Phobic Traveller: The Next Chapter for Air Travel

Phobic Traveller: The Next Chapter for Air Travel

The continuum of quarantine and travel rules around the world along with impending recession is causing huge damage throughout the travel industry.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) now believes that the Airline Industry will not recover until 2024. When we look back at 2020, we will remember it for the worst year in the history of aviation. The airline industry is at a very fragile juncture, will they be able to turn their losses into a profit in 2021/22 so badly needed to pay their debts.

These projections are not very reassuring for the phobic travellers among us.

While the number of grounded aircraft has fallen, airlines are still flying at very low capacity with some scheduled flights cancelled due to empty aircraft. This really is unthinkable, but presently unavoidable, a reality the phobic travellers among us will not appreciate.

In a bid to soften the blow to business and to ensure a future for the company and it’s employees, British Airways has gone so far as to ask its pilots to take a pay cut of up to 20%.

The demand for travel being so low has created a financial void. Each time there is a glimmer of hope, the virus tugs on the rope and quarantine takes over, stopping our mechanical birds taking off to the exotic wonders of our planet.

On the subject of our planet, looking to the future, Airlines will need to commit to cutting their carbon footprint. If the renewable jet fuels such as carbon-recycled materials are to be successful, airlines must work towards replacing old technology with new.

Perhaps this will somewhat mark the end of an era; BA’s fleet of iconic Boeing 747 have already been announced as heading into retirement — the aircraft having made its first flight February 1969. Technology – and environmental policy – have changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Quite appropriately, now only the most fuel efficient modern fleet will cope with the aftermath of the Aviation’s biggest crises.

This will be a particular blow for the phobic traveller. Anyone who has flown on a 747 knows what a great aircraft they are!

Countries are gradually lifting travel restrictions for non-essential travel, but there are still many entry rules to be aware off. For example, and among many other restrictions around the world, all residents of the UK need to submit a contact form no earlier than 48hrs prior to travel in order to assist with contact tracing.

It is best to keep up to speed with your local news provider, and if in any doubt to check your government for the latest travel advice.

As time passes, the phobic traveller will be wondering when and how to travel. Many people are at an awkward impasse between simmering wanderlust, wanting to keep healthy and safe, and the civic duty of stopping the spread.

Much like the after effects of 9/11, a new chapter is beginning, changing the nuances of how we travel.

For The Phobic Traveller, this is Neda Dorudi


Main image: 747 and 777 at YVR, JamesZ_Flickr, Flickr Creative Commons

Phobic Traveller: Getting Aviation Off The Ground

Phobic Traveller: Getting Aviation Off The Ground

In the history of aviation there as never been such a downturn.  2020 will certainly be remembered as the worst year in aviation history.  Airlines are set to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 and revenues will fall by more 50%, (source of figures IATA).

Closed borders and the reduction in passengers is the driving force behind the losses. Travel is 95% down since 2019 with the lowest point being April 2020.

A truly unusual phenomenon where neither the demand nor the supply is to blame. The demand for travel is there, but halted by border restrictions. And phobic travellers the world over are getting anxious about the effects of the restrictions and quarantining.

Parked aircraft are creating a space issue for airlines with so many being grounded.

But for some parts of our world it’s been a welcome respite.  Over tourism has driven many Venetians to despair with large ship liners polluting the Adriatic, and leaving tons of rubbish. Huge crowds have meant that even antiquities were being eroded from the moisture of tourist breath.

Tourism is one of the biggest industries of the 21st century, generating huge amounts of revenue and employing many, but there is always a price to pay the tourist erosion of unique cities such as Venice. During the lockdown we saw the Adriatic and canals pollution free and waters clear.

In the UK, the government has now created several ‘air bridges’ starting  from 6 July, allowing eager phobics to travel to France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Spain and Norway. However, it won’t exactly be business as usual — hotels in popular holiday resorts like Spain may have to operate at half capacity due to physical distancing efforts.

There are hungry phobics just itching to get holidaying. Travel company bargains are presently reducing fares by 70 percent and some holiday companies have seen a rise of 50 per cent in bookings.

