Categories
Europe Featured Iceland Indonesia New Zealand USA

10 summer driving hazards to avoid

Summer driving has its own set of challenges whether you’re on home ground or not. High temperatures, increased stress levels, and extra demands on your car are all par for the course, so make sure you read our advice to stay safe on the road.

Wet or lost key fobs

It’s easy to lose your car keys in the sand, or ruin your remote control with water by accidentally taking the fob for a swim.

Keep your keys safe and dry and check your handbook – on most cars, there’s an alternative way to open the doors that you can use if the remote stopped working.

If you do need a replacement car key or key fob, call AA Keycare on 0818 646 004. Our specialist service means you’ll have access to a nationwide network of locksmiths.

Punctures

If your tyres are already damaged or they’re at the wrong pressure, the higher temperatures of summer will increase the risk of a blowout.

Make sure you check tyres regularly – for condition and pressures – and increase pressures to suit extra loads, as advised in your handbook.

Check caravan tyres too, and replace those that show any signs of cracking in the sidewall or tread grooves.

Overheating

When driving in hot climates, high temperatures can aggravate cooling system problems too. It’s important to check the coolant and cooling system regularly to avoid overheating.

Glare

Dazzle from the sun causes lots of accidents but you can reduce the effect by keeping your windscreen nice and clean, and by replacing worn or damaged windscreen wipers.

It pays to keep a clean pair of sunglasses in your car year-round but avoid lenses that darken in strong sunlight.

Driving tired

If you feel tired, stop and take a short nap (up to 15 minutes) or drink two cups of strong coffee.

It’s best to avoid getting tired in the first place if you can. These tips can help:

  • Include a 20-minute break in journeys of more than 3 hours
  • On longer trips, take a break every couple of hours
  • You’re better off taking several short (at least 20 minutes) stops than one long one
  • Don’t drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before driving
  • Don’t stop for a nap on the hard shoulder, and make sure you check parking restrictions before putting your head down at a motorway service area as you could get a ticket for overstaying your welcome.

Hayfever

If your hayfever is particularly bad, it’s best to get someone else to drive if you can. Also:

  • Make sure any medication you’re taking doesn’t cause drowsiness
  • Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
  • Clean mats and carpets regularly to get rid of dust
  • Keep tissues close to hand
  • Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight

Loose chippings

Roads repaired with tar and loose chippings are a common sight in the summer but they can cause cracked headlamps and windscreens, and damage paintwork if you’re not careful. Stick to any temporary speed limit that’s been put in place and keep your distance from the car in front.

Fire

If you’re a smoker, don’t just throw your cigarette out of the window when you’ve finished it. Verges and embankments can become bone-dry and a smouldering cigarette may be enough to ignite roadside grass.

Tractors

The driver of that slow-moving tractor in front of you may have a soundproofed cab or could be wearing ear protectors, so may not be able to hear approaching cars.

Be aware that tractors only have to have brake or indicator lights if driving at night, so they may stop or turn suddenly and without warning in daylight hours.

When you’re driving in the countryside:

  • Keep plenty of distance behind a tractor
  • Remember that a tractor may be longer than it appears – there could be a loader on the front
  • Before overtaking, make sure you have plenty of room to get past

Avoid a breakdown this summer

  • Slow down if you come across a spillage – if you hit a bale of straw at speed you will damage your car
  • Don’t park in a gateway or passing place – they are farmers’ field access points
  • Drive extra carefully after rain, which can turn dry mud into a skid pan
  • And don’t forget that if you do experience a breakdown AA Rescue fixes 8 out of 10 vehicles on the spot. Meanwhile, if you’re planning to drive across Europe this summer, remember that with AA European Breakdown Cover local garages across our European road network will be on standby should you experience any bumps on the road.

Looking for ways to keep your driving costs down ahead of the summer? With AA Car Insurance you can receive an automatic €100 discount on any policy purchased online.

Categories
Denmark Europe Featured France Germany Hungary Italy

Forget Paris: the alternative Valentine’s Day guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Forget Paris! Venice? Too predictable. If you’re thinking of heading off with your beloved this Valentine’s Day, we’ve come up with some alternative romantic destinations. You’ll LOVE them!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BUDAPEST” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22354″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The River Danube divides the Hungarian capital into the hilly Buda district to the west and the flatter Pest in the east. The city is connected by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and boasts plenty of romantic cityscapes, ideal for getting down on one knee and popping the big question: “Will we change our Facebook status to ‘In a relationship’?”

What to do:

Budapest is a very easy city to explore by foot. Start your day buying snacks or trinkets in Great Market Hall at the Pest end of Szabadság Bridge and then hop on a sightseeing bus to help you get your bearings. Some hop-on-hop-off bus tours even include a river cruise. Disembark at Margaret Island, a verdant parkland in the city, hire bikes or golf carts pimped to look like mini Rolls Royces and explore. You can even enjoy a thermal spa experience in the park itself! In the evening, throw on your ballgown or tux and enjoy a night at the Hungarian State Opera, which is housed in an impressive neo-Renaissance building.

Getting there:

There are direct flights from Dublin but you will have stopovers if flying from Cork and Shannon.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”LYON” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22356″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Located in eastern France, Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has plenty to offer lovebirds looking to make memories. More importantly, the city will provide you with stunning backdrops with which to update your social media.

What to do:

Pay a visit to the magnificent Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and you will be rewarded with stunning views from its vantage point over the city. Whilst there, you can dine at the Restaurant de Fourvière and survey all below from the giant panoramic bay windows. Go for romantic strolls around Place Bellecour, a large pedestrianised square in the Ainay district which has great shopping streets. What’s more romantic than a trip to Zara? Answer: nothing.

Getting there:

Aer Lingus, Ryanair, KLM and Lufthansa fly direct from Dublin. Flights also operate from Cork, Kerry, Shannon, Donegal and Knock but with stopovers.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”HAMBURG” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22357″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Think canals, think Venice – but did you know that Hamburg has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined? I bet you did not. Regardless, Hamburg is a beautiful city with plenty of green spaces, diverse architecture and shopping.

What to do:

Pretend to be a giant at Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model train exhibit, with 10 miles of track and over 260,000 figurines. Located in the Speicherstadt area of the city, a few hours will pass easily as you take in tiny replicas of Hamburg, the Alps, America and Scandinavia. If you’re visiting on a weekend, the Flohschanze market in the Sternschanze neighbourhood – Hamburg’s old meatpacking district – is a 30-minute walk away. Running from 8am to 4pm, there are hundreds of stalls for you to browse. Finish off your visit with a river tour of the Elbe leaving from Landungsbrücken, and take in one of the world’s busiest ports.

Getting there:

Fly direct to Hamburg from Dublin and from Cork and Shannon with stopovers.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BOLOGNA” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22358″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Located in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Region, Bologna is Europe’s oldest university town. The city famously gave the world Bolognese sauce, traditionally served with tagliatelle and lasagne. There is much to see and do in this beautiful city, which is perfect for lovers and food lovers.

What to do:

If you want to experience the best in Italian food and drink, a visit to food theme park FICO Eately World, has to be on your list. Set over two hectares of fields with over 40 restaurants, farming factories and up to 30 events and 50 classes per day, you’ll feel like an expert the next time you order a meat feast pizza on a Friday night from your local takeaway. A couple of hours exploring the grid of streets known as the Quadrilatero, packed with cafés and delis, is also recommended. Finally, if you’ve got a head for heights, climb to the top of one of the city’s two leaning towers, Torre degli Asinelli.

Getting there:

Direct flights operate from Dublin. Flights leaving from Cork, Knock or Shannon will have one or more stops.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”COPENHAGEN” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22359″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and the national concept of hygge, roughly translated as “cosy, charming or special” – perfect for a romantic weekend with your loved one. You won’t be able to cope(nhagen) with all it has to offer.

