Singapore offers custom-made pods in hostel

A perfect matchbox

Of all the traveller neologisms - babymooners, glampers, staycationers - it is the flashpacker who will fit nicely into one of the custom-made pods at the soon-to-open Matchbox Concept Hostel in Singapore.

The hostel, a short walk from Chinatown and a 20-minute drive from Changi Airport, accommodates 34 people in a women's-only dormitory (named Flamingo) or an 18-bed mixed dormitory including what it says are two world-first couples' beds (named Spring Mist).

It provides different pillows for back, side and front sleepers and there's free wi-fi, iPod docks and hair straighteners.

Hostel spokeswoman Cassandra Kong says that guests have been working professionals aged 20 to 40. The hostel has large communal spaces that guests are encouraged to use during the day. "The typical traveller still arrives with a backpack, although we do see a fair number of guests with luggage on wheels," she says.

It costs from $S45 ($35) a night, which includes all-day breakfast.


Just don't call them tourists

Bragging rights, not just the sight of well-known monuments, motivate many travellers, the global chief executive of Trafalgar Tours, Gavin Tollman, says, adding that "iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower are now a given".


The desire for more immersive travel is reflected in changes to the company's itineraries next year in Britain and Europe, including room upgrades or, in some cases, replacement of about 500 hotels.

"It was not about the quality of hotels but a multitude of factors, including travel time and location," he says. Three hundred dining experiences have also been altered.

He says there is a direct connection between the company's "be my guest" experiences - such as a meal in a converted barn on a goat farm in the French countryside, or an afternoon in a Tuscan winery - and return business.

Australians are Trafalgar's second-largest market behind the US and itineraries are designed to appeal to a broad range of travellers.

"We are seeing some interesting travel trends with either three-generational or grandparents travelling with children," Tollman says of the company's "family experiences".

The company has invested heavily in its travel directors, who stop at places not found in guidebooks. "We took on board that guests do not want to be perceived as tourists," Tollman says. "The directors are going out of their way to demonstrate they are not just local guides and you won't see two motor coaches parked outside.

"We get a lot of requests for shopping, so in Milan we go to [an] incredible outlet - not a hidden treasure but probably best known to Italians."

New "at leisure" itineraries for Europe (minimum two days in one place and no departures earlier than 9am) include a 10-day Spanish Serenade (from $2750 a person, twin share) and 11-day Paris and Provence (from $3450 a person, twin share).


Prettiest, raunchiest, fanciest

Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Sights is a salve for those drowning in travel information.

The book contains categories of fancy from the most fairytale-like European castles to the world's mightiest rivers.

Sydney is in the ultimate harbour chapter and Melbourne makes the best sporty sights for that one day in September.

The ultimate risque sites include the salacious terracotta contents from Pompeii at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The 20th century's darkest moments lists the Kigali Memorial Centre, Rwanda.

For children (and their parents), sights from British childhood literature include the Wombles in Wimbledon and the Famous Five in Dorset. Listings includes notes on the best times to visit and web links. The book will be available from next month (Lonely Planet, $34.99).

Foundation's high point

Renowned British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington will deliver the Sir Edmund Hillary Memorial Address at the Australian Himalayan Foundation dinner on October 7 at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth hotel.

Bonington has led and taken part in 19 Himalayan expeditions, including four to Mount Everest, which he climbed in 1985, aged 50.

Knighted in 1996 for services to mountaineering, Bonington is the author of 15 books, including Everest the Hard Way.

The dinner costs $150 a person, with proceeds to the Australian Himalayan Foundation's projects in Nepal, India and Bhutan.


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