How to spend 2 days in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal. And what to do when you get there! – Incredible India!

At the Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Victoria outside the Taj Mahal in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

So let’s take a break from Brexit for a minute and focus on India!

India?

Yep!

Can you recall that after 14 years away.

Fourteen (14) years!

I went back to India.

Outside the Amer Fort in Jaipur - India
Victoria outside the Amer Fort in Jaipur – India ©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

And before we even stepped foot in India, our troubles began.

Again!

For those of you just catching up, here’s what happened:

When the airline lost my luggage on the flight to India – Incredible India!

Because if India doesn’t break you, it’ll make you stronger!

Lost and Trapped in Delhi – Incredible India!

Haw! Haw!

So what happened after that?

Read on:

So after we left Delhi, we took the train to Agra.

Taking the train in India; At the Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) train station; Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) train station; Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin); Delhi train station; Hazrat Nizamuddin train station; railway; Indian train; train; trains in India; Indian railway; train station; Delhi; India
Taking the train in India is a completely different kettle of fish!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Taking the train in India is a completely different kettle of fish to taking the train in Germany.

Or any European country for that matter!

I’ll talk about that in a completely different post!

Ha!

HOW TO SPEND 2 DAYS IN AGRA VISITING THE TAJ MAHAL. AND

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE!

The Taj Mahal in India.
The Taj Mahal in India.

LET’S GET A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY!

The Fatehpur Sikri or Fatehpūr Sikrī in Agra, India
Victoria facing the Fatehpur Sikri or Fatehpūr Sikrī in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

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Agra is a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India.

It’s 378 km/235 miles west of the state capital, Lucknow, 206 km/128 miles south of the national capital New Delhi, 58 km/31 miles south of Mathura and 125 km/78 miles north of Gwalior.

Agra is one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh, and the 24th most populous in India!

Outside the Agra Fort in Agra, India
Victoria outside the Taj Mahal in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

OMG!

Agra was first mentioned in 1080 AD.

In fact, the capital of India was moved from Delhi to Agra in 1506!

Not long after, the Golden Age, otherwise known as the Empire of the Mughals, began and took influence from 1556 to 1648.

Agra was then known as Akbarabād and remained the capital of the Mughal Empire. This was the period of religion, economic stability, art and architecture with palaces, gardens, rivers, towers and forts such as the Agra Fort, a stone military city such as Fatehpūr Sikrī, and of course, the building of one of the most iconic monuments in the world built in sorrow and to the memory of a most beloved wife – the Taj Mahal.

After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of Marathas and was renamed Agra, before being taken over by British rule, otherwise known as Queen Victoria, the Empress of India, or the British Raj, in 1803.

India remained a British colony until Indian Independence in 1947!

At the entrance to the Fatehpur Sikri or Fatehpūr Sikrī in Agra, India
At the entrance to the Fatehpur Sikri or Fatehpūr Sikrī in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
The Diwan-i-Am, or Hall of Audience in Agra, India
At the Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Audience, Agra Fort in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Agra is a major tourist destination because of its many Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort, the tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah or Baby Taj, and Fatehpur Sikri or Fatehpūr Sikrī, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Agra is also part of the tourist trail known as the Golden Triangle, which includes Delhi and Jaipur.

I'm sorry, but India's Holy River Ganges in Varanasi is utterly filthy!
I’m sorry, but India’s Holy River Ganges in Varanasi is utterly filthy!

Varanasi is a well-sought for sight, but it’s, excuse my pun, miles away from Delhi and usually includes flying or taking the over-night sleeper train.

Eek!

WHY GO TO AGRA?

Facing the Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Victoria facing the Taj Mahal in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

As if you have to ask!

What?!

You do?

Ok then.

Well, Agra is in India!

Fatehpur Sikri or Fatehpūr Sikrī in Agra, India
More of the beautiful Fatehpur Sikri or Fatehpūr Sikrī in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

It’s entwined with civilizations, history and culture, that goes back centuries!

It boasts numerous architectural jewels and a world heritage that make parts of India enviable.

And UNESCO locations filled with buildings, marked by world history of thousands of years, that made me practically salivate when I saw them!

Agra is near Delhi.

It’s pretty cheap by West European standards.

Princess Diana in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Princess Diana in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra – India
©Reuters

And in 1992, Princess Diana did that famous bench moment!

And quite frankly, if you’re in North India, and you DON’T visit Agra, you’re missing out!

If you’ve seen it a million times before, then by all means, don’t bother.

But if you haven’t.

You ought to see why a man took years.

Years!

To build a monuments in sorrow and to the memory of a most beloved wife!

Are you listening people?

A monument that has lasted almost 500 years!

OMG!

Book your hotel here!

HERE’S SOME FUN FACTS!

The Music Producer in Agra, India
The Music Producer – Frank Böster in Agra – India!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
  • The Taj Mahal was built by the grief-stricken emperor Shah Jahan whose wife  – Mumtaz Mahal – died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child!
  • Mumtaz Mahal was Shah Jahan’s third wife
  • Her name means “Jewel of the Palace” or “Chosen One of the Palace”
  • Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632
  • The name Taj Mahal means “Crown of Places”
  • It’s an Islamic tomb
  • There are 99 names of Allah inscribed calligraphically on the side of Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb
  • It took approximately 20 years to build
  • 20,000 workers were used to build it
  • And 1000 elephants!
  • The Taj Mahal complex also has additional mausoleums, a mosque, a reflecting pool and large garden
You can actually see the Taj Mahal quite well from the Mehtab Bagh Park
If you’re short on cash, you can actually see the Taj Mahal quite well from the Mehtab Bagh Park!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
  • In fact, there’s a piece of land outside the official area – Mehtab Bagh park – and if you’re short on budget, you can actually see the Taj Mahal quite well from there and take photographs and videos to your heart’s content!
  • The Taj Mahal is 561 feet tall
  • The material used to build it is white marble
  • It has a large white dome surrounded by four smaller domes. The large white dome in the center is approximately 115 feet tall
  • It’s colour appears to change, depending on the time of day or whether there’s a sufficient amount of moonlight!
  • There were about 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones inlaid into the burial tomb of the Taj Mahal
  • During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, most of the precious stones were stolen and stripped from the walls
  • Over 200,000 tourists from around the world and up to 2 – 4 million local Indian tourists, visit the Taj Mahal every year!
  • It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • It’s also one of the “New” Seven Wonders of the World
  • The four pillars around the main dome are slightly slanted so that if the pillars were to collapse,the tomb would be protected!
  • It was believed that once work on the Taj Mahal was complete, Shah Jahan had the hands of skilled expert workers, chopped off. It was probably true, as many monarchs around the world equally did the same …!

Eek!

TAKE ME THERE?

A train porter at Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) train station; train porter; coolie; Indian porter; Indian train porters; porters; Taking the train in India; At the Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) train station; Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) train station; Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin); Delhi train station; Hazrat Nizamuddin train station; railway; Indian train; train; trains in India; Indian railway; train station; Delhi; India
Take me to India by train, kind sir! Delhi – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

As you all pretty much know by now, I’m a great believer in train travel so we travelled by first class Gatimaan Express train from Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) to Agra (Agra Cantt).

Yes, we did!

We had planned just 16 days in India – three (3) days in Delhi, two (2) days in Agra, three (3) days in Jaipur, two (2) days in Pushkar, three (3) days in Udaipur and three (3) days in Mumbai!

You can of course, just do a day trip Delhi – Agra – Delhi.

North Central Railway - Agra Cantt train station in Agra, India; North Central Railway; North Central train; North Central train station; North Central; Agra Cantt train station; Agra Cantt train; Agra Cantt station; Agra Cantt; Cantt; taking the train in India; at the railway; Indian train; train; trains in India; Indian railway; train station; railway; transport; Agra; India
North Central Railway – Agra Cantt train station in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

However, we wanted to spend at least 2 days in Agra, so we opted for the express train to Agra, and a really nice hotel!

And as I always advocate, be smart, use all the weekends, and make it work!

The tickets from the train station for three first class seats cost 4,485 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €58.00 / $65.00 / ‎£50.00.

