Boarding Pass

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the September 2010 issue.
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Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 415th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

Vacation apartments in Paris now may be more difficult to find.

The city’s government housing agency has begun enforcing a 2005 law that requires any lease on a residential apartment to be for a year or more. To be legally rented for less than a year, an apartment must be classified as a commercial property.

This law does not affect commercial short-term apartment rentals by licensed companies. It is directed toward private properties purchased with the intention of using them for short-term rentals only, which is several times more profitable than a long-term lease but leads to a shortage of affordable housing for Parisians, not to mention complaints from neighbors about unregulated rentals. The city hopes to increase the taxes collected on commercial properties, as well.

Among owners who were leasing vacation rentals, most who were notified have removed their apartments from the rental listings, and some have been fined. A private apartment owner who rents out his apartment once a year for a few weeks is not likely to be prosecuted.

Keep one eye open.

An Air France flight attendant was arrested on July 16 for stealing cash, credit cards and jewelry from the hand luggage of passengers while they slept on international flights, mostly between France and Japan.

In January, police were called after five business-class passengers on a flight from Tokyo to Paris had over $5,000 in different currencies taken. Since then, about 140 thefts had been reported; the flight attendant confessed to 26 of them but was suspected of dozens more. She said she had “financial problems.”

Police finally determined who the thief was by comparing names of those who were on board the flights where thefts occurred. If convicted, the cabin crew member faces up to 10 years in prison.

Air France said it is responsible only for thefts from checked baggage and not for items taken on board.

Some pilfering-preventing suggestions — keep small electronics and valuables with you at your seat; do not leave a passport or cash in an unattended jacket; keep petty cash to be used on a flight separate from the rest of your travel funds, and when storing a bag in the overhead bin, place its opening end toward the back.

France and Italy are cracking down on the sale of counterfeit items, and travelers caught purchasing fake designer sunglasses, watches, handbags and other items can be fined significant amounts.

Near Venice in June 2010, on a beach in Jesolo, an Austrian tourist bought a fake Louis Vuitton purse for €7 and then was fined €1,000 (near $1,300) by the police. The police target not only the vendors of knockoffs but those who buy from them.

France, too, seizes counterfeit goods and sets fines. Fines in France top out (in extreme cases) at €300,000 and in Italy at €10,000.

For tips on spotting counterfeit products, download the brochure from French Customs at www.douane.gouv.fr/data/file/1251.pdf.

The official opening of a massive Inter-Oceanic Highway running from both Rio de Janeiro and Santos, Brazil, northwest across the Amazon Basin and over the Andes Mountains and then splitting off to the Peruvian ports of San Juan de Marcona, Matarani and Ilo is scheduled for early 2011. Construction began in July 2006.

The total distance covered by the road from the Atlantic to the Pacific is about 3,400 miles, most of which has been paved with asphalt. The highest point is 15,908 feet. The project required 22 bridges to be built, including one 722 meters long over the Madre de Dios River that should be completed in December.

The primary purpose of the road is to improve commerce, but environmental groups fear that opening up vast sections of the Amazon to development will accelerate the destruction of rainforest.

Located just about in the center of Australia, within the vast Outback, is Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, site of Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock.

While the area around Uluru is set aside as a national park, in 1985 ownership of the land was returned to the indigenous peoples. The park then was leased back to the state and continues to be jointly administered by the indigenous peoples and the Australian government; the latter pays for maintenance, upkeep and security.

Management of the park often focuses on two hotly debated issues: climbing on Uluru and consuming alcohol in the park.

The indigenous peoples revere the 1,142-foot-high monolith in the Northwest Territory desert as a religious site and would prefer that tourists not climb it. However, the government is unwilling to ban climbing yet; more than 350,000 people visit Uluru each year, with 100,000 of them scaling the sandstone paths skyward.

Climbing Uluru is not only dangerous (since 1958, 37 people have died climbing it), it leads to the rock’s erosion, plus there are no bathroom facilities at the top and so climbers find alternative solutions, causing further ecological damage as well as being offensive to those for whom the rock is sacred.

In an effort to encourage visitors to only view Uluru from the base rather than climb it, in 2009 the government built new raised pathways, a viewing platform and a cultural center with exhibits.

The government said that if they decide to ban climbing, they will give the public 18 months’ notice.

Regarding alcohol, it was banned in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in September 2007, although in 2008 exceptions were put in place for registered tour operators and certain areas overlooking Uluru.

In June 2009, the deeds to nine national parks in the Northern Territory (including N’Dhala Gorge, Arltunga Historical Reserve and Trephina Gorge) were returned to the indigenous owners, causing an “emergency response” law to kick in which banned the drinking of alcohol on Aboriginal land. (The indigenous peoples are doing all they can to fight alcoholism in their communities.)

The ban continues to be negotiated, but, currently, within all of these parks and within a certain radius of these parks, visitors can bring in liquor for their own consumption, though they are prohibited from selling or giving it to anyone else in the parks.

Diane Vigilante of Fair Haven, New Jersey, wrote, “I just want to let you know that I always read ITN from cover to cover, and I never miss Wayne Wirtanen’s columns. I e-mailed him for help recently and he was more than helpful.”

For his “Eye on Travel Insurance” column this month, Wayne has surpassed himself, identifying a terrific bargain that is virtually unknown to the traveling public, one inadvertently purchased by an ITN subscriber.

It began with a letter from Betty James of Fort Myers, Florida, who wrote to Wayne about the wonderful treatment she received following a shipboard accident. She expressed her appreciation for the insurance company from whom she purchased her policy, but it was one of her last sentences that struck Wayne: “I’ve never received a bill for anything.”

He explained to me, “In some of my previous articles, I had advised travelers on the necessity of carefully saving all of the receipts, treatment descriptions, bills, etc., generated by overseas medical emergencies. Upon returning home, injured travelers need to submit these records to their travel insurance providers, as is necessary under the terms of a ‘secondary payer’ policy, the most common type of policy purchased.

“But here was a lady who had generated some $80,000 in medical and emergency-transport expenses who never had any paperwork hassles and never was sent a bill!

“To find out how that could be, I called Betty’s travel insurance company and asked. The person on the line explained that the underwriter had a reputation for treating its clients well. I politely thanked her for that information and asked to speak to someone in the Claims department.

“When the Claims rep said she couldn’t share a client’s personal information with me, I called Betty, herself, got her policy number, etc., and called the company back. The rep opened up after I said, ‘I don’t need Betty’s personal info; I have all that. I would just like to know how it is that Betty did not get a bill.’

“‘Because she had a primary payer policy, of course,’ she said.”

Wayne continued: “It dawned on me that I had stumbled upon a unique travel insurance strategy that I had never read about anywhere, one that made some of my previous recommendations regarding dealing with overseas medical emergencies obsolete!

“Only about 20% of travel insurance policies are ‘primary payers’ for medical expenses, and Betty James happened to have purchased one of them. I had known about primary payers, but I had had no occasion to look into them since the policies I was researching and writing about for ITN readers were the ones that travelers most commonly purchased.

“And I had written, as recently as July 2010 in my column, about the advantages of a ‘zero trip cost’ — or ‘post departure’ — travel insurance policy. My ‘Aha! moment’ came during that conversation with the Claims rep when I mentally connected ‘primary payers’ with ‘post departure’ coverage. I thought to myself, ‘Why on Earth would someone experiencing a medical emergency in another country with a foreign language want to burden themselves with up-front payments and paperwork hassles when they could be free of that for as little as $100?’

“You probably will never read about this practical and inexpensive travel insurance strategy in one of those glossy travel magazines that advertise $7,500 wristwatches.”

Learn what Wayne has dubbed The Betty James Travel Insurance Strategy.

