Thursday, May 29, 2014

Canal Boats through England

I once travelled through the English countryside with four friends by rental car, and it was a wonderful trip. We stayed at lovely country hotels, ate in pubs and good restaurants, and enjoyed the beauties of nature and some amazing architecture, including Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals. Best of all, the trip was relatively affordable.

Today Britain has become expensive, but one way to enjoy the countryside without spending a fortune is to travel by canal boat. The industrial canals that once formed a major part of the transportation system are now mainly used for recreation, and by renting a narrowboat you can visit small towns and villages at moderate cost.

The boats are equipped with bathrooms and kitchens, so you can prepare some of your own meals for further savings. The boats are especially popular with families and groups, The lowest price I found with a quick Website search was about $1250 for a week on a boat that sleeps up to four people.
Other boats can accommodate as many as eight passengers, generally at higher prices.

Two companies that offer narrowboats for rent on the canals of southern and central England are, and These boats have no crew, so you need to be in relatively decent shape to help steer the boats through various locks. It sounds like a great way to get out into nature, without the hassle and expense of driving.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Savings on Rental Cars, Trains

If you need to rent a car in an American city, Hotwire ( has some deals for you. Daily rates start as low as $8.95 in Orlando or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, $10.95 in Los Angeles and $14.95 in Washington, DC.

If rail is your preferred means of travel Via Rail ( has extended its usual Tuesday Escape fares through Wednesday this week. You have until midnight tomorrow to book for great savings in the Windsor, ON to Quebec City corridor. Sample one-way fares include Montreal to Toronto for $35, London to Windsor for $25 and Toronto to Niagara Falls for $19.

Travel must take place between May 29 and June 10, and to get the lowest fares you may have to leave very early in the morning. However, with fares this low it can be worthwhile.

On a more somber note, the success of recent elections in Ukraine is to some extent overshadowed by reports of extensive loss of life in the breakaway region of Donetsk in the east. There between 40 and 100 people are reported to have been killed in a battle for Donetsk airport.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Best Airlines for Stopovers

One good way to minimize the stress of travelling long distances is to stop over en route. It used to be possible to stop over for free in Europe when travelling to destinations in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Today, though, stopping over is likely to cost you a lot. However, according to a story in, there are still airlines that offer free or low-cost stopovers. They include Icelandair, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines, which offer free stops in their hub cities in certain cases.

Several other airlines provide low-cost stopovers to transit passengers. They include Air France, Turkish Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Finnair and Emirates. Booking these stopovers isn't always easy online, so you may need to talk with an airline representative or travel agent who is knowledgeable about the process.

I used to stopover in London or Amsterdam when travelling on to Africa or the Middle East, and always enjoyed the contrast of cultures as well as the chance to break up the long flights. It's a good way to maximize your travel at minimal or no cost.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Budget Airline Terminal in Malaysia

A new terminal for budget airlines opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia earlier this month. Advertised as the largest such terminal in the world, klia2 is capable of handling 10 million passengers per year. It is also large enough to handle the Airbus 380, the world's largest airplane.

In this rapidly growing part of the world, the new terminal will serve the many budget carriers that offer cheap flights to tourists and business travellers alike. It is connected by an express rail link to downtown Kuala Lumpur.

In the same part of the world, you have no doubt heard about the military coup in Thailand, which has been suffering from unrest for quite a while. I have not visited this country myself, but I spoke recently with my friend Susan who returned from Chiang Mai in March. She didn't mention any problems there except for very hot weather, so I assume conditions may be calmer in Chiang Mai than in the capital

Thailand is one of the top fovourite countries for budget travellers, so we can hope that conditions return to normal there soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Advice for Long Flights

One of the difficulties of travel is unusually long flights. About 20 years ago I flew from New York to Johannesburg on South African Airways, and the flight took 14 hours. Then it was the longest non-stop flight in the world.

Today, though, 16 hour or longer flights are common. Being in a small space for this length of time is a real challenge to both body and mind, but there are ways of coping. Check out issue of May 13 for different people's suggestions on how to deal with it.

 Most of the travellers emphasize not drinking alcohol but drinking plenty of water or juice, and trying to sleep for part of the flight. Some also recommend using prescription medication for sleep, and carrying ear plugs, eye masks and inflatable pillows, and getting up frequently to walk around. This last item is not always easy, especially if there is turbulence and the seat belt sign is on a lot.

Others do recommend some alcohol to deal with anxiety. It all seems to depend on the individual. I don't have any foolproof recommendations myself, other than avoiding these very long flights if possible.

