Safety Tips for European Travel

Map of Europe

For many, the idea of a European getaway is the ultimate dream. There are so many historical sights to see and adventures to behold that it almost seems like another world. However, while Europe has its share of gorgeous architecture and friendly people, you still want to travel with safety in mind.

Like all places, Europe has its dangers, so a careful approach to travel is a must. Whether it is avoiding theft, keeping your identity safe, or keeping an eye on dangerous world events, there are steps you should take to ensure the safety of you and your family. Here are some tips to follow so your European vacation is one you will always remember for all the right reasons.

Keep Your Money Close

The fact is that, regardless of if you stay in your home country or travel to faraway Spain or France, there will always be bad people looking to take your money. This is why it is especially important that you are smart with your funds while you travel, particularly in a new place where you don’t know the language. Avoid wearing clothes with your home country’s flag or excessive jewellery so you don’t stick out from the rest of the crowd. To be extra safe, you may also try dressing closer to the native population of the place you are visiting. Some tips include wearing conservative clothes, comfortable shoes, and leaving the baseball hat at home.

When travelling to a new place, it is not recommended that you carry your wallet in your back pocket or your purse over your shoulder like at home because it can too easily be snatched away by an experienced thief. Instead, invest in a bag that you wear around your waist and keep it in front of you so you can always keep an eye on it. You don’t need to look far. Instead, turn to the good ol’ fanny pack, which can be worn front or back and is easily hidden under your clothes.

It is also a wise idea not to keep all of your valuables in one place. Keep some cash in a sock or shoe so if you are robbed, you still have some money for help. Another consideration is a RFID wallet which blocks criminals from using advanced scanners to steal your card information.

The last thing that you need while in a foreign place is for your passport or other important documents to be stolen, leaving you stranded. When it comes to documents, if the destination will allow it, use copies and keep the originals at home. It is also a good idea to make a couple of copies of the hotel address and directions in case your phone is lost or stolen, and you don’t know where to go. On a separate note, also bring all necessary medications in the event that you get sick.

Cyber Security

When most of us go anywhere, we have our smartphones in tow. Not only do they help us to stay connected, but they also act as our cameras, navigation systems, and sources of entertainment during downtime. However, your phone can also be hacked by criminals who go through your device to steal your personal information including social security numbers, addresses, and more. That is why you must practice good cybersecurity while travelling abroad.

One of the more common ways that criminals access your information is through the man-in-the-middle attack, which is essentially a fake Wi-Fi network. When you are in public places, it is natural to want to use the free connections at the cafe or restaurant, but you must be careful to ask the owner about the correct Wi-Fi in which to connect. If you are not careful, you could connect to a fake account set up by a hacker, and if you do, they become the “man” in the middle as they make a direct connection with your device. After that, they can steal the data on your phone in a matter of minutes.

Before you leave for your trip, take the proper precautions to secure your phone, so even if it is lost or stolen, your information is protected. You should always have a password on your phone, and if possible, double that up with a second security requirement like a thumbprint which makes it even harder to get in. You might also consider installing an encryption app on your phone that will make the data unreadable if stolen.

Avoiding Catastrophic Dangers

These days, we are living in a very different world full of dangers that you may not have even thought about several years ago. The news is full of stories of terrorism and violence around the world, and it can be a scary thought while travelling. Some people worry about human trafficking, which is a threat all over the world including in Europe and the United States. In fact, it affects over 24 million people around the world.

The last thing you want is for a catastrophic danger to occur while you are out of town and in a place that you are unfamiliar with, but you cannot let the possibility of these threats rob you of the chance to see the gorgeous sights of Europe, so stay ahead of the issue. As a first step, register with your home embassy. When you do so, you will be informed about safety conditions and potential threats, including civil unrest and dangerous weather conditions in the area you are visiting. Before you book your trip, consult this resource and check on restrictions in the country you wish to visit. In light of COVID-19, you may not be able to visit some of these areas during this time.

In addition to not trying to stand out, you also want to avoid unsafe situations. Always stick with the crowd. Don’t go into strange alleys or try shortcuts that you have not travelled before. If you are approached by a stranger, practise caution, and do not give them any information about your travel plans or where you are staying. If this is your first trip to Europe, the best plan is to sign up with a travel group and really see what this fascinating continent has to offer. 

When it comes to travelling abroad, take the right precautions now, and make your next vacation worry-free.

What You’ll Learn In Your Experiences and Travels in Europe

International travel is always an education unto itself. Experiencing new food, language, lifestyles, habits, and an entirely different culture as a whole is one of the greatest learning adventures you can have. 

Europe is particularly suited for this, as it consists of dozens of different cultures that have existed for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. Switzerland alone has three primary languages depending on where you travel, and the food choices across the continent vary dramatically from the boot of Italy to the Russian steppe. 

If you’re going to travel through Europe, here are a few of the most valuable lessons you can learn, especially if you go into the experience with an open and curious mindset.