What to do:

After dark, head to Tivoli, a giant amusement park in the city where a winter theme continues until the end of February. Complete with snow, thousands of twinkling lights, rides, cafés and restaurants, your Valentine’s visit is guaranteed to feel festive. For a more alternative experience, head to Freetown Christiana, a car-free neighbourhood established in 1971 by a group of hippies. Browse galleries, organic restaurants and homemade houses and soak up the atmosphere. Finally, a trip to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without visiting the bronze statue of The Little Mermaid by the waterside at Langelinie promenade. Fun fact to casually drop into conversation and impress your lover: the statue was originally gifted to the city by brewer Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg breweries and is therefore probably the best bronze statue of a mermaid in the world. You can steal that joke too while you’re at it.

Getting there:

Fly direct from Dublin and with one or more stopovers from Cork and Shannon.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”MORE IDEAS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

All photos: public domain.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Bulgaria Czech Republic Europe Featured Poland Romania Slovakia Sport and leisure Winter sports

Skiing on a budget in eastern Europe

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

While undoubtedly fun, the expense of skiing can be off-putting. There’s kit to buy, flights, ski passes and accommodation to pay for – not to mention the cost of après-ski. It all adds up very quickly. With this in mind, we’ve done some research and found a handful of more affordable ski resorts in Eastern Europe. They may not be as glam as Gstaad, but they won’t break the bank…

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”POLAND – ideal for beginners and families” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22293″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Poland’s most popular resort is Zakopane, a two-hour drive from Krakow and ideal for beginners and families. Intermediate skiers and those looking for a great nightlife should look elsewhere, but if skiing in the snow-tracks of a former Pope is one of your goals, then you’re in luck (Pope John Paul II was a regular visitor).

Zakopane is made up of several smaller resorts spread around the town which can be accessed by bus. Most offer pay-as-you-go lift passes and eating out is also quite reasonable. Skiing conditions are at their best in January but be warned: the days are short and cold. The end of February and the full month of March are popular with skiers.

GETTING THERE:

Ryanair fly direct to Krakow from Dublin and from Cork and Shannon with one stopover. Taxis, mini-buses and coaches can be hired for transfer to Zakopane.

MORE INFO:

discoverzakopane.com

Image by Konrad Wąsik, used under CC-BY-3.0 licence.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”CZECH REPUBLIC – great for kids” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22294″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The Krkonoše is the Czech Republic’s highest mountain range and Janské Lázne is a small spa town nestled among the peaks. Book your flights to Prague and it will take you about two hours to get to the snow. Once you arrive, there are gentle, wooded slopes which are suited to beginners, intermediates and children. There are also child-friendly menus and hotels, and cheap lessons.

GETTING THERE:

Aer Lingus and Ryanair both fly direct to Prague from Dublin. They also operate flights from Cork and Shannon with one stopover. It’s a two-hour drive from the airport to the resort and a number of taxi services can be booked for a fixed price.

MORE INFO:

janske-lazne.cz

Image by T. Przechlewski, used under CC-BY-3.0 licence.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BULGARIA – great nightlife” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22295″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Borovets is the oldest, biggest, and one of the cheapest ski resorts in Bulgaria. It’s especially good for those who haven’t skied before and intermediates, as there are good nursery runs for those starting out and most hotels are located next to the slopes. Borovets is also known for its busy and affordable nightlife.

GETTING THERE:         

Ryanair fly to Sofia three times weekly and there are shuttle services to Borovets once you land, which take approx. 55 minutes. Aer Lingus fly to Bourgas, located to the far east of Borovets, but it will take an extra three and a half/four hour journey. Car hire is available at Bourgas Airport.

MORE INFO:

bulgariaski.com/borovets

Image by Tropcho, used under CC-BY-SA-4.0 licence.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”ROMANIA – perfect for beginners and intermediates” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22296″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Romania’s most popular ski resort is Poiana Brasov, Transylvania and is perfect for beginners and intermediates. The ski area covers 14km which is small compared to other European resorts, but it is still a very attractive and affordable location for a ski break. There are two cable cars and a gondola that will bring you to an altitude of 1775m. You can then enjoy a long, 45-minute run to the bottom without taking another lift.

While you’re there, you could also take a day away from the slopes and pay a visit to nearby Bran Castle, which inspired Irish writer Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

GETTING THERE:

Ryanair, Turkish Airlines and Blue Air all fly to Bucharest, Romania direct. There are also flights from Cork and Shannon which include one stopover. Getting to the slopes requires an extra three-and-a-half hour travel. Shuttle buses and taxis are available for hire or you can take the train which will be approx. four-and-a-half hours. A taxi from the airport to Bucuresti Nord station is 30 minutes by car. You then take the train to Brasov and use local transport to get to Poiana Brasov.

MORE INFO:

ski-in-romania.com

Image by Surovyi, used under CC-BY-2.5 licence.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”SLOVAKIA – suitable for advanced skiers” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22297″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Jasná in Slovakia is located in Chopok mountain, one of the highest in the Low Tatra range, and is suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to experts. Snow is guaranteed for five months a year with the ski season lasting from the end of December to the start of April. There’s lots to do besides skiing with restaurants and nightclubs as well as an Aqua Park and indoor sky-diving.

GETTING THERE:

A number of airlines operate from Dublin to Bratislava, Slovakia but Ryanair is the only company that flies direct and offer several flights each week. Car hire is available at Bratislava Airport and it will then take over three hours to reach Jasná.

MORE INFO:

jasna.sk

Image by Marcin Szala, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GET COVERED” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The AA’s Winter Sports Cover can be added to your Essential or Extra* Travel Insurance policy if you decide to hit the slopes. As well as all the benefits of AA Travel Insurance, adding on Winter Sports covers you for things like your ski pass, lessons and equipment.

*Don’t forget that AA Members get extra benefits on Travel Insurance with the AA Extra Policy. If you’re an AA Member at the time you take out Annual Travel Insurance, you can enjoy unlimited medical cover and no excess on any claim – as well as the usual benefits – from just €34.99.

Main image used under CC0 licence.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Europe Featured Greece Portugal Spain

Winter sun holidays: the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler… but if you don’t have school-age children, you don’t have to put away the Factor 50 just yet. While peak sun holiday season is drawing to a close, plenty of European destinations hold on to their sunny weather right through the autumn months. In fact, it might be the perfect time for that sun trip: prices are lower, crowds are smaller and you can bask in the knowledge that you’re avoiding cold weather at home!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”TENERIFE (Canary Islands, Spain)” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22261″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]If you’re dreaming of long days on the beach, there’s no better place than Tenerife, where the sea is at its warmest in the autumn months. As with the other Canary Islands, it boasts year-round warm weather. Daytime temperatures seldom dip below 20 degrees and rain is fairly rare. The island has no shortage of sandy beaches to laze on, with an unusual twist – many of them have black sand, due to the island’s volcanic origins, so you’ll be guaranteed plenty of variety for your holiday snaps.

Tenerife has been welcoming tourists for over half a century and its resorts stay open 365 days a year. In Playa de las Américas, the biggest resort, you’ll find hotel and apartments for all budgets. If it’s nightlife you’re after, look no further than the Veronicas Strip, full of bars that stay busy long into the night. For those travelling with toddlers though, Los Gigantes on the west coast is a slightly quieter option, with plenty of restaurants centred around a marina.