In short, €19.30 / $21.60 or ‎£16.60 per person!

With a full meal!

A crowded area; safety, people, city, street entertainment, scams
When you travel as much as I do, scams happen from time to time!
And while we’re at it – 7 other common travel scams to avoid!

You can rent a car or go by taxi of course, but after the horrible night train experience that I had 14 years ago, I really wanted to put that ghost to rest and strangely, travel by train once again!

We opted to use an Indian agent recommended to me by an American expat blogger who was living in Goa at the time, so for peace of mind and ease of travel, we worked with an Indian agent who booked every train that I asked for, with my exact specifications, four (4) months ahead of time.

The name of the Indian Travel Agent is Raj Yadav. He has an agency called Train Ticket Please and was prompt and fantastically efficient. His website is on Facebook.

If you have any questions about him, just ask me.

The first class Gatimaan Express train from Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin); first class Gatimaan Express train; first class train; first class Gatimaan Express; first class; Gatimaan Express train; Gatimaan Express; Gatimaan; Express train; Express; fast train; Express train in India; first class train; Indian first class train; first class train in India; Delhi train; Hazrat Nizamuddin train; Hazrat Nizamuddin train station; Hazrat Nizamuddin station; Hazrat Nizamuddin; Hazrat Nizamuddin train in Delhi; Hazrat Nizamuddin train in Delhi, India; taking the train in India; at the railway; Indian train; train; trains in India; Indian railway; railway; train station; transport; Delhi; India
Victoria in front of the first class Gatimaan Express train from Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin), India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

In order for us to do this from Germany, I opted to pay his agency fee of ₹5,135 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €66.00 / $74.00 / ‎£57.00 and for extra security, I paid $83.60 via PayPal or $27.80 instead!

In short, I paid a I-can-get-a-stressfree-refund-if-it-doesnt-work-out-difference of $18.60 or $6.20 dollars per person, which I’m comfortable with ‘cos I had been to India before, and the stress of organising things when you’re on a solo Indian journey can sometimes make your hair or skin, turn grey!

A man at work in India; working; man; Indian man; Indian; Delhi
Delhi isn’t kind to travellers. It’s tough out there!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

If you’re on a tight budget then there are many other trains that also go to Agra, but be aware that the fastest routes are usually sold out pretty quickly!

And it was a very nice 1.4 hour journey.

With breakfast!

And a newspaper!

Breakfast on the first class Gatimaan Express train from Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) to Agra Cantt train station - India; first class breakfast; breakfast, Indian breakfast; food; train food; meal; The first class Gatimaan Express train from Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin); first class Gatimaan Express train; first class train; first class Gatimaan Express; first class; Gatimaan Express train; Gatimaan Express; Gatimaan; Express train; Express; fast train; Express train in India; first class train; Indian first class train; first class train in India; Delhi train; Hazrat Nizamuddin train; Hazrat Nizamuddin train station; Hazrat Nizamuddin station; Hazrat Nizamuddin; Hazrat Nizamuddin train in Delhi; Hazrat Nizamuddin train in Delhi, India; North Central Railway - Agra Cantt train station in Agra, India; North Central Railway; North Central train; North Central train station; North Central; Agra Cantt train station; Agra Cantt train; Agra Cantt station; Agra Cantt; taking the train in India; at the railway; Indian train; train; trains in India; Indian railway; railway; train station; transport; Delhi; Agra; India
My very nice breakfast on the first class Gatimaan Express train from Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) to Agra Cantt train station – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Take a look for yourself!

Ha!

So we arrived in Agra quite safe and well and then took an Uber to our hotel.

Scams in Europe; scammed by a taxi; taxi scams; scams; taxi
I was scammed by a taxi in Prague. Yeah, I didn’t do that again!
And while we’re at it – 7 other common travel scams to avoid!

Book your hotel here!

I highly recommend Uber!

So far, Uber has been fantastic so I highly recommend it for moving around safely in a taxi and at a clearly informed price, as you don’t want the hassle of taxi driver scams!

I mean, we were paying prices such as ₹219 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €2.80 / $3.10 / ‎£2.40.

In fact, we even paid ₹85 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €1.10 / $1.22 / ‎£0.95 in a proper taxi vehicle.

With seat belts!

This would never in a million years happen, if we had “negotiated” rides ourselves.

Cycle rickshaws; pedicabs; trishaws riders in India; taxi; drivers, bicycle; scams, Agra; Delhi; India
Be careful of scams by cycle rickshaws /pedicabs or trishaws riders in India!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

In fact, I vividly remember trying NOT to pay ₹500 (INR – Indian Rupees) in 2005, for a ride that we discussed would be ₹200 (INR – Indian Rupees) to simply go to the book market that was a 10-minute ride away, and which ultimately took 2-hours as the rickshaw driver took me from shop to shop for “commissions” instead!

I was so frustrated!

So I highly, highly recommend Uber.

I highly recommend Uber!

Use Uber.

If you sign up you’ll get €5.00 off your first ride!

Here’s my link!

I’M TRAVELLING SOLO, IS AGRA SAFE?

Children looking through a window at the Taj Mahal; Agra; India
Children looking through a window at the Taj Mahal. Is India safe?
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

It can be.

It’s complicated.

Most people are really nice, eager to help and respectful.

In fact, I was surprised at how many people actually asked if they could take photographs with me.

And if they asked, I would usually accept.

But.

Local Indians don’t often see Western tourists and their way of greeting and excitement can be over-whelming.

Take a look at this video taken by German YouTubers – The Nile Brothers (Nick and Lenny)

It’s crazy, these fellows were travelling together, and they’re blokes!

Indian men can be over-enthusiastic and creepy by the constant staring, touching, peeping and inappropriate questions.

It’s awful that as strong independent women today, if you’re travelling solo, YOU have to watch how you come across, rather than the obvious use of common sense and if-you-don’t-have-permission-or-clearly-worded-stated-consent, don’t touch.

It’s as simple as that.

In the spirit of #MeToo, both men and women in Western nations are working towards this.

Not so in India.

This blog isn’t the place to debate the battle of the sexes, it’s about how to get the best experience you possibly can, when you travel.

Whoever you may be.

Regardless of your sex, gender or sexual orientation.

Here’s what to do:

Political image; Times Up; No photographs; No videos; No permission; No means No
Please don’t take photographs or videos of me without my permission.
No photo!
No Means No; Political image; No consent; No photographs; No videos; No touching; No permission;
No means No!
  • Be firm and stand your ground
  • Insist that they don’t take photographs or videos of you without your permission
At the Taj Mahal West Gate in Agra, India
The Music Producer & The Tall Young Gentleman at the Taj Mahal West Gate in Agra, India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

I was travelling with my husband and my teenage son and when we were together, there was a respectful distance, but when I wandered off to make my own photography, the peeping and candid photography would begin!

I was firm.

I stated clearly that I didn’t want to be photographed and if I did, it usually involved a woman or children, rather than random lone men!

Indian men; India; Indian; Indian man; India
Indian men can seem over-enthusiastic and creepy by the constant staring, touching, peeping and inappropriate questions.

In one instance, an Indian chap wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept following me about, so I turned around swiftly and demanded his camera.

He was so shocked that he gave it to me, so I deleted his pictures, handed him his phone back and walked off!

Coolies / porters carrying luggage at the train station in India; porters; Indian porters; Indian luggage; transport; train station
Having someone take your luggage is useful but Coolies / porters can walk faster than you think!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
  • Watch and take care of your belongings
  • Dress conservatively
  • Don’t wander around late at night
  • Be aware of body language as sadly, it’s all too interpreted as “flirty” or “available”
  • Keep your drinking to a reasonable level ‘cos India isn’t the place to “go on a bender and get pissed!”
  • Use Uber
  • If you don’t feel safe, get yourself out of there as quickly as possible and if that’s not an option, go straight to the nearest shop, restaurant, hotel, or group of people and ask for help
  • Do your research on local scams
  • Don’t let a low-budget be the reason that you’re booked in a hotel that is dodgy as hell!
  • Take your time, spend a euro/dollar/pound or two more, and book a slightly better one

And to be honest, I wouldn’t let my driver (a complete stranger), arrange my accommodation either, use booking.com and book your own!

