Tipping in European Restaurants – to tip or not to tip?

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The Mystical Backpacker: How to Discover Your Destiny in the Modern World by Hannah Papp

The Mystical BackpackerThe mystical backpacker by Hannah Papp

Part memoir, part guidebook, “The Mystical Backpacker” invites you to explore your inner terrain and learn how to create your own unique version of a modern day vision quest or walk-about.


Tired of living a life based on other’s expectations, Hannah Papp quit her job, bought a EuroRail ticket and a map, notified her landlady, and left town. Embarking on a journey across Europe with no plan and no direction, Hannah stumbled into becoming a modern-day Mystical Backpacker. Along the way her discoveries and the teachers she encountered allowed her to go on a deeper journey into the self and the spirit–revealing the real self she had long been missing.
“The Mystical Backpacker” shows you how to identify the signs along the road that will lead to teachers and experiences that will reorient your own life map. Ultimately, “The Mystical Backpacker” offers a solution, a way to break free and find your inner self’s rhythms and needs, fulfilling your true destiny. It’s time you hit the road and become a mystical backpacker.

6 Travel Documents You Can’t Leave Behind

Today’s traveler has one mantra: travel light! Trying to shave every ounce possible, it’s easy to see the temptation to leave as much paper behind as possible, and many documents are indeed electronic. Still, there are certain documents almost every traveler needs…and only the real thing will do.

Passport21) PASSPORT

If your trip takes you outside of the U.S., you’ll need a passport. Most countries require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months AFTER you plan to return home, so check the expiration date at least several weeks before your trip to make sure you have time to renew if necessary. (To see how to apply for or renew your passport, visit the US Department of State website.) Many countries will also require a visa. Electronic visas can usually be obtained quickly and easily, but others are much more difficult and time-consuming. Again, check your destination’s requirements well in advance. (A great resource for visa requirements is CIBT Visas.) Make two photocopies of your passport, as well. Keep one in your luggage separate from your actual passport, and leave another copy at home with a friend or relative. If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re traveling, this will make obtaining a replacement much easier. (TIP: You can also scan your passport, and bring the files along on a thumb drive. As long as you can access a computer, you’ll be able to print your copies.)

2) TICKETS & VOUCHERS

These days, airline tickets are generally all electronic, so there’s no worry about losing them. It’s still a really good idea to print paper copies of your itinerary (including your booking reference numbers) as a backup. Other tickets might be paper only (and irreplaceable!). Train passes and tickets, tour vouchers, car rental agreements and hotel reservations are some of the documents that often require paper copies.

Passport33) IDENTIFICATION

If you’re traveling within the U.S., you’ll need a valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license or state-issued ID card. Naturally, if you’re driving you’ll need a driver’s license; and if you’re driving overseas, it’s a good idea to bring an international driver’s license (you can get one at AAA). The international driver’s license simply translates your license into a variety of languages; some countries require it, while in others it’s optional. If you’re a student or teacher, you might also want to bring an International Student ID Card (ISIC) or International Teacher ID Card.

4) TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY

Having a good travel insurance policy in place gives you peace of mind should something unfortunate happen during your trip. Most travel insurance will cover trip cancellation, interruptions & delays, loss of luggage, medical emergencies and more. However, policies can be complicated, and knowing who to call in an emergency is crucial, so this is one document you should definitely bring along. Need help finding the right travel insurance? Contact Susan at Distant Lands Travel for a quote.

5) CREDIT & DEBIT CARDS

Obviously while these are crucial, they’re not documents. However, you should make photocopies of the front and back of your cards, and keep them separate from the cards. In case a card is lost or stolen, you’ll have all the information you need to report the loss to your bank, and request a new one. (TIP: Remember to call the issuing banks of all your credit and debit cards before you leave, and give them your travel dates and destinations. Tighter security measures can result in your credit card being blocked after only one transaction that’s outside of your usual spending pattern.)

Health Card6) PRESCRIPTIONS & MEDICAL DOCUMENTS

Be sure to bring your insurance card along in case you need medical attention during your trip. Depending on your destination, you may also need a vaccination card to show you’ve had required immunizations (such as yellow fever). (To find out what immunizations you might need, check out the Centers for Disease Control website.) Pack any prescription medications in their original prescription packaging so that it’s clear what they are. It’s also a really good idea to pack photocopies of any prescriptions you need as well, just in case a medication is lost. This applies to prescription glasses and contact lenses as well.

 

 

The Railway Anthology compiled by Deborah Manley

TheRailwayAnthologyThe Railway Anthology compiled by Deborah Manley

Following the success of her Walker’s Anthology, Deborah Manley has applied the same formula to the subject of railways and journeys by train, drawing on the writings of more than 50 literary figures from around the world Bill Bryson, Agatha Christie, William Dalrymple, Peter Fleming, Kenneth Grahame, Rudyard Kipling, Eric Newby, Christopher Portway, Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron and Mark Tully among many others. Brief biographies of all the writers quoted are included.”

After The Dance by Edwidge Danticat

After the DanceAfter The Dance by Edwidge Danticat

As a child, acclaimed author Edwidge Danticat was terrified by Carnival festivities until 2002, when she returned home to Haiti determined to understand the lure of this famed event. Here she chronicles her journey to the coastal town of Jacmel, where she met with the performers, artists, and organizers who re-create the myths and legends that bring the festival to life. In the process, Danticat traces the heroic and tragic history of the island, from French colonists and Haitian revolutionaries to American invaders and home-grown dictators. Part travelogue, part memoir, part historical analysis, this is the deeply personal story of a writer rediscovering her country, along with a part of herself and a wonderful introduction to Haiti s southern coast and to the beauty and passions of Carnival.”

