What to Do in Timbuktu!
It’s time to clear something up: Timbuktu is not an airy-fairy, make-believe place. No, it’s actually a real – and not to mention historically significant – city in the Republic of Mali. Known as the ‘Crown of West Africa’, Timbuktu was not only a long-time trading centre for gold, salt, slaves and ivory, but was also the academic hub of the Muslim world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Today, this stunning metropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most exotic and exciting cities that I’ve ever visited.
So, now that you know that Timbuktu truly exists, why not embrace your inner explorer (and your single trip travel insurance!) and opt for an adventurous trip? Let me tell you about the best spots in and around the city, whose beauty will leave you breathless.
The Ethnological Museum
No trip to Timbuktu is complete without a visit to the Ethnological Museum, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the city’s extensive history. Most importantly the exhibit contains the Well of Bouctou, which marks the spot where Timbuktu was first established in the twelfth century. A colourful array of jewellery, traditional attire, musical instruments and local games is also on display, and will give you a great sense of the city’s local culture and its evolution throughout the ages. To top it all off, you definitely don’t want to miss the section devoted to Tin-Techoun’s ancient rock carvings. Unfortunately most of the real rocks were stolen over the years, so you’ll have to make do with photographs.
Sidi Yahya Mosque
After strolling through the museum, make your way over to Timbuktu’s second mosque: the Sidi Yaha. This imposing edifice dates all the way back to 1400, and was dedicated to an influential imam – Sherif Sidi Yada — a few years later. Today, Sidi Yada is one of Timbuktu’s most revered saints. Unfortunately you cannot enter this mosque – or any of the others – unless you are Muslim, but the building’s exterior is still an awe-inspiring sight to behold.
Out of the city’s three mosques, the Djinguereber Mosque is arguably the most famous (and definitely the oldest). If the building’s exterior looks… well, muddy, pat yourself on the back: it is indeed constructed entirely of mud blocks! The esteemed poet and architect El Saheli not only built the mosque in 1327, but also came up with the idea that using mud bricks would be more orderly and durable than simply slapping grass and mud on a wooden skeleton – which was a commonplace building technique before his genius graced the city.
Thanks to the mastermind El Saheli the mosque still stands today, and can accommodate a whooping 2,000 worshippers with its three large enclosures and two towers. Have a wander around the outside and see what stories its many nooks and crannies have in store for you.
Last but certainly not least, let’s not forget about Timbuktu’s youngest mosque: the sixteenth-century Sankore. As an integral part of the University of Timbuktu, this building served as a significant centre for academic pursuits, and is well-known among tourists for its eccentric – but very charming – exterior. Make sure to pop by this unique structure during your visit!
Heinrich Barth’s House
Here’s a little crash course on Heinrich Barth: he was a famous German adventurer who focused on discovering Africa in the nineteenth century. Of course, Barth couldn’t resist visiting Timbuktu, but tried to blend in by dressing up as a Tuareg. Although he was almost killed during his yearlong stay, he was able to flee and tell his countrymen all about his exotic excursion. Today, his spectacular writing and art are on display in his old home, which is close to Sidi Yahiya (to the east). Don’t be fooled by its size: this mini museum is well worth your time.
Historical? Check. Off the beaten path? Check. Unusual? Check. If taking an adventurous trip to an underexplored destination sounds like your cup of tea, a holiday in Timbuktu ticks all the boxes. To prepare for your getaway, make sure that you pack lightly, check that you have received all necessary vaccinations and create a well-researched itinerary.
But what’s the most important preparatory measure that you have to take? I’m glad you asked: it’s ensuring that you have the correct travel insurance policy. For a carefree and safe quest to Timbuktu, InsureMore’s single trip travel insurance is the way to go. We have your back for any and all destinations – no matter how remote and unusual your chosen holiday spot is.
The Family Guide to Travelling on a Budget
It’s no secret that family holidays are more expensive than ever. No matter how much you save up, there always seems to be a few unexpected costs here and there which threaten to take the sunshine out of your getaway. What with enough sun cream for the whole family, travel insurance and baggage costs, it all adds up. All is not lost, though – we’ve gathered some tried-and-tested tips from parents who’ve managed to make their holiday successful and affordable.
Budget, Budget, Budget
It’s a word that strikes boredom into the heart of every parent, but budgeting is your main weapon when fighting the evils of hidden travel costs. Set yourselves a limit on spending each day – be realistic, and DON’T go over it. You’ll be thankful for all those spreadsheets and calculations when you’ve still got enough money to get a taxi home from the airport at the end of the holiday.
Do Your Research
Do your research to get travel costs down. Use flight comparison sites to find the best deals, use budget airlines to fly to just outside the place you’re travelling to, or just forego air travel altogether. Can you get a ferry to your destinations? A bus? Train? It might not be as easy, but it’ll be a lot cheaper.
When you’re there, try to get around by walking instead of using the public transport. You’ll see and discover a whole multitude of things you wouldn’t have otherwise known existed.
Accommodation-wise, a lot of families benefit from all-inclusive deals, where your food and drink is included in the price of where you’re staying. Booking in advance can also save you some pennies, or on the other end of the spectrum, last minute booking can often get you a reasonable price cut.
If you really want to slash the budget, camping can be an amazing family bonding experience. Some hostels will allow you to camp in their grounds and use their facilities for a small fee.
Food usually the biggest temptation to spend whilst on holiday, but it’s possible to have great meals without splashing out. Take a mini stove with you for on-the-go hot meals, use local supermarkets, eat street food to save the cost of using a table and chair, and share meals in restaurants
Some Other Tips:
- You don’t have to spend money to have fun. Ask at Tourist Information for free walking tours, go to beaches, to parks and to museums with free entry.
- Supermarket loyalty cards often offer discounts on flights and attractions in exchange for points. Stock up and take advantage!
- Get low-cost family travel insurance. InsureMore offers cheap, comprehensive cover with a range of different packages tailored to your needs. Plus, kids go free!
Top Business Hotels in Tokyo, a Global Business Hub
Tokyo is an amazing city for the business traveller, full of bustling life and energy. The culture is a unique juxtaposition of elegant Japanese tradition and cutting edge, vibrant innovation. So, whether you want a little old-style luxury or are looking for something a bit more high-end urban cool, you’ll find a hotel perfect for you and your needs.
For any work trip it’s important to ensure you’ve got all the details covered, everything from arranging your meetings in advance and making sure you have the relevant contact details to ensuring your business travel insurance is up to date. Once all the nitty gritty is taken care of, turn your mind to the pleasure of choosing one of Tokyo’s many luxury hotels as the base for your next trip.
Check out my recommendations for the very best business hotels in Tokyo.
If you’re looking to mix work with pleasure during your stay in Tokyo then the sumptuous five-star Grand Hyatt, set in the heart of the city’s vibrant entertainment district, is a great choice.
Towering above the shopping and business development Roppongi Hills, the Grand Hyatt has so much to offer you may find you don’t need to venture beyond its grounds for your entire stay.
There are 17 elegant meeting rooms in the hotel, which has its own business centre, and when it’s time to relax you can choose between the vast spa, seven restaurants (one with its own private dining room for private meetings/dining) and three bars.
For a stunning view and the ultimate dining experience the Conrad Tokyo is a great choice. Set up in the clouds on the upper floors of one of the city’s dramatic skyscrapers, every room has a breath-taking view of Tokyo Bay below.
Whether you choose to relax in the traditional Japanese-inspired spa, the elegant bar with its panoramic views or in the Michelin-starred China Blue restaurant, you will feel yourself elevated above the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s busy streets.
Prince Park Tower
The Prince Park Tower offers something hard to find in many of the luxury hotels in the city: a view of green space. Set in the picturesque greenery of Shiba Park, the high-rise hotel provides beautiful views of one of Tokyo’s few green spaces.
