The Clever Travel Companion Updates

Is Airbnb safe? Seven Tips for first time guests May 18 2018, 0 Comments



If you follow these tips before renting an Airbnb, your vacation will go that much more smoothly.

1. Stay safe

Horror stories in the past have raised some legitimate safety concerns about how safe Airbnb is, though many stays are trouble free. Since its launch, the company has added consumer and host protections and worked to make online profiles match real-life identities, under the theory that people will behave more responsibly without a digital veil of secrecy. An online FAQ about "trust and safety" explains more about the company's verification process and reviews.

2. It's not a hotel

Seems obvious, but some renters still don't get the apartment-sharing concept and expect the sort of welcome and the quality of amenities you'd find at a hotel. (It doesn't help the confusion that Airbnb allows rental-property varieties ranging from apartment to yurt.) Pay close attention to what's included—and even more attention to what's not.

3. Be yourself

Airbnb makes a big deal out of its community, which the site says helps keep dealings honest. Creating a real profile, getting verified by adding personal info, and even getting reviews from friends who already use the service can up your chances of booking a successful stay.

4. Shop carefully

The site's many filters make it easy to narrow down the sort of property you're interested in, whether that means a whole home, a berth on a sailboat, a place with a fully stocked kitchen, an apartment near a particular concert venue, whatever! Using filters can help turn 40,000 listings into a few, and from there a detailed study of apartment photos can give a level of detail that written descriptions might miss: Is the room bright and airy? Is that advertised balcony actually big enough to enjoy? Just how small is the shower? A close look can help weed out disappointment in the early going.

5. Ask questions

Airbnb's built-in messaging system makes it easy to ask questions of hosts, from info on the nearest subway stop to whether or not the kitchen maker in the unit comes with coffee too. (The answer may surprise you!) These no-obligation questions are particularly useful in making a choice between similar properties once you've narrowed down your search.

6. Know the rules

Speaking of booking, it's not just a simple click-to-book operation like you'd find at, yes, a hotel. To start a booking, potential guests pick out dates, agree to the house rules for a given rental, and then send a request through Airbnb's messaging service to potential hosts. If a host agrees to your request, Airbnb handles the payment, for a small slice of the pot, to discourage any scams as money changes hands. (A few properties do allow instant booking, for a more hotel-like experience. Those that do clearly advertise the fact.) Finally, cancellation policies vary by property, so take note of the specific terms at your rental if travel plans are still in flux.

7. Show up with an open mind

Most hosts, expert Airbnb-ers say, are used to entertaining road-weary travelers and understand that guests are interested in seeing the city, not hanging around with people they've just met from the internet. That said, a bit of conviviality goes a long way, hosts say, whether that means having a drink or just having a chat. That a local connection is one of the strongest selling points of the Airbnb experience. After that free night, of course.

This article originally appeared in Conde Nast Traveler


The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Macau April 26 2018, 0 Comments

 



One of the most unusual spots in Asia, Macau offers something a little different for those who happen to be travelling in the area. From its stunning architecture to its world-renowned cuisine and multitudes of casinos, Macau’s glitz and glamour prove to be an alluring combination, making Macau an increasingly-popular destination for tourists. Just an hour by ferry from the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, Macau is a hot pot of diverse cultures, stunning views, and mouth-watering cuisines. This former Portuguese colony received a huge 30 million visitors in 2016. Considering that Macau is home to a relatively small population of 600,000, that’s a lot of tourists!

So, if you’re working out a budget for your next big trip, here is why you need to factor in a stop at this jewel of an island.

One of the first ports of call for any tourist should be the Senado Square, part of the UNESCO Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site. Covering an area of 3,700 meters, there is plenty to do and see in this historically-rich part of the city. Wander around the square basking in the beautiful architecture while eating egg tarts or pork chop buns from one of the many stores located in the area.

While you’re there, you might as well check out the neighbouring Mount Fortress, which is another world heritage site that used to be the city’s principal military defence structure. Built on Mount Hill, which rises 52 metres above sea level, the fortress is home to many original artefacts and watchtowers, which provide absolutely stunning views. Other stunning views can be enjoyed from Guia Fortress, which was heavily-influenced by Portuguese architecture and also constructed in the 1600s. The Guia Fortress is home to some of the most beautiful murals, which demonstrate the inextricable links between western and east-Asian cultures in Macau.

For another look at the rich history of Macau, head to the Casa Do Mandarin (Mandarin’s House). Formerly the home of the late Qing theoretician and reformist Zheng Guanying, the Casa Do Mandarin’ architecture reflects the fusion of Chinese and western influences and has been beautifully restored by the Chinese government.  