I like inflatable pillows, and sometimes drink a little alcohol. I try to avoid drinking a lot of water because of the bathroom problem. I have never tried a sleep medication. Sometimes I can sleep on planes, but not when I am visiting a new place because I am usually too excited about the trip. Perhaps the best solution is just to grin and bear it, because even the longest flight eventually ends.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Deals for North American Flyers

Just about everybody loves to get a deal on air fare, and if you live in Canada you can find a number of them on the Websites owned by a young man called Chris Myden. For instance, you can fly from Montreal to Hong Kong on Delta for as little as $761 including taxes. Earlier in the year you could go from Montreal to Guadeloupe in the French West Indies for just $298 return in February, or from Toronto to the Azores for only $369 return in January.

All you need to do is check out flights from your preferred city for Montreal, www.yyzdeals for Toronto, or www. plus the airline code for a number of other Canadian cities that are listed on the sites, plus the word "deals" plus ".com."

This is a great source for some last minute travel as well as savings on some advance bookings. For example, the low fares listed on Delta for flights to the Orient are mainly for the fall months. The site tells you how to get to the low fares, which often are not advertised, on the airline's Website or through another search engine. Of course, these deals tend to sell out fast.

Those of us who live in Canada suffer from over-taxation on air fares, so these sites are very welcome here. I wondered whether there are similar sites for other cities, and found one called for New York's JFK Airport. However, it seems to be mainly about deals on parking, baggage fees and other auxiliary services rather than actual air fares.

Wherever you live, you may be able to find low fares from an airport near you by searching for the airport code plus "deals".

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cheap Summer Lodging in Toronto

If you choose to visit Toronto this summer, it is good to know that there is inexpensive accommodation available right downtown on the pleasant camput of the University of Toronto. There is in fact a wide choice of residences with different types of room choices, starting as low as $21 at New College for a single.

It is also possible to rent a room for a week, a month or longer, and accommodation is offered at the university's campuses in Mississauga west of the city and Scarborough east of the city, if you prefer not to be downtown. To get an idea of the options available, consult Most residences offer rooms to travellers from early May to late August.

I have stayed in one of the residences, I believe it was University College, and found it clean and appealing. At that time they served a good hot breakfast in the dining room.

Toronto, like most Canadian cities, is relatively pricey, but choosing residence housing can make a big difference in your budget. There is an article in the Huffington Post ( on other ways to save, including eating in Chinatown or Kensington Market, or at the places in the Distillery District where chain restaurants are banned.

University and college residences are one of the little-known secrets of budget travel. Unfortunatley there doesn't seem to be any central source of information on them, perhaps because policies can change frequently. But if you are visiting any city in Canada, the U.S. or the U.K. during the summer, it is worthwhile checking to see if this type of housing is available. The residences are a particularly val;uable resource in London, where other accommodation is usually expensive.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Budget Travel Blogs

A good source for other blogs about budget travel is the blog The author tends to do roundups of various parts of the world with people's suggestions on how to save money there, as well as providing her own travel tips.

Some of the posts struck me as a little silly, such as one about how to save money at the movies in Berlin. After all, how much can a movie cost? Maybe $20 maximum? But I suppose if you happen to be in Berlin and are a big movie fan, it could be useful.

More useful are the references to other people's blogs with specific suggestions. One I especially liked was a post about spending time in New York City without spending much money by Leyla Alyanak, who writes about travel for women, She had the advantage of having a free place to stay, so right away that saved her a lot, but she has other useful tips on free museum days, the joys of walking in the city and where to find inexpensive food.

In any case, it is good to see that there are a lot of people out there willing to offer us their wisdom on how to save money while seeing the world.

Monday, May 12, 2014

When in Rome....

Check out the Website of for some good suggestions on how to save money in the Eternal City. A lot of them apply to visiting other cities in Italy, too.

Rome is a marvelous city in terms of its cultural attractions and fascinating history. As is these weren't enough, it is also the seat of the Catholic Church and as such attracts millions of pilgrims every year. That means demand for everything to do with tourism is very high, and prices also tend to be expensive, sometimes very expensive.

One article I read said January is the only month of the year when the city isn't overwhelmed by tourists, so it could be a good time to visit if you don't mind cool weather and possible snow.

Ways to save in Rome include eating most of your meals at bars or sandwich shops, or in good weather buying the makings for a picnic at an open market. Don't patronize restaurants with multilingual menus. In a restaurant, omit bread to avoid the charge for "pane e coperto," and drink only table water or house wine. You will get plenty of carbs in your pasta course.

Look for independent hotels and b and bs, not those belonging to chains. Or try staying in a monastery for a restful visit. A good source for the latter is www.goodnightandgodbless, which lists several monasteries and religious guesthouses in Rome. Take public transit rather than taxis whenever possible.

If you happen to be in Rome on May 17, don't miss the Notta dei Musei when many of the city's museums are open all night for free. Be prepared for crowds at this event.

Many of Rome's sights are free if viewed from the outside--the Colosseum, the Forum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, Castel Sant'Angelo, and you can visit most churches without paying admission if you go for a service.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sources for Cheap Flights

If you want to save money on flights, there are a number of possible sources. Two that occasionally seem to have very low fares are and The latter advertises flights to Moscow from the U.S. for as low as $555, but does not provide details on its Website of exactly when these are. To get more information, you have to call their toll-free number, 888 420 1617.