Communicating in a Native Language is Key

While you can lean on English to get by during your travels, you’ll quickly learn that it isn’t ideal. Sure, you’ll need to lean on your native tongue for important conversations at times. However, if you go around with an English-speaking chip on your shoulder expecting local people to speak to you in your own language, you’ll only create distance and likely sour your travel experience.

Instead, strive to speak to people in their own language. You don’t need to be fluent. Just an attempt to communicate will immediately break down barriers and enhance the overall fun of your trip. Along with learning basic phrases in the local dialect, look for idiomatic phrases, try to use inclusive language, and download the Google Translate app so that you can genuinely communicate to people in a warm, friendly, and inviting manner.

Football Is a Universal Language

If you’re struggling to connect with people through the spoken word, that doesn’t have to stop you from having a good time with the local people. How? Through football. 

Whether you’re kicking around a football or heading to a local pub to watch a match over a beer, sports — and especially football — are a universal language that can help you connect and make memories. From La Liga in Spain to Bundesliga in Germany or Series A in Italy, if you’re willing to participate in the local soccer fervour, you’ll be able to tap into a new level of connection with people that may not speak a lick of English.

Food Isn’t Just Sustenance; It’s an Experience

While in Europe, you can literally theme an entire trip simply around the concept of food. The number and variety of different European foods can make this an eye-opening adventure. It can also help you to expand your palette and appreciate the culinary accomplishments of other cultures.

In addition, food is a social tool that has been used for time out of mind to connect with other people. Much like sports, if you engage with an Italian, a Spaniard, a Frenchman, or anyone else over a dish of their culture’s favourite delicacy, it can provide a connecting point that transcends language and brings deep and genuine connections. 

History Is Deep …And It’s Everywhere

If you come from the damp, northern European regions, you’re used to an area where mould and rot tend to decay everything over time. When this is the case, your idea of solid, factual history naturally peters out around the early Middle Ages with a few exceptions such as Stone Henge.

That isn’t the case for all of Europe, though. The further south you go, the more likely you are to run into genuinely old history. Italy, for instance, is crawling with ancient ruins that are thousands of years old. You can literally stand in a forum where Julius Caesar riled a crowd, hop on over to a church where Popes led the Christian world centuries later, and then head down the street to learn about how your contact lenses were inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s experiments during the Renaissance. 

If you’re even remotely interested in history, take advantage of your European travels to further the intrigue.

Transportation and Packing

To end on a lighter, logistical note, you’re going to want to brace for a new method of transportation if you visit mainland Europe. First of all, every nation, and even each individual region, tends to put their own spin and emphasis on how to get from point A to point B, and you’ll need to bend to whatever the local preference is. If it’s a taxi, great, but it may also be a tram, bicycle, or even simply walking for long distances at a time.

And that brings up another important point: don’t over-pack. You don’t know how far you’ll have to walk at any given moment, and lugging large amounts of luggage behind you will get tiresome quickly. Instead, pack smart. Bring gadgets with multiple uses such as a combined pen and screwdriver, and use as many apps on your phone as possible to prevent the need for physical items like maps.

Keeping an Open Mind as You Travel

If you try to maintain a personal cultural bubble as you travel, you’re missing out on one of the key reasons to ever step foot outside of your home country. Embracing, experiencing, and learning from local cultures is one of the most important ways that you can grow as a person. 

The lessons that come from seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting other cultures can help to develop your character. They expand your understanding, create a deep sense that you’re part of something bigger than yourself, and create a more appreciative view of what humanity has accomplished as a whole.

The Nine best cities to visit in The Netherlands

Ahhhhhhh … The Netherlands! Home to the Dutch people! You may think clogs, windmills and those special “cafes” where no one drinks coffee. Here’s our quick guide to help you explore the nine best cities to visit in The Netherlands.

Amsterdam

Whether you’re planning a weekend trip away or just coming in for the day, Amsterdam is by far the best city in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is not just the most international city of the Netherlands, but of the whole world! With around 181 nationalities living in the city it is quite the hub. Because of all this cultural diversity, there is something for everyone in this vibrant and open-minded city. Whether you prefer clubbing or interesting museums, Amsterdam is a city of gold for everyone.

Eindhoven

Eindhoven is a truly modern city. The centre looks beautiful and new, there are many reputable colleges and therefore a lot of young people. Nowadays, parties are often held in the old clock building and Eindhoven is, of course, the city of Philips. They are very proud of Philips here and that becomes extremely evident from the amount of things named after it.

Maastricht

There’s a reason why Maastricht is known for its charm.  Many people are quite familiar with the Vrijthof – the biggest square in the centre- it’s always hustling and bustling with many pubs where one can enjoy a drink with the locals. As it’s also the capital city of the Limburg region it also carries a distinct feeling to the rest of the Netherlands. 

