Raw Egg on Rice with Natto
7+ unusual foods you should try in Japan
A brief guide to all of the weird and wonderful dishes you can try during a visit to Japan. Japan is undoubtedly a country that has a plethora of delicious foods to suit any taste.   Each prefecture boasts its own variety of rich local ramen and curry. Nationally, yakitori bars waft heady cedar-filled smoke down laneways and you can find the freshest sushi and sashimi everywhere, even on top of a mountain.   Japan is also infamous for its unusual food options. Foods that make a lot of westerners cringe or downright feel ill at the thought of.   Since variety is the spice of life, here are some of the ‘weirder’ foods you can tickle your taste buds with while travelling Japan.   Disclaimer: To reduce food-related health risks we recommend seeking out trusted restaurants and establishments that are serviced by qualified professionals. Avoid eating street food that has been sitting unattended or from a vendor with little trade. Ordering raw meat from restaurants that do not specialise in the cuisine is not recommended.   Torisashi (chicken sashimi) [caption id="attachment_45986" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Have you been served raw chicken in Japan? That would be Torisashi (chicken sashimi).[/caption] A dish that is guaranteed to evoke shock and horror from friends and family at home is chicken sashimi. With cries of “what about salmonella?” ringing in your ears, it can be a confronting first bite. Fresh chicken sashimi shouldn’t have an odour or strong taste about it at all.   Where and when can I get it? A traditional dish of the Kagoshima prefecture, torisashi can be found in almost any izakaya in the region. However, it is gaining popularity in cities such as Osaka and Tokyo and can also be easily found in the Kyushu and Okayama regions. No matter where you get it due to the preparation required in serving non-fish sashimi (i.e. getting it fresh), it’s worthwhile to track down a restaurant that specialises in it rather than leaving it to chance.   Pro tip: It’s not just chicken breast that is available to eat raw. A restaurant with a chicken sashimi menu will also likely serve the organs as such. If you’re game. Natto The easiest to find, and possibly the most divisive ‘unusual food’. Natto is a stringy, sticky and slimy fermented soybean dish that is most commonly eaten for breakfast. The odour is pungent (think stinky socks) and the flavour lands somewhere between off cottage cheese and salty rotten beans.   Where and when can I get it? Natto can be found year-round in most convenience stores (often in a hand roll or tub), in buffet breakfasts and many cafes all over Japan.   Pro tip: Natto on rice for breakfast, with a dash of soy, mustard and pickles, is a popular way to eat it. Yakitori entrails [caption id="attachment_45989" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Swap your standard chicken breast skewer for a Yakitori intestine or liver.[/caption] The Japanese rarely waste any part of the animal and readily consume flavourful cuts of offal over the fillets that western cultures prefer. Yakitori liver, tongue, hearts, knee joints and intestine are offered alongside belly and breast and are grilled to perfection.   Where and when can I get it? Yakitori bars are popular nationwide. It’s worthwhile trying them everywhere as variety and cuts differ from location and season.   Pro tip: Horumon (horumonyaki) made exclusively from beef or pork offal is available in dedicated restaurants and is considered good for stamina and energy in the bedroom. Wink wink. Fugu (pufferfish) Fugu is a delicacy, and only available during the winter months. It is eaten for its delightfully unusual taste, high level of collagen and is considered great for anti-ageing. So long as the poisonous parts (mainly organs) aren’t consumed as they contain the deadly toxin ‘tetrodotoxin’, to which there is no known antidote.   Since 1958 chefs have been required to undergo a rigorous apprenticeship to obtain a license to prepare and sell fugu to the public. These days, cases of Fugu poisoning are rare (but not unheard of) with most occurring through amateur preparation.   Where and when can I get it? Winter (end of December to March). Fugu is widely available however there are many restaurants in Kyoto that specialise in the dish.   Pro tip: There are many strange fishes available only in the winter months in Japan. Try to track down ‘Anko’ also known as Anglerfish in Tokyo and the seaside prefectures, it’s the deep sea fish with the light on its head to attract prey. Batta or inago (grasshopper) The fact that grasshoppers symbolise good luck doesn’t stop them being fried and eaten. Considered pests that eat rice crops, they are a popular cooked in soy and eaten as an afternoon snack, where the crunchy texture pairs beautifully with an iced tea or beer.   Where and when can I get it? The Nagano prefecture is considered mecca for finding edible insects however, rice grasshoppers are available widely at bars and restaurants.   