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Welcome to United States of America

United States of America

America Holidays

America was stumbled upon by Columbus in 1492 and for more than 500 years people have travelled here seeking a better life in the 'land of opportunity'. The land was fought over by colonial powers for centuries and finally won its independence from Britain in 1783. Despite the near annihilation of the Native American population, one of the bloodiest civil wars the world had seen, and ingrained racism (Native Americans were not granted citizenship until 1924 and racial segregation was the norm until as late as the 1950s), the American people have succeeded in forging one of the worlds most united, democratic and tolerant nations, a fascinating melting-pot of cultures, and the undisputed military and economic heavyweight of the world.

The country is made up of 48 neighbouring states of the continental USA, plus the huge state of Alaska, northwest of Canada, and the volcanic islands of Hawaii, 2,000 miles (3,219km) out into the Pacific. There are also the US territories, which include Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Midway Islands and the US Virgin Islands. Tourism is focused mainly in the great cities such as New York and Washington, as well as sunshine states such as California, Florida and Hawaii where millions of tourists congregate each year to enjoy the fine beaches, natural wonders and man-made attractions such as Disneyland, Universal Studios and Hollywood. Too many miss out on the mind-blowing landscapes of the interior which can found in the wealth of magnificent National Parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Adirondacks, as well as spectacular sights like the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains. With all this on their doorstep, it's easy to understand why most Americans have never bothered getting a passport.

Information & Facts

Attraction Overview

Sightseeing in the USA is a lifelong pursuit, such is the vast scale and variety of the attractions on offer. Indeed the USA is far more than a single country, as each state and region has its own character, geography and unique, world-class sights.

Three-quarters of all foreign tourists spend time in California, Florida and New York, while the country's five most visited cities by foreign tourists are in these three states. In between east coast California's beaches, movie glitz and sunny weather and west coast New York's urban thrills and iconic sights is a country of stunning diversity: the Creole culture of Louisiana, the wide-open plains of the great mid-West, epic skiing around the Rocky Mountains, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and astounding lights of nearby Las Vegas. Off shore Hawaii is a place of irresistible beauty too, and Alaska offers a unique wilderness to explore.

Given all there is to see and do, and the vast distances between them, you'll need to plan your trip carefully and concentrate on a few areas. Be aware that winters (November to February) in the east coast get very cold with plenty of snow, while beaches can get uncomfortably hot over peak summer months of July and August. Also look out for big national events like Spring Break (March), Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) when transport and accommodation get very busy.


In such a large country, filled with so many diverse groups, business practices may differ according to each state, however rarely to any large degree. The East Coast is traditionally more formal than the West Coast, however in states such as California dress code and conservative appearance are as common as they would be in New York. Punctuality is important throughout the country and it is considered rude to be late for a meeting. Gift-giving is uncommon as it may be construed as bribery. Appropriate titles (Mr, Mrs, Ms) are used upon introduction and until otherwise stated. Americans favour politeness and greetings of 'Hello' and 'How are you?' are often expressed with sincerity. Business hours may vary in each state, but an 8am start and 5pm finish Monday to Friday is the most common with an hour over lunch.

Status and age are not necessarily indicative of seniority, nor do they carry much weight in themselves. Those doing business in the States should be mindful of this fact; never make assumptions about someone's position or rank. Best practice is to be respectful to all parties. That said, the States upholds a hierarchal business structure, in which "the boss" is the ultimate decision-maker. Senior leaders have the power of the last word, and can go against the grain just as easily as they can follow popular opinion. Concentrate on winning over this individual, even if the greater group seems unsupportive. Americans value a direct style of communication. In this fast-paced, consumer culture "time is money", and small-talk is viewed as unnecessary and wasteful. Get to the point quickly, speak about issues in a frank and open manner, and don't take offence if someone questions or challenges you outright.


