Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tips on Independent Travel vs. Organized Group Tour in Russia 

It is actually very easy to plan an independent trip.  The most known routes to Russia are St Petersburg to Moscow that is why it has a good provision of services.  The best way to get around this enormous country are the Russia’s trains as they are comfortable, relatively inexpensive and services between the two major cities are frequent and efficient.

The good choice is the trains depart St Petersburg’s Moskovsky station and the first class sleeper carriages for an approximately eight-hour journey.  They are comfortable and clean with two adult berths.  It will cost around £200 per person for a one-way first class sleeper ticket.

But if you choose a daytime service and sit in second class, you may do so if you do not need a sleeping car because this will be cheaper and the high speed Sapsan trains only take four hours.  You can book in advance with agencies such as Real Russia as they also arrange your visa for you.  But the cheapest way to book tickets is at the station reservation office.

A tour isn’t needed because the journey is relatively straightforward aside from it is too expensive too.  Although its advantage would be that you can concentrate on enjoying the trip rather than the logistics.  For £1250, the Cox and Kings have a good Moscow and St Petersburg tour for seven nights; it also includes flights, a high standard of accommodation and some meals.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Travel Tips


1. It is necessary that you know basic information about your destination.  Make a research about the place before anything else.
2. A copy of your itinerary must be left with a trusted family member or friend, in case of any emergency.
3. List down significant emergency information
4. Make yourself familiar with basic safety information, rules, and procedures, like what to do if you get lost or sick


1. Remember to travel light
2. Put important stuff in your hand carry bag
3. If travelling with babies, bring childproofing supplies, like electrical outlet covers and baby gates
4. Basic first aid kit is a must
5. It will save you your time, from shame and effort if you will remember the rules for what you can carry on and what needs to be checked when flying. These rules also apply to liquids such as milk or formula.


1. Be certain that your children are in approved child safety seats as mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  See Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours for further details
2. Children that are old enough not to need a child safety seat must wear their seat belt
3. This should be a general knowledge, never leave your children alone in your car


1. Explain safety and security procedures, rules and instructions
2. Teach your children to cooperate with airport security officials
3. Inform your children that making jokes or false threats about security issues are illegal and that they may not do so.
4. Your children should be in approved child safety seats if they require them, this applies also to airplanes.
5. Ensure the requirements for strollers, diaper bags, and other baby and child equipment


1. Check your hotel room for possible hazards, such as electrical outlets and furniture with sharp corners
2. Know where the nearest fire exits, fire alarm, fire extinguisher/hose to your room
3. Educate your children basic emergency procedures, like what to do in case of a fire or earthquake
4. Put away from kid’s reach potentially hazardous items, like toiletries, etc.
5. Supervise your kids at all times, do not leave them alone


1. Watch out for your children closely, more especially in public restrooms, large crowds, and near swimming pools or bodies of water
2. Make ground rules for curfews and safety issues
3. Be sure your children cross streets with your supervision
4. Instruct your kids to go to an agreed upon safe place and stay there, if ever they get lost
5. A distinctive or brightly colored clothes will be helpful to make children more visible
6. Write down your contact information on an index card and place it in your kids' pockets to make contacting you easier
7. This is old but still very true, do not talk to strangers, instruct children this one.  Tell your children not to take anything from a stranger or go anywhere with a stranger
8. Check play areas for potential hazards, look for sharp edges or openings where your children could get stuck
9. Make sure your kids have and use proper safety equipment, like helmets and life vests, for any activities that require them

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Exchange Foreign Currency at the Best Rates

Before travelling we have a lot of questions in our mind, one of the most frequent question people ask is, how do I get foreign currency for my next trip?  It is often a challenge to save money on a holiday and the hardest part of it is saving money when exchanging money.  Sometime you don’t realize that banks and other money changers empty your wallets so fast.  Be wise and do not ignore details.

after you arrive better get local money from the ATM in the country because in most places it is always cheaper.  No worries because airports have ATMs where you can do this, (at least almost all airports).  It is also good if it comes handy when you need local money for cab.  If you have no time to do this in the airport because you already have a transport from the airport booked with your hotel then you can just do this a little later in the hotel.  You can walk around and check for ATM close to you.

Getting money d\from the ATM is also safer.   You can just get enough for the following days so you will be safe from thieves and misplacement.  And this is also saves time rather than money exchange that consumes time.

It will also be good if you stick with Visa or Mastercard because both are widely accepted.  Be mindful that all card issuer charges different rates for cash advances in a different country than your own.

Usually a debit card linked to a checking or savings account do not charge cash advance fees so using them will be the cheapest because you are withdrawing  the money you already have therefore you will not be charging money and paying for it later.   If applicable, you will still be charge for using a different bank’s ATM.  You will also be charged with a 2-3% foreign transaction fee.  Using a credit card versus a debit card incurs the foreign transaction fee, but also a cash advance fee which varies greatly.  Often it's 3-5%, but can be a flat rate of $10-15 (USD).

Your bank’s debit card ATM fee of $2-3 (USD) is less than the cash advance fee.  To sum it up, it's cheaper to pay a $2 ATM fee and 3% foreign fee than a 3% cash advance fee plus 3% foreign fee.  To make sure about the card you have because every card is different, call your card issuer and ask for ATM fee, cash advance fee, foreign transaction fee rates.

