Tag Archives: budget travel
October 17, 2013

House Sitting 101: Or How to Travel the World for Free



Last year my girlfriend and I spent nine months living in France, rent-free. We were house sitters which means we looked after other people’s homes and pets while they were away on holidays themselves. We took on four different house sits ranging from two weeks to five months, drank plenty of wine and consumed our weight in baguettes and cheese on a weekly basis.

It was a wonderful experience and it was incredibly cheap. Without the cost of rent, our only real outgoings were food and spending money. It meant we were able to live in France, a country we’d both wanted to live in for several years without having to go through the rigmarole of finding a place to rent and finding French companies that had job openings for two people who were the English-speaking equivalents of Manuel from Fawlty Towers. All in return for a few daily chores like walking the dog or feeding the cat.


What is House Sitting?

House sitting means looking after someone else’s home while they’re away. The reasons people get a sitter vary, but in most cases it’s because they have pets that need looking after and aren’t comfortable putting them into boarding kennels or a cattery.

Other reasons for getting a sitter include: having someone to collect the mail, having someone there to act as a deterrent to burglars and having someone there to make sure things don’t go wrong (e.g. the pipes freezing during winter).


Why House Sit


Us house sitting in France

Anyone who’s ever travelled for more than a few weeks will know just how much the cost of accommodation adds up. In places like Western Europe, Australia and North America this can make travel and especially long-term travel seem very unaffordable. But house sitting is more than just free accommodation – as amazing as that is – it’s a unique travel experience that gets you living like a local in a proper house and usually with pets as well.

Towards the end of our house sit last year we were invited to attend the local repas de chasse; a six course meal of venison, wild boar, cheese and other delights thrown by the local hunting society. Jemma has blogged about it here so I won’t go into much more detail, but needless to say it was a wonderful experience and one we probably never would have had if we had been staying in a hotel, hostel or self-catering.


How to Find House Sitting Assignments

When we first started house sitting, we did everything to market ourselves to try and get more house sits; we built our own website, advertised, contacted expats living abroad etc. It was a lot of effort for very little return. These days we just tend to maintain memberships on house sitting websites like TrustedHousesitters.com who currently have around 500+ housesits to apply for. We’ve also built up some good relationships with people we’ve house sat for before and so are frequently invited back for repeat house sits.


Applying for House Sits

House sits can come and go in as little as a few hours, especially if they’re in luxurious locations (e.g. Saint Lucia) or otherwise very expensive cities like New York, Sydney or London. You can keep track of them via Twitter or email, but as soon as they go live it’s really a fastest first situation. (Of course there are plenty of house sits that don’t get filled as quickly, but it’s just worth bearing this in mind about the ‘dream’ house sits.)


  • Have your profile filled out in advance: This means photos (as many as possible, especially ones of you with pets), a good description of yourself and as many references as possible. If you haven’t been house sitting before getting references may seem like a catch-22 situation but know that references from previous employers and landlords or character references can all add weight to your application.
  • Be concise: Brevity is the soul of wit after all. Get your first email into as few words as possible, mentioning first of all why you’re the right person for this particular house sit. Focus more on what you can offer the homeowner, not why you would love a free holiday. A homeowner may have several emails to get through and they’ll be trying to make a shortlist of the best people as quickly as possible. Make yours stand out and get yourself into that shortlist.


  • Oversell yourself: Although it’s tempting to sell yourself as a handyman come gardener, don’t put this in if it isn’t true, and especially don’t add it in if the house sitting assignment doesn’t call for these skills. Nothing is more worrying to a homeowner than the thought of coming home to a new, unasked-for, set of shelves in the kitchen and a water feature in the garden.
  • Give up: Sometimes you just need to get that one house sit (and reference) under your belt to begin getting accepted for others. When we first started house sitting, we began by house sitting in Edinburgh (where we were living) to get experience before applying for the big ones abroad. Homeowners, we found, were a lot more willing to give us a chance if they could meet us first.

Good luck!


August 5, 2013

Seasonal tips for how to enjoy New York on a budget


New York is a city for all seasons and a very budget friendly city.

Here are my top tips for having a good time in New York on a budget, covering all seasons without busting the bank.


Winter in New York


New York on a budget in the Winter


New York dazzles in all seasons: there is no best time to visit.