Rotterdam

Rotterdam is the city for lovers of architecture. Between the many tall buildings are hidden gems, so be sure to walk or cycle slowly in order not to miss them. We recommend going to the Market Hall and exploring the tasty and special food in a very unique location.

Utrecht

Everyone in Utrecht knows the famous Dom Tower, but there is so much more to do! Go to the griftpark when the weather is good or visit one of the many pubs at De Neude. We also highly recommend Soia: a free live music venue every Sunday. Strand Oog In Al is a so-called city beach on the northern tip of the district Oog in Al in Utrecht – definitely worth a visit.

Groningen

Groningen seems far away but it has a lot of fun things to offer. Because Groningen is a real student city you will find a lot of nice bars, restaurants and you can dance the night away! It’s known for its cold temperature so be sure to pack a warm jacket. 

Haarlem

Haarlem is a real shopping city. You have a lot of nice shops here and the centre is old and monumental. The centre dates back to the 10th century and the large market has remained almost unchanged over the years.

Nijmegen

Nijmegen is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and this can be clearly seen in the historic buildings that the city is full of. Besides historic buildings there are many lovely squares, cosy streets and Nijmegen also boasts the oldest shopping street in the country!

Leiden

Leiden is known as a real student city, that’s why there’s always a lively vibe here and there’s plenty to do. Thursday is the big night out here. The city is not as crowded as Amsterdam and has just as many impressive canals, Leiden is a great city to enjoy a drink (or two) on the waterfront.

Alternative European Holiday Ideas

Three wine glasses giving cheers.

It can be easily argued that Europe is one of the best holiday destinations in the world. Whether you want to go sightseeing, hiking, or sailing, Europe has something for everyone. The downside of this overwhelming amount of activity options is the throng of tourists and large crowds that dominate Europe’s beautiful cities and countries.

Thankfully, Europe also promises a lot of alternatively-themed activities that can give the same culturally immersive experiences while you travel to the places you want to see. One of the main benefits of engaging in alternative activities through your Eurotrip is the opportunity to truly enjoy. Holidays should ideally be stress-free experiences, yet, participating in typical holiday activities can often be a source of stress. Long queues, crowds, the pressure to get that perfect Instagram shot amidst thousands of tourists trying to do the same — all these are factors that actually take away from your holiday rather than enhance it. Instead, keeping your holiday plans simple, relaxed, and unconventional can actually bring you the happiness you expect from a holiday. To get you started, here are some alternative activities to do on your European holiday:

A Food-Centric Adventure

Food can be a big part of traveling — if you want it to be. Exploring another country brings with it the opportunity to try things you would have never otherwise tried. 

A good way of getting an authentic experience in any city is by going to a local street market. From the Le Marché Raspail in Paris to the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid or the Great Market Hall in Budapest there is no lack of local foodie-experiences in Europe. Street markets are famous for free samples and other free activities, ideal for travelers on a budget. What’s more, the food at most local markets promises to be ethnic and interesting, and the environment is the perfect place to interact with locals and get a feel for where you are. The more “local” the market, the less likely it is to be crowded. Be sure to solicit recommendations from locals on markets to visit rather than relying on guidebooks alone  — more often than not, guidebooks simply lead you to spots that have become tourist traps. 

Another way to involve food in your travels is to take a cooking course at your destination. This is one of the best ways to take something useful back from your holiday. Thorough cooking experiences typically involve everything from shopping for ingredients with your chef to learning about local cooking methods that result in pure deliciousness. Learn how to make pasta from scratch in Italy, delve into nuances of cheese-tasting in Switzerland, or if you favor a liquid diet,  go on an educational wine tour in France or beer tour in Belgium — when it comes to food and drink, there will always be plenty to do! 

A Relaxing Retreat

While a retreat isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Europe, the continent actually boasts some of the most exclusive retreats in the world. From detox retreats high up in the Austrian mountains to spa packages in coastal Portugal, a retreat could be just what you need to get away from it all. 

If you’re looking for something that involves more activity than simply getting massaged all day, consider a yoga retreat. Yoga retreats are a great way to reconnect with yourself alongside like-minded humans. And the best part? Everything is pre-planned, meaning you can simply book and show up!

A House-sitting Holiday 

So, maybe you won’t get to stay in a luxury hotel, but nothing is more authentic than living like a local — in their house— through the duration of your trip. A house-sitting holiday entails looking after someone’s home, pets, and garden while they themselves are away. 

This makes for a very different way of living while in another country. One of the perks of house-sitting is the locational advantages the house brings. When you stay in someone’s home, it will most likely be in a residential neighborhood. You will have access to local eateries, grocery shops, and many entertainment options to keep you busy. In this way, caring for another’s house can make you feel like a local even if just for a little while. 

Another advantage of a house-sitting holiday is the opportunity to truly relax in a homey setting, rather than an impersonal hotel room. Looking after someone’s house can feel like a “staycation”, even though you’re in a different country. This makes for a relaxing getaway which is uncomplicated and stress-free, with minimal planning required. In this way, house-sitting holidays can be a great way to unplug. House-sitting is especially popular in cities like Berlin, Rome, and Amsterdam, to name a few. 