Here’s the link!

hotel scams; hotels; scams in India,; Indian scams; Asian scams; scams in Asia
The Indian taxi driver tells you that your hotel is closed, over-booked, or burnt to the ground!
And while we’re at it – 7 other common travel scams to avoid!

Book your hotel here!

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Agra Fort in Agra, India; people; Indian people; tourists; tourism; crowds; sightseeing; UNESCO site
India can be crowded, but it’s not as crowded as you might think – Agra Fort!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
Agra Fort in Agra, India; people; Indian people; tourists; tourism; crowds; sightseeing; UNESCO site
The Agra Fort can be crowded, but it’s not as crowded as you might think!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Well, it’s India!

But it’s not as crowded as you might think!

And in many of my photographs, there’s quite a lot of space without any bother at all!

Agra Fort in Agra, Taj Mahal; Fatehpur Sikri; India; people; Indian people; tourists; tourism; crowds; sightseeing; UNESCO site
Don’t let anyone say that India is far too crowded. This was Agra & as you can see, at that moment, there was no-one there!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

So don’t let anyone say that the Taj Mahal / Agra Fort / Fatehpur Sikri is far too crowded.

Because it isn’t!

You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn unless you really want to.

And if you’re a parent.

On holiday!

Why would you want to?

Rooftop in Agra; rooftop view; rooftop; skydeck in Agra; view of the Taj Mahal; Taj Mahal view; Taj Mahal hotel; 5-star hotel in Agra; the Tajview, Agra hotel; Gateway Hotel Fatehabad Agra; Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
Victoria & family on the rooftop skydeck of her 5-star hotel in Agra – India!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Of course, the Taj Mahal is a world-class UNESCO sight and EVERYONE should see it, but it isn’t any more or less crowded than the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Time Square in New York, would be.

Book your hotel here!

We got to the Agra Fort at about 13:30, really took our time wandering around, taking photos and videos, etc. and started walking towards the ticket entrance at about 15:30!

We went in October, and there were very few tourists around as it wasn’t yet “the season!”

Entrance tickets at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; Taj Mahal; Agra; India; High Value ticket holders; General Value ticket holders; tickets at the Taj Mahal
Entrance tickets at the Taj Mahal in Agra – India, for High Value ticket holders & General Value ticket holders!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

In fact, we practically breezed into most places that required an entrance ticket because as “high value ticket holders,”  the tariffs were priced much greater than “general value ticket holders!”

In fact, considering the fact that the Taj Mahal is a paid-for UNESCO sight, the number of people who were there, is considerably less!

And there were plenty of spots to take photographs, in which absolutely no-one was anywhere near!

I know!

HOW MUCH ARE ENTRANCE TICKETS?

Entrance tickets fees at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; Taj Mahal; Agra; India; High Value ticket holders; General Value ticket holders; tickets at the Taj Mahal; entrance fees at the Taj Mahal; entrance tickets; ticket fees
Entrance ticket fees at the Taj Mahal in Agra – India!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

THE TAJ MAHAL:

  • Entrance tickets for foreign tourists cost ₹1,100 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €14.00 / $16.00 / ‎£12.00 for adults
  • ₹600 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €8.00 / $9.00 / ‎£7.00 for students
  • ₹540 (INR – Indian Rupees) for foreign tourists from other Asian countries
  • And absolutely nothing at all for children under 15 regardless of where they come from!
  • In contrast to local tourists who pay ₹50 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €0.65 / $0.75 / ‎£0.55

Rightly so!

AGRA FORT:

  • Entrance tickets for foreign tourists cost ₹610 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €8.00 / $9.00 / ‎£7.00 for adults
  • ₹600 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €8.00 / $9.00 / ‎£7.00 for student
  • ₹90 (INR – Indian Rupees) for foreign tourists from other Asian countries
  • And absolutely nothing at all for children under 15!
  • Local tourists pay ₹50 (INR – Indian Rupees)

FATEHPUR SIKRI:

  • Entrance tickets for foreign tourists cost ₹650 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €9.00 / $10.00 / ‎£7.50 for adults
  • ₹600 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €.00 / $.00 / ‎£0.00 for students
  • ₹50 (INR – Indian Rupees) for foreign tourists from other Asian countries
  • And absolutely nothing at all for children under 15!
  • Local tourists pay ₹50 (INR – Indian Rupees)

There is an additional charge of ₹200 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €2.60 / $3.00 / ‎£2.30 to both foreign and local tourists, if they want to visit the main mausoleum.

Shoe covers to the monuments at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; Taj Mahal; Agra; India; shoe covers; protective cover; plastic shoes
You get a bottle of water, shoe covers & speedy entrance to the monuments at the Taj Mahal in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

For this you get a bottle of water, shoe covers and speedy entrance to the monuments.

It was brilliant.

Men and woman are separated of course, but the amount of time it needed to get us all in was a mere few minutes.

In fact, if you’re a foreign tourist AND paid the “high value ticket” fee, ensure that you insist or being allowed into that queue rather than the ordinary queue.

Don’t be shy as you’ve paid for it.

If you have sharp elbows manage to find the right queue, you’ll breeze through the lines and be at security control, in a matter of minutes!

Don’t panic and have a virtual heart-attack when you see this photograph below!

Don't panic; a very long queue at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; a very long line at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; a very long queue; a very long line; a queue; a line; Taj Mahal; Agra; India
Don’t panic and have a virtual heart-attack when you see this enormously long queue at the Taj Mahal in Agra – India. There’s a much shorter special queue just to the side. Follow the signs!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

There’s also a special queue just to the side. Follow the signs!

Here’s my video:

 

ANY TIPS OR TRICKS?

Prohibited items at the Agra Fort and Taj Mahal in Agra, India; Prohibited items at the Agra Fort; Prohibited items at the Taj Mahal; Prohibited items in Agra, India; Agra, India; books, food, wine, toys, helmets, torches, toffee and flowers are not allowed at the Agra Fort;books, food, wine, toys, helmets, torches, toffee and flowers are not allowed at the Agra Fort; books, food, wine, toys, helmets, torches, toffee and flowers are not allowed at the Taj Mahal; prohibited; not allowed
Books, food, wine, toys, helmets, torches, toffee and flowers are not allowed – Prohibited items at the Agra Fort & Taj Mahal in Agra – India!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
Rent a horse and carriage at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; horse and carriage; horse and carriage in India; transport in India; Indian transport; horse; carriage; transport; small children; young children; mobility issues; mobikity; mobility in India; Taj Mahal; Agra; India
The Taj Mahal in Agra – India is perfectly walkable, but if you have small children or mobility issues, then rent a horse and carriage!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
  • Don’t let scammers take control, there are no entry fees for children under 15 years, regardless of whether they’re foreign or Indian!
  • If your children look mature or are tall for their age, take a school I.D. We used this pretty much everywhere as our son was 16 years old and looked like 20!
  • Be assertive, you might have to use sharp elbows in order to get through the throng, but you don’t need an agent to simply buy your ticket. Follow the signs!
  • There’s a separate queue for “high value ticket holders” / foreigners, you’ve paid for it, so don’t be shy to use it!
  • You can buy your ticket at the ticket counter or online via: www.tajmahal.gov.in
  • To buy your entrance ticket to visit the world renowned Taj Mahal, you MUST show your passport or government approved identity card. Don’t forget!
  • Don’t give anyone anywhere a single penny for anything at all, except at the ticket counter. Just follow the signs!
  • Use the Taj West Gate. It’s easy to find, simply follow the signs!
  • You are entitled to a bottle of water. For free! Make sure it’s completely sealed!
  • You can of course, bring your own bottle of water
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If you have a “high value” ticket at the Taj Mahal in Agra – India, you are entitled to shoe covers free of charge! Make sure you get them or you’ll end up in your socks or bare-footed on a hot & dirty floor!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
  • If you are a “high value ticket holder” / foreigner, you are entitled to shoe covers free of charge! Make sure you get them as shoes aren’t allowed at the inner sanctum and you’ll end up in your socks or bare-footed on a very hot and dirty floor!
  • If you are a “high value ticket holder” / foreigner, you are entitled to a tourist guide map of Agra and battery bus and golf cart services free of charge, which we didn’t see or get!
  • The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday. Every Friday
  • Honestly, it’s perfectly walkable, but if you have small children or mobility issues, then rent a horse and carriage!
  • Books, food, wine, toys, helmets, torches, toffee and flowers are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal!
  • Bags are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal so either leave it at the hotel, securely locked in your car / taxi or in the locker, which is provided near the gates!
  • Drone cameras are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal
  • Tripods are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal
  • Shoe racks are available just below the main mausoleum free of cost
  • Photography is not allowed inside the main mausoleum but I observed that practically every second Indian tourist completely disregarded this and were taking pictures

Sigh!

