Holiday Safety Tips

Holiday Safety Tips

Holiday Safety Tips are part of the planning process as unwary tourists can make easy targets for thieves. Tourists stand out in a crowd because they are not used to their surroundings, they dress different to the locals, they are generally carrying money, credit cards and valuables such as cameras and mobile phones.

You can reduce your risk of being mugged or robbed by taking a few simple precautions. and following some general holiday safety tips. It is a good idea to research the safety of your intended destination with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You should also register your travel plans with www.smartraveller.gov.au and check for up to date information on your holiday destinations, covering factors such as political unrest or criminal activities that target tourists.  You could also consult with your travel agent, ask your hotel reception desk before departing or talk to friends who have already visited your intended destination for their advice and any safety concerns.

General Holiday Safety Tips

  • Keep your travel plans, including accommodation details, to yourself
  • Don’t hitch hike
  • Try not to travel alone at night
  • Avoid ‘seedier’ areas of the cities you visit, especially at night
  • Ask your hotel for advice on ‘safe’ versus ‘unsafe’ local areas
  • Carry with you at all times the contact details of the Australian embassy. If your city doesn’t have an Australian embassy, find out which other country’s embassy is available to help you, such as the British embassy
  • Keep a photocopy of your passport and all other important documents in a safe place. Carry only a copy of your passport leaving the passport itself in your hotel safe when possible
  • Use ATMs at secure locations (inside banks) during the day, when there are more people around
  • Try to rely more on credit and travel cards rather than large sums of cash
  • Split your valuables so not all are lost if an incident occurs. Spread cash amongst bags, divide money if travelling with someone, keep spare cards separate to original ones in case stolen
  • Minimise your financial risk by setting up a separate bank account with a small sum of cash available and only take your ATM card for that account. Use internet banking to top this up as required from your main account
  • Wear valuables (such as passports and credit cards) on a belt worn under the clothes and next to the skin
  •  If feeling particularly vulnerable, wear your money belt somewhere other than around your waist (over your shoulder and across your chest under your shirt). Thieves know all about money belts too

 

  • Consider carrying a ‘dummy’ wallet holding a small amount of cash. If you are directly confronted by a mugger, you can hand over the dummy wallet and avoid further distress
  • If you are mugged, don’t fight back. It is better to lose a few dollars and a wristwatch than get injured.
  • Avoid incidents such as fights, riots or civil disturbances at all times
  • Even if you’re not sure where you’re going, walk like you’ve got a purpose.
  • Match your dress style to that of the locals. Don’t wear an obvious ‘tourist’ outfit like a loud shirt with a camera slung around your neck.
  • Be discreet when map reading.
  • Notice the people around you. Be wary if someone seems to be taking more than a passing interest
  • Don’t share taxis with strangers and never allow another passenger to enter along the way
  • Carjacking is a problem in some cities. When driving, keep all doors locked and windows up. Make sure your boot is locked too
  • Take note of emergency exits, stairwells, fire escapes and emergency plans in your hotel, just in case
  • Always lock your hotel door when retiring for the night. If there is a chain included, use it
  • When arranging to meet people you’ve never met before (such as business associates), wait for them in the lobby. Don’t ask them to come up to your room
  • Don’t wear expensive jewellery on obvious display

Thieves in different cities tend to favour different scams. Ask your hotel reception desk or a local tourist information officer for more information about recent incidents happening with other tourists.

Stay safe while travelling by following these holiday safety tips. You can reduce your risk of being robbed or scammed by taking a few simple precautions and always be aware of what’s happening around you. If things seem too good to be true, be wary as they probably are and there is a high chance they are a scam.

Contact Us if you need travel advice about your next holiday locations and we can provide holiday safety tips. Visit us on Facebook

Safe and Happy Travels

Julie

5 Tips for Beating Jet Lag

5 Tips for Beating Jet Lag

What is jet lag?

There is no end of tips for beating jet lag out there whether online, from travel experts or from family and friends, but do any of them really work? Jet lag is a combination of fatigue and other symptoms caused by travelling quickly across different time zones. Another name for jet lag is ‘time zone change syndrome’. The effects of jet lag seem to be a really individual thing that can vary hugely from flight to flight with some suffering for a number of days and others having no symptoms at all. The symptoms of jet lag include: Fatigue Sleepiness Digestive Upsets Impaired judgement and decision making Memory Lapses Irritability Apathy

From my experiences of jet lag – here are my top five tips to help you perhaps not totally beat jet lag, but at least feel a little more human when travelling.

