Japan is everything you can imagine, and more – rich in culture, full of history, natural beauty, epic shopping, unforgettable cuisine, gracious hospitality. But, to experience its true grandeur, there are a few tips and customs to familiarise yourself with before you go:
Bowing: The polite greeting in Japan is the bow. While you won’t be expected to know all the ins and outs of the bow (it can take decades to learn rules regarding the appropriate depth) there are a few things to remember. Bow from the waist and keep your arms straight by your side. Imitate the bows you receive – don’t over bow or ignore the greeting. Smile and nod if nothing else, you don’t want to be perceived as rude.
Hygiene: While there are plenty of western-style restrooms in the larger department stores and restaurants, you might still encounter a Japanese-style toilet (of the squat variety). It’s helpful to carry toilet tissues with you because not every restroom will have these! If you forget to take some with you, hope you get lucky and run into a promo person handing out packs of tissues with ads on them (a current marketing trend). Also bear in mind that you should blow your nose in a restroom rather than in public, and into a tissue rather than a handkerchief.
Money: It’s considered rude to count your change after you’ve received it – the Japanese culture is one that prides itself on its honesty. Plus you probably won’t be able to translate the currency quickly enough to avoid looking impolite…
Politeness: The Japanese are absolutely always polite. One of the noticeable features of the Japanese languages is that there are many different words which are used to communicate the same meaning. Some words are considered to be far more polite than others. Even if you don’t intend to speak much Japanese, this is an important concept to understand during your stay in Japan. At all times try your best to be VERY polite.
Shoes: When, where, why, and how shoes are worn in Japan can be confusing. Generally, shoes are not worn in Japanese homes, temples, ryokan, and various other public places (including some restaurants). Follow the lead of locals and don’t panic! Your shoes won’t be stolen while you’re off touring a temple.
Japanese manners and customs are vastly different from those of Western people. A strict code of behaviour and politeness is recognised and followed by almost everyone. However, Japanese people do not expect visitors to be familiar with all their customs but do expect them to behave formally and politely. A straightforward refusal traditionally does not form part of Japanese etiquette, and a vague ‘yes’ does not always mean ‘yes’. (The visitor may be comforted to know that confusion caused by non-committal replies occurs between the Japanese themselves.) When entering a Japanese home or restaurant, shoes must be removed. Bowing is the customary greeting but handshaking is becoming more common for business meetings with Westerners. The honorific suffix san should be used when addressing all men and women; for instance Mr Yamada would be addressed as Yamada-san. Table manners are very important, although the Japanese host will be very tolerant towards a visitor. However, it is best if visitors familiarise themselves with basic table etiquette and use chopsticks. Exchange of gifts is also a common business practice and may take the form of souvenir items such as company pens, ties or high-quality spirits.
Perfect in shoulder season – less crowds!
Like a delectable chocolate treat, shoulder season is so sweet. Sandwiched between the painfully high prices and overwhelming crowds of the high season, and the often miserable weather of low season. Shoulder season is the perfect time to travel. Typically, hotel rooms are cheap, crowds are thin, and the weather is mild. You’ll notice a warmer welcome, too, when you travel off-peak. Locals, who may grow weary of crowds in peak season, have time to relax in shoulder season. For instance, an afternoon in early May is an ideal time to linger at an outdoor café in Rome and people-watch, before the summer tourists descend.
No significant shoulder seasons fall within January, February, July, and August, but prices drop immediately after the holidays in January.
But shoulder season for Paris doesn’t fall on the same dates as shoulder season for Tokyo. So here’s a shoulder season calendar for some of our favourite destinations for easy reference:
Mid: North Africa. The Christmas travel crowds are gone and the weather is warm.
The big waves have subsided, along with the winter beachgoers; resorts are also bringing down rates. Through May
Early: Rio de Janeiro
Carnival has come and gone, which means hotel rooms are easier to find and less expensive (by as much as 60 percent).
It’s warming up and wildflowers are beginning to bloom; a perfect time for exploring the countryside. Through April
India: Hotel rooms and airfares are lower if you can locate these between celebrated holidays.
Early: North American Rockies and European Alps
Late-season skiing is still excellent in high-altitude destinations like Whistler, British Columbia; Vail, Steamboat, and the Arapahoe Basin, all in Colorado; and Tignes, France.
Early: Australian Outback
With average temperatures now cooling to between 80 and 86 degrees, you can visit Ayers Rock without risking heatstroke. Through May
Mid: European Cities
Western Europe. Rome, Barcelona, Paris, and London will still be cool and you’ll have your chance of rain, for sure, but the crowds are thin and prices go way down. Outdoor café culture is picking up, but the summer crowds won’t arrive until early June. Get here before they do.