Could this the beginning of travel taking off again? Corporates won’t be travelling until end of 2020, maybe not until next year. Many companies are continuing a ban on travel.

But for the phobic traveller it’s exciting news. While the hunt for bargains begins, and the long wait rewarded with cheap flights and packages, after lockdown what better to look forward to than the sun and sea.

For The Phobic Traveller, this is Neda Dorudi

Main image: Planes at Logan Airport – Constitution Beach – East Boston – 2014-06-01, Bill Damon, Flickr Creative Commons

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
June 9, 2020

New Zealand Declares Itself COVID-Free

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has declared that there have been no new coronavirus cases in New Zealand for 17 days and has subsequently embarked on lifting restrictions previously placed on the country. In interviews with press, Ms Arden said that she ‘did a little dance’ with her daughter in joy and in relief that the virus appears to have been defeated.

The country will remove all coronavirus-related curbs on shops, restaurants and offices and physical distancing will no longer be mandatory, although it will remain encouraged.

Other COVID-Free nations include Australia & Fiji.

On your bike

Cycling Oxford, Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr Creative Commons

Cycling Oxford, Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr Creative Commons

Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • Tourism operator Kuoni said it has seen a “clear upturn” in demand for holidays in 2021, with the Maldives, Mauritius, Thailand, Spain and India high on the wish list for many customers.
  • The longest economic expansion in American history is officially over; The National Bureau of Economic Research declared Monday that a recession began in February.
  • Museums and cinemas have begun reopening in Denmark.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

More information:

Watch: Adventure Golf – New Zealand

Phobic Traveller: The What, When & How of COVID-19 Travel

Phobic Traveller: Challenges and Innovation in the Travel Industry

Tips For Coping During Lockdown

Phobic Traveller: Challenges and Innovation in the Travel Industry

Phobic Traveller: Challenges and Innovation in the Travel Industry
May 20, 2020

The 21st century has once again ushered a new age in travel.

First, the World Wide Web made the creation of travel websites sites so easy that phobic travellers had their own runway to competitive choice. This became an oasis of inexpensive air fares, that would fly you anywhere, anytime. Soon it became an electronic, paperless realm, with an app on your smartphone. You were checked in, and you just had to get  to the airport complete security, and take that flight.

Then, along came 9/11 and with it heightened security, which at the time was very intense but after 20 years the world has adjusted.

Now we have COVID-19. It’s created a new challenge that could last another 20 years. Thus begins a new chapter in the history of travel, to the dismay of phobic travellers everywhere.

Travel agents will now include special assistance as a new feature in their post COVID roles, especially for their corporate travellers. There will be a duty of care with in-depth guidance and check lists galore. This will make the reservation process lengthier.

The demand for travel will not be great initially. As confidence creeps back, air fares will be reshaped, and rise. The phobic traveller will now be worrying that travel will no longer be as affordable.

Airlines will use strategy when choosing their aircraft, and retire older models. They will replace them with a more modern and cost effect fleet. This will help them revitalise and kick start their new financial model.

It will be a tough struggle, but the tide will turn slowly.

The phobic traveller will be twitching and panicking, as the old way of travel becomes a distant memory.

A new era of post-COVID travel may see Airports ask travellers for immunity passports. Security checks will take place with much sanitation.

‘Manage My Booking’ tools may be rebranded to supply post-COVID, pre-flight additional guidance. We are certain that we will see the creation of travel assist COVID-apps which you can download on your smart phone, reducing the stress and worry in the new age of travel.

This will be great support for phobic travellers everywhere.

All airlines already introduced checked and unchecked bag fare types, and post-COVID travel may see a limitation on cabin bags.

Airfares will restructured for a host of reasons. Will we return to an age when only the rich could afford to travel extensively?

The UK Foreign Office currently advises against all non-essential travel. You can check border controls for all countries on the link below.

