The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 7 Noteworthy Points About my Trip Around the NC 500

So, having just returned from completing the NC-500, I thought I’d give a little review of the experience. I’ll be writing a number of pieces with stories, advice, and reviews, but this is just a short overview of advice I’d give straight off the back of the trip.

For those who are unaware, the NC 500 is a road-trip route which tracks around the outer coast of Northern Scotland. The experience on this trip has to be one of my favourites throughout my time exploring the UK. The scenery is stunning, the people are wonderful, and, if you’re really lucky, the weather can even be mildly hospitable!

Without further ado, here was the good, the bad, and the ugly from my time on the NC-500.

The good

  1. The highland scenery – Scotland is absolutely stunning. The NC-500 takes you through heather covered valley after heather covered valley, past looming black cliffs, and through undeniably beautiful mountainous regions. Everybody I talked to was impressed by the scenery and, in spite of having huge expectations, the Scottish countryside exceeded them. Almost every mile of the NC-500 has something to offer by way of scenery. You’re constantly pressed up against the glass in your car to sneak a peak of the big mountains and that big beautiful sky!

  1. The beaches – I’ll talk a little latter about why you should prepare yourself for not being able to go in the water; however, Scotland has some beautiful beaches that wouldn’t look entirely out of place on the Costa Del Sol or a Greek Island. Sandwood Bay, with its tranquil setting totally away from people, and huge dunes, is not to be missed. Moreover, Ceannabeinne, located in a beautiful cove with sapphire blue water and flat white sand is also undeniably one of the best-looking beaches I’ve seen around the world. Whilst Scotland might not have the roasting temperatures of the Mediterranean, its beaches are every bit as fine!

  1. The people – whilst, as an Englishmen, I was low-key raised to feel a natural rivalry with the Scottish, particularly every February during the six nations, I found the locals across the NC-500 to be undeniably kind and generous. Although I gather that wild-campers are not their favourite folk, whenever I needed directions, recommendations, or a hand with something, a local would rush to my aid. I can’t speak highly enough of the many people I came across on the trip, particularly in such a trying climate which many would argue has brought out a wealth of Xenophobic attitudes.

The bad

  1. The weather – Scottish weather is no joke. Even in the height of summer it can get very cold, wet and windy. You’ll need a good tent and sleeping bag. If you aren’t camping, make sure you’re geared up with some good wet-weather gear. We also made the mistake of going some very rough sea and I’d caution you to not risk the full wrath of nature!

  1. The realities of wild camping – I’ve been wild-camping before and, whilst the realities of sleeping a tad-rough don’t bother me, bear in mind that here are a few negatives. Whilst wild-camping is legal, it can also be difficult to find a good pitch in some areas and certain national parks will not allow wild-camping so please do your research. We found that none of these issues were particularly problematic; however, other wild campers were. They were inconsiderate, left rubbish lying around, and generally didn’t do the rest of us tourists proud. Be a good wild-camper for your sake and for everyone else!

  1. Racking up the miles – Again I’ll say right away that this wasn’t really a problem for me. I ended the trip by driving from Skye to Brighton in around 14 hours and, so, I do have a fondness for being behind the wheel; however, the amount of time you’ll spend behind the wheel isn’t for the faint hearted. The road is over 500 hand miles before you factor in your journey time to and from Inverness from wherever you live. In addition, the roads are difficult to drive. Much of it single track and that definitely will take a mental toll on you over time. Bear this in mind, especially if you’re going to have kids sitting in the back asking ‘are we there yet?’ every five minutes!

The downright ugly

  1. The Midges – to be honest, these little blighters were by far the worst part of Scotland. That is way they’ve earned their place in the ‘downright ugly’ category. My body is a mosaic of pale skin and red welts. This is why you do your research folks. My travelling companion and I had no idea of the biological differences between highland midges and mosquitos. We just thought tiny flies were chilling on our skin and, thus, took several days to realise we were being eaten alive. In the Summer months midges travel in clouds and will follow you to the ends of the earth, be that inside your tent or car. Get yourself insect repellant, a head net, hope there’s a strong breeze, and start up a fire every night. You’re going to want EVERY means at your disposal to stop the midges getting under your skin.

Into the Scottish Wild

I realise I have been radio silent for the last couple of weeks and that just won’t do!

Right now, I am busy finishing up my law conversion course, which is undoubtedly the bane of my life. I will, however, be free of it in around two weeks, at which point I will hopefully have more time to write, and more time to do things which deserve writing about.

That leads me onto my plan for the next month. In mid-August I have sketched out a vague plan to travel the NC-500 with one of my best mates, Andy.

We’ll be hopping in my Suzuki Grand Vitara 4 x 4 and then driving from Brighton to Ben Nevis. With no prior training, although we are both semi-fit, we the plan to scale Scotland’s highest peak… Fingers crossed we make it.

Then we will forge on towards Inverness to start the NC-500, not to be confused with the Indy 500. For those of you who haven’t heard of the NC-500, and I’m sure that’s many of you, if the raised eyebrows of my friends at it’s very mention are anything to go by, it is THE road trip if you want to see the Scottish highlands and Northern Scottish coastline in all their rugged glory.

Across 520 miles, which circumnavigate the outer reaches of Northern Scotland, the route will be sure to test our driving skills and self-sufficiency. As we are still just about in the midst of the current pandemic, even the basic task of planning our supplies for our two-week road trip is, in itself, of significant importance and an exercise in prudence.

Usually, on my past road trips, I could rely on supermarkets and petrol stations being open and rammed with resources. Now, I just can’t bank on that fact. Of course that is a pain; however, the uncertainty has led me to question whether there is there a much more interesting time to travel the UK than right now? I’d wager that there hasn’t been over the past decade or so, and, thus, I can’t wait for the forthcoming challenge!

Just to get some opinions and recommendations, here is my list of items that I’ll be taking with me for the trip:

  • A four-person tent. Andy and I are big lads and we’re going to be wild camping for two weeks. We need a tent and it has to be big enough.
  • An inflatable mattress and accompanying foot pump. I’m going to sleep in comfort and we bought an inflatable mattress a few years back from Decathlon which is currently gathering dust. It now has a use.
  • For the sake of my sleep, I’m chucking in ear plugs for Andy’s snoring as well!
  • A sleeping bag. This will round off the whole sleeping situation.
  • Food. Mostly canned, a loaf of bread, some vegetables and fruit that will keep.
  • A cool box. This is incase we can pick up ice and any cold food. With this, we can store it from the moment we get it, and thus take advantage.
  • My portable barbecue and a bag of coals. If we can get hold of meat, or catch us some fish, then I’ll definitely need these.
  • A fishing rod. To catch us some dinner if I can!
  • A stack of clothes. T-shirts, trousers, boxers, socks and the rest of the basics.
  • My trusty cap. I never go anywhere without it in the car!
  • Walking boots. Some proper shoes are definitely going to be necessary.
  • Waterproofs. We’re climbing Ben Nevis so I won’t be messing around in a t-shirt and shorts the whole time.
  • My knife. This is useful for a whole host of reasons. I might take my Swiss army knife as well, for it’s multi-purpose as a tool.
  • My Zippo Lighter. The quintessential fire starter in my opinion.
  • Sunglasses. When I’m driving at certain times, these will be reaaaally important.
  • Insect repellent. Mosquitos are ten a penny in Scotland right now and, as much as I don’t like it putting it on, a non-deet repellent will be in the bag.
  • My trusty dumbbell. I want to keep exercising as best I can, especially if I’m up at sunrise when the light pierces the tent.
  • Toiletries. Toothbrush, soap and all the rest. A razor for shaving also isn’t too bad an idea because my beard does not look good at all. What do you think of blonde hair and a ginger beard? Personally, I don’t think it’s a pretty picture.
  • My wallet, complete with cash and cards. This is obvious so I won’t elabourate.
  • A road map. My phone won’t get signal everywhere in signal so google maps might have to sit back and relax while my brain fumbles around with my map.
  • My Lonely Planet Guide on Scotland. I love to have a book to read and this one will help me bore Andy with fact after Scottish fact.
  • My phone. I wish I didn’t need it but better safe than sorry.
  • My car charger and T25 Bluetooth hookup. To keep the phone on, and be able to blast music and podcasts through my speakers.
  • A killer playlist. Everything from the Proclaimers, particularly as we’re in Scotland driving for around 500 miles, to Juice Wrld. Just to reiterate though, It would be frankly obscene if the Proclaimers didn’t make the list!
  • Oil. I definitely don’t want my car to breakdown because I didn’t bring it.
  • A pen, pad of paper, and my laptop. All to keep you guys updated from the road.

If you think of anything else I should take, that would be much appreciated. This list isn’t exhaustive but it’s been flitting around the back of my mind in advance of the forthcoming trip so it feels good to get it down on paper.

