In Zanzibar, life moves pole pole. Tunis does not rock the casbah. Barcelona is a gin and tonic town. Maps are worthless in Ulaanbaatar. Altitude is a bastard in Ganzi. Eating local in Hargeisa means devouring "a metric shit-ton of gamey, tough, and greasy camel meat." And nothing can prepare you for platzkart on the Trans-Mongolian Railroad. These are some of the many things you can learn from Roads and Kingdoms' regular feature, Know Before You Go.
Which countries have visa-free access to more countries than others? Ranked at the top with 173 visa-free countries (out of a possible 218) are Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, which all share the Schengen visa policy; dead last is Afghanistan, which only has visa-free access to 28 countries. (Not included in the list were places like Wonderland, Neverland, Hell, Utopia, the Unconscious, or Pangea.) Regardless of nationality, though, it can still be devillishly difficult to get visas for some countries. With the advent of RFID passports, some countries are doing away with visa labels or passport stamps, so collect as many as you can and take a look at them so you can figure out what they say about the issuing country or even turn them into art (or ad campaigns).
Eric Nusbaum tours the largest environmental cleanup operation the United States government has ever undertaken, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Over the last 20 years, Hanford has also become something else: a tourist destination. If you want to see just how big the reservation is, or get an idea of how much work remains to be done there, you can sign up for an official government tour of the site. About 60 public tours are offered per year. The tours are free, but highly sought after. Last year, registration opened at midnight on March 6, and closed by 5 a.m.
"On an average afternoon in the area around 44th and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan, you’ll find a motley crew of Chewbaccas, Buzz Lightyears, and Minnie Mouses — along with the usual Naked Cowboy and face-painted Statues of Liberty—posing for tourists’ pictures and demanding cash in return." Condé Nast Traveler editor Eimear Lynch spent a couple of days dressed up as Cookie Monster to see what it was like. Video. [more inside]
Trip Avisaargh - a tumblr collection of links the best (worst?) and most memorable reviews on the travel site Trip Advisor. Sales Pitches! Statues! Manager responses! (more!) It can't get worse! Mr. Toilet House! Bonny Old London! Palaces!
Gunnar Garfors is on a mission to travel to all 198* countries in the world. As of today, he's at 196. [more inside]
You've probably seen Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park. But you may not have realized it's just the most famous image of the entire Sightseer Series, created by photographer Roger Minick over more than 30 years.
In 1992, Lynn Brooks founded the non-profit Big Apple Greeter program, to help make a visit to New York City seem less intimidating and dangerous to first-time visitors: Pick a date, time and neighborhood, and the organization will match you up with a local who will spend several hours with you, helping you find your way around, teaching you the ins and outs of subways and buses, the cool shops, the great places to eat. (Their site also has some outstanding neighborhood profiles and cultural attraction guides that should be of just as much interest to local residents.) The idea spread, leading to the formation of the Global Greeter Network, which now has greeter programs in cities all over the world.
Western tourists (mostly female) visiting Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, and Bali) are ending up dead, likely poisoned. Local officials have blamed the use of the insecticide DEET as an exotic ingredient in so-called "Bucket Drinks", or the use of Chlorpyrifos in hotel rooms. But Deborah Blum, an author and poison expert, doesn't buy into the insecticide theories offered by local officials. She thinks this looks like targeted murders. Since writing about the poisonings, she says she's been contacted by people who claim poisoning foreigners is common in 5-star hotels, and the police and owners cover it up.. A Facebook group was formed not only so that world travelers could share safe travel tips, but also so that notice of the unexplained, and often uninvestigated, deaths could be made public.
Back in 1999, Wandering Earl left home for a three month trip to Asia that still hasn't ended. As a permanent nomad, Earl's aim is to demonstrate that long-term travel is not a crazy fantasy, but a very real lifestyle option instead. Find out where Earl is now, and where he's been on his blog. [more inside]
EcoAlberto Park in El Alberto, Mexico, offers a unique experience: participating in an illegal border crossing. VICE Magazine filmed the trip.
Take a holiday in Somaliland: journey to the state that isn’t. "Positioned on the upper haunch of the Somali dog-leg the Republic of Somaliland looks initially unpromising. It is mainly dry and rocky, there are few paved roads, and the population is small and generally dispersed. ... Whilst the economy may be on the up, Somaliland still feels extremely isolated. An employee of a big international NGO who I met in the lobby of my hotel, The Mansoor, looked at me with astonishment when I said I’d come to Hargeisa for fun. 'The biggest danger here,' he said 'is dying of boredom.'"
Meet the contraption that wants to replace Central Park horses. NYCLASS and Ban HDC are two groups pushing for the change; the many unfortunate incidents involving carriage horses over the years (including one just today) have inspired a bill that would end the practice, and also a documentary about the treatment of the horses.
Bali's "Kuta Cowboys" get unwanted attention. Bali draws plenty of older women seeking romance (see: Elizabeth Gilbert), and more often than not, they end up in the arms of "Kuta Cowboys" - tanned, muscled, swaggering local men who offer no-strings-attached intimacy to female tourists. [more inside]
The Motel in America. In a different America, where the novelty of driving cross-country and the charm of the highway strip drew droves of tourists--and their automobiles--from coast to coast in the name of exploration and recreation, motels provided a home away from home for weary travelers. While many of the great motels of the mid-twentieth century have disappeared from the national landscape, the linen postcards left behind in the Motel Morgue can give us a glimpse into what this era of American tourism and leisure looked like.