If you want to venture beyond the pool or beach, the island has plenty to offer. It’s home to two UNESCO heritage sites: Spain’s highest volcano in Teide Mountain Park (where you can take a cable car for unrivalled views) and the picturesque old town of San Cristobál de la Laguna. You can also take boat tours to see dolphins, or have a day out in Loro Parque zoo.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays start from €350 per person for a week, or if you’d prefer to book independently, flights are available from Dublin, Cork and Shannon (year-round) and Knock (until November) costing around €200 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”THE ALGARVE (Portugal)” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22262″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Portugal’s Algarve region stays sunny well into autumn, with temperatures hovering at the 20 degree mark. Taking up most of the southern coast between the cities of Faro and Lagos, it’s home to over 150 sandy beaches, many of which are framed by spectacular orange cliffs. The Atlantic Ocean gives Portugal a great variety here – there are calm beaches ideal for paddling and catching rays, while others have the perfect conditions for surfers to catch waves, particularly near Lagos.

You’ll still have a large choice of hotels in autumn, with the added bonus of shorter queues for restaurants. Albufeira is the biggest resort town, with a famous strip of bars and clubs to dance until the small hours. Away from the strip, it also has the quieter Old Town, with bars and restaurants to while away the warm autumn nights.

You could easily spend a week relaxing by the pool and exploring the various beaches, but the city of Faro also is well worth a visit, especially its own historic Old Town. History buffs will also like the Castelo de Silves, an impressive Moorish hill-top fortress, while thrill-seekers can enjoy a kayak tour from Lagos. Lagos is also home to a zoo and a national park with playgrounds for those with young children.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays are available from €200 per person for a week, or flights go from Dublin (year-round) and Cork and Knock (until November), starting from €100 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”CYPRUS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22263″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Tucked away in the corner of the Mediterranean, Cyprus boasts sea temperatures of up to 26 degrees, so there’s no risk of dipping a toe in and running away shrieking. Or if you’d rather just soak up the sun, there’s an average of nine hours sunshine a day in October, so don’t forget the suncream.

There are resorts dotted around the island, with plenty of hotels to choose from. For nightlife, it can only be Ayia Napa for all-night parties. If that’s not your scene or you’re travelling with infants, try the quieter town of Coral Bay, just outside the resort area in Paphos.

Away from the beaches, Cyprus has plenty for history and culture fans to enjoy, including Aphrodite’s Rock, the 2000-year-old Tomb of the Kings and the huge archaeological sites at Kourion and Salamis. There’s also a wine festival in Limassol and a 10-day arts and culture festival in the capital, Nicosia. The waterparks stay open until late October, while most tourist attractions and zoos are open year-round.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays start from €450 per person per week. If you’re booking flights only, you’ll need to connect via London Stansted, with a total cost of around €260 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”MALTA” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22264″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Like Cyprus, Malta’s location in the Mediterranean means that summer weather lasts until November, with the mercury lingering in the low twenties. Beach lovers have a choice of gold sand, red sand and flat rocks, while the seas are very warm for swimming and usually clear enough for snorkelling. The catch is that the island gets a little more rain than other destinations in October. However, the majority of days are dry and showers tend to last very short periods of time – so be sure to pack a light raincoat along with your suncream.

Bugibba, on St Paul’s Bay in the north, is the oldest and biggest resort. There’s a vast choice of hotels and apartments to suit all ages, and most of the tourist-aimed bars and restaurants stay open until at least late October. St Julian’s Bay, closer to the capital Valetta, is known for its nightlife and clubs.

Outside the resorts, Malta is full of historic sites worth visiting, especially the old city of Mdina, known as the ‘silent city’. The capital Valetta also has plenty of beautiful old buildings, while the picturesque island of Gozo makes a great day trip, with ferries every 45 minutes from the north of the country. A more unusual attraction is Popeye Village – the set from the 1980 Robin Williams film, which has been turned into a theme park.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays are available from about €300 per person for a week, while flights run from Dublin year-round, costing around €135 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”ATHENS (Greece)” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22265″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]If you’d like a sun holiday with a difference, why not combine it with a city break and head to Athens? If you stay in Glyfada – a beach resort filled with hotels, restaurants and shops to the south of the Greek capital– you can have the best of both worlds. Spend a few days relaxing on the pebbled beaches in Glyfada itself or the sandy beach at Varkiza, where the seas are even warmer than the air, and then take the tram into Athens for sun-soaked sightseeing.

No trip to Athens is complete without a visit to the world-famous Acropolis and Parthenon. The city’s ancient history is very much on display and there are plenty of organised tours. You can also take a cable car to the top of Mount Lycabettus or spend an afternoon wandering the tiny streets of the old town in Plaka.

Set in the shadow of the Acropolis, Plaka is famous for its nightlife, as is the nearby Syntagma area.  If you want to dance the night away, the last tram returns to Glyfada at 2:30am at weekends. (For the real night owls, they start up again at 5:30am!)

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package trips to Athens are relatively rare, but are normally around €300 per person per week. You can also book flights year-round from €135 per person.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”FURTHER READING” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Looking for more ideas for short breaks? See below!

Best things to do in Porto in just 24 hours

Travelling to Berlin – the AA Roadwatch guide

Travelling to Amsterdam – the AA Roadwatch guide

Travelling to Edinburgh – the AA Roadwatch guide[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FORGET!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

We hope that everything will run smoothly on your trip, but AA Travel Insurance will give you the peace of mind that you need before you jet off.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

All images used under CC0 licence.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Europe Featured Ireland Sport and leisure

Family fun when the sun shines: the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Main pic: public domain

The weather doesn’t always play ball in Ireland, but we’re bound to get at least a few sunny days in the coming weeks. When it happens, you’ll want to make the most of it. The country is full of interesting and exciting day-trip destinations to make family memories over the school holidays – here are a few ideas to get you started.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”CYCLE THE GREENWAYS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22084″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo: public domain

Cycling with the family can be stressful – but not on the greenways. These are old railway lines that have been converted into off-road walking and cycling trails. No cars, no junctions and mostly flat terrain: a perfect summer’s day out for young or novice cyclists. You can bring your own bikes or rent them along the way, bring a picnic and enjoy the scenery of a landscape without traffic (a rare sight for us at Roadwatch!).  Each trail snakes under viaducts and through old tunnels, which the kids will love. The Great Western Greenway in Mayo passes a number of beaches and the Waterford one has two rail-themed playgrounds (one at Durrow and one at Ballinroad). Each trail is divided into one-to-two hour sections, but for younger children, your best option is to pick a short stretch of the trail starting and ending at towns that the railway used to serve.

ESSENTIAL INFO

The Great Western Greenway (42km) stretches from Newport to Achill along the Mayo coastline, off the N59, while the Great Southern Trail (40km) snakes from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale in Limerick, just off the N21.

The Waterford Greenway (46km) travels from Waterford City to Dungarvan, and the Athlone to Mullingar Greenway (40km) does exactly what it says on the tin.

If you don’t have your own bikes, they can be rented along the way – check each trail’s website for their local providers. You can find info on all Irish greenways here.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”IMMERSE YOURSELF IN IRELAND’S HERITAGE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22123″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo of Kilkenny Castle by Aldebaran, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

The Office of Public Works recently made all its heritage sites free for children under 12, so why not get their imaginations going with a trip to a castle or fortress? Ireland’s history is full of rich stories that really come to life in children’s minds at heritage sites across the country. OPW sites include castles such as Donegal Castle, Kilkenny Castle and Ross Castle (Kerry), fortresses like Dún Aonghasa (Galway) and Charles Fort (Cork) and other famous historical sites including the Rock of Cashel (Tipperary), Newgrange/Brú na Bóinne (Meath) and the Glendalough Visitor Centre (Wicklow). Many sites have age-specific tours, or let you wander at your own pace. Bring a picnic on a sunny day (make sure to eat in the designated areas!) and let the little ones immerse themselves in the past.

