London’s Most Incredible Restaurants

London has a vibrant dining scene offering traditional English as well as delicious cuisines from around the world. The capital has rapidly adapted with well-developed restaurants. Some establishments serve tasty delicacies in elegant spaces perfect for fine dining. Recently, world-class and celebrity chefs have descended on the capital adding to the culinary attraction. New restaurants are offering boundary-pushing four-course menus with excellent service and presentation as well as affordable, quick meals on the go.

You can tell good restaurants by how popular and packed they are at peak dining hours. There are also industry benchmarks that rank restaurants according to the quality of culinary excellence, service delivery, and the overall dining experience. Let us look at some of the best places to eat in the capital, according to travel expert D. Scott Carruthers.

1. The Ledbury

The restaurant features a contemporary setting. It has been recognized with two Michelin stars and has been serving great dishes since 2012. The eatery has won numerous industry awards for exceptional cuisine and service. Some of the honors include recognition by Restaurant Magazine, S. Pellegrino, Zagat and the Sunday Times. The atmosphere is elegant and laidback; it says class without having to scream about it.

2. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

The celebrity chef, restaurateur, and author runs a vibrant flagship eatery along Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. It is friendly to people with various allergies. You only have to talk to the server about the ingredients you would prefer to skip. The dishes are made with fresh and seasonal ingredients to bring out the best flavors in modern French cooking. The eatery opened its doors in 1998 and remodeled the interior in 2013.

3. Pollen Street Social

Welcome to modern high dining in Mayfair. The restaurant has a sharp focus on the customer and is an excellent spot for the busy executive to socialize. It strives to make formal dining fun and enjoyable without the associated stiffness. The interior décor reflects this attitude. The cuisine is mostly a fusion of English and French dishes packed with bold taste and texture. It has won multiple awards such as Time Out, Food and Travel Magazine and Good Food Guide.

4. The Greenhouse

One of the best places to load up on French and modern European delicacies in Mayfair. The setting is luxurious and discreet with a spacy outdoor segment, creating a serene oasis in the heart of the district. The chefs have fantastic presentation and inspiration. It is one of the few fine-dining spots to boast a Wine Spectator Grand Award for offering high-quality wines.

5. Restaurant Story

The eatery takes classic British dining to the next level with a choice of either six-course or ten-course menus. The idea is a storybook with many different chapters. The patron chef Tom Sellers pushes his story through an evolving tasting menu and seasonal specials. In line with the story theme, each meal is a chapter in the book that courses through childhood, sea, land, garden, the end, and various snacks.

Conclusion

London has multiple exciting and compelling dining experiences. From the traditional gourmet districts of Soho to Convent Garden and Mayfair, there is a tasty match for every discerning palate. There are options for high dining through to down-to-earth, affordable eats. The above will help you get started on your journey to find the best spot that makes you go back repeatedly.

5 Perfect Road Trip Activities for Your Kids

There’s no call for dreading long car trips with kids if you have these hacks up your sleeve.

What is so alarming about family road trips for parents? It’s not the expenditure of filling up the gas tank. Traffic, toll roads or Sunday drivers don’t bother them as much. It’s the notion of their little cherubs jammed together in close quarters for hours. God, the backseat scuffling. The nudging. The grumbling. The recurrent edgy cries of “Are we there yet?” THIS NEEDS TO STOP!!!

Fortunately, here we are suggesting you strategies to keep your children contentedly amused and get pleasure from each other’s company. And the best part? You can achieve it without spending a penny.

Here’s a list of our picks for the five perfect road activities for kids.

 

1. Music- food for soul

Kids love melody. It increases child’s attention span. Play light music for them in the background letting them pursue their respective tasks that interest them on the back seat like book coloring, working on their travel journal, sorting through the pictures so on. Or you can simply turn the music a little higher than usual and let the kids turn the backseat into a little bandwagon of their own. The best quality speakers will only do to enhance the experience.

2. Keep those electronic gadgets charged

Sure, we all keep a secret preference to reduce our kids’ use of electronic devices to a minimal, but there goes this idea out the window for the time span of a car trip. Getting them absorbed for wee few hours of screen time aids pass the hours.

The stratagem is to make certain you keep their widget or gadgets fully charged. Many advanced model cars have individual USB ports. So, bear in mind those charging wires.

3. Use the windows as canvasses

Rouse your creativity and bring removable white board markers to draw shapes on windows? A small package of colored markers (make it clear in your mind they are dry-erase, not permanent markers!) for illustration and a pair of gloves for wipe away are all your kids will need to have some car-trip fun. If you don’t possess gloves, an old face towel or hanky will do the trick.

Games such as tik-tac-toe and hangman can also be played.

4. Play cool games

Make a pile of visual cards and write wavy questions on each one for the kids to think over, such as “Would you rather be in a pool of M&Ms or marshmallows?” and “Would you rather have bright blue feet or bright blue locks?”

5. Grab some awesome apps

If you’ll be traveling via road by any chance this summer, mull over installing a few new iPhone and iPad apps to help the miles fly by without knocking us out of our wits.

