The best travel books of 2024 (so far)

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Save Me from the Waves

By Jessica Hepburn

Stanfords Book of the Month for March 2024

Claiming to be the first woman to have completed the ‘Sea, Street, Summit Challenge’ – swim the English Channel, run the London Marathon and climb Mount Everest – Jessica’s tale of how it happened falls into classic ‘unlikely hero’ territory. With humour and wit, she charts her journey from reluctant athlete to mentality monster, and in doing so gives life and character to the settings for her achievements.

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Wayfarer

By Phoebe Smith

Former Wanderlust editor Phoebe Smith swaps globetrotting for a story closer to home – both emotionally and geographically. Against a backdrop of Britain’s pilgrim paths, she retreads her own tale of trauma and loss, weaving it with those of past travellers. Along the way, she shows that the UK wilderness has restorative powers far beyond an invigorating view.

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Why We Travel

By Ash Bhardwaj

Journalist and broadcaster Ash Bhardwaj dives into the thing we’re all looking for: travel motivation. But as you might expect from a man who has met the Dalai Lama and walked 800km across India, this is no breezy self-help book. Instead, he ponders how a pastime that used to be associated with relaxation became all about what we can gain.

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Paddling France

By Anna Richards

Beyond the delights of the Riviera or the winery-speckled banks of the Dordogne, France’s coast, rivers and lakes aren’t sung about often enough. But there are marvels here. From the gorges of the Ardèche to the islands of Finistère, avid paddler Anna Richards tests 40 places for a canoe, kayak or SUP escape in France.

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Around the World in 80 Years

By Ranulph Fiennes

There is little extreme activity that Sir Ranulph Fiennes hasn’t done, from running seven marathons on seven continents to hauling loaded sledges across both polar ice caps. His latest read is a bit of a retrospective – as the redoubtable explorer turns 80 – gathering celebs and colleagues to review a life relentlessly well led.

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Foodie Places

By Sarah Baxter

The latest entry in the long-running, and delightfully illustrated, ‘Places’ series sees Sarah Baxter (another writer formerly of this parish) delve into 25 culinary capitals. Chosen with trademark good taste, these include tried-and-true foodie havens as well as some more surprising spots with their own world-class delicacies. We can feel our stomachs rumbling just thinking about it.

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The Half Bird

By Susan Smillie

We love an against-all-odds adventure that evolves into something grander. This tale of one woman’s solo sail from Land’s End to the shores of Greece has all the hallmarks of the genre, as the author quits her job to follow her dream and somehow stretches it out into a three-year voyage. With only the basics onboard, this soon turns into a thoughtful meditation on solitude, resilience and the irresistible lure of the sea.

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Local

By Alastair Humphreys

After years of expeditions all over the planet, British explorer Alastair Humphreys turns his gaze on the area in which he lives. In doing so, he ends up learning more about the natural world than in all his years of travelling. The resulting story prompts a revelation we can all relate to: that the wildlife around us needs protecting.

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Saudi Arabia

By Grace Edwards

This book is perhaps most notable for being the first English-language guide from a major travel publisher written exclusively on Saudi. It will surely be one of many to come and offers great advice on a remarkable region that travellers are still just learning about.

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The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

By Bettany Hughes

While all but Egypt’s Great Pyramid have been lost to history, the Seven Wonders of the old world still enthral us today. Historian Bettany Hughes brings her trademark intelligence and enthusiasm to bear as she traces their stories and realises that they all share one thing: humanity’s capacity to dream big.

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Terrible Maps

By Michael Howe

Drawing on the popular social media feed of the same name, this book sits firmly on the side of the editorial fence labelled geographical dad jokes. But we love cartography in any form, especially if it points out how similar the shape of Oklahoma is to a thumbs-up.

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Love from Venice: A Golden Summer on the Grand Canal

By Gill Johnson

Charting a summer of rebellion in 1950s Venice, this memoir recalls a time when the author swapped a comfy gig at London’s National Gallery for teaching English to an aristocratic Italian family, drawing on the letters she sent to her admirer. In embedding herself in the city’s high society, she also bears witness to the dying days of the Grand Tour, when Europe’s young socialites ran wild across its old cities.

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Black Ghosts: A Journey Into the Lives of Africans in China

By Noo Saro-Wiwa

Author Noo Saro-Wiwa looks beyond the usual historical or political subjects that take the focus of most books on China and instead looks at what she calls ‘Black ghosts’: the large numbers of African economic migrants living there. In doing so, she explores a little-documented world, meeting everyone from drug dealers to cardiac surgeons, and looks at how these often cloistered communities intersect with the wider Chinese society.

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Walking Scotland’s Best Small Mountains

By Kirstie Shirra

The popularity of munro-bagging – climbing all the mountains in Scotland over 914m – has meant that many of the country’s smaller peaks are often overlooked. This book proves that what they lack in stature, they more than make up for in character, offering a series of routes that are aimed at providing day walks with ascents accessible to non-climbers.

