4 Things To Do In Forence. Art In Hostel.

4 Things In Florence

If you’ve only got a few days in Florence, you’ll want to pack in as many sights as you can. So once you’ve checked in at the hostel, dropped your bags off in the room and headed off into the city, what should you go and see?

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (aka il Duomo)

The world’s 4th largest cathedral. Construction began in 1296: such a gravity-defying design, with a dome that size, had not been attempted since the building of the Pantheon. Filippo Brunelleschi took up the “Duomo” challenge in 1418, devising some new building techniques along the way, but sadly, he died before the final stages of construction were completed. The cathedral is completely covered with green, white and pink marble (now sparkling after a recent clean) and the interior is adorned with incredible frescoes and Donatello’s stained glass windows. The “Campanile di Giotto” (the bell tower), is the most striking feature of any view of the city: Giotto, the famous painter and architect designed the tower, however, by his death, in 1337, only the lowest part had been completed.

 

Palazzo Vecchio

The most important civil building in town. Pay the entry fee to see some of the best preserved ceiling frescoes, or just stick your head in the front door to take a snoop!

Ponte Vecchio

One of the three bridges in the world occupied by shops, and Florence’s oldest. Spared from destruction during

WWII because of its age and artistic relevance, it has withstood floods and hordes of tourists during the centuries and the dazzling jewellers you see today are a far cry from the stinky butcher shops and blacksmiths that originally occupied it. Above the shops, there is a hidden walkway, linking Palazzo Pitti to the Uffizi, once used by the Medici family to avoid the public.

 

Santa Croce Church

It contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and many other legendary artists. Visit the

historical workshops in the narrow street in front of the church, to see how some antique arts of the renaissance, such as mosaics and ceramics are still practiced today.

 

4 Reasons Why You Should Visit Tuscany

Home to some of Italy’s most beautiful scenery and architecture, it’s not hard to see why Tuscany is such a popular region within the country.

The Duomo, Florence

The Duomo is the most popular sight in Florence, Tuscany’s capital city. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the Renaissance dome is an iconic symbol within Florence and is possibly the most beautiful attraction in the city. It’s certainly a reason to come to Florence and Tuscany in general.

How much does it cost? The Duomo is free to enter however if you want to also access the dome it will cost you €8. To enter the crypt it’s €3.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the entire world! It also happens to be situated in the region of Tuscany, within close driving distance of Florence. The tower was not originally meant to lean to one side. It was built with an alignment 5 degrees out. However, the term ‘happy accident’ could best describe this incredible landmark because it has turned into one of the most visited and unique sights that Tuscany has to offer.

Il Palio, Siena

Twice a year in the Tuscan town of Siena the famous Il Palio horse race is held in the town’s main square, Piazza del Campo. The race circles the Piazza, on which a thick layer of dirt is laid out. 10 riders race bareback, and they all wear colour representing 10 of the 17 districts of Siena. There is standing room for 28,000 people and reserved seating for 33,000. Although for the later you will need to book far in advance.

Tuscan Countryside

Possibly the best thing about Tuscany is the beautiful Tuscan countryside! Picture traditional Tuscan farmhouses, rolling green hills, and other countryside views playing out before you. I highly recommend hiring a car and taking a drive around it, or taking a tour that will allow you to stop off and take some pictures.

What Makes A Good Hostel Locker?

Staying in a hostel dorm room is a different experience to staying in a hotel or a private hostel room. You’re sharing your room with other backpackers. Although things being stolen in a hostel is very rare, due to the fact there may be people in your room you haven’t met before it’s important that every hostel offers individual lockers to put your valuables. Most people who steal things like phones or iPads are usually opportunists rather than mastermind thieves, so you don’t want to make it easy for someone by leaving stuff lying around on your bed unattended while you’re out. Equally, you don’t want to go out walking with all of your most valuable possessions in case your bag for instance gets stolen while you’re out! Thankfully PLUS hostels offers individual lockers in every one of our hostels, and most other hostels do too! However, not every hostel is as up-to-date with their customers as PLUS is. Sometimes having the wrong type of locker can bring about it’s own problems! I therefore wanted to talk about the best kind of locker, and how it should be. This is both to help hostel owners/managers, but if you’re staying in a hostel with all the below things then you know you’re in a good one too!First off, every hostel should have lockers!

OK, before we even get started – Every hostel should have a locker! If it doesn’t have lockers don’t book it! 1) You need to know you can lock away your valuables when you’re sharing a room with other people you may not know, and 2) If you’re stuff does get stolen abroad and you didn’t have it on your person or locked away at the time in a locker/security box etc, then most travel insurance companies will not accept your claim!