The NC-500 promises to be stunning. I’ll post my own photos as we go, or when we get back, but if you’re interested in advance, check out some of the best and most beatiful landmarks to visit on the route right here.

I can’t wait to get back to you guys with stories from the NC-500. I’ll endeavour to write a couple more articles before I leave on the trip; however, with exams in full flow, I can’t promise anything! Ciao for now…

My Top 11 Tips For Staying Safe Abroad!

Unfortunately, travel does carry some risk. I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t have to worry about anything when we went abroad, but that just isn’t possible.

Crime, infectious disease, and natural disasters are just some of the factors we risk when we travel. Fortunately though, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the risks and make your trip that bit safer. Here are a few ideas that might work for you!

  1. Check the website

The website is a fantastic resource to work out the possible risks associated with travelling to your destination. It has individual pages for every country around the world so that you can prepare yourself for any eventuality, wherever you are going.

Preparation is your number one asset in staying safe abroad. The government website, for British Citizens or anyone else, provides information on local crime, terrorism, diseases, natural disasters, and a multitude of other potential risks.

Use the site to do research on your destination and stay safe!

  1. Learn some broad strokes of the language

It never hurts to have a few local phrases in your vocabulary.

You can’t possibly know when it might be useful to ask for help from a local, or negotiate with the local law enforcement in their native tongue. Knowing some basics, or at least carrying a pocket phrase book, will definitely help you out!

  1. Know the local emergency numbers

Emergency numbers aren’t uniform across the globe.

I’d bet that you couldn’t tell you the emergency numbers of 99% of countries in the world, so what if you do have some kind of crisis in one of them? That is why you need the local emergency numbers written down and close to hand. It is not good enough to plug them into your mobile because what if your phone was lost, dead, or stolen?

Have them written down and in your pocket just in case you need to use a payphone or borrow a mobile from someone else. These digits can be crucial in mitigating potential risk in any number of situations and that is why I never travel without them!

  1. Check out the facts about crime and be prepared

As well as using the government website, also use resources like blogs and travel guides to get specific advice on local patterns of crime.

Knowing the places where crime occurs, and the types of crime that are common, will inform you of when to be alert in-country and, again, mitigate against risk to some extent. Patterns of crime are different from country to country. Some criminals tend to trend towards muggings whilst others use more sophisticated tactics like card cloning.

Being aware of the trends will help you understand which situations to avoid!

  1. Don’t put yourself on the radar!

If crime is your major concern, there are a few strategies you can employ to lower your risk of being a target.

One such tactic is to avoid flashing your valuables! Try not to be the obvious tourist with a camera hanging off your shoulder, wallet falling out of your back pocket, and mobile phone in the palm of your hand. Unfortunately, you are telegraphing your assets to potential criminals.

Try to fly under the radar instead. Bag up your stuff, wear clothing that is a little inconspicuous, and put your valuables in a belt bag under your top if you’re that way inclined!

  1. Don’t put too much money in one place!

This one is pretty simple. Don’t carry all your money in your pocket, but don’t leave it all in your room either!

Have multiple ways to get hold of money, or store it in multiple places, so that if your cards or phone are lost or stolen, or something happens to your accommodation, you still have access to some currency.

This is very important for emergencies and to spread your potential risk!

  1. Be careful with your alcohol

This one might fall on deaf ears, especially if you guys are anything like my friends! Fortunately, they have me to consistently be the designated sober group member.

Not everyone has that luxury though. Don’t leave your drink alone, or around people you don’t trust. You never know what might happen to it when it’s outside your field of vision. Also be wary of drinking beyond the point where you are aware of your surroundings or may significantly compromise your cognitive abilities.

With your wits about you, many situations can be less challenging and dangerous.

  1. Get your jabs!

I’ve made this mistake. I didn’t pay for my rabies or typhoid shots on a trip to Africa!

Fortunately, I didn’t contract rabies; however, I will tell you that typhoid was up there with the most significantly unpleasant experiences in all my travels!

Getting all the relevant jabs would have put my mind at ease when petting stray dogs, which should probably go on the list as inadvisable in itself, and drinking poor-quality water. Come to think of it, be careful with drinking water in some countries too. I do some really stupid things!

Overall, though, don’t forget to get your vaccinations and, if you’re going to somewhere with malaria, it is advisable to pre-buy some anti-malarial tablets too!

  1. Travel with friends

If you don’t want to travel solo, finding a buddy to accompany you is a really good option.

Not only will it stop you feeling lonely, it may also help you stay safe. You will have somebody watching your back in a variety of situations and may well ward of people who want to do you harm! Of course, be sure they are your friends because travelling with, and trusting, the wrong person may well ruin your trip.

  1. Travel insurance

As you’ve probably realised throughout this article, there are plenty of potential problems associated with travelling.

I really don’t like to think too much about the risks though. That’s why I buy myself travel insurance! If my things get stolen, I incur emergency medical expenses, or my trip has to be cut short for an unavoidable reason, travel insurance pays for, or allows me to recuperate the cost of, whatever I needed to splash out on.

It is an absolutely invaluable resource to help put your mind at ease!

  1. Trust your instincts

No matter the situation, go with your gut and trust your instincts. If something is nagging at you to say, “don’t do that”, then listen to yourself and take a step back. There is no point in taking an unnecessary risk!


I hope this helps you to make a checklist for lowering the risks that are associated with travelling. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ideas, so please feel free to add some extra advice in the comments.

I should also point out that I speak from the perspective of a young western man, so I would also welcome and encourage opinions from a diverse range of people to make the list more comprehensive! Thanks for reading and safe travels guys.

5 Reasons You Should Add Nepal To Your Bucket List!

West’s Bucket List looks at the places across the globe I want to visit. I look at why I want to go and why you maybe should too! Let me know what you guys think of Nepal down in the comments! This post is number 11 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

“When we reached the prayer flags and a pile of rocks that marked the highest point on the pass, the view was brilliant. There was hardly a cloud in the sky. To the south we could see rolling foothills: the gentle ups and downs that we’d walked through. Some of the hillsides were red or purple with rhododendron blossoms. To the west and east there was a muddle of ridges and spurs. To the north, there were several mighty snow-capped himals. The real Himalayan giants were mostly east of where we stood.”


This quote, from my fellow compatriot, broadly captures those elements of Nepal’s natural landscape that I wish to experience. I thought it was a good place to start off but let’s now dive in on why I want to visit the country:

  1. Everest Base Camp

The trek up to Everest Base Camp is popular with adventurers from around the world!

The trek itself doesn’t require you to actually summit the tallest mountain on earth; however, it does require you to hike 11 days through the beautiful Himalayas. Sound good?

Of course, altitude sickness, and fatigue-related illnesses, are amongst the risks associated with the trek; however, if you’re fit and healthy then I’d consider the potential risks well worth the reward! My friend is a young doctor with some health complications, and she powered through the entire route. She said it was tough but very manageable if anybody doubts they might be capable!

The trip certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Instead, it requires a healthy dose of blood, sweat, and tears en route up amongst jagged snow topped mountains! Everything will be expensive on your hike too. If you want to charge your devices, or buy food and water, the locals will charge you a pretty penny because they can. Just bear that in mind and pack efficiently so you don’t have to splash out if you’re on a budget.

Overall, if hiking up to 5550 meters doesn’t appeal to you then maybe give base camp a miss but, otherwise, what’s your excuse?

  1. Annapurna Circuit

If you thought Everest Base Camp sounded tough, maybe you should stop reading. The Annapurna Circuit is reputed to be that much harder!

The trek can take up to 20 days and is around 200km long at some serious altitude! As with Everest Base Camp, you need to be fit and healthy, but not necessarily superman to make the trip. The trek has been voted the best long-distance hike in the world a number of times, and by a variety of sources. It concludes at the Kali Gandaki Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world! To be honest, the gorge sounds like a bucket list item in itself to me!

You can trek the Annapurna Circuit, and also up to Everest Base Camp, on your own if you so wish. Of course, going alone is cheaper but also more arduous, and requires more sophisticated planning, than travelling with a tour company so make your choice wisely!

It is also important to note that both Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit require hiking permits so, if you’re hiking either on your own, make sure you’ve purchased the appropriate documents to set up your trip. If you’re going with a group, also ensure that they will provide the permits, so you have nothing to worry about!

All in all, there are few better ways to see the Himalayas up close and personal than the Annapurna Circuit. It’s certainly on my bucket list!

  1. The Wildlife

Nepal is perhaps known best as the home of Mount Everest but, in other circles, it is heralded as a haven for some of the most spectacular wildlife on the planet!

There are three particular animals residing in Nepal which, in my opinion, would be worth the cost of a plane ticket in themselves.

The first is the elusive bengal tiger! It is one of the world’s charismatic megafauna and right up there with the most majestic apex predators earth has to offer!