Pro tip: Other popular insects to try are zazamushi (stonefly larvae), hachinoko (bee larvae) and inago no tsukudani (boiled locusts), mainly in Nagano. Basashi (raw horse meat) High in vitamins and low in fat content, raw horse meat is usually served cold along with soy sauce, garlic, and wasabi or nigiri sushi style. It is considered a health food and has been eaten for more than 400 years.   Where and when can I get it? Horsemeat is available both raw and cooked in barbecue, wagyu and sushi restaurants across the country – I stumbled across horse meat nigiri in a Tokyo sushi train. However, the regions of Nagano, Oita and Kumamoto are famed for their ‘basashi’ (raw sushi style); Kumamoto boasting a ‘cherry blossom’ basashi, named for its intense red colouring and flavour.   Pro tip: Such lean meat requires fine preparation so as not to become tough or chewy. Paper thin slices of sashimi delicately fall apart on the tongue and are the recommended dish to order. Mystery Snacks [caption id="attachment_46010" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pick up a hot soup or coffee in the many vending machines around Japan.[/caption] With a store on almost every corner, it’s worth exploring the aisles or perusing vending machines for snacks to test your bravery. Along with chips, ice-creams and soft drinks you can find dried crabs, wasabi cheese and a lucky dip of mystery meats.   It’s hard to walk past the array of hot soups and energy coffees in vending machines without getting curious as to the (often surprising) taste.   Where and when can I get it? Vending machines and convenience stores are everywhere. Even on the ski fields. You’re never far from a snack adventure.   Pro tip: Don’t try to translate what’s on the packet. It’s far more fun to sip it and see if you can work out what you’re eating by taste!   It would be an extremely long list indeed to include all of the weird and wonderful foods available across Japan. These are a great starting point for extending your bravery and palate into the unusual.   If you're planning a trip to Japan make sure you check out our Japan travel guide, so you can read up on the very best the country has to offer!
11 Europe travel hacks that will save you BIG money
Travelling is an expensive hobby, especially when travelling tourist hotspots in Europe. But there is hope!   Whether you’re headed on a romantic trip to Paris, a meander along the canals of Amsterdam or on a discovery of the castles and estates of Britain’s countryside, this is a must-read guide on how to save – BIG time. Make a list Here we start a list with making a list, in true traveller fashion.   The first list you should make is of the places you want to visit, this allows correct planning of your holiday to optimise travel from east, to west and north to south. This also allows you to research which method of travel will be most effective: train (and if so can you buy a five- or 10-trip train pass?), coach or plane?   The second list should consist of all the things you want to do in each place. In Paris, you may want to see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, take a bike tour and go out for a French degustation. Planning your to-do list means that you are less likely to get stuck in the trap of filling your holiday with touristy (and expensive) activities. This doesn’t mean you can’t live in the moment while overseas, but gives you the option to stay traveller savvy. Free museum admission Do your research on entry to Europe’s most famous museums, as most offer free or reduced entry on specific days.   The Louvre offers free entry to the museum on the first Saturday of every month from 6pm to 9.45pm, and free admission to under 26s on Friday evenings from 6pm until close. At €17 euros a ticket, this is a saving close to $30 per person. The Prado Museum in Madrid also offers free entry to its collections from 6pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday and on Sundays from 5pm to 7pm. [caption id="attachment_7660" align="alignleft" width="1000"] The Pyramide at Musée du Louvre.[/caption] Other museums including the Berlin Wall Memorial and the National Gallery in London always have free entry and are well worth your time. Skip the hotel Hotels, although delightfully convenient and reminiscent of luxury holidays, can cost you the earth in a main city in Europe. Other alternatives, such as Airbnb, youth hostels and campervans can save you a motza, and can even offer a more authentic European experience.   Airbnbs to look out for are the ones with rave reviews, close to the main amenities. Try and stick to places that have a ‘superhost’ status; this means that the host is not only experienced in the game, but they also have been really well rated by their previous guests. If you pick a humble, but well-kept place, you are bound to save $$$.   Hostels, with both shared and private rooms, can cost just a fraction of the price of a good hotel. Try Hostel One Camden in London, The Yellow Hostel in Rome and Coco Mama in Amsterdam.   