ESSENTIAL INFO                                                                         

The OPW is in charge of a total of 780 sites, 70 of which have guided tour services. Children under 12 go free to all sites, while adult prices vary for each one.  As well as that, all sites are free for all visitors on the first Wednesday of each month.

You can learn more about all OPW heritage sites here.

Check our Routeplanner for directions to your chosen site, as well as details of any delays or traffic incidents along the way.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GO TO EXTREMES AT AN ADVENTURE PARK” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22214″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo: public domain

Want to have a memorable day out, pick up a new skill or two… and maybe even tire the kids out? Try one of the adventure centres around the country, where you can learn to kayak, rock-climb or shoot arrows, among other outdoor pursuits. In Lough Key Forest Park (Roscommon), check out a Segway tour through the forest or try your hand at Boda Borg – a Swedish Crystal Maze where the whole family will have to work together to solve the puzzles and overcome obstacles. Galway’s Delphi Adventure Centre and Louth’s Carlingford Adventure Centre both have a big focus on watersports, but you can also take mountain biking and bushcraft survival lessons in Delphi and climbing and ziplining in Carlingford. Meanwhile in Castlecomer Discover Park (Kilkenny), there’s a new high ropes course and boating lake.

ESSENTIAL INFO

All centres have a wide variety of activities for all age groups, from the little ones right up to the grown-ups, but it’s wise to book in advance where possible.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”SEEK THRILLS AT TAYTO PARK” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”22216″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo by KillianfromTaytoPark, used under CC-BY-SA-4.0 licence

Crisp-based theme parks aren’t exactly ten-a-penny, so you’re guaranteed a unique day out at Tayto Park. Ireland’s only permanent theme park is famous for its wooden rollercoaster, but there are plenty of attractions to keep the whole family entertained. Older children and adrenaline seekers will love the four themed zones with a skywalk, zipline and water rides (make sure to bring a change of clothes!). For those who are too small for rollercoasters, there are plenty of age-specific playgrounds, a dinosaur walk, mazes and live shows. There’s also a petting zoo – where pygmy goats and Highland cows wander about freely – and a larger wildlife section where you can see big cats and exotic birds. And if you’ve ever wondered how crisps are made, you can take a factory tour (weekdays only) to learn all you ever needed to know.

ESSENTIAL INFO

Tayto Park is located north of Ashbourne, just off the N2 Dublin/Monaghan Rd: turn off at the signs for Dunshaughlin and Ratoath. You can use our Routeplanner to check for any delays or incidents on your journey. Bus Éireann also run direct routes from Dublin and Drogheda (103 and 105).

Entry is from €15 per person, with all-inclusive wristbands from €28. Book in advance when you can, especially at weekends. See here for full details.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”EXPLORE THE PHOENIX PARK” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”22215″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo by Superchilum, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

For many children, the Phoenix Park is synonymous with Dublin Zoo, which has been delighting visitors young and old for almost two centuries. One of the world’s oldest zoos, it’s home to 400 animals from all over the world, as well playgrounds and exhibitions for all age groups. Outside the zoo, however, the Phoenix Park has enough attractions for a full week’s worth of day trips, with no two days the same. The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre has exhibits on the park’s history and runs free weekly conservation workshops for children ages 6 to 12 on Sunday mornings. At the far end of the park, Farmleigh House has a whole summer programme of free family events, ranging from puppet shows to farmers’ markets. Or for a less structured visit, just take a picnic to one of the green spaces, visit one of the many children’s playgrounds and/or get close to the park’s herd of wild deer, who normally graze near the Papal monument.

ESSENTIAL INFO

The Phoenix Park is located just north-west of Dublin city centre, with the main gates at Parkgate St (near Heuston Station) and Castleknock Rd. There are also a number of side gates. It’s worth planning your route before you head out, as it can be a very long walk from one end of the park to another.  Car parking is available at the Papal Cross, the Lord’s Walk and the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. Dublin Bus operate a number of routes near the various gates (37, 38, 39, 46a, and 70) and the Luas Red Line stops at Heuston Station, near the Parkgate St entrance.

The Visitor Centre workshops take place each Sunday from 11am – 12pm.  Farmleigh House’s summer programme can be found here. Family tickets for Dublin Zoo start at €49 and can be pre-booked – see here.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”MEET DOMESTIC AND EXOTIC ANIMALS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”22220″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Photo: courtesy of Fota Wildlife Park

If you have animal lovers at home but you’re too far from Tayto Park or the Phoenix Park to visit their zoos, don’t fret. There are plenty of places around the country where you can meet animals of all kinds, learn about their habitats and maybe even feed them – education and fun at the same time. Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is one of Ireland’s largest visitor attractions, with animals and plants from around the world. It also runs Arts and Crafts workshops and Family Fun Days throughout the summer. In Kerry, Coolwood Wildlife Park outside Killarney is home to animals including lemurs, macaques and alpacas on a 50 acre site. Stone Hall Visitor Farm in Limerick has all of the usual farm animals, but also a few you mightn’t expect like llamas, peacocks and emus. In Galway, Turoe Pet Farm allows children to get close to rabbits, donkeys and goats, and explore a 14km nature trail. And in the east of the country, Secret Valley Wildlife in Wexford is a growing conservation park, where children can have a go at being a zookeeper for a day.

ESSENTIAL INFO

  • Fota Wildlife Park is just outside Cork City: turn off the N25 Cork/Waterford Rd at J3 Tullagreen. Family tickets start from €48.
  • Coolwood Wildlife Park is off the N72 Killarney Bypass at Coolcaslagh. Family tickets are from €30.
  • Stone Hall Visitor Farm is located in Curraghchase, approx. 20km from Limerick City off the N69 Foynes Rd. Family prices are from €35.
  • Turoe Pet Farm in Galway is not far from the M6 Dublin/Galway Rd at J16 Loughrea, with prices from €24.
  • Secret Valley Wildlife is in Clonroche, Wexford, off the N30 Enniscorthy/New Ross Rd. Family tickets start at €32.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

Check out the AA Roadwatch team’s recommendations for longer breaks within Ireland.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Featured Las Vegas USA

Las Vegas – All you need to know for your trip

On August 26th at the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas strip, Irish UFC hero Conor McGregor will fight Floyd Mayweather in what will surely be a historic boxing match. If you’re thinking about heading over, we’ve got all the details you need to plan what will be a definitely be memorable trip, no matter what the outcome of the bout may be.

Getting there:

Currently, there are no direct routes from Dublin to Las Vegas. One of the most popular ways and easiest for Irish people to get to Vegas is to fly from Dublin or Shannon to JFK in New York and get a connecting flight from there to Vegas. You can also fly from Dublin or Shannon to London and then on to Las Vegas. Alternatively, you could fly to California and get a flight, rent a car or bus it to Vegas from there. Aer Lingus have a number of different direct flights to American cities and offer connecting flight to Vegas so you can work out which option suits you best. You’ll also need an ESTA in order to get into the country.

 

The ESTA is an electronic registration system requiring travellers who are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to register in advance of travelling to the US. You should register through the Department of Homeland Security website, where you will have to pay a fee (currently $14).
Registration can be done by third parties on your behalf, such as travel agencies, and multiple applications can be completed and paid for in one transaction.

You can submit an ESTA application at any time prior to travel – the Department of Homeland Security recommends that it be submitted at least 72 hours in advance of travel. Once approved, it will be valid for multiple entries into the US and generally for up to two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.