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The best travel TV series to watch in 2024 (so far)

We may only be a few months in, but 2024 is already delivering when it comes to captivating travel shows and documentaries. Whether you’re into discovering the history and traditions of little-known Europe or wanting to follow an exhilarating race across East Asia, there’s something for everyone on the small screen.

Of course, there’s also plenty of legendary personalities from the travel and TV world to help transport us (virtually) to each corner of the globe, from David Attenborough and Michael Palin to Bettany Hughes and Joe Lycett. The question is, what do we watch first?

Before we get started…

According to new research by Intrepid Travel, just 13% of women feel they are represented on TV travel shows and 62% say that seeing a female host would encourage them to travel more. This is supported by the statistic that just 21% of travel shows on two mainstream TV channels have women presenters. To combat the perception that adventure travel is just for men and close this ‘Adventure Gap’, the B Corp organisation have launched a pop-up exhibition in London highlighting the untold stories of female travellers. AdventurHER: Travel Tales of Inspiring Women will run from 19-21 April from 10am until 6pm at 20-22 Camden Passage, Islington.

Race Across the World

Eugenie & Isabel are contestants on this series of Race Across the World (BBC/Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds)

The fourth series of Race Across the World has now begun on BBC One. This time, the five teams of two are racing 15,000km across Asia, from the intoxicating Japanese capital of Tokyo to the paradise island of Lombok in Indonesia. En route, they will be racing to check points, which involves crossing eight borders and six seas. The catch? They have no smartphone technology, internet access or credit card – just a limited budget and the kindness of strangers to help them get them from A to B.

How to watch: Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC One, or catch up on iPlayer.

Michael Palin in Nigeria

Michael Palin explores Nigeria in his latest series (Paramount Pictures)

This three-part series on Channel 5 sees the acclaimed travel presenter Michael Palin take on an epic 2,000km journey across Nigeria, expected to be the third most populated country within the next half a century. Beyond its blighted reputation with claims of fraud and corruption, 80-year-old Palin learns the ‘Giant of Africa’ has so much to offer the intrepid traveller, with jaw-dropping natural landscapes and complex cultural discoveries, as well as extraordinary people.

How to watch: Tuesdays (from 16 April) at 9pm on Channel 5, or catch up on My5.

Travel Man: 48 Hours In…

Joe Lycett and Jessica Fostekew pose infront of volcanoes in Lanzarote (North One/Channel 4)

Comedian Joe Lycett reprises his role as Travel Man in 2024, joined by familiar faces as he explores new destinations for 48 hours each. Across four episodes, he visits the Italian port city of Trieste with Alan Davies, the Lapland capital of Rovaniemi with Desiree Burch, the fairtytale Czech capital of Prague with Adam Buxton, and the Canary Island of Lanzarote with Jessica Fostekew. From an unusual Wind Museum to aurora hunting, Joe and his travel companions enjoy the best and quirkiest parts of these European gems.

How to watch: Catch up now on Channel 4.

Treasures of the World with Bettany Hughes

Bettany Hughes explores Albania in the new series (Channel 4)

Historian Bettany Hughes returns to our screens with the third series of Treasures of the World on Channel 4. In the six episode series, she seeks out the historic and cultural secrets of Eastern Europe, from the oldest worked gold in Bulgaria to local hospitality in Albania. As Hughes describes herself, the treasures uncovered are usually ‘familiar stories found in unexpected places’.

How to watch: Saturdays at 7pm on Channel 4, or catch up on Channel 4.

Mammals

Giraffes in Namibia are part of the latest David Attenborough series, Mammals (BBC Studios/Christophe Courteau/naturepl.com)

David Attenborough may be turning 98-years-old soon, but his new series once again delivers some of the most outstanding and surprising nature secrets of his career. BBC One’s Mammals, narrated by the legendary broadcaster, offers insight into the most successful animal group in the world. The remarkable footage explores never seen and unique animal behaviours, from the giant blue whale to the tiny Etruscan shrew. As ever, Attenborough also highlights the numerous threats these wild creatures face in a rapidly changing world.

How to watch: Sundays at 7pm on BBC One, or catch up on iPlayer.

The Mysteries of the Pyramids

The Mysteries of the Pyramids

Channel 5’s upcoming series The Mysteries of the Pyramids is headed by comedian and presenter Dara Ó Briain. He’ll be joined by archaeology and history experts to dig into some of the most common yet unanswered questions and theories around this ancient wonder of the world, including ‘how were they built?’ and ‘what were they originally built for?’. Viewers can expect to be captivated and surprised about the answers Ó Briain finds.

How to watch: Coming soon to Channel 5 and My5 (date yet to be confirmed).

Food safety advice for travellers

How many times have you run through your tickets, money and passport before you set off? Well, maybe add a note to gen up on food hygiene for travellers, too, as there are lots of food-borne hazards to be mindful of when you travel.

Taking precautions doesn’t mean ignoring local food, culture and customs; being a savvy traveller means you get all the enjoyment with minimal risk. Food- and water-related illnesses can vary from a touch of mild traveller’s tummy to more serious long-term matters, such as typhoid or hepatitis B. In the most severe cases, infections from viruses, bacteria and parasites can be fatal. Avoiding them is all in the planning, so check up on the destinations you are visiting to see if there are any common food-related issues you need to know about.

In countries with dubious water quality, avoid ice and – if you have no other option – drink only sealed and unopened bottled water. Better still, take a reusable filtered water bottle so that you can drink the local water safely and not add to the mountain of single-use plastic waste. Don’t be tempted to drink straight from fountains or hotel room taps, or from streams and rivers if you’re off-grid.

Avoid any raw meat, fish, shellfish or eggs if you have any doubts, including undercooked foods or rare-cooked meats. When eating fruits and veggies, they need to be thoroughly cooked, and avoid salads that may be rinsed with contaminated water. Raw fruits with thick peels are okay if you prepare them yourself.

If you’re being offered buffet food or shared plates, think about how long that food has been sitting in the heat. It doesn’t take long at all for bacteria to multiply at alarming rates on food, so where possible, choose refrigerated dishes or food that is piping hot.

My guiding principle is: if in doubt, leave it out. If the thought crosses your mind about whether something is safe to consume, it’s wise to assume it isn’t.

Five tips for eating well while travelling

1. It pays to consult a travel clinic before you set off, as you may need to update your vaccines. Also, bring over-the-counter remedies for diarrhoea, sickness and rehydration.
2. We’ve all got used to having hand sanitiser, so pack some hygiene essentials. And make sure that your travel insurance is up to date and easily found if needed.
3. Wash your hands even more frequently than normal.
4. Stay hydrated and keep an eye on your urine – if it gets any darker than the colour of pale straw or white wine, you need to drink more. Dehydration can make you feel really sick, really quickly.
5. Good resources for travellers are the US (cdc.gov/travel) and UK governments’ travel-advice sites.

Knowing the risks

1 in 10 people fall ill each year after eating contaminated food (according to World Health Organization).

Bacteria such as E coli and salmonella are the most common causes of travellers’ diarrhoea.

Don’t use tap water to clean your teeth in areas with poor sanitation.

The Water-to-Go filter bottle can remove up to 99.9999% of contaminants from water.

How to manage diabetes when travelling

Travelling with diabetes means there are a few more things to think about before you set off, but it shouldn’t be a barrier to having fun. Certainly, if you’re travelling abroad, a little extra planning can go a long way.

If you are going on a long-haul flight, discuss this with your healthcare team first. They will advise you on any adjustments to your insulin injections, insulin pump or medication that may be required if you are crossing time zones. On long flights you may need snacks in between meals and at bedtime to prevent blood sugar levels dropping too low; if you use insulin, monitor your levels frequently and be prepared to change to your dosage.

Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems can be damaged if they pass through certain types of screening equipment, such as X-ray machines, whole-body scanners and hand-luggage scanners. Airport security staff should provide people who use medical devices with safe alternatives that will not damage their diabetes technology, and should never insist they go through security equipment that may damage them. Carry a Medical Device Awareness Card and a letter from your GP to remind you and airport staff of any screening advice.

Airports should offer safe alternatives for people taking diabetes equipment through security (Shutterstock)

If you’re travelling in a hot climate, remember that heat can affect your insulin and stop it from working properly; it can always be kept cool in a hotel fridge or cool bag (provided that it does not freeze). Cloudy insulin damaged by heat may have a brownish colour, and clear insulin may become cloudy – do not use insulin that looks like this.

Insulin can freeze in extreme temperatures but cannot be used if it has been frozen, so make sure it doesn’t come into contact with any ice blocks if using a cool bag. If you’re travelling in the polar regions, keep it in your cabin at room temperature or in an insulated inside pocket to prevent freezing.

It’s important to remember your routines for managing diabetes when you’re abroad. Don’t avoid trying new things, but be aware that eating different foods, becoming more or less active, or drinking alcohol can all make a big difference to your blood sugar levels, so check regularly in order to keep yourself safe.

Diabetes in numbers

More than 5 million people in the UK are living with diabetes.

An estimated 850,000 people in the UK could be living with diabetes but are yet to be diagnosed

Fewer than 1 in 10 people in the UK with diabetes have type 1 diabetes, where the pancreas produces no insulin

Five ways to manage diabetes when you travel

1. Bring two to three times as much insulin, medication and equipment as you’d usually use, in case you have to stay longer or there are disruptions.

2. Make sure your travel insurance policy covers pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, as many don’t, and ensure that you are covered for any emergency medical costs arising from this.

3. It’s important to keep insulin in your hand luggage in case your luggage is lost, and because the hold is so cold that it may be damaged.

4. Airlines can provide details on the timings of meals so you can plan your insulin. Standard meals may not supply enough carbohydrates if you are on insulin or certain diabetes tablets, but cabin crew can often give you additional fruit, crackers or rolls.

5. Bring a doctor’s letter stating you have diabetes and that you need to carry medical supplies. This is often requested by airlines/operators. Also take a copy of a recent prescription in case you need supplies while away

All content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Consult a healthcare professional before taking action.