Category : Travel Advice

Make the Most of London City Airport

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

What do you know about London City Airport? The chances are unless you use it, you don’t know much about it.

London City is perhaps the capital’s least-familiar airport, nowhere near as well known as the big four, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Heathrow. In fact it’s the only airport actually in London itself, a mere 22 minutes away from Bank station, making it the perfect solution when you’re flying in or out of the capital itself.

London City Airport Logo

London City Airport Logo

About London City Airport – One of the Capital’s Big Five

We thought it’ be useful to take a look at London City Airport facts and facilities, to help you make the most of the experience.

Where is London City Airport?

As Wikipedia says, it’s:

“located on a former Docklands site in the London Borough of Newham, some 11km (6.9 miles) east of the City of London and a smaller distance east of Canary Wharf. These are the twin centres of London’s financial industry, which is a major user of the airport.”

The full street address is The Royal Docks, Hartmann Road, London E16 2PX.

Getting to London City Airport

Being located in the city centre, the airport is impressively convenient for public transport but less so for cars and other vehicles. There’s a very good reason for this, their dedicated Travel Plan dating back to 2011. Here’s what they say about it:

“As part of our commitment to a range of measures to reduce the environmental impact of the Airport’s operation, London City Airport’s surface access strategy is to actively encourage its staff, passengers and visitors to use sustainable modes of transport to access the Airport site. Surface access at the airport is monitored and managed through the London City Airport Travel Plan (2011).”

The Plan has formalised targets to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles travelling to and from the site, in an effort to cut the impact that the airport’s staff, passengers and visitors have on the surrounding road network and the resulting air pollution.

London City Airport Station

London City Airport Station

High air pollution? Leave your vehicle and travel by public transport

There’s even a link to DEFRA on the airport website designed to tell you how high or low air pollution levels are likely to be on the day you’re travelling. If they’re high or very high, you’re strongly advised to leave your car at home to avoid making things even worse.

If you really can’t avoid using a car, there’s a handy route finder tool on the official airport website, here. All you do is enter the postcode of the place you’re travelling from, and you can also print the route suggested by the tool.

What are the public transport links like?

London City has excellent public transport links including the rapid Docklands Light Railway, which links to the Tube network as well as national railway stations. There’s a wide choice of buses, licensed London minicabs and taxis, trains and chauffeur services available. In fact the public transport links to and from the airport are so good that in 2008, Business Traveller magazine named it the airport with the best public transport links in the world.

London City Airport destinations

Flights from London city airport go to 45 or so key destinations, all taking off from a single, long runway. The destinations on offer include a generous handful of internal flights within the British Isles, namely Aberdeen, Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, the Isle of Man and Jersey.

London City Airport departures to European destinations include:

  1. Angers
  2. Amsterdam
  3. Antwerp
  4. Avignon
  5. Billund
  6. Brest
  7. Brive
  8. Chambery
  9. Deauville
  10. Dresden
  11. Dusseldorf
  12. Florence
  13. Faro
  14. Frankfurt
  15. Geneva
  16. Grenada
  17. Ibiza
  18. Hamburg
  19. Luxembourg
  20. Madrid
  21. Milan
  22. Mahon
  23. Malaga
  24. Nice
  25. Quimper
  26. Nantes
  27. Paris Orly
  28. Palma, Mallorca
  29. Rome
  30. Rotterdam
  31. Toulon
  32. Venice
  33. Zurich

You can also catch flights to New York’s JFK airport from London City. All of which makes it a particularly convenient starting point for and business travel.

If you’d like to check our London City Airport arrivals and departures in real time, here’s a link to their live, real-time departures and arrivals boards.

London City Airport Destinations

London City Airport Destinations from

How busy does it get?

In 2013 the airport catered for an impressive 3.3 million passengers, a 12% increase on the previous year and a figure that made it the fifth business London airport behind Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton as well as Britain’s 15th busiest.

Hotels near London city airport

Being so central, the wonderful world of London hotels is at your fingertips, with everything from 5 star mega-luxury to basic B&Bs. There are literally hundreds of hotels in the vicinity and at least 25 close to the airport itself, including the four star Ramada Hotel & Suites at London Docklands and the Crowne Plaza, also at London Docklands.

Want a recommendation? The Aloft London comes in for particularly good reviews. It’s an incredibly smart 4 star hotel in Canary Wharf itself, a stone’s throw from the Excel Exhibition Centre and a masterpiece in eco-friendliness. Convenient for the O2 Arena and Boleyn Ground Stadium, it’s right on the doorstep of the Emirates Air Line Royal Docks Station and the magnificent Thames Barrier. Here’s what you get.

  • Restaurant
  • Indoor pool
  • Bar/lounge
  • Free wireless internet in the hotels and in the rooms
  • Irons/ironing boards
  • Private bathrooms with wonderful rainfall showerheads
  • Self-parking
  • Connecting / adjoining rooms available
  • Flat screen TV
  • Daily housekeeping services
  • Rooms with a shower only if that’s what you prefer
  • Free cots for little children if you need them
  • Every room individually furnished
London City Airport take off

London City Airport Take Off from

Parking at London city airport

As we’ve already mentioned, LCA is keen to minimise vehicles at the airport and actively promotes the area’s legendary public transport links. As such parking there isn’t cheap, costing £6 for 0-30 minutes in short stay at the terminal and £20 for just 0-4 hours in long stay. The message is clear: it’s best to leave your vehicle at home!

If that’s not possible, the airport provides terminal/short term parking and long term parking. Short stay parking is just 2 minutes from the terminal, long stay is also very close to the action, a maximum of 7 minutes away.

There’s free motorbike and bicycle parking under the DLR viaduct in front of the terminal and discounted rate disabled car parking in the short stay car park.

Airport facilities

What about the usual home comforts you’d expect from any decent airport? Here’s what you’ll find on tap:

  • A concierge service
  • Car hire
  • Free WiFi
  • Currency exchange facilities
  • Two spotless outlets servinghot and cold drinks and freshly cooked food
  • Left luggage
  • Shoe shine
  • A WH Smith and a WH Smith book shop
  • Duty Free shopping in Departures, after Security
  • Boots
  • Links of London – jewellery

The views…

As you’d expect from an airport sited in England’s capital city, the views at take-off and landing are absolutely spectacular.

