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Mexico City offers free healthcare

June 10, 2009

In the aftermath of the A/H1NI flu virus outbreak, which has claimed the lives of 106 people in the country and devastated tourism, hotel occupation is at just 27 per cent compared with more than 50 per cent during the same week last year. During the worst point of the outbreak, which has since spread throughout the world and infected thousands, hotel occupation sank as low as 9 per cent. The city government has decided to offer holidaymakers free medical insurance – whether it be to cover migraine, a broken bone or even emergency heart surgery.

To get things going again, the Mexico City government is hooking up every visitor with health insurance:

The city government announced that it would also launch a bank card for national tourists visiting Mexico City, which would give them an interest-free loan for purchases made in the capital and payable via monthly deductions from their salary. It is even working on a special coupons book to give tourists discounts ranging from between 10 per cent and 60 per cent at more than 1,000 businesses in the capital.

Read more: Mexico City offers free health cover

Airplanes in U.S. start to show up on time

June 10, 2009

Stats released by the U.S. Department of Transportation say airplanes are taking off on time more frequently than before. More flights were on time in April than in March, as well as April 2008.

The Kansas City star singles out the airlines that are most often on time, as well as those that take schedules only as humorous suggestions:

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance, while Comair — a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc. — had the worst. Among legacy carriers, Northwest Airlines — operated by Atlanta-based Delta — was on time the most, and Continental Airlines Inc. posted the worst on-time performance.

Punctuality may be something to keep in mind when deciding which airline to book for your summer vacation.

More at: More U.S. flights are on time

JetBlue comes up with ‘Travel Now, Pay Later’ plan

June 8, 2009
JetBlue Bill Me Later  

JetBlue Bill Me Later

Just because the economy hasn’t rebounded doesn’t mean you can’t. Summer is one of the most popular times to travel, so set out and explore.

For budget-minded travelers, JetBlue is offering a limited time ‘Bill Me Later’ promotion so you can travel now and pay later. As an added bonus, travelers who use the new ‘bill me later’ feature will receive $20 off their booking.

Bill Me Later, the airline’s limited time offer, allows travelers to pay in full or in increments, from now until October 2009. The offer is only good until June 14 so you’ll need to act fast to capture this deal.

JetBlue Bill Me Later

JetBlue Bill Me Later

The promotion is fast, easy and secure, and you’ll get a monthly statement letting you know your balance. You can choose to pay a little each month or pay the entire bill in October. The choice is up to you – now all you have to do is book a flight.



JetBlue says:

Now for a limited time, when you book a JetBlue flight and choose to pay with Bill Me Later®, you’ll save $20 and don’t have to worry about making payments until October 2009*!

To take advantage of this offer, simply select to pay with Bill Me Later® at time of purchase, answer a few simple questions, accept the terms, and Bill Me Later® takes care of the rest!

Hurry and book now—this great offer is only available through June 14, 2009. 

  • Pay with Bill Me Later® to get the special offer. The “No Payments for 90 Days” offer is not available from all retailers who accept Bill Me Later®.
  • You may see this offer advertised as “No Payments until…” such as “No Payments until December 2009”.
  • Simply select “Yes, I’d like No Payments for 90 Days…” in order to be eligible to receive the promotional offer.
  • Make your purchase before midnight ET on June 30, 2009 to receive the promotional offer.
  • You will receive monthly statements and if you pay in full by the promotion expiration date as listed below you will not be charged finance charges. 

Booking hotels online?

June 5, 2009


The next time you’re looking at hotels online, try and

Consumer Reports readers recommend both sites for helping you figure out which hotels you’re being offered on Priceline or Hotwire.

Medical Travel – ‘Patients Beyond Borders’

June 4, 2009

Last year more than 180,000 Americans packed their bags and headed overseas for nearly every imaginable type of medical treatment: tummy tucks in Brazil, heart valve replacements in Thailand, hip resurfacing surgeries in India, addiction recovery in Antigua, fertility diagnosis and treatments in South Africa, or restorative dentistry in Mexico.

