TT#3 – Top 5 Tips To Find The Perfect Hotel!

How we book holidays has changed drastically over the last decade – we now have more control over our trip than ever before! The package holiday is no longer the only option we have, the world is our oyster…

So you have done your research and found the perfect destination(s) for your trip. You have selected the best value flights, but now you have the ultimate decision. The decision that can make or break your trip… the choice of accommodation.

With so many choices, its easy to get this decision disastrously wrong (believe me). But fear not – follow these 5 tips to guarantee yourself a brilliant stay at a fantastic price!

5. Metasearch Engines (Aggregators)

To start you need a price comparison website. I highly recommend using Sky Scanner at this stage. Sky Scanner is a metasearch engine – they take all the prices for the various types of accommodation across multiple marketplace websites and show you the best rates for your chosen dates! You don’t book directly with Sky Scanner, they provide affiliate links to the marketplace websites where you can complete your booking.

BOOM! Job done… right?

Well no, not quite – whilst Sky Scanner gives you a brilliant head start, it comes with some health warnings. Obviously Sky Scanner will promote certain hotels at certain times. On top of this, the order of the hotels is dictated by the website algorithm alongside your chosen filters. Whilst Sky Scanner will do its best to give you the right options, it can only be personalised based on the limited information you provide in your search.

In plain English… you may be missing out on some of the best deals for YOU.

So here is how to use it;

  1. Search for your destination on the chosen travel dates
  2. Click on “filters” and select Guest Rating of both 4.5 and 5.0
  3. I also recommend selecting Free Cancellation for added flexibility – however if you want to save more money, leave this unchecked.
  4. Click on “show results”
  5. Now use the map feature (on laptop, this will be on the right hand side of the list results)
  6. Zoom in to the centre of the destination – e.g. for a city break, find the old town and zoom in slightly.
  7. The results will refresh once you zoom. And now its time to browse!
  8. Click on a minimum of 5 hotels and note down the type of accommodation (e.g. hotel, apartment, hostel) and the total cost of your stay. CAREFUL – the first price you will see is the nightly rate, the total cost is just below in smaller text.

4. Use 2 (or more) Marketplace Websites

So now you have a minimum of 5 prices for varying types of accommodation.

It may seem obvious to some, but now its time to use the ‘marketplace’ websites. You should use AT LEAST 2 for each hotel booking. Let me explain why…

There are so many marketplace websites these days and the standards of these websites vary so much that it is always worth sticking to the better known providers. When it comes to booking, I recommend looking for names such as Booking.com, Trivago and Hotels.com.

Travel marketplace websites will try and tie some accommodation providers in to exclusivity deals so the only place to book is through their marketplace. This is less common now than it once was, however following this tip ensures that you have visibility across 2 of the main marketplace providers!

Marketplace websites are also well known for paid promotions. In other words, they charge accommodation owners to boost their properties up to the top of search results. But there is a way to avoid the forced results and find the best ones for you. For this walkthrough I am using Booking.com;

  1. Once again enter in the location and desired dates in to the search bar and click ‘search’
  2. On the left hand side you will see a series of filters; ignore star rating and head to review score – I recommend starting with 9+. Consider adding free cancellation for added flexibility.
  3. Choose your property type e.g. hotel, apartment
  4. Set the maximum price you are prepared to pay – this way you don’t get suckered in to any places outside of your budget
  5. Click on map view, and zoom in to your desired location to eliminate any places out of town!
  6. For the risk adverse – I would advise avoiding places that have less than 50 reviews. If you like living life on the edge, then lower that minimum number to 25.
  7. At this point there should only be a handful of places left, however if you find there are more than 15, add a minimum price as well as a maximum and select options such as “self catering” or “breakfast included”.

Now its time to rinse and repeat. Head to your second marketplace website and do the same again!

Choose your top 5 options from the photos and user reviews… and there you have it… your shortlist is complete!

3. Refine

Now comes the nice bit. You’ve got up to 5 places that meet your requirements. Wherever you choose now is sure to be a good option! However you want to choose the best one… so its time to refine and separate the good from the brilliant.

(For anyone travelling to less familiar locations, if you start with less than 5 options on your shortlist, then stop refining once you get to your final 2).

If you have followed the steps above then all of the options are affordable – so price should be the last parameter you use to further refine your search.

Lets start with reviews. The lowest reviewed accommodation should be the first removed, followed by the second lowest reviewed UNLESS you have any places with under 100 reviews (or for those risk takers, under 50 reviews).

And then there were 3… that feels a little crowded! So we need to eliminate another one. Time for a slightly more detailed review of the offerings; the filters you have applied during the search phase will have removed most differentiating factors that are of importance however there are a couple to look out for;

Check in / out times – Check the time your flights are due to arrive / leave, and factor in travel time to and from the airport. From this you can work out the ideal time to check in and out.

For example – if your flight is due to arrive at 9am, and its a 20min taxi journey to the accommodation, then with some contingency time to get through passport control and collect your bags, 10am would be ideal check in time. Your flight home is at 3pm, and you need to get to the airport for 1pm with 20 minute travel time – the ideal check out time would be 12pm.

Check the check in and check out times offered by the hotels – if any of them are way off, its time to eliminate them! If they are all slightly out, then try contact them and ask if they can give you early check in or late check out.

Size Matters – if you still can’t separate them, move on to the size of the room and the size of the bed! I cannot stress enough how much difference extra space can make, both in bed and also in the room itself. If you have an outlier – either a double bed versus a king size, or a smaller room, its time to kick it out of the running!