London City Airport Runway

London City Airport from

You’ll see the entire city unfolding beneath you in all its glory, everything from Docklands itself and the Millennium Dome to the city’s many splendid pieces of contemporary architecture, ancient monuments, beautiful green parklands, royal palaces, crowded shopping streets, museums and gracious tree-lined avenues.

For that reason alone, it’s well worth starting and ending your journey at London City Airport!

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Which Countries are Safe for LGBT Travel?

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

Morocco is usually a pretty tolerant country. But all the same, a 70 year old British gay man was arrested and jailed there… although not for long. Ray Cole, who came out a few years ago, was sentenced to four months, sleeping on a concrete floor in a Moroccan jail and sharing space with murderers and rapists. In his words, the prison he spent time in was no better than a concentration camp. But what had he done to cause such offence?

Nothing, as it turns out. Just ‘homosexual images’ found on his password-protected mobile phone. Thankfully Mr Cole was freed early after a Marrakesh legal team, employed by his family, lodged an appeal.

The family and Mr Cole are very grateful to the Moroccoan authorities and the thousands of people who lent their support, from all over the world. But the message the incident sends is a sinister one all the same: if you visit Morocco, you risk facing serious charges for so-called ‘crimes’ that most people in this country feel aren’t crimes at all. It means Morocco’s safety is under question for gay travellers.

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In response we thought it’d be useful to take a look at the safest places to travel if you’re a member of Britain’s respected LGBT community, and the nations it’s safest to avoid. It’s a post we’d much rather not have to write. But that’s the way the world is right now. Let’s hope we don’t see any more incidents like this, and that things improve right across the world. Until then, sadly, if you’re gay you need to take a bit more care when abroad than straight people.

If you’ve had any relevant LGBT travel experiences, we’d love to share them with our readers. In the meantime, here are some guidelines about where’s safe and where isn’t. Bear in mind that things can change fast, and visit the excellent Wikitravel page on the subject before you go, to make extra certain you’ve got the story straight for your destination.

LGBT-friendly travel destinations

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • USA, especially especially in the larger cities, the north east and west coast
  • Costa Rica
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Uruguay
  • Israel
  • Lebanon
  • Turkey
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Cambodia

Europe’s attitude to LGBTs

As a general rule, Europe gets less safe for the LGBT community the further east you go. Homosexuality is not illegal in eastern and south east Europe but in some places you risk harsh discrimination from those in power as well as the locals. Take Russia which, in 2013, brought in a series of laws designed to make “promotion of a homosexual lifestyle” illegal. This means being open about your sexuality really isn’t worth the risk, as anyone who has spent time in a Russian jail will tell you.

Rainbow gay flag in Madrid

Rainbow Flag in Madrid – from

Actively gay-friendly nations

Some of the most tolerant nations are actively gay-friendly. They include Nepal, the first country in the region to decriminalise homosexuality completely and legalise same-sex marriage.  The Philippines are also famously tolerant, as are Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and South Korea.

What about being out in Africa?

While the majority of African countries are dangerously anti-gay, South Africa has actually built civil rights for gays into its constitution. So much so that Cape Town is Africa’s most vibrant and exciting gay friendly  city. At the opposite side of the spectrum, many African nations threaten openly gay people with imprisonment and even the death penalty, although thankfully it’s rare for tourists and travellers to fall foul of the draconian legal systems in such places.

There’s plenty of excellent advice and information here on the About Africa Travel website, where there’s a useful video and a detailed video transcript to explore. As the site says:

“As varied as this vast continent’s landscape is its struggle for human rights as it has moved from a colonial past towards independence. Africa is perpetually in the news regarding civil and human rights. It is a hot bed of democratic experimentation.”

Let’s hope their experimentation takes them in the right direction, since the continent is one of the planet’s most fascinating, thrilling, unvisited, unexploited and unspoiled travel destinations.

Countries with the death penalty for homosexuality

Here’s a list of the countries it’s best to avoid if you don’t want to have to hide your sexuality.  They all have a death penalty in place for homosexual ‘offences’ and while they don’t all actually use the laws and it’s unlikely to come to that, it’s a risk most people would rather not take.

In Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Senegal are amongst the worst offenders, all places where prejudice is rife in official circles and equally bad amongst the general population.

  • Algeria
  • Mauritania
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Nigeria
  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • The Maldives
  • Saudi Arabia
  • UAE
  • Yemen

Surprising attitudes to gays in Jamaica

You might think the popular, thoroughly Westernised tourist hotspot of Jamaica would be safe. It’s so laid back, the home of reggae, somewhere thousands of Brits go on holiday every year as well as being a place where almost everyone and his dog has smoked ganja at one point or another. But it just goes to show how careful you have to be. Jamaica is actually rife with violence and discrimination against the LGBT community, and the authorities are at best apathetic about protecting gay people.

As Wikipedia says:

“Jamaica has been described by some human rights groups as the most homophobic place on earth because of the high level of violent crime directed at LGBT people.”

Other countries simply have an embedded attitude. Take the Cayman islands, a British Overseas Territory that you might expect to be as tolerant as we are in the UK. But it isn’t – despite there being no laws against homosexuality on the islands, homophobia is culturally endemic.

Is it always the same for homosexuals and lesbians?

This is where things get even more complicated. In some countries lesbianism isn’t affected by either the law or local prejudices, in others everyone who is gay is lumped into the same classification.  It’s wise to find out the exact situation, and the Wikitravel link we provided earlier in this post is a great reference point for discovering the subtleties behind each nation’s prejudices.

Tel Aviv - Best of Gay

Tel Aviv – from

Advice about staying safe abroad if you’re gay

There’s only one down-side to Britain’s famous tolerance: it’s very easy to get used to. Over here it’s usually perfectly OK for gay people to make public displays of affection. But in some countries it’s very dangerous indeed, even potentially lethal. As a general rule, unless you’ve researched the situation carefully and can be certain it’s safe, it’s best not to display your feelings publicly. Sad but true.

Way back in summer 2002 Britain’s Foreign Office released advice for gay people about staying safe abroad, including some ‘top tips’. It’s a long time ago and things have changed considerably since then, sometimes for the better and sometimes worse. But they still form a common sense framework. Here they are.

