Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


travel europe

The Titanic: Tell Me 10 Tantalising Facts

Although the Titanic lies in 13,000 feet of water, the tragic story still captures minds and hearts throughout the world.  1st September 2015, marked the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the Titanic, when a team led by American oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard and French diving engineer Jean-Louis Michel discovered the ship’s final resting place.


Image Source

Here are 10 things you may not know about the Titanic and its home – Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland:

  1. Titanic’s design was conceived over a glass of wine and fine food! Lord Pirrie and J. Bruce Ismay decided speed would be balanced with quality of accommodation. It is rumoured that when Pirrie enquired as to the length of the ship, Ismay replied, glass of wine in hand, “build me a stable ship that will not disturb the sediment in these fine wines.”

2. The ship had three wheels for steering. Titanic’s funnels were wide enough to drive a train through!

3. Due to the size of the Olympic-class ships, of which the Titanic was one of three, the shipyard, Harland and Wolff in Belfast had to prepare for two years to be able to build them!

Titan Belfast, Northern Ireland (Image By- Nitin Gopal Srivastva)
Titan Belfast, Northern Ireland
(Image By- Nitin Gopal Srivastva)

4. The famous staircase, which was among the most luxurious appointments on the ship, was inspired by the staircase at Belfast City Hall, which can still be visited today.

5. Titanic was stocked with literally tons of food and drink – including 40,000 eggs and 15,000 bottles of ale!

6. At Titanic Belfast, visitors can view Dr Ballard’s high definition footage of what Titanic looks like today and can learn more about individual items in the wreckage using the interactive pods.


Image Source

7. The building can hold over 3,547 visitors at any one time, the same number as the capacity of Titanic. Titanic Belfast’s overall shape represents the bow of the ship. The hulls are also the same height of Titanic from keel to Boat Deck!

8. The last letter ever to be written on board the Titanic by Essex-born Esther Hart and her seven-year-old daughter Eva just eight hours before the ship hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912 is on display. It recently sold at auction for a world record sum of £119,000.

9. At Titanic Belfast, guests are now transported onto life size plan Titanic’s deck promenade as part of the experience. Guests can walk on deck, look out to sea, hear the ocean, hold onto the railings and feel the ships engines rumbling as if they were on the ship itself.

(Image By- Nitin Gopal Srivastava)

10. It’s not only the galleries that tell the story of the Titanic but the surrounding buildings. On the plaza surrounding the Titanic Belfast is one of the largest maps of the Northern Hemisphere at 10,000 m2 and follows the route of the Titanic from Belfast.

Titanic Belfast is an iconic six-floor building featuring nine interpretive and interactive galleries. Explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the City and people which made her. It is the world’s largest Titanic exhibition!

Info courtesy: Tourism Ireland

Input researched by: Khushboo Tiwari

What is “shoulder season” and why is it good for travel?

Shoulder Season falls between peak season and off season. So, you get many advantages. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold. The crowds have thinned out but are not absent. Airfares and hotel tariffs tend to dip slightly, so you have more money for shopping! The local tourist industry is now free from the pressure of catering to throngs, and you can expect better service.


According to Rick Steves, “Shoulder season varies by destination. Because fall and spring bring cooler temperatures in Mediterranean Europe, shoulder season in much of Italy, southern France, Spain, Croatia, and Greece can actually come with near peak-season crowds and prices. For example, except for beach resorts, Italy’s peak season is May, June, September, and October, rather than July and August. Paris is surprisingly quiet in July and August.”

Venice (43)

We at Travel Secrets try and stay away from even the best destinations during peak season, because the crowds can be simply too overwhelming. Last year in Florence and Venice, we found ourselves jostling and gasping for the most part. Taking photos ended up being a Click-and-Move affair in places, with the next person breathing down your neck.

A shoulder season trip to Switzerland, on the other hand, was pure relaxation. Under the mild September sun, it was blissful to walk down the quiet streets of Basel, taking in the crisp cool air and lazing by the Rhine. We could feel our lungs turn pink again:)

Basel by the Rhine River (1)Posted by Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan

Pix: TS Photo Editor Nitin Gopal Srivastava


I’m going to Poland for the first time. What shall I see and do there?

We asked Manish Ahluwalia, CEO & Director at SKH Global Travels, a leading travel company based in Delhi. Here are his suggestions to make the best of your Poland trip.

“It’s great that you have picked Poland. This beautiful land showcases the best of Europe’s culture, commerce, colour and cool quotient. You are in for a sensory treat! In four days, you can discover the best of Warsaw and Krakow, Poland’s top two cities.”



12:30 pm: Transfer to Hotel, check in, have lunch and relax.

Poland holiday plan
Warsaw Old Town | Image:

Post Lunch: Walk out of your hotel and explore the city for a bit. The best way to discover European gems is on foot. With its strong whiff of history and culture, Warsaw will wow you. The city drapes a different beauty at dusk. A 2.5 hour illumination tour will take you through the Royal Route, the Old Town and the city center; all lit up and lovely now. Walk around some more if you like. Round off the evening with dinner and turn in for the night.