Mid: The Caribbean and Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Room prices fall as much as 30 percent after Easter, and hurricane season is still weeks away. Through early June
Peak hotel rates have come down after last month’s cherry blossom celebrations, and the humidity has yet to kick in.
Mid: Mediterranean Cruising
The weather’s warming, but prices remain as much as 20 percent lower than in the summer high season.
Mid: Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Airfares from the States are at their lowest, and in Australia’s north, days are full of sunshine. Through August
April and May are sweltering, but the rains cool things off in June. The tourist crowds won’t arrive until next month. Through June
Baja California Temperatures have yet to soar, but resorts are offering bargains in anticipation of the hot months to come.
Early: Northern Caribbean. (But avoid hurricane areas.)
Room rates and airfares drop after Labor Day. Through September
Days continue to be sunny and dry, and dude ranches are offering discounted fall rates. Through September
Early: South Africa
It’s early spring in South Africa, and prices are low on game drives. You’ll also find foliage is less dense making it easier to spot the “Big Five”.
Prices at safari lodges are lower and the foliage less dense, making it easy to spot the Big Five. Through early October
Early: Mediterranean Resorts
Southern Europe. The weather has turned chilly up north, but around the Mediterranean, you’ll usually still find warm temperatures… and good travel deals.
Rates have started to drop, but you’ll still find ample sun on islands such as Crete, Ibiza, and Sicily.
Days are cooler, and camel-racing season has begun. Hotels, meanwhile, are enticing travelers with bargains. Early September through October
Mid: Vancouver Island, Canada
Room prices have dropped by nearly half, and it’s still warm enough to enjoy wine-tasting at the island’s many vineyards. Through November
Early: Tahiti, Fiji, and the South Pacific
The water is crystal clear before cyclone season, making it a great time for diving and snorkelling. Christmas is high season in these warm destinations. Try to get your beach time in before the rush.
Mid: The Caribbean and Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Before the holiday rush, beaches are empty and it’s easy to find hotel deals. Through mid-December
Early: North American Rockies and European Alps
The snow has returned, but the winter season is just beginning. Late November through mid-December
Early: Costa Rica
After months of rain, the clouds are thinning. Through mid-December
Let us know your shoulder season travel tips?
Issues surrounding taking prescription medicines overseas can cause a great deal of stress for travellers, especially elderly travellers, who often have pre-exiting health conditions and increased health concerns. This should not be a barrier to travel if you follow a few simple rules:
1.Talk to your doctor or a travel medicine specialist and discuss both the prescription and over the counter medicines that you will need to take with you; take only those for personal use.
2.Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there.
3.Carry a letter from your prescriber with your prescription medicines. The letter should include the name of the medicine, how much you are taking or sending, and state that the medicine is for your personal use.
4.All medicines should be kept in their original container displaying your name and dosage requirements, and carried in hand luggage to prevent their loss.
Because a prescription from your doctor here cannot be filled overseas, and familiar over the counter medicines may not be available in foreign countries, it is also important to carry an adequate supply for the entire trip plus some extra in case of travel disruption or delay.
However, carrying or sending PBS medicines that are not for your own personal use or for the use of someone travelling from Australia with you is illegal and can attract a penalty of up to $5000 and/or 2 years imprisonment. Customs authorities have the power to detain any medication which they suspect is being illegally exported. For more information you may phone Medicare Australia’s Travelling with PBS Medicine enquiry line 1800 500 147 or visit the website www.medicareaustralia.gov.au
Some medications, particularly those classified as S8 medications or medications of addiction (such as medications containing Codeine 30mg or strong painkillers prescribed from a Pain Unit) even when obtained on a legal prescription in Australia, should not be transported across international boundaries unless they are accompanied by a customs clearance from the country concerned. You must apply to the appropriate Consulate or Embassy for this.
Seek specialist travel health information to make sure you are properly advised, understand the rules and follow the simple steps listed above and travelling with prescription medications should be hassle free and enjoyable.
It is always better to err on the side of caution with medication and best to ask as many questions as necessary to ensure you have all the correct information to make your trip hassle free and keep you healthy whilst away.
10 things to do before taking off on holiday
Don’t leave home without finishing this to-do list
You’ve completed your travel trifecta – the flights are booked, hotels reserved and car hire reservation complete. Now it’s time to get organized. The trip planning process includes everything from buying your plane tickets, making reservations at your destination to packing. But before you head to the airport to catch your flight, make sure you’ve tied up all the loose ends.
1. Call your credit card company
Many credit card companies have identity protection plans in place that help protect travelers from theft and fraud. In some cases, this means travelers must contact their credit card companies before traveling to ensure the card will work in another destination
2. Place a “stop” or “hold” on mail and deliveries
Daily newspapers, magazines and mail will pile up while you’re away. Either ask a neighbour to collect your mail or arrange for the Post Office to hold your mail while you are away. Also reduce the risk of break-ins by placing a stop on all automatic deliveries such as newspapers and magazine subscriptions.