Don’t always foresee travelling as something soul-tiring or mundane. Consider it as a time to get to know your family and their preferences better. Make the most of this time to bond with them that we otherwise can’t due to our frenzied life and its demanding nature. Muster all your creativity and planning right down to the most trivial of the activities can spare you a hell lot of fuss leaving you with fond memories to cherish later on with your all grown-up kids.

Top Travel Destinations for Solo Travelers

Traveling alone can be delightfully self-indulgent, and you’re more likely to be on a journey of self-discovery. It not only gives you the ideal opportunity to try something new but also boosts your confidence and makes you realize how capable you are.

You can manage to travel to any part of the world if you’re well prepared and ready to experience any challenge. Here are the best destinations for solo travelers:

1. New Zealand

This place is a perfect solo travel destination. It is safe to travel around, and if you love the outdoors and adventure sports, then this country is for you. New Zealand is practically made up of National Parks and every place you visit will offer something new.

People are welcoming and down to earth. With beautiful landscapes, volcanic caves, hot springs, Scottish towns and wilderness islands this country is a must-see.

Things to do in New Zealand:

  • Visit the City of the Sails – Auckland, which is surrounded by volcanic caves and has a magnificent harbor.

  • For underwater life, visit country’s first Marine Reserve – Goat Island.

  • For panoramic views of the city, climb Mount Eden or visit Sky Tower.

  • Make sure you climb Waewaetorea Island for a beautiful 360-degree view.

  • Don’t forget to visit the subtropical paradise Kerikeri.

  • Waitomo Glowworm Caves where you can try black water rafting through the caves. See bubbling waters or just treat yourself to a mud-bath in the spa.

  • Coromandel Peninsular is the place where you can dig your spa pool and experience hot waters on the Hot Water Beach.

  • Enjoy skydive over Lake Taupo  

  • The Te Papa Museum will teach you all need to know about Maori culture and New Zealand’s rich and fascinating history.

  • Plan a trip to Milford Sound, a magical area of looming cliffs and waterfalls where you can cruise through the Fjordland.

  • Dunedin has Baldwin Street which is the world’s steepest street. This historic town is the perfect destination to see penguins.

  • Kaikoura is the place to see giant sperm whales and swim with seals.

  • For ice climbing adventures, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are amongst the best places to visit in New Zealand.

  • For adventure sports, visit Queenstown. Here you can enjoy high-speed jet boating, skiing, and bungee.

  • Take the Jungfrau Railway which is the highest-altitude railway station in Europe.

And the list goes on!

With spectacular scenery wherever you look, ease of transport, amazing train journeys, hiking and walks, easy access to lakes, cheese and chocolate, this amazing destination tops the list.

2. Switzerland

This country is perfect for those wanting some alone time. It is so amazingly beautiful and safe to travel around. You can easily hike in the remote areas. The alpine peaks, waterfalls and mountain views are worth falling in love.

Things to do in Switzerland:

  • In summers, Switzerland is ideal for hiking with its stunning scenery. In the winter you can enjoy skiing and relax in thermal spas on the slopes.

  • Visit the Art Museum, History Museum and Albert Einstein’s old residence at Einstein House.

  • Go to the Rose Garden where you can get the best view of the city from the cathedral tower.

  • Plan to see Lake Geneva, the largest lake in western Europe and ‘The Dying Lion of Lucerne’ which is one of the world’s most famous monuments.

  • Visit Interlaken, the world of adventure. You can enjoy paragliding, rafting, tandem sky diving, bungee, hand gliding, canyon jumping, and ice climbing.

  • Jungfraujoch is called the ‘Top of Europe.’ The Ice Palace inside is a must-see.

  • If you want to see beautiful waterfalls, plan a trip to Lauterbrunnen.

3. Prague

This vibrant city has tons of options available for solo travelers willing to explore. It is not only safe but very easy to navigate as well. This amazing place is always full of events all year long.

Things to do in Prague:

  • Plan a visit to these classic attractions, the National Museum and Museum of Communism.

  • For something different, visit the Museum of Sex, the Museum of Historical Chamber Pots and Toilets.

  • To enjoy live concerts at night, Roxy and Lucerna are the places to go, where small, alternative bands from all over the world play music.

  • Stop by Karlovy Lázně Club, the largest nightclub in Europe.

  • All of the main sites are accessible on foot which means your solo trip to Prague doesn’t have to be expensive. Just make sure you pack some comfortable shoes.

4. London

London is one of the best places in the world to explore on your own. This diverse and exciting city has so much to do. It has world’s best sights, attractions, and activities.

Things to do in London:

  • Enjoy the panoramic view of London from The Shard or the London Eye.

  • Meet a celebrity at Madame Tussauds.

  • Examine the world’s most precious treasures at the British Museum or come face-to-face with dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

  • Enjoy London on the ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour. For 24 hours, these buses give you unlimited travel around the city. You can explore all of London’s iconic tourist sites, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and the London Aquarium.

  • This city is home to eight amazing Royal Parks including Hyde Park and Richmond Park.

  • London boasts some of the best markets in the world. The Greenwich Market, Camden Market, Borough Market and Europe’s largest urban shopping center at Westfield Stratford offering the most up to date fashion trends, food from around the world and much more.

5. Vienna

Vienna is a beautiful city that represents refinement and culture to visitors. It is one of Europe’s most visited cities. With its many great historic sights, great events and entertainment, Vienna continue to attract millions of visitors.

