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Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

From the producer of our poorly-orchestrated increased airline security measures (“Only Terrorists Carry 200 ml of Toothpaste”) and the creator of the color-based national security threat chart (“Like Clockwork, Orange!”), a new move certain to alienate our closest friends and allies:  starting January 12, 2009, all travelers to the U.S. who travel without visa restrictions (15 million people annually) will now be required to register themselves and their travel plans online at least 72 hours prior to travel or be denied boarding on their chosen air or sea carrier.

Just whom does this affect?  Try Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.  (In the near future, our friends from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and South Korea too.)

What hasn’t changed?  This is the same information the U.S. government has always collected from these travelers on a form passed out by each carrier prior to arrival and turned in to border agents.  The digital information will be kept just as long as the paper version:  an unbelievable 75 years!  Canadians and Mexicans are not affected by this regulation, nor are those arriving by car, foot, bus or bicycle.

What has changed?  The information can be submitted ONLY via internet.  Travelers must provide this information no later than 72 hours in advance of their departure or will be denied boarding.  Those denied visa-free waivers will be notified prior to arrival on U.S. soil that they will not be granted admission and directed to apply for visas.  While currently free, the government is reserving the right to charge for this “service”!

What’s improved?  If your passport details don’t change, your ESTA travel authorization remains valid for two years and for multiple entries into the U.S., meaning frequent travelers will in fact have less paperwork.  If you were going to be denied visa-free entry, you would find out ahead of time, allowing you to apply for a visa prior to travel.

What’s still unclear?  Who exactly is responsible for filing the information:  you or your ticket agent?  What happens for last-minute travelers?  How will airlines know who’s filed and who hasn’t?  Will the EU approve the measure following its examination of the related treaties of its member states? And might they seriously start charging to finance the change?

Reactions, not surprisingly, have been negative.

New Zealand Herald:  Travel Agents Association New Zealand president Peter Barlow said travellers to Europe increasingly chose to travel via Asia because of the US’s “extreme” stance on security.  “This is just another compelling reason to not go via the States.”

Washington Post:  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, said the effort “contributes to an atmosphere of general distrust” fostered by American security measures. “Transatlantic cooperation between the intelligence services is the only way forward, not the massive collection of data in general,” she said.

Australia is the only other country which has a similar program in place for visa-free travel.  They currently charge $20 AUD for running the check.

Interesting factoid (from Business Standard):  the program was to be called ETA [Electronic Travel Authorization] but became ESTA instead after Spanish officials expressed reservations because of the Basque separatist group also known as ETA.

Thanks to Dana for the tip!

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Want to fly overseas in the next year? Here’s a quick calculation of what you’d have to save over the next 12 months to pay for your flights:

$2000+ = plane tickets between U.S. and Australia/New Zealand

  • At the lower end, this works out to $5.55/day, $38.89/week, $166.67/month.

$1500 = plane tickets between U.S. and Africa, really unlucky peak season fliers between U.S. and Europe

  • This works out to $4.17/day, $29.17/week, $125/month.

$1200 = peak season (Easter-September, Christmas-New Year’s) plane tickets between U.S. and Europe, U.S. and Asia

  • This works out to $3.33/day, $25/week, $100/month.

$800 = off-season plane tickets to the above

  • This works out to $2.22/day, $15.55/week, $66.67/month. At $100/month, you’ll have finished in eight months rather than 12.

$600 = plane tickets between U.S. and Central/South America

  • Over 12 months, $1.79/day, $12.50/week, $50/month. At $100/month, you’ll have finished in six months rather than 12.

Through the cheapo’s eyes, we see:

+ Plane tickets will be the shoestring traveler’s largest single expense. Therefore it pays to shop around: changes to airlines, itineraries, days of the week can shave off hundreds of dollars. Sign up for email notification of sales. Know what a bargain price is and when to jump on it!

+ Travel more often by traveling off-peak. Summer in Europe is nice, but is it four months of saving nicer than fall? Put another way, in five years of $100/month travel savings, you can experience 5 European summers or 7 European falls, winters or springs. Wouldn’t you rather take two more trips for the same amount of money?

+ Consider other travel destinations. Keep saving and you will someday get to London. In the meanwhile, you can visit Costa Rica *and* Peru for the same airfare (and your money will go further on the ground as well). Don’t be afraid to try unusual destinations you can afford; embrace the fare as guide!

Tune in tomorrow for the Friday Freebie. Saturday’s post, Saving for Plane Tickets, Part Two, will outline creative ways to put travel savings in perspective to get you socking money away without excessive deprivation.

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Travel on a Shoestring Carnival. It’s been a good long while since our last carnival, so instead of trying to catch each carnival up individually, we will throw them all together (hopefully resetting the BlogCarnival listings) and hold the very first SUPERCARNIVAL. In this adventure, we’ll circle the entire globe twice in search of the best posts on travel for those without a lot of money to spend. So without further ado . . .

If you’re looking for a quick spin, try on these first 15 16 posts for size!

Let us start down under, where The Frugal Travel Mum presents A Frugal Guide to Melbourne, a must-read for first-time visitors to the city.

Heading up to China, Joyce Hor-Chung Lau takes us on a hilarious tour of snack stands and popular, low-end cuisine in What in God’s Name is That? Hong Kong Street Food, Part 1 and Part 2 and (update!) Part 3 at IHT Globespotters Blog.

Across the Pacific, Tim Leffel over at Cheapest Destinations is pushing the idea that Central and South America are where weak-dollar travelers will find the greatest bang for their buck. His recent posts on Cheap Fares to Latin America and Prices in Honduras (divide those in the photo by 19 for dollar equivalencies!) certainly have me convinced!

