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Koninginnedag (Queen’s day) in Netherlands

March 2, 2009

Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands and it’s territories on 30 April (or on 29 April if the 30th is a Sunday). Queen’s Day celebrates the birthday of the Queen of the Netherlands and is supposed to be a day of national unity and “togetherness” (Dutch: saamhorigheid). The tradition started on 31 August 1885 on the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, later Queen Wilhelmina. Since 1949, after the ascension of Queen Juliana, Queen’s Day is Queen Juliana’s birthday on 30 April. Although Queen Beatrix’s birthday is on 31 January, she officially celebrates her birthday on 30 April.

Queen’s Day is known for its “freemarket” (Dutch: vrijmarkt) all over the country, where everybody is allowed to sell things in the streets. Other activities during Queen’s Day are children’s games, individual musical performances, and music concerts. The night before Queen’s Day is celebrated too in some cities, and this is called Queen’s Night (Dutch: Koninginnenacht). The largest celebration of Queen’s Day is in Amsterdam and of Queen’s Night in The Hague. During the celebrations as reference to the colours of the House of Orange-Nassau, people dress in the colour orange, which is sometimes called “orange craze” (Dutch: oranjegekte).

Some of the highlights of the “celebrations” are:
Orange
This is a typical occasion for oranjegekte (orange craze), when the colour orange is a ubiquitous sight, referring to the name of the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange. There are orange banners, orange colored foods and drinks, and extreme amounts of orange clothing and creative accessories are worn as well. Sometimes even the water in fountains is dyed orange. It is not uncommon for people to impersonate the queen, not always in a flattering manner (rudely).

Freemarket
The so-called ‘vrijmarkt‘ (‘freemarket’) is similar to a US car boot sale or Flea market. Owing to a holiday dispensation from the Dutch government, people do not need to pay taxes on their sales. The items sold are traditionally old rubbish, but for commercial traders this is also an extremely profitable day. The freemarket in Amsterdam attracts the most visitors. Prices tend to be very negotiable and drop as the day progresses. By the end of the festivities, much of the unsold merchandise is left on the streets to be picked through until it’s hauled off by local municipalities shortly after. There are, however, some areas where the original style is preserved. One of these is the Jordaan (pronounced: Yordaan), a gentrified former working class neighborhood, where prices are very low because the sale is just an excuse to have a nice day and a friendly chat with complete strangers. Sections of the Jordaan can become so full of pedestrians that they become completely gridlocked, despite the absence of cars. Another is the Vondelpark (pronounced: Fondelpark), which is officially reserved for children. Especially there, but also elsewhere, there are many other activities besides selling second hand goods, such as performing music or providing other entertainment for money.

Open air concerts
In recent years, Koninginnedag has become more and more of an open-air party, with many concerts and special events in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam, which attracts anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 visitors. Many Dutch people living abroad try to make the pilgrimage home to experience this holiday each year. Booking accommodations in Amsterdam and elsewhere for Queen’s Day is notoriously difficult, requiring booking 6 months or more ahead.

Queen’s Night
During the preceding ‘koninginnenacht‘ (Queen’s Night) many bars and clubs throughout the Netherlands (particularly in Amsterdam and The Hague) hold special events catering to revelers that last all night long. The event draws tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Source: Wikipedia

Some tips:
1. Reach early (if you are staying out of the city) to avoid the rush in trains and on the streets. Most of the concerts start early (or been going on all night-previous).

2. You can buy a glass of beer for €5 at any of the hundreds of beer-selling counters. Remember to save that glass because you can refill for €2 at any of the counters. You don’t necessarily have to be at the same counter where you purchased your first one.

3. Wear something Orange. Wait – wear everything orange, because you’d feel totally out of place if you don’t!

4. Be safe – Take care of your belongings and beware of pickpockets. There may be at least a million people in the city and while you’re clicking away those moments, you may not realize that someone might be robbing you.

5. Frequency of the trains is very less and they are packed with people going to the city. Trams and cars are not allowed to run and Amsterdam being a relatively small city, walking around is the best way to experience the energy and celebrations.

6. Officials install “pole-toilets” across the city (which can be used by men) and public toilets are not clean and usually used by women.

Pictures:

Koninginnedag - Ex-Porn Star Concert

Koninginnedag - Ex-Porn Star Concert

Koninginnedag

Koninginnedag

Koninginnedag - Free market

Koninginnedag - Free market

Koninginnedag

Koninginnedag

Koninginnedag Koninginnedag
Koninginnedag Koninginnedag - Open-air Concert

Open-air toilets for men

Open-air toilets for men



Travel shows and things we miss on them

March 1, 2009

While I watch the travels shows on TV, the one thing I keep wondering is why would they not show titles on the screen – titles on costs or just the names of cities or places the hosts are visiting? They say those names of the cities or places they are visiting, but some of the foreign names are spelt & prnounced differently, and if you – as a prominent visitior – want to visit those places you’d ask yourself – “what was that name (s)he just said?” I was watching a show where the host was in Cĕsky Krumlov (pronounced Chesky Krumlof) in Czech Republic, which, for a new traveler, who’d love to visit, would go to Google and search for “Chesky Krumlof” and just maybe find the actual place. It would have somewhat, or maybe really, helped to know it’s spelt as Cĕsky Krumlov!