Tie-breaker – If all else fails, revert to price and remove the most expensive. Now you have some extra spending money for your days out or an evening meal!

2. When 2 become 1

I am sincerely hope you sang the Spice Girls hit as you read that heading…

Now comes the final decision – you are down to the final 2. Its time to stop using filters and logical analysis, and let your heart rule your head. You have 2 amazing options – there is no poor choice! Sit down with your travel partner, or if you are a solo traveller then grab some snacks, get comfy and flick through the photographs. Which option is giving you that excited feeling? Which option is giving you the best vibes? One of them will have the edge for you personally, you just have to find it!

If you are unsure, then take a few days to think about it. Have a break and come back in 48 or 72 hours and look again. Sooner or later one of them will edge ahead – once it does, BOOK IT!

1. STEP AWAY FROM THE BOOKING SITES!

You’ve done it. From a list of thousands, you have whittled it down to a shortlist. You have used the tools at your disposal to find the perfect options for you and your requirements. The shortlist has been refined, and you have booked the perfect option!

NOW STOP. There is always the temptation to keep looking – to check back every now and again to see if there are better prices, to see if there are any new places that have become available. It is a complete waste of time. Rest assured that you have booked the perfect spot at a brilliant price for you!

Spend your time looking at day trips for when you arrive, at restaurants for a celebratory evening meal, planning the sights you want to see, experiences you want to live.

Give these tips a try and let me know how you get on! If there are any must share tips to add to my list, let me know in the comments below!

Have a good ‘un guys!

TT#2 – TOP 30 Most Instagrammable Locations: Tier List

It’s time for the first tier list! I will be ranking up to 30 locations across 7 different tiers, from my ultimate travel destinations down to those not currently in my future plans. So sit back & buckle up, I suspect some of my decisions may cause some turbulence…

Back in early 2020 the guys at Big 7 Travel compiled a list of the “The 50 Most Instagrammable Places In The World”. In normal circumstances that would mean that the list would be severely out of date by now, however given the last 18 months has been a write off for adventurers, it is still as relevant now as it was then!

So, how did they score their list? I hear you ask. Well, in their own words;

…a comprehensive scoring system that analysed the amount of hashtags per destination, survey results from our audience, and votes cast by our global editorial team.

Big 7 Travel

To make this tier list a little more challenging I will be ranking just the top 30 destinations as they appear in the Big 7 Travel list – minus those in the UK, namely London & Edinburgh. There are a maximum of 5 and minimum of 3 locations per tier meaning some difficult decisions will be required…

In total there are 7 tiers. They are;

Life? Completed it mate – The best in class, the crème de la crème. There is nothing higher than this. These are the locations that once visited, will be remembered until your final days. Truly life enhancing experiences. A very high bar to meet… Gold medallists. (League winners).

Worldie – or World Class – A hairs breadth away from the top. These locations are in the top league, and in some categories on a par with the destinations in the category above, but as a whole they just fall short. Silver medallists. (League runners up).

Elite – These locations are undoubtedly top tier. World renowned for a reason. They are destinations that will 100% be visited in my lifetime, but not quite dream level. Perform very well across all categories, but not best in the world in any of them. Bronze medallists. (League challengers, falling just short).

Must See – Locations that if possible must be seen in my lifetime. Great locations with a worthy place on the travel bucket list. No medal for these guys. (Always finish in the top half of the league).

Should See – Locations that if possible should be seen in my lifetime. Great locations that occupy the reserve spots on the travel bucket list. If at all possible, these are locations that should be explored, but may be sacrificed for those above. (Mid table specialists in the league).

Mayhap – May happen / may travel to if the opportunity arises. These locations aren’t write offs, but neither do they provide much excitement. If the opportunity arises to visit they will be considered, however they struggle to compete with the guys in the tiers above. (Top league, but bottom half of the table).

Relegated – Considered by some to be in the top league, but struggle to live up to the hype for one reason or another. No immediate plans to travel here, although these locations should not be written off for a return to greatness in the future. (Relegated to the second league).

So without further ado, lets get tiering;

30. Cartagena, Colombia

We are starting off with a strong contender! Cartagena sits inside over 13km of colonial stone walls. The cobbled streets home to an array of beautifully preserved & colourful buildings. This city has real historical significance alongside its striking beauty.

Founded in 1533 by the Spanish colonial forces, Cartagena was the port from which the fleets took produce and gold back to Spain. Pirate attacks were commonplace due to the presence of gold and silver. The walled city and fortress ensured the Spanish colonial forces could defend their riches from attack.

In the modern day, the colonial walled city and fortress are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and here you will find the majority of the key sights along with the vast majority of the bars and restaurants.

It will be impossible to visit all of the sights in Cartagena, so a more relaxed approach is advised. Cartagena is well set up for the tourist industry, boasting plenty of brilliant restaurants and bars. If your Spanish isn’t up to scratch, then fear not as unlike other areas of Colombia, the restaurants and bars of Cartagena are used to conversing in English for the tourist industry.

It is more than a strong contender. The jewel in Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, there is only one tier for Cartagena…

Tier: Life? Completed it mate

Rank: 2nd

29. Boston, Massachusetts, USA

I am unsure whether my desire to visit Boston, Massachusetts is purely down to TV series, The Dropkick Murphys or the lobster rolls and Boston Beans. Whatever it is, Boston has been on my travel list for a number of years… however it has slowly dropped down the pecking order as time goes on.

Known as one of the most forward thinking cities in the United States of America, the official website of Boston states;

whether it’s for a weekend getaway or for the foreseeable future, we love you like our own. We see you. We celebrate you. And we want to show you everything. We are all inclusive.