With all the talk of summer gas prices and higher airfares, there is certainly pressure for U.S. consumers to narrow their travel horizons this year. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a wealth of fun, interesting and cheap destinations in your backyard. No matter what corner of the U.S. you’re looking to explore, you’ll find inspiration from the following authors:

Hopping the Atlantic, we find advice from Christine on enjoying Barcelona on 10 Euro Per Day For Two People posted at Me, My Kid and Life: An American Single Mom Living in France.

Pam Kent explains how to see world-class performances in Britain for free in Get Outdoors this Summer in England at IHT Globespotters Blog.

Kristen Gunderson presents a collection of delightful and often-overlooked small museums in the French capital in Paris House Museums posted at Intelligent Travel.

Have you gotten your feet wet? There are even more quality posts after the jump!

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IMD ticketToday is International Museum Day and thousands of museums around the world will take part by offering free entrance or special events this weekend only.

You can find a partial list of participating countries and museums here. If you don’t see your museum of choice listed, don’t fret — give them a call and find out if they too have something on.

If you don’t already have plans for this Sunday, treat yourself and your loved ones to a little backyard tourism in support of museums at home and abroad!

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Welcome to the fourth Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for Asia, Oz. Here you’ll find Asian, Australian, New Zealand and Oceania travel tips for those without a lot of money to spend.

Sculpture by the SeaPhotographic inspiration this week is courtesy of Karen Castle. Her image of Niall David Begley’s Swaanen is from the annual Sculpture by the Sea event in Perth, Australia. This year’s sculptures are on display at Cottesloe Beach until March 18. Check all the details here.

I found this event, tomorrow’s Mends Street Carnivale and many, many others listed at EnjoyPerth. Simone takes care to mention which events are free and provides a useful resource for visitors and residents alike.

Fig and Cherry‘s got the scoop on good eats, if you’re looking for falafel in Sydney or fish and chips on the NSW shoreline.

I was intrigued by Pickled Eel‘s post on a forlorn and forgotten cemetery in the shadow of a Sydney highway, I Fell in Love with a Cemetery. A fan of cemeteries myself, I will often spend a quiet afternoon admiring gravestones while traveling.

If a downunder perspective is missing from your current list of reads, you can find these three and many other Aussie bloggers at the Aussie Bloggers Forum.

On to the Asian mainland . . . First up is Pam Mandel at Nerd’s Eye View and her recent series of posts from her trip to SE Asia. She recommends you read “about the swirl and crazy that’s Hanoi” in her post Hanoi Slideshow. I enjoyed the ones about high-impact tourism, gaping at monks, dealing with difficult historical sites and how to be prepared for Angkor freakin’ Wat. You’re sure to find something good, so click over and start reading.

Daisann McLane writing at Globespotters has two articles of interest. First up: if you missed the Berlinale, try Electric Shadows: Hong Kong’s World-Class Film Festival, which gets underway on March 17 and runs through April 6. Second is her description of Tea and Treasure in Taipei’s National Palace Museum, which she touts as “the best collection of Chinese art anywhere. . . . rich and deep and painstakingly curated.” If you’re the type (like me) who can lose yourself for hours in the silver collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, this sounds like a museum to remember.

Oddly enough, Marilyn Terrell at Intelligent Travel passed along their recent story Found in Translation, which profiles the author of the previous two articles (when not writing for the International Herald Tribune, apparently she moonlights for National Geographic!) and her meeting with her Chinese alter ego. That coincidence was simply too cool to ignore . . .

Ending on a high note, listen to Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler and his next post in the series “Island countries you’ve never been to starting with M” as he takes you to Micronesia.

Thanks to everyone for participating. Submit your blog article (or encourage your favorite travel bloggers to submit) to the next edition of Travel on a Shoestring: Asia, Oz using the carnival submission form. Next week this time we travel to South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Antartica. You can still submit your posts to that carnival till Wednesday.

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While passing through the “Czech Republic,” I picked up a flier (similar to this one) targeted at German tourists on breweries in the Plzen region. (If you’re a beer drinker, you are certainly familiar with the anglicized name of their traditional beer, pilsener.) While the vast majority of beer consumed is today produced by one of a handful of multinational corporations, there is nevertheless an increasing interest in local or microbrews as well as specialty beers from breweries around the globe. Countries such as Belgium or the Czech Republic are now attempting to cash in on the growing cache of their products by putting together multi-day beer-tasting tours, with busloads of tourists hopping (pun intended) from brewery to brewery across the (comparatively small) countryside.

Thankfully, beer remains every man’s drink and breweries are plentiful, so there’s no need to join a bus tour to enjoy an afternoon of beer tasting or even a brewery tour at home or on the road. Find my links for planning your own beer tourism after the jump.

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Welcome to the third Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for Asia, Oz. Here you’ll find Asian, Australian, New Zealand and Oceania travel tips for those without a lot of money to spend.

sleeping backpackerMarilyn Terrell of Intelligent Travel sent in the post Walking Taiwan. It features the blog of D.C.-resident Jeff Chen, who spent his Christmas break walking the length of Taiwan, meeting people and discovering his ethnic heritage. (The photo illustrates what can happen if you don’t pick your camping spots carefully. . .)

I believe this quotation from Jeff’s post captures why the no-budget traveler often chooses to walk when s/he could fly:

The thing about walking is that it’s accessible to most people across the world and it really helps you understand the land. People take note of what you’re doing and ask questions. Questions turn into conversations, and then there’s an exchange of cultural information that’s priceless. For the world to meet one another is an endless opportunity of both inner and outer exploration. It’s that simple.

You can find all of Jeff’s adventures at A Walk (and a car-ride) on my Ethnic Lines.

The rest of this week’s picks are after the jump.

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