The United States of America covers a large region, stretching from east to west across six time zones and therefore it is no surprise that the country has a varied climate, ranging from arctic regions to deserts. California, on the west coast of the US, has a pleasant, Mediterranean climate, and the Pacific Northwest Coast has more of a maritime climate, with cooler summers and mild winters, influenced by westerly winds. The central part of the US has extreme temperature variations and a continental climate - with cold winters and hot summers (with tornadoes). The eastern central US tends to be more humid, while the western central US is semiarid. The east side of the country has a continental climate caused by air masses moving from west to east, with hot summers and a prevalence of tornadoes in the Mississippi River area. Florida has the warmest winters on the eastern seaboard. It is recommended that travellers research the climate in the specific state they wish to visit when choosing when to travel.


The international country dialling code for the United States is +1. The outgoing code is 011, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom). The US has numerous area/city codes, which must be dialled before the local number required (e.g. New York Manhattan, 212, and Washington DC, 202). Mobile networks cover most of the country, including all urban areas, however unless you have a tri-band phone it is likely your cellular phone from home will not work in the United States. The largest GSM networks are T-mobile and Cingular. Internet cafes are prevalent in most towns and cities.


Laws vary from state to state, including speed limit, fines and punishment. The age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol is 21 years.

Duty Free

Travellers to the United States who are returning residents of the country do not have to pay duty on articles purchased abroad to the value of $800 provided their stay was longer than 48 hours and their duty-free allowance was not used in the 30-day period prior. For passengers arriving from Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, a duty-free allowance of $1,200 is allowed. The following items are included in this: 50 cigarettes and 10 cigars and 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages or 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of perfume containing alcohol. Restrictions may apply to goods from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Burma (Myanmar), Angola, Liberia and Sudan. It is prohibited to import Cuban cigars from any country. Travellers to the United States who are non-residents do not have to pay duty on the following items: 50 cigars or 200 cigarettes and gifts to the value of $100 provided their stay in the USA is not less than 72 hours and that the allowance has not been used in the preceding six-month period. Prohibited items for residents and non-residents include: meat or meat products, poultry, narcotics, absinthe, plants, seeds, vegetables, fruits, soil, live insects and other living plants or animal pests. Fish is prohibited unless it carries disease-free certification. Wildlife and animals or their by-products carry restrictions. Dairy products and eggs from specified countries are not allowed. Firearms and ammunition are not allowed without the necessary license and permit.


120 volts, 60Hz. Plugs are mainly the type with two flat pins, though three-pin plugs are also widely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities will require an adapter, which can be purchased in most major departure airports.


There are no specific health risks associated with travel within the USA. Medical facilities are excellent, but expensive. Only emergencies are treated without prior payment and treatment can be refused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds. Good medical insurance is essential.


English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.


The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Passport Visa

Visitors entering the country under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) must have a machine-readable passport (MRP) that has a bar code on the photo page. From 26 October 2006 eligible travellers under the VWP must include biometrics in their machine-readable passports if they wish to enter the country without a visa, containing unique personal data such as fingerprints or iris details. All new passports issued on or after 26 October 2005 must contain a digital photo image in order to travel visa-free. Due to new security measures, all visitors to the USA will have a photograph and two fingerprints taken by an inkless scanner on arrival, including those travelling visa-free under the Visa Waiver Programme. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities. A new security regulation, in force from 2009, means that all visitors who do not need a visa under the US visa waiver programme will need to register online three days before travel. This will allow the US government to screen all visitors before travel. The new programme will be mandatory for all visa-free travel from 12 January 2009. For more information on visa visit: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Travel within the United States is generally trouble-free, however travellers should be aware that the US shares with the rest of the world an increased threat from terrorist incidents. Security has been heightened particularly at airports. Restrictions on hand luggage apply and travellers are advised to check on the latest situation with airlines in advance. Travellers should also be alert to the dangers of car and street crime in cities and should use common sense and take basic precautions. Hurricanes are common between June and November, putting the southern USA, including the Gulf Coast and the eastern US, at risk. There is a risk of wildfires in many dry areas in the US, particularly on the West Coast from March to November.