  • If you don’t get authorisation to travel you’ll need to go to your nearest US Diplomatic or Consular Mission and apply for a visa.
  • An ESTA approval does not determine admissibility into the US. The final decision for entry to the US rests with immigration authorities at the port of entry.
  • The ESTA programme does not apply if you have a visa for the US.
  • Children, including infants, who are endorsed on a parent’s passport must have an individual machine-readable passport or else obtain a visa in the parent’s passport.
  • In most cases, to enter the US, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date you enter. However, Ireland has an agreement with the US that allows you to enter on a current passport up to the actual date of expiration – so your Irish passport needs to be valid only for the duration of your stay in the US.
  • However, if you’re travelling visa-free on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and your passport is valid for less than 90 days, you will be admitted only until the date on which the passport expires. If the passport is not valid for the duration of your stay, you must apply for a new passport from your nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate while in the US.

Information gathered via The Department of Foreign Affairs

 

Getting around:

Most of Vegas is accessible on foot. However, the Las Vegas Strip is 4 miles long so public transport is a better option for most. Buses on the strip are very easily accessible and run 24/7, every 15 – 20 minutes. You can also travel the strip by monorail, which has trains arriving every 4-8 minutes and runs Monday 7am – 12 midnight, Tuesday through Thursday 7am – 2am and Friday through Sunday 7am-3am.

 

Things to do:

You’ll never run out of things to do in Las Vegas, it just depends on how long you’re there for. Here’s just a couple of things we recommend doing while in Sin City:

vegas

Place a bet: No trip to Vegas would be complete without a little gambling. Try your hand at one of the thousands of slot machines around or have a go at red or black. If you’re feeling more confident, take a seat at one of the more serious tables in any of the hotel casinos.

Watch the Dancing Waters Fountain Show at the Bellagio: One of the best free attractions in Vegas. Over 1,200 water cannons dance to music in the lake in front of the hotel, reaching highs of over 400ft. They take place every 15-30 minutes until midnight, depending on the time of year.

vegas

SlotZilla Zip line: One for the thrill seekers! This zip line flies you over downtown Las Vegas. It has two different height levels, depending on how daring you feel. Prices vary from $20 to $45.

Go to a pool party: Dayclubbing is a phenomenon which has really developed in Las Vegas in the last few years. What better way to cool off from the intense Vegas heat by partying it up poolside with some of the world’s best known DJs? Some of the most popular are Encore Beach Club, Drais Beach Club and Wet Republic at MGM Grand. A full schedule of DJ sets and venues is available here.

See a show: Whether you’re interested in concerts, magic, sport, cirque, comedy or musicals, Vegas has a show for you. Most hotels have venues in their establishments with nightly entertainment from some of the world’s best performers. Full schedules and ticket information is available here.

Visit The Hoover Dam: The Hoover Dam is one of the largest in the world and is just an hour from Las Vegas. Tours go daily from most of the hotels on the strip.

vegas

Before travelling, it’s recommended that you take out annual multi-trip travel insurance. This will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

If you’re planning to rent a car while in the US, and you’re an AA customer, you can get up to 10% off and an additional driver added free with Enterprise, Alamo and National Car Rental. Click here for more information.

Categories
Featured Ireland

AA Roadwatch’s favourite Irish staycations

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Main photo – public domain

While travelling abroad is wonderful, it’s all too easy to overlook the holiday gems that we have right here on our doorstep. There are countless good reasons why almost nine million people visited Ireland in 2016, and they are all available for Irish holidaymakers to enjoy at a fraction of the cost, hassle and travelling time of those glamorous foreign destinations.

From spectacular coastlines to picturesque villages, bucket-and-spade fun to vibrant nightlife, Ireland has it all. We asked the AA Roadwatch team to recommend some of their favourite ‘staycations’, most of which bring back fond memories of those hazy childhood holidays. So leave the passport in the bottom drawer, hop in the car or on the train and get exploring![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22123″ title=”KILKENNY CITY” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Aldebaran, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Whether you’re in the mood for a raucous weekend or want something a little more sedate, Kilkenny is a city that has something for everyone.

HIGHLIGHTS:

If you’re staying in the city, a walk along the River Nore by Kilkenny Castle and a detour into the castle grounds is worth a few hours of your time. I’ve never done a tour of the castle itself but it’s on my list for the next time I visit.

Just over the road on The Parade, Ristorante Rinuccini serves delicious, authentic Italian cuisine. The Grapevine Wine and Tapas Bar on Rose Inn Street is another great spot but in each case I would ring ahead and book in.

Not too far away from Kilkenny City is beautiful Inistioge which looks like a movie set. In fact, a number of films have been shot there, including Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture in 2015. The village is a perfect place to have lunch, ideally before or after visiting nearby Woodstock Gardens which overlooks the River Nore Valley.

If you want to bring home a souvenir, then spending an afternoon in the Nicholas Mosse Pottery Factory should be added to your list. Located in an old stone mill in Bennettsbridge, just south of Kilkenny City and only two minutes from J9 on the M9 motorway, the views from the cafe are worth a visit alone.

GETTING THERE:

There are lots of public transport options available for Kilkenny City such as Bus Eireann, JJ Kavanagh & Sons, Dublin Coach and Irish Rail, all of which offer regular services. If travelling by car, exit at J8 Kilkenny or J9 Kilkenny South (if staying at Mount Juliet) on the M9, or J4 Urlingford on the M8.

WHERE TO STAY:

There are plenty of options for all budgets in Kilkenny, but if you are treating yourself, there are number of AA approved hotels to consider. A short drive from the city, the four-star Lyrath Hotel Estate is set on 170 acres of mature parkland and boasts two AA Rosettes. Alternatively, you may prefer Butler House on Patrick St, a stone’s throw from Kilkenny Castle. For the keen golfer, the triple AA Rosette-awarded Mount Juliet Hotel is an attractive option. Set in 1,500 acres of parkland, it boasts a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. This means nothing to me, which is why I would probably spend my time in the hotel’s excellent spa. Esther O’Moore-Donohoe[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22170″ title=”DUNMORE EAST, WATERFORD” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Flickr user karenandkerry used under CC BY 2.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Explore the picturesque fishing village where BBC drama Kat & Alfie: Redwater was filmed.

HIGHLIGHTS:

As well as half a dozen beaches and coves (my favourites are Lawlor’s Strand and Ladies Cove), sailing, fishing, kayaking and diving are all on offer in the village – check out the Adventure Centre in the harbour for activities for both children and adults. There’s also a cliff walk from Dunmore East to Portally Cove which takes about half an hour.

The biggest event in the village calendar is the Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival in August. Over the weekend, groups from all over the world perform in pubs and bars across Dunmore and turn the whole village into a toe-tappin’, roots and country music party.

If you’re looking for a pint any other time of the year, you’ll be well looked after in Powers Pub (“The Butcher’s”) and for a bite to eat, try The Lemon Tree and The Spinnaker (especially for seafood lovers).

As well as what Dunmore has to offer, the county’s newest attraction is the Waterford Greenway, a 45km walking and cycling trail which runs along the old railway line between Waterford and Dungarvan.

You could also check out The Viking Triangle, the cultural and heritage quarter in Waterford City – about 20 minutes’ drive from Dunmore.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Waterford City is connected to the rest of the country by the M9, the N24 and the N25. From there take the Dunmore Rd (R683/R684) – or if you’re using public transport, Suirway runs buses out to the village throughout the day.

If you’re coming from Wexford, there’s also a ferry to Passage East (15 mins from Dunmore).

WHERE TO STAY:

The Strand Inn sits right next to Lawlor’s Beach and is one of the most featured locations in Redwater. There are plenty of B&Bs and hotels in the village too, but if they’re all booked up, Faithlegg House Hotel is about 15 mins away and would be an AA-recommended alternative. Ruth Jephson[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22126″ title=”NORTH COAST OF ANTRIM” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Chmee2, used under CC-BY-3.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

A host of world-famous tourist destinations set in spectacular scenery.

