Meet the monk living at one of Mongolia's oldest monasteries

Monthly head shaves and daily two-hour chants: Meet the monk living at a monastery in Mongolia that survived Stalinist repression to become one of the country’s oldest

  • The Shankh Monastery, founded in 1647,  is located 224 miles from Ulaanbaatar 
  • It closed in 1937 during Stalinist repression – many of the monks were executed
  • After the revolution in 1990 it reopened and now 10 Buddhist monks live there

Battulga is a monk at the Shankh Monastery

It’s eerily quiet when I approach the Shankh Monastery, one of Mongolia’s oldest Buddhist temples.

A few dogs bounce around, lone birds fly overhead and then the colourful robes of monk Battulga come into view.

The 33-year-old is happy to receive guests as he admits things can be quiet with just nine other monks living at the 17th-century complex. 

At its height, the place of worship – located 361km (224 miles) from the capital of Ulaanbaatar in the Övörkhangai province – housed more than 1,500 monks but in 1937 it was closed after being hit by Stalinist repression.

Buildings were destroyed and many of the monks were executed or sent to labour camps in Siberia. 

However, Battulga tells me through a translator that five monks secretly relocated the monastery’s activities to a ger (a type of tent) during the communist era and the ‘worshipping and chanting never stopped’. 

One of these monks helped to reopen the monastery in 1990 after the revolution and thankfully, the main temple dating to 1647 had escaped significant damage.

Today Shankh, along with the many other Buddhist monasteries scattered across Mongolia, helps form a key part of the country’s national identity. The whitewashed main temple features ornate woodwork, battered by the extreme weather, and plants can be seen protruding through the roof tiles.

Battulga tells me that when he was two years old he lost mother and then at the age of 11 he also lost his father to illness.

It was when he was in grade three, at the age of 14, that he then decided to become a monk. 

The devout Buddhist says he enjoys the simplicity of monastic life. He owns just two sets of red woollen robes

A shot showing Battulga’s traditional leather boots, which complete his outfit 

The devout Buddhist says he enjoys the simplicity of monastic life. 

He owns just two sets of woollen robes and a pair of traditional leather boots.

On the subject of self-maintenance, Battulga says he shaves his head just once a month as it tends to ‘grow back slowly’. 

Taking a moment to stretch his arms towards the sky, with the blue cuffs of his robes matching the blue hues above, he fills me in on his daily routine. 

He says: ‘I get up at seven o’clock in the morning and have breakfast and then chant for two hours.

‘Then I get up and have a break for lunch. After lunch, I do religious studies. 

Today Shankh, along with the many other Buddhist monasteries scattered across Mongolia, forms a key part of the country’s national identity

The main temple, dating to 1647, as it appears today with ornate woodwork and plants growing through the roof


Sadie Whitelocks travelled with Exodus Travels on the 14-day Mongolia: Steppes, Deserts & Nomads tour. Prices start from £3,399, including flights.

‘In the evening I take a break to play outside, then dinner and bed around 10 o’clock.’   

Battulga reveals that he eats milk porridge and doughnuts for breakfast and lunch and a portion of beef or mutton at dinner time. 

My translator, a bubbly lady from Ulaanbaatar also in her 30s, wants to know if Battulga is single. 

He says that he is, but the monks can get married if they wish and have a family.

If they choose this path, they can continue practising as a monk, but they cannot live at the monastery. 

So, what does it take to be a monk in the 21st century? 

Before heading into an outbuilding for a spot of milk porridge, Battulga replies with a smile: ‘You really have to have a kind spirit and be willing to help others.’ 

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'Overreaction'? Dominican Republic turns back cruise ship amid virus fears

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A cruise ship heading to the Dominican Republic to disembark hundreds of passengers after a 14-day tour was turned away on Thursday because officials feared eight of those aboard showed potential symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, officials announced.

a group of people standing in front of a large ship in the background: On Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 the Dominican Republic turned back the Braemar because some on board showed potential symptoms of the new coronavirus COVID-19.

