Tips for writing great travel reviews!

Writing great reviews helps others discover the places that are just right for them. Here are a few tips:

  • Be informative and insightful: Be specific and relevant to the place you’re reviewing, and describe what other visitors are likely to experience. Highlight what makes the place special, and try to share something novel and new. From signature dishes to secret sale racks, reviews should reveal the unique experiences that places offer.
  • Keep it real: Be authentic. Review your own experience, and explain why you liked or disliked the place. Try to be as accurate as possible, and include both the positive and negative aspects of your visit.

  • Be respectful: Not every experience with a place is going to be perfect. Sometimes you’ll want to share negative feedback. Even if you’re frustrated, make sure your criticism is constructive. Business owners often use feedback to improve their offerings.
  • Reviews not General Commentary: At times certain locations may become the subject of larger public debate or conversation due to recent news coverage or current events. While we respect and value your opinion, Local Reviews are not meant for social or political commentary. We think there are other forums that are more suited to those kinds of conversations, like blogs or social networks. Please write about your firsthand experience with the place and not general commentary on the place in relation to recent news.

  • Write with style: People will pay attention when you write thoughtful reviews. Keep them readable and avoid excessive capitalization or punctuation. Use good grammar, check your spelling, and avoid profanity. Choose the right length - a paragraph is great. Be creative and have fun!

Now go out and start putting theory to practice on tripgems.com!

Insider’s view on Nepal: “I wake at sunrise to the sound of two cocks crowing to each other”

At TripGems, Insiders are experienced travel bloggers that can tell you a little bit more about a destination. In this Insider’s View, Paul Raftery from http://paulraftery.com/blog explores Bandipur, Nepal with you.

I wake at sunrise to the sound of two cocks crowing to each other over a background chorus of high and low pitch crickets. After flicking on the 12V light (the power is out again), I freshen up in the shower (solar hot water), and head downstairs to a breakfast of eggs and masala tea served by our friendly Nepalese host. There’s a pleasant view of the village, which is already bustling with kids walking to school and people on their way to worship Shiva or Ganesh at one of the temples in the village.

 

We’ve been starting our mornings like that for the last few days that we’ve been in Bandipur. It’s a little village nestled up in the hills just a few hours bus journey out of Kathmandu. We intended to stay for one night, but this has already been extended to three (so far).

The particular day that I’m writing this, we went on a day trek to (supposedly) the world’s 2nd largest cave along with an guy we’d meet the night before. David, from Kildare. No matter where you go, you’ll always find the Irish! Anyway, the cave was only discovered a little over ten years ago by a German tourist who loved to wander about in the jungle and even the locals didn’t know about it beforehand.

Two hours of pretty arduous leech-ridden hiking along a ‘path’ through the jungle against a spectacular hilly backdrop of rice paddy, and we were there. The place was deserted except for a Newari man waiting at the dark mouth of the cave. After a bit of haggling he agreed to show us around. This was handy because there turned out to be absolutely no infrastructure in the cave. No lights, no paths, no steps, and plenty of slippery surfaces overlooking cavernous drops into the gloomy depths below. The pitch blackness was barely held at bay by our little torches. The beams were continually interrupted by little bats fluttering by. Of course, none of this was a bother to our friendly and helpful guide who showed us around for a few hours, stopping every now and then to highlight interesting faces and animal shapes in the dripping limestone formations. The cave is absolutely enormous. The biggest of the caverns is 457m long and the combined light from all of our flashlights barely made a dim spot on the ceiling far above. A great experience all round

A brief break for a snack while overlooking the jungle and we started making our way down to a village at the bottom of the valley below. After a few cold drinks at a roadside shop we took the hot, crowded, and very entertaining bus back up to Bandipur. The locals here are very welcoming and always up for a chat – especially when you are all crammed in to a small tin can with even more people outside hanging off the window, door and roof of the bus!

After cleaning up back in our room, we strolled into the village and had a traditional late lunch of dhal bat. Rice, veg curry, bean and lentil soup, crispy bread and chutney. Delicious! The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at a table on the main street of the village. No cars here or anywhere else in Bandipur. At sunset the mosquitoes come out and are chased down by hundreds and hundreds of acrobatic birds living in the rafters of the surrounding buildings. You can easily while away an hour or two (or a whole evening!), drinking cups of flavoursome Nepali tea and just watching them doing stunts overhead. All the kids of the town play together on the street while the older folk sit outside their houses chatting and socialising. It gives a wonderful sense of life and community in the village.

 

Shortly after dark we walked back up to our room and I started writing this. The village is a place full of contrasts. No power, no cars or roads, but fast wireless Internet abounds (battery powered) and everyone has a cell phone! Even though it’s only 9pm, that’s about it for now. I’m tired after the long day and want to catch up on my reading for a bit. It’s definitely early to bed and early to rise here…

 

About Paul Raftery

I’m a research engineer who’s interested in tinkering with stuff, travelling, playing and listening to music, science, languages, (very) amateur photography (isn’t everyone these days?), good food and cooking, art (usually the street variety), etc.. Basically, anything that catches my attention. You could sum it up by saying: I like learning stuff. I’ve taken some time away from research at the moment to work as an independent consultant and travel the world with my wife, so most posts arerelated to our experiences while travelling for the next while.

 

Insider’s view: ‘Everyone knows where you are, and that’s not a bad thing in a remote place like this’

At TripGems, Insiders are experienced travel bloggers that tell you a little bit more about a destination. In this Insider’s View, Kristel Koch from Life travellers will take you on a journey to a small town in Newfoundland Canada: McCallum.

The places I want to tell you about are hidden gems, away from literally everything. Are you looking to explore a different kind of Canada? Beware…life is not easy here but definitely amazing. If you are in Newfoundland take that bit of extra time and visit the isolated outports on the south coast and get ready for a truly unique experience!

Last spring I had the opportunity to visit a friend of a friend who had moved to this tiny little place called McCallum a few years back. This guy named David decided to leave the comforts of southern Ontario and trade it for the solitude of this isolated outport. McCallum is one of the few outports that are left on the south coast. These small fishing communities are disappearing as the government is trying to get the locals to move to urban areas where life is less heavily subsidized. Other factors are the aging population and their main source has been under threat for years: fishery.

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I am quite the chatty person so before stepping on the ferry from Hermitage David told me not to be offended if people in his village are not, people can be quite shy when you first meet them. So I made a mental note to be aware and not overwhelm the people.

The ferry goes back and forth once a day but not often will you find “new” people on here. David, our host has been fully accepted in this wonderful small community and so of course shared his news about his guests. News travels with the speed of lightning here, people will know you are there. This is not a bad thing at all in a remote place like this, people need to keep an eye on each other.

 Everyone knows where you are, and that’s not a bad thing in a remote place like this’  

With a bit of a queasy stomach we arrived in the little harbor sheltered from the open sea, it couldn’t be more picturesque. To welcome us Herman was there, he welcomes each and every boat, or helicopter. After stepping of the boat you have already made your first friend, and what a great one!

The only form of transportation you’ll find here is some quads, but as a visitor you need nothing else then your legs and a slow pace. Good chance you’ll see a big part of the population of (about) eighty, depending on the weather though. The fishermen go out in all sorts of crazy weather in their little fishing boats, but some particular crazy high seas prevented even them to go out and check the pods for a day or two when we were there.

Don’t expect great weather when you go and visit this part of the world. Our first few days the view was mostly foggy. But still, I stared out of the window for hours to take it in, what a privilege to be there! And so when the sun decided to find its way through the fog the view was spectacular. Time for some hiking! No better place to do this, there are some paths close to the village but no real trails. Every hill will provide another stunning view and every cliff will give you a faster heartbeat if you are afraid of heights like me. Also you know in the back of your mind there is no doctor anywhere close, even cutting onions gets some more attention. There is a heli pad but there are a lot of arguments against you before there will be one coming for you. The nurse lands once a week and the doctor bi weekly, not a great help in an emergency situation.   

