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Guide to getting bumped

April 7, 2011

With more and more travelers flying across cities for business or pleasure, seats are filling up and that is forcing the airlines to bump customers. Most airlines (at least in U.S.) offer vouchers or cash to passengers they cannot board on packed flights.

Last year, out of 595 million passengers, about 681,100 were denied seats on planes, according to the Department of Transportation. Most of those people volunteered to give up their seats in return for some form of compensation, like a voucher for a free flight. But D.O.T. statistics also show that about 1.09 of every 10,000 passengers was bumped involuntarily.

New York Times reports that a 20-year-old senior at the University of Florida said he earned “well over $10,000” in flight vouchers in the last three years by strategically booking flights that were likely to be oversold in the hopes of being bumped.

Flying through hubs, taking the red-eye, choosing the right airline and the right day, and knowing the rules will definitely help whoever is looking forward to getting bumped.

Check out the ‘Guide to getting bumped’ posted by NYTimes.



Never miss your bus or train stop by using TravAlert

April 7, 2011

TravAlert

TravAlert

Have you ever missed your bus or train stop because you fell asleep or maybe you were reading something? Most people fall asleep on public transit, whether intentionally or otherwise. Mobile app TravAlert keeps track of your location without killing your battery, and then wakes you up in time to get off at the right stop.

TravAlert works by sending out a GPS ping every X number of seconds to figure out your location relative to your destination, making sure you’re still on schedule. If you head into a tunnel or another area without service, TravAlert estimates where you’ll be based on your last GPS position.

Travelers can select a bus or a train and their destination into the app, setting the alert for either minutes or miles away. You can also adjust the alarm’s sound, make it vibrate or even select a song from your phone’s song library.

You can define the distance from your stop that the app should alert you. When you’re a distance that you had defined, it alerts you in the way you choose to wake up and get your gear together. It could also be handy when you’re on a noisy line and can’t quite hear the conductor.

In case you travel on transport other than buses and trains, the company plans to create functionalities for air travel (with airport maps instead of an actual alarm) and for automobile travel, which lets users figure out if destinations like a McDonalds or an outlet mall are “on the way,” using a custom radius “bubble” of two miles.

TravAlert is a $1.99 purchase for iOS and Android, and also available for BlackBerry.

TravAlert

TravAlert



Pregnant women and travel insurance

April 6, 2011

Pregnant

Pregnant Women & Insurance

Baby-mooning is one of the fastest catching trend these days. Many pregnant women take the opportunity for one last holiday before their baby is born and to avoid disappointment it’s advisable to them not to leave without proper travel insurance.

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A guide to Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia

April 5, 2011

Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe

If it isn’t already there, put Victoria Falls at the top of your sightseeing itinerary. This waterfall is simply spectacular and must be seen, felt and heard to be understood. You can see the falls up close at the Victoria Falls section of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (admission US$10; hours: 6am-6pm). The entrance is just before the Zambian border post. Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park also has a small wildlife reserve, Mosi-oa-Tunya Game Park (admission US$3; hours: 6am-6pm), which has a good selection of animals including giraffes, zebras, antelopes and a few heavily guarded rhinos.

Another top attraction in the area is Livingstone Island, which is where the famous explorer caught his first glimpse of the falls. The island is located in the middle of the Zambezi River at the top of the falls, so you can literally hang your feet off the edge. Tours to the falls (from US$45) can be arranged at your hotel or hostel.

Mukuni Village (admission US$3; dawn-dusk) is a ‘traditional’ Leva village that welcomes tourists on guided tours. Although the village can be inundated with tourists at times, the admission fee does fund community projects.

Devils Pool

Devils Pool

Although, there are many amazing sites here, the main attraction here is a natural pool known as the Devil’s Armchair or the Devil’s pool. During the month of December and September, the flow of the river is at safe level and so people can swim very close to the edge of the falls without falling down from the height. There are also rock walls and edges formed here, which allows the flow to stop and avoids people from falling.

Tips

Don’t walk from town to the falls as there have been a number of muggings along this stretch of road – even tourists on bicycles have been attacked.

Activities

Spend the day scrambling up rocks, abseiling down cliffs and swinging across canyons in the scenic Batoka Gorge. Half-/full-day abseiling excursions cost from US$80/100. Tackling the third-highest bungee jump in the world (111m) costs a mere US$90 (US$130 for tandem).

High-water rafting runs through Rapids 11 to 18 (or 23), which are relatively mundane and can be done between 1 July and 15 August, though in high rainfall years they may begin as early as mid-May. Wilder low-water runs operate from roughly 15 August to late December, taking in the winding 22km from rapids four to 18 (or 23) if you put in on the Zimbabwean side, and from Rapids one to 18 (or 23) if you put in on the Zambian side. Half-/full-day trips cost about US$110/125, and overnight trips about US$165. Longer jaunts can also be arranged. Although most travellers are set on rafting the Zambezi, there are plenty of thrills to be had by canoe or kayak; half-/full-day trips along the Zambezi cost from US$60/75; overnight jaunts cost about US$150, and three-night trips start at US$300.