Fit any kind of padlock!

A locker which allows the customer (that’s you) to fit your own padlock is better than the kind where the hostel gives you their own key. For one, if you lose the key it means the hostel doesn’t have to fork out money for a replacement from their point of view, but it also gives you more trust that only you know the lock combination or hold the key to that lock. I trust completely 99% of hostel workers, but if you’re staying somewhere dodgy you want to know it’s your locks not theirs if you get what I’m saying! Also, it’s just a bit more peace of mind if you’ve never stayed in a hostel before that you’re stuff is as safe as it can be!

Lockers in the rooms…

Lockers in the rooms are always better than those outside the rooms (although lockers outside the rooms are still better than nothing.) There is 2 reasons for this… The first is that A) It’s more convenient, and B) It’s an added bit of security that when you’re in the room (at night for instance) you will hear or see anybody if they did indeed try to break into your locker (although as I said before, this is very rare to happen in a hostel!)

Big enough to fit an entire backpack!

At PLUS, as well as all the above things, we have lockers that are actually big enough to fit a whole backpack and more! Sometimes it’s frustrating when you go to a hostel and the lockers are so small you can’t even fit a computer! It means only some of your stuff is protected. If the lockers are big enough to fit all of your belongings then you can just open it and put your entire luggage into it when you arrive! It just makes things easy…

How To Raise Over €5000 In 6 Months (For Your Travels)

In early 2010 I managed to raise the equivalent of €5000 in the space of 6 months for my travels around Europe. All of this money was raised through a) selling my belongings to raise extra cash, and b) making cut backs on my existing spending and putting those savings in the bank. At the time I was earning next to nothing as I had not long started my travel blogging career, so I probably had less money coming in than most people who will read this article. My earnings were certainly below the national average in the UK. So the question is how exactly did I do it, and more importantly – how can you do it too? As at the end of the day that is the point of this blog – to help people who want to travel based on my years of travel experience…What items tend to sell fast?The easiest way to raise immediate cash to go travelling is to start selling some or all of your possessions. How much you can raise will depend a lot on what you have available to sell and also what you’re willing to sell.

Before deciding what you want to sell it may be worth thinking about the fact that it may be easier to just sell all of your possessions anyway before heading off on your travels. Sometimes it’s more hassle to find storage facilities while you’re away than to just offload everything and make a bit of cash to take with you.

Typically fast and easy things to sell on internet auction sites are electrical/computing equipment. Laptops, tablet computers, cameras, smart phones etc can quite easily get you €50 – €600 per item depending on how new they are, the condition, what it is you’re selling, and whether or not the model you have is the latest ‘in thing’. I’ve also noticed selling items before and after Christmas usually results in more/higher bids than other times of the year. Also, the key thing about these types of items is that they are easy to ship out to people compared to some other ‘high value’ items you may be able to sell online, but that are larger or have more red tape.

Tip; If you’re reluctant to sell something like your iPhone or laptop, what I would say is – do you really want to carry expensive equipment around with you in foreign countries? If people are going to have things stolen it’s usually when they are in a foreign country and stick out like a sore thumb compared to the local people. Why not cash in now and take a cheap phone with you instead? 90% of backpackers do not need a laptop as they travel. A small tablet would do, or just check your emails at internet cafés wherever you are. This way you make extra money to prolong your travels, and you have less risk of being pick-pocketed for expensive items abroad.

How much did I raise from selling my belongings?

I managed to raise €1500 of the €5000 mentioned above simply from selling electrical appliances such as second hand phones, computers, and cameras. I made around a further €200 from selling lots of other little things such as old CDs, DVDs, books, and lots of other low cost items such as shoes and clothes. I did have a lot of electrical equipment that I could sell at the time (which not everybody has), but even if you just sell your computer second hand you could make an extra couple hundred Euros that would pay for a few extra weeks of accommodation in a hostel like PLUS while you’re away.

How much could you raise from selling your belongings?

For those of you who have a house you could rent out/sell, or a high value item like a car, making a lot of cash for your travels may become a little bit easier – although it will obviously take a lot more time to sell these types of items. For most young people who travel such as myself though, it’s unlikely that you will have a house to sell, and you may not have a car. That is why I wanted to use this €5000 figure. If you have a few expensive electrical appliances you could sell like those mentioned above, you could already be well on your way to matching that figure.