Book your hotel here!

WHAT IS AGRA LIKE?

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At the Agra Fort train station in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

It’s alright.

It doesn’t have a reputation for being the prettiest place in the world.

In fact, as a city, it’s quite ugly.

And dirty.

However, you can overlook this by virtue of the fact that Agra is of historical and architectural interest.

And you know how much I adore history, culture, art and architecture.

It’s also part of the tourist trail known as the Golden Triangle, so if you’re short on time or have never been to India before, then I absolutely recommend Delhi – Agra – Jaipur – Pushkar and Udaipur, as the absolute minimum.

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An amazing time at the Agra Fort in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

In that wise, we spent 24 hours not only visiting the Taj Mahal but also:

All of these fantastic buildings are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

And for that, all is forgiven!

I DON’T SPEAK HINDI.

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I don’t speak Hinidi! Neither do they!

Not. A. Problem.

It’s amazing how many languages a typical Indian speaks.

Most speak a minimum of three (3)!

Hindi and English are the only two official national languages, and by far the most widely spoken language in India, but if you speak Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu or Punjabi, you’re good to go!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

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Poverty in India

Ha!

Depending on how brave you are, you can really go bare-bones in India, or live like a king.

It’s up to you!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

I like to mix things up a little!
How to spend 48 astonishing hours in Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern – On a budget!

India isn’t as cheap as you think.

I mean, it can be reaaaaally cheap, but you’ll literally get what you pay for.

So unless you want to sleep on a rat-ridden, cockroach-crawling, dirty bedsheet, water-in-a-bucket sodden filthy room for ₹100 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €.1.28 / $1.45 / ‎£1.10, or spend the rest of your holiday / break / finding yourself / adventure / spilling out your guts in the bathroom (if you can find one) because you drank tap water / ate food at a dodgy corner/ etc, cough up for a little more “quality!”

We knew that Agra might prove more difficult finding “moderately priced” boutique / historical traditional mansions, otherwise known as a Haveli, so we opted for a proper hotel instead.

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We were shocked & amazed at just how good our five-star hotel – the Tajview, Agra, previously known as Gateway Hotel Fatehabad Agra (Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces) – actually was!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

We  were hoping for at least the basics and were shocked and amazed at just how good our five-star hotel – the Tajview, Agra, previously known as Gateway Hotel Fatehabad Agra (Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces) – actually was.

It was amazing!

And the irony was, it was actually the cheapest hotel we had in India as we only paid ₹9,214 or €117.00 / $133.00 / ‎£101.00 per night (including the tax) for two premium rooms king bed superior rooms with a view of the Taj Mahal (members rate) at ₹4,607 or €59.00 / $66.50 / ‎£51.00 per room!

And.

We were upgraded to two SeleQtions Suite Tajview King Bed rooms worth ₹28,000 or €359.00 / $405.00 / ‎£310.00 per night or at ₹14,000 or €179.00 / $202.00 / ‎£155.00 per room!

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We were upgraded to two SeleQtions Suite Tajview King Bedrooms at the Tajview, Agra luxury hotel!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Our rooms were marvellous and absolutely faced the Taj Mahal at every angle.

We also had a very comfortable bedroom, a large living room, and an enormous bathroom.

Honestly, I wished we had been able to stay longer than just 2 days!

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We spent 24 hours doing absolutely nothing but pampering ourselves at the Tajview, Agra luxury hotel!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

We were really impressed and actually spent 24 hours of our time doing absolutely nothing but pampering ourselves at the beginning of our trip!

We used the spa and booked the ultimate couples massage whilst our teenaged son spent the afternoon in a private coaching session of archery and rifle shooting.

We had cocktails on the rooftop skydeck and really spent the time rejuvenating and enjoying the beauty and 100% service that is India!

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The staff at the Tajview, Agra luxury hotel were very attentive to our needs and wishes!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Let me just say that the staff were very attentive to our needs and wishes.

The food wasn’t glorious but the service was impeccable!

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An Indian breakfast at the Tajview, Agra luxury hotel – The food was so-so but the service was impeccable!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018
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Fruit at the Tajview, Agra luxury hotel – The food was so-so but the service was impeccable!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

We probably spent €250+ for additional services, but it was worth every penny!

I utterly recommend the Tajview, Agra, previously known as Gateway Hotel Fatehabad Agra (Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces) hotel!

Book ahead to get good prices.

Book your hotel here!

I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT. ANY IDEAS?

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You never know what you might see in exotic amazing India!

Absolutely!

Too many to write at the moment.

More soon!

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

transport; car; taxi; transport in India; drivers, transport scams; Indian scams; Indian cars; Indian taxi drivers; Indian taxis; hotel cars; airport cars; Agra; Delhi; India
The hotel in Delhi sent a car to collect me from the airport, then claimed they had never heard of me!
And while we’re at it – 7 other common travel scams to avoid!
I highly recommend Uber!

Uber is fantastic in India.

If you’ve never used Uber before and you would like to. As a first-time customer, if you use my code – victoriaa12504ue – you’ll get €5.00 off your first ride. It’s like riding for free!

You can basically hire a car and driver using the app for a matter of mere hours, all day or pay a flat fee from city to city!

To hire the car where the driver would wait for us for the day, cost us no more than ₹500 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €6.40 / $7.25 / ‎£5.52!

And even for a Premier InterCity city-to-city pre-booking taxi hire for a journey of 153.95 km that took 4 hours and 51 minutes, was the ridiculously cheap price of just ₹1,399 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €18.00 / $20.00 / ‎£15.50 and that was BEFORE the 20% discount for a first intercity ride price of ₹1,119.20 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €14.40 / $16.00 / ‎£12.50!

I couldn’t believe it myself.

ANYTHING ELSE?

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Don’t forget.
The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday!

The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday.

Don’t forget!

Oh, and try not to get scammed!

MY VERDICT:

Holi; Holi festival; Exotic India; Amazing India; exotic; amazing; awesome; Indian people; Indian; Indian culture; Indian woman; religious woman; Indian religion; religion; holy; Hinduism; Hindu; people; clothes; clothing; Indian clothes; dancing; dance; Indian dancing; culture; Indian traditions; traditions; India
India is awesome!

We all loved it!

Because, Game of Thrones!

Just kidding!

Or am I?!

But seriously.

For many international visitors, India isn’t a destination that immediately comes to mind, but if you’re feeling adventurous, want to push boundaries, willing to get out of your comfort zone, yadda yadda, make it a point of duty to spend a few months weeks, in as many places as you can manage.

If you’re looking for a new destination that isn’t really on the beaten path, say hello – INDIA!

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

Food tour; Food Tour Delhi; Delhi food tour; food; eat; Indian food; walking tour; Delhi walking tour; Delhi; India
Victoria at a food tour in Delhi – India!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Sure!

This wasn’t my first trip to India and it probably won’t be my last.

India isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely worth a visit.

Let’s do it!

IF INDIA DOESN’T BREAK YOU, IT’LL MAKE YOU STRONGER ‘COS INDIA IS HARD!

transport; tuk-tuk; taxi; auto rickshaw, pulled rickshaw; cycle rickshaw. transport in India; drivers, transport scams; Indian scams; Indian tuk-tuk; Indian taxi drivers; Indian taxis; hotel transport; airport transport; ride; India
Perhaps India has changed!