Eating Vietnam by Graham Holliday

Eating VietnamEating Vietnam by Graham Holliday

A journalist takes us on a colorful and spicy gastronomic tour through Viet Nam in this entertaining, offbeat travel memoir

Growing up in a small town in central England, Graham Holliday wasn’t keen on travel. But in his early twenties, he saw a picture of Ha Nội that sparked his curiosity and propelled him halfway across the globe. Graham didn’t want to be just a tourist in a foreign country, though; he was determined to live in it. An ordinary guy who liked trying interesting food, he moved to the capital city and embarked on a quest to find real Vietnamese food. In Eating Việt Nam, he chronicles his odyssey in this enticing, unfamiliar land infused with sublime smells and tastes.

Traveling through the back alleys and across the boulevards of Ha Nội–where home cooks set up grills and stripped-down stands serve sumptuous fare on blue plastic furniture–he risked dysentery, giardia, and diarrhea to discover a culinary treasure trove that was truly unique. Graham shares every bite of the extraordinary fresh dishes–pungent and bursting with flavor–that he came to love in Ha Nội, Sai Gon, and the countryside. Here, too, are the remarkable people who became a part of his new life, including his wife, Sophie.

Funny, charming, and always delicious, Eating Việt Nam will inspire armchair travelers, those with curious palates, and everyone itching for a taste of adventure.

A Passion for Paris by David Downie

PassionforParis

A Passion for Paris by David Downie

A top-notch walking tour of Paris. . . . The author’s encyclopedic knowledge of the city and its artists grants him a mystical gift of access: doors left ajar and carriage gates left open foster his search for the city’s magical story. Anyone who loves Paris will adore this joyful book. Readers visiting the city are advised to take it with them to discover countless new experiences.” –“Kirkus Reviews”
A unique combination of memoir, history, and travelogue, this is author David Downie’s irreverent quest to uncover why Paris is the world’s most romantic city–and has been for over 150 years.
Abounding in secluded, atmospheric parks, artists’ studios, cafes, restaurants and streets little changed since the 1800s, Paris exudes romance. The art and architecture, the cityscape, riverbanks, and the unparalleled quality of daily life are part of the equation.

But the city’s allure derives equally from hidden sources: querulous inhabitants, a bizarre culture of heroic negativity, and a rich historical past supplying enigmas, pleasures and challenges. Rarely do visitors suspect the glamor and chic and the carefree atmosphere of the City of Light grew from and still feed off the dark fountainheads of riot, rebellion, mayhem and melancholy–and the subversive literature, art and music of the Romantic Age.

Weaving together his own with the lives and loves of Victor Hugo, Georges Sand, Charles Baudelaire, Balzac, Nadar and other great Romantics Downie delights in the city’s secular romantic pilgrimage sites asking, Why Paris, not Venice or Rome–the tap root of “romance”–or Berlin, Vienna and London–where the earliest Romantics built castles-in-the-air and sang odes to nightingales? Read “A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light” and find out.

5 Tips to Avoid Pickpockets

For many, vacation time is right around the corner and the thought of the perfect getaway does not include being a victim of crime. While most vacations will go as planned, some will fall victim to petty theft: mainly purse snatching and pickpockets. Thieves target tourists because they are the ones with the money. In Barcelona alone, it is estimated almost 6,000 incidents happen daily–that is 1 out of every 4 tourists. So how do you protect yourself from becoming part of the pick-pocketing statistics? Here are 5 sure-fire ways to better your odds.

1) Wear a money belt – This is the most important thing you can do to lower the chances of being pick-pocketed. A money belt is worn under your clothing; this is where you keep your passport, extra credit cards and cash. Keep that day’s cash and a credit card in your day bag or wallet for easy access. You want to think of the money belt like a safe deposit box, and only get into your money belt when replenishing your wallet. When getting into your money belt, do it in a safe area like your hotel room, a bathroom stall or a changing room.

2) Do not put anything in your back pocket – The outline of a wallet in the back pocket is advertising to pickpockets to rob you, especially in crowded areas like metro platforms and escalators. Place your wallet in your front pocket and put an elastic band (like the rubber band that you find holding the broccoli in the grocery store) around your wallet. This will create friction in your pocket and make it just that harder for a thief to steal from you.

3) Valuables need to stay in your hotel room – Laptops, tablets and such are much safer in your hotel room than in the bottom of a bag on the streets. When leaving valuables in your room, put them away so as not to tempt the hotel staff. Better yet, leave them in a hotel safe or at the front desk.

4) Carry a purse or bag with the flap against your body – You want to cut down the number of entry points into your bag so thieves’ fingers have fewer places to wander. If your bag has a long strap, carry your bag across your body. Never keep important items in any outside pocket.

5) Get to know your new money before heading out – If you’re traveling out of the country you will be confronted with foreign money. Become familiar with the local currency before you hit the pavement. Pickpockets observe travelers shopping, and then later know exactly where to lift their wallets. Count your change and put it away right there and then, and don’t be rushed by cashiers.

5 tips to Avoid Pickpockets

 From the well-dressed businessman to the group of children with outstretched arms, it can be difficult to recognize a thief. But travelers can prevent the majority of common thefts by arming themselves with these 10 tips. Follow these time-tested tips and soon you will be enjoying your vacation and not worrying about pickpockets.