Thanks to everyone who entered the Next Great Travel Writer competition 2017.

Hundreds of people from across the UK took part in the competition and the standard of entries was incredibly high. The judging panel has now reviewed the shortlist to find the most creative, the most inspiring, and the strongest from a technical perspective.

We’re delighted to announce the winners:

UK Winner 2017:

Farhana Shaikh

UK Student Winner 2017:

Josephine Penfold

UK People’s Choice Winner 2017:

Madevi Dailly

About the competition

Nothing excites the imagination quite like travel – and the very best travel writing can make us feel like we're right there, riding the dusty railways with Paul Theroux or sweltering in the heat of the Spanish sun with Hemingway at our side.

But if you're an aspiring writer, it's not always easy to get your voice heard…until now.

This winter, we're making it our mission to find the best new writing talent out there – and we're teaming up with Penguin to do it! So whether you're a student with editorial ambitions or you spend your days jotting down notes on your next voyage, we're giving you the perfect platform to tell us all about it, and also have the chance to win a one-on-one session with a Penguin editor.

The boring stuff:

  • This piece needs to be unique to the competition, which means you can't submit something you've published elsewhere
  • We're looking to showcase the talent of aspiring writers, young or old. If you're already paid to write about travel, then this isn't the competition for you
  • You can only enter once – so take your time before submitting your entry
  • Entries close at 11:59PM (GMT) on 5th February 2017 – we will not accept anything submitted after that date
  • You have to be over 18 and a UK resident to enter (exc. Northern Ireland)
  • Students can win the main prize. However, if a student is awarded the main prize, then the runner up in the student category, as decided by the judges, will be awarded the student prize

Prize pool

The part you've all been waiting for! One lucky winner will be given:

  • A session with a Penguin editor & £1,500: The winner will get a money-can't-buy one hour session with a Penguin editor, packed with top tips, feedback on your work and advice on how to make it as a writer
  • An additional bonus £500 prize for the best entry by a current university or college student
  • We're also going to give the general public the chance to vote for their favourite travel writer as well. Using the powers of social media, we're going to award the person who, from the judges shortlist, gets the most tweets supporting their entry, that includes their unique hashtag, the TravelexUK twitter handle and the hashtag #NGTW a set of beautiful Penguin books

Neither Here Nor There

by Bill Bryson

But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.

The Winners

The winners

UK Winner 2017: Farhana Shaikh

Turkey: a Real Delight

“Farhana’s story was the one that transported me the most – I felt like I was there and could taste the flavours of the Turkish delight” — Dan Flying Solo, travel blogger

UK Student Winner 2017: Josephine Penfold

The Barren Land

“The combination of descriptions of the location and the human story really bought the experience to life for the reader” — Dominic Grounsell, Global Marketing Director at Travelex

UK People’s Choice Winner: Madevi Dailly



The shortlist


Madevi Dailly

"These days, when you google Inanuran Island, nothing comes up but a few broken links and a string of ancient, moulding reviews gathering dust on Tripadvisor..."

The Path Not Taken

Rick Gwilt

"In a sense he has been planning the journey for 50 years, ever since his first job at the Co-op Toffee Works in Stockport..."

Elements of Familiarity

Himmi Kariyawasam

"It started with a cliché. 30 was approaching and I was going nowhere. Correction, I was going backwards. My I-think-this-may-end-in-marriage relationship had ended and in the emotional fallout I also quit the job that I had loathed for the past 10 years..."

The Barren Land

Josephine Penfold

"She was taking him into the middle of the Northern Atlantic; to the city of Reykjavik. Cold, bitter, unpredictable, but beautiful. He was sure there was nothing like it. It was another world. He desperately wanted to be lost with her, here in the whitened land..."

Turkey: a real delight

Farhana Shaikh

"My first experience of Turkish delight wasn't Turkish at all. It was Fry's, smothered in milk chocolate. I didn't care at the time that it wasn't authentic..."

The Ultimate Tourist Experience

Elizabeth Smith

"It's early morning and the heat from the sun is still weak, so that it could almost be a hot summer's day in the South of England. But here the similarity ends..."

Her and There

Ratan Vaswani

"Incense masking urine. Spice compounded with sweat. Have you been here? Have you smelt those blends of the fragrant and the foetid? Here I am again, alone, on business, in Calcutta. Meeting done, meandering back to the hotel, India presents her many selves no less in aromas and stenches than in sights and sounds..."

The Woman Who Fell From The Sky

by Jennifer Steil

I had no idea how to find my way around this medieval city. It was getting dark. I was tired. I didn’t speak Arabic. I was a little frightened. But hadn’t I battled scorpions in the wilds of Costa Rica and prevailed? Hadn’t I survived fainting in a San José brothel? Hadn’t I once arrived in Ireland with only $10 in my pocket and made it last two weeks? Surely I could handle a walk through an unfamiliar town. So I took a breath, tightened the black scarf around my hair, and headed out to take my first solitary steps through Sana'a.


Entries to the Next Great Travel Writer Competition will be judged by an expert panel of representatives from Travelex and Penguin, as well as leading travel bloggers.

The entries will be judged on creativity, originality and quality of writing. In a nutshell we’ll be asking ‘does the story make me want to pack my bags immediately and hop on a flight tonight?’ That, to us, is great travel writing.

  • Dominic Grounsell

    Global Marketing Director at Travelex, Dominic Grounsell, takes his travel reading seriously. When he’s not busy working or in his voluntary role as board member and fellow of the Marketing Society, there’s nothing he likes more than indulging in a bit of escapism via a good travel tale.

  • Two Monkeys Travel

    These two travelling lovebirds got bitten by the bug so hard, they started their own travel blog. Kach and Jonathan have been on enough adventures to know what will make a great travel story and transport readers to a whole new world.

  • Dan Flying Solo

    Dan is a travel photographer and writer who has been exploring the world full time for over two years. After a lifetime of being consumed by books about distant places and little known cultures he left to discover his own stories. With a passion for hunting down the offbeat and long term narratives he believes well crafted travel writing full of emotions and fine details should take you right there alongside the author.

  • Anna Sophia Watts

    After studying Modern European languages in Scotland, and living in South America for a bit, Anna found a new home at Penguin Random House 4 years ago. As an editor working on so many different books with a huge range of authors she gets to travel to different times and places on a daily basis – she says 'nothing beats armchair-travelling (except maybe real travelling)'.

NGTW17 & Penguin

Before airplanes, trains and cars there were books - the oldest method of travel. Stories and writing that transport readers to destinations, real and imagined, past, present and future.

As the proud home of some of the greatest writers of all time, we’re thrilled that Penguin is helping us to find the next great travel writing star. The lucky competition winner in each category will have their entry reviewed by a Penguin editor and meet them to get feedback and advice on how to get published.

Sailing Alone Around the World

by Joshua Slocum

I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. […] A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood.