Tag Archives: holiday

Buzz Off – The search for a longer-lasting and more effective alternative to DEET

Short news clip from ScienceCentral about a study seeking a better alternative to DEET – hopefully a compound that is longer lasting, less irritating and (ideally) is even more effective. Oh yeah, and perhaps a substance that doesn’t dissolve plastics. We wait with baited breath.

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If you’re a tourist – demand a tax refund!

Stop Paying Taxes

Travellers can often claim back local sales tax on high-value goods you’ll be ‘exporting’. Whenever you make a purchase overseas it’s worth asking whether you can seek a refund of sales tax – it is possible throughout most of Europe but not for GST paid in New Zealand, for instance. Local regulations vary but this often involves having the goods and reciept stamped by customs before you depart. You may be paid on the spot, but more frequently you need to mail the stamped form back to the place of purchase for a refund check or electronic credit.

Global Refund - Tax Free ShoppingTwo services Global Tax Refund Tax Free Shopping and Premier Tax Free promise to simplify the process of reimbursement in many (overwealmingly European) countries, although whether you’re interested in the services or not the websites are useful for a guide to European sales tax rates and restrictions (e.g. time limit for export or refund claims).

Both services are designed to simplify and streamline the process and allow you to be reimbursed immediately at their airport kiosk for purchases previously mPremier Tax Freeade at participating merchants who display relevant logo. If you forget or don’t have a chance to claim at the airport you will often be able to access the refund by mailing the documents from home, but check this in advance. Global Tax Free is the larger with some 230,000 participating merchants in 35 countries, Premier claims around of 75,000 ‘retail partners’ across 15 countries. Both websites offer shopping guides containing a list of participating merchants and specific details of the claims process for each country.

Both of these systems charge a percentage commission (around 4%) for the service, which may or may not be a fair price for avoiding dealings with the local beuracracy.

For a good guide to tax refunds for travellers in Europe see Rick Steves’ guide.

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[Image by Jahat]

The French are polite – so take that you English pig-dogs!

French Taunter

According to a Reader’s Digest survey New York, Zurich and Toronto are the world’s most polite cities and Kuala Lumpur, Bucharest and Mumbai the world’s rudest. Paris, unfortunately, did the stereotype of the rude Frenchmen no favours by managing no more than a mid-table finish of joint fifteenth with London. Even Sydney managed to do better, matching the Milanese as the 24th rudest city.

Three measures were used to test each cities rudeness quotient:

1) Walking into public buildings 20 times behind people to see if they would hold the door open for us.
2) Buying small items from 20 stores and recorded whether the sales assistants said thank you.
3) Dropping a folder full of papers in 20 busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up.

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[Via Expedia]

Free! Travel Information Delivered To Your Door!

The internet is an incredible free source of destination information, but it can’t quite match the thrill of receiving a whole envelope full of free glossy brochures of beautiful people streched out before vistas of azure oceans. Here are two great sources of free travel information delivered to your door; one defintely useful, the perhaps somewhat other less so.

Travel BrochuresLet’s start with the best. Tourism authorities are a fantastic and often-overlooked source of travel information – particularly for decent free maps and basic info with lots of glossy pictures. ANTOR’s* represents 48 official tourism authorities (including the Australian State authorities) and the destination info page provides (along side some basic travel info) the URL, email address and contact details for all of them. If you’re interested in any major destination for Australian travellers it will be listed. Simply email the relevant authority with your address, rough dates of travel and as far as possible the specific regions or cities you’re interested in and wait for the postie everyday for a week or so! No substitute for a good guidebook or your own research but generally there will be at least a couple of genuinely useful items in the material sent.

TravelBrochures.com.au and TravelBrochures.SMH.com.au are another clearing house for free travel information, although arguably of a must less useful nature. These sites allow to order free tour company brochures, some of which are available in digital (tree-saving) format. All the majors are available as well as a few smaller operators – useful if you wish to compare tours from a number of companies or can’t get to a travel agent. Of course some major operators now send out (often unintenionally comical) DVDs as as a bonus! Be warned, however, apart from ending up on a tour (which may or may not be a bad thing in itself…), you are likely to end up on a mailing list of the tour companies from which it may be difficult to extract yourself!

*(Association of National Tourist Office Representatives in Australasia)

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[Image by Classroom III]

The Venice of Africa

Ganvie from the air Ganvie

A Welsh View’s post on GanviĆ©, a village built over Lake NokouĆ©, near Cotonou in Benin was eye-opening. Apparently it was built during the sixteenth or seventeenth century to save people from slavery as religious traditions forbade attacking communities on the water. I’m embarrassed to say I never even knew it existed.

Some more professional images or further information here, here and here.

72 hour VirginBlue Sale: Sydney – Gold Coast $49

Virgin BlueVirginBlue are running a seventy-two hour sale. A number of smaller domestic routes included (all for June travel) and east coast capitals to Christchurch and Nadi (somewhat more expansive dates).

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[Image by scherre]

A bag, in a pouch, in a bag

My Love Affair With Dorky Luggage

Rick StevesPBS travel writer and presenter Rick Steves is a lot of things. A good writer, an intelligent and passionate traveller and someone who successfully preaches to Americans that there’s a world out there (OK, Europe) that is worth not just travelling to, but really seeing and experiencing. But, no matter his qualities, I’m happy to consider him the friendly old uncle of travel writing, encouraging the emptynesters to get out there and explore. But my guilty secret is I lust after his bags. Particularly his convertible carry-on and his daypack – all sorts of cool features, the best of all of which is they’re durable but damn light. But they’re so lacking in badass cred that they ought to come with a pair of slippers and a bus pass. But the design! The practicality! However, they don’t appear to be available anywhere in Australia and Amazon, fortunately my own self image, won’t ship them to Australia.

Today The Geeky Traveller caught my eye with the Kiva Keychain Backpack, made by the same company as Rick Steves line.

Kiva Keychain Backpack 1

Kiva Keychain Backpack 2

The Kiva Key Chain Pakc is a 120 gram nylon backpack (around 40 cms x 30 x 7) that collapses into a keychain pouch roughly 10cms x 6 x 3. A great idea for a daypack or extra capacity for things picked up along the way, even if the few Amazon reviews seem to (predictably) warn that it won’t carry a whole hell of a lot of weight. Like the Rick Steves bags, Amazon will only ship to US addresses. Saved from my own unconcious yearning for naff baggage again.

All in all, I reckon Kiva are a company that deserve a more active, better, or just bigger, Australian distributor.

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