A Volunteering Holiday

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “who volunteers in Europe?!” In truth, even as a mostly developed continent, Europe has a need for volunteers, with many causes that need rallying. As stated on GoAbroad.com, volunteering opportunities in Europe range from working on a vineyard in France to championing social causes in the poorer parts of London. 

Additionally, many international organizations like Red Cross, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International are headquartered in Europe and could be a possible avenue for aspiring traveler-volunteers. If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, Europe is home to many world-class events including Art Basel, Oktoberfest, country-specific film festivals, and more — all of which are happy to take in some free help! 

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Besides being enjoyable, different ways of traveling can also mentally benefit you. Instead of having to chase all the crowded sights, you can take some time for yourself and have time to actually relax. So next time you’re in Europe consider these alternative activities to make your trip both memorable and fulfilling. 

A 4-day trip to Helsinki, Finland

I just did a 4-day trip to Helsinki, Finland. It’s a very pretty city. Ultra clean, friendly people and great food! I give it 5 out of 5!

Getting from the airport to the city

It was quick and easy getting through immigration at Helsinki airport, after arriving on a British Airways flight from London. It took about 15 minutes. It was quite a long walk though from the gate, through immigration and to the baggage carousel.

You can take a taxi or Uber from the airport to Helsinki city for around €40 (that’s AUD$70) — it will take about 25 minutes. But the smarter choice is to take the train to Helsinki Central Railway Station — it will take about 40 minutes.

The airport station is just a few minutes walk from the baggage carousel. It only costs €4.10 (AUD$7) each way. Download the HSL App to your phone (from your App Store), register your details, add your credit card, and then you can buy your ticket in the app the day you arrive.

Like most European cities, the transport network is broken down into zones. The airport is in zone C and Helsinki Central Railway Station is in zone A. So you need to buy a single ticket that covers travel zones ABC.

Screenshot of the buy a ticket screen in the Helsinki HSL app.
Open the app, and tap “Single ticket”
Screenshot of the buy a ticket screen in the Helsinki HSL app.
Then select travel zone ABC, start the ticket “now” (it lasts 90 minutes) and pay

Getting around Helsinki – walking & public transport

Helsinki is a very pedestrian friendly city. It’s very flat so it’s easy walking.

The city also has a great public transport system comprising metro/subway, trams and buses. They run at very frequent intervals and they are modern, safe and very clean. Just use Google Maps and its public transport feature to tell you where to get your next metro/tram/bus as well as live times so you know how long you have to wait (particularly helpful if traveling in winter). Again, using the HSL App, purchase a single ticket, or, better still, purchase a multi-day ticket. For travel in and around the city you only need a multi-day ticket that covers travel zones AB. For example, a 3-day ticket will cost €16 (AUD$28).

Screenshot of the buy a multi-day ticket screen in the Helsinki HSL app.
Choose how many days you want to buy. And you’ll only need Travel zone AB.

Where to eat

Having great food when I travel is very important. That doesn’t mean dining at fancy restaurants or only eating the “local” cuisine. Europe is such a melting pot of cultures, which means you can get great food from different countries.

Tip: at most cafes and regular restaurants you usually order and pay at the counter and take a number and then your order is brought to your table (i.e., generally no table service).

Here’s a few places I ate at:

Breakfast: Story Kamppi (https://kamppihelsinki.fi/en/retailer/story-0)

Location: on the very top floor of the shopping mall above the Kampin metro station (go right to the very top, to the level above the Muji store).

What I ate: I had a delicious eggs benedict, with a side salad and a side of avocado, orange juice and a tea. This cost me €25 (AUD$43). So it wasn’t cheap, but it was delicious food — very fresh tasting and great friendly service.

Photo of breakfast at Story Kamppi. Eggs benedict, side salad, avocado, orange juice.
Delicious! And a great view!

Lunch: Taqueria Lopez y Lopez (http://lopezylopez.fi)

Location: on the very top floor of the shopping mall above the Kampin metro station (go right to the very top, to the level above the Muji store).

What I ate: I had a delicious vegetarian flautas and a soft drink. This cost me €18.20 (AUD$32). The food tasted very fresh with authentic Mexican flavours. Even the American family sitting next to me were talking about how it tasted really good.

Photo of lunch at Taqueira Lopez y Lopez. Vegetarian flautas and a Coke zero.
Very authentic flavours!

Dinner: Viking Restaurant Harald (https://www.ravintolaharald.fi)

Location: opposite Helsinki Central Railway Station.

What I ate: I was expecting the restaurant to be quite kitsch and the food average, but it was quite the opposite! Although the restaurant had a viking theme, it was subtle and well done. And the food was excellent! There are a number of different set menus, as well as a la carte.

I had the “Voyage of Vinland” set menu which had a delicious salad starter (one of the best salads I’ve had in a while!), my main was chicken with potatoes, grilled goats cheese, vegetables and rhubarb jam and my dessert was chocolate cake. It was all presented very nicely and it was very delicious. I also had a soft drink (in a huge mug!) and a tea. It cost €49.60 (AUD$85).

Photo of the menu at Viking Restaurant Harald.
Photo of dinner (salad starter) at Viking Restaurant Harald.
The viking horns gave it a great atmosphere
Photo of dinner (chicken main course) at Viking Restaurant Harald.
This was delicious!
Photo of dinner (chocolate cake dessert) at Viking Restaurant Harald.
A great chocolate cake. Not overly sickly sweet. Delicious!

Fresh juice bar: Jungle Juice. They’re at various locations — often in metro stations. Freshly squeezed juices and smoothies. A large juice cost €5.50 (AUD$9.50).

Things to see and do

Here’s a few places that I recommend you include on your sightseeing in Helsinki:

Kamppi Chapel: it’s also known as the “Chapel of Silence”. It’s a weird looking round structure located in the middle of Narrinkkatori Square. You wouldn’t know it’s a chapel from the outside. No holy events are held there (like baptisms or weddings), and the space is devoted to providing some peace and quiet. Entry is FREE.

Photo of Kamppi Chapel (elevated from nearby shopping mall).
Photo of inside Kamppi Chapel.
Photo of outside Kamppi Chapel.

Bad Bad Boy: this is a gigantic 8.5 metre tall statue commemorating the sneaky pees we’ve all had in our lives. Usually it’s urinating onto the ground but today it was snowing, so it wasn’t peeing, presumably because it might have frozen!

Photo of Bad Bad Boy statue.
Photo of Bad Bad Boy statue.

Temppeliaukio Church: this underground church is built right into the bedrock in the centre of Helsinki. The walls are exposed rock and sometimes water still seeps down the walls. Entry is €3 and you can pay with a credit card or cash.

Photo inside Temppeliaukio Church.
Photo inside Temppeliaukio Church.
Photo inside Temppeliaukio Church.

Bunk’Art: Tirana, Albania



Bunk’Art is located in a massive Cold War bunker on the outskirts of Tirana, Albania. It’s been converted into a history and contemporary art museum and it’s Albania’s most exciting new sight and easily a Tirana highlight. With almost 3000 square metres of space underground spread over several floors, the bunker was built for Albania’s political elite in the 1970s and remained a secret for much of its existence. Now it hosts exhibits that combine the modern history of Albania with pieces of contemporary art.

Check out these 4 must see events in Europe in 2019

According to its definition, a ‘new year’s resolution’ resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve your life. Is your new year’s resolution to visit Europe in 2019? If so we’re going to tell you about the best events to attend in Europe this year.

From music festivals, to sports events, to folk event and to religious events, Europe is home to some of the oldest and yet most fun events you’ll ever attend.

Number 1: Art Basel

Location: Basel, Switzerland

This event connects collectors, galleries, and artists, and is a driving force in supporting the role galleries play in nurturing the careers of artists. Held annually in Miami (USA), Hong Kong and Basel (Switzerland).

Basel is the Swiss cultural capital. Various exhibitions and events are offered by cultural institutions in Basel and the surrounding area, creating an exciting, region-wide art week, from June 13 2019 through June 16 2019. Roxana Azimi from the renowned French daily newspaper ‘Le Monde’ describes Art Basel as “…The unrivalled barometer of the art market.”.

In 2019 gallerists in Basel include Bergamin & Gomide (São Paulo), Madragoa (Lisbon), White Space Beijing (Beijing), Galerie Max Mayer (Düsseldorf), and Jan Kaps (Cologne).

More information: https://www.artbasel.com/basel

Number 2: Oktoberfest

Location: Munich, Germany

More than six million people from around the world head to Munich for this annual two week folk festival. In 2019 the event takes place from 22 September through 7 October.

It runs almost like an Olympic Games of beer, with an opening ceremony, stalls, carnivals and rides. Many of the large German breweries have special tents set up, including:

  • Armbrustschützen-Festzelt: this tent accommodates about 7,500 people and is decorated in the style of the Alpine foothills. The meat served comes entirely from their own livestock Augustiner Festhalle

  • Augustiner Festhalle: this is a more cosy and intimate tent with a very authentic atmosphere. The beer served here comes from Munich’s oldest brewery.

  • Fischer-Vroni: for a greater variety of food head to this tent to taste fish dishes including the traditional Bavarian Steckerlfisch (fish on a stick). This tent is also a little quieter than others.

More information: https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/

Number 3:  Carnival of Venice

Location: Venice, Italy

The Carnival of Venice takes place from 16 February until 5 March. It dates back to the year 1162. The carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent.

The festival is famous for its elaborate masks including the Bauta, Colombina and Medico Della Peste.