Things to do in Vienna:

  • Plan a trip to enjoy the rich history of museums at the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the Sissi Museum.

  • Enjoy fabulous displays of riding skills at Spanish Riding School which is one of Vienna’s leading attractions

  • Visit the great St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

  • The magnificent architecture and beautiful park-like setting make Schönbrunn Palace worth visiting. Also, visit Belvedere Palace.

  • Visit one of the world’s largest and most impressive theaters, the Vienna State Opera House.

  • Vienna Zoo is one of the most pleasant zoos in Europe. This zoo is home to 750 species including giant pandas, Cubs and many other fascinating creatures in Aquarium and the interactive Rainforest House.

  • Check out the new Danube Tower for a splendid view of the city.

6. Paris

Every traveler dreams of visiting the beautiful city of light. Paris surpasses any city in beauty., history, culture, fine cuisine, arts, food, and shopping.

Paris is a great destination for solo travelers as you can explore the city in your way. There are hundreds of sights to see and things to experience at your own pace.

Things to do in Paris:

  • Plan a trip to Notre Dame Cathedral. This iconic church is 850 years old.

  • Eiffel Tower, it was designed to be seen from any viewpoint. To enjoy the breathtaking view of Paris, you can take the elevator up the steel frame.

  • Champs-Elysées, this 2 kilometers long avenue is one of the most famous avenues in the world. Enjoy the walk along the wide boulevards, street cafes, and Parisian buildings.

  • The art and Roman sculptures in Louvre museum.

  • Walk across one of the bridges or take a leisurely boat cruise along River Seine.

Pack light, so it’s easier to get around, wear soft and comfortable shoes because Paris is best explored on foot!

So, be prepared for the most adventurous trip of your life. Pack light and wear soft, comfortable shoes that will keep you going throughout your venture.

How to plan an affordable trip to some of the world’s most expensive vacation destinations?

Exploring the world’s most extravagant and high-end destinations doesn’t have to be that expensive. As long as you learn to prioritize and plan a budget, you should be able to enjoy the best trip. Choose places you’ve always wanted to see, and book flights and accommodation in advance. We recommend that you do it with at least 6 months before the big day. Here are some more tips on how to plan an affordable getaway to some of the world’s most inaccessible travel destinations.

Traveling off-season

Traveling in the off-season is the best way to enjoy a lavish getaway without breaking the bank. Go for destinations such as Italy, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Iceland, or Spain. Search for low-cost flights and don’t let bad weather ruin your getaway. It might rain in April in Athens, but this doesn’t mean that aren’t activities and places to see indoors. What we love most about traveling off-season is that the cities are more relaxed. Around this time of the year, you won’t be that many tourists wandering the streets, or populating the beaches. This will give you a unique opportunity to benefit from the most peaceful and serene getaway with your loved one.

Rent a car vs. public transportation

In some cities, exploring the premises using public transportation is a lot better than taking the taxi. However, nothing beats a car rental. No matter where you choose to go, having a car to help you move around is fundamental. In the off-reason car rental prices are extremely affordable. In Athens, for example, it doesn’t cost more than $50/day. Rather than take the bus and barely see anything, with a car you can stop whenever and wherever you want to admire the surroundings, take photos, have a picnic, and so on.

Spend as much time as possible outdoors

Monaco, Barcelona, Oahu, Punta Cana, and The Caribbean, are travel destinations not many people can afford to explore. But the high cost is usually because you are compelled to purchase all sort of packages with different activities. Give them up, and spend as much time as possible outside, exploring the surroundings, the architecture, and finding out more about the people and the culture of a certain place. In major cities, the parks are free of charge. Also, get more information on a destination’s best free attractions and places of interest. This sort of information you can also find at the hotel you’re staying. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Avoid restaurant in major city centers

Dining at a fancy restaurant in the heart of Barcelona can easily cost you up to $100/person. In fact, all bistros and eateries located near major attractions are high-priced. And the thing is not all are worth the cash. As an alternative, ask the locals where you can to eat delicious food on a budget. Another idea might be to take advantage of mid-week happy hour times. Don’t buy bottled water; tap water is just as good. To avoid ATM fees, pay with a credit card. Don’t forget about weekend flea markets and events; street food events are everywhere.

Lodge at a hostel, not at a hotel

Most high-end travel destinations provide different accommodation facilities. Once again, steer clear of those located near main attraction and city hubs. Choose a hostel instead. In Europe, prices are somewhere between $30 and $50/night in hostels; some even have free breakfast included. Check TripAdvisor for some more info on the best places to stay in your preferred city. Camping sites, Airbnb offers, and couchsurfing might also save you a few hundreds.

Planning the most perfect trip somewhere really expensive and extravagant doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With advanced booking for accommodation and transportation, you will save a serious amount of cash. Furthermore, explore your favorite travel spots in the off-season, choose a lodge with kitchenette. This way you can cook your own food, and not have to spend an exorbitant amount at a fancy bistro. Whether you looking for the most unique holidays to Greenland, or you’d like to go somewhere warmer in the South, just make sure to enjoy the experience.

