Need a holiday but not sure who to travel with? Travelling alone can be empowering and fulfilling. Whether you’re a seasoned solo traveller or going it alone for the first time, this quiz will help you find the right destination.

Have you ever wanted to just set off? To grab your bag and go – with no map, no partner, no fixed address. In our video of the week, online entrepreneur Jacob Laukaitis does just that.

Travelling from Lithuania to Greece and back with a GoPro Hero 4 strapped to his chest, Laukaitis journeyed across 15 countries in just four weeks. Now you can do it too, by watching his footage.

You’ll make your way through the Balkans on an old motorbike, weaving across misty valleys, pine forests and cobblestoned villages. Through rain and shine you’ll cover 8000km of narrow roads, coastal motorways and dusty dirt tracks.

Taken while in constant motion, the footage is strung together in a montage sequence, with brief shots of its filmmaker brooding silently over the stunning scenery.

Laukaitis points out that although his speedometer broke on the second day of the trip, he never bothered to fix it. Perhaps that’s the broader message of his video. Life blazes by quickly; the speedometer goes out of control. Sometimes you just need to jump off your motorbike, take a breath, and enjoy the view.

Southeast Asia is the quintessential backpacker destination – all noodle stands, grungy hostels and full moon parties, right? Not necessarily. There are still plenty of authentic Southeast Asian escapes. You just need to know where to find them. Start here.

1. Trek the path less followed in Umphang, Thailand

Want to trek Thailand in peace? Head to Umphang, a spectacular drive south of Mae Sot, and spend a few days walking around the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, spotting gibbons and giant lizards. The highlight is a dip in Tee Lor Su waterfall, a three-tiered thunderer that is at its best in November, just after the rainy season. There’s accommodation at Umphang Hill Resort, who can also take you trekking and rafting.

2. See dolphins in colonial Kratie, Cambodia

Tiny Kratie (pronounced kra-cheh) was largely unscathed by war and retains its appealing mix of French colonial and traditional Khmer buildings, strung along the Mekong river. It is also the best place to see not only some of Cambodia’s beautiful watery sunsets, but also the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin. A pod lives upriver at Kampi and sightings are more or less guaranteed if you take a boat trip. Take a dip afterwards at the nearby Kampi rapids.

Kratie, Cambodia, Asia

3. Have seafood and stunning views in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Few tourists stop in Quy Nhon, where the main industry remains fishing and the long sandy beaches remain (largely) the preserve of the Vietnamese. During Cham rule this was an important commercial centre (and during the American War a US supply centre) and evidence of this remains in the imposing Banh It towers on a hilltop just north of town. Head up here by xe om (motorcycle taxi) for sweeping views over the unspoiled countryside before returning to town for a seafood supper.

4. See spell-binding Khmer ruins in Champasak, Laos

Champasak may be sleepy now but it was once the capital of a Lao kingdom that stretched as far as Thailand. Grand colonial-style palaces share the streets with traditional wooden houses – and even the odd buffalo. From the town’s central fountain it’s just a few miles to Wat Phou, the most bewitching Khmer ruin complex you’ll find outside Cambodia. Little restoration has taken place here, and the half-buried ruins that fill this lush river valley are an unbeatably romantic backdrop to a stroll.

Champasak, Laos

5. Get haggling in Hsipaw, Myanmar (Burma)

It’s worth getting up early in the tranquil Shan town of Hsipaw (pronounced see-paw), where the atmospheric market opens as early as 3am, the shopkeepers handing over their local produce by candlelight. There are numerous monasteries surrounding the town, as well as some truly off-the-beaten-track trekking, to hot springs, waterfalls and local villages, easily arranged through Mr Charles hotel. Don’t miss the area locals jokingly call Little Bagan, where crumbling stupas sit photogenically beneath the trees.

6. Get active in Camiguin Island, Philippines

Ivory sandbars in an electric blue sea, and more volcanoes per square mile than any other island on the planet. Yes, Camigiun Island is ridiculously beautiful, and yet it has remained largely untouched by large scale tourism – so you might just find a hot spring, waterfall or offshore beach to call your own. Divers shouldn’t miss the submerged cemetery near Bonbon, which slipped into the sea following an earthquake, while the (literal) high point of any visit is the climb up active volcano Mount Hibok-Hibok.

camiguin island, PhilippinesCamiguin by jojo nicdao via Flickr (cc license)

7. Go monkey spotting in Tanjung Puting National Park, Indonesia

Want to see the orangutans in Indonesia? Avoid the worst of the crowds by heading deep into unspoiled forest in the Tanjung Puting national park for the best chance to see one in the wild. Take a boat from Kumai to the Rimba Ecolodge to sleep among the macaque monkeys and gibbons on the edge of the Sekonyer river and join a tour in search of orangutans. If you don’t see any in the wild don’t worry, tours call at Camp Leakey rehabilitation centre for close-up encounters.

8. Explore the ocean in Perhentian Besar, Malaysia

Skip livelier Perhentian Kecil in favour of its twin, the sedate Besar, or “large”, island with its roadless jungle interior and white-sand beaches. The diving is superb here, with reef sharks and turtles darting through towering underwater rock formations and around the Sugar Wreck, a wreck dive suitable for relative beginners. Hop aboard a speedboat to Three Coves Bay on the north coast for some land-based turtle spotting; the secluded beach is a favoured egg laying spot of local green and hawksbill turtles.