More information: https://venice-carnival-italy.com/

Number 4: La Tomatina

Location: Buñol, Spain

This festival is definitely unique – its origins date back to a fight amongst children in 1945 who threw tomatoes at each other, and it has been celebrated every year since then.

In 2019 the festival takes place on 28 August.

The festival brings thousands of people together with the sole purpose of hurling tomatoes at one another.  It is a joyful and exciting festival, suited to both adults and children.

Travellers from around the world make the trek to the annual La Tomatina festival. Photo courtesy Reno T.

The tomato fight usually lasts for around two hours, after which the town square is completely covered with tomatoes. Even if you don’t participate, it is worth just watching the fun unfold before your eyes.

More information: https://www.latomatinatours.com/

5 Amazing Vegan Restaurants in Berlin You Need to Try

In this guest post, hear from Cristina about five amazing vegan restaurants in Berlin.

When an opportunity arose for me to visit Berlin, the first thing that popped into my mind was gimme all the vegan food.

Germany’s capital is also known as the world’s most vegan-friendly city, with vegan restaurants and cafes at every corner, so you can only imagine my enthusiasm! I was to eat everything and anything! Spoiler alert: I did just that!

Before I left, I did some online research, looked for interesting things to do in Germany, I found good places to eat, and discovered some amazing vegan restaurants that I quickly added to my list.

So, here 5 amazing vegan restaurants in Berlin that I absolutely recommend to all vegans or non-vegans.

1. 1990 Vegan Living, Krossener Str. 19

Without a doubt, this is the best vegan Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin! It’s cozy, yet not too crowded, the food is spectacular, the service is good, and it’s located in the heart of the Friedrichshain neighborhood, a very hip place filled with vegan goodness. I had the Ying Yang Bowl, which is made up of udon noodles, tofu, seasonal vegetables, and a piece of silky tofu, covered in crunchy and delicious rice flakes. It was simply beyond delicious, a meal that I will remember for as long as I shall live. I cannot recommend this place enough! The Vietnamese coffee was also amazing, and I don’t even like coffee all that much. If you’re ever in Berlin and you have to choose one place to have your lunch or dinner, let 1990 Vegan Living be the one!

2. Goura Pakora, Krossener Str. 16

Goura Pakora is a vegan Indian restaurant that serves pretty much everything you would think of! The food is so, so good, the service is amazing, and I can’t wait to return here whenever I’m back in Berlin. I love Indian food and every time I cook it myself, at home, there’s always something missing. I’m not a bad cook, on the contrary, but you simply can’t beat Indian restaurant food! Go ahead and try Goura Pakora and you can thank me later for it!

3. H&D Chay, Hobrechtstraße 11

This particular restaurant wasn’t on my list of Berlin vegan musts. We were walking around the city, hunger hit us and I did a quick Google search and this popped up. Good thing it did, the food was amazing and the Mango lassi was exceptional. The place is quite small and cozy, with long tables and a very nice atmosphere. Our food came quite quickly, and everyone was impressed with how big the portions were. I didn’t take any photos here, because it was night and the room was dark, and I regret it now because the dishes looked so good!

4. La Stella Nera, Leykestrasse 18

La Stella Nera managed to satisfy my gigantic craving for pizza, it was simply delicious. They also have some amazing desserts and, of course, pasta. It hit me, while I was there, that I am so lucky to be at this amazing vegan Italian place and indulge in such great food. There are very few vegan places where I live, and I’ll think about La Stella Nera whenever I’m craving pizza back at home.

If you’d like to learn how to make an authentic Italian vegan pizza, maybe look into some vegan retreats in Italy and learn right from the source how to create your perfect Italian pizza.

5. Brammibal’s Donuts, Maybachufer 8

Oh, how I love donuts! I’ve always preferred doughy sweetness over the chocolate and Brammibal’s Donuts is just donut perfection. My absolute favorites were the cinnamon sugar and the nougat, but everything I tasted here was simply delicious.

One donut is 2.50 euros, all vegan, and you can pre-order them and pick them up at your chosen location. In case you can’t reach the Maybachufer location, there are two more Brammibal’s Donuts in Berlin, one at Danziger Straße 65 and another at Alte Potsdamer Straße 7. So, next time you’re in Berlin, pay a visit to Brammibal’s Donuts and bring your loosest pants!

About the author

Cristina is a vegan who loves not only to eat delicious food but to cook it, too! She is also a passionate traveler, a cat aficionado, and a novice writer.

The top 5 secret places to visit in Kraków, Poland

We hear the secrets from a Kraków local about the top 5 secret attractions in this beautiful city.  Read our five minute guide below!

Author: Top secret! 

Kraków (pronounced ‘Krak-Ov’) is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Poland. It sits in the south of the country, near the border of the Czech Republic. It has a well preserved medieval core and a vibrant Jewish quarter. Enlisted on the UNESCO heritage list since 1978, Kraków is surrounded by two major tourist sites: the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (which includes the Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau) and the Salt Mines in Wieliczka (both sites are also on the UNESCO list as well).

