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Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for November, 2009

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Transcript of my chat with travel journalist Chris Elliott

Missed anything in my interview with leading travel expert Chris Elliott? You can read the transcript here.

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Experience the mystery of Egypt on Friendly Planet’s 12-day Treasures of Egypt tour

As the third part of this week’s Africa series, I’d like to take you north. Egypt is the land of fascinating culture, mesmerizing history, and sweeping natural beauty. And there are perhaps few places in the world more revered for its mystery and majesty.

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Once again, Friendly Planet is defying skyrocketing travel prices to bring you a fantastic, truly first-class Egypt vacation deal fit for a pharaoh. On our Treasures of Egypt tour, you’ll spend 12 days exploring the famous Sphinx and pyramids at Giza, the temples at Luxor and Edfu, King Tut’s tomb, Old Cairo, and so much more, for only $2,299.

For the second leg of the journey, travelers will be treated to seven nights aboard a luxury cruise on the Nile aboard the 5-star M/S Tulip cruise ship. As always, roundtrip flights, transfers, touring, and many meals are also part of this vacation package.

Have a look at the Friendly Planet Travel Web site for more information, departure dates, booking, and a full itinerary.

Ten days on Kenya’s incredible wildlife safari for $2,999

FP_Kenya.jpgI’ve come across so many travelers who have always had Kenya and Tanzania at the top of their lists of dream destinations, and for very good reason. Both countries are blessed with an abundance of spectacular wildlife and lavishly gorgeous, incredibly photogenic landscapes.

Everywhere you go, from the teeming cities to the plains of the Masai Mara, people are friendly and welcoming. Every day life in Kenya is a powerful image of juxtaposition. Imagine traditional tribe members mingling with urban families at a market, bustling cities that give way to rolling grasslands, and white-glove service where the basics of running water and electricity are scarce.

Wildlife safaris have been the bread and butter of Kenya’s tourism for decades, and several Kenyan parks are among the best places in Africa to see lions, elephants, leopards, and the breath-taking wildebeest migration. And for the bird watching enthusiasts, Kenya rates as one of the top five bird-watching destinations in the world.

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With more than 50 parks to choose from in Kenya alone, and almost 25 percent of Tanzania’s lands protected as nature reserves, it’s hard to decide where to go. But Africa travel experts agree that the Masai Mara and Samburu parks in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania are must-see sites.

 

That’s why we’ve designed our 10-day Kenya Wildlife Safari plus optional Tanzania Extension around these culturally significant and awe-inspiring natural destinations, and so much more! And like all Friendly Planet tours, you’ll enjoy the best of Kenya and Tanzania at prices that are as amazing as the countries themselves. At $2,999, you won’t find a deal anywhere else that offers all the luxuries and experiences as this tour.

You’ll find the full itinerary and all the details on our Kenya Wildlife Safari, plus optional Tanzania extension page on the Friendly Planet Travel Web site.

The wonders of South Africa for under $2,800

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This week, the Friendly Planet Travel office is abuzz over one word: AFRICA. And considering the deals we just ironed out, there’s no wonder why.

Africa is perhaps the last great vacation frontier for travelers. It isn’t that people haven’t been traveling to Africa, but for several reasons – mainly political unrest and cost – many who would want to enjoy the beauty and diversity of Africa choose other destinations first.

However, trends are changing, and more people are discovering that Africa, as a continent, offers a vast array of treasures for the traveler who likes to mix nature and adventure with relaxation.

Stay tuned this week, as I feature some of our most incredible Africa adventures, starting with South Africa!

For the adventure seeker, South Africa is one of the world’s most magnificent natural settings to explore. But as with many of our destinations, it has always been incredibly expensive to get there.

With our new 12-day South African Explorer tour for $2,799, travelers get the chance to visit modern, vibrant Cape Town – one of the world’s hot new destinations for style, night life, and unforgettable scenery – as well as cosmopolitan Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest metropolis.

Then, it’s into the wild for a visit to several of the country’s lush game reserves in search of the “Big Five” —  lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and black rhinos. Vacationers will even spend a night at a traditional rural village, where you’ll be treated to warm, welcoming South African hospitality.

And while you’re in South Africa, why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare to visit Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. Passengers taking the pre-tour extension will depart the U.S. four days before the scheduled departure date.

