How To Travel The World At Wholesale Rates With Genie Traveler

How To Travel The World At Wholesale Rates With Genie Traveler

Genie Traveler is the new way to travel the world at wholesale rates.

If you’re like me and have a passion – or rather obsession – for traveling then you’ll know that the biggest pain point is the costs involved. Searching for hotel deals, cheap flights and various travel hacks becomes a bit of an obsession. We all have limited funds and we want to maximize the travel opportunities we can get for them. I am so hopeless at saving when traveling that I even wrote a post calling myself “an unsuccessful backpacker.”

There are various sites that promise travel deals, cheap airline tickets and discounted hotels but the reality is that these deals just don’t exist. Trust me. I’ve been doing this a long time and while the big sites might seem like they’re offering you deals, the prices they offer are mostly just marketing spin, enticing you in, while not really exposing the limit of their pricing strategy.

The travel industry, specifically the Online Travel Agents (known in the business as OTAs), are a duopoly – there are just two companies that control the market. You might have heard of lots of different brands but 80% of this online travel space is controlled by just two companies – Expedia and Priceline.

You might think when you’re booking flights, hotels, car rentals and more that you can compare the prices and get the best deals by going to a few different sites. But all they do is compete against themselves with small price differences to make you feel like you’re getting a deal.

In fact, because they’re so powerful they enforce something called rate parity and ensure the public rates they offer can’t be undercut. Well, at least in public.

That public part is important. There are also wholesale rates that aren’t available to the general public. These rates can be significantly lower than you can find elsewhere. This is often how your high street travel agency access their inventory and makes bookings on your behalf. There can be a huge difference between the retail rates you and I pay and the actual wholesale rates that are available behind closed doors.

Travel deals do exist. Just not for you. Until now…

Wholesale Rates

Wholesale rates aren’t meant for the likes of you or I. They’re aimed at businesses. Those that buy in bulk. I’m talking about Fortune 500 companies or travel agents. These businesses pay a premium to access these rates, often $50,000 to $250,000. But, because of their scale, it’s worth it for them. The rates are normally 30% to 70% cheaper than the rest of us can get. Sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less but, even so, that’s some pretty significant savings.

Businesses either sell the products (travel agents), use them to book their own corporate travel and/or as an employee benefit which they can use for their own (and family) personal travel. Access to these wholesale rates are restricted and behind a password protected firewall preventing us from accessing them.

These wholesale feeds are only allowed to be accessed by authorized personnel. The people that can access them must be members or a group, known as a Closed User Group (CUG). If you’re not in a CUG you can’t access these secret rates.

And you can’t get into a CUG. Until now…

How You Can Save With Genie Traveler

I recently teamed up with a company called Genie Traveler that is breaking open these travel myths and exposing the travel industry’s Dirty Little Secret. They’re bringing these wholesale rates straight to the general public and disrupting the OTAs.

They’ve created their own CUG and they’re letting anyone join. Instead of marking up their rates 30% to 70% like the OTAs might do they are making their money in a really ingenious way; they’re charging a small monthly fee for you to access these incredible deals. Rates start at just $3.99 a month (when you pay annually). You can easily save more than the cost of a years membership in just one booking through them.

These guys are fairly new to the marketplace but are already making waves and upsetting the more traditional OTAs.

Of course, I had to check them out for myself.

Travel Savings With Genie Traveler

I wouldn’t have teamed up with Genie Traveler if I hadn’t checked it all out properly myself.

First I had a look at their flights. I didn’t think the deals would be that great. The margins on flights are so small that I really didn’t think they’d be able to do much.

I picked some dates and decided I’d look at a flight from JFK in New York to London Heathrow.  Here’s a screenshot:

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Genie Traveler’s best deal was $697.17 with British Airways (all inclusive of taxes too).

I then went to the British Airways website to see what I could get it for:

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British Airways (including taxes) was $983.01.

That’s a $285.84 saving at Genie Traveler or a 30% saving. Now that’s impressive.

I searched a long haul flight on purpose. Savings on short haul flights are not as likely to be so good (unless you’re flying Business Class). If you’re a short haul traveler then the flight savings might not be for you.

Next I went on to look at hotels. I was hoping for some good savings here as I know the margins can be quite good.

I also wanted to check in a few different countries to see how the rates stood up.

First stop, Washington DC.

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As this was the first place I was checking out I decided to test their top two best deals, especially given that they were at very different price points as well.

The Mayflower Hotel is a beautiful hotel. Genie Traveler shows an incredible 80% saving (note you can only get savings above 70% on their All Travel Elite annual plans which work out at $4.99 a month) from $2,975.60 down to $610.94.

I checked Expedia first:

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They have it listed at $3,000.

Orbitz also list it for $3,000:

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Note on the bottom of the Orbitz listing they show prices as well at Hotels.com, Hotwire and Travelocity also all at $3,000.

Genie Traveler are offering incredible value here with their huge 80% savings. If you stayed for one night you’d save $2,364.66. You could buy 40 years of membership at Genie Traveler with that saving (even more if you use a coupon code – more on that soon)!

I then checked the second hotel in Washington DC, Courtyard by Marriott which is showing a 54% discount down from $647.08 to $302.42.

I went to Hotels.com and found this:

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They’re selling it at $659.

I’ll save you from too many screenshots but Expedia and Travelocity also have it at $659.

Genie Traveler again save you $344.66 on this hotel.

With that done I went to check Europe. I settled on Venice, Italy:

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The savings weren’t as high for Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal at 39% off but that’s still pretty impressive.

Booking.com lists it at $356 (including breakfast, but Genie Traveler includes breakfast as well):

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Hotels.com does a little better at $323:

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But even at the Hotels.com rate it’s still a 38% saving at Genie Traveler.

I went on to check Prague, in the Czech Republic, which has an incredible 86% saving:

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Although, I found that the best comparison savings I could find worked out at 83% and not 86%. I’ll happily take the 83% though.

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See again on the Orbitz listing you get prices at Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire and Hotels.com all at $441 compared to the Genie Traveler price of $77.67.

How To Use Genie Traveler

There are a couple of ways to use their service. You can either save massively on your travel budget – that’s probably the option that most people will take. But the other way is to upgrade how you travel. For example, if you normally stay in a 3 star hotel then you can often find a 5 star hotel for the price you would normally pay for a 3 star hotel. In fact, Genie Traveler will even let you search by star rating too (and they use TripAdvisor’s rating system so you know it’s valid).

I’ve given my examples in dollars but there’s an option to switch your currency too, so don’t worry too much if you’re not from the US. Membership though for Genie Traveler is only currently in US dollars though – they’re rolling out more currencies later this year though.

There are no packages (currently) so you would need to book your hotel and your flight separately. They also don’t have car rental although they expect to add that to their site soon.

Is Genie Traveler Worth It?

Is this worth it? Well that’s up to you and what fits for your personal travel needs. Personally, with savings like this, I’m hooked.

But, here’s the best bit. Genie Traveler offer a 7 day free trial. That means you can sign up and check out the deals yourself, all for free. In fact, it’s even better than that – you can book as much as you want during that period and, even if you cancel your free trial, all of those bookings will still be honored.

But wait, it gets even better.

I said earlier that I’d teamed up with them. Well in doing so I’ve negotiated an exclusive discount code just for readers of my blog.

If you sign up before 28 March 2018 on an annual plan then you’ll receive 18% off membership for life. Most promotions give you a deal to sign up but then boost you back up to their normal rate later on. I had a long talk with the team at Genie Traveler and persuaded them that you guys deserve the best. They agreed and made the discount code last for life.

If you want to check them out, and huge savings then make sure you use code CLAUDIA18 for a significant discount. Prices start at just $3.99 if you pay annually. That’s less than a cup of coffee a month or a Netflix subscription yet giving you incredible savings. Go here to sign up (and don’t forget to use your code).

I don’t get anything from you using this code but I just wanted to pass the value on to you. They’ve got 800,000 hotels, a Best Rate Guarantee and 15,000 destinations.

130 million people have been using this technology for the last 20 years. Genie Traveler have now opened this up to the general public to allow us all to get these incredible savings.

Why pay retail like everyone else when you don’t have to?  