Campervans, although not ideal when city hopping, are the best way to visit the countryside, especially in places like the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland. Spaceships’ compact and easy-to-drive campervans are an ideal place to start, with a bed, fridge and cooking gear all in the back. Only setting you back around $100 a day, these are the best combination of bedroom and transport. Pack a picnic. Every. Damn. Day. Eating, perhaps the best part of any European holiday, is very expensive.   Most meals out cost an excess of $30 per person at a restaurant, and when you think about the fact that eating is necessary more than once in a day, the money mounts quickly.   The best practice to exercise is packing a picnic lunch, with a collection of items purchased at the local grocery store.   In France, pack some fromage and jambon to put on a baguette, in Spain pack some chorizo and cheese or in Malta just grab a few 60c pastizzi, and sit yourself in a glorious park.   This not only saves money, but allows you to soak in the ambience of your locale. Join the National Trust Picnics are best had in the gardens of historic estates, whilst you admire outdoor fountains in the foreground of period homes.   These estates can be found all over Europe, particularly in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy and the Netherlands. To enter these estates costs between $20 and $40 per entry, and can add up to be an expensive experience.   Joining the National Trust in Australia, however, means that you can pay a one off fee (of $110 for adults, and $90 for concession) for a yearly membership. With reciprocal visiting arrangements with heritage organisations in other countries, membership allows access to 800 heritage sites outside of Australia.   An added bonus is that these estates are also a great place for learning about the history and culture of the country, as well as an excellent photo op. Free activities Every single city or town in Europe has a range of things to do that are absolutely FREE. [caption id="attachment_19367" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Promenade des anglais in Nice[/caption] These are often activities in the natural environment: go for a hike in the Black Forest in south-west Germany, float down the fast flowing, turquoise waters of the river Aare in Bern or go for a swim on the pebbled beach of Nice. Hire a bike Not only reserved for the streets of Amsterdam, bike riding is a great way to both see a city and get around it.   Hiring a bike, at around $20 a day, is a great way to avoid paying for buses, cabs, trains or trams. [caption id="attachment_28164" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Use a bike to travel around cobblestoned town squares[/caption] Also, let’s cut to the chase: while travelling in Europe the exercise certainly wouldn’t go astray.   You can usually hire bikes from local bike shops, or from mobile, dockless bike hiring platforms such as Santander bicycles in London. Check out Airbnb Experiences   Not always the cheapest (although sometimes they are!) Airbnb Experiences offer authentic, locally run and reasonably priced experiences. Ranging from equestrian tours through Tuscany to cooking classes in a home kitchen in Paris, there is something for everyone on this app.   These experiences are usually far superior to the heavily tourist centred activities found in main cities, and for the same price often offer a lot more. Research passes in each city Passes, be it for a collection of museums or for travel around a city, can be a great way to save money.   Some notable passes are: the I Amsterdam card, which you can buy in iterations of 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120 hours from between $95 to $180, offers free access to 60 museums including the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, a free canal cruise and free public transport; the Eurail pass (for international travel between European countries via train); and the London Pass, which allows access to 80 famous attractions across the city with iterations ranging from one day for $123 to 10 days with travel included for $429.   Make sure that you are only purchasing passes to places you actually want to visit (remember your list!). These passes are not ideal if you were only looking at visiting the Rijks museum on your trip, but got roped into all the other because it seemed like good value. Don’t frequently withdraw money abroad Avoid costly ATM withdrawal fees on your travel money card by nabbing your cash while still in Aus.   Carrying wads of notes abroad can be daunting, so if you do have to withdraw cash, make sure you do a week’s worth at a time. Or alternatively, try to shop and eat at places that deal only in Eftpos transactions.   Also investigate cards that offer money back on ATM fees, even overseas. ING offers money back on ATM fees globally, if you meet the minimum requirements of the card ($1000 deposited and five transactions made each month). Make sure you claim your GST refund! If you’re an avid shopper, make sure you keep all your receipts – you can claim the tax back at the airport on your way home!   Make sure you have your forms and receipts stamped by each country’s officials before departing, and when heading home ensure that all mentioned products are accessible in case the officials need to see them.  
