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Archive for September, 2010

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Friday’s Friendly Funny

Travel to Thailand bouncing back

It warms my heart to hear the news that tourism to Thailand is making a strong rebound from the political protests that disrupted this normally peaceful country from March to June. eTurboNews reported that tourism is up by almost 14 percent and Thailand hopes to reach the 14 million visitors goal it set for 2010.

We followed the unfolding situation in Bangkok from day one to give you the most up-to-date information about what was happening on the ground. And as soon as the U.S. Department of State lifted its travel warning to the country we resumed our tours to Thailand to help the country rebuild the tourism infrastructure that it relies so dearly upon.

The country is also a top tourism destination. Travel and Leisure recently gave Bangkok its Top City award in its August issue. And Friendly Planet Travel loves it for its beauty, spirituality, and fascinating sights and sounds. Most of all, its welcoming, warm people make every visitor feel at home.

So that’s why I’m excited to give travelers more chances to experience the islands, cities, ancient ruins, and exotic architecture that make Thailand one of the best places on the planet to visit at an unbelievable price. Friendly Planet Travel’s nine-day Taste of Thailand tour is now just $999 (which is less than a weekend in Las Vegas when you think about it!).

Not a single corner is cut in the price tag. Included is round-trip airfare from Los Angeles via China Airlines, including fuel surcharges; intra-Thailand transportation; accommodations at first-class hotels; full American buffet breakfast daily and one dinner; sightseeing tours as per itinerary and all transfers; professional, English-speaking tour guides; optional extensions to Angkor Wat and Phuket Island; and more.

The Taste of Thailand tour takes travelers to three of Thailand’s most dynamic and awe-inspiring cities: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Kanchanaburi. I’ve told you all about these locations before, so flip back to my previous post on Thailand to read all about them, or visit our website for the full tour itinerary.

I expect this tour to be one of our most popular, so don’t wait an extra second to book the nine-day Taste of Thailand tour for $999 price. If you have questions, visit our website for the full tour itinerary, write to me, or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Japan Panorama tour: Four 2011 departure dates available

Tokyo Tower at dusk

Japan might be the most expensive travel destination in Asia with the shortest touring season, but Friendly Planet Travel’s Japan Panorama tour is consistently one of the best for the least. Those of you who have been calling and writing to us asking when our 2011 dates will be posted, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re ready and are available at prices that are hard to beat.

Our 10-day Japan Panorama tour starts at $3,199, with departure dates on: April 19, May 10, May 24, June 14, and July 5.

Japan’s futuristic cities, ancient temples, and peaceful countryside epitomizes its ultra-modern life while respecting and coexisting with its cultural heritage. It’s this mixture of technological innovation and tradition that puts Japan on top of Friendly Planet’s list of must-see destinations.

Your 10-day exploration of Japan begins in Tokyo, one of the world’s main economic centers and Japan’s modern capital, as well as its largest city. You see all of the main attractions, including: Tokyo Tower, modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the historic Imperial Palace, which dates back to the 15th century and is the present residence of the Emperor of Japan; Sensoji, or Asakusa Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy and compassion; and the Ginza, Tokyo’s most famous up-market shopping, dining, and entertainment district.

Mount Fuji 

After a good night’s sleep at the Tokyo Prince Hotel Park Tower, it’s off to Mount Fuji, a beautiful snow-capped volcano. Experienced hikers can trek from the summit to get some amazing panoramic views.

After lunch take a cruise on Lake Ashi, a slender body of water formed in the Hakone caldera about 400 thousand years ago. Board the Komagatake Ropeway, and don’t forget your camera, because you’re treated to a picturesque ascent up Mount Komagatake and sweeping views of Hakone National Park and Mount Fuji.

The following day you have the chance to explore Tokyo independently or join an optional tour to Nikko, a city filled with shrines and pagodas. The tour takes you to to the Toshogu Shrine, it is the original site of the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys, which are carved on one of the gates.

The bullet train

Then get ready for a high-speed adventure the next morning aboard the Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train. The train itself is an experience. It links the major cities in Japan efficiently, while reaching speeds of over 170 miles per hour. It takes you to Kyoto where you check in at the Hotel Granvia Kyoto.

While in Kyoto, Japan’s spiritual capital, visit the 17th-century Nijo Castle. You can see the architecture change as you go from the most public spaces to the private chambers of the shogun, which were protected by a highly imaginative security system comprised of floorboards deliberately built to squeak when walked upon.

Proceed to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji Temple), which is covered in gold leaf and whose three stories each reflect a different architectural style. Continue to the Handicraft Center, where you can pick up some souvenirs on one of its five floors. Complete your day with a walking tour around the Gion neighborhood, where the best-selling novel “Memoirs of a Geisha” was set.

Then take advantage of a day of leisure in Kyoto or hop on the bullet train for an optional tour of Hiroshima, including a ferry ride to Miyajima. After breakfast the next day, you’re driven to Nara, one of the earliest capitals of Japan.

Todaiji Temple

Tour the Todaiji Temple, whose Buddha is the largest bronze statue in the world, and whose main structure is the world’s largest wooden building. Continue to Osaka, which remains a vital center for trade and entrepreneurial culture. On a city tour, you see the Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of the country during the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

Stroll down Dotonboroi Street, a former pleasure district now famous for its theatres, shops, and restaurants, as well as the colorful neon and mechanized signs. You might recognize the snack/candy manufacturer Glico’s giant electronic display of a runner crossing the finish line. On your final day in Japan you’ll board the bullet train for Tokyo and your flight home.

Packaged in the price, from $3,199, are round-trip flights from Los Angeles via Singapore Airlines (voted the world’s #1 airline for safety, comfort, and service) non-stop jet service, including fuel surcharges; all intra-Japan ground transportation; superior first-class hotels; American buffet breakfast daily plus one lunch; fully escorted touring program with entrance fees; professional, English-speaking tour director and local guides; and more.

With limited departure dates and a price point that’s hard to beat in the travel industry, I’m expecting this tour to fill up fast. So if you’ve ever wanted to see Japan, book the 10-day Japan Panorama tour for $3,199 by Oct. 28.

And if you’ve been on this tour before, post a comment to let fellow travelers know how you liked it. And as always, if you have questions, you know the drill. Visit our website for the full tour itinerary, write to me, or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Friendly Planet Travel deals catch eyes of Frommer’s, Los Angeles Times, Budget Travel

I wanted to share a couple of media mentions Friendly Planet Travel’s tours got this week (and it’s not even Friday yet!).

Frommer’s featured our $2,899 12-day Best of South Africa tour as part of its “5 Deals for Sept. 9, 2010.”

The Los Angeles Times included our $2,099 nine-day Pyramids and Nile Cruise in its recent travel deals coverage.

And BudgetTravel found our $799 seven-day Captivating Costa Rica tour to be a “Real Deal.”

Thanks to the editors for featuring us!

Walk on the wild side with Friendly Planet Travel’s new Best of South Africa tour

The world’s eyes were on South Africa this summer during the World Cup. Most notably, we were introduced to the buzzing sound of the vuvuzela, which every soccer fan seemed to have in hand. But there’s so much more to South Africa than soccer. Even if you paid only the slightest attention to the media frenzy surrounding the games, you probably got a glimpse of a few of the amazing sights and sounds that have made South Africa one of the world’s hottest tourist destinations.

Best of South Africa itinerary

And all of it — the natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities, turbulent past, and unwavering hope for the future — is yours to enjoy on Friendly Planet Travel’s new 13-day Best of South Africa tour.

South Africa is a country of amazing diversity. Johannesburg and Cape Town have become destinations for style, night life, and gorgeous scenery, while the sweeping savannas are home to Africa’s big five game: lions, African elephants, cape buffaloes, leopards, and black rhinoceroses. And to add to the allure, the warm, welcoming hospitality of the South African people make every visitor feel at home.

Your exploration of South Africa begins in Johannesburg, affectionately known as “Jo’Burg” by the locals. Spend two full days in the country’s largest city and tour the former residence of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, the Apartheid Museum, and Soweto (short for Southwestern Township).

Leaving Johannesburg, you’ll set off for the Blyde River Canyon, one of the world’s largest, stopping for breathtaking views of rolling mountains, the Three Rondavels, God’s Window, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Continuing your tour at the Karongwe Game Reserve, you’ll hop on safari vehicles for a game drive into the African bush in search of lions, buffalo, and smaller creatures such as chameleons, scrub hares, and more.

African elephant

If that isn’t enough animal interaction, you’ll visit a very special place not usually found on South Africa tours, Elephant Whispers, which is dedicated to securing the future of the African Elephant.

Here a warm, loving, and compassionate environment is provided for six rescued elephants. You’ll experience the thrill of getting close to these magnificent and intelligent creatures and discover how gently they interact with humans. You even get an opportunity to ride one if you wish.

After another safari drive the following day, your evening is filled with festivities at the Shangaan River Club. Watch the sunset over the Sabie River as the drums sound and the torches are lit. You can have your face painted or your hair braided while the Ronaldsi Youth Cultural Traditional Dancers, all of whom are AIDS orphans that have been rescued from a life on the streets, provide entertainment.

Cape Town via cable car

Your tour will continue to Cape Town where you travel by cable car to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s most striking landmark. Stop at Milnerton Lighthouse for spectacular views of the mountain and the city below. Proceed to the country’s oldest building, the Castle of Good Hope, an imposing 17th century Dutch fort set against the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain.

Next jump from land to sea on a cruise along Hout Bay View where you’ll see the seals of Duiker Island. Then you’re transported by railway to Cape Point to visit the African jackass penguins at Boulders Beach. Venture to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where you’ll enjoy a magnificent display of indigenous South African flora.

Your last day will be spent in Cape Town where you can choose a full day optional tour to the famous Winelands, visiting the towns of Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch, as well as a wine cellar tour.