Most popular holiday destinations for 2017

Canal boat passing under a bridge in Venice

Travelling is one of the best experiences in the life of an individual. There is so much you can discover while being on the road and reaching unknown destinations that features local secrets waiting to be revealed by curious travelers.

The world we live in is rich from this perspective and offers us a wide variety of options to consider in terms of great destinations where we can choose to travel every year. Let’s discover now some of the best destinations to travel during this holiday season.

Lanzarote: An island of dreams that come true


The season does not come with any kind of lacking opportunities in terms of gorgeous destinations where you can travel. Worldwide tourists can now choose to have fun on the snow or experience warm conditions in the most exotic places in the world. Lanzarote is one of the wonderful options to consider during this season for a wide range of reasons. First, it features great hotels, restaurants, interesting shops and bars and offers you the opportunity to engage in numerous interesting activities while discovering the best touristic attractions in the area.

 
Those who might find this destination in the Canary Islands to be a surprising one should know that it has started to become more and more popular among tourists interested in discovering new great locations. This is the kind of place that simply amazes those interested in eco-friendly yet chic places where they can spend their time surfing, walking, cycling or simply enjoying the local wines in the area.

Those who are into arts will be pleasantly surprised to discover the influence of a visionary local artist that brought innovation in the field of architecture. He has had a life governed by a great passion for environmental arts. His name is Cesar Manrique and the special geology of the island is accentuated by his extraordinary works. These have pinpointed this location to the top of holiday destinations preferred by tourists from across the world.

 
You can spend days there visiting the local places in which his art is revealed or enjoying your quality time with family and friends in great local restaurants and bars. Not to mention the extraordinary island scenery that will make you want to spend more time outdoors and simply feel the magic vibe that surrounds the area.

Venice, Italy: Always a surprising place to visit

Canal boat passing under a bridge in Venice
Both for tourists who have never been to Venice yet and those who have travelled there in summer we have to mention the fact that this is also a great holiday destination. There is something special about this place that seems to pleasantly haunt tourists with its unique beauty. Once you go there once, you simply feel the need to return there as soon as possible. This season comes with a great surprise for travelers with a passion for local traditions and the proper Italian way of having fun: the Venice Carnevale taking place in February.

 
This event is a European highlight that offers local people and tourists traveling there the opportunity to admire the elaborated costumes as well as the spooky masks that bring local history to life. If you enjoy costumed dancing type of activities, you should know that you can experience the best dancing adventure of your life there this year.

 
Moreover, apart from the costumed festival that is about to take place there next month, you can also enjoy walking down the streets of this historical wonder place where dreams come true. Enjoy your interaction with the local people there who are eager to tell you all about the history of their town, share their local food with you and let you experience the real Italian way of having fun with family and friends.

Have a taste of Machu Pichu all to yourself!

Panoramic view of Machu Pichu
Another great destination to consider for your next travelling adventure is Choquequirao, Peru. It is a gorgeous wild area hidden across the magnificent Apurimac Valley where you can have a taste of Machu Pichu all to yourself. You can take a four-day trek to the amazing Inca footsteps and encounter other passionate travelers looking to be amazed by the spectacular site of this unique destination.

Chile: the new top travel destination of 2017

The mountains of Chile
Among numerous other traveling destinations that have been popular in 2016, Brazil has been placed on top. However, 2017 seems to be the year in which Chile will attract a lot more visitors given the natural wonderland it features. This has become one of the most desirable adventure tourism destinations in the world.

 
More and more people dream of spending their holiday in an active and fun way so Chile seems to reach top place on their list of favorite places to visit this year. Its great ecosystems, topographies as well as biodiversity features launches this location to the top of the list of places that have received the World Travel Awards.

All in all, life is wonderful when you offer yourself the opportunity to travel to great locations from across the globe. You can choose to diversify your traveling experiences by visiting new places every year and discovering great new things about the world that surrounds you. Either as a traveler in time in Venice, a dream seeker in Lanzarote or a real Crusoe and Cousteau traveler to Fundu Lagoon, you can experience the real beauty of life far away from home.

Great Family Activities to Try in the Cotswolds in Spring

Famous for the honey-coloured stone buildings that define this beautiful part of England the Cotswolds is best described as typically English in its bucolic tranquillity with sleepy villages like Castle Combe and Burford as well as great cities like Bath. Yet it is easily accessible and only around a two hour drive from London.

The spring weather in England can of course be changeable but here in the Cotswolds the climate is relatively mild and spring is a very good time to explore all that the region has to offer. There is no better time for families to get outdoors and sample the host of family activities and fun days out in the Cotswolds. Once you have chosen a place to stay, perhaps taking advantage of a private lakeside lodge at Cotswold Water Park, then you have the perfect base camp from where you can plan all your excursions.

 

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Situated at Burford this exciting attraction is sure to please all the family with all kinds of wildlife from lions to lemurs! For small children there is the Children’s Farmyard and petting area as well as a woodland adventure playground and much more besides. There is an on-site café, most of the site is dog-friendly and there is free car parking.

 

The Model Village

The Model Village at Bourton-on-the–Water is a beautiful scale replica of a Cotswold village complete with miniature beech, cherry and chestnut trees and a river which flows under the bridges. There is a shop and an on-site café/restaurant plus a bar with beer garden where you can relax with a bar meal.