HIGHLIGHTS:

There’s only one place to start here – the legendary Giant’s Causeway. The bizarre rock formation is made up of hexagonal columns of basalt which sweep down from the cliffs to the wild Atlantic. It’s a must-see, and I recommend making a day of it as there are some fantastic coastal walks in the area too.

A couple of miles from the causeway, you can pay a visit to the historic Old Bushmills Distillery to find out about how their world-famous whiskey is made – and to sample the goods. The tour is great but a weekday visit is best as the bottling plant falls silent at weekends. If you’re a golfer, you’ll be spoilt for choice – Darren Clarke’s home course Royal Portrush will host the The Open in 2019, while Graeme McDowell’s home links Rathmore is just next door.

Game Of Thrones fans shouldn’t miss the chance to see the eerie Kingsroad for themselves. Also known as The Dark Hedges, the beautiful avenue of beech trees is a key filming location for the show, and it’s situated at the entrance to Gracehill House near Stranocum – about half-an-hour’s drive from Portrush. Then there’s the ruined Dunluce Castle, glorious sandy beaches, Carrick-a-Rede’s hair-raising rope bridge… Lots to do.

HOW TO GET THERE:

From the south and east, take the M1/A1/M1 to Belfast, then follow signs for Derry to join the M2. Exit at J6 Antrim and take the A26 to Coleraine. From there, it’s a short drive to the coast.

From the west, take the N17 Galway/Sligo Rd and then the N15/N13 to Derry. From there, take the A2 to Coleraine and onward to your destination. Use AA Routeplanner for exact directions, travel times, fuel costs and traffic information from AA Roadwatch.

WHERE TO STAY:

Bushmills Inn is a perfect base for a north coast holiday – situated right in the centre of Bushmills and walking distance from the distillery, it’s also just three miles from the Giant’s Causeway. The hotel is described as “spotless and welcoming” by AA inspectors, and I can vouch for the excellent food and cosy bar.

If you’re on a budget, there’s a Premier Inn in the nearby town of Coleraine. Chris Jones[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22127″ title=”LAHINCH, CLARE” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo – public domain

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Lahinch is a seaside town with all the essentials: a 2km beach, fun activities and plenty of pubs!

HIGHLIGHTS:

One of the first things people think of when they hear ‘Lahinch’ is surfing. Lahinch Surf School and Ben’s Surf Clinic are based on the prom and offer lessons whether you’re a pro or just starting off. The latter also offers rock climbing, kayaking and archery in his adventure centre.

Lahinch is a great spot for a night out. Kenny’s usually has some great live music and The Nineteenth or The Shamrock are welcoming pubs. If you’re in the mood for some dancing, The Claremont is certainly an experience… O’Looney’s also boasts a late bar, with live music or a DJ. Finally, no night out in Lahinch is complete without a visit to the Chinese where Billy will look after you.

From Lahinch, it’s less than a 15-minute drive to the Cliffs of Moher (pictured). It’s a beautiful spot for an Instagram and the fresh breeze will sort out any hangovers. There’s also a visitor centre there if you’d like to discover more about the geology and wildlife of the area. I’d definitely recommend doing (at least some of!) the cliff walk down to Doolin to really experience the rugged beauty of the cliffs.

HOW TO GET THERE:

You can get to Lahinch from Dublin using the M7 southbound and then the N18 northbound until you turn off at J12 Killow. You’ll bypass Ennis on the N85 and continue along the road to Ennistymon, where you’ll turn left at Blake’s Corner and head out the N67 Lahinch Road to your destination.

WHERE TO STAY:

If you’re looking for a treat, Moy House is a five-star AA lodge overlooking the bay. You can also dine in the restaurant, which has two AA Rosettes.

For a budget option, Lahinch Hostel is located at the top of Main St. At weekends, it’s €18 per person per night with a light breakfast included. Róisín Nestor[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text image=”22128″ title=”SALTHILL, GALWAY” title_tag=”h2″]

Photo by Terence wiki, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence

[/image_with_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]IN A FEW WORDS:

Head west to one of Ireland’s best seaside destinations.

HIGHLIGHTS:

With sandy beaches, beautiful scenery and great craic, there’s plenty to do in Salthill. A dip in the world famous Galway Bay, a stroll along the promenade or a flutter in the iconic casinos are just a few of the activities on offer in this charming old seaside resort.

If you fancy something different, though, there are also some less conventional options. Salthill is the home of the Galway Atlantaquaria – Ireland’s largest native species aquarium. With tours and talks throughout the day that include big fish feeding, touch pool tours and freshwater fish feeding, this is the perfect spot to combine education and fun. There are plenty of knowledgeable and friendly staff on hand and it’s affordable, with tickets priced from €7.50 to €12.

One of my favourite ways to spend a day in Salthill is to catch a match in Pearse Stadium. Galway is one of Ireland’s most successful GAA counties and on a sunny day it’s hard to beat the colour, noise and atmosphere of the Tribesmen’s home ground in the heart of Salthill. Whether it’s football or hurling you’re into, with the Championship running from May to September there are lots of opportunities to catch a game.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Located at the western edge of Galway City, Salthill is easy to get to by road and well served by public transport. Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and a number of private companies run numerous train and bus services from various locations around the country to Galway City every day. From Eyre Square in the city centre, the 401 Bus Eireann City Service will bring you right to the heart of Salthill in 15 minutes.

WHERE TO STAY:

The smart, country-house style Ardilaun Hotel in the nearby area of Taylor’s Hill is one of west Galway’s best hotels. With friendly staff, exquisite food and landscaped gardens, it’s a great spot to relax and unwind. Ann-Marie Donelan[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

DON’T FORGET!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

Take out or renew your AA Membership before you start packing the car. For just €8.25 a month, you get 24-hour breakdown cover in Ireland and the UK (meaning you can take the car to Northern Ireland in confidence), personal cover (which covers you in any car) and Home Start, which means you’re covered at your home or very near your home address.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Featured New Zealand

Following the Lions tour to New Zealand: the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Main image by Melanwell, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

The British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand is underway, with the three test matches against the All Blacks scheduled for Auckland and Wellington at the end of June and beginning of July.

Whether or not the Lions roar on the pitch, it’s set to be a trip of a lifetime for those fans fortunate enough to be heading down under to follow the team. If you are one of them, read on for our practical guide to visiting the country![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”WHEN YOU ARRIVE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22139″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

Most international flights arrive at Auckland Airport, around 20km outside Auckland in the far north of the country. From there, you can catch domestic flights to towns and cities all over New Zealand.

To get into the city centre from the airport, catch the SkyBus which operates two different routes. Whichever one you’re on, it should take between 40 and 60 minutes depending on traffic conditions. You can buy tickets from kiosks at the bus stops outside the terminal, from the driver (cash only) or online. Naked Bus and Intercity also operate bus services between the airport and city centre.

You can connect to the Auckland rail network (see the Public Transport section below) by taking the 380 Airporter Bus to Papatoetoe station on the Southern Line and Eastern Line. Plan your journey here.

Taxi ranks are located outside the arrivals area (door 8) at the international terminal and outside door 4 at the domestic terminal. A taxi journey into the city could cost anywhere between NZ$38 – NZ$75. The airport’s website has more information on the specific companies and their pricing. Find it here.

Car hire is available on the ground floor of international arrivals. For more on hiring a car and driving in New Zealand, check out the Renting A Car section below.

The first stop of your Lions tour is unlikely to be Wellington or Christchurch unless you are travelling via Australia. However, their airports’ websites provide information on onward travel. Find it here for Wellington and here for Christchurch.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GETTING AROUND” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22140″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Renting a car” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

If you’ve travelled all the way to New Zealand, the chances are that you’ll want to get out of the cities and explore the country’s stunning and varied countryside – at least for a day or two. And while the country does have a reasonable public transport system (read on for more on that), nothing beats the freedom of hiring a car and hitting the road.