A 15% tip is expected by taxi drivers, bartenders, hairdressers and waiters, but don't tip in fast-food or self-service restaurants. In expensive restaurants or for large parties tip 20% of the bill. It is normal to tip staff staff such as valets and porters in hotels; this is discretionary although a minimum of $5 is expected. Most services are customarily tipped if the service is good.

The restored homestead known as Audubon House contains the works of renowned ornithologist, John James Audubon, who visited the Florida Keys in 1832 and completed drawings of 18 new birds for his folio in the gardens of this house. The house was originally built in the 1840s by Captain John H. Geiger, harbour pilot and wrecker, who lived here with his wife and nine children. The house has been furnished in the typical comfortable style of a prosperous Key West home of its era. Entertaining audio tours are available. Visitors can enjoy wandering through the gorgeous gardens, planted with orchids, bromeliads and other tropical, exotic and native plants.

Busch Gardens is a massive zoo-come-theme park, which predates Florida's more famous Walt Disney World and offers an equally exciting and entertaining experience for visitors. The park is based on an overall African theme, divided into eight different areas with thousands of animals living in naturalistic environments. The site also contains thrill rides, live entertainment venues, shops and restaurants, all easily viewed from above from the Skyride cable car that crosses the park. In one day it is possible to visit Tutankhamen's Tomb in Egypt, cross the plains of the Serengeti and watch snake charmers in a Moroccan sultan's tent.

The Key West Butterfly Conservatory is billed as a trip to paradise, and a walk through the tropical wonderland filled with free-flying butterflies and colourful birds is certainly a magical experience.

In the downtown area of Marathon is a tropical oasis of nature trails and educational displays set among hardwood trees on a piece of land that was originally occupied by a Bahamian immigrant family in the early 20th century. Known as Crane Point Hammock, the Adderley's made a sparse and simple life here by selling sponges gathered from the sea and making charcoal. Their home has been restored and the grounds laid out with several miles of walking trails and wooden walkways through the botanic wonderland. One trail takes in the Marathon Wild Bird Center where injured Keys' birds are rehabilitated. There is also a natural history museum on site, dedicated to sea turtles, and a children's museum. Visitors can also witness fish feedings at a tropical saltwater lagoon, and an iguana enclosure.

One of the most enjoyable activities on a visit to the Florida Keys is to get close to the friendly dolphins, which abound in the area. At the Dolphin Research Center visitors can enjoy half-day education programmes, walking tours and a 'dolphin encounter', spending 20 minutes of structured swimming with the Atlantic bottlenose resident dolphins.

Famous inventor, Thomas Edison, and his friend, automobile magnate Henry Ford, both spent dozens of winters in the city of Fort Myers in the early years of the 20th century. Edison's home is the region's top historic attraction, and has been preserved as it was during his lifetime. The Victorian house called Seminole Lodge still boasts working light bulbs, which he invented. They burn in the laboratory where he worked on more than 1,000 inventions during his winter visits. The house next door, Mangoes, was built by Ford in 1916. Visitors are given guided tours of both houses by costumed guides giving 'living history' accounts. Scenic river rides on board a replica of Edison's electric boat are also offered.

For a scenic drive and interesting art experience, head for the Enchanted Highway near Regent. The numerous whimsical metal sculptures along the road include The World's Largest Tin Family, Pheasants on the Prairieand Fisherman's Dream, and are all constructed by artist David Greff. Miniatures of each sculpture are available from the gift shop in Regent.

In the heart of Key West's old town is the house where Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, one of America's most respected authors, lived and wrote for more than 10 years. The rooms and gardens are open to the public, enabling visitors to step back in time to Hemingway's most productive period, and to enjoy the lush garden where more than 60 cats have taken up residence. Entertaining guided tours are given.