Legal Disclaimer: this post is written in cooperation with Genie Traveler.

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Learn how to travel the world at wholesale rates - via @clautavani

 

 

I love shopping in Cuba

I love shopping in Cuba

Mine is an adaptation from the title of Sophie Kinsella’s famous series “I love shopping”. In fact, it is meant ironically. There is no such thing as crazy shopping in Cuba, unless by “crazy” one means literally going crazy in order to find needed things. It is not even a matter of not having enough money to buy what you need and want: it is a matter of having the money but not finding it!

Before leaving, whilst packing my bag, I thought of carrying two pairs of flip flops. After all, one never knows when those rubber things may break and another pair may be needed. My sister, who travelled with me, said it would just be unnecessary weight. If my flip flops broke, I could surely buy another pair in Cuba and that was it. Or not. I swear I hardly saw shops selling flip flops in the entire island.

We realised on our first day in Havana that shops were different, to say the least. All merchandise is kept behind counters, and whatever you may want to see, you’d have to ask the person at the counter to show you. Not to mention that there normally is a line outside, with a guard letting people in and out and not allowing more than a certain amount inside. Shops are not very inviting. You won’t feel like going in, have a look around, try on stuff, and buy. Merchandise is hardly exposed in a nice way (it is all wrapped). The same applies to grocery shops – most of all for things such as soaps, shampoos etc. Whatever you need, you have to ask for.

I love shopping Cuba, Photo 02

Shopping in Cuba is a hard business

The other problem we had was that there are no real supermarkets, those where you may get lost and where you may be able to find anything you need – from fresh fruit and milk, to meat, cheese, bread, soap, detergents and what not. Cuba knows only shops, some smaller, some bigger, but in none of them you will be able to do all your shopping. A shop that sells bottles may only have soda, beer and rum. If you want water, you will have to go to the one next door. Fruits and vegetables are only sold by small carts in the streets or in the mercado agropecuario. Same with meet – there are small carnicerias, you can see them every now and then, but it seems like there is no meat there. I have not seen a fishmonger in the entire island, which is interesting since we mostly ate seafood. And even if you can find what you need – pasta, rice, or even toilet paper, there is only one kind of it. We noticed that it was a bit ironic to call “Cierro Montegro” la primera agua de Cuba, since it also is the only one. And the same goes for beer, sodas, etc.

I love shopping Cuba, Photo 03

Tienda

I guess that for anybody who is not used to the Cuban system it will take a while to shop for daily needs. When we wanted yogurt, the landlady at our casa particular was so kind to spend an entire day looking for it in Trinidad. When we needed toothpaste, we had to ask her, as we were unable to find a shop that would sell it.

Another thing we noticed is that there are some shops which seem to sell second hand clothes. We eventually realised this was the case. These are called tiendas particulares (private shops) and I suppose owners get their stuff one way or another (I am pretty certain that the clothes I gave away here and there ended up in some of these shops!) and then sell it. But you know, in an island that does not really know free commerce, people have to make do with whatever they have. Cubans hardly make a distinction between female and male clothing. If it fits, they will wear it. So you will see super-cool guys wearing a blue-girl t-shirt tight as a second skin. And you bet they will fix and keep fixing clothes. Nothing goes wasted.

The good thing about having so little choice when shopping is that you will not be wasting time wondering which cereals to buy, which t-shirt you want, and what not. You will have more time to spend with friends, relatives, talking and living life, you will be less consumed by the want for things, since you will hardly be able to get them anyways. At least that is how we – westerners coming from countries with a free market – felt. I suppose it was refreshing to us, but it may be tiring for Cubans who have to live a constant battle to get what they need.

The other side of the coin is that there is a huge black market, where people sell and buy just about anything and they hardly declare whatever money they make to the competent authorities. Casas particulares have to register whoever sleeps at the house, and the number of nights. So they have to pay taxes on that. But they do not register whatever meals you may be having there, and hardly any of the owners give customers a receipt when they leave. Some of them don’t say anything when they “forget” to give you receipts. Some others openly admit that this way they can round up a bit extra CUCs. And the rush to get CUCs from tourists can be seen in many other ways. Drivers will “accidentally” stop for breaks right outside their friends homes, who will rush out to offer drinks, food, sweets, bananas and what not. Surely they will get a percentage of the profits. Same with tourist guides. All drivers and all landlords know tourist guides. None of them will show you any accreditation, and you will have to negotiate the price, and you can bet you will again accidentally run into them on the way to a site and will end up hiring them.