And keep those letters and e-mails coming! You never know what will come of it. — DT

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

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 415th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

Vacation apartments in Paris now may be more difficult to find.

The city’s government housing agency has begun enforcing a 2005 law that requires any lease on a residential apartment to be for a year or more. To be legally rented for less than a year, an apartment must be classified as a commercial property.

This law does not affect commercial short-term apartment rentals by licensed companies. It is directed toward private properties purchased with the intention of using them for short-term rentals only, which is several times more profitable than a long-term lease but leads to a shortage of affordable housing for Parisians, not to mention complaints from neighbors about unregulated rentals. The city hopes to increase the taxes collected on commercial properties, as well.

Among owners who were leasing vacation rentals, most who were notified have removed their apartments from the rental listings, and some have been fined. A private apartment owner who rents out his apartment once a year for a few weeks is not likely to be prosecuted.

Keep one eye open.

An Air France flight attendant was arrested on July 16 for stealing cash, credit cards and jewelry from the hand luggage of passengers while they slept on international flights, mostly between France and Japan.

In January, police were called after five business-class passengers on a flight from Tokyo to Paris had over $5,000 in different currencies taken. Since then, about 140 thefts had been reported; the flight attendant confessed to 26 of them but was suspected of dozens more. She said she had “financial problems.”

Police finally determined who the thief was by comparing names of those who were on board the flights where thefts occurred. If convicted, the cabin crew member faces up to 10 years in prison.

Air France said it is responsible only for thefts from checked baggage and not for items taken on board.

Some pilfering-preventing suggestions — keep small electronics and valuables with you at your seat; do not leave a passport or cash in an unattended jacket; keep petty cash to be used on a flight separate from the rest of your travel funds, and when storing a bag in the overhead bin, place its opening end toward the back.

France and Italy are cracking down on the sale of counterfeit items, and travelers caught purchasing fake designer sunglasses, watches, handbags and other items can be fined significant amounts.

Near Venice in June 2010, on a beach in Jesolo, an Austrian tourist bought a fake Louis Vuitton purse for €7 and then was fined €1,000 (near $1,300) by the police. The police target not only the vendors of knockoffs but those who buy from them.

France, too, seizes counterfeit goods and sets fines. Fines in France top out (in extreme cases) at €300,000 and in Italy at €10,000.

For tips on spotting counterfeit products, download the brochure from French Customs at www.douane.gouv.fr/data/file/1251.pdf.

The official opening of a massive Inter-Oceanic Highway running from both Rio de Janeiro and Santos, Brazil, northwest across the Amazon Basin and over the Andes Mountains and then splitting off to the Peruvian ports of San Juan de Marcona, Matarani and Ilo is scheduled for early 2011. Construction began in July 2006.

The total distance covered by the road from the Atlantic to the Pacific is about 3,400 miles, most of which has been paved with asphalt. The highest point is 15,908 feet. The project required 22 bridges to be built, including one 722 meters long over the Madre de Dios River that should be completed in December.

The primary purpose of the road is to improve commerce, but environmental groups fear that opening up vast sections of the Amazon to development will accelerate the destruction of rainforest.

Located just about in the center of Australia, within the vast Outback, is Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, site of Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock.

While the area around Uluru is set aside as a national park, in 1985 ownership of the land was returned to the indigenous peoples. The park then was leased back to the state and continues to be jointly administered by the indigenous peoples and the Australian government; the latter pays for maintenance, upkeep and security.

Management of the park often focuses on two hotly debated issues: climbing on Uluru and consuming alcohol in the park.

The indigenous peoples revere the 1,142-foot-high monolith in the Northwest Territory desert as a religious site and would prefer that tourists not climb it. However, the government is unwilling to ban climbing yet; more than 350,000 people visit Uluru each year, with 100,000 of them scaling the sandstone paths skyward.

Climbing Uluru is not only dangerous (since 1958, 37 people have died climbing it), it leads to the rock’s erosion, plus there are no bathroom facilities at the top and so climbers find alternative solutions, causing further ecological damage as well as being offensive to those for whom the rock is sacred.

