Cheap Hotels in Munich

Munich is a city that caters to all budget levels and travel styles when it comes to accommodation – but if you plan to spend Oktoberfest in Munich then everything changes. Sure, the summer is the high season and you’ll pay more for a room in the summer than in the winter, but the annual Oktoberfest celebration is such a concentrated time that finding a good deal on a room or a hostel bed during those two weeks can be nothing short of a miracle. In other words, if going to Munich for Oktoberfest is on your bucket list, either save your pennies, plan to splurge, or book so far in advance that you actually get one of the more budget-friendly rooms in the city.

For the rest of the year, the historic center around the Marienplatz is a good area to target for a place to stay. Staying in this area puts you within walking distance of most of the attractions in Munich, as well as within easy reach of public transportation if you want to go further afield. The historic center may be a bit more expensive accommodation-wise than the outskirts of the city, so if you’re really on a tight budget or you’re staying longer and don’t mind going back and forth into the center often, you might try looking in the neighborhoods around the Ostbahnhof station or the University.

Search this map to find cheap hotels in Munich

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Hiking and Dining in Appenzell

Switzerland’s Appenzell, a half-canton of only 66 square miles, is packed with more charm and cultural richness than found in many countries. Cradled and protected by the surrounding Alpstein massif (mountains), the region’s rugged terrain would normally be inaccessible if it weren’t for an intricate trail network linking dozens of welcoming guesthouses and mountain hotels that just happen to serve delectable cuisine.

You don’t merely do lunch high above the lush green meadows. Food is interwoven into the fabric of Swiss culture like hiking, yodeling, skiing. Notice how these active pursuits pair nicely with the more than 400 indigenous cheeses, microbrews like Vollmond (full moon), and a wide variety of cured meats like Mostbrockli (dried beef). Each bite of these morsels is a direct act of savoring the essence of mountain living. Hiking is a great place to start. Terrain widely varies from narrow tractor roads passing through vast emerald meadows to well marked mountain trails steeply switch backing along rocky cliff sides to lofty summits. Each turn upward on narrow gravel paths not only offers “wow-inducing” vistas but also time to mingle with Swiss hikers of all ages.

It’s clear that folks here take their pastime seriously including satiating their appetites after this prolonged physical exertion.


One stop I had the opportunity to experience was situated along a panoramic ridge trail leading to Ebenalp and the limestone caves of Wildkirchli which contain evidence of habitation dating to the Paleolithic era. You’ll know the summit is near when as you continue your steady climb tight along a rock ridge, a striking gabled wooden building tucked underneath a rock outcropping comes into view.

Upon reaching the grand terrace of Gasthaus Aescher Wildkirchli, a restaurant with hostel-type guestrooms on the second floor, you get the definitive sense that it’s time to take a break. The hearty food served here is made on site with fresh local ingredients. During hunting season, same-day caught venison, elk, and mountain goat are served in a stew called Hirsh Peffer. Similar to Stroganoff but more flavorful, the perfect side dish to accompany it is Rösti, a type of hash brown rich in butter, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

Don’t even think of asking for a mere glass of water or soda here! Spectacular mountain views in every direction serve as a reminder of just how far you’ve climbed and how much more there is to explore after lunch. Since calorie counting is now a laughable notion, go for the complete experience and order up a Cave Coffee named after nearby Wildkirchli Caves where prehistoric bear skeletons were located over 100 years ago and an underground chapel resides. The Cave Coffee’s main ingredient is Alpenbitter, a schnapps made from over 40 herbs, spices, local roasted coffee, and generous clouds of real whipped cream on the top. Or perhaps wine is more your style. Go with Sauser, a locally made unfermented grape juice. And for a dessert that will even wow the die hard Swiss hikers filling the tables around you, their signature sundae features a few scoops of coffee and vanilla ice cream buried under a towering mountain of house made whipped cream.

This was a guest post by Steve Mirsky. All photos are by the author and may not be used without permission.

Things to Do

Seeking Out Celebrity in Italy

When we are surrounded by something all the time, it loses its allure – even if it’s something that’s supposed to be enticing. The rest of the world might shriek when they see celebrities walking down the street, but in LA? That would be a lot of shrieking. Angelenos are famously unflappable when it comes to celebrity, and with good reason. But what about when LA residents go on vacation?

Popular wisdom holds that we become different people when we travel – we lose inhibitions, we try things we would ordinarily shun, and we indulge in things we might call guilty pleasures back home. In other words, when LA residents go on holiday to Italy, there’s no reason not to get a bit giddy should you come upon any of the places where movies were shot.

Who among us, no matter how jaded, can avoid the comparison with “La Dolce Vita” upon seeing the Trevi Fountain? Or think of “Roman Holiday” when sticking our own hand into the Mouth of Truth? It should be no different, then, seeing any of the movie hotels in Italy, getting a peek at rooms or grand hotel lobbies where famous scenes were filmed.

Some of the more famous movie hotels may be out of reach of the average traveler, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look at them from the outside and recall what parts of the movie were filmed there. For instance, there really is a gorgeous room in Venice’s Hotel Danieli where Angelina Jolie left Johnny Depp sleeping on the sofa in “The Tourist.” The stunning Positano hotel in the film “Only You” starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. is Le Sirenuse, and it remains a boutique budget-buster to this day.