A joint statement by the Public Health Ministry and Port Authority said the captain of the Braemar reported four Filipinos, two British citizens and two U.S. citizens were under medical observation for symptoms such as fever, coughing, or breathing difficulty.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines said in an emailed statement that it had reported “a small number of influenza-like cases on board. Our medical team has now advised that they are all feeling better. No guests or crew are, or have been, displaying symptoms that are considered to be consistent with those of Coronavirus.”

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Officials said the ship was carrying 1,128 passengers and 384 crew members. The cruise line said it was “awaiting advice on the next steps” and “liasing with a number of airlines to secure onward travel for guests.”

“It is our opinion that this is an overreaction by the Dominican Republic,” Fred. Olsen said in a written statement.

The cruise line’s website shows the ship had been due to pick up another load of passengers and set off on a new cruise Thursday night.

Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas said the ship already had been barred by another port, which he did not specify.

Meanwhile, passengers on another vessel at the Mexican island of Cozumel faced yet another day in which they weren’t allowed to get off the ship, after they had been previously turned away from two ports.

The MSC Meraviglia, turned away by two nations due to fears of the virus outbreak, docked at Cozumel on Thursday and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said passengers would be allowed to disembark.

López Obrador said Mexico had to act with “humanity”after the ship was refused entry at ports in Grand Cayman and Jamaica.

But Alejandra Aguirre, the health secretary of the coastal state of Quintana Roo, said two people had been detected with acute respiratory infections not believed to be the new coronavirus and that other passengers wouldn’t be allowed off until tests on those two came back later Thursday.

The two were identified as a 27-year-old male crew member from the Philippines and a 30-year-old female passenger from France.

MSC said in a statement that the two passengers were now symptom-free and the ship would remain in Cozumel. Assuming clearance to disembark is given, passengers would be free to tour Cozumel through the end of Friday.

The cruise line had expressed frustration with the rejections, which came after it reported the crew member was sick with common seasonal flu.

“The ship is being allowed to dock and the passengers, those who are aboard the cruise ship, can disembark,” López Obrador said, adding that health inspections will be carried out.

“We cannot act with discrimination,” he said. “Imagine if a ship arrived and it wasn’t even allowed to dock, and they were told, ‘Keep going on your way, see where you can dock.’ That is inhuman.”

He added “we cannot close our ports, nor can we close our airports.”

“Imagine the desperation and everything it implies, almost 5,000 people on a ship and they cannot get off,” he said. “Why such backward attitudes?”

The case of the Meraviglia illustrated the crisis of nerves over the COVID-19 virus. Mexico has no confirmed cases and MSC Cruises said the crew member had only common seasonal flu, had been placed in isolation and had “nearly recovered.”

Local media showed a small knot of Cozumel residents near the cruise ship dock demanding that passengers not be allowed to disembark, citing fears about potential contagion or effects on the tourism-dependent economy.

Just minutes after López Obrador spoke Thursday, the governor of the Quintana Roo state, where Cozumel is located, confirmed the ship had docked, but said “no authorization has been given” yet for passengers to disembark.

Gov. Carlos Joaquin wrote that health inspections would have to be carried out first.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Overreaction’? Dominican Republic turns back cruise ship amid virus fears

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Martin Lewis issues warning on travel insurance as coronavirus crisis continues

Earlier today, two more Brits tested positive for the coronavirus bringing the total number of cases to 19 in the UK.

Millions of holidays are currently at risk as the coronavirus outbreak has caused numbers of airlines to cancel flights.

So what does that mean for those who have booked holidays in the upcoming weeks?

Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert, appeared on Good Morning Britain yesterday to discuss the importance of travel insurance.

He told ITV viewers: “This is a big warning. I do it every year – I talk about booking travel insurance ASAB – as soon as you book.

“Because if you don’t and something happens in the meantime before you get travel insurance, you’re not covered."

