevalent in the landscape in the form of ragged block lava and more smoother ropy lava. Many of them have their origin in another volcano called Snæfellsjökull, the apparent ‘passage leading to the center of the earth’ as depicted in the Jules Verne (1864) novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Snæfellsjökull in background

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Iceland is also known for its natural Icelandic hot springs, the most famous being the Blue Lagoon. This popular geothermal spa is situated in southwestern Iceland and is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The warm waters are rich in minerals and are reputed to help people suffering from skin problems. In fact, the Blue Lagoon also has a research program designed to help find cures for skin ailments using the mineral-rich water, which has average temperatures of  37–39 °C in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon. You can visit and bathe in this wonderful place on the Trafalgar ‘Ultimate Iceland’ tour, which will also take you to the wall of giant books and the glacial mountain backdrop at a museum dedicated to Thorbergur Thordarson, Iceland’s most beloved 20th century author.

 

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Iceland maybe in the news at the moment for a number of reasons, but the extraordinary beauty of this outstanding land alone is enough to draw you into its enchanting web  time and time again.

5 Reasons to Travel to the UK and Europe in 2016/2017!

 

Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, the pound has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years against the dollar, and the euro is not far behind

If you are from the UK, when you travel abroad, your pounds will now buy you fewer euros or dollars, the cost of accommodation and food will rise and your spending money won’t go as far as it did before Brexit.

However, if you are from abroad and want to travel to and tour the UK, things have never been better.

 

1. Exchange Rates.

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The immediate effect after the Brexit vote is that it’s a good time for American travellers to tour Britain and Europe.

This is of course due the the exchange rates and the falling pound and Euro.

 

2. Price Cuts.

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The American dollar is about 20% stronger compared to the British pound at the moment, your dollar will also stretch much further in Europe.

That means that nearly everything purchased by Americans visiting the UK will be cheaper. This includes alcohol, food, museums and many tourist attraction and guided tours.

 

 

3. Hotel Rates.

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The Brexit vote may have an effect on European visitors to the UK which will mean hotels will probably charge less due to lower demand.

Book your hotel now if you are thinking of visiting the UK and pay in full to make sure you get the favourable exchange rate as prices may go up later.

If you have already made a deposit payment, ask the hotel to process your final bill as a new transaction, again, to make sure you get the favourable exchange rate.

 

4. Flight Prices.

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Airfare rates may also be effected and go up or down depending on where you are travelling from.

For example, people may be put off going to America because of the exchange rate, so airlines will have to reduce prices to fill seats.

On the other hand, according to the ‘Association of British Travel Agents (Abta)’, travellers may face higher air fares  between the UK and the European Union because of all the financial uncertainty caused by Brexit.

 

5. Britain and Europe on Sale.

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Last but not least, Britain and Europe is more or less on sale at the moment due to the weak pound and Euro compared against other currencies.

It may not be good news for the British, but for American tourists, Brexit has provided a fantastic opportunity to visit the usually expensive UK and Europe on the cheap.

Whether you book a flight, hotel or full package coach tour, you will grab a bargain – visiting the UK and Europe from the USA has never been so enticing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 ‘Brexit’ Effects on Travel Plans?

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‘Brexit’ refers to the British exit from the European Union, and you may be wondering,  How does this affect my travel plans?

Well, Here’s what we know up to now…

 

1. Impact on travel.

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If you’ve already booked or are planning to book a holiday, Brexit should have no impact on you as a traveller. This is because many of the effects of Brexit won’t happen immediately, the negotiations for the UK’s exit from the EU are expected to take around two years, so no sudden changes.

 

2. UK & Europe borders.

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Travellers with valid passports and the correct visas will be allowed to travel from London to all countries in Europe. Brexit  will not effect visa policies of the Schengen Regions in Europe.

 

3. British passports.

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The UK will remain part of the EU as long as it takes to negotiate its exit. For this reason, British passports will remain valid throughout this time, meaning no changes if you are planning to travel to Europe this year or in the next two years at least.

 

4. Excellent exchange rates.

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 With the UK’s vote to leave the EU came the inevitable effect on the pound, making it weaker against most other world currencies, and the same can be said for the Euro in the coming weeks and months. People travelling and planning to travel to Europe can therefore expect a better exchange rate in the UK and Europe in the foreseeable future.

 

5. Still safe place to visit.

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Finally, the UK and Europe is still one of the safest places to travel and Brexit should not put you off following your dreams. Excellent public transport, cultural diversity and amazing experiences to behold are just a few reasons to travel, especially on a guided tour so you know you are in extra safe hands.