The need for CUC is so desperate that even in state owned shops sales assistant will refuse to give you receipts. This is an account of what happened to us at the airport in Havana. A lady in front of us at the counter had the brilliant idea of paying her rum in Euro. But instead of making a conversion, and paying the exact amount she owed (say it was 20 CUC, so it would have to be 15 Euro), the cashier made the conversion 1 CUC = 1 Euro. She did not give any change, and she kept the rest. My sister asked for a receipt, as she claimed that she might be needing it when cathing our connecting flight in Paris airport. She then went back to the same shop to buy more, and again demanded a receipt. However, she had to argue with the sales assistant who did not want to provide it, claiming “she had already given one before.”

For as much as I appreciate the revolution, I wonder how it is possible, in 2013, to live in a country where there hardly is any free commerce. The poverty we saw, the rush to get the precious CUC in any possible “legal” way leads me to think that socialism, for as good an ideal it was, is hardly applicable to real life.

What is yet more interesting is that the myth of Che Guevara, one of the leaders of the revolution, one of the strongest critics of capitalism, is possibly the main source of money in Cuba. Any goods you may buy speak of him: t-shirts show his pictures, the same goes with paintings, postcards, hats. Bookshops mostly sell photography books of Che Guevara, or his biographies, his diaries, etc. Factories exploit his name by publicizing the fact that they were opened up by him.

I love shopping Cuba, Photo 04

Che Comandante Amigo…

Having read a lot of Che Guevara life, thoughts and ideologies, I can’t help but wonder if he would like the island today, if this is what he fought so hard for, if he would be proud to see that his face is on any painting, t-shirt and good tourists can buy, and he – the very critic of capitalism – is indeed the only capitalistic good in Cuba.

Want to find out more about this amazing country? Read here.

Where to go in Sardinia: the North-West and the West Coast

Where to go in Sardinia: the North-West and the West Coast

Villanova Monteleone, yet one reason to visit Sardinia

Villanova Monteleone, yet one reason to visit Sardinia

Isola dell’Asinara and Stintino:

Let’s face it, sometimes we want to get away from it all. Are you looking for where to go in Sardinia for when you feel like staying immersed in nature and enjoying more more of the best beaches in Sardinia? Then, visit Isola dell’Asinara. It is not hard to get there: from Castel Sardo or Alghero, go to Stintino. You won’t have any problem in finding a cheap bed and breakfast for one night. The following morning, hop on a ferry from the harbour of Stintino to Fornelli. My advice if you have little time is to book the guided tour of the island on a jeep (you can look for one of the companies running the tour on the official webpage of the island, which unfortunately is only in Italian). This way you will visit various sites of historical and natural importance, among them the historic jails in Cala d’Oliva and Fornelli, the sanatorium, and the beautiful beaches of Cala Sabina, Cala Trabuccato and Cala d’Arena, where the sea is clean, transparent and full of fishes. This is a protected area so nobody can go fishing. If you have more time, and are looking for more fun things to do in Sardinia, you can go on one of the many free hikes or opt for a biking tour (a bit harder, under the sun!). Finally, Asinara is also great for diving.

Yes, Asinara is THAT gorgeous! Here are some of the best beaches in Sardinia

Yes, Asinara is THAT gorgeous! Here are some of the best beaches in Sardinia

Asinara was originally a fishing community, which later on became a criminal and leper colony, to be finally turned into a maximum security jail which hosted, among others, mafia boss Totò Riina. It was finally turned into a National Park in 1997. The island made the national and international news when, from 24 February 2010 for over a year a group of redundant workers of Vinyls (a petroleum company based in the nearby Porto Torres) occupied the old prison of Cala D’Oliva in a protest to be returned to their job.