Boston.Gov

Another city of historical significance, the cobbled streets of Boston are jam packed with lively bars and fantastic restaurants.

I can’t talk about Boston without giving a quick mention to the sports franchises – whilst none of them are my team, you have to appreciate their prowess. From the New England Patriots in the NFL to the Boston Bruins in the NHL, the Celtics in the NBA and the Boston Red Sox in the MLB, Boston know how to play sport… and win!

It may not be up at the top of my list anymore, but Boston is certainly a city I will visit if I get the opportunity!

Tier: Should See

Rank: 18th

28. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

I must admit I am surprised that Edinburgh scored lower than London. Given the choice, I would dodge London and head north to the capital of Scotland! Another city of historical significance, Edinburgh has something for everyone… if you are prepared to pay for it!

Based on a quick search, the cost of a short trip to Edinburgh is approximately £600 for 2 nights, based on return train travel to Edinburgh from Leeds, a 2 night stay in a hotel, and £150 for food and other spending money.

For the exact same dates and the same price I can book return flights and 4* hotel for 3 nights in Lisbon, Portugal with £250 spending money.

I know where my vote goes…

As a resident of the UK I am not tiering Edinburgh.

Tier: N/A

Rank: N/A

27. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

From the world famous Copacabana beach, to Christ the Redeemer, sugarloaf mountain to the Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro is one of the worlds ultimate travel destinations. Translating in to English as “The River of January”, the only thing missing in Rio is somewhat ironically, a river.

Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro occurs every year before lent and is a must if you are able to travel here whilst the carnival is in full flow!

This tiering is quite straightforward;

Tier: Worldie

Rank: 5th

26. Ibiza, Spain

Here comes the controversy…

When I think of Ibiza I think of hard dance music, 18 year olds taking pills & drinking far too much, Wayne Lineker, and that song by Mike Posner about… taking pills in Ibiza. As first impressions go, it’s a stinker.

I can hear you shouting at your screen – BUT WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND? I am just not sure I would want to be on the same island as that car crash of a combination.

Ibiza is undoubtedly beautiful, with golden beaches and clear waters, it’s place on this list of most Instagrammable locations is justified. But for me, as a travel destination, it has finished second bottom of the table with single figures.

Look on the bright side – that would be a bloody good result for the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Tier: Relegated

Rank: 27th

25. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

I must admit to not having heard of Lake Tekapo before conducting my research for this piece. Being honest some of the photos have been a little underwhelming on first viewing, but when you dig a little deeper… wow!

This beautiful lake has a backdrop of snow capped mountains and is completely unspoilt. Approximately 3 hours drive from Christchurch, the lake gets its famous “milky-turquoise” colour from the rock sediment, ground down by glaciers, suspended in the water. Lake Tekapo is a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it the perfect spot for stargazing after a day of exploring!

Would I add Lake Tekapo to my travel list as a stand alone location? No. Would I make sure to visit this location as part of a wider trip to New Zealand? Absolutely. It’s more than a must see, this location is on the cusp of Worldie…

Tier: Elite

Rank: 10th

24. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Sin City? The City of Lights? Whatever you choose to call it, Las Vegas is known worldwide for casinos, stage shows and shopping. What’s not to love, right?

I understand why people love Vegas. I understand why some people go year after year, and why some go once and go wild. I just don’t want to do either! Built in the desert, Las Vegas is purpose built for entertainment. There is no real history to speak of, just some tacky replicas of tourist landmarks from around the world.

The shows sound great if you are in to the kind of acts that play in Las Vegas, there are restaurants from a number of world famous chefs if you like your food, there are world class cars on every street if you are in to motors. It just doesn’t tick enough boxes for me.

Should the opportunity arise in the future to travel to Las Vegas, would I consider it? Possibly. Would I go under my own steam? No.

Whilst controversial, given the strength of competition on this list there is only one option;

Tier: Relegated

Rank: 24th

23. Istanbul, Turkey

The city where East meets West. The Western end of the Silk Road, Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was then) was once the capital of the Roman Empire. Today there are still signs of East meeting West – none clearer than at the Hagia Sophia, opposite the beautiful Sultan Ahmed Mosque (commonly referred to as the Blue Mosque). The building still bears the emblems and depictions of both its Christian and Islamic faiths side by side.

The Grand Bazaar in the heart of Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest markets in the world. It is unsurprising to discover that it is one of the most visited tourist attraction in the world with some estimates of over 100m visitors per year!

I must admit my tiering and ranking here is influenced by the fact I have already been to Istanbul. Therefore naturally other locations will be more attractive and exciting to me in this moment. Istanbul is a location everyone should experience, but once is probably enough.

Tier: Should See

Rank: 17th

22. Petra, Jordan

Petra is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, dating back to 300BC. I have dreamt of visiting Petra for years. Whilst my dream travel list has changed a lot in and around it, Petra has stood proud at the very top.

Carved in to the pink sandstone cliffs are temples and tombs, still preserved to this day. Petra is quite rightly one of the 7 modern wonders of the world. The last 18 months have been a catastrophic for Jordan’s economy, of which tourism is a key pillar (around 15% GDP), as it suffered its worst contraction in decades. The return of tourists to Petra can’t come soon enough for the local businesses.