Tip #1: Are You a Night-Flyer or Not?

If you are really keen to avoid jet lag on your long-haul flights, you might consider night flight options in your planning stages. You need to determine if you are good at sleeping on planes or not. Then you’ve got two choices: – If you can sleep like a baby in your plane seat, then timing your flight to include an “overnight” leg, which will have you arriving at your destination in the morning (you will then need to stay awake all day – see Tip #3), or – If you struggle and never get more than a few winks of sleep on a flight, then you should book a “daytime” flight that arrives in the late afternoon or evening.  Landing at this time, you will be so exhausted from the prolonged lack of sleep that you’ll be asleep the minute your head hits the pillow at the correct time in your new destination. This helps get you into the new time zone straight away and may gelp you beat jet lag.

Tip #2: Get It Right While You’re Still on the Plane

The experts (whoever they may be) are always saying that you should drink lots of water, not too much alcohol and get up and move around the plane regularly. They are definitely on the right track with this advice. As tempting as it can be to indulge in the free alcohol on a long-haul flight, try to limit it to one small glass with a meal if you just can’t get through the flight without a drink! This one glass may relax you and help you sleep if feeling anxious is a problem for you.  Jet lag recovery time should definitely decrease if you follow these simple suggestions to stay hydrated.

Tip #3: No Sleep Until Bedtime

If you do nothing else, try to do this one! No matter what time you arrive at your destination, don’t go to bed until it’s night time at your destination. Staying awake can be challenging, especially if you have arrived really early morning after a lot of hours travelling and you need to get through the whole day. You might want to sleep desperately, but be disciplined, stay busy, start your sightseeing or take a long walk – do whatever it takes to not sleep before sunset. Going to sleep at night time allows your body to quickly adjust to the new time zone and alleviates jet lag symptoms. If you absolutely must take a nap, make it a quick power nap no longer than 40 minutes (20 minutes is ideal). Likewise, if your body clock doesn’t want to go to bed, you have to make that happen. Don’t stay up past midnight even if you’re not feeling tired. It’s all about getting into the new time zone as quickly as possible.

Tip #4: Don’t Lie Awake For Hours

Your body clock might think that the middle of the night is actually morning and you should wake up. Personally, I think the worst thing you can do when that happens is to lie there for hours trying to get back to sleep, you will just feel frustrated and more exhausted in the morning. If this happens, perhaps get up, make a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate and then try to sleep again till morning. If you do get up, don’t make the room too light, or your body will think it was right about it being morning already.

Aromatherapy to the rescue, they can help you beat jet lag symptons. Lavender and geranium (in oils and body creams) help some people sleep. If, on the other hand you need something to keep you energised try rosemary and eucalyptus oils. Shops specialising in aromatherapy products also offer a variety of blends to suit your requirements.

Tip #5: Think Positive …

Jet lag seems to be more apparent if you travel from east to west and unless you have the luxury of planning an around the world trip and choosing the direction you start then this is not always an option. Many people have said that jet lag is more noticeable when you return home than when you head off on your journey.  So, does that mean that a portion of jet lag is purely psychological? So, when you are starting your holiday and are all excited to get out and explore in a new destination and you are feeling a little tired and out of sorts that this doesn’t bother you half as much as when you return home and have to go back to work and the daily routines! There are also dozens of natural or herbal remedies or over the counter medications that advertise they can help with the side effects of jet lag, it is just a matter of finding one of these that works for you, but there’s definitely no cure-all. On your return home, stay active, remain positive, get back into your time zone and normal routine as quickly as you can and don’t dwell on your jet lag – it may just disappear that bit faster! Then start planning your next adventure to occupy your mind – dreaming of the next holiday has to be the best way to beat jet lag!