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On this optional extension, travelers experience the power and majesty of the largest curtain of falling water in the world. The tour also crosses over to the Zimbabwe side of the falls, and ends in Johannesburg, where you’ll meet up with the remaining group members as you depart for the full South African Adventure.

Join us in South Africa, and see why this destination is fast becoming one of the most popular in the world. It’s a vacation of a lifetime, at a price you won’t believe. But don’t wait too long to reserve your spot, because space is limited and will go very quickly.

Have a look at the Friendly Planet Travel Web site for the full South African Adventure itinerary, as well as the Victoria Falls optional extension itinerary.

A Friendly Planet Travel podcast with travel journalist and guru Chris Elliott

If something goes wrong when you’re traveling — a lost confirmation number, a mixed-up reservation, a bad hotel experience — it can easily seem like the cards are stacked against you. But there’s one travel journalist who has dedicated his career to helping people get the service they deserve when away from home: Christopher Elliott.

Elliot has been called one of the world’s leading travel experts. He is National Geographic Traveler magazine’s reader advocate, and writes the syndicated Travel Troubleshooter column, which appears in more than 50 U.S. newspapers and Web sites.

He also produces a popular weekly commentary and podcast on MSNBC.com and writes the Navigator column in Sunday’s Washington Post.

I had the chance to talk to the guru himself, and get the scoop on getting what you deserve. Elliott graciously gave us some of his time to talk about himself, his career, and a traveler’s best friend: common sense. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the latest Friendly Planet Travel podcast with Chris Elliott.

Friendly Planet tour guide Allan Rabinowitz walks the Israel Trail to fight ALS

Allan Rabinowitz knew there was something special about Israel when he first visited the country over 20 years ago … because he never left! And today Allan is using his love of the country to help him honor the memory of his mother, who in 2008, passed away after battling ALS. Israeltrailsc.jpg

Allan, his wife, and their 18-year-old son are walking the entire length of the Israel Trail to honor the memory of his mother and to raise money to fight the debilitating disease that ultimately ended her life. Here’s what Allan has to say about his trip:

The day we got the message that my mother, Lee, suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), we knew that from that moment on we were facing a painful and despairing death: Her neurological disorder stole her ability to hug, to speak, to eat, to walk, to move her limbs and even to breathe. With gigantic effort she murmured to us "I love you."But we couldn’t help her.

My mother, Lee Rabinowitz, died of Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) in the summer of 2008.

In her memory , my wife Tzippi, my son Ezra and I, will start backpacking the entire Israel Trail from north to south, some 1,000 winding kilometers (625 miles). Our goal is to raise both ALS awareness and funds for ALS research in Israel. This is the best way we know to express thanks for our miraculous ability to walk.


We will be very encouraged in our journey if you join us: You can do that by viewing our blogs, photos and video clips of Biblical sites as we progress.


And equally important, you can join our effort by "sponsoring" one or more kilometers, at $36/km, so that ALS research can advance as we advance. We deeply appreciate your participation in this effort.
Together we can do it.
Let’s walk the land for those who can’t. Can I count on your support?

Today, Allan is roughly a month into the journey, and he’s raised over $28,000. Our blogger and podcaster Bridget was able to catch up with him over the phone, and we’ll be posting that soon. During their chat, they spoke about what keeps Allan moving during this challenging trip, what inspired him to take his first step, and how the kindness of strangers continues to amaze. So stay tuned!

But for now, you can follow Allan’s progress on his blog, Walking the Land – for those who can’t, and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Ask the expert

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I started this blog because I wanted it to be a portal of information for globe trotters, vacation planners, and citizens of the world with a passion for travel. And I think we’ve covered a lot of great tips and topics, such as how to pack your bags for an eight-day trip, the five most important things to pack in your carry on bag, how to shop for the best travel bargain, five tips for avoiding passport hassles, cash, credit, or travelers checks: the scoop on money abroad, and much more.

But one of my goals is to make this Friendly Planet Travel blog not only a source of information for you, but an interactive community. As such, I want to invite everyone and anyone to write to me! What are your travel questions? What topics would you love to see as blog posts? And what are you dying to know about Friendly Planet?

I’ve been around the globe more than a few times myself, and I’ve picked up quite a few tricks along the way. And the best way for me to share it with you, is for you to ask. So … ask away!

