Monday, January 29, 2007

Travel Advisories and Travel Advice

Travel industry information may change unexpectedly, and at any time, so check what your own government sources (usually it's under Foreign Affairs, Trade, etc) have to say about travel the place where you are headed.

Canada :: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada Advisories and Country Reports

United States :: U.S. Department of State Internantional Travel Information

United Kingdom :: Foreign and Consular Affairs

Australia :: Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

While you're checking out the advisories, have a look around the site for links to detailed country information. Checked your own country? Then why not have a look at what other governments think, too!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chinese New Year 2007 :: Year of the Pig (Boar)

At last, my year has come along in the Chinese Zodiac. Only once every 12 years, so it's been a while, and I for one am ready for the Year of the Pig on February 18, 2007. New Year celebrations are huge in Asia, especially in Hong Kong. It’s a festival full of ancient traditions and cultures combined with stunning lighting effects and fireworks that runs from February 12 to 28. Residents and visitors alike celebrate with special foods, flowers, shopping, lights, a fabulous parade and a spectacular fireworks display. Sure wish I could be there.
If you are planning to travel to Asia at this time, expect busy airports and fully booked hotels, so get your reservations early.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Canada to Australia QANTAS Air Pass Sale To January 31, 2007

If you're toying with the idea of a trip Down Under, you may want to spend a happy hour or two trolling around the QANTAS and Virgin Blue web sites. But move sharpish -- the QANTAS Air Pass sale is on only until January 31, 2007. (U.S and U.K. and other travelers, check out the web site for special deals for you, too.)

The air pass basically gives you options to travel within Australia according to zones -- numbered 1, 2, or 3, depending on distance. I have yet to see Perth, so that's high on my list for my next trip. Perth is in Zone 3. The basic air pass is $300 more for travel from Toronto (YYZ) via Vancouver (YVR), so instead of Vancouver's $1,499, it starts at $1,799 (taxes NOT included here). That gets me to Zone 1 destinations -- Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, etc. or about $2,000 CAD all told. For Perth (and Cairns, where I've been before) and others, it's $2,699 plus taxes. I'll bet it would cost just around $3,000 CAD, all told, according to this QANTAS page for Feb-March departures.

So I thought to check Virgin Blue for round trip prices from Sydney to Perth :: $458 AUD Tax Included (which is even lower by a few dollars when converted to CAD). Unless I decide to go to other Zone 3 destinations, then on the surface, it's cheaper for me to travel international to Sydney and domestic on Virgin Blue. (When I flew Virgin Blue from Cairns to Sydney a few years ago, and hit a seat sale - the fare one way was only $160 CAD. If you go Virgin Blue, be aware it's pretty bare bones. They wouldn't even hand out water for free.)

If all this is doing your head in like it is mine, set aside an hour or two to map out various itinerary options before booking. Use a calendar to mark the travel dates. Remember to add a day or so (depending on when your flight leaves North America) for crossing the International Date Line. Be realistic about the time needed for inter-city travel. See how many Australia cities you can reasonably visit in the total time you have to travel. For example, Sydney to Perth is roughly a 5-hour flight.

While you're on the QANTAS site, check out this page for allowable carry-ons, etc.

While I was looking around the QANTAS home page, I noticed there's a contest on right now to win a flight to Sydney and ticket to a show, so of course, I entered. If I win, I won't have to worry about sorting out all these fares.

( Show of Hands! Who knows what QANTAS stands for?)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Passports to Enter United States Update

In a previous post, I listed some links about passport requirements for air travel from Canada to the United States effective January 23, 2007. (The date for needing a passport to enter the U.S. by road is yet to be definitively established, as soon as January 2008, or as late as July 2009, depending on which politician or media outlet is discussing it.) UPDATE August 2008 -- See new date for passport post.

For Canadians, there is another option :: Frequent travellers can apply for the NEXUS Air Card for use at designated airports (most major airports across Canada will be added to the list).

Here are some useful sites for travel and passport information for Canadians :: Passport Canada and the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Take a Hike for Valentine's Day in Powell River B.C. (Canada)

From the lovely and talented romantics who handle tourism at Vancouver Coast and Mountains (VCMBC.com) comes this intriguing suggestion for celebrating Valentine's Day (February 14): Take a Hike! Not just any old hike, but a hike along the appropriately named Valentine Mountain Trail.

Located in
Powell River on the Sunshine Coast, it's waiting for you to come and hike it. The short (0.6 km/0.4 mi) trail offers views of Mowat Bay, Cranberry Lake and Powell Lake, and all the surrounding islands. Not only will you see beautiful plant life, and possibly small wildlife along the way, but, if you bring your “Valentine" you might be able to share a kiss in the forest in a true tribute to Valentine’s day! See discoverpowellriver for more information.

Well, this winter, in those parts, the 'weather outside's been frightful . . ." But hopefully in a month, it will be back to being its usual sunny self. Have a look at some of my summertime photos at Snapshot Journeys Canada. This entire area is a very fine place to go sailing, biking, sightseeing or hiking and more. Do yourself a favor: If you can't make it for Valentine's Day, make it another day. You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Buenos Aires Argentina :: Wish I Were There Now

That's the trouble with my spending a few days focused in getting my travel photos online :: I become so absorbed in fact checking, and poring over my notebook, and remembering the moment when I took the photos, that I feel like I've been on the trip all over again.

It's sometimes a bit of a shock when I look around and find I am still in Mississauga, on a cloudy grey winter day. After all, I've been walking around Recoleta in Buenos Aires in the summertime sun, drinking great coffee and eating good barbecue with the gauchos!

And what's more upsetting is that I realize how many museums and shops and parks and cathedrals and so on that I didn't have time to explore, and I want to go back instead of just looking at my photos.

When someone asks me my favorite place, I usually say, without hesitation, "Hong Kong." But O! Argentina, and (Chile, and Uruguay), you are all tied for a very close Second Place.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

From Borneo To Uruguay in Two Days!

With this week's lull after New Year's, I've been busy scanning photos. I'd been so busy with other work these past few months, I hadn't had a chance to do any until now. Yesterday, when I was scanning my Buenos Aires photos (the last of the Argentina ones) and Uruguay photos, I felt like I was reliving that trip: Tango, gauchos, Rio de la Plata ferry rides and the wonderful Montevideo, and Punta del Este (photo)! And I have a terrific yearning for a great steak. Today, I was 'in Borneo' again: Sandakan and Turtle Island, the orang utans at Sepilok, the trails at Mt. Kinabalu and the canopy walk at Poring Hot Springs. Frankly, I'm exhausted. I feel as if I've been hiking and snorkeling and sightseeing for two days. Tomorrow, I will do my Sarawak photos and the bat caves at Mulu Park. Then, if all stays quiet on the freelance front for a few more days, I should be able to get the photos published on the web site. Stay tuned.