Happy Travels Julie Warner

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Central America – Cancun to Havana,Cuba

Central America – Cancun to Havana,Cuba

Cancun – After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we went for a wander to look at the markets and the Plaza del Toro where the bullring was. Although it was getting on for 10 am the market stalls were only just starting to open, so we had a quick browse but didn’t find anything appealing at this stage. The walk down to the bullring crossed a few very busy roads with traffic all seemingly fairly orderly although quite busy. The bullring looked vaguely familiar as we approached it as Jeff and I had actually gone to see a bullfight back in 2000 when we were last here. We didn’t remember it being a closed roof ring back then, but these days it seems they use it for a lot of events and performances – perhaps the bullfights are not held too often now. We climbed to the second level to see if we could get a glimpse inside and were very lucky to find one of the doors open as workmen were carrying out some repairs. They didn’t seem to mind that we stepped inside to get a quick photo.

From here it was back to the hotel making a circuit around the block, stopping for a quesadilla along the way ready for our 12 pm shuttle pick up. The shuttle was 20 minutes late when we asked reception to call them for us. There was a problem apparently because we booked less than 24 hours in advance (their people did not mention this at the airport when they took our money). The call centre guy said that we could take a taxi and then get a full refund for the shuttle at the airport, or he could send a shuttle but it would be another 20 minutes. We didn’t want to be any later getting to the airport so we opted to take a taxi and try and get a refund.

Once at the airport, we wanted to get checked in for our flight to Havana as we had to organise our Visas and there were crowds of people at all counters so we wanted to join the line as quickly as we could. As it turned out, there was no need to go to the Cubana Air office for the Visa, there was a man in the check-in queue who was writing the Visas as we waited in line. We wondered how this was all going to work before leaving Australia, but it was so laid back and casual, we needn’t have had any concerns. Once the Visas were completed, we just paid him the US$25 or 250 Pesos and proceeded in the check-in queue. We had realised that morning, that we didn’t have a print out of the Cubana Air tickets so we hoped we could check in without our itinerary – and we could, all that was needed was our passports making this whole process so straightforward.

Then we decided to try and get our refund for the shuttle, and after a bit of asking around as to where the company were located at this terminal, this proved pretty straightforward as well. So, with refund complete we went through to departures, expecting quite a delayed process but were pleasantly surprised as it was just a passport and boarding pass check and we were on our way.

The Cuban flight all went smoothly and coming in to land there were views across the island of very green farmland woven like a patchwork with different crops and vegetation. The airport was a lot more modern looking than we would have expected both outside and in the terminal, and so much busier than we had anticipated. There were a number of flights that had just landed around the same time as ours from London. Paris, Moscow and Canada as well as ours from Cancun. This made for an extremely busy immigration area and a very long wait for us all to get through. We spent over two hours in the immigration line, with the officers processing people one at a time, no family groups or couples together. The officer we had spent a long time looking at our passport stamps, then asked if we had been to Africa (we had last year) and wanted to know if we had been to any of the Ebola-affected countries (we had not) and did we only have one passport (so we weren’t lying about the African countries visited).

Once we were through immigration the baggage collection and exiting was relatively painless, although we had a bit of a wait for our three suitcases to make it onto the carousel – surprising they weren’t already there as we had been off the plane for more than two hours! It was then on to getting money changed and a taxi to our reserved Casa in Havana. The arrivals area was teaming with people, with both ends having entry doors which had large crowds eagerly awaiting the passenger arrivals.

There were no clear signs as to where a money change place was located, so Jeff went scouring the terminal, eventually locating an office outside. Whilst he change our English Pounds and Euros into Cuban CUC’s, the kids and I waited with the bags and asked at the information and tour desk about getting a taxi and the approximate cost. The lady at the tour desk said she could call and book a taxi for us whilst the lady at the information desk said we could get one out the front of the terminal. Both advised the cost should be 25 CUC, which was handy to know as when we walked out the front, the taxi driver quoted 30 CUC and we could barter down to 25 CUC as that is what they quoted inside. He accepted that and then we gave him the 5 CUC extra as a tip at the end of the journey.

We thought that we would be getting in an old style taxi but were surprised to see a lot of modern looking official yellow and black taxis as we left the terminal. There were a few old style vehicles there and quite a few old Russian Lada cars operating as taxis, but definitely, the more modern taxis dominated which we hadn’t expected. Our taxi was one of the official yellow and black vehicles. No metre was used as we had agreed on the price before departing.

