Travel Briefs

Made from a soft, waterproof cloth material, a Crumpled City map can be balled up and stuffed into a pocket and still come out crease-free. Each measuring 2'10"x1'10" unfolded and weighing less than an ounce, the full-color maps pinpoint sites of interest, such as monuments and galleries.

Maps are currently available for most major European and East Asian cities. Each costs €12 (near $13.50) plus €15 shipping from Italy. Visit


After years of hyperinflation, Zimbabwe got rid of its currencies in 2009, instead relying on currencies of other nations, primarily the US dollar and South African rand. In October 2016, it began printing its own “US” dollars, colloquially called “zollars,” which were traded 1-to-1 with actual US dollars. On Feb. 20, 2019, Zimbabwe stopped printing zollars and introduced the first currency of its own since 2019, called Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) dollars.


At the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, China, the Qianlong Garden section will open to the public for the first time in 2020 (the Forbidden City’s 600th anniversary). Built in the late 18th century as a retirement home for the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799), the 2-acre section has numerous gardens, pavilions and courtyards and includes original art and furnishings.

This section of the Forbidden City had been mostly unoccupied since 1924 and needed significant repairs and restoration...


The Münzkabinett in Berlin, Germany, has one of the largest numismatic collections (coins and tokens) in the world, and among its more than 540,000 objects are medals, paper currencies and medieval seals. The Münzkabinett, itself, can be visited only for scholarly work; however, thousands of its items are put on display in museums on Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island).

Until Oct. 27, 2019, one of those museums, the Bode-Museum (


Single travelers in Sydney or Melbourne, Australia, can sign up with Opera for One to join a group of fellow single opera junkies before the show, meet their opera guide and mingle over canapes and drinks before being seated in the same section.

Opera for One tickets are not available for all shows. To see available dates and book tickets (at the B Reserve level), visit A Melbourne opera ticket costs AUD144 (near $102). Sydney ticket prices were...


The 3-hour “Small Group Spy & Espionage Tour of London” is offered by the company Evan Evans (London, England; phone +44 20 7950 1777,

The bus tour is led by a former member of the British government, and it visits the headquarters of British Intelligence sections MI5 and MI6 as well as spots where spies secretly exchanged information. The tour ends at the former home of MI6, St. Ermin’s Hotel, for martinis at the bar.



Using the app Refundit, free on Apple and Android, travelers can easily apply for and receive VAT refunds in Belgium, with other EU countries to be added soon.

To be refunded, a user first takes a photo of his receipt, then uses the app to upload the receipt along with a photo of his passport and boarding pass. A confirmation should arrive within minutes. There is no need to visit a Customs desk or fill out any forms at the airport.

Using Refundit incurs a 9% handling fee on...


Travelers with a layover of more than six hours at Atatürk Airport (IST) can take a private guided tour of Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district, including Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and more, in a Mercedes van. The “Istanbul Layover Tour” must be booked in advance, costs $275 for up to six people and includes transfers from and to the airport but not entry fees or food. Visit to book. A custom tour can be...