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Martin, 47, continued: "Well, anyone who has booked a holiday now for this year – if you have not got travel insurance, if you get the travel insurance and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office then says you can’t go to a country, you’re covered.

“If the Foreign & Commonwealth Office rules out a country in future and you haven’t got travel insurance at that point, you’re not covered. Get your travel insurance now if you’ve booked your holiday.

“Because if for example you have skiing trip and in two weeks time they say ‘you can’t go’ but you haven’t got your travel insurance yet because you are going in four weeks time, you’re not covered.

“But if you get it now, you are covered. ASAB has never been more important for travel insurance. If you booked a holiday, you should have travel insurance in place now, if you don’t go and do it now."

  • Is it safe to travel after coronavirus outbreak? Government advice explained

So what do you do if you have a flight booked?

We’d recommend looking at Foreign Office advice before cancelling your holiday, although there are warnings against certain countries, the government body hasn’t told Brits not to travel.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “People are understandably concerned about how their travel plans will be impacted, and a lack of clear and timely information has left many travellers confused about their options.

“While the government has now updated its advice to cover the Italian locations that have experienced an outbreak, those travelling to nearby cities like Milan or Verona still won’t be able to cancel and claim on travel insurance, nor will those travelling to Tenerife.”

  • Martin Lewis
  • Coronavirus

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Coronavirus hits Abu Dhabi: Two hotels on lockdown as guests test positive for virus

Coronavirus has hit the Middle East, with two people testing positive for the virus. They are reported to both be Italian. According to state-run media, two hotels are now in lockdown as authorities look to contain the spread of the virus.


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The reports come UAE news agency WAM, who say that guests at the two hotels “interacted with two Italians diagnosed with coronavirus” have been placed under an emergency quarantine.

Other people who also interacted with the two sufferers on Yas island have been isolated at home according to the health department of Abu Dhabi.

The two Italians received their positive test results on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Marriot-owned Abu Dhabi confirmed to the BBC that it had been placed under a “temporary lockdown”.

All guests in the hotel are now undergoing a screening process.

The W spokeswomen added: “The safety and well-being of our guests is of paramount importance to us and we will comply with the direction provided by the authorities.”

It is thought that both hotels had been hosting cyclists and crew for the UAE Tour race.

Reports circulating state that the Italians were part of race staff.

According to BBC Sport riders at the event, including Britain’s Chris Froome, are now being tested for the virus.

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The event’s organises have since confirmed the next stages of the race will no longer go ahead.

The news follows the quarantine of a hotel in Tenerife, Canary Islands, where hotel guests have been placed under lockdown after an Italian guest was taken to hospital suffering from symptoms.

He and his wife both tested positive for the deadly virus.

Hotel guests were informed they would not be allowed to leave when a notice was posted under their bedroom doors.


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Hotel guests staying at the H1 Costa Adeje Palace in Tenerife will remain under quarantine until the middle of March.

Over 100 tourists staying at the hotel have been told they can not leave “until the sanitary authorities warn.”

Italy has become one of the worst affected regions outside of Asia, with the number of sufferers rapidly soaring day-on-day.

At the time of writing there are 655 confirmed cases in the country. While 45 patients are said to have recovered, 17 have lost their lives.

Meanwhile, globally more than 83,000 people have contracted the disease.

The illness has seeped into 35 countries after starting in Wuhan China.

In the UK alone there are now 19 confirmed cases.

The World Health Organisation has issued advice for travellers following the outbreak.

Though they do not advise against all travel, they do suggest following the advice of authorities in affected regions and following sanitary precautions.

They remain firm that one of the best ways to avoid the illness is by practising good hand hygiene.

This means washing hands with soap and water, as well as using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also add: “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”

However, travel experts aren’t convinced that it is safe.

Travel pro Simon Calder pointed to airports as one of the wort places for the spread of disease.

He went so far as to describe airports as “the biohazard cauldrons of the world.”

Appearing on ITV’s This Morning the expert told Holly Willoughby and Phillip that we’re in “unprecedented territory”.

