If you plan to spend your vacation in Thailand, it is probably a good idea to use paper and plastic while you are there.Since I am a regular visitor to the land of smiles, I usually have a few thousand Baht left from my previous trip. Along with that I will also bring about 500 US dollars in cash to see me through the first few days. Dont exchange currency in your home country.I have stopped using traveler's checks for a couple of reasons. I dont have a local bank account; I do all of my banking online. So, if I want to get traveler's checks, I have to pay a fee. Then I will have to pay a small fee to cash the checks at the bank. I also dont like being restricted to accessing funds only when the banks are open.I would never cash a traveler's check at a hotel because of the terrible rate of exchange they give. Unless you get the checks for free, I wouldnt use them at all.Using your credit card in Thailand is very risky. Even at the finest of hotels, the local staff is not paid much at all. It is very easy to skim and clone your "credit card" . It may not get used for months since the bad guys will wait until you get back home before they use it.If you must use your credit card, keep an eagle eye on it. Dont let it out of your site. Dont let the hotel desk clerk take it to the back room. Dont let the waitress take it back to the cashier. Dont use it unless you absolutely have no other means of funds.Using a debit card with an ATM machine is the easiest and most convenient way to acquire the local currency. I use a separate account and transfer the funds to it a week or two before I go to Thailand. That way, I know exactly how much I have available when I arrive.ATM machines are located about every 10 feet in Thailand and are even available in the smallest of cities throughout the country. You will get a good exchange rate and you can access them 24 hours per day.You still need to be careful with ATM machines because bad guys are everywhere. I try to use the ATMs that are in a foyer or inside of a mall. If you access one on a small, dimly lit street at two in the morning, you are definitely risking your money and your life.If you intend to do any online banking, do not access your account using any of the internet cafes. You never know what software is on those computers or whether someone has installed a keystroke logger to steal your password. Using your own laptop will be as secure as it is at home. It is best to complete as much of your online financial transactions before you go, just to be safe.So, you should use a combination of paper and plastic on your Thailand vacation. Bring some of your home currency to cover you during your first couple of days. You can exchange this at the Thai airport at any of the currency exchange booths. If you dont want to carry that much cash, you can always use your debit card at the airport ATM machines.For your day to day funds, I would again use the ATM machines. Do this during the day for additional security and make sure that you keep your plastic locked up in the safe along with your passport, plane ticket and any other valuables.Remember to only carry as much cash as you will need for your day or night activity and the rest in the safe. You can always go back to your room if you need additional funds.If you have any Baht left over at the end of your trip, you can exchange it at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, or keep it stashed away for your next Thailand holiday.
Sitting round the dinner table one night , after a few bottles of Chianti with some old friends, most of whom had spent time as European tour guides and backpackers, I asked them to name the best thing to see or do while staying in Italy. There was a lot of loud discussion as some tried to praise the less obvious things over the more mainstream, but there were also plenty of unanimous agreement for others. In no particular order may I present to you the top 20 things to do in Italy as decided by my mates. 1.Nun Watching in Piazza San Pietro There is something serene about watching a line of Nuns on tour, especially on specific Saints days, taking photos of the faade of St Peters or trailing behind each other inside the huge basilica. They are only out numbered by the pigeons, which parents ,who hate their children, encourage to sit on their offsprings head in hopes they will pick them up and fly away, perhaps dropping them somewhere over the Forum. 2.Eating Gelati 3 times a day This is mandatory for anyone travelling during the months of June, July and August. How the Italians get it so creamy, tasty and dribbly is beyond me but you never feel full. Its the best thing after a long hot day queuing up for hours to see all those magnificent artworks. It is made with totally natural ingredients and everybody claims to have the best gelato shop in Italy, which is believable, but some even go further, experimenting in odd flavours like tomato and believe it or not basil. 3.Holding up the leaning tower of Pisa Youve all seen it. The obligatory photo of someone and their mates holding up the Leaning tower, either with one finger or both hands. Probably the next best thing to climbing it, which is all anyone goes to Pisa to do. And holding it up is about the cheapest thing there. 4.Dodging Cars in Rome After sky diving in Switzerland and a taxi ride in the Czech republic this probably the most adrenaline packed activity you can do in Europe. To cross the road you must keep walking, make sure you keep eye contact with any oncoming driver like a bullfighter and keep moving. The cars and bikes will come very close, never actually touching you, so long as you keep going. 5.Parking on a Kerb Everyone else does it. 6.Singing a Duet with a Gondolier He may not be the next Pavarotti but your gondolier should have a pretty good voice. They know all the old favourites and it makes the experience all the more authentic. They usually ask for a bit extra for the service on top of the hire fee. The most favoured time is around dusk as the lights are coming on making the reflections in the water add to the atmosphere. 