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World’s fastest rail-line opens in China

December 26, 2009

The Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, also known as the Wuguang Passenger Railway, is a 968-kilometre (601 mi) high-speed rail line, operated by China Railway High-speed (CRH), connecting Wuhan (Hubei) and Guangzhou (Guangdong), in the People’s Republic of China. It is the world’s fastest train service, utilizing double-heading CRH2C and CRH3C trains which average 313 kilometres per hour (194 mph) in commercial service.

The line is part of the future 2100-km long Beijing-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, while the Beijing-Shijiazhuang and Shijiazhuang-Wuhan sections are still under construction and expected to be opened in 2012.

From December 28, 2009, until Guangzhou South Station is opened in late January 2010, 28 passenger trains run on the line. Of these 28 trains, 2 run between Wuhan and Changsha South, 5 run between Changsha South and Guangzhou North, and 21 run between Wuhan and Guangzhou North. 2 of the 21 trains are non-stop, cover the 922-km long journey in 02h57m or 02h58m.

There are 18 stations on the line. 14 of them are opened for passenger service. Guangzhou South station is expected to be opened on January 30, 2010. Lechang East and Yingde West stations are under construction. Wulongquan East is an overtaking station, not opened for service.
It is operated by double-heading CRH2C and CRH3C trains. Each train group has two trains totaling 16 cars. The passenger capacity is about 1114 (CRH3C) or 1220 (CRH2C).

Fares:
The second class is about ¥0.46 per kilometer and the first class is 60% higher. Deluxe class is also available on CRH3 trains, which is about 80% higher than second class. Like other train services in China, insurance of ¥0.0011722 per kilometer is included for every ticket. The rate-making distance is based on the existing Jingguang Railway, not the actual rail distance of the new railway. Hence though the actual rail distance between Wuhan and Guangzhou South is 968 km, 1069 km is charged. The ticket price between the two terminal stations is ¥490 and ¥780

Before this line was open, the fastest commercial train service was the train run between Lorraine TGV and Champagne TGV in France, averaging 279 km/h.

Station Information:
0 – Wuhan
48 – Wulongquan East
85 – Xianning North
127 – Chibi North
209 – Yueyang East
279 – Miluo East
347 – Changsha South
387 – Zhuzhou West
455 – Hengshan West
496 – Hengyang East
552 – Leiyang West
628 – Chenzhou West
711 – Lechang East
758 – Shaoguan
826 – Yingde West
885 – Qingyuan
922 – Guangzhou North
968 – Guangzhou South

[Source: Wikipedia]

In the news:
CNN



EU drops visa requirement for Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians

December 22, 2009

The European Union on Saturday opened its borders to visa-free travel for more than ten million Serbs, Montenegrins, and Macedonians after nearly 20 years of tight restrictions, a major boost for the troubled region’s hopes for closer ties with the 27-nation bloc.

The three western Balkan nations celebrated the lifting of visas with fireworks, concerts and all-night festivities, marking a significant milestone for citizens who have long felt shunned by the rest of Europe. Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians — citizens of the former Yugoslavia — had enjoyed free travel to other European nations in the past, but visa requirements and fees were introduced as the federation was breaking up and going to war in 1991. The policy had forced residents to wait in long lines at E.U. nations’ embassies.

While you might not need a visa …
Similar to neighboring Bosnia and Croatia, foreigners are required by law to register themselves with the police station in their district within 24 hours of receiving a Serbian entry stamp at a border crossing or airport.
Registration is done automatically by hotel staff upon check-in, however if you are staying with friends in a private dwelling, you must register your presence with the police in the district in which you are staying.
You will receive the bottom part of the Foreigner Registration Form to carry with you if registering at a police station, or a printout from hotel reception if staying at a hotel; when exiting the country, you will be required to present it to the Border Police. Sometimes they will not ask for it, and you can keep it as an administrative memento. Never forget, though, that failure to register can result in prosecution and a large fine.
[Source: WikiTravel]



Air Arabia’s exclusive package to Goa, India

December 22, 2009

Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa, unveiled today a range of value-for-money package holidays to Goa, India. These four-night getaway packages – available at a range of three, four and five-star hotels – include flights, transfers, accommodation, breakfast and tours.

Air Arabia provides roundtrip flights three times per week between Dabolim International Airport in Goa and its hub in Sharjah, UAE, as well as additional service over the holiday season. Current holiday packages to Goa are valid for travel until March 31, 2010.

These exciting new packages are offered by Air Arabia Holidays, which provides a wide range of holiday destinations in Asia, the Gulf and Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Customers can search online by holiday theme or by chosen country and will be provided with a range of inspiring and convenient readymade holiday solutions. Alternatively, customers are able to create their own individual holiday by picking flights, hotels, booking rental cars and transfers and choosing among a range of exciting excursions.

Air Arabia announced earlier this month the addition of eight flights to Goa in response to the strong demand during the festive season. The additional flights to Goa will take place on December 17, 23, 24 and 30, 2009. The Sharjah-based carrier will also offer supplementary flights to Goa from January 4-7, 2010. These flights will depart Sharjah at 14:25 PM and arrive in Goa at 19:00 PM. Return flights will depart Goa at 19:45 PM and arrive in Sharjah at 21:40 PM.

Located on the west coast of India, Goa is visited by hundreds of thousands of international and domestic tourists each year. With a share of nearly 12% of all tourist arrivals in India, tourism is the largest contributor to the Goan economy. Its sandy beaches, dramatic waterfalls and verdant vegetation make it ideal for tourists seeking both relaxation and adventure, ancient history and a vibrant nightlife.



Google offers free WiFi at airports in US

November 11, 2009

Google will offer free WiFi access at 47 airports around the United States from now until January 15th, 2010. As part of the promotion, they’ll be collecting donations through Google Checkout for three non-profit organizations and will provide matching funds up to $250,000. But whether you donate or not, there’s a much better chance now that you’ll be able to go online while waiting for your flight.

Google is also running a contest starting Monday, November 16, 2009, where you’ll be able to win prizes by submitting a photo of yourself using the WiFi in any participating airport or on a Virgin America flight. In addition to being able to win great stuff, they will feature winning photos on this website.

[Sources: Consumerist and Google]



EveryTrail gives user-generated travel content

November 6, 2009

EveryTrail is a global web2.0 platform for geo-tagged user-generated travel content that’s changing the way millions of people share travel experiences and plan trips. EveryTrail makes it easy to share travel experiences, through interactive maps that include photos plotted along your trip route.

EveryTrail is free and useful for a wide variety of trips – including road trips, sight seeing tours, sailing trips, hiking, cycling, flying, hang gliding, geocaching, skiing, kayaking trips and more. EveryTrail has trips from over 80 countries in all corners of the world.

EveryTrail

EveryTrail

The rich and vibrant EveryTrail community is a great place to connect with others who share similar interests in travel and outdoor activities. When planning your next trip, use EveryTrail to discover where to go and what to do in some of the best places on earth.



American raises fare, others follow

October 15, 2009

While some are touting 2010 as the “Year of the Travel Deal,” the truth may be a bit more complicated than that. While suffering hoteliers will decrease hotel rates and create more package deals, airlines are still finding new ways to create revenue.

American Airlines raised fares $6 to $16 Monday and five other carriers followed suit. The five so far: Continental, Delta, United, US Airways and bargain Southwest airlines. Southwest, which had resisted the $10 holiday surcharge placed on many flights, seems to have had a change of heart. Or maybe it realized that it was ignoring an untapped revenue stream? Southwest said that its fee would actually be $4 to $10 round-trip.

Either way, most airlines were operating in the red last quarter and they don’t intend on staying that way. In fact, the third quarter of 2009 should be most known for the creative ways (read fees) airlines came up with cash.

Three airlines came out with a profit in the third quarter, JetBlue, Alaska and AirTran. So far none have joined the six carriers in raising fares. However, AirTran joined in on the $10 holiday surcharge from Thanksgiving to Memorial Day.

[Source: BNet]



Pre-pay your baggage fees on United for a fee

October 6, 2009

United has just announced a program where you can pay $250 to have their normal checked baggage fees waived for a year. The plan covers 2 bags per passenger, up to 8 passengers “traveling under the same confirmation number.” Current fees are $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second, so if you travel solo a lot and always carry two bags you’ll have to make six trips before you enjoy any savings.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a big family trip planned in the next year, this may be a way to shave a little off the fee gouging. But only a little.

When you purchase the Premier Baggage option, your annual subscription will be associated with your Mileage Plus® account. Simply provide your Mileage Plus number each time you make a United reservation, and you’ll automatically receive your Premier Baggage benefits.

Premier Baggage can also be purchased for a friend or family member. It makes a great gift for any frequent flyer.

*The purchase of a Premier Baggage annual subscription does not waive fees that would ordinarily be assessed for oversized and overweight bags and does not cover the cost of checking more than two standard bags.

[Sources: BestFare.com and Consumerist]



British Airways to charge for early seat choice

September 25, 2009

We have heard of European airlines charging fees for just about anything! The latest in charging fees for booking a seat in advance is British Airways. The airline says it will allow passengers to choose seats up to 355 days before flying — for a fee.

Charges will range from £10 ($16) per passenger for an economy class flight within Europe, £20 for a long-haul economy seat or £50 for an exit row seat.

Business-class passengers will be charged £20 for a short-haul flight and £60 for a long-haul flight.

Passengers now can choose a seat only in the 24 hours before departure, at no charge. The new policy is effective from October 7.

[Source: NYTimes]



Photos: Konkan, Maharashtra

September 25, 2009
Konkan, Maharashtra

Konkan, Maharashtra

Click here to see the photos



American to charge $50 for second bag on international routes

September 17, 2009

Flying is all set to get more expensive with the concept of pay for check-in baggage this week. One of US’ biggest carriers, American Airlines, has from Monday discontinued the earlier practice of allowing economy passengers to check in two bags of up to 50 lbs (23 kgs) each for no charge. The airline will now charge $50 for the second bag and $150 for the third one, said the airline’s call centre in India.

American’s website said: “Customers purchasing economy class tickets on or after September 14 for travel between some countries and US …. may check one bag for no charge and the second bag for $50.” The airline’s call centre said the first bag allowed to be cheked in for free should weigh up to 23 kg. “If that bag is over 23 kg and below 32 kg, a charge of $50 will be for being overweight. Similarly, if the second or third bags also weigh between 23 and 32 kg, then a similar fee of $50 will be levied on each in addition to the additional bag charge of $50 and $150,” said the call centre for economy class passengers.

Foreign carriers, especially US airlines, had earlier this year started levying charge for both internal and international flights. Many even levy a charge of $20-30 for the first check-in bag. LCCs abroad, like Britain’s Ryan Air, also make passengers pay for check-in baggage.



Airlines in India slash rates by 50%

September 15, 2009

If you’re traveling to India or in India now then you are in midst of the ongoing airfare war in India which is heating up with drop in rates by 50%. After the Jet Airways strike is over, all major airlines are offering competitive prices on airfares across the country for 5 days.

Jet Airways executive director Saroj Dutta had announced that the private carrier had suffered a loss of over Rs 200 crore ($40 million) on account of the pilots’ stir since last Tuesday.

Read more: Airfares slashed by 50% for next 3 days [Times of India]



What to pack for backpacking?

September 11, 2009

Are you going on a backpacking adventure and at a loose end as to what to pack? You will need to carry your backpack around for long periods of time and it must contain everything that you will need while you are away that can’t be purchased locally. It is essential to pack as lightly as possible; having a large bulky backpack can weigh you down, especially when boarding buses and trains. It will also tire you out to carry around all day. Read on for a list of handy backpacking items:

Backpack
The size of backpack you buy really depends on how much you are prepared to lug around with you. If you plan on taking only the bare essentials, you could get away with a 35 litre backpack. But on average a 50 litre one might be a better choice, especially as it will leave some room for any souvenirs collected on the way.

Sleeping Bag/Sheet
A good sleeping bag or sleeping sheet is essential. One of the modern ones that can be rolled up very small is best. At many hostels you will be charged for sheets/blankets and they may be in a dubious state of cleanliness.

First Aid
Check the contents carefully and consider customising rather than bringing items that you are very unlikely to use. Plasters come in very handy for small cuts and blisters if you plan on doing lots of walking. If you are taking prescribed medicine check for any restrictions on taking them through customs, and check that you can obtain replacements at your destination.

Travel Towel
There are some really good travel towels on the market which are lightweight, take up a lot less space and are designed to dry quickly, which is great for travelling! However you may want to squeeze a bigger towel into your backpack to laze around on the beach.

Plug Adaptors
If you are taking electrical items like your MP3 player or phone charger, you can buy a good travel plug adaptor at most supermarkets and specialist travel stores. Many hostels and fellow travellers have them to borrow so consider if it is worth packing if you will only use it occasionally!

Mosquito Repellent/Nets
Mosquitoes may be annoying, but in malarial areas they are also dangerous. Deet based insect repellents are the most effective and a mosquito net is another important way of protecting yourself against malaria. Check with your doctor before travelling to find out if you need malaria tablets.

Ear Plugs
Getting some sleep when backpacking can be a nightmare if you are staying in hostels with others, on a bus journey or even sleeping out in the open. Ear plugs can make all the difference to you getting a good night’s sleep.

Torch
A must have item for your backpack! Especially handy at night time where there are no lights or in remote areas where electricity is not used. No need to spend a lot of money, any torch will do the job!

Padlocks
Take a couple of padlocks with you. They are ideal for securing your backpack and for hostel/guesthouse lockers to store your valuables – which you may have to supply your own padlock for.

Luxuries
Take a good book to read on the plane or to read while lazing on a tropical beach. Resist the temptation of packing a whole library in your backpack – remember you can swap books with other travellers along the way!

Backpacking Travel Insurance
No matter how light you want to travel, travel insurance for backpacking is the one thing you should definitely take with you. If you arrange your backpacker travel insurance as soon as you book your trip, you will be immediately covered should you need to cancel your plans. Check your backpacker travel insurance cover limits for personal possessions including valuables and single items, and think carefully before taking expensive items with you on your trip (camera, laptops and so on). You should also check that the backpacking travel insurance policy covers you for any activities you plan on doing – like bungee jumping!



ten links for today

September 9, 2009

America’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods

How To Use Your Hands in the Middle East

The most beautiful destinations in Europe

Salar de Uyuni, Salt Flats, The World’s Largest Salt Desert

World’s Trendiest Airstream Hotels

Coffee Culture Around the Globe

Ten Most Beautiful Gorges of China

Ten Things Not to Do in New York City

Luxury camping directory

Extreme Workplaces



RyanAir hikes baggage fees

September 4, 2009

The rises, which will come into force in October, come on top of an array of other additional levies imposed by the no-frills airline which range from charging £5 to check in online to £40 for printing out a boarding pass at the airport.

As a result of the increase checking in a bag via the internet will go up from £10 to £15 and at the airport from £20 to £30. It has, however, said that passengers can carry up two bags of 33lbs (15kg) each, before incurring excess baggage charges of £15 a kilogram.

Ryanair defended the charges which, it said, enabled the airline to keep fares low. “These baggage fees are all avoidable by all passengers who choose to travel with carry-on luggage only. Over 70 per cent of Ryanair passengers will be totally unaffected by these changes as they already travel with just one carry-on bag, which is free of charge,” a spokesman said.

It is the latest airline to either increase luggage charges or cut the number of bags passengers can take on board free of charge in recent months.

British Airways and a number of transatlantic carriers recently announced that passengers will only be allowed to put one bag in the hold free of charge, with additional items costing just over £30, with the exact amount varying with each airline.

British Airways has seized on the luggage charges by producing its own fares calculator which, it says, shows that passengers with luggage will often find it cheaper to use BA.

RyanAir Fees:
* Online check-in (print own ticket at home): £5
* Airport check-in (“Airport Boarding Card Re-issue”): £40
* “Payment handling fee”, per passenger, per one-way flight: £5
* Priority boarding fee, per flight: £3
* Infant fee (under-2s): £20 per flight
* 1st piece of hold baggage (max 15kg), checked in at airport: £30 per flight
* 2nd piece of hold baggage (max 15kg): £70 per flight
* Excess baggage fee, per kilo: £15
* Children’s travel/car seat: £10
* Sports equipment, musical instrument: £30 per item, per flight
* Flight change fee: £35 per flight
* Name change: £100 per passenger
* A charge of £1 for the use of on-board toilets is being explored
* A plan to tax heavier passengers was dropped

[Sources: Telegraph.co.uk and Independent.co.uk]



Laptop searches without suspicion at U.S. borders is approved

September 4, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Office has approved the controversial searches, copying and retention of laptops, PDAs, and other digital devices without cause at U.S. borders.

Travelers could soon start seeing notices from the Privacy Office, which last week released a report supporting the right of customs agents to conduct such searches.

The 51-page Privacy Impact Assessment also supported the right of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to copy, download, retain or seize any content from these devices, or the devices themselves, without assigning any specific reason for doing so.

Also, while in many cases searches would be done with the knowledge of the traveler in some situations, the report says, “it is not practicable for law enforcement reasons to inform the traveler that his electronic device has been searched.”

In arriving at the assessment, the Privacy Office argued that such searches of electronic devices were really no different from searches of briefcases and backpacks. They are needed to interdict and investigate violations of federal law at U.S. borders and have been supported by courts in the past, the assessment said.

That conclusion is sure to rile privacy and civil rights advocates, who have been vehemently protesting such border searches for about two years. They have argued that searches of electronic devices without any reasonable cause are very different from similar searches of backpacks and other items by customs agents, because unlike with briefcases and packs, electronic devices are capable of storing far more data, including personal and business data some that could be highly personal or protected.

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives and other groups have warned of potential security breaches when corporate data contained in a laptop or PDA is downloaded by a customs agent as part of a border search. Similar concerns have been raised about data involving client and lawyer privileges, intellectual property, and other sensitive information.

[Source: ComputerWorld]


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