Sunday, February 18, 2007

Countries Where They Drive on the Left - List By Area

Here's a list of countries drive on the left hand side of the road. I know that England, Australia, and Hong Kong do, but can never remember some of the others.

This might also be considered a list of countries where you will never find me behind the wheel :-) as I am so used to driving on the right hand side of the road, I'd be dangerous!

Here's the list for handy reference for one and all:

Africa :: Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Americas :: Bermuda, Falklland Islands, Guyana, Suriname, St. Helena
Asia :: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, East Timor, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand
Caribbean :: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Iislands, U.S. Virgin Islands
Europe :: Cyprus, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta, United Kingdom
Oceania :: Australia, Christmas Island, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau,Tonga, Tuvalu

Please let me know of any other countries where they drive on the left, and I will add them to this list.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

How to Carry Travel Funds Safely and Not Run Short of Money

With many travelers getting ready for a mid-winter getaway, and Spring Break just around the corner, I thought it might be a good time to post an article I wrote a few months ago, about how to carry your money safely, and not run short, even if the ATMS (bank machines) are down.

Back-Up Your Travel Money Like you Back-Up Your Files

The first time I realized that bank cards are not infallible was when I was on my own in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Sure, I had brought cash to convert to pesos, and credit cards to pay for my hotel and meals, so I thought I was well prepared. But we all seem to spend more than we planned, and I had run short of cash. It took me an hour to locate three different bank machines, none of which would give me cash, before it hit me that something was definitely not right.

I went into one bank to make a withdrawal in person only to learn the overseas connections -- Cirrus et al -- were down for the day, and I was out of luck. Since then, I make sure to back up my cash sources, so even if banks are closed or I can't cash a travelers check, I can still get money when I need it. Read on for some tips to help you back up your cash when you are traveling.

Carry Cash in Several Currencies :: I usually carry U.S. dollars and euros (preferably in smaller demoninations), as both are accepted in a great many countries. Though there will be exceptions (like a rickshaw driver in a small town in China who looked at the proffered dollar as if it were monolpoly money then handed it back), most cab drivers and market vendors will usually accept U.S. dollar bills.

Travelers Checks :: Carry travelers checks (in your own currency if possible, to avoid another layer of exchange rates). Hotels will readily cash traveler's checks for guests. Some currency exhange outlets charge a fee per check, so if you take larger denomination checks, you'll be charged lower fees. Most airports offer a currency exchange, so buy local currency as soon as you arrive. Take more than you think you will need: Travelers checks are insured (record the serial numbers but *do not* keep the list in your wallet), and you can redeem any unused checks when you get home.

Bank Cards :: Take one or two credit cards (Visa is widely accepted) and one debit card. If they are lost or stolen, your loss is confined and there are fewer calls to make. Empty your wallet of all other cards, like gas cards and department store cards. Ask your card issuers about getting pre-loaded cards to further restrict any losses. Before you go, contact your credit card company(ies) to let them know where you are going, and the dates you will be out of the country. This avoids your card being cancelled when charges start showing up for a bar in, say, Brasil, and you live in the U.K. Make arrangements to pay your monthly credit card statement while you are away -- this also avoids having your card cancelled. Take along the list of numbers to call if you lose the cards, and leave a copy at home as backup.

Travel Wallet :: I recommend using a plain, inexpensive zippered wallet about the dimensions of a travelers check. My travel wallet is made from fabric, with several slots for bills and travelers checks, credit and business cards, with a zippered compartment for coins. It's ugly and cheap looking, and not likely to attract envious glances. A fancy, expensive wallet gives the impression that you have lots of money, and you don't want to do that.

Money Belts :: The purpose of money belts that are worn around the neck or waist is to keep *secret* the fact you have something valuable. Yet time and again, I see tourists whipping out their money belt as if it were their wallet. The belts are good for securing valuables such as passport, tickets and extra money, especially when in transit, or when there's no room safe in your hotel. Money belts are *not* wallets. When you are alone (hotel room, toilet stall etc) take from it what you need for the short term, then keep it hidden.

A little planning pays big dividends! Enjoy your trip instead of hanging about consulates, police stations and bank offices trying to replace lost money and documents. Me? I'd rather be out seeing the sights. I posted more travel tips at
Snapshot Journeys Travel Tips.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Dates for 2007 Daylight Savings Time USA and Canada

2007 marks the first year that extended dates for Daylight Saving Time (DST) will be implemented. In 2007, DST will begin the second Sunday in March (this year on March 11) and end on the first Sunday in November (this year on November 4).

This will affect travelers planning itineraries for March Break. Be sure to confirm your arrival/departures times for travel over the first few weeks the changes will be in effect. (On the plus side, the days will be longer for spring skiing!)

For details for Ontario (and other Canadian provinces adopting this change), see Ontario Ministry Attorney General; For the USA, see the California Energy Commission.

