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On vacation, we tend to keep different schedules. That’s why, at 1 a.m., with all the regular restaurants closed and the bar having stopped serving food, you may decide you’re ready for dinner number two. Offering unique insight into local culture, late-night eats can enhance your travel experience as much as they can satisfy your craving. For a few bucks, you can fill up on local dishes like tacos, oyster omelets, and crepes, and get a candid glimpse into a city’s after-hours culture. Every country has a specialty; here are the best bites served past midnight in cities all over the world. Read more
Whether you’re looking for a tropical escape or windswept remoteness, the following destinations are perfect for island-hopping. From there, your biggest challenge is choosing your favorite beach…
Inner and Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Despite their wild and remote image, getting around these archipelagos in western Scotland can be straightforward. A few of the most accessible islands include Skye, where the geologically diverse landscape includes lochs (lakes), forests, and glens (valley) and Islay, with its whiskey distilleries. Iona has white sandy beaches, and Lewis has mysterious standing stones. Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne runs services to 22 islands, most year-round. Visitors planning to travel extensively around the islands can purchase an Island-Hopping pass, which can save you some money. For example, one pass includes ferry rides from the mainland and to the islands of Skye, Harris, and Lewis, and back to the mainland. For car and passenger, the pass costs $30 per person in the summer ($28, or $56 total, in the winter). By comparison, the total price for a car and passenger making the same trip by buying single tickets would be $202 in the summer.
When it comes to Americans making their way to Southeast Asia, there are often two costs that they consider carefully before making a single reservation. The first is the literal cost of the trip in dollars; and the second, and perhaps an even bigger barrier for some, is the “time cost” that it takes to get there. It’s one thing to pay close to $1,500, but when the total travel time approaches the 24-hour mark (as it does in the case of Malaysia), that can cause some travelers to skip Asia as a travel option altogether.
The good news is that Southeast Asia is trying – really trying – to make it easier on tourists who travel long distances by uniting its ten member countries into a single destination. (The tagline “Ten Countries, One Destination” has been officially coined.) From new rail lines to pedestrian bridges to the deregulation of the airline industry, these integrative measures are all part of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan, which aims to significantly increase the number of international visitors to the continent by 2015.
Here are a few ways upcoming projects will save you time, money, or both, as you plot your excursion to Southeast Asia: Read more
Traveling in Asia, or to an Asian community, this week? You’re in luck. The Lunar New Year, typically falling at the end of January or the end of February, is arguably the most festive and also the most interesting time of the year. Big events like lion dances and firecrackers aside, this is when communities everywhere come alive with cheer and tradition, with good wishes and ancient folklore at top of mind.
While it’s unlikely that anyone would expect a traveler to follow all the customs, we can’t think of a better way to get to know a destination’s culture. Plus, helping to usher in auspiciousness is a great way to delight a kind host or helpful friend. Here’s our guide to the general dos and don’ts – there’s naturally an overlap between the traditions of different ethnic groups and countries – as well as a gift guide for visits and meet-ups. Read more
As much as we love travel, no one loves the red-tape-filled process of getting a new visa. Here are a few helpful tips for securing your travel documents in a few specific places around the world — namely, in East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Europe. We chose these areas because you’re more likely to cross a border while you’re traveling there, and/or because there are some new developments around visa laws in these countries. Our tips below (including a new multi-country visa program in East Africa) ought to make the process a little less cumbersome next time you embark on a multi-leg trip… Read more
UPDATE: January 20, 2014: If your travel plans have you passing through Bangkok this month, it would be wise to use caution, consult your tour operator, or check the State Department for further updates. At demonstration sites around the city, things took a turn for the worse this weekend, when three separate instances of violence escalated an already-chaotic situation. A grenade exploded on Friday, killing one man, and over Saturday and Sunday, gunfire and separate explosions have left many injured. As of now, protests haven’t reverted to “war-zone” proportions of 2010, and the AP reports that Bangkok “remains calm.” However, it’s hard to predict what will happen through February 2, when a government-sanctioned election is slated to take place.
Government buildings, large public squares, shopping malls, and major intersections in the city center are all active demonstration sites. And while the Tourism Authority of Thailand discouraged visitors from venturing into demonstration sites due to the inconvenience of traffic and large crowds, safety has now become a real concern. Even if the violence is contained to particular demonstration sites (Victory Monument was the site of explosions on Sunday), there is always the possibility it could spread to other parts of the city.
Ready to spend some of your holiday money? If you’re looking to get some overseas R&R, two airlines just announced sales, right in time for the New Year.
As reports come in that the political situation in Bangkok is steadily relaxing after days of major anti-government protests, thee are still questions about the safety of tourists who find themselves in the Thai capital. On Tuesday, the BBC reported that concrete barriers and razor wire placed outside police headquarters had been removed, a sign of tension cooling between the government and protestors. The U.S. government, meanwhile, has not issued an official travel warning, though a “security message” was posted on December 1, alerting travelers of the demonstrations.
For those who have booked flights and hotels in the region, should you be worried? Here’s what we’ve learned… Read more
Travelers were up in arms last week when Thailand announced plans to introduce a $16 entry tax for passengers arriving by air and staying more than three days – and a charge of 30 baht (97 cents) for travelers coming into the country from a neighboring state and staying for two days or less.
The Thailand Tourism Authority (TTA) claimed the proposed tax is needed to cover the cost of unpaid medical bills left behind by foreign travelers – although other reports mentioned the tax has been levied in the hope of attracting a ‘better’ standard of visitor, compared, presumably, to the young backpackers drawn to the country’s affordable beach destinations and buzzing nightlife.
In a statement to the press, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) President & CEO, David Scowsill called the proposed tax “one of the more egregious tourism taxes that we have seen”.
Of course, Thailand is not the only country to charge visitors a fee for arriving or departing the country. While many countries include their entry or exit taxes in the price of an airline ticket (Thailand, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic, to name just three examples), a stubborn few still do not allow this. In the interest of you not getting caught off-guard at the airport without the means to cover an unexpected tax, here are a few entry and exit fees worth knowing about:
Whether it’s a smelly durian fruit, a sacred amulet, or even fresh livestock you’re seeking, there is a good chance you’ll find it in Thailand’s street markets. If you’re planning a trip, pay a visit to any of these for a unique shopping experience.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Damnoen Saduak
Perhaps Thailand’s most famous market, Damnoen Saduak is the one you’ll most likely find in the Thai guidebooks – because it floats. Full of wooden boats, clogged traffic, loud bargaining, and wild smells, all often coupled with heavy monsoon rains, this market on the water is a sensory (and olfactory) overload. However, don’t let its popularity dissuade you from a visit: While it does tend to get packed with tourists seeking photo opportunities and affordable fruits, spices, noodle soups, and vegetables, if you go early in the morning (between 8–10am), you’ll be able to get a feel for the rambunctious flavor of the market while not having to battle crowds to do it. Less than 50 miles from the country’s capital, it’s the best place outside of Bangkok to get any of Thailand’s unmistakable flavors. Whether you’re seeking traditional noodle soup (less than $1), fruits like rose apples, rambutans, longons, and bananas, sweet and savory pastries, or steamed rice and meat in banana leaves, there is no smell or taste that Damnoen Saduak doesn’t offer. Read more
Big cities make for great vacations. The culture and palpable energy is a large part of why so many people gravitate toward the world’s great cities and put up with, even embrace, the hustle and bustle. Sometimes, though, even the most committed city traveler feels the need to check out of the constant stream of activity in, say, London or New York, and that is when they head to the quiet calm of a city park. Read more
Spring has finally sprung and with beautiful weather comes the welcome excuse to get outside, just in time for Mother’s Day! Before you get mom any ordinary plant, check out our top ten list of the most beautiful gardens around the world for some inspiration. Take mom along for the day or make a future getaway out of these. Happy Mother’s Day! Read more
Though most of the inspired travel ideas I’ve written about so far have been because of Mother Nature, the Kuha Karuhas Pavilion inside Phraya Nakhon cave of Thailand’s Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is definitely man-made. But, that doesn’t make it any less striking. Established in 1966, Khao Sam Roi Yot was Thailand’s first coastal national park, the Pavilion is just one of the highlights in the vast park. Read more
Spring and summer seem to be festival seasons, and this time of the year, there’s plenty to celebrate. Warm weather, blossoming flowers, the ability to carry your wife long distances – wait, what? Across the globe, there are tons of strange and spectacular festivals commemorating everything from macaque monkeys to body painting. We’ve selected seven we find a little bit odd, but entirely awesome. Read more
Don’t let the Carnival Cruise Line’s recent newsworthy items deter you from hitting the high seas. There are millions of cruises that sail each year without making the news. They have great customer service, activities for families, couples, and seniors, onboard entertainment, and unique ports around the world. Today we’ve rounded up the best of the best, from exotic international cruises to the always-popular beach destinations. Read more
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