He explained that coronavirus is going to cause a “great deal of anxiety” for those booked to travel to destinations where cases have been reported.

“What happens if we get locked down” is more of a concern for holidaymakers rather than actually contracting the virus,” said Calder, “and that’s a real worry.”

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Cruise: Look inside the transformed Celebrity Silhouette – part of a £380m investment

Celebrity Cruises is set to unveil its newly transformed Celebrity Silhouette ship to cruisers following a 42-day makeover period which has transformed the ship. The bow-to-stern renovation is part of a £380 million fleet-wide investment dubbed “The Celebrity Revolution” set to boost the cruise line’s offering.


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With a push to develop modern elements, the Celebrity Silhouette will welcome state-of-the-art features with a luxury edge.

Returning to its homeport in Southampton, cruisers will be able to experience the ship first-hand as of May 1.

The cruise ship will then depart on its first sailing since the transformation.

From upgraded suites to the introduction of new bars and eateries, there are plenty of new additions to keep cruisers busy.

Meanwhile, technology has been installed throughout to streamline passenger experience.

The addition of facial recognition technology means that guest will now benefit from a “frictionless terminal experience and expedited boarding.” Plus the Celebrity Cruise’s mobile app will boast a guest-to-guest chat feature and, for the first time, the introduction of digital room keys.

All staterooms and suites have been refreshed, with the addition of new bedding, mattresses, televisions and upgraded amenities. Plus six new staterooms have been added, including two new sunset suites.

Suite guests can also now benefit from a brand new all-inclusive area exclusively for them.

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Named The Retreat Sundeck, the hideaway boasts luxurious cabanas, loungers, a hot tub, private bar, as well as an exclusive 24/7 lounge which offers complimentary snacks and beverages.

Meanwhile, ship-wide cruisers can rest assured there will be plenty to keep them occupied.

A brand new eatery, the Craft Social, will offer a relaxed atmosphere as well as more than 40 craft beers.

Cruisers can pick from a selection of food favourites, as well as wine and cocktails on tap.


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Cocktail lovers can also head straight for the dedicated bar now open on board. The Entertainment Court bar will offer a full menu of delicious mixed drinks to choose from, in an opulent and sophisticated surrounding.

Meanwhile, the Lawn Club has also seen an update, welcoming a series of alcove seating for extra privacy, as well as an oversized outdoor movie screen for boosted entertainment.

If cruisers are hoping to stay active, they can head to the ship’s updated fitness centre, which has welcomed a host of new machines and equipment.

The solarium and pool deck have been refreshed, now the perfect spot to chill out on a sunny day.

Shopaholics won’t have to go far to satisfy their needs either.

The ship has welcomed a selection of new retailers including vintage brand What Goes Around Comes Around; artisan-driven Lemlem, featuring a collection of resort wear, shoes and handbags made entirely in Africa; Tarbay, a collection from Venezuela that features handcrafted fine jewellery; Tao Company Jewelery by Vanessa Arcila, k; and a brand new destination shop, Point B.

Elsewhere, an enhanced art gallery brings a touch of culture to the onboard offering.

The ship’s casino and conjoining bar have also had a fresh update.

“The modernisation of Celebrity Silhouette takes one of the most gorgeous ships in our fleet closer to the Edge,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises.

“In many spaces, we worked down to the studs and built it all back up again in the modern, ultra-luxurious style that is synonymous with our innovative Edge Series, while still keeping much of the Solstice Series charm and beauty our guests have grown to cherish.”

The ship will embark on its first voyage since the makeover on May 1, spending eight nights spanning Spain and France.

Tickets start as low as £715 per person for an interior stateroom.

Ports of call include

Later in 2020, the ship will take on a 14-night Scandinavia and St Petersburg cruise, as well as a seven-night Norwegian Cruise.

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easyJet flights cancelled as coronavirus sweeps Europe – could your holiday face ruin?

Budget airline easyJet announced this morning that it would be cancelling some of its flights into and out of Europe, particularly Italy, as coronavirus sweeps the continent. As demand for travel slips, the airline has revealed ways it hopes to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.