More than 5,000 aquatic creatures, including crocodiles and moray eels, live at the three-storey Florida Aquarium where it is possible to explore the underwater world in air-conditioned comfort. The aquarium utilises behind-the-scenes tours, dive shows, audio tours, close-up animal encounters and touch-tanks to spice up the experience. There are also numerous informative and entertaining theme exhibits.

The lives of prairie pioneers are showcased at the Frontier Village, with original prairie town buildings housing many frontier antiques and artefacts. Features of the village include the Kirkpatrick Gallery, the Louis L'Amour Writer's Shack and outdoor amphitheatre, as well as stagecoach and pony rides. The National Buffalo Museum has a buffalo herd on its property with three albino bison: White Cloud, Dakota Miracle and Dakota Legend. Native Americans traditionally hold the white buffalo as sacred and they are extremely rare.

When the early explorers and pioneers of the 18th century sailed this way, Glacier Bay was hidden under a huge sheet of solid ice, more than 4,000ft (1,219m) thick and up to 20 miles (32km) wide. Today the branching 65-mile (105km) long fjord is the work of the fastest-receding glacier on earth, the melting ice of the Grand Pacific Glacier opening up a spectacular carved terrain of steep rock walls lining deepwater fjords. Sliding out of the mountains are 16 active glaciers that fill the sea with different shaped icebergs, creating the icy blue landscape that is world-renowned. At the head of the fjord is the massive ice wall of the Grand Pacific Glacier, slowly melting and sculpting the still-unfinished land as it backs away from the sea, a natural work of art in progress. An added attraction is the variety of aquatic life including humpback whales, sea otters, seals and porpoises, while bears, moose, mountain goats and many species of birds inhabit the land. This rugged landscape can only be accessed by boat or small plane as most of the park is made up of water. Because opportunities to see this huge wilderness are limited, facilities can be crowded, especially on the tour boats; activities are also expensive, and wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed. Gustavus is the small settlement that services the park, but the park headquarters is at Bartlett Cove from where boats can be arranged or alternate means provided to enjoy the park experience. Kayaking or camping in the backcountry, ranger-led programs or walks, hiking and fishing are all available.

Situated in Boca Raton at Red Reef Park on a barrier island, Gumbo Limbo (named after a species of tree) is an eight-hectare (20-acre) marine and estuarine reserve dedicated to showcasing and preserving a concentration of plants known as a 'tropical hammock'. The Environmental complex also includes large outdoor aquariums containing local marine life, including the area's ubiquitous sea turtles. Visitors can also visit a butterfly garden, see visual presentations and interpretive displays, catch the view from an overhead observation tower, and stroll an elevated boardwalk through the hammock and mangrove swamp.

The Henry B. Plant Museum in the heart of downtown Tampa is designed to transport visitors back to the turn of the century. The ornate building is Moorish in design, featuring 13 silver minarets, said to be a copy of the famed Alhambra Palace in Spain, and in itself is worth a visit. Railroad tycoon Henry Plant built the edifice in 1891 as the 511-roomed Tampa Bay Hotel. Today it houses period art and furnishings from Europe and the Orient, and details via exhibits the history of the resort and the early days of the tourist industry.

The John F. Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, 46 miles (74km) southeast of Orlando on Florida's east coast, is one place in this fantasyland state where fact is just as entertaining as fancy. Visitors to the centre follow the story of NASA's exploration of space through interactive exhibits, movies and tours. Guests can tour a full-size replica of the space shuttle 'Explorer'; walk through a giant model of a module from the new International Space Station; view films about Mars and the Pathfinder exploration; view historic authentic rockets, like that piloted by pioneer astronaut, John Glenn; and marvel at the Apollo/Saturn Centre, which houses all the artefacts from the historic moon landing. The Space Centre requires several hours to digest, and on the same site is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, established on the land NASA did not require for its space operations. The 220-square-mile (570 sq km) refuge contains more endangered species than any other wildlife refuge in the US, including the southern bald eagle and Atlantic loggerhead turtle. The US Astronaut Hall of Fame, in the nearby town of Titusville, is another of the area's attractions.

