Three hot picks for your first Caribbean holiday

The Caribbean has long been a bucket list favourite with British tourists. From the rich and vibrant culture to the crystal-clear waters and miles upon miles of dreamy beaches, it’s no wonder it has appeal. 

If you’re looking at visiting for the first time, 7,000 islands covering a huge one million square miles can be a little bit too much to choose from. Here are three favourites that’ll have you packing your case in no time!

Barbados 
You’re likely to feel right at home in Barbados, and with many Brits flocking to the island year on year, you’re sure to notice the large British expat community.

St James is a perfect area for first timers as it boasts a balance of excellent beaches, fabulous restaurants, and Bajan nightlife. Be sure to take a ride into Speightstown on the Reggae bus, if your ears can handle it!

And of course, no trip to Barbados is complete without a rum punch. Be careful though: some of them will definitely knock your socks off! Free-flowing rum seems to be common practice in many of the bars and restaurants. 

Two currencies are widely accepted in Barbados: Bajan dollars and US dollars. As is usually the case with currency, it’s better to pay with the local currency, as you’ll find you get a more favourable exchange rate. Should you choose to pay in US dollars, you’ll mostly get your change in Bajan. Most places such as restaurants, transport, and hotels advertise their prices in Bajan dollars, but prices for tours are often quoted in US dollars, so it’s always handy to have a little US money on you. 

From June to October, you’ll see temperatures sit at a high of around 31C (88F) and a low of 25C (77F).

St Lucia
St Lucia is a particularly lush, green island located in the eastern Caribbean. You’ll find one of the most iconic views on the southwest coast: the pitons, two huge volcanic plugs. Despite its volcanic origins, you’ll find perfect white sand beaches, plentiful rainforest, and—if you’re super active—you can hike up the magnificent pitons and grab a view from the highest point of the island.  

If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, and an even sweeter spot for the luxury chocolatier Hotel Chocolat, you’ll be excited to hear St Lucia is where they grow their cocoa. They also have a hotel there, which you might have seen on television recently. There are a wealth of tours available to plantations on the island, where you can taste and plant cocoa and even attempt to make your own chocolate bar.

Once you’ve filled up on chocolate, you can hop in a rental car and head to La Soufriere, the world’s only “drive-in volcano”. Be prepared to breathe through your ears though—it smells pretty bad! If you’ve been to geothermal areas before, perhaps Yellowstone, Rotorua, or El Tatio, then you’re probably used to it. Relax and rejuvenate in one of the mud pools before heading back down to your hotel for the evening. 

The Currency in St Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, with US dollars widely accepted across the island too. 

The climate is similar to that of Barbados. If you’d like to visit during the cooler periods, plan your holiday towards the end of the year. 

Aruba 
Last but not least, located just north of Venezuela lies the island of Aruba

Aruba is a bit of a melting pot when it comes to culture, which means you’ll certainly be able to grab some great food. Dutch pancakes and pastechi (pasties) are a popular choice amongst tourists and are available widely across the island. 

The beaches, though all beautiful white and sandy, vary in terms of liveliness. It’s worth visiting Palm Beach just to see it, but if you’re after something a lot more relaxing then head over to Druif beach on the north of the island. It’s small, but you’ll likely have a lot of it to yourself for the day. 

The currency in Aruba is the Aruban Florin, and you’ll get just over two of them to your British pound. 

The climate in Aruba is the hottest of the three locations we’ve looked at here. Highs in June to October can soar to 33C (91F) and only dip on average to a low of 26C (79F). Fortunately, a great thing about Aruba is the constant refreshing breeze, which makes things much more comfortable. Just don’t forget the sun cream!

The Foreign Office advises you to get travel insurance for the Caribbean
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice website advises that the hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June to November.

They also recommend that you should “take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel” to any of these three places in the Caribbean, and we agree. Our Go2 Travel Insurance product is the most suitable, and offers worldwide cover, so get a quote today.

Cassis: the beauty of French Riviera beaches without the crowds

Situated on the western side of the French Riviera, Cassis is a small place that captures all the charm of Provence without the madness of more popular destinations like Saint-Tropez or Cannes. It is a popular summer destination, even among the French themselves, yet it somehow manages to preserve a sense of peace and calm that makes you feel right at home. You’ll find Cassis on the southern Mediterranean coast, about ten miles east of Marseille.

What’s special about Cassis?
Nobel prize-winning writer Frédéric Mistral ventured to say that those who have seen Paris but not Cassis have seen nothing at all, surely trying to portray the unique attraction that the little fishing port has over all those who visit it. Lined with quaint little streets, pastel buildings, vineyards, scenic beaches, and olive and fig trees, Cassis perfectly embodies the spirit of Provence and the Mediterranean. 

It also doesn’t hurt that it is located between two remarkable natural sites, Cap Canaille and Les Calanques. 

Things to do
One of the main attractions of Cassis is Les Calanques, a series of coves lining the coast between Marseille and Cassis, set among the majestic limestone cliffs. The easiest way to see them is by taking a boat excursion. There are a number of options available, depending on how many inlets you want to see. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also hike there, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park!

To get the best of both worlds, you can take a baignade (swimming) tour. There are plenty of tours if you search online. You’ll get to see several of the calanques and spend some time swimming in a gorgeous bay. 

You don’t have to venture far to experience the beauty of the town. Much of its appeal is right there in the port. You can just stroll by the water and admire the boats and the impressive Cap Canaille, one of the biggest sea cliffs in Europe. You can appreciate the beautiful Château de Cassis, a fortress turned into a 5-star hotel. 

Food and shopping
If you don’t feel like walking, just stop at one of the many surrounding cafes and restaurants. Take in the view while experiencing the fresh seafood or the local white and rosé wines that Cassis is best known for. 

If you love wine, you can also take a wine tour. Two vineyards offer guided tours in English: Clos Albizzi and Clos Sainte Magdeleine

If you want to do some shopping, check out the dainty boutiques lined along the narrow streets. Or visit the market that takes place on Wednesday and Friday mornings in Place Baragnon and enjoy the beautifully displayed local food, crafts, flowers, clothing, and even jewellery.

Beaches
If there’s nothing else you’d rather do than relax on a beach, Cassis has got you covered as well. The town has several beaches, but two of them are better known: the sandy Plage de la Grande Mer and the pebbled Plage du Bestouan, which is surprisingly comfortable for a pebbled beach. Both are just a few minutes walk from the port. If you’re looking for a little more peace and quiet, you might have better luck at Plage de l’Arène. It’s less popular, but just as gorgeous as the other two. 

What the weather is like
Cassis is blessed with a mild Mediterranean climate, without too much rain in the summer months. The hottest temperatures average at around 27C (81F) in July and August. June and September are a bit cooler, at around 24C (75F). At night, temperatures can drop to 15-17C (59-63F) during these summer months. 

Getting there
You can easily reach Cassis by train: the Eurostar goes directly from London St. Pancras to Marseille Saint-Charles railway station in around six and a half hours, then you can take a second train to Cassis. If you choose to go by rail, once you get to the railway station in Cassis you can call a cab or enjoy a lovely three-mile walk through beautiful orchards and vineyards. There is bus that goes from the station to the city centre hourly.

If you choose to fly, easyJet will take you to Marseille airport, around twenty miles north-west of Cassis.

Where to stay
Try to find a property that is close to the port, giving you have easy access to beaches, restaurants, and shopping. There are plenty of rustic Airbnbs, apartments, and hotels around, starting at about £60 per night for two people.

Six great travel websites you might not have heard about

Here are six useful travel websites you might not have heard about, which will help you to plan a great holiday.

The Discoverer 
www.thediscoverer.com/editions
When you’re planning your holiday, sometimes you need a little inspiration. If you are looking for new ideas and well-written travelogues, The Discoverer is a great website to look at. It launches a new edition every month, dedicated to a destination, and includes general tips, must-see places, and inspiring pictures that capture the essence of each place. So start your planning by going to The Discoverer to get yourself into the travel mood! 

The Discoverer features places within Europe and also destinations much further afield. If you’re travelling worldwide, try our Go2 Travel Insurance to keep you insured.

Rome2Rio
www.rome2rio.com
If you’re relying on local transport, from public buses to ferries, taxis, trains or trams, Rome2Rio provides extensive information on how to reach your destinations, worldwide. Set your departure and arrival points, and the website will suggest the cheapest and fastest modes of transport, show you where you need to change, and give you an estimated price. It will even suggest accommodation options for you.

Spotted by Locals
www.spottedbylocals.com
When you’re planning a holiday, sometimes you’ll ask friends who have been to that destination for their tips and advice. Or if you know someone from that country, you’ll ask them for suggestions. Spotted by Locals does this for those places where you don’t know who to ask. For over 70 cities, mostly in Europe, you’ll find tips for the best restaurants, hidden gems, and great shopping opportunities. The tips are easily readable and come with a personal touch by each local expert, which the website calls a Spotter. It also offers downloadable city guides via a paid app, for $3.99.

Viator
www.viator.com
Many people like to take a guided tour of their destination, to show them the most interesting things quickly. But finding the right guide and the best tour can be a time-consuming lottery. Viator takes care of that for you. Simply search for your destination and the website will show you plenty of options for tours, according to your interests and budget. From a behind-the-scenes tour of a French bakery in Paris to a fun boat ride in Faro, you can find most activities here, complete with real reviews.  

The Man in Seat Sixty-One
www.seat61.com
Launched by a former British Rail manager from Buckinghamshire, this website is a perfect example of how the internet can change the life of a dedicated hobbyist. What started as a small niche page is today one of the biggest sources of information on train travel. You’ll find schedules, prices, and even photos from inside the carriages, covering some of the most interesting train rides in the world. From well-known UK and Irish trains up to the famous Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia or the classic Indian trains, the Man in Seat Sixty-One knows the way. 

SeatGuru
www.seatguru.com
Getting a bad seat on your flight can get your holiday off to a poor start. Being seated close to the toilets, or getting the only seat on the plane without a window, are problems that you can easily avoid by looking up your flight on SeatGuru. Just enter your airline and flight number, and the website will automatically find the type of aircraft you will be on. It uses a traffic lights colour scheme of red-yellow-green to show you the best seats with additional leg room, and which seats you would be better avoiding.

Note that airlines can swap your aircraft for another type, and this tends to start happening at around two weeks before your flight departs, as the airline finalises their schedule. So SeatGuru is only a guide, but we reviewed it for easyJet aircraft and it’s fairly accurate. However, it doesn’t include the newer Airbus A321 aircraft.

SeatGuru also doesn’t show which seats are suitable for passengers with reduced mobility, so you might still need to phone your airline and check which seat would be best for you.

Backstreet Venice: steering clear of the main sites

Travel writer Julia Hammond explains how she learned to love Venice by avoiding some of its most famous attractions. 

Allow me to let you into a secret: I hated Venice the first time I went. I ticked off its sights like I was completing a childhood iSpy book: a gondola ride, a visit to the Doges Palace, coffee in St Mark’s Square, a souvenir of glass blown on Murano Island. 

The second time, persuaded to give the city a second go by those more enchanted by the place, I spread my wings a little and liked it a touch better. But it wasn’t until my third trip that I found a Venice that I could truly say I loved, for it was then that I gave up on the sights and ventured off the beaten track.

Beyond the tourists
Backstreet Venice is a world apart from the tour guide clipboards and over-inflated prices that blight the likes of St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal. It’s no wonder the shrinking resident population is fighting to preserve the character of their beloved home city—they number just 55,000 people, fewer than the number of tourists that visit per day. But Venice is compact and you don’t need to stray far from those crowded, must-see spots to escape the masses. 

Take the Rialto Bridge, for example, rammed with tat shops and selfie-stick wielding tourists. A micro-stroll away, you’ll find yourself in the Rialto Market, still busy of course, but its visitor contingent is diluted by locals grabbing armloads of fresh produce for dinner. There’s fresh seafood, capsicums tied up like posies of flowers, and more varieties of mushroom than you probably knew existed.

Bars and bookstores
A few streets in from the water and you’ll encounter the oldest bacaro (bar) in the city. It’s called the Cantina do Mori, a tiny bar which manages to cater to a loyal local clientele without excluding visitors keen to experience a piece of Venetian history. Pull up a stool beneath a ceiling laden with copper pots and pans. Order an ombra, local slang for a glass of wine, and drink where the great Casanova once drank—this bar’s been a fixture since 1462.

Once you know how to spot them, you will find the city is littered with places like that: trattorias, bars, churches, and shops tucked away into impossibly narrow alleyways, known only to those who live there or those lucky enough to stumble upon them.

Backing onto a backstreet canal is the delightful Libreria Acqua Alta. This bookstore is packed with piles of books stacked on every imaginable surface. There’s a resident cat, books piled in bathtubs, and even a beached gondola. Duck out the back and there’s a tiny waterfront yard that forms the perfect reading nook, so long as you don’t mind being interrupted by a passing boat. 

Heritage
When it comes to securing a view, don’t climb the campanile in St Mark’s Square like everyone else. Instead, hop on a vaporetto (water bus) to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. It overlooks the square and provides a bird’s eye view of the vessels entering the Grand Canal, yet you’ll have the belltower to yourself. Brace yourself, though: when the bells chime the hour they’re loud enough to startle you!

My favourite part of Venice is Cannaregio, home to the city’s Jewish quarter. Its Jewish heritage extends back to 1516 when the Doge Leonardo Loredan issued a decree formally segregating the city’s Jewish population. The area was previously used as a foundry, known as ghèto in the local vernacular, a term that became the modern word ‘ghetto’. 

Tapas
These days, if you want to sightsee, there are ancient synagogues and kosher bakeries, but the real treat is simply to wander aimlessly through its unassuming residential streets. When your feet need a break, emerge onto Ormesini canal and beat a path to a bacarocalled Al Timon. Time it for early evening and munch delicious cicchetti—Venetian tapas—while the sun sets behind the buildings on the opposite side of the water. Ask the bartender for Campari rather than Aperol in your spritz and you might just pass for a local.

Rhodes: a Greek island of ancient sites and relaxing beaches

Few destinations can claim to be as diverse as the Greek island of Rhodes. This popular summer destination has something for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re a relaxed beach goer or a curious history buff. 

Strolling through the old Greek cities of Lindos and Rhodes will be as rewarding as a day of relaxation on the endless, sandy beach of Tsampika.

When to go to Rhodes
A few miles off the southern Turkish coast, Rhodes can be very hot in the high season during July and August. However, May and September can be better, since the temperatures are a little cooler and there are fewer tourists.

The average temperature in those two months should hover between 24-28C (75-82F), with little rain and lots of sunshine throughout the day. 

Rhodes is easily accessible from the UK, with plenty of airlines offering direct flights from April until October. TUI alone flies to Rhodes from 18 different airports in the UK, and Rhodes is also served by easyJet, Thomas Cook, Jet2, and British Airways.

There is a wide variety of hotels to choose from, and along the eastern coast of the island you’ll find many of the famous international hotel brands. From family-owned, simple 2-star hotels up to all-inclusive luxury retreats with private pools, all types of accommodation can easily be booked.  

What to see and do – Rhodes Town and endless beaches
Stroll along the Old Town of Rhodes and you will quickly feel the history and events that those ancient stone walls have witnessed over its existence. The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, for example, is a medieval castle which makes for an impressive sight, and it is a popular setting for movie productions: the 1988 epic thriller with Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren, “Pascali’s Island”, was shot almost entirely in Rhodes. 