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In a statement issued to the markets this morning, easyJet said: “Following the increased incidence of COVID-19 cases in Northern Italy, we have seen a significant softening of demand and load factors into and out of our Northern Italian bases.

“Further, we are also seeing some slower demand across our other European markets.

“As a result, we will be making decisions to cancel some flights, particularly those into and out of Italy while continuing to monitor the situation and adapting our flying programme to support demand. 

“While it is too early to determine what the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will be on current year outlook and guidance for both the Airline and Holidays business, we continue to monitor the situation carefully and will update the market in due course.  

“easyJet is working closely with authorities and are following the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation and EASA to ensure the health and wellbeing of our people and customers.”

The airline is also looking for other ways to lessen the financial blow caused by a lack of demand from travellers.

An easyJet spokesperson told “We can confirm that we have taken the decision to cancel a number of flights mainly to and from Italy following a slowing in demand as a result of concerns over Covid-19.

“The cancellations are for some flights between 13 March and 31 March 2020, most of which have multiple daily frequencies.

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“Customers are being contacted and moved onto flights operating on the same day or alternatively have been offered a full refund.

“Standard terms and conditions apply on all flights which are unaffected as they will be operating as normal.”

Airline executives have also decided to put in place budget cuts in administrative areas, recruitment, promotion and pay-freezes across its network and offering unpaid leave to staff.

Over the course of last weekend, cases of the virus began to spread rapidly throughout Italy with the government forcing certain municipalities in the northern part of the country into quarantine.


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Currently, there are 655 confirmed cases in Italy, and 17 sufferers have lost their lives.

Elsewhere in Europe there have been confirmed cases in Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Greece, Finland, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Romania.

The UK currently has 16 confirmed cases, 8 of which have recovered.

Though the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not told travellers to avoid their plans altogether, it has issued warnings for those heading to infected areas.

For those heading to Italy the FCO warns: “The FCO advise against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy (Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano) and one in Veneto (Vo’ Euganeo), which have been isolated by the Italian authorities due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Meanwhile, experts have dubbed airports a “biohazard cauldron” and one of the most dangerous places for contracting the illness.

Travel expert Simon Calder said: “It’s a microbiological party, everybody from around the world converges with their own personal germs and they all get mixed up, particularly at the security area.”

He advises those passing through airports to keep a distance from others, and make sure to wash their hands frequently.

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LATAM signs loyalty reciprocation deal with Delta Air Lines

LATAM Airlines Group has signed a loyalty program agreement with Delta that will enable reciprocal frequent flyer benefits.

The deal will come into effect on April 1st. 

Once the agreement is implemented, LATAM Pass members will be able to accrue and redeem miles on Delta flights across its network of over 300 destinations worldwide.

Likewise, Delta SkyMiles members will be able to earn and use miles on LATAM flights to 145 destinations in 26 countries across five continents.

The carriers are also working to expand reciprocal lounge access benefits to more airports in the Americas and establish mutual top tier recognition during the first half of 2020.

“With this frequent flyer agreement and codeshares, LATAM and its affiliates can now offer customers some of the first tangible benefits that the framework agreement with Delta promises to deliver,” said Roberto Alvo, chief commercial officer, LATAM Airlines Group.

“Today, customers can already take advantage of industry leading connectivity between North and South America, as we continue to advance on our path to creating the best passenger experience and route network on the continent.”

As another milestone, LATAM customers can purchase flights covered by the codeshares between Delta and LATAM Airlines Peru (for flights operating from March 29th) and LATAM Airlines Ecuador (for flights operating from March 15th) respectively, offering up to 74 onward routes in the United States and Canada.

Delta passengers can also buy flights covered by the codeshares with LATAM’s affiliates in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, offering up to 51 onward routes in South America.

LATAM Airlines Brazil has also signed a codeshare agreement with Delta that will come into effect during the first half of 2020, subject to regulatory approval.