And you may want to check your own computer: For computers built before the 2005 legislation was enacted, check to see if you need a patch to change the auto-DST feature for your time settings. And confirm all business meetings, etc around this frame.

While I am at it, I may as well remind Spring travelers that, this year, Holy Week begins Sunday, April 1 and runs until Easter Monday, April 9. These are important dates and travel times in much of the world, including parts of Asia, so book early to get the best routings and hotels.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beijing China New Fortune-Land International Boutique Hotel

 Beijing China's Fortune-Land International boutique hotel is so new it's not even traveler-reviewed yet. The Fortune-Land is in the Chaoyang central business district, about 20 minutes from the Forbidden City, and just a few blocks from the subway.

This hotel is self-described as 'Beijing's first boutique hotel, 'stunning, Beijing meets South Beach', with a Western-centric focus that should appeal to the visitors for the 2008 Olympics: the 168 rooms that come in thirty different variations of standard, superior and deluxe, with some rooms with a huge movie screen, a round bed, a wooden bathtub and wash stand, or a tea alcove.

The bathrooms are the 'hotel's masterpieces, with zebra-patterned tiles or other bright color schemes. The wash basins, showers and bathtubs are all ultra-modern.'

For the business traveler, every room has a good size desk, and free high-speed internet. The hotel's café offers a western-style menu, and the specialty restaurant is scheduled to open this month. A large swimming pool, an exercise room and a massage spa will also be available soon.

I've always found the Beijing hotels recommended to Westerners are most comfortable, and have always been impressed by the steps taken to ensure the comfort of all guests. I always look forward to visiting again.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jumeirah Beach Hotel :: Weddings in Dubai UAE

Speaking of Dubai (and we just were: see previous post about the new flights to Australia), along comes another release, this time about the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

The hotel looks gorgeous, seems popular with honeymooners and wedding parties, and got rave reviews by travelers posting here :: Jumeirah Beach Hotel. The posted price seems a little rich for my budget, but I didn't click through to the hotel itself for a specific rate.

But here's the rates for wedding parties. (The currency is the UAE dirham :: 1 United Arab Emirates dirham = 0.27227925 U.S. dollars).
Romance Package :: AED 165 per person ($45 USD)
Elegance Package :: AED 195 per person ($53 USD)
Enchantment Package :: AED 275 per person ($75 USD)
Packages differ from menu and inclusions.
Each package requires a minimum of 300 guests.
Much of the fun (well, ALL of the fun, actually) of getting married is planning the wedding, and this spot has it all :: Elegant surroundings, exotic and romantic location, diving and swimming with dolphins, great restaurants. I say go for it!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Australia to Abu Dhabi :: New route for Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways (, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will begin non-stop flights from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, Australia, on March 26, 2007, thus affording another option for overseas flights from Oz to the Middle East region, then connecting on to Europe. This gives Aussies a one-up on Canadians, as EA doesn't land here in Canada, as far as I know.

(Sydney will be Etihad Airways’ fifth destination in the Asia-Pacific region. The others are Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta).

From March 26, Etihad flight EY450 will initially operate Monday, Wednesday, Friday departing Abu Dhabi International Airport at 10:10 a.m., arriving Sydney International Airport 6:15 a.m. the following day. The return service EY451 departs Sydney each Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday at 3:20 p.m., arriving Abu Dhabi 0:10 a.m. (All times are local.)

I learned of this via a press release, and mention it here as this might be an interesting way to go from Australia to tour the Emirates, then head to the U.K. before coming home via Air Canada or British Air.

I'm thinking of getting TO Sydney via South America on either LAN Chile or Air Canada. From Santiago, QANTAS flies direct to Sydney. I'm always looking to get the most destinations out of the fewest long-haul flights,and this just might do it.

Chinese Horoscope for Pigs for 2007

The Chinese Zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle, with each year represented by an animal. 2007, then, is the Year of the Pig (or the Boar, for you delicate types).

Pig years are 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, and now, 2007. For Pigs, 2007 is especially auspicious, so enjoy. Pig's convivial, amiable and caring nature reaps just rewards in your special year. Your popularity will also shine and your appreciation of the 'good life' will remain boundless. But be warned: Pigs can enjoy life so well they can get porky, so don't neglect exercise! It's a time of good opportunity, so follow your shrewd, tenacious instincts and go for it. With good fortune smiling in tandem with hard work, commitment and your natural personal skills, you may well be pleasantly surprised by the success of an enterprising project, or promotion prospects. Just be wary of over-committing to too many things at the same time, and keep an eye on finances, as spending sometimes comes too easily to you. At home, partnerships are similarly well aspected, with loved ones supporting your dreams and aspirations.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board, who provide the annual predictions, stress that these horoscopes are intended for reference or entertainment only, and that the HKTB (and me!) accepts no liability for errors or omissions. And I, for one, heartily agree: I look forward to the annual forecast, but treat it as a bit of fun, so enjoy it for what it is.