  • Read the FCO’s Travel Advice
  • Find out about your destination
  • Buy sexual health products before you set off
  • Check your hotel takes same-sex couples
  • Some resorts may only accept homosexuality in certain areas
  • Avoid potentially risky situations: stay alert
  • Don’t leave belongings unattended or carry lots of cash
  • If you get into trouble, contact your tour operator, local police or the nearest British consulate
  • Consular staff will handle problems “discreetly and courteously”
Beautiful Goa

Beautiful Goa – from

There’s also plenty more country-specific information about your rights as a gay person here, on Wikipedia.

What about your tips and experiences?

If you have anything useful to share, we’d love to know about it. Please leave a comment and help us help others in the gay community stay safe abroad.

Airport Security Developments in an Increasingly Risky World

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

In late August the British Home Secretary Theresa May announced a decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre to increase the nation’s terrorist threat levels from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’. It signals experts’ fears that the risk of an attack on our country is now ‘highly likely’.

The Home Secretary already holds the power to withhold your passport if it’s ‘in the public interest’. But if you’re one of the tiny minority of Brits considering travelling abroad to fight in Syria, the new classification makes it easier still for the authorities to take your passport in an effort to stop you. Having said that, assuming you’re an ordinary, law-abiding citizen you probably won’t notice any difference at the airport… yet. But if the situation changes to ‘critical’, you might.

British Passport

British Passport

In the meantime the announcement will mostly mean extra activity by the country’s secret services and intelligence organisations. There are a few non-airport related security measures designed to reduce the threat, including emergency laws to allow the police and security services to access suspect communications. And the government will be working closely with the Kurdish people to provide the weaponry they need to fight Islamic State militants.

The UK will be helping the USA by handing over intelligence gathered in Britain, and the government will be delivering aid to people abroad who have been displaced by the fighting. Last but not least, there’ll be changes in policing levels in Britain, including more ‘visible patrols’ by armed police.

What effect does all this have on airport security, if any? And what can you expect next time you fly?

UK airport security – what can you expect?

It’s nothing new – security searches are carried out on all passengers and baggage before they’re allowed to board a ‘plane, and have been for some years. Airport security staff are trained to scan people either randomly or whenever someone sets off a metal detector alarm. Oddly, passengers are usually scanned on the way out of Britain, but not on the way in.

UK Airport Security

UK Airport Security – from

Religious and cultural head gear

You religion or culture might mean you wear special head gear. Airport security staff are within their rights to search your head gear, but you can request they do so with a hand-held scanning machine so you don’t have to remove it.

Essential medical gadgets

If you have a cardioverter-defibrillator implant, AKJA an ICD, which will set off the scanner alarms, you’ll need to show your ICD ID card on the way through. Metal detectors are safe, but it’s never a good idea to scan directly over the heart. Luckily airport staff have been trained not to, but many people choose a hand search instead, which is within your rights.

The same goes for your hearing aid. You can request a hand search instead of a scan, but you need a doctor’s letter confirming why your device can’t be scanned. Having said that, if the airport staff decide they want to scan your hearing aid, they have the right to do so whatever your doctor says.

Scans for children and pregnant women

Body scanning machines are common in bigger airports, and you can be legally scanned even if you’re pregnant. Children can be scanned, too.

What happens during an airport body scan?

You can ask for a private search instead of a body scan, during which you might be asked to loosen or take off some of your clothes. Bear in mind you’re allowed to ask for a same-sex officer. They won’t be able to identify you from the image they scan and you won’t meet them. It’s anonymous. While some people find private searches even more intrusive than a machine scan it’s a personal thing, horses for courses.

The scan takes just a few seconds and should take place in the security area. It reveals if you have a colostomy bag, implant or prosthesis, but staff are trained to be respectful and discreet. After the scan has been studied and you’ve been passed, it is deleted.

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You might have to take off your shoes, belt and accessories when going through the body scanner, as well as removing metal items from your pockets. If you have a laptop, you have to take it out of your bag and put it through the scanner separately.

Can you refuse a body scan?

If you refuse a full body scan at a British airport, you won’t be able to fly. It’s that simple. There’s no alternative and no exemption for children. Some people have tried to refuse on religious grounds, but they have also been prevented from flying.

Body scan best practice

The Department of Transport have a Code of Practice for full body scanners. These are the main points:

  •  The scanner’s operators and passengers must be separated by a screen
  • The scanned images are totally anonymous
  • The scans are destroyed once you’ve been passed as safe
  • Security staff are told to randomly pick people to scan
  • You can’t be chosen because of your age, sex, race or ethnic origin
  • You can ask to be scanned by a member of the same sex as you

What do the security measures depend on?

The level of security you’ll encounter at the airport varies depending on the airline and destination. Because US flights tend to come with extra security measures, it makes sense to allow more time if you’re flying to the States.

UK Border

UK Border – from

Questions, questions…

Whatever your destination or airline, you’ll be asked to confirm you packed your baggage yourself. You might face more questions about your luggage. There’s an ongoing ban on carrying sharp objects in your hand luggage, and if they find anything sharp it’ll be confiscated. There’s usually a comprehensive list of the substances and objects banned from flights on the airport website as well as at the airport itself – it’s best to check online before you pack.

Liquid, gel, cream and so on are allowed in your hand luggage as long as you don’t carry more than 100ml. You have to store it in a sealed container, which in turn should be stashed in a transparent sealed plastic bag designed to hold less than a litre in total.

What about baby food and essential medications? Exceptions are sometimes made but you might have to submit to extra security checks. And remember, if you buy duty-free in transit and it’s more than 100ml in volume, you can’t take your purchases through security.

What about airport parking security?

What about airport parking, our main focus? Most airport car parks are already super-secure, many with security patrols, security lighting and CCTV and some even use guard dogs. It appears the main perceived risk is people taking dodgy stuff on aeroplanes.

Airport security advice for disabled people and those carrying medicines

If you’re disabled, you and your ‘mobility aid’, for example your wheelchair if you have one, will be searched. And there are some special measures to take. You should inform the airline about your disability at least 2 days before you fly. And if you want to carry medicines and medical equipment on board, you’ll need a signed doctor’s letter explaining what you need your medicines and medical equipment for.