Around Christmas, Fifth Avenue sparkles with window displays, the tree at Rockefeller Centre sparkles and my favorite thing to do is to watch the colorful skaters on the ice rink.

There are Christmas markets at multiple locations in the city, notably the ones at Bryant Park and Union Square.

I love drinking hot chocolate in a bowl with a huge marshmallow at the City Bakery to defrost frozen noses and toes.

Museum hopping is an ideal way to keep warm while being intellectually stimulated.


Remember to visit during pay as you wish hours: each of the museums has this option with the Metropolitan Museum having suggested entry AT ALL TIMES.

Treating yourself to a showing of the Nutcracker Ballet at the Lincoln Centre is also an unforgettable New York tradition.



New York on a budget: Spring


Spring is the time that New Yorkers become one with the few expanses of nature that the city holds.

The New York Botanical Garden- the jewel of the Bronx is aflame with a riot of spring flowers. Daffodils, magnolia and cherry blossom make this trip a fragant memory.


Admission to the Botanical Garden grounds is free on Saturday mornings and Wednesdays.

Spring in New York is a runner’s paradise: people are out and about in Central Park, along the East River and Hudson Riverside promenades. The water bodies in Central Park gently thaw and red little robins and sparrows are heard twirping again.

It’s an ideal time to explore different parts of the city when temperatures are not extreme.


Summer in New York on a budget


Sun deprived New Yorkers go crazy on an average sun-drenched day: it’s not unusual to see beach towels and bikini bods in nooks and corners of Central Park.

A wonderful day out is to pack a picnic hamper, a travel pillow, blanket and a good book, to seek the shade of a tall green tree and watch the world go buy.


There are a number of excellent free summer concerts at Summerstage, Central Park.

Summer is incomplete without a trip to one of the beaches along the Long Island Coastline.

A daytrip to Jones Beach or Long Beach is possible with the aid of the Long Island Railroad.

An overnight trip to Montauk or the Hamptons on the Hampton Jitney is also an ideal way to sample the Atlantic sea air and a cup of clam chowder.


Autumn in New York on a budget



Fall is the most beautiful season in New York and the New England Region.

New York is the ideal base to travel north for a couple of days of leaf-peeping to either New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The Hudson River Valley, Bear Mountain State Park in New York are rampant with flaming fall colors.

Visit different Fall Festivals on Manhattan street corners, beat the summer crowds and walk the Brooklyn Bridge or see the Statue of Liberty on the free Staten Island Ferry.


The Metropolitan Opera also starts it’s season during this time. If you book early cheaper tickets can be obtained otherwise standing room only tickets are available at discount prices the day of the performance.

Whilst it’s possible to scrimp and save on many experiences on New York and still have a great time there are some things that are not worthwhile missing as they are once in a lifetime experiences.



In my opinion the most wonderful thing to do in New York is to climb to the top of a very tall building (The Empire State or the Top of the Rock) just before sunset and watch the sun go down over the Hudson River and watch very slowly Manhattan light up with a thousand glittering lights.

The serpentine sight of a gold trail of city lights along Fifth Avenue is a dizzying, breathtaking spectacle.



If you are visiting New York with friends or family, the best idea to rent an apartment.

Given how expensive it is to stay in Manhattan, your best option is to stay in Queens in the Woodside area which I found to be very safe with convenient access to local public transport.



3 bedroom apartment, Woodside. Queens. Note: Image courtesy of Housetrip.com


I stayed in a really nice 3 bedroom apartment in New York , courtesy of Housetrip.com

The apartment was clean, comfortable with lots of natural light.

The neighbourhood itself is very handy and multicultural- you have a cool Irish pub right on the doorstep with excellent live music nights and an excellent Korean takeaway just 5 minutes down the road beside the subway.



3 bedroom apartment,  New York. Queens.

Kitchen in my 3 bedroom apartment rental, Woodside. Queens. Note: Image courtesy of Housetrip.com



There is also a bunch of grocery shops just 2 minutes walk away if you are looking to cook in the apartment ( kitchen is huge and excellent as you can see from the picture)

The other cool feature about the apartment is that the subway (7 Train) is a 5 minute walk and just 3 blocks from the apartment.

7 train has a regular service and drops you off in Manhattan in just 15 minutes.

Fresh linens and towels are provided by Nouredinne, the owner who was really helpful and answered all our questions.

The apartment can host upto 8 people , so based on the rental rate of $169 a night, works out to be just over $20, per person, per night which is great value for New York.

