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Travel Tips thread

Tokyo Slim

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I thought it would be cool to share travel tips, tricks, reviews, and experiences. I noticed that while we had a few specific threads on travel destinations, we didn't have anything that dealt at all with general travel and vacation PLANNING. I am a pretty ravenous bargain hunter. Mostly because I'm poor as hell. If you have any good leads on budget travel internationally or domestic, here's where to share it! I hate... HATE this fuel and security surcharge bullshit. My tickets to Tokyo in December are $590 (From JTB USA) before tax and surcharge. The fuel and security surcharge is $414.30 for a total of $1004.30. Holy Jeez. Thats about $400 more than I've ever paid for that flight. What is this world coming to?!? Edit: Its actually cheaper to fly Asiana to Tokyo through Seoul. $869 total. (Evidently Asiana isn't charging $400+ for fuel) Long ass flight though.
 

GQgeek

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money belt = teh win. Nobody robbed me but I felt a lot less vulnerable walking around in a 3rd world country with it.

Also, if you're going to Machu Picchu. MAKE RESERVATIONS FOR THE TRAIN or you could be totally screwed. It basically cost me an extra thousand because i didn't do this on time.

Don't go to the third world without Cipro and immodium.
 

Huntsman

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Wow. That sucks. I only travel domestically (thus far) and as my 'home' airport is still reasonably sized, my favorite thing is to check in at the airport (rather than in advance via the Web), and I always check my seat assignment and switch to get an empty next to me. I've never had someone switch into the seat next to me, either --- there'd be no reason. ~ Huntsman
 

Tokyo Slim

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Also, just a quick hotel recommendation: Simple (the rooms are small, but definitely usable and in good shape), good amenities, excellent location in the heart of Shinjuku, friendly staff, reasonable price, close to subway: City Hotel Lornstar Standard single rooms starting from 5800 yen ($54.08 with today's exchange rate) They are tiny though, by western standards. I'd suggest the Deluxe single if you want to stretch out a bit.
Youtube of a standard single before they remodeled it a couple years ago. Just for a "dimensional reference" For a monetary reference, this is what you get for 4300 yen ($40.11) in the same neighborhood. Which is why the City Hotel Lornstar is such an awesome bargain, though the capsule is certainly an... experience
These, by the way, are pretty much incapable of allowing me to lay down without curling up. I think the one I stayed in was about... five foot ten inches long or so. I'm six foot two. I couldn't understand what the desk clerk was saying to me when I checked in, but she was laughing. I didn't get the joke until about five minutes later when I found my capsule.
 

acidboy

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Here are a few I picked up:

- there are studies that show a relation between jetlag and eating during the flight.
- drink plenty of fluids and pop up on ascorbic acid
- in Hong Kong, check in your luggage early at IFC mall, so you can spend the rest of the time in the city and you don't have to deal with your luggage.
- always ask if its a full flight, and have your name placed on the upgrade list just in case.
 

culture

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Cultures Airline Meal Travel Tips

Do you want to be the first to be served so you can go to sleep or watch the in-flight movie? Do you want to get a bigger, better meal? So what if airline food sucks, thats not the point!

The backbone of the airline travel tips is to order a specialty meal. There are lots to choose from: Kosher, Hindu, Vegetarian, the regular white person meal, and a meal they call the bland meal. Yes, a bland meal. Who the hell orders a bland meal? What is that a single plain Styrofoam tasting rice cake?". Anyways...

The Double Up Method: for long international flights, always order a specialty meal, you'll be the first on the plane to receive your meal, and you should be able to finish it and hide any evidence of receiving it by the time the standard meals come around, at which point the stewardess will hand you one of those too. I recommend the kosher meal. Its always at least double the size of the standard meal, and always tastes much better. On a recent flight from London to Toronto I ordered the kosher meal, a friend ordered the vegan meal, and everyone else got the standard meal. Here is a picture of the difference:

Exhibit A


Exhibit B


Kosher meal on the left, vegan meal on the right.
Exhibit B shows the regular meal (burrito) in the centre.
Kosher wins.

Another method is what I like to refer to as the 'Fake Medicinal Method'. Utilizing this method you can receive many bottles of water in a short period of time. If you know you're going to want some water on this flight, grab a stewardess as soon as one passes and ask her for a bottle of water so you're able to take your (sleeping pill, anti anxiety medicine, Tylenol or anti psychotic pills etc.). She should arrive back quickly with your water. When you see a different stewardess, tell her the same thing. Repeat with different stewardesses as needed. You'll soon be fake-coughing your way into a free bottled water bonanza.
 

culture

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Cultures Panhandler Dismissal Methods

Are you tired of that guy around the corner bothering you for a cigarette constantly, even though youve told him you dont smoke 10 times a day for the past week? Over the course of five tours, I have developed a number of tried and true methods for dismissing them.