Rabat Morocco Africa
City guide to Rabat, Morocco
Look past the Moroccan greats of Casablanca, Marrakesh and Fez to discover Morocco's capital Rabat, brim full of ancient treasures. Rabat is known for Old medina, the beautiful Kasbah, Souq shopping Rabat's Eat streets When dining in Rabat you should sample the best of both the Moroccan tradition and the French colonial influence.   A much-loved traditional restaurant can be found in the old medina. Dinarjat (+212 37 70 42 39) adds a little theatre to proceedings: you’ll be met at the medina gates by a man in traditional dress bearing a lantern who leads you through the labyrinth of old streets to the old wooden door of the restaurant. [caption id="attachment_31353" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Mosque in the old town of Rabat, Morocco.[/caption] Inside a 17th-century mansion you choose from a classic menu of lamb tagine, couscous and salads under vaulted ceilings.   For a taste of France, head to Le Grand Comptoir. Housed in a restored 1930s Art Deco building, it has that Casablanca romance; a place of martinis, jazz and rare steak. Out and about in Rabat If you only have a day or two in Rabat head straight for the 17th-century walled Medina, a rabbit warren of streets that carry that old North African sense of romance and adventure.   Dip in and out of the souqs and cafes and you could get lost, but not for long as you’ll eventually hit one of the ancient fortress walls.   Head north up the Rue des Consuls past grand old courtyards before leaving the Medina and entering another of Rabat’s treasures, the beautiful Kasbah les Oudaias, through the spectacular Bab Oudaia gate.   Relax in the Andalusian Gardens here and wander the narrow streets and blue-and-white walls of this 12th-century citadel that overlooks the Atlantic. Insider’s secret Summer heat getting too much? There's a lovely clean swimming beach right in the city. Retail reconnaissance Make your way to the 14th-century Grande Mosquée de Rabat Medina, which marks the start of Rue Souika, a thoroughfare of shops with the reed-covered Souq as-Sebbat at its eastern end.   Practise your bartering for Moroccan lamps, embroidered babouche slippers, jewellery and fabrics among baskets filled with bright spices and Turkish delight.   Don’t miss the bustling souqs in the neighbouring city of Salé, a short taxi hop over the bridge that crosses the Bou Regreg river.   Salé is known for its carpenters, who produce fine chairs, tables and trays. [caption id="attachment_31354" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Moroccan women and children having fun on a sunny day at the Kasbah des Oudaias beach in the city of Rabat, Africa.[/caption] Stop by one of the woodworking factories to pick up a gift. The ultimate experience Looking like some alien obelisk, the Hassan Tower forms a striking edifice on the banks of the Bou Regreg river.   The 44-metre high minaret, a slab of ornately carved red sandstone, is all that remains of Sultan Yacub al-Mansour’s effort to build the biggest mosque in the world, an attempt that was destroyed by earthquake in 1755.   Take a walk in the surrounding gardens and then catch a five-minute taxi to Rabat’s other must-see sight, the Chellah.   This medieval muslim necropolis was built on top of a Roman Fort. You’ll find the remains of a spectacular mosque here and the ancient ruins now play host to an annual jazz festival in September. Caffeine hits Avenue Mohammed V is a tree-lined boulevard with plenty of shady spots to sit and have a coffee.   Try La Comédie, which bakes its own pastries every day, and watch the world go by. Stay & play Affordable: The Repose has traditionally styled suites in a lovely old riad in Salé’s Medina.   Moderate: Riad Sidi Fatah is set in a traditional mansion in Rabat Medina.   Luxe: With its own hammam, wellness centre and pool, the Relais & Châteaux property Villa Diyafa is the ultimate way to indulge after a day in the hot, crowded souqs.
5 design hotspots to visit in Helsinki
Finland punches way above its weight and size when it comes to producing iconic designers and design brands.
Cathay Pacific is offering $1000* return flights to London and here’s how to get them
Prepare your passport and hankering for all things British, because this Cathay Pacific flight news is going to have you booking a flight to London ASAP.
Designer Philippe Starck is getting into the boutique-budget market with the Mama Shelter hotel in Paris.