It was perfect for me and my family which included a little baby of 2 years old. Peaceful at night. Perfect.


Disclaimer: Hope you found this article useful which was made possible by the kind support of Housetrip.com If you are interested in discovering more options for apartments in New York, I recommend popping over to their site.

June 20, 2013

Review of Bus Hostel in Reykjavik

Bus Hostel Reykjavik

Bus Hostel in Reykjavik


Bus Hostel Reykjavik is a friendly, fun and super affordable place to stay while exploring Iceland’s capital or beyond. With welcoming and helpful staff and lots of vintage style and quirky details, quite unexpectedly Bus Hostel in Reykjavik became a home from home in one of the world’s coolest cities and we mean that in terms of both the weather and the lifestyle on offer there.



Review of Bus Hostel

The bar inside Bus Hostel


It says something about me and my usual mode of travel that when Kash asked me to represent Budget Traveller on a “Volcano-hopping tour of Iceland staying in a hostel” the bit I was most worried about was staying in a hostel. Volcanoes? Yep, all good, bring those deadly dangerous magma chambers on. Staying in a hostel? Well, that was when my knees started to shake and my palms moistened a little.

I needn’t have worried.

I needn’t have been so opinionated for so many years.

And perhaps I needn’t have spent so much money on hotels…?!



Review of Bus Hostel

Bus Hostel’s Vintage Decor in the Lounge


Bus Hostel in Reykjavik exceeded all of my snobbishly low expectations and then some.

With vintage decor filling the large open plan lounge and bar area, a fully-equipped kitchen close to the bedrooms and several separate bathrooms in which you are encouraged to indulge your inner rock star or opera diva as you sing in the shower, this is a hostel that wants to make its customers happy.


Review of Bus Hostel

Where you can find the bathrooms in Bus Hostel… I can’t argue with this!


Formerly used as the office of a bus company (hence the name), Bus Hostel opened its doors in May 2013 and it has welcomed a wide range of guests since then, from a globetrotting pensioner backpacker to a couple of newly-weds who asked staff members to be witnesses as their wedding.

Of course, there are the bits I’m still not sure I’d do in a hostel, like sleeping in a communal dorm or living off noodles for weeks but for those with sturdier sleep patterns than I, you can find a couple of large mixed and single sex dorms. But I was naive to think that that’s all a hostel has to offer. Bus Hostel also has rooms with just four or six bunk beds, ideal for those preferring a little more privacy and three “Ritz” rooms cater for couples who want a double bed and some privacy.


Review of Bus Hostel

I loved the long dining table at the back of this picture to work on


All the communal bedrooms have spacious lockers for valuables and if you do choose to have the bed linen they offer at a small additional cost then you will be guaranteed a cozy night’s sleep on a perfectly plump pillow and cotton fresh white sheets. All the bedrooms are wonderfully minimalist in a way that only Nordic countries can achieve, though do expect the odd quirky detail.


Review of Bus Hostel

Bus Hostel Wall art and a twin bedroom


Bus Hostel is located less than ten minutes walk from the city’s BSI central bus station and you can find yourself in the centre of Reykjavik at the foot of the impressive Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral within fifteen minutes walk. The bar serves cheap beer and wine and I warmed to the additional touches that I didn’t know hostels were known for like the book swap cupboard, free wifi, free luggage storage and the free food shelf in the kitchen.


Review of Bus Hostel

My favourite wall in Bus Hostel, Reykjavik


Sounding good? Well, I haven’t even got to the best part of Bus Hostel.

The staff there are exceptional. They are warm, welcoming and ready to help you get the most out of your stay with budget tips or trip planning. SAD Cars, a budget hire car company is also based in the same building and I can’t emphasise enough how amazing it is to see Iceland by road; less than an hour away you can find yourself surrounded by the landscape of a lava field or watching plumes of steam rise in the air from the geothermal springs and spas that are dotted across Iceland (you can see some photos of our adventures in Iceland here).

It was hanging out with Bus Hostel’s staff that made me realise that I’ve been missing out on a certain camaraderie among travellers that you don’t often enjoy when staying in hotels. Also I happen to know that Kristin – Bus Hostel’s manager – knows the best vintage and thrift shopping places in Reykjavik so be sure to ask her about them.