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If you are visiting McCallum in the summer they have a nice spot for you to put up your tent and at the time we were there, there was also a (unlicensed) Bed & Breakfast, here they will provide dinner for you as well. For such a small community they have a great little store (with a liquor license) with basically everything you need for very reasonable prices. Fresh fruits and veggies are more limited of course in variety, it has a long way to go and Newfoundland is mostly rock, it makes it hard to grow anything on it.

Most of the tourists that visit these outports come by sailboat. But that usually requires a certain budget, one I never seem to have. The ferry the locals use is subsidized, so for a few bucks you can make your way from one outport to the next. You cannot book the ferry ahead but planning is necessary though when you want to visit an outport and calculate in some extra time in case the weather does not allow the ferry to run.

If you are looking for off the beaten path…this is it!

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About Kristel

What started as an urge to see our planet turned out to be a need to make connections with people from all over the world. And so I did, it has made my traveling life more rich and fulfilling. My family has grown and life long friends have been made while seeing amazing places. You open up and the world opens for you.

Follow her blog: http://lifetravellers.wordpress.com/

Insider’s view: Travel tips for Lisbon, Portugal

At TripGems, Insiders are experienced travel bloggers that can tell you a little bit more about  a destination. In this Insider’s View, Nelson Carvalheiro from www.nelsoncarvalheiro.com teases you with some great activities in Lisbon, Portugal and he also happens to be competing in a travel blogging competition.

I dedicate my writing and photography to the soul and sense of place of the locations I visit, the people I meet and the food I taste. This is what my blog is all about, and I have selected my latest top 3 Lisbon travel stories, in order to give you glimpse of how I inspire travel!

Once called the “Ocean Capital of the Western World”, Lisbon has a very interesting array of architectural and cultural influences mixed with a very vibrant Southern European feel. A young generation of artists, cultural entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and business owners are taking back the Roman, Moorish, Medieval and 18th Century city maze, converting it into a boutique little city by the ocean, where locals and visitors can enjoy the best of Portuguese Good Life!

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So what are you going to do? I suggest a trip to Lisbon, where the weather is warmer and sunny, people are friendly and the food tastes good.  And while you are stockpiling your Vitamin D, sipping some red wine, you may also want to discover a little more of the city and this is where I come in. 

Article 1) What to Do in Lisbon? – Within all the layers of history that this city has, a vibrant cultural, music and arts scene takes place through the hands of “out of the box” young artists or Contemporary Portuguese exhibitions which are not to be missed.

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Article2) Where and what to Eat and Drink in Lisbon? – Lisbon’s food scene is definitely on the rise, and as fellow dedicated food lover, I will be sure to share my preferred markets, eateries, watering holes and restaurants.

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Article 3) Where to Shop in Lisbon? – Brilliant but yet unknown artists and shops make up the most of Lisbon’s bohemian boroughs, where you can grab yourself some original or some vintage objects to take home.

 

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About the Insider: Nelson Carvalheiro

My job, as Travel Writer & Photographer, is to tell the story that will initiate and facilitate the journey of the traveller! I work on the dream and planning stages of travel, where the traveller is seeking (voluntarily or involuntarily) for information, advice and most importantly, inspiration for their next voyage. This is what TripGems is doing and ultimately why I joined in!

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My blog has reached the final vote for FITUR 2014 European TravelBlogger and it would mean the world to me if I was to become your favourite travel blogger and receive your vote! Voting will take place from the 29th of November until the 9th of December, via Facebook and Twitter! Everyone can vote via their Twitter and Facebook accounts, so vote twice if you can because every vote counts! You can find more details here

 How to Vote via Twitter: Click this link: Twitter Vote

(Mention  the organizers twitter account @Fitur_  and myhashtag in the same tweet #nelsoncarvalheiro

Example: FITUR TravelBlogger 2014 #nelsoncarvalheiro@Fitur_)

 How to Vote via Facebook : Click this link Facebook

(Facebook voting is not available on mobile phones)

TripGems launches travel deal platform for local businesses

 OCT. 28 - AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. After a successful pilot in Amsterdam, TripGems is extending its travel deal platform to local businesses worldwide.