The large, luxurious rooms make the most of the hotel’s location with floor to ceiling windows taking in the beautiful city and park views. Light is used not just in the bedrooms and suites but in the hotel’s beautiful top-floor restaurant with its dramatic skylights as well, giving the Prince Park Tower a feeling of light and space.
The Strings by InterContinental
An ideal base for business travel, insurance and financial services guests particularly rate The Strings because it puts them at the heart of Tokyo’s Shinagawa business district.
But being in the financial district doesn’t mean The Strings lacks atmosphere; there is a modern, hip vibe to this city-centre hotel, with stylish bedrooms and hip bars and restaurants. There’s no spa here but there is a fitness suite, if staying in shape while working abroad is one of your priorities.
NOTE: Tokyo is a great city with a good safety record and low crime but, as with any trip, it’s important to make sure that you’re covered just in case anything goes wrong. Don’t forget to take out specialised business travel insurance to make sure that, from laptops and tablets to Mont Blanc pens and lost luggage, you’ll be able to keep going even if the worst does happen.
Lions, Leopards and Luxury on Safari in Africa
An African safari is the trip of a lifetime for many, born out of a childhood sense of adventure. Nothing is quite like the experience of seeing larger-than-life majestic animals roaming free in their own habitat. African safaris are now considered one of the most luxurious travel experiences around. The warm hospitality of the hosts only enhances the luxury amenities, sophisticated accommodation and numerous creature comforts found in today’s stunning modern safari lodges. So book your flight, pack your bags, and get travel insurance for Africa. Let the wild adventure begin!
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park covers over 7523 sq miles in the north-eastern corner of South Africa. It is one of Africa’s largest game reserves and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926. The region has both an illustrious and brutal history spanning generations of the native Tsonga people, the British Colonialists and the current South African citizens. However, the one indisputable and enduring feature of this part of the world is its natural beauty and stunning wild inhabitants. The park is home to what has become known as The Big Five: elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo. Previously, this is where the rich and famous came to hunt the top prize of big game trophies. Nowadays, the only shots taken are from cameras and the prize is a visual one of everlasting and breathtaking memories.
Kruger National Park has become a luxury tourist destination that offers outstanding locations, service, and amenities. The cost of travel insurance for Africa generally depends on the exact destination and anticipated activities once you arrive. Fortunately the luxury lodges found dotted around Kruger National Park are noted for their safety and expert guides and consequently the travel risks are considered low.
Top Luxury Safari Lodges
Ulsaba Safari Lodge
When they say ‘location is everything’, they really do mean it here! This amazing treehouse-style lodge sets you down in the centre of all the action. Guests can view elephants and hippos in the watering hole just below the balcony windows and the secluded lodge offers the most pristine stargazing opportunities at night. After tracking the Big Five through the Sabi Sands Game Reserve you can enjoy a refreshing dip in your own personal plunge pool followed by a gourmet meal out in the open-air boma.
Dulini Leadwood Lodge
Leadwood Lodge literally brings the safari to you. This fairly small lodge caters to a maximum of 8 guests at a time offering a truly quiet and intimate experience. Leadwood is a calming and luxurious retreat that has been designed to blend in naturally with the bushveld creating a peaceful environment. Located at the confluence of the Sand and Mabrak Rivers, the game viewing from the comfort of your own suite is superb.
A Safari Like No Other
Safaris have always been considered an exotic adventure that might be a little too adventurous for some. However, the days of ‘roughing it’ in tents in the sweltering heat and dust are long gone. The majestic beauty of the animals on the African plains can easily be enjoyed and appreciated from a much more comfortable vantage point these days.
Despite the safe confines of the luxury lodges it is paramount that guests observe the rules and guidance offered by their escorts. Preserving the peace in this natural environment is as important as preserving one’s personal safety. Travel insurance for Africa will invariably cover accident, illness and injury, however if you are at fault in any of these instances it may jeopardise your coverage.
