Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


Shopping secrets

7 Exotic Foods to buy at Sawers of Belfast, Ireland?


If exotic dishes titillate your taste buds, walk into Sawers, a wildly popular gourmet store in the heart of Belfast.

On the menu:

  • Rattlesnake
  • Zebra
  • Camel
  • Bison
  • Kangaroo burgers
  • Crocodile Steak
  • Fresh Rope Mussels

and much more!

Adventurous diners have savoured this stuff at Sawers for over 116 years now.

Not into exotica? There’s caviar and foie gras on the go. Try the tapenades, sample some cheese—the award-winning Sawers makes them in-house, too. For about Rs 2500, you can get a foiehamper for the folks back home! 

I am in Segovia, Spain. Where can I go shopping?

Start at the large and leafy Plaza Mayor, surrounded by boutiques and pubs.

segovia span shopping


Any which way you go, up or down the cobbled lanes, you’ll find interesting things to catch your attention. Be it top brands or local lace, there’s a lot to tempt your wallet. Shops in this and other small Spanish towns shut down between 1 pm and 4 pm for lunch, but the really cool thing is that they stay open until 8 pm or slightly later, unlike in some other European nations.

Tell me a Venice, Italy secret few know about.

If you are a book lover, here’s a secret you are going to love!

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy: The translation is “library of high water.” It’s spread out through various rambling rooms; one room with a gondola stacked with books, other rooms are packed with rowing boats & bath tubs full of old second hand atlases, dictionaries, art books, biographies and history books.


There’s something for every one, you just have to look long enough. In the back room you can look out to one of the channels, which makes this place even more special.


Location: Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa

Hours: 9.00 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

The best shopping street in Edinburgh, Scotland?

That Edinburgh is one of the world’s most elegant and beautiful cities is no secret.  That it has enough museums and castles to tick off your list is also common knowledge.

What a lot of tourists tend to miss is this: feel-good country-style shopping in the city! And that’s where we come in.

Stockbridge. Call it a street or a self-contained little village inside Edinburgh, this is a secret you need to discover, shopping or not.

After you are done with your morning coffee and scones, head for Stockbridge, a vibrant street with lots of pubs, cafes and yes, shops!

Everyone will point you toward Edinburgh’s ‘Royal Mile,’ which of course is lovely and lively. But if you’re looking for little treasures for your window-sill or your bookshelf, you need to go to Stockbridge.

A string of stores with vintage and charity goods to pick from.Beautifully packaged Scottish soaps and creams, cute curios, rare books—you never know what you might find, for just a few euros!

Set aside a whole morning for browsing Stockbridge. Read more here.

How can I shop smarter when travelling abroad?

Even savvy travellers often goof up on shopping in a foreign land. Too many make expensive mistakes. Quite a few fall into tourist traps. Some fret so much that they forget to have fun. Follow these tips from Shubhra Krishan and shop smart.


Shop the flea markets, especially in the pricier countries. These open-air markets are very colourful, boast lots of local flavour, and most importantly, allow you to scout for rare treasures without burning a hole in your pocket.

Before you leave home, do some research on what souvenirs and local goods you should be buying. One of our team-mates lugged back a big bag of gleaming round whole red chillies from the Middle East, thinking they were exotic; only to be told that they’re available by the sackful—and much cheaper—in Chandni Chowk!

Resist going overboard. Every now and then, think back to the suitcases in your room, and how much space you have left. Are they straining at the seams? If yes, do you have another bag? If you buy another one, will you be within your baggage limits at the airport? Sigh. Practical nuisances, but important, too.

Shop where the locals do. Too many of us still walk into tourist traps and end up paying way more than fair. If you can chat up a local and ask them to point you to the right store/market for what you need, nothing like it. If not, just keep your eyes open for where you see a lot of them, and follow their lead!

If you’re fond of spices, herbs and other exotic kitchen goodies, avoid the big supermarkets and explore the grocery stores. They often have the same things for much lower prices.

Retain your receipts, and once you get back to your hotel, take stock of your day’s shopping. If something doesn’t fit or feel as appealing, you can go back to the store next morning, rather than staring helplessly at your folly back home!

Almost every big city in the world has factory outlets located on the outskirts. In New York, it’s Woodbury Commons. In Edinburgh it’s the Stirling Mills complex. Bonus: you can enjoy these as day trips, sampling local food and walking the pleasant, spacious courtyards.

Do get into the discount sections of big stores such as H&M. You’re sure to get good quality stuff for attractive prices.

Read the full story in the January-February 2013 issue of Travel secrets magazine.
Digital copies available online at

Do I need a DSLR to take good travel pictures? I have not learnt photography.

Good news: you don’t need a DSLR to take good pictures, so don’t bother buying an expensive one.  You can get great results even with a simple P&S, says Samarth Mediratta, whose photos have been showcased in the Travel India Catalog of the National Geographic


Over to him:

“Well I’m going to answer this question keeping in mind that a professional photographer is not reading this, because he’ll carry more lenses than his clothes while travelling.

If you are an amateur photographer, consider the following points before buying a camera:

a) Do you often travel with family?

b) Do you want to build your photography skills eventually or are you mostly into fun trips?

c) How much luggage do you generally carry?

In case of family travel, I suggest the simple Point & Shoot cameras. They are lightweight and easy to use. Because you don’t want to miss the moment where your six-year-old finally catches a fish after waiting for two hours. By the time you pull out the DSLR from your bag, put the right lens and start pressing the shutter half way to focus, the natural emotions would have been lost. The greatest family pictures are usually shot candid. And for that, P&S cameras are the best.