The landmark beacon of the Key West Lighthouse was built in 1847 to warn ships of the hazardous reefs lying off the lower Keys, and, having been taken out of commission in 1969, is now a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can climb the 86-foot (26m) high tower to marvel at the spectacular view. The clapboard bungalow that was the keeper's quarters has been restored and maintained as a museum, providing a glimpse of life in Key West in the 19th century.

The Knife River area was inhabited by Native Americans for over 11,000 years and today the remains of three Hidatsa villages illustrate that legacy. The Native American girl of Lewis and Clarke lore, Sakakawea, was said to have lived here. A museum and visitors centre are also features of this attraction.

In the dying years of the 19th century a former Civil War surgeon, Dr Cyrus Teed, founded a pioneer settlement on the banks of the Estero River south of Fort Myers where he led the community to practice a religion he termed Koreshanity. Chief among his beliefs was the equality of men and women and that the universe was a hollow sphere containing everything within it. Planning to build a utopian city, the community generated their own electricity, built boats, established a general store and constructed numerous buildings, of which 11 remain today to be explored by visitors. The last four members of the sect donated the land to the State of Florida in 1961 and it is now preserved as a park with a nature trail, picnic tables and campsite. Guided tours of the Koreshan buildings are offered.

A sighting of an endangered West Indian manatee, a shy and lumbering walrus-like creature whose numbers are dwindling, is a must for visitors to Florida. At the Lee County Manatee Park on the Orange River in eastern Fort Myers these animals can be viewed in their natural habitat from observation decks. The Park also offers information, walking tours and workshops, as well as picnic facilities, a fishing cove with deck and a pier. Kayak and canoe trails are also available.

Some years ago Juno Beach resident Eleanor Fletcher, affectionately known locally as 'the Turtle Lady', began assembling a collection of turtle artefacts and information that has grown to become the Marine Life Center on the oceanfront at Loggerhead Park, which monitors turtles along the Gold Coast. The Center is essentially a turtle hospital, and visitors can see ill and injured creatures being rehabilitated. The Center has numerous exhibits, including tropical fish and shells, and a gift shop. Evening guided 'turtle walks' are offered during June and July, but bookings must be made in advance.

The hands-on Tampa Science Museum is designed to educate, amaze and amuse both young and old with more than 450 interactive exhibits. Visitors can, for example, experience what it is like to be in a Gulf Hurricane with winds of up to 74 miles per hour (200km/h), or defy the laws of gravity in space. The biology section features a unique way to explore the human body and stroll through a butterfly garden. Also at the museum is Florida's first IMAX dome theatre, and the museum building is set in a 47-acre nature reserve which features walking trails.

The endangered, attractive and unique tiny white-tailed Key deer have found a safe haven in their refuge at Big Pine Key, where they can roam in 14 square miles (36 sq km) of their natural threatened tropical hardwood hammock habitat. There were only 27 or so Key deer surviving in 1957 when the refuge was established; this number has now grown to about 800. The refuge is also home to 22 other federally listed endangered and threatened species of plants and animals, five of which are found nowhere else in the world. More than 90,000 visitors come to the refuge each year.

Culture vultures should not miss out on one of Florida's major cultural attractions, the Norton Museum of Art in trendy, upmarket West Palm Beach. The museum's permanent collection is internationally renowned, including European, American, Chinese and contemporary art, from Renaissance through Baroque. There is also a photography section. The museum also hosts travelling exhibitions and offers education programmes for children. There is a museum shop and café serving refreshments. Guided tours are available.

Tiny Pigeon Key is an island west of Marathon on the Overseas Highway, which originally served as a construction camp for the original railroad built through the Keys. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operated by the non-profit Pigeon Key Foundation as an historic preserve. Visitors can explore a railroad museum featuring artefacts and photographs about the original Flagler railroad and building of the old Seven Mile Bridge. Some of the cottages have been restored.

