Category: Travel Tips

InspirationNewsTravel Tips

Which Wonder of the World is right for you?

Are you sitting there wondering where to go next? We understand – that’s how we’ve spent our entire lives.

There is something so exciting about being on the brink of your next adventure. So, if you’re looking for some inspiration, take our quick quiz to figure out which Wonder of the World you should visit next.

1.In your past life you were:

  • A) A queen
  • B) A sports star
  • C) A nomadic trader
  • D) A drunk architect

2. Your idea of a fun night out is:

  • A) Shimmying the night away with a group of bellydancers
  • B) Drinking giant margaritas
  • C) Star gazing in the desert
  • D) Drinking wine in the village square

3. You like shopping for:

  • A) Leather slippers
  • B) Mexican wrestling masks
  • C) Spices
  • D) Hand painted crockery

4. Your favourite food is:

  • A) Ful medames – a hearty concoction of beans, pastas and spices
  • B) Fish tacos made with proper guacamole (no sour cream)
  • C) Mansaf – slow cooked rice served with saffron rice and yoghurt sauce
  • D) Pizza, pasta, gelato, risotto, arancini, antipasto… and that’s just to start

5. Your favourite place to relax is:

  • A) By the river
  • B) At a white sand beach with crystal clear water
  • C) Next to an inland sea
  • D) In the mountains

6. You describe yourself as:

  • A) Ancient and glorious
  • B) Solid and a bit gory
  • C) Majestic and fort-like
  • D) Wonky but classical

7. If you were a wonder of the world, you would want to be:

  • A) The oldest
  • B) The coolest
  • C) The most impressive
  • D) The weirdest

8. If you were a building, you would be:

  • A) Built to withstand the test of time
  • B) Full of secret passages
  • C) Sophisticated
  • D) Unique

9. If you could put a price on yourself, you would be:

  • A) Cheap and cheerful
  • B) Affordable and great value
  • C) Pricey but princely
  • D) Top of the range

10. If you were an animal, you would be:

  • A) A cat
  • B) A frog
  • C) A camel
  • D) A bird

If you answered mostly As

You need to visit The Great Pyramid of Giza. Cruise along the Nile, explore souks and cities, taste the local cuisine (and then walk it all off as you wander around ancient ruins).

If you answered mostly Bs

You’re headed to Chichen Itza in Mexico. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and cenotes (sunken swimming holes), this region combines ancient Mayan temples with super fun bars and beaches.

If you answered mostly Cs

You’re off to the Lost City of Petra. There is nothing more exotic than heading off into the desert aboard a camel. The good news is that Jordan is also home to delicious food, great swimming, snorkelling and diving, and surprisingly sophisticated ancient architecture.

If you answered mostly Ds

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is calling you, mi amico. Check out this architectural catastrophe while you enjoy la dolce vita. Dinner starts with aperitivo at 5pm and ends with gelato at midnight. Take your stretchy pants!

Want to book your next Wonder-filled trip? Click here and check out our amazing 20 per cent off Wonders of the World sale.

Gate 1 ConnectionsTravel Tips

Top 10 Friendliest Cities in the World

Hello and warmest welcomes to our list of the friendliest cities in the world. Let’s be honest, sometimes travel can be a little uncomfortable and stressful, especially in a new location. A helpful culture, friendly people and beautiful sights all help make you feel at home in a new city and may even help contribute to making it your new favourite vacation spot!

10. Thimphu, Bhutan
Welcome to the tiny, magical kingdom of Bhutan, located in-between India and China. Tradition and independence reign supreme in Bhutan and you will see that instantly in the people who live here. The capital city of Thimphu gives you the perfect taste of what Bhutan is all about. This city is located in the Himalayas and is extremely isolated from outside cultures, meaning it has largely kept its authenticity. Thimphu is the most modern in the entire country and boosts a great amount of sights to see. A great thing to do here is to surround yourself with temples and courtyards that will make you feel just like a local. Top attractions here include the Dochula, a mountain pass through the Himalayas and Simtokha Dzong, an important historic building and former Buddhist monastery, Do not forget to be on the lookout for the rare national animal; the Tazin.

9. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Travel along the beautiful Sea-to-Sky Highway to get to alluring Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Canada. This town is a true homage to Victorian charm, through the architecture and genuine nature of the locals. It is also the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest, which means its has a lot of history stretching back thousands of years. British and Asian traditions are also prominent here thanks to the cities past involvements with trading and British rule. While in Victoria, you will want to visit Beacon Hill Park, Butchart Gardens and the Royal BC Museum. Perhaps stop in Canada’s oldest Chinatown and indulge in a delicious snack! Perhaps you’ll enjoy a stroll or have a meal along the Victoria Harbour and take in the view of the Parliament Building along the water. Victoria, British Columbia welcomes you and you will be greeted with a warm embrace!

8. Hoi An, Vietnam
The ancient town of Hoi An, Vietnam will give you a feel for the culture as soon as you get here. Many of the people in this city still wear the “ao dais” or cultural dress of the Vietnamese. Hoi An is bursting with tradition, given its past as an important Asian training port. This city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has an impressive collection of canals, pagodas, temples, bridges and shops in the Old Quarter. While in Hoi An, be sure to visit the Organic Village where you can enjoy vegetables and herbs grown in the area to support the local community. This town has no airport or train station so you will oftentimes land in the airport of Da Nang and drive to Hoi An, but it is worth it! Warm weather, happy people and a city with much to do will make Hoi An a new favourite of yours.

7. Savannah, Georgia, United States
Welcome to the “Belle of the South” Savannah, Georgia, and what a beauty this city is. A storied past and numerous landmarks give this city a heart all its own. Historic landmarks you must see in Savannah include Forsyth Park, River Street, the Waving Girl statue and the Cotton Exchange. While here, be sure to keep an eye out for the manicured gardens, historic district, antebellum architecture and horse-drawn carriages, that will transport you to another era. Take a walk down the cobblestone streets at night and get a real feel for the city; breathe in the warm weather and magnificent sights of the South in Savannah.

6. Galway, Ireland
You’ve arrived in the Emerald Isle and we have an excellent spot for you to visit! Galway is a seafaring town in this country that deeply honours tradition. The Gaelic language is alive here and can be observed in the people of this area. When in this city, be on the lookout for folk music, traditional pubs and fun shops. These are all a must to truly understand the character of this city and those who live here. Must see sights in this city include the Eyre Square, River Corrib, Latin Quarter and Galway Cathedral. If you love a city that marches to the beat of its own drum and has a truly unique nature, Galway is a must for you.

5. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is located in the mountainous Himalayas in the region of Northern Thailand. Northern Thailand is said to have a persona and food scene all its own and cannot be compared with the cities in the south. This is due to its close border to Myanmar and Laos and the Lanna inspiration that exists here. This area is rich in character and is very fond of festivals and celebrations! Chiang Mai is a perfect example of the culture of the north and has temples and wats that you will not believe. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Wat Suan Dok and Wat Phra Singh are just a few of the must see attractions. Some things to try and do here that are authentic include sampling local dishes, perhaps Larb, a spicy salad, or Khao Soim, coconut curry soup, enjoying a Thai massage, venturing through Sankampang Street for handicrafts and exploring the temples. Experience for yourself, the spirit and beliefs of Northern Thailand, with a visit to the genuine Chiang Mai.

4. Queenstown, New Zealand 
Queenstown, New Zealand was named for Queen Victoria and is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island of this Pacific nation. Queenstown has a rich Maori culture and history of gold-mining that helped shape what this area is today. This city is considered the adventure sports capital of the country and is a perfect place to live like the locals. Bungy-jumping, skydiving, paragliding and zip-lining are all available here. For more natural scenes, Milford Sound, Elington Valley, Mitre Peak and Bowen Falls are some of the few in Queenstown. See excellent views of the city below at Bob’s Peak and view some of the Lord of the Rings filming locations. Be sure to also get acquainted with the downtown of this resort area and perhaps visit a relaxing spa, find a good restaurant or do some exploring! Getting yourself into some adventures in Queenstown is sure to make you feel like a kiwi and meet kiwi friends as well.

3. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is your gateway to the Angkor temples and a unique city all it’s own. It is very probable that the Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat masterpieces brought you here, and that’s an excellent reason. These amazing temples were built by Khmer Kings and were once home to over a million people! These temples are truly a must see for your travel bucket list and are unlike anything you have seen. This city is very popular and safe and has adapted to accommodate travellers. Hotels, restaurants and shopping are all prevalent and excellent in this city. Many of the people of Cambodia are grateful and happy to meet travellers and people from all over the world so do not be afraid to interact! The Cambodians have had a fascinating and sometimes horrific history but they are more than happy to share their country, as well as ancient sights, with the world.

2Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland is one of those cities that is always a good idea and will always provide travellers with a good time. Whether you are walking around, exploring sights or having a drink in the pub at night, this city is full of excitement, singing and people enjoying themselves. Some of the must see sights in Dublin include Trinity College, Guinness Storehouse, O’Connell Street and St. Stephen’s Green. If you are looking for a place to enjoy a drink, eat Irish fare or do a little shopping, head down to the Temple Bar area. This area can get a bit touristy and crowded, so do not be afraid to spend a little time here and move on to another area. If you are looking for an authentic Irish experience, this is one of the best places in the country to find it! Have a bowl of Irish Stew with a local or listen to an Irish folk band at the pub and you are sure to feel more green.

1. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Hola! Welcome to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. This location tops the list thanks to its impressive history, friendly people, tasty restaurants and easy exploration of the city by foot. San Miguel de Allende also has a large ex-pat community that can make you feel more at home. The city itself is best known for it’s Colonial-era and Spanish architecture and intertwining history with Mexico’s Independence. Cobblestone streets, majestic churches and plentiful parks and gardens help add to the perfection of this story-book city. Here, you will feel safe, enjoy a friendly and exciting place and have a stress-free time exploring the sights. While in this city, be sure to visit Parroquia de San Migual Arcangel, Juarez Park and the Artisan Market to get a feel for this area. Do not be afraid to walk in this city, it is very safe and effortless to explore on foot.

Travel Tips

10 crazy superstitions from around the world

Have you ever wondered where superstitions come from? And why they’re so wildly different from country to country?

While we weren’t able to track down an explanation for them all, there are certainly some colourful ones to consider.

Our personal favourite comes from Hungary: if you sing at the dinner table, you will marry a madman. Even Hungarians don’t know where this comes from but they’re still not singing over their supper.


Read on for 10 superstitions from around the world:

1. China: The number four is bad luck

Why? The Chinese word for for four (pinyin) sounds similar to the word for death. Real estate agents and car salesmen find this particularly problematic as Chinese customers generally avoid buying anything with this number in it, or with numbers that add up to four.

2. Ancient Sumeria (now Southern Iraq): If you spill salt, you will have an argument. To avoid this argument, you need to throw salt over your left should to ‘blind the devil’.

Why? Around 3500 BC, the ancient Sumerians first took to nullifying the bad luck of spilled salt by throwing a pinch of it over their left shoulders. This ritual spread to the Egyptians, the Assyrians and later, the Greeks. Spilling salt was considered bad luck because it was very expensive.

3. Europe: Black cats are unlucky

Why? During the Middle Ages, people in many parts of Europe thought black cats were the ‘familiars’ or companions of witches, or even witches themselves in disguise, and that a black cat crossing your path was an indication of bad luck and a sign that the devil was watching you.

4. Europe: Leaving shoes on the table is bad luck and welcomes death

Why? It’s believed that this belief may be tied to the mining industry. When miners passed away, their relatives would bring their shoes into the home and place them on the table.

5. Europe: Don’t cut your nails on a Friday or Sunday

Why? According to an old European superstition, you should never cut your fingernails on a Sunday. If you did, people would gossip about you and the devil would follow you for a week. Cutting your fingernails was considered ‘work’ and also an activity related to vanity, both forbidden on the day of rest.

Cutting your nails on a Friday was equally unlucky. It was said bad luck and sorrow would strike the home if anyone in the household dared to cut their fingernails on a Friday.

Even the Vikings had strong concerns about fingernails. It was believed there was a ship called Naglfar (nail-ferry) that was made solely from fingernails and toenails taken from dead humans. No dead man was to be buried with uncut fingernails. Every precaution had to be made to ensure that corpses did not supply more material for building the Naglfar.

6. Armenia: When someone is travelling abroad, throw water out the front door as they leave for good luck.

Why? So that the person’s journey will run as smoothly as the flow of water.

7. China: If you leave grains of rice in your bowl, every one will be a pockmark on your husband’s face

Why? Rice is a basic staple food and wasting it is considered bad luck.

8. France: It’s bad luck to lie a baguette upside down

Why? This superstition dates back to the Medieval era when capital punishment was still carried out by an executioner.

On the day of the execution, the executioner didn’t have time to go to the bakery to pick up his daily loaf of bread. Thus, the baker would reserve a loaf for him. In order to distinguish his bread from everyone else’s, the baker would turn one loaf upside down.

9. Europe: Wearing opals is bad luck if you’re not born in October

Why? Medieval Europeans feared opals because they resemble the ‘Evil Eye’ and bear a superficial likeness to the optical organs of cats, toads, snakes, and other common creatures with hellish affiliations.

10. Cuba and Ireland: Don’t leave a rocking chair rocking when you get up off it

Why? The Irish have always believed that rocking an empty rocking chair welcomes evil spirits into the home. The spirits fill the empty seat that you’re rocking and fill the home with dark forces and bad luck. Bizarrely, Cubans believe the same thing via African ‘glory’ beliefs.

EuropeRiver CruisingTravel Tips

A Complete Guide to Gate 1’s River Cruise Experiences

Imagine unpacking your bag just once and settling in to your river ship cabin with an ever-changing view. You indulge in a generous array of amenities as Europe’s most charming villages, lush vineyards, bucolic landscapes, and vibrant cities are delivered to your door. Along the way, you indulge in three mouthwatering meals a day, savuor local wine, and have a seasoned cruise director by your side to fill you in on the fascinating history and rich culture of thrilling ports. What’s more, city centres and fairy tale village squares are a delightful stroll from every dock.

It’s the most relaxing way to see Europe. And with Gate 1 Travel, you can choose from dozens of itineraries, from Germany to Russia, aboard our privately owned ship or on private charters, during springtime or over the holidays. You can even explore some of Europe’s most scintillating cultural capitals before or after your cruise. Read on to learn more!

Embark the Deluxe MS Monarch Empress –

Built by Gate 1, Controlled by Gate 1

The beautiful MS Monarch Empress is the very first European river ship built to Gate 1’s specifications for our travellers. Come aboard our deluxe vessel and you’ll enjoy some of the most spacious and comfortable accommodations on Europe’s rivers. Cabins range in size from 144 to 210 square feet and include large bathrooms. A full 80% of rooms offer French balconies, providing private views as the stunning riverbanks unfold. What’s more, rooms can be configured with one or two beds; when configured with one, you’ll sleep in comfort in a bed that is larger than a U.S. full-sized.

With room for just 144 passengers, the ship is designed with the view in mind, with large windows in the cabins, dining room, lounge, and other public space – and with few exterior visual obstructions on the outside decks. Throughout, you’ll find soothing blue and white interiors with cherry wood accents, top of the line furnishings and stylish décor. At mealtimes, you’ll have full outdoor views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Lounge on the sun deck and watch the passing scenery. Share a drink with fellow travellers in the lounge. Curl up with a book or surf the internet in our generously sized library. The MS Monarch Empress promises all the comforts and pleasures of a deluxe floating hotel.

What’s more, because we own the ship, we fully control the quality of your experience. The MS Monarch Empress is staffed by Gate 1, with Tour Managers, waitstaff, chefs, housekeepers and more all committed to ensuring you have the most memorable experience on Europe’s waterways.

More Gate 1 River Ships Mean More Discovery

You may also join one of our private charters aboard a First-Class river ship. These intimate ships feature spacious outside cabins, each fully air-conditioned with private bath facilities, shower, telephone and flat screen satellite TV. They are the ideal way to sail amidst the rainbow of colors along Holland’s waterways in springtime, cruise the romantic waters of the Danube, or explore the lilting waters of Germany’s Rhine River.

Now, here’s your guide to Gate 1’s river cruises:

A CLASSIC NEVER GETS OLD

Sail Through Five Countries on One Sweeping River Cruise

To take in the full sweep of Europe’s rivers, you can’t go wrong with our Classic European River Cruise. With the 1992 opening of the Main-Danube Canal, river ships could traverse the entire continent from Holland to Hungary. This favourite itinerary takes full advantage of the engineering triumph, spanning the entire continent in 16 days. We break down the journey section by section for you here.

THE RHINE: From Dutch Treats to Rich German Culture

Begin in Amsterdam, the charming canal-laced city of gabled houses and graceful bridges built on the wealth of the Dutch Golden Age. This cultural centre is rich in treasures, from the art collections of the Rijksmuseum to the bustling stalls of the Albert Cuyp market. As “old world” as Amsterdam feels, it’s Nijmegen that is Holland’s oldest city. And it enjoys a lovely setting on the Waal River. As you wander its charming streets, you are tracing 2,000 years of history.

Soon after entering Germany, the unmistakable twin spires of the Cologne Cathedral come into view. This stunning piece of architecture has watched over the city for centuries and it’s a thrill to tour the atmospheric Old Town, lined with timber-framed houses and distinctive brauhausen (pubs) in its towering shadow. Koblenz, nestled where the Rhine meets the Moselle River, enjoys a picturesque setting, dotted with stunning Romanesque architecture and imposing defensive towers that recall the town’s founding as a Roman stronghold that protected the rivers’ convergence.

THE MAIN: Into the Charms of Franconia

The beautiful medieval town of Miltenberg, with its 14th-century hilltop castle of the same name, is one of the Main River’s true treasures. Its narrow, crooked streets lead to half-timbered houses and are a pleasure to explore. Wertheim, too, boasts a hillside fortification, this one of stunning red sandstone. Taken together, these tiny riverside villages remind travelers of the depth of history that has unfolded on these riverbanks. Castles such as these once collected tolls from cargo ships and defended the sovereignty of kingdoms.

In Wurzburg, the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” Germany’s scenic route that reveals the heart of Franconia, another castle looms large: the Marienberg fortress. But the scene stealer here may be the ornate Bishops’ Residenz Palace, a baroque masterpiece that boasts the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. More beauty greets you in Bamberg, set on the old Regnitz Island. This city suffered very little during World War II and so its buildings are remarkably preserved; more than 2,000 of them are listed as historical monuments.

THE DANUBE: Austro-Hungarian Treasures

History remembers Nuremberg most as the site of Hitler’s rallies and as the host of the post-war Nuremberg trials. But this historic and lovely city has a colorful side, too. Accented by half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and a history of crafting delightful toys, it rests on the Main-Danube Canal.

Downriver, Regensburg graces the river’s banks. This is a true European gem, one of the continent’s best-preserved medieval cities thanks to its escape from World War II bombing. As the Danube approaches the Inn and Ilz rivers, Passau emerges where the three rivers meet. Surrounded by tranquil waterways, it enjoys a singular and pretty setting. Passau also enjoys fame as the home of Europe’s largest pipe organ; its 17,774 pipes grace Passau with their musical grandeur from the baroque St. Stephan’s cathedral.

Austria’s Benedictine Melk Abbey perches like a confection on a bluff overlooking the Danube. Its imperial rooms house a library of 85,000 historic volumes. The views of the Wachau Valley from the abbey’s terrace are stunning. This architectural masterwork is the perfect prelude to the wonders of Vienna, elegance unparalleled. Its circular roadway, the Ringstrasse, is lined with some of the most graceful buildings you’re every likely to see, like the famed Opera House. And the city’s sprawling palace of Schonbrunn is a glittering monument to the Habsburg Dynasty that ruled the region for centuries.

But little compares to cruising into the heart of Budapest, the Danube’s grand dame. The fortress of Fisherman’s Bastion rises on one bank and the mighty Parliament watches over from the other while the iconic Chain Bridge arcs over the water like a crown.

If you prefer a shorter trip, you can browse our wide selection and enjoy just a segment or two of the above journey. Or explore one of the above rivers in more depth, adding time in a nearby city before or after your cruise.

ALL OF EUROPE IS AT YOUR FEET!

Gate 1 Travel’s river cruises not only put you at the front door of Europe’s great cities and charming villages. They are also a great launchpad for further exploration. Here’s how you can enhance your river cruise experience by exploring one of the above rivers in greater depth, adding city stays, or discovering another river entirely!

Tulip Time River Cruises: Witness the Low Countries in Bloom. Explore the waterways of Holland and Belgium in the springtime. There’s no better way to witness the vibrant colors of tulips, daffodils and countless other blooms than by river ship. Along the way, you’ll explore medieval cities, see the famed windmills of Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and breathe in the clean open air as you cruise through the vast Rhine delta system. If you wish, you may select our Tulip Time itineraries that include city stays in Amsterdam, Paris, or both.

Rhine River Cruises. Germany’s wine country comes to life as you drift along “Father Rhine,” lined with vineyard-laden sloping hills, welcoming wine-making villages and storybook hamlets. You’ll follow the Rhine where it forms the border of Germany and France, exploring French Strasbourg and its charming Old Town. Take in the canal-laced lanes of Amsterdam. Or add time in Lake Como, Lucerne, Bruges, or Paris.

Danube River Cruises. Experience the best of Bavaria, Austria and Hungary during a cruise into some of Europe’s most scenic corners. Visit all the Danube ports discussed above, plus have the chance to visit Salzburg, Austria’s alpine-ringed city where The Sound of Music was filmed, or Bucharest, the Romanian capital with an atmospheric Old Town. While you’re in this corner of Europe, you can elect to also spend time in France, Germany, or Poland … uncover the historic treasures of Budapest and Prague, and more.

