Dwinky time


David Whitley stands up for the start early, finish early school of alcoholism




A consistent line found in guide books is that nightlife in a particular city or country “doesn’t get going until” a particular time – often about 10pm. 


The implication there is that it’s largely pointless heading out for drinks before then – everywhere will be pretty dead. Head out later in the evening, the theory goes, and you’ll have a much better time. Well, that kinda depends on where you are and what you want from a good session at a bar or two. 


If the intention is to dance and possibly stumble across some romance then, sure, later is probably going to be better. I, however, have always been a bit of an old man when it comes to this sort of thing. My primary considerations when picking a bar have always been A) finding a seat and B) being able to hold a conversation above the music. 


There are few things worse than arriving at an already heaving bar, where you have to shout down people’s ears to be heard, when you’re completely sober. Starting early is massively underrated. OK, you may be home before midnight, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (particularly if you want to do things the next day). The key advantage to starting early, however, is that it’s brilliant for talking to people. It’s strange but true that the fewer people there are in a bar, the more likely you’ll end up talking to one of them.  


And people who start drinking early have a tendency to be, ahem, interesting if nothing else. The other key thing to bear in mind is office workers. When I worked in an office, almost all of the best nights were the ones that started immediately after work. We piled out of the office at five or five-thirty, and often the idea of an after work drink and a cheap pub feed would win out over going home and cooking. 


I think it would be fair to say that this happens in many offices in many cities across the world. That five or six o’clock window is a brilliant time to have a drink or two, eavesdropping on office politics conversations and often ending up as part of them. This approach means you look for a different type of bar, however. You’re not necessarily looking for the one with the best beer or wine selection or the best ambience. 


You’re not really looking for the one that goes off later on or the one with entertainment provided. You’re looking for one near the offices that has a happy hour. Choosing where to go amongst workmates is all about compromise.  The group will rarely end up at a bar that’s the favourite of any one group member. Usually convenience and cost will win out – and the slightly divey joint around the corner that does cheap beers between 5pm and 7pm will usually do the job just fine. 


Discover where those bars are, and there’s a high chance that you’ll end up hearing all the good stories. And the bonus is that it won’t cost you nearly as much as hanging out with the posers in the hip, upmarket joint at 11pm.



Free museums

David Whitley looks at the downsides of getting into attractions without paying 

For all of its faults, it’s generally accepted that one of the best things the previous Labour government ever did was introducing free entry to museums across the country. It opened numerous priceless cultural institutions up to those who could probably get most value from them. It offered educational experiences to hundreds of thousands of kids whose parents would have been otherwise put off by the price. It made going to a museum for the afternoon as viable an option as going to the park.

I know deep down inside that free museum entry is an incredibly good thing. But I still find myself wishing there was a charge at times. I’d sooner pay and look around a museum in relative peace and quiet than feel frazzled, trying to dodge around hundreds of people all trying to look at the same thing. I’ve turned either old or horrendously snobbish.

Not everywhere works on the British system, but at many museums around the world there is at least one day a month or one evening a week where entrance is free. A travel tip that crops up repeatedly is to head to the museum on that day or evening. After all – it saves you money, right?

It’s a dreadful piece of advice, unless given to utter tightwads who care more about not paying for anything that having a good experience.

People follow that advice. Too many people. That free day or evening will be a case of fighting through a scrum of people who have thought either the same thing or that it’s something to do, and they may as well when it’s free.

The problem with free is that it attracts people who are attracted to free, rather than the museum. It’s also a magnet for tour buses – if a tour company can chuck in a few extras that won’t cost the company anything, they almost certainly will do. And there are few things worse in a museum than being swept up by huge tour groups.

With such free nights, you’re making the trade-off. It’s a discomfort versus cost thing. But when the cost isn’t that much anyway – with most museums you’ll never pay more than £10 to £15 maximum – surely it’s better to just stump up for that couple of hours of better, more rewarding experience?

What do you reckon? Is it better to pay for entry to museums or should all museums be free?


David Whitley looks at when travelling the stupid way works out better than the smart way

When I lived in London, I learned a few strategies for making journeys across town quicker. If heading from Tooting to St Pancras, for example, it’s usually better to switch from the Northern Line to the Victoria Line at Stockwell rather than taking the Northern Line all the way up.

It’s the equivalent of switching lanes in a traffic jam or check-out queues in a busy supermarket – sometimes moving to the other line speeds up the whole process.

Alas, often it just introduces more hassle to proceedings. Often with the London Underground, changing lines to cut out the number of stops you have to go through can be a total false economy – the seemingly interminable walk between the two lines and the wait for the next train to arrive can add on more minutes than you’d save.

And sometimes it’s really not about time saved or money spent – it’s about reducing the hassle factor. If I’m flying from Heathrow, I’d sooner just sit on the Piccadilly Line from St Pancras for an hour and a bit than get the tube to Paddington and switch to the Heathrow Express (or, more likely as I’m tight, Heathrow Connect). Yes, it takes longer and it’s not the most pleasant of journeys, but once I’m on it I can just switch off and read a book until it gets to the destination.