Turtle Bay, Perhentian Besar, MalaysiaPerhentian Besar by Achilli Family | Journeys via Flickr (cc license)

9. Chill out on Ko Adang, Thailand

An undiscovered Thai island? Well, largely. Ko Adang sits inside Tarutao National Marine Park, which has saved it from development and kept its jungle untamed. The flat white sands of Laem Sone beach lead up to a cluster of beach bungalows, owned by the national park, while the island’s interior is criss crossed by forest trails leading to waterfalls and lookout points over the neighbouring islands.

Explore more of Southeast Asia with the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget.

Serbia’s capital is always on the move – a constantly changing scene of new bars and restaurants alongside old favourites. After a scorching hot summer, temperatures are now perfect for getting the most out of the city’s lively café culture and Eastern Europe’s best nightlife. Here are a few reasons why Belgrade is a hidden highlight of Europe.

1. The riverfront party scene is unrivalled

There aren’t many cities that have made use of its riverfronts as Belgrade has done. More than two hundred floating bars, clubs and restaurants known as splavovi line the Danube and Sava rivers, ranging from intimate little cafés to sprawling nightclubs that go on till dawn. Some are open only for the summer season, but others including Splav Play keep going all year round. Lovely views of the river come with cocktails costing less than 500 dinars.

Splav Play, Belgrade, Adam BatterbeeImage © Adam Batterbee

2. You can feast like a king here

The choice of restaurants in Belgrade is dizzying, and many are absurdly cheap by most European standards. The old town is full of traditional Serbian restaurants, where you can get Balkan staples such as cevapcici (meat rissoles) and roasted red peppers stuffed with cheese. Or you can join the trendy set in the cosmopolitan collection of waterfront restaurants at Beton Hala, where Italian, Spanish and Asian flavours dominate.

3. The city is a joy to explore on foot

There’s rarely a quiet moment along Knez Mihailova, Belgrade’s broad, pedestrianised boulevard that cuts through the old town. Amid the buskers, street sellers and strollers, you can check out the shops or stop for a lingering coffee in one of the many cafés in front the street’s handsome nineteenth-century buildings. At number 26 is the Zepter Museum, an entertaining stroll through Serbian modern and contemporary art. There’s some fantastic art on display here – more than worth the 200 dinars admission.

Knez Mihailova, Belgrade © Adam BatterbeeImage © Adam Batterbee

4. There are some seriously hip areas

Head to the eastern bank of the River Sava to Savamala, formerly a rundown area of derelict warehouses and decaying Art Nouveau mansions. Over the past few years, bars and clubs have been moving into the empty buildings and giving them a hyper-trendy new buzz. KC Grad and Mikser House have led the way in this funky regeneration, both set in old warehouses and offering a mix of live music, food, drink and vintage clothing stalls. Stop for a drink in the shabby-chic garden of Klub Dvoristance or cool industrial Prohibicija before stopping by Tranzit Bar for cocktails in its brick vaulted interior.

5. You can go back in time

Cross the Sava to Zemun and you immediately notice the difference between east and west. Now a Belgrade suburb, Zemun had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, and the Habsburg architectural legacy is unmistakable. But the atmosphere is typically Balkan, with the scent of Turkish coffee wafting from the riverside café tables and mingling with the tantalising aromas coming from the seafood restaurants. Climb to the top of Gardos Tower, built by the Hungarians in 1896, for panoramic views of Belgrade and the Danube.

Skadarlija, Belgrade, Serbia – creative commonsSkadarlija by Erwan Martin via Flickr (cc license)

6. Even the touristy area has a bohemian vibe

Skadarlija is Belgrade’s closest thing to a touristy area, a nineteenth-century bohemian quarter where poets and writers used to hang out and argue over coffee, rakija and cigarettes in cafés along its bumpy cobbled lanes. You’ll still find the coffee, rakija and cigarettes – and some very bumpy cobbles – alongside old-fashioned Serbian restaurants where street musicians serenade diners with traditional folk songs. If that sort of thing normally has you running a mile, relax – it all adds to the merry atmosphere, and there’s no pressure to give a tip.

7. You can find history beneath your feet

Kalemegdan is the oldest part of the city, a vast park that encompasses Belgrade’s history from Roman times onwards. It’s easy to spend a day here getting pleasantly lost among its tree-lined paths, exploring the imposing Belgrade Fortress and military museum and climbing to the ramparts for views of the Sava and the Danube. It’s the city’s green heart too, a chilled-out place for picnics and lazy walks. If you stop for a bite to eat at Kalemegdanska Terasa, you can listen out for the sounds of the animals next door at the zoo.

Kalemegdan, Belgrade, SerbiaImage © Adam Batterbee

8. There’s a surprising city beach

Ada Ciganlija, an island on the River Sava that’s been turned into a peninsula, is Serbia’s only Blue Flag beach – quite a feat for a landlocked country. In the height of summer it’s the city’s playground, thronging with people cooling off in the water, kayaking or having a go on the giant Total Wipeout-style obstacle course. But even once the summer season is officially over, you can still have a swim, refuel at one of the many waterside cafés, take a stroll along its leafy paths or hire a bike for a leisurely ride.