Cutting back…

One of the reasons I was able to save €5000 in a relatively short amount of time was that I moved back in with my parents. Instead of paying 380 GBP per month + bills on a room in Edinburgh where I was previously studying, I was now only paying 100 GBP ‘dig money’ per month to my parents which included ‘rent’, all utilities, and food. Including the utility & food bills I was saving more than 480 GBP per month (approximately €592 per month). This in itself was what got me to the €5000 mark within 6 months quite easily. In fact, if you do the calculations of what I sold and how much per month I saved on rent and bills, I managed to go just over €5000.

The important factor of all this was that I did not need to alter my going out habits or how much I was spending on eating/drinking out, buying clothes etc – although admittedly I probably spend less on this than most young people my age. If you can move back in with your parents you’ll find saving money for your travels comes a lot more easily. If that facility is not there, down grading your accommodation or renting out a room in your property could still potentially save you hundreds of Euros per month. There are also further cuts you can make like cycling to work instead of driving (and paying fuel money), or bring in some extra by getting an extra job or doing overtime. If you spend a lot of money on alcohol at the weekends then cutting back on this is another common sense way to save some much needed cash. There will be plenty of time for drinking when you’re away!

– Sometimes the people who write these types of articles give you unattainable figures when they quote you what they say you can save, but usually these figures involve selling a house or a business that a lot of people just don’t have in the age band where they want to travel. I think €5000 is an attainable figure for most young people on a low or student type income if you’re committed enough to saving. €5000 is also more than enough money to spend a summer in Europe with (trust me, I do it on less all the time) if you are staying in hostels like PLUS. Depending on where you’re flying from it should also cover the cost of flights too.

So what are you waiting for? Travel could be just around the corner…

Is It best To Book A Hostel Direct Or On A Hostel Booking Website?

There are many ways to book a hostel. You can book direct on a hostel’s website (such as on the PLUS Hostels website www.hostels.com). You can use a reputable hostel booking website such as HostelWorld.com or HostelBookers.com to make your booking. You can also just turn up at a hostel and book at reception on the day. Although the latter option usually doesn’t provide you with a guarantee there will be a bed for you should the hostel be fully booked. Different people have different preferences on how they like to book their hostel, so I wanted to delve down into the main ways people make their booking and really decide which way is best.

Booking direct – what are the benefits?

Booking direct has 2 main benefits. The first is that there are no extra add-on booking fees to pay. You simply pay for what you are purchasing and that is it. Sometimes by booking on other websites that are not owned by the hostel, you end up paying these extra fees. The second benefit is that all you money is going direct to the hostel. If you are booking with an independent hostel or small-ish hostel chain, then you know that you are supporting that hostel fully – although I imagine probably you care about the potential saving more than that! 🙂

Using a hostel booking website – what are the benefits?

Hostel booking websites such as HostelBookers.com and HostelWorld.com (the two biggest hostel booking websites) are great for when you are booking a particular hostel for the first time, i.e. you have never stayed in that hostel before. The reason for this is that they both have great rating systems and allow past customers to leave a rating + a review. If more than say 50 people have left a review, and the overall rating is over around 75%, then you know that the hostel is going to be at least adequate for your stay. If the rating is over 90% (like some of our PLUS hostels & camp sites) then you know that that hostel is excellent! This gives you much greater confidence when booking that hostel you are staying at is going to be good. There is also further back up if for some reason you happen to book a dodgy hostel that something goes wrong with your booking.

It should also be noted that sometimes you can find prices that are cheaper on hostel booking websites during particular promotional campaigns, so it’s always worth checking websites direct and on hostel booking websites for the cheapest price if that’s what you are after.

Booking at reception – what are the benefits?

Some people when they are booking a hostel just prefer to turn up in a city and book somewhere on the day. Others like to call ahead to make a reservation and then just pay on the day. If it’s a reputable hostel such as PLUS and/or you have stayed in that hostel before (so you know it’s a good place that it not likely to mess you around with bookings you may via telephone) then I don’t see any problem with doing this. Also, if you need to book a hostel very last minute, i.e, on the day you are arriving then this is sometimes your only option if you don’t have access to the internet etc, but in my personal opinion I’d always recommend going with options 1 or 2 on this list. That is – booking direct on the hostel website or using a hostel booking website.

The main reason is that you’ll get an official confirmation email of your reservation so if for some reason the hostel messes up your booking you have something to fall back on, and secondly booking on the day in some hostels is usually more expensive. They’ll give you the “on the door prices” in most cases instead of the sometimes discounted online prices.

So what do you think? Which is your preferred method of booking and why?