Our Casa in the centre of Old Havana was found easily by the taxi driver and there was no haggling over the cost of the journey. Our driver pointed out a few sites as we passed in the dark and with our limited Spanish we managed to pick up a few things he was saying. The roads from the airport to the Old town were all in very good condition, with most being two or three-lane freeway-style and the traffic was very light for the whole journey and drivers were very orderly.

There was a sign in the doorway for the Casa we had booked and when the lady answered there was a little confusion as she didn’t seem to have our reservation, but once she looked at the emails we had with us, she realised we were at their other location, next door! Once she had buzzed the intercom, we were met at the door by Emilio – the lady who we had been emailing. After a very steep climb up a long and narrow marble staircase we entered a very chic open sitting area oozing old world charm with antique furniture, mirrors and very modernist artwork adorning the walls. The high ceilings with ornate plasterwork really added to the sense of grandeur. We were shown to our rooms, one right next to the sitting room with a double bed and the other two rooms away with two single beds. Both had an ensuite, albeit very basic, but they were very clean and comfortable with hints of the sitting room old world charm, such as elaborate chandeliers as the main room light. We were given a quick tour of the casa and shown the kitchen for breakfast the next morning. We had ordered a dinner for our first night as this was an option and we figured we would be arriving a little late – this seemed to have got lost in translation and it was too late for them to prepare something for us. This actually worked in our favour, as we were only two blocks from the main thoroughfare where there were a number of restaurants and the Cuban culture tends to eat out quite late so these were all open at 8:30.

After a quick re-pack of our bags putting all our valuables into the safes provided in our room, we headed out with just enough money for dinner to start our exploration of Havana streets. The side streets all seemed to be under repair as we made our way to the restaurant area. There were enormous holes dug up everywhere with pipes exposed and a strong gas smell in places and you could hear the distinctive beat of the Cuban music pounding out from rooftops, open windows and bars.

On the main street, every restaurant had employees out trying to entice in customers as they passed by. We went to one of the first that offered a set menu, which included lobster, rice and vegetables, dessert, coffee and a cocktail to start – all of this for 10CUC (approx. AU$10). This was such a good deal, so we decided to eat there and two of us had lobster, while the kids had chicken and pizza. Whilst the food was not sensational, you could not fault the great value and the lobster was pretty darn tasty! With full bellies, we returned to the Casa ready to rest up before our day of exploring Havana.

That night, Jeff was sorting out the Cuban money he had changed at the airport and he realised looking at the receipt for the English Pounds that the lady at the airport had shortchanged him by 20 Pounds. She had only written 280, not the 300 he had given her on the receipt. He had thought that it was a little short with the total she had said it would convert to, but thought it may have just been a bad exchange rate at the airport and as she was counting it out really fast, he was focused on the total written on the receipt and checking she counted those notes correctly, rather than checking the finer detail. So, we were short around 30 CUC – we will see if she is working at the change booth when we fly out in a few days and see if we can confront her and get our money back. I don’t like our chances, but it is worth a try and at least we may make her think twice about doing this to someone else in the future (I imagine it is probably a very regular occurrence as everyone is trying to make an extra buck here!).

Next post: Havanna Sightseeing Days – For any details on travel to Central America contact us now – julie@juliewarnertravelplans.com

Cook Islands – Escape to Paradise

Cook Islands – Escape to Paradise

The Cook Islands is a collection of 15 islands in the heart of Polynesia mid way between Tahiti and Tonga. Cook Islands travel is centred mostly around Rarotonga, the main population centre with the international airport. Rarotonga has high volcanic mountain peaks covered in tropical rain forest and lots of small beach resorts. Aitutaki is a small island 45-minutes flight to the north with attractive beaches and a beautiful lagoon and is the only other frequently visited island by tourists. Of the other islands, Atiu is good for eco-tourism and has a few guesthouses. The Cook Islands is a self-governing dependency of New Zealand with its own parliament but uses the New Zealand currency.

Rarotonga is the largest Cook Island being 67 sq. km in size – its population of 11,500 live around the coastal road. Here there are plenty of small beach resorts ideal for families and couples, and lots of self-catering bungalows and vacation homes for more independent travellers. The tourist infrastructure is well developed with some excellent day tours, good independent restaurants and a reliable transport network. Rarotonga’s main attractions are its lovely beaches, tropical mountain trails and laid back Polynesian lifestyle. Snorkelling is good along the south coast and there are several scuba diving companies with reefs being ideal for beginners and holiday divers.

Aitutaki is the only other tourist centre, a 45-minute flight from Rarotonga. It is a lot less commercial and ideal for honeymoons – stay here a couple of days and you’ll feel totally submerged in island style life. The villages are charming and although it lacks tropical mountains, the beaches are lovely. The main attraction, however, is one of the finest lagoons in the entire Pacific with good snorkelling and day cruises to the tiny uninhabited atolls where the beaches are exquisite.

Traditional dance performances are one of the icons of Polynesian life. Erotic hip swaying movements and upbeat drumming has come to resemble the archetypal Polynesian person – aesthetic and extremely seductive. Cook Island dancing is performed regularly at the resorts and there are several colourful competitions each year that are well worth experiencing.

 

 

Country Facts
Total islands: 15
Total land mass: 236 km²
Capital: Avarua
Main Island: Rarotonga
Int’l Airport: Rarotonga
Population: 18,000

Language: English, Maoris
Tourists: 80,000 per year
Accommodations: 60
Money: NZ$

 

 

Travel Highlights
1) Muri Beach, Rarotonga
2) Aitutaki Lagoon Cruise
3) Traditional Dances
4) Beach Bungalows
5) Fine Handicrafts
6) Cross Island Hike, Raro
7) Saturday Market, Avarua
8) Black Pearls
9) Sunday Church Service                       

10) Limestone Caves, Atiu

Happy Travels

Julie

For all your travel requirements to the Cook Islands – Contact us E: julie@juliewarnertravelplans.com

Central America Trip – Sydney to Cancun

Central America Trip – Sydney to Cancun

First time for us flying on the Qantas A380 for our first leg Sydney direct to Dallas, Texas where we had a few hours layover heading to Cancun, Mexico. The 15-hour flight went fairly quickly for all of us as we caught up on much-needed sleep after the last few hectic weeks with holiday preparations, work and social commitments leading up to the festive season. Having time to catch up on some movies from the past year was also enjoyable as we never seem to make it to the cinema to see any of the latest releases.

At Dallas airport we were able to get into the American Airlines lounge where we passed away the hour or so we had after eventually getting to the correct terminal via the sky train (Dallas is one huge airport!). The American Airlines Dallas to Cancun flight was just under two hours long and all went smoothly with the arrival into Cancun airport going without a hitch as well as no problem changing money as well as organising transport to our hotel.

We ended up booking a private shuttle which was a little more than a taxi but the same cost as a shared shuttle for the four of us and they gave us a 50% discount for the return journey the next day. We paid in full for this return journey and were taken direct to a van for the 20-minute drive to the hotel in downtown Cancun. As we were only staying for the one night, arriving after 8pm and departing at lunchtime the following day, we didn’t feel it was worth paying considerably more to stay at a beach resort as we would have no time to enjoy the water activities anyway.

Our hotel reservation was all ready for us, the hotel Xbalamque Spa & Resort looked appealing from the entrance with lots of traditional Mayan painting to make it look like one of the pyramid interiors. Our room was as many of the reviews had commented, fairly old, a bit dated and very simple. It was all clean and the two double beds were more than adequate for the one, short night stay. After a bit of toing and froing, we managed to get the air conditioner remote so we could control the temperature (it seemed to be missing from our room) and an extra two towels, we were all sorted.

The hotel reception recommended a good restaurant just two blocks away and the kids were very keen for some traditional Mexican food. The restaurant did not disappoint, we had a huge selection of Mexican fare covering our table with everyone enjoying them all. There was a lot of atmosphere with the Mariachi band coming around playing tunes, a guy dropping enormous sombreros on our heads for a photo opportunity (returning later for us to purchase the developed photos in a frame or stuck on a bottle of tequila) and just the whole cantina décor really made you feel like you were in Mexico.

With bellies full, it was time to head home for bed so we could get up and explore a little of the city centre before we departed the following day.

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