Top image © Adam BatterbeeCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

If you’ve got wheels, wanderlust and a spot of time, start your engines. From the sunny shores of Portugal to the darkest dungeons of Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, the following itineraries can be easily combined, shortened or altered to suit your wayfaring tastes. Here are 10 of the best road trips in Europe.

1. From the glamour and glitz of Paris to the glorious grit of Berlin

Leaving Paris, cruise through the gentle hills of Champagne and Reims to the quaint capital of Luxembourg City, and explore the country’s plethora of fairy-tale castles.

Trier, Germany’s oldest city, is less than an hour’s drive further north-east, where ancient Roman baths and basilicas stand marvellously intact.

Spend a night in the medieval village of Bacharach in Riesling wine country, before wandering the riverside streets of Heidelberg. Onward to Nuremberg, and then to Leipzig for a strong dose of hot caffeine with your Cold War history, classical music and cake.

Detour to Dresden, restored after ruinous bombing in WWII, before ending in one of Europe’s coolest cities: the creative paradise of Berlin.

Alternatively, try starting your engines in London and taking the ferry to France, transforming this road trip into a pilgrimage between Europe’s holy trinity of artistic hubs. 

Best for: Culture vultures looking for bragging rights.
How long: 1–2 weeks.
Insider tip: If you’re driving in France, you’ll legally need to keep safety equipment (a reflective vest and hazard signal). Additionally, keep spare Euros in your wallet to pay the occasional French road toll on the way.

Ausflug nach Luxembourg Wolfgang Staudt/Flickr

2. Surf and sun in the Basque and beyond

Begin in Bilbao, where the nearby villages boast some of the world’s best surf, and drive along the Atlantic to San Sebastian: watersports wonderland and foodie heaven. Then venture south through the rugged wilderness of the Pyrenees to Pamplona. Ascend onwards to the Roncesvalles Pass before looping back to the coast. Or continue along the Bay of Biscay to the attractive seaside resort of St-Jean-de-Luz.

Travellers with a little extra money lining their pockets will be happy to spend days lingering on boho beaches in Biarritz, while those looking for gargantuan swell can do no better than the surfer hangouts in Hossegor.

Finish the trip northward in Bordeaux, “the Pearl of the Aquitaine”, where café-strewn boulevards and world-class wines are your trophies at the finish line.

Best for: Sun-seeking surfers and foodies.
How long: 1 week.
Insider tip: Check seasonal surf forecasts before you go, and look into coastal campsites if you’re on a budget. The Basque roads beg a convertible – or better yet, a colourful camper van with surfboards strapped to the roof.

Bordeaux, FranceYann Texier/Flickr

3. The Arctic fjords from Bergen to Trondheim

Kick off in the city of Bergen, on Norway’s southwest coast, and make way past mighty fjords to Voss and the colossal Tvindefossen waterfall. Then check the world’s longest road tunnel off your to-do list, a cavernous 24.5km route under the mountains.

Catch a quick ferry across the Sognefjord and carry on to the Fjaler valleys, a land of glaciers and snowy mountain peaks, to the waterside towns of Stryn or the mountain village Videster.

Work your way northward to the well-touristed towns of Geiranger, down the death-defying hairpin turns of Trollstigen (literally “The Troll Path”).

After the descent, ferry across the Eresfjord to Molde and Kristiansund. For the final stretch, drive the iconic Atlantic Road with its roller-coaster-style bridges, and conclude with some well-deserved downtime upon the still waters and stilted homes of Trondheim.

Best for: Thrill seekers and landscape junkies.
How long:
3–7 days.
Insider tip:
If you plan on road tripping during Norway’s winter months, be sure to check online ahead of time for road closures.

8983387461_471cff8b6c_oHoward Ignatius/Flickr

4. The unexplored east: Bucharest to Vienna

Embark from Bucharest, travelling northward through the Carpathian mountains to Transylvania, and make a mandatory stop at Bran Castle (claimed to be the old stomping grounds of Dracula himself).

Take the Transfagarasan mountain road, one of the most incredibly beautiful routes in the world, towards the age-old cities and countless castles of Sibu, Brasov and Sighisoara. Then set course to the unexplored architectural gems of Timisoara.

Carry on towards the tranquil baths and hip ruin pubs of bustling Budapest, and be prepared to stay at least a few days. Depart for Bratislava – a capital full of surprises – from where it’s only an hour further to the coffeehouses and eclectic architecture of Vienna.

Best for: Anyone looking for a break from the conventional tourism of western Europe.
How long: 7–12 days.
Insider tip: Exercise caution when driving through tunnels. Though the weather outside may be fine, tunnels are often slippery.

8429373280_67a6c3d7fe_oMichael Newman/Flickr

5. To Portugal and beyond

Start in Braga, before driving south to the medieval town of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Then it’s onward to the breathtaking “second-city” of Porto, though it’s nothing less than first-rate.

Drive east to the vineyards and steep valleys of Penafiel and Amarante before hitting the coastal road to the vast white beaches of Figueira da Foz. From here it’s on to Peniche, Ericeira and then Lisbon: the country’s vibrant capital that’s on course to beat out Berlin for Europe’s coolest city.