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

The UK Government has announced from next month arrivals in the UK will face a 14-day quarantine this will include returning British holiday makers, with a possible air bridge to exclude Australia and Greece where COVID has been low. This could be very traumatic for the phobic traveller.

Right now it is twilight zone – reality hasn’t quite sunk in. We we are in speculation mode.Are  you ready to take to a runway and travel again soon?

Stay tuned to more editions of Travel in the Covid Zone.

More information:

Read: Phobic Traveller: The What, When & How of COVID-19 Travel

Study Guide: Epidemics Throughout The Ages

Read: Tips For Coping During Lockdown

Neda Dorudi for the Forensic Traveller

Main image: Departures Terminal 5, London Heathrow Airport, Andrew Milligan Sumo, Flickr Creative Commons

Phobic Traveller: The What, When & How of COVID-19 Travel

Phobic Traveller: The What, When & How of COVID-19 Travel
May 6, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and it’s temporary freeze on travel is proving to be an enormous worry for the world’s Phobic Travellers.

Never in the history of travel in the 20th and 21st centuries have we seen such a major decline in travel – thousands of aircraft parked without a destination to fly to. Not even during The Gulf War or 9/11 was there such a dip. It is fair to say that right now we have a frozen industry.

For many who have booked their summer vacations, and hope for a refund, there will be further disappointment, as cash strapped airlines and travel companies cling on to their cash reserves which are paramount to their very survival. Many will only refund by giving their customers vouchers for future travel.

The Phobic Travellers among us will experience very dark days, weeks and even possibly months ahead. The are many recurring questions: What if I don’t get my refund, or a voucher?;  What if my voucher expires before I can travel again?; When will it be safe to travel?

The truth is none of us know when travel will take off again. It may not be until the end of this year. For the Phobic Traveller, everything right now is a weight of worry. Will people regain their confidence to travel again?  

When movement is unlocked, the desire to see the world will hopefully overcome anxieties. But for the moment we can only escape from lockdown by dreaming of sandy beaches and sunny days ahead.

Feeling deflated? Watch Travelling in the 70’s for some good, old fashioned fun!

In one rather dystopian fell swoop, air fares will increase, security and health checks will morph into a 4 hour process and will become the new norm. Masks will be mandatory when flying and meals may no longer be offered.

On the upside, the rejection and subsequent reduction in this kind of travel could be great news for the environment. How many aircraft have you seen in a clean and clear sky recently? Greta Thunberg has recently called for a “new way forward” upon the end of the pandemic — is this what she has in mind?

Future forward decisions aside, budget airline Wizz Air has just started its operations again and we are certain many others will follow.

For airlines, it will be the survival of the strongest. Of the carriers who make it out the other side, how many will introspectively assess the vulnerabilities of their businesses? Global economic disasters always expose fragility, especially in cash-flow and supply chains.

However, for survivors, there will be ample opportunities for airlines to entice twitchy customers with imaginative deals to encourage them to book and fly away to to far away lands. To say the world deserves a holiday is a huge understatement! 

But for the Phobic Traveller the questions will multiply. Reassurance will be the key to close the door on nervous and worrying thoughts.

Stay tuned for more encouraging updates on the re-emergence of travel as we once knew.

More information:

Study Guide: Epidemics Throughout The Ages

Read: Tips For Coping During Lockdown

Neda Dorudi for The Forensic Traveller

Main image: Dublin Airport, Sean MacEntee, Flickr Creative Commons

Tips For Coping During Lockdown

Tips For Coping During Lockdown

It would be fair to say that more of us than usual are facing stress and/or anxiety this month, and with looming uncertainty as to when we will return to normal, it is important to look after your wellbeing. The good news is that most of us have got plenty of time on our hands to take proper care of ourselves, but if you’re struggling for ideas we’ve put together a list of tips and resources for remaining calm and staving off Coronavirus anxiety – and dare we say – using this awkward time wisely!

Mood Boosters

Positive news

John Krasinski of The Office has launched a YouTube channel aptly named “Some Good News“, covering any and all positive news that the world has to offer. Spare 30 minutes from your week (preferably minutes which you may have been spending ‘terror scrolling’), and check in with John every Monday for his mood boosting show.

Online therapy

The mental health tech sector has experienced a boom in the past month, with more and more people seeking help from online and app-based sources. App based services such as Better Help offer an affordable and easy way to access a professional ear to chew on. If you’d prefer to deal with your stressors on your own, services such as Headspace use meditation to build awareness alongside a healthy sense of perspective.

Watch something inspiring

Head over to the Pilot Guides Store and download any number of our shows. We’re currently loving our Pocket Guides (currently half price!) for planning our next city break, and Travelling in the 70’s for some good old fashioned nostalgia!

70's cars in Los Angeles, Travelling in the 70's by Pilot Productions

70’s cars in Los Angeles, Travelling in the 70’s by Pilot Productions

Schedule video calls with loved ones

Whether its a quiz night, a cup of coffee and a chin-wag or a shared takeaway, utilise video calling to maintain meaningful connections with people you care about. Aside from the obvious boost this will provide to your mood, it will also give you the opportunity to take your mind off your own problems and check in with everyone else.

A screen-ban

Set an allocated time every day where you turn off the TV, put down the phone or tablet and close your laptop. Use this time to read, practice journalling, meditate or some other activity aside from your chores. Actively unwinding can help your frantic thoughts to slow down, inspire creativity and help you let go of factors which are beyond your control. Aside from the benefits of the activities themselves, less screen time will help slow down your consumption of negative information, give your eyes a break from harmful blue-light and help you recognise when you are simply scrolling because you are bored.

Sleep

Physical exercise

In most places, lockdown laws enable individuals to partake in an hour of physical activity each day. This is for good reason – exercise generates feel-good hormones! It’s also a great opportunity to get some fresh air, vitamin D, and connect with nature. Don’t forget that walking counts as exercise too, and now would be a great time to take in some of your local sights!

Historic Walks Hollywood - Justine in the Hollywood Hills

If you cant go out, ensure to do something physical at home. Yoga is a great way to relax your body and mind. Isometric (such as a plank) and isotonic exercises (such as squats and push-ups) are great if you do not have much space and are confined to home.

DVD: Historic Walks

Sleep hygiene

Preparing and preserving your bedroom as a place for sleep can be very important when trying to minimise disruption to sleep! In the morning, make your bed and air your bedroom; and in the evening light a candle or spray some calming linen spray. Stay away from your bedroom until it is time for bed. Also, Mr. Sandman is not a fan of the blue-light from your phone either, so make sure to leave it aside for a restful nights’ kip!

Routine

Set a time for bed each night and stick to it, set an alarm each morning and avoid sleeping-in. Is your sleep pattern already busted? Try to move your bedtime and wake-up back by 10 minutes each day. Even so much as paying attention to your sleep pattern and making a concerted effort towards maintaining a routine will help you feel more in control.

Sleeping in a yurt... Pilot Productions

Sleeping in a yurt… Pilot Productions

Finances

Cash KingMake a zero-sum budget

Do you know where your money goes each month? Knowing where every penny has gone, and where every penny should be will help restore a sense of control in these financially stressful period. There are some fantastic online tools to help you draw up this budget, and many computers come with a pre-loaded budget templates!

Seek help

If things aren’t looking too rosy, then don’t bury your head in the sand. As well as finding out if there are any state benefits which you may be entitled to receive, you should look to temporarily reduce your obligations where possible. Many lenders are offering payment holidays as well as adjustments to repayment schedules, so call your lenders and discuss ways to ease your situation. Remember, it is in their interest for you not to default! Institutions such as Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK can provide some clarity on where to find help, and help you seek it. In the US, assistance generally varies from state to state, so do some digging and find out if there is anything you can do to ease the burden for even a short period.

Home

Spring clean

It is that time of year, after all. What better way to spend an afternoon than cleaning your house from top to bottom, and ‘putting winter away’. Having a clean and tidy environment in the spring time is important, especially when you’re spending so much time at home.

