Posts Tagged ‘tour’


Travel Amsterdam by Boat

August 9, 2010

Now here’s something I haven’t done in Amsterdam. (And that’s saying soemething.)

For $26 you can get a Canal Bus Day Pass that you can use to hop on and off the Green, Red and Blue lines around town. These lines go to many museums and attractions, including the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum and the Red Light District.

On my last trip to Amsterdam I remember walking a lot, which is a great way to see a city, but I think my feet might have enjoyed a boat ride here and there.

You can combine this pass with other tickets and save even more, like the Canal Bus and Heineken Experience Day Pass which will run you just $35. The bus is like a designated driver, so you can enjoy yourself fully at the original Heineken brewery.

Summer isn’t over just yet, and winter break is right around the corner, so snatch up these deals while you can!


Sail Away to the Greek Isles

June 16, 2010

As the weather gets better and the skies get bluer I start to think about beaches and boats and lakes and oceans. I hate feeling landlocked this time of year, so when it’s time to plan a summer adventure I start to look to different coasts and islands.

One of the best ways to enjoy the life aquatic? Island hopping in Greece. Just look at this view:

How could a trip to any place that looks like that be anything other than awesome? Topdeck offers tours for 18-35 year olds to Greece and other destinations in Europe, and they’ll make sure you see all the hot spots. To get a feel for the Topdeck treatment, have a look at this little video they put together:

Ready to go? Pick a tour and book now.


Be a Castle Stormer in Scotland!

May 21, 2010

If you go to Scotland, what are a few things you have to see?

1. The haunted Carbisdale Castle

2. Loch Ness, with or without monsters

3. Glencoe (where they had the infamous massacre)

Lucky for you, Haggis Adventures now has a two-day tour that will take you to all three sights. The Castle Stormer can be done by itself, if you already have a Scottish holiday planned, or you can combine it with another Haggis tour to see more of what Scotland has to offer.

The great thing with the hop-on hop-off style of tour that Haggis does is that it can make travelling a lot easier for you (no worrying about rental cars, maps, driving or booking rooms and activities), but it doesn’t force you to do a bunch of things you don’t want to. They put a framework together and you can fill it in however you’d like.

If you arrive in a city and fall instantly in love with it, or with the bartender at the local pub, you can hang out as long as you want and hop on the next bus through town when the thrill is gone.

A tour also provides a great opportunity to meet people. Even if you’re with friends, being thrown in a bus with a bunch of strangers can be helpful for those days when you love your BFF, but don’t want to have to listen to her talk about her jet lag for another single second. (It’s five hours later here. You’re tired. We get it.)

Check out all Haggis Adventures has to offer, and have a look at the Shamrocker Irish Adventures as well. When you’re ready to book, talk to a student travel expert at Travel CUTS and they can hook you up with a special student airfare and also help you sort out an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) for discounts.


Student Travel Must-Do: Camping in the Australian Outback

March 26, 2010

Uluru: The Monolith Formerly Known As Ayres Rock

Previously on my Student Travel Must-Do List:

1. La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain

2. Volunteer Abroad

And now: Camping in the Australian Outback

This is one that I’ve actually done already, so I’m confident in saying that it’s an experience you’ll love.

There’s really no bad part of Australia to see, just parts that are more difficult to get to. When I was in Sydney, almost all of the Aussies I met insisted that I couldn’t go home until I’d seen the red dirt. “It’s the real Australia,” they told me. “It’s like another planet,” other travellers said.

I joined a tour group and travelled from Adelaide to Alice Springs over a few days and found that they were both right. The landscape is beyond foreign, and the wildlife you encounter, often dead on the side of the road, is like nothing you’ll see in a zoo.

Because the middle of the country is so far, and so dry, the small towns that exist there are made up of the most rugged and hearty individuals. Our group spent one night in Parachilna, population: 8. There’s a hotel/pub and a hostel there for people passing through, but nothing else.

It might sound dull, but you get enough backpackers in the middle of nowhere – with no neighbors to bother, no lights to spoil your view of the stars and nowhere else to go – and you’ll be amazed at what a good time you can have.