Drive south to Sagres, Arrifana and Carrapateira. After soaking up the sun on the picturesque shores of the Algarve, wrap this road trip up in the Mediterranean dreamland otherwise known as Faro.

But if you’ve still got itchy feet when you reach Faro, take the ferry from Algeciras in Spain to Morocco. Imagine the satisfaction of parking your ride in the desert village of Merzouga, before exploring the Sahara – that’s right, it would feel awesome.

Best for: Beach bums and oenophiles.
How long: At least 10–14 days.
Insider tip: As Portugal is among the more affordable destinations in Western Europe, this can be an especially great trip for travellers on a budget.

14282745865_37f8214526_oChris Ford/Flickr

6. High-altitude adventure on Germany‘s Alpine Road

The Alpenstrasse, or Alpine Road, is your ticket to a bonafide Bavarian odyssey: a safe route through the unforgettable vistas of Germany’s high-altitude meadows, mountains, crystal-clear lakes and cosy village restaurants. Start lakeside at Lindau and head to Oberstaufen if you fancy a therapeutic beauty treatment in the country’s “capital of wellness”.

Venture eastwards to the Breitachklamm gorge, where the river Breitach cuts through verdant cliffs and colossal boulders. Carry on to the town of Füssen – famous for its unparalleled violin makers – stopping along the way at any quaint Alpine villages you please. The iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, the same structure that inspired Walt Disney to build his own version for Cinderella, isn’t far off either.

Hit the slopes of Garmisch-Partenkirchen if the season’s right. Stop at Benediktbeuern on your way to the medieval town of Bad Tölz, then up through the stunning wilderness scenes of the Chiemgau Alps before ending in the regional capital of Munich. If you’re missing the mountain roads already, carry on to Salzburg and stop in the ice caves of Werfen on the way.

Best for: Outdoorsy types.
How long: 3–8 days.

19728031982_ea351f1379_oHoward Ignatius/Flickr

7. Godly beaches and ancient highways in Greece

Start in Athens and take the coastal roads south through the Athenian Riviera to Sounion, situated at the tip the Attic peninsula. Watch a sunset at the Temple of Posseidon, then drive northward through mythic mountains to the fortress of Kórinthos before posting up in the legendary city of Mycenae (home of Homeric heroes).

If you’re craving a luxurious seaside stay, look no further than the resort town of Náfplio. If not, carry onwards through the unforgiving landscapes to Mystra, the cultural and political capital of Byzantium.

Feet still itching? Then it’s on to Olympia, sporting grounds of the ancients, and the mystic ruins of Delphi. Loop back towards Athens, approaching the city from the north.

Best for: Sun-worshipers, and anyone who’s ever read Homer or watched overly action-packed flicks such as Troy and 300.
How long: 5–10 days, though it’s easy to trim a version of this road trip down to a long weekend.

19338893149_fc29514d3e_kNikos Patsiouris/Flickr

8. London to Edinburgh and the Highlands

Leave the hectic pace of England’s capital behind. Make for Oxford, home of the world’s oldest English-language university, and a place of storied pubs where the likes of J.R.R Tolkien and Lewis Carrol regularly wrote and wet their whistles.

If you’ve got the time, it’s a quick drive to the cottages of the Cotswolds. If not, cruise up to Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare.

Take the two-and-a-half-hour drive north to Manchester for a city fix and watch a football match, then head to the quirky medieval lanes of York, walled-in by the ancient romans nearly 2000 years ago.

Press on to the Lake District National Park. Drink in the scenery that inspired England’s finest romantics, before making your way past tiny villages to the majestic wonders of Edinburgh. If you’re craving the rugged comforts of the highlands go to Stirling, Inverness, or the Western Isles – worth the drive indeed.

Best for: Locals that want to feel like foreigners, and foreigners that want to feel like locals.
How long: 5–10 days.

8663584897_ee256a5ff7_k Andy Smith/Flickr

9. The secret shores of Sicily and Calabria 

Hit the gas in the Sicilian capital of Palermo, the biggest historic centre in Italy after Rome and arguably the country’s most chaotic metropolis.

Adventure onwards along the Tyrrhenian coast to the golden sands of Cefalù – a great holiday spot for families, with a mellow medieval town centre to boot.

Get to the island’s heartland and the ancient city of Enna. Surrounded by cliffs on all sides, and built atop a massive hill, you’ll feel as though you’ve walked on the set of Game of Thrones. Head southeast to the shores of the Ionian Sea and dock in Siracusa, once the most important in the western world while under ancient Greek rule with much of its historic architecture intact.

Then it’s up to Catania for a trip to molten Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano on the entire European continent.

Finish the trip in Messina, or ferry across into the Italian province of Calabria where rustic mountain villages, friendly locals and the idyllic sands of Tropea and Pizzo await – refreshingly void of foreigners.

Best for: Anyone looking for a truly authentic Italian experience, and of course, hardcore foodies. 
How long: 
6–12 days.

Catania and Mt EtnaBob Travis/Flickr

The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget For more information about travelling through Europe, check out The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget.

Is the open road calling you? Are you craving a holiday behind the wheel? If so, we’re here to help. This quiz will help you pick the perfect road trip, whether you want to embark on one of the world’s most famous drives or strike out into the wilderness.