Currently, at least 28 countries on four continents cater to the international health traveler, with more than 2 million patients visiting hospitals and clinics each year in countries other than their own. The roster of treatments is as varied as the travelers. If the notion of complex medical procedures in far-flung lands seems intimidating, don’t feel alone.

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International Istanbul Music Festival

June 4, 2009
International Istanbul Music Festival International Istanbul Music Festival

The 37th International Istanbul Music Festival, which runs from tomorrow, June 5, through June 30, is bringing top international and Turkish classical musicians to the city’s stages and providing ticket holders with a rare chance to meet and greet some of the artists before the shows.

Among the big names participating this year are the German violin virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter, in concert with Lynn Harrell and Sir André Previn; the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who The New York Times wrote is “fluent in scales, runs and fancywork far beyond Pavarotti’s comfort zone”; and, on the festival’s last night, the Argentine conductor and soloist Daniel Barenboim, leading La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra of Milan in Beethoven and Berlioz.

These concerts are a great opportunity to treat the eyes as well as the ears by getting a glimpse inside some of Istanbul’s most interesting musical venues, each with its own fascinating back story. There’s the Sureyya Opera House in Kadikoy, for example, built in the 1920s just after the birth of the modern Turkish Republic and inspired by the Champs-Elysee Theater in Paris, or the Aya Irini, commissioned in the fourth century as the first church built in Constantinople.

In the meet-the-artist series, ticket holders will have a chance to speak with some of the younger musical sensations, including the willowy Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta, or the former child prodigy Han-Na Chang of South Korea, also a cellist. Both sessions take place in the cloisters of the Aya Irini.

And if classical music isn’t your thing, be patient. Watch this site for the rundown on highlights for the city’s jazz festival, running from July 2 to 15 — as well as info on upcoming Istanbul gigs from Leonard Cohen, Santana and Loreena McKennitt.

Opening Concert
Baroque Trumpet Gala
Concerts at the Palace – I
Festival Encounters – I
Voice of the Heart
Reflections on Bach
A Baroque Feast
Festival Encounters – II
Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra & Juan Diego Flórez
Mutter, Harrell, Previn
Young Legend Han-Na Chang
The English Concert
Concerts at the Palace – II
Play Bach 50th Anniversary
Dances of Centuries
Encounters Around Cello
Filarmonica Della Scala & Daniel Barenboim


Southwest to allow small pets in the cabin for $75

June 3, 2009

Southwest previously did not allow animals in the cabin unless they were there for medical reasons — but times are tough, so the airline that doesn’t charge for bags is looking for ways to add revenue without annoying customers.

Starting June 17, you’ll be able to bring Rosy and Ginger for a mere $75 a piece, which is cheaper than the industry standard. Southwest says that they’ll be a maximum of 5 pets per plane, and that they plan on outfitting their terminals with places where animals can relieve themselves.

From Chicago Tribune:

Southwest is the only major carrier that doesn’t charge passengers to check two pieces of luggage, a policy the carrier maintains would alienate loyal customers. Its fees kick in for passengers who check three or more bags.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told investors last week that Southwest was looking at new ways to generate generate income without angering customers. In addition to the new pet service, Southwest said it starts to charge a $25, each way, service charge for children aged five through 11 who aren”t traveling with an adult.

Photos: Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

June 1, 2009
Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

Click here to see the photographs

ten links for today

June 1, 2009

1. 10 Key Destinations For The Historical Time Traveler

2. Travel Accommodation Options

3. 4 Reasons You Should Hire a Guide on Your Next Family Vacation

4. Kathmandu, Nepal: Crossing a Bridge

5. Travel Safety Tips

6. The Train Line

7. A Bali Waterfall and Hot Spring no Travel Guide will tell you about

8. 16 Most Livable Cities in the World… and more

9. Desire Longevity! Come to Dominica

10. 72 Hours in Brussels

Photo of the day: Jain Temples, Palitana, India

June 1, 2009
Jain Temples at Shatrunjay Palitana

Jain Temples at Shatrunjay Palitana

The Palitana temples are considered the most sacred pilgrimage place (tirtha) by the Jain community. There are more than 1300 temples located on the Shatrunjaya hills, exquisitely carved in marble. The main temple on top of the hill, is dedicated to 1st tirthankar lord Adinath (Rishabdeva).

No one is allowed to sleep overnight including the priest, because the temple city has been built as an abode for the Gods. The town is considered by many Jains to be more important than the temple covered hills of Jharkhand, Mt Abu and Girnar. Palitana was the capital of a princely state of the Gohil Rajput clan. It is also one of the greatest tourist attractions in Gujarat for foreign tourists. Every year millions of people come to visit these temples.

There are hundreds of other temples (besides those on the Shatrunjaya hills). Guest houses (dharmashalas) are found in Palitana city. It is believed that every Jain should visit Palitana at least once in his lifetime to get “Bhavya” status (fit to attain nirvan or salvation).

Getting There:
By Air
Bhavnagar, the nearest airport lies at a distance of 51 kilometer from Palitana, but it connects only with Mumbai. For people coming from other places, a more convenient airport would be Ahmedabad which has an international airport or Vadodara (a.k.a Baroda) as it is connected through regular flights to many important cities of the country like Mumbai and Delhi.

By Rail
Palitana is a small railway station and has connection only with Bhavnagar. Best way is to take a train to bhavnagar and go by road to Palitana using local transport. The railway station at Palitana is improving and it is going to soon have direct trains from Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

By Road
There are busses for Bhavnagar from Palitana. Regular buses are also available from Ahmedabad, Talaja, Una, and Diu. Taxis are also available on hire for Palitana from Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad or Vadodra. The bus stand is situated 800 meters away from the Palitana railway station. Since Palitana is an important destination for a lot of people who follow Jainism, and the fact that there are a lot of people in Mumbai (Bombay ), there are buses that run daily between Mumbai and Palitana.

As a “Second Class” princely state, founded in 1194 (one of the major states in Saurashtra, where there were many smaller states), Palitana covered 777 km² and had 58,000 inhabitants (in 1921) in 91 villages, generating a 744,416 Rs revenue.

It used to be a native state of India in the Kathiawar agency of the Bombay presidency. Area, 289 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 52,856, showing a decrease of 15% in the decade. The chief was a Gohel Rajput, with the title of Thakur Sahib. Gross revenue, £42,000; tribute jointly to the Gaekwar of Baroda and the Nawab of Junagadh, £700. The capital of the state is Palitana; pop. 12,800. It was ruled by a Thakore sahib (also spelled Thakor Saheb), enjoying a 9-guns salute, of the Hindu Gohil dynasty, which received a privy purse of 180,000 Rupees at the state’s accession to independent India on 15 February 1948.

Nextstop – Travel, Food and Local Activity Guide

June 1, 2009

Founded by several former Google employees, Nextstop allows users to read and build various guides covering anything on the planet – hidden spots in San FranciscoMy Favorite Places in Portland and the best beer bars in the world.

You can search for guides on Nextstop by places, guides and map, or just focus your search on a specific city. Of course, if and when more users create their own guides, the site could potentially be a decent resource for interesting things to do in a given city, especially centered around a specific theme.

Nextstop - Hidden Spots in San Francisco

Nextstop - Hidden Spots in San Francisco

Nextstop is useful for a bunch of situations: planning a weekend, finding a restaurant for a brunch with friends, or planning a honeymoon in some far-off tropical destination. You can discover places to visit and things to do by browsing to different locations through search, or simply browsing friends’ recommendations to see what strikes your fancy.

Swap your SIM card to save bucks on calls abroad

June 1, 2009
SIM Card (

SIM Card (

If you’ve ever made a cellphone call while overseas, or read anything about “international roaming,” you know it’s a pound of flesh for each precious minute. CNET explains in depth how to swap your phone’s SIM card for cheaper calls.

It only applies to GSM-powered phones—in the U.S., that’s mainly AT&T and T-Mobile models. And, depending on where you’re going, it may or may not make sense to go through the effort of obtaining, and activating, a new SIM chip just to make a few “I miss you” calls back home, rather than just obtaining a phone card. But for longer vacations or business trips, CNET’s FAQ-style post on SIM swapping is really informative.

Here’s the lowdown on whether to get an unlocked SIM online and ahead of time, or buy it at a cellular store when you arrive:

Pros: Local SIM cards offer the best rate for local calls. You will have a local phone number in the country in which you are traveling, which will make it inexpensive for local people to call you.
Cons: If you don’t order one online, you have to spend precious vacation time and effort looking for a store to buy a SIM card. The instructions and prompts to set up and use the service are in the local language.

Read more at: Swapping SIMs to save big bucks on calls abroad


Also read: Getting a Pre-Paid Sim Card in Asia for Your Cell Phone

New border rules in effect for U.S. citizens from June 1, 2009

May 31, 2009

U.S. Mexico Border (Source:

U.S. Mexico Border (Source:

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires U.S. and Canadian travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. It is a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA).

The goal of WHTI is to facilitate entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors, while strengthening U.S. border security. Standard documents will enable the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler.

WHTI will go into effect June 1, 2009 for land and sea travel into the U.S. WHTI went into effect for air travelers on January 23, 2007.

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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

May 29, 2009
Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti is where Africa’s mystery, rawness and power surround you, and where the beauty and synchrony of nature can be experienced as in few other places. On its vast, treeless plains, one of earth’s most impressive natural cycles plays itself out again and again, as tens of thousands of hoofed animals, driven by primeval rhythms of survival, move constantly in search of fresh grasslands. The most famous, and the most numerous, are the wildebeests – of which there are more than one million – and their annual migration is the Serengeti’s biggest drawcard. During the rainy season (between December and May), the wildebeests are widely scattered over the southern section of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. As these areas have few large rivers and streams, they dry out quickly when the rains cease, nudging the wildebeests to concentrate on the few remaining green areas, and to form thousands-strong herds that migrate north and west in search of food. They then spend the dry season, from about July to October, outside the Serengeti and in the Masai Mara (just over the Kenyan border), before again moving south in anticipation of the rains. Around February, the calving season, more than 8000 wildebeest calves are born per day, although about 40% of these die before they are four months old.

Serengeti National Park at Tanzania-Kenya border

Serengeti National Park at Tanzania-Kenya border

The 14,763 sq km Serengeti is also renowned for its predators, especially its lions, many of which have collars fitted with transmitters so their movements can be studied and their locations tracked. Keeping the lions company are cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, jackals and more. You’ll also see zebras (of which there are about 200,000), large herds of giraffes, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, impalas and warthogs, and fascinating birdlife. Wildlife concentrations in the park are greatest between about December and June, and comparatively low during the dry season (between about July and October). However, the Serengeti is rewarding to visit at any time. For the wildebeests, the best base from about December to April is at one of the camps near Seronera or in the southeastern part of the park. The famous crossing of the Grumeti River, which runs through the park’s Western Corridor, usually takes place somewhere between May and July, although the viewing window can be quite short. In particularly dry years, the herds tend to move northwards sooner, avoiding or only skirting the Western Corridor. There are several camps in or near the Western Corridor, and it’s also easily accessed from Seronera. The northern Serengeti, around Lobo and Klein’s Gate, is a good base during the dry season, between about August and October. As well as the migrating wildebeests, there are also small resident populations of wildebeests in the park, which you’ll see at any time of year.

Almost all shorter safaris, and those done as part of a quick northern circuit loop, use Seronera as a base, although other sections of the park are just as rewarding, if not more so. In the low season, you will see few other vehicles outside of Seronera, although even in the high season the park is large enough that it doesn’t feel overrun. Overall, the opportunities for wildlife viewing are unparalleled and, if you are able to visit, it’s a chance not to be missed. Try to schedule as much time here as possible in order to explore the park’s varied zones and to appreciate its vastness.

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Inca Trail Permits at Cusco, Peru

May 28, 2009
Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu

Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu

Trek permits are required for the Inca Trail. Alternative treks such as Lares Valley, Ausangate, Choquequirao, and the one via Santa Teresa do not require trek permits. The government issues a maximum of 500 trek permits for each day. Since trekking staff are also included within this limit of 500 persons this means that, on average, about 200 trek permits are allocated to tourists and about 300 allocated to guides, cooks and porters.

You can check the government trek permit database that shows the real-time availability of Inca Trail trek permits.

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