Chic boutique hotels on a budget
Like airlines, low-cost hotels are changing the way we travel. Here's how to stretch your travel dollar without killing the buzz of a hip stay. When rifling through accommodation options in big cities, choosing budget hotels can be a miserable exercise in bullet-dodging. Tune Hotels It’s a netherworld of threadbare towels, mould-dashed showers in the hallway, sweaty box rooms more suited to prison-based fever dreams, and mattresses with the weight-bearing capabilities of a soggy cardboard box left outside in a thunderstorm. It doesn’t take many visits to the curiously interchangeable budget hotels in London’s King’s Cross area, for example, to make the Tune Hotels concept sound relatively attractive.   In short, base rates are low, while you pay for any add-ons – be it air-con, wi-fi, in-room safes, a TV or towels and toiletries. That’s not quite as annoying as it may sound. With rooms in London starting at $60, I don’t mind paying an extra $5 a day for 24-hour web access and $2.50 for towels and toiletries. (I’d not use the safe or TV anyway.) The rooms are undeniably small, but crucially, they’re furnished to a high standard with comfortable beds, power showers and an overall sense of clean, smart slickness.   CEO, Mark Lankester, reckons that low-cost airlines have conditioned travellers to recognise that spending less doesn’t have to equate to poor quality. And paying extra for some amenities is a matter of choice.   But he also points out a new breed of traveller – known in marketing speak as the ‘Millennial’. “They’re voracious travellers and world citizens,” says Lankester. “For them, the size of the room is less important as long as it’s affordably priced, comfortable and – importantly – has great internet connectivity.”   Over the last decade, a handful of other design-focused budget chains have cropped up – all pushing a variation on the quality, cool and affordable shtick. Motel One Motel One – all egg chairs, trendy lamps, iPads and rates from $73 a night – is expanding out from its German base and now has five UK properties, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Newcastle. Citizen M and Chic&Basic The artier, minimalist Chic&Basic has invaded Amsterdam from its Spanish hub, while Citizen M has expanded into New York, Boston and Seattle after tagging in Glasgow, Paris, London and Copenhagen to its Dutch properties. The latter has buzzy common areas and canteen-style self-service restaurants to complement pod-style rooms where all electronics – mood lighting, electronic blinds, the works – are controlled from a bedside screen.   Each brand has its quirks, but in common is the assumption that guests will trade space and supposedly outdated services for affordability, connectivity and centrality.   Natasha McLaughlin, Land Product Manager for STA Travel, says these hotels aren’t just appealing to budget travellers – guests are being pinched from mid-range chains. “The likes of Novotel and Holiday Inn have their appeal as they are internationally consistent. However, everyone wants something boutique, stylish, and something a bit special, so I can understand why these hotel styles are trending.” Moxy The big boys are now getting in on the act – Marriott has joined forces with IKEA for the Moxy chain, which first opened its doors in Milan in 2014, and has since expanded across 14 European countries, the UK, Japan, Indonesia and across the USA. Mama Shelter Even legendary luxury designer Philippe Starck is dipping his toes in, collaborating on Mama Shelter, which kicked off in Paris in 2008. The brand has since expanded to other French cities,  Belgrade, Prague, and Los Angeles. GM and co-owner, Jeremie Trigano, uses terms such as “urban kibbutz” and “sensual refuge” to describe the hotels. All come with free movies, an overload of in-room technology and high-end bedding. But rates start at $73.   With all of these up-and-coming chains, however, suitability depends on mentality. For wallet-conscious solo travellers and those who use hotels as a necessary base for exploring the city, they’re ideal. For couples, the rooms can be a squash if spending more time in them beyond sleeping and getting changed. Full-on city break or non-expense account business overnighter? Yes. Romantic weekend? No.   But getting a cheap big city room no longer needs to be a grim game of Russian roulette.
Today Show cruise deals: Best domestic and International offers
With 1.4 million Aussies choosing to cruise last year, it’s no wonder there’s a bounty of phenomenal deals on incredible vessels to choose from. Whether you’re keen for a European adventure, or have exploring the Kimberleys on your bucket list – there’s a cruise, and a suitable discount – to suit.