My New York : artists, writers, professionals, and New Yorkers of all stripes talk about what they look forward to seeing in the city this fall.
Martin Parr is a celebrated English photographer who has a reputation for being both preoccupied and inspired with notions of consumerism, foreign travel and tourism. Now you can actually go on holiday with him. The School of Life, a maverick cultural institution in London, is offering a weekend away with the sardonic snapper in the Isle of Wight. [more inside]
A View of America ― Aquariums, beaches, gardens, monuments, parks, zoos, etc. This site aims to describe American attractions that tourists may find interesting. Listings are sorted by state and by category. Also includes recipes, jokes, and puzzles. [more inside]
Top Tourist Spots Americans Can’t Visit. Some will take this as a challenge.
Poorism or Poverty Tourism is a growing trend among otherwise thrill-jaded first world tourists and is engendering a lively debate as to whether "poorists" are helping the impoverished areas they are guided through, or are merely gawking voyeurs.
Burmese Daze: In which the author submits to the pleasures of a transgender spirit possession festival in Burma. [Via Disinformation.]
Nothing To See Here A guide to "some of the world's lesser-signposted places to go - attractions that may not be all that attractive; coastal towns they forgot to close down; high streets that haven't been homogenised; oddities and one-offs."
Terrorists not allowed in space (the FAA would like to regulate commercial space flights)
Katrina Tours! As has been widely reported, tours of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina have begun. What motivates people to engage in "dark tourism"? Is it harmful or helpful to the region? Is it just plain creepy?
Information for Disabled Travelers Travel may be a basic human right, but it's one that some find harder to exercise; from getting past clueless immigration officials to dealing with a constipated service dog on a cruise ship, tourism presents special challenges to the physically disabled. Fortunately, there's a wealth of information online, including accessibility info for Eurostar trains and specific airlines (the latter courtesy of The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality), and first-hand accessibility reports from Global Access, Access-Able Travel Source, Rebecca's Travels, The World On Wheels and The Gimp On The Go.
A Manx Notebook. Many things related to the Isle of Man.
The Ice Hotel, a working 5,000 square metre hotel made entirely of 30,000 tons of snow and 4,000 tons of ice.
That most peculiar of spectacles the Fiesta de san Fermín (Running of the Bulls) seems to still exist and will be going ahead tomorrow. The event is held in parallel with Feria del Toro (the Bullfighting Fair); the run itself seems to be in the interests of transporting the bulls to the fair while getting them good and angry, confused, scared and weakened in the process. Being that the event is in honor of Saint Fermín, when the San Fermín church strikes 8am, the bulls are released and the runners get underway, trying to avoid them on their just under 1km trip. On arrival at the Plaza del Toro (Bullring) they are herded into corrals and later released so the crowd can watch the matadors kill them in traditional bullfighting fashion [wmv: 380k | 150k | 56k]. Of course, many people are not really so keen on this event; and it seems PETA will be holding one of their typically daft protests. Can't people just throw tomatoes at each other or something?
A Sightseer's Guide to Engineering. Engineering sights around the USA.
I have to travel the highways and byways of America by car and train a great deal, and its much more fun if you actually see America on the way. Two of my favorite sites for finding offbeat attractions and tasty eats are By The Way Magazine and Roadside America.
Sneaky! Grr . . . A few months ago, while surfing for wreck diving info, I stumbled upon this page as a main link entitled Nightlife in the Philippines. Because it promotes outright trafficking of women, I made a ruckus and sent an email complaining about it to the site admin and our government's Department of Tourism. (Prostitution, BTW, is illegal in the Philippines.) Shortly afterwards, the site admin removed the main link. So how come it's still on the site via this page? I know Southeast Asia (the Philippines second only to Thailand, I think) has a rep for cheap beer and women, but I HATE the fact that many foreigners (like the owners of this shop,) feel that they can buy anything they want while on vacation in third world countries, and that it's alright to perpetuate the trafficking of Filipino women under the guise of tourism. Bah.
It's not germ warfare... and it's not terrorism, but it is the strongest argument to put off that Hawaiian vacation this winter to date. Nothing like a little tropical disease to take the shine off of paradise. I wonder what else is passing underneath the radar with this whole war on terror thing.
Best of Manhattan 2001, the annual guide published by the New York Press might come in handy in case you are visiting New York City to boost our tourism industry. If you already live here, you may want to pick up a free copy on your way to the subway. New York's other free alternative weekly still has their Flash powered Best of NYC 2000 along side a depressing obit to NYC's dying night life on their site. Time Out New York's city guide, and the restaurant reviews in the best 100 and the 2001 Eating and Drinking Awards might come handy for weekend plans. And if you really want to see a hidden treasure of NYC, you may want to go see the Panorama of The City of New York, a 'living model of the City,' first built for the 1964 World's Fair, at the Queens Museum of Art.
It turns out there are three bike tours in New York City. You can also run or blade through the the city. The Super Roll is a lot less tiring than the bike tours or the marathon.