If you want to build your photography skills over a period of time, DSLR would be the right choice. You will feel connected to your camera while you travel. You can experiment with different settings with your DSLR and there is a lot to learn. The features in a P&S camera are limited and do not allow you to explore much.

And finally, if luggage is a major concern, stick to the compact P& S. You don’t want to haul around a camera back pack that has equipment which costs more than all your other bags and its contents.



Now, if you have decided to use a DSLR while travelling and trying to improve your photography skills, consider buying this other equipment too.

  • A tripod: a must if you plan to shoot landscapes or long exposure shots. You can just set it up, take your time to choose the perfect frame, align it within your viewfinder and click. Also, it is a life saver if you plan to shoot panoramas.
  • A flashlight: helps you focus at night when there is no source of light and the camera auto focus assist light doesn’t work.
  • Shutter Remotes: if you’re planning to shoot star trails or any shot that has exposure time of more than a minute, I would suggest you buy a shutter remote. It lets you set a timer so that you just leave it lying beside your camera and enjoy the night looking up to the sky. Read how to use a shutter remote here.
  • Extra Batteries: There is a good chance that you’ll exceed the specified 450 shots in one trip.
  • Bug Sprays: for those venturing into the wild.

You can check out Samarth’s photographs here

Read more about DSLR vs P&S for travelling:

Should you buy a DSLR or a point and shoot digital camera

Choosing the best travel camera


How do I strike a smart bargain when shopping around the world?

One of the most exciting aspects of travelling is bringing home unique souvenirs from around the world. Local markets are the ideal places to find something authentic and interesting, However, bargaining is an essential skill for a tourists. We asked Alexandra Jimenez, editor of the blog Travel Fashion Girlhow to get the best bargains. Here are her tips and tricks:


How exactly does one bargain?

Haggling is considered by many to be an art form or at least a skill that can be acquired through experience. While it may overwhelm and even intimidate you, a bit of patience will help you succeed in attaining that one-of-a kind keepsake with a bargain basement price tag. In fact, in some countries, bargaining is a part of the culture with price haggling to be expected. Do a little research before your trip to determine general bargaining tips for your particular destination.

Follow these 10 tips to help you in your quest to master the art of skillful bargaining:

  1. Never attempt to bargain for an item you’re not prepare to buy. Don’t waste the vendor’s time or yours.
  2. Window shop discreetly without asking for prices. You don’t want them to know you’re interested.
  3. Once you’ve found the special item you want to purchase, decide on a number in your head. Determine how much you’re willing to pay and what it is worth to you. This will help give you confidence indicating to the vendor that you are an experienced haggler.
  4. Think in terms of local currency, not your own. Take the price standards in the local economy into consideration when deciding on a price.
  5. Generally speaking, offer half of the original asking price expecting to meet the vendor in the middle. For example, if he asks for 10, you offer 5, and expect to pay 7.5.
  6. Expect an over exaggerated reaction from the salesperson at your counteroffer. While a bit of this is to be expected, if you follow the above guideline you should end up be in a reasonable price range for both of you.
  7. Stand firm and act confident. If you don’t get the price you want, be prepared to walk away or reconsider if your offer was too low. Some vendors will chase after you with a lower price. This varies between destinations.
  8. If you really want to buy something the vendor may not always come chasing after you, so decide whether you will pass on the item or pay more.
  9. It is very important to pay what the item is worth to you, not what others have paid for it.
  10. Don’t fight over pennies. Remember, the difference in you paying or saving 10 cents can make a world of difference to that vendor feeding themselves or their family.
  11. What if you overpaid? If you are happy with your purchase and the price tag, then that’s all that matters. Maybe you paid a bit more than another person but you also gained an incredible souvenir that will bring you memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy it!

The article was published in Travel Secrets magazine's March-April 2014 issue. 
To subscribe, visit Magzter

What should I shop for in Cyprus?

Travel Secrets editor Shubhra Krishan recently spent a few sunny days in Cyprus. Here are her suggestions on souvenir shopping on the island.

Typically, souvenirs and touristy tidbits will be sold to you as ‘Cyprus this’ and ‘Cyprus that.’ Steer clear of those traps, and take time to observe where the locals are going and what they are buying.

Commandaria Wine

Commandaria Wine: said to be the world’s oldest. I cannot verify the claim, but can vouch for the wine: it is sweet divinity!

Cyprus honey

Honey: the blossoming farms on the island yield some wonderful varieties. Also, figs and fresh fruit from the local markets. Better still, pluck them straight off the trees. As my guide Georgia Constantin said, “You can never go hungry in Cyprus; there’s always fruit hanging low on the trees!”

cyprus olive oil

Olive oil: after all, the locals have grown up with olive trees since times Neolithic! But beware: we bought a big can of olive oil at a farmer’s market, and paid 18 Euros for five litres. But when we weighed the can later, it was only four litres. Also, check with the airline if you are allowed to carry oil. Some don’t allow it, even as part of your checked baggage.

lefkara lace cyprus

Lace and embroidered fabric: from Lefkara village if possible, where fine lacemaking has been a tradition for generations. In the streets of Omodos village, we saw old women working away at lace kerchiefs and tablecloths.

Cyprus traditional crafts

Local handicraft & ceramics: Browse and buy traditional craft items — weaving, basket making, wood carving, pottery, and the production of leather and traditional copper items are Cyprus specials. Mesogi village near Paphos specialises in colourful baskets made of bamboo and wicker.

Cyprus gourmet bath salts

Bath salts: did you know, Cyprus is one of the only regions in the world to produce gourmet bath salts!

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