Looking for Cheap Travel Deals and Actually Finding Them

It may be less than appropriate to rejoice in the misery of others. But are you sure you shouldn’t rejoice when the said misery results in ultra cheap travel deals like you’ve never seen before?

If you’ve been looking for summer vacation packages on the Internet and in the papers, you’re likely to find that anything to Europe starts at $1000 just for the airfare per person. And then there are the expenses do with staying there and food. Choose to go to places that have been particularly hard hit by the financial crisis of 2008, places like Iceland, Ireland, Portugal or Greece, and it feels like you’ve entered a time warp. Suddenly, your $1000 buys you not just a return trip to a European holiday destination, it also buys you a week in a great hotel. Try a place like Paris or Rome, and you have to pay about $250 a night just for the hotel alone. And these prices are even rising. Try the same kind of hotel in Athens, and you get the same kind of hotel about $125 a night (and it’s falling every week). Buy a package trip to Ireland, and you get for $800, return air tickets, and hotel and car rentals, all included. These are countries that are in desperate financial straits and they want as many tourists coming in as possible. If you don’t feel too guilty about taking advantage of the misery of others, these cheap travel deals to economically distressed countries could be your opening.

Traveling internationally on holiday without one of these cheap travel deals today can be an expensive affair. The euro is quite strong as compared to the dollar; the exchange rate can play havoc with your budget. And all air tickets are more expensive because of high oil prices. Buying one of these packages could be your answer to today’s inflated holiday prices.

Consider a holiday in Greece. They’ve had crooked governments mis-managing their affairs for years and they are tens of billions of dollars in debt. There were violent riots because of inflation and unemployment last year and tourists began to drop off. That’s your recipe for a cheap travel deal. To make Greece more attractive to tourists, the government has made it cheaper for foreign aircraft to land and take off from Athens. And hotel taxes have been slashed too.

Iceland has a reputation for being priced out of most tourists’ budgets. Only about six years ago, just going out and getting a drink could cost you $30 in Reykjavik. The country was buffeted by terrible inflation and poor financial management practices. That’s when the financial crisis of 2008 took the country down. They have debt problems and bailout loan problems as well. They’ve really gone all out to draw tourists to their frozen shores ever since, and they’ve succeeded. Prices have fallen (even if they are still is expensive as they might be in London or Paris) and visiting the country can be really inexpensive.

Thinking Of Travel To China?

Today sketchandtravel.com and bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Shelley Jiang, editor of LET’S GO CHINA, 6th Edition, one of 57 guidebooks published by the bestselling budget series from LET’S GO PUBLICATIONS.

Norm Goldman, editor of Bookpleasures.com and Sketchandtravel.com, conducted the following interview. Norm is also a regular contributor to lovetripper.com.

Good Day Shelley and thank you for accepting our invitation to be interviewed.

NORM: Please tell our readers something about yourself and your expertise pertaining to China.

SHELLEY: Born in China, I spent the first six years of my life in Beijing, the city that I will always think of as my first home. Though I moved to America and attended school there, I remain deeply connected with China through books, news, movies, family, and spending summers there every two or three years. During these summer trips, I often travel around the country and have visited many of the places in Let’s Go: China.

NORM: Would you consider China a good choice for a romantic getaway or wedding and honeymoon destination? Why?

SHELLEY: China is vast enough to offer something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a fast-paced weekend in Shanghai, a trip into China’s gorgeous outdoors, or an immersion in centuries of tradition and history. But don’t come expecting Paris or the Caribbean–China isn’t your average romantic getaway, but a destination for the free-spirited and adventurous. No resorts or pampering here–part of the excitement and romance of a vacation in China is experiencing a new culture and taking in the grit as well as the beauty.

For those willing to ditch the conventional and leave the beaten path, breathtaking natural sights and unique cultural experiences await. Otherworldly landscapes familiar from many a martial arts film (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero) can serve as the backdrop for your personal love story as well. Ancient palaces, pagodas, and temples invites travelers to step back into a past that stretches more than 5000 years. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai proudly showcase their past alongside their future, with skyscrapers rising one after another and an urban culture to rival those of any American or European city.

NORM: What is the best time to visit China from the point of view of weather, costs, crowds, and the availability of flights from the USA, Canada and Europe and Australia, etc?

SHELLEY: China’s peak travel times are around Chinese New Year (some time in Jan.-Feb., depending on lunar calendar), May 1st, July-August, and the first week of October. The best time to visit would be from late-April through June, when the weather is warm, students are still in school, and many establishments are still on low season pricing. The fall is also a pleasant time to travel without the crowds (but avoid the Oct. 1st holiday week) and see beautiful foliage, especially in the north.

