How To: London To Edinburgh in Under $250

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While studying abroad, I had a list of places I wanted to travel but, let’s face it, life can get expensive. I soon realized that if I was going to travel around Europe while I was here, it would have to be done on a budget. If I’m being honest, I am not always great with the whole planning a budget and sticking to it, but after my most recent trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, I realized it can be done! So if you are looking to spend a weekend in one of the most beautiful cities ever, here’s how!

Travel

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Flight: $36

Train Ticket: $22

Uber: $20 (roundtrip)

Total Cost: $78

This can sometimes be the most expensive part of your trip, with having to book flights and train tickets, but don’t stress. Europe has a great selection of budget airlines that, if booked in advance, can be really inexpensive!

Keep an eye out when traveling to Scotland, but I recommend flying RyanAir. If you can fit your stuff in a backpack, there is no baggage fee and my ticket cost me $36 roundtrip!

If you do want to pay a little extra you can bring a carry on and get priority boarding for only 8 quid! (That’s around $10.)

Depending on what airport you fly from, the cost of traveling to and from the airport can vary. But for the most part you can get really cheap train or bus tickets. We took the Stansted Express for $22 round trip and it made it very easy to get to and from the terminals. If you are flying out of Heathrow or Gatwick you can also take the tube or check for a bus which you can easily get for $10 or less!

Lastly, once you arrive at Edinburgh airport and are looking to get to your accommodations, the train is right outside the terminals and costs about 7 quid ( $9). If you are traveling alone, this is definitely the cheapest option of getting into the city. If there are two or more of you, it is about the same cost to split an Uber, which can be slightly more convenient.

Once there you can pretty much walk everywhere, so you won’t need to worry about spending anything on daily transportation!

Accommodation

Hostel: $32.45 (Two nights)

It was super easy to find affordable, comfortable accommodation in Edinburgh. You can find an affordable hotel or Airbnb in the city, especially if you are booking in advance, but I recommend going the hostel route. There are plenty to choose from, but we stayed at Castle Rock Hostel, and it was fantastic. It had breakfast for $2 every morning and was located right along the Royal Mile, overlooking the castle. It ended up being about $16 a person for a shared room, but you can upgrade to a more private accommodation, if you want to.

The great thing about the hostel route, is that they also offer free, or highly discounted events. Castle Rock had a pub crawl, beer pong, and even a Highland trip you could sign up for, if interested. It’s cheap and a great way to meet new people while traveling!

Tourism

Ghost Tour: FREE - ($5 donation)  

Harry Potter Tour: FREE - ($5 donation)

Arthur’s Seat: FREE

Total Cost- $10

The great thing about Edinburgh is how inexpensive it is to explore the city! The city is packed with free walking tours. Not only do they have historical guides, but also late night ghost tours, and of course a Harry Potter tour… all for FREE! The guides do ask for a donation at the end of your tour, but it is totally up to you how much you want to pay. This is a fantastic way to learn more about the city and go out exploring while spending little to no money!

Arthur’s Seat

This is another MUST while staying in Edinburgh. Located about a mile east of Edinburgh Castle, just outside the city center, is this beautiful dormant volcano. The hills make up the majority of Holyrood park, with Arthur’s Seat being the peak! There a variety of routes leading to the top, so you do not need to be an experienced hiker. It is absolutely free and, once at the top, you will be greeted with breathtaking views of Edinburgh and the neighboring towns.

Food

Breakfast: $4 (Two days)

Lunch: $32

Dinner: $14.95

Elephant House Cafe: $15

For food, I just recommend giving yourself a budget. We used our hostel for breakfast in the morning, which was only $2 a person. Then for lunch, there are plenty of great shops along the Royal Mile and in the heart of the city.

We did one day with a cheap lunch where we grabbed a quick bite for 6 pounds (around $8) and then did one nice meal. If you are looking for a delicious, and affordable restaurant, OX184 is fantastic! It has a wide range of food and the service is great.

For dinner we usually grabbed something inexpensive, like a sandwich, or popped into a pub. However we did eat at a little diner called Mums Comfort food. The fish and chips were amazing.

Also, be sure to pop into the Elephant House Cafe, if you are a Harry Potter fan. It is where JK Rowling wrote parts of the novels, and it has great views of the city!

The Scotch Whiskey Experience

Platinum Tour: $50

Gold Tour: $35

Silver Tour: $20 (18 for students)  

This is located right along the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, and is a fantastic way to learn more about Scotland’s favorite drink! The cost varies depending on which tour you want to do, but it offers an in depth tour on how Scotch is made, a tour of the largest unopened Whiskey Collection, and of course a Scotch tasting. It’s definitely worth it, and if you are a student they offer discounts! We did the silver tour and it was fantastic.

Nightlife

Drinks and Covers- $15

Edinburgh has a booming nightlife, and again it can cost you little to no money! Most of the pubs and bars have live music every night, for no cover charge! All you have to do is pay for drinks. (If you want to.) If you get a couple of rounds, it ends up being about $10-15 a person!