The Red Center is also where you can find some of the most authentic Aboriginal cultural experiences and really get a feeling for what life was like before Western culture moved in.

Travel CUTS can hook you up with an Outback tour and help you figure out how to build it in to the rest of your trip. From Alice Springs you could go up to Darwin to check out the massive termite hills (they’re freaky big), or swing up to Cairns and do a little sailing.

All of Australia is open to you, so dive on in!



Spend St. Patrick’s Day Shamrockin’ in Ireland

February 17, 2010

Here’s a quick list of events that are Must Do’s for serious student travelers:

  1. The Tomatina Festival in Spain (it’s a really big food fight)
  2. Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  3. Oktoberfest in Munich
  4. Full Moon Party in Thailand
  5. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland

For now, let’s just look at that last one. St. Paddy’s Day is next month and right now Shamrocker Adventures is offering a few excellent trips to enjoy the green beer in Ireland:

  • Celtic Combo – 8 Days (North and South Ireland with a big stop in Dublin)
  • Monks & Mountains Flight Package – 4 Days (Fly London to Dublin, party in Dublin then head to the Wicklow Mountains)
  • Monks & Mountains – 4 Days (Dublin extravaganza and the Wicklow Mountains)

All St. Patrick’s Day Specials include:

  • All on-tour hostel accommodation
  • All on-tour attractions
  • Dublin accommodation for St. Patrick’s Day
  • Breakfast
  • St. Patrick’s Festival Survival Pack – full of info, maps & tips
  • Guinness Store House Ticket
  • Exclusive Shamrocker Adventures T-Shirt

Tours don’t include airfare, so talk to a Travel CUTS student travel expert for help with planning your transportation. If you have a few extra days to spare, they can also help you plan side trips, hostels and anything else you need.

Erin Go Bragh!


Want to Get “Lost”? This is the Flight for You

February 1, 2010

Ok, this is more TV news than travel news, but I thought it was pretty cool.

If you go to and search for a one-way flight from Sydney to Los Angeles on 09/22/2010, you might just have this pop up in your search results:

This is, of course, the only reason you should look at kayak, because they aren’t the ones with the great student deals. It’s an excellent marketing gimmick though, and the kind of thing that “Lost” fans are sure to eat up.

If you really do want to get into “Lost”, there are tours in Hawaii that will take you to some of the filming locations. So find a student flight, check in at one of Honolulu’s many hostels, and then do a little Sawyer spotting.

Be warned though: Hawaii is a beautiful and slightly addictive place. No matter how long you stay, it won’t be enough. Just like Jack, you’ll want to go back.



New Zealand Travel Guide: Wellington Lord of the Rings Tour

March 9, 2009

Day 7

I had two days in Wellington and I knew I had to spend one of them getting my geek on. There are Lord of the Rings tours offered all over New zealand; I did a half-day one in Queenstown years ago. But Wellington is home to Peter Jackson, Weta (his special effects company), and dozens of filming locations, so this is one of the best places to hop on a tour bus.

One of the few signs that point out filming locations.

One of the few signs that point out filming locations.

I chose a full-day Rover Ring Tour because it was highly recommended by Lonely Planet, and the girl at the YHA who booked it for me. Our tour guide, Laura, picked everyone up at their hostels and hotels and took off for the first filming location, Mt. Victoria.

On the way there Laura shared photos of the film premieres in Wellington, where the stars were forced to parade through town in front of tens of thousands of people. she said there was a buzz in town for days before the event, as all the red carpet was laid out and people camped out for a good spot on the parade route. She said there are plaques in the Embassy Theatre showing where each star sat for the premiere – all except for Orland Bloom, whose plaque was stolen so many times that they gave up replacing it.

Laura, our awesome tour guide.

Laura, our awesome tour guide.

From the top of Mt. Vic you can see Wellywood, the area where the film studios are across the bay from downtown Wellington. You can also watch the planes land and take off at the Wellington airport, which is located on the only low, flat land around, and is therefore sure to be completely wiped out in the event of a tsunami. (Wellington lies right on top of a fault line, one of the reasons it’s a sister city to San Francisco.)

"Get off the road!"

"Get off the road!"

