Monday, November 29, 2010

Joburg Events Guide


If you find yourself in Johannesburg and don't know what to do, then don't despair! This great site has the best collection of event listings for the city, along with articles and reviews to give you an insider's look at South Africa's busiest city!

Visit Joburg Live to check it out!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #04

Here are the most popular topics on the Word Travels Forum right now:





Not what you need to know? Remember, you can search the forum for posts related to your question, or post it yourself for our experts to answer!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Win a Trip to Tokyo!

Here's one for the Aussies:

To celebrate the release of the animated film Megamind, you can win a trip for a family of four to Tokyo! The 5-day, 4-night trip includes flights to Japan, accommodation, spending money, tours, and superhero training.

You can enter here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Highs and Lows of Marijuana in Amsterdam

Want the low-down on drugs in Amsterdam? We've got it.

In what can only be described as a major buzzkill, Dutch lawmakers have introduced a plan to bar foreigners from the famous (or infamous) Amsterdam ‘coffee shops’ where marijuana is openly sold.

At present, the coffee shops are allowed to sell up to 5 grams of marijuana to people over the age of 18. It is still technically illegal to possess marijuana, but the punishment for holding up to 30 grams is usually fairly light. Smoking in public is generally tolerated, but most visitors still prefer to smoke within the coffee shops. What isn’t tolerated is the use of hard drugs like cocaine or ecstacy.

Cannabis has been a major tourist draw for Amsterdam for years, with foreigners flocking in for wild weekends and pot pilgrimages. A number of tour companies even offer holiday packages that include visits to coffee shops and tours of the Red Light District. While officials have no plan to shut the venues down, their proposal would ban them from serving foreigners. There are reports that the city has started to close several coffee shops in the Red Light District, however.

Locals who make their living from selling weed to tourists are understandably upset by the proposed regulations. Pot is big business in the Netherlands, with an estimated 40,000 marijuana farms in the country. Today also marks the final day of the Amsterdam Cannabis Cup, putting all the newest and best innovations in the cannabis industry on show.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kefalonia

Kefalonia (also spelt Cephalonia), named after a Greek hero from around the 5th century BC, lies in the centre of the Ionian Sea, 53 nautical miles from Patras. This is one of the most enchanting of the Greek islands, which accounts for its having become one of the most sought after by holidaymakers. Hundreds of visitors descend on the island year round, avid for the quiet, windless beaches, many at the base of steep cliffs that plunge into the sea, or to explore the verdant mountainsides clad in shadowy forests.

Read more about Kefalonia on Word Travels!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Out-of-This-World Holiday Reviews


We love reviews, in fact we set up our own travel review website, Trip Report. It's invaluable to read about others' experiences before you head out to the unknown, and many of us have been saved a headache or two!

But when I saw these hilarious reviews of Area 51 on Google Maps, I couldn't stop laughing... maybe they won't help me, but any interstellar traveller will hopefully find some useful information!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Win a Trip to Puerto Vallarta!


Toronto Life is giving away a trip to Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico for a family of four!

To enter, click here, and to find out more about what makes Puerto Vallarta so popular, click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TSA Full-Body Scanners


The TSA's Full-Body Scanners have been dominating travel news lately as they're rolled out to an increasing number of airports. Now in use in the US at 65 airports nationwide, as more people encounter them we're seeing strong reactions.

Many are opposed to the scanners as a violation of their privacy, and opt for the alternative 'enhanced pat-down'. However, there are also a number of complaints from travellers who find the search invasive and inappropriate, likening it to sexual assault. (For an account of the experience by magician Penn Jillette, click here, and for a video of software programmer John Tyner's refusal, click here.)

The TSA claims that the majority of Americans support the new security procedures, but many travellers are expressing negative feelings about them. What do you think? Is it a violation of privacy, or a necessary evil? Would you submit to the body scan or a pat-down? Many of us flying in the US over the holiday season will soon be forced to make these decisions.

Here's a complete list of airports that now use full-body scanners:

Albuquerque International Sunport Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Boise Airport, Boston Logan International Airport, Bradley International Airport, Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Chicago Midway International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Cleveland International Airport, Corpus Christi International Airport, Denver International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Detroit Metro Airport, El Paso International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Fort Wayne International Airport, Fresno Air Terminal, Gerald R. Ford Grand Rapids International Airport, General Mitchell Milwaukee International Airport, Greater Rochester International Airport, Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, Harlingen/Valley International Airport, Harrisburg International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Honolulu International Airport, Houston William P. Hobby Airport, Indianapolis International Airport, Jacksonville International Airport, Kansas City International Airport, Lambert/St. Louis International Airport, Laredo International Airport, Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, Lihue Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, McAllen Miller Airport, Memphis International Airport, Miami International Airport, Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, Nashville International Airport, New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York La Guardia International Airport, Oakland International Airport, Omaha Eppley Airfield Airport, Orlando International Airport, Palm Beach International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport, Port Columbus International Airport, Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Richmond International Airport, Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport, Saipan International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, San Antonio International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, San Jose International Airport, San José Mineta International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Spokane International Airport, Tampa International Airport, Tulsa International Airport, Warwick T. F. Green International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unclaimed Baggage

Ever wonder what becomes of lost and abandoned luggage? In the US, it probably ends up in Alabama at the Unclaimed Baggage Center. They buy up new and used unwanted items from airlines and sell them to the public for prices far below retail value. They'll be launching a new website soon, so you should be able to browse online as well.

