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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



JetBlue’s $599 Unlimited Travel Pass

August 12, 2009

If you are planning a vacation that involves a lot of air-travel then JetBlue’s new unlimited travel pass may be for you! For $599, customers can purchase an unlimited travel pass that lets them fly for free to any of the airline’s 56 international and domestic destinations as often as they like between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8.

The JetBlue pass appears to be a great deal if you plan on flying more than once in that month. Consider this: A quick search by ABC News today found that the cheapest JetBlue flight from New York’s JFK Airport to San Francisco on Sept. 8, returning two days later, would cost $344.80. Do that trip twice and you have already saved money.

JetBlue has a limited number of routes and often has fares of $99. So, while the San Francisco example above makes it sound like a great deal, some passengers might need to make six trips to make it worthwhile.

Passes must be purchased by Aug.21 and it includes all taxes unless flying to Puerto Rico or one of JetBlue’s international destinations. Travelers who have already purchased a flight on JetBlue within that travel window can convert their existing ticket into a pass.

Although this may appeal to students, by September students are back in school, so they aren’t ideal candidates for this promotion.

Read more



Couchsurfing can help make friends and save money

August 11, 2009

CouchSurfing is an online community of friendly hosts who are ready and eager to throw their convertible couches open to travelers from across the world. The service offers more than a free place to crash; it connects travelers with like-minded people who are excited to share their enthusiasm for their hometown. But aren’t you going to be immediately robbed and stabbed by the opportunistic lechers lurking on the internet, you ask?

Um, no. CouchSurfing relies on a robust reference system that discourages unsavory things like robbing and stabbing. All users fill out detailed profiles and upload pictures. It’s an awkward mishmash of online dating and Craigslist apartment hunting, but you generally end up with a good sense of your host or guest.

If you want to find a good host, fill out your profile completely and honestly, and upload a few pictures to prove that you’re normal. Use the filters to find the right couch, and send a personable request that shows that you bothered to read the host’s profile. In the bigger cities it’s not unusual for hosts to get several requests every day, so make an effort to stand out.

Even if you aren’t traveling, most cities have events for local hosts who want to meet other adventurous people with an appreciation for wanderlust.

Some people are understandably spooked by the idea of sharing a home with a stranger, but for those who can accept that most people are fundamentally decent, CouchSurfing is an easy way to have a great time.

[Source: Consumerist.com]

What is CouchSurfing?
CouchSurfing is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Since 2004, members have been using their system to come together for cultural exchange, friendship, and learning experiences. Today, over a million people who might otherwise never meet are able to share hospitality and cultural understanding.

How does CouchSurfing work?
CouchSurfing members share hospitality with one another. These exchanges are a uniquely rich form of cultural interaction. Hosts have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world without leaving home. ‘Surfers,’ or travelers, are able to participate in the local life of the places they visit. We also give more people the chance to become travelers, because ‘surfing’ lowers the financial cost of exploration.

The CouchSurfing community continues to expand its horizons. Members are always finding more ways to connect and learn about each other. Every day, people across the world share coffee, camping trips, meetings, language exchanges, discussions and all sorts of other experiences.



TheBigTrip.com offers dream travel job

August 5, 2009

TheBigTrip.com

TheBigTrip.com


TheBigTrip.com is offering a job travelling the United States for 12 weeks, with a $50,000 salary. The applicant chosen will travel to various tourist destinations, video blogging their adventures. The website is looking to revolutionize the adventure travel industry.

After the November 1st deadline, one applicant will be chosen from a pool of thousands for the job of a lifetime. For twelve weeks, the selected applicant will traverse the United States in search of exhilarating adventures and captivating travel destinations. The entire experience will be documented by the selected applicant and aired for millions of viewers on TheBigTrip.com. Each webisode will include interactive links to travel information about each destination. Viewers will also be able to review exclusive details about each location in real time, and discover valuable resources for planning a trip of their own.

The Couture-Abro Group will be paying all of the travel expenses as well as offering a generous salary, benefits, and an array of high tech electronics to use along their three month cross-country journey.

Beginning June 20, 2009, interested applicants for this job of a lifetime will be able to apply at TheBigTrip.com by filling out an application and uploading a video resume about themselves. Finalists will be contacted in the fall and may be asked to participate in additional interviews.



Megabus offers fifty-thousand $1 seats

August 5, 2009
MegaBus

MegaBus

Megabus, the first intercity express bus service offering fares as low as $1, today announced it is offering an additional 50,000 $1 seats for travel Sept. 14 to Nov. 19, 2009. The $1 seats will be available on all Megabus departures (subject to availability) in all 30 cities during the Sept. 14 to Nov. 19 travel period. Travelers will need to use the promo code HOTDEAL when booking for a chance to book the $1 fares.

“The economy still has individuals and families hesitant to spend money, especially on leisure items such as travel,” said Dale Moser, president and COO of Megabus. “Megabus’ low fares make travel very affordable and at $1, there’s no reason to stay home.”

Megabus’s new double-decker coaches include amenities such as free Wi-Fi, on-board restrooms, reclining seats and video entertainment. Half of its fleet currently has power outlets for laptops, and other half will be fitted with them by October 2009.

The company operates in 30 cities in the United States and Canada including New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Toronto. Unlike many other bus services, all Megabus services are intercity express, so they don’t make numerous time-consuming stops at small towns.
While other modes of transit such as airlines and trains are seeing a decline in business, Megabus has seen its ridership triple to 3 million since its inception in 2006.

Visit www.megabus.com for additional information on routes, schedules, amenities and fares.


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