With a muscular orange body, striking black markings, and a white underbelly, the bengal tiger is one of the most iconic animals you’ll likely ever see. Only 2,500 are left across the globe and they are as beautiful as they are rare. Nepal is second-to-none as a location if you want to see one!

Equally enigmatic, but even greater in stature than the bengal tiger, the greater one-horned rhinocerous is the armoured tank of the Indian subcontinent. They’re so comfortable in the water that, if you didn’t know any better, you could mistake one for a hippo at a glance!

The animal, just like the tiger, is vulnerable to poachers and both need your help. Look into sponsorship options if you really want to lend a hand in conservation efforts so that they are still out there when you make the trip!

Last, but by no means least, is the animal I want to see most of the three. The red panda more closely resembles a lemur than a giant panda! In fact, they aren’t closely related to the giant panda at all, with their size and form betraying their true lineage amongst the mustelids.

With their weasel-like bodies, but sporting painted faces, black limbs, and striated orange and white tails, red pandas are highly unusual and well worth seeing in the wild. Endemic to the Himalayas, Nepal is one of the few natural strongholds for the species and, thus, you have a great reason to visit!

  1. Paragliding in Pokhara

I know a few adventurists, even one or two fans of extreme sports, read this blog. So, when I read about paragliding, I knew I couldn’t leave it out!

I have never been tandem paragliding, or paragliding at all for that matter, and so I can’t speak to the particulars of the sport; however Pokhara is renowned across the world as one of the best places to do it. Going up at sunrise will provide you with an unmatched view of snowcapped mountains whilst you glide on Nepal’s natural rising thermals. Maybe you’ll even be joined by hawks on wing as they hunt in the skies!

Of course, people might be a little worried about paragliding in Nepal. The experience is, however, about as safe as paragliding can be, and, from all the reviews I have read, undoubtedly worth the trip!

  1. Kathmandu

Kathmandu is the capital city, as well as the cultural, religious, and economic hub of, Nepal.

It is home to an intricate labyrinth of alleyways which weave past colourful temples and cramped housing alike. Lonely Planet describes entering the city as a ‘pupil-dilating experience, a riot of sights, sounds, and smells that can quickly lead to sensory overload’.

Durbar Square, at Kathmandu’s center, is used for Buddhist rituals and Hindu rituals alike, amongst holding myriad other religious functions, and also has secular importance as a site where royal events take place. The square has spiritual significance and is seen by some as a place of meditation contemplation. You should visit it to see an important part of Nepalese culture!

If you want to find a little respite from the chaos of Kathmandu’s bustling streets, perhaps the Garden of Dreams is the place for you!

A neoclassical oasis at the heart of the Nepalese city, the Garden of Dreams was designed to mimic an Edwardian-era English garden. With flawless lawns, tranquil lily-laden ponds, and six pavilions, each architecturally designed to represent one of Nepal’s six seasons, the Garden of Dreams can be contrasted starkly with the rest of Kathmandu and is thus worth a visit in my opinion!

The last architectural marvel I wish to see in Kathmandu is Boudhanath Stupa.

A stupa is traditionally a domed structure used to stores Buddhist relics and Boudhanath is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular of all. It is identifiable by its great white dome topped with a spire, from which are draped long ropes adorned with colourful rags.

It is an absolutely critical part of the Buddhist faith and is wonderfully different from any religious building we have in the UK. That is why I so long to see it!

Finally, I would love to try Nepalese cuisine. I’m not incredibly gifted at eating spicy food, but I’d risk singed taste buds for what Nepal has to offer!

I have never tried a Dal, a lentil soup, served over Bhat, a type of rice, cooked in a country where it is a delicacy! That really appeals to me. I also wish to try thukpa, a Tibetan influenced Nepalese noodle dish! Made with chili and masala I believe it would assault my senses about as much as I could take! Hopefully, I get to try it one day!


Nepal has a wonderful blend of natural beauty and urban splendour!

From the tip of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Kali Gandaki Gorge, Nepal is a country of extremes! If you are an adventurer, or have adventurous tastes, then you have a duty to visit and make the most of all that it has to offer!

8 Reasons you should still buy a travel guide!

Does anybody buy travel guides anymore? I go into Waterstones, or surf Amazon, and see thousands of options, but none of my friends seem to want to buy them.

I, on the other hand, own a stack of them! Perhaps I’m a tad old fashioned, but I can’t understand why nobody else is buying travel guides to line their shelves. Here’s why I think you should go out and buy one!

  1. Get off your screen!

When I go abroad, I hope that I don’t have to spend one solitary second on my phone!

Even so, be it work calling me up, the landlord pestering me about rent, or feeling obliged to check the world news, a whole host of things will inevitably draw me to my mobile.

That’s why I don’t want anything else pushing me towards it! That means, if I need travel advice or recommendations, a travel guide is perfect.

I have a paperback in my hand with the relevant information I need and without having to glue my eyes to the screen I’m always looking at when I’m home. It’s a holiday for my eyes too. Sounds preferable to me!

  • All the information you need is in one place!

Personally, I don’t mind sifting through and collating huge swathes of information from across the internet, but that isn’t for everyone.

Of course, there is a wealth of information online that you could never fit into a book you can squeeze into your hand luggage. The downside of the internet though, is that there is so much information online that, even if you did extensive research, you’d never be able to read it all. Conversely, a good travel guide will be a concentrated vault of information, more than you can possibly need, but not way too much. Moreover, you’ve got all that in one place!

For planning, or spontaneous decisions in-country, a good travel guide will give everything you need as a tourist to experience your destination like a local!

  • Your book doesn’t need batteries!

This one’s obvious, but maybe so obvious that you wouldn’t even consider it.

I’ve been in a whole host of countries where my phone has died in my hand. Without a trusty travel guide in my backpack, I’d have no idea where to go or what to do.

Yes I love exploring and, sometimes, I go with spontaneity and explore in an off the cuff manner but, on days where I want a little structure, I like to know that my travel guide is going to be there no matter what!

You just can’t guarantee that with your phone so grab a travel guide!

  • There’s no Wi-Fi where you’re going!

I love to go to countries that other people won’t necessarily!

That often means Wi-Fi is less accessible than you’d like and mobile data can be hard to come by. When your phone has no access to the internet, it is almost as useless as if it were out of battery.

Moreover, if you’re going to have to pay for local Wi-Fi or data, it may well set you back a pretty penny! Your mobile is going to be a dead weight on your wallet and, as a thrifty traveler, that doesn’t sit too well with me.  

That is why you should again consider buying a travel guide, for when your phone lets you down!

  • There’s no Wi-Fi on planes and trains (although this is changing).

One of the most boring part of travelling can be… The actual travelling.

I personally love a flight or a train journey, but sometimes you need something to keep you busy. A lot of planes and trains still don’t have Wi-Fi so what better way to spend your time than learning about the company you’re going to than with the travel guide you purchased?

  • A guide is better researched and written than most blogs (not that I want you to give up on my content!)

Have you ever read a travel blog online and asked, can I trust this writer?

I know I have. It’s hard not to be cynical when you don’t necessarily know the credentials of whoever is writing. It could be a seasoned traveler with years of experience or a kid who’s never left his home county.

I personally write plenty about places I want to go, but I know that there are people who know a little more than me out there. I hope that what keeps you interested is that I have a lot of travelling experience, and the fact that I’m not a bad writer!

Even so, the benefit of a travel guide is that the information is vetted fantastically by professionals in the industry. You can trust what you’re reading and that’s critically important wherever you might be going!

  • Travel guides can be up to date!

Some people might tell you that travel guides go out of date fast.

I’ve heard that. Why would you buy a travel guide when you can get up to date information on your phone? Well I’ve already articulated several reasons why relying on your phone can be a problem; however, I want to address the elephant in the room.

Travel guides don’t just go out of date with a click of the fingers. If that were the case, why would anybody buy factual books? Good restaurants and attractions last. Moreover, local culture lasts. Most of the information contained in a good travel guide will therefore last.

Yes, there are always new attractions popping up and some things will change; however, a well-researched travel guide will provide timeless recommendations to form the backbone of your trip.

You don’t want to rely on your guide for every second of your time abroad, but if it can give you enough information to help you build a fantastic basis for your travels, it’s done a great job!

  • They’re actually a great thing to have on the shelf (particularly right now in lockdown)

Sitting here in lockdown, I am constantly perusing my bookshelves.

I have hundreds of books from fantasy fiction to self-help manuals; however, I am a traveler at heart.

Be it a guide on Madagascar, Europe, or Canada, I can’t help but keep picking all of them up and reading through. I’m planning about 50 different trips at the moment and my travel guides are providing a great source of escapism!

If you think that you’d get a similar sort of use out of a travel guide, pick one up today!