Clean out your closet

Take inventory of your closet! Set aside anything you no longer wear ready to donate it to a charity shop or a clothes bank. Alternatively, to generate some cash, you could sell them online! As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”. Apply this principle to other cupboards, too. Perhaps you have a pile of paperwork stashed away that you’ve been meaning to sort through, old electronics which have been sat in a box collecting dust, or a bathroom cabinet full of lotions and potions – get rid of what you no longer want and organise what you do!

Get creative in the kitchen

Empty out your food cupboard and fridge and get creative! Not only will this help with efforts to cut down on your spending, but cooking can also be a great way to release some stress. There is a plethora of recipes using just about any ingredients on the internet, but we would recommend checking out our Ten Great Global Recipes for inspiration!

A spicy pudding soup with fresh fruit. So wrong, but so delicious.

spicy pudding soup with fresh fruit. So wrong, but so delicious. And more or less exactly what you’ll get when you combine the contents of your cupboard…

Work

We love this Antique Writing Desk. When you're done for the day, you simply shut it! Image by Thomas Quine, Flickr creative Commons

We love this Antique Writing Desk. When you’re done for the day, you simply shut it! Image by Thomas Quine, Flickr creative Commons

Working from home

Pilot HQ’s tried and tested tips:

  • Stick to a routine: Clock in and out at roughly the same time each day where your role permits!
  • Make the most of not commuting: Go for a walk and/or eat a good breakfast!
  • Keep your work area as separate from your living area as possible: As tempting as it might be, taking your laptop to bed is not as productive as you think it is!
  • Take a lunch break!
  • Get dressed properly: Not just for that ever impending surprise video call, but getting dressed for work will help you focus on work, and keep work and home tasks separate.

Furloughed or on leave

Devote work-time to professional development or other activities which will help to enrich your career and and add value to your employers or your business. This is not limited to simply seeking out online courses; a more holistic approach to enrichment will enhance your life and your career. We love activities such as learning a language, or exploring the plethora of lessons that history has to offer. Why not check out our Study Guides to get a taste for what you might be interested in pursuing.

Unemployed

As much as finding gainful employment is your priority here, it may also be useful to take this time to reflect on your career so far to help determine what your next move might be. If you were already looking to make a change in your career, then there is literally no time like the present. Those who have lost their jobs could also engage in enriching activities to keep the mind as sharp as possible for when that interview finally comes your way.


Have you already engaged in any of the above, or do you have your own coping strategies? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Main Image: Ned Kelly‘s First Home in Beveridge, Pilot Productions

Where in the Wild has the Coronavirus Come From?

Where in the Wild has the Coronavirus Come From?

Following the outbreak of Coronavirus which is currently spreading from its source in Asia accross the world, scientists are trying to figure out where it has come from, and exactly how it transferred from the animal kingdom to humans.

So far, scientists have ascertained that the virus has been transmitted inter-species – or that is has ‘host jumped’ – from animals to humans, making it a ‘Zoonotic’ virus. Whilst widely reported that this likely came from a bat, it has not been confirmed. Bats are believed to be the original carrier of the former SARS virus and of many other ‘coronaviruses’ due to their particular animal behaviours, such as living in large colonies and covering large distance by flight.

Providing that the virus was originally carried by bats, scientists believe that it unlikely that its first human transmission arose out of direct contact with the notoriously tricky-to-catch mammals. Rather, it is understood that the bats may have transmitted the disease among other wild species more likely to be handled by humans.

Pangolin, Adam Tusk, Flickr Creative Commons

Pangolin, Adam Tusk, Flickr Creative Commons

In fact, it has been suggested by some that bats may have passed the virus on to pangolins, which are poached from the wild to be illegally trafficked to places where their scales and meat are either considered a delicacy, or a form of medicine. This black market trade is completely unregulated and so it would be difficult to trace the transaction where the transmission occurred. It is believed that of the many places that pangolins are trafficked to, Wuhan in China is one, and is also – perhaps coincidentally – where the virus first presented in humans.