6 must see tropical treasures of Samoa that won’t stay a secret for much longer
Samoa is the ultimate paradise island full of tropical wonders and luckily remains relatively untouched. Head off to explore the Pacific gem before it gets too crowded, and be sure to include these places on your itinerary.   Samoa, a nation made up of two main islands in the Pacific Ocean, is the definition of a tropical escape. The destinations are gorgeous, the people are sweet and the vibe is chilled. Under 130,000 people visit the small island nation each year, as opposed to the almost 800,000 who jet off to Fiji.   So, if you’re the type of person who likes a little more room around you on the beach, an incredibly local experience in a diner and pure peace and quite everywhere you go, then Samoa is for you. But get in quick, because the islands are only getting busier!   Now, before you screenshot the below list of hidden treasures across the main islands of Savai’i and Upolu, just remember a few things 1.You need a car to get around – as there aren’t that many hire cars on the island we recommend pre-booking 2.Don’t rely on the internet – sharpen up those map reading skills 3.It’s all about cash, cash, cash – fill up those pockets   [caption id="attachment_42809" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Falealupo Western Tip, Savai’i[/caption] Afu Aau waterfall, Savai’i Living up to its tropical nature, Samoa is full of spectacular waterfalls that provide for the most refreshing mid-day dips. Along with Togitogiga, Afu Aau is one of the most popular dipping destinations on the islands, and rightly so. The spring water is so clear and crisp that it will probably be a minute or two before you immerse yourself fully, but once you do, you’ll float in it for hours. You’ll be stopped at a fale (thatched hut) on the dirt road leading to the waterfall and asked to pay the $5 tala (approximately $2.50) fee. Sacred Heart church, Savai’i Samoans put strong value in religion and family. Located in Safotu village, Sacred Heart is one of the largest churches on the island of Savai’i that also serves as a school. Its vibrant nature is exactly that of the beautiful Samoan people. There is no entry fee to have a look around but note that during school hours you aren’t able to enter the grounds. Falealupo western tip, Savai’i Among many things, one great aspect of travelling around the island of Savai’i is that there is a very low chance you’ll ever get lost. There is only one main road that gets you around the island and all your pit stops are along this road.   Once you start to reach the western tip of Savai’i, your route escapes into thick, luscious rainforest that truly ignites your visual senses. Along the road you’ll pass the Se’eti Beach Fales which are a must-pit-stop for a quick dip and tan, before you jump back and continue along the incredible route. If you fall in love with the pit stop however, don’t worry you can actually stay in the fales overnight! Lefagaoali’i village pools, Savai’i Ever wanted to take a dip in a rock pool without having fifty people chatting and splashing around you? The Lefagaoali’i village pools in Savai’i are the perfect park spot for uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean. They are like no other rock pools you’ve ever experienced and much of the time, they’ll be all yours to enjoy! Entry is $10 tala per vehicle and $2 tala per person for a dip. Just note there are separate female and male pools. Aganoa Black Sand Beach, Upolu A long, open stretch of soft sand on the coast of the Pacific, with not a soul in sight? Yes please! Aganoa Black Sand Beach tickles your curiosity and doesn’t disappoint once you arrive. The sand is really black and the beach is really magnificent.   The best bit though; in the late afternoon you’ll usually get the whole beach to yourself. You’ll be greeted by villagers under a fale at the start of the dirt road that leads to the beach. Entry fee is $10 tala per vehicle. Tu Sua Ocean Trench, Upolu There are no words to describe this wonder of the world. Tu Sua Ocean Trench is quickly starting to make waves in the world of Instagram, and rightly so. Once you build up the courage to climb down the wooden ladder on the side of the trench, you’ll never want to leave this place.   Make sure you get there early to avoid a crowd and get a good photo. Entry is $20 tala per person and it is so damn worth it!
Jazz, soul and sights: promises of a walking tour through Harlem
From Morningside Heights to a walking tour through Harlem, Upper Manhattan marches to the beat of its own drum, writes Kristie Hayden.