LATAM Airlines Brazil’s ‘LA’ code will be added to Delta flights from New York/JFK, Miami, Boston and Orlando to up to 65 onward routes in the United States and Canada.

Likewise, Delta’s ‘DL’ code will be added to LATAM Airlines Brazil flights from São Paulo/GRU and Rio de Janeiro/GIG to up to 37 onward routes in Brazil.

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Decision expected today on ITB Berlin

The hospitality community is awaiting a decision on the hosting of ITB Berlin next week.

With just days to go until the expected debut on March 4th, there have been calls from within Germany for the cancellation of the event.

Federal minister of the interior, Horst Seehofer, is among those calling for the event to be postponed as the world continues to battle the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.

“I personally believe that you cannot perform,” he said.

“That risk at such a large tourism fair, with representatives from those affected regions, and with expected 150,000 visitors, expected it not calculable.”

Germany has to date seen around 50 coronavirus cases.

However, ITB Berlin is considered the preeminent tradeshow for the European travel community, with many insiders calling for the event to go ahead as planned.

Exhibitors, delegates and organisers all stand to be substantially out of pocket should the event be cancelled.

Organisers at Messe Berlin have so far maintained that the event will go ahead.

A statement added: “Messe Berlin is currently coordinating with the public authorities at federal and state level on how to proceed with regard to ITB Berlin 2020 and COVID-19.

“It is expected that more detailed information will be available in the evening of February 28th at the earliest.

“We will inform you as soon as we have new information.”

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All guests attending the show will be expected to sign a declaration on arrival stating they are not part of an at risk group.

The number of attendees is also expected to be lower than normal.

An ITB Berlin statement added: “Due to the current spread of the coronavirus in Europe, the organiser expects lower visitor numbers at ITB Berlin.

“Please understand that due to the dynamic situation, we are currently unable to make any statements about concrete visitor numbers.”

ITB Berlin

In the build up to the show, ITB Berlin had been seeing strong demand.

With 10,000 organisations and companies from over 180 countries attending, the event is fully-booked again this year.

“Our fully-booked halls are proof that even in the age of flight shame, overtourism, climate change and the coronavirus, ITB Berlin is still the focal point for the travel industry and radiates an international aura.

“For the global travel industry participating in large numbers and face-to-face meetings are important,” said David Ruetz, head of ITB Berlin.

He added: “At present the effects of the coronavirus are very limited.

“To date two Chinese exhibitors have cancelled.

“A large number of Chinese stands are run by staff from Germany and Europe and are thus not affected by cancellations.

“The safety of our visitors and exhibitors has the utmost priority.

“We are in permanent contact with the public health authorities and will take all recommended measures as and when they become necessary.”

ITB Berlin is already independently taking active measures.

Thus, there are additional medical specialists and first responders as well as English-speaking staff on the grounds and the sanitary facilities are being cleaned and disinfected at more frequent intervals.

More Information

ITB Berlin 2020 is set to tale place from March 4th-8th.

In 2019, a total of 10,000 companies and organisations from 181 countries exhibited their products and services to around 160,000 visitors, including 113.500 trade visitors.

For more information please visit the official website.

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Heading to London? Skip the Hotel and Stay at a Pub

a reflection of a mirror: Heading to London? Skip the Hotel and Stay at a Pub

Dating back to the late Middle Ages, coaching inns served weary travelers who journeyed English roads by horse or stagecoach. Travelers would stop, tie up their horses, have a drink (ale was a safer choice than water), a bite to eat, and a quick slumber before continuing on their way. 

“Then the railways came,” says Dr. Paul Jennings, historian and author of The Local: a History of the English Pub. “They were quicker [so travelers] no longer needed to stay en route. These older coaching inns disappeared or became public houses, ordinary places serving drinks.” Even so, many local pubs kept their beds to provide overnight options for those who needed it. 

A handful of London pubs are coming back around to the pub-with-rooms approach by opening or sprucing up guest rooms as a comfortable alternative to Airbnb or a full-service hotel. 