Russian River Cruises. Gain invaluable insight into what really makes Russia tick: its welcoming people, rich traditions, and vast repositories of arts and culture. Cruise between historic Moscow and glittering St. Petersburg, passing tranquil countryside dotted with onion-domed churches, vibrant small cities, and tiny villages. Along the way, enjoy ample opportunity to experience Russian culture up close. If you wish, select the itinerary that gives you time to discover more of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

ENJOY A HOLIDAY GETAWAY IN 2019

There is no place like Europe for the holiday season, and no better way to experience long held traditions of yuletide than on a Gate 1 River Cruise to the continent’s festive Christmas Markets. Old Town squares come alive with local traditions that conjure Christmases past. Each year, cities in Germany and Austria offer a feast for the senses. Aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread, baked apples and roasting chestnuts waft through the air. Gaily decorated stalls brim with handmade ornaments, toys, and endless ideas for holiday gift-giving. Artisans are often on hand to demonstrate their crafts, carolers roam about the snowy squares, and stalls are decorated with the finest finery. It’s hard to find a more perfect place to ring in the holiday season than in Central Europe.

DISCOVER THE EASE OF EXPLORING EUROPE BY RIVER CRUISE –

AT AN UNMATCHED GATE 1 VALUE!

All the exciting corners of Europe are waiting to be explored by river ship with Gate 1 Travel! No matter which itinerary you select, you’ll enjoy an intimate experience that only a small ship allows … included city tours at all ports … the full services of a Cruise Director and/or Tour Manager … and an incredible all-inclusive value. All while unpacking your bags just once and letting Europe come to you!

Asia & PacificTravel Tips

The Perks of Work: Classic China

China is a land of contrasts that offers both thriving modern metropolises such as Shanghai and Beijing as well as cities steeped in tradition and history such as the ancient city of Xian, the first capital city of China.

We spoke to Gate 1’s own Maria Metusela who recently returned from the 11 Day China with Chengdu tour and asked for the lowdown on her time in China.

What was it about China and this tour that made you want to go on the trip?
I am fascinated with ancient history and architecture so the thought of seeing the Terracotta Warriors and walking the Great wall of China was very attractive to me.
I also thought it would be interesting to see how a country of 1.4 billion people work, live and operate.
Add real life pandas to the mix and I was hooked and ready to go.

What was the highlight of the trip?
What stood out to me the most on this trip was our visits to the local parks in Xian and Chengdu.
The parks in China are quite different compared to Australia with regards to how they are used. The local park we went to in Xian was a park that many seniors/retirees would visit each morning. They go there to exercise, play games and for dance and singing rehearsals. We got to join in on all these things which was fun and gave us a glimpse of how their day starts off.
We even went to a park in Chengdu that had a matchmaking corner. Parents would write their child’s name, date of birth, occupation, education and such on a piece of paper and pin it on a board. The parents would then walk around looking at other resumes on the board, chatting with other parents to see if their children would make a good match.
I enjoyed these visits very much as it gave me the opportunity to interact with the locals and to get a true understanding of their way of life.

What was your favourite meal or what food did you have that you really enjoyed or felt was very authentic?
I thoroughly enjoyed the food in China. All the restaurants that we went to on this trip were local and authentic. There were no other tourists in there but us.
Most of the meals were Lazy Susan style with such a variety of dishes and so flavoursome that you couldn’t help but try them all.
The Peking Duck dinner for our orientation night in Beijing was amazing and was definitely my favourite meal. I also enjoyed the food in Xian especially one of their local dishes “biang biang noodles”.

What surprised you about China that made it different from other places you have visited?
What surprised me about China was that each city that we went to was different from the other. No two cities were the same which made it feel like a whole new experience.
Even the food we had in each city, although the dishes were the same, they were cooked in a slightly different way with different flavours.
You can see the influences from the different dynasties in the different cities. Xian had a more historical feel to it being the ancient capital of China. Beijing was a mix of old and new.
Chengdu had a very commercial and industrial feel to it whereas Shanghai was very modern and cosmopolitan.

What travel tips would you give to someone preparing to go on this trip?
Always carry tissues around with you as you will need it when touring during the day.
It can get crowded when visiting some historical sites so always keep your Gate 1 whispers on so that you are aware of where your guide is at all times.

What did you enjoy the most about the Gate 1 escorted tour?
The organisation of this tour was simply outstanding. Everything was taken care of so I did not have to worry. Joe our Tour manager was exceptional and called us his family. We were never too late or too early for anything on the itinerary so nothing was missed out and the day ran smoothly. I also learnt so much about the history of China, the people and the culture through Joe and our equally informative local guides.

If you’re thinking of touring China you can browse our website for a whole range of options to suit your preferred travel style and budget. If you book a Gate 1 China tour by the 31st of December you can save $200 per person when you quote the promo code FBCHINA200A. Simply quote the promo code at the time of booking to receive the discount. Call 1300 653 618 if you have any questions and we look forward to welcoming you to China soon! 

Travel Tips

Gate 1 Photo Friday from Budapest!

The Széchenyi Baths are located in Budapest, Hungary, and make up one of the largest bath complexes in all of Europe. This complex has a total of 21 pools and includes thermal/medicinal pools, saunas, massage therapies, facial treatments, lockers, aqua-fitness and much more! The baths are open to all and have user-friendly hours, so do not miss this truly unique and refreshing experience when visiting Budapest.

Szechenyi

 
This week’s #g1photofriday was uploaded by user @ Paul Maruszak using the hashtag #gate1travel. This exciting view was taken in Budapest, Hungary at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Be sure to tag your photos on social media with #gate1travel or #g1photofriday to be featured. Check out Gate 1 Travel’s Budapest trips here!