Personally, I see no real downside to buying a travel guide. It may cost you a few bob to pick one up, but they aren’t particularly expensive in the grand scheme of things. For the sake of a few square inches of space in your hand luggage, I see real value in owning one of these guides.

Reliable information that you can carry with you at all times, even when your phone fails you… What’s not to like about that?

7 Reasons You’ll Love Munich!

I’m going to enjoy writing about Munich because its another place I know well and, thus, the recommendations in this article have been tested first hand! I’ve been twice now, and have a number of friends in the region, but I am undoubtedly destined to travel there again, so I doubt this list is finished. Let me know at the end if you’d like for me to write on Munich again and I definitely will at some point!

Anyway, for a little substance, Munich is a huge metropolis in southern Germany, at the heart of Bavaria. The city of beer, football, and lederhosen, it is not one to be missed! Here are my 8 reasons to visit:

  1. Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is unfortunately cancelled this year; however, usually it is one of the biggest festivals in Europe, and even worldwide!

Running from September to October, the festival is integral to Bavarian culture. It is, at its core, a celebration of beer. Locals dressed in lederhosen, singing traditional German songs, guzzling bratwurst, and downing huge beer steins, are the lifeblood of this festival! If an all-out German party is up your street then this might tempt you, but don’t necessarily count your chickens before they hatch because there are a couple of negatives for me.

Of course, the festival, as previously stated, is not all year round. If you want to go to Munich for Oktoberfest, you have to travel there between September and October. The problem? For a thrifty traveler like me, everything will be crazy expensive! Moreover, the city will be packed so if you were hoping for a low-key city trip to see the sights, trying to fit in Oktoberfest too won’t likely work for you.

Even so, this iconic festival is worth checking out and I absolutely loved it, just be careful spending everything in your wallet!

  1. Hofbräuhaus

My favourite pint glass is from the Hofbräuhaus. It sits on my shelf emblazoned with the letters HB, topped with a gold crown. It’s my favourite glass not because it looks particularly special, but because it reminds me of the fantastic times I had at the establishment whilst interrailing back in 2013!

The Hofbräuhaus is the German Royal Brewery in Munich but I’m not actually talking about the brewery itself. I’m taking about the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, an establishment owned by the brewery. It is a historic beer hall which was built by Bavarian Duke Maximillian I in 1589. The building oozes character. With tightly packed wooden tables, traditional German fittings, beautiful ceiling frescoes, servers dressed in Bavarian attire, and music permanently playing, you will rarely be more immersed in a local culture than right here!

In addition, the establishment has a wonderful Wirtsgarten, basically a beer garden to you English folk out there, with atmosphere to match the inside of the building. A fantastically rowdy ambiance, reminiscent of the bustling pubs of London after work on a Friday night, is undoubtedly a reason to pop inside.

Of course, being a popular tourist attraction, the place isn’t cheap, but the Hofbräuhaus needs visiting, even if you’re only grabbing one stein!

  1. Traditional German food.

You’d be able to get some of this from the Hofbräuhaus but, for the sake of value for money, I’d recommend you get it elsewhere.

I’ll definitely miss out some great dishes on this list, but here are a few of my favourites! Let’s start out with pretzels. They are more than just snacks. Chewy, salty, and just as good as fresh bread from your local bakery, these are not to turn your nose up at. German pretzels are the perfect accompaniment to that cold beer you’re thinking about, but the best is still to come!

Weisswurst is a Bavarian sausage made of minced veal and pork. If you’re a carnivore, this needs to be on your ‘food bucket list’. Served with an accompanying pretzel, and sweet German mustard, the sausage is truly delectable!

Finally, one of my favourite dishes on the planet, even more so than Weisswurst, Schweinshaxe can bring a tear to any carnivore’s eye.

Pork knuckle served with potatoes, sauerkraut, and gravy. It’s as simple as that and yet so much more. Crunchy skin, meat falling off the bone, soft potatoes, tangy sauerkraut, and rich gravy… Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. It’s Munich! Get yourself out there!

  1. Marienplatz

This is going to be a brief one. The Marienplatz is an awesome place to visit, but I don’t think it’s a reason which will be enough in itself to convince you to go to Munich.

Even so, it’s one of many reasons which may contribute to your decision to go! The squares of most European cities are marquee attractions and Marienplatz is no different. The Neues Rathaus, or New Town Hall, which is built on the square, is a stunningly intricate, partially neo-gothic, bastion of Munich’s culture! Sound like a cool place to visit and see? I certainly liked it and… It’s free!

  1. Museums

Munich is a city of culture and is chock-a-block with brilliant museums.

Be it the Glyptothek, a neoclassical building dedicated to antiquarian sculpture, or the Museum Brandhorst, a modern building containing the works of the likes of Damien Hirst or Andy Warhol, there’s something for any fan of art!

Beyond that, the Deutsches Museum is the largest science and technology museum in the world. If you aren’t into art, maybe this interactive experience will float your boat!

And then, even if you don’t like art, science, or technology, Munich has a whole host of other fantastic museums. Check them out online because they aren’t to be missed!

  1. Allianz stadium

So, I’m a Chelsea fan. If you know anything about Chelsea, then you’ll know why the Allianz Arena is important to me!

In 2012, Chelsea finally won the Champions League against European footballing powerhouse Bayern Munich. Chelsea, having been beaten by Man Utd’s Red Devils in their previous final in 2008, beat the German side to turn a red city blue!

Munich were playing at home and the final will go down in history as a real underdog story. The stadium itself is therefore the site of Chelsea’s incredible victory, but it is so much more than that. It is the home of Germany’s winningest football team.

Lit up at night, it is a stunning homage to German football and worth a tour, or just a look, for any fan of sport or culture!

  1. Neuschwanstein Castle

Last, but undoubtedly not least, is perhaps the best known castle in the world!

A couple of hours drive from Munich, but still within Bavaria, is Neuschwanstein Castle.

Built in the late 19th century above the south German landscape, where it has towered majestically ever since, the castle is truly something out of a fairytale.

Perhaps fittingly therefore, it is intertwined in international pop culture. It appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Great Escape, and even lays claim to being the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Therefore, it is also the inspiration for Disney’s logo, the logo of a legal mega-company.

Don’t miss THE castle of all castles. Neuschwanstein deserves every bit of your attention. If you have the time and money to get out of Munich and get the tour, you must!


I hope this has given you a little flavour of what Munich is all about. A true city of culture from food to football, art to architecture, and Bavarian lederhosen to delectable beer, Munich is, in my opinion, the one German city I consider unmissable!

Madagascar? Where even is that? 5 Reasons to go to a country nobody else does!

This is one of my pictures from Madagascar! Not of a sportive lemur, but this guy is pretty cool!

When I told my friends I was going to Madagascar for two months, most of them did a double take. “Not South-East Asia or South America?” They asked inquisitively. “Why would you even want to go there?”

It’s a fair question. Everybody I know who did a gap year, pre or post uni, did the same blocks of countries. They all enthusiastically and collectively told me that they had the best times of their lives! If the gap year experience ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That was the basic message. So, why should you go to a country that nobody else does? Here are my 2 cents on that issue, and 5 reasons to do exactly that!

  1. You’ll learn something about yourself

In my humble opinion, this is just about one of the best reasons to do anything difficult or radical in your life. Of course, ‘learning something about yourself’ is a little vague, so let me just clarify what I mean.

Going to a country that nobody else does will prove to yourself that you have spirit! The courage to step into the unknown and challenge yourself. If you haven’t ever done that before, you won’t know just how important to your personal growth such an experience can be.

Moreover, everybody I knew kept saying that they respected me for travelling alone to Madagascar and that gave me a sense of pride that I was doing something a lot of other people wouldn’t. For a kid who grew up with below average self-respect, that was invaluable to me.

All in all, I believe this is a worthy reason in itself to travel into the unknown!

  1. Have experiences that set you apart

I really don’t want to get anyone down on going to places everybody goes to, and having experiences that everybody wants to have. I can’t overstate that enough. These places and experiences are popular for great reasons.

I’m certainly hoping to go to Thailand, Brazil, and everywhere else with heavy footfall. I’m just advocating another way to travel! I’m advocating experiencing that which everybody else you know hasn’t. I didn’t feel like a real traveler until I had a handful of experiences that I felt were totally and utterly unique to me, in places, and doing things, that nobody I knew had done.

Don’t you want to have the odd story you can tell, or write down, that makes your friends yearn to do the same? To follow the path you have blazed? Or maybe just to ask you question after question so that your adventures will live long in the memory?

Begin laying down the tracks instead of following them!

  1. Explore the unknown

Do you get that feeling, when you learn or discover something new, of unadulterated glee?

For me that feeling dawned on me in Madagascar when I saw my first sportive lemur, sat in the crook of a tree. Wide eyed and inquisitive, he stirred in the branches as we neared.