Liquid medicines come in for special scrutiny. If you need to take more than 100ml you must check with the airline first, carry it separately and declare it to security staff. And it’s also important to check the rules concerning medication at your country of destination, via the country’s Embassy or High Commission. Some nations don’t allow medicines in, full stop. Others have restrictions in place.

What’s on the cards for future airport security measures?

Most aviation security specialists believe current levels of scanning technology are ideal, able to detect suspicious devices with ease. It’s also worth noting that as security threats change, the scanning equipment is updated to cope.

Additional Security Checks

Additional Security Checks – from

If security threats get worse and reach ‘critical’ levels, we may see extra security measures at Britain’s airports. If so, we’ll feature them here in our blog.

Airport Survival Guide – Making the Most of Delays

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

If you adore spending time hanging around the airport waiting for your flight, you’re a very rare bird indeed. Most people dread delays because it means they have to hang around in a sterile, overly-bright, echoing, noisy and uncomfortable space for hours and hours, where the only entertainment is shopping, eating or drinking.

Tired passengers stranded at the airport

Stranded at the airport – from

The thing is, when you’re in an airport you’re trapped on the premises. There’s no outdoor space to escape to, no fresh air. Most airports are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by big, busy roads. If you have children with you it’s even more of a challenge to stay sane when your flights are delayed. It’s even a challenge under ordinary circumstances because there’s almost always ages to wait.

It’d be lovely if flying was as simple as getting on a bus or train, where you just turn up and go – but these days, with ever-increasing security measures and overcrowded skies, air travel is about as far from straightforward as it gets. So how do you make the best of the experience, transforming it from a potential nightmare into something bearable or better?

Here’s our airport survival guide.

How to Survive Airports Without Losing Your Mind

Most people tolerate airports. Unless you’re a plane spotter they don’t tend to be places people fall in love with, visit just for fun or can’t wait to return to! But one thing is certain – they’re remarkably well equipped. So much so that now and again people actually live in airports, sometimes for years on end.

Take the unfortunate Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who was exiled from his home country, Iran, then had his passport stolen in Paris en route to Britain. Refused entry into the GB, he lived at Paris’ Charles de Gulle airport for more than seventeen years. Or Sanjay Shah, who tried to get into the UK on a British Overseas citizen passport but was refused. He’d already handed over his Kenyan passport and spent more than 400 days at Nairbobi airport protesting his case, eventually winning full British citizenship.

Then there’s Edward Snowden, either a hero or villain depending on your viewpoint, who spent a very scary 39 days holed up at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, hiding from the US security forces before being granted temporary asylum in Russia. And the Brit Gary Peter Austin who was stuck, broke, at an airport in the Philippines for 23 days, having missed his flight home.

No doubt they all discovered there’s everything you need for basic survival on an airport premises: water, food and drink, ways to keep clean, toilets, shops, bars and even places to sleep. There’s no way their experiences were fun… but they illustrate just how well-equipped airports are. Which means you should be able to survive a few hours’ wait without going crazy.

In-Airport Entertainment Takes Off

Airport managers are aware their premises are not always the most fun places to be. In fact many airports are so conscious of it that they’re making amends. Live music, art, ceramics and sculpture exhibitions, ice rinks and IMAX cinemas, rooftop swimming pools, Jacuzzis and water slides are just some of the facilities being put in place to lighten the airport experience.

Sleeping on the floor at the airport

Finding a place to sleep at the airport – from

If you’re lucky you’ll pass through an airport offering a spa or sauna, ice rink, casino, miniature golf or even lots of lovely green stuff, including stunning gardens like Sydney Airport’s 30m vertical garden stuffed with more than 8,000 beautiful plants. But what if you’re going via a bog standard, ordinary airport and you have a few long, dull hours to kill?

DIY Airport Entertainment

You could easily spend a small fortune while you’re waiting on sky high-priced drinks, snacks and shopping. Or you could be a bit more self-reliant and go equipped. Here are just some of the things you can do to make the wait bearable without spending all your holiday money before you get off the ground.

  • The simplest of all? Take a book, or your Kindle
  • Most airports provide free WiFi so feel free to take your gadgets along. The wonderful world of the interweb can keep you entertained for hours whatever your age or taste – just make sure the batteries are fully charged and take your charger
  • Take a picnic lunch, find a quiet spot and relax
  • Play I Spy, Charades or cards
  • Take a miniature travel chess set with you. You can always play draughts with it if you don’t play chess
  • The Telegraph has produced a suite of airport survival guides for a handful of specific UK airports, which you’ll find here
  • Make up stories about the interesting people you see
  • Take the old fashioned route – get the kids to draw pictures of the aeroplanes or write about the experience in a holiday scrapbook – an ordinary hardback book of plain or lined paper is perfect
  • Book into an airport lounge and chill, far away from the madding crowd
  • Go for a walk and stretch your legs – major airports are absolutely massive and there’s lots to see

Turn up Just in Time

You could minimise the stress and hassle by leaving just enough time instead of getting there hours early. Most airlines recommend you turn up at least 90 minutes before your flight takes of. But many seasoned experts make a point of arriving in time for boarding instead.

The problem here is the roads. If you’re driving to the airport you need to factor in extra time for traffic jams and delays. On the other hand, going by train means there’s much less risk of being late.

Crowds at Gatwick Airport

Crowds at Gatwick Airport – from

How late you leave it depends on how brave you are. Some seasoned commuters have got it down to a fine art and turn up at the last possible minute fresh and un-stressed. Others are far too farty to risk missing their flight and prefer to leave plenty of spare time. It’s a personality thing.

… or Turn up in Good Time

Some experts recommend getting to the airport two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international journeys. Others even recommend adding another 40 minutes on top just in case. It’s up to you – you might find it much more stressful to have to hang around for hours than leave it late and catch your plane by the skin of your teeth. Just choose the tactic that makes you feel the happiest and most comfortable.

The best of both worlds? Book yourself into an airport hotel so you’re actually on the premises on the morning of your flight and leave transport-related risks behind. As you’d expect airport hotels are fully soundproofed, so are often much less noisy than hotels nowhere near an airport. And a good night’s sleep works wonders if you’re feeling frayed at the edges.