The Jordanian government have authorised excavations at the site during the pandemic, taking advantage of the quiet period – only 15% of the city has so far been excavated, so further discoveries are highly likely…

This tiering will come as no surprise;

Tier: Life? Completed it mate

Rank: 1st

21. The Ring Road, Iceland

A ring road seems a strange destination for a list like this, doesn’t it? Especially if you are, like me, picturing a ring road around the likes of Coventry. Well let me explain briefly… Iceland has one main ring road, Route 1, alongside which fall most of the popular tourist attractions that any adventurer would want to see – attractions such as Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

I am yet to find an area of Iceland that isn’t beautiful! I would most likely use Reykjavik as a base for much of my time here, from which you can visit volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, lava fields and massive glaciers. What more could you want?

I managed to get this far without mentioning the world famous Blue Lagoon and the Northern Lights!

Another absolute world class destination;

Tier: Worldie

Rank: 4th

20. Los Angeles, California, USA

The home of the Film & TV industry, LA is known as both a celebrity city, and a city for hopeful creatives trying desperately to get their big break. The top things to do in LA are;

Visit the Santa Monica Beach, visit Venice Beach, go to Malibu, head to the Griffith Observatory, or the standard trips to various film / TV studios and the famous Hollywood sign.

None of the above has ever been high on my list of things to do. I am not a huge film & TV buff, and so the experience here would be somewhat lost on me. Rather like Vegas, the feeling I get about LA is materialistic and somewhat vapid. I am sure there is more to LA than that – and hopefully one day someone can show me the error in my ways! Until then, its a low maybe…

Tier: Mayhap

Rank: 22nd

19. Paris, France

Ok so this one is going to anger a few… but Paris. Where do I start?

When you close your eyes and picture Paris do you think of the Eiffel Tower, the Champes-Élysées leading to the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, freshly baked goods & Fine dining?

Unfortunately I don’t. Well, I do, but before I picture all that good stuff, I get an overpriced and over saturated city packed with tourist traps. The Arc de Triomphe is the sole attraction that tempts me in, maybe the Palace of Versailles, but it all just feels a little overhyped and underwhelming.

I am sure for many, Paris offers everything they want. I can imagine it is a dream destination for many – however for me and my tastes, it isn’t. There are other areas of France I would love to visit, just not Paris.

Will I ever travel here? Yes, of course I will. It will make sense to stop over there as part of other travel – especially with the volume of flights out of Charles de Gaulle airport and its relative proximity to the UK. Maybe I will change my mind once I have been, who knows!

Tier: Relegated

Rank: 26th

18. Moscow, Russia

Along with St Petersburg, Moscow has long held a spot high on my travel list. The Kremlin and Red Square are at the centre of Moscow both geographically and historically. Lenin’s Tomb serves a reminder of the recent history of Russia and the former USSR. St Basil’s Cathedral looms high over Red Square with its fantastic colourful domes.

If you are interested in the history of Russia, then Moscow is a perfect city to visit. Reminders can be found all over the city with monuments and museums. Moscow’s underground train network is home to opulent stations decorated beautifully, and are a must see!

There are around 600 churches in Moscow, from the small to the grand cathedrals. The Russian Orthodox Church is incredibly important to the Russian identity – and the churches in Moscow are a gateway in to life in Russia.

A nation shrouded in mystery and intrigue, Russia has always been high on my list of travel destinations – the tiering for Moscow is a reflection of that;

Tier: Elite

Rank: 9th

17. Amsterdam, Netherlands

I can’t believe I am writing this; I have never been to Amsterdam. I have travelled to 23 countries in Europe, and the Netherlands isn’t one.

Amsterdam is almost seen as a rite of passage by many – the liberal nature to both drugs and sex is attractive to youngsters venturing abroad for the first time. The stereotypes of smoking a spliff with a coffee at a cafe, or walking down a street lined with naked women dancing in windows are actually the very thing that has put me off.

I travel to experience culture and history – and I feel like Amsterdam has been hijacked by tourists wanting a very different kind of experience to me!

The city does look beautiful in parts, and I hope that in the future I have the opportunity to visit and prove my preconceptions wrong. For now, it remains a maybe…

Tier: Mayhap

Rank: 23rd

16. Toronto, Canada

I’m a believer that the term cosmopolitan is often overused for the presence of many nationalities in one city, rather than when there is clear influence of said nationalities. Well, Toronto passes my definition with flying colours. Famed for its amazing array of restaurants spanning every continent, this city embodies multi-culturalism. Much like myself, their passion for food runs deep – Toronto is starting to carve itself a special place in my heart!

Toronto is itself a cultural phenomenon, with residents from around the world and scores of languages, foods, customs and celebrations – they’re what make the city great.

Lonely Planet

Whether you want world class restaurants, museums, art galleries, theatre shows, night life or green spaces – Toronto has it all in spades. It has the big city buzz, whilst maintaining a strong sense of culture and identity – and its luring me in!

Bonus: it is only 2 hours from Niagra falls, and it is often said that the Canadian side of the falls is the best one…

Tier: Must See

Rank: 14th

15. Cape Town, South Africa

Another cosmopolitan city, although not quite to the same degree as Toronto, Cape Town is a blend of nationalities and cultures, with Table Mountain looming in the background, and the beaches in the foreground, Cape Town has the best of both worlds.

South Africa has suffered over the years from colonial rule at the hands of multiple European nations, and Apartheid from the 1940’s to the 1990’s. The political landscape remains complex to say the least – however the cultural identity emerging in Cape Town in recent years is exciting and makes it all the more attractive as a destination to explore!