An hour west of Fort Lauderdale on the road to Naples the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation boasts the Ah-Tah-Thi-Khi Museum, giving visitors an insight into the history and culture of Florida's so-called 'unconquered' Indian tribe. The museum features exhibits and a living village where visitors can watch artisans at work. There is also a nature trail to explore, and a film on Seminole history is shown regularly.

The beaches along this area of the Florida coast are world-renowned for their seashells and the largest collection of shells, fossils, corals and sponges in the world is the focus of a unique family oriented attraction north of Fort Myers. The Shell Factory not only exhibits a fascinating collection, but the 18-acre complex includes shops selling a range of jewellery, ornaments, lamps, objets d'art and glassware. It is even possible to pick your own pearl and have it mounted in gold. The complex includes a petting zoo, wildlife refuge, eco laboratory, a restaurant, game arcade, miniature golf course and boating lake.

Six Flags Great Adventure is the largest theme park in New Jersey, and one of the most popular on the east coast of the US. It has eleven themed areas with various rides and attractions for all ages, and thirteen roller coasters. Much of the park is themed with DC superheroes like Superman, Batman, and the Green Lantern. The park has a number of restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. The attached Six Flags Wild Safari is a drive-through game park with lions, elephants, giraffes, kangaroos and bears. Next door is Hurricane Harbour, a waterpark with a wave pool, adventure river, and more than a dozen speed slides.

The Museum of History in Fort Myers is housed in the former Atlantic Coastline Railroad depot and chronicles the history of Southwest Florida, from the Paleo Indians through the Calusa, the Seminoles and the Spanish explorers to the early settlers. A pioneer cracker house, a 1926 fire pump and a 1929 Pullman private railroad car are among the exhibits. Pride of place is held by the 'Land of Giants' section depicting the huge animals like mammoths, mastodons and the Bison Antiqus that roamed the area about 12,000 years ago.

The Tampa Museum of Art boasts stunning facilities, and is located along Gasparilla Plaza. The 66,000-square-foot building houses a collection of 20th-century and contemporary art, as well as a renowned collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. There is also a changing special exhibitions programme. The new building, which opened in February 2010, is itself a work of art. From the innovative translucent ceilings to walls covered with LED lighting, the seven interior galleries and one exterior sculpture gallery offer visitors a world-class experience.

It is no surprise that the beautiful Catskills Mountains area, north west of New York City, has long been a popular vacation spot and the choice of many a wealthy New Yorker for their summer home. The region is dotted with picturesque towns, reservoirs, forests and parks, historic buildings and plenty of resorts, and there is much to see and do. Nicknamed the Borscht Belt, from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Catskills was highly popular with Jewish New Yorkers in particular, and some of the finest Jewish comedians sprung from the area, including Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers. The region is also famous for hosting one of the world's best-known entertainment events, the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Over 500,000 free spirits gathered on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel to see some of the finest musicians of the era and today, the site is open to the public, as is a museum that houses archives and interesting information from the event. The Catskills also boasts plenty of exciting activities, including hunting, fly-fishing, canoeing, hiking and camping. The region is also home to several ski resorts, including Belleayre Mountain Ski Center and Hunter Mountain.

The New York Yankees are the most recognisable baseball team in the world, and fans from many countries make the pilgrimage to Yankee Stadium each year. The current stadium in the west Bronx opened in 2009, and features monuments to past players like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. The open-air stadium is the perfect place to spend warm summer nights in New York City, cheering on present stars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Ybor City in central Tampa, with its cobblestone streets and huge old cigar factory buildings, is a National Historic Landmark District that beckons visitors back to an era when this Latin Quarter was known as the cigar capital of the world. The historic enclave, founded in 1886, has been fully restored and although the cigar factories are no longer operational, the buildings now house shops, restaurants, clubs and art galleries drawing large numbers of visitors. It is still possible to watch locals demonstrate the ancient art of premium hand-rolled cigar making, or spend a wild night applauding Spanish Flamenco dancers.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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