Paris France
Travel Tips

How to go it alone & not have to worry

Gate 1 is renowned for our escorted tours that provide quality inclusions at affordable prices – but did you know that we do the same thing on our independent packages?

Not everyone wants to travel with a group, we get that, and you might want a holiday that gives you the flexibility to indulge personal interests or see particular sights that you’ve had on your bucket list. You could even want to pre-book some of your trip and then do your own thing or add on other arrangements later. So that’s where Gate 1 can help and you can take advantage of our special rates.

Typically an independent package includes your accommodation and daily breakfast, then depending on the destination there can also be train tickets between cities or car hire and flights as part of the pre-arranged deal. Having the essentials taken care of gives you the time to concentrate on what matters most, having a great holiday!

We offer independent holidays in Europe, Asia and South America. Here are 6 of our most popular Independent Vacations and tips on what you can see and do in these exciting cities.

1. 8 Day Venice, Florence & Rome by Rail
Starting at under $550 per person, this neat little package ticks off the big 3 in Italy, with 2 nights each in Venice, Florence and Rome. Spend less time in airports and enjoy the value of Plan D in 3-star hotels, or lap up all the benefits of upgrading to Plan B with First Class rail and 4-star hotels. The optional tours are a great way to get your bearings and then enjoy wondering at your leisure later on. You can even choose a tour to take you out of the cities and expand your Italian experience, like the Half Day Chianti Tour that explores Tuscany’s famous wine region.

Top tip: Visitors to Venice will tell you it’s so easy to get lost along all those canals, so take the morning walking tour to guarantee seeing the Golden Basilica of San Marco, Marco Polo’s House and more!

2. 7 Day Buenos Aires Vacation
Affectionately known as the ‘Paris of South America’, even though its European flair is a little faded, this city is a must-visit for anyone who loves discovering new cultures, exploring historic neighbourhoods and immersing yourself in vibrant city life. There’s time to enjoy the atmosphere of the city’s major squares, including Plaza de Mayo, Plaza San Martin and Plaza Congreso. To discover more of Argentina beyond its capital, you can join in a traditional Gaucho party. This is a day to remember, complete with ranch activities, a typical Argentine BBQ and folklore show with live music and dancing!

Top tip: Don’t leave Buenos Aires without dancing the tango! This is your chance to step out of your comfort zone and into the arms of a professional dancer. Or if you really can’t see yourself on the dance floor, then make sure you see a tango show and discover why this alluring dance is a cultural expression, with a plot of myths, values and traditions.

Malahide Castle Ireland

Malahide Castle, Ireland ~ photo by Tamara Erdley Cosby


3. 8 Day Irish Castle Fly & Drive
No need to rely on the luck of the Irish, this deal has everything organised. Fly into Dublin, pick up your car and enjoy 6-nights based in your own castle hotel. It’s an easy 50 km drive to the city, where you can enjoy views of the River Liffey, visit Trinity College and view the 8th century Book of Kells, or take time to appreciate Ireland’s most famous export at Guinness Storehouse. Travel further afield and you can enjoy a day in Belfast, a drive to Wicklow Mountains National Park for a glimpse into Ireland’s wild side or visit the mysterious burial mounds at Newgrange in County Meath.

Top tip: Make a visit to the scenic coastal town of Malahide, with a picturesque marina and diverse selection of boutiques, bars and restaurants. Its historic castle has been recently resorted and they welcome visitors to wander through its unique walled garden with exotic plants from around the world.

4. 7 Day Tokyo Vacation
This fantastic 5-night trip takes care of your flights and central accommodation, but also includes a half day city tour of Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace East Garden and Ginza shopping district. After getting your bearings you can make the most of your leisure time. Will it be strolling through Ueno Park, visiting Tokyo National Museum or really experiencing traditional Japan and enjoy a Kimono Dressing & Tea Ceremony Lesson?
Prices start from $1819 per person if you get in early and only $30-70 more per person during cherry blossom season!

Top tip: Get to the heart of Japan and visit Mt Fuji. You can pre-book a day tour that will take you through Japan’s scenic countryside to symbolic Mt Fuji, where you’ll ascend to the 5th Station on Japan’s highest mountain.

5. 6 Day Paris Value Vacation
Now don’t let anyone accuse you of being cheap when it comes to romance, because what this 4-night package lacks in big bucks is more than made up for with ways to impress your loved one. Hotels in the divine Montmartre district and all within walking distance of the famous Basilica of Sacre Coeur and alluring Moulin Rouge. You have the opportunity to visit Versailles Palace to witness the grandeur of French classical architecture, or cap off an extraordinary day in Paris with a Louvre Museum Evening Tour to experience the unique atmosphere of this impressive collection.

Top tip: See the ‘City of Lights’ at night. Paris comes alive after dark with flood-lit views of its most celebrated monuments, including Place Vendome, Pont-Neuf, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Notre Dame and of course the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland ~ photo by @suelee124


6. 6 Day Iceland’s Northern Lights
This trip tops our most popular list of independent packages and even visiting a country when it’s cold and dark isn’t a deterrent! Of course winter is the time of year to see the phenomenal Northern Lights and while they can never be guaranteed, this itinerary is specially designed to have a few nights available to give it your best shot at success.

Top tip: It’s worth booking your Blue Lagoon Experience. Located in the middle of a lava field in the pure, beautiful Icelandic wilderness is a pool of mineral-rich geothermal water that will be your most amazing spa experience ever! Only a limited number of entrants are permitted each day and it’s extremely popular, so if you don’t want to miss out, make sure you pre-book.

These top trips are just a small selection of the many independent adventures that you can enjoy with Gate 1 Travel. See our destinations pages and scroll to the bottom to discover all of our Independent Vacations and find a package that’s the perfect fit for you!