Here is a list of the best luxury hostels in the world
Forget backpacker horror stories, Michelle Tchea discovers how hostels are stepping up their game and catering to the luxury traveller.   If you thought luxury travel and hostels could not co-exist, think again.   Call it a trend or perhaps a 'disruption' in the hotel industry, aided by the rise of the digital nomad, a new breed of hostels is demystifying stereotypes of living thrifty, and giving budget-conscious travellers a chance to indulge in hotel perks for hostel prices. Think designer furniture, technology-driven amenities and a private suite with a flat-screen TV and. Imagine a rooftop pool with views of Hollywood, a spa and wellness centre overlooking the Swiss Alps and even a stargazing chalet in the middle of Scotland. And all for some loose change.   Here are some of the best luxury-inspired hostels to help you plan your next holiday destination. The Salty Pelican Yoga and Surf Retreat, Cascais, Portugal Address: R. Madrid 6, 2765-419 Cascais, Portugal [caption id="attachment_45365" align="alignnone" width="600"] The grand exterior of the beach retreat.[/caption] Yoga-junkies and surf-heads, this one is for you. If you thought yoga retreats came with a hefty credit card bill, venture over to the golden bays of Cascais in Portugal and stay at The Salty Pelican.   Created by three backpackers and powered by well-known surf brands Roxy and Quiksilver, expect everything you love in an expensive yoga retreat but for a fraction of the price. Opt for a variety of packages, including the seven-night surf and yoga package from $753 in low season, or simply kick back and relax for a few nights on the cheap: its dorm rooms start at $30 per night and private rooms overlooking the sea from $155. With free wi-fi and daily buffet breakfast, it’s a haven for beachgoers on a tight-budget. [caption id="attachment_45364" align="alignnone" width="600"] Colourful bunks.[/caption] TOC Barcelona, Spain Address: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 580, 08011 Barcelona, Spain   TOC Barcelona puts trendy Japanese pod hotels to shame. A unique hostel in the heart of Barcelona with designer furniture and excellent hotel-like amenities. There is a terrace with a swimming pool, as well as free wi-fi, bar, kitchen, game zone and technology-charged rooms. [caption id="attachment_45391" align="alignnone" width="600"] Just one of the stylish common area of the TOC Barcelona, Spain.[/caption] Double superior suites come with private terraces and panoramic views of the city from $120 per night; shared rooms start from $47 a night.   Freehand Los Angeles, USA Address: 416 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014, USA   With Freehand in Los Angeles, you can see the city of stars on a budget. Live it up like an A-list celebrity in downtown L.A., with spacious suites and upscale shared rooms which do not look like regular bunk rooms at all, thanks to local designers Roman & Williams. The private loft and largest suite, Burroughs Suite, are extremely spacious and equipped with free wi-fi, retro cinematic furnishings and a giant LED television. There are four bars and eateries to choose from: don’t leave without enjoying a cocktail at the Broken Shaker, located next to the rooftop pool deck. [caption id="attachment_45381" align="alignnone" width="600"] The famous rooftop pool, Freehand, Los Angeles.[/caption] Rooms start at $86 a night. WellnessHostel4000, Saas-Fee, Switzerland Address: Panoramastrasse 1, 3906 Saas-Fee, Switzerland   If you ever dreamed of a white Christmas and wanted to do it in style – Switzerland would be the first choice, right? Rather than breaking your budget in St. Moritz or Montreux, give your wallet a break and visit WellnessHostel4000 in Saas-Fee. The contemporary architecture and high-quality upscale Swiss amenities – which include fitness centre, spa and award-winning restaurant – leave other hostels in the dust. A Finnish sauna, bio-soft sauna and whirlpool are just the beginning of the relaxation and wellness facilities on offer in this state-of-the-art hostel. You might not even feel inclined to leave the hostel and hit the slopes. [caption id="attachment_45387" align="alignnone" width="600"] Chic and simple digs at the WellnessHostel4000, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[/caption] Rooms from $100 per night. Grand Ferdinand, Vienna, Austria Address: Schubertring 10-12, 1010 Wien, Austria [caption id="attachment_45363" align="alignnone" width="600"] The grand bunks of the Grand Ferdinand, Vienna, Austria.