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Travel toolkit

Holiday hints, tips and guides

Ideas and last-minute tips to help you plan your trip, and save you money.

  • On the road

    On the road

    Want to drive off into the sunset? We asked four experts to pick their favourite road trips from around the world. Plus useful watchouts for a successful – and money-saving – trip. 

    1. Taipei to Kenting, Taiwan

    “I’d suggest a road trip down the length of Taiwan,” says Cathy Adams, Head of Travel at The Independent and The Evening Standard. “It’s a little island – just 400km from top to bottom – but during the journey you can cross off futuristic cities, like Taipei and Kaohsiung, the lush country park of Kenting, the historic Qing Dynasty capital Tainan and the surflands of the southern tip. For such a small place, the landscape and atmosphere are incredibly varied.

    “Roads are well organised and efficient, drivers are friendly and the trip can be as elastic as you like. Although, it would take just a couple of days to race down the island, it’s a good idea to stretch the journey out to a week to get a real sense of the country. Plus, Taiwanese food is the best you’ll find in Asia."

    Road trip tips

    • Drivers will need a 1949 International Driving Permit to drive in Taiwan. These are available over the counter at most Post Offices. You’ll need to present a full valid UK driving licence, a passport-standard photo and a valid passport (if your licence is an older paper version). There’s a £5.50 application fee, and the licence lasts for 12 months
    • Taipei has a very different climate to southern Taiwan. It rains much more in the capital, so make sure you understand how to use the windscreen wipers before you set off
    • Check out the government’s advice for travelling in Taiwan and find links to more information, including details on car hire, at the official Taiwan tourism Facebook page
       

    2. Interlaken to Zurich, Switzerland

    “The drive through the Swiss Alps from Interlaken to Zurich is pretty perfect in my view,” says Sean Tipton from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

    You’ll pass through Meiringen, where you can stop off at the spectacular Reichenback Falls, take in Lucerne with its famous Chapel Bridge and medieval architecture and then follow the winding roads through Wädenswil. You can also take a scenic detour to the Benedictine monastery at Einsiedeln, but check first that the Susten Pass is open (it’s usually closed from November to May).

    Road trip tips

    • To drive on Swiss motorways, you must buy and display a ‘vignette’ (sticker) or face a fine. These last for one year and are available at most border crossings, petrol stations, post offices, by phone and online. The cost is currently CHF 40
    • Keep an eye on the speedometer. Excessive speed is a felony in Switzerland and, if you accidentally go over the limit, you may receive an on-the-spot fine. You can find all the latest information on driving laws for any country in Europe at rac.co.uk/drive/travel
    • In the event of a no-deal Brexit, drivers may need an International Driving Permit to drive in Switzerland and EU/EEA countries as a visitor. Find other useful guidance at gov.uk
       

    3. The Sea to Sky Highway, Vancouver

    “Heading north from the city of Vancouver never fails to produce a thrill of excitement,” says Jenny Cahill-Jones at Rough Guides. “As you cross the water, the snow-capped Rocky Mountains loom in the distance, hinting at your final destination – Whistler. The city then falls away revealing a series of islands that look like basking whales in the waters of Howe Sound. It’s a short journey – at around 90 minutes – leaving you plenty of time to explore when you arrive.”

    Road trip tips

    • If you’re going to stay on in Whistler, try to book your accommodation early to save money – good rooms can go quickly, especially during ski season. And don’t underestimate the challenge of driving during the winter. Check the weather conditions before you set out. Find some useful tips, and other road trip suggestions, at authentikcanada.com
    • If you’re planning to visit in summer, pack your hiking boots, Whistler’s ski hills reveal a host of hiking trails when the snow melts
    • You’ll need an International Driving Permit to drive in Canada – see above
       

    4. Bordeaux and the Basque Country, France and Spain

    “This journey is perfect for gastronomes,” says Jenny Cahill-Jones at Rough Guides.

    It takes you from the vineyards of France to the foodie mecca of San Sebastian in Spain and beyond. You can sample the ‘grands vins’ of Bordeaux, explore the medieval town of Bayonne and sample some of the world’s best pintxos (small tapas-style snacks) in San Sebastian. It’s easier to pay with cash in the pintxos bars as they’re usually busy, so make sure you have enough before heading out.