Review of Bus Hostel

Bus Hostel’s “Rules” – Good rules for life, i think!


A notoriously expensive country and city to travel in, Bus Hostel is currently the cheapest hostel and budget accommodation available in Reykjavik. Prices for a bed in a dorm start at 2800 ISK (£15) a night in low season and 4750 ISK (£25) in high season. A double room is 9100 ISK (£50) in low season and 12990 ISK (£70) when summer rolls around and this includes towels and bedding. Get to Reykjavik and the Bus Hostel by hopping on the FlyBus from Keflavik Airport. If you buy the Return+ ticket it includes a drop-off and pick-up from the hostel.

The only problem that Bus Hostel left me with was wondering what I do now when I travel? After ten years of avoiding hostels, my eyes have been opened and while it does mean I have more options to trawl through when I plan my next trip, I see this is as no bad thing.


Review of Bus Hostel

Another cool quote from Bus Hostel (and spot the Frankie!)


Bus Hostel Reykjavik, SKÓGARHLÍÐ 10, 105 REYKJAVÍK, Iceland. (Tel. +354 535 0350) www.bushostelreykjavik.com.

Frankie was a guest of Bus Hostel Reykjavik and SAD Cars and her flight to Iceland was sponsored by Icelandic budget airline Wow air (who probably have the best crew uniform I’ve seen). Her opinions – both snobby and otherwise – and her journey to hostel happiness are completely own and no-one could be more surprised than Frankie to find that she really did.


February 13, 2012

Best of Budget Travel: Roundup of stories w.e 13.02.12



Hope you had a good weekend?

Every week on the BudgetTraveller, I pick out the best stories on budget travel from across the web.

So you don’t have to scour the web to find out on what you missed from last week…


Here are the highlights from this week’s roundup: Enjoy and feel free to share you own stories and thoughts below.


1. Have you been curious to try out Couchsurfing?  Well here is an excellent new video that explains the phenonemon that is Couchsurfing


Couchsurfing ( Courtesy of Daniel 1977 http://www.flickr.com/photos/didmyself/ )


2. Nomadic Matt has come with a nice wee post on 8 alternative budget vacation ideas.


I like his first two tips: being a tourist in your own city and region.

Travel is a state of mind and you can find adventure on your doorstep.

Backpacking and being a tourist in your own city is a such a cool way of rediscovering your place.

I am going to be a tourist in Edinburgh via my new Luxury Hostels project and I’m really excited about this.



3. Ryanair launches 26 new routes to Budapest


In the wake of the collapse of Hungary’s national airline: Malev, Micheal O Leary has swooped to fill the gap and start 26 new routes to the city. More details here


4. John Vlahides from Lonely Planet, poses the question : Luxury or Budget Travel, which form of travel is more authentic?


Coppers Kissing: Banksy in Brighton.


5  From the BudgetTraveller, we’ve continued the Brighton series of how to enjoy 48 Hours in Brighton on a budget with a focus on the streetart scene in Brighton


Earlier instalments in the series, feature me discovering Dali’s famous Mae West Lipsofa and looking at the story behind Cassette Lord.

Plus also for those of you suffering from the winter blues and not travelling , how about becoming an armchair traveller?


Best post of the week


I enjoyed Runaway Jane’s post about what makes a good hostel room

Some valid observations- what is the point of having a 8 bed dorm with ensuite facilities?

Also having locker facilities is such a big necessity for guarding your valueables- any hostelier that can’t provide a locker facility is missing something.

Great post Jane!


Agree or disagree with my weekly picks?


Leave your comments below and also free to submit your budget travel stories every week to be considered for inclusion using the hashtag #budgettravel on Twitter

February 6, 2012

Best of Budget Travel: w/e 6th February 2012



Every week on the BudgetTraveller, I pick out the best stories on budget travel from across the web.


Here are the highlights from this week’s roundup…..


1. Laura Chubb from TNT Magazine spends 48 Hours in Tartu, Estonia’s  second city where she visits the local beer museum and discovers Estonia’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


2. An awesome list by CNNgo of 100 free attractions to visit across 10 of the world’s greatest cities.


3. Visiting Vietnam soon?

Save yourself from a 40 hour bus ride with the launch of VietJet’s new route from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.