The city is undergoing exciting changes, turning old abandoned buildings in to cool destinations for locals and tourists alike – such as The Silo Hotel, built in the grain elevator portion of the historic grain silo complex. The Silo is the ultimate luxury comprising of a restaurant, bar & spa alongside a hotel – focussing on the art and culture of this amazing city.

Tier: Must See

Rank: 15th

14. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is famed for its historic monuments, large skyscrapers, street markets & nightlife. The Malay, Chinese and Indian communities all combine in Kuala Lumpur with mosques and temples across the city.

Key sights include the Petronas towers, Jalan Alor market, the Putra Mosque & the Batu Caves. Some of the cities best food is from the street food stalls, so be sure to explore on foot and try them out! Traffic is common, so it is advised to explore on foot – however at certain times of year the heat is rather oppressive, so make sure to stop regularly at bars and restaurants.

Other cities in the region have become more expensive as their popularity has risen (e.g. Singapore), however Kuala Lumpur is still amazing value for money, and offers history, culture and world class food all in one brilliant package. What more could you ask for?

Tier: Worldie

Rank: 6th

13. Dubrovnik, Croatia

The home of Game Of Thrones… although after the last series I guess that is no longer a badge of honour.

Dubrovnik is a magnificent pedestrianised (one for the Partridge fans) walled city on the Adriatic coast. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and despite the shelling in 1991, Dubrovnik still entices visitors from all over the world. Explore the complex history of the former capital of the Republic of Ragusa in the museums, take the cable car to the top of mount Srđ, order a feast of fresh seafood, and enjoy the luxurious 5* surroundings.

Dubrovnik is not cheap, but it is worthy of its spot as an elite destination!

Tier: Elite

Rank: 11th

12. Rome, Italy

Rome is another city with many tourist attractions. In general, the more “touristy” spots a city has, the less it appeals to me. However Rome is a destination that should be seen if at all possible. The historical significance is undeniable and the food and drink on offer is sublime.

However points are lost and tiers dropped for the amount of mediocrity now present. That sounds a harsh statement, however Rome is very hit and miss. In the more “touristy” locations, food and drink is extortionate and the quality is at times questionable. There are genuine gems to be discovered in Rome, but you have to keep your wits about you.

Whether its the ruins, the art, the food or the romance, Rome has it all… you just have to squint a little sometimes.

Tier: Should See

Rank: 19th

11. Maldives

There isn’t much to say about the Maldives. Home to some of the best beaches in the world across the 1000+ islands. Whichever island you find yourself on, a world class beach is guaranteed. Each resort has its own private island, offering varying degrees of luxury – up to a ridiculous 6* level.

There are cheaper resorts, however don’t expect a cheap trip… this is a bucket list, once in a lifetime kind of destination. Unless you are a millionaire, in which case I hope you are reading this from your resort in the Maldives. Cheers to you, I am not jealous at all… promise.

The clear waters are home to magnificent coral, tropical fish and underwater caves. For those who like diving and snorkelling, the warm waters of the Maldives are perfect!

Tier: Worldie

Rank: 7th

10. Jaipur, India

Before reviewing the list from Big 7 Travel, Jaipur was not even on my radar. Nicknamed the Pink City thanks to its coral pink stucco buildings, Jaipur boasts many attractions from its colonial past, including the City Palace, the Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, and the Jaigarh fort.

Jaipur’s star attraction however is the Amer Fort in the hills just outside the city – be sure to set some time aside to visit this red sandstone and marble palace!

The streets of the city are busy with a mix of rickshaws, motorbikes and camels – take a detour through the bazaars to experience real Jaipur and collect your eclectic souvenir and some golgappa and kachoris.

Tier: Should See

Rank: 16th

9. London, England, UK

As per Edinburgh above, I wont be formally reviewing London.

I would chose the Scottish capital over a trip to London, and given my comments about the cost of Edinburgh, that says a lot about London.

I have spent a lot of time in London, both work and leisure, and I will continue to do so over the years ahead I have no doubt. So believe me when I say, unless it’s your first time and you have a dying urge to see Buckingham Palace, or the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben etc, I wouldn’t bother! If it wasn’t for work and family, I would seldom visit.

Full of tourist attractions? Yes.

Is it extortionately expensive? Yes.

Are the attractions worth the expense? No.

Tier: N/A

Rank: N/A

8. Bali, Indonesia

Does every successful travel content creator live in Bali these days? Or at least spend a lot of time there?

Bali is an Instagram haven – describing it as picturesque doesn’t do it justice! White beaches, waterfalls in the jungle, infinity pools with every villa, fantastic fresh fruit and veg with every meal. If you haven’t seen photos from Bali in recent times, I presume you are not on social media anymore.

Spirituality dominates this island paradise, and temples adorn the volcanic hills, such as Pura Luhur Batukau. Tourists should be incredibly respectful of the spirituality of the local population – if you are unsure, ask. Don’t just presume you can enter temples and take photographs.

I feel like I have already visited with the amount of videos and photographs plastered on social media, which has kind of ruined the surprise and dampened the intrigue…

Bali has to be in the top half of the tiers, but only just;

Tier: Must See

Rank: 13th

7. Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon claims the sun shines 290 days a year and the temperature rarely drops below 15 celcius! Which is quite some claim, however one I can back up having managed to get sunburn in October!

The food in Lisbon is fantastic – the bacalhau, or salted cod, is the most popular base ingredient and will be cooked in a different way in each different restaurant you visit! Whether you want all out luxury, or affordable quality, Lisbon has you covered. Weekend breaks are incredibly good value at around £250 for 2 people, return flights and hotel for the weekend.