Packing for a big trip often causes dilemmas. Should you take a large tube of toothpaste to last the trip? How many pairs of trousers to take? Should you invest in some ventilating undies? It’s all too easy to angst over your packing list – be selective and remember that you can buy most things while you’re away.

To help you, we have put together an essential kit list – it’s not exhaustive (obviously, don’t forget your passport, tickets, money and bank cards too) but these are items you’ll be truly grateful for…

1. Ear plugs

Treasure these little beauties: you’ll be worshipping their inventor every time you’re facing a sleepless night, like when you inadvertently opt to stay in the party hotel next to the mosque on a main drag during a fiesta.

2. Eye mask

The humble eye mask is at the frontline in the battle for sleep – a barrier to that aggressive first ray of tropical sun that pierces the flimsy curtains and takes a direct hit on your retina.

Dip-dyed curtain hanging in window

3. Hand sanitizer

Keep Delhi-belly at bay with antibacterial gel that doesn’t require water, especially when you’re about to eat or have just visited the toilets from hell.

4. Bags of all types

Pack your clothes into fabric bags within your rucksack and avoid being the irritating rustler in a shared dorm. If you’re heading to a wet climate, line the inside of your backpack with a bin bag to keep your belongings dry. Take spare plastic bags for your dirty laundry plus a few ziplock food bags for good measure.

5. A sarong – even for men, too

A simple piece of cloth with many functions: wear it as a skirt or as a shawl to protect you from the burning sun or when visiting religious places; it doubles as a sheet in hot weather; and it can be used as a (quick-drying) towel or to cover up after a shower or on the beach.

a sarong – backpacking checklistsarongs by Savanna Smiles on Flickr (cc license)

6. Flip-flops or waterproof sandals

These simple, light shoes will keep your feet protected when you have to shower in a grimy cubicle.

7. Walking shoes

If you’re going away for a few months and plan to do some trekking, don’t take walking boots. In hot weather, you won’t want to wear them and they’re heavy to carry. Instead, opt for lighter walking shoes that have a strong sole. Whilst they don’t offer the ankle support that boots provide, it’s a fair compromise for something you won’t use all that often.

8. Travel adaptor

Make sure you buy at least one adaptor before you leave home, as it can be hard to find the right type once you’re abroad. Get one with multiple sockets and preferably a USB port, too.

9. A mobile phone

If you have an unlocked phone, buy a local SIM card when you arrive in a new country to enjoy local rates. Smartphones can be invaluable – as well as the obvious communication benefits, you can pre-load street maps while you still have wifi. Most also have an array of travel gadgets, such as an alarm clock and compass, and there are handy apps, like the currency converter and offline language dictionaries.

Taking photo on mobile phone

10. Portable recharger

This little gem could save the day if your phone battery needs a boost while you’re out and about.

11. Neck cushion

Banish embarrassing head-lolling and sore necks on overnight flights and coach journeys. Buy a good-quality inflatable cushion that packs down flat.

12. First aid kit

A basic first-aid kit should include oral rehydration salts, plasters, water purification tablets, antiseptic cream, mosquito repellent, painkillers such as ibuprofen and – most definitely – Imodium.

13. Sewing kit

Don’t underestimate this – there’ll be times when it will be vital. Include a needle, pins, thread in several colours and safety pins. Include some string too, which can be used in many ways, for instance as a washing line or when one of your shoelaces breaks.

Padlock on bridge

14. Padlock

Many hostels provide a locker for your valuables, but you need to bring your own padlock. It’s also wise to lock your handbag in crowded places where pickpockets are active. Go for a combination lock rather than one with a key, as keys can get lost.

15. Headtorch

Besides the obvious uses on camping trips and night hikes, a headtorch is helpful if you want to read when others are trying to sleep, leaving your hands free to turn pages.

16. Waterproof trousers

Don’t be too vain to wear waterproof trousers on rainy days – they’ll keep you comfortable and dry, instead of wallowing in soggy-bottomed misery. Choose breathable fabrics to avoid getting wet on the inside.

17. A silk sleeping bag liner

Even if you’re not taking a sleeping bag, this is an absolute essential. Avoid bed bug attacks and close-contact with questionable stains on your mattress by using one of these when you check into those grotty budget hostels.

airport2

18. Penknife

There’ll be countless times when you’ll be delighted that your penknife has a knife, scissors, tweezers and – hallelujah! – a bottle-opener. Don’t forget to keep it in your checked bag though – it’ll get confiscated at the airport if you keep it in your hand luggage.

19. Travel bottles

Decant your toiletries into small plastic bottles. To save space, try to use all-in-one toiletries, such as shampoo/conditioner, shower gel/shampoo or a soap that will wash hair and clothes too.

20. A Rough Guide book

Because paper doesn’t run out of battery. Find the right guidebook for you here >

 Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Spicy chiles aside, there’s no hotter dining city in North America than the capital of Mexico. Since it was first established by the Aztecs in the fourteenth century, Mexico City has sprawled in every direction, and today the metro area contains upwards of 21 million people.

As the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, Mexico City provides a crash course for any foodie interested in learning all there is to know about Mexican cuisine, and while there are authentic, family-run food carts on seemingly every corner, it’s the city’s young, dynamic chefs that are placing the its restaurants on the world culinary map.

