Tag Archives: vacation

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]

The Venice of Africa

Ganvie from the air Ganvie

A Welsh View’s post on Ganvié, a village built over Lake Nokoué, 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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Welcome to Qantas’ asylum (and where the bloody hell is my bar?)

In 2005 we were promised a new age of air travel. The A380 would revolutionise the flying experience, transforming it into something akin to the glorious age of great passenger liners, complete with all the amenities one could desire

A model of a bar area in an Airbus A380 shows how the plane’s “superjumbo” proportions may benefit some passengers. The plane’s main and upper levels will serve as passenger areas. The lower deck will be for freight—or additional passenger facilities such as sleeper cabins, child care, gymnasiums, casinos, or business centers, at the discretion of the airlines that purchase the planes.

Airbus - WITH BAR!

(National Geographic)

Well, readers, that bright new future is upon us! The Herald Sun has a gallery of images showcasing the fit-out of the new Qantas A380. Behold the beauty of the new economy class – unlike any travel experience before…

Qantas Airbus A380

I WANT MY BAR! Given the spike in fuel prices and competition from low cost carriers, at a pinch I’ll even settle for the gymnasium, casino and child care. But Nothing! Qantas: snot-green seats do not a great flying experience make. I can’t wait to spend twenty-four hours somewhere this dreary and soul-destroying. Steerage must have been worse…

Ah well, at least they’ve gone the extra mile for the patricians behind the curtins…

Business

First

Wow! Seventies wood-grain meets beige. Singapore Airlines must be absolutely terrified.

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