I would recommend adding a day to your travel plans & hiring a car to visit Sintra – approximately 30 mins away. Sintra is a treasure trove, including the Castle of the Moors, the Palace of Monserrate, rounded off with an evening meal watching the sunset across the Sintra valley. You can take the regular direct train to Sintra if you prefer – however you are more limited as to where you can stop along the way.

Whilst Porto didn’t make the Big 7 Travel list, Lisbon is flying the flag for Portugal – and what a flag bearer it is! There is only one adjective needed, elite.

Tier: Elite

Rank: 8th

6. Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is a huge metropolis, stretching far and wide. A combination of different neighbourhoods with different identities makes Tokyo a brilliant melting pot of experiences for travellers exploring. Some areas are futuristic, with skyscrapers covered in neon lights and big screens, whilst next door you will find traditional wooden temples. Each time you turn a corner in Tokyo, a new surprise awaits – from restaurants to cocktail bars and the famous karaoke bars, to markets and museums such as the Samurai Museum.

Tokyo has a feel of Narnia about it – once you step through the wardrobe you don’t want to go back to the dull world on the other side. Whilst known for embracing the future, Tokyo and Japan as a whole has a fascinating history, making this an incredibly unique and exciting destination!

The unique offer from Tokyo sky rockets it towards the top of my tier list;

Tier: Life? Completed it mate

Rank: 3rd

5. Singapore

Singapore is a small independent island state off the coast of Malaysia. Incredibly efficient, immaculately clean and fast becoming a key hub to other destinations in Asia, Singapore may soon be a necessity in your travel plans.

The state of the art Jewel Changi Airport includes a 6 acre indoor forest complete with waterfall. Yes, you did just read that. An airport with a 6 acre indoor forest. Fancy a dip? It has a swimming pool and jacuzzi with poolside bar. Got a few hours to kill? Head to the cinema. All freely accessible (except the swimming pool & jacuzzi which costs around £10 unless you are staying at the onsite hotel) these features are somewhat mindboggling, but certainly guarantees an entertaining stop over!

Outside of the airport, a beautiful if not hectic city awaits. For those who watched series 1 of Race Across The World on BBC, the final destination point was the Marina Bay Sands observation deck – a skypark atop huge skyscrapers. Just around the corner, the Gardens By The Bay are also worth a visit.

If like me you love food – Singapore has you covered, from cheap street food to Michelin star level fine dining, the choice is yours!

This island nation is a must visit for anyone who has interests in exploring Asia. It is not a cheap destination, but you certainly get what you pay for!

Tier: Must See

Rank: 12th

4. New York City, New York, USA

New York, New York. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps.

Well, I am sleeping on New York. I get the hype, I understand the attraction. But for me to travel from the UK to the US specifically for New York? Pretty unlikely. It is a shoppers heaven, and home to classic tourist attractions like central park, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

I would like to see all of the above, minus the shopping, but I just don’t have a burning desire to visit. It is an iconic location, incredibly busy with locals and tourists alike. The name New York carries a lot of status. I just don’t feel like it will deliver that much fulfilment for me personally.

I feel to really enjoy New York as a city, I would need a local guide to show me the real culture and steer me clear of the tourist traps. It is a long way to go for a few tall buildings and a large statue (yes, I am being facetious). So without the insider to guide me, New York remains in the may happen pile for now…

Tier: Mayhap

Rank: 20th

3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is the playground of the rich. Home to some of the worlds tallest buildings and some of the most luxurious hotels, Dubai has been growing in popularity over the last few years.

This is another destination that is likely struggling for ranking as I have been here previously. More than most places, unless money is no object, Dubai is the kind of place you visit once in your life. I had a great few days here, visiting the Burj Al Arab, having drinks at the top of the Burj Khalifa, brunch at Atlantis The Palm and a trip to Meydan Racecourse.

The choice of restaurants bearing the name of famous chefs is endless – and are largely high quality (and high price). However after a few days with the price racking up, unless you are in all inclusive accommodation, Dubai could become a bit of a burden.

Will I go back to Dubai? Maybe. But unless something changes, it isn’t high on my list of priorities.

Tier: Mayhap

Rank: 21st

2. Hong Kong

Given the current political situation in Hong Kong I do not advise that anyone travels there for the moment. The situation is unstable and volatile, with regular clashes between police and protestors.

Politics aside, Hong Kong is not of huge appeal to me. The concrete jungle is one of the most densely populated countries on earth. Travelling here for business makes sense, however leisure holidays are incredibly unlikely.

I am very surprised that Hong Kong appears on the Big 7 Travel list. If I am missing something, let me know in the comments below!

Due to the political situation and tensions with the UK, it is bottom of my list for the time being. This is not based on the place itself and I mean no offence to any residents.

Tier: Relegated

Rank: 28th

  1. Sydney, Australia

And the number one is… Sydney?! Has someone handed Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope again?

There are glorious beaches nearby, and it is home to the famous Opera House, Darling Harbour and Sydney Harbour Bridge. But number 1 most Instagrammable place in the world is somewhat of a surprise.

I have been to Sydney previously, and it is a lovely city with incredibly hospitable people (just as they were across Australia). However given the distance and cost from the UK to Australia, a return trip is somewhat unlikely.

If anyone knows why Sydney is considered the most Instagrammable location, please enlighten me. I don’t recall seeing any photos of the city on Instagram in the last couple of years!

I am afraid for me, the most Instagrammable city is destined for relegation.

Tier: Relegated

Rank: 25th

Completed Tier List:

Ranking the 30 Most Instagrammable Places In The World in to tiers is a difficult task. There had to be winners and losers, and from an esteemed list like this one, coming bottom of the pile is no real insult.