[/caption] Spread out over seven floors, the Grand Ferdinand’s 188 rooms range from opulent suites to elegant single rooms but the pièce de résistance is the hostel-like rooms attached to the historical hotel. The eight-bed dorm room is decked out in rich mahogany and marble. Rooms start at $45 per night: affordable luxury comes easily for Grand Ferdinand guests. At your doorstep are all the museums, monuments and coffee houses of Vienna’s old town, as well as the leafy Stadtpark and its golden Johann Strauss memorial.   Bookings for the dorm rooms are available via Airbnb. Generator Hostels, across Europe [caption id="attachment_45382" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside the common area of the Generator Hostel in Hamburg, Germany.[/caption] A powerhouse of a chain, the Generator Hostels group is known for its one-of-a-kind hostels in cities typically populated with expensive hotels. In Paris, one of the newest Generator Hostels is located in the hip 10th Arrondissement and gives travellers a stylish Parisian escape without breaking the bank. [caption id="attachment_45384" align="alignnone" width="600"] The stylish bunks at the Generator Hostel in Venice.[/caption] Close to the art galleries of Canal Saint-Martin, the hostel has its own rooftop bar that overlooks the trendy Montmartre neighbourhood as well as a notable restaurant, Café Fabien, to entice hungry travellers after a day spent exploring Paris. [caption id="attachment_45383" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside one of the rooms at the Generator Hostel in Rome.[/caption] The private suites are spacious and come with a terrace and hammock, but the shared dorm rooms are a bargain and not to be scoffed at, starting at $27 a night.   Dream Hostel, Tampere, Finland Address: Åkerlundinkatu 2, 33100 Tampere, Finland   [caption id="attachment_45362" align="alignnone" width="600"] Breakfast is served. Dream Hostel, Tampere, Finland.[/caption] If you thought you could not see Finland on a budget, consider your dream reborn at Dream Hostel. The hostel is attached to a hotel but if you want to save a couple of dollars, the cheaper hostel rooms are equally delightful. A warm Scandinavian design resonates throughout the hostel and the perks of free wi-fi and free dinners on occasion make it more than ample for the average traveller. [caption id="attachment_45361" align="alignnone" width="600"] A two-bed private room. Dream Hostel, Tampere, Finland[/caption] Bunks start at just $36 a night. PLUS Hostel Berlin, Germany Address: Warschauer Pl. 6, 10245 Berlin, Germany   Berlin has some really great upscale hostels but if you are looking for something truly spectacular, check into PLUS Hostel Berlin. The rooftop bar and a variety of wellness options, which include yoga classes, are great for travellers with lots of energy. But it’s the glittering swimming pool that sets this hostel apart from the rest. All rooms come with their own private bathroom and the restaurant, Opera, serves excellent cocktails to wrap up a great stay. [caption id="attachment_45386" align="alignnone" width="600"] The incredible pool inside PLUS Hostel in Berlin, Germany.[/caption] Dorm rooms start at just $24 a night. Star Hostel Taipei, Taiwan Address: No. 50號, Huayin Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103   Consistently voted as one of the best hostels in the world, Star Hostel Taipei is known for its clean setting and designer-vibe within a rather bustling and gritty city. Free breakfast, tea and wi-fi are great calling cards but the Scandinavian minimalistic feel to the cosy rooms make it a hostel worth staying in. Wooden timber panels encase an urban garden which doubles as a social hub. The private suites are worth splurging on for some extra privacy, and don’t forget to book yourself a bubble tea making class in the hostel to feel right at home. [caption id="attachment_45388" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cosy, interesting sleeping suites at Star Hostel Taipei, Taiwan.[/caption] Dorm rooms start from $30. Skyewalker Hostel, Isle of Skye, Scotland Address: The Old School, Portnalong, Isle of Skye IV47 8SL, United Kingdom   If you find yourself in the middle of the Cuillin mountain range located on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, do yourself a favour and stay in the Skyewalker Hostel. Private suites come in the form of Jedi Huts where you have your own private oasis in a wooden cabin to experience a full glamping experience. The glass solar-dome is a favourite, with excellent views of the night-sky. The hostel is within reach of a whisky distillery, sea eagle-spotting and access to the exhilarating Cuillin mountain range for avid and experienced hikers. [caption id="attachment_45385" align="alignnone" width="600"] The famous glass dome; a popular hangout for guests of the Skyewalker Hostel, Isle of Skye, Scotland.[/caption] Dorm rooms start from $30 per night.  

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