Though the travel industry nowadays is almost totally absorbed in following events in the Middle East, which have a direct impact on travel and tourism, nevertheless people continue to travel to most other areas of the world, and new travel institutions arise to serve their needs.
For example, you now can add still another home-restaurant directory to the growing list of services that invite you to the residences of amateur cooks – private people – in cities all over the world. The newest such meal compendium is called VizEat.com, and it enables you to select a lunch or dinner at the home of a local resident in major urban centers. They – the hosts – will charge a price they have set themselves, but it’s one that is almost always less than what you’d pay at a commercial restaurant.
The“chip-and-PIN” credit card widely used in Europe has been regarded until now as an advisable card to obtain, but one that wasn’t totally necessary. That viewpoint may now need to be altered in light of the announcement that early next year, the London underground (subway) system will eliminate ticket windows staffed by a human being, in favor of ticket windows containing a machine for the issuance of tickets obtained by using a chip-and-PIN credit card. Already, most public bus services in London have eliminated human ticket-takers in favor of machines in which you either swipe your bus pass or use a credit card to pay your fare. It all means that American tourists to London would be well-advised to obtain a bank credit card using chip-and-PIN technology – they work only when you use a PIN, exactly as if you were using an ATM card. Consult with your local bank to see whether it can issue you a chip-and-PIN card; an increasing number do so.
There’s been a definite upsurge in the number of American tourists to the South American nation of Colombia. While Americans have for years been visiting the Colombian port city of Cartagena (an unusually pleasant and attractive place), the rest of Colombia was widely regarded as unsafe. No longer. Its insurgency largely contained, the capital city of Bogota is now regarded as thoroughly safe for tourists, as are the coffee plantations found between Bogota and Cartagena. I’ve spoken with a number of recent American visitors to Colombia, all of whom have raved about the experience.
Another upsurge in travel, a palpable increase in travel scams, is less pleasant to discuss. In the Midwest and on the West Coast in particular, phony travel clubs are placing unsolicited phone calls to residents, advising them of major travel discounts that can be had by joining one of the clubs (for which a hefty membership fee is asked). The clubs later disappear, or change their names and addresses, and those that ultimately do arrange for a trip, do so at prices no different from, and sometimes higher than, normal trips advertised in the newspapers. In travel, you need to remember the ancient adage “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
A great many American vacationers have rejected the thought of spending time at the popular Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, because Punta Cana consists only of all-inclusive hotel resorts, with none of the accompanying urban life, museums or sightseeing attractions found in other vacation locations. That opinion has now been invalidated by the opening of a modern, new highway between Punta Cana and the city of Santo Domingo, permitting a visit to the big city in just a two-hour drive from Punta Cana. Many Punta Cana sightseeing operators are now offering full-day tours to the big city, and some Punta Cana vacationers are renting cars for a do-it-yourself trip there. What’s more, many other vacationers are purchasing low-cost air tickets from the U.S.to Santo Domingo in place of paying a much higher airfare to Punta Cana itself; they then drive a rental car to the vacation resort area or buy a commercial transfer from Santo Domingo to that beach area.
Does Findhorn still exist? In the 1980s, a great many followers of New Age beliefs would vacation in this far-out resort area in Northern Scotland, enjoying workshops and classes in meditation, yoga, tai chi, channeling and all the rest. The short answer is that Findhorn is as active as ever. Go to the website of the Findhorn Foundation through any Internet search engine, and you'll find a rich variety of possible stays with other seekers from around the world.
Arthur Frommer is the founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. Find more destinations and read his blog at frommers.com.