I read about Skyscanner in a blog where the writer got a flight from Washington DC to Istanbul, Turkey in the winter for about $350 return, an amazing price. With these sites it is a good idea, if you have a flexible schedule, to ask to be alerted for unusually low fares to your chosen destinations. This will mean more email, but then there is a price for everything.

I checked Skyscanner for flights between Montreal and Moscow near the end of this month, and one routing through Morocco came in at less than $1,000. However, there were long layovers involved. You should be aware that to get the very low fares, you may have to spend more than 34 hours in transit, or fly from an airport that is not in your home town.

However, if you are willing to travel on short notice, there are still some bargains out there.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Yacht Tour to Arkangelsk

Russia is a fascinating country to visit, but few visitors ever see much beyond the two main cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Most tours concentrate on these capitals and their well-known attractions, so I am always pleased to discover tours that take you off the beaten path at reasonable cost.

Ulkotours ( offers such a tour, a voyage by yacht from St. Petersburg to Arkangelsk in the Russiasn North during the White Nights of summer. You sail through Lake Ladoga and stop at a number of islands to visit monasteries and other points of interest. You transverse the famous White Sea-Baltic Sea canal, built in Stalin's time at the cost of many lives.

This tour offers a chance to explore a part of Russia where other tourists are thin on the ground, and to enjoy extended time in nature. Best of all is the price, 1121 euros (about $1700)  per person for a trip that takes about three weeks and includes tours on land, four meals a day and the services of English-speaking personnel. No sailing experience is required.

Ulkotours also offers other itineraries in Russia, Scandinavia and the Baltic Republics with many shore excursions geared to cruise passengers.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Budget Hotels in the Gulf

If you assumed, as I did, that there is little affordable lodging in the Arabian Gulf States, you would be wrong. A group called CityMax Hotels ( has two hotels in Dubai and one in Sharjah where rooms can run as little as about $35.

These are modern places with lots of amenities. At the al Barsha in Dubai there is a free rooftop swimming pool, a free gym, free wi-fi, and a free bus to a nearby beach. This hotel is close to the Mall of the Emirates for shopping.

Unfortunately to obtain the $35 summer rate at their hotel in Sharjah you had to book by April 30, but there are other offers available including a 10 per cent reduction if you book within 72 hours of your planned stay.Because of the extreme heat, summer is low season in the Gulf states.

Even if you stay somewhere else, you might want to check out the Friday buffet offered at these hotels for a mere $25. It includes three beverages which I suspect are non-alcoholic. I am glad to see that the idea of budget travel is spreading even to the oil-rich part of the world.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Ukraine Situation Deteriorates

The image above is of Odessa's famous opera house in the summer of 2010.This structure, which opened it 1887, replaced an earlier one that had burned down. Among other things, it is noted as the spot where Russian politician Peter Stolypin was assassinatedd prior to World War I.

 Unfortunately Odessa has become embroiled in  the unrest sweeping eastern Ukraine and some 40 people were killed there recently in clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukranian supporters. Odessa is actually west of the Dnieper River, but as a major seaport it has a significant Russian-speaking population. Before World War II is was quite an international city, with large numbers of Jews, Greeks and other non-ethnicUkranians.

I have been trying to follow developments in Ukraine from a distance, and am dismayed at the anti-Russian tone of most of the news reporting here in North America. I'm not taking sides in the conflict, but I would like to see less obviously biased coverage of events there. Perhaps the best way to get the news from both sides is to check Websites such as (Russia Today) for the Russian point of view, and for information with a Ukrainian slant. The latter is especially good for its minute by minute coverage of developments.

So far violence has been relatively contained, and we can hope that continues to be the case. Ukraine is a beautiful country, and it would be a shame if it were to become a battlefield again as it was during World War II. The possibility of violence spreading beyond Ukraine into other parts of eastern Europe is even more disturbing.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Hotel Coupons for Savings

Hotel prices are rising fast, so any way of saving money on lodging is welcome news. One that can work for some popular destinations in the United States is The site offers special deals on a number of hotels in cities such as Atlanta, Washington, DC, New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, and San Diego and San Francisco.

These savings can be combined with earning points through Priority Club, the frequent guest program of Holiday Inns. The points so earned can be redeemed for free nights.

Another good source of savings for travellers on the Interstate highways in the U.S. is the coupon books available at rest stops. Or if you are willing to drive a little distance off the highway, you can often find better deals on non-chain hotels and motels along smaller roads. It is best to research where you will stay in advance and book ahead, but one of the joys of driving is that you can change your plans without a penalty.

If worse comes to worst, when you drive there is always the option of sleeping in the car if affordable accommodation is scarce.