One movie hotel you might actually be able to afford is the Hotel degli Orafi in Florence, made famous by the 1985 movie “A Room With a View.” As you might imagine, some of the rooms in the hotel overlook the Arno River – but (and this won’t surprise you if you’ve seen the movie) some of the rooms don’t have river views. In other words, if re-living the movie is your top priority, book room 414 or another of the rooms on the river-side of the building.

Above all, it’s okay to fawn over the places in Italy that have served as the backdrop for films over the years. The truth is there are plenty of reasons to fawn over them anyway.

Tempted? Book cheap tickets to Florence and find out what your itinerary could look like if you were spending 4 days in Florence.

photo of Hotel Danieli lobby by quatre mains


Plan a Working Holiday in Australia

Long-term travel is a dream for many people. The idea of taking off for three months, six months, a year or longer is an enticing one, until you come back to reality and think of the challenges of saving up enough money to fund an extended trip. There is a solution though, and one that is ideal for young residents of the United Kingdom.

If you are a UK resident (or a resident of several other countries, including the US, Canada, France ,Germany, or Italy) and are between 18 and 30 years old at the time of your application, you can secure an Australian working holiday visa.  The working visa allows you to stay in Oz for up to 12 months (though your employer can help you stay for an additional four years after that) and be taxed on your income at a rate of 29%.  The visa can cost as little as  £229 and you can apply online and get a response in as little as 48 hours.

You’ll need to arrange your own flights to Australia but many visa services include airport pickup and your first two nights in Sydney, so you’ll have a bit of help getting started. After that though, you’ll be on your own for lodging and looking for work. Luckily, when it comes to where to spend your Australia working holiday, you’ll have no shortage of options. While many people opt to stay in Sydney or Melbourne and take on work in the service industry, there are many other options. You can help with the grape harvest in the Barossa Valley, work at a ski resort in the Snowy Mountains, or work on a cattle ranch in the Outback. NO matter what your interest or skill set, you can find work in a beautiful area of Australia.

Photo by Travis_Simon

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Exploring the Markets in Latin America

Whether I head to a large city such as Budapest, Vienna or London, or to a smaller, hidden location, such as the medieval town of Sighisoara, I always ask around to find where the local market is located. Why? Because shopping at markets is one of the things I love to do while traveling, helping me to get the vibe of the local community.

If you are used to the markets in Europe or in farmers markets in North America, you’ll probably have a bit of a shock reaction when you visit the markets in Latin America . For the outsider it looks like a chaos, but you should know things are actually organized. Knowing at least some phrases in the local language will definitely help a lot. And in many places you can even bargain (depending on the local customs).

Probably the first thing that will catch your eyes in Guatemala are the exotic Latin American fruits : dragon fruit, guava, tamarillo, physalis (Cape Gooseberry), passionfruit, Cherimoyas or the Indian fig; all are available in the area and some are native to Guatemala. And yes, if you tried them at home (bought from a supermarket) they will taste totally different when you buy them from a local market.

But aside from soaking up the local atmosphere, you can also shop at the markets to cut down the costs of your vacation. Hostels in Guatemala offer affordable accommodation and most also have a common kitchen you can use. So, buy the food at the market and cook at the hostel.

And don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs for your family and friends back home. I tend to favor clothes.

Photo credit

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Visiting Thailand : Affordable, Interesting, Fun

Thailand is an Asian hub, a country which any tourist must see at least once in a lifetime. For those not used to the Asian culture, Thailand can be an excellent start to explore the area. Also, it is known as a cheap place to visit and a heaven for backpackers.

With flights to Bangkok from Hanoi starting at $214 RT per person (on Thai AirAsia) and even cheap from Ho Chi Minh City ($135 RT per person), visiting Thailand is an affordable, interesting and fun experience. Add the fact that beds in dorms start at $12 per night and you can stay in a double room for just $27 per night per person, and you surely don’t need that many more reasons to head to Bangkok now.

But just in case you do… do you know that it’s possible to spend an entire day in Bangkok for just $10 ? The cheap activities in Bangkok include: visiting the temples, visit the markets, or seeing traditional Thai dancing.

And speaking of the temples…before you plan a visit, make sure to also get some research done. Some tips for visiting temples in Thailand include:

  • plan the visit in the morning, that’s when the best ambiance is
  • cover up , avoid the tank tops and shorts
  • women shouldn’t touch monks
  • speak quietly
  • don’t bring food or drink inside
  • consider getting a guide

Sure, Thailand is a lot more than just markets and temples. You can enjoy the beaches and check out the night light. And of course, you must try the authentic Thai food.

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Escape to a Warmer European Destination: Spain

When I go outside and feel the wind on my face I cannot help but think of warmer destinations where I could just wait until winter is over in my own city. This winter has been mocking us from day one and it doesn’t seem to want to end either… so why not plan a city break to a warmer European country?

