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Philly Baines

  • Thinking of heading overseas this summer? You’re not alone. Despite the weakened pound, finder.com/uk has forecast that Brits will be taking more than 15 million trips abroad this summer alone. The travel bug might not be diminished in travellers, but there are still concerns over what Brexit has done to the value of the pound. And these aren’t invalid concerns – on average, the pound has fallen by 11.95% across 44 of the 48 countries that Brits travel to, which means you’re likely to be paying a little extra when transferring your pounds over to a foreign currency.

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  • Tipping is fairly common practice in tourist hotspots in Indonesia, particularly Bali. Base salaries are often quite low so any tokens of appreciation for service will be gratefully received. You’ll notice tipping is not common amongst local people and is very much an import from western culture. If you feel though people should be rewarded for good service, it’s a nice token of appreciation.

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  • Tipping in Vietnam is very much a western import. In certain places however, it’s becoming an important supplementary form of income. You might find a difference between the North and South of the country: Saigon’s exposure to US culture has made tipping more of a thing although, to be honest, exposure to the tourist industry has meant the practice is now countrywide. Although tips are not expected, they are very much appreciated but it can sometimes be challenging working out how much to tip and when it’s appropriate to do so. Here we provide an insider’s guide:

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  • It is customary to tip in India. Staff will happily to accept and appreciate it. Small tips (anything between 20 and 100 rupees) for small services, such as looking after shoes, carrying bags etc… are appreciated and bar staff also expect small tips. However, please do not feel obliged to tip every time, or to give more than a small note.

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  • Matt recently visited Soneva Fushi and Jani, two luxurious resorts in The Maldives. On returning to the office, we found it interesting to think about the various kinds of ‘luxury’ available, and also what the word actually means.
    It’s really tough to capture what ‘luxury’ actually is; we all talk about it quite a lot, especially in the travel sphere and I’ve often wondered how to quantify and explain it, especially when talking to other travellers.
    As my experience has grown over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to stay in many “luxury” hotels, I’ve realised how difficult it is to define a luxury hotel, let alone categorise it. Ultimately it’s all about the individual experience you have and how it fits with you as a person. This is when hotels like Soneva Fushi and Jani come into their element; here, the accommodation and service blend to provide an incredibly personal, relaxing and awe-inspiring experience.
    If I can’t get to sleep at night, sometimes I just think of my time in The Maldives. It is one of the most relaxing places I have been on this earth and, for me, no other place can quite compare with it. Everyone in the office knows this all too well, and when I was planning my most recent trip to Sri Lanka I just couldn’t resist adding on 5 nights in The Maldives, only this time I was staying at a particularly special place.
    The Maldives has over 250 resorts, nearly all of them on private islands, and it just seems to be an unstoppable force in terms of growth; about 10 resorts have opened this year alone, many of them 5* or above. It’s becoming more difficult to choose between the options and ever more important to be able to discern between the different types of luxury on offer.
    I’ve been a fan of the Soneva luxury concept from the beginning. Co-founders Sonu and Eva opened their first hotel in 1995 in The Maldives and have honed their unique philosophy over the past 20 years. They have a brand that values understated touches of luxury, stunning architectural design, barefoot living, making the most of the beautiful natural world surrounding their properties and placing environmental protection at the forefront.
    I have to say that I keep my finger on the pulse with travel news and about two years ago I first heard about Soneva Jani being built – this was something on a new scale, even for TMaldives (which is already mind-blowing in what it has to offer): 5 islands with 25 water villas and the biggest overwater structure, plus a 5.8km beyond-imaginable lagoon. Just outrageous even on paper, I dreamed about going.
    It all starts with the ‘no shoes, no news’ concept. As soon as you step onto the resort your shoes are taken from you and, for however long you stay, you go around the resort barefoot. Does it sound gimmicky? A little, but all you can do is relax with soft sand between your feet, glorious sunshine and turquoise ocean everywhere on the horizon – with no worldly worries to distract you.
    There’s no plastic on the island; a special glass blowing factory recycles glasses and the resort grows as much food on the island as it can to cater for the guests. The retractable rooves in over-water villas are incredible and the slide down into the ocean from your bedroom is the stuff of childhood dreams.
    Luxury is so much more than just a picture-postcard image of a stunning resort and Soneva resorts prove this. It’s about attention to detail, personalisation, and providing an experience of dreams. For those looking for a particularly special place to stay, I’d certainly recommend either Soneva Fushi or the newly opened Soneva Jani – both would make for a spectacular experience.

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  • Some people may be surprised to discover that one of the most famous films of all time, The Bridge On the River Kwai was filmed almost entirely in Sri Lanka, and not in the bridge’s actual location in Thailand. And now, with the opening of the Sir David Lean Bungalow (named after the Director of the film) by the boutique hotel group, Elephant Stables, it’s possible to stay in one of the beautiful spots that feature in this classic film.

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  • Many people planning a trip to Asia find the budgeting process tricky. There’s a big misconception that everything is priced low when really it’s just very good value compared to a European holiday equivalent, but not necessarily ‘cheap.’ Here, we share our top suggestions on planning a luxury family holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia.

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  • Its stunning UNESCO heritage sites, golden-sand beaches and beautiful tea plantations make Sri Lanka a fantastic destination for a holiday with a difference. Not to mention the herds of wild elephants, mouth-watering curries and colonial history. Tempted to visit this magical isle? While you might already be dreaming of discovering its delights for the first time yourself, what are the practical aspects to consider? Here’s some information on 10 things you might want to think about:

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  • Booking a holiday is a big commitment of time and money. Whilst we can all swoon over pictures of beaches and sunsets, there can be a gap between what you’re promised and what you actually experience. Whether you’re considering ‘DIY’ing or booking with a travel company, here’s our ‘elevator pitch’ as to why you should book with Experience Travel Group and enjoy a holiday of a lifetime.

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  • India is a vast country encompassing everything imaginable from the mountainous Himalayas in the north to the tropical coastal beaches of the south. It can be very daunting planning a trip to the country, as there is so much to see and it is home to so many different ways of life. Here, we’re sharing our expert tips on how best to start planning.

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  • A travel itinerary is the backbone of your holiday. It details the flights, hotels, transfers, experiences and meals you’ve pre-booked and it sets the pace of your trip. It’s a document to which you will excitedly refer before you depart and which will guide you as you travel. But how do you make sure that your itinerary delivers the holiday of your dreams? How do you put it together in the first place?

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  • Having relatively recently opened up to the world, Myanmar can still pose challenges for travellers wanting to navigate the country. It encompasses a vast landmass, so getting about can be problematic as can be experiencing the highlights away from crowds and reaching undiscovered spots. This short guide will briefly outline how best to plan your trip.

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  • For those considering how they’ll get around the vast country of Myanmar (Burma), you may be wondering whether it’s worth hiring a driver and guide for parts of your trip. We believe they help you to maximise your experience in the country and are great value for money; they’ll really get you under the surface, providing an insider’s perspective on all the things you see.

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