I found something similar when I was in Bangkok recently. I know the various train lines are by far the best way to get around – they’re quicker and cheaper. But unless the place you are and the place you’re going to are on the same line, it’s less clear cut. Because they’re all run by different companies, each change requires a new ticket. And the changeover stations often involve walking a block down the street.

In other words, it’s a bit of a faff.

The alternative was to flag down a taxi from wherever I was standing and tell the driver to head to wherever I was going. The journey would invariably take ages – far longer than hiking up and down stairs, along the block and travelling on trains via any number of ticket machine stops. 

But, if I’m honest, I don’t mind sitting in traffic if I’m not driving, am not in a particular rush and have something to read.

Given that a journey across Bangkok by taxi will rarely cost more than £2, irrespective of how long you’re sat in traffic, it just seemed easier to sit there and arrive when I arrived.

There’s often a lot to be said for doing your research and doing things the smart way. But sometimes the stupid way works out better.

Gap Year reason



There's loads of reasons not to do something. To actually create, do or build something is hard. A lot of the people I like and admire have done a trip or lived abroad in some part of their lives. You know you can spend £3000 on a camera of massive big LCD TV...or you can take off on a Gap Year round the world. As you sit in your rocking horse at the age of 97, probably dribbling, I wonder what you're going to remember most... 


Australia is big. No, I'm wrong, it’s not, it’s fucking enormous. They do average things well. The light is weird. And the suburbs...


Food. People. Beaches. Hills. Scary animals. If you only ever visit one country make it India.


Ever seen a Condor soaring up Colca Canyon. It's like witnessing a dinosaur. See Chan Chan too. Plus the Inca Trial



New Zealand

Sheep. Hills. Hobbits. Nah try the wine or speeding across Marlborough Sounds in the world’s cutest boat. Or real live adrenalin sports.


It will make you more attractive to the opposite/same sex sometimes at the same time*. Prince William went on a Gap Year. We are unsure about Katie Price. *No guarantees




Double Dip-tastic. Take the pay-off and go. You can live away from home for a long time on 3 months salary. 6 months you're laughing* 

*Especially if you're a banker




Stay longer in countries pegged to the US dollar ie South America, North America, Central America, most of Indochina. Your pounds will last longer.



Meet farangs

Have you ever actually met a Kiwi? Or a Thai? Got drunk with an American? Shared a flattie with an Aussie? It's okay they don’t bite*. Time to intermingle 


Je ne regrette rien

This won't be news to most of you but you're going to die. The only issue is what you're going to do before you go. Want to actually do something good before you go? Take an RTW. You know you want to.


Think you know what pineapple and satay taste like?  Until you've slurped some out of a bag on a sunny beach or nibbled one at 11pm on the street; you don't really. Read this by Jodi at Legal Nomads. It's great



Street temperature

Just as some girls are bigger than others, some places are hotter than others. The wall of heat coming off a plane can be daunting yet comforting. Alas you'll never know unless you go...


Disclosure: We sell round the world flights at very competitive prices and would like you to buy one.

Missing out


David Whitley is heading abroad for the Olympics – but thinks that’s not necessarily a bad thing

For most of the Olympics, I’ll be in Germany. It’s not a deliberate attempt to avoid the Olympics, just the way the dates happened to fall. I’m neither rejoicing in the fact that I’ll be out of the country nor gutted about missing out. Realistically, I’d be missing out anyway as I don’t live in London. And where the World Cup or European Championships covers a whole country, with fans travelling between cities to support their chosen heroes, the Olympics is essentially focused on one city. Brazil will be far more fun in 2014 for the World Cup than it will be for the 2016 Olympics. 


Being there for the big event is a curious thing. I’ve never been to a World Cup or European Championships, but the atmosphere – particularly in Germany back in 2006 – has always looked tremendous. I love the idea of fan zones and people from all over the world converging to enjoy and celebrate together across city centres.


The closest I can compare it to is the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008. I went with my brother to Belgrade to watch the final, and it was an electric atmosphere. Different nationalities wanted to mix, attempt to communicate, laugh at each others’ costumes and exchange flags. It felt fantastic (and not just because I was drunk). It was simultaneously everybody’s party and nobody’s party.


On the flip side, there was Madrid in 2010. I was there when Spain won the World Cup Final, and everyone says “that must have been wonderful” when I tell them. It was, in a way, but only as an observer. Watching the scenes in the streets as people clambered over fountains and sang until the sun came up was special, but it wasn’t my party. As much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t really share the joy. I was the outsider looking on.


And that’s one thing to consider if you decide to visit somewhere in order to catch a big event. You may be able to throw yourself into it, you may have a great time, but sometimes you will discover that you’re not really a part of what’s going on. If you’re happy as a fascinated bystander, that isn’t a problem. If you’re the sort of person that likes to feel special and the centre of the universe, that once in a lifetime experience may end up being a crushing disappointment. The world has many parties; not all of them are yours.


Photo courtesy of I Couldn't Give a Fuck About the London 2012 Olympics