    Beyond San Sebastian, you can get a dose of culture in Bilbao – home to the Guggenheim Museum, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, and stop off to explore picturesque beaches and fishing villages, such as Hondarribia and Getaria.

    Road trip tips

    • Make it a circular road trip from Bordeaux to San Sebastian and back again, to save on the one-way car rental fees that some hire companies charge. Using the A63 motorway, the journey should only take around two and a half hours, but you’ll have to budget for tolls
    • In Europe, car hire companies typically allow you to cross the border into a neighbouring country without a charge, but it’s a good idea to inform them of your plans at the outset to avoid the risk of breaking contract terms and any hidden charges
    • If you’re taking your own car over to France or Spain, you’ll need a GB sticker or a number plate with the GB initials on it. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government advises you display a GB sticker whether or not your number plate includes the GB sign
       

    5. The Golden Circle, Iceland

    “Iceland’s best-known road trip, this is a 200-mile loop that heads out of Reykjavík into the Southern Uplands,” says Darryl Sleath, editor of MotorPunk Magazine and author of 1001 Road Trips You Must Drive Before You Die. “It takes in three of Iceland’s headline acts: Þingvellir National Park, the colossal Gullfoss waterfall and the Strokkur Geyser at Haukadalur, spewing scalding water 40-metres into the air every 15 minutes.

    “To really explore, I’d suggest getting off the tarmac and into its vast network of gravel F-roads that sprawl across its heartlands. Traversing loose surfaces and fording the occasional river, you’ll need to hire an appropriate 4x4 vehicle. Get hold of a decent road map and consult road.is for weather and road conditions before striking out and seeing where the road takes you – wherever it is, you won’t be disappointed.”

    Road trip tips

    • Iceland’s hotel prices are notoriously high, says Darryl, so you might want to consider camping or bed and breakfast. Also, medium-priced hotels fill up quickly, so if you’re travelling with a large group of people, it’s a good idea to book rooms well in advance
    • If you have annual car insurance, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered for driving any car other than your own, so check your policy carefully before you leave. A hire car usually comes with basic insurance included in the price, but check exactly what the policy includes (especially if you’re thinking of hiring an off-road vehicle) to make sure you’re not liable for more than you think. Which? has some useful information for hiring a car abroad
    • Petrol stations in Iceland can be few and far between, especially in the more remote areas. It’s a good idea to fill up before you leave the Reykjavík area to avoid problems
       

    6. The North Coast 500 from Inverness via John o’Groats, North Scotland

    “Listed in Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel Top 10 Regions 2019’, the North Coast 500 takes in everything that Scotland is famous for,” says Darryl. “From its official starting point beneath the battlements of Inverness Castle, the road weaves toward the west coast, snaking through a ribbon of hairpins over Applecross Pass, before a breathtaking rollercoaster of stunning coastal roads heads northwards towards the golden beaches of Durness. Passing the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, we reach the mainland’s tip at John o' Groats before heading south through Dingwall and back to Inverness.”

    Road trip tips

    • If you don’t want to drive to the starting point, you can fly to Inverness and hire a car at one of the well-known rental companies
    • Accommodation can get booked up months in advance. As an alternative, hire a VW T6 Campervan from Go North Campers from £80 per day (bigger motorhomes are not a good idea on the NC500). There are many campsites on the route
    • Try out the North East 250 (NE250), too. This circular route start at Ballindalloch Castle & Distillery in Speyside, and takes in the Moray Firth, the forests of Royal Deeside and Cairngorm National Park
       

    Key considerations

    Wherever you decide to go, don’t forget that you can get travel insurance through our Travel Pack options.

    The Travel Pack costs £12.50 per month and gives you worldwide family travel insurance and RAC comprehensive breakdown cover in the UK and Europe.

    To boost your benefits, consider the Travel Plus Pack. For £18 per month, you’ll get all of the cover of the Travel Pack, but with the addition of airport lounge access, parking, restaurant and hotel discounts. Terms and conditions apply.

    And take a look at our last-minute travel tips for more tips on planning a stress-free getaway – from sorting your currency to staying safe from fraud.