Samatha Brown’s “Passport to Europe” (Travel Channel) has some titles on the screen, but Lonely Planet series and Rick Steves’ Europe series don’t show any titles. Some of the things we would love to see on the screen are:
1. Name of places that are being visited – this is the least we can ask for!

2. Hotels
2a. Name of the hotel
2a. Reservation phone number
2b. Website URL of the Hotel, maybe!
2c. Cost of the rooms – single occupancy, double… blah blah
2d. How about a rating – a la Yelp.com
2e. Not that we’re asking for too much, but how about any other cheaper options!

3. High-level (zoomed out) map of where the city exactly is in this big wide world.

4. Ok, so you meet these amazing local people who look extremly happy to show you around; so can we meet them too, please? If they are people who have enrolled in websites like hospitalityclub.org, and would love to show you around, then can you please (ask them and if they are ok then) give us their email address?

5. We like your commuting options recommendations, but can you please show some information on those options – like bus number or metro routes.

6. Oh and how about mentioning costs of the tickets for the commute options – and it would be wonderful if you can tell us where we can purchase them from?

Fine, we will buy your travel guides and look up all this information, but it’d be really nice of you if you can give basic information about [some of] the items we mentioned above.

We, at Travel on a dollar, would be bringing you these information and making sure you have options on your travel destinations. Keep visiting for more.

Danke!



Scandinavia Trip – Maps of the trip

February 26, 2009

For a 23-day trip from Los Angeles, US to the four Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark – and Estonia, here are the maps. Click on each of them to see a larger version:

Map 1 – Northern Europe map with cities marked

Map 2 – Scandinavia map with cities marked

Map 3 – Scandinavia map with route shown
See the itinerary to see what the numbers mean.



Scandinavia Trip – Estimated costs for the trip

February 26, 2009

For a 23-day trip from Los Angeles, US to the four Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark – and Estonia, here’s the tentative costs for the trip:

Where: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia

Currencies

So here are the TENTATIVE costs for the trip. These include accommodation in Youth Hostel, food for one person per day in each city, and other costs from train, cruises and buses. Please note that these are tentative and does not include any personal expenses. Some of the costs cannot be determined so I have put my assumptions.

Note: All costs are subject to change. These are as per current (2008) rates, which may be different in 2009.

Costs for Local Curr USD Notes
Travel Insurance $150 Tentative
Visa Fees $100 Schengen visa fees – $95 + $5 FedEx fees. N/A to U.S. Citizens. Fees may vary from one consulate to other.
Airfare & Railpass
LAX-OSL and CPH-LAX $1,300 Tentative
BGO-TOS and TOS-OSL $300 Tentative
TLL-CPH $150 Tentative
Scandinavia Railpass $515 For 8 days in 2 months. $437 “Saver pass” (for 2 or more) Link
Oslo – Bergen Trip (Norway)
Train from Oslo to Myrdal Nkr 567 $114 Upgrade to “Komfort” for an additional 75NOK ($15)
Train from Myrdal to Flåm Nkr 190 $38 Note: Actual price. 30% with Railpass
Cruise from Flåm to Gudvangen Nkr 215 $43
Bus from Gudvangen to Voss Nkr 76 $15
Train from Voss to Bergen Nkr 153 $31
Food $25 For 1 day
Oslo (Norway)
Accomodation (YHI) Nkr 460 $92 Approx: For 2 nights, per bed, per person
Bus from Airport to City Nkr 80 $16 Note: Covered by railpass
Food $50 For 2 days
Oslo Pass Nkr 320 $64 For 48 hrs. Nkr 220 ($44) for 24 hrs
Bergen (Norway)
Accomodation (YHI) Nkr 310 $62 Approx: For 2 nights, per bed, per person
Food $50 For 2 days
Bus from City Center to Airport Nkr 70 $14 One way
Bergen Folklore Folk Dance Nkr 350 $70 Includes bus trip and meal
Funicular to Fløibanen Nkr 70 $14
Tromsø (Norway)
Accomodation (YHI) Nkr 400 $80 Approx: prices for 1 bed for 2 nights. For a Single room it’s Nkr 350, hostel open from 6/17 to 8/14.
Food $50 For 2 days
Stockholm (Sweden)
Accomodation (YHI) Skr 460 $74 Approx: For 2 nights, per bed, per person
Food $50 For 2 days
Stockholm – Helsinki Cruise €55 $83 Note: Railpass holders get 50% discount on both Silja & Viking lines
Stockholm Card $79 For 48 hrs. $57 for 24 hrs
Helsinki (Finland)
Accomodation (YHI) €100 $150 Approx: For 2 nights, per bed, per person
Food $50 For 2 days
Helsinki – Tallinn Cruise €57 $86 €50 one way, maximum. Some lines available for €30. A €7 service charge applies in booking tickets.
Tallinn (Estonia)
Accomodation (YHI) $60 Online booking N/A: Tallinn – Tallinn Backpackers, Lai 10, Tallinn 10133 Estonia, tallinnbackpackers@hostels.ee. No rates online
Food $50 For 2 days
Copenhagen (Denmark)
Accomodation (YHI) Dkr 440 $88 Approx: For 2 nights, per bed, per person
Food $50 For 2 days
Copenhagen – Ærøskøbing Trip Dkr 545 $90 Dkr 345 (Round-trip ferry) + Dkr 200 Train (approx). Prices for round-trip.
Airport to Downtown Train Dkr 30 $5
Copenhagen Card Dkr 459 $75 For 72 hr card. Dkr 209 ($35) for 24 hr card. No 48-hr card available.
Ærøskøbing (Denmark)
Accomodation (YHI) Dkr 300 $50 Approx: For 2 nights, per bed, per person. Online booking N/A: Ærøskøbing, Smedevejen 15, 5970 Ærøskøbing, Tel. +45-62521044, Fax. +45-62521644, aeroeskoebing@danhostel.dk
Food $50 For 2 days
Total $4,474