TripGems enables users to discover the secrets of a country that don’t make it into the travel guides, and score a great deal too. The website focuses entirely on finding things to do at a destination, may it be a bar, restaurant, or a fantastic scenic view. Travellers can keep track of their trips and share their gems with their friends.

Alongside those hidden gems, location based deals were already provided by a third party, but today the company beta launches its own deal platform for local businesses around the world. 

Maarten Munster one of the co-founders of TripGems explains, “Daily deal sites rose spectacularly over the last few years. But after talks with several local business owners we learned that commission fees are far too high, the entrepreneurs have no autonomy in shaping their deal and visitors usually didn’t stick around after their first visit. This got us thinking, how we can solve this problem in a way that both the business owner and customer wins?” TripGems wants to empower the business owners again, and provide them with an extra online sales channel where they themselves can set pricing and availability. By connecting travelers with local businesses they believe that they can build a great travel platform where there is always something to do.

The company’s goal is to become the largest most relevant ‘things to do’ platform on the web. “There are already plentiful website that help you to get to a destination: flight search engines, hotel booking sites. But there is no authority yet on the ‘Things to do’ market, let alone one that involves advice from your friends.  This is the place were we want to be.” Maarten adds.

Since its inception in June 2013, TripGems’ has been growing rapidly and already after the first month it caught the attention of some investors and received seed capital to further develop the concept. The company is planning to launch a mobile app in the near future. “We are off to a great start, but only by connecting more and more travelers we can really make TripGems an incredible resource”

Local business owners that are interested can request an invite at TripGems.com

Insider’s view: Berlin’s largest street art gallery

Today, we are kicking off a new series on our blog highlighting some of the hidden gems our Insiders have discovered in the world.

At TripGems, Insiders are experienced travel bloggers that can tell you a little bit more about specific destinations (you can recognize them by their starred profiles). First up is Faten Clerx from Fatentravels.com , taking you on a journey through the streets of Berlin and discovering an unexpected street art gallery.

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It was scorching hot in Berlin that day. 35 degrees and we were approaching midday. We had to leave our car at the packing lot at the feet of the hill and hike up a steep road to reach our destination. Two security guards sat under a tree, behind what looked like an old school desk. The site looked run down, which is what we expected. It was in sharp contrast with the beautiful nature surrounding it. It was demarcated using barbed wire. No tourist in sight. Yes this was it: Berlin’s Devil’s Mountain or Teufelsberg in German.

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We had gone to the site for its interesting history. We have heard that it is now open to the public but it was still a hidden gem that not many tourists have yet discovered. The hill on which the Devil’s Mountain stands is man-made using the rubble of Berlin’s buildings that were destroyed during World War II. But the real curiosity about the site lies underground. Under the hill is an incomplete Nazi college. In the early 1960s, it was taken over by the US National Security Agency to build a spying post. Today, the towers of the spying post still stand and walking through them truly provided us with a surreal experience.

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But when we showed up on the site, what struck us the most was the amount of street art at display. The site used to be a squatter camp, which attracted many artists. In 1996, two investors bought the site for 5.2 million Deutschmark to build high-end apartments, a museum and a 5 star hotel. The project was suspended following resistance by activists and politicians wishing to preserve the historical site.

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In 2012, a new life was given to the site, which would confirm its status as a street art gallery. The owners leased the site to artist Shalmon Abraham. He initiated tourist tours to make the site financially viable and attracted street artists from around Europe to come and spray the walls of the buildings on the hill. We would later learn that the Devil’s Mountain has now acquired the informal title of Berlin’s largest street art gallery. And I understand why. There are large abandoned spaces, boosting art of different sizes. Most importantly, the location is not clinical as are so many galleries. It is old, rugged and extremely intriguing.

