News - July 5, 2012

Holidaying on a shoestring


Are you strapped for cash but keen to have a holiday? No worries, there are ways of making a little money go a long way. What is more, you'll often have more interesting experiences than you would by taking the standard tourist route.

Couch surfing
Hotels and hostels too pricy? Register as a couch surfer.
By Rob Ramaker

Young people going touring used to depend on youth hostels where they paid up to 30 euros per night for a bed in a draughty dormitory, with the smell of sweat coming from the guy in the top bunk thrown in for good measure. Now, thanks to the website Couchsurfing , all that is a thing of the past. Millions of people make a place to lay your head available to you on your travels. Free of charge.

To make use of this hospitality, you create a profile on the website in which you describe your travels, your interests and your personality. You get acquaintances to vouch for what a nice, reliable person you are. Then you email nice-sounding hosts who've had positive reviews and ask them if you could 'surf' at their place. Note that you should make sure you also have something to offer travellers.

Couch surfers are very sociable, adventurous and generous people who often want to do things with you or even offer you guided tours. They also appreciate it if you bring a present from your country with you.

Over the past two years I have surfed on mattresses, airbeds and sometimes a real guestroom bed. I was welcomed to a Danish celebration, went boozing with a Swiss-Italian  art historian, and found the best places for death by English coffee. Couchsurfing is not only cheaper for anyone on a student grant, but you also get to sample more of the real city life than people who trek from one tourist trap to the next.

This tip has a happy ending in it for singles. Because although the website explicitly forbids it, it is no secret that surfing often leads to casual sex with exotic strangers. So take precautions against unwanted free souvenirs.

Tip from Rob:
Be grateful for the hospitality and be sociable. People who act as though they are in a free hotel shouldn't expect positive reviews.


No money for a plane ticket or petrol? Try to get there by hitch-hiking.
By Marlies  Bos

Hitching:  it's a pity it's so rare these days! Not only is it free, but it is fun to meet so many different people. They often enjoy a bit of company themselves, and you can get into interesting conversations. Usually just about work, studies and the like, but sometimes a lot more interesting than that. Like a man I once got a lift from who was totally against religion. I am a Christian myself, so we had a fascinating discussion. And a friend of mine once had a ride from someone who talked about aliens nonstop for three hours.

Of course there is a downside to hitching:  it's inevitable that you sometimes have to wait a long time. And sometimes you have to sleep on the side of the road somewhere if you don't manage the trip in one day. However, if you take the rough with the smooth, hitching can be a nice experience.

Some people are scared of hitching. Although that is understandable, I have never actually heard any 'scary' stories. Most drivers are ordinary people like you or me. But of course it is not really sensible for girls to hitch alone.

Tip from Marlies
Never get out in the middle of a big city or somewhere where it is very hard for drivers to stop. Petrol stations are ideal. Read the map carefully beforehand, and of course put on your friendliest smile. J
Music festivals
Lowlands too pricy or too mainstream for you? Go beyond the border!
By Linda van der Nat

Colours of Ostrava, 12 - 15 July
Ostrava, Czech Republic
The music festival in Ostrava is celebrating its tenth birthday this year. Performers include: Alanis Morisette, Mogwai and The Flaming Lips.
Cost: 75.40 euros (festival + campsite)

Airbeat One, 12 - 15 July
Neustadt-Glewe, Germany
Airbeat One is all about dancing, dancing, dancing. Dutch DJ Fedde le Grand will be taking his turn.
Cost: 74 euros (festival + campsite)

Ilosaarirock Festival, 13 & 14 July
Joensuu, Finland
As the name suggest, mainly rock. But some metal and folk too, like Antony & The Johnsons.
Cost: 75 euros (festival + campsite)

Tramlines UK, 20 - 22 July 
Sheffield, UK
Seventy different venues and four main podiums, including one at the university of Sheffield. All sorts of bands, with genres ranging from indie rock to ninja tune.
Kost: free

Positivus Festival,
20-21 July 
Salacgriva, Lithuania
The biggest and busiest music festival in the Baltic states. The line-up includes Damien Rice, Keane and Manic Street Preachers. As well as music there is sport, theatre and film.
Cost: 52.10 euros (festival + campsite)

Przystanek Woodstock Festival,
2 - 5 August 
Kostrzyn, Poland
Poland's Woodstock is held in the ever-picturesque Kostrzyn. The organizers call it the biggest open-air festival in Europe. Performances by Damian Marley and Shantel.
Cost: Free

Arenal Sound,
2- 5 August
Castellon, Spain,
Sun, sea and sand - what more can anyone ask for? Music! On stage here: Kaiser Chiefs, The Ting Tings and Chrystal Fighters.
Cost: 60 euros (Festival and campsite)

Loads more music festivals can be located on