‘Waterfall surfing’, lying on a boogie board and careering down the rapids, as it’s sometimes called, costs from US$135/150 for a half/full day. The best time of year for river-boarding is February to June. Why avoid whirlpools in a raft when you can drive straight into them in a jet boat? This hair-raising trip costs US$90, and is combined with a cable-car ride down into the Batoka Gorge.

The aptly named ‘Flight of the Angels’ is a 15-minute helicopter joy ride (US$90) over the falls, or 30 minutes (US$180) across the falls and Zambezi National Park. Motorised hang-gliders offer the best views from the air, and the pilot will take pictures for you with a camera fixed to the wing.

Microlight/Ultralight flights cost about US$85/104 (15 minutes) over the falls and about US$160/185 (30 minutes) over the falls and Zambezi National Park. It’s easy enough to spot wildlife from a boat, though some passengers seem more interested in the free drinks. River cruises along the Zambezi range from civilised jaunts on the ‘African Queen’ to full on, all-you-can-drink booze cruises. Prices range from US$30 to US$60. A guided wildlife safari drive in Mosi-oa-Tunya Game Park will maximise your chances of a face-to-face encounter with one of the few remaining white rhinos in Zambia. Live out your wildest African dreams on an elephant-back safari through the bush. A half-day excursion costs US$120 plus US$10 for park fees.

Appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Mother Nature by burning litres upon litres of her precious natural resources – a one-hour quadbiking spin costs US$60.

Signboard at Devils Swimming Pool

Signboard at Devils Swimming Pool

Tours

Below is a list of well-established and reputable travel and adventure operators. Keep in mind however that this list is by no means comprehensive, and that the industry is changing rapidly. Note the majority of companies do not have offices, and instead work in conjunction with larger tour operators, booking agencies, hotels and hostels.

Abseil Zambia www.thezambeziswing.com; Operates the gorge swing across Batoka Gorge.
African Extreme Operates the bungee jump over the Victoria Falls bridge.
Batoka Sky www.batokasky.com; Specialises in flights over the falls.
Bundu Adventures www.bunduadventures.com Offers river-boarding and rafting.
Bwaato Adventures bwaato@zamnet.zm; Runs wildlife drives and walks.
Jet Extreme www.jetextreme.com; Does jet-boating in the Batoka Gorge.
Makora Quest quest@zamnet.zm; Organises tranquil canoeing trips in Klepper canoes.
Raft Extreme www.raftextreme.com; Offers river-boarding and rafting.
Safari Par Excellence www.safpar.com; Offers a variety of activities, though they’re well regarded for their rafting trips.
Taonga Safaris Runs booze and sunset cruises.
Zambezi Elephant Trails www.zambezisafari.com; Specialises in elephant-back safaris.

Getting there and away

RPS has two bus services a day to Lusaka (US$8, seven hours). CR Carriers runs four services a day to Lusaka (US$9, seven hours). Buses to Shesheke (US$7, five hours) leave around 10am from Mingongo bus station next to the Catholic church at Dambwa village, 3km west of the town centre. Direct buses to Mongu (US$11, nine hours) leave at midnight from Maramba market, though you might feel more comfortable catching a morning bus to Shesheke, and then transferring to a Mongu bus (US$5, four hours). Combis to the Botswana border at Kazungula (US$2.50, one hour) leave from Dambwa on Nakatindi road. The Zambezi Express leaves Livingstone for Lusaka (US$4/5/7/8 for economy/standard/1st class/sleeper, 15 hours), via Choma, on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7pm. Reservations are available at the train station, signposted off Mosi-oa-Tunya Rd.

Most visitors reach Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side, where the tourism facilities are better developed. For foreign visitors, there is a US$30 visa fee into Zimbabwe, and an admission fee of US$20 to Victoria Falls. British Airways, South African Air and Air Zimbabwe offers air connections between Johannesburg (JNB) and Victoria Falls Airport (VFA).

Getting Around

Livingstone Airport is located 6km north-west of town, and is easily accessible by taxi (US$5 each way). Combis run regularly along Mosi-oa-Tunya Rd to Victoria Falls and the Zambian border (US$0.50, 15 minutes). Taxis, which can be easily identified by their sky-blue colour, cost about US$4.



Effects of highway on wild-beast migration in Serengeti

April 5, 2011

Serengeti Migration

Serengeti Migration


eTurboNews reports that the annual migration of wild beast has begun in the low-grass plains between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. The great herds are starting their move en masse, final destination being the rich pastures of the Masai Mara in neighboring Kenya, which is part of the greater Serengeti trans-boundary ecosystem.

