Welcome to the March 2009 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.


Weird Foreign Laws (Don't Get Busted!)

Seasoned travelers know to watch out for the accidents, illnesses, and delays that can ruin a vacation. But a few laws are so unexpected that they can catch even the biggest travel junkies off guard.
 

A penny spurned: The phrase "legal tender" isn't entirely straightforward in Canada. There are lots of pennies in circulation, but there's a limit on how many can be used at a time. The maximum number allowable per transaction is 25, so no getting cute with excessive change at the mini-mart.

(Suda)fed up: Careful what you try to bring into Japan. Medicines that can be bought without a prescription in the U.S. are sometimes illegal there, and that includes some Vicks and Sudafed products and anything else containing pseudoephedrine. Getting caught at customs with such products can lead to detainment. Who cares if your sinuses are clear if they and the rest of you are stuck in jail?

A flush of pride: Along with many other things, Singapore puts a great deal of effort into keeping its public toilets pristine. And visitors are expected to help keep them gleaming. Failure to flush may result in fines.

Red-light special: In Sweden, traveling lonely hearts shouldn't expect any sympathy from ladies of the evening if they get caught in a clinch with one. The independent businesswomen there are well within their rights to practice their profession. However, the gentlemen paying for their services are at risk for punishments ranging from a fine to as much as six months in jail.

A canine "autoban": Planning a long Alpine adventure with Puddles, your lovable pit bull? Read up on animal laws first. In Germany, breeds that the government considers dangerous aren't welcome for more than a four-week visit—and they aren't allowed to live there at all. Even a bit of mastiff, Rhodesian ridgeback, or Staffordshire terrier blood may mean no lederhosen for Fluffy.

No Lone Ranger for you: Thinking of an autumn trip to Scandinavia? Hoping to show them what an American Halloween's all about? Stick to the simple costumes. In Denmark, wearing a mask in public can lead to your arrest.

Playing the numbers: Rush-hour regulations in many major cities of the Philippines seem meant only for mathematicians: A vehicle can only be driven on days determined by the last digits of its license plate—this is called, for murky historical reasons, the "color-coding scheme." So borrowing a local's car may require more number crunching than it's worth. Even traveling by scooter has its challenges, since you can get ticketed for driving in sandals or bare feet.

Gun control: New Year's in Southeast Asia is often a watery celebration, with lots of buckets, water balloons, and drenched revelers. But in Cambodia, you must choose your method of aquatic conveyance carefully. Water guns will be snatched away on sight. Rumor has it some ruffians filled their Super Soakers with, er, "used" water, ruining the party for everyone.

Watch your mouth: Think foreigners in Thailand are exempt from the country's famous "never bad-mouth the King" laws? Think again. Non-Thais may have a better chance of being able to claim that it was all a big misunderstanding, but as one disrespectful Australian novelist just discovered, their pardon may come after five months in prison.

Listen up: In Finland, taxi drivers playing music in their cars are required to pay a copyright fee. The idea is that the music is being presented to the "public"—the cabs' paying customers. If a cabbie won't turn on the radio for you, understand that he's not necessarily interested in talking instead. He might just be trying to save a few euros.

        
Computers to Replace Greeters at O'Hare

   
Save Money on Business Travel

How to Save Cash On the Road

From keeping better track of your expenses to taking advantage of hotel freebies, these tips can help you save money on business travel.


 

 

1. Don't Pay Luggage Fees

The easiest way to avoid this is by making sure that you don't need to check any luggage in the first place. But if you are going on an extended trip or have to travel with samples, there are a few ways to avoid having to pay checked luggage fees:
  • Get status! Most airlines won't make you pay a fee for the first checked bag if you have status or have purchased a business class or better ticket.
  • Check the baggage fees for the airlines, and fly with carriers who don't charge fees.

2. Book Travel in Advance

If you can plan your travel schedule in advance, don't wait to buy your tickets until the last minute, as rates tend to get higher closer to a travel date.

3. Stay in Hotels with Kitchens

If you are going to be away for more than a night or two, opting to stay in an extended stay facility can really help you save money on meals. Hit the local grocery store and buy some cheap do-it-yourself meals that you can prepare in your room. If your company pays you a set meal allowance whether you use it or not, you can actually head home having made some extra money if you skip dining out and are frugal about your grocery store picks.