7.Hanging out with the Pope on Wednesday Tourists, Nuns, Priests, locals and pigeons flock to Piazza San Pietro for the weekly address from his holiness Pope Benedict XVI at around 10am. Afterwards you can check out the inside of the Basilica and the crypt where St Peters remains are kept. 8.Checking out Davids Ae You could line up and pay to see the original inside the Accademia, where it was shifted at the end of the 1800s to protect it from vandals and the elements. Or you could examine his copy up close in Piazza Signoria for free, or you could climb the hill above the Ponte Vecchio to see the bronze version standing in Piazza Michelangelo. Or you could see all 3 and make a comparison. 9.Drinking wine and watching the sunset in Cinque Terre There is something quite unique about sitting on the rocks next to where the fishing boats pull up, lanterns bobbing along the wires around the cove in the sea breeze, listening to a guy practising his baritone opera through an open window, watching the sun sinking over the horizon sipping on a locally made red after eating home made pasta and pesto sauce. Perfect. 10.Eating Pizza in Napoli Home of the Margherita pizza. A famous local pizza maker Rafaelle Espositi heard the Queen of Naples was interested in trying a pizza so he made a patriotic one using basil, tomato and mozzarella for the colours of the Italian flag. She liked it so much she gave her name to it. To be enjoyed while observing the kamikaze scooters and cars going hell for leather down the narrow streets. 11.Cliff Diving in Sorrento Not for the faint hearted. Locals, generally boys, scramble up the steep cliffs to leap off dropping tens of metres into the big blue beneath. If that is way too over the top you could always take a mask and snorkel and wait around underneath. 12.Calling your mum from the top of the Venice Campanile Believe it or not there is a public pay phone at the top of the campanile so you can make that all important call to your mum, or maybe order a pizza for dinner. 13.Wine Tasting in Chianti There is a theory that the word Chianti comes from the old Etruscan word for water Clante, which is an obvious connection to make if you drink a lot of Chianti. The stringent production standards set by the Consortium means the quality of all types of the wine is consistent and its hard to find a bad one. 14.Tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain But dont go swimming unless you want to pay a huge fine. One coin means you return to Rome, two coins means you return and get kissed and three coins means you return and get married. All the money gets swept up regularly and given to charity. The authorities also dont take kindly to anyone stealing from the fountain. Put the coin(s) in your right hand and throw over your left shoulder. Its something fun to do with the change from your third gelato. 15.Visiting the Sistine Chapel If you survive the 3km walk through the rather opulent Papal Rooms of the Vatican Museum you will be rewarded with the sensational view of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Created in situ by Michelangelo, he often painted freehand straight onto the wet plaster, through belligerent Papal outbursts, financial difficulties, staffing problems, slipping foundations, wars and finally completed after 4 years in 1512. Take mini field glasses and some sort of key to each fresco. The noise of everyone whispering is only drowned out by the guard bellowing silencio every so often. And dont sit on the steps. 16.Walking the planks in a flooded Venice One of the more original experiences when visiting this watery city. Winter rains flood the lagoon and when the tide is in the level can rise to your knees. Practical locals have come up with the solution in the form of raised platforms so you can walk the planks around Piazza San Marco without getting your toes wet. Or you could invest in some stylish rubber booties. 17.Getting Grappa-ed ( drink too much Grappa) Every country has its fire water. In Russia and Poland its vodka, in Mexico its Tequila, in Czech its the Absinthe and in Italy its Grappa. Distilled from the leftovers from pressing the grapes for wine, all the pips, skins and stalks, it is usually drunk at the end of a meal after the espresso. The first shot takes care of any sensation in your throat and the second and third take care of the rest of the nervous system. 18.Buying a Ferrari hat After football, the Pope and their own mother comes the nations almost religious following of that little red car from Maranello. Most Italian drivers appear to fancy themselves as the next Schumacher along the autostrada, including the truck drivers, but you have to admit the car is cool. 19.Riding a scooter in Tuscany Winding country roads between rolling green hills, vine rows neatly slicing down the hillsides, wild flowers in the fields and those tall cypress trees lining the driveway to a mediaeval villa. All that fresh air and the chance to take life at the local pace while unpacking a tasty picnic in some farmers field. 20.Finishing a Bistecca alla Fiorentina ( T bone Steak) The resurrection of the Florentines favourite steak made national headlines. The local celebrity butcher from Panzano, Dario Cecchini had held a public funeral and memorial service when the EU banned the sale of beef on the bone products after the mad cow scare a few years back. Now its back and everyone is celebrating. Just make sure youre really hungry for this one as it is huge. The general consensus was that these were all the things that should be done during a trip to Italy, along with all the usual art and history things of course, in order that you get the most out of the trip.
