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Find Great Discounts Abroad

With exchange rates fluctuating daily there is no way to gauge how much you’ll spend while traveling abroad. This is why it’s important to take advantage of every discount opportunity. That International Student ID Card might really come in handy. In some places you’ll also find city specific discount books or coupons to help you explore museums, zoos, cathedrals, and other important sites. Before purchasing any discount cards, research a little to guarantee you’re getting a good deal. Here are a few to consider.

Amsterdam

The I amsterdam Card provides a public transport ticket (GVB public transport system), a pocket guide, and dozens of free and discounted offers at major attractions and restaurants. The card is valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours and starts at €38. Your I amsterdam Card and Transport Ticket will automatically validate the moment each is stamped and/or after your first use. The I amsterdam Card is available at most Amsterdam Tourist Offices or can be purchased on-line.

Belgium

Get a View From the Top in Brugge!

Get a View From the Top in Brugge!

Discover one of Belgium’s most beautiful cities- Brugge – at half the price!  The Brugge City Card offers discounts or free admission to practically every place in the city. Check out the Chocolate Museum, Belgium Fries Museum, or take a Canal Ride (closed during the winter). Want a breathtaking view of this medieval town? Hike the 366 stairs to the top of the Belfry Tower for an unforgettable experience.

Italy

If you’re under 26 years of age, you can explore any museum in Florence for an entire year, for €40. Adults over 26 can purchase a coupon card for €60. You’ll have free membership to such places as: The Uffizi Gallery, L’Accademia Gallery, Pitti Palace (Palatina Gallery & Royal Apartments), Bargello Museum and Medici Chapels (San Lorenzo) to name a few. You’ll also find discounts for other events, restaurants, and exhibitions around Florence. If you’re going to Venice, check out these coupon passes. Although most places in Rome are free to visit, the Coliseum and the Roman Forum are not. Make sure you pick up a combo package before paying full price.

Ireland

The Sky is the Limit When You Find a Great Deal

The Sky is the Limit When You Find a Great Deal

Want to travel around Ireland? Look into a Local Discounts Card or the Emerald Discounts Card. These cards provide a minimum of 10% savings on hotels, restaurants, shopping purchases, transportation (including buses, trains, ferries and rental cars), golf fees, museum entrances and more. Each card costs €10 for a one-year membership.

Japan

Antsy to explore Japan? Then pick up a Grutt Pass (gurutto pasu in Japanese). The pass offers free admission to such places as the Ueno Zoo and the Tokyo Sea Life Park. The card is a great find if you live in Tokyo or plan to visit several museums, restaurants, and art galleries in the area. For some of the more expensive sites, like the Mori Art Museum in the Mori Tower, you’ll get discounts off admission. Here is a full list of places where you can use the Grutt Pass. The pass is good for 2 months.

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Lions and Tigers and . . . Sea Turtles!

We’ve been talking about all things exotic, scary, fast, and volcanic recently so  I decided today that I would tone it down and remind our study abroad readers that you don’t need to do something nation specific to have fun.  In fact, sometimes even a quick trip to the zoo or aquarium on a lazy Saturday afternoon can really make your day.  I grew up 30 minutes from the Bronx Zoo in New York and zoos are undeniably charming.  Even if you’ve been to a zoo or aquarium recently, it’s no reason to skip out while abroad.  Check out some of the best international zoos and aquariums below.

Oceanário de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal:

This aquarium opened in 1998 and I remember seeing it featured in Architectural Digest (don’t ask) during that time.  The central tank holds 5,000 cubic meters of water and showcases sharks, rays, tuna, and one of the few captive sunfish.  The aquarium as a whole holds over 16,000 animals and plants from over 450 species.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Osaka, Japan:

800px-osakaaquarium_seaturtleOne of the largest aquariums in the world, the Osaka Aquarium’s main attraction is its pair of whale sharks.  It displays habitats from the Ring of Fire, including the Aleutian Islands, the Gulf of Panama, the Ecuador Rain Forest, and more.  Other highlights include seals, otters, and 12 tanks of jellyfish.

Sydney Aquarium, Sydney, Australia:

The Sydney Aquarium makes this list because it houses more species of shark than any other aquarium.  You can get up close and personal with them as well, through a series of underwater, see-through, tunnels.  The aquarium also contains exhibits for Australia’s northern and southern rivers.

