Boarding Pass

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the December 2008 issue.
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The Sphinx

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 394th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine, the one in which travelers like you pass along recommendations and warnings to others.

I can share a few news items with you, here.

Think twice before using an automatic teller machine in Lithuania. Banks there hope to have up-to-date security devices installed in all ATMs by 2010, but, for now, about 30% of them lack such safeguards, and criminals can use scanning devices to retrieve card data.

In the October issue I warned about phony e-mails being sent out that appeared to come from certain major airlines. Opening the attachment invites a virus that steals information from your computer.

This is continuing, now with the airline ticket invoices and boarding passes supposedly coming from Continental Airlines. The bogus e-mail includes a log-in user name and password and claims that your credit card has been charged more than $900. The attachment is actually a Windows worm. Do not double-click on it if you have not ordered tickets online from the airline.

We’ve all heard about excessive “roaming charges” billed for making mobile phone calls while abroad. While we may be willing to pay $2 per minute to phone someone, it’s a different story when you access e-mail or the Internet on your smartphone when overseas. The international data roaming charges can be massive.

In the States, it’s difficult to burn through one’s allotted amount of data; most carriers set a soft limit of 5GB per month. However, on AT&T, international data roaming is charged at $19.50 per megabyte; T-Mobile charges $15.36 per megabyte.

At those rates, downloading an e-mail with pictures of the kids could end up costing $20. Surfing the Web on your phone could cost $1 to $2 per page. Even worse, phones that use the new, much faster 3G networks can burn through data at about $60 per minute!

When traveling overseas, it’s important to either disable data access on your phone or have your carrier disable it (then call back to be sure they have done so). Newer phones often come with built-in WiFi — a much better option. Not only is it faster than cellular data, often it is free.

Each October and November, Cairo, Egypt, cowers under a black cloud of vehicle and industrial emissions and smoke from burning hay and trash. The burning hay makes up 40% of the pollution.

Authorities are attempting to do something about it. Farmers who burn hay will lose subsidies for fertilizer, and people are being encouraged to use public transit or switch to cars that run on natural gas.

In Beijing, China, in a 6-month trial until April 10, 2009, drivers must take turns staying off the roads from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. one day a week, depending on the last digits of their license plates. The move should reduce traffic by 6½% and help lower pollution levels.

Taxis, buses and essential vehicles are exempted from the restriction. In fact, the city will increase public transportation capacity by 10%, even putting into regular operation 2,100 barrier-free buses that were used for the Paralympic Games.

In addition, on days when pollution reaches extreme levels, the antipollution measures recently enforced during the Olympics will be reinstated: vehicles with either odd- or even-numbered license plates will be banned from use, factories will be shut down and construction will be delayed.

In Paris, France, there are only 13% more taxis in use than there were in 1937 — 16,000 now versus 14,000 back then — with opposition from taxi unions to add more. The railway company SNCF, in an effort to have more cabs present for arriving passengers, next year plans to build its own fleet by buying 200 taxi licenses (at €200,000 each) from retiring drivers.

Most of the new cars, for which rail passengers will be a priority, will be electric vehicles.

Inside the Métro and rail facilities of Paris, there are 9,500 closed-circuit TV cameras used by police for security purposes, but in public areas outside there are only 330. In a new allotment, the number of outside cameras in the city will be raised to 1,200, most to be placed in high-risk areas and around rail and underground stations.

Countrywide, France has about 340,000 CCTVs. Britain has about four million.

In the October issue, I wrote, “If you were to take your last trip over again, what’s the one thing you would do differently?”

Samantha Sartain of Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote, “I just returned from doing eastern Turkey with Explore. One of our first outings was in Erzurum. The tour ended at the madrassa, where everyone suddenly disappeared. I had had trouble understanding the guide, and where I thought we were supposed to meet was not the place. For three hours I ran all over town, but I could not find the hotel, the group, the bus or the tour leader — and we were due to depart at noon for Kars!

“I finally returned to the madrassa and spoke to one of the guide’s friends in the store. The store owner’s son was my ‘seeing eye dog’ back to the hotel. Fortunately, everyone was still there.

“After that, throughout the trip, when we were given our room keys everyone also was given a card with the hotel’s address on it. And from now on, I will not leave the premises of a hotel until I get the address so that I can find my way back.”

Great tip, Samantha! Each of you reading this, bring to mind one simple lesson you learned from one of your own trips and send it in.

Bill Venuti, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, wrote, “I enjoy ITN. It always gives good information that is useful. I have used it many times in the past to do research.”

Victoria Damia of Watseka, Illinois, wrote, “We really enjoy reading ITN, the best travel information magazine in the world. And thank you for sending sample copies to our relatives and friends.”

Judy Pfaffenberger of Toledo, Ohio, wrote, “I do between three and 10 travel programs a month, and, except in nursing homes, I always give ITN a plug. These names are from my various programs.”

Judy included the names and addresses of 33 people. Each of them will be sent a free sample copy of the next-printed issue.

Another option — if you will be attending a gathering of people interested in travel and would like to bring a stack of ITNs to hand out, give us a call and tell us how many people you expect to be there. We will send you a number of past issues at no charge.

This magazine is a group effort from start to finish. With subscribers writing in about their love of travel as well as promoting ITN, I hope you feel the energy of everyone involved coming right through these pages. — David Tykol, Editor

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
The Sphinx

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 394th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine, the one in which travelers like you pass along recommendations and warnings to others.