Spain sounds divine and honesty, I don’t exactly need too many reasons to pack and go. And I’m sure you don’t need either, but just in case… For example, if you know how to cook Spanish dishes, enjoying the best paella in Spain while soaking up the sun is a treat. You’ll soon realize that nothing tastes better than in the country it was invented!

You can also consider one of the many Spanish cooking classes . After all, I know I need to learn quite a lot of tricks which don’t come with the (too many) cooking books I have.

Need more reasons to visit Spain? How about heading to Costa de la Luz and then explore the region at your pace. You can even take the ferry (35 minutes) to Tangier (Morocco). If you decide to stay in the region, then Baelo Claudia – famous for the Roman ruins – or Cadiz – Europe’s oldest city – are excellent choices for your vacation.

When it comes to budgeting, first you need to choose the airport you’ll be flying into. Jerez, Seville and Malaga are close to the region; the both Seville and Malaga are served by a lot of low cost carrier. For example, a RT flight from London into Seville in early April starts at £50 per person (on Ryanair); while a flight into Malaga for the same travel period costs the same (on easyJet). Once in Spain, consider renting a car. But using the trains and buses are good choices as well.

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Things to Do

Budget Vacation in Hawaii?

Could you really plan a vacation in Hawaii on a low budget? How can that be possible? Well, it can be done but you’ve got to do your homework before even starting to book the accommodation and flight.

Definitely it’s not enough just to find cheap tickets to Hawaii . Currently, several major US airlines offer Hawaii flights on sale for departures until August. You just need to find the best option for you. For example, a round-trip flight from LAX into Honolulu in late-March starts at $610 per person (on United or Continental). Or you can fly in mid-May for just $382 per person (on Hawaiian Airlines).

When you look up accommodation, consider renting a vacation apartment. You can buy food at the farmers markets in Hawaii and save money in the process. Plus, farmers markets are excellent places to get to know the locals.

If you prefer a hotel, rooms in 2-star hotels start at $67 per night. If you book in advance, you can find discounted rates and hence pay $95 per night for a room which would otherwise cost $191 per night.

Of course, we all head to Hawaii for the beaches on Honolulu but there are quite a lot of other things to do. Don’t forget to plan at least a day of sightseeing and check out the Iolani Palace, Hawaii State Art Museum, Bishop Museum, and Kawaiahao Church. And if you are after the night-life you should know that there are excellent live performances in the Hawaiian bars.

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How to Find Cheap Flights to Europe

Europe is a very popular travel destination and finding cheap flights to Europe becomes a necessity for those who planning their vacations here. Many travelers head to England, France, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Greece. While each country has major airports and the international flights can be found rather easily, most traffic from the United States comes into London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport.

An easy way to find cheap flights to Europe is to check out the flight deals. For example, the Virgin Atlantic flight deals can save you a lot of money when you manage to find a good deal. Plus, you can use the Virgin flight tracker and let your loved ones know the route and the status of your flight.

Make sure to use several websites to check for flights. Some don’t list the special deals and then you are left with checking each company’s website. Kayak, Expedia and Skyscanner offer a pretty good image of the available flights into Europe.

If you prefer to use a certain airline, consider getting a mileage credit card offered by them. You can get points and discounts, which will definitely pay out in the long run. Also, use the miles saved to get cheaper flights or upgrades.

A very easy way to save money on cheap flights to Europe is to travel during the low-season. Autumn and spring can be quite tricky weather-wise, but the airfare is low. You might end up stuck visiting museums or staying in doors in other places because the weather is lousy, but that’s not a waste of time.


Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Iceland

Iceland was recently rated as one of the best places to spend Christmas, much to the surprise of many Icelanders. It’s not that the Icelandic people don’t get festive during the Christmas holidays – they certainly do. But most Icelanders celebrate the Christmas holiday in the comfort of their own homes, and many shops, restaurants and public services shut down completely over December 24 and 25. A better holiday on which to visit Iceland is New Year’s Eve.

If you thought Reykjavik partied hard on the average Friday or Saturday night…well, you haven’t seen anything yet. On New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik, many people dine with family, while others book a table at one of the city’s best restaurants. Then, at midnight, it seems the whole town lights off fireworks at the same time. During the rest of the year, average folks need a special permit to light fireworks off on their property. This is the one night of the year they are free to go wild with the fireworks, and they certainly do! Looking out over the city at midnight is a magical sight to behold, as seemingly thousands of fireworks shoot up into the night sky Once the fireworks have fizzled out, partiers take to the clubs, dancing and drinking the night away, often until 5am the next day.

I don’t know about you, but I’m dreaming of going back to Iceland, and New Year’s Eve sounds like the perfect time  to go. With cheap flights in Europe so readily available, it’s easy to plan a budget trip to Iceland, especially during winter off season when prices are even lower.  And who wouldn’t want to ring in the New Year away from home? Forget the stress and annoyance of throwing the perfect party for your friends or spending hours trying to secure the perfect dinner reservation. In Iceland the party is right there in the streets, and the big fireworks show costs nothing to watch.  Ringing in the New Year in Iceland, your biggest concerns will be what to wear in Reykjavik…and maybe how many Icelandic hot dogs is too many at 5am.

Photo by Kristin Sig