Although we may not be able to travel at the moment, it doesn’t mean we have stopped dreaming about it. So, while we’re in this period of getting intimately acquainted with our sofas, I thought I would offer up some virtual escapism via binge-worthy travel shows.
From serious documentaries to down-right silly reality TV, here are 10 travel-themed TV shows that will transport you to all corners of the globe from the safety of your sofa.
Stream these shows for serious escapism with a side of humour.
Race Across The World – iPlayer
If there is one show on this list that you have to watch it’s this. Season 2 of Race Across The World recently concluded on BBC but all episodes are available to stream on iPlayer now.
The concept is that teams have to race across the world (down the length of Latin America from Mexico City to Ushuaia this season) without taking flights, using phones/the internet and with a cash budget equivalent to one-way airfare.
Unlike the similarly named Amazing Race, there are no silly challenges that have to be completed along the way – contestants just have to use guile, good luck and the goodness of strangers to get to different checkpoints every episode. (They can earn funds towards their budget by doing odd jobs though.)
My only complaint about this show is that it’s just 1 hour a week. I’d love to see more of their travels and decision-making; it’s seriously impressive how far they get and how cheaply.
James May: Our Man In Japan – Amazon Prime
Despite being a Japan obsessive, I was reluctant to watch this show because of the host, but strangely James May has quickly become one of my favourite travel documentary presenters ever. He handles the quirks and charm of Japanese culture with a clever balance of wit and respect. Different aspects of Japanese custom are explored on a deeper level then you get from the likes of Paul Hollywood (sorry, Paul) and I’ve learned something new every episode, even though I thought I had covered a lot on my 3 Japan visits.
I’ve laughed, hard, at James’ attempts to get to grips with the Japanese language and shared his embarrassment at the wonderfully weird experience that is the onsen. We’ve got a couple more episodes to go but I think this might be the best thing I’ve ever watched on Amazon Prime, and that’s a big call.
Australia or Russia or Caribbean or Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve – iPlayer
Simon Reeve sure knows how to present a travel documentary and anytime I need a hit of my favourite region I tuck into one of his shows, which explores all sides of a destination.
iPlayer has seasons of Simon Reeve’s shows going back for years so you can take your pick on what country you’d like to join him in – and marvel at how he seems to have worn the same outfit around the globe for the last decade!
His most recent series see him travel the length of the Americas. (I hope the Race Across The World contestants watched it for tips!)
Below Deck Mediterranean – Hayu
Below Deck is one my dirty little secret pleasures that I have known to lose whole days to. After discovering it on Bravo during our 2 months in New York, I signed up to a 30-day free trial of Hayu JUST to find out what happened to Captain Sandy and her superyacht crew in the French Riviera in Season 4 of Below Deck Mediterranean.
Since then I’ve felt compelled to binge-watch a few of the previous seasons and even strayed into the latest season of Below Deck set in Thailand.
It’s essentially a reality show following the crew of a superyacht through a season where they have to cater to demanding guests in beautiful corners of the globe. The crew have romances, bust ups, random ailments and embarrassing drunken escapades all going on behind the guests’ backs and, honestly guys, it’s addictive.
Paul Hollywood Eats Japan – All 4
I’ve enjoyed getting my Japan fix from this show that recently started on Channel 4. Famous Brit baker, Paul Hollywood, is on a culinary tour of the country, trying well-known dishes and getting to grips with local customs.
The first show starts in Tokyo and features ramen, tempura, exquisite food gifts and quirky themed restaurants and cafes, including a ‘first class’ flight experience.
Instant Hotel – Netflix
Instant Hotel is a show I first watched in Australia while still living there and was surprised (but secretly pleased) to see it get picked up by Netflix over here. The concept is that different couples try out each other’s Airbnb’s and rate them on the experience.
The producers have chosen really unique properties across the breadth of Australia and the hosts are pretty watchable too. But be warned – this is a typical Channel 7 show with lots of cheesy editing, faux dramatics and unnecessary flouncing, and not just from unlikely judge Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen!
Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father – Netflix
Although comedian Jack Whitehall’s name is leading the title of this show, it’s really his dad who is the star of it. While I must admit I enjoyed season 1 more than the following 2, the humour felt a little less staged and more genuine in the first series, it’s still a fun show to dip into when you want a burst of inter-generational goofing around the globe.
Gordon, Gino and Fred: Road Trip – ITV
Speaking of goofing around, Gordon, Gino and Fred’s road trip is simply 3 European foodies being plonkers in a campervan, but my goodness does it make me giggle.
The second series saw them travel from Mexico to Texas and while by no meals a serious travel documentary, it really does have some funny moments and some good-looking dishes.
Win the Wilderness: Alaska – iPlayer
This is the only show on my list that I haven’t watched but fully intend to, especially if I end up self-isolating in miserable weather over the next few weeks.
The idea is that 6 British couples brave sub-zero temperatures and wild bears to win their dream home in the Alaskan wilderness. It’s probably the only show on the list where no one has to worry about social distancing!
Celebrity Coach Trip – All4
This reality game show made the list because of pure nostalgia. Coach Trip was a daytime show back when I was a student in 2006 and I used to pass many a bored 30 minutes on a weekday seeing Brendan leading souring-looking Brits on a bus trip across Europe.
Now back more recently with 3 seasons of dubious ‘celebrity’ passengers (well I do recognise the boys from Blue) this is a silly show to dip into if you’re looking for some pretty scenery and petty arguments to run in the background while doing boring chores or admin. At least that’s how I watch it :p
Think there’s something I need to add to my list? PLEASE let me know in the comments as there’s not much left for me to work through here.
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