Consumer advocate Ed Perkins is traveling in Europe this week, sending tips and tales from the road. Follow along here.
I arranged a rental car in advance for my arrival in Bari. The rental was with Enterprise, which had the best deal. During the rental booking process, I was asked if I was over 25. The booking agent did not ask my age. But when I arrived, the clerk at the Enterprise desk informed me that the company did not rent to anyone age 72 or older.
So, it's 9 p.m. and I have no car. I easily got a replacement the next morning, and Enterprise agreed to refund my pre-payment, but the experience cost both inconvenience and two unnecessary cab fares. ... read more»
Istanbul is too big and too diverse to limit yourself to just one neighborhood. But getting around in a car can take a painfully long time—it's one of the largest cities in the world, and it has the traffic to prove it. So it makes sense to spend a few nights in different areas of the city, taking time each day to explore a different side of Istanbul. Here's how I did it, by staying in three different hotels on a recent trip.
The Asian Side
Tourists often skip the Asian side of Istanbul or relegate it to a quick stop on a Bosphorus cruise just to tick off another continent. That's a shame. This is where you'll get a real taste of local life, minus the tourist crowds. Plus, you'll have glittering city views of the more built-up European side. ... read more»
For the past 30 years, whenever I've been asked to state my occupation at a border crossing, I've said, "Teacher." People may find my TV shows to be entertaining or my guidebooks practical, but my passion has always been to teach, whether it's about art, culture, or nuts-and-bolts travel skills. My fundamental cause is that good travel teaches people to better understand the world they live in.
In order to be a good teacher, I need to be a good student. That's why I frequently hire local guides. It's basically like renting a friend who's really smart. Then, everything I do, I'm doing with a coach and partner. I always learn something. Last summer, my Portuguese guide Alex took me on a little scavenger hunt through Lisbon's castle town—built back when nobles needed a safe place within the castle walls—and showed me things I'd never noticed even after 20 years of visits to Lisbon. ... read more»
In my early twenties, I read somewhere that women, as travelers, tended to be more adventurous than men. I have no idea if it's true, but the thought that wanderlust was a birthright has, in the ensuing two decades, inspired me to always say yes to travel.
From February 27 to March 1, women who just say yes to travel will be gathering in San Francisco at the Women's Travel Fest 2015. The festival and conference, now in its second year, is a mix of celebrations, speakers, and seminars for all women with an interest in exploring their world. Presented by the Go! Girl Guides travel book series, speakers at this year's event include journalist Laura Ling; Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die; Felicity Aston, the first and only woman to ever cross-country ski Antarctica; and Paula Froelich, editor-in-chief of Yahoo! Travel. ... read more»
"You don't need to buy foreign currency in advance. The big banks all have ATMs at important gateway airports, so just use your ATM card when you arrive. You won't lose more than about 3 percent in the exchange, and cards from some U.S. issuers impose no foreign exchange fee or ATM fee at all." That's the mantra most travel writers and I have been repeating for years, but now it has to change. You have to revise your on-arrival strategy.
The travel industry hates to see consumers get too many really good deals, and they're shutting the door on good exchange rates at airport ATMs. When I arrived at Gatwick Airport two weeks ago, I no longer saw ATMs operated by Barclay's (my go-to bank in the U.K.) or any of the other worldwide or nationwide banks. Instead, I saw a bunch of ATMs operated by Travelex, with big signs that read, "Free withdrawal." And yes, you can withdraw pounds with no withdrawal fee. But what you do pay is a really bad exchange rate—it looked to me that you'd lose about 10 to 11 percent, the same as you lose at the retail exchange counter. I saw the same system when I departed from Stansted Airport. ... read more»
Presumably, some folks on your holiday gift list are travelers. Equally likely, you want to come up with a gift that they would really like.
The folks at Switchfly, the loyalty-program redemption experts, have an answer for you. According to their research, "Most Americans (65 percent) would be excited to receive an air travel gift for the holidays and … the number-one holiday gift American air travelers want is an upgrade to first class." That's a plausible finding, but one more easily stated than accomplished. Time was you could buy an "open ticket" to a known favorite destination, and the traveler could pick the dates within a year. Alas, those days are long gone. Instead you pretty much have to get involved with the details of a gift trip. ... read more»