Fly at Crazy Times

If crowds, hustle and bustle drive you nuts, it’s probably best to fly ridiculously early in the morning or late at night when airports are half asleep. There’s more space, less noise and it’s altogether much more mellow.

Have a Plan Just in Case Things go Pear-Shaped

It helps to make a like a boy scout. If you prepare for a delay you’ll be much less fazed when one happens because you’re physically and mentally prepared.  Your airport delay survival kit?

  • Wear comfy, loose clothes and shoes, bearing in mind airport concourses are almost always far too hot for comfort
  • Take ear plugs to shut out the constant hum of noise
  • Bring headache pills just in case
  • Pack at least one book, newspaper, magazine or internet-accessible gadget in your hand luggage so it’s easily accessible
  • Take healthy snacks and drinks to avoid poisoning yourself with endless junk food or spending a bomb in airport restaurants
  • Bring sunglasses to protect your eyes against that awful fluorescent glare
  • Pack a blow-up cushion for your backside, to make the plastic seats bearable

Let an Airport Lounge Take the Strain

One sure-fire way of escaping the crowds to enjoy peace, quiet and comfort is to book yourself into a smart airport lounge, away from all the usual chaos. After all, if you can’t avoid having to hang around you might as well hang around in relative luxury.

Heathrow Airport VIP Lounge

Heathrow Airport VIP Lounge – from

You don’t need to be an A list celeb, or even on the C list. Ordinary people are perfectly welcome. Some VIP airport lounges are so exclusive they only take fifty passengers at a time, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be one of them.

Most private airport lounges include drinks and snacks in the price, which starts from as little as £13.50. All you have to do is dress reasonably smartly – smart/casual will do just fine – and chill out. Lounges are no place for drunken behaviour, so if that’s what you like to do while waiting around at the airport, it’s best to restrict yourself to public areas!

What about the kids? Some airport lounges allow children in, but if not you’ll be told during the lounge booking process. If you take yours into a private lounge, bear in mind that people pay good money for the peace and quiet, and  make sure your little ones stay low-key and calm.

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What About Your Tips?

If you’ve got airport delays down pat and sail through without so much as a sniff, never mind a nervous breakdown, we’d love to know your tricks of the trade. How do you survive airports unscathed?




How to get to London Airports: The Big Four

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

Even though there are numerous regional airports to choose from these days, you might still find yourself heading for one of the major London airports to kick off your holiday or business trip.

Getting to and from London’s Big Four Airports

You’re flying from one of London’s big four airports. Is it best to leave your car at home and find alternative transport? Or is a car your best bet? How to get to London airports quickly, cheaply and efficiently? We thought it’d be useful to take a look at the fares and journey times involved in getting to and from Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted and Luton.

Heathrow Airport – About the Heathrow Express Train

Heathrow Express Train

Heathrow Express Train from

Some people think the Heathrow Express train service is far too expensive. A single fare from Paddington costs over £20 and a return ticket around £34. At roughly £1.40 a mile over its 15 mile length, it’s one of Britain’s most expensive train journeys. But while it’s expensive on the face of it, you don’t face the risk of traffic jams and other delays on the roads.

While you occasionally get a delay on the railways, it’s much less common than traffic jams. If it’s absolutely crucial to get there in good time and catch your flight, the Express service might be your best bet.

Ordinary Train Services to Heathrow

On the other hand the ordinary, everyday service from Paddington only takes eleven minutes longer but costs just under a tenner for a single ticket. The tube is also cheaper than the Heathrow Express, taking around 50 minutes on the Piccadilly Line and costing just £6 or so if you own an Oyster card, just over £10 without an Oyster card. Apart from the low cost it’s also more reliable than road transport, with less risk of delays.

Catch the Bus or Coach to Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Central Bus Station

Double Decker at Heathrow Central Bus Station

National Express is another bargain-basement solution but like taking your car, it is equally prone to delays on the road. It costs just £12 return from Victoria Coach Station to Heathrow, and it takes less than an hour… as long as there aren’t any crashes, road closures or jams. If you decide to make the journey on local buses it’ll take a lot longer because of the number of stops they make and the circuitous routes they take.

About the Gatwick Express Train Service

Gatwick Express Train

Gatwick Express Train – from

The Gatwick Express, which runs from London Victoria train station, costs just under £18 for a single and just over £31 for a return ticket. Like the Heathrow Express it’s seriously fast, stopping nowhere along the way. It’s a bit cheaper mile for mile than the Heathrow Express, too.

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Ordinary Trains to Gatwick

The ordinary, everyday National Rail train service from Victoria, which is run by Southern Railways, and the service from London Bridge, run by First Capital Connect, cost £10 for a single ticket and £19 return. It only takes six minutes longer than the Gatwick Express from Victoria and just 60 seconds longer if you get on at London Bridge.

Central London to Gatwick Airport by Bus

If you pick the right time to travel, you can get from Earl’s Court to Gatwick by EasyBus for as little as four quid. Wow!

Getting to Stansted Airport

London Stansted Airport

London – Stansted Airport

The Stansted Express train service takes you from either London’s Liverpool Street or Tottenham Hale to the airport, with fares from just £16 when you book 30 days or more in advance. But if you book later the price can double.

You could use the Greater Anglia rail service, the only one to link with Stansted, or travel from central London by coach with EasyBus. If you’re lucky you might be able to pick up a return EasyBus fare from central London’s Baker Street for just £4.

Getting to Luton Airport

While Stansted is the capital’s fourth busiest airport, it doesn’t have its own Express train service like the other three. You can travel by train on either First Capital Connect or East Midlands trains, both of which depart from St Pancras and cost about £26 return. There’s a bus connection at the other end, running from Luton Airport Parkway station to the airport itself.

EasyBus Delivers the Best Bargains

EasyBus steps in again with remarkably low fares, but bear in mind buses are prone to the same road delays as cars, which means you’re taking a risk. If EasyBus dings your bell you can catch one from London’s Baker Street, with return fares from just four quid whatever airline you’re flying with. You don’t have to fly with easyJet to take advantage of the service.

What about a Minicab?