If there’s one thing that China is famous for, it’s cuddly and clumsy native pandas. In this regard, visiting Seac Pai Van Park to see the two resident pandas in the Giant Panda Pavilion should be high on any tourist’s list. Kept in large enclosures in the pavilion, visitors are sometimes fortunate enough to catch the pandas playing, although sometimes they prefer to simply laze around. Although a popular tourist attraction, Seac Pai Van Park is also an education and conservation facility where you can find information on conservation projects and archaeological discoveries in Macau, in addition to spending time spotting the other native animals residing in the park.

Whether you’ve arrived by boat or plane, it is likely that you would have caught at least a glimpse of the 338m-high Macau Tower. Not just any old skyscraper, the tower was built as a result of a visit to the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand by Hong Kong casino billionaire Stanley Ho Hung-Sun. He was so impressed by the Sky Tower that he immediately commissioned one for Macau. With its glass-fronted elevator that soars up 223 metres in under 60 seconds, you can watch as the city takes shape beneath your feet. Once you emerge from the elevator, enjoy the 360° panoramic views of the Macau skyline, or, if you’re feeling brave, fling yourself from the top of the tower on the world’s tallest bungee jump.

Finally, no trip to Macau would be complete without checking out some of its casinos. Once thought of as Asia’s answer to Las Vegas, the popularity of casinos here means that Macau now outshines Las Vegas as the world leader in holiday destinations for those who love to play cards or slots. The casinos here are on another level, with the most popular being the Grand Lisboa, the Venetian Casino, and the Galaxy Hotel. After a few rolls of the dice, check out one of the many dancing, water, magic or operatic shows that Macau has to offer.


Your guide to Australia for solo female travellers April 25 2018, 0 Comments



Life "down under" has proven exceptionally popular with single female travellers, due largely to Australia's travelling culture. Backpacking across Australia is guaranteed to offer memories that will last a lifetime, with a party-like atmosphere along the Gold Coast and friendly locals all around the country. If you’re a first-time solo traveller, it’s a great place to start given that everyone speaks English and the supply of hotels and hostels is unsurpassed by so many other travelling destinations around the world. So, whether you’re thinking of taking a gap year after university or a much needed sabbatical from work, here are some top tips for ladies upping sticks and backpacking solo to Australia.

Safe places to visit in Australia

The best place for female solo travellers to start in Australia is the Gold Coast. It’s full of like-minded solo travellers and surfer dudes and there’s a friendly, party atmosphere day in, day out. The Great Barrier Reef is situated close to Queensland’s Gold Coast too, and it is the largest living thing on Earth. Head further south to the state of Victoria and you’ll discover the city of Melbourne, with its fabulous fashion boutiques, sporting events and laid-back café culture ideal for dipping your toes into life in Australia. New South Wales has a great mix of culture and entertainment, with vibrant Sydney and the country’s understated capital, Canberra both located here. The state’s beaches are particularly popular too, with Bondi enjoying a great reputation among solo travellers and the surfing fraternity.

Transport around Australia



Ultimately, how you move from place to place in Australia depends on how long you’re planning on staying for. If you’re spending several months down under, the Greyhound bus network offers cost-effective connections by road. A great way to experience the variety of Australia’s landscape is to travel by train, with everything from contemporary tilt trains to The legendary Ghan covering much of the country by rail. There are sleeper trains you can take to move between cities overnight and enjoy your own privacy with a one-person cabin. Of course, there are plenty of internal flights between cities if your time here is rather more limited.

Cheap eats on the move

There is no longer any stigma attached to solo dining. Dining options for one are extremely commonplace now throughout the country. From Tasmania to Adelaide, there are plenty of restaurants that offer single-seat dining and concepts such as half serves, allowing you to enjoy more than one plate of food on your own. Of course, whether you want delicious fresh seafood, barbecued Aussie favourites, a wholesome plate of paella or a spicy offering of Mexican cuisine that’s currently growing in popularity throughout Australia, it’s possible to get orders delivered from restaurants to your accommodation, without having to leave the confines of your bedroom, by placing orders on your smartphone or tablet with specialised apps like Deliveroo.

Unique and reviewed accommodation

Speaking of accommodation, Australia boasts an unrivalled choice of places for solo female travellers to stay. Booking.com is a good starting point for bog-standard hotels and bed-and-breakfasts that are importantly safe and reputable. However, Airbnb and Homestay gives solo travellers a unique opportunity to sample family life with reviewed and rated hosts in places such as beautiful beachfront townhouses to revamped tour buses in Byron Bay that you simply can’t put a price on.

On the whole, Australia is a fun, vibrant, safe and multi-faceted place to explore. Its comparatively low crime rate means it is no less safe than many other popular traveller pit-stops. With a little common sense and a bucketload of get-up-and-go, you’ll enjoy everything Australia has to throw at you.