“We are genuinely able to provide something very different,” says Nico Treguer, co-owner of the Culpeper and the Buxton, two pubs offering overnight stays in London’s East End. “People staying with us belong to the neighborhood. They don’t feel like tourists.”

So instead of staying at an anonymous hotel, get to know a neighborhood by staying upstairs at one of these cool local pubs. Cheers!

The Hero of Maida, Maida Vale, W9

Located on a quiet street in the tony Maida Vale neighborhood, this pub debuted its new guests rooms in September 2019. Those who stay needn’t worry about noise from the bar below: The five rooms are three flights up, and each looks out either onto rooftops or over Shirland Road. They’re furnished with king-size beds and down pillows, flatscreen TVs, and bathrooms stocked with shower amenities from Britain’s essential oil–based brand Bramley. (A nice fit: Bramley was founded in 2009 to supply toiletries for overnight guests at a country pub in Wiltshire.) While breakfast is not included in the nightly rate, some of the tasty à la carte items include sautéed field mushrooms and shallots on sourdough, and an all-day Sunday roast so good you’d be smart to book ahead. Hot tip: Save room for the sticky toffee pudding. 

a bedroom with a large bed in a room: The five upstairs rooms at the Culpeper provide a comfortable place to land in the East End.

The Culpeper, Aldgate, E1

In nice weather, the locals at this corner gastropub often spill out onto the sidewalk of Commercial Street, Guinness pint in hand. Sashay past them and head inside: One flight up from the bustling bar, you’ll find a light-filled, brick-walled restaurant serving dishes like pan-fried duck breast with poached pear. Climb another flight to find comfort and calm in one of the five spacious guest rooms. The decor of each blends old and new elements like fireplaces and wooden headboards as well as Moroccan poufs and standing wardrobes. Make-your-own-coffee kits mean you can mosey to breakfast (included in the nightly rate) once you’re good and caffeinated. The morning meal on offer ranges from simple fresh pastries from the Bread Station in London Fields to something more substantial like poached eggs served with harissa and a dollop of mint yogurt. The Culpeper also hosts guided stargazing, book parties, and terrarium workshops at its rooftop garden where many of the herbs used in the kitchen are grown. Other evening events held next to the rooftop firepits include tastings featuring the delicious wares of local businesses, such as cider maker Maison Sassy and cheesemonger Mons.

a large white bed sitting next to a window: The sunny rooms and curated library of must-read books at the Buxton mean you may want to linger longer.

© Photo by Veerle Evens, courtesy of the Buxton
The sunny rooms and curated library of must-read books at the Buxton mean you may want to linger longer.


The Buxton, Brick Lane, E1

Just a short walk from its sister spot the Culpeper, the Buxton, a gastropub with a street-level narrow bar topped by three floors of guest rooms, opened in May 2019. The 15 rooms are on the small side, but good designs—space-saving sliding doors and Rothko-esque prints on the walls—make them both efficient and Instagram-friendly. Continental breakfast is included in the room rate, and you may want to go back upstairs afterwards to linger a little. A partnership with bookshop Libreria enables guests to curl up with a curated selection of books beside their in-room, nonworking (but still cute) fireplace. Come happy hour, there’s more than beer to drink: Down at the marble-topped bar, clever cocktails include an Ivy Gimlet Royale made with vodka, elderflower, mint, lime, and prosecco.

a large bed in a bedroom: An attention to cozy details and a great craft beer selection make the Hayden a Notting Hill destination for overnights.

The Hayden, Notting Hill, W2

Channel the character Julia Roberts played in the 1999 movie named for this neighborhood and head west to picturesque Notting Hill. She may have snagged the bookseller played by Hugh Grant, but you can have a happy ending, too. A local pub, the Hayden, sets visitors up for a chic stay, complete with bathrobes and slippers for lazy lie-ins. The eight en suite rooms, spread across three upper floors, were refurbished last November with whitewashed wood furnishings, charming wallpaper, tufted headboards, and comfy Posturepedic beds nattily dressed with houndstooth wool throws. You can reach the rooms through the bar, but there’s also a separate street entrance, too, in case you don’t make it back before last call. That said, you may want to get home in time to enjoy a drink downstairs: The gastropub, with leather booths and tin ceilings, offers loads of offbeat brews like Tailgate peanut butter milk stout and the Grafton Grappler, a craft lager.