Leaving Rhodes Town and heading down south along the coast, one of the first stops will be the Kalithea Springs. These thermal springs have been known for their therapeutic properties since ancient times. Nowadays, you can enjoy an especially pleasant view of the bay from the inviting garden which surrounds the springs. 

After Kalithea, you’ll see an almost endless stretch of sandy beach. At the end of that stretch, you will find the famous (or possibly infamous) town of Faliraki, known for its wide array of nightlife, with many bars and entertainment venues. 

Next up along the coast is the Anthony Quinn Bay, named after the famous actor who fell in love when shooting a movie here in the 1960s. The pebble-stone beach is tucked into a tiny bay, so it can get crowded quickly—make sure you arrive early to grab a sunbed! 

You’ll find a great sandy beach further south, in Tsampika. The water here is especially warm, and if you feel up for a sporty challenge you can also visit the Monastery of Tsampika: placed on top of a hill, you can walk up 350 steps to reach the stunning viewing point and the small Orthodox church. 

Ancient Lindos and the western side of Rhodes
One of the highlights of every visit to the island of Rhodes is Lindos. This town of tiny whitewashed homes will instantly remind you of a postcard from another Greek island, Santorini. Over 2,000 years old, the Akropolis of Lindos is not as well-preserved as its famous counterpart in Athens, but is certainly impressive. You can either climb up to the Akropolis by yourself or have an especially Greek experience by taking a donkey ride up the hill!

Most of the sights and beaches in Rhodes are on the eastern side of the island, which is also much livelier. If you prefer a calmer way of travelling, consider the western side of the island. The castles of Monolithos and Kritinia offer incredible views over the Aegean, and the beaches—although more rock than sand—will be much less crowded, some of them even deserted. 

There is no particularly large town on the western side, but the locals in the small villages along the way will be happy to see any visitor who finds their way into the delicious restaurants lining the road. For this part of the island you will definitely need a rental car or organised tour, as public transport is rare. 

So whether you like the beaches or the culture, take a trip to Rhodes for your holiday this year.

Secret Salento: the beauty of the south-east coast of Italy

In recent years Salento, at the tip of Italy’s heel, has become a popular destination for British travellers. 

This stunning small peninsula can be divided into the west coast and the east coast. Most of the facilities and popular beaches are on the crowded west coast. But if you are looking for a relaxing and authentic destination, the east coast has a few hidden gems to explore. 

Lecce is a city you need to visit for its baroque architecture and its tradition of papier mâché. However, our journey begins in Otranto.

Otranto
Otranto is the best place to stay if you are spending one or two weeks in the south of Salento. You can visit its peculiar Cathedral, where you can admire one of the oldest mosaic floors in Italy. 

The second monument to visit is the Castello Aragonese, which is rich with history. It is famous as the setting of the first Gothic novel, The Caste of Otranto, written in 1764. Besides those monuments, Otranto has many pleasant restaurants to discover the authentic culinary taste of Salento.  

The beaches in Otranto
At North of Otranto, there are some sandy beaches. Baia dei Turchi and Frassanito are the most popular. Here, you can enjoy crystal clear water and have a glass of refreshing wine at one of the beach kiosks—the local rosé is a must. 

If you are looking for a place with easy access to the beach and resorts, you can go to Laghi Alimini, a family-friendly beach. It is a nice place, but from the second half of July and into August it gets very crowded.

Scenic drive: Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca
If you need a one-day break from the beach, you can take a road trip and drive south to Santa Maria di Leuca. Here the landscape and the atmosphere have a Greek touch. The sandy beaches turn into a beautiful rocky coast with cliffs overlooking the azure sea. 

Along the journey, you can discover the charm and authenticity of Salento. From thermal baths to celebrity spotting, the drive offers a little something for everyone. 

Santa Cesarea Terme and its thermal baths
The first town where you can find interesting things to do is Santa Cesarea Terme. It is the most important place for thermal baths in Salento, and is famous for therapeutic treatments. 