 

Blenheim Palace

Families with an appreciation of history will no doubt want to see the historic Blenheim Palace – the birthplace of Winston Churchill. This World Heritage site houses exquisite antique collections, tapestries and furniture as befitting its 300 year history, plus over 2000 acres of Capability Brown landscaped parkland and gardens. Sci-fi fans may be interested to know that scenes from the movie Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation were filmed here.

 

The Bird and Deer Park

Situated at Cranham and nestling in a beautiful valley the park offers visitors the chance to see reindeer, pygmy goats, fallow deer and even miniature Mediterranean donkeys. There is a Visitor Centre where you can get hot and cold drinks with cakes, sweets and ice cream.

 

Shopping

For families that like to spend time exploring the shops together there is no shortage of variety in the Cotswold towns and villages. From small, quaint villages offering original and artisan produce to larger towns like Cheltenham and Gloucester with big-name stores to market towns like Stroud – ‘the Covent Garden of the Cotswolds’ – you are certain to be spoiled for choice when it comes to souvenir ideas.

 

Events in the Cotswolds

There are so many events happening across the region you will wish you had booked a longer stay. Starting in March with the Gloucester Keys Home and Garden Party where you can meet celebrity gardeners, listen to music and browse a busy market the list of events continues through the year. From vintage fairs and the Prescott Hill Climb in April to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and the Gloucester Tall Ships Festival in May and the delightful Downy Duckling Days at the Wetland Wildlife Reserve at Slimbridge, where children can see baby ducklings, goslings and cygnets, there are events for all the family to enjoy.

The Cotswolds are truly an area of great beauty and interest for all ages, with an abundance of manor house attractions, farms and gardens, art galleries and walking and cycling trails.

5 predictions for UK travel in 2016

Base of the Eiffel Tower

We’re well past January or even December of last year when most people were making their predictions for the year. But predictions are always accurate when they are closer to the time, aren’t they? So here’s my list of accurate predictions for 2016. Time will tell whether I was right to wait to make them.

Base of the Eiffel Tower
Less of the Eiffel Tower?

1) Staycations will increase

Staycation was the trend a few years back when the UK economy was weak, people were scared of losing their job and had not had a pay rise for a while. This year it’s back for a different reason: the heightened risk of air travel, especially across Europe. Airports are likely to react to the latest incident by starting security checks outside the building, causing even further inconvenience for passengers. Whether that one happens or not, many people will stick to a holiday within the UK, whether that’s a city break, caravanning, a trip to Scotland or a camping trip.

2) The Olympics and Euro 2016 will cause a lull in travel

Couple these big events with the current heightened risk of air travel and people will watch the games at home instead of booking their holiday over summer. Unless of course they are attending the events.

If you’re one of the few people not interested in either event, now will be the time to travel and avoid the crowds and peak prices.

3) The UK will leave the EU.

The EU is very weak at the moment: socially, politically and economically. Europe has lost control of migration, the political leaders are lacking in leadership and decisive actions about both this annd terrorism and many countries still have a weak economy. Greece in particular is showing no sign of recovery and will eventually have to default on its debt, have them written off or leave the EU. Oops, another prediction.

The Brits will see they have nothing much to gain by staying in the EU currently and will vote accordingly.

4) European travel will not get more expensive…

…following the Brexit, that is.
This is because the UK is a large prosperous country contributing a significant number of travellers to Europe, whether for business or holidays, especially to popular destinations in Spain. It’s not like the Portuguese are queuing up to go on holiday to Alicante…

Any increase in EU taxes, airport landing fees, custom duties, etc, will have a significant and detrimental impact on travel in these key destinations and would wreak havoc on the local economies, already fragile. The EU chiefs will do everything they can to welcome the Brits’ money, especially if there is already a decrease in the number of UK holidaymakers following my predictions #1 and #2.

Failing that, holidaymakers may seek to travel further to Croatia and so on, outside the EU. These countries will be sure to capitalise on this opportunity should EU travel become more expensive. So there’s always a cheap sunny destination awaiting the British should my prediction go wrong!

5) Half-term holidays will remain expensive

That’s an easy one. They have been more expensive for a while and this is not going to change anytime soon. it’s simple economics, demand and supply. Whether people believe or not that travel companies are putting up their price outrageously just to make more money, it is a fact that supply becomes more restricted during half-term periods. In reality, it’s likely to be both – travel companies increasing prices more than they need to. But it’s also possible that during times of low demand, they lower prices to attract more customers…

We’ll just have to live with that situation for now.

What’s your prediction for 2016?

Yandex Mail review for travellers

I have been using Yandex Mail as my webmail for several years now and have come across very few reviews on the net for this product, at least in English. In contrast, you can find lots and lots of reviews for Google Mail and others. So I’ve decided to finally write my own long due review. If you travel a lot, you want a webmail you can access from anywhere, that lets you do the work you need to do quickly and efficiently and doesn’t get in the way. Yandex Mail ticks all these boxes.

I’m not up-to-date with other webmail providers since I haven’t used them properly for a long time, so apologies if I make a Yandex Mail feature sound unique when it is common elsewhere.