#1 - The Standard Method: When a pan handler approaches you in a foreign country speaking in a different language, the easy way out is just to say "Sorry homeless guy, I only speak English".

#2 - The Flip It Method: This method is similar to the Standard Method and works with an efficiency rate of around 85%. When a beggar comes up to you in a foreign land and asks you for money in English, reply with "Sorry, I only speak Hebrew" (or whatever language is native to that country). This will throw their alcohol soaked brain into overdrive and while they're trying to comprehend the situation you can make your exit.

#3 - The Quick Draw Method - This is for the advanced homeless dodger with a watchful eye. It's tricky to pull off, and as such, the efficiency rating is a method high winner of 99% (with a 1% margin of error). When you see a derelict approaching, just before they open up their toothless mouth, quickly ask them for change before they get a chance to ask you.

#4 - The Don't Mind if I Do Method - This one is only for the truly sophisticated homeless dodgers amongst us. It is most commonly useful in areas of a high tourist attraction concentration. When a bum is standing out front with a cup of money, a good percentage won't even ask you for anything, they'll just hold out their cup for you to deposit change into it. When this happens, look inside the cup, casually grab a coin or two, thank the kind fellow and keep on walking. This method is best utilized with a spotter, occasionally the beggar will run after you, at which point the spotter can alert you to the oncoming madman, and tell you to make your getaway. If a chase ensues simply drop the coin, the bum will immediately stop and grab it like if you were to drop a sausage to stop a rabid dog from chasing you.

Problem solved! Get it together grouch!
 

culture

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Airline Weight Tricks

You know those record crates you see DJs walking into the club with? Theyre not light. Acetate dubs are heavier than a regular record, and my crate is full of them. Try carrying around a crate of dubs along with enough clothes, equipment, and whatever else for a 2 month long tour. Now imagine the hassle those budget Euro airlines give you when two people walk up to the check in counter with a combined weight of 70KG, when the maximum baggage allowance is 20KG each. Theyll charge you 10Euros per KG that youre over. Do the math.

Think its a bit much? Yeah, we do too. And heres how to never pay that again.

First off, try to board the flight even if youre way over weight. Depending on the airline and attendant, you may get a pass. If they say something, break out the puppy dog eyes and pretend its your first flight. If she still doesnt let you by, tell her youre going to go rearrange your items and leave the counter.

Now, were going to move on to "The fragile baggage" trick.

This trick is dependant on whether or not the fragile baggage drop off is at the counter where you check in. Ask a different attendant where the fragile baggage drop off is, and if its in a centralized location, youre good to go. Go find a quiet corner of the airport, stash some heavy non-valuables behind a vending machine or in an out of site location, and then go check in again. She will weigh you again, youll be 10kg lighter and you wont have to pay a fine. Now tell her that your bag has fragile things in it, shell tell you where to take it, and on the way there go back and scoop up your things, re pack your bag, and drop it off. Fuck you Ryan Air.
 

culture

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And finally, an excerpt from a journal i kept on the last tour:


Chapter 5.5: Do I Look Arab to You?

Location: Charles De Gaulle Airport
Paris, France
Date: April 4, 2007

We wait in line at El-Al airlines to check in for our flight to Tel Aviv, we notice immediately that their security is very tight. Scott and I reach the front of the line, the lady asks if were travelling together, we say we are, and then she separates us. She takes me over to a little counter first, she starts asking me questions like, what I do, how I know Scott, where we've been before this, where we're going afterwards, who were staying with in Israel, where he works, what his address is, what he looks like, etc. etc. Then with a forced smile, she says she'll be back in a minute. Scott and I shoot each other confused looks from across the gate, and wait patiently for our agents to come back. They continue to ask us all the same questions, and ask for our itinerary in great detail, they keep trying to trip us up by repeating things back to us out of order and making small differences in our stories, but we catch on and since were telling the truth (mostly), they don't catch us in any lies.

We know were treading in dangerous waters, our story does sound odd; how come we are staying at so many peoples houses that we don't know well, why our path of travel is so awkward, and why we just drove 13 hours to Prague only to fly all the way back to France the next morning.