I had no idea exactly which unique and endemic species I was likely to see on the island, and I was utterly taken aback by the little ball of fluff staring down at me. In that moment, as I saw a species that was completely new to me, and one which nobody I knew had ever seen in the wild, I was overcome by pure joy!

That feeling of discovery, of revelation, is wonderful. Going to a country to which nobody else travels will offer you that in spades!

  1. The price

I just can’t get away from being a thrifty traveler, so here comes a money saving tip! The country nobody goes to is just that, the country nobody else goes to.

More often than not, that means that prices on goods and experiences haven’t been inflated to drain the pockets of wealthy tourists. Not to be too crude but you can take advantage of that. If the local economy is going to offer you great affordable prices, then you can travel for longer and do more than the people who are flocking to tourist traps!

Particularly when you are young, and perhaps a student as I am, that is a really important consideration to take into account. I know I certainly do!

  1. All travel is great

Okay so this last point is going to do away with trying to convince you to travel into the unknown. Instead, it’s just going to try and convince you to travel, because travel is undeniably awesome.

Meeting new friends, trying new foods, experiencing new cultures, discovering new animals, discovering new places, learning new lessons, about yourself and the world, and generally becoming a better-rounded person are all fantastic reasons to travel.

If you need another one reason though, just one, it’s because you’ve read this far into my post, almost nine hundred words into it. That means you’re considering travelling and, if you’re on the fence, you need to take that plunge!

The 5 Reasons I want to go to British Columbia in Canada!

This post is number 10 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

Set between the towering Rockies and the royal blue Pacific Ocean, British Columbia is arguably the jewel in Canada’s crown.

I have wanted to go to British Columbia ever since, as a child, I watched documentaries in which bears would hunt salmon in the rapidly flowing rivers and waterfalls of the region. I was probably only about ten when I first became aware of British Columbia and it has subsequently gathered a mystical reputation in my mind, which will become evident via my use of near endless superlatives in this post.

There are 101 reasons to visit British Columbia, but here are the top 5 that intrigue me!

  1. Banff and Yoho National Parks.

Is it cheating to put Banff on this list? Maybe so, as technically it is located in Alberta; however, Yoho, which borders it to the West, is in British Columbia and I would very much like to see both. Thus, I don’t feel guilty!

There’s a lot of Banff to see as the National park is 6 and a half thousand kilometers of pristine Canadian wilderness! Moreover, Yoho is another 1300 kilometers large and is arguably just as eye catching!

Road trip through Icefields Parkway for a true perspective on the sheer enormity and breadth of these unbelievable National Parks. Over 100 glaciers, relics of a bygone ice age, split apart huge rock mountains, electric blue lakes, and dark dense pine forests.

The whole scene is thoroughly primeval and must be unspeakably beautiful to behold. Couple that with a hike up to Moraine Lake, and/or the Cave and Basin Hot Springs, and you have a fantastic trip through perhaps the most beautiful region of Canada.

  1. Kayak with orcas!

Orcas have always been one of my favourite animals. They are absolutely stunning creatures and, although I have seen whales in the wild before, I’ll never be satisfied until I’ve seen a pod of orcas up close and personal.

Orcas are the custodians of the sea, with an intellect perhaps unmatched by any species other than humans. Their language is thought to be so sophisticated that they have dialects depending on which pod they are members of. That, to me, is fascinating.

Several companies in Canada offer encounters with Orcas by way of kayaking tours. Provided this doesn’t harm the animals, and I will of course make sure of that before I go on any trip, I can think of very few experiences I would rather have on this planet than kayaking alongside an orca!

  1. See bears hunting salmon!

I’m sticking with the wildlife theme for this one!

I have seen a bear once in my life, at Yosemite National park in the USA a few years ago. Ambling through a meadow high amongst the rocky outcrops of the area, she was the highlight of my entire trip to the states.

Now, I’m hungry to see one again! The spike of adrenaline I felt at seeing the brown bear has not been replicated many times in my life. On a visit to the great white north, I one day hope to see a grizzly bear hunting salmon in the rivers of Western Canada. We’ve all seen the videos, or perhaps pictures, of shaggy grizzlies plucking salmon from waterfalls. It’s an iconic image and one that I would be ecstatic to see!

If there are two things I really want to do on this list, it is to see a hunting bear, and kayak with orcas. Whilst seeing a bear would be a close second to kayaking alongside an orca, that is saying something because I am desperate beyond comprehension to see an orca!

  1. Wild Pacific Trail

In Ucluelet, on the west coast of the Island of Vancouver, the Wild Pacific Trail weaves its way through pristine nature. Across numerous content outlets I have perused, the trail is considered to be one of the best tourist attractions to visit in all of Canada.

Ancient-cedar forests, the violent Pacific ocean, and the Amphitrite Lighthouse, are all reasons to sit down and take stock of the scenery around you. Like every different hike in the world, it’s completely unique; however, few hikes are quite as special as the Wild Pacific Trail.

Take a look at this one because I can’t do it justice with my limited repertoire of words. I promise, if you are a hiker or a lover of nature, you’ll be desperate to go.

  1. Vancouver

If the wildlife and scenery isn’t quite enough to convince you that a visit to British Columbia is worthwhile, perhaps the city of Vancouver will!

The Museum of Anthropology is world renowned for its collection of art and exhibitions from across the globe. With a strong emphasis also placed upon Canada’s own indigenous cultures, the museum is not to be missed if you are wanting to learn more about the history of this great country.

In addition, Vancouver is also touted for its fabulous markets!

Richmond Night Market is one of the biggest in North American, with hundreds of stalls selling a variety of foods and other organic products. Some even invite punters to take their shots at various challenges! If that doesn’t whet your appetite though, perhaps Eastside flea market, selling wares which include vintage clothes, antiques, and other local produce, will!

Lastly, is there anything perceived to be more wonderfully Canadian, at least to an outsider like me, than ice hockey? Outside of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, there may be no less prominent Canadian franchise than the Vancouver Canucks! Try and catch a game, even if you aren’t a fan, for the atmosphere and a staple of the Canadian lifestyle!


I hope this gave you a little taste of what British Columbia has to offer! When I visit, I will be sure to write up how the reality aligned with my expectations and get back to you guys with another post. Stay safe out there!

Why Not Go To Serbia? A Short Story And 4 Reasons You Should!

This post starts out with a story from my time in Serbia; however, if you want to shoot on down the page and just read about my top four reasons to visit the country, feel free! Anyway, here comes the tale:

John Burns, with whom I find fleeting commonality because of his tee-total nature and keen interest in sports, rather than his socialist tendencies or deplorable antisemitism, once remarked that:

“why four great powers should fight over Serbia no fellow can understand.”

John Burns.

This comment is another point on which Burns and I cannot agree. The following post is the story of my first day in Serbia, followed by my recommendations as to why you should visit this beautiful stretch of the Balkans. Enjoy!

The day began in rural Romania. Curtisoara is a quaint commune in South Western Romania. It is a commune in the Romanian sense, in that it is of the lowest fundamental level of the administrative hierarchy of Romanian regions, rather than being a paradise for the hippies of the Balkans.

Having said that, allotments befitting of the British definition of a commune are ten a penny in the Olt Country within which Curtisoara resides. As Andrew, Paul, and I travelled through this region, having spent several days at the Romanian countryside residence of Paul, we were weighed down by bags of walnuts which had been cultivated in just such allotments.

Headed for Novi Sad, Serbia, I sat in the passenger seat of our VW Polo, scoffing walnut after walnut, as rain spattered its windshield in the pre-dawn dark. Whilst Paul snored away in the backseat, sprawled across the luggage overflowing from the boot, and Andy sang along softly to Watsky’s Sloppy Seconds on repeat, I observed the Banat countryside. As we drove, dense primeval forests interspersed with colourful settlements were gradually replaced with wide open plains and busy truck stops. The whole region is undulating hills and as a boy raised beneath the Sussex South Downs, I felt wonderfully at ease with the landscape.

Romania is a beautiful country to traverse and nowhere was more spectacular on this leg of the journey than the so-called Iron Gates between it and Serbia. In this gorge, jade water divides the two regions; separating mountain ranges, national parks, and countries. The road itself largely hugs the waters edge, rising intermittently for spectacular views. It is a place I’d never heard of, and yet one I would not hesitate to go back to.

The Iron Gates/Derdap Gorge

Ultimately, after nine hours of slow traffic throughout Western Romania and Eastern Serbia, for a slated mere 6-hour journey, we were shattered. Actually, just Andrew and I, for we had split the journey whilst Paul caught up on a fair amount of sleep.

Leafing through my Lonely Planet Travel Guide, Andrew remarked that there was a beach on the Danube in Novi Sad called Strand, and it was one of the city’s top attractions! Peering through my tinted club masters at the shimmering hoods of cars in the oncoming lane of traffic, I agreed that a swim in the blistering sun would be just what the doctor ordered.

On arrival to Novi Sad we got a tad lost amongst underwhelming grey office blocks and seemingly empty housing estates; however, we eventually came across the river. We then drove along it and found a secluded street to park up, traded shorts for swimming trunks, and marched through a thicket of trees and down onto the banks of the Danube.

The Lonely planet Guide had led us believe that the beach was blessed with white sand, and the river with crystal clear water. Instead, the sand was speckled with litter and murky green water ate at the filthy dunes. A decomposing bird of unknown origin in the shallows was the icing on the cake. A lot of people would have upped and left at that point but we weren’t, and still aren’t, fancy lads. Our rugby ball was hoisted up into the air by Paul and an impromptu kick about commenced.

It continued for the best part of the afternoon, until a man speaking what I can only presume was Serbian approached us. He ambled over, obviously stumbling and definitely drunk. His words were slurred but as he gesticulated wildly, it became clear that one English word was recurring “Present! Present! Present!” We played an unofficial game of charades with him, his lack of control over his flailing limbs making it extra difficult to play. The man wanted our rugby ball and, eventually realising that we wouldn’t oblige him, became increasingly aggravated. At this point, wishing to avoid an unnecessary confrontation with him, we backed away and followed the beach around one of the river’s great meanders.

Coming around the bend was a little like being slapped in the face by Serbia. Before us was a scene straight out of the brochures. Before our very eyes the water turned Inexplicably clearer and a mass of beachgoers sat sunning themselves, their children frolicking in the water. Despairing at our misfortune and tired, we found a spot for the car to sit for the night and marched on to our air b n b.

The apartment was beautifully furnished with a huge chandelier and views overlooking the main square. Given that the b n b had only cost us £28 cumulatively for the night, we were all utterly taken aback by the bargain. It turns out that it’s cheaper to get a luxury apartment in Serbia than it is to pitch a tent at a site in France. All in all, I was incredibly grateful to not spend another night of sleep disrupted by the lack of a ground mat, the snoring of two rugby props, and a plethora of mosquitos and other hungry insects.

Looking out the window, The Name of Mary Church towered over the main square, its patterned multi-coloured spire illuminated by the glow of the dusk sun. Too tired to be in awe of anything at that moment, we crashed for a kip and awoke in the late evening. Most of the restaurants were closed but the cobbled streets and old stone buildings of central Novi Sad were just as authentic and handsome as in any European old town I have visited. If you ever have a chance for a short trip to the lesser known Serbian city, stop by. It’s not going to earn plaudits like Rome or Paris as European cities go, but Novi Sad and Serbia deserve a little more attention than most people would give them.

With all the restaurants pretty much closed, and our stash of walnuts entirely exhausted, we sat down for a Serbian KFC. It was surprisingly better than most KFC meals, or indeed takeaways, that I’d had in the UK.

Whilst sitting to eat, I checked my phone for the first time in days. Whilst I was on the worst beach I’d ever been to, my sister had been peppering the family group chat on her impending evacuation from Lombok in Indonesia.

It turns out she had been caught up in an earthquake. It was thinking about Lombok, a beautiful island marred by devastation, that I gained a little perspective on the few negatives, and overwhelming positives, to the time I’d spent with my best mates stuck in traffic, and at a little stretch of beach by the Danube in central Serbia with a man desperate to acquire a rugby ball!

So, why should you go to Serbia?

There are plenty of reasons to visit Serbia! For all of the joking about the mishaps I experienced there, I absolutely loved the country.

During my time there, I experienced the best and worst of what the Serbia had to offer. In fact, because I experienced the negatives, I think you should trust my glowing endorsement of Serbia that much more. Here it is!

  1. Belgrade

Belgrade has seen everything, and you can tell. The city isn’t pristine and, whilst driving into it, you may be put off by the overall aesthetic of the metropolis. Towering concrete apartment blocks and walls of graffiti are the norm. This lends it a distinctly soviet feel in places but please don’t judge the book by its cover! The old town more than compensates for any perceived ugliness in Belgrade, at least in my opinion.

The Belgrade fortress, standing guard over the confluence of the River Sava and Danube, was first constructed in 279BC, although it has been galvanized and reconstructed many times since then. The castle is stunning and gifts you beautiful views over the city. Thus, it is a fantastic place to stop and eat your lunch!

You may very well then choose to step foot in Belgrade’s old town, Stari Grad.

It feels almost Parisian with beautiful statues, buildings, and potted flowers. This area of the city is a perfect place to grab your dinner and Serbian food really is excellent!

My favourite dish, and I tried a lot, was Pljeskavica. It was recommended by one particularly exuberant waiter and did not disappoint!

A mixed patty of beef, lamb, and pork, served with onions, cream, relish, and inside a flatbread, it is the Serbian hamburger. In my opinion though, it’s a fair bit better than your average hamburger. The one I had was huge, juicy, and the bread to meat ratio was fantastic. I whole heartedly recommend i!

  1. Novi Sad

Novi Sad, like Serbia, has its more and less attractive parts but, lets be honest, so does every city on the planet! It’s not like the streets I grew up on are going to appear in watercolour paintings any time soon.

My favourite building in the city was The Name of Mary Church. As I said in my story, it has a multicoloured spire which really stands out on the skyline. The square it stands on is also a focal point of the city and I guarantee that if you check a travel guide, or trip advisor, you’ll find somewhere fantastic and affordable nearby to eat, just as we did!

I will also note that, whilst we didn’t have the best experience of it, Strand, the beach on the Danube, is a great place to spend the afternoon. Follow the locals to find the best spot to sit and bathe.

It’s part of Novi Sad’s culture and you would be missing out on a true Serbian experience if you didn’t partake in a dip in the Danube!

  1. Serbia’s wild side!

I’m not talking about Serbia’s nightlife, although it’s supposed to be awesome and I unfortunately missed out because of time constraints. This is all about the Serbian countryside!

Uvac is one of the most picture-perfect places you’ll likely see in photos. The river’s meanders cut through rocky outcrops, the snake-like channel harbouring pristine deep blue water. If you were to visualize exactly what a winding river should look like, this would be it!

Beyond Uvac, Derdap Gorge, on the border with Romania, is the perfect place to add to any road trip. It has stunning views and ever interesting, if a little terrifying, roads. I talked about it earlier in my story so I won’t chew your ear off on the topic but it’s definitely worth a visit!

I’m sure there’s plenty more of Serbia’s wild side to enjoy but these were my highlights!

  1. The Price!

If you guys have read my posts before, you know I’m a thrifty traveller through and through. That means if there’s a bargain to be had, and I’ve found it, you guys are going to hear about it!

I paid about £10 for a meal and drink, although non-alcoholic, at some pretty great restaurants and never came away hungry. Moreover, you also read about the £28 chandelier and marble furnished apartment we rented in Novi Sad. If both the food and accommodation don’t shout affordable, by European standards at least, then I don’t know what does!

Get yourself a bargain of a holiday in beautiful Serbia, a fantastic country where you can really get off the beaten track!


Serbia is affordable, stunning, and an all-round fantastic place to visit! You might not hear about it from everyone, but the country is a seriously underrated travel destination. Some of the best times of my life were had on the road there! I’d love to hear your opinions on Serbia, whether you visited it or not, in the comments!

6 Reasons To Visit Brighton- England’s City Of Soul!

I feel more comfortable in a place like Brighton… There are so many arty, creative people, and things are less rushed, less stressed!

Gabrielle aplin

I love a quote, as you guys are probably coming to realise! I also love Brighton. I grew up in and around it. The vibrant city with buskers on every corner, graffiti on every wall, and a party to be had on every street. I thought I’d write a short list of ideas for tourists wanting to spend a few days on the South Coast, specifically in Brighton! This list is by no means exhaustive but it’s not a bad place to get started for now!

  1. The Royal Pavilion.

The Royal Pavilion is an exquisite palatial building with architectural concepts borrowed from both British and Far-Eastern traditions.

The Pavilion has a stunning and unique design slapped down right in the middle of a beautiful park in Brighton, just a couple of minutes from the seaside.

From the ornate music room ceiling, decorated with dangling lotus-shaped chandeliers, to the beautiful Pavilion Gardens, designed by architect John Nash, there is no part of the grounds that has escaped thoughtful consideration and flawless execution.

At around £15 for an adult ticket into the Pavilion, it’s not fantastically cheap; however, you can wander the Royal Pavilion gardens to your heart’s content for free! Chill out on the grass in Summer with your mates, like we always do!

  1. Brighton Palace Pier.

Looking to blow off some steam? Brighton Palace Pier might just be the place to do it!

Brighton’s premiere pier, with the other having burned down long ago, is a remnant of a bygone age. The victorian structure is a legacy of the ‘bucket and spade’ seaside holiday era, and yet the pier is still geared up for your enjoyment today.