 

Content

About Yandex

The top winners

Security

Appearance

Right-clicks

Composer window

Tools and features

The negatives

Conclusion

About Yandex first

Because of the dearth of English reviews on Yandex Mail, I feel compelled to first give a little bit of background on Yandex. In case you’re already familiar with this search engine, skip to the next section.

Yandex started out as a search engine in the mid-90s, just before Google, but in Russia. Today it is the largest search engine and website by visitor numbers in Russia and a handful of other countries. It has a range of products and services uncannily similar to Google: maps, email, translator, browser and even an advertising platform similar to Adwords.

The top winners

Zero ads throughout

I was a big fan of Yahoo Mail for many years until one day I realised the composer window had gotten tiny. Yahoo was filling the page with ads. When Google Mail came out, there was a furore around mails that were being read by Google to show relevant ads against them.

Outlook.com’s selling point over Google Mail when it came out was that it doesn’t read your emails to show ads, in other words it shows you random, irrelevant ads. So these 3 big players all show ads.

Yandex Mail hasn’t shown me a single line of ad over all the 4 years I’ve been using it. The composer window is nearly as large as the screen. It can’t get much better than this and at the time this was one of the most important reasons I migrated from Yahoo Mail to Yandex Mail.

Real support

Another big bonus point for me is that you can email Yandex for help and get a real person write back to you within days. The reply isn’t always very helpful but at least you can talk to someone. I once had my Yahoo hacked and tried to contact their support. I never managed to find an email or a submit form and the links kept passing me around. I guess they were not interested in helping me and shortly after, I left.

Now let’s get a bit more into the nitty gritty of Yandex Mail.

Security

Russia and the US are often at loggerheads, to put it mildy, so if you’re American, you might be uneasy to trust a Russian company, similarly if you’re from a western country. You may think that the KGB (or FSB nowadays) is spying on your emails. I suspect this is as true, or as false, as the CIA and FBI having access to Google, Facebook or Microsoft’s users’ data. But one thing is certain, the American spying agencies will have no backdoor access to Yandex!

Yandex has also been in existence for a long time, even longer than Google, so it’s a very stable and growing company that is unlikely to go bust or disappear tomorrow night. It has the infrastructure and resources to be a webmail provider and more importantly, offers stability. The same can’t be said with Yahoo’s future at the moment…

Leaving politics aside, Yandex offers:

  • one-time passwords
  • last login date
  • mail log to view see all changes made to your email along with a datestamp
  • remote logout from all devices.

You also have the usual security features: mailbox sits on an https-secure page, mobile phone to recover access, etc… You can also use your mobile phone number as username. I still haven’t figured out the advantage of doing this – do you want spammers calling you all day long or sending you sms? It might come in handy if you want to give your phone number to someone but don’t want to appear to eager…

Appearance

The appearance and layout of an inbox are very important since we use them all the time. I never liked the ordering of emails by conversation in Google Mail and the top ad in Yahoo, made to look like an email in your inbox is very confusing and annoying because it works! None of this with Yandex of course. Unread emails, for instance, are in bold and clearly stands out.

There are lots of mail themes to choose from, although if you’re like me, you may choose none at all so they don’t get in the way and distract you. There’s even a theme which changes as your local weather changes but if it is grey and raining outside, I would have preferred a sunny mailbox to cheer me up, not a grey one to compound the matter.

You can add custom buttons at the top next to the usual Compose, Forward, Delete buttons, organise emails by labels or folders or both, sort emails by chronological order or by conversation, open messages in a new page, to the right of the inbox or below it. By changing the place where an email is being displayed, the layout of your inbox changes dramatically.timeline

There’s also a handy side panel that shows conversations through an email thread and any links, attachments or videos. A timeline is shown at the bottom so you can quickly find an email by date in a full inbox or folder.

Right-clicks

Many years ago, Yahoo changed their layout so emails would open below the inbox on the same page. At the same time they removed the ability to Yandex inbox context menuopen emails in a new tab by right-clicking. That was another nail in the coffin for me.

Power users like to open several emails at the same time, in multiple tabs, rather than click on one, then read, click on the next, then read, and so on. If you’re in a place with slow internet access and you don’t have time either to sit around and wait, opening multiple tabs makes you work faster. You’re reading one email while 5 others are loading in the background. You may also need the content of one email to reply to another, so it helps to open emails in tabs.

Yandex made a change a while ago to their context menu when you right-click so that you get their menu rather than your browser’s context menu. In their menu was an option to open the email in a new tab. Unfortunately, you were taken directly to that tab. It was annoying to open 5 emails and have to switch back to the inbox everytime.

 

Fortunately the usual keyboard shortcut (CTRL+left mouse click) to open emails in a new tab without being taken there immediately still worked. Right-clicks also work when you choose to have emails opened within the inbox, at the bottom or to the side.
While writing this review, I found out an option in the settings to disable Yandex’s right-click context menu:

More settings

Composer window

 

Email composer page

I already mentioned the large writing space available. You can also set up a reminder if no answer is received to your email, or be notified upon delivery of the email. You can send an sms, an ecard and previously a video which you could record with your webcam, for e.g. a birthday wish, but I don’t see this option anymore. The sms feature sounds great but it only notifies you in Russian that you have a mail. Well, that’s what I assume since I don’t know any Russian. There is a link in the sms, presumably to the email received. Not too helpful. You can also save an email template.