If you want to see all of this and more firsthand, book the 13-day Best of South Africa tour for $2,999. Included in the price are round-trip flights from New York via South African Airways wide-bodied jet service, including fuel surcharges; flights, ground transportation, and transfers within South Africa; 10 nights in superior first class hotels with private bath; 16 meals; professional English-speaking tour directors; comprehensive touring programs and safaris, including entrance fees; and more.

Victoria Falls

But if 13 days won’t be enough time for you, take advantage of the already included international airfare to visit Victoria Falls, one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, for five days. This pre-tour extension departs the U.S. four days before the departure dates shown.

Or extend the end of your vacation with a five-day trip along the Garden Route. It’s a beautiful stretch of the southern coastline of South Africa from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. In fact, if time and budget permits, why not take advantage of both extensions for the perfect South Africa vacation.

While the itinerary is extensive and inspired, with a number of interesting and original components not typically found on other tours, the prices are down to earth.

Comparing Friendly Planet’s Best of South Africa with other tours, you’ll discover that the savings are as amazing as the country itself. The value for money contained in this tour is easy to see, and it has proven to be one of Friendly Planet’s most popular travel programs year after year.

If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary of the tour. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

What’s hot in September at Friendly Planet Travel

The unofficial end to summer is upon us, but we’re not about to close our doors early for the long Labor Day weekend at Friendly Planet Travel. We have several hot deals going on that I wanted to highlight for you. Right now we’re running a promotion where you get up to $70 off the departure dates below with a special coupon code by Sept. 6.

If you didn’t receive this promo in your e-mail then you’re not signed up for our Hot Deals newsletter. So sign up for it now to make sure you always get the discounted offers as soon as they come out. In the meantime, here are the deals that are burning up the last days of summer.

$50 off 15-day Best of India and Nepal, Nov. 22: Find out why India and Nepal continue to top the must-see lists of world travelers on this tour of Delhi, Kathmandu, Varanasi, Agra, and Jaipur now for $2,949 with coupon code IBI0910 (a $2,999 value).

$50 off 8-day Exotic Ecuador, Dec. 6: Discover the remarkable collection of landscapes, cultures, and wildlife on this tour of Quito, Otavalo, Banos, Cotopaxi, and the Amazon Rainforest now for $1,249 with coupon code ISE0910 (a $1,299 value).

$70 off 10-day Taste of China, Dec. 28: Tour impressive modern achievements within an ancient and incredibly rich culture in Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai now for $1,529 with coupon code ITC0910 ($1,599 value).

$70 off 8-day Pyramids and Petra, Dec. 4Embark on an inspired exploration of the pyramids of Egypt and the lost city of Petra in Jordan, one of the Seven New Ancient Wonders of the World now for $1,729 with coupon code IPP0910 (a $1,799 value).

$50 off 12-day Amazing Peru, Dec. 1: Get an unforgettable glimpse of the genius of the lost world of the Inca people and more when touring Lima, Nazca Lines, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca now for $2,229 with coupon code SAP0910 (a $2,299 value).

I know there’s a lot to choose from here, so pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, find a quiet place to sit, and pick out your next destination. And once you do that, simply enter the coupon code on the first booking screen when booking online or give the code to your agent when you call 1-800-555-5765.

What vaccinations do you need before traveling?

Before you jet off to a foreign country, you should find out whether or not you need any vaccinations. Obviously the last thing you want is to get sick while you’re on vacation, or worse, catch a serious illness.

The quickest way to find out what vaccinations you’ll need is to look up what country you’re visiting on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. There you’ll find updated information for every country in the world.

Assuming that you’ve booked your trip through a reliable travel agency, you can expect your reservationist to provide you with this information before crossing borders. Friendly Planet Travel provides this information to all of our travelers. However the CDC’s website is also a good resource to hit if you want to get the information before you book.

And I’ll add a few tips of my own to help you make sure you stay in tip-top health while you’re on vacation. First, check with your personal physician to find out if you’ve had vaccinations for tetanus, hepatitis A, or hepatitis B. All travelers should have these vaccines no matter where they are traveling, including within the U.S.

These diseases can be contracted anywhere and can make you very sick. The good news is that they’re easily preventable with their vaccines, which you’ve probably already received if you’ve had routine vaccinations throughout your life. If you need additional vaccinations, be sure to get them in time for your trip, and definitely check with your health insurance carrier to determine if your expense in getting your vaccinations is covered.

Personally, I recommend going one step further and asking your doctor to refer you to a travel medicine specialist or you can locate a travel medicine clinic near you. A travel doctor will know precisely what vaccinations you need.

An added benefit of a travel medicine specialists is that they have knowledge about specific areas of countries and how you should vaccinate according to your itinerary. For instance, it’s generally recommended that if you’re traveling to India you should take malaria prevention medicines. However if you’re only visiting Deli, Agra, and Jaipur, you most likely don’t need it. This medicine can have some side effects. You only want to take it if absolutely necessary.

When in doubt, definitely err on the side of caution when it comes to vaccinations before you travel. Feel free to write to me if you have any questions or leave a comment on this post.

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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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