Car hire is available from our preferred car hire partners, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo. AA members save year-round on car hire and get a free additional driver – click here to learn more. You can also find Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz or Thrifty at airports and in city centres.

Most companies in New Zealand require you to be over 21 to hire a car. It’s worth noting that if your driving licence is not in English, you will need to carry an accurate translation. See NZ Transport Agency for more information.

One handy thing about New Zealand’s roads is that they drive on the left, so you’ll feel immediately at home in your rental car and on the road. There are some things to bear in mind, though:

  • New Zealand is a much larger country than Ireland, which means it can be easy to underestimate distances by just looking at a map.
  • The roads in rural areas are often narrow and winding, so you should always leave more time than you expect to need. Use AA Routeplanner for accurate journey planning.
  • A tired driver is a dangerous driver, particularly on unfamiliar roads, so don’t be overly ambitious when planning your journeys and take regular breaks.
  • Changeable weather is always likely in New Zealand, so make sure you check the forecast before setting off on any journey. Of course, it’s currently winter which means that snow is a real possibility if you’re on the South Island. Check out the Weather section below and read our winter driving tips.
  • Beware of rail crossings – only half of the 1500 crossings in New Zealand have automatic alarms. Flashing red lights means a train is approaching, so stop and only proceed once the lights have stopped flashing. Other crossings have a ‘Railway Crossing’ sign and give way (equivalent to our yield) or stop signs only. If you see this, stop, look both ways and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Public transport” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]You can get around New Zealand by bus and, less commonly, train and ferry. Bus is the cheapest and most readily available way to travel between cities, with the two main providers being Intercity and Naked Bus.

Rail travel is much less common, but there are three main lines operated by KiwiRail: Auckland to Wellington on North Island (Northern Explorer), Picton to Christchurch (Coastal Pacific), and Christchurch to the West Coast (the famously scenic TranzAlpine), both on South Island. However, they don’t intersect and services are infrequent.

Ferry is a fun way to travel between North and South Island (try InterIslander and Bluebridge) and a convenient way to reach some of the many islands off the coast.

Within the cities, Wellington is surprisingly better served than Auckland, but both have their own bus, rail and ferry networks – Metlink for Wellington and AT for Auckland. Christchurch is also served by buses and ferries – Metro.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Domestic flights” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

Flying is a popular and convenient way to get around the country. There are 25 airports that have regular scheduled domestic flights (16 on North Island, 9 on South Island), and no flight is longer than two hours – the Auckland to Wellington services takes just one. There’s more information on flying around New Zealand here.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”WEATHER” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22141″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

The Kiwi winter generally runs from June to October, though around Auckland, cold days are actually quite rare. It’s a different story on South Island, where alpine regions often experience significant frosts and heavy snowfall and skiing is possible – especially in the Canterbury, central Otago and Southland regions. Your itinerary will have a large bearing on the weather you encounter, but definitely bring some wet weather clothes at the very least as rainfall is high all year round.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”AUCKLAND” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22142″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

If you’re heading to New Zealand, chances are you will be spending a fair bit of time in its largest city, Auckland. Located on North Island, its 50,000 capacity Eden Park stadium is the home of the All Blacks and will host the first and third tests on 24th June and 8th July.

Fortunately, there is plenty to see and do in the so-called City Of Sails when you’re not cheering on the Lions. It’s extremely beautiful, squeezed in between two stunning natural harbours and blessed with a balmy, sub-tropical climate which means it never gets too chilly – even in winter. It’s also vibrant and cosmopolitan, with a population of more than a million people and a strong Maori and Polynesian character.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”TOP THREE THINGS TO DO IN AUCKLAND” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Sky Tower” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

Standing 328m tall, the Sky Tower dominates Auckland’s skyline and is the perfect vantage point from which to take in some amazing 360 degree views. At the base of the tower, there are restaurants, a casino and a theatre. There are more restaurants near the top, as well as a viewing platform. And if you’re a real adrenaline junkie you can even walk around the edge or throw yourself off – harnesses provided!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Harbour Cruise” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

Auckland is every inch a maritime city, with Waitemata Harbour to the north and Manukau Harbour to the south. So whether you fancy taking in the city skyline from the water or exploring some of the many small islands, there are boat trips and cruises to suit all budgets. Auckland’s tourism site has a range of options.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Waiheke Island” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

Take a 40-minute ferry east of the city and you’ll arrive at Waiheke Island – a dream for wine lovers. The beautifully green island has a number of wineries and vineyards that offer guided tours and food along with the obligatory wine-tasting. There’s more to it than just vino though – a mixture of farmland, beaches, forest and seaside villages; outdoor activities such as horse riding, ziplining and clay pigeon shooting; and a thriving arts scene mean you may want to spend longer than a day there.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”WELLINGTON” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22143″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

Located at the south-western tip of North Island, New Zealand’s capital is known as Windy Wellington, but don’t let that put you off – it was recently named the world’s most liveable city. That should make for a pleasant stay if you happen to be in town to watch the Lions take on Super Rugby side Hurricanes on 27th June or the All Blacks in the Second Test on July 1st.

Wellington is the second largest city in the country, but with a population of around 400,000 it’s less than one-third the size of Auckland, which makes it compact and practical for a short stay. It’s a picturesque place, surrounded by a large natural harbour on one side and hills on the other three, and as it’s known as the country’s gastronomic and cultural capital, there’s plenty to do.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”TOP THREE THINGS TO DO IN WELLINGTON” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Food and drink” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]With more cafés and restaurants per capita than New York City, it’s no surprise that Wellington is New Zealand’s culinary capital. Fans of Asian flavours will be impressed by what’s on offer – Indian and Malaysian cuisine is especially popular here – while you will have no trouble finding good quality seafood, thanks to the city’s seaside location. In fact, good old fish and chips is incredibly popular in Wellington – perfect if you are on a budget and fancy something familiar. The city also has a buzzing café scene, with a wide variety of cool coffee shops offering quality coffee, snacks, brunches and light meals. Vegetarians and vegans are very well catered for too.

After dark, check out the city’s vibrant nightlife. Wellington was an early convert to the craft beer revolution and as a result there are plenty of cool little bars to explore, each serving a variety of local brews that you won’t find at home.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Lord Of The Rings” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

When director Peter Jackson needed to find the right locations for his depiction of Middle Earth, he didn’t have to look far – the areas around his home city of Wellington fitted the bill perfectly. As a result, the city has become a mecca for fans of the Lord Of The Rings films. A number of tour companies are now well-established, offering trips to see filming locations near the city such as Kaitoke Regional Park (Rivendell) and the Hutt Valley (Great River Anduin), as well as Weta Studios.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Take a cable car to Kelburn” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]You can of course explore the hills around Wellington on foot, but there’s no easier way to do it than with the Wellington Cable Car. This funicular railway (‘cable car’ is actually a misnomer) whisks you from Lambton Quay in the city centre, past Victoria University and up to the hillside neighbourhood of Kelburn, offering magnificent views over the city and Wellington Harbour.

Once you arrive you can find out more at the Cable Car Museum, check out the astronomy museum Space Place and explore the beautiful Wellington Botanic Garden – all within walking distance of the cable car terminus.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FORGET!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

You can get cover up to 60 consecutive days away with AA Travel Insurance, giving you peace of mind on your Lions adventure. Click here to find out more!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Europe Featured France Germany Italy Spain Sport and leisure

Top tips for a European cycling holiday

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

With routes spanning the continent, a European cycling holiday could be the perfect way to get off the beaten track and see those places that would otherwise pass you by. It’s a great way to get plenty of exercise, too. We asked Mike McKillen of Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, for some advice for anyone considering taking to the saddle.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GET THE RIGHT MAPS AND APPS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“Preparation is needed – you can’t just land there and do it. Get hold of the Eurovelo Cycle Route Network Map. That’s a website that is maintained by our parent organisation in Brussels, the European Cyclists’ Federation. It’s like the AA for cycling. They have an offshoot called Eurovelo, which are European bicycle routes – generally off-road but they can be on less-traffic roads like access-only routes.