Despite rising travel costs, global circumnavigation continues to be a lifetime dream for many Americans. In fact, according to a 2004 National Geographic Traveler/Yahoo Travel poll, two out of three people voted a round-the-world (RTW) trip as the "ultimate travel experience." RTW travel includes stopping in at least three regions and traveling in one direction without backtracking. From college graduates looking for one last adventure before hitting the workforce to families and retired individuals looking to expand their horizons, RTW travel has broad appeal. All you need is some time off and a strong desire to meet new people, learn about other cultures and discover more about yourself. Whether you're currently planning a RTW voyage or are one of the many Americans dreaming of seeing the world some day, below are a few tips for making the journey hassle-free:• Hit the Web to design your dream route. With so many potential places to visit, deciding where to go can be challenging. Luckily, there is a wealth of resources available online to help. A good place to start is perpetualtravel.com, where you'll find a good "RTW 101" travel guide. For a more comprehensive search, check out BootsnAll.com, a leading online RTW resource for independent travelers, offering everything from practical advice and travel deals to inspiration for first-time travelers.• Travel against the clock and arrive at night to fight jet lag. When traveling around the world, you can go clockwise or counterclockwise. Word from the wise-head counterclockwise. Doing so helps alleviate jet lag by tacking on additional hours to the day, ensuring that you'll be better rested to enjoy your journey. Additionally, try to schedule flights that arrive after 8 p.m. local time. People tend to be exhausted when they get off a plane, so you'll be more likely to sleep. • Make sure your fare is fair. When gauging costs, keep in mind that an average 29,000-mile ticket in economy class should cost approximately $0.10 per mile. That means an average fare should run anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000.• Know what you're getting. Traveling via airline alliance partners is the most convenient way to book. However, with multiple carriers for each leg of the trip, you never really know what you're going to get. The good news is that as of October, Air New Zealand will be the only airline to offer RTW service exclusively on its own planes. Not only will the new service provide globe-trotters with RTW travel options at affordable prices, but also ensure they will enjoy consistent quality along the way.• When packing, less is more. Believe it or not, as a general rule of thumb, the longer the trip, the less you should pack. In fact, many travel guides suggest making a list of everything you need and cutting it in half. Bring the basics, including mix-and-match clothes you can layer, and plan on picking things up along the way as you need them. Packing only the necessities will also save room for souvenirs and purchases you accumulate on the journey.
Most people living in large populated urban cities across the world will agree that our roads resemble a war ground. With growing traffic and limited road space traffic congestion in major cities of the world is a matter of great concern. While governments are doing what is in their power by improving public transport infrastructure i.e incorporating mass transit transport and fine tuning the existing network, commuters also need to take an initiative. Indimoto.com an Indian website has taken the initiative for spreading awareness about carpools and its benefits. Indimoto.com is Indias first carpool matching site and is a major success among commuters there. Indimoto.com is also a free to use service.According to the founder & CEO of Indimoto.com Mr. Udit Bhandari, carpools help in many ways including:1.Save Money: Carpoolers can share the fuel, parking and vehicle maintenance expenses.2.Save the Environment: By sharing a vehicle emissions of harmful gases are controlled and less fuel is burnt.3.Reduce Traffic Congestion: Its simple when users share their vehicles and travel together there will be a decline in the number of vehicle on the road leading to faster movement.4.Promote Community Living: Carpools help people in meeting new people and encourages the spirit of community and sharing ones resources for the benefit of all.Indimoto.com want to make carpools a habit among commuters in India and also wants to replicate this in other developing countries which till now are not aware or dont have a system in place for efficient carpooling. The site enables users to search for or post carpool ads for free and the search can be done based on city and other parameters for getting exact matches. Carpools are a win win situation for all and sites like Indimoto.com are helping users in India get the perfect match.