Gorge on modern creations using ancient methods

Any analysis of Mexico City’s exploding food scene must start with Pujol. Chef-owner Enrique Olvera’s modern Mexican creations have put him at the forefront of the North American dining scene; Pujol is one of the world’s highest-rated restaurants, and Olvera’s influence has extended beyond his native land. (He recently opened his first American restaurant, Cosme, in New York City.)

The kitchen’s ever-changing menu highlights local ingredients, and utilizes both ancient and modern techniques. For a perfect example, look no further than the restaurant’s signature offering: baby corn covered in a mayonnaise made with coffee and powdered red chicatana ants, and served in a smoke-filled pumpkin shell.

Pujol 4 - Elotitos con mayonesa de chicatana, credit Fiamma PiacentiniA smoke-filled pumpkin dish © Fiamma Piacentini

Diners revel in Pujol’s famous mole sauces; the house mole is aged, and diners are informed how old the base is at the time of their dinner. (At the time of writing, the house mole was nearing 700 days old.)

Try it all with a tasting menu

In the intoxicating San Ángel neighbourhood, Paxia offers a modernist dining experience that wouldn’t be out of place in Copenhagen or New York. Chef-owner Daniel Ovadía wows diners who think they’ve seen it all through his playful, creative take on Mexican classics.

Multi-course tasting menus often incorporate such smile-inducing dishes as a deconstructed tortilla soup, mini-wagon of mole sauce, or bite-size churros. One of the country’s most lauded young chefs, Ovadía owns numerous restaurants around the city.

Among the main attributes of the Mexico City culinary scene is how it incorporates flavours and traditions found across the country; one can easily eat their way around all of Mexico without ever leaving the city.

Churros, Paxia, Mexico City, MexicoChurros from Paixa

Family favourites fresh from Oaxaca

In a quiet corner of the ritzy Polanco neighbourhood, Guzina Oaxaca offers a contemporary take on the beloved staples of Oaxaca. Chef-owner Alex Ruiz, who first gained fame with his restaurant Casa Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, impresses hard-to-please foodies with his family recipes and hard-to-find ingredients. (Oaxacan produce and products are trucked in every week.)

Diners plow through orders of memelas (thin corn cakes), tlayudas (avocado leaf-mashed beans and cheese on a large tortilla), and little tacos wrapped in hoja santa (a popular, aromatic herb).

At the sleek, centrally-located St. Regis Mexico City, the J&G Grill offers a classy atmosphere in which to enjoy a curated selection of the international celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s greatest hits.

J&G Grill, Mexico CityJ&G Grill

When not straining their necks to spot out-of-town celebs enjoying a discreet dinner, patrons often spy the dynamic young chef Olivier Deboise Mendez manning the partially-open kitchen. The menu incorporates fresh, local ingredients into popular dishes such as piping hot mini-pizzas topped with thinly-sliced Mexican avocados, and crispy grouper served with sweet peppers, papaya, and celery.

Influences from the USA and beyond

It’s not only Mexican chefs who are leading the new wave of Mexico City gastronomy, though. Anatol’s Justin Ermini is a Connecticut native who has worked with some of America’s foremost culinary titans. The restaurant at boutique hotel Las Alcobas offers a unique, farm-to-table menu for each season.

As an outsider, Ermini balances between offering the familiar – such as fresh-made guacamole topped with crunchy, earthy chapulines (grasshoppers) – and his own take on native ingredients.

Repeat customers swear by the chef’s black bean soup; made from Chiapas black beans, the velvety soup is packed with flavour thanks to the use of duck fat and a trio of chiles: chipotle, pasilla, and chilhuacle negro.

Guacamole, Anatol, Mexico CityGuacamole from Anatol

Vampire ceviche and artisanal mezcal

Just next door at Dulce Patria, the celebrated chef Martha Ortiz celebrates her country’s cuisine (Dulce Patria translates to “sweet homeland”) by offering an incredibly colorful assortment of traditional dishes reinterpreted in a modern context.

Ortiz’s menu reads like journey through Mexico’s regional cuisines; mini tacos are packed with chilorio, a chile-pork stew from Sinaloa, while sweet dessert bites are presented on little toy handicrafts from rural regions outside of Mexico City.

For an inventive take on a familiar favourite, Ortiz’s “vampire” ceviche offers a one-two punch via its spicy flavours and cooling temperature. The stylish dining room provides an ideal locale for sampling artisanal mezcals, served with the traditional accompaniments of fresh citrus and crispy gusanos (maguey worms).

Que Bo 2, case, credit Gerrish LopezChocolate at Que Bo! © Gerrish Lopez

Visitors with a sweet tooth shouldn’t leave town without discovering Que Bo!, a diminutive chocolate café tucked away in the city’s historic centre.

A labor of love from one of North America’s best young chocolatiers, Jose Ramon Castillo, Que Bo! serves a variety of incredible confections. The young, internationally-acclaimed Castillo prides himself on using only Mexican chocolate, with no refined sugar or dairy, and everything is flavoured naturally using fresh ingredients running the gamut from coffee to grasshoppers.

Indecisive types and scene-chasers flock to to the heart of Roma, where the Mercado Roma houses little outposts of some of the city’s best restaurants all under one roof.