If you visit Sardinia do not skip Asinara

Flowers at the jail window: if you visit Sardinia do not skip Asinara

My advice is to spend at least one night on the island. There is only one hostel, in Cala D’Oliva. This used to be a guest house for prison guards and it is rather plain, but the atmosphere is relaxing. There is no kitchen use but meals (dinner and breakfast) are included in the price and are consumed family style. You can also have packed lunches. There are private rooms and dorms, all with shared bathroom. The place is clean and the staff friendly, and you will have plenty of chances to get to know other guests. After dinner, go for a walk to look at the stars and enjoy the silence. In the only bar in Cala D’Oliva, where guests of the hostel meet for after dinner drinks, you will be soon enough reached by Andrea, a goat who will go around begging for salt and pats; you will see boars walking around, a number of cats and white donkeys.

Donkeys are the only inhabitants of Asinara, together with boars, cats, goats...

Donkeys are the only inhabitants of Asinara, together with boars, cats, goats…

Once you (sadly) leave Asinara, since the ferry lands in Stintino, don’t miss the chance to spend a day in one of the best beaches in Sardinia (as well as possibly the most crowded, to be honest!): La Pelosa. Fighting for a few centimeters of sand will be the price to pay in order to enjoy the gorgeous, calm sea. But it will be worth it!

La Pelosa, one of the best beaches in Sardinia. Or in the world?

La Pelosa, one of the best beaches in Sardinia. Or in the world?

Alghero and Bosa:

From Stintino it is fairly easy to reach Alghero, also known as “little Barcelona” for its catalan linguistic roots. Alghero is where to go in Sardinia if you want to feel somewhere yet more diverse. It is vibrant, lively, packed with restaurants and bars, nightlife, it is simply pretty and a must see. Near Alghero there are the some of the most famous (and crowded, but access is free) and best beaches in Sardinia: Le Bombarde and Il Lazzaretto. A bit further away and harder to reach, the gorgeous Argentiera, with its transparent water and its old minerary village behind.

Things to do in Sardinia: go to the beach AND visit a mine, all in the same day

Things to do in Sardinia: go to the beach AND visit a mine, all in the same day – Argentiera

Near Alghero there also is Capocaccia, from where you can access the Neptune Caves (you can walk down the over 600 steps, and then back up, to keep extra fit). This is also where you can go on one of the best dives in Sardinia.

Things to do in Sardinia: diving in Capocaccia

Things to do in Sardinia: diving in Capocaccia

Looking for what to do in Sardinia on a lazy afternoon? About 40 minutes south by car, there is Bosa, a lovely colorful small town on the river Temo. From the Castle of Malaspina you can admire a great view.

Visiting Bosa: what to do in Sardinia on a lazy afternoon - a view from the Malaspina Castle

Visiting Bosa: what to do in Sardinia on a lazy afternoon – a view from the Malaspina Castle

Where to stay and eat

There are many hotels and b&bs in Alghero, geared to all budgets: it is a top tourist destination. Book in advance as rooms sell out quickly. There are also a number of camping sites: among them La Mariposa, Camping Village Laguna Blu, and Torre del Porticciolo.

One of the best activities when you visit Sardinia is going on a sunset walk on the beautiful bastion overlooking the sea, and across the small streets of the historic centre, with its many lovely shops and boutiques. You can eat in one of the many restaurants. For a good pizza, go to Il Vecchio Mulino. If you are in search of a romantic atmosphere, Quintilio is right outside town and has a spectacular view over the city, the bay and up to Capo Caccia. Go there at sunset, for an aperitif or for a light (and a bit expensive) dinner of fresh seafood. For after dinner drinks go to Baraonda.

Less touristy destinations:

Ok, that is slightly an overstatement, but anyways these are some of Sardinia best beaches which are not as crowded, a bit harder to reach but equally beautiful: Is Aruttas beach with its white crystals tiny pebbles;

Sardinia best beaches: is Aruttas

Sardinia best beaches: is Aruttas

Funny rock formations at Is Aruttas

Funny rock formations at Is Aruttas

S’Archittu, with a rock formation in the shape of an arch. In the Sulcis area, Masua Pan di Zucchero

Masua Pan di Zucchero - sunset on the South West coast is a must when you visit Sardinia

Masua Pan di Zucchero – sunset on the South West coast is a must when you visit Sardinia

Buggerru and Cala Domestica (the latter also offers a beautiful and free trekking through a well signaled path) all deserve a visit, possibly in addition to a tour of the old mines.

Where to go in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords in Cala Domestica

Where to go in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords in Cala Domestica

Last but not least, Porto Pino, famous for its sand dunes.

Find out more things to do in Sardinia on my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

Visit Sardinia on a budget: the East Coast and the North

Visit Sardinia on a budget: the East Coast and the North

Where to go in Sardinia for your budget holiday

Su Gorropu and Golfo di Orisei:

If you are looking for some of the best beaches in Sardinia, head to the East coast. From Costa Rei, you can catch a bus (ARST) to Tortolì and once there go to Baunei.There are so many things to do in Sardinia, that the area also offers some of the best hikes in Europe: from Cagliari you can join one of the many guided tours to hike the Gorropu Canyon (the deepest in Europe).

Hiking Su Gorropu is one of the things to do in Sardinia

Things to do in Sardinia: go on a hike!

The trek is not difficult, but it is easy to get lost so better having a guide. For more information, ask the cooperative that watches over the canyon. Make sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes and to carry plenty of water and food. Although the path is often shaded, weather in Sardinia can get pretty extreme and it does get really hot in the summer season. Once you finish the hike, you will be in the area of Dorgali.

You can stop in Dorgali for a few nights, and stay at agriturismo Canales, completely immersed in the nature and with a gorgeous view over the lake Cedrino, and which offers delicious traditional Sardinian food. It also rents kayak to reach the source of Su Cologone.

Kayaking on Lake Cedrino - one of the things to do in Sardinia

Kayaking on Lake Cedrino – one of the things to do in Sardinia

From Dorgali, you can go to Cala Gonone, from where numerous boats leave daily to the spectacular Golfo di Orosei, taking you to some ofSardinia best beaches, that can only be reached via boat or via a hike. There are many hotels and bed and breakfasts and there is also a camping site for travellers on a tight budget. In Golfo di Orosei, do not miss the long, sandy beach of Berchida.

Berchida is one of the best beaches in Sardinia

Berchida is one of the best beaches in Sardinia

From Cala Gonone, you can reach Cala Fuili, from where you can start the free trekking to the beautiful Cala Luna, set of a number of movies including the recent “Swept Away” featuring Madonna and among Sardinia best beaches.

Swept away in Cala Luna, one of Sardinia best beaches

Swept away in Cala Luna, one of Sardinia best beaches

Alternatively, you can go to Baunei and reach the plateau of Golgo (Altipiano del Golgo). From there, you can join together some of the best things to do in Sardinia – going on hikes, rafting, diving in freshwater underground caves, and visiting some of the best beaches in Sardinia. The wild wild east of Sardinia, as Lonely Planet calls it, is the best for outdoor activities. There you can sleep in a wonderful hostel immersed in nature and surrounded by animals left free to roam (there are rooms for any budget, including rustic cabins or pitching your tent, which only costs 5 euro per person per day). It is run by Cooperativa Goloritzè, which is the same that organises boat tours around the Golfo di Orosei leaving from Santa Maria Navarrese (around € 40 for the whole day, carry your own lunch), a number of hiking tours and the beautiful 7 day long backpacking trip “Selvaggio Blu” (wild blue) which takes you from beach to beach in a path across nature.

You can eat in the delicious restaurant of the hostel (between €20 and €30 per person for a set menu which is enough for 2 people, actually – so be clever and order just one and share, you will not regret it and food will not be wasted; or else, you can pay a la carte). There is also a packed lunch service. If you manage to get a tip, get the number of one of the local shepards and go have dinner at his place. It will be a rustic set meal for about €25 (including drinks), where you can fill on his production of cheese, season vegetables, culurgiones di patate (potatoes and cheese filled fresh pasta, which is a local specialty), piglet and seadas (sweet fried cheese filled pastries served hot with honey).

