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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]



Gate Tower Building has a drive-through

September 4, 2009

Gate Tower Building is a 16-story office building in Fukushima-ku, Osaka, Japan. And what makes it notable is the highway that passes through the 5th-7th floors of this building. The highway is part of the Hanshin Expressway, a network (239.3 km) of expressways surrounding Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, Japan.

Gate Tower Building

Gate Tower Building (source: Wikipedia)

The Gate Tower Building is Japan’s first building to have a highway pass through it. And it had been nicknamed “beehive” referring to its appearance as a “bustling place”. The Umeda Exit of the Ikeda Route of the Hanshin Expressway system passes through this building. The expressway is the tenant of these floors. The elevator doesn’t stop on floor 5th-7th, floor 4 being followed by floor 8.

Gate Tower Building

Gate Tower Building (source: english.pravda)

Gate Tower Building

Gate Tower Building (source: english.pravda)

These floors consist of elevators, stairways, machinery and other stuff. The highway passes through the building as a bridge, held up by supports next to the building making no contact with the building itself. The building has a double core construction, with a circular cross section and special care is taken by providing surrounded structure to the highway to protect the building from noise and vibration. Generally expressways are built underground, and passing through a building is an extremely rare occasion.

Gate Tower Building (source: Wikipedia)

Umeda exit passes through the Gate Tower Building (source: Wikipedia)

It dates back to 1983, when the redevelopment of this area was decided upon, “building permits were refused because the highway was already being planned to be built over this land. The property rights’ holders refused to give up, and negotiated with the Hanshin Expressway corporation for approximately 5 years to reach the current solution.”

[Source: CrookedBrains]



SkyEurope halts operations

September 1, 2009

SkyEurope, a Slovakia-based low-cost airline that had sought protection from creditors in June, announced Tuesday that it had ceased all operations, effective immediately.

In a message to passengers on its Web site, the airline advised passengers that had purchased tickets with a credit card to seek a refund from their card issuer for all unused portions of their SkyEurope flights. Passengers who bought tickets via other means will most likely not receive refunds, SkyEurope said.

Travelers who are already at their destinations with return flights booked on SkyEurope will have to purchase a one-way ticket on another carrier at their own expense, the airline said.

SkyEurope, which began service in 2002, operated a fleet of a dozen Boeing 737s and served 38 destinations in 19 European countries. It carried nearly 2.9 million passengers in the year to July 31, though in recent months as many as one-quarter of its seats went unsold.

SkyEurope had halted services to and from Vienna’s airport on Aug. 15 after the airline had missed a deadline to pay outstanding debts.

[Source: NYTimes]

Related News:
Thousands stranded as SkyEurope goes under
Airlne collapse strands hundreds



U.S. Airways raises baggage fees by $5

August 26, 2009

US Airways announced a $5 baggage fee increase Wednesday.

The fee for a passenger’s first checked bag will rise from $15 to $20 if the fees are prepaid online. Online payment for a second checked bag will jump from $25 to $30.

An additional $5 fee will be added for bags checked at the airport, bringing the fee for the first bag to $25 and the second to $35.

The airline also will implement a $50 fee for the second checked bag on international flights — $55 if paid at the airport. The first checked bag will continue to be free of charge.

The changes will be applied to tickets purchased on Wednesday or later for travel on or after October 7.

Earlier this season American Airlines raised its fees for first and second checked bags to $20 and $30, respectively.

Continental, Delta and United airlines charge $15 for the first checked bag if the fees are paid online, and $25 for the second bag. At the airport, these airlines charge $20 and $30 for the first and second bags.



Grand Canyon Skywalk is a sham!

August 25, 2009

Note: This post was written in August 2009 so prices and all details are effective at this time and may subject to change. It’s best to contact the Skywalk directly for latest up to date details.

Grand Canyon SkywalkAfter reading good and bad things about the Grand Canyon Skywalk, we wanted to experience the feeling of “walking in air” on this architectural marvel, that was completed in March, 2007 after 2.5 years and 30 million dollars worth of hard work. After reaching there we were shocked for what it was worth and we DO NOT recommend visiting this horse-shoe shaped glass walkway.

The reasons why we call it a sham are:

1. The road leading to the Skywalk has 20 miles of dirt-road which, surprisingly, is not constructed even after 2.5 years of the opening of Skywalk. This can be be extremely difficult to drive if it’s pouring down.

