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Sounds impossible to buy a ticket to the wrong destination, right? You’d never mistake York, England for New York State. But would you notice an airline issuing a plane ticket for Grenada instead of Granada, like British Airways did last month? Or the 1,500 mile difference between airline codes SJO and SJU? Believe it or not, these things do happen. Here, 9 commonly confused cities that should make you check your boarding card.
Flight: booked. Hotel: reserved. Language podcasts: Completed. What else do you need to prepare before jetting off on vacation?
Most of us would probably never think that feeding pigeons in parts of Venice could get us fined as much as our plane tickets there cost. Likewise, while we always leave a substantial tip after dining at a restaurant in North America, the practice is a foreign concept to many international visitors. Needless to say, very diverse cultural customs abound around the world. Here are a few quirky ones that we love and think are useful to know for preventing cultural mishaps abroad.
There’s no way around the fact that Brazil’s major cities are going to be crowded in the next few weeks. And we’re not talking about morning traffic crowded — we mean 4 million extra bodies in a country that has a population of 200 million to begin with. Beyond the fact that hotel rooms are starting at $700 per night, you can also expect long lines, expensive meals, and a lot of inebriation in all the World Cup host cities.
Just thinking about it is making us tired, which is why we’re pointing you to other parts of the region, beyond Brazil’s major hubs. Once you’ve paid for your expensive visa, get out of town and enjoy:
Ever wanted to see all – and we do mean all – of South America’s coastline? Holland America’s newest Grand Voyage for 2015 will let you do just that. The 68-day journey will make a complete loop around the continent from Fort Lauderdale, with a few additional ports of call in the Caribbean, Central America, and, weather permitting, Antarctica.
Stuck forever in the era of boat-sized convertibles, Elvis memorabilia, and red-checkered tablecloths, these American-themed diners offer a nostalgic ride into ‘50s Americana while satisfying rumbling tummies. Although commonplace throughout the fifty states, you don’t tend to come across these neon-lit, chrome-plated structures anywhere else in the world. So if you happen to be abroad and craving a burger and a milkshake, here are twelve diners around the world that’ll transport you back home.
Visit the full slideshow here.
Many countries charge entrance fees to foreign visitors – including the U.S.. When the U.S. decides to hike up prices for foreign tourists entering the country, many countries, in turn, do the same for American travelers who wish to visit them. And some of those prices can be incredibly high. Ranging from a meager $15 (Vietnam) to $275 (Nigeria) – visas can quickly eat into your travel budget.
The lesson? When you’re planning to travel to another country, always check whether you need a visa. If you’re uncertain, you can quickly search by country on VisaHQ. You can also see how much that visa costs. Streamlining the visa acquisition process, companies like VisaHQ even allow tourists to pay for their documents online and with a credit card, so you don’t have to speak with or visit a foreign embassy. Here’s a quick list of the top 20 most expensive tourist visas for American citizens: Read more
Far from the Equator and the humid jungles of northern Brazil lies Parana Province. While many tourists only venture this far south to take in a single, monolithic site – the towering Iguazu Falls – there’s more to see in this hilly, forest-covered province that borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Argentina and Paraguay to the west.
And while Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro can make for breathtaking, if spendy, South American retreats, Parana’s capital city, Curitiba, and the surrounding areas, are easy on both the eyes and the wallet. After you see the famous waterfall (It only takes a day), head back east for a less touristy look at Parana with its charming colonial towns, blazing sunsets, and one death-defying train ride.
Sao Paulo isn’t for everybody. With a teeming population of 19 million, a sprawling, helter-skelter skyline that takes no regular shape, dozens of neighborhoods, and endless snarls of traffic, it’s easy to understand why tourists – especially first-timers to Brazil – head straight for the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
But for those willing to look beyond the chaos, and behind its gritty surface, Sao Paulo can be a sophisticated traveler’s paradise filled with chic little shops, innovative restaurants, and some mind-blowing hotels. Rio may have the beaches and the views – and the 2016 Olympics – but this stylish financial and business hub has plenty to boast about, including its status as a host city in next year’s World Cup.
If you’re thinking of visiting, focus on South America’s winter months – June through August – when hotel bargains abound and weather hovers comfortably in the 60s and 70s. The occasional cold snap can send temperatures plunging into the 40s, so check the forecast, and be prepared to compete with the locals’ fashion-forward winter garb. Here are some of our favorite finds in this complicated, but incredibly rewarding city. Read more
At 1.8 billion years old, this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Brazilian Highlands is the oldest rock formation on earth. The washed out grey rocks in the Vale da Lua, or Valley of the Moon, have been smoothed and shaped by the clear waters of the San Miguel River, which runs across it. Over the years, the water has drawn sand particles across the rock surface, creating friction and digging craters. Read more
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is still a year away, but when it comes to booking travel plans for Brazil, it’s never too early to start planning. Today, millions of soccer fans all over the world tuned in as FIFA made it official announcement about ticket prices (the projected on-sale date is still August 20). If you’re considering whether or not to attend the festivities next June, here are a few important questions you should be asking: Read more
Oasis Collections, an American-run, South American-based short-term apartment rental agency – and self-dubbed “curators of stylish pads” – has recently launched a series of budget-friendly upscale vacation rentals, spanning some of South America’s hottest destinations, for under $250/night. Read more
Who said desert oases don’t exist? Lençois Maranhenses National Park is the only desert in the world with thousands of crystal clear freshwater lagoons. During the first half of the year, the sand dunes fill with water from the extensive rainy season. Then, during the dry season many of them disappear. Covering over 383,000 acres in the Maranhão State of Brazil, sand from riverbeds has contributed to the formation of the park over the past several thousand years. Read more
It’s simple supply and demand. You don’t need to be an economist to understand that concept. And when it comes to hotel rooms in Brazil, tourists may soon find themselves on the right side of the equation. With the country playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup (that’s soccer, folks) and Rio de Janeiro welcoming the Parade of Nations in 2016 for the Summer Olympics, 259 new hotels and 43,827 rooms will be available to visitors in the next two years. While occupancy rates will be high during the two major, international events on the horizon, that’s a lot of rooms to fill after the crowds have left (and before they arrive, for that matter). That glut of accommodations stands to create fare sales that surely will benefit those looking to visit South America in the coming years. Read more
Nothing staves off those post-holiday, cold-weather blahs quite like planning a beach vacation. Breezes Resorts and Spas is offering savings of up to 55 percent off at six of its properties in the Bahamas (Breezes Bahamas), Jamaica (Breezes Runaway Bay, Breezes Grand Negril, or Breezes Trelawny), Curaçao (Breezes Curaçao), and Brazil (Breezes Búzios) for travelers who book by February 15 for travel between May 1 and October 31. The chain’s all-inclusive rates include accommodations, all meals at multiple dining venues, unlimited premium-brand drinks, numerous land and water sports offerings, entertainment, and more.
THE VALUE: Savings range from 25 to 55 percent off of rack rates, working out to as low as $68 per person, per night. You’ll secure the most highly discounted rates by booking ahead for travel in August or September.
THE CATCH: A minimum 3-night stay is required.
THE DETAILS: To book, visit www.breezes.com or call 877-273-3937.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more travel deals.
While we at ShermansTravel obviously advocate actually going to the destinations we write about, we know sometimes armchair travel can be just as fun (and much easier on the wallet!). From 3D models of notable cities around the world to amazing new video technology in Brazil to an insider’s look at a tiny village in France, here are the coolest new spots to visit – without ever leaving home.
Launched this past weekend, the website 3rd Planet aims to bring users to far-flung destinations to explore 3D dioramas highlighted with notable facts and travel information. You can virtually spin the globe to pick out countries you’d like to visit then zoom in to click on individual cities to explore. The 3D models resemble a video game, but instead of hunting down opponents you’ll be mentally racking up trivia on the city’s landmarks and monuments.
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