Let me know what changes you would make to this list in the comments below!

Have a good ‘un guys!

TOP 5… As Yet Unseen: Europe

I love reading and writing reviews of places travelled, sharing experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. However I also love the buzz and excitement, dreaming of exploring those destinations as yet unvisited – a viewpoint I seldom see on other blogs / websites.

I wanted to share my excitement prior to visiting these locations so we all go on the journey together; from day dreaming, to trip planning and then finally living the dream and exploring each of these amazing destinations with each and every one of you. So here goes…

5. Bosnia and Herzegovina

First up, its Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yes, I know it’s a bit cheeky having an entire country on the list – but it is a land far too amazing to limit a trip to one spot. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most underrated and unexplored natural wonders in Europe, with just under 1.5m foreign tourists per year visiting the Balkan beauty based on 2019 figures (I have excluded 2020’s stats for obvious reasons).

For some the initial mental image conjured up when I say Bosnia & Herzegovina will be Mostar Bridge, however sadly for many the scenes of war from the news in years gone by will dominate.

Bosnia & Herzegovina has a troubled recent history – between 1992 and 1995 the Bosnian War saw an estimated 97,207 people killed. There have been many convictions for war crimes in the Bosnian war, including Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić & Ratko Mladić for committing genocide. It is incredibly important to bear this in mind when travelling to this region and be respectful of this. I strongly encourage you to visit the memorials across the country such as the Srebrenica–Potočari Memorial to pay your respects and learn about the history of the country.

Despite the troubled past, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a thriving country bursting with amazing culture and natural beauty. Bucket list activities include walking across the UNESCO world heritage bridge in Visegrad (pictured above), visiting the Pliva Waterfall located in Jajce town centre, exploring the capital Sarajevo, a trip to the aforementioned Mostar, climbing Maglic Mountain to swim in Trnovacko Lake in Sutjeska National Park, and finally rafting down Štrbački buk in Una National Park pictured below.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country rich with history, culture and natural beauty all bundled up in to one fantastic package. Whilst I love finding hidden gems off the well trodden tourist path, it feels wrong that only 1.5m foreign tourists visit this nation each year. For perspective, that means that on average the UK has more tourists in 2 weeks than visit Bosnia and Herzegovina in an entire year. This is definitely one to add to your bucket list!

4. Tibilisi & Batumi, Georgia

So number 5 was a little cheeky, but number 4 is as cheeky as it gets. The country of Georgia is in the Caucasus, right on the borderline between Eastern Europe and Western Asia – however as they are eligible for membership of European institutions including the EU and most importantly Eurovision… that qualifies Georgia for the European list in my book.

Now for the second elephant in the room. Yes, Tbilisi and Batumi are 2 separate cities approximately 400km apart – but let me explain…

The former Soviet state of Georgia is widely known as just that – a part of the old Soviet Union, but Georgia has so much culture and excitement to offer! A melting pot of Ottoman, Persian, Armenian and Soviet history and influences and a former stop along the famous Silk Road, Georgia is an intriguing and relatively unexplored nation. Tbilisi, the capital city, is one of Europes most up and coming cities, and is a must for my Top 5 list!

After exploring Tbilisi, the city becomes the perfect hub to launch out for day trips, my selection being;

  • the Monuments of Mtskheta, photographed above
  • a visit to Josef Stalin’s birthplace of Gori
  • exploring the oldest cave city in Georgia, Uplistsikhe

If a wine tasting floats your boat, then a trip to Sighnaghi is a must. Whilst visiting Sighnaghi is something I would like to do, this will be the trip I am prepared to sacrifice given I don’t really drink!

The chances are I will only ever visit Georgia once, so it makes sense to travel between cities & locations as and when required to ensure that key sights are not missed. So on that note…

Following exploring Tbilisi and the surrounding areas, a road trip to the Black Sea resort of Batumi is top of my list of priorities in Georgia (photographed below). The drive to Batumi would take at least a day, as there are a minimum of 10 stops to make along the way, my number 1 priority being a visit to Borjomi-Kharagauli national park in the lower Caucusus.

Once in Batumi my priorities are; taking the Argo Cable car in to the Anuria Mountain to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and its skyline, enjoying the pebbled beaches on the Black Sea, experiencing the restaurants & nightlife, and exploring the eclectic mix of neoclassical architecture alongside modern interpretations of architecture from the elite of Georgia in the present day.

Special thanks to Wander-lush.org for the inspiration to travel to Georgia and for some of the locations suggested above! If you want to check out their comprehensive Georgia travel guide, is is available here.

3. The Lofoten Islands, Norway

I have done it! At last, I have chosen an individual location. To be completely honest with you, there were 2 or 3 places in Norway that could have made this Top 5 list however I plan on multiple trips here and so I settled on just 1, and the winner is…. the Lofoten Islands.

The four main islands of Lofoten are Moskenesøy, Vestvågøy, Austvågøy and Flakstadøy. Located in the Arctic Circle, you would think that this is going to be a pretty bloody cold trip, right?! Well, you’d be wrong… or kind of wrong. The climate of the Lofoten Islands is described as mild winters and warm summers. Average winter temperatures are around 0 and on average in summer you can expect the low teens – so I would suggest the words “mild” and “warm” are a little generous by most standards, however this is the Arctic Circle after all!