And for those of you who are over 30 (ahem!).

This blog and the next couple of months weeks, is for you.

India isn’t easy, but if you want to go there.

You can!

And of course, if you’re really nervous, I offer a consultancy, and can help you organise or advice you on many parts of your trip to India!

For more info, click here!

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Who doesn’t like an exciting adventure in Incredible India!

Who doesn’t like an exciting adventure?

Well, follow me over the next few months, and find out!

So  what are you waiting for?

‘Rah! ‘Rah!

HOW TO SPEND 2 DAYS IN AGRA VISITING THE TAJ MAHAL. AND WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE! – INCREDIBLE INDIA!

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Victoria with a new friend, at the Taj Mahal in Agra – India!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

This article isn’t sponsored, and all opinions and thoughts on Agra, the Taj Mahal, and Agra Fort, are utterly, my very own!

Stay tuned.

Yay!

That’s it for now.

See you soon!

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Victoria & The Music Producer at the Taj Mahal in Agra – India
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – India – October 2018

Watch this space!

Please note that there are three affiliate link companies connected to this post! Every time one of these services is used, booked, and paid for via my link, I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

So what are you waiting for?

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

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How to spend 2 days in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal. And what to do when you get there! – Incredible India

Have you ever seen the Taj Mahal? Would you like to visit Agra? Let me know in the comments below!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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How to live in Dresden. For longer than a day!

How to live in Dresden. For longer than a day.

So Dresden.

A Baroque Old Town.

A garden suburb.

A cultural metropolis.

What a beautiful city!

As I told you last week, Dresden has a long rich history as the capital and royal residence of the Electors and Kings of Saxony, who furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendor, and was once known as the Jewel Box of Germany, because of it’s Old Town city centre which is crammed with baroque and rococo architecture.

Sadly, when the international community think of Dresden, they make no mention of German splendour and historical treasures, but rather the horror of the Second World War!

War is a terrible thing, and Dresden paid the price.

Towards the end of World War II, Dresden was pretty much flattened and destroyed, and became unrecognisable.

After the war, restoration work helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city, including the Dresden Cathedral, the Zwinger Museum Complex and the very famous Semper Oper.

Victoria at the River Elbe in Dresden – Germany
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018

Outside of the Old Town, Dresden has a trendy New Town – Neustadt – a nearby Saxon Switzerland National Park, the Ore Mountains which borders both Germany and the Czech Republic, the Moritzburg Castle, impressive countryside around the Elbe Valley, etc.

And.

It’s.

A.

Waterside City with the River Elbe running right through it.

Yeah!

Germans are enormously open-minded so nude beaches as Freikörperkultur, or FKK movement – Free Body Culture, was set up
©Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1984-0828-411A / Settnik, Bernd / CC-BY-SA 3.0

I hadn’t visited Dresden in more than twenty (20) years, and when I first visited, my German boyfriend at the time tried to persuade me to join him, at one of the family-friendly nudist Free Body Culture (FKK) beaches.

With his friends!

As if!

I did however, agree to join him alone.

And only him.

I was very conscious of the fact that people would stare at my body.

They did!

I was the only person wearing items of “clothing.”

With chocolate-brown skin.

Wearing a bikini.

That was bright yellow!

You could see Victoria – in her bright yellow bikini – from the moon!

You could see me from the moon!

Cue 2018.

Like Hamburg, I had of course, breezed through, on my way to Prague, but I hadn’t stopped there for a very long time.

Dresden was better than I ever hoped.

Exciting Times in Dresden – Forgive the casual look. I was previously wearing heels!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – March 2018

Last week, I told you what to do if you’re a tourist. But what if you wanted to stay a little longer?

A couple of days. A week. Perhaps, even for a few weeks!

Make no mistake, I’d still highly recommend Berlin as your go-to-city, but if you insist, Dresden will do just fine!

The Tall Young Gentleman had a fine time in Dresden. You will too!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018

Being that my new job as the Referent Interne Trainings or the Internal Training Manager, is in Dresden, I’ve been doing a lot of research which has not only been exhausting, but pretty expensive too! 

Having said that, my experience has allowed me to stay in a wide variety of accommodation providers spanning from a collection of hotels, apartments, and even a hostel!

Yep!

I do these things, so that you don’t have to!

I know!

Let’s get started, shall we?

WHY VISIT DRESDEN?

Martin Luther in Dresden

Why not?!

Well, I wrote quite a bit about it last week.

And anyway, Dresden is in Germany!

So what?

You really can’t go wrong there.

Why not?

Well, it’s Germany!

TAKE ME THERE?

I’ve used FlixBus for both local & international travel. Great prices!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018

As you all pretty much know by now, I’m a great believer in train travel. However, depending on where you’re coming from, taking the bus / coach might actually be cheaper. And far more efficient!

I’ve been taking FlixBus, and their prices have been marvellous.

At one point, I actually took a bus for €4.99!

The average price is usually between €6.00 – €10.00, depending on how flexible you can travel.

I’ve used FlixBus for both local (within Germany), and international travel, and if you’re on a budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything cheaper!

I was having a fine time flying all over Europe, thank you very much!

Of course, if you’re coming from abroad, flying might prove more economical.

Dresden is quite a small city, so you might actually find yourself either flying to Dresden Airport (DRS), Leipzig-Halle Airport (LEJ), Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL) or perhaps, even Berlin-Schönefeld Airport (SXF)!

If you’re not sure which airport in Berlin, you’re supposed to be flying to or out of, here’s a link to the website of Flughafen / Airport Berlin Brandenburg GmbH which has comprehensive information on both airports BerlinTegel (TXL) and Berlin-Schönefeld (SXF) as they’re at opposite ends of the city, and you don’t want to find yourself in the wrong one!

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

There are tourists in Dresden. But I wouldn’t call it crowded!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018

I didn’t think so!

In fact, as it wasn’t yet “the season,” some places and operations were still closed or had reduced hours.

But in the summer, prepare to gird your loins, and fight your way through!

Plan well.

WHAT IS DRESDEN LIKE?

Frederick Augustus II of Saxony or Augustus II the Strong – the Golden Rider!

I was pleasantly surprised.

It’s a small city of historical and architectural interest, the food and beer is impressive.

And it’s very, very pretty!

I DON’T SPEAK GERMAN.

How to be a German – 10 ways to do it!

Not. A. Problem.

No really.

No worries.

It’s amazing how many languages a typical European speaks.

Most speak a minimum of three (3)!

If you speak English, German, Russian, or Chinese, you’re good to go.

And get this.

I couldn’t believe it!

Most things were written in German.

And.

English!

Hurrah!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

You’re not going to live in this abandoned hut, so don’t worry!

Ha! Ha! Not unless you want to!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

At the tip of the River Elbe and the Elberadweg cycle path, in Altpieschen – Dresden
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – May 2018

Ha! Let me help you here.

Dresden isn’t as cheap as I was expecting.

If you’re from the UK or the US, it’s as cheap as chips, obviously.

If you’re from Germany, food prices are the same as in Berlin, but accommodation was far cheaper!

I mean, I was able to get a studio apartment with two (2) bedrooms, a small kitchen / dining room, and an en-suite bathroom for just €30.00 a night.

Thirty Euros (€30.00) a night!

And it wasn’t via Airbnb, but booking.com

But before we go any further, let me reiterate:

I am an affiliate partner of booking.com. In fact, if you use any of my hotel / apartment links, you’ll see the verified partner symbol of the British Berliner logo, along with each affiliated link. 

This means that every time some sort of accommodation is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at absolutely no extra cost to yourself!

None of the hotels / hostels / apartments that I used were comped, or sponsored. All were paid for, absolutely by myself! As a result, you’ll also see my honest and verified view of what I thought when I stayed there, as a legitimate customer too.

Thanks a million!

Here’s all the variety of places where I stayed:

HOSTELS:

The Königssuite – Kings Suite at LaLeLu Hostel in Dresden
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – May 2018

It’s a boutique “mini-hostel” with just seven (7) rooms, which was why I booked it!