    The views and opinions expressed on any third party websites and/or apps do not reflect the views of the Barclays Bank PLC Group nor should they be taken as statements of policy or intent of the Barclays Bank PLC Group. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no responsibility for the veracity of information intimated by a third party and no warranties or undertakings of any kind whether express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information are given. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no liability for the impact of any decisions made based on information contained and views expressed from the third party websites listed.

  • Value-packed travel ideas

    Value-packed travel ideas

    We all love a little luxury on holiday, but it can be hard to know whether you’re really getting value for money. We asked travel specialists for their pick of the best-value locations for everything from 5-star hotels to safaris and sailing. 

    Top-notch hotel: Havana, Cuba

    After luxury accommodation at a good price? Go West. The Cuban capital saw prices for 5-star hotels drop by 23% last year, according to research by holiday comparison site Skyscanner1

    Fine dining: Singapore

    Want the best food without eating up your budget? Head to Singapore. Liao Fan Hawker Cahn in Chinatown tops travel company Traveloka’s list for the cheapest places in the world to eat Michelin-starred food2

    Sailing without splurging: Croatia 

    “Luxury sailing is better value than you might think,” says Joanne Lait of sailchecker.com, “and Croatia is the place to be. A Premium catamaran, chartered from around £,2,800 becomes very affordable when split between two families of four. And you could pay much less for a smaller boat.”

    Complimentary castles: Cornwall, UK

    With Premier Rewards, you can get free entry to over 350 historic and cultural English Heritage sites across the UK, such as Pendennis Castle in Falmouth. Entry includes you, one other adult and up to six children (under 18). Register now, if you haven’t already. 

    Safari deals: Botswana

    “This year, there’s the chance for some last-minute deals at Africa’s most amazing game viewing destinations in July, August and September,” says Tom Grimes from thesafarispecialists.co.uk. “A tailor-made safari is never low-budget, but there are some great deals in Botswana this year as the industry’s been a little slower than usual.” 

    Glamping: Snowdonia, Wales

    For luxury under the stars, nothing beats a bit glamping. Zoe Holland from International Glamping Business recommends Slate Mountain in Snowdonia. “There are mine tours, zip wire experiences and underground trampolining as well as luxury safari-style lodges,” she says. 

    Canyoneering capital: Utah, USA

    Lonely Planet recommend Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch in Utah to introduce you to the addictive art of canyoneering3. These hiking trails can be split into easy three-mile return scrambles and, even better, they’re free. Find out more at Utah.com/hiking

    All-round good value: Lódz, Poland

    Voted one of the world’s best value destinations for 2019 by Lonely Planet4, Lódz (pronounced ‘woodge’) is the place to go for culture, shopping and entertainment. “There’s been huge and ambitious investment in Poland’s third largest city and it shows,” says Lonely Planet’s Editorial Director Tom Hall. It even has an artificial beach. 

    Find advice from the government about travelling to these destinations, click on the country

     

    The views and opinions expressed on any third-party websites do not reflect the views of the Barclays Bank PLC Group nor should they be taken as statements of policy or intent of the Barclays Bank PLC Group. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no responsibility for the veracity of information intimated by a third party and no warranties or undertakings of any kind whether express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information are given. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no liability for the impact of any decisions made based on information contained and views expressed from the third-party websites listed.

  • Last-minute money tips

    Last-minute money tips

    From easy ways to avoid extra costs to taking out the right insurance package, here are seven holiday hacks to help you stay on track during your trip.

    1. Card or cash?

    It’s always a good idea to read up on a holiday destination before you leave home, whether it’s getting tips on ‘undiscovered’ beaches or finding out about the best restaurants, but it’s also worth thinking in advance about how you’ll be paying on holiday. Will your bank card be accepted in that hideaway hotel, for example, or will you need to take cash? Locations can differ dramatically. Japan, for instance, is mainly cash-based5 – some restaurants will not take cards, and ATMs may not operate at the weekends or on national holidays. However, in Sweden – vying to be the first cashless society in the world6 – many shops and restaurants may only accept payment by card.