You can play all the old school arcade games including air hockey, Pac-man, and the coin tipping machines, with little damage done to the wallet if you’re careful. Moreover, the pier even has rides! From the dodgems to the Turbo Coaster, there are rides for everyone to enjoy!

You can even grab a souvenir, ice cream, and a donut, if you’re so inclined for a proper day at the seaside!

  1. Shop the Lanes.

Brighton’s Lanes are the heart and sole of the city. They run higgledy piggledy around the city center with no discernible rhyme or reason and everyone I know loves their unique character!

Arguably the best reason to visit the Lanes though is for the fantastic shopping experience!

Charlie’s Sweet Emporium is my favourite sweet shop I’ve ever been to, followed closely by M&M’s World in Las Vegas! The shop sells pretty much all the traditional English sweets and also a wider selection from around the globe! It’s definitely worth checking out. The little fat kid in me just wouldn’t let me leave it off the list!

Beyond Retro is my sister’s contribution to this list! Brighton has made a name for itself as a place to find vintage and secondhand clothing. Beyond Retro, although not necessarily the best value for money of all the shops, has the crème de la crème of quality secondhand clothes! My denim jacket, a number of jumpers, and as much as half of my entire wardrobe, have all been sourced from here. Have a look around for some quality garms!

Do these sound like winning options for a shopping splurge? That’s why you should come down to Brighton!

  1. Visit the South Downs National Park

I grew up in the South Downs National Park, on the chalk hills bearing down over Brighton.

Back then it was just the South Downs, but as of 2011 it is the newest national park in England. If you come down to Brighton, but find yourself needing a break from the city, you should get hiking into this area of outstanding natural beauty!

The lowland heath that comprises parts of the park is one of the rarest habitats on earth and is home to some of the most vulnerable species in the UK, including the beautiful Adonis blue butterfly. Moreover, in 2016, the park was granted International Dark Sky Reserve status, making it one of 16 such places on earth where you can observe the stars in all their glory!

All of these facts, and many more, are reasons you should go for a walk and breath in that South Downs National Park fresh air!

  1. Grab a bite.

Anybody can find food to suit their palate in Brighton!

From food trucks on Churchill Square to critically acclaimed vegetarian restaurants, Brighton has it all. Food for Friends is a fantastic veggie establishment in the South Lanes which even I, an avid carnivore, would happily dine at!

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy though, or you don’t want to splash the big bucks on a meal out, you should try out Grubs. The Brighton-based fast-food chain isn’t high society, but it does cook up a mean burger for your post night-out snack! It has a few locations and you aren’t a true Brighton tourist until you own a grub’s t-shirt!

Lastly, if you’re in town in August, maybe you can catch the Brighton Thai Festival. Authentic Thai food served from vendors at stalls in Preston Park will make you feel like you’re in Bangkok.

All in all, Brighton is a food lover’s dream with something for everyone. I can’t recommend it enough!

  1. Paint the town red!

Soulful Pubs, like The Mash Tun, seafront establishments like Shoosh, and bouncing gay-clubs like Revenge, all offer different and vibrant ways to experience Brighton’s nightlife!

Brighton isn’t a cheap night out. It will burn a hole in your wallet but, if you can make the money work, it is 100% worth the party!

Beyond the normal night out, on one weekend every year Brighton goes crazy for Brighton Pride. The LGBTQ+ event celebrates Brighton’s history as a city that accepts people of all types. It brings swathes of tourists from around the world into Brighton for the biggest party of your life. You can’t miss this one if you love to paint the town red!


Brighton has something for everyone. Lots of cities in England have charm coming out of their ears but what Brighton has is soul! I wholeheartedly recommend that you guys check it out if you come to England.

Still go to Cornwall, Bath, London, York, and Edinburgh, but maybe give Brighton a second glance too!

Thrifty Travel Tips 4: 5 Reasons to Get the Coach!

Having made a case for night trains, I’m going to put my hand up and vouch for another form of travel. Get yourself on a coach! Coach travel is much maligned, admittedly for some good reasons, but has tremendous upside if you can live with the negatives!

Okay, so there here are some negatives to long-distance coach travel. For a lot of people, coach travel is uncomfortable, and any chance of sleep is lost about five minutes into your journey for any one of a hundred reasons. I’ve had to sleep through babies crying, avoid getting caught in a full-blown punch up between a driver and a passenger, and been delayed countless hours of my time by traffic. Even so, coach travel should be under your consideration and here’s why!

  1. The Cheap Price

As an Englishman, most of my journeys begin in London. Be it from Gatwick, Heathrow, St Pancras, Victoria Coach Station, or somewhere else entirely, London tends to be my hub that connects me to everywhere else on the planet. If you’re looking for cheap travel abroad, it seems that I should compare some prices so you can see just how cheap taking the wheels really is.

So google is telling me flights to Paris start at £23 but I can’t find anything like that. The lowest price I have found is easyjet for £54, and I’m sure they go cheaper in their flash sales too! Even so, I’m also looking at coach tickets which will set you back only £12… They also plunge you right into the heart of Paris, where presumably your flight will put you outside the city, at somewhere like Charles De Gaulle, with an impending need to spend more money on extra travel.

£54 before you add your baggage, a snack, and in-country travel costs, is positively criminal in comparison with £12. Maybe think about that next time you’re weighing up travel options!

  1. The Really cheap Price

Okay, a line so nice I said it twice. Coach travel is cheap. I’m a big fan of travel within Britain’s borders. I saved myself around £80 getting from Brighton to see my friend in Edinburgh by getting a last-minute coach instead of the train! If you’re smart, don’t book last minute. If you’re even smarter, hook yourself up with some cost-effective coach travel!

  1. Is the coach really that much less comfortable than a flight?

Okay so flying British Airways first class is probably going to be a bit nicer than the National Express coach you’ve booked yourself. I have no doubt about that. Is it really true that your coach is going to be any less comfortable than flying economy on a plane though?

I would argue there isn’t a great amount of difference. Yes, you’re on the coach for much longer, so that is a downside in terms of comfort, but realistically the two modes of travel are practically the same. Sitting bolt upright with little leg room and wedged next to somebody you may well not know! If I’m paying for that situation, I’m sure going to be taking the cheaper version of it!

  1. It’s much harder to lose your luggage on a coach!

Just about everybody I know who flies regularly has had their luggage lost by an airline. My mum was going on a one-day business trip to Munich and the airline managed to lose her bags for over a week! Somehow, airlines can’t do this basic fundamental: Get your stuff to the same place as you.

With a coach, your bag can be stowed overhead or, more likely, stashed away at wheel-level. You’ll probably throw the bag in yourself, perhaps gently if you have valuables. That means your stuff likely won’t break and if you’re bag doesn’t end up in the right place, it’s probably your fault!

  1. See the world

Are you going away to see the world? You should be. Is it as much about the journey as the destination? It definitely is for me.

You get some incredible views from your plane window, if you bag a window seat of course, but on wheels you get to see the lie of the land. Maybe your coach stops at a town you’ve never heard of, but it looks awesome! You can just get off, say goodbye to your weekend in Paris and enjoy yourself in the moment. That opportunity isn’t facilitated by a flight and that’s just one of the reasons why, if I can’t take my old banged-up car, I’m hopping on a coach if it’s possible!


The coach is a fantastic way to travel. Minor disclaimer though, I’m not advocating getting a coach to Beijing from London, just get the flight. Actually, that’s the kind of journey I’d love to do by coach if only for the story!

Is coach travel sounding really tempting now? Maybe the road less travelled is the route for you!

6 Reasons to Add Oman to Your Bucket List!

“If the only thing you knew about Oman was its location, you might never go at all.”

Hanya Yanagihara

… but that would certainly be to your detriment, I guarantee it!

Oman, the country piggy backing the Northern and Eastern sides of Saudi-Arabia on your world map, needs to make your bucket list. Still fairly undisturbed by tourists, and also much of the conflict which has afflicted the Middle East, it is a country ripe for discovery amongst tourists and I promise that if you don’t go soon, you’ll be hearing all about it from your friends!

  1. A humble capital city with character!

Driving through Muscat, Oman’s capital, you’d be surprised to look out the window and see that there are no real skyscrapers lowering over the whitewashed homes of its residents. Only the beautiful form of an occasional ethereal mosque, or the standalone intricate architecture of a state building like the Royal Opera House, perforate the skyline to give the city a modest sense of grandeur.

This distinct lack of great glass monoliths is a welcome change from other developed cities in the Middle East, like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There is Omani legislation in place to prevent the construction of skyscrapers and Muscat has all the more character for it. The streets have a relaxed and friendly feel, which was also reinforced to me by the amicable personas of just about everybody I met there.

I could wax lyrical about Muscat; however, I am far more inclined to shout the praises of the fabulous people and the country’s untouched natural landscape.

