21 September 2014

Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice 2014 Top Destination goes to ... Istanbul, Turkey

Users of the Tripadvisor website, which provides traveller reviews of all things travel related, have voted Istanbul in Turkey as their favourite holiday destination of 2014.

18 August 2014

New Holiday Destination: Austin, Texas, USA

Thanks to British Airways now flying to Austin five times a week from Heathrow, this Texan city is becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination.   In 2015, the number of people choosing to visit Austin may take off even more due to a new star-studded film from writer and director Terrence Malick.

23 July 2014

Using Bitcoin for Travel


With the announcement that travel company Expedia are accepting Bitcoin payments for hotel bookings from their US customers, some people have speculated that travel may be the perfect application for Bitcoins.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is an online software based payment system that is not attached to any particular currency or any single country.  It is used for peer-to-peer transactions and does not have a central repository like normal national currencies.  In fact, its status as a currency is disputed in some countries.

Why use Bitcoins?

The website, Coindesk, have suggested that Bitcoin could be very useful to people who frequently travel to a variety of destinations around the world because of the fact that it is not based upon any national currencies.  This means that it is not subject to politically based fluctuations in exchange rate and are not subject to the same bank fees as normal currency.  Banks and currency exchange companies charge fees at more than one stage of the currency exchange process and, for people who are travelling extensively, could really add up.  For people wanting to use credit cards instead, there are also additional fees.  Since the charges for exchanging Bitcoin is minimal, this could be a good option for frequent travellers.

Why not use Bitcoins?

While there are a number of good reasons to use Bitcoins, there are drawbacks.  The main one being that, although an increasing number of businesses are accepting Bitcoin payments, it is still not widely accepted as a form of payment.  Another issue, is that it can be very vulnerable to value variations due to market forces.  An example of this could be, if a number of large retailers decided to drop Bitcoin so the demand greatly reduced then the value could decrease dramatically.

In addition to the valuation concerns, people also worry about the reliance of Bitcoin on technology and the potential for technical glitches and money being lost through computers crashing, getting viruses, etc.  These concerns all together make people reluctant to use Bitcoins at the moment but there may be developments in the pipeline that make people more willing to give Bitcoins a try while travelling.

The Future of Bitcoins

A particularly promising development for world travellers using Bitcoins is the plan to expand the use of Bitcoin ATMs.  People already use ATMs across the globe to draw out local currency but, again, there is the concern of hefty bank charges and the fact that some cards are not accepted in some regions.  New Bitcoin ATMs could allow users to draw out local currency from their Bitcoin accounts without going through banks and without needing to use a card.  They are also planning for these machines to accept local currency and convert it back into Bitcoins.  Thus, avoiding bank charges and incompatibility issues with cards.


Therefore, it is likely in the future, that more and more world travellers will use Bitcoins as a cheaper and easier alternative to currency exchange but it is unlikely that this will become common practise in the next year or so.

09 June 2014

To Tip or Not to Tip


The customs for tipping vary greatly around the world.  The amount to tip, the frequency to tip and who to tip can change completely depending on where you are.

The USA and Canada

In these countries, it is widely accepted that you need to tip anyone in the service industry.  The average tip for a restaurant is around 15% of the bill but taxi drivers, hairdressers, bar staff and hotel porters will all expect tips too.

France and Germany

Tipping in restaurants is the norm in these countries with between 10 and 15% the usual amount to give. Taxi drivers are usually tipped in Germany but not in France.

Italy and Switzerland

Although tipping is not normally expected in these countries, restaurants often charge a service fee or 'cover charge' to make up for this.

Egypt

This is a big tipping nation as many people rely on tips to subsidise their wages.  Tour guides, hotel staff, restaurants and bars will all expect tips but not taxi drivers, apparently.

Singapore

Tipping is discouraged by the Singapore government but many restaurants charge a 10% service charge which is included in the bill.

China and Japan

Tipping just doesn't happen in these countries.  In Japan, it can cause offence and embarrassment if foreigners try to tip.  In China, it is government policy to charge foreigners more for things so tips are not required on top of that.


Australia and New Zealand

Staff here are generally paid well in restaurants and bars so tipping is not expected.

Apart from countries where tipping is considered offensive, it's a good idea to tip when in doubt as to whether it's the local custom or not.

23 May 2014

Travel Insurance: When Do You Need It Really?

If you want to have affordable medical care options while abroad, then that’s when you really need travel insurance.  Without it, you might find yourself forking out thousands of pounds out-of-pocket.

20 April 2014

Car Hire Costs ‘Double’ In The Summer

Car hire mark-ups during the summer season can easily break a family’s holiday budget. In Europe and, less so, in the United States, these prices nearly double in the summer between June and August, increasing up to 176 percent, according to the UK website, Which?.

24 March 2014

Qatar Airways Launches The First All-Business Class Flights From Heathrow

Qatar Airways will launch the first premium all-business class service from London’s Heathrow airport to its Doha hub, starting on May 15.

17 February 2014

World Travel Awards


Established in 1993 to recognize, reward and celebrate exceptional services in various sectors of the tourism industry, the World Travel Awards is a globally recognized brand, marking a high standard of quality to which all tourist service brands aspire.

15 January 2014

Airport Connect Renewed for 5 Years by Schipol Airport


The first European airport to provide passenger processing with SITA’s AirportConnect Open platform was Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, which has recently renewed their contract for another five years. The future-proof SITA technology includes SIM-based NFC, which allows efficiency in moving through airport checkpoints via a reliable and secure link to passengers’ smartphones. With a simple tap of the smartphone, the passenger information of a standard boarding pass is read via “Tap n’ Fly”TM, a commonly-used applet, and the industry standard for NFC.  

10 December 2013

Eurostar To Launch London-Amsterdam

Eurostar recently announced that it plans to launch a route from London to Amsterdam.  Though it still needs to be approved by the Dutch Parliament, if all goes well, the proposed service will begin operation in December 2016.