The two female agents leave again after another gruelling 45 minute interrogation, and an older man with a freckled face comes up, puts his face 6 inches from mine, stares into my eyes and without blinking, asks me all the same questions I was just asked. He asks when were going to Cairo and Jordan, I tell him we're not. He asks why we know so many people in Europe, but we don't know anyone in Jordan or Cairo? I look at the female agent, with a 'is this a serious question look', and then explain to him that just because you know someone in a few countries doesn't necessarily mean you know people in every single country. He leaves and gets on his phone.

I look over to see if they have a rubber glove on for Scott's cavity search yet, but instead he's on the ground going thru his bag with all the records and merch in it. I figure the jig is up at this point, they're going to realize something more than blind travelling is going on.

I watch a blonde with way too much makeup walk up to Scott and proceed to scream at him that he's lying to her about going to Cairo. She says she found flights to Cairo with our names on them. He tells her she's wrong, and after a few minutes of 'Yes you are!' "no im not!' back and fourth she walks back to freckle face, huddles with him and forms a new plan of attack.

Professor freckles walks back up to me, grabs my bags, looks at me and as if he was Dirty Harry, squints his eyes and says 'follow me'. My ass clenches as I immediately envision the cold snapping sound of an elbow length latex glove against an agents arm in this cell they're taking me to.

I follow him into a tiny holding cell that's split down the middle with a retractable curtain. He pulls my bags into the back part and snaps the curtain shut. After a minute he comes back out, asks me the same questions in different forms again, and then heads back behind the curtain. My mouth is as dry as the Israeli desert. On the wall I notice an Israeli promotional poster. In it, a child holds a big bunch of balloons, all your favourite characters are there in balloon form; Ernie, Bert, Mr happy, the whole crew. At first glance I think what an odd place to put such a happy picture, anyone that's in this room isn't going to have any sort of smile, even captain spotty face and his blonde clown friend seem to be unusually cranky. Upon closer inspection of the kid holding the balloon, I notice he has the same facial expression I'd have if I just watched a puppy get run over by a dump truck. I wonder if he needed a body cavity search to enter Israel for this photo shoot?

The guy comes back out carrying my bag, slams it down on the floor and tells me to open it. I do, then without saying anything, he picks it up and carries it back behind the curtain. I wonder why they don't seem to be allowed to open it, but once opened they're allowed to rummage through it like a homeless man at a dumpster?

They bring Scott in a few mins later, he does not look happy, they take his bags back behind the curtain, tell him to sit down next to me, and then they walk back behind the curtain. A minute later another few agents walk in and start doing whatever secret Israeli things it is they're doing behind that curtain. Suddenly an agent walks out and tells me to stand up. I follow his orders and with tears accumulating in the corners of my eyes, I turn around and bend over assuming I know what's coming next. He forces me upright, takes me into the corner of the 8'x8' holding cell, and snaps another curtain shut. He tells me he's going to pat me down, my sphincter immediately relaxes. He pats me down for a solid 10 minutes, then asks me to lift up my shirt and drop my pants. He then uses some black metal detector thing to prod around 'down there', and after 5 more minutes he tells me I can put my pants back on. He motions for me to sit back down and tells me to take me shoes off. I suppress a smile knowing that, I've had these shoes on in hot clubs, walking non-stop around Europe, and even slept in them most of the time, because we slept on a plane 2 nights, and spent a night travelling in a car. As far as I know these shoes are now fused to my skin. So little does this poor bastard know what noxious fumes are going to belch out from these shoes he now must search.

He scans over my feet with his magic wand for a few more minutes, then a second before he passes out, he stands up wobbly and tells me I can put my shoes back on. Chalk one point on the board for the detainees!

They tell Scott to do the same thing, he searches him and then tells him to sit back down. Scott looks so angry I'm starting to think he might be a terrorist and I try to motion to the agent with my eyes to search him again just in case.

They bring out the records and ask what they´re for, we tell them were collectors and we travel with them to trade. He then asks about Jungle Royale and Sound Test records that we've got multiple copies of. We tell them that they're our labels and then as per the travelling DJ handbook, we finish our explanation with the standard customs line: 'it's for promotion, were giving them away'. Heh heh. That aught to throw these dogs off the trail.

A woman brings out a bucket of my electronics, my laptop, 2 blackberries, camera and electric shaver. She asks me to show them how each worked. She takes out both blackberries and tells me to show them my call list to see who I've called recently, then she asks me to make a phone call to make sure it works. She then tells me to take the battery out of my phones. She grabs the camera, tells me to show her some pics I've taken. Luckily, before I arrived I erased the pictures of me and my militant Muslim friends shooting AKs into the Afghani mountains. She tells me to take a picture, and I just took one of the wall. Seemingly appeased by my photography skills, she turns to Scott and asks him the same thing. He turns on his camera and the last picture he took was of a tag in big bubble letters that read "BOOBS". She says that's enough, then takes them back behind the curtain.