  1. The people

Oman has a diverse population of wonderfully friendly people. As I said before, they are incredibly amicable and welcoming.

As with the city of Muscat, Oman’s people haven’t been corrupted, for good or bad, by an overall excess of wealth. They are honest and friendly people who have largely stayed true to their cultural roots, wherever they originally hailed from. I shared food with locals in their homes and exchanged smiles with people I passed on the streets. I was even invited into a mosque to observe aspects of the Muslim faith which I had never been exposed to before.

The fantastic traditions and generousity, which I also saw amongst the nomadic Bedouin people who I broke bread with in the desert, are undoubtedly a reason to go out of your way and visit the country.

  1. Wild Oman

Oman’s wild side is truly something to behold. Scuba dive down into its underwater oasis at the bottom of the Arabian Sea and an array of colourful fish will swarm around you, fairly unperturbed.

Oman’s coast is a rare diamond, made to sparkle even brighter than other tourist destinations, perhaps because the standard flocks of European tourists who run riot across the Mediterranean and Sharm el Sheikh haven’t quite drawn their boats up onto the beach just yet.

Even snorkelling, or walking the beaches, you are very likely to see turtles bobbing on the water or dolphins racing each other and flipping nonchalantly on the horizon. If you really want to get up close and personal with the wildlife, book a turtle hatching tour at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah or a similar hotel for a magical experience.

I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to visit Salalah on my trip, although I am told that the area around the city is stunning. The river, Wadi Darbat, supplies Oman’s lush forests in its southern region, provides natural diversity to the landscape which is undoubtedly worth experiencing. Moreover, the opportunity to see a blue whale off the nearby coast sounds like a reason in itself to visit Salalah and Oman for me!

  1. Extreme activities

As well as spending our time on sandy beaches, my friends and I also ventured into the desert for a spot of dune bashing.

Essentially this involves riding your 4 x 4 up and down the great sand berms of Oman’s desert. It’s even better than it sounds. If you haven’t been to a desert before, this will get you up close and personal with the sprawling sands, without you having to touch a grain of it. Off-roading to the next level, this is any car-lover’s dream activity.

What if you like the water of the beach but not the sand that goes along with it? Then Wadi Shab is for you. An oasis running up a gorge into Oman’s rocky hills, Wadi Shab is beautiful! Just check out the photo that goes along with this article!

Swim and hike up the valley to dive off the very same rocks that Red Bull deemed worthy of their Cliff Diving World Series in 2012. Refreshing cold water to alleviate Oman’s sweltering heat is dreamy and creates a natural swimming pool like few others! This is not to be missed.

Dune bashing and cliff diving, while not then on my to do lists, will now forever be amongst my hobbies when I find myself with the opportunity to do them.

  1. Shawarma

I have to pay tribute to the love of my life. Chicken shawarma, cooked by true artisans on the dockside of the Port of Sultan Qaboos, would be enough to draw me back to Oman on their own.

Delicious meat with a side of salad, tangy sauce, and a warm pitta, make for a divine combination which should be enough to lure you to Oman alone. My mates and I fed the restaurants cats with our leftovers whilst marvelling at one of the Sultan’s many beautiful ships. It is a memory I’ll never likely forget!

  1. The Muttrah Souq

I will finish with the last part of my trip, although undoubtedly one of the best, the Muttrah Souq, or Al Dhalam Souq to locals. My friends and I went there to experience a real Omani market and were not disappointed.

Oman’s Ports have long been a point of intersection between traders moving East and West. As the premier port on the Eastern Coast of the Middle East, goods have been funnelled through the Souq for centuries. Over the years, thanks to its unplanned nature, the Souq has subsequently become both a rabbit warren and a treasure trove!

It is here that a local salesman insisted I be fitted for a dishdasha, and another sold me an intricately carved ornate jewellery box for my sister. It is a fantastic place to pick up souvenirs but also to experience an integral part of Oman’s history as a trading post between massive empires!


I cannot recommend the country enough. Oman is one of the safest Middle Eastern countries. It also has a unique blend of quality infrastructure, which is perfect for travelling, as well as honest and ever present homages to its traditional roots.

The country is also an adventurer’s paradise with opportunities to get back to nature and try out extreme activities. As soon as you can after lockdown, get yourself out there!

Four Things I Want to See in Malacca Malaysia!

This post is number 7 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

This city in Malaysia is one of culture and colour! If you were to look at the pictures of its red and pink buildings, you might think they were in somewhere like Cuba, and for good reason. Like Cuba, Malacca is something of a time capsule, visually still trapped in the colonial era with architecturally traditions lent from Portuguese, Dutch, and British settlers. Here are just two reasons I’m desperate to visit the city!

  1. Jonker Street Market

One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city is Jonker Street, the central promenade of china town.

Jonker Street supposedly has one of the best and most bustling night markets in all of Asia. Bargains and street foods of all types are available, virtually on tap, if you’re hungry or have an itchy finger when it comes to your wallet. That, coupled with the street party-style atmosphere of the gathering, makes Jonker Street unmissable if you’re spending a night in the city!

  1. The beautiful architecture

If, however, you want to take a more laid-back and slow-paced approach to exploring Malacca, perhaps the diverse range of buildings will take your fancy.

The creme de la creme is the 16th century A’Famosa Fort, constructed by Portuguese conquerors of Malacca. One gate stands, now alone, defending the city, flanked by two accompanying cannons. It is amongst the oldest European architecture still standing in Asia and reinforces the idea of Malaysia as an age-old cultural hub. That has to be worth seeing!

Beyond the Fort, Christ Church, with its giant white cross set against bright red walls, is the legacy of Dutch settlers who took the region from the Portuguese. It is well worth a look, whether you subscribe to the Christian faith or not, for its beautiful architecture and vibrant colouring.

Amongst the architecture there are homes for guns and gods alike! Explore both to your heart’s content!

  1. The Butterfly and Reptile sanctuary in Ayer Keroh.

If, however, you’d prefer to see a few of the animals native to Malaysia, you may perhaps choose to visit the butterfly and reptile sanctuary just 15 kilometers north of Malacca. It is the second largest zoo in the country and a very popular tourist attraction if you have the time! From delicate patterned butterflies to monstrous grey crocodiles, they have it all.

  1. The Sultanate Palace of the Mansur Shah of Malacca

This could come under architecture, but the Sultanate Palace is a reconstruction and it feels disingenuous to plug it in alongside the real historical remnants of A’Famosa Fort and Christ Church.

A wooden replica of the Sultan’s palace, the building was once an iconic symbol of the Malaccan Empire. This reconstruction is well worth a visit to see an important piece of Malaysian history!

Malacca isn’t widely or particularly well known; however, one of my best friends visited it and swore by the city. She commended Malacca for its laidback feel and beautiful aesthetics, although she said there wouldn’t be a lot to do if you find yourself there for a while. All in all, Malacca definitely sounds worth at least a stop off visit to me!

Lockdown Reads 6: My Family and Other Animals

Gerald Durrell’s autobiographical tale, set in Corfu, was instrumental in spurring my adolescent penchant for catching reptiles on the heaths of south east England. It is a fantastically woven tale of Durrell’s childhood in which he never fails to poke fun at the character flaws of his family members.

The story begins in England with the Durrell family, made up of Gerald’s mother, sister, and two brothers. Gerald’s eldest brother, Larry, complains that the ailments from which each of the family members are suffering could be cured by a move to warmer climes. Winning the debate with his mother, Larry convinces her and the family to up and move to Corfu, which they promptly do.

On the island, Corfu’s abundance of native critters helps Gerald to realise his love for animals. He acquires a tortoise and his tutor, George, integrates zoology into his curriculum, fuelling his fire for nature even further. Throughout the story, Gerald accumulates a variety of animal companions, from his dog to a matchbox full of scorpions. These serve to create varying degrees of havoc at different points in the book which all add to the humour of the story.

The humorous elements of the story are perhaps furthered by no character more than Spiro, and his colourful language. Spiro is the taxi driver who saves the family from droves of his Greek compatriots at the beginning of the story and becomes a strong family friend to the Durrells. He is never far from those parts of the narrative which are most comical and I guarantee you will love him!

There are a plethora of other individuals in the book who also make for strong influences on the story. Leslie, the second eldest brother with a love of firearms, provides one of my favourite moments in the entire work, when he drives Margo’s temporary companion, one of Gerald’s tutors, from the family villa with the threat of shooting him upon any potential return. It is genuinely very comical, notwithstanding the connotations which this part of the story might have if the particulars were to come out in the world today.

I will spare further details of the book, but I could write in a lot more detail should anyone so wish. Gerald Durrell builds this story brilliantly and that is why it became a staple bedtime story in my early years, and a book I read regularly into my teens. If you’re looking for something lighthearted to read, then this may well be right up your alley!