If you are into live bands-- check out Whistle Binkies. It has no cover charge and it offers a wide range of music genres.

If you are into jazz, I recommend checking out The Jazz Bar. It does have a 6 pound cover charge, but their acts are fantastic and it is a great place to relax and enjoy some fantastic live music.

TOTAL COST: $221.40

So you see, traveling can be done without breaking your bank! If you are thinking of visiting somewhere new, I highly recommend Edinburgh. It's cheap, fun, absolutely beautiful, and can be done in under $250!












How to spend 48 hours in Amsterdam

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The other day I was sitting in class and I suddenly felt the need to travel.

Having been in London for over a month now, I thought it was finally time for me to go and explore somewhere new.

Within the hour I had booked a spontaneous two day trip to Amsterdam, and I could not be happier with this decision.

So, if you are looking to spend a quick weekend in Amsterdam, here’s my advice.

FOOD:

When exploring a new place, food is great place to start. Though we didn’t really have anything specific in mind, we ended up finding some great places to eat.

BURGER MEISTER:

After traveling all morning, we were all super hungry (and a little hangry). So as soon as we got into the city, we ate at a place called Burger Meister, which I highly recommend. It was a delicious burger, and it has a great selection of specialty fries, something Amsterdam is known for.            

LUNCH AT REE7:

This was a bucket list item for my friend Macey, who had heard of this quaint little cafe.

It is tucked into an alley, in between lines of shops, but is always packed full of people. The food is fantastic, but the donut topped shakes are what tend to draw in a large crowd. I recommend going in the late afternoon or early in the morning to beat the line, because it is definitely worth visiting.

DUTCH PANCAKES:

Our next stop was food… again. Over by the Anne Frank House we found a place along the water called Pancake House. It is a great place to visit if you are looking for authentic Dutch Pancakes and it has great views of the canal.

TOURIST STOPS:

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS BENCH:

Our first stop was the famous The Fault In Our Stars bench. After the movie came out in the summer of 2014, this bench became a very popular tourist attraction.

If you are a John Greene fan, this is a must see for you. If not, it still makes for a great seat right next to the water.

THE I AMSTERDAM SIGN:

Then we took a trip over towards the I AMSTERDAM sign for a quick photoshoot. If you are visiting this city, you have to take a picture here-- It’s a must.

NIGHT LIFE:

LOVERS CANAL CRUISES:

I highly recommend doing one of these tours. Not only do you get to see the beautiful views of the city form the comfort of a boat, but you also have an audio guide pointing out the major historical landmarks along the way. The lights reflect off of the dark canal waters and illuminate the city, making for a magical sight that you won’t want to miss.

THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT:

Probably the most infamous area of Amsterdam, the Red Light District is complete with sex shops, peep shows, strip clubs, and prostitutes on display in window fronts.

This area has been in use since 15th century, as women migrated towards the docks in search of work. The red lights were used to signal that a prostitute was for sale in the building, back when it was illegal for them to be so openly on display.

This is definitely an area worth seeing, especially at night when you can truly get the full effect of the infamous, neon red lights.

MUSEUMS:

THE VAN GOGH MUSEUM:

This was one of our major bucket list items, and we were lucky enough to snag a few tickets the night before. The museum is beautiful and packed full of some of Van Gogh's most famous works. You can’t take pictures of his paintings, but believe me, they are incredible.

I also highly recommend walking through the exhibit on the bottom floor that recreates Van Gogh’s mind in the last few years of his life. It is fascinating and also works great for a photoshoot.

THE ANNE FRANK HOUSE:

This house is located right along the water in the central part of the city. Though it has been renovated, the house was once used as a secret annex to hide the the Frank and Van Pel families from the Nazis in World War II.

The families were housed here for two years before the secret annex was discovered, and walking through, you get a glimpse of what life must have been like for this young girl and her family.

It can be difficult to buy tickets if your trip was spontaneous, because they sell out months in advance. But, everyday on the hour they release a handful of tickets. This starts at 10 am and if you are diligent it is highly possible to get in for a visit.

CONCLUSION:

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, that has so much to offer. From its historic sights to its quaint shops and breathtaking views, it really has everything you’re looking for. Whether you are going for a week, or a spontaneous two day trip, it is definitely worth visiting!

Things to See & Do in Iceland in Spring

 

Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travelers who want to have a different kind of holiday; one centered around adventure and the outdoors, rather than a typical city break or beach holiday.

Iceland's seasonal weather turning the landscape and landmarks into something entirely different depending on the time of year you visit. The whole country is basically one giant National Park, with an endless number of natural attractions that will make any adult feel like a child experiencing something for the first time.

We set our sights on Reykjavik and the Southwest coast and enjoyed a week of nature and adventure. 

Blue Lagoon

Who here has ever met someone who has said that they wouldn't love to go to the Blue Lagoon? I'll wait.

The Blue Lagoon dates back to 1976 and is located in between Keflavik Airport and Reykjavik, making it the perfect first stop upon arriving in Iceland. 

We spent the afternoon moving slowly through the lagoon, enjoying the warmth, sipping on our complimentary wine and prosecco, and going a little overboard with the silica mud masks.