Airfares to China are most expensive between June and September. Even flying on May 31 instead of Jun. 1st will get you a cheaper flight. Flying September-May will get you much cheaper flights. Plan ahead–the cheapest tickets for summer flights to China sell out by early March.

NORM: Could you give our readers an idea of the costs involved if travel originates from the USA, Canada and Europe and Australia?

SHELLEY: China is a budget traveler’s dream come true–with the exception of the airfare, which can cost anywhere from US$600-1500. It’s cheaper to fly from September-May. The best places to find low-fares are Chinese-run travel agencies in Chinatown–check the local Chinese newspaper or ask around to find their listings.
The budget-conscious can often spend anywhere from US$2-10 per night for lodgings in a hostel or basic room, depending on destination. Food can cost as little as US$4 per person per day for meals from street vendors and small family-run restaurants.

Of course, splurges and treats are everywhere. A comfortable hotel room will cost around US$25-50 per night, and lavish suites range from US$60-150 per night. For US$8-25, a couple can dine at fancier restaurants serving distinctive, gourmet cuisines.

The cheapest and most convenient way to get around China is via rail. Short journeys can cost around US$5-12 for a one-way ticket, while longer journeys will cost up to US$50. Expect to pay more than US$100, however, for a private sleeper compartment for two people.

The number of domestic flights in China is on the rise. One-way fares range US$90-200; round-trip fares are always double the one-way fare.

NORM: If you had to choose 3-5 unequalled venues in China for a romantic getaway, honeymoon or wedding destination, what would they be and why?

SHELLEY:
Jiuzhaigou: Nestled deep in the mountains of northern Sichuan, the “Valley of the Nine Tibetan Villages” is known for its pristine lakes and waterfalls that sparkle a spectrum of shades under the sunshine. You may remember the impossibly blue lakes from the fight sequence filmed here in Hero. Nature lovers can hike beneath the shadow of snowy peaks, experience local Tibetan culture, and in nearby Songpan, embark upon horse treks into the wild. Convenient tourist services are nearby, offering everything from budget lodgings to five-star hotels.

Hangzhou: Those in love with classical China can head to this graceful city of the south and historic dynastic capital. Willows, gardens, pavilions, and delicately arched bridges dot the shores of the West Lake, the setting for ancient China’s most famous love stories. Sip fragrant Dragon Well tea while dining at one of China’s oldest restaurants that once served emperors. The misty waters and city pleasures are enough to captivate anyone; if not nearby Shanghai promises a plunge back into modernity.

Yunnan: This province on the border with Vietnam and Myanmar is the ideal destination for the adventurous, with its 22 colorful ethnic minority cultures and diverse natural scenery. Its capital, Kunming, “City of Eternal Spring,” enchants travelers with flowers on every street, but the true attractions lie in the countryside. Pack your gear for a trek south into tropical rainforests and rice paddies, dotted by Dai villages and gleaming Buddhist stupas. Northern Yunnan is better known as “Shangri-La,” where red-robed monks walk the streets of mountain villages and snowy peaks beckon in the distance.

Xinjiang: Xinjiang takes romance and writes it large upon vast expanses of deserts and horizons. Experience the exoticism of a nomadic lifestyle with camel rides across the dunes and nights under the stars upon China’s last frontier. Or trek up to the legendary Tianshan Mountains overlooking the “Heavenly Pool.” Friendly Uighur musicians will be happy to play at Uighur-style wedding celebrations, filled with tasty food, fresh grapes and melons, and plenty of singing and dancing.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong offers a vacation as sophisticated and exciting as it is expensive. From luxury malls to teeming street markets, Hong Kong easily combines class and chaos. Dinner cruises on Victoria Harbour, stylish hotels and restaurants, and endless clubs, bars, and entertainment options ensure that you’ll never run out of things to do. Macau lures travelers away with its many casinos and Portuguese-influenced cuisine and architecture, but you’ll find yourself back in Hong Kong before long.

NORM: What should people know about celebrating a wedding in China from the point of view of requirements, experience of the various hotels, etc.

SHELLEY: Large fancy hotels are readily available, with the best and widest selection obviously being in Beijing and Shanghai. Restaurants make another good venue, and Let’s Go: China lists many of the best restaurants in Beijing. Book months in advance for celebrations in June and August, popular wedding months in China.

China also excels in gorgeously done wedding photo shoots, often involving lavish sets and costumes, professional make-up artists, and more. Popular options include traditional Chinese wedding garb, emperor and empress outfits, and turn of the century cheongsam robes. A full set often includes an entire album’s worth of photos, the cost of which averages US125-300.

NORM: How far in advance should a couple prepare themselves for their honeymoon, romantic getaway or wedding in China?

SHELLEY: For the cheapest airfares, it’s best to start planning at least four or five months in advance. Unless you are familiar with the country, it’s best not to leave a trip to China to the last minute.

NORM: What resources are available on the Internet pertaining to weddings and honeymoon vacations in China?

SHELLEY: CTRIP offers a great destination guide, often with photographs. Their flight search is helpful for planning, but only those with Chinese credit cards can make reservations.

CHINA TOUR COM provides a wealth of practical information, from visas to currency to vaccines. They also collect news stories related to travel in China, provide information on organized tours, and offer brief guides on Chinese culture.

TRAVEL CHINA GUIDE is another good resource for destination guides.

TRAVEL INFORMATION GUIDE is a forum for those traveling to China.

Thanks Shelley

European Trip? Be Prepared For Emergencies With Travel Insurance And The EU ‘112’ Emergency Number

Imagine you can still taste the delicious flavors of the dinner that you just enjoyed at a cozy restaurant in the French Alps. Your partner dozes off as you drive along the quiet, dark road back to your hotel in a nearby village. You reflect on how well your European road trip has been going since leaving the UK. The journey through the Channel Tunnel and down to the French Alps was problem-free. Tomorrow your itinerary takes you through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to begin the next leg of your tour – through Italy.

Suddenly disaster strikes! A car is heading toward you at great speed – in the middle of the road. You swerve… After regaining consciousness you discover your partner injured and your car stuck in a ditch. The other vehicle is nowhere to be seen. The road is dark and deserted and the nearest town a few kilometers away. You stagger out of the car, dazed and confused, and come to the realization that you must find your mobile phone and call for help. You call the operator but the person on the other end is speaking French and you can’t understand a word or make yourself understood.

Then you remember… Luckily, you had done some research and were aware of the new ‘112’ European-wide emergency number – and that a SIM card is necessary to access the service in most European countries. You programmed 112 into your mobile phone before leaving home. You make the call and the operator – hearing the panic in your voice – quickly switches to speaking English. You can’t give your exact position, but in most places caller location can be identified quickly. Help is on the way!

In this situation, would you be thinking clearly enough to remember that in France the numbers to call in an emergency are 15, 17 and 18, and in the UK 999? (Note: the usual emergency numbers for most European countries and territories are still in effect – and work alongside the 112). Any payphone, fixed phone or mobile phone can be used to make a free 112 emergency call. However, in an effort to stop hoax calls, some European countries (including the UK, Belgium and France) block 112 calls from a mobile phone without a SIM card.

The 112 and other emergency numbers are for emergency services only – to summon help from ambulance, fire brigade or police services. We all know (don’t we?) that they must never be used for any non-urgent reasons, such as finding a lost contact lens or pet, removing a stubborn cork from a nice bottle of Claret, or summoning a lift home if all the taxi cabs are booked!

When planning a trip, the not-so-fun part involves taking care of necessary details like visas, vaccinations, currency exchange – and choosing the best travel insurance policy to suit your needs. If taking your own car you’ll need European breakdown cover and your license, registration and insurance documents. Remember to check that your mobile phone is set for roaming in Europe.

Travel insurance policies come with a number to call for emergency medical assistance. It’s unlikely that you will have the policy with you if an emergency situation arises, so keep a note of the number in your wallet or bag and enter it into your mobile phone directory; the same goes for Vehicle Breakdown assistance.

Ensure that each person in your travel party is aware of the 112 emergency number. In the scenario above, the details of your travel insurance or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) would have been requested upon arrival at the hospital. You would also need to call the emergency assistance number associated with your Vehicle Breakdown cover.

Pass the word along to family, friends, colleagues, and backpackers heading for Europe. It’s simply not worth cutting corners by neglecting to take out travel insurance or breakdown cover. Chances are that you will never need any of those emergency numbers, but considering the recorded 100 million emergency calls in Europe each year, isn’t it better to be prepared? Those three little numbers ‘112’ are a lifeline – an SOS – and they DO save lives!

Europe Travel

Europe has always been the dream destination of travelers around the world. While it is considered the hub of literature and legacy, modern Europe blends its rich history and heritage with entertainment and sensuality. The continent of Europe is spanned from Norway to the north to Spain to the south; from Portugal to the west to Ural Mountains to the east. Occupying almost 7% of the entire land of the earth, this continent has more than 45 countries. Besides that Europe is famous for its large coastline, some of the finest beaches, pleasant climate and beautiful mountain ranges. Whether it is the valleys of Switzerland or the rich cultural legacy of Rome, or the romance in the streets of Paris, every European country has something unique to offer you! Here is a complete Europe travel guide for you.