Tools and features

A good webmail becomes an indispensable one with powerful tools and useful features. Yandex includes the standard list:

  • unlimited mailbox,
  • signature,
  • good spam filter that doesn’t get in the way,
  • filters you can set up yourself…

A few more interesting ones are described below.

Disk

Yandex Mail is tightly integrated with Yandex Disk, the equivalent of Google Drive for cloud storage. Yandex then allows you to send very big attachments by placing them in your disk. Storage space is 10 GB free  on Yandex Disk and you can purchase more.

Handy to make a back-up of your pictures and files while travelling ir simply sharing with others. Or you can use this in addition to Google Drive, Dropbox and Skydrive if you’re running out of space there.

Email scheduler

Yandex Mail also allows you to schedule emails to be sent up to a year ahead.

This is a useful feature if you don’t have regular access to the internet and wish for an email to be sent at a certain date, for e.g a birthday wish or even a reminder.

Email client and importer

importer

An email client can be used to access your Yandex emails. The converse is also true. You can use Yandex to retrieve emails from other email addresses and even use your Yandex Mail to send emails using these email addresses. In other words, you can use your Yandex Mail to read and send messages from your Yahoo email so that you never have to log in to Yahoo ever again. How great is that? But why would you want to have a Yahoo email anyway?

I find this last feature extremely useful to avoid logging in to mutiple emails all the time and this is what really makes Yandex Mail to useful to me these days. I use Yandex Mail for my personal email but also to manage the inbox for this blog. This is a very useful feature if you operate multiple blogs and have multiple email addresses to manage.

If you’re on the go with ad hoc, limited or slow internet access, you want to make the best use of your internet time and only have to log in to one email address and manage them all.

Multiple Yandex accounts

If you find Yandex Mail so great and you need to have more than one account, you can easily switch between accounts by adding an account to another account. No more logging out and then logging in again, or using private browsing in your browser. Yandex really knows how to make management smooth and quick.

Reliability

This is an aspect often overlooked. During all the time that I have been using Yandex, there have been few major changes and the interface has barely changed. Familiarity is reassuring and I like not having to relearn the layout. I’ve noticed some features being tested now and then, small features added or removed but they’ve always been very discrete, unless it was the introduction of Hot keys when a pop-up was being used. I’ve never noticed the service being down either.

There are regular ‘maintenance’ periods where you can only read emails and not send any or use any other features but they don’t last long. Still, I suppose if you make the effort to get to a PC to check your mail and send a reply, you’re not going to sit around waiting for it to work again.

Others

A few more tools to add are a task list and a sound notification when you receive emails, which you can turn off if it annoys you. It is possible to watch a Youtube video within the email itself or view office documents with a document viewer. Hot keys (keyboard shortcuts) allow for quick navigation such as to reply to an email, compose a new one or send one but I never bothered to learn the combos.

The negatives

So far I’ve listed a long list of features and praises but in order to make it a balanced review, I should highlight what’s not so great too. There are very few items to list here.

Search box

The search box to find emails doesn’t work as well as I would like. Results are not always relevant and the interface is occasionally tricky to use as I have found myself doing a world wide web search within it instead of an email search. Often there are either too few results or too many. There are barely any useful filters to narrow down the long list of not-so-relevant email results. I have found the best way around this is to modify your search term.

Contact list

Yandex automatically saves all your recipients as contacts. This is not good because your list of contacts is overwhelmed and will contain people you will never ever email again. With their autofind feature, when you start typing a contact name in the recipient’s field, all matching contacts will come up. You need to be careful not to send an email to the wrong person. If the contact list was cleaner, fewer matching names would come up meaning there is less chance of you selecting the wrong recipient by mistake.

Task list

The task list, though aesthetically pleasing and functional, is rather limited. It’s literally a small tool where you write down a list though you do have the ability to add a date to your task. I would have preferred a tool more elaborate like a planner but I guess this is beyond the scope of a mailbox.

Calendar

This brings me to my next point: having a calendar in Yandex which I could use as a planner. It would make life so much more organised for me and many others I guess. Imagine planning your travel schedule with this planner, where you will visit and when, what you will do on which day… What is frustrating is that Yandex already has such a calendar but it is in Russian and after all these years, an English version still hasn’t come out.

There are also a few help pages and error pages still in Russian but they are few and far.

Conclusion

Yandex Mail has been available in English for many years now. It is a highly-polished product full of useful features and settings that you can customise just the way you want.

All settings
All settings are easily accessible and none is buried deep.

It also comes with lots of help documentation worth reading to get familiar with all aspects of this product and use it fully.

A few features that really stand out in my opinion are:

  • No ads
  • Ability to check multiple email addresses – a real time-saver
  • Easily accessible settings – nothing is buried deep
  • Very user-friendly layout which you can customise extensively.

 

In short, Yandex Mail is suitable for power users and light users who will easily find their way around. The most urgent thing to improve on in my opinion is their search functionality with the introduction of more powerful filters to narrow down the results.

Do you use Yandex Mail? Why not share your views below?

Check out Yandex Mail here: http://www.bit.ly/mail-at-yandex.