    Spend with Barclaycard Platinum travel credit card while you’re away and you won’t pay any non-sterling transaction fees on your foreign spend and cash withdrawals until 31 August 2023. With this Barclaycard, you also receive 0.5% cashback on all your spending for the first three months after opening your account, and 0.25% cashback after this date until 31 August 2023. Terms and conditions apply.

    2. Don’t get stung by mobile charges

    Want to share holiday pictures instantly, or keep friends and family up to date on social media while you’re away? Remember that using data on a mobile network while you’re abroad can cost you. Additional charges for roaming on smartphones when you’re in another EU country were scrapped in 2017 but, if we leave the EU without a deal, this may change. And, remember, in other parts of the world, charges can escalate rapidly.

    An easy way to avoid extra costs is to turn roaming off but there are other ways to keep your spending down, too. Download music, podcasts or films you might want to listen to or watch before you leave home, consider buying a local SIM card (though this will only work if your phone is unlocked) and use free local wifi while you’re away – though be careful not to share any personal or financial details over public wifi as you can’t guarantee that it’s secure.

    3. Avoid the single supplement

    Some hotels and holiday companies charge extra for a single room but there are ways around this, says Jennie Carr of silvertraveladvisor.com – a travel website for the over 50s: “We recommend keeping a close eye on offers, as there can be zero supplements on escorted tours and cruises. It’s always worth asking when you book, too, as company websites don’t always include all the details. If you're one of two single people travelling in a group, another possibility is to opt to share a room, as you could then get a reduced rate.”

    4. Make the most of special offers

    If you’ve time to shop around or you’re happy to wait until the last minute, you can often find good deals on holidays and travel; and it’s always worth keeping an eye out for discounts. Remember if you book with Expedia online through us, you can get cashback on your holiday. You’ll receive 6% cashback on hotels, or 3% when you book your hotel and flights together. Plus, if you’ve switched on Barclays Blue Rewards7, you get an extra 1% cashback. Individual retailers’ exclusions apply.

    5. Plan for emergencies

    Travel insurance can give you peace of mind wherever you’re going on holiday. If you’re planning a European trip, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which entitles you to state healthcare in other EEC countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free. Start your application.

    Remember, however, that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the EHIC may no longer be valid. Also, the EHIC only covers you for some medical assistance, so you’ll need to take out general travel insurance to make sure other aspects of your trip are covered.

    As well as worldwide, multi-trip travel insurance, our Travel Pack gives you RAC comprehensive breakdown cover in the UK and Europe at a cost of £12.50 a month. For a slightly higher monthly cost (£18), Travel Plus Pack gives all of the cover of Travel Pack, as well as airport lounge access, airport parking and hotel discounts. Take a look at our insurance options.

    6. Get a driving licence check code

    If you’re planning to hire a car on your holiday for one of our expert-selected road trips, you might have to show a driving licence check code to the car hire company. And if you don’t have your code, you may be charged extra or might even be turned away by the car hire company. Get your code before you go through GOV.UK Verify by creating a Barclays identity profile – you only need to set up a profile once and it takes about 15 minutes.

    GOV.UK Verify means you can prove who you are online. As well as obtaining your driving licence check code, you can access a range of government services, including your tax return and pension, through the online portal within minutes – all with one username and password.

    You don’t need to be a Barclays customer to create a profile and we don’t share any financial information with GOV.UK. To sign up, go to GOV.UK Verify and choose Barclays from the list of certified companies.

    7. Keep on top of your money

    Keeping track of payments in and out of your account – as well as your savings and investments – is easy to do on the go with the Barclays app. You can check your balance, manage standing orders and report a lost or stolen debit card directly from your phone. Plus, you can also call us directly from the app if you need any support while you’re abroad.

    To be eligible for the Barclays app, you must have a current account with us, be aged 16 or over and have a mobile number. Terms and conditions apply.

    The views and opinions expressed on any third-party websites do not reflect the views of the Barclays Bank PLC Group nor should they be taken as statements of policy or intent of the Barclays Bank PLC Group. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no responsibility for the veracity of information intimated by a third party and no warranties or undertakings of any kind whether express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information are given. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no liability for the impact of any decisions made based on information contained and views expressed from the third-party websites listed.

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