Paris: Paris, the city of romance, glamour and glitz is famous for its nightlife and it offers numbers of landmarks for Europe travelers. However, the most convenient way to visit Paris, if you are a first-timer would be with Paris Museum Pass. With this pass, you can visit more than 70 museums ad monuments. If you want to experience best sunrise and sunset in Paris, consider Norte dame and Eiffel Tower respectively.

London: Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, British Museum, National gallery- these are the major attractions of London city. Britain’s capital signifies an orthodox yet vibrant culture. And you will experience it the moment you will step on London’s soil.

Rome: The city of seven hills can be a treat for first-time Europe travelers. From Colosseum to Trevi Fountain, from Arch of Titus to Piazza del Popolo, from Vatican Museum to Vatican City, Rome bears its rich culture in its every corner.

Prague: This magical city is famous for its bridges on Vltava River. While enjoying the beauteous sightseeing in this country, don’t forget to try river cruises and walking trips. From Prague Castle to Josefov, Prague is one of the ideal European destinations for those, who love old European architectural heritage.

Switzerland: In spite of being one of the smallest nations in Europe, Switzerland has some of the highest mountains and largest waterfalls. Don’t miss the beautiful landscape and vast valleys of Switzerland. Chocolate lovers- don’t forget to taste different types of chocolates in Zurich.

Amsterdam: Rembrandt, canals, red lanterns and liberal attitude- these are the main attractions of Amsterdam. You can have the list of Amsterdam attractions from any travel guide, buy don’t miss to walk around through the roads.

Vienna: One of the most romantic cities around the world, Vienna is famous for Anchor Clock, Danube Tower, Haas House, Hofburg, St. Stephen’s cathedral, Vienna Opera House etc. In this country, lots of cultural events take place throughout the year. Don’t miss them if you want to know the real city.

Among other most visited European countries, Milan, Berlin, Italy, Netherlands are the major ones. Without visiting these cities, your Europe Travel will be incomplete.

European continent is well connected with other continents and countries in the world. Every European city is inter-connected with each other via railways, waterways, airways and roadways. Among the various means of communications, rented car, metro, boats, bus and taxi are the major ones. There are many types of motels and hotels in every European city, which you can pick according to your needs and budget. But it was always advisable to book in advance, if you are visiting Europe in peak season.

Travel Costs by Country

The following is a guide to what you can expect to spend per day, on a frugal budget, in various and popular destinations around the world. This cost is really a bare minimum and would ideally cover staying in cheaper hostels or hotels, food (eating locally bought produce, avoiding tourist restaurants where possible) and transport. There are a bunch of sites on the net with various strategies for travelling even cheaper than this list; though this type of journey takes travel out of the backpacking category into something more grubby. Living of $10.00 a day can be done but is not for everybody.

The costs listed are for low or shoulder seasons; if you plan to be in any of these places around Christmas or during a major event (Carnival in Rio for example) expect these prices to double or even triple.

Asia

Cheap – India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos $17-25
Average – Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, China $35-45
Expensive- Hong Kong, South Korea, Eastern China, Singapore $45-60 (potentially in the hundreds for Hong Kong)
Very expensive – Japan $60-100 (with rail pass)

New Zealand

Average – (good value while the Aussie dollar is high) – $35 – 60

The Americas

Central America

Cheap – Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras $30-40
Average – Belize (most expensive in Central America), Costa Rica $30-60

South America

Cheap Bolivia (best value), Ecuador $15-35
Average – Peru, Argentina $25-45
Just a bit more expensive Brazil (Rio can be expensive), Chile $40-60

North America

Hard to narrow down, major capitals can be ruthlessly expensive $60-100

Europe

Western Europe on a shoe string $70-100, Eastern Europe $40-60

Africa

East Africa (without major tours/safaris) – $35-50 plus allow $150-250 per day for safaris
West Africa – from super cheap to super expensive (Lulunda in Angola is in the top five most expensive cities on Earth). Ghana is the best value ($15-30), with CFA (ex-French) countries $50-70 staying in very poor accommodation
Southern Africa – the cheap – Malawi, Zimbabwe) $30-50, Southern Africa – not quite so cheap
South Africa, Namibia (great value) $40-60 (excluding tours and safaris)

Middle East

Israel $70 (good value) Iran $40 (better value), The Gulf States $70-100 (there is a general lack of budget accommodation in the Gulf