Read: You’ve Probably Never Heard Of The World’s Most Trafficked Animal

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals carrying the virus but finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, according to Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL).

More information:

Read: Midnight Remedy: Bat Soup

World Health Organisation: Travel Advice


Main Image: Ground Pangolin at Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, David Brossard, Flickr Creative Commons

By Sofi Summers

Rome Bans Tourists From Sitting On Spanish Steps

Rome Bans Tourists From Sitting On Spanish Steps

It came to public attention last week that the City of Rome is clamping down on tourists yet again, this time by banning visitors from sitting on the ever famous and ‘insta-worthy’ Spanish Steps.

Tourists who decide to stop here and who do not move along when requested – by the new specially employed police task-force – will be faced with a fine of up to €400.

The law came into effect at the beginning of July, however only last week did the police appear with their whistles to start moving people along.

The somewhat controversial move is part of a greater effort to improve Rome’s appearance and protect its heritage. The city is concerned by the amounts of litter left by tourists who stop to enjoy refreshments on the steps, and wished to discourage this kind of anti-social behaviour.

The Spanish Steps themselves are a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, and recently underwent a costly restoration project in 2016.

Rome has become one of the world’s busiest tourist destinations and its historical monuments are increasingly at risk from the perils of over-tourism. The city’s officials have become known for introducing rules and regulations such as banning bathing in any of the city’s fountains, and penalising “messy eating” near the monuments.

The move comes amid a greater concerns for many of Italy’s major tourist destinations. Officials have expressed concerns for the welfare of the environment, the important historical landmarks and the future of Italy’s tourism sector.

More information

Article: Important Historical Sites Of The Roman Empire

Article: Italy: Locations In Rome

Article: Ancient Rome

Article:  Italian Island Of Capri Bans Single Use Plastics

Article: The Past, Present & Future of Alberobello’s Iconic Trulli

 

Main Image: Spanish Steps, Ronald Tagra, Flickr Creative Commons

The Average 40-Something Still Has 7 Countries To Visit On Their Bucket List

The Average 40-Something Still Has 7 Countries To Visit On Their Bucket List

The average 40-something still has seven countries to visit on their travel bucket list, a study has found.

A poll of 2,000 adults aged 40 and above revealed travel is not just the domain of the young, with middle-aged Brits still working their way through a wishlist of destinations.

In fact, those polled have only travelled to a quarter of the countries they dream of visiting with popular backpacking destinations New Zealand, Canada and Australia top of the list.

It also emerged more than six in 10 have already got at least one trip abroad booked for 2019.

But three in 10 reckon they are more ‘adventurous’ with their holiday choices now than they ever used to be, with 38% preferring to go off the beaten track when they travel abroad. And rather than sitting by the pool, a fifth have tried snorkelling on a trip abroad while more than one in 10 have been on a safari.

The study also found nearly half of over 40s go on more holidays now than at any other point of their lives, with six in 10 putting this down to having more money than they did in the past.

And a quarter think it’s easier to get away because their kids are older, while 46% have more time, according to the research carried out via OnePoll.

Another 40% think their lives are simpler now, giving them more freedom to travel the globe.

It also emerged more than one in five adults aged 40 and above have also ‘gone travelling’, taking a month or more off work to visit different countries.

Top 20 countries on the wishlists of over 40s

1. New Zealand
2. Canada
3. Australia
4. Mainland USA
5. Italy
6. The Caribbean
7. Hawaii
8. Japan
9. Maldives
10. Greece
11. Spain
12. Portugal
13. France
14. Austria
15. Thailand
16. Germany
17. India
18. Singapore
19. Holland
20. China

Alternative Winter City Breaks In 2019

Alternative Winter City Breaks In 2019

While Berlin, Budapest and Barcelona are great destinations for weekend city breaks, it can be tough to escape the crowds in these much-explored locales. This winter, why not learn about Soviet-era architecture in Moscow, try craft beers in Armenian microbreweries, explore ancient Georgian monasteries or shop at vibrant Jordanian bazaars? Here are five alternative city breaks, taking travellers away from the well-trodden path.

For a hipster city break, try Yerevan instead of Berlin

Buzzing Yerevan is an up-and-coming city break destination, with an industrial chic aesthetic, café culture, microbreweries and art galleries to rival the hip German capital. Music lovers can dive into the city’s live music scene with a night at the ultra-cool Kami Club, where jazz and rock bands accompany dinner and cocktails. Design buffs can witness fascinating Soviet-era architecture and modern art all around the city. History enthusiasts can learn about Armenia’s past and culture at the State Museum, the twelfth century monastery of Geghard and the Megerian Carpet Museum.

Yerevan © Travel Local

For rich history and thermal baths, try Tbilisi instead of Budapest

On the banks of the Kura River, close to the Silk Road and awash with rejuvenating hot spring baths, the beautiful cobblestoned Georgian capital, Tbilisi, abounds in similarities to Budapest but offers charms and intrigue all of its own. Learn about the city’s fascinating blend of Russian, Persian, Roman and Byzantine influences, while wandering its winding lanes and leafy squares and exploring its deserted monasteries, secret gardens and historic churches. The remnants of Soviet Georgia are all around, with 1930s bus stations and modernist structures as well as fascinating finds (including Lenin busts, vintage typewriters and iconic posters) on display at the Dry Bridge Flea Market. Fuel your explorations with stop-offs for comforting Georgian cuisine, from Khachapuri – bread and melted cheese – to Khinkali – tasty dumplings, all washed down with excellent, and very reasonably priced, Georgian wines.

Tbilisi © Travel Local

For grand architecture worthy of a Wes Anderson film, try Moscow instead of Vienna

Kick off this snowy getaway with an interactive walking tour around Red Square, stopping off at the imposing building that is Lenin’s Mausoleum, the magnificent neoclassical GUM Department Store, and the stunning red State Historical Museum, which houses a vast collection of Russian artefacts dating back to the Mongol invasion. A cruise along the Moskva River will reveal the old and modern faces of Russia’s capital, from the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral to the iconic Moscow City skyscrapers. Cold weather lovers will delight in an evening performance by Russian figure skaters, an ice-skating lesson in Gorky Park and a visit to a Siberian husky nursery.

Moscow © Travel Local

For delicious cuisine and winter sunshine, try Amman instead of Barcelona

Jordan’s sunlit capital boasts fine winter weather (up to 14 degrees and seven hours of sunshine in February) and excellent cuisine throughout the city’s many great cafés and restaurants, offering a relaxed alternative to over-crowded Barcelona. Learn the skills to recreate traditional Arabic dishes at home and dine on Jordanian dishes such as mansaf (the national dish, with Bedouin roots, containing rice cooked with meat and yogurt), warak enab (stuffed vine leaves) and musakhan (a Levantine-style pizza of sorts). Visit handicraft markets to shop for colourful Jordanian ceramics, straw baskets and herbal remedies; wander around the labyrinthine downtown area; explore the remains of the Islamic Governor’s Palace and Mosque, and much more.

Ammam © Travel Local

For sun-soaked souks, try Muscat instead of Marrakech

The exotic waterside city of Muscat is rich in history, grandeur and friendly Arabian hospitality. With dazzling souks, fantastic food and a stunning mountain backdrop, it rivals Marrakech as a winter sun destination. The city’s many souks boast colourful ceramics, carpets, antiques, spices and fruits – a sight to behold for foodies, photographers and magpies! Meander along characterful streets lined with clean, whitewashed buildings, explore ancient mosques and venture beyond the city for day trips to otherworldly desert oasis Wadi Shab – a rocky ravine full of palms, banana trees and turquoise pools – and Wahiba Sands – the vast sea of red and white sands, traditionally home to the Bedouin tribes.

Muscat © Travel Local

More information

TravelLocal
The ‘buy local’ expert in tailor-made holidays – makes undiscovered gems more accessible to its UK customer base via local know-how. TravelLocal currently showcases local travel companies from 49 countries around the world, across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, and North Africa. Just added: Russia.