Autumn in Lazienki Royal Park | Image:
Autumn in Lazienki Royal Park | Image:

Explore the stunning Lazienki Royal Park, created by the last king of Poland – Stanislaus Poniatowski. Then take a bus tour across Warsaw’s aristocratic residences, historic churches and famous statues. Post lunch, go shopping around the city square. Let the rest of the evening slide slowly by, over drinks, city lights, and a relaxed Polish dinner.



Krakow poland tour plan
A Chapel inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine | Image: teachandlearn on

Leave early and transfer to Krakow by bus—a five hour trip. After lunch, check out Wieliczka, an over 300 m deep UNESCO Heritage listed Salt Mine. This 2-hour walking tour shows you magnificent underground chapels, lakes and chambers carved from salt. Wieliczka is the oldest salt mine in the world still in operation. Enjoy dinner, relax.



krakow tour poland holiday
Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica | Image:

Take a city tour of Krakow town. The Barbican and defensive walls with Florian’s Gate, the Main Market Square with Sukiennice Cloth Hall, St Mary’s Church and Town Hall Tower are Polish gems. Post lunch, check out the Jagiellonian University, pass by Archbishop Palace, where John Paul II used to live, as well as St. Andrew’s Church and SS Peter and Paul’s Church to reach the Wawel Hill, where you could visit the Wawel Cathedral with tombs of Polish kings.

We hope this has helped you plan your Poland trip better. Have a great holiday!

This article was first published in the Jan-Feb 2015 issue
of Travel Secrets Magazine.

Something fun for Harry Potter fans visiting Edinburgh?

Of course! 

Let’s take you to The Elephant House Cafe in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland’s pulsating capital city!


It looks like an unlikely spot for the blockbuster it secretly housed. But yes, J.K. Rowling sat here, scribbling furiously over cups of coffee and we are sure, Scottish scones.



Do visit the loo here: the walls are filled with ‘letters’ scribbled to the author from women across the world!



Besides inspiration, the Cafe also serves full breakfast, lunch and dinner. On the menu are pizzas, salads, pasta, Haggis, Neeps and Tatties (Scotland’s national dish), and something called Lucas of Musselburgh Ice Cream which we did not taste but are sure is a delicious secret in itself!

21 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EN
Tel. 0131-220-5355
Fax. 0131-220-4272

The Schengen visa confuses me. Please simplify!

Be not befuddled, says Vikalp Dubey. The Schengen Visa is a very friendly idea, designed to simplify your travelling life. Play by the (okay, numerous) rules, and you will breeze through Europe with the flash of a passport!

Schengen Visa sample Image:
Schengen Visa sample Image:

Here, quite simply, is what the somewhat unpronounceable Schengen Visa means:

In 1985, 26 countries of the European Union (EU), signed an agreement that would make travel within Europe easier.  Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, which are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), were not part of the agreement.

So, the Schengen Visa is a unified visa system that  lets you travel across most of Europe without running from consulate to consulate for individual visas. If you own this prized stamp on your passport, here are the perks you get:

-If you are travelling between two countries which are in both, the EU and Schengen, there are no border checks at all, just a signature by the side of the road.

-If you are travelling between two EU countries and only one is in Schengen (e.g. UK to France) there are passport checks but no customs.

-If you are travelling between two Schengen countries where one is not in the EU (e.g. Sweden to Norway), there are customs checks but no passport checks.


Know before you go:

Apply at the correct window!

Going to Portugal, France and Italy—in that order? Your point of application is the place where you arrive first. So, head for the Portuguese consulate. . But this is not a blanket rule. Sometimes, they see how long you will be staying in a country, rather than where you landed first. When in doubt, check with your travel agent.

Be honest: Visa officers are trained to sift frauds and fakes. Don’t assume you will get away with a lie, however small. Know the duration of stay.

A Schengen Visa is usually granted as a single entry or multi-entry visa and is valid for 3, 6 or 12 months. However each consulate grants Schengen Visas using different scoring criteria. It’s important to be very clear and honest about your travel intentions.

Do your paperwork well.

Each consulate requires a different set of documents. While Spain needs to see proof of flight  and hotel stay bookings; Italy, France and Portugal are fine with just knowing your flight and hotel information.

Look up the list and make sure you tick every box when you submit your file.  We know people with perfect credentials whose Schengens were rejected simply because of “insufficient documents submitted”. If your paperwork is in order, those officers will cheerfully grant you your wish!

Get Travel Insurance.

Travel insurance is a must on application.

Plan early.

You may only get an appointment to apply for the visa in 3 weeks’ time, so this should be taken into consideration.

Check your passport:

Is it valid for the next 6 to 12 months? Does it have a blank page or two to  accommodate the visa stamp? These small, often overlooked details can have you staring at a “Rejected” stamp.

Check for Updates:

Visa rules change. Even as you read this, the country you are headed for might have an important update. Visit the website and comb through it for new alerts. It makes sense to know before you go!

Do you have a Schengen visa issue or experience to share? We would love to hear about it.

Find out more about Schengen Visa:

Schengen Area

Schengen FAQ – US

All you need to know about Schengen Visa – Netherlands

Schengen Visa for Indians

5 tips for a smooth Schengen visa

Applying for Schengen visa – Real life experience

How I got my Schengen Visa

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: