CREDIT: Craig Moore via travel tips
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Liz’s top 5 Sri Lankan family experiences

Liz Edwards, Associate Editor of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine and AITO travel writer of the year, went to Sri Lanka en famille with Experience Travel Group. We helped her with arrangements, incorporating the highlights with a twist and organising explorations off-the-beaten-path. From whizzing along characterful backstreets in a tuk tuk, to meeting monkeys that call grand Buddhist temples their home, to spotting elephants on safari, here she shares her top 5 experiences she’d recommend to other families.



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Tipping guidelines for Indonesia

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 guidelines for Thailand

Tipping isn’t common practise in Thailand. If you notice a group of locals, you’ll rather rarely see them tip at a restaurant for example. On the other hand, small tokens of appreciation for top notch service will be much appreciated. You’ll also notice in touristy places that tips are a given and 10% is added to your overall bill, so don’t be too surprised by this.



Red Fort Lal Qila with Indian flag. Delhi, India

Is it safe to travel to India in 2017?

An enchanting country, Vietnam is renowned for its exceptional cuisine, captivating culture and dazzling natural landscapes. Although Vietnam has become a major tourist destination since the late 1990s, there is still a prominent sense of the unknown, which is why we consider it useful to share our intimate knowledge with you and help you stay safe while travelling.



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Malaysia’s hidden gem: Suka Suka Homestay

Co-founder of Experience Travel Group, Tom Armstrong, discovered the hidden riches of Malaysia. On an in-depth research trip, he found some fantastic experiences you could include in your holiday, the Suka Suka Homestay is but one example. Here he reviews his time with Aziz and family, the hosts – I hope you’ll feel inspired.



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How to fly business class for economy prices

Business class is the sensible way to travel – if we disregard the cost. The leg space, ability to sleep in a horizontal position, delicious food and champagne on tap all make for a very civilised experience. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees. But fear not, you can sometimes swindle a fantastic deal on business class seats. Here is how:



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Tipping guidelines for Vietnam

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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How NOT to do whale watching in Sri Lanka

Travel expert Sara recently went on her own personal holiday to Sri Lanka with 12 members of her family. As an avid wildlife enthusiast, her father suggested an early morning whale watching experience. He made the arrangements himself during our holiday but the experience was less than dreamy. Here Sara reports back on how NOT to do whale watching.



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Top 5 food experiences in India

Indian food enthusiast and travel expert James shares his top 5 recommended food experiences in India. The restaurant curries in the UK are totally different to authentic Indian cuisine and tasting the real dishes is an enlightening experience. From mouth-watering, juicy chicken and beef kebabs – seasoned with spices – to tapas style potato and chickpea dishes, and lightly fried pakora, there’ll be something for everyone.



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Sri Lanka vs Maldives beach

If you look at a map of Sri Lanka (earth view) you’ll see the number of beaches it has is pretty spectacular. But, then again, just one hour away by plane is The Maldives – with picture-perfect white-sand shores. You’ve got a dilemma: which one should you experience? Here, I weigh up all your options, and discover that it really depends on what you want from your relaxation time.



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New Mekong expedition with Jean-Michel Cousteau

Having only opened up to tourists relatively recently, there’s a nascent culture of tipping in Myanmar. We’d encourage tipping for particularly good service; wages are low so they’ll certainly be appreciated. That being said, do only tip on a merit basis and don’t feel obliged to do it. Here are our guidelines for tipping in Myanmar.



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India tipping guidelines

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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Soneva in The Maldives: beyond the surface of ‘luxury’

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.