If you're in the area, it's not a bad place to do some Christmas shopping!

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #02

Here's the latest hot topics on the Word Travels Forum:





Remember, our network of local experts is ready to answer all your travel-related on visas, destinations, tour operators, flights, hotels, restaurants questions on ... give us a challenge!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Win a Trip to Germany!


Here's where we let you know how to win trips to all the fabulous destinations featured in Word Travels!

Today's contest is from McDonald's who will send you to Germany for your crazy MacRib story.

Entry form and info here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Minneapolis


As depicted in movies like Grumpy Old Men, Fargo, and New in Town, Minneapolis has a single personality: cold! Filmmakers are eager to show ankle-deep snow, icicle-lined rooftops and sub-zero temperatures.

But this fair city has a split personality: summers in Minneapolis are when the entire city comes out to play, with a number of parties, concerts, and festivals taking advantage of the idyllic late-summer weather of August and September to spend as much time as possible outdoors.

August is when you’ll find the Minnesota State Fair in full swing, with fried food on a stick, 4H livestock competitions, and plenty of concerts, games and rides for everyone. It’s one of the biggest in the country, attracting millions of visitors every year.

Visitors can also get their thrills on the roller coasters at Valleyfair in Shakopee, or grab a burger in St Paul at the iconic Mickey’s Diner. You may find yourself wanting to stay a bit longer, as late September in Minnesota is when the leaves in Minnesota start to turn spectacular shades of red, yellow and orange.

Don't forget about great winter events though, like the St Paul Winter Carnival in January and February. If anyone knows how to have fun in the cold, it's Minnesotans!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Home Away from Home: House Swapping


For many travellers, the novelty of hotels has long worn off. Maybe you’re a seasoned traveller and can’t stomach the idea of more pastel paintings and single-serving soaps, maybe you’re a mother with four kids in tow that you’re tired of shushing for the benefit of other guests, maybe you’re just in search of something a bit more personal. You want to get away, but you still want to feel at home. Is that too much to ask?

Not anymore. The latest budget travel trend, popularised in the 2006 film The Holiday, is called ‘House Swapping’, where vacationers trade houses for the duration of their holiday. While many people might balk at the idea of allowing a stranger to sleep in their bed, drive their car, or care for their pet, most swappers have spent months corresponding with each other, exchanging emails, pictures, and phone calls.

Home swap sites offer exchange agreements allowing customers to be as specific as they like about what their guests may (and may not) do. While house swapping can be a great way to save money while on vacation, keep in mind that it involves a lot more work. Your home should be clean and well-maintained, and you’ll need to provide linens, basic food items, and detailed information on your area.

Many travellers are taking advantage of sites like Home Link and Home Exchange to find houses in exotic locations for their next trip. You can also visit 1st Home Exchange for more great tips on house swapping.

Travel Movie: Eat Pray Love


Who doesn’t want an all-expenses-paid trip around the world to get over a divorce? Based on the best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love follows her journey to Italy, where she learns to eat; India, where she learns to pray; and Bali, where she finds love.

Played by queen of quirk Julia Roberts, the film has largely fallen flat with critics who adore the beautiful settings but can't quite reconcile the fast-food spiritualism. Nevertheless, it has grossed over $80 million dollars in the US.

Whether or not you're excited by the idea of a paint-by-numbers journey of spiritual discovery, the cinematography captures the charm of Rome and gorgeous Balinese vistas, with some mouth-watering shots of food (and Javier Bardem!) thrown in as a side dish.

Eat Pray Love is currently showing in South African theaters, and will be available on DVD in the US from November 23rd.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pirates Week Festival


The 'Pirates' land in George Town Harbour on November 11th for a week-long fiesta of music, dancing, costumes, food, drink and fireworks that you'll find only in the Grand Cayman Islands!


(photo by kthypryn)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Three Airlines Offer Free Holiday Wi-Fi!


Google has partnered with three airlines to offer free wi fi service over the holidays. AirTran, Delta and Virgin America will offer free wireless internet to their passengers on flights between November 20th and January 2nd.

(photo by nerissa's ring)

4 Secrets to Saving Big on Cruises


Cruises are becoming increasingly popular ways to holiday, but for many the price tag is just too high. We dug up our four favourite ways to save big on cruises:

Repositioning Cruises – Vacationers looking for a long trip on a small budget should try a repositioning cruise, which happens when a ship is moving from one route to another. These trips tend to be between 14 and 28 days long, and can start as low as $35 a day. Keep in mind though, that there will be fewer stops in ports, and flight costs for one-way trips can offset savings.