Between the end of March/beginning of April and late June/early July, when they are expected to cross the Mara river, the hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra have to run a gauntlet of predators, lions, cheetah, leopard, hyenas, foxes, and hunting dogs as they migrate through hostile territory.

But the government of Tanzania has declared their intention to go ahead with a new highway across the migration route. The government has claimed the highway is “to serve the people,” but in reality, the highway will serve powerful mining interests. The mining activity will in turn in threaten the flamingo breeding grounds at Lake Natron where in particular gold mining brings with it a host of pollution problems. Many say Tanzania is ill equipped to deal with this mining activity and the government is risking the poisoning of large swathes of land around the mines and processing plants.

Estimates presented by studies of globally-respected and renowned institutions with experience in monitoring the Serengeti/Masai Mara migration, speaks of a reduction of the herds to a fraction of their present size.

So go ahead and visit now as it may not be there for much longer in the future.



Latest fare increase and travel plans

April 4, 2011

United, Continental, Delta and American raised their prices by about $10 last week, but some of the low-cost carriers had not matched the increases by Friday afternoon.

Citing reasons like natural disasters and Middle-East tensions for an expected higher costs for fuel, they have pushed through at least six broad price increases this year, but the last two in March failed when some airlines declined to go along.

US Airways, Southwest and AirTran Airways said they had not matched the increase. The $10 increases applied to heavily traveled routes and to some between smaller cities.

Even if these prices go away as the fuel costs go down, the summer travel season is just about to start and prices will continue to rise. That makes us wonder if the travelers who availed of the deals posted by airlines and travel websites/companies will still hold true. And the more we wait to book our next trip, the riskier it gets.

On the other hand, The Age reports a surge in travel plans by Australians, saying that the strong Australian Dollar, breaching the USD 1.04 mark, is making about 13 million Australians intend to take a holiday in the year ahead.

Do you think the latest increase in fares are valid? Does this make you alter your travel plans? Let us know.



Hamams (Turkish Baths) of Istanbul

April 4, 2011

Hamams of Istanbul

Hamams of Istanbul

The Romans passed on the concept of the steam bath to the Byzantines and then on to the Turks, who named it the Hamam and have relished it ever since. The name Turkish Bath came into existence when the Turks exported the concept throughout the world. Until recent decades, many homes in İstanbul didn’t have washing facilities and, due to Islam’s emphasis on personal squeaky-cleanness, the community relied on the hundreds of hamams that were constructed throughout the city, often as part of the mosque complex.

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Pet Hotels of America adds airlines and car-rentals

April 3, 2011

Pet-friendly hotel and kennel travel planning website, Pet Hotels of America, has made it even easier for people traveling with pets by adding airline and car rental reservation capabilities to its website.

Prior to the recent launch of Pet Hotels of America, people were made to scour various websites, magazines and travel logs to put together a comprehensive travel package. Now it’s possible for travelers to visit only one place to reserve a pet-friendly hotel; find out about airline pet policies and book a flight; and reserve a car they know will accept pets.

“Pet Hotels of America is the first website that offers such an extensive menu of traveling planning services with reservation capabilities,” said Lisa Porter, CEO, Pet Hotels of America. “Given the number of people that travel with their pets, we are seeing a rise in the number of visitors to our site to make travel and pet-lodging plans.”

In addition to its great deals on all travel reservation needs, the Pet Hotels of America blog, Paws & Claws Daily News, serves as a reliable information resource covering everything from things to do in dog-friendly cities like San Diego and Orlando, to revealing great hiking trails in Washington. Its renowned bloggers offer travel tips, pet nutrition suggestions and other relevant information helpful to pet owners.

The website also offers the Pet of the Week giveaway. Uploading a pet photo and brief summary of things the pet likes to do gives submitters a chance to win a $20 to $50 PetSmart e-gift certificate.

Pet Hotels of America visitors also will enjoy an assortment of funny pet-related videos and, on a more serious note, listings and videos of rescue dogs waiting for someone to claim them.

For more information on Pet Hotels of American, please visit Pet Hotels of America or call (877) 375-1946.



Photos: Cambodia

April 3, 2011

Cambodia Photos

Cambodia Photos

Click here to see the photos of Cambodia



New website from HostelBookers – AnyTrip.com

April 1, 2011

AnyTrip.com

AnyTrip.com

HostelBookers, the budget accommodation specialist, is pleased to announce the launch of its new sister travel site AnyTrip.com, which gives people a way to book every aspect of their holiday from one place.

AnyTrip.com covers 97 countries and boasts thousands of properties in 770 destinations. It provides great value accommodation around the world, and on confirmation of booking customers pay only 20% of the price upfront with absolutely no booking fees. AnyTrip.com also allows customers to book flights, tours and car hire through trusted partner sites. Property searches can be filtered by price or rating, which makes finding the right accommodation even easier.