Basel Zoo, Basel, Switzerland:

Basel Zoo successfully bred Cheetahs

Basel Zoo successfully bred Cheetahs

Founded in 1874, the Basel Zoo has around 1 million visitors annually and is the second most popular Swiss point of interest.  Over 600 species and 6,000 animals call it their home.

Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany:

This zoo opened in 1844 and managed to survive WWII mostly intact.  Over 13,000 animals from 1,400 different species live there.

National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa:

This expansive zoo sits on 198 acres in Pretoria and is home to over 2,500 species of animals.  Interestingly, almost all of the animals at the zoo were born there.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Chiang Mai, Thailand:

Having been to this center I can say that it’s definitely worth it.  The facilities aren’t exactly what a normal tourist would expect (it’s in the jungle), but the handlers love their elephants and it shows.  Also, you can take a mahout training class and learn to direct and ride the elephants.

Hit up the Beach this Fall!

Not ready to settle into the cool winter months? Then don’t! Enjoy warm, crisp temperatures year round at the most beautiful beaches in the world. Whether you’re studying abroad or just taking a quick break, these spectacular beaches heat up the fall season!

Long Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Long Bay Beach offers plenty of charm, with two miles of white sand fronting a beaming coastline that makes Turks & Caicos famous. Located a good distance from the big city, this quieter side of Provo provides a great escape from work or the chilly winter. Visitors can also check out the more frequented Sapodilla Bay and Grace Bay beaches.

Englishman’s Bay, Tobago

Paradise Awaits

Paradise Awaits

If you seek a picture perfect atmosphere, then revel in the soothing sand, turquoise waters, and tropical forest that engulf Englishman’s Bay. This hidden gem is far removed from tourism and offers great snorkeling. The area is relatively isolated, so pack food, water, and maybe a good book. You might even want a hammock and a pillow.

Port Antonio, Jamaica

Located on Jamaica’s northeast coast, Port Antonio is surrounded by coves of buttery sand and sapphire seas, flourishing vegetation and steep hills. You won’t have trouble finding housing at one of the funky lodges or stately villas. There is also a multitude of restaurants, water sports, hiking trails, and even a growing ecotourism movement.

Las Penitas & The Corn Islands, Nicaragua

Nicaragua offers plenty of spectacular beaches: La Flor, Los Cardones, Masachapa, and Montelimar (near Managua). Most beach-goers rave about Las Penitas and The Corn Islands. Not far from Leon, Las Penitas offers a quaint fishing village on the Pacific rim. Enjoy great sunsets and tasty seafood! Others are drawn to the tropical paradise of the Corn Islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Picnic Center Beach on Big Corn is the most popular swimming beach, with soft sand and mesmerizing water. The tantalizing Long Beach is a bit rougher and has fewer bars and restaurants. Watch out when venturing North, the island can get very windy.

Relax Along the Zanzibar Coast

Relax Along the Zanzibar Coast

Zanzibar Coast, Tanzania

Zanzibar offers some of the most sought after beaches with Pemba and Mafia and Bagamoyo and Pangani on the mainland. Make these your final destinations for relaxation, spectacular marine-life and water sports. The lesser known beaches of Pangani are virtually unspoilt. You might even find yourself mystified by Tanzania’s whimsical Tinga Tinga art, which originated in Zanzibar.

A Fall Journey Through Ireland

Toted as one of the best study abroad locations, the Emerald Isle is also one of the world’s most beautiful places to explore. I had dinner with relatives visiting from Ireland last week. My goal: to win them over.  My plan succeeded and I have been granted housing as soon as I can make it across the Atlantic. Call me crazy, but I love traveling during the fall and winter. The coolness in the air mixed with the warmth of the holidays. In Ireland, it doesn’t matter the time of year, you could have rain one moment and blue skies the next. Here are some great reasons to check out Ireland this fall.

County Cork & the Southwest

Find Hidden Treasures in Ballyvourney

Find Hidden Treasures in Ballyvourney

Cork is the largest county in the Republic of Ireland and home to the country’s second largest city. Visit Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney stone. Check out the picture perfect seaside town of Kinsale, just south of Cork City, with its quaint, narrow streets and abundance of gourmet restaurants. Capture Irish language and culture at its best in the small town of Ballyvourney, which borders County Kerry and is surrounded by forest and mountain landscapes. It’s also home to the holy well and burial mound of St. Gobnait. In Cork, stop and pay your respects to the monuments at Cobh Heritage Centre, which honor two ill-fated ships: the Titanic and the Lusitania.