The hip complex offers both indoor and outdoor seating, including a living garden wall and the city’s only rooftop biergarten (serving Mexican craft brews). There’s something for everyone, from boozy popsicles and fresh seafood to meaty sandwiches and regional delights. Tiny kiosks sell everything from Mexican cookbooks to heirloom beans, making the market a fun spot for grabbing a bite with a side of education.

Featured image by Adam Goldberg. Explore more of Mexico with the Rough Guide to MexicoCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Rotterdam has the confident vibe of a place on the up. Amsterdam might still be the brightest beacon for travellers to the Netherlands, but a host of exciting new attractions are putting this southern city on the map.

Last year, Rotterdam Central railway station and the Markthal, a market hall and apartment complex whose arched ceiling bears the largest artwork in the Netherlands, became the two latest landmarks to grace the city’s sprawl.

Then in June 2015 the Luchtsingel, a 390-metre-long, wooden pedestrian bridge linking the city centre and the north, was officially opened. The project was partially funded through crowdsourcing; an example of the social engagement that’s bringing about positive changes in Rotterdam.

The Luchtsingel, Rotterdam, NetherlandsThe Luchtsingel bridge © Stuart Forster

Thanks to a progressive attitude to post-war reconstruction, after the city was blitzed by the German Luftwaffe, Rotterdam is also an interesting place to explore. The architecture is characterised by bold design and high-rise buildings, while Europe’s largest and busiest sea port helps to imbue the city with a strong work ethic and down-to-earth attitude.

Need more convincing? Here are eight reasons to visit…

1. It has an impressive public art trail

You don’t have to spend money to see artworks by world-renowned artists. Works by the likes of Auguste Rodin and Joel Shapiro are displayed on the sculpture route along the Westersingel canal. The 17 notable pieces include Pablo Picasso’s Sylvette.

Markthal, Rotterdam, NetherlandsArtwork in the Markthal © Stuart Forster

2. There’s a nightlife fuelled by creativity

Laidback café-bars are dotted throughout the city, including Boudewijn, which serves more than 100 Belgian beers. Locals recommend a stroll along Witte de Withstraat because of its high density of watering holes. You’ll find chic cocktail bars, such as the gin specialist Ballroom, plus casual venues. At De Witte Aap art displays change on a monthly basis.

For live music, from jazz to hip-hop, check out events at Bird, a club nestled below railway arches in the north of the city.

3. There’s brilliant innovative architecture

Walk along the River Meuse’s waterfront and you’ll see De Rotterdam, a 149-metre-tall skyscraper designed by Rem Koolhaas. The building is described as a ‘vertical city’ and its eye-catching form resembles off-set stacks.

The Van Nelle Factory was opened to process and package tea, coffee and tobacco in 1932. It’s an outstanding example of carefully thought through Dutch functionalist design. The airy building today hosts offices and conference space.

To learn more about Dutch architecture and design head to Het Nieuwe Instituut, which hosts regularly changing exhibitions and events. Pop into by the nearby Sonneveld House to view modernist interiors of a building that in the early 1930s was regarded as an ideal family home.

Cube houses in Rotterdam, South Netherlands.Cube House architecture

4. Taking a taxi is more fun than you might think

Booking a journey by water taxi is a great way to see the city while travelling at speed along the river. Taxis travel at up to 50 km per hour, making trips a practical means of getting around while inducing an adrenalin-fuelled buzz.

5. It has a world class art gallery

An iconic brick tower makes it easy to locate the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Its vast art collection ranges from paintings by old masters, such as Rembrandt and Hieronymus Bosch, through Magritte and Mondriaan to contemporary works by the likes of Maurizio Cattelan and Pipilotti Rist.

The museum’s collection of drawings and prints is one of the world’s most significant for understanding the development of art. It includes pieces by Albrecht Dürer and Paul Cézanne.

You can also see eight centuries of applied designs, encompassing Dutch Golden Age glassware and Rietveld furniture.

6. Restaurants are redefining the city’s cuisine

Moroccan cuisine served at Bazar in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The cold dishes include olives and stuffed vine leaves.Cuisine at Bazar © Stuart Forster

If you’re looking for tasty but inexpensive food try dining at Bazar, whose selection of Middle-Eastern and North African cuisine proves popular with students and young professionals.

A handful of stylish restaurants are redefining Rotterdam’s culinary scene. At Restaurant de Jong you choose between the four-course vegetable or non-vegetable menus then the team of chefs in the open kitchen get creative with seasonal ingredients. Meat dishes are among the specials at Restaurant Las Palmas, whose industrial-chic dining room is a good place to spot celebs.

7. There is first-class accommodation for all budgets

Rotterdam has a decent selection of inexpensive places to stay. Arguably the pick of the budget rooms are those decorated by local artists at King Kong Hostel.

Citizen M Rotterdam is a mid-priced design hotel that places you by the Oudehaven (old harbour) and within easy walking distance of the Markthal.

Most of the rooms in the four-star Inntel Hotels Rotterdam Centre overlook the River Meuse. The pick of them have views of the Erasmus Bridge.

8. It’s easy to reach from Schiphol Airport

Direct trains between the Schiphol Amsterdam International Airport and Rotterdam Central railway stations take just 27 minutes.