A different girl walks out from behind the curtain with a basket of my clothes and walks back out to the gate, I assume they took it to be x-rayed or tested for explosive residue or something. As she passes by I thank her for doing my laundry, and ask her to make sure she separates my whites and colours, she smiles and laughs. We sit there and exchange a mixture of annoyed and worried glances for another 10 minutes. Periodically someone would come out and ask us about something we had in our bag.

We're worried that we're going to miss our flight, or not be allowed to board, or shoved into a tin hut full of poisonous scorpions in the middle of the scorching desert.

The clothes basket girl walks back in, smiles and says 'your laundry is done'. As she parts the curtain to the back room, we notice that Scott's bag is zipped back up on the floor. We take that as a good sign.

Sir Frecks-A-Lot walks back out and tells us to put our belts back on and to take our wallets. Everything else, including our passports, phones, cameras etc are still with them somewhere. The blond with the clown makeup walks in and tells us were getting on the flight. She tells me my laptop and backpack is going to be held in Paris and sent on the next flight. I think in my best terrorist impression "Oh what? You mean my laptop bomb is going on the next flight, so I can still blow up a plane AND make it to my destination alive? I'll probably get double the virgins in the aferlife for this scam!". So they give Scott his backpack with his dubs, and nothing else, everything else is ripped out of it and is nowhere to be found.

We get escorted thru security, then to the gate. The blonde hands our passports and boarding pass to a cute little security girl. The blonde tells her to sit beside us until we can board the plane. Her name was Ella, and she seemed to be annoyed with the troubles we we're having too, but were thinking 'good cop, bad cop' so we proceed with the conversation cautiously. She was telling me that you need to be an Israeli citizen to work security at El-Al. If you're Jewish (if either both parents are, or just your mother that counts as Jewish), you get your Israeli citizenship as soon as you arrive in Israel to live. If just your father is Jewish, then it takes a while to get your citizenship. If neither are, you have to be living there for a long period of time, then pass some tests. She also said that all the people working security at El-Al at CDG were Jewish, but that it's not necessarily a requirement.

After 10 mins she takes us to the front of the line, and we meet back up again with our arch nemesis, Captain Freckles. They both walk us down the ramp, we say bye to Ella, and Freckles escorts us right our seats. He tells us to enjoy our flight, and to make a claim at the lost and found for my backpack and laptop when I arrive in Tel Aviv. After we settle in, we discuss how when we land, were going to call the blonde clown "Hey, remember me? Guess what? We're in Cairo now, bitch! HA!" *click.

At 2:30am, the flight takes off, we get served the worst food ever, Scott passes out so I pile all my garbage on his tray, fold mine up and fall asleep until we land in Tel Aviv.
 

Renault78law

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Originally Posted by GQgeek
Don't go to the third world without Cipro and immodium.

+1, great advice.

Someone previously had a tip about foreign currency exchange. Something to the effect of: use the ATM at the destination airport. Am I remembering this correctly?
 

Kevin

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If you're on a flight that is not full, move your seat assignment to the back of the plane. They try to fill it from the front-backward, so you may end up with a row to yourself.

DO NOT take the window seat in the exit row of a 747. I booked this thinking I would get a window and extra legroom, but sadly the seat provides neither. The window is three feet in front of you, and the escape pod bulges out to usurp the extra legroom. This is how I spent 13 hours en route to New Zealand.
 

globetrotter

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keep more than 600,000 status miles on a few different airlines. then none of the above is relevant.
 

shoreman1782

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Maybe this is a good spot for this question--anyone U.S. peeps have experience renting a car abroad, specifically in Ireland?

I'm having some trouble getting solid answers on general experiences, driveability over there, and insurance requirements.
 

HORNS

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Originally Posted by shoreman1782
Maybe this is a good spot for this question--anyone U.S. peeps have experience renting a car abroad, specifically in Ireland?

I'm having some trouble getting solid answers on general experiences, driveability over there, and insurance requirements.


I've rented cars in France and Italy, and their requirements are exactly like the U.S. You don't need a special international license for those countries, but some countries might.
 

Gradstudent78

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Originally Posted by GQgeek
Don't go to the third world without Cipro and immodium.

In many places it's alot cheaper to buy cipro in country then to bring it with you, at least that's been my experience in South America.
 

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