2. Parking at The Skywalk is provided but access to the Skywalk is only permitted by supplied coach buses. The cost of the coach ride is $30, which will take you the Skywalk and two other viewing areas. There is also an additional fee of $45 for being on Hualapai land making the total cost $75 per person.

3. No personal equipment is allowed on the Skywalk and lockers are provided. No photographs may be taken by visitors on the Skywalk! However, up to three photography stations are installed. Photographs taken may be purchased in the gift shop at $29 each.

4. The whole experience of “walking in the air” is impossible because visitors have to walk on a carpet laid on the half-side of the glass floor. Walking on the glass is prohibited which makes it feel like ‘walking on land’! We were told that this was because of the “upcoming” rain, but all we saw was clear skies!

5. The authorities may close the Skywalk on a slight chance of high wind or rain, and visitors who make it up to the Skywalk parking area, after driving through the dirt road, are NOT informed that the Skywalk will be closed and are still issued tickets. Upon reaching the Skywalk, they are informed that they will have to wait until the winds have died down or the rains have stopped. No refunds!

Video of the 14-mile dirt road

One of our readers asked if the skywalk is handicap accessible. This is what their website says:

Wheelchair Accessible: Manual and battery-operated wheelchairs are allowed on Grand Canyon Skywalk using our access ramp.

Wheelchairs Available: Grand Canyon Skywalk provides wheelchairs for temporary use on the Skywalk. No rental fee is charged. Wheelchairs are available when you check-in at the Grand Canyon Skywalk ticket counter.

Customers with disabled parking permits are allowed to bypass the shuttle and drive themselves to the Skywalk and other points of interest within Grand Canyon West.



Baggage fees applicable to international flights

August 25, 2009

Consider packing light if you are traveling to Europe this fall on American Airlines. The carrier will charge economy-cabin passengers $50 each way for a second piece of checked luggage to destinations there.

American joins others recently adding similar fees, a sign that the charges that have proliferated for domestic travel over the past year are starting to turn up on international flights as carriers search for new ways to make money.

American’s new fees will take effect for travel to Europe, India and the Caribbean purchased on or after Sept. 14. Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, which it acquired last year, had added luggage fees on tickets booked to Europe on or after May 23.

Meanwhile, US Airways charges $15 for a first bag and $25 for a second piece of luggage on flights to Latin America. Continental Airlines charges passengers $25 for a second checked bag to the region.

The only major U.S. carrier not charging for checked luggage on overseas flights, United Airlines, is studying implementing the fees.

Although passengers have grumbled about the baggage fees on domestic flights, the charges haven’t changed travel patterns. So it’s little wonder U.S. carriers are starting to look at international travel, which has largely remained a fee-free zone. Airlines are moving to an a la carte system, where economy-cabin passengers pay only for the services they want. The charges don’t apply to first- and business-class passengers or elite members of the carriers’ frequent-flier plans.

Most U.S. carriers charge for alcoholic beverages on international flights. United is testing charging passengers for midflight snacks like Toblerone chocolate bars on select trans-Atlantic flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The carrier still provides dinner and breakfast for free.

United also has a travel-options page on its Web site that spells out some of the perks that passengers can purchase for their trip.

Customers are finding creative ways to avoid the new international charges. One way is to seek out flights that are marketed by European partners of U.S. carriers. Air France doesn’t charge luggage fees for flights that it code-shares with Delta, its partner in the SkyTeam alliance, even if the flight is operated by Delta.



Southwest to introduce Wi-Fi next year

August 22, 2009

Southwest Airlines reported Friday that it intends to begin a fleetwide Wi-Fi rollout of Row 44’s satellite service beginning in the first quarter of next year, setting the stage for a provider competition between Row 44 and Aircell’s Gogo Inflight Internet Wi-Fi service.

Gogo, which has outfitted several U.S. airlines with Wi-Fi, utilizes a network of ground towers that beam signals to aircraft antennas.

“We have concluded our testing for inflight Wi-Fi and are very happy with both the technical performance of the system and the response of customers who have used it,” said Dave Ridley, Southwest Airlines senior vice president of marketing and revenue management, in a statement.

Southwest said that its passengers have tested the Wi-Fi service with different devices including laptops, iPhones and other Wi-Fi enabled smartphones.

The Row 44 service is supported by satellite provider Hughes Network Systems. The service will enable passengers on global flights to connect to the Internet and even to make VoIP telephone calls in countries and regions were regulatory agencies have granted permission. To date, voice calls are forbidden on all U.S. flights, but some airlines and services are lobbying the FCC and other regulatory agencies to remove the voice ban.



Greyhound to start bus services in UK

August 19, 2009
Greyhound Bus

Greyhound Bus

FirstGroup, Britain’s largest bus and train operator, and owner of the Greyhound coach brand in the U.S., said the buses would start running from London, Victoria, to Portsmouth and Southampton on September 14.

Tickets will cost as little as a £1, with the average journey costing £7. It plans to roll out more routes next year. The hourly bus service will take just under two hours non-stop and will offer free Wi-Fi, power sockets for each passenger, air conditioning, complimentary newspapers and leather seats.

Each bus will be named after women from popular American songs including Peggy Sue, Billy Jean, and Barbara Ann.

FirstGroup, which acquired Greyhound’s parent company Laidlaw two years ago in a £1.9bn deal, is hoping to compete with rivals by offering greater comfort and by keeping costs low. Each coach has 40 seats rather than the usual 50 and most bookings will be over the Internet.



Websites for traveling women

August 19, 2009

Although most of the travel industry still thinks of travelers as traditional couples, an increasing number of women are traveling alone or with other women. Part of the reason is demographic; after all, women do live longer than men, and groups of senior women are a frequent sight in visitor centers around the world. But younger women, more self-reliant than earlier generations, also develop a wanderlust that does not always require a male companion. In response to this important segment of the travel marketplace, numerous online resources — some informational, others openly selling something — focus on women who travel. Here’s a brief overview of the scene.

Information Sites:
Dozens of sites, from complete e-magazines to personal blogs, provide a wealth of articles, reports, tips, and other information tailored to women travelers. This column was stimulated, in part, by an email announcing an intriguing new site, See Jane Fly (www.seejanefly.com). Unlike most, it’s interactive: You choose a destination, select the type of trip that interests you, answer a few questions about what you’d like to do, and the site prepares a “guide” supposedly tailored to your individual trip. The interface is ingenious; the content is a work in progress. So far, it covers only the Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco areas, and the recommendations are clearly limited to a few highly personal choices of the site’s operators. Still, it’s an interesting online application that should get better with added content depth.

Other information sites, in alphabetical order, include:

Holiday Goddess (www.holidaygoddess.com) is a blog-like compilation of highly specific experience reports — great when it happens to hit on something of interest to you; otherwise a bust.

JourneyWoman (www.journeywoman.com) posts lots of articles about subjects, such as cruising, packing, affordable eats, solo travel, senior travel, and “500 best travel tips.”

Senior Women’s Travel (www.poshnosh.com) posts plenty of articles targeting women 50 and over, but it’s also geared to selling tours.

Solo Lady (www.sololady.com) includes some interesting articles for solo-traveling women mixed up with a lot of sales links and non-travel stuff.

UGoGurl (www.ugogurl.com) focuses on African American travelers, with extensive reports and articles.

Wanderlust and Lipstick (www.wanderlustandlipstick.com) posts a fair number of tips along with a hefty dose of sales links. You can sign up for a monthly e-newsletter.

Women on the Road (www.women-on-the-road.com) offers plenty of content, ranging from air travel, backpacking, solo travel, to pilgrimage routes and ethical travel.

Women Travel Tips (www.womentraveltips.com) is, as the name suggests, full of “tips” about such varied topics as family travel, home stays, round-the-world trips, solo travel, safety tips, teen travel and study trips.

Another major subset of Websites for women are those with home pages that display lots of different topics, but instead of providing a heavy concentration of content, they mix a little content with dozens of links to suppliers in each category. Among them are Bella Online (www.bellaonline.com), Guava Woman’s Travel Magazine (www.guavamag.com) and Women Travel the World (www.womentravelblog.com).

A third category consists of the dozens of tour operators and online agencies selling tour packages that target women travelers. Typical examples include Adventure Women (www.adventurewomen.com), Adventurous Wench (www.adventurouswench.com), Canyon Calling (www.canyoncalling.com), Explorations in Travel (www.exploretravel.com), Great Women’s Vacations (www.great-womens-vacations.com), Sights & Soul Travels (www.sightsandsoul.com), South American Journeys (www.southamericanjourneys.com), Wanderwoman (www.wanderwoman.com) and Women Tours (www.womentours.com).

Quite a few of these sites specialize in adventure travel geared to women; others specialize in more general tourism, cultural tourism, language programs, and many others. Of course, many big mass-market tour operators include women-only tours among their many options. Some women’s operators arrange roommates for single women — same sex, obviously — who don’t have a traveling companion. About the only kind of site we didn’t find was one that promises special discounts for women, although it wouldn’t surprise me if some made such a claim.

In any event, the travel industry is ready to welcome women who want to travel exclusively with other women.



Heathrow introduces driverless travel pods

August 19, 2009
the ULTra Personal Pods are being rolled out at Heathrow Airport / ULTra (Source: ULTra)

the ULTra Personal Pods are being rolled out at Heathrow Airport / ULTra (Source: ULTra)

The future of public transport has arrived with UK’s Heathrow Airport rolling out driverless travel pods to transport passengers between terminals and the airport car park. The world’s first fully-automated ULTra Personal Pod cars, designed by Advanced Transport Systems, run on their own network and can reach speeds up to 40km/h.

The pods can transport four passengers and their luggage at a time, and waiting times will not exceed one minute. Promoted as being immune to accidents and traffic jams, using thinner roads and requiring no drivers, they are being hailed as the future of transport.

The airport’s fleet of 21 pods will take passengers to the correct terminal using information from their frequent flyer cards or by typing their flight details into the computer, with no stops in between.

“The PRT trial will offer an exciting, quick and environmentally friendly option for passengers travelling from the business car park to Terminal 5,” John Holland-Kaye, Commercial Director of Advanced Transport Systems, said.

Powered by batteries, they are more environmentally friendly than normal coaches. Heathrow Airport announced their interest in using the pods two years ago.

Continue Reading



PetRelocation.com & PetMD launch co-branded pet travel resources

August 18, 2009

PetRelocation.com, a full-service pet travel company providing worldwide door-to-door pet transportation services, has joined forces with the largest online pet health resource, PetMD, to provide free pet travel and pet health resources to their websites’ visitors.

The strategic affiliation will allow guests of PetMD to access PetRelocation.com’s country-specific pet import requirements organized in convenient, printable checklists that the pet owner can take to their veterinarian’s office prior to traveling with their pets. These new resources available on PetMD will help pet owners work with their veterinarians in preparing the correct paperwork, blood tests and vaccinations that are required prior to international pet travel.

Additionally, PetMD visitors can purchase pet travel crates that comply with international shipping standards, as well as watch PetRelocation.com’s educational video series with topics ranging from selecting the appropriate size and style pet travel crate to crate training tips for stress-free pet travel.

PetRelocation.com will now feature PetMD’s Pet Health Library in their pet moving resources section. This fully searchable database written by veterinarians promises to be a valuable online resource for PetRelocation.com’s relocating clients who might find themselves in need of pet health information.



Travel Insurance: when to get, skip

August 18, 2009

A lot of people travel around the world with full insurance coverage or none. Some countries require you to purchase travel insurance – for example travel to any Schengen country requires you to show the proof of travel insurance when you go for a visa.

The costs for travel insurance varies for the destination country which may determine the ‘category’ of travel – adventure, family, sports, medical etc. And some insurance companies will ask for your purpose of travel, based on which the costs may be higher or lower.

There are cases where one may need travel insurance, whereas sometimes you can do away with it.

Pre-9/11, it was estimated that only eight to nine percent of leisure travelers in the United States purchased some type of travel insurance. Today, it’s closer to 30 percent. Trip cancellation/interruption represents 90 percent of coverage.

Traditional distribution channels such as travel agencies and travel suppliers such as cruise lines and tour operators are responsible for three-quarters of the market, but other channels such as online agencies, airlines, brokers, internet sites, and direct to consumer sales are growing steadily.

Travel medical and medical evacuation-only policies only cover a fraction of the total market, at 5.5 percent of travel insurance sales, but has increased by about 33 percent since 2006.

Travel guru Peter Greenberg appeared on CBS Early Show, with some advice on when to get travel insurance and when to skip it, what you need and some scams to watch out for.

Some of the questions answered by Peter are:

  • Why do you need travel insurance?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Where do you buy the insurance, and from whom?
  • What are the two primary reasons to purchase travel insurance?
  • What are plans available?
  • What are some things you need to be careful of?
  • What is the difference between medical insurance and medical evacuation coverage?
  • What are some tips on purchasing insurance?

Read more at Travel Insurance: When to Get, Skip


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