Another tiny detail that you must keep in mind is to make sure you take crisp bill with no damage or whatsoever.  Money changers will offer less or not accept worn out bills.  $100 bills have the best cash exchange rate bills with lower value are changed at a lower rate.  And be very wary of whom you exchange your money with, there are many scammers out there.  Make sure you know the right exchange rate and if ever there will be someone offering you a higher rate or you see a signage on the street that offers higher rate do not believe it because chances are they are fraud.  They are know to be quick in folding bills over or swapping bills that you may think that he had given you the right amount but in reality you had been deceived.  Always go to the legitimate banks and money changers.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tips On How You Can Upgrade Your Stay At Hotels

Your home when you are in vacation, a home away from home.  You want a comfortable room, and this would make a huge difference to your entire vacation.  It isn’t always a guarantee that you will be staying to the most comfortable hotel but you can improve your stay.


If you desire for a room upgrade, there are some circumstances in which this will likely to happen.  First is during a slow season, on a weekend at a hotel that business travelers visits commonly and only stays for a short while.  Another circumstance, many hotel rooms are empty and ready for upgrades during off-season.  If planning for a short stay only, likewise, room turnover is less of a hassle.  According to an unnamed front desk manager quoted on the MSNBC website, if you arrive late and leave early, for instance, because of an unexpected change in travel plans, a room upgrade is a distinct possibility.  it is because, it will be easier to make changes for someone who is planning to stay for a short while.


According to the Recessionwire website, while it's not necessary to arrive dripping in jewels and covered with designer labels, an upscale appearance can be a deciding factor in whether you get an upgrade.  Meaning, if you arrive looking like a backpacker it is more likely that you would not get an update.   According to the MSNBC website, on the other hand, front desk staff are often sympathetic when you arrive looking exhausted.  You may receive an upgrade at least to a higher-quality bed especially when you have a nice character.


If you have complaints and are all legitimate, those wont be held against you but show a and obnoxious attitude then expect no upgrade and it could be use against you in future stay.  According to Genevieve Brow, a Travelocity senior editor, quoted on the Mainstreet website, letting the front desk know you're celebrating a special occasion will often score a better room for you.  Travel consultant Daniel Edward Craig recommends having the reservations agent note your special occasion next to your booking so that the front desk staff can see it when you check-in in his writing on the Hotel Online website.  "The front desk reviews special requests on the day of arrival and tends to have a soft spot for special occasions," says Craig.

The Direct Approach

Requesting for an upgrade is not hard or even complicated, you can just ask politely.  There’s nothing wrong with dropping a slight reminder more especially if you are already a regular guest.  According to Recessionwire  be ready to hear "No" and responding. For instance: “No deluxe rooms available? How about free breakfast?” It suggests being persistent but friendly.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Jakarta Travel Tips

Like any other cities in the world, Jakarta is a noisy and chaotic metropolis.  And same as those cities, there are cautions to be conscious of.  Jakarta is much fun if you know what you are doing so if it is your first time in the city here are some travel tips for you.

Customs and etiquette are very important anywhere but in Indonesia there are some certain points that you must remember.  Although Indonesians are usually laid-back, there are some dos and don’ts that you must be sensitive just so you won’t offend.  When entering temples, mosques, and even some shops, shoes should always be removed.  Skits and shorts must cover your knees when in town.  Pointing is also prohibited and eating with your left hand is offensive as it is only used for toilet duties.

Smooching or public display of affection with partner or with a local is considered too be very offensive.  Keep it cool and keep your temper in check even in the most tempting circumstances.  Although Jakarta is not tip-heavy at least be a bit generous more especially to a non-service-charging restaurant and the rounding up of a cab bill.

When it comes to money matters, the local currency is the Indonesian rupiah (Rp), with notes ranging from Rp500 to Rp100,000 and coins of up to Rp1,000.  If you you got to change money, you must go directly to the banks instead of having them changed in the hotels because you will have a bad time due to their worst exchange rate!

But good thing about Jakarta is they are a fairly credit card-friendly city with shops, restaurants and hotels all generally accepting Visa and MasterCard.  Be careful of high ATM charges and remember cash is king in the inexpensive markets.

It is hot year round in Jakarta because of it close proximity with the equator with little deviation in the seasonal sense.  During October to February, the monsoon season goes and it is particularly wet while June through September is generally boiling hot and the best time to visit is between March and June.

Jakarta is pretty big and you need to use public transportation.  Jakarta Monorail is a new monorail system in use to the more colorful and touristy parts of town, as well as a fairly recent bus network.  Every district is accommodated by bus with dedicated lines, as minibuses take in localized routes.  And also, trains run to Ancol from downtown Jakarta and motorized rickshaws and there are also plenty of metered taxis.

Hotel shuttles, if your hotel has one, are the most excellent choice for transport from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK).  Taxis are a bit quite hard to negotiate with but there is limousine desk and a desk for ordinary taxis at the airport that you can try to talk to.  What’s more, there is an airport shuttle bus to choose from in downtown destinations and cheaper DAMRI shuttle buses.