You can call Mexico many things: