Archive for March, 2008

Happy Monday! Lots of news and updates since my last roundup post.

First, Europe changed their clocks on Sunday — I meant to blog about this before any of you could have missed your flights, buses, cruises, trains, breakfasts, what have you . . . Due to a U.S. law passed in 2005, neither springing forward nor falling back now occur at the same time in North America and Europe, meaning shoulder-season travelers must be aware of the potential for time-related mistakes. You can verify the time difference between cities of interest at Time and Date, where they have two quite detailed articles about Daylight Savings Time around the world: North America, everybody else.

Second, anyone on their way to Berlin will want to take notice of the following two points:

+ As of 1 April 2008, prices will increase on a number of local transport fares — most importantly for visitors,

  • the short hop ticket increases to 1.30 euros
  • Schoenefeld Airport moves back into zone C; those traveling to the city on AB day or week passes will need to purchase an additional zone ticket at the increased price of 1.40 euros
  • the Berlin ABC ticket — for daytrips to Potsdam — increases to 2.80 euros for a single trip, 6.50 euros for a day ticket
  • the small group ticket increases to 15.90 euros for zones AB, 16.10 euros for ABC
  • the introduction of a 4-trip ticket for 8 euros, a 10% savings over single tickets

If you are holding onto any unused tickets whose prices have now increased, those tickets will lose their validity on 14 April. Put another way, if you’re in Berlin for the next couple days, purchase your tickets TODAY at their “discounted” price for use over the next two weeks.

+ The BVG workers have threatened to strike again, beginning at midnight the morning of 1 April. This affects all buses, trams and U-Bahn (subway) routes, but NOT S-Bahn routes. Keep abreast of the situation at the BVG homepage, where the emergency bus schedules will also be posted. I will update on the situation tomorrow as necessary.

Third, everyone is abuzz with talk about the potential benefits to travelers coming from the Open Skies agreement, which took effect yesterday. The NY Times had an article last week — and naturally, the Cranky Flier covered all the details a full year ago. Biggest immediate effect is 130 new flights per week from cities around the U.S. to Heathrow, across Europe an 11% increase in flights between the continents in April alone. Sadly, it seems that high fuel prices are likely to keep most passengers from seeing beneficial decreases to their transatlantic fares for the time being. The good news: RyanAir has been considering an entree into the market, which would certainly shake things up for the better.

Speaking of RyanAir, they’ve finally launched domestic flights in France and Germany. Beginning in May, it will now be possible to fly Paris (Beauvais)-Marseille and Berlin-Frankfurt (Hahn). The latter service is twice daily; fares on both routes are currently being offered for 10 euros all inclusive.

Fourth, BoltBus launched last week and Budget Travel’s Just This In was there to test out the $3 NYC-DC service. Read their full (positive, despite a few kinks to be worked out) review here. The Washington Post covered the DC-NYC leg, which reached largely the same verdict.

Finally, there’s just one week left to nominate your favorite travel blogs for this year’s Travvies (which, forgive me, sounds like something you could Travvies logocome down with on the road, relegating you to unsavory moments in your hotel’s water closet). Every individual can nominate up to three blogs in each of eight categories for consideration. Quite a few of my regular readers are themselves travel bloggers — it is allowed (and encouraged) for you to nominate yourselves. Be nice and throw the name of two of your other favorite blogs in as well, so as not to look like a total egomaniac . . .

I’m still busily planning my upcoming trip to the UK and Spain — please please PUH-LEASE contribute your tips and advice here for your chance to win fame, prizes and my undying affection. (Where else will you find that this Monday?)

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Welcome to the fourth Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Here you’ll find South American, African, and Middle Eastern (and Antarctic!) travel tips for those without a lot of money to spend. Follow us inside . . .

Moroccan door

Since I very nearly headed to Morocco instead of Spain on RyanAir’s latest no taxes-no fees sale, I was interested in reading more about a potential future destination. All roads pointed to Maryam of My Marrakesh, whose blog provides this week’s photographic inspiration.

Everywhere I hope to go, it seems, National Geographic has already been. This month’s featured destination was Marrakesh, with Mary Beth LaRue highlighting various forms of media to get you in the mood for your own Moroccan adventure. I was happy to see Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler‘s podcast on Marrakesh as one of the chosen offerings.

National Geographic Traveler also offers an online Africa travel planner. Their advice for saving money is a good read for budget-minded travelers. Body in Motion offers up 10 Things You Should Know Before Coming to Africa, with tried and tested traveler truisms such as carry your own toilet paper and “Be prepared to spend most of your time waiting for a bus/your lunch/your bill/a meeting/change.”

Those looking for more reads on Africa generally might check out the irregularly updated Beautiful Africa Carnival site.

If you’ve thought about taking a service-oriented trip abroad, try Catherine Pearson at Intelligent Travel‘s post on her Voluntour of Duty with Habitat for Humanity in Mozambique.

Of Laura Milligan‘s Lost and Found: 12 Ancient Cities Rediscovered, three are in this carnival’s region. Find out which destinations she recommends at Travelhacker.

South American fliers might be happy to know that a low-cost carrier (the newest project by JetBlue’s founder) may be coming to Brazil. Read further details at Budget Travel‘s This Just In.

Wrapping up this week, Heather of Heather on her Travels is after my winter-chilled heart with her post Warm baths and waterfalls in Ecuador. She adds, “Where in the world would you be asked, when checking into your hotel, whether you’d like a view of the garden or of the waterfall? Explore the Ecuadorian holiday town of Banos where the warm baths are fed by the thermal springs from an active volcano and cooled by the freezing waterfalls that cascade down the cliffs that surround the town.” That reminds me . . . gotta pack my swimsuit!

If you’d like to see your post on budget travel in South America, Africa or the Middle East in this carnival, submit using the online form found here. Readers, encourage your favorite regional bloggers to submit posts for next month! Our next carnival will be posted April 5, when we return to Europe. You can submit your posts for that carnival here.

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Here’s a freebie I’ve been sitting on for awhile:

The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle offers free boat rides every Sunday from 2-3 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made in person only at the Center’s front desk.

Also Sundays, starting at 1 p.m., visitors are invited to work on a 37-foot log canoe with Sāādūūts, CWB’s Artist-in-Residence and a Master Haida carver. Participation is open to all and is also free.

There’s no need to worry that you’ll be bored if you come early to reserve your space; besides carving, there are numerous boats at the Maritime Heritage Museum for you to explore. The Museum opens at 10 a.m. everyday and admission is free.

The Center is easily accessible by public transportation. Find all the information about getting there, times and other scheduled events here.

Thanks to Intelligent Travel for the tip!

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U.S. Divers Luggage TagU.S. Divers is offering a free luggage tag here. Enter your email address and another page will open; you can uncheck “subscribe” on the left side of the screen if you are not interested in receiving their newsletter.

Previous luggage tag freebie offers:

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Per yesterday’s post, I’m off in April for my first trip to Spain and have tied in time in gateway country England as well. That’ll be 4.5 days in London, .5 days passing through Valladolid to Madrid (unless someone argues I should spend more time there), 4 days in Madrid, 3.5 days in Barcelona, 3 days in Newquay, and .5 days hanging around Stansted . . .

I’m turning once again to you, my wise and experienced readers, for your advice on these destinations. Have a favorite budget tapas bar? Know of a secret gem of a museum? Been hiking on the coast and found the best place to stop for fish and chips? Successfully killed seven hours between flights at Stansted? I want to hear it all!

Best tip for each location wins a small prize and my undying gratitude. Leave your suggestions as comments below.

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If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ll let you in on today’s activity: RyanAir is advertising another of their “no taxes, no fees, no charges” sales. RyanAir Sale AdvertIncluded are flights for the month of April only. Tickets must be purchased by midnight tonight. The good news: despite the booking engine being overloaded and causing me to panic several times, I was able to make my six-leg booking and I’m headed to Spain! All told, this will come to under 30 euros. Being able to travel so inexpensively and quickly across Europe is why I love RyanAir. Compare to Deutsche Bahn, who can’t even get me anywhere in Germany for under 58 euros round-trip . . .

The bad news: RyanAir is busily charging me both taxes and fees on these flights. You can read the ad above as well as I can. On all previous “no fees” flights, that has included the so-called “handling fee” charged for using a debit or credit card (as if you had a choice). Before, my 1-cent itineraries have truly cost 1 cent. Not this time — make that 1.51 euros, with 1 cent for the flight and 1.50 euros for the charging of my debit card. That’s four legs of my six-leg trip: should have cost 4 cents, is costing 6.04 euros.

The other two legs are Berlin-London (Stansted) and back. Fare is 1 cent, taxes and fees are 9.99 euros. Should have cost 2 cents, is costing 23 euros.

So for the mathematically challenged, advertised price (and the price I’ve received multiple times in the exact same type of sale): 6 cents; RyanAir final price: 29.04 euros. It’s most certainly illegal advertising. But can you see why I’m disappointed?

It’s not just the money. I cost RyanAir far more then they overcharge me. (more…)

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. . . on St. Patrick’s Day. Put on a little green, have yourself a corned beef and drink a pint of Guinness. Or better yet, sit down this evening with a big bowl of popcorn and watch The Fugitive. (Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks of that movie on this holiday. Get the full story here.)

Last year I was in Dublin for St. Patty’s Day and was disappointed to report that the Liffey is no longer dyed green. If you want to see that, you’ll have to make like Richard Kimble and head for Chicago!

For those readers who’ve commented that learning certain key phrases in the language makes traveling easier and helps smooth relations with the locals, here’s one you can practice before your next trip to Ireland:

When Irish Arse Are Smiling

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

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