The Dog & Fox, Wimbledon, SW26

As you may guess, the further from Central London you go, the more space you get. Combine roomy digs with nearby tennis and you have a great reason to stay in the London ’burbs. Not only is this pub—which dates back to the 1800s—planning to unveil a massive refurbishment of its 28 rooms this spring, but it’s also a 10-minute walk to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where international racquet magic happens every June. At the Dog & Fox, you can expect four-poster beds and plaid carpet to tickle your toes upon stepping out of a roll-top double bathtub. Not dreamy enough for you? There are also sunlit reading nooks with views over Wimbledon Village. Dogs are welcome and provided their own bed and kibble bowl. Breakfast is extra, but who can resist Cajun beans on toast with smoked back bacon?

>>Next: The Best Bookshops in London

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Three Caribbean Ports Reportedly Deny Entry to Cruise Ship

Update: February 27, 2020 at 2:45 p.m. ET

A MSC Cruises spokesperson released another statement to TravelPulse about the MSC Meraviglia and the situation in Cozumel:

Mexican health authorities earlier today boarded MSC Meraviglia. Out of an excess of precaution, they administered additional testing on the crew member – now free of symptoms – and a young female guest who has since developed mild symptoms also of seasonal flu. Results from the two tests are expected to take anywhere from a few to 12 hours. The ship will be alongside in Cozumel while waiting for the results. Once she gets clearance to disembark, she will stay in Cozumel through to the end of the day tomorrow Friday, February 28 to allow guests to enjoy the city and its attractions. Guests on board have already been informed.

Update: February 27, 2020 at 10:40 a.m. ET

MSC Cruises provided a statement to TravelPulse saying “MSC Meraviglia has berthed at Cozumel, Mexico and is currently waiting for local health officials to board the ship to conduct customary checks provided for by maritime protocols.”

A spokesperson also said the reason the ship did not dock right away when arriving in Cozumel was “unfavorable weather conditions.” The cruise line said it “received formal and final authorization from the local health authorities in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico to go to Cozumel.”

An MSC Cruises ship that was turned away from two ports in the Caribbean has now reportedly been rejected by a third country due to a crew member reporting flu-like symptoms similar to those shown by coronavirus patients.

According to The Mirror, the Mexican Port Authority revoked the permission it granted the MSC Meraviglia to dock and disembark passengers in the port of Cozumel after a Filipino crew worker fell ill after he reportedly visited Manila within the last few days.

The MSC Meraviglia was originally scheduled to dock in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Georgetown, Cayman Islands, but was denied permission, as health officials at both destinations said they were looking to “provide protection to the health and safety” for their residents.

The ship is carrying more than 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members.

Officials from the Mexican Port Authority confirmed to Reuters it canceled permission over coronavirus fears. MSC Cruises said in a statement Thursday it was sailing toward Cozumel after receiving authorization to dock from the Mexican Ministry of health.

The Mirror is reporting the Ministry of Health was scheduled to board the MSC Meraviglia when it arrived in Mexico and confirm the medical records stating the crew member was diagnosed with common seasonal flu and not the coronavirus.

The Mexican Ministry of Health would reportedly be responsible for the decision to turn the ship away, not the port authority.

An official Twitter account for MSC Cruises revealed the ship had berthed at Cozumel at around 9 a.m. ET and was waiting for local health officials to board the vessel. The cruise line said the doctors at the Mexican destination would conduct customary checks.

The decision to deny the MSC Meraviglia at port comes just one week after MSC Cruises updated MSC Bellissima’s Grand Voyage itinerary to Asia.

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