3. Emergency phone numbers
This rule applies for those who might need to reach you while you’re away, and those you might need to get in touch with while you’re traveling. Before you leave, take some time to write out three lists: one for home, one for your hand luggage and a spare to stash in your suitcase.
Home: Leave contact phone numbers with family members and friends in case they need to reach you while you’re traveling. Examples include:
- Phone number of the hotel(s) where you’re staying
- Airline flight and car hire information and phone numbers
- Phone numbers of the people you’re traveling with
- If you’re traveling with a group or tour company, leave the company’s contact information
- Phone numbers for doctors/veterinarians, in case of emergencies
Away: While you’re away, it’s a good idea to keep a list of emergency travel numbers with you. Those contacts include:
- Bank and Credit card companies
- Travel Insurance Company contact and claim details
- Doctor’s office
- Australian Embassy/Consulates in the countries you’re visiting
- Airline phone numbers
Print a hard copy of these, don’t just rely on an electronic version in case your phone/laptop is stolen. Also a great idea to email all these details to yourself so they are always accessible via a WIFI connection or internet cafe.
4. Set up pet care
If you have furry friends at home, make sure they are well provided for before you leave town. This includes leaving emergency phone numbers, and also some extra tasty treats to keep animals happy in your absence. Here are a few other must-do’s before you drop off your pet:
- Confirm your reservation at the local Doggie Day Care or pet kennel where you keep your pet.
- Make sure all medications for your pet and the veterinarian’s phone number are packed with your pet before you leave.
- If your pet has particular rituals, make sure to leave specific instructions with the pet care provider.
5. Cash out
Never leave town without some cash, whether it’s domestic or foreign currency. If you’re traveling within the country, make sure to hit the bank before you leave. Taking cash with you will ensure you don’t pay ATM surcharge fees in another destination.
If you’re traveling overseas, it’s a good idea to carry some of the local country’s currency with you in a combination of cash, travel cards and as a back up some travellers cheques. Take enough cash for cab fare or transfer fees so you don’t have to go in search of an ATM as soon as you arrive. Use a currency converter to determine the best rate of exchange for your money so you know you are getting a good deal when exchanging money.
6. Pack maps, guide books, public transportation schedules
Before you head out into the unknown, do a little research and bring along some guides. Forearmed is forewarned when it comes to getting around in a new place.
Most public transportation maps are also available online; it’s a good idea to print out a map of the area before you leave. Your guide book will serve as the bible for the trip, especially if you’re traveling somewhere new or to a foreign country. Consider printing out specific sections from travel guides online to assist you plotting your routes every day. There are also a number of downloadable apps for your smartphone and guidebooks can be purchased for e-book readers which can come in handy if you don’t want to lug around a bunch of heavy books. Pre-planning with some research about your destination before you go helps you not be overwhelmed when you arrive.
7. Check the weather
Before you zip up the suitcase and head to the airport, do one last check of the local weather in your destination. Just because you’re traveling to a beach destination doesn’t mean it’s going to be sunny all week; you don’t want to be caught in rainstorm without waterproof shoes and an umbrella. The day before you leave, check the weather conditions and make any necessary adjustments to clothes and amenities. For international trips if visiting multiple destinations check for all areas being visited as larger countries climates vary considerably depending on the terrain.
8. Make reservations
Whether you’re planning a spa vacation, golf getaway, a romantic dinner for two at your destination’s top restaurant or have a major site you want to visit it’s a good idea to make reservations before the trip to avoid disappointment. Check on-line the local entertainment guides, city newspapers and online entertainment sites to find the best restaurants and hottest shows. Hotel concierge desks are a good source for recommendations if you’re unsure of where to book. Call the hotel before your trip and ask the concierge to send you a list of restaurants, golf courses, spas or other entertainment activities in the area. If you are doing a D.I.Y. trip most places have on-line information on how to make a reservation or ask your hotel if they can assist with advice on how to make reservations or to purchase required tickets.
9. Pack your essentials
Double check before leaving the house that you have all necessary essentials to travel with. Do you know where your passport or driver’s license is located? Did you pack all your necessary medications? The best way to ensure you’ve packed everything necessary for your trip is to make a list of your daily needs for one week. List everything from your medications to the credit cards you use. When it comes time for packing, refer to your list so you don’t forget anything important.
10. Plan your first days at your destination
This is especially helpful if you’re traveling somewhere new and unfamiliar. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need a list of things to do at your destination to help fight off jet lag. Take a look at local guides and find out what shopping, attractions and restaurants are near your resting place. Take a walk around your hotel and get familiar with its amenities. Planning ahead will help make a hectic first day seem a little more organized.
Making a to-do list and checking it is the only way to ensure everything is done and the only way to holiday stress free.
5 Tips for Beating Jet Lag
There is no end of tips for beating jet lag to be read on the internet, found in travel books or told to you by family and friends. But do they really work?
It seems to be a really individual thing, and then it can be different from flight to flight. But 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 bit more human when you start your trip.
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 this 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 seat, then you can time your flight to include an “overnight” leg, which means one that arrives at your destination in the morning (you will then need to stay awake all day – see Tip #3)
If you never get more than a few winks of sleep then you should on the plane then go for a “daytime” flight that lands in the late afternoon or evening. At this time, you will be so exhausted from prolonged lack of sleep that you’ll be asleep the minute your head hits the pillow at the correct time in your new destination.
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 that free wine on a long flight, if you must have wine try to limit it to one small glass with a meal. This one glass may help you sleep if that is a problem for you. Jet lag recovery time should definitely decrease following these simple suggestions.
Tip #3: No Sleep Until Bedtime
If you do nothing else, do this. No matter what time you arrive at your destination, don’t go to bed until it’s night time there. This can be a big difficult especially if you arrive really early morning and need to survive the whole day. You might want to sleep desperately, but be disciplined, stay busy, take a long walk, do whatever it takes so that your body can start adjusting to the new time zone as soon as possible.
At the very least, last until around nine in the evening before you hit the sack, or if you absolutely must take a nap, make it a quick power nap no longer than an hour. Likewise, if your body clock doesn’t want to go to bed, make it. Don’t stay up past midnight even if you’re not tired. It’s all about getting used 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 more exhausted in the morning.
Perhaps get up, make a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate and 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: 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 specializing in aromatherapy products also offer a variety of blends.
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 – when you are excited to get out and explore in a new destination means that feeling a bit tired and out of sorts doesn’t bother you half as much?
There are also dozens of natural or herbal remedies, over the counter medications or magic drinks that advertise they can help – if you find one that works for you then go for it, but there’s definitely no cure-all.
Stay active, stay 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!
Too often when away on a trip everything has a habit of becoming a bit disorganised, particularly if you are on the move and regularly packing and un-packing your bags every few days. One way to help combat this is to try and have a place for everything which allows you to find things quickly when you need to and makes more space in your suitcase when packing. The best way I have found to do this is with plastic bags and ziploc ones work exceptionally well as they secure items easily and are fairly durable. I always carry various sizes of ziplocs and use them in a multitude of ways no matter what style of holiday we have.
I use these when on trips to store anything that may leak in my handbag/backpack (depending on what style of trip) like; sunscreen, insect repellent and hand sanitiser as well as holding all those smaller items that fall to the bottom and take forever to locate, especially when you are in a hurry. They are also great for carrying a variety of snack items that help keep hungry children happy for that little bit longer whilst making your way to a destination.
Here are 10 more travel uses for ziplocs that you might find handy on your next trip:
1. Travel Hamper — Bring an XL ziploc and keep your dirty clothes zipped up tight and away from the clean ones.
2. Laundry Detergent –Use a small sandwich sized ziploc to hold some launder powder for any emergency clothes washing you may need to do.
3. Fragile Souvenir Protector — Pack fragile souvenirs in your suitcase, surrounded by two or three ziplocs, filled with air.
4. Camera Poncho — A gallon-sized ziploc is a great way to protect your camera in the rain. Wrap it around the body of your camera and shoot with the lens peeking out of the opening.
5. Waterproof Document Holder — Ever get stuck in a rainstorm with your passport in your pocket? Believe me, it comes out pretty wrinkly when it dries and attracts a lot of sidelong looks from border guards. Keep your passport, money, and other precious documents dry by storing them neatly in a sandwich-sized ziploc.
6. Space Saver — Get an XXL-sized ziploc and fill it with all of the clothes you’re bringing on your trip. Then roll or squeeze the air out from the bottom up, and seal.
7. Earring Keeper — Put earrings, pills, or other small items into a snack-sized ziploc and slip it into your bathroom bag. It’ll save your more precious items from getting lost or scratched.
8. Day Starter Kit — Make a coffee kit with your favourite tea, instant coffee, sugar etc. and skip the coffee provided by the hotel.
9. Electronics Packet — Store all of your electronics, wires, chargers, MP3 players, etc. in a large sized ziploc. You can see what’s in it while it’s closed and it’ll keep your things from getting lost in the nooks and crannies of your suitcase.
10. Swimsuit Bag — Put wet swimsuits into XL sized ziplocs until you get home or back to the hotel. Works great for other wet clothes, too, like wet socks when you get caught in a rain storm.