It’s in the trendy hip Äußere Neustadt, otherwise known as Antonstadt and just a 20 minute walk from the AltStadt! In fact, when I got there, I immediately felt quite at home!

I was in the Königssuite or the Kings Suite which was a romantic suite covered with gold and lots of red!

The bathroom and lovely kitchen is shared, but there’s a fee for bed sheets and towels.

Excellent WiFi!

I paid €39.00 per night for a private double room suite. If there’s two of you, that’s €19.50 a pop!

BED & BREAKFAST / GUEST HOUSES / PENSIONS:

The Hotel Pension zu Dresden Altpieschen in Dresden
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – May 2018

I was there for a week and really wished I could have stayed longer!

It’s a 1901-ish charming Guest House that is in the lovely district of Pieschen, about a 10 minute walk from the AltStadt, a 10 minute tram-ride to the NeuStadt, and a mere 250 metres from the river Elbe!

My room was in the loft, was absolutely huge, and had 20th century wooden beams features everywhere. I also had my own landing, my own staircase, and my own entrance door that could be securely locked!

I had a huge bathroom that was so big I couldn’t reach the mirror, so they had to had to get me a small one, for my tiny height!

A fridge was included, complete with a bottle of water!

Everything was delightful, except for the WiFi.

Quite adequate for your average tourist, but utterly useless for someone like me!

I paid €42.00 per night for a spacious loft. If there’s two of you, that’s €22.00 a pop!

Highly recommended!

The Pension Dresdener Berge in Dresden
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018

I couldn’t believe how cheap, but safe, the Pension / Bed and Breakfast would be!

This was my first hotel in Dresden, and if I had known then what I know now, I would have blocked-booked it, as I never got that fantastic price ever again!

In fact, I wasn’t even able to get the studio apartment either, as someone had booked it!

I highly recommend it as a budget option for 1 person, a couple, or a couple with a child!

I had a 2-bedroom studio apartment for just €30.00 a night!

It had a large bedroom, a small bedroom for a child, a small kitchen / dining room, and an en-suite bathroom.

Excellent WiFi!

I paid €30.00 per night for a 2-bedroom studio apartment. If there’s two of you, that’s €15.00 a pop, and your child is totally free of charge!

Book ahead!

APARTMENTS:

The work of a lifestyle, expat, travel blogger is never done. There’s just so much to dooo!

I stayed at two (2) different hotel – apartments. And one of them, I even stayed at twice!

The Hotel & Apartment Altstadtperle in Dresden
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018

With houses dated from the last century and older, genteel street lamps, and 300 year old churches scattered everywhere, it was no wonder that I found the quiet neighbourhood appealing.

I stayed in two different apartments at this hotel, and they were always quite large with a huge bathroom, and a small kitchen. And the cleaner came in every day!

I loved the hotel itself, the location was fantastic, and my apartment was great.

But the staff were lazy, and the WiFi pretty much non-existent. They also wouldn’t waive the City Tax even though they were supposed to!

I stayed here twice spanning almost two (2 weeks), as I really thought that the issues were a one-off.

They weren’t!

If you’re on holiday, it’s a really lovely apartment-hotel and I’d recommend it, but if you’re on a business trip, book somewhere else!

I paid €40.50 initially, and the following week I paid €46.08 per night. For two people, €20.25 and €23.04 a pop!

Stirl Apartments in Dresden
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018

My husband – The Music Producer and our son came to visit me in Dresden, so I booked a larger apartment in a residential area.

It had a fully equipped kitchen and dining room, a bedroom, a third bed, a sofabed, and a very nice bathroom!

The third bed was in our bedroom, but “The Tall Young Gentleman” was horrified when he saw it, so we used the sofabed in the “living room area” instead!

WiFi was excellent!

It was a little further away from the action than we would have wanted, but the neighbourhood was very quiet and peaceful.

We paid €85.00 per night which for three people would be €28.50 a pop!

SMALL HOTELS:

The Hotel Windsor in Dresden
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – May 2018
  • I stayed at the Hotel Windsor which is a very nice small hotel, which had the look of grandeur, but at surprisingly, “small budget” prices!

I had an en-suite bathroom, a double bed, a tiny writing-table and my own balcony.

Excellent WiFi!

I paid just €37.52 which is even less than I paid for the hostel above!

TRENDY FANCY HOTELS:

Aparthotel Am Schloss in Dresden.
©booking.com

It’s a hotel which is famous for it’s architecture, location, service and facilities.

It’s right in the center of the AltStadt, about 350 meters away from the Zwinger Palace in Dresden, and a few minutes from the Frauenkirche with the castle very, very close by!

We unfortunately couldn’t stay here as I had accidentally pre-booked Stirl Apartment as a last cheaper resort, just in case we couldn’t get the Aparthotel Am Schloss, and then I forgot!

I only remembered when I got a message stating that my reservation was now booked. Oops!

While we were in the AltStadt, I had a quick peek inside the Aparthotel Am Schloss.

It was exactly as I would have wished, and we really would have loved staying there!

Even though it was far more expensive than the hotels that I had previously been to, I would have preferred it, for the mere fact that it was exactly where we wanted to be.

In the Old Town!

It would have been €117 per night, but very much worth it!

Book ahead to get good prices.

I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT. ANY IDEAS?

Just because you have a fixed job, doesn’t mean that you can’t look for an adventure!

Sure!

The AltStadt is the historical part of town, but the The NeuStadt is a grungy hipster sort of place. It’s for the young and trendy, but you don’t have to be young or trendy to visit, and it’s not Copenhagen or Amsterdam, so you can definitely take your children!

There’s a lot of free stuff happening in the city. Most of the available info is in German, but if you check the website of Visit Dresden on a regular basis, keep your eyes open, or just ask a local where you can meet other locals, you’ll find them!

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Like any other typical German town, public transport in Dresden, is pretty efficient!

Dresden isn’t as large as Berlin, and as such public transport is like any other typical German town – trams, buses, ferries, and overland trains.

And like any other typical German town, public transport is pretty efficient.

When using public transport, there are many possibilities to buy a ticket. You can buy:

A variety of Dresden public transport tickets!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – April 2018
  • A short-trip ticket – €1.70
  • A single ticket – €2.30
  • A day ticket – €6.00
  • A four (4) journey ticket – €8.20
  • A family day ticket – €9.00
  • A small group ticket – €15.00
  • A weekly pass – €21.50
  • A monthly pass – €60.50
  • A season ticket (per month) – €50.90

I have bought them all, and since I’m a regular in Dresden, I decided to buy a season ticket to cut down on cost and for flexibility!

There are ticket machines pretty much everywhere, so you can buy your ticket whenever and wherever you want!

The ticket machine accepts cash, EC cards, and pretty much, most “recognised” credit cards!

As in Berlin, you buy your ticket and either validate it by clicking the ticket on a blue-standing object, which you’ll find on the train platform BEFORE you actually get on the train, or if using trams and buses, look for a sort of orange-standing object which is not far from the doorway, as soon as you get on.

Don’t forget, as in Berlin, there are no barriers to using public transport. However, there are random inspector checks, and if you are found NOT to have a valid ticket, the penalty is €60.00. Or more!

Dresden VVO – DVB public transport info & season ticket!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Dresden – May 2018

So in order to keep German public transport a non-barrier one, please buy your ticket!

The marvellous thing about using the trams and buses in Dresden is that they actually have information on the monitor display INSIDE the tram or bus stating the name of the next stop, the details of the next available buses, trams, and train numbers at the stop, as well as how long the waiting time would be!

The frequency isn’t every 3-5 minutes as in Berlin, but the monitor display tells you all the information that you need to know, so that you can make choices as to which transport provider to use.

Great stuff!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Lovely hotels, but why are there no Reception Desks?!

Surprisingly, most places in Dresden don’t actually have a Reception Desk!

And if they do, it isn’t manned or even open!

You generally have to let them know when you’re going to arrive so that they’ll be there to meet you, but if you arrive after-hours there’s a telephone number to call or instructions as to how to get the key, which is usually in some sort of secure coded box near by.

Oh, and just so you know, the City of Dresden also puts a Tourism Tax of €1.30 per person. Per night!

