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3rd December 2016

Happy holidays – where to get away this winter

Dashing through the snow? Here’s some top travel tips to ensure you have the happiest holidays this Christmas

Advent is finally here: the mulled wine candle is out, you’re eating mince pies by the dozen, and it is finally acceptable to play Bublé’s Christmas album 24/7. December is great, but it is hard to get super excited about another Christmas in rainy Manchester. A Christmas break usually means being free of lectures and reading for a few weeks, but have you thought about taking a real break?

You might be dreaming of a white Christmas or somewhere a bit more exotic than the Arndale to do your shopping. The options are endless, but if you need some inspiration, here’s a round up of the top places to get away this winter — all on a student budget!

Christmas markets

We’ve all heard of the incredible German markets of Stuttgart and Cologne, but Germany isn’t your only choice for a glug of gluhwein and a nice dose of Christmas cuteness. There are much cheaper and much less touristy options available; loads of low-cost airlines fly to Prague; you can get the Eurostar to Lille or Bruges for as little as £29; the famous sprawling markets in Riga in Latvia are really popular with locals and full of Christmas cheer — at half the usual prices. Wherever you’re thinking of heading you can also check out last-minute deals if you’re tightening the purse-strings!

Top tip: Passport theft is rife in big crowds, and some Scrooges will be out to steal them and more, even at the Christmas markets. Check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) #PassportAware campaign for information on safeguarding yourself against this type of crime abroad.

Winter sports

We’d all love to be able to afford a trip to Verbier this winter, but sadly most students don’t quite have the bank balance for that. Skiing isn’t totally off the cards though: Eastern Europe is much cheaper and has some secret gems where the slopes will not disappoint. Bulgaria, for example, has all the most wonderful ski resorts that you’ve never heard of, and while there won’t be any Made in Chelsea stars in the bars, there certainly is an affordable après-ski scene, as well as reasonably-priced accommodation, equipment, and lessons if you need some practice.

Top tip: Winter sports are not, however, without their risks — make sure you take your EHIC card and comprehensive travel insurance before your trip, in case of a medical emergency. In 2015, FCO research revealed that almost a third of winter sports lovers travelled without appropriate travel insurance, with some incurring huge costs as a result. (Better to be #SkiSafe than sorry.)

City break

A mainstay of the student-friendly travelling roster is the European city break — you can’t go wrong in Edinburgh for Hogmanay, the world-famous new year festival with events all over the city: it is sure to be an NYE to remember.

Alternatively, why not spend New Year’s Eve on the continent? With a new Eurostar route and low-cost flights from all over the UK, it is easier than ever to visit Amsterdam! You can sample the Dutch delights in one of Europe’s biggest party cities — with impromptu street parties, thousands of bars and clubs that just don’t shut, and an impressive fireworks display illuminating the whole city, Amsterdam is the place to be this NYE. The markets will still be open too for your last dose of Christmas spirit and there are hostels galore for low-cost living.

It is important to stay #TravelAware in such a touristy city — read the FCO’s travel advice for guidance on your time away and make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance.

Cosy cottage

If you’re really short on cash, or just don’t fancy going far this Christmas, why not cosy up to a log fire in a cottage or cabin in the countryside, right here in the UK. Browse sites like Airbnb and Holiday Lettings for reasonably priced homes from home, from the Lake District, to Scotland, all the way down to the south coast, and get set to snuggle up with family or friends. The more the merrier (and cheaper!) and make sure you do your research before choosing a place to stay — you don’t want to end up in a village with no pub!

Whatever your destination, the FCO are there to help if you get into trouble — follow them on Facebook and Twitter @FCOtravel for the latest foreign travel advice. Happy holidays!

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