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The art on display varies in quality but some of the pieces were truly mind-blowing. My favourit piece was by far the ‘man with the moustache’ as I came to refer to it.

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For those visiting Berlin, this is truly an experience not to be missed. The site is open for a daily historical visit at 2h and on Sunday at 1h. But if you want to walk around and check out the art, there are hourly tours throughout the week, including on Sundays. It’s worth the trip for all street art lovers.

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About The Insider

Faten is a 30 year old travel blogger based in The Netherlands. she has travelled to more than 38 countries, mainly in Africa and Europe. Since recently she has been spicing up her travel experience by exploring more of Asia and the Caribbean. Faten combines her travels with a full time job as an Africa development analyst. She travels with her partner of 9 years and since recently our little boy. Her blog is about mid-budget travel for those how are neither too broke nor too rich and covers stories about people, their lives and their cultures. Faten has a passion for food, culture, quirky art and street art.

Check out Faten’s blog at www.fatentravels.com

First press release : find and share hidden gems

OCT 4TH, 2013 - AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. TripGems is all about finding something to do at your destination, whether this is a travel tip from a friend, from someone else, or a deal from a local business owner.

Travel guides, internet forums and advice from friends and family, it can be an exhausting process getting the right advice on where to go and what to see on your next adventure. TripGems enables users to discover the secrets of a country that don’t make it into the travel guides, and score a great deal too.

Maarten Munster one of the co-founders of TripGems explains, “With 38% of travellers basing their choice of destination on recommendation (TravelSat), we wanted to create a platform dedicated to the personal experiences of friends and family where recommendations were reliable, accessible and could be shared without restriction.”

TripGems focuses entirely on the events and activities at your destination.  At TripGems you can keep track of your own travels including keeping an overview of those great places, may it be a bar, restaurant, or a fantastic scenic view. You can share them with friends, and find out how much per cent of the world you have seen.

Its goal is to become the largest most relevant ‘things to do’ platform on the web. “We are currently running a pilot in Amsterdam, where local businesses that are gemmed can promote their company on TripGems”. Maarten continues. “By giving more autonomy to the local business owner to shape its deal, everyone wins”.

Since its inception in June 2013, TripGems’ user base has been growing 10% week-over-week and users are adding 3-4 four tips on average. After the first month, it caught the attention of some investors and received seed capital to further develop the concept. The start-up is selected for the ALPHA stage at Web Summit - World’s largest tech event in October, it has also been nominated for the Accenture Innovation Awards in the Netherlands. The company is planning to launch a mobile app in the near future. “We are off to a great start, but only by connecting more and more travellers we can really make TripGems an incredible resource”

For more information, check-out: TripGems.com

Insider’s view: Circumcision, Muskets and car troubles in Mali

At TripGems, Insiders are experienced travel bloggers that can tell you a little bit more about a destination. In this Insider’s View, Maarten will tell you his experiences about overlanding in Mali (while it was still safe). In march 2011, Maarten drove from Amsterdam (NL) to Burkina Faso. in an old Land Rover Discovery. Three guys, a lot of fun and even more stories. This is a snippet of what happened between Kayes and Diame in Mali.

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Car troubles

A quick look under the car tells me that the seal of the right rear axle started leaking again. I quickly get on my feet;  the sun is at its heighest and with 45 degrees Celsius the asphalt is burning. The potholes earlier that day probably triggered the oil to get through again, we’ve had the problem before in Marocco, but it was then fixed by ‘a specialist’ who added a lot of grease to stop the oil moving from the diff to the nave, as we didn’t have a spare seal. It was only a temporary fix but “it would last”, the guy assured us. In the weeks that followed, we picked up a new seal but didn’t feel like changing it, as the grease was doing it’s job pretty well, until now. With the problem diagnosed and a solution at hand, the only thing we needed now was some diff oil and we could fix it again. Lucky for us, the city of Diame was only 50 kilometers away, so we decided to stay there for the night and fix the car.