Reykjavik Iceland best places to eat
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Iceland Travel Tips: Best Places to Eat in Reykjavik

Iceland is quickly becoming a huge tourist destination thanks to its Viking history, bustling cities and unique adventures for visitors. Its isolated location means that it has a culture all its own and with that comes plenty of specialised local dishes that you have to try!

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and has a population of about 123,000. The city is currently going through a food revolution and getting back to its culinary roots after a financial crisis overcame the country in 2009, which forced the city to quit importing as frequently and turn to its own resources instead. What they found and came up with was fresh fish, warm soups, tender lamb, succulent langoustine, and so much more. Let us take you on a culinary tour of a true up-and-comer to the foodie world; Reykjavik, Iceland.

10. Grillmarkadurinnnormal
We are starting our list off right with the Grillmarkadurinn or Grill Market, which specialises in Icelandic food. This modern restaurant works closely with local farms and even cooks with a custom-made coal grill that heats up to 1,200 degrees Celsius! Some of the must-tries on the menu include the langoustine tails and grilled reindeer. Then there’s the unique trio of Minke whale, puffin and reindeer mini burgers, this is controversial for many but a traditional food here, so you might need to make a conscience call on this one. Large portions, a warm and cozy atmosphere and delicious food all await you at the Grillmarkadurinn, located at Lækjargata 2a.

9. Kaloportid Flea Market
Now that you’re in Iceland you’ll want to try some of the traditional foods you have heard about, so make your way to the Kaloportid Flea Market. Some of the foods are not on our usual diet, like fermented shark, but some are tasty, like pastries and lots of cheese! Either way, many of these items are a must-try to get in the Viking spirit and to take on Iceland right. The food section of the market is located indoors and is next to a huge flea market full of unique non-food finds. You can find both markets at Tryggvagötu 19, Old Harbour, Grófin.

8. Lebowski Bar
If you are a fan of the film “The Big Lebowski”, the Lebowski Bar is a must for you to pay homage to while in Reykjavik. The bar is also perfect for fans of the White Russian drink, because they have them in many quirky variations here! What better way to beat the cold than to drink delicious creamy cocktails with coffee liquour in a unique and hip atmosphere? The bar also serves typical bar food including burgers, onion rings and french fries, so you can keep hydrated and keep full while hanging out here. Lebowski Bar is located at Laugavegur 2a.

7. Icelandic Fish & Chips
We know and love our fish and chips at home, but imagine eating them as fresh as possible right beside the ocean. Icelandic Fish & Chips is located right in the harbour and serves several types of fried fish everyday. The fish are actually fried in organic spelt batter, with no eggs or milk and are served with your choice of a side dish, which includes crispy potatoes, onion rings, bread and more. Langoustine tails, oven baked fish and fisherman’s stew are also available on the menu. The Icelandic Fish & Chips is located at Tryggvagata 11 and if you happen to be in America, it has even opened a location in New York City at 28 7th Ave South.

normal (4)6. The Noodle Station
Whether you have the chills from exploring the beautiful city or need to recover from a night out, the answer is The Noodle Station. This Thai-inspired soup restaurant is super simple, but completely delicious, plus it’s a cheap option in a town where many things are expensive. Basically all you do here is pick whether you want chicken, beef or vegetarian, then that is mixed with a secret family recipe and you have a perfect bowl of soup. Cost efficient, warm, filling and healthy, there really is no reason you should not visit here while in Reykjavik and taste the delicious bowl of magic for yourself. The Noodle Station is located at Skólavörðustígur 21a.

5. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
This is a slightly strange one, but we promise it is worth the hype. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is a tiny hot dog stall located on a side street near the harbour. The stall always has a huge line and has once been named as the best hot dog in Europe. Its name translates to, “The Best Hot Dog in Town” in Icelandic. You will not be disappointed after you taste your hot dog and be sure to get it with, “the works” or, “eina með öllu” which means all the condiments, including tomato sauce, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. Visitors to the hot dog stand include Bill Clinton and Metallica’s James Hetfield, so get in line! The stand is located at Tryggvagata 1 in the harbour area.

4. 3 Frakkar
If you want a truly traditional Icelandic meal that some might find unappealing or controversial, make your way to the 3 Frakkar restaurant. Dishes such as fermented shark, horse, whale, puffin and seal take the stage here. It mirrors a time when Icelanders had to eat for survival and didn’t have access to imported produce. These foods may be harder to swallow now, but they are what was eaten in the olden days when food was more scarce, and 3 Frakkar honours that legacy. Whether you choose to eat these dishes or not, it is worth noting the importance they hold to the country. The 3 Frakkar is located at Baldursgata, 14.
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3. Reykjavik Roasters
If you are a coffee lover and want to have the best cup in Iceland, you must go to Reykjavik Roasters. The co-owners are award-winning roasters and view their jobs as art work and the results are fantastic. While here, be sure to have a cup of your go-to caffeinated beverage, including espresso, cappuccino, macchiato and many more, and also have a small scone or croissant to really bring it all together. Enjoy the cozy atmosphere and at-home feel of this shop and even enjoy a good vinyl while sitting and enjoying your cup of warm happiness.