I can share a few news items with you, here.

Think twice before using an automatic teller machine in Lithuania. Banks there hope to have up-to-date security devices installed in all ATMs by 2010, but, for now, about 30% of them lack such safeguards, and criminals can use scanning devices to retrieve card data.

In the October issue I warned about phony e-mails being sent out that appeared to come from certain major airlines. Opening the attachment invites a virus that steals information from your computer.

This is continuing, now with the airline ticket invoices and boarding passes supposedly coming from Continental Airlines. The bogus e-mail includes a log-in user name and password and claims that your credit card has been charged more than $900. The attachment is actually a Windows worm. Do not double-click on it if you have not ordered tickets online from the airline.

We’ve all heard about excessive “roaming charges” billed for making mobile phone calls while abroad. While we may be willing to pay $2 per minute to phone someone, it’s a different story when you access e-mail or the Internet on your smartphone when overseas. The international data roaming charges can be massive.

In the States, it’s difficult to burn through one’s allotted amount of data; most carriers set a soft limit of 5GB per month. However, on AT&T, international data roaming is charged at $19.50 per megabyte; T-Mobile charges $15.36 per megabyte.

At those rates, downloading an e-mail with pictures of the kids could end up costing $20. Surfing the Web on your phone could cost $1 to $2 per page. Even worse, phones that use the new, much faster 3G networks can burn through data at about $60 per minute!

When traveling overseas, it’s important to either disable data access on your phone or have your carrier disable it (then call back to be sure they have done so). Newer phones often come with built-in WiFi — a much better option. Not only is it faster than cellular data, often it is free.

Each October and November, Cairo, Egypt, cowers under a black cloud of vehicle and industrial emissions and smoke from burning hay and trash. The burning hay makes up 40% of the pollution.

Authorities are attempting to do something about it. Farmers who burn hay will lose subsidies for fertilizer, and people are being encouraged to use public transit or switch to cars that run on natural gas.

In Beijing, China, in a 6-month trial until April 10, 2009, drivers must take turns staying off the roads from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. one day a week, depending on the last digits of their license plates. The move should reduce traffic by 6½% and help lower pollution levels.

Taxis, buses and essential vehicles are exempted from the restriction. In fact, the city will increase public transportation capacity by 10%, even putting into regular operation 2,100 barrier-free buses that were used for the Paralympic Games.

In addition, on days when pollution reaches extreme levels, the antipollution measures recently enforced during the Olympics will be reinstated: vehicles with either odd- or even-numbered license plates will be banned from use, factories will be shut down and construction will be delayed.

In Paris, France, there are only 13% more taxis in use than there were in 1937 — 16,000 now versus 14,000 back then — with opposition from taxi unions to add more. The railway company SNCF, in an effort to have more cabs present for arriving passengers, next year plans to build its own fleet by buying 200 taxi licenses (at €200,000 each) from retiring drivers.

Most of the new cars, for which rail passengers will be a priority, will be electric vehicles.

Inside the Métro and rail facilities of Paris, there are 9,500 closed-circuit TV cameras used by police for security purposes, but in public areas outside there are only 330. In a new allotment, the number of outside cameras in the city will be raised to 1,200, most to be placed in high-risk areas and around rail and underground stations.

Countrywide, France has about 340,000 CCTVs. Britain has about four million.

In the October issue, I wrote, “If you were to take your last trip over again, what’s the one thing you would do differently?”

Samantha Sartain of Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote, “I just returned from doing eastern Turkey with Explore. One of our first outings was in Erzurum. The tour ended at the madrassa, where everyone suddenly disappeared. I had had trouble understanding the guide, and where I thought we were supposed to meet was not the place. For three hours I ran all over town, but I could not find the hotel, the group, the bus or the tour leader — and we were due to depart at noon for Kars!

“I finally returned to the madrassa and spoke to one of the guide’s friends in the store. The store owner’s son was my ‘seeing eye dog’ back to the hotel. Fortunately, everyone was still there.

“After that, throughout the trip, when we were given our room keys everyone also was given a card with the hotel’s address on it. And from now on, I will not leave the premises of a hotel until I get the address so that I can find my way back.”

Great tip, Samantha! Each of you reading this, bring to mind one simple lesson you learned from one of your own trips and send it in.

Bill Venuti, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, wrote, “I enjoy ITN. It always gives good information that is useful. I have used it many times in the past to do research.”

Victoria Damia of Watseka, Illinois, wrote, “We really enjoy reading ITN, the best travel information magazine in the world. And thank you for sending sample copies to our relatives and friends.”

Judy Pfaffenberger of Toledo, Ohio, wrote, “I do between three and 10 travel programs a month, and, except in nursing homes, I always give ITN a plug. These names are from my various programs.”

Judy included the names and addresses of 33 people. Each of them will be sent a free sample copy of the next-printed issue.

Another option — if you will be attending a gathering of people interested in travel and would like to bring a stack of ITNs to hand out, give us a call and tell us how many people you expect to be there. We will send you a number of past issues at no charge.

This magazine is a group effort from start to finish. With subscribers writing in about their love of travel as well as promoting ITN, I hope you feel the energy of everyone involved coming right through these pages. — David Tykol, Editor