Customers are given great product choice and value for money, whether they are booking an entire holiday or just one part of it. The site boasts low prices starting below €2 per bed for hostels and below €20 per room for hotels. No registration is required to book and all properties are rated and reviewed by customers.

To celebrate the launch of AnyTrip.com, 50 prizes including an iPad 2 and a Kindle will be given away in a travel competition running until April 30th. To find out more please go to www.anytrip.com/win-travel-prizes/.

AnyTrip.com is a fee-free booking service for travellers and holidaymakers offering great deals worldwide on accommodation, flights, tours and car hire.

[Source: MarketWire]



Photo of the day: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March 31, 2011

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia



Ryan Air – new fees and child-free flights

March 31, 2011

Extra fees

Ryanair, Europe’s discount carrier, announced it would introduce a €2 levy per passenger for all bookings made from Monday 4th April 2011 in order to fund its costs of flight cancellations, delays and its EU261 costs in “force majeure” cases where the airline is not responsible for either the delays or cancellations. Those laws hold airlines liable for fliers’ costs when they’re stranded on the ground, even when the delays or cancellations are beyond the airlines’ control.

Ryanair believes that the unfair and discriminatory elements of the airline EU261 regulations should be amended to relieve airlines of the burden of providing care in cases where the cancellations and/or delays are clearly not the responsibility or fault of the airlines.

Child-free Flights

Ryanair announced today to travel site TravelMole, that it will introduce child-free flights from October.

The airline said the adult-only flights would be on selected high frequency flights. It refused to disclose more details.

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Parking spaces and prices from Parkopedia

March 31, 2011

Parkopedia

Parkopedia

With extensive coverage in over 20 countries, Parkopedia has a database of over 15 million parking spaces with their maps and prices. They cover private, tag-needed parking, public garages, free street parking, and meters, and offers a very smooth and smart use of Google Maps. Click on any parking spot, and you’ll see details if they’re available, along with tabs to get directions, see a Street View of the spot, and reviews, if other Parkopedia users have left them.

There’s an iPhone app and mobile-friendly webapp, with more native apps on the way.



No more Enterprise Car Rentals on Orbitz

March 31, 2011

Enterprise Holdings has ended its relationship with online travel portal Orbitz in the latest in a string of disputes between large travel providers and their online distribution partners.

The company owns and operates nearly 1 million rental vehicles across its brands. Effective April 1, all the listings from Enterprise’s three brands — Alamo Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Enterprise Rent-A-Car — will be pulled from Orbitz and sister site CheapTickets.

Enterprise announced the decision on Wednesday, citing the online travel agent’s “unacceptably high commission rates” for the Enterprise brand and a decision by Orbitz to drop National and Alamo from its listings.

American Airlines has been pushing to cut out intermediaries and channel business through its own distribution system. The carrier stopped offering its tickets on Orbitz late last year and has also stopped listing on Expedia and Hotwire.



British Airways & American to start transatlantic shuttle service

March 30, 2011

British Airways & Airlines

British Airways & Airlines

From March 27, American Airlines and British Airways will effectively create a transatlantic shuttle service between the top US-UK routes by aligning the timing on their schedules.

The biggest change is on the Heathrow – New York route. Previously, five of the 11 daily flights to New York left Heathrow at almost exactly the same time, leaving gaps of up to three hours between services.

Now flights will depart every hour, on the hour between 1pm and 8pm from Heathrow. There will also only be an hour and a half between morning departures at the most.

Chicago flights inbound to London previously had four flights departing the Windy City at similar times around 5pm and 8pm. Now the flights will be evenly spaced, departing at around 5pm, 6pm, 7pm and 8pm. The 9am and 9.45pm slots will remain as they were.

Two of the three flights to Miami from London clashed around 10am, and these have now been split to leave at 10am and 11am. The 1.30pm has moved to 1.35pm.

The joint business will also now give customers the chance to fly direct between New York (JFK) and Budapest starting from April 5, and between Chicago and Helsinki, both seven times a week on American Airlines from May 1.

British Airways will launch daily flights to San Diego from June 1, marking the airline’s return to the route after eight years. It offers a great variety of hotels in San Diego suitable for all ranges of budgets and tastes. Customers can save by booking a flight and hotel package for their San Diego holidays at the same time on ba.com plus benefit from a 24 hour in-resort support and expertly chosen hotels which adhere to stringent health and safety criteria.

The British carrier will also increase its services from Gatwick to Cancun from two to three a week from March 27 offering even more choice to customers wishing to take their holidays in Cancun.

Iberia is starting the only direct flight between Spain and California; flying between Madrid and Los Angeles three times a week from March 28, with an additional flight between July and September. Iberia will also launch new flights between Barcelona and Miami three times a week from March 29.

[Source: eTurboNews]


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