Book Your Next Cruise While on Holiday – Enjoying your cruise? Most cruise lines will have an on-board travel agent that will help you book your next cruise right on the ship. The lines have an incentive to keep you loyal, so these agents will offer discounts and stateroom credits to entice you back. You’re not locked in to a specific date, so when you get home speak to a travel agent to see if there are any further discounts available.

Keep Watching Prices – Cruises used to offer their best rates to those who booked far in advance, and this is sometimes still the case. However, keep an eye on prices even after you’ve booked. If it drops before the final payment date you can simply cancel and rebook through your travel agent.

Sign Up for Newsletters – Cruise lines sometimes offer extremely low rates to preferred booking partners, with the caveat that they aren’t allowed to advertise them to the general public. Sign up for email lists of these cruise-focused travel agencies and watch for notices to ‘call for low rates’. These rates are usually available for only a short time, so you’ll need to book quickly.

(photo by Kabacchi)

Top 5 iPhone Travel Apps

There's no denying technology is changing how people travel, and there are new and exciting advances every day that make seeing the world easier... and more fun! Here's our favourite iPhone travel apps to help you on your next trip:

TripIt Travel Organiser – This handy app organises all your itinerary info into one place for easy access throughout your trip. (Free)

Flying Without Fear – Virgin Atlantic’s highly regarded course to help nervous travellers overcome their fear of flying has a 98% success rate. ($5)

FlightTrack – This is the most recommended app out there for keeping track of your flights with real-time updates on gates, delays, and cancellations in more than 5,000 airports worldwide. ($5)

Currency – You’ll always know how much you’re spending when you use this no-frills money calculator. It provides up-to-date exchange rate info at your fingertips. (Free)

Trip Journal – A great way to keep friends and family updated (and jealous) on your holiday activities. You can track your route, tag locations, and insert photos and notes into real-time updates. ($3)

Got a Blackberry or Android phone? Click on the links for their best travel apps!

(photo by Gonzalo Baeza Hernández)

Decoding Your Plane Ticket


Most seasoned travellers know the important letters and numbers on their boarding pass: gate and seat assignments, flight number, and boarding time. But most of us never stop to consider what the other codes mean.

The ticket code itself generally consists of the following information: which airline you’re flying, what flight you’re on, your ticket class, and the date and time of departure. Most of that is pretty easy to understand, but what’s a ticket class?

The ticket class is a coding system used by airlines to put passengers into castes. F or P will mean first class, J, D or C for business class, and the rest for coach. But even within coach, there are many different classes depending on what you paid for your ticket. Y indicates you paid full fare, while Q or other letters generally mean a discounted ticket.

Why should you care?

Passengers with higher class codes get preferential treatment. If you’re travelling on a Y class ticket, you’ll be less likely to be bumped and more likely to be upgraded. In fact, Y, B and M are generally the only classes eligible to be upgraded. Higher ticket classes also earn more frequent flier miles, sometimes up to 150%, and enjoy more freedom in making changes and cancellations to their itinerary.

The bad news is you can only get a higher code by paying more. But when you’re on the quest for that bargain ticket, you understand what you’re getting for the price you pay.

(photo by melloveschallah)

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #01


Here are some of the hot topics on the Word Travels Forum at the moment:





Remember, if you have any questions on visas, destinations, tour operators, flights, hotels, restaurants... anything travel-related at all! You can post it on our forum and let our local experts hunt down the answers for you!

(photo by Xurble)

Free Entry to US National Parks!



National parks in the US will waive their admission fees on November 11th in honour of Veterans Day. Many shops, lodges, and other businesses associated with the parks are also offering special deals.

Why not take this opportunity to explore Yellowstone, Yosemite, or any other of the dozens of beautiful national parks in the US? To locate the parks closest you, use the National Park Service's Park Finder.

(photos by kevincole and rengber)

Paris Blog

I'm spending one day in Paris in January on an extra-long layover, and I get more excited as it's gradually getting closer and closer!

While I'm only there a few hours, I do intend to look the part and squeeze out every last drop of chic-ness from this amazing city! That's why I love the website Do It In Paris, which has a special focus on showing us girls how to do the City of Love and Lights (and yummy pastries) right!

(photo by vl8189)

Japan

If you're thinking about going to Japan, don't make the mistake of spending your whole trip in Tokyo! There's much more to the fun and enigmatic country, including the beautiful city of Osaka! That's where you'll find the famous Bunraku Puppet Theatre, and if you're there in March you can catch a clash of giants in one of the largest sporting events in the country, the Sumo Spring Grand Tournament!

There are many other cities in Japan that are worth seeing, including the peace memorial in Hiroshima, the Shofukuji Temple in Fukuoka, and skiing in Sapporo. Japan has its own unique take on nearly everything, so don't miss out!

(photo by Jesslee Cuizon)

Welcome to the Word Travels Blog!

Word Travels has joined the blogosphere! I'll be updating this site periodically with updated info from out travel guides; travel-related tips, articles and news; and links to some of our favourite sites! Be sure to check back often for all the latest!

Anya