Just like private cars, minicabs can suffer delays on the roads. But when you book far enough in advance you can get some really great bargains. Most minicab firms have special airport rates for the big four London airports, and they’re often fixed so you don’t have to worry about the fare mounting up.

From central London to Heathrow, for example, can cost as little as £26. If four of you are travelling together, that’s only £6.50 each. If you’re lucky enough to live in a less expensive area of Britain, cabs can cost even less.

The ultimate bargain – Getting a lift from a family or friends?

Say there are four of you. If you get a lift in and back from a generous friend or relative you can split the petrol cost between you, avoid airport parking fees altogether and get picked up by someone friendly and familiar after your holiday or business trip. You might even save enough cash to give them a tip for their trouble!

Just bear in mind the same rules apply whatever type of road transport you take: I there’s a jam or a delay you’ll get stuck in it, whereas there’s much less risk of delays on the rail network.

Getting the Timing Right

If you’re driving to the airport you’d be silly not to leave enough spare time for potential delays. The same goes if you’re travelling by public transport. Never book a ticket that only leaves you with a few minutes’ grace. Book yourself on a service that leaves you a decent amount of spare time if something goes wrong, so you don’t miss your flight.

If you’re travelling by train, check whether the train actually takes you to the airport itself or leaves you to catch a bus transfer service to the airport. All Gatwick trains, for example, drop you off at the airport itself, with only a two minute escalator journey onto the concourse.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking Your Car to the Airport


  • Airport parking is cheap, secure and convenient
  • You are in full control of your journey from beginning to end
  • You don’t have to drag heavy luggage around train stations and bus concourses
  • There’s a wide range of airport parking options to choose from
  • You can usually pre-book your parking space so it costs less
  • You can choose valet parking and come home to a sparkling clean car
  • You can often opt for special business parking deals…
  • … or choose a special meet & greet or return-greet service


  • You risk being caught in delays on the roads
  • If you have jet lag, you’ll have to drive home even if you feel too tired to drive safely
  • Fuel costs a fortune, and the further you have to travel to the airport the more it costs
  • You might break down
  • You have to pay for airport parking

What’s Your Best Tip for Travelling to and from London’s Airports?

What are your top tips for getting to and from Gatwick, Luton, Stansted or Heathrow quickly, efficiently, cheaply and painlessly? We’d love to share them.

About Jet Lag – The Latest Research and Recommendations

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

You’ve stashed your car safely, taking full advantage of convenient airport parking. You’ve had a great night’s sleep in a smart hotel airport. You’ve enjoyed a relaxing pre-flight experience in a peaceful, comfortable, well-equipped airport lounge. Your flight goes smoothly. But as soon as you get to your long haul destination, jet lag hits you like a speeding train.

Suddenly you’re all woolly and weary. You can’t think straight. You’re half asleep all day, wandering around in a dream world, and full of life at night when everyone else is fast asleep. It’s one of the most uncomfortable feelings you can have short of actually being ill, and it’s perfectly capable of spoiling the first few days of your precious holiday or making that business meeting horribly challenging when it should be straightforward.

Let’s face it. Jet lag is awful. We could go into the causes and symptoms of jet lag but it has been done many times before. We think it’s more helpful to cut to the chase, look at the latest scientific research and identify the current best advice about returning to normal as quickly as possible.

Jet Lag

Jet Lag Effects – from

What is the latest research on jet lag?

New findings reveal more about how our body clock works

In March 2014 Science Daily reported on research by a team at The University of Manchester, who had identified a mechanism governing how our body clocks react to changes in the environment. The discovery has been tipped to eventually deliver a solution to the health effects of jet lag. The team found that an enzyme called CK1epsilon controls how well or poorly our body clocks adjust and reset when faced with changes in light and temperature.

As Dr David Bechtold, the team leader, says about body clocks, “At the heart of these clocks are a complex set of molecules whose interaction provides robust and precise 24 hour timing. Importantly, our clocks are kept in synchrony with the environment by being responsive to light and dark information.”

Apparently mice without the enzyme managed the change to a new lighter or darker environment, similar to the effect of jet lag, much faster than normal. The finding highlighted the potential of special drugs which suppress CK1epsilon to speed up the body clock’s adaptation to new environments much faster as well as minimising the metabolic disturbances jet lag is notorious for. As the team’s research progresses, we might eventually have the knowledge and drugs needed to enhance the body clock’s ability to deal with the condition.

This is great news considering jet lag is now seen as much more than merely uncomfortable and inconvenient. It is becoming clear that body clock disruption is responsible for increasing the incidence and severity of diseases including obesity and diabetes. And research revealed in January 2014 is even more disturbing, with jet lag seemingly responsible for disrupting the function of our genes. As Forbes reports:

“Researchers at the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey in the UK interrupted study participants’ sleep at regular intervals over three days, taking blood samples to monitor gene function. The findings: Daytime sleeping disrupted the rhythms of up to one third of the participants’ genes.”

Jet Lag

Jet Lag – from

A new jet lag app for your mobile

April 2014 saw a jet lag mobile app released by a team of mathematicians from the University of Michigan, and it’s a revolutionary beast. It works using a set of previously unknown shortcuts to help the jet lagged adjust their body clocks to new time zones much more quickly and efficiently.

In the scientists’ view, overcoming jet lag is a maths problem, so they set about calculating the optimal way to adjust across time zones. The resulting iPhone app is called Entrainment, the word the scientific community use for synchronising circadian rhythms with time. The app makes use of the premise that light, especially in the blue wavelength, is the signal that affects our body clocks most and is the main protagonist in regulating our circadian rhythms.

The body clock’s fluctuations do more than tell us when to eat, sleep and wake. They actually regulate processes at a cellular level. So any help you can get to reset your inner clock quickly will benefit your entire being, not just affect how sleepy or awake you feel. Best of all, the app is free and you can download it at the Entrain website.

What about Melatonin?

Sadly the latest research reveals Melatonin doesn’t affect jet lag. Any benefit you may have felt is almost certainly down to the amazingly powerful placebo effect, where your strong belief that it’ll work makes it actually work… but only to a certain extent. Even worse, taking the stuff at the wrong time can make your jet lag more acute than ever.