Within the Lofoten Islands you will find beautiful fjords surrounded by imposing snow capped mountains. For the winter sport enthusiasts amongst you, if you travel here in the winter months one of the most popular activities is skiing. The winter is also the best time to see the humpback & killer whales around the Lofoten Islands – considered to be the best location in the world to see these ginormous species in real life, booking a whale watching trip is a must!

I will be travelling here in the winter months, but not primarily for the winter sports or the killer whales, but more for this…

The Lofoten Islands are the perfect location to see the aurora borealis, better known as the northern lights. This natural phenomenon occurs due to disturbances in the magnetosphere cause by solar winds (I have no idea either). But it is incredible!

Seeing the northern lights has been at the top of my travel wish list for years. Visiting Norway has been up at the top of that list for years too… I think its rather fitting that I check both items off the list in one trip! I know it is very much dependent on the weather conditions, however I will be booking a few days here to give myself the best possible chance to experience the northern lights in real life rather than through computer / TV screens!

2. Sardinia, Italy

Sadly, as I am writing this post, news has broken of wildfires burning through Sardinia. Already over 900 families have been forced to flee their homes and the fire has consumed over 20,000 hectares of land. The Italian fire fighters, with support planes from France and Greece are battling to get the fires under control. I wish them all the best in their brave efforts, and I send my love and support to the families impacted in this tragedy. Sardinia will be back just as beautiful, and stronger than ever.

From one extreme to the other – the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The warmth, the perfect golden beaches, and the clear waters with their famous turquoise shimmer sounds like the perfect trip to warm up after near frost bite conditions in Norway!

Sardinia is a large island, second only to Sicily in the Mediterranean, but wherever you choose to spend your time, you will be sure to make memories that last a lifetime.

I have previously had a full trip to Sardinia booked, but unfortunately had to cancel last minute due to injuries sustained in a car accident… but that’s a story for another time! It does however mean that I have a well researched plan of exactly what to do and where to stay, so here goes;

Starting with my number one tip for Italy, and specifically Sardinia, a stay at an Agriturismo. In short, taking the translation quite literally, they are tourist farms. Set in the rolling hills of Sardinia, there are hundreds of Agriturismo’s to choose from, some with views down to the sea, a chance to eat and drink produce directly from the farm, what is not to love?

Yes, I am sure some will be enhanced reality for the tourist trade, but that’s the same wherever you go! And it is certainly not a reason to avoid these little gems. I would recommend that you don’t spend your full trip here though – a night or 2 will suffice!

Next stop for me is the ancient walled city of Alghero, situated on the north west of the island. Alghero, captured by Catalan conquerors in the middle ages is one of the most beautiful and interesting destinations on the island. The historical charm of this stronghold has been preserved brilliantly, giving a chance to admire both its beauty and its history. The Catalan legacy is still visible today – with many inhabitants the direct descendants of the Catalonians, the co-official language of the town is the Alguerès dialect of the Catalan language.

A trip to Sardinia wouldn’t be complete without heading down south for a night in Cagliari before flying home! The historic capital of Sardinia, located on the seafront, the city rises up to Il Castello, giving breath-taking views back over the city itself. On the southern tip of the island, Cagliari is the most traditionally Italian city in an otherwise very unique island. The tight streets with plant lined balconies, Vespa scooters weaving in and out of tourists and locals alike. What is not to love?

1. The Bay Of Kotor, Montenegro

Here it is, my number 1 destination of my Top 5… As Yet Unseen: Europe list is the Bay of Kotor, or Boka Kotorska, Montenegro.

The Bay of Kotor has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, and encompasses several medieval towns such as Kotor, Tivat & Perast. It is incredibly hard to describe Boka Kotorska and do it justice.

Gorgeous, breathtaking, majestic, divine; however hefty your thesaurus, the brain-blowing beauty of the Bay of Kotor will leave you struggling for superlatives

Lonely Planet

They’re not wrong…

In the 18th century Boka Kotorska rivalled the naval fleets of Dubrovnik and Venice, however in the years since then its popularity declined. Kotor has had various ruling forces occupy their land…

From the French to Napoleon and the Italians, back to Montenegro with Russian backing and then to the Austrian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire before becoming part of Yugoslavia, and then Serbia and Montenegro following the collapse of Yugoslavia, until 2006 when Montenegro seceded from the union gaining full independence.

Since then, Montenegro has flourished. Approximately 2.5m foreign tourists visit the country each year, of which a large proportion travel to Boka Kotorska. This figure is still relatively low compared to other destinations, however it has increased by over 50% between 2016 and 2019. The positive being that the infrastructure improves to accommodate the increased numbers of tourists, with the negative that some of the charm will inevitably be lost as the tourist trade is capitalised upon.

From kayaking through the Blue Cave on the Lustica Peninsula, to exploring Our Lady of Rocks and Perast old town, or hiking the Ladder of Kotor for the ultimate view back over Boka Kotorska, there are endless activities and amazing things to see in this region.

Flights from the UK are direct in to Tivat, meaning holidays here are very easy to arrange and flights often start around the £90 return mark meaning they are also incredibly affordable! This is a popular destination, and given its status as a not so hidden gem, it is not as cheap as some other locations in the Balkans. Boutique hotels will cost around £350-450 for a week based on 2 adults sharing, however there are good quality apartments for approximately £150-250 per week. If you want a luxurious stay, dates in September currently cost around £540 for 2 people flights and accommodation for 7 nights. Given the location and the experiences, I would suggest that is fantastic value for money!

So there you have it, my Top 5… As Yet Unseen: Europe! Are there any destinations here you have added to your travel plans? Or anywhere else you think I should have considered? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a good ‘un guys!