If you want to spend a relaxing day at the spa, you can opt for one of the indulgent wellness packages. This is also the place to consider if you are looking for a week of pampering treatments and stress relief in front of the sea. 

Tricase: where VIPs spend their summer 
It is not a coincidence that Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep bought villas in this little town. In fact, it is considered one of the most authentic villages in the South of Italy. Taking a detour to the upper town will give you the chance to discover a hamlet rich in history, with plenty of churches and castles to visit. If time allows, you can have a nice aperitivo at the Farmacia Balboa. 

When to go 
June and September are the two best months to visit Salento. In those months the region is not too busy or crowded. Many hotels and beach resorts consider them off-season, so it’s likely that you’ll find accommodation that’s good value for money. The weather is good at that time of year too: temperatures can reach 27C (80F), avoiding the heat of July and August, which can reach 32C (90F).

So if you fancy an Italian holiday with a difference, why not try Salento this year?

The Azores: Portugal’s answer to the Canary Islands

The Azores has much in common with the Canary Islands. Both island groups have volcanic origins and are located hundreds of miles from mainland Europe in the Atlantic Ocean, giving them a remote and exotic feel.

While the Canaries are quite far south, just to the west of northern Africa, the Azores—an autonomous region of Portugal—are slightly further north, and a whole 900 miles west of Portugal.

So what is different about the Azores? For one thing, the climate is more humid but never gets scorching hot. But while sunshine is not always guaranteed, what you can expect is lush, green vegetation, dramatic scenery, waterfalls aplenty, and thermal pools to soak in should the sun hide behind the clouds. 

Summer temperatures in the Azores climb up to 26C (79F), and the sea stays reasonably warm throughout the year due to the effects of the Gulf Stream. The weather during spring is somewhat cooler, but May is the best time to travel if you want to experience the islands in full bloom. One of the nine islands, Flores (the Portuguese word for flowers), was actually named after this enchanting spring-time spectacle!

Getting there and getting around
The Azores have long been a hidden gem compared to the Canary Islands, but since flight restrictions were lifted in 2015, getting to this subtropical paradise has become both easier and more affordable.

From the UK, you can fly to Ponta Delgada (the capital of the Azores archipelago) in about four hours. Low-cost options are available too, with Ryanair operating a direct budget route from Manchester and Stansted, although sadly easyJet no longer flies there.

Island hopping on your holiday is easy and highly recommended! Local flights connecting all nine islands are regular and affordable, and from May onwards, frequent ferry services become a good option. 

Beaches and swimming
Plenty of coastline means you’ll have many opportunities for swimming and relaxing on the beach on your holiday. A typical Azorean beach is dark grey in colour, but you’ll also find golden beaches on Santa Maria and even a red beach on Graciosa.

If you love water, then swimming in the natural ‘pools’ inside volcanic craters, and soaking in the thermal baths, are experiences not to be missed!

Sights and activities
From visiting the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Angra de Heroismo to admiring the many breathtaking natural wonders, you’ll always find things to see and do.

Geotourism is big in the Azores thanks to the impressive diversity of volcanic sights, and the caves, craters, hot springs, and curious rock formations are well worth exploring. Or why not make the most of the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean? See the rugged beauty of the coastline on a sailing boat, try your hand at big-game fishing, or sign up for a whale and dolphin watching tour.

Nature-lovers will also want to keep an eye out for rare bird species, while foodies will enjoy touring pineapple and tea plantations as well as sampling the local cheese and wine. Just leave some room for Cozido das Furnas, a meat and vegetable stew cooked in volcanic steam!

Culture and festivals
Each of the nine islands has its own distinct character and unique traditions, but chances are you’ll stumble upon a religious festival wherever you go. These frequent celebrations are joyful in nature: expect colourful parades, music, and dancing.

The Azores also hosts its own Fringe festival, which brings together local and international artists and performers to showcase their talents in June.

Where to stay
You won’t see huge resorts in the Azores—looking after the environment and the local heritage is at the heart of tourism on the islands—but you’re sure to find accommodation options for all budgets and tastes. 