We walked down the hill a bit until we were standing on a dirt road, right in the place where Frodo shouts, “Get off the road!” as the Black Riders chase the hobbits out of the Shire and onto the ferry.

Throughout the day Laura showed us video clips on her iPod and had photos from the films to hold up at each location so that we could see who stood where. After a while it did feel a little silly hiking through the woods to get a picture of a tree just because you could see a certain branch behind Elijah Wood in one scene, but the stories Laura had about each spot, and her anecdotes about the stars, was really what made the day interesting.

Celeb hangout, Scorch-O-Rama

Celeb hangout, Scorch-O-Rama

We stopped for morning coffee at Scorch-O-Rama, a cafe down the street from Peter Jackson’s house, close to the homes where the rest of the cast was staying. The cafe used to be called Chocolate Fish, and was a favorite hangout for the actors, so you can sip a latte and picture Billy Boyd and Dominic Moynahan goofing off at a table in the corner.

I’ll leave the rest of the locations for you to enjoy yourself, but I will tell you a little about the Weta Cave, one of the places I was most excited to see. Weta is the place that built all of the miniatures, created all the CGI, did the live action capture stuff that turned Andy Sirkis into Gollum, and had two guys who did nothing for more than a year than create faux chainmail – a job that made them both wear off their fingerprints.

The Weta Cave

The Weta Cave

Weta was around long before the Rings trilogy, working on Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” and “The Frighteners” plus smaller, New Zealand productions. They’ve also worked on “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “King Kong” and some children’s animated films.

For some reason, even though fans have been poking around Weta for the past ten years, it was only about eight months ago that they opened a shop and museum for people to come in and look around. Before that, the most you could do was stand outside and try to peek in a window or hope to get a look at someone coming in or out.

Now, there’s a small gift show that sells things for films and TV shows that Weta had nothing to do with (“Harry Potter” and “Doctor Who”) and almost nothing for “Lord of the Rings”. It’s a little bit odd actually.

weta-orcYou would think you’d be able to buy shirts and figurines and soundtracks and posters and hobbit feet and elf ears, but they only had some of the books and a few expensive sculpted pieces. There are some very cool props and statues though, and you have to see the 20-minute behind-the-scenes video about what goes on at Weta.

As we were walking out, we passed one of the head make-up artists who we saw in the video, and driving down the street passed one of the sculptors. If you’re someone who’s watched all the interviews and extras on the DVDs, you could probably hang out at the cafe down the block and just watch all of these people come in for their morning coffee.

After Weta we went on to look at some shipping containers. Sexy, eh? These shipping containers are stacked three high in a U shape to hold up a massive blue screen. This screen has been the backdrop for the boat in “King Kong” as well as many LotR scenes.

We actually spent a lot of the day talking about shipping containers. At the end of filming all three Rings films, New Line Cinema had 240 containers full of props and costumes. They didn’t know what to do with them, so Peter Jackson said, “Sell them to me.” They did. At first people thought maybe he would create a museum or wait and auction things off. There was a touring show of props and things from the films, but that was less than 3% of what he had.

Then, it was announced that, after a long legal battle with New Line over money, Peter Jackson had agreed to produce “The Hobbit”, with Guillermo Del Toro directing. Ah ha! He’s already got 240 containers worth of props and costumes that he won’t have to pay for again, depending on how much of it is still good. Laura thinks she’s identified this stack of containers in a local shipping yard, but she’s not sure yet.

We stopped at a quarry where Minas Tirith and Helms Deep were both built, and where trucks were coming and going. This wasn’t sacred ground for them, just a place for business as usual.

Rivendell is that-a-way.

Rivendell is that-a-way.

In the afternoon we had lunch in Rivendell, then moved on to Isengard for trees, trees and more trees, then a river. Laura kept the stories coming, telling us about her own role in the fil, playing the voice of an orc. Sort of. To get the sound of a full orc army, Peter Jackson went to a cricket game and asked the crowd of 28,000 to stamp their feet, beat their chests, and chant. Pretty clever, getting all that free labor.

I would highly recommend this tour if you want a truly geektacular day. Along with the LotR highlights, it’s a great way to get out of Wellington and see some of the areas outside of town.

Next: More sightseeing around Wellington.