The New York Times points to Friendly Planet’s Borneo Adventure

The New York Times’ "In Transit" highlighted our Borneo Adventure tour this week. Thanks for the shout out, Allison!

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Don’t let your wallet get swiped abroad!

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Perhaps one of the worst ways to have a perfectly wonderful vacation go to ruin is to lose your wallet, or worse, have it stolen, especially while you’re traveling abroad. You feel helpless, sick to your stomach, and fearful, because everything you need to transact even the most basic functions of daily life are contained in that little piece of leather and plastic. All doesn’t have to be lost, though, if you keep three basic, easy-to-remember rules in mind as you travel.

1. Don’t carry your wallet. That’s the simplest and best way to avoid the problem of a lost or stolen wallet. Have I lost my mind, telling you not to carry your wallet? What about the money, the credit cards, the ID? You don’t need a wallet for any of these things. I  always put some cash, one credit card, and my driver’s license in a small "purse" that I’ve bought expressly for travel. This purse is small enough to strap to my leg (under my slacks) if I’m not carrying a purse, and has a little pouch for change. But you don’t need anything fancier than a small plastic zip lock bag, which will easily do the job just as well.

2. Call the police. If you are carrying the wallet (despite my best advice) and it’s been stolen, call the police right away. Even if the police can’t recover your wallet, you will need the police report to make an insurance claim. And sometimes, the police even recover your wallet for you, in which case you can lock it into your hotel room safe for the rest of your stay. Even if you’ve lost your wallet, you should report it to the local police. A lost wallet can often turn up (without cash, most likely) but with ID and other important items still inside. Filing a police report will increase your chances of ever getting the wallet back into your hands safely. Otherwise, no one will have a clue how to contact you as you travel.

3. Keep change, receipts, business cards, etc. in your wallet tucked inside the hotel room safe.
If you really want to be able to avoid having that wallet with you as you travel, you’ll have to get used to getting rid of all those collectables you acquire during the day. Chuck the small change, cards, notes, receipts, and other odds and ends that make your normally feather-light wallet feel like a cannonball. These should go into the wallet and be left inside the room safe, unless you absolutely must have the item with you. If you need an item you’ve stored in your locked wallet, take it out, put it into your baggie or purse, but don’t take the wallet out of the safe. Regarding small change, in most currencies, it’s not worth much in terms of buying power. And if you leave what you collect in your hotel room when you check out, your maid will appreciate the tip.
 

Incredible 11-day Argentina tour for $1,599

Spanning more than 1 million square miles, Argentina is home to an immensely diverse topography of natural wonders. From the tropical rainforests in the north, to the snow-capped Andean mountains in the south, to all the wonders that any travel lover and adventure seeker could dream of in between, Argentina has it all.

And now, travelers can experience the unique beauty of Argentina for less than ever on our Incredible Argentina tour. The trip includes visits to the impressive Iguazú Falls, the stunningly beautiful ski resort of Bariloche, and the chic cosmopolitan capital city of Buenos Aires.

Everything vacationers need to explore Argentina — from roundtrip flights, transfers, touring, and some daily meals – is included in this fabulous vacation package. All of this is yours at prices that are — much like Argentina’s landscape — truly amazing!

Head on over to the Friendly Planet Travel Web site for more information or to book, or read on below for the full Incredible Argentina itinerary.

Day 1: Depart USA. Your fascinating journey begins as you depart in the evening for your overnight flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Day 2: Arrive Iguazú. After arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the national airport for your flight to the Argentinean side of Iguazú Falls. Check in at the Panoramic Hotel Iguazú, and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure to rest and take in your beautiful new surroundings.

Day 3: Iguazú Falls. Upon seeing Iguazú, Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed "Poor Niagara!" You’ll soon discover why this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Straddling the border of Argentina and Brazil, the Falls consist of 275 inlets and cataracts cascading down 250 feet, framed by multiple rainbows and mist that rises up to 500 feet in the air. Iguazú boasts the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world.

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Travelers will be treated to a fantastic close-up view of the falls and their dazzling display of power. Then, travel through the rain forest to the most spectacular sight at Iguazú: Devil’s Throat, a massive U-shaped cataract that measures 270 feet high, 490 feet wide, and 2300 feet long.