Slowly we stroll into Diame, another dusty dry village with limited electricty and wells that have run dry. I find a litre of almost the right oil and exchange it for some food. In the meantime Ronald guards the car, and Peter asks around for a campsite. We hear there is an English lady sitting a little bit further down the road who runs a small campement.

Circumcision ceremony

When we drive up the lot, we see a cheerful older lady waving at us, best reminds me of my uncle Dick back home. She introduces herself as Pam, and has been living here for eleven years. It’s a little compound with an open kitchen, a few houses, a well and some ducks. The only electricity comes from a solar panel. She runs a lot of projects in the small villages around Diame and is seen as a local messiah, on the question why she decided to move her and do good, she answers: “I got a call from above”. She’s very welcoming and happy to see some tourists again, especially some she can speak English with. While we are drinking some water, she tells us that she was about to leave to see part of circumcision ceremony and asks if we want to join. As it’s still to hot to work on the car, and we will probably not get a chance to see such a thing again, we say yes and step into her car.

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When we open the doors of the car in the little village, directly a swarm of little kids clamps onto us shouting ‘Babau! Babau!’ meaning, ‘White man! White man!’ I wonder how people will react when I shout ‘Black man! Black man!’ when I see a dark-colored man in my hometown. But the kids are very sweet, hold hands and never let go. I even try my most boring face, but still they interestingly stare at me and wait what I will do next. I get my camera out and start making some pictures, when I show the result to the kids they all laugh even harder. The kids can’t believe they appear in that little black box I’m holding.

Muskets for celebration

The village elder invites us to drink some sort of yogurt with rice and sugar with him, it tastes good and we shake hands and share smiles with some other important elderly, also they are interested to meet some westerners. On the village square, four guys are playing the drums, while all the other kids dance around it. We are invited to part-take by guys carrying some old muskets, we hope it’s for celebration purpose only. In total, the ceremony takes up three days where the 14-15 boys have to do several things to show that they are real men. The circumcision itself has already taken place this morning, so we have missed that part, which I had no problem with. There is also female circumcision, and I hate I don’t speak the language now to learn more about that ceremony. This afternoon ‘the men’ dance with the rest of the villagers, the African rhythm is flowing again..

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After a few hours, we return to the campsite and start working on the car. it takes us about 1,5 hour; we know what to do, the only challenge is to keep out the sand. After a little test drive it all looks well and we continue the night with some good chats with Pam and a shared dinner. It’s still 30 degrees Celsius in the evening, so sleeping bags are not necessary. I fall asleep heavily sweating while most of my body is covered in dust and oil. Man, I could really use a shower right now. 

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
Pico Iyer, Why We Travel

Welcome to the official Tripgems blog!

Tripgems is online travel service where you can request, save and share travel tips for your next destination anywhere in the world.

What is the first thing you do when you start planning for a trip? Collect information. You buy a travel guide, start talking to friends who have been there, dig through the internet and finally decide on your route to travel, unless you buy an all-inclusive package of-course, err, in that case: please stop reading now.

The problem, though, is that you lose your friends’ scribbled notes, online forums take a lot of time to read and travel guides are usually outdated once you finally arrive at your destination. Tripgems is trying to solve this problem by creating an online platform where you can save and share your travel tips.

At Tripgems, you can select your destination and invite your friends (who have been there) to give you travel tips. And if you don’t know anyone who has been there? No worries, you can always search the tips that others left for that destination. Conversely, you can use Tripgems to keep track of your own ‘hidden gems’ you discovered during your trip, and share it with your friends of they need it.

Our goal is to bring as many as travelers together and use this collective travel wisdom to give you the best tips for your destination. You give us one tip and you receive thousands of others…

We are an Amsterdam based start-up founded by travel enthusiasts. We’ve launched on the 1st of June, 2013 and this is the official blog that will be filled with messages from the team, the community and more. 

Check it out yourself at: www.tripgems.com - and leave a travel tip ;-)