Now, let’s be frank from the very start – one or two days in Kraków is definitely not enough to even catch a glimpse of the historical centre and former Jewish district. In order to get to know the city, to immerse yourself in the special atmosphere of the place, you need at least four full days.

The guidebooks and your online searches have no doubt told you about the enormous Main Market Square, St. Mary’s Basilica with Veit Stoss’s exceptional altar inside and Wawel castle hill with the Cathedral. These places are indeed definitely worth visiting, however, if you have a little extra time, here are the top 5 secret attractions to visit on your vacation to Kraków. Best of all they’ll be away from the tourist buses and selfie takers!

The Józef Mehoffer house

http://mnk.pl/branch/the-mehoffer-house

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries Kraków was the spiritual and symbolic capital of Poland. The only professional School of Fine Arts (converted into the Academy in 1900) attracted future artists from across Poland. One of them was Józef Mehoffer (1869 – 1946): a painter and stained glass window and interior designer and definitely one of the best Polish Art Nouveau artists. In the 1930s he bought a house in Krupnicza Street, which is currently a branch of the National Museum in Kraków.

The house is exceptional as it represents in detail what a bourgeois house from the beginning of the 20th century looked like.

The biggest surprise is hidden behind the house – it’s a marvelous garden with a charming cafe. This place is a secret even to many inhabitants of Kraków!

TYTANO

https://pl-pl.facebook.com/TYTANOkrakow/

After leaving the Józef Mehoffer house, take a few steps into Dolnych Młynów Street and you’ll come across a post-industrial area called TYTANO. Sounds hip enough? TYTANO is often described as Berlin in Kraków and indeed it’s not just a funny comparison. A few years ago a former tobacco factory was turned into the coolest place in the entire city. The builidings still look as if they are about to collapse within seconds, but inside them you will find the best restaurants, pubs and clubs in the city.

You can easily spend the whole evening in TYTANO and crawl from one pub to another. Rumour has it that the complex will be closed by 2020, so enjoy it while you can!

St. Francis Church

http://franciszkanska.pl/

In the past there was the famous saying that if Rome didn’t exist, Kraków would be Rome. In a city with more than 100 churches, becoming indifferent to them is one of the ways to survive. However, St. Francis church is a must see on your list! The gothic structure dates back to the 13th Century, when St.  Francis was invited to Kraków and the interior has amazing Art Nouveau decorations. It was created at the end of the 19th century by Stanisław Wyspiański (1869 – 1907) (Józef Mehoffer’s school friend) and most of all a total genius: playwright, poet, painter and designer.

Wyspiański died very young and the interior of St. Francis Church is one of the few tasks finished by him. Take a closer look at the outstanding stained glass windows with St. Francis blessing Salomea and God the Father above the entrance.

Street art in the Jewish and Podgórze district

Kazimierz, known widely as the former Jewish district, along with Podgórze, are visited mostly because of the Jewish heritage in Kraków and the story about the ghetto during WWII. For a few years Kazimierz has also been known as one of the best places to have a drink in the evening and Plac Nowy is the beating heart of Kraków’s party life.

If you look around while wandering from pub to pub, you might discover great examples of street art spread all over the place. Some murals were done by international stars such as Blu, Broken Fingaz and David Shillinglaw and some others by local artists. The most beloved one is the stencil showing Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain on the corner of Bożego Ciała Street, created by Trololo from Kraków. This is one of the best selfie spots in Kraków!

Nowa Huta

After WWII, when Poland was under the USSR influence, the communists decided to build a brand new city next to Kraków. It was called Nowa Huta, which means the ‘New Steel Mill’. The whole complex was planned as an ideal communist city, in the shape of a pentagon. If you’ve also visited Warsaw,  then Nowa Huta will ring a bell. Wide streets, heavy monumental architecture and the impression that time stopped in the 1980s.

Nowa Huta, a souvenir of the communist era, is slowly becoming one of the more popular tourist attractions in the city, but it’s still occupied mostly by the locals. Many companies organize crazy tours to this district, but you can easily go there by public transport (get yourself a Europe SIM Card for your mobile phone with high speed data so you can find your way with Google Maps).

The central square is named after American President Ronald Regan – and it’s not a joke!

The top 5 FREE travel apps for your Italy holiday

5 Best Free Mobile Apps to Use in Italy

Italy is a diverse, confusing, wondrous country where cutting-edge modernity and style live alongside the treasures and traditions of several thousand years of civilisation. With so much contrast, the Boot of Europe kicks up its fair share of travel challenges.

What do we mean? Well, English is spoken less commonly than in some other European countries. So even if you learn some Italian, the different dialects north to south mean this preparation can still strand you.

Further, some cities (such as the 9000-year old Matera), overbuilt again and again for eons, the resulting delightful hodgepodge of little alleyways and winding cobblestone streets can also mean finding the fastest way from A to B is a confusing headache.