The duty-free exemption, also called the personal exemption, is the total value of merchandise you may bring back to the United States without having to pay duty. You may bring back more than your exemption, but you will have to pay duty on it. In most cases, the personal exemption is $800, but there are some exceptions to this rule, which are explained below.ExemptionsDepending on the countries you have visited, your personal exemption will be $200, $800, or $1,600. There are limits on the amount of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products you may include in your duty-free personal exemption. The differences are explained in the following section.The "duty-free exemption" s ($200, $800, or $1,600) apply if:The items are for your personal or household use or intended to be given as gifts.They are in your possession, that is, they accompany you when you return to the United States. Items to be sent later may not be included in your $800 duty-free exemption. (Exceptions apply for goods sent from Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands.)They are declared to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If you do not declare something that should have been declared, you risk forfeiting it. If in doubt, declare it.You are returning from an overseas stay of at least 48 hours. For example, if you leave the United States at 1:30 p.m. on June 1, you would complete the 48-hour period at 1:30 p.m. on June 3. This time limit does not apply if you are returning from Mexico or from the U.S. Virgin Islands.You have not used all of your exemption allowance, or used any part of it, in the past 30 daysfor example, if you go to England and bring back $150 worth of itemsyou must wait another 30 days before you are allowed another $800 exemption. The items are not prohibited or restricted as discussed in the section on Prohibited and Restricted Items. Note the embargo prohibitions on products of Cuba.Joint DeclarationFamily members who live in the same home and return together to the United States may combine their personal exemptions. This is called a joint declaration. For example, if Mr. and Mrs. Smith travel overseas and Mrs. Smith brings home a $1,000 piece of glassware, and Mr. Smith buys $600 worth of clothing, they can combine their individual $800 exemptions on a joint declaration and not have to pay duty. Children and infants are allowed the same exemption as adults, except for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.Types of Exemptions$200 ExemptionIf you cannot claim other exemptions because:you have been out of the country more than once in a 30-day period or becauseyou have not been out of the country for at least 48 hours,you may still bring back $200 worth of items free of duty and tax. As discussed earlier, these items must be for your personal or household use. If you bring back more than $200 worth of dutiable items, or if any item is subject to duty or tax, the entire amount will be dutiable. For instance, you were out of the country for 36 hours and came back with a $300 piece of pottery. You could not deduct $200 from its value and pay duty on $100. The pottery would be dutiable for the full value of $300.You may include with the $200 exemption your choice of the following: 50 cigarettes and 10 cigars and 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages or 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of perfume containing alcohol. Note that unlike other exemptions, family members may not combine their individual $200 exemptions. Thus, if Mr. and Mrs. Smith spend a night in Canada, each may bring back up to $200 worth of goods, but they would not be allowed a collective family exemption of $400.Also, duty on items you mail home to yourself will be waived if the value is $200 or less. $800 ExemptionIf you are arriving from anywhere other than a U.S. insular possession (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam) you may bring back $800 worth of items duty free, as long as you bring them with you. This is called accompanied baggage. For Caribbean Basin or Andean countries, your exemption is also $800.You may include two liters of alcoholic beverages with this $800 exemption, as long as one of the liters was produced in one of the countries listed above.Depending on what items youre bringing back from your trip, you could come home with more than $800 worth of gifts or purchases and still not be charged duty. For instance, say you received a $700 bracelet as a gift, and you bought a $40 hat and a $60 color print. Because these items total $800, you would not be charged duty, since you have not exceeded your duty-free exemption. If you had also bought a $500 painting on that trip, you could bring all $1300 worth of merchandise home without having to pay duty, because fine art is duty-free. $1,600 ExemptionIf you return directly or indirectly from a U.S. "insular possession" (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam), you are allowed a $1,600 duty-free exemption. If you travel to a U.S. insular possession and to one or more of the Caribbean Basin or Andean countries listed above, lets say on a Caribbean cruise, you may bring back $1,600 worth of items without paying duty, but only $800 worth of these items may come from the Caribbean Basin or Andean country(ies). Any amount beyond $800 will be dutiable unless you acquired it in one of the insular possessions. For example, if you were to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Jamaica, you would be allowed to bring back $1,600 worth of merchandise duty free, as long as only $800 worth was acquired in Jamaica. Also, you may include 1,000 cigarettes as part of the $1600 exemption, but at least 800 of them must have been acquired in an insular possession. Only 200 cigarettes may have been acquired elsewhere. For example, if you were touring the South Pacific and you stopped in Tahiti, American Samoa, and other ports of call, you could bring back five cartons of cigarettes, but four of them would have to have been bought in American Samoa.Similarly, you may include five liters of alcoholic beverages in your duty-free exemption, but one of them must be a product of an insular possession. Four may be products of other countries.