Aydinli Cave Hotel


4. Hostelbookers Blog has a cool feature about 9 of the most unusual hotels and hostels in the world



5  From the BudgetTraveller, we’ve kicked off a series of how to enjoy 48 Hours in Brighton on a budget with the first instalment features me discovering Dali’s famous Mae West Lipsofa and in my 2nd instalment looking at the story behind Cassette Lord.


Best post of the week


I enjoyed Tripologist’s post on how to enjoy Prague on just $30 a day.

I like the sound of fried cheese sandwiches but sausage and beer for dinner, hmmm tasty snack but I would be tempted to up that budget a little bit for something slightly more substantial.


Agree or disagree with my weekly picks?


Leave your comments below and also free to submit your budget travel stories every week to be considered for inclusion using the hashtag #budgettravel on Twitter

January 30, 2012

Best of Budget Travel: Week ending 29/01/12


Every week on the BudgetTraveller, I’ll be picking out the best stories on budget travel from across the web.




Here are the highlights from this week’s roundup


1. Check out Jason from Locationless Living blog , review the spanking uber budget cool Tune Hotel in Liverpool Street, London



2. Theodora Sutcliffe from the excellent Travels with a Nine Year old blog s about how not to go skiing on a budget.


3. If you’re looking to visit Munich on a budget check out this excellent video by the Dime Traveller on Tripfilms where he shares awesome budget tips like communal camping and also cool stuff to do like checking out the surfers on the Eisbach River in Englischergarten.


( If you’re looking to do Munich on a budget also check out my video of my epic 15 hour £100 easyJet challenge I took part earlier in 2010! )


4. Global Grasshopper’s Rick Kirk offers 10 cool tips on how to travel on a shoestring budget  and never pay mediocre hotel prices again


3. Also catching my eye this week was a thought provoking debate on Lonely Planet about whether the concept of budget travel has changed ?
An important question to ask. Is budget travel more about saving money and less about the experience nowadays?


Best post of the week


Time is money remember.

This week’s top post is all about saving time : Budget Travel’s ace contributing editor Sean O Neil ( if you missed earlier , here is the cracking  interview with Sean on Budget Traveller sharing his budget tips ) shares 3 ace internet tools that help you to locate hotels that are nearest the popular landmarks.


From the blog


If you missed out, this week on the blog I’ve reviewed Wagamama Edinburgh  which is now one of my favourite cheap eats in Edinburgh.


Agree or disagree with my weekly picks?


Leave your comments below and also free to submit your budget travel stories every week to be considered for inclusion using the hashtag #budgettravel on Twitter

January 23, 2012

Best of budget travel: Highlights of w/e 22.01.12






Every week on the BudgetTraveller, I’ll be picking out the best stories on budget travel from across the web.


best of budget travel budgettraveller


Here are the highlights from this week’s roundup


1. Check out Wanderlust magazine awesome post on 10 free things to do in Naples which includes great moneysaving tips like visiting St Elmo castle for free, just an hour before closing.


2. Interesting thought provoking piece on Smarter Travel about what implications the demise of the Euro might have on travel costs in Europe and whether it could become a budget travel paradise 


3. Gadling’s budget travel guru, Alex Robertson Textor visits Italy’s southernmost island , Lampedusa in January. ….Where he is the island’s only tourist.

Curious to know what his experience was like.

Check out his post


4.  Also making the budget travel headlines last week was a hotel in Crete called the Aegean Sky hotel which apparently has been voted by holidaymakers ( people who use the Travel Republic website ) as the best hotel in the world.


Best Hotel in the world? Aegean Sky Hotel


At £26 a night, wow, I am intrigued to know more about this hotel.


Anyone with any experience of visiting this hotel, leave a comment or tweet me at @BudgetTraveller I’d love to hear from you.


5. Also if you’re a caffeine addict and planning a trip to Dubai this year , then have a peek at Timeout’s guide to Dubai’s cheapest cafes 


Best post of the week


I am veering away from my Turkey of the Week category and including instead my most thought provoking, interesting article of the week.

This week I’ve picked out a story by Hidden Europe‘s editor, Nicky and Susanne who have written on Eurocheapo about the missing gaps on Europe’s rail network. ]


From the blog

Happy Beer Travels for 2012!


If you missed out, I’ve done a study on the top 11 countries where you can drink the cheapest beer in Europe s diary of how to enjoy 48 hours in Paris on a budget  : £100 plus also what do in Barcelona if you have the misfortune of having your money, possessions stolen.