Things to do in Sardinia: jumping off cliffs

Things to do in Sardinia: jumping off cliffs

From Golgo plateau, you can do a number of independent and free activities, as there are hiking trails to some of Sardinia best beaches (calculate that you will be going downhill on the way there, and uphill coming back, but the duration is roughly the same) which you really can’t miss when you visit Sardinia, such as Cala Mariolu, Cala Sisine, Cala Biriola, etc., including what I value as one of the most spectacular beaches not only in Sardinia, but in the entire world: climbing paradise Cala Goloritzé.

A walk in the woods, which will eventually open up to reveal the most crystal clear, transparent water you can imagine. The beach is tiny, a real gem where several sources of fresh water end, making the sea very cold but pleasantly refreshing on hot days. Cala Goloritzé is famous for its 143 meters spire hanging over the beach, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Carry plenty of water and some food, there are no services at all on the route and at the beach.

Costa Smeralda, Arcipelago de La Maddalena, Santa Teresa di Gallura and Castel Sardo:

Going to the North of Sardinia, you can reach Olbia from Tortolì by bus. This is as a starting point to visit the world famous Costa Smeralda, home of some of the best beaches in Sardinia. If you enjoy a good nightlife, stay in San Teodoro, a lively village offering many shops, restaurants, ice cream parlours and bars. There are hotels, bed and breafasts and apartments for rents, and for those on a tight budget even a camping site. There are many beaches that can be visited in this area and, guess what?, access is free in all of them. If you travel with your own car, you will at most have to pay for parking.

You can pick among many: Cala Brandinchi, Capriccioli, Baja Sardinia, Cannigione… and go for a walk in Porto Cervo. Amongst boutiques with prices accessible only to the richest, you can still go window shopping and have a gelato (which, by the way, will cost just like anywhere else). If you wonder where to go in Sardinia for something slightly, make your way to Porto San Paolo and catch the 10 minute ferry ride for a day trip to Isola di Tavolara: nobody lives there, there is just a small hostel and a kiosk!

Tavolara is where to go in Sardinia

Tavolara is where to go in Sardinia

Further North, Palau is where to go in Sardinia to catch one of the boat tours the Maddalena Archipelago, offering the chance to visit Spargi, Budelli, Caprera and a famous beach known locally as Tahiti.

Can you deny Spargi is one of the best beaches in Sardinia?

Can you deny Spargi is one of the best beaches in Sardinia?

For information and prices, you can visit the sites www.giteinbarca.it and www.elenatour.it. Asking locally, you may be able to find a private company and local guide. This is more comfortable and faster (not to mention, there are less people on it) and if you are in a large group you may save considerably – the more people, the cheaper. Calculate an average price of € 40, but it will be totally worth it. Finally, you can rent your own small zodiac (the small ones do not require you to have a special license) if you are up to manouvering it!

Not far from Palau, there is the lovely village of Santa Teresa di Gallura and, near it, the promontory of Capo Testa. The Torre di Longosardo (built around the 14th century under instructions of the king of Spain Philip the Second) is an interesting place to visit, and is found on the outer edge of the village. Following on the same route you can reach Castelsardo, with its beautiful Castello dei Doria, a castle built in 1102, and many other monuments and places of interest.

Check out my post on the best beaches in Sardinia and read “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

How To Make The Most Of Sardinia On A Budget

How To Make The Most Of Sardinia On A Budget

Places to visit in Sardinia

Things to do in Sardinia: visiting the Miniera di Montevecchio

Things to do in Sardinia: visiting the Mines of Montevecchio – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia

Compulsive travellers like myself, those who as soon as they have a free weekend pack their backpack and leave, sometimes forget to think about places to visit that are actually pretty close, and prefer crossing their country’s borders. Well, there is a place where you can click off from your daily life, without travelling too far, and where you can enjoy lush nature, incredible beaches, wild mountains, tasty food and a vibrant cultural life. There are so many things to do in Sardinia, you will have a great choice!