Many hotels in Ponta Delgada and other larger towns offer good value and make a great base for exploring. However, you could also stay in a tranquil villa in a rural setting, a luxury seaside property or even a repurposed 16th-century fort!

So if you’re looking for somewhere a little bit different this year, try the Azores!

Larnaca: Escape to the sunny blue skies

As you know, we like to get local writers to tell us about the places where they live. This month, we asked native Cypriot Elena Hadjipavli to tell us about Larnaca.

Picture yourself on the beach: eyes closed, under the warm Mediterranean sun, enjoying a pint of local KEO beer. Who doesn’t look forward to such a holiday?

Larnaca, on the south coast of Cyprus and populated by 50,000 people, is known for its hospitality, its long beachfront, and the local taverns. It’s a small, friendly city with a good bus system for getting around, and affordable traditional accommodation.

What to see
The first thing you’ll see when arriving at the airport is Larnaca Salt Lake. It’s protected for its nature and wildlife, and attracts thousands of flamingos during the rainy season. 

Moving into the city centre, you’ll find the remarkable historical Orthodox Church of Saint Lazarus, built in the 9th Century and a site of historical significance. Its architecture has byzantine, gothic, and baroque styles, with a unique wooden carved baroque iconoclast wall. The tomb of Saint Lazarus is located in the foundation of the church. Also not to be missed is the Larnaca Medieval Castle, built in the 12th Century to protect the port.

Beaches
Finikoudes Beach has a long, palm-lined seafront road, with palm trees planted back in 1922 by the locals. Here you can enjoy a full day at the beach! You can enjoy some beer at a bar, a traditional breakfast (at Lazaris coffee shop), and local small dishes called mezes: try the well-known Militzis restaurant. If you love to eat fish, visit Zephyros for a delicious fish platter!

Want some adventure? 
The shipwrecked Swedish ferry MS Zenobia, which capsized in Larnaca Bay in 1980 on her maiden voyage, is now one of the top ten wreck-diving sites in the world. Every day there are scuba-diving lessons and activities catering to all levels. Make sure you check your travel insurance to see which activities you’re covered for!

For other water sports, you can choose from canoeing, jet-skiing, waterskiing and more. You could also take a sailing boat tour. Or if you simply want to relax, try taking a boat cruise along the coast. If you like a challenge, some cruises also include fishing for your own lunch! 

For adrenaline-seekers who want to test their skills, a visit to the Larnaca Olympic Shooting Range should not be missed.

Want to participate in local events and activities? 
Lots of events and festivals take place in Larnaca, and you can check what’s on at the time you’re planning on taking your holiday.

In May three annual events take place: the Byzantine Days where you can enjoy Byzantine music and choirs; the Cyprus Seniors Cup, organised by the Cyprus Tennis Federation is a tournament for senior tennis players; and the Larnaca Triathlon which is open to individuals, families, and teams.

In June, one of the largest festivals is Kataklismos. This is a popular religious event lasting for a week, with musical performances, dance, theatre, and competitions. Make sure to try the local sweet treats called loukoumades.

In July you can catch the Larnaca Summer Festival of music and performing arts, film screenings, poetry, and theatre. 

Who loves the sunshine? 
Cyprus is well-known for the warm Mediterranean sun and relatively high temperatures all year round, but plan your holiday to suit your preferred weather. During May, the temperature varies between 15-25C (59-77F), and in June the temperature reaches up to 30C (86F). If you like it hot, during July and August the temperature reaches 35C (95F)!

Larnaca is the perfect escape to the sunny blue seas and skies, so is this the year you choose to visit Cyprus?

We’ve changed to Europe Plus: more benefits, same great prices!

Europe Plus logo

We’ve now changed our name to Europe Plus, to avoid any potential confusion caused by Brexit. 

If you’re an existing EHICPlus customer, rest assured your policy is not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.

Our new Europe Plus website has been live for a month, and your response has been excellent!