However, if you’re in Dresden for business reasons (and can prove it), the tax is waived.

MY VERDICT:

The Music Producer & Victoria at the Zwinger Palace in Dresden – Saxony!
©Frank Böster – Behind The Couch Studios – Dresden – April 2018

We quite like Dresden!

Dresden has culture, and a vibrant history.

For many international visitors, Dresden isn’t a destination that immediately comes to mind, unless it’s Christmas.

Because Dresden Stollen!

But if you’re in Saxony region, make it a point of duty to spend a few weeks days, in Dresden or as many as the surrounding area, as you can manage.

If you’re looking for a new destination in East Germany, and you’ve “done” Berlin (As if!), say hello – DRESDEN!

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

Obviously!

My office is in Dresden, so I sort of have to!

Let’s do it!

HOW TO LIVE IN DRESDEN. FOR LONGER THAN A DAY!

Tea for everyone!
How to live in Dresden. For longer than a day!

This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and all the beds that I bounced up and down on, are my very own!

Next week, the last post on Dresden!

And in a few weeks, I’ll be revealing my next summer trip!

Stay tuned.

Yay!

That’s it for now.

See you next week!

The Lighthouse of Moritzburg – Saxony.
How to live in Dresden. For longer than a day!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

How to live in Dresden. For longer than a day!

Have you ever lived in Dresden? Do you prefer hostels, pensions, guest houses, B&B’s, apartments, or hotels`? Would you know how to navigate yourself around trams, trains, buses & horses?! Let me know in the comments below!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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My fourth FAM / Press Trip to Hamburg – Holy Hamburg!

My fourth FAM / Press Trip to Hamburg – Holy Hamburg!

So Hamburg.

Yeah!

As you know, last week I told you about how I was invited to Hamburg, as a guest of Hamburg Marketing.

What you don’t know, are the details of my press trip!

BUT WHY HAMBURG?

There’s usually no time to dilly-dally in Hamburg. But this time, there was!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

Why not?

The thing is, I’ve been to Hamburg many times, but I’ve never been to Hamburg as a tourist!

Not Ever!

Why is that, you might ask?

To be honest, I simply don’t know!

But I wanted to shake things up a little, and change!

Book your hotel here!

The Hamburg stand at ITB Berlin was very busy & here’s why – An artificially intelligent tourism robot!

If you recall, almost a year ago, I went to the International Trade Fair in Berlin, otherwise known as ITB Berlin, and met up with some of the marketing people of Hamburg.

You could say, that we actually met on Twitter, ‘cos a British blogger – Eat Shoot Sleep Travel asked me about the traditional Fish Market in Hamburg, and I didn’t know!

Cringe!

The fellows at Hamburg.com saw this, reached out and said,”Hey! Come to Hamburg. See for yourself!”

She wanted to know about the Fish Market in Hamburg. Ha! Ha! I still don’t know!

So I did!

Thanks so much Hamburg Marketing!

WHY GO TO HAMBURG?

HafenCity – Hamburg – Summer in Germany – Simply the Best!

Hamburg really isn’t that big, so follow my footsteps and don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk too!

A BRIEF PIECE OF HISTORY:

Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg!

Hamburg, otherwise known as the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, is the second-largest city in Germany, and has a population of about 1.8 million people!

Just so you know, Berlin, with a population of just 3.55 million people, is the federal capital, and the largest city in Germany!

And let me tell you, it doesn’t even feel like a city…!

Hamburg: An Introduction to a Port City!

Hamburg lies in a very strategic position with Continental Europe to the South and the Nordic States to the North. The North Sea is to the West and the Baltic Sea is to the North-East.

Hamburg stretches out on the River Elbe, has many small islands and lakes, and borders the states of Schleswig-Holstein with lovely places like Lübeck and Lower Saxony.

Hamburg is the type of city that I respect because like Berlin, Manchester and London, it’s a City State and has existed since the time of the Holy Roman Empire!

Book your hotel here!

History & Glory days at the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg, Germany!

Hamburg is also a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, a World Heritage UNESCO site, with signs of wealth and glory all over the region. Of course, during the Great Fire of Hamburg, and during the Second World War, the importance of the harbour made it an important target, such that many parts of the city, was destroyed.

During the 13th – 16th century, Hamburg was considered second only to the port and city of Lübeck, as a central trading hub for sea-borne trade.

With the discovery of the Americas and the emerging transatlantic trade, Hamburg exceeded all other German ports, and became the main Central European hub for freight travel, transatlantic passengers and from 1871, the principal port of trade in Germany!

Wow!

Book your hotel here!

WHAT IS A PRESS OR FAM TRIP?

Me in the Philippines, but could this be a James Bond moment!
©Scott Herder – BoboandChiChi.com

A PRESS TRIP is normally described as a visit to a destination, country, city, hotel, venue etc, organised for media groups.

It usually introduces and presents the best bits of a particular itinerary and is usually for a small group of journalists or bloggers, or an organised private trip.

Although a press trip could be for a few hours, it usually refers to a trip of a few days.

Should I take the train in France or not? It’s obvious though isn’t it!

A familiarization trip, or FAM TRIP as it is better known, is similar to a press trip however, it usually includes a visit to a number of sights, venues, activities, accommodations, or restaurant spots, in one area or region.

It is typically organised for travel industry professionals, to give them a better understanding of the regions and products they are trying to sell to their clients.

Lots of different activities are included so that as much as possible can be experienced. Sometimes journalists might attend a FAM TRIP too.

Book your hotel here!

At the Milk Thistle in Bristol.
©The Milk Thistle.

In both instances your costs will usually be covered, though this will vary depending on the organiser.

I categorise official FAM / Press trips as different to customised press trips.

On official FAM / Press trips, pretty much everything is paid for. Including transport, hotels, food & entertainment such as the following:

FRANCE:

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

ENGLAND:

10 amazing reasons why you should Visit Bristol!

THE PHILIPPINES:

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

GERMANY:

Hamburg: An Introduction to a Port City!

However, once I confirmed it, a very important client also contacted me, so I ended up arriving one day earlier than the other participants, and leaving earlier too, so I paid for my own dinner and refreshments.

It would have been ideal, but my hotel had lost the press package that should have been waiting for me, and by the time I had contacted everyone to find out where it was, all the tourist sights had closed!

I never did find my press package, but that’s a story for another day!

Book your hotel here!

The horror of Christmas shopping – Get me out of here!

My visit to Hamburg was a press trip.

Once the Press trip officially started, we didn’t have to pay for a single thing!

Of course, if you suddenly fancied a spot of your finest whisky, Monsieur. Or felt that snacks and drinks from the minibar were perhaps included. You’d be wrong!

Your hefty bill and service charge, would be all on you!

Book your hotel here!

HOW DID I GET INVITED?

I absolutely love walking! ©Pascale Scerbo Sarro
I absolutely love walking!
©Pascale Scerbo Sarro

Well, my first big break came just five (5) months after I started writing as a blogger.

To be quite frank, I have been extremely lucky to be at the right place, at the right time.

In 2014, I happened to be at the Sony Centre in Berlin where I got chatting to a PR person who promised to put me on the guest list of the Berlin Music Video Awards. She did, and even though, I never saw her again, my pro-active activity coupled with an outgoing personality, and a genuine interest to get involved, opened the door to being invited into the VIP section, a glimpse into the media world, and a whole host of people who had a friendly eye, and were willing to help me in my quest for knowledge and information.

Press documentation for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week - Autumn/Winter 2016.
Press documentation for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week – Autumn/Winter 2016.

A press card and a TV documentary about me came about because of the simple matter that when I undergo to write a piece, I make a thorough job of it.

People really like my personality, so I’ve often been an invited guest of city-destinations in which trips have been organised and customised to my own personal requirements. This is the best type of press trip to have, so I consider myself extremely lucky and very honoured. You can read more about them here.

However, on every group FAM trip, I’m usually either the only blogger in vicinity, or the only European there!

You can imagine my  anxiety.

It's embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!
It’s embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!

Book your hotel here!

WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING ON THE HAMBURG PRESS TRIP?

Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg!

The point of this PRESS trip was to introduce the region as not only an interesting place to visit, but a historical cultural one too. A destination that would hit all the right spots for someone like me.

And ultimately, someone like you!

This press trip was a three (3) day exploration, starting from Friday and finishing on Sunday.

I didn’t have any information as to who was going to be there, and what type of bloggers would be attending.

You tend to get a little anxious that you’re going to be too shy, people aren’t going to like you, you’re not going to like them, you end up being that blogger, or that you’re going to be completely out of your depth and thus, comfort zone.

I also felt a little nervous about the sleeping arrangements.

WOULD I GET MY OWN ROOM ON A PRESS TRIP?

Don’t laugh! Would I get my own room on a press trip?

Don’t laugh.

I always do of course, but still, I constantly worry, and it brings me out in a sweat since nobody actually tells you!

And because I arrived one day (1) day before the others, I was placed in a grown-up more corporate-like hotel called the Scandic Hamburg Emporio, while the others were in a young-ish boutique hotel called the Fritz im Pyjama Hotel.

Book your hotel here!

My bedroom at the Scandic Hamburg Emporio Hotel!
My delicious breakfast at the Scandic Hamburg Emporio Hotel!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

At first, I was a little disappointed not to be placed in the same hotel as everyone else, but when I saw my room at the Scandic Hamburg Emporio, I soon forgot all about it!

Yes, I know.

Silly isn’t it, but there you have it!

Book Scandic Hamburg Emporio, the Fritz im Pyjama Hotel, or your own Hamburg Hotel here!

WERE WE GIVEN ANY DETAILS AT ALL?

Marvellous news. I’m doing a radio programme with the BBC. And other stuff!

Yep!

The Host was Hamburg Marketing. They were highly organised and thoroughly fantastic.

On this press trip we were expected to be doing the following:

HAMBURG PRESS TRIP – HOLY HAMBURG!

Hamburg: An Introduction to a Port City!

NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 12

DEPARTURE: December 1st

RETURN: December 3rd

A DESCRIPTION:

My fourth FAM / Press Trip to Hamburg – Holy Hamburg!

SPEICHERSTADT AND HAFENCITY: TRADITION AND MODERNITY

Located in the very heart of the city, the innovative architectural design of HafenCity on the waterfront, make it well worth exploring.

You will find the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district with its beautiful canals, red-brick facades, winding bridges and picturesque views, which together with the Kontorhaus district and Chilehaus, were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2015.

Speicherstadt is the world’s largest coherent warehouse complex and includes a number of interesting museums and exciting exhibitions!

Hamburg is a city with a rich choice of top-class cultural events for all lovers of culture, renowned orchestras and theatres, a vibrant museum landscape with spectacular exhibitions, as well as experimental dance theatre and world-class ballet productions that reflect Hamburg’s great cultural diversity.

Hamburg has plenty to offer.

All are welcome in Hamburg. And depending on when you visit, not crowded at all!

Yep!

I was excited!

Book your hotel here!

MEDIA TRIP PROGRAMME:

DAY 1

My bottled beer at the Störtebeker Braumanufaktur – Elbphilharmonie
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

Eek!

DAY 2

Our awesome Hamburg guide – Marc Müller –
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

Phew!

I managed to join the group for a quick dinner, had a glass of champagne, then took off!

DAY 3

I wasn’t able to stay, but I did have sushi at Mikawa #2!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

‘Would have been:

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Free time

HAMBURG MARKETING RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES:

I spent an evening at the famous Hanseatic Gänsemarkt Christmas Market! ©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

I didn’t have time to do any of these activities, but as I arrived a day earlier, I was able to make my own way around, and spent quite a pleasant afternoon (with sprinklings of snow) at the Hamburg HafenCity, the Speicherstadt or Warehouse District, the Altona-Altstadt or Old Town, the UNESCO Kontorhausviertel, and the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, otherwise known as the Elbphilharmonie!

The Christmas Market is not to be missed in Hamburg. Or anywhere else in Germany!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

Since it was around Christmas when I went to Hamburg, I also managed to fit in the historical Roncalli Christmas Market, and the very famous Hanseatic Gänsemarkt Christmas Market, otherwise known as the Goose Market!

Mind you, I would have quite fancied going to the Hamburg Dungeon!

Book your hotel here!

SO HOW WAS IT?

I bet you wouldn’t mind calling this sexy hot German guy!

It was a pretty packed programme, but awesome!

As I write this, it’s February 10th, and so much has happened since!

ANY TIPS GOING ON A FAM TRIP FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner for Bild am Sonntag
©Christian Spreitz
  • Leave plenty of time for trips, tours and meet-ups both before, and after the conference
  • You don’t have to have a huge following to be accepted onto a FAM / Press trip
  • Improve your photography
  • Have great content
  • Educate yourself and if you don’t know, ask your fellow invites
  • Networking is key to putting a face to a name in the blogging / press community
  • Take your business cards
  • Try to get some sleep
  • Get comfy but smarten yourself up, if the venue demands it
  • Be punctual
  • Stay professional
  • Don’t whinge
  • Follow the programme
  • Be a team-player
  • Keep smiling
  • Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone
  • Don’t be stupid either
  • Be yourself
  • Write about your FAM trip and send it to the host or organiser
  • Thank the host or organiser
  • Have a great time

Book your hotel here!

VERDICT?

My fourth FAM / Press Trip to Hamburg – Holy Hamburg!

The staff of Hamburg Marketing (Jessica & her team), and awesome guide for the weekend –  Marc Müller – were all warm, welcoming, hilariously funny (you should hear the stories!!), but very professional.

They made sure that we were well-looked after, nobody got lost or forgot anything.  And nobody got left behind or ostracised.

There were moments of laughter, but most importantly, lots of smiling, laughing, and learning from each other.

We all got on extremely well!

Book your hotel here!

ANYTHING ELSE?

You can just about see some of the other bloggers, while we were at the Ottensen/Altona Christmas Market!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

Yep!

We were a small group of just ten (10) bloggers (including myself) from five (5) international countries.

Our job for that weekend was to visit and see the region for ourselves and hopefully, discover the many interests and joys of Hamburg, so that other travellers and visitors are encouraged to come and visit themselves.

And we did!

Victoria’s Hamburger Labskaus, which I had at Altes Mädchen. Try it!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Hamburg – Dec 2017

By the way, a Hamburger Labskaus is a speciality usually only found in North Germany.

It’s a gripping combination of corn beef or cooked salted meat, beetroot, potatoes, pickled gherkins, onions, rollmop, and a fried egg plopped on top of it all!

Gulp!

Thanks guys!

Book your hotel here!

MY FOURTH FAM / PRESS TRIP TO HAMBURG – HOLY HAMBURG!

My fourth FAM / Press Trip to Hamburg – Holy Hamburg!

This article is part-sponsored, and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Hamburg Marketing, Visit Hamburg, Deutsche Bahn and the Scandic Hamburg Emporio Hotel, all opinions and the hearty markets that I visited in Hamburg, are my very own!

I’ll be continuing my last visit to the UK and telling you all about my visit to Belgium later in the season!

I’ll be at the UK Germany 2018 Launch Party on Valentine’s Day – on the 14th of February, 2018. Tickets are free of charge, so if you’re in Berlin, join the party!

I’ll be at Berlin’s most famous film festival – The 68th showing of the Berlin International Film Festival, otherwise known as the Berlinale, taking place between 15th – 25th February, 2018.  Everyone’s most excited! Tickets are on sale from 12.02.18.

I’ll be at the ITB Berlin or the Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin – the world’s leading travel trade show, taking place between 7th – 11th March, 2018. You can buy tickets here.

Save the Date!

I’ll be there. Will you?

If you’re not in Berlin in February, then move on!

February is going to be busy!

See you next week!

My fourth FAM / Press Trip to Hamburg – Holy Hamburg!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links, I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

My fourth FAM / Press Trip to Hamburg – Holy Hamburg!

What did you think of press trips? Would you choose sushi with a fried egg, rollmop with a fried egg, or both? Let me know in the comments below!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!