So, give thanks to the digital gods for the convenience of the smartphone. Nowadays, great travel apps have made travelling through Italy so much easier.

Here are our top 5.

  1. Google Maps, but offline

There’s a reason this is probably the world’s most used travel app. It just works. However, most people think it requires you to have an active mobile data or Wi-Fi connection. Not so. You can download maps for entire cities and store them on your phone.

Yes, these downloaded maps are missing some features (such as bike routes) and are only valid for a few weeks (until Google’s next Maps update) but they’re still really useful. Be aware that downloading an entire city map can use around 1GB of data, so try to do it on unmonitored networks (such as the one in your hostel or hotel). The Download Area Map function is under the Options menu in Google Maps.

A further bonus is you don’t need to be connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi to find your location when you’re out and about and using on one of your downloaded maps. Your phone can usually triangulate your location based on the signal strength of the local mobile phone network – even if your phone isn’t connected to a phone carrier in that country. Your phone can also use the Wi-Fi networks it can detect (but not necessarily connect to) to fix your position. If both of these fail, you can always activate your PrePaid data SIM card for a few seconds and your current position should pop up.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

  1. izi.TRAVEL

Billed as ‘the storytelling platform’, izi.TRAVEL is a great way to explore Italian heritage and culture in a structured way. This globe-spanning platform of free audio guides features more than 100 guided walks and audio tours of Italian attractions. There’s quite a range: from archaeological discussions accompanying countryside walks, to a 21-stop lap of Venice, to more inventively narrated tours that play out like scavenger hunts.

In general though, guides follow interesting routes and pack in a lot of history. They tend towards being informative rather than entertaining. And fair enough, as the newest, latest and most exciting stuff tends to fade away fairly fast, while historical facts last longer – and in Italy that can be thousands of years!

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

  1. Hostelworld

Like the rest of Western Europe, Italy has a rock-solid backpacker hostel industry. There is so much variation in what a backpacker hostel can be – and we have stayed in some doozies. In both the good and bad sense. Hostelworld helps you figure out where to stay and where to avoid.

Looking for flashpacking? You can find it. Looking for privacy? It covers that too. Just looking for a basic bed? Yep. And if you are looking for the full communal backpacker experience – the sort of place from which life-changing pub crawls being – well, you can find that too. Oddly, despite how well this app works, it’s still in Beta – but then again, it might be one of those that is always in Beta.

As for comprehensive, it lists over 350 places to bed down in Rome alone! Each is profiled by price, room type and facilities. Crucially, the reviews section is also not the usual ghost town. A few hostels have thousands of testimonials.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android

  1. Tripadvisor

It is the big daddy of travel apps for a reason. The volume of listings is colossal, the user base is massive, the reviews are pretty accurate and the info is good. Yes, TripAdvisor is everywhere and ranks just about everything – that’s why it is great and also a bit of a problem. See, it puts everything in a neat order, when in fact a good backpacking trip should be filled with shambolic spur-of-the-moment discoveries.

If you follow TripAdvisor to the letter, you end up having the same Italian holiday as everyone else. However, we’re including it in our list because when you need the easy answers for where to eat, where to stay and what to do in the tiny town you’re stuck in on a 5-hour coach trip layover, then TripAdvisor is golden.

If, on the other hand, you want to immerse yourself in local culture, go off the beaten path (to attractions that might not be listed anywhere near the top of the charts) and have unique experiences, well you wouldn’t use TripAdvisor until it all turns a bit south and you once again need reliable advice fast. So, choose it to help solve service industry problems, not to uncover hidden surprises.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

  1. WeTap

Bottled water is heavy. Bottled water is expensive. If only it came free out of a pipe… In terms of water on the go, Rome was a pioneer. In the 1870s around 2500 public drinking fountains – called ‘nasone’ or ‘fontanella’ –  were installed all around the city to provide cool, free and fresh water to the citizenry. They were popular then and have become part of everyday life for the locals now.

Better yet, the water these continually flowing stone fountains circulate is exactly the same as the clean and safe tap water you get from the city grid. There is a little trick in how to use them, but you’ll easily figure it out (or just watch the locals).

Best of all, using WeTap to find and fill up at the nasone near you will take you into new areas of the city and is far, far more romantic than dropping a few € into the vending machine at the nearest convenience store. Plus, it’ll save you a lot of money too, because Italy gets really hot in summer.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, with Android soon to launch

Download and get out there

Now that you have our top 5 FREE apps for making your Italy holiday so much easier, you better get downloading.  Because, your smartphone will be a lifesaver when you are on the road. So, getting the most from it just makes sense. And remember, every app you have saves you from spending your precious data balance on internet searches, leaving you more space to upload photos or keep in contact with friends or check out the latest rumours about something cool happening later on wherever you happen to end up.

When planning your trip to Italy, check out our pre-paid SIM card for Italy and learn how to make the most of your pre-paid phone card. We hope you will enjoy your stay!