Spend the afternoon at leisure to explore further on your own. Or, take advantage of an optional nautical adventure along the Lower Iguazú River, sailing under the Falls. Later this afternoon, be sure to take time to stroll through the laid-back town of Puerto Iguazú.

Day 4: Bariloche. Enjoy a morning taking advantage of the lovely leisure facilities at the hotel. Later, transfer to the airport for your flight to the stunning lakeside ski resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche. Surrounded by dense forests, alpine lakes, romantic chalets, and snow-capped Andean mountains, Bariloche’s idyllic scenery is reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. Check in at the Cacique Inacayal Hotel, and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to relax or shop for hand-knit woolen sweaters and delicious locally made chocolate.

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Day 5: Bariloche. Experience the unbelievably beautiful natural splendor of the Andean region on today’s excursion along the popular Circuito Chico. Set out westward on Avenida Bustillo to the Península Llao Llao, home to one of Argentina’s most famous and picturesque landmarks, the Llao Llao Hotel. Llao Llao’s Puerto Pañuelo is the point of departure for your boat-bus excursion across the Andes to Chile. Stop at the charming village of Colonia Suiza, where you’ll have an opportunity to sample some of the town’s renowned pastries at a local café.

Spend the afternoon at leisure or take advantage of one of two exciting optional tours. The first takes you to Victoria Island, where you’ll ascend Mount Bella Vista by a chairlift that takes you up a narrow path of ancient coihue and cypress trees. As you descend, take in some of the most spectacular views in the region. Continue to the Bosque de Arrayanes National Park, home to the rare and ancient myrtle trees.

A second optional tour takes you to Cerro Catedral, rising to nearly 8,000 feet and named after its resemblance to a Gothic cathedral. Here you’ll find Argentina’s world-renowned Mount Cathedral Ski Resort, which boasts 62 miles of ski runs and magnificent views over Bariloche and Nahuel Huapi Lake.

Day 6: Buenos Aires. Your discovery of Argentina continues today as you transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital city. Upon arrival, transfer to check-in at the centrally located Dazzler Tower San Martin.

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Day 7: Buenos Aires. After breakfast, set out on a tour of the city and discover why Buenos Aires is so often referred to as "the Paris of the South." Exploration begins at the Plaza del Mayo, the historic and political center of the city. You’ll see the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace from which Juan and Eva Perón spoke to throngs of adoring Argentineans. Continue to the Obelisk landmark on the Avenue 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world.

Then to the crowded Florida Street, a true shopper’s paradise. Pass through the colorful neighborhood of La Boca and the charming San Telmo area. Buenos Aires is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive flavor, but everywhere you go, the people are warm and welcoming.

Admire the French architecture in the exquisite Recoleta neighborhood, including the beautiful Cemetery of La Recoleta, where Evita Perón is buried. It is one of many ironies of this comple
x city that Evita, heroine of the poor, is buried in the city’s most elegant (and expensive) section.

Day 8: Buenos Aires and Optional Tigre Excursion. Today is yours at leisure to explore on your own. We recommend an optional tour to Tigre and San Isidro. Enjoy a catamaran ride through the labyrinth of islands and islets along the Paraná Delta. Disembark and board the Tren de la Costa, a light rail train that connects the elegant riverfront areas. Descend in the main station of San Isidro for a tour of the town’s cathedral and other attractions.

In the evening, take advantage of an optional dinner, complete with an exciting performance of the tango, Argentina’s passionate national dance.

Day 9: Buenos Aires and Optional Estancia visit. After breakfast, travel outside the city for a full day optional excursion to the Argentine Pampas. Visit a traditional estancia (ranch), where you’ll discover the life of the Argentine cowboys known as "gauchos." After a sumptuous barbecue lunch including delicious local wine, you’ll enjoy a folkloric show with typical Argentine dance, song, and dress.

Day 10: Depart Buenos Aires. Enjoy your final day in Argentina at leisure for last-minute sightseeing and souvenirs. We recommend a stroll the colorful streets and shops around your hotel to scout the amazing bargains that will make shopping for souvenirs (and that gorgeous leather bag) a pleasure. Later, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA.

Day 11: Arrive USA. Your Argentinean adventure ends today as you touch down in the U.S.

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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