In an effort to encourage visitors to only view Uluru from the base rather than climb it, in 2009 the government built new raised pathways, a viewing platform and a cultural center with exhibits.

The government said that if they decide to ban climbing, they will give the public 18 months’ notice.

Regarding alcohol, it was banned in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in September 2007, although in 2008 exceptions were put in place for registered tour operators and certain areas overlooking Uluru.

In June 2009, the deeds to nine national parks in the Northern Territory (including N’Dhala Gorge, Arltunga Historical Reserve and Trephina Gorge) were returned to the indigenous owners, causing an “emergency response” law to kick in which banned the drinking of alcohol on Aboriginal land. (The indigenous peoples are doing all they can to fight alcoholism in their communities.)

The ban continues to be negotiated, but, currently, within all of these parks and within a certain radius of these parks, visitors can bring in liquor for their own consumption, though they are prohibited from selling or giving it to anyone else in the parks.

Diane Vigilante of Fair Haven, New Jersey, wrote, “I just want to let you know that I always read ITN from cover to cover, and I never miss Wayne Wirtanen’s columns. I e-mailed him for help recently and he was more than helpful.”

For his “Eye on Travel Insurance” column this month, Wayne has surpassed himself, identifying a terrific bargain that is virtually unknown to the traveling public, one inadvertently purchased by an ITN subscriber.

It began with a letter from Betty James of Fort Myers, Florida, who wrote to Wayne about the wonderful treatment she received following a shipboard accident. She expressed her appreciation for the insurance company from whom she purchased her policy, but it was one of her last sentences that struck Wayne: “I’ve never received a bill for anything.”

He explained to me, “In some of my previous articles, I had advised travelers on the necessity of carefully saving all of the receipts, treatment descriptions, bills, etc., generated by overseas medical emergencies. Upon returning home, injured travelers need to submit these records to their travel insurance providers, as is necessary under the terms of a ‘secondary payer’ policy, the most common type of policy purchased.

“But here was a lady who had generated some $80,000 in medical and emergency-transport expenses who never had any paperwork hassles and never was sent a bill!

“To find out how that could be, I called Betty’s travel insurance company and asked. The person on the line explained that the underwriter had a reputation for treating its clients well. I politely thanked her for that information and asked to speak to someone in the Claims department.

“When the Claims rep said she couldn’t share a client’s personal information with me, I called Betty, herself, got her policy number, etc., and called the company back. The rep opened up after I said, ‘I don’t need Betty’s personal info; I have all that. I would just like to know how it is that Betty did not get a bill.’

“‘Because she had a primary payer policy, of course,’ she said.”

Wayne continued: “It dawned on me that I had stumbled upon a unique travel insurance strategy that I had never read about anywhere, one that made some of my previous recommendations regarding dealing with overseas medical emergencies obsolete!

“Only about 20% of travel insurance policies are ‘primary payers’ for medical expenses, and Betty James happened to have purchased one of them. I had known about primary payers, but I had had no occasion to look into them since the policies I was researching and writing about for ITN readers were the ones that travelers most commonly purchased.

“And I had written, as recently as July 2010 in my column, about the advantages of a ‘zero trip cost’ — or ‘post departure’ — travel insurance policy. My ‘Aha! moment’ came during that conversation with the Claims rep when I mentally connected ‘primary payers’ with ‘post departure’ coverage. I thought to myself, ‘Why on Earth would someone experiencing a medical emergency in another country with a foreign language want to burden themselves with up-front payments and paperwork hassles when they could be free of that for as little as $100?’

“You probably will never read about this practical and inexpensive travel insurance strategy in one of those glossy travel magazines that advertise $7,500 wristwatches.”

Learn what Wayne has dubbed The Betty James Travel Insurance Strategy.

And keep those letters and e-mails coming! You never know what will come of it. — DT