2. Sægreifinn
Never underestimate the power of a good, warm bowl of soup, especially when it’s lobster (langoustine) soup and you’re in Iceland having walked around outside all day and ready to warm up! At Sægreifinn, or Seabarin, you will not only enjoy one of the best bowls of lobster soup around, but you’ll also have the option of several kinds of skewers of fish including cod, shrimp, salmon, monk fish and many more. If you’re in a group, we suggest ordering a few bowls of the lobster soup and some fish skewers and going to town on this nice warm meal sure to energize you for more adventures! Sægreifinn is located at Geirsgata 8. Please note that Sægreifinn only accepts reservations of 4 people or more.

normal (1)1. Dill
Dill could actually be given a lot of credit for transforming the culinary arts in Reykjavik. The chef of Dill, Gunnar Karl Gislason, and Dill’s Sommelier, Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, came together to open its doors in 2009, right after the country had befallen one of the biggest financial crisis in history. They chose to use classic Nordic ingredients from local farms and areas to create a menu that showcases Iceland at its most authentic. The restaurant offers 7-course, 3-course and 5-course meals that can be paired with wine and change weekly! You should expect to pay a bit more for dining at Dill, even by Icelandic standards, for example the 7-course meal is around AU$160 per person. Dill is located at Hverfisgata 12.

If all this talk of Iceland and its amazing local food has whet your appetite for a Nordic adventure, then browse our website to see Gate 1 Travel’s selection of tours and independent packages that include the stunning landscapes, mind-blowing geysers and glaciers and wondrous Northern Lights!

Travel Tips

How To Stay Healthy While Travelling

It’s no fun feeling sick when you’re on holidays and you definitely don’t want to have to change your travel plans if you can help it, so Gate 1 has put together some tips on ways you can improve your chances of staying healthy while you’re on tour.

Before You Go

Visit your GP and dentist for a pre-travel check up. As well as getting their advice on the health requirements for the places you will be visiting, having medical, dental and eye tests before you leave could save you a lot of pain when you’re away.

Plan For Your Prescriptions

If you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to cover your journey. Also check the Smartraveller health advice to see if there are any restrictions on taking the drugs into the countries you’re visiting and get an approval letter from your GP if necessary. Always keep your medicine in its original packaging for easy identification. Another trip about when to take your medication – set a calendar alert on your smart phone.

In-flight Fitness

Keep hydrated and drink plenty of water. Avoid the temptation of the drinks trolley and don’t have excessive amounts of alcohol, tea and coffee. Make sure you stand and stretch regularly because Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) loves people who sit still. During the flight, wear compression socks and do your stretches, like flexing your toes and calves while you’re seated. Also be active before you board or on a stopover – give the travelator a miss and walk to your gate, or if you’ve got time to kill then spend it on your feet and keep your blood pumping.

Keep Hand Cleanser Handy

An easy and effective way to prevent the spread of bacteria is using hand sanitiser. Apply before and after meals or whenever you come into contact with potentially grubby surfaces, like escalator hand rails or ATM touch pads. Also great for use on planes around your seat and tray table and in the hotel you can clean that notoriously nasty TV remote.

The Common Cold

Sadly getting a cold can be all too common when you travel, but if you take a few simple remedies from home you’ll feel a whole lot better and it’s less likely to interfere with your adventures. Throat lozenges and Cold & Flu tablets are good to have on hand – but again – check the restrictions because in some countries medications that we have access to in Australia (such as codeine) are illegal. To help combat more severe flu infection, talk to your doctor about having the flu vaccination at least 2 weeks before you leave.

What To Eat & Drink

Never drink water from rivers, lakes or wells without making sure it’s purified first. It also pays to avoid tap water unless you know it’s safe. These days bottled water is available almost everywhere, or there are more environmentally-friendly options available if you want to avoid all that plastic waste. You’ll normally be safe drinking tea, coffee, canned soft drinks, pure juice, beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks – but be careful, freezing water doesn’t kill bacteria, so ask if the ice is safe before you have that frozen margarita!

Salad vegetables should be eaten with caution if you’re uncertain of how they are prepared, as these are often washed in local water. Stick to fruit and vegetables that are peeled and/or cooked. You’ll find some of your best meals at street stalls and we don’t recommend missing out on the local treats, but make sure you see the food freshly cooked and avoid cold meats or diary products that have been on display for extended periods.

Altitude Sickness

Regardless of your level of fitness, altitude sickness can affect many travellers. Those feeling the affect of temporary altitude discomfort should avoid over-exertion, drink extra water, stay off alcoholic drinks and eat lightly. We suggest you consult with your health care provider, who may recommend prophylaxis with acetazolamide.

Climate & Clothing

Do your homework and research what weather you’re likely to encounter, so you can pack accordingly. Bring comfortable shoes, lightweight clothes you can layer and an all-weather jacket.

Sunscreen and a hat or sunglasses are also recommended. Some religious sites do not allow shorts or sleeveless shirts, so that’s when a scarf or sarong can be good to include in your day pack for impromptu visits.

If you’re travelling to areas that are renowned for bug bites, travellers are encouraged to bring insect repellent and consider wearing clothing that adequately covers arms and legs. Also check if it’s a malaria risk area, especially during the wet season, and talk to your doctor about precautions.

We ask tour members to refrain from wearing colognes, perfumes and/or personal products containing excessive fragrance, in respect for other travellers in the group who may be allergic.

Pace Yourself

Almost last but not least, you don’t want to overdo it. Plan your walking itineraries so that you’re not rushing about too much and make sure you get enough sleep. Your body will be adjusting to the different time zones and coping with the physical stress of travelling, so make sure you get plenty of rest so you don’t miss full days from exhaustion.

Get Advice From Your Tour Manager

Group travel can also help you stay healthy. We include breakfast each day so you don’t have to go searching for safe eateries in the morning and we always dine in reputable restaurants. Plus your Tour Manager is a wealth of local knowledge, including the best places to eat and where you can find special (and safe) local delicacies.