Agree or disagree with my weekly picks?


Leave your comments below and also free to submit your budget travel stories every week to be considered for inclusion using the hashtag #budgettravel on Twitter





January 4, 2012

Luxury Hostels of Europe: *NEW* on BudgetTraveller for 2012




Through the blog, I am always looking at new ideas and way of inspiring your future travels.


With this in mind I am launching a guide to Luxury Hostels of Europe on the BudgetTraveller in 2012.

Luxury Hostels?????????


I know it’s an oxymoron.

Hostels are supposed to cater for just backpacking tourists looking for the cheapest room in town- right?


Wrong. Things are changing.

There is a new breed of fashionable, uber cool hostels that are now offering many features of a budget hotel , while retaining the fun factor of a hostel.


Generator Dublin- One of the cool luxury hostels I'll be visiting


Starting from March 2012, every month I’ll be travelling across Europe checking out and reviewing this cool breed of new hostels.

London, Paris, Florence, Reykjavik, Sofia, Hvar, Berlin, Nice, Lisbon – there is an amazing list of destinations I am going to be visiting.

Along with each luxury hostel review, will be a mini-guide to enjoying the best of each destination on a budget.


As the BudgetTraveller I want to present to my generation ( I’m 33 in March ) how we can still backpack on a budget but with a luxury twist, or be a ‘flashpacker’


At my age,  I’ve found a lot of people who have a closed mind about hostels.


Question: Would you look for luxury in a hostel?


Images that come to their mind are of bland buildings, 16 bed dorms of drunk, snoring, smelly people.

Sharing communal toilets.


So I am on a mission to change their perception. Possibly my own?

It will be an interesting challenge.

To make hostelling convenient, comfortable and also fun.


In my research, I’ve picked up some awesome terms. ‘Flashpacker’ was one

Amazing how travel is diversifying into so many niches.


The Geek Flashpacker



I’ve learnt that I am going to be a ‘geek flashpacker’- since my trip will be inspired by technology with no guidebooks involved.


Since I’ll be using social media tools like Twitter to find tips from locals- I can also call myself  a ‘coolpacker’.


I’ll be using geo-locational tools like foursquare to keep people updated plus picking up tips.

The trip will be visual- I’ll be using the photo sharing network, Instagram to give people a flavour of the hostels I am staying in and what makes them unique.

So it’s real-time,  social travel trip.

Plus they will be videos from each hostel and destination on Youtube channel and the BudgetTraveller blog.


Over the next few weeks I’ll be researching the best upscale hostels across Europe.

I’ll be asking you my readers for tips and ideas.

Please email me your tips and suggestions for hostels on my Facebook Page:




Smartcity Hostels, Edinburgh- Rooftop Terrace, cool bar and restaurant in a great location


When picking a luxury hostel, factors I am looking at include-


  • Private rooms with ensuite bathrooms.
  • Good location ( Being centrally located important?)
  • They have to be fun and character.
  • Free or affordable wifi is a must plus a good breakfast.
  • Friendly staff – good hospitality doesn’t cost a penny.
Anything else I should add or subtract?


The guide launches on the blog in March 2012- so stay tuned.

If you like to get involved in the project please email the BudgetTraveller at [email protected]



December 23, 2011

Complete the BudgetTraveller Annual Survey- Win 1 of 4 New York City-Pick Guides








It’s come to the end of a very exciting year in travel at the BudgetTraveller

Between me and my team of trusted contributors, we’ve covered over 19 destinations this year on the BudgetTraveller and sister blog Europebudgetguide.com

Berlin, Paris, Costa Brava, Bologna/Rimini, Florence, Barcelona, Dordogne, Lisbon, Oslo, London, Granada, La Rochelle/Ile de Re, Antalya, Rotterdam, Krakow, Gdansk, Ystad/Malmo and Kolkata – wow some amazing memories there.


Next year I am already in planning mode and have a whole raft of exciting trip and project ideas in store.

However, as the readers of my blog, you are in the driving seat.


The blog is not just about my travel aspirations but more about discovering, sharing and inspiring your travels.


So please accept my invitation of completing the first ever annual BudgetTraveller survey.

Please click on the link here or just go to

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QRMY8BN    [ Copy and paste in your browser ]


10 minutes max to fill out.

Please feel free to share this and forward to your friends-more responses, the better!

Deadline for completing the survey is Friday, 13th January 2012.


