What’s hot: February 2019

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Just About Travel tells you what’s hot and what’s not in the travel world, right now…

HOT

Exploring Edinburgh


Looking for a city that’s steeped in culture and history but also boasts a lively nightlife scene? We have the answer: Edinburgh. The Scottish capital will play hosts to the TedSummit in 2019, while s the Six Nations Rugby Championships will be played there too.
If the aforementioned events don’t take your fancy, check out the Harry Potter haunts (Edinburgh is, after all, the home of J.K Rowling), magnificent Edinburgh Castle and more.

Far flung families

family running on beach

Families are being more adventurous than ever before and the thought of taking the little ones to further afield destinations is no longer daunting – it’s the new normal. Over the past two years, Thomas Cook Airlines flight-only bookings among families have consistently grown: the company reports that family long-haul trips were up 64 percent year-on-year, while August trips were up 44 percent..
Family-favourite Orlando remains in the top spot but perhaps, surprisingly, making up the rest of the top five for flight-only family bookings is New York, Cancun, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Living la dolce vita


Boasting more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country in the world, it’s safe to say that Italy needs no introduction to JAT readers: not only it consistently ranks among the top five most popular destinations worldwide for international arrivals, but it has also recently emerged as the most photographed country on Instagram, with more than 93 million posts containing the #Italy hashtag.
And with the historic town of Matera taking its place as European Capital of Culture and a series of events planned throughout the country to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s death in May, there are more reasons than ever to visit Italy in 2019.

Uganda calling

Move over Rwanda. Travellers looking to get up close and personal with gorillas are turning their attention to the East African nation’s neighbour, Uganda, after Rwanda gorilla permits doubled to US$1,500 per person (more than twice the cost of Uganda).
Reaching Uganda is about to get easier too: Uganda Airlines is looking at starting serving London when it re-launches this year, while construction of a brand new international airport, in the Western Region, is currently underway.

Checking out the Cook Islands

Popular reality show, Shipwrecked, will return to E4 in early 2019.The show was filmed on the motus (small islets) of Aitutaki, which are located 220km, or a 45 minute flight from Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands and in the heart of the Pacific, halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.
First aired in 2000, Shipwrecked was the forerunner for reality shows. The new series will bring back the two rival islands, the Shark Island and Tiger Island, with teams battling it out to win over new arrivals.
The Cook Islands was chosen as the location for the series, not because it’s home to any real sharks or tigers, but due to its spectacular beauty. The palm fringed, white sand beaches, with turquoise blue waters are as near to paradise as you can get, and the most picturesque, Instagram ready, place you can hope to be Shipwrecked.

Bespoke trip booking services

Package holidays and group tours can be soulless and uninteresting, but organising your own unique trip where you really experience the true culture of a place can be time-consuming. Rough Guides is launching a service to solve this problem – an adventurous trip is planned by local experts, and because it’s completely unique to each traveller, it is not the typical package holiday (you know – those that involve predictable visits to top attractions frequented mainly by other tourists. Yawn).
Each Rough Guides trip will cater for those with an adventurous spirit and include quirky locations that are off-the-beaten-track. The trip is planned by a local expert who lives in the area and knows the destination incredibly well. This means that every holiday will give a real flavour of the area and contain visits to places that are not frequented by the general tourist crowd.
Find out more, here.

England’s oldest horse race reaches the 500th marker
While most of the horse-racing world may have its binoculars focussed on the Cheltenham Festival in March 2019, a four-mile countryside course in the picturesque Yorkshire Wolds will provide the testing course for the country’s oldest horse race – the Kiplingcotes Derby. Henry VIII was the King of England when this race was first run, and ever since then the countryside around the East Yorkshire village of Market Weighton has proudly hosted this ancient tradition with the 500th race set to run in 2019 on Thursday 21 March.
The race itself has only ever been in danger of being cancelled three times – during the harsh winters of 1947 and 2018, and because of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. On each occasion, a local led a horse around the course – because the ancient rules for the Derby, drawn up in 1618, mean that if the race is not run one year, it must never be run again.

Seeking out Singapore

The Lion State is roaring this year: 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of Singapore, the iconic Raffles Hotel (home of the historic Long Bar, famed for the Singapore Sling and its tradition of throwing the shells of monkey nuts on the floor) will reopen its doors, it’s the home of the world’s longest flight (Singapore to New York) and thanks to Crazy Rich Asians, It’s Hollywood’s favourite new destination. Get it while it’s hot.

Carry on cruising

Of the opinion that cruises are for the newly wed and nearly dead? The arrival of  Blue World Voyages – a start-up marketing itself as “the world’s first cruise line dedicated to sports and wellness”– this summer that’s aimed at active travellers – should change that. Expect on-board gyms, spinning studios, yoga spaces and a swimming pool that is created by lowering a floating frame on to the sea.
Meanwhile, May will see the launch of AmaMagna – by river specialists AmaWaterways – which will have a retractable water sports platform plus a wellness studio with space for up to 40 guests.
Bottom line? The cruise industry is aiming to help you get fitter, not fatter, in 2019.

NOT

Getting a Russian visa remains a hassle

Red Square, Moscow

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, relaxed visa restrictions for hundreds of thousands of British football fans who visited his country last year for the FIFA 2018 World Cup.
Alas, for those who didn’t make it to Moscow for the Three Lions’ semi final against Croatia, the strict visa process which is much tougher than in days of the Soviet Union is back in place, as this writer recently experienced. First up, I needed an invitation (also known as visa support letter) from my hotel, for which I had to pay a small fee (around £30). Once I had my invitation, I was required to visit a visa centre in London (other options included Manchester and Edinburgh) with my passport to submit an application form as thick as the bible. I was asked for information about my family, financial situation and social media accounts – in addition to having to supply details of every country I have visited in the last 10 years. For a travel journalist who has lived and worked around the world, this proved a time consuming and patience testing process.
After handing over the completed form and having my fingerprints scanned, I was then informed that my visa would be outsourced to a company called VFS Global who, since March 2018, need a full four weeks (20 business days) to process visa applications. Since I had submitted my application three and a half weeks ahead of my trip, instead of four, I was forced to pay an extortionate £186.60 – more than my air fare! – to guarantee that my visa would arrive in time. Even if I hadn’t missed the deadline by a mere three days, I would have had to cough up £108 which is what a single-entry visa to Russia costs.
Happily, however, while the visa process was hard work, the pay-off –  ancient monasteries, extravagant shopping, onion-domed cathedrals and, of course, the famous Red Square – was worth it.

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