On Learning a New Language

On Learning a New Language

In this era of globalization, knowing another language (that is, a foreign language or second language, as contrasted to our native or first language) can be both practical and rewarding. Whether for business, travel, or personal growth, learning another language widens our horizons and increases our options. It also provides a remarkable opportunity to show that we value other people and cultures.

Read More

Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

One of the major decisions to be made when traveling abroad is whether or not to purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance might cover any of the following: trip cancellation (usually due to accident, illness or death in the family); interruption or delay; missed connections; lost baggage or delays; accident and sickness expenses; emergency evacuation; and possibly, car rental and AD&D.

Read More

Ecuador: paradise on the cheap

Ecuador: paradise on the cheap

The South American country of Ecuador, which includes the famed Galapagos Islands, which inspired Darwin’s evolutionary theory, features a rich diversity of plant and animal life that puts most other countries in the world to shame. Located along the Equator, hence the country’s name, Ecuador also provides different climatic regions ranging from tropical to cool temperatures in the higher elevated regions, and these climates stay the same year-round, which makes any time a good time to travel there and enjoy one of the best kept secrets of international tourism. Even though it uses the US dollar as its main unit of currency, prices are inexpensive allowing any traveler, regardless of budget, to have a whopping good time there.   Getting in, out, and about   In order to boost its tourism trade, Ecuador has made it possible to travel inside its borders without a visa no matter what country you hail from. All you need is your passport, which gives you access for up to 90 days. While it is possible to apply for an additional 90 days from inside Ecuador, if your travel plans involve a vacation longer than three months, your best bet is to apply for a visa from the US before you go. Your passport should have up to six months validity from the point at which you plan to leave the country because you have to show it both upon entry and upon exit.   International flights come into airports in both the capital city of Quito and the southern port city of Guayaquil, but if you can swing it, you can save some money on your entry fee by flying into the latter city rather than the capital. This entry fee is typically charged as part of your air fare, but in Quito the amount is around $40, whereas in Guayaquil it is less than $30. While a $10 difference may not seem like much, it goes a long way in Ecuador, so that savings can mean more to see and do and eat.   Most of Ecuador is covered by the Amazon rainforest. As such, in addition to being up to date on your standard vaccinations, it is a good idea to get additional vaccinations as well to protect you against some of the transmittable diseases found in this region. These include yellow fever, malaria, and typhoid, which can be vaccinated or...

Read More

Colombia le encantará

Colombia le encantará

Colombia’s bloody history has long been in the forefront of people’s minds, and has acted as a deterrent against travel there. Stories of kidnappings, rebel guerilla activity, and warring cartels have painted Colombia as a country to steer clear of when planning a vacation. Times have changed in Colombia, however. In fact it’s one of the best kept secrets that Colombia is a vacation hotspot with something for just about everyone to enjoy. The best part is that even for those looking to travel in luxury, Colombia is a relatively inexpensive destination.   Colombia is the king of salsa dancing throughout the world. If you like to dance, you’ll find a soul mate in the Colombian people. But salsa is not the only attraction in this country. A wide array of architecture styles permeates throughout the big cities such as á, making every view a breathtaking one. Ruins from ancient pre-Columbian cultures sit deep in the tropical jungles, and Colombia is one of the few places in the world where you can see snow-capped mountains from your vantage point, relaxing on a sandy beach. For a country that lies almost entirely in the tropics, Colombia has diverse climates throughout. Pack for both cold and warm weather and everything in between.   Getting in, out, and about   In order to enter Colombia, you will need a US passport that will remain valid for the duration of your stay, a return ticket home or a ticket to another country, and a clear idea of your planned length of stay. Passport stamps include a date of return, usually after 30-90 days. If you stay over the allotted time, you may be required to stay in the country until you have paid a fine. However, Colombia, unlike other South American countries, allows you to apply to extend your stay for an additional 90 days provided you do so before your initial stay is up.   If you have ever had Colombian citizenship or are traveling with minors who have or have had Colombian citizenship, please see the travel website at the US Department of State for additional information before making your travel plans: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/colombia.html   In addition to the standard vaccinations, which should be up to date, most travelers should also consider getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A and typhoid. If your plans take you into the jungle areas, you may also consider...