We’ve kept our prices the same, but we’re now including a choice of three levels of cover, including a lower-priced option called ‘Essential’, and a higher level of cover called ‘Platinum’ for those people that want to have something extra. 

What does Europe Plus cover?
We still allow you to tell us about your pre-existing medical conditions, and we offer cover for travellers up to the age of 85.

Europe Plus covers EU countries and some non-EU countries. (We have a full country list.) We now offer medical cover up to £10 million, along with increased sums insured for your valuables.

You’ll get a renewal discount!
When it’s time to renew your EHICPlus policy, your renewal discount will now be valid on Europe Plus. Many of you have been extremely loyal customers and have been with us for many years now. We’re extremely grateful, and to thank you for your loyalty we will send your renewal reminders as usual with along with your discount code.

Your policy is not affected by Brexit
We want to assure you that your existing EHICPlus policy is not affected by our rebrand. Also, Brexit does not affect any of our policies, including Europe Plus, EHICPlus and EHICPlus Expand.

We would like to welcome you all at our new Europe Plus website, any queries please call us as usual on 08450 555 222.

Robert Ince, Director.
PS – Don’t forget, if you have an existing EHICPlus policy it’s not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.

Tips for travelling solo

Travel writer Julia Hammond has been travelling solo for three decades. Here, she shares her top tips.

Solo travel is a fast-growing trend. According to ABTA, one in nine holidaymakers has travelled alone in the last 12 months. Hotel booking sites and Airbnb have reported a large increase in solo travel too, and cruise companies have started building more solo cabins with no single supplements.

Figure out whether you’re suited to going away on your own
Knowing yourself is a big part of having a successful solo holiday. While some relish solitude, others find it lonely and isolating. Test out how you’d cope with a big trip by first booking a weekend away in a familiar location. 

Punctuate your itinerary with opportunities to connect with fellow travellers. For instance, try a Free Tours by Foot walking tour—they operate in a number of European and North American cities. Alternatively, book a place on an activity-based break where you learn a language, cook, or paint. Once you’ve got this trial under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to decide whether you’d prefer the safety net of a group tour or if you’re ready to spread your solo travel wings and go it alone.

You only have to please yourself
Embrace the chance to make this holiday all about you. Pick a place you’ve always wanted to explore but that your usual travelling companions would hate. Perhaps this solo trip could be the opportunity to volunteer with a charitable organisation overseas. Another idea is to set yourself a physical challenge such as climbing Kilimanjaro. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing the complete opposite. 

If you’ve danced until dawn and find yourself lounging around in your pyjamas late into the afternoon, there’ll be no one around to nag you to get dressed!

Select your kind of accommodation
Hostels, with their communal kitchens and common room social activities, are a great way of meeting people. The days of being forced to endure smelly dorms are long gone, and many hostels now have ensuite private rooms which are as comfortable as a hotel. 

However, solo travel doesn’t have to mean backpacking. Airbnb offers a good selection of both shared and single occupancy units, with the advantage of having a local host on hand for insider tips. Boutique hotels with their ‘home away from home’ ethos can be a real treat. 

Why not pick a good value destination where your money will stretch further and indulge yourself with a suite or room with a view? For example, I stayed at Hostal Plaza Santa Cruz in Seville in an absolutely enormous suite right in the heart of the old town for 57 euros.

Be savvy about safety
It’s a sad reality that the world isn’t always as safe as we might like, and some novice solo travellers might feel vulnerable without the safety net of a tour guide or travel partner. Before you book, you can ask questions internet forums such as Lonely Planet’s well-established Thorn Tree network. Use it to work out the safest neighbourhoods in your intended destination. 

Once there, make use of social media to ensure someone back home knows your plans. Pre-book airport transfers if you’re arriving late; check locally if it’s safe to flag a taxi down off the street. Keep your phone charged and your wits about you. But trust your instincts: remember, it’s often those unexpected encounters with welcoming strangers that make the longest lasting memories.