 

4 fallacies of living abroad

Boat in turquoise lagoon

There is a big difference between being a tourist in a country and living your life there. All too often, people travel to a country for holdiays for a couple of weeks or even months and like it so much that they decide to settle there. Emmigrating is more complex than this. Here are four issues all too often misunderstood.

Boat in turquoise lagoon

I don’t need to speak the language

All too often people underestimate the language barrier. English speakers settle for e.g. in Spain or France without speaking a word of the local language. They may get away with English on holiday but to properly integrate within the country, speaking the local language is important. It’s even more important if you are going to work with others.

We’ve all heard about the Poles who came to England without speaking a word of English and still found work. Yes, you can do that too if you want to pick strawberries, work all hours of the day, live with others who speak your language and after some time, go back home with your strawberry earnings.

Is this why you would want to live abroad? To live in your own exclusive community? Can you imagine living your current life in your home country without being able to speak your language at all?

The grass is greener on the other side of the fence

You won’t know until you get there and you can always come back home if you don’t like it but by then you will have wasted a lot of time and resources.

But as the saying goes, the grass is not greener on the other side. Every country has some disadvantages.

  • The US has a high rate of gun crime and the poor can’t afford healthcare.
  • Australia has its own problems with immigration and inner-city slums.
  • Spain is still reeling from the credit crunch.
  • Socialist France wants to tax everything that shines. Beware if you’re rich.
  • Canada’s winter has even caused some Brits to turn back.

Sometimes it helps to look at the worst these countries have to offer to put your own troubles at home into perspective and suddenly life doesn’t seem too bad. Just a few weeks of holidays in the country of your choice and you won’t feel the need to escape permanently from home.

I don’t have enough money to emigrate

People usually want to live abroad with the same level of comfort they are used to. If they have enough money, it is a non-issue. If money is limited to the point of aborting this project, then they have to think twice. They could trade off their standard of living for a life under the sun. Live a little more like the locals. Cut back on restaurants, new cars, bars and spend time on the beach instead if you came for the beach and warm weather. This is all the more possible if the prices are cheaper in the host country. Otherwise, be stuck back home and keep on dreaming about what could have been.

Lowering the standard of living is much easier when living abroad is not permanent. It also depends a lot on the immigration laws of the host country. Often, a minimum level of income is required for entry and that can be quite high. Finally, all the sums must add up. Income must be greater than expenditure. If you manage to cut down on the latter by living more simply and spending elss but your income is still not sufficient to cover all your spending, then it’s a recipe for failure.

I will live happily ever after

When emigrating permanently somewhere, people need to consider what will happen in their old age.
Will their family be around for them when they will be old and infirm? If they are emigrating with young kids, it’s more likely the kids will stay there. If they are emigrating in middle age or in retrement and leaving their kids behind, they could end up far from their family and unable to travel frequently when they get old.

  • Is there a hospital around? The UK is quite compact and there are no long distances to travel like Australia or Canada.
  • Is their accessible public transport in case you can’t drive anymore? Or feel too unwell to drive?
  • Are there are other facilities that may be needed in old age?

 

Living abroad successfully is all about planning and managing expectations. Don’t always believe what people say.

Biggest myths about learning a language

Learning a new language

Learning a new language can be difficult at any age. However, once understood, it can be very rewarding. You will receive a sense of fulfillment and it will also give you many opportunities in life, such as chances to travel, a wider range of potential jobs and increased employability. There are many myths surrounding the ability to learn a new language language.

Learning a new language

Here are just a few myths and the reasoning behind them:

Two languages can’t be learnt at the same time

False: It is very possible to learn two languages at the same time as many people have done so. However, it is a good idea to choose to learn two languages which are different from each other. This will prevent confusion and mistakes as languages such as Spanish and Italian are similar and many words. Phrases and grammar also overlap, which could make it more difficult and frustrating to learn. In addition, you may want to increase your competence in one language before you begin to learn the second. As long as you are dedicated and put the work in, there is no reason why you can’t learn two languages at the same time.

Fluency in a foreign language can’t be acquired unless you learn it before puberty.

True: This is true to some extent. It is a considerably more difficult to learn a language as you get older. However, there are many adults who have become proficient in a foreign language due to dedication and hard work. Childhood is the best time to learn a second language as you will learn to speak it fluently and naturally without your mother tongue’s accent.

All languages are equally difficult to learn

True: Throughout the 6500 languages in the world, all have varying levels of difficulty. Depending on your native tongue, one language could be difficult to you, yet easy to others. For example, if you speak Spanish, learning Italian would be relatively easy as they both use similar vocabulary. If you decided to learn Chinese or Russian, you may find it a lot harder. Therefore, some languages are certainly harder to learn than others.

You shouldn’t learn a foreign language because everybody speaks English

False: Everybody does certainly not speak English. Around 350 million people use English as their first language which is only 5% of the world’s population. If you learn a second language, you will be able to travel and fully understand the cultural surrounding of the origin of your chosen language. This makes it a very good idea to learn another language as there are endless rewarding benefits.

If you’re reday to take the plunge, we can recommend a very good website for complete beginners to get started: duolingo.com. They also have a handy app.

Can you think of any more myths about learning a new language? If so, please leave your comments below.