As the nojetlag website reports:

“257 Norwegian doctors who travelled to New York for five days each took either 5 milligrams of melatonin at bedtime, 0.5mg at bedtime, 0.5mg taken at various times each day, or placebo (false pills) to be taken on the first day of travel and continued for five days.

The doctors then rated their jet lag symptoms on the day they travelled from New York to Oslo, Norway, or 6 hours eastward, and for the ensuing six days in Norway. The results were compared to earlier baseline measurement of jet lag taken when the doctors travelled to New York.

The study showed that the different doses of melatonin were no better than placebo at preventing jet lag symptoms, said author Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a psychiatrist at Columbia University in New York. “I personally have stopped taking it when traveling.” he said.

In the study, about 63% of all participants reported at least moderate jet lag on their first day back in Norway, followed by improvements in the next five days. The most commonly reported symptoms were fatigue, daytime sleepiness, decreased daytime alertness and trouble concentrating or thinking clearly, researchers report.”

Other popular folk remedies

People do all sorts of weird and wonderful things to combat jet lag, from messing around with pressure points to aromatherapy and even giving the area behind your knee light therapy. But there’s absolutely no scientific evidence that any of them work.

Is there a reliable method to reduce or prevent jet lag?

Joy of joys, it looks like there just might be. And it’s all about controlling your body’s exposure to light and dark.

According to Helen Burgess and her team at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Centre, jet lag can be prevented altogether by ‘phase shifting before departing’, in other words seeking and avoiding light at the right times. But how?

You can seek out light by either going outdoors in sunlight or standing in front of a lightbox, which you can buy in the shops. You can avoid light by staying out of the sun and wearing dark glasses. But how do you know when to seek light and when to avoid it?

Healthy Sunlight

Sunlight – from

It depends on how many time zones you cross, what direction you travel and the times of day you usually go to sleep and wake up. If that sounds like a nightmare, don’t worry.  You can do the calculations online automatically using a jet lag calculation service like jet lag rooster. The key is to control your exposure to light and dark, the only real way to adjust to a new time zone effectively and quickly.

What about your experiences?

Do you have any cool tips to pass on about dealing with jet lag? If so we’d love to hear them.

Exploring Food Markets of the World

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by Andy

Food is an integral part of any culture. For travelers, experiencing the new sights and sounds of a country is only a part of the entire experience. The aromas and flavors of the local cuisine help provide a more complete experience of travel and immersion within a new culture.

Food markets provide one of the biggest attractions for both tourists and locals. A local food market combines all of the culinary elements of the culture in one place. The following are some of the most famous food markets the world has to offer.


Spain is recognized as much for its food as for its music and architecture. One of the most famous markets is La Boqueria in Barcelona. It’s an indoor market full of spices, fruits, and vegetables.

Local vendors offer a huge selection of meats, cheeses, and seafood for locals and visitors to enjoy. Spanish olives and dried fruits are featured along with a variety of traditional meals.

The market also has tapas bars and a school where visitors can learn the tradition and preparation of the local foods.


The famous markets of Chile

In Santiago, Chile, La Vega Central is a market where the country’s many flavors can be discovered. From fresh meats to a variety of produce, this market provides everything needed to get a true sense of Chilean culture.

Seasonal fruits, juices, and traditional items like sopapilla can all be enjoyed at La Vega Central. The market also has a selection of restaurants to enjoy when making your way through its large number of vendors.


The Khlong Toey Market in Bangkok is large enough to feel like a village within the city. And because of its size, visitors can find practically everything they could ever want. Beyond food, the market has kitchenware and fabrics for sale.

The vendors offer produce, seafood, and local dishes for the patrons to enjoy. Khlong Toey Market has become a popular destination for tourists seeking an authentic market experience in Bangkok.


The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a favorite attraction for many world travelers. It consists of over 4,000 shops making it one of the largest markets in the world. The market contains cafés and restaurants where visitors can find kebabs and other traditional Turkish cuisine.

United States

San Francisco’s Ferry Building is renowned for its selection of high-quality food brought in by local farmers and merchants. From fresh produce to ready-to-eat meals, this market is a popular location to spend the day tasting and enjoying artisanal treats.

Like the other markets throughout the world, San Francisco’s Ferry Building has restaurants and cafés alongside vendors who offer high-quality meats, seafood, and produce. For Americans, it’s a reminder that long-distance trips aren’t always necessary to enjoy the pleasures that food markets have to offer.

Food markets around the world give locals and tourists a way to celebrate the food that is at the heart of every culture. For the traveler who understands the social and cultural role that food plays, exploring food markets provides a richer experience to world travel.

Image attributed to Mckaysavage

Historic Cathedrals of Spain

Monday, March 31st, 2014 by Andy

The architecture of Spanish cathedrals has become a draw to both locals and tourists. With so many cathedrals throughout the country, each containing works of art and a rich history, there is always something to see when making your way through Spain

Three of the most beautiful and well-known cathedrals are in Seville, Toledo, and Barcelona. Known for their immense size as well as their beauty, they provide the perfect starting points for exploring the historic cathedrals throughout the country.

Toledo Cathedral


The cathedral of Seville is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe along with cathedrals in Rome and London. Its high ceilings give it the largest amount of volume out of any cathedral in the world.

Seville’s cathedral is designed in both Renaissance and Gothic styles. It was constructed after the destruction of a Moorish mezquita. The cathedral contains works of art by such artists as Goya, Murillo, Roldan, and Zurbaran. Most notably, one corner of the cathedral contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

Next to the cathedral is the Giralda. This bell tower has come to symbolize Seville and offers stunning views of the cathedral and the surrounding city.


Toledo’s cathedral is known for its large retable designed in the Gothic style. Its choir stalls date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, and it is the second largest cathedral in Spain.

There are three large doors that are decorated with sculptures and reliefs. Its Gothic style has made the cathedral as one of the greatest Gothic structures in the world. Its beauty is further enhanced by over 750 stained glass windows crafted by the greatest artists of the 14th and 15th centuries.

The cathedral houses jewels made of gold and silver that are used during masses and are contained within the treasury of the cathedral. Its works of art by artists including Van Dyck, Titian, and Rubens make it a premier attraction for art lovers.