“You should also go online to order trail maps from IGN, the French Ordnance Survey. They show cycling routes for the region, and you can get the scale that you are comfortable with – you would need at least 1:50,000, preferably 1:25,000. That’s just for the planning.

“Once you get there, turn on your GPS and use the ViewRanger app. That has cycling maps in it, and it gives you the detail you need to turn right here and know that in 400m you’re going to hit a cycling trail and be off-road.”

Remember too that you can use the AA Routeplanner (available on the AA app) when you are planning car journeys abroad.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FALL FOUL OF THE LAW” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

“If you’re bringing your bikes on the back of your car, don’t forget that you have to have a lighting board on the bikes showing your number plate, indicators and stop lights, with lights to light the number plate. That has to be on the last bike of the stack. A lot of Irish drivers don’t know that French police, for example, will pull them over and won’t let them proceed. In France, you also have to have two high-vis vests and a breathalyser in your car.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”KNOW YOUR BIKE RACKS!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“The one on the top of the car is for lightweight sports bikes that you can lift with one hand. Touring bikes are heavier, and I would find mine difficult to lift it up onto the roof, so I have a rack that fits onto the tow hitch at the back of my car. It takes two bikes, but you can get them for up to four.”

Click here for a full AA guide on travelling with a roof rack.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”CONSIDER RENTING BIKES” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“I lead tours, and we always end up renting bikes if we’re abroad because it’s just so much easier. The nice thing about renting a bike is, if something goes wrong with it, the company generally comes with a van, picks it up and gives you a replacement. Of course, then you’ve got to wait for the van to come to you and it could be two hours away.

“If you’re hiring the bikes there, you would need to make contact with a bike hire company, or engage the services of a bike touring company over there. They book everything for you, they know you’re going to do 80k a day on this leg or 55k on the next one, and they book you into lovely pensions, B&Bs, villas or hotels. Whatever grade you want, you just tell them. This way, you don’t have to carry a tent or sleeping bag. All you need is your camera and water bottle, and they transport your luggage to the next hotel.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GETTING THERE…” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“When booking your passenger fare on the ferry, there is a drop-down menu for vehicles and an option for ‘bicycle’. You just cycle in the same way as you would drive in, and the crew tell you where to put the bike. Generally they have a ‘strop’ – a strap that fixes it to a rail. If you’re travelling by train, you’ll need to bring as strop to immobilise it and stop it flying around the carriage – otherwise you’ll have to stand with it and hold it. 

“With Aer Lingus and Ryanair, you have to bag the bike. You can order a bike bag online but I don’t like taking bikes on a plane because you have to take them apart and reassemble them when you get to the other side, and then you have to find somewhere to put the bike bag. You don’t want to be carrying that with you, so you need to find somebody to hold it for you at the port or airport until you come back, and then you have to do the whole thing in reverse.”

Don’t forget to buy your AA Travel Insurance before you go![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”ON YOUR BIKE – AND OFF…” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

“With a nice, leisurely group that don’t want to do huge kilometrage, you’d be planning on anywhere between 40k and 100k a day. That’s doable by six o’clock in the evening, and it gives you plenty of time to go and change, shower, have an aperitif and then go for your dinner at eight. It also includes a two-hour lunch break – al fresco, on the patio, in the café or restaurant! So, start off at 9:30 in the morning, have a two-hour lunch and you can still be in at 6 o’clock in the evening having done 100k.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”WHAT ABOUT NUTRITION AND TRAINING?” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

“There’s a lot of myth about having to take protein supplements and so on, but you don’t. If you want to lose weight, a cycling holiday is the best way to do it. You don’t need to be stuffing your face every half hour. You’re trying to force your body to mobilise the fat reserves that you have built up to get rid of them, so it’s a great way to lose weight. You don’t need to train for these holidays. If you’re talking about a leisurely family or group trip, children are well able to do these as well.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BRING A FIRST-AID KIT” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“Most cycling injuries are from a fall off the bike, so a broken wrist or collarbone, or gashes and lacerations. Bring pads and enough to do a splint so you can strap up a broken wrist.”

Hopefully you won’t be unlucky enough to suffer something more serious while abroad, but here’s some advice on minimising the stress and expense.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FORGET YOUR TOOLS!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_column_text]“If you are the leader and bringing your own bikes, you would need to bring a set of tools that will deal with every nut. Most bike nuts are Allen ones, so you need an Allen key set. You would need a cone-tightening spanner just in case cones on the bearing races come adrift and get loose.

“You need a spare tube suitable for every wheel, so if you’re bringing children I would make sure they are on adult bikes with 26″ tubes – if you have children on smaller bikes, you have to pack a tube specific to their wheel size. Then you need tyre levers because cyclists do their own repairs. A good multi-tool device will have most things you need for tightening things up.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
England Featured France Germany Italy Northern Ireland Scotland Spain USA Wales

Avoiding a Medical Emergency Abroad

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

There are plenty of steps travellers can take in advance of a trip away to minimise financial costs and the inevitable stress that comes with a medical emergency abroad. We’ve listed below some incredibly simple steps to take ensuring everyone has a safe and enjoyable trip.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1435744700047{margin-top: 20px !important;margin-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

See your doctor before you go

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]

It’s a good idea to get a medical check-up from your doctor before you go. If you’re planning on taking part in strenuous physical activities such as hiking or skiing, pay a visit to your doctor to make sure you’re in good shape for it. (And don’t forget to check with your travel insurance provider that these activities are covered under your policy.) Consider whether you need vaccinations for your destination, too. In an AA study, 23% of males aged 17-24 years old told us they needed medical attention whilst abroad compared to just 15% of women in the same age bracket. So once you pay a visit to the doctor, tell your partner/dad/brother to do the same!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1435744980906{margin-top: 20px !important;margin-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Medical care at your destination

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]

Learning about the quality of medical care at your destination means you’ll know what to expect should you need it. For example, in Spain there are two types of health establishments you can visit depending on the severity and type of illness – a hospital and a health centre (Centro de Salud). For serious illnesses or injuries, it’s expected that you would visit a hospital, but for instances not requiring immediate hospitalisation the Centro de Salud is your best bet. Knowing information such as this allows you to make sound judgments about what type of treatment you need.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1435744988935{margin-top: 20px !important;margin-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Know how to seek medical care

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]

Do you know how to call for help in a foreign country? It’s not something you even think of amongst the flurry of packing and printing out flight tickets, but it could prove to be the most vital. Click here for a map that shows local emergency telephone numbers from around the world.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Carry health information

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]You might know your blood type and that you’re allergic to peanuts, but what about other background information like medications or previous surgeries? These could be crucial to a doctor giving you emergency treatment.

And while it’s wise to carry your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with you if you’re travelling to Europe, be aware that it won’t cover for things like an air ambulance home if someone is in serious trouble, which can cost up to €20,000.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Check your insurance

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]

People often think medical care isn’t included in their travel insurance policy, but a lot of the time it is and they just don’t know. Check your policy to ensure you’re getting value for money and sufficient coverage. The AA provides unlimited medical cover for Members who have an extra Travel policy, meaning there are no restrictions on the amount you can claim.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]For more information on AA Travel Insurance, please click here.

Image: Flickr[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]