Dublin

Imagine seeing U2 in their hometown. The city that spawned the legendary rock band also stands as one of the most popular spots in all of Ireland. Visit Bunratty Castle; have a dinner with cabaret at the famed Abbey Tavern; enjoy a brewery tour and tasting at the Guinness Storehouse; or check out the Old Jameson Distillery. To continue the Nobel Prize hysteria, Dublin is the only city to honor three winners in the same category. William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Samuel Beckett all won the Literature prize.

Ireland's Coast Will Leave a Mark

Ireland's Coast Will Leave a Mark

Galway & the West

Want to get a taste for the West of Ireland? Start your travels in Galway! The fourth largest city in Ireland, Galway has retained much of its small town charm. It boasts a lively arts scene as well as a classic Irish culture. Don’t miss the Galway Aquarium, which houses 170 marine and freshwater species, including: seahorses, stingrays, sharks and the skeleton of a Fin Whale. You’ll also want to stop by the Claddagh Ring Museum. Maybe you’ll find one home for a special someone back home. Ireland is known for its amazing views of the Altantic Ocean, so don’t miss the spectacular sights from the Cliffs of Moher

The list goes on but you get the picture.

Sightseeing for a Weekend? How about Mountaineering?

This week’s Gulliver newsletter talks about planning a weekend trip during your study abroad experience.  If you’re interested in something . . . wilder, maybe this is for you.

I have a strong but inexplicable desire to climb mountains.  Maybe it’s an extension of my affinity for hiking and backpacking or perhaps it’s the desire to conquer something (my mild fear of heights?), I really can’t be sure.  So naturally, while in the shower – a locale usually reserved for relaxation or problem solving, not mountaineering – I think about my list of mountains and fantasize about the sizeable lottery jackpot I’d need to hit to afford a trip to each.  In addition to regular mountains, I find volcanoes fascinating, so in my brain, pairing mountaineering and volcanoes is like pairing swimsuit models and beaches: separately they’re fantastic, but together they’re perfect.  Below, read about some cool volcanoes that aren’t too far out of the way and don’t require serious gear to enjoy.

Doesn't this make you want to climb?

Doesn't this make you want to climb?

Cotopaxi and Chimborazo:

Both of these volcanoes are in Ecuador, though Chimborazo is inactive, and together they are the highest peaks in that country.  I remember staring up at Cotopaxi while in Ecuador and dying to climb it, but time constraints and lack of long sleeves torpedoed that idea pretty quickly.  I vowed I’d be back.  If you’re in Ecuador, definitely tackle these two.  Most weekends you’ll find quite a few people hiking them and they can be climbed year-round.

Mt. Fuji, Japan:

Visible from Tokyo, Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest peak and over 200,000 people hike it every year.  There are 4 main routes up the mountain with many stations and huts to rest in along the way.  The most popular time to climb is between July 1st and August 27th as many of the hiking stations are manned during that period.

Pompeii and Vesuvius, Italy:

Of the volcanoes on this list, Vesuvius is definitely the easiest to summit in an afternoon, mainly because there’s an access road that will take you to within 200 meters (vertically) of the summit.  One can’t visit Vesuvius without also seeing Pompeii, which is about 5 miles away.

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania:

Kilimanjaro is the most out of the way compared to the other volcanoes on this list.  It’s much harder to get to, takes much longer to climb, and requires more gear.  You will probably need at least a few days to climb it (due to topographical prominence) so make sure to budget in some extra time.

Volcano Sledding, Nicaragua:

I just wanted to throw this interesting article in just in case you are in Central America and enjoy interesting volcano-related activities.  Have fun!

International Hostels Serve Up Halloween Fun

Halloween brings out the freaks and geeks in all of us. This doesn’t change when we travel or study abroad. Staying in a hostel? Great! Hostels love celebrations, especially Halloween. Balmers Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland decks its lobby with ghoulish treats and competitions, while hostels in France cover themselves in spider webs and flying witches. Don’t forget the drink specials. You can travel to the ends of the earth and still enjoy your favorite holiday treats.

Aboriginal Hostel– Budapest, Hungary

Terror Leaves its Mark on Budapest

Terror Leaves its Mark on Budapest

A great find in downtown Budapest, Aboriginal Hostel offers free WIFI, laundry, breakfast, and entertainment. Go cave diving or get recommendations for other incredible adventures. Just for Halloween, try some homemade Turkish “Witches Brew,” tasty cookies, and plenty of drinks to keep the energy flowing. Spend a night out with your roommates on the city’s popular Andrassy Avenue. Don’t miss the House of Terror.  Located in the former headquarters of the Nazi and Communist secret police, the museum showcases the grim history of the two governments with photos and relics from former labor camp prisoners. Creepy.

Generator Hostel– London, England or Berlin, Germany

London’s largest hostel, Generator, celebrates Halloween like no other. Enjoy cheap beds, cheap drinks and plenty of fun. Spend fright night at the hostel bar. Dress in your favorite costume and receive free drinks at the bar-turned-haunted mansion. Listen to popular DJs and dance until the wee hours. It’s not for the faint of heart.

If you’re headed to Eastern Europe, hit up the Generator Hostel in Berlin. Share a stein or two as you celebrate Halloween. Don’t miss the Superhero party on October 30th or the ghoulish midnight happy hour on Halloween night. The bar will rock both nights with famous karaoke and live DJs.

The Globetrotter Inn– Edinburgh, Scotland

A Little Halloween Fun

Get Caught up in the Web of Excitement

From its haunted houses to countless dark alleys, Edinburgh has plenty of chilling experiences for Halloween. The Globetrotter Inn turns the spooky factor up a notch with a big Halloween bash at its 24-hour on-site bar.  For an extra scare, visit the Edinburgh Dungeon to unravel the city’s history of witch-hunters, grave robbers, prolific murderers and executioners.

Loki Hostel– Mancora, Peru

Hit the beach this Halloween! Loki del Mar in Màncora is the newest addition to the Loki Hostel chain. Having found success in Lima, Cusco and La Paz, this new beach setting invites visitors to surf, body board, or kayak. You might want to save your costume for the after-party!

Nathan’s Villa Hostel– Krakow, Poland

No curfew. No lockout. No checkout time. Big Halloween Party. Take advantage of the eerie sights around Nathan’s Villa Hostel. Check out the historical Dragon’s Den, Auschwitz Concentration Camp, or Remuh Cemetery in Kazimierz. Cap off the night by competing for “Best Halloween Costume” and enjoying free punch at the hostel bar. The party will bounce well into the night…and early morning.

Spook Yourself at These International Destinations

With Halloween right around the corner it’s fun to look at some of the world’s most “haunted” locations. Now don’t be surprised while studying or traveling abroad to discover the Day of the Dead is more celebrated than Halloween. In some locales it’s a national holiday. When I lived in Paris I spent the day after Halloween exploring the city’s celebrity, Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Here are some other disturbingly fun destinations.

Hike to Dracula's Castle

Hike to Dracula's Castle

Walachia, Transylvania, Land of Dracula

Unlock the history of the real Dracula. “Vlad the Impaler” ruled medieval Romania from 1448 until his death in 1476. He had a habit of punishing his enemies in unique ways, like driving stakes through their still-breathing bodies. Scholars believe the legend of Dracula arose because “Dracula” literally means “son of Dracul” in Romanian. Since “Dracul” is “Dragon,” young Vlad was the “son of the dragon” or “son of the devil.” For an unforgettable view, hike through the beautiful Transylvanian Alps. If you’re lucky, you might catch medieval villages and the ruins of once-proud castles, including Dracula’s Bran Castle.

Tower of London

Apparitions, rattling chains, and howling winter winds… eeriness awaits you at this UNESCO World Heritage site. Constructed 900 years ago, the Tower of London has served as a tourist attraction, a prison, and a site of execution for some of England’s royalty. Don’t lose your head like Henry VIII’s infamous second wife, Anne Boleyn. Keep your eye out for a chained Sir Walter Raleigh, who apparently still roams the Tower grounds. Check out the Bloody Tower, where legend has it English child-king Edward V and his brother Richard Plantagenet, duke of York, were murdered in 1483; and Devereux Tower, where George Plantagenet, duke of Clarence, supposedly drowned in a barrel of wine in 1478.

Explore the Unpredictable Vaults

Explore the Vaults at Your Own Risk

Underground Vaults, Edinburgh

Paris has its famous underground crypts, and far below the busy streets of Edinburgh, Scotland rest its forgotten city Vaults. Discovered in the mid-1980’s, the Edinburgh Vaults sat abandoned for nearly two hundred years beneath the South Bridge. These rooms were used as cellars, workshops, labs, and residences by the businesses that forged their trade on the busy South Bridge. The vaults were abandoned due to excessive water and poor air quality. The vaults remained unaltered, having never seen the light of day. Be careful! Visitors have reported significant drops in temperature and attacks by the unseen, which left them with bruises, cuts, and scratches.


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