4. Use Public Transportation

It's definitely not an option everywhere, but in cities with reliable subways and buses, do as the locals do and get around town via public transportation. Even if you have to take a cab/shuttle from the airport initially, try making your way around town via the subway or bus once you've unloaded your luggage.

5. Save on Internet Fees

Though most airports offer Wi-Fi via providers such as T-Mobile and Boingo, there are a number who offer free wireless Internet to travelers. If you travel through a number of airports on a frequent basis, it's worth signing up for a monthly subscription to a Wi-Fi provider, as the daily rates are much, much higher. If you are footing your own hotel tab, try to stay in hotels with free Internet. Many hotels without free in-room access do have free service in lobby/common areas, so take advantage. Most business centers in hotels won't charge for you to get online (just to print), making them a great option for those who don't need unlimited Internet access.

6. Avoid Valet Parking

Whether at the hotel or at a restaurant, stay away from valet parking if at all possible.

7. Use Long-Term Parking Lots

Yes, it's convenient to drive into the garage closest to your departure gate, but the bill at the end of your business trip may give your boss a coronary. Save money - whether it's yours or the company's - by heading to the airport a little earlier and using one of the off-site parking lots. You can negotiate rates and usually get a vendor to match a competitor's price or coupon.

8. Eat the Complimentary Breakfast

If your hotel offers free breakfast, eat it! You'll be less likely to need to buy snacks mid-morning, particularly if you grab a piece of fruit and a muffin to take with you on your way out (one or two takeaways is OK, but please no stuffing of your pockets or briefcase!).

9. Order the Compact Car

Lock yourself into the cheapest rate, but ask for an upgrade (if you are a frequent renter, they'll likely do this for you automatically) when you go to pick up your vehicle. Car rental companies generally have a lot more of the sedan-sized cars, so there will usually be one available. Best of all, you can usually get the upgrade free of charge just by asking.

10. Don't Opt for the Rental Car Add-Ons

Skip the GPS system add-on, particularly if you are renting a car for a longer duration. If you really need GPS, it may be worth it to invest in your very own system to take with you on business trips. Don't pay for gas in advance, either - fill the car up yourself to save money.

   
How to Take On Travel Trouble

Illness or Injury on the Road
Getting health care in another country can be an exercise in culture shock. Whether you get a doctor who doesn't speak English or you don't understand the procedures in a foreign hospital, getting sick away from the comforts of home can be frightening. Your best approach to deal with an illness or injury while traveling is to prepare for the problem before you depart. It's important to research your country's emergency numbers, embassy phone number and address, and local English-speaking doctors and hospitals before your trip.

What to Do
If you are injured or ill, contact a health care provider as soon as possible. Call your regular doctor if you lose or run out of vital medication; he or she may be able to call in a prescription to a local pharmacy. If you are at a hotel and a non-emergency injury or illness occurs, contact the front desk and ask for medical care. The concierge may be able to arrange for a doctor to come to the hotel. For hospital care, take a cab to the local hospital (finding out which hospitals are nearby before your trip facilitates this journey) or call the local emergency number -- a good guidebook should have this information.

It is most important to be prepared to deal with a medical emergency if you are traveling with children; have an existing medical condition or are traveling with someone who does; or will be taking part in potentially dangerous physical activities such as horseback riding, rock climbing or hiking. If you are camping or spending time in a less developed destination (where you could come down with traveler's tummy), you should also be especially prepared.

How to Be Prepared
If traveling abroad, print out a copy of your destination's Consular Information Sheet for a list of local medical services. You can also find a list of doctors and hospitals abroad on the U.S. State Department's Web site. If you're traveling domestically, contact your insurance company for a list of in-network hospitals and doctors in your destination (you may want to do this a few weeks in advance, as the insurance company might send the list in the mail).

Pack the following information and keep it with you:


Your doctor's office and home phone numbers

HMO/insurance company contact information

Embassy contact information

Contact information for a relative or loved one at home, especially if you are traveling alone

Be aware of any disease risks in the destination that you are traveling to and get the proper immunizations before you leave.

If you are camping or staying in a remote area, pack a first-aid kit. Also, give a copy of your itinerary to someone at home; this way, if something happens to you and you are unable to call for medical help, someone will know where to find you.


Remember: Without a travel agent you're on your own.


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