Travel Pointers.


Despite a severe downturn after the 2008 Great Recession, tourism is still vibrant, and millions of people travel.

While tourism statistics classify all, or almost all travellers as tourists as many as 25 per dent visit family, and technically, should not be counted as tourists.

Regardless, while travelling, inexperienced people make mistakes that cost them a lot of money, in some cases get arrested, encounter unpleasant police interrogation.

Here are a few pointers:

In all tourist-attracting countries there are tourist traps, which, depending on the individual, may be a place, or a sight, or a bar, or an overpriced restaurant or nightclub.

Some people consider Ponte Vecchio in Venice, or Harry’s Bar (also in Venice) a tourist trap.

The Niagara Falls is visited by millions of tourists. All take the “famous” Niagara Falls boat ride and if you do not get a protecting plastic overall you will be “soaked”

Grand Canyon in the U S A is also visited by millions of tourists, but the savvy ones choose experienced guides to enjoy most in the least time possible.

There are many impressive falls all over the world pending on what you consider as impressive. Some go by height, others by width, yet others by the amount of water that flows over cliffs, and a few evaluate a fall by its setting and beauty.

To some, The Spanish Steps in Rome are awesome; to others they are just a few steps in the “eternal” city. I was not impressed, but nearby, The Trevi Fountain is impressive without the crowds around it.

To some, Venice, as destination, is a rip-off, and surely everything is very expensive, as all goods must be transported by either boasts, and or on foot, to retailers and restaurants.

In Hamburg, the Reeperbahn is famous for its “lively” nightlife. The truth is it consists of all kinds of drinking establishments, once frequented by free-spending sailors. There is not much to excite anyone in Reeperbahn other than overpriced beer and cocktails.

So, beware of highly advertised and recommended cities or establishments to tourist sights.

On planes with 3-4-3 seating arrangements, book an aisle seat.

Whenever there is an accident during a cruise the affected company will offer incredibly attractive deals. Take advantage and know that the management will take every precaution to make the trip a success.

Off-season or shoulder-season travelling is always less expensive, and all destinations are less crowded.

If you want a less expensive week-end-travel try a big city that attracts millions of business people during the week (New York comes to mind, or fort hat matter Toronto).

Currencies fluctuate. Take advantage when the currency of a country is down,

Fly from less busy airports near to very busy ones. Stansted airport in London is less expensive than Heathrow, and Hamilton International Airport in Ontario much less expensive than Pearson International in Toronto.

On cruises, a void a cruise company organized excursions, and with a few travelling companions hire a taxi.

Try to use “chip” credit cards rather than “conventional” credit cards. Chip credit cards are less prone to fraud.

Dress conservatively, especially in the Middle east, or when entering the Vatican (no shorts), and take off your shoes when entering a mosque.

If you book a bus tour, avoid, pyjama tours” driving from one city to another just to stay in a hotel, and east, at best, mediocre food, and not visiting sites.

Before booking, check the locations of hotels, where you will be staying. This is easy on the IT. Most inexpensive bus tours book accommodations far from downtown, and make sure a city tour is included in the price of the tour.

Optional excursions are always expensive, especially on cruises, and sprung on unsuspecting travellers by local guides or the head office of the travel company.

Many organized groups leaders organize “shopping days”. The objective is for you to buy a carpet, or jewellery, or precious stones, or local souvenirs at outrageous prices. Some of the money goes to the local guide as an “incentive”.

Buy a good guidebook (Lonely Planet publishes very informative, well organized, and written guides).

Seek, with caution, the advice of locals to understand how they think, and live.

These days, GPS (Global Positioning Systems) maps are offered by big petrol companies (Texaco, Esso Shell, BP, and others), but be advised that conventional maps are more accurate and reliable than GPS maps.

On most bus tours there are three types of guides – the director, the country- and city guide.

The tour director manages WC stops, departure and arrival times, handles accommodation and food complaints, and emergencies.

Country guides are sometimes imposed on bus tour companies by governments to extract more money or to control movements (as is the case in China, or almost all Middle Eastern countries with regard to military installations, Be very careful with taking photographs of military basis, or electricity plants, and other official buildings)

Then there are local city guides to provide relevant, and sometimes ”puff” commentary”, and information about sights.

In some countries guides may be certified and know everything about the city, in others any freelancer can do it.

These days, many museums offer, “recorded tours” that you can rent and listen to as you walk. Recorded commentary and sometimes TV on bus tours in certain cities are also offered.

Always research your itinerary well before booking or when travelling on your own.

If you speak an international language (English, French, German, Spanish and now increasingly Russian) you can plan your trip yourself, save a lot of money and enjoy what you like most rather than what organizers force on you!