The cathedral of Barcelona is perhaps the most famous of all Spanish churches. Before its construction, a Roman temple and a mosque both sat at its location. Its construction began in 1298 and was finally completed almost 2 centuries later. Subsequently, the main entrance was completed in 1898, and in 1913, its dome tower was completed.

The church contains Gothic arches and a retable. Its Chapel of the Most Saintly Sacrament contains the tomb of St. Olegarius. The Holy Christ of Lepanto, which was carried by Don Juan de Austria in 1571 during a battle at Lepanto, resides within the church to this day. As a result, Barcelona’s cathedral has come to represent the Catalan empire and its spirit.

Spanish cathedrals are works of art and stunning displays of architecture. Although the country has a large number of cathedrals for travelers to explore, the churches of Seville, Toledo, and Barcelona are perhaps the most well-known. In addition to their magnificent size and beauty, the cathedrals represent the long and rich history of the Spanish culture.

(image attributed to Spitaldust)

Remember that you can find both cheap hotels and cheap airport parking by using our simple comparison tools.

A Cheaper Way to See the Northern Lights

Monday, March 24th, 2014 by Andy

Seeing the Northern Lights is an experience that all travelers aspire to achieving in their lives. The lights are a natural phenomenon that inspire awe and wonder in the lucky few who witness them.

Seeing the Northern Lights can be costly. It’s an event that’s limited to few locations around the world and not a guarantee as they depend on various weather conditions. But you can take steps to experience the beauty of the Northern Lights without having to spend too much of your travel budget.

Mysterious Lights

The Northern Lights are created by the magnetic activity of the sun. As electrons travel toward earth along a magnetic field, they make contact with the particles of air in the sky. The result is a beautiful and haunting spectacle of colors.

The effect depends on the conditions that are occurring in both the sun and the earth. As a result, the Northern Lights aren’t always visible when you want to see them. Therefore, you want to plan accordingly to ensure that you get the most out of your trip.

Where to see the Northern Lights

There are a few locations that are ideal for seeing the Northern Lights. Areas located between 66 to 69 degrees north provide the most ideal viewing. This includes parts of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Greenland, and Scandinavia.

The best chances of seeing the Northern Lights usually happen in Reykjavik, Iceland or Tromsø, Norway. Both locations have long seasons of darkness that increase the likelihood of catching the natural phenomena.

Budget conscious travelers recognize Iceland as a better choice. Visiting Iceland has become inexpensive relative to previous years, and more airlines now make their way to Iceland, further reducing the cost of flights. Some airlines such as Iceland Air offer package deals to visit the Northern lights that include tours and hotel stays.

Northern Lights on a Budget

But there plenty of options available when traveling on a budget. Fairbanks, Alaska has proven to be a reliable location for viewing the Northern Lights. In fact, many scientists use this location due to its consistency in viewing conditions.

Flights from Seattle to Alaska can be inexpensive and many rooms can be found under $90 a night. Once in Fairbanks, the Northern Lights can be seen with just a few miles of driving.

Another option for catching the Northern Lights is to find inexpensive cruises in the Arctic Circle.

Many cruise lines offer packages that are less expensive options for travel. A weeklong excursion can be as little as £1,100 and includes visits to various towns along the way.

If you wake your way to Iceland, tours are available to make it easy and affordable to see the Northern Lights. Reykjavik Excursions runs regular Northern Lights tours that allow you to retake the trip if you don’t see the lights on your initial run.

If seeing the Northern Lights is on your travel bucket list, there are a number of ways to experience this natural phenomenon. Although limited to a few areas in the world, the Northern Lights are still easily accessible. Researching inexpensive flights to Alaska and available tour packages will help you finally catch a glimpse of the beautiful and mysterious Northern Lights.

Top Things to Remember When Choosing Your Travel Insurance

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by Andy

Sadly, it’s a thing we all need and can’t really live without and is an essential for every travelling trip you embark on. From covering lost valuables to paying medical bills, getting the travel cover that is right for you and your budget can sometimes be a tricky thing.

remember to have your insurance documents in a safe place so you know who to contact

There are so many companies out there with so many policies, you have to spend a lot of time reading long winded guidelines just to get a vague picture for what you are covered for. Along with different activities and different levels of cover, you should always make sure you’re not just blowing loads of cash on a travel insurance that will not do you any good in your hour of need.

Below we have listed a few points to consider when you are looking into purchasing your next travel insurance policy. This will hopefully save you a few pounds that will let you enjoy spending your cash on more fun things, other than travel insurance.

Medical Stuff

Although most travel insurances cover you for illness whilst abroad, many don’t cover pre-existing medical condition and illness that you incur due to them. Always read the fine print when choosing between policies especially you need a cover that will help you out with anything pre-existing and otherwise whilst out on your trip.

Lost and Stolen

Every insurance company will have different policies and guidelines for this so make sure you know exactly what the terms and conditions are for you losing, damaging or having anything stolen. Sometimes companies will not cough up if they feel you have been neglectful of the said item(s) you are trying to claim for or some clauses need you to provide a receipt of purchase of the item(s) before anything can go through. It is all things that you should be aware of before you set off on your trip, so you can take the right documentation and evidence with you just in case.

Extreme Activities

A lot of insurance policies will not cover you for such things as motorcycling or snowboarding for example. If you know you will be taking part in such activities whilst on your trip, you must check that you will be covered in case you endure an accident whilst doing so. Such extreme activities are considered high risk, so be prepared to pay a bit more for your travel insurance overall.

Legal Fees

Anything can happen whilst your away – absolutely anything! And it is not always because of your actions or anything you have directly/intended to do. Make sure your travel policy has a good amount of legal fees that can be covered in any situation so that you don’t find yourself being locked up in some foreign jail with no representation – not a pretty ending to anyone’s trip!

Getting Home

Always make sure your travel insurance covers you in the event that you have to return home early due to an incident abroad or at home. It is such a relief when you can just give someone a call in an emergency and they will take care of booking everything and getting you on the next flight home – well worth the money!

Most travel insurers are very comprehensive and really come through for people aboard in their hour of need. But don’t be caught out by cheap or gimmicky insurers who may not cover you for everything that you need them too and who will leave you high and dry when you need them the most! If you are looking for trustworthy travel insurance, we happen to compare all the best insurers right here at GoSimply.