Read More

Chile: the lone star country

Chile: the lone star country

Back during the crisis in 2010 when Chilean miners got stuck underground, many Texans were confused by that country’s flag, which looks almost identical to the Texas flag. The big difference is that the blue field on the Chilean flag doesn’t extend down the left-side length of the flag as it does on the Texas flag. Also the star is smaller, which is appropriate since Chile is significantly smaller than Texas, but Chile, like Texas, features a wide range of landscapes and climates despite its size.   Chile is a sliver of a country, being only 270 miles across at its widest point, but that doesn’t stop it from being chock full of fun sights and activities to pack into a vacation that’s certain to satisfy. Even when enjoying the Pacific coastal beaches that run throughout the length of the country, you’re still a hop, skip, and a jump away from mountains, deserts, glaciers, volcanoes, and rivers in Chile’s southward transition of landscapes. This makes it an ideal country for hikers, and, awakening to this need in 2010, the Chilean government established the Sendero de Chile (the Chilean Trail), a network of hiking trails that run throughout the country.   Getting in, out, and about   For US citizens, a valid passport and the payment of $160 as a reciprocity fee, since the US charges Chilean vacationers to get in here, is all you need for a stay of up to 90 days. At the end of 90 days, or rather before the end, if you wish to stay longer, you would have to cough up another reciprocity fee, which can extend your stay another 90 days. If you stay longer than the time allowed, you won’t be allowed to leave the Chile without paying a fine.   Chile does have strict customs policies regarding the transportation of agricultural products into the country. Even if you carry something as innocuous as a bag of fruit for snacking while on the plane (or later), you must declare it, or you could face a steep fine and possible detainment.   If you have dual citizenship or were once a Chilean citizen who emigrated to the US, you should contact the Chilean Embassy before you leave for there for additional entry and exit requirements. Chile also has strict entry and exit requirements for minors under the age of eighteen. Even if you...

Read More

Portugal: a high value vacation for the budget traveler

Portugal: a high value vacation for the budget traveler

Portugal once was a great naval power and later one of the poorest countries in Europe. Joining the European Union has brought the country great prosperity, but it still is one of the least expensive countries in Europe for a vacation. Its mountainous countryside has helped to isolate it from its neighbor to the east, Spain, and this has given rise to a unique culture with fantastic architecture and numerous sites and activities for travelers.   Getting in, out, and about Portugal   A US traveler only needs a passport that will remain valid for at least three months beyond the planned duration of your stay. As a party to the Schengen Agreement, Portugal allows visa-free entry for up to 90 days within any country in the Schengen area for any period within six months. This also allows you to travel across borders into any other Schengen country with only your passport.   If you enter Portugal through another European country, you may have to register your presence with the local officials within 72 hours of your entry. This law is spotty and not enforced for everyone. If your travel plans include travel to Portugal from another European country, consult with a local Portuguese consulate or the US State Department travel website for additional information: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/Portugal.html.   For LGBT travelers, Portugal has a progressive attitude and has recently legalized same-sex marriage. However, outside of the larger cities, you may encounter intolerance. The Portuguese tend to be extremely welcoming to travelers, and outside of the typical instances of petty theft and pickpocketing, Portugal has a low instance of crime. Since austerity measures were introduced in 2012, there are instances of public protests. These tend to be non-violent, but travelers should steer clear just in case. Terrorist activity is uncommon, but the open borders provided by the Schengen Agreement make it possible for terrorists to get in easily. Always remain aware of your surroundings and exercise a modicum of common sense and your vacation should remain safe.   In the event of an emergency, Portugal uses the 112 phone code as their equivalent to the US 911. The health care inside of urban areas is generally excellent, although this may not be the case in more rural locations. Stay up to date on your routine vaccinations. Although there are no required vaccinations for entry into Portugal, some travelers find it expedient...

Read More