Add another $600 for personal expenses or any additional expenses and you reach the $5,000 mark!

Legend:
YHI – Youth Hostel International
LAX – Los Angeles International Airport
OSL – Oslo Lufthavn Airport
CPH – Copenhagen Lufthavne Airport
TOS – Tromsø Langnes Airport
BGO – Bergen Airport Flesland
TLL – Tallinn Airport
Nkr – Norwegian Kroner
Skr – Swedish Krona
Dkr – Danish Krone
Ekr – Estonian Kroonie



Scandinavia Trip – Tentative itinerary

February 26, 2009

For a 23-day trip from Los Angeles, US to the four Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark – and Estonia, here’s the tentative itinerary:

Day Place Mode
Day 1 Oslo – Arrival Airplane
Day 2 Oslo – Local –
Day 3 Oslo – Local –
Day 4 Oslo – Bergen Train, Bus, Cruise
Day 5 Bergen – Local –
Day 6 Bergen – Local –
Day 7 Bergen – Tromsø Cruise / Airplane
Day 8 Tromsø – Local –
Day 9 Tromsø – Local –
Day 10 Tromsø – Oslo Airplane
Oslo – Stockholm Train (nightly)
Day 11 Stockholm – Local –
Day 12 Stockholm – Local –
Stockholm – Helsinki Cruise (nightly)
Day 13 Helsinki – Local –
Day 14 Helsinki – Local –
Helsinki – Tallinn Cruise
Day 15 Tallinn – Local –
Day 16 Tallinn – Copenhagen Airplane (evening)
Copenhagen – Local –
Day 17 Copenhagen – Local –
Day 18 Copenhagen – Local –
Day 19 Copenhagen – Ærøskøbing Train, Cruise
Day 20 Ærøskøbing – Local –
Day 21 Ærøskøbing – Local –
Day 22 Ærøskøbing – Copenhagen Cruise, Train
Day 23 Copenhagen – Los Angeles Airplane


Scandinavia Trip – The idea

February 26, 2009

Back in the days when I learned that the earth was round (almost!) and what this world was all about, (for some reason I don’t remember) I have been fascinated by Scandinavia. It always seemed to me that everyone went to Americas and “mainland” Europe but no one went to Scandinavia for a trip or maybe a honeymoon! It’s been a dream to visit the Viking & Fjord country and see what they really mean by “Land of the midnight sun”. So, this is now that I have started planning for this trip of a lifetime (at least for me).

So here are the first details of the first tentative trip:

When: Tentative
Length: 4 weeks (maximum)
Cost: US$5,000 (maximum) This includes everything.

Places to visit:

Norway – Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø
Sweden – Stockholm
Denmark – Copenhagen, Ærøskøbing
Finland – Helsinki
Estonia – Tallinn

Keep checking for details.



The ultimate packing list

February 25, 2009

Travel packing checklistPacking your bags for that exotic trip is not an easy task. Especially when you have to remember all the essentials and things-not-to-carry.

So to make your life simpler, here’s a list of some things one should remember to carry:

Continue reading



Some Websites for flight reservations

February 25, 2009

Some of the airline-booking websites:

Airfare.com
ATIflights.com
BookingBuddy.com
cFares.com
CheapAir.com
Cheapflights.com
CheapTickets.com
Expedia.com
Farecast.com
Hotels.com
Hotwire.com
Kayak.com
lastminute.com
LastMinuteTravel.com
Orbitz.com
Priceline.com
SideStep.com
Travelocity.com
Travelzoo.com
TripAdvisor.com
Vayama.com
Skyscanner.net
OneTravel.com
Farecompare.com
Zuji.com
Chawla Travel

Apart from these one can always try the individual airline websites for deals, offers or competitive rates.

Click here for a comprehensive list and more links on various categories.



Schengen Visa details (for non-US & non-EU residents/citizens)

February 25, 2009

What is a Schengen Visa?

“With a Schengen visa, you may enter one country and travel freely throughout the Schengen zone. Internal border controls have disappeared; there are no or few stops and checks. This means that internal air, road and train travel are handled as domestic trips, similar to travel from one US state to another.”

The Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

To apply for a Schengen visa:

The applicant must first identify which Schengen country is the main destination. This determines the State responsible for deciding on the Schengen visa application and therefore the embassy or the consulate where the traveller will have to lodge the application. If the main destination cannot be determined, the traveller should file the visa application at the embassy or consultate of the Schengen country of first entry. If the Schengen State of the main destination or first entry does not have a diplomatic mission or consular post in his country, the traveller must contact the embassy or the consulate of another Schengen country, normally located in the traveller’s country, which represents, for the purpose of issuing Schengen visas, the country of the principal destination or first entry.

Source: Wikipedia

 
Also see: Schengen Visa Info
 

The documents required for a Schengen Visa are:

  • Completed visa application form. Check the country’s consulate website for specific form.
  • Passport or official travel document recognized by the Schengen countries, with a validity that exceeds the intended stay by at least 3 months. Please make sure that the passport has a blank page to affix the visa.
  • (For applications from US): Original Alien Registration Card (Green Card). If you do not have an alien registration card, a Green Card Stamp in your passport, an Advance Parole, or a valid US Visa together with the valid I-94 departure record must be provided. Students should also submit an original validated I-20, DS-2019 or IAP-66.
  • One recent passport photograph, full face, which show a clear and exact likeness of the applicant. Photo must be taken against a plain, light background with good contrast, in color or black & white, clear and of good quality, printed on normal photographic paper (without sunglasses or head covering, unless it is on account of religious or medical reasons).
    Children travelling with their parents on their parent’s passport do need their own visa with photo (free of charge). Therefore, applicants should also submit one recent passport size photographs for every child travelling with them. Please make sure that you have enough pages to affix the visa’s for you and your child(ren).
  • Proof that you can proceed to the next country after you have visited the Schengen countries, i.e. confirmed itinerary / airline reservation or airline ticket and required visa. When you bring a confirmed itinerary / airline reservation at the time of your visa application, the actual airline ticket has be shown if your visa has been approved.
    Important: if you are not sure that your visa will be approved, do not buy an airline ticket yet, bring a confirmed airline reservation which can be cancelled.
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your intended stay: 3 recent monthly bank statements and/or signed travelers checks.
  • Original letter of employment or 3 months of recent pay stubs. If you are self employed a business license and tax return forms are required.
  • Proof establishing the purpose of your trip:
    When visiting relatives or friends, please submit an official invitation letter issued and certified by a City Hall in the country you’re visiting and a copy of the relatives’ or friends’ passport or valid country residence card. If they are paying for your expenses proof of financial means is required from your reference person in the country (e.g. salary statements, recent bank statements, etc.).
    For tourism, please submit confirmed hotel reservations, stating name, address and telephone number of the hotel, including confirmation number and/or proof of group travel participation, etc.
    Important:
    if you are traveling in group then make sure that the hotels give a confirmation letter stating names of all the travelers, and not just the name of the person who will book the hotel.
  • Medical health/travel insurance that meets the following criteria (recommended: AXA-Schengen):
    1. It is valid throughout Schengen territory.
    2. It is valid during the entire period that you will be in Schengen territory.
    3. The coverage is at least €30.000 (US $45.000).
    4. The coverage includes repatriation for medical reasons, urgent medical care and/or emergency treatment in a hospital.
  • Cash (exact change please) or money order to pay the visa fee. Personal and business checks and credit cards are NOT accepted. Visa fees vary depending upon the type of visa, duration of stay and the exchange rate between the euro and US dollar. Check the website of the consulate you’re applying at for the correct fee. Visa fees are non refundable. It is possible to have the passport with the approved visa sent to your home or business address – at your own risk – by overnight mail. In this case an additional postal fee will be charged.

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