As a special thank you to all those taking the effort to filling out the survey, you have the option of being entered into a prize draw to win 1 of 4 New York City-Pick Guides!

Just leave your contact details at the end of the survey.

Winners of the New York City-Pick Guides will be announced on Monday 16th January, 2012.


Oxygen Books’  acclaimed city-pick series is a new kind of travel guide featuring some of the best-ever writing on favourite world cities from Berlin, Paris and London to Venice, Amsterdam and Dublin.



Their latest title, city-pick  New York, has over sixty dazzling writers on the most happening city in the world including Tom Wolfe, Scott Fitzgerald, Alistair Cooke and Jan Morris.

It’s already been called ‘excellent’ by The Guardian and ‘remarkable’ by the Sydney Morning Herald.


Big thank you to Malcolm Burgess for the kind donation of the guides for the survey.


December 8, 2011

Stories from the road: Kolkata Diaries.Part 1





Hey folks- greetings from Kolkata, India !


I’m in Kolkata for the next 2 weeks , taking some time out (trying to!) but in between will be writing a few posts about my time here and the things I love the most about my hometown.

Yes, there will be a lot of talk about food since that is my/the  favourite pastime of people here so prepare for a few gastro-orgasms

So…I present to you my first instalment of the Kolkata Diaries. Enjoy!


I am still jet lagged after 2 days in Kolkata.

My body is still adjusting to the different cycle of life here.

I fall asleep late at night to the bedlam of stray dogs on the street fighting their territory and wake at 5am to the sound of crows bawling from the rooftops.

I left Edinburgh on the first day of winter snowfall 2 days ago.

It was 4c.

I’ve arrived in Kolkata which is around 27C.

The winters are mild here.

Despite having lived here for 9 years, everytime I visit Kolkata…it takes my breath away – I call this city my ‘parallel universe.’

Beneath the chaos and confusion there are plenty of stories happening in front of my eyes.

The tailor



For instance, I visit our family tailor on Rashbehari Avenue.

I hop on a tuk tuk or auto rickshaw. The fare from my house is a measly Rs 10.

My old pair of jeans needs loosening at the waist a wee bit ( I’ve gone from 30 to 33W in 3 years) -for the adjustment, he charges a paltry Rs 50.

I am also getting a tailor made shirt done for Rs 160 ( $3 )


Great Expectations


While he notes down the measurements I observe outside a stream of cackling mothers gathering in hordes, waiting expectantly for their children to finish school.

Exams are on.

Finally, I see a few children emerging pale faced, worn out with their test paper in hands.

Mums grab the paper from their hands.

The kids are virtually made to resit the paper then and there, mumbling all the answers standing on the street.

In a city of 30 million people where good jobs are at a premium, a good education is the ticket to a better life.

The rat race begins at an early age and the weight of expectations are high.


One person who has survived the Kolkata rat race and built a successful career is my very own father.

At 70, he is still quite an active guy and works as an ENT consultant, part-time.




He still has the biggest smile and enjoys life as if he was 20.

He is my hero and my greatest inspiration in life.

I arrived in Kolkata on the day of his 70th birthday.


The ultimate in Bengali Home Cuisine- Alu Posto and Kolai er Dal



We celebrate with a delicious homecooked lunch that my Mum has prepared.

The meal consists of traditional Bengali classics- Alu Potol Posto, Chana Alu Tarkari with rice and  Kalai Er Dal [dal made of split white (skin removed_ Urid dahl ]

This is the ultimate in traditional Bengali cooking for me – as I eat, I feel a tear of happiness coming into the corner of my eye. There are so many happy memories associated with the food you love and know so well.

The years melt away…

After a nice wee siesta in the evening we go for a nice cup of coffee at Cafe Coffee Day at the local shopping mall -Southcity.

Coffee here is great. Standard cup of cappuccino is Rs 30 ( $0.75)


Birthday cake for Dad is the black forest gateau.

Its sensational and highly recommended [ Rs 70 $1.20 ] If you’re feeling peckish they also serve a nice range of grilled sandwiches at around the Rs 70 mark.

Shame that they don’t have free wifi

It’s a strange feeling to be in a city where there is a sparsity of free wifi points.

I guess there are some benefits of not being connected when you’re on holiday.

In that sense, Kolkata is a great place to come on holiday if you’re looking to switch off.