Hiking the Canyon de Su Gorropu is one of the things to do in Sardinia

Hiking the Canyon de Su Gorropu is one of the things to do in Sardinia

Searching for what to do in Sardinia? Hike a Canyon

Searching for what to do in Sardinia? Hike a Canyon

It is thus time to visit Sardinia, right in the centre of the Mediterranean, and the good news is that although it is almost mithologically described as a place for a few rich people, it is actually possible to have a cheap tour of it, and whatever your interests are, you won’t run out of things to do in Sardinia. The best beaches in Sardinia – which are the main attraction in the summer – all have free access. So carry your umbrella and beach towel and relax. Most hikes can be done independently. And almost any tourist location has a camping site where you can pitch your tent.

Is Aruttas is one of Sardinia best beaches

Is Aruttas is one of Sardinia best beaches

How to get to Sardinia:

Sardinia can be reached from Italy with a 50 minutes flight, and with no more than 3 hours flight from the rest of Europe. The main carriers that fly to the island are Alitalia and Meridiana, and British Airways has seasonal flights. Most budget airlines have flights to Sardinia from a number of cities in Italy and Europe. These are Volotea, Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling and Air Berlin. There are three airports: AlgheroCagliari and Olbia. Any of them is a great starting point for a tour of the island. By booking in advance, making sure you catch a flight during the week (avoid weekends) and playing around with the dates a bit (being flexible), you can even catch a round trip ticket for less than €50.

If you are travelling with your family and children, want to have your own car, or if you simply like ferries (the average trip is 10 hours), you can catch one from Genova to Porto Torres (near Sassari, in the north of Sardinia), Livorno to Olbia or Civitavecchia to Cagliari. For prices, consult the websites of Tirrenia and Moby. Needless to say, if you carry your car on board the prices will raise, so calculate if this is really convenient. You can opt for a passage on the deck (cheapest option), for a reclining chair inside, for a first or second class cabin.

Depending on your budget and how many are travelling, and on the duration of your trip, you can rent a car or decide to visit the island independently, with public transportation. Most well known agencies have stands at the airport, some are actually quite convenient. But be sure to book in advance in order to catch good deals. For information on the times and routes of buses and trains visit the pages of ARST and Trenitalia. Any decent hotel, hostel and bed and breakfast should be able to offer you information on how to get there and even on how to get to places to visit.

When to go

Something for sure is that Sardinia never lets down travellers, in any season. In order to enjoy its beauty you should really spend a year there. But you can still appreciate how wonderful it is even in a few days or weeks. The island is equally gorgeous in winter and in summer, but weather in Sardinia can get really bad in the autumn and winter, when it rains a lot. Should you care to see sea that is even more beautiful than in a tropical paradise, summer may be the best season, from the end of May to the beginning of October. Expect to meet more tourists in August, when most Italians go on vacation. July is a good month, with less tourists and longer days. September is by far the quietest month, days are shorter, and the heat lower.

Here’s my “Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

Festivals and events in Sardinia

There are a variety of events throughout the year, and one of the best things to do in Sardinia is participating to a “sagra”. During the summer, each village has its own festival, with traditional dance, songs, music and food. Among the most famous events, on first of May Cagliari hosts the spectacular “parata di Sant’Efisio”, where people from villages all over Sardinia, wearing their traditional dresses, go on a march in honour of the Saint patron of Sardinia (Sant’Efisio) whose statue is carried from the church in Cagliari to the village of Pula. Jazz lovers won’t want to miss Time in Jazz in Berchidda, not far from Olbia, currently in its 28th edition. It is a whole week of jazz, across a number of villages in the area, with open air concerts (which are free to attend) and the possibility to stay in camping sites. Wine lovers will enjoy Calici di Stelle in Jerzu. Food lovers willing to try traditional food will have many options, among them the “Sagra del Maialetto” (piglet) in Baunei. If you want a taste of traditional carnival costumes, Muravera Carnival in August is a parade of traditional masks from Sardinian mountain villages.

What I suggest to do is a tour of the island which takes you to cities, archelogical sites, cultural events, and that allows you to enjoy nature with hikes, water sports and relax on the beach.

I will suggest Cagliari as your starting point, as it is the main centre on the island and a beautiful city. You can also start touring from Olbia or Alghero, the other airports, and go on a loop! I will also give advice on where to go in Sardinia, what to do in Sardinia, and on the best beaches in Sardinia.

Finally, here’s my post on the best beaches in Sardinia.