Explore more of the Netherlands with the Rough Guide to the NetherlandsCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

It was not too long ago that Lisbon was often dismissed as the unfashionable capital of Portugal, the ‘Poor Man of Europe’. This was harsh on a city that spectacularly straddles the River Tejo with a flurry of old world architecture, rich African cultural influences and a notoriously wild nightlife scene.

Today, savvy city breakers are finally cottoning on that budget airline flights have opened up the city. Delights such as the old world streets of the Alfama and the Biarro Alto, plus one of Europe’s most impressive urban renewal projects, the Parque das Nações, await.

Why is Lisbon great for a weekend break?

Because it has never been easier nor cheaper to get to Lisbon. Gone mercifully are the days when the only ways of getting here were ridiculously expensive flights with scheduled airlines. Budget carriers now compete, on the London routes especially, making a weekend break more tempting than ever before.

Castle in Lisbon, Portugal

Getting around Lisbon is both easy and a joy. In fact, the city is like a giant theme park for adults. Myriad little cruisers and ferries ply the river, trundling old trams rattle on up to its landmark castle and suburban trains drift off to the Atlantic beaches at Cascais and Estoril. There are funiculars too, as well as the unique Elevador de Santa Justa, an early twentieth-century lift you go up just to take a look at the view then nip back down again.

What is there to do and see?

Kicking off in the heart of the city, the Baixa is based on an easy to navigate grid system built after the devastating earthquake of 1755. The new viewing gallery at the landmark Arco Rua Augusta lets you enjoy a bird’s eye view of the area.

The Baixa and the nearby Chiado are ideal for a shopping splurge with plenty of pavement cafés on hand for respite.

Afterwards, jump on vintage Tram 28, which snakes its way from the Baixa in a screech of metal as it lurches upwards, past the city’s cathedral and towards St. George’s Castle, which opens up the finest views of the city. They have a café where you can enjoy a cold Sagres beer or milky Galao coffee as you plan your sightseeing from this lofty perch.

Tram in Portugal, Lisbon

Further seawards there is evidence of Lisbon’s Golden Age, which came in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when its brave explorers sailed out of the River Tejo in search of the New World.

Catch a train or tram to Belem, the historic quarter dedicated to those days. The Belem Tower is the last thing the sailors would have seen of Lisbon as the land shrunk in their wake, while the hulking Monument to the Discoveries strikes out towards the sea, with myriad cultural events breathing contemporary life back into it.

Away from the water, the Jeronimos Monastery is easily the city’s most striking building with its elegant fairytale-esque curves and the flourishes of its Manueline architecture.

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal

The more modern face of Lisbon is on show at the Parque das Nações site, where the Expo 98 was held. It is a model of urban regeneration and home to the Oceanário, one of the largest aquariums in the world, with everything from playful otters to hulking sharks.

There are concert venues, museums and a flurry of restaurants and bars too. Visit the Pavilion of Knowledge science museum and take a ride on the cable car, which opens up the whole site.

So the nightlife is good – where should I party?

The tight, packed old lanes of the Biarro Alto attract a mixed crowd of locals and visitors, who flock to enjoy a chaotic collage of fado groups, characterful independent bars and bustling little clubs.

Walk uphill from the Praca Luís de Camoes and embark on a bar crawl. Clube da Esquina (Rua da Barroca 30) with its live DJs is a great place to take the area’s pulse and pick up flyers for one off events.

Some of the hottest action – especially later on in the night – is out in the converted warehouses of the Doca de Santo Amaro and the Doca de Alcantara, where riverside bars, clubs and restaurants tempt. K Urban Beach is a sushi bar and club rolled into one right on the water.

The more central area around Santa Apolonia is also on the up. Legendary super club Lux, ideal for a cocktail on a sink in sofa before hitting the dancefloor with the locals.

Nightlife in Lisbon, POrtugal

What’s for dinner?

Atlantic seafood is a highlight on many menus in the Portuguese capital. Look out, too, for delicious goat’s cheese from the Alentejo just across the river.

The old world restaurants of the Alfama are the place for simple grilled fish dishes. For a more upmarket seafood feast though – the cod baked in salt is a stunner – head to Frade dos Mares.

Fried chicken is also something of a local budget institution – try it at El Rei d’Frango.

Make sure to enjoy the seriously underrated Portuguese wines too, especially hearty reds from the Alentejo and crisp whites from the Douro Valley.

Out at Parque das Nações, Ilha Doce dishes up the type of hearty, expertly cooked food you find all over budget pleasing Lisbon. Tuck into clams in garlic and white wine or pork Alentejo style with clams and potatoes. They dish up a mean plate of sardines with water views too.

Carne de Porco a Alentejana, Portuguese pork and clam dish served in bowl

Where can I finally get some sleep?

As Lisbon’s popularity has soared so have room rates. Look out for discounted deals at business hotels at weekends, when the besuited crowd flees the city. Apartments are a good value option. The Santos River Apartments are brightly furnished with river views in increasingly hip Cais de Sodre.

If you’re looking to splash out, the new Myriad is a sleek option at Parque das Nações. This soaring five-star tower hotel offers views of the River Tejo, as well as open plan bedrooms and in-room hot tubs. They have spa too, complete with bubble jets, a steam room and a sauna with a view.

Explore more of Portugal with the Rough Guide to Portugal, or buy the Pocket Rough Guide Lisbon to explore the city in more depth. Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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