Click here for more information on the history of the Blue Lagoon, and here for more information on packages available.

Reykjavik

As the country's capital, Reykjavik is a must see. It has a population of around 123,000 people and is the heart of Iceland's cultural, economic, and governmental activity. 

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Lonely Planet describes it best, saying "The world’s most northerly capital combines colourful buildings, quirky, creative people, eye-popping design, wild nightlife and a capricious soul." 

Reykjavik is a great place to spend your first few nights in Iceland due to its proximity to the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle, not to mention the many things to do within the city itself.

There are a number of international festivals and events that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors per year, so one can always expect to have something to do in the nation’s capitol. 

the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle covers about 300km, looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands and back.

Driving Iceland's Golden Circle can take as little as a few hours or as long as an entire day.

5 must sees along the Golden Circle: 

  1. Þingvellir National Park

  2. Silfra Fissure

  3. Geysir Geothermal Area

  4. Gulfoss Waterfall

  5. The Crater Kerid

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Vik is right along Iceland's famous Ring Road, and is the country's southernmost village and faces the Atlantic Ocean. 

3 must sees during a stay in vik: 

  1. Reynisfjara

  2. Vik I Mydral

  3. Icelandic Horses

read more: three must sees during a stay in vik

waterfalls

Seljandsfoss and Glufrabui waterfalls are within walking distance of each other; Glufrabui is the furthest away from the parking lot so we decided to go see it first and then hit Seljandsfoss. 

Glujrabui, or "Canyon Dweller", is 40 metres tall and is largely hidden behind a cliff that faces the South Coast. If you aren't afraid of slippery rocks and getting a little wet, you can follow the stream through a cleft in the cliff to see the falls in their entirety. The mist makes it difficult to take pictures but there is a boulder in front of the falls that you can climb to take that perfect Insta pic

Seljandsfoss is the more well-known waterfall of the two, at 65 metres tall and it is breathtaking. We lucked out with the weather, and the falls treated us to some beautiful rainbow displays where the mist from the falls was touched by the Sun. There is a path that actually allows you to walk behind the waterfall where the sound of the water is deafening and the views are incredible.

It's definitely worth it, and after you've walked around the path you'll be able to check "walk behind a waterfall" off of your bucket list. 

seljavallalaug secret pool

Seljavallalaug is a geothermal pool that was constructed in 1923 and provided locals with a place where they could learn to swim.

To reach the pool you'll walk for around 15-20 minutes into the valley, following the uneven paths and jumping over a stream.

If you don't see it right away, that's normal.

Keep walking, you can't see it until you get to it. 

Read more: Iceland’s secret pool


Solheimasandur airplane wreck

This place is straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. 

In 1973 a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beaches of Solheimasandur along the south coast of Iceland. 

The remains are still there, and if you're willing to deal with a 2 hour walk roundtrip you can see them for yourself.

Read more: solheimasandur airplane wreck

Midnight Sun

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Most tourists plan their trips around seeing (or hoping to see) the Northern Lights or the Midnight Sun; two equally spectacular phenomena that can be seen by only a handful of places around the globe.

Quite literally, it's the time of year when the Sun is still visible at midnight in either the Arctic or Antarctic. In Iceland, the Midnight Sun can be seen as early as May and as late as August. 

The Midnight Sun is UnREAL. We loved it. You'd love it.

Conclusion

Iceland is the definition of an adventure destination; one that can be visited by seasoned, new, or solo travellers. 

I couldn't imagine a better time to visit or a better group to visit with. There's plenty more to see and I'm sure I'll be back for more - maybe next time to see those Northern Lights.  

 

 

Three must sees in Vik, Iceland

 

Vik is right along Iceland's famous Ring Road, and is the country's southernmost village and faces the Atlantic Ocean. Less than 300 people live in Vik yet it's the biggest settlement for 70km. There are many wonderful sights within Vik and it's surrounding areas; keep reading to learn about my three favourites. 

Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara is a world famous black-sand beach. I use the term "sand" lightly here; it's actually more like a pebble beach. The sand is made of crushed lava rock that forms when it reaches the cold ocean.  Right on the beach there are enormous basalt rocks, roaring Atlantic waves, and stunning views. Everyone is advised to stay clear of the water though; the dangerous rip tides have swept away a few tourists, and are not to be messed with.

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Vik i Mydral

Vik i Mydral church sits on a hill within the town itself. This little church is incredibly charming and offers views of the entire town. This was just a quick stop for us, but you could sit on the hills by the church and stare out at the ocean before you for as long as you’d like.

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Icelandic horses

Icelandic horses are magical creatures.

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The horses of Iceland are the original Viking horses and are the purist horse breads in the world. The breed has been isolated on the rugged island in the North-Atlantic since the settlement, or over 1000 years ago, without any genetic input from other breeds.

My cousins grew up around horses, and so when we drove past a herd while leaving our cabin in Vik, they couldn't resist pulling over to get some pictures.

We watched them roam and play with each other for a while, and then continued on our journey to the next destination.