An African safari will truly be a trip of a lifetime. Many of the animals that can be observed at the Kruger National Park have been, or currently are, on the endangered species list. The privilege of seeing one of The Big Five may soon become a thing of the past. So, be sure to shoot as many as you can, with your camera, while experiencing a luxury safari adventure like no other!
Five Fabulous Cruise Destinations With a Difference
Travelling by cruise ship perfectly encapsulates the meaning of a luxurious and convenient holiday. One day, you can be with your sweetheart admiring the sunset and breathing in the crisp sea-kissed air, and the next, you could be slow dancing at a classy ball in the heart of the ship. Cruises truly give meaning to the moniker ‘home away from home’, as they can accommodate any itinerary and any mindset. And you only need to pack once!
Need I say more?
The Kimberly Coast, Australia
Majestic Waterfalls and Apex Predators
There is something special about the Kimberly cruise. It’s just unrelenting beauty in all directions as if every vista and landscape were hand painted to be hung at an art gallery. A testament to this is the fiery red rock cliffs of the King George Falls. I’ll never forget the feeling of being dwarfed by the 50-metre wonder as our boat edged closer and closer to the waterfall.
The boats are a bit on the smaller side, but this allows you to explore intricate caverns and hidden billion-year-old gorges that punctuate this cruise. It also offers something for the wildlife enthusiast, as you’ll spot roaming sea water crocodiles, exotic birds at reserves, and even witness the unforgettable sights of a turtle breeding ground.
The Middle East and the Suez Canal
Sail Back in Time and Explore the Ancients
Stunning Middle Eastern architecture and religious sites are the backdrops for this historically significant journey. Sailing through the Middle East is like unfurling a rich tapestry of culture and beauty as ancient stonework intermingles with glass skyscrapers, and dramatic coastlines are superseded by inspiring mountain ranges.
Experience every ingredient in the cocktail of cultures that is the Middle East. Sail the man-made wonder that is the Suez Canal, explore the Valley of Kings in Egypt, and visit the supreme metropolis that is Dubai.
The West African Coast
For Bustling Markets, Unique Cuisine, and a Great Variety of Locations
The West African coast is a staggeringly long stretch of land that comprises many countries. As such, it is only by the sea that you can truly experience such a wonderful and unique set of cultures. The changes in scenery can be staggering, featuring great metropolis’s, rolling deserts, jungles and mangroves, colourful tropics, beautiful beaches, rugged mountains, and quaint villages. Experience all of this and more as you travel from Cape Town to the Western Sahara Desert.
The North Pole
Stand on Top of the World…Literally!
There is nothing more serene than watching the mist descend and caress the peak of a distant berg as the sun hangs lazily in the pure blue sky.
Very few people can say that they’ve stood at the one place where every direction is south. You truly feel like you’re following in the footsteps of the great explorers that have made their names by mapping the Pole. This is undoubtedly helped by the cool expedition ships (that look more like research vessels than cruise ships) that are used to traverse the waters as they effortlessly smash through ice blocks three metres thick!
River Cruise in South Asia
Winding Waterways and Landscapes Bursting With Life and Beauty
South Asia (and river cruises in particular) are a relatively new area of exploration within commercial cruising. The natural waterways that snake their way into the heart of many South Asian countries such as the Mekong which runs through Vietnam, China, and Cambodia are a great way to see deep into countries that are only accessible through slower means.
A Note on Cruise Travel Insurance
To put on my mothering hat for a moment, I’m going to state that safety while abroad is a paramount concern for anyone, especially if you’re embarking on a cruise. Travel insurance should be at the top of your priority list – it’s not just on dry land where you need to be covered.
At InsureMore we have over 20 years of experience and we know what it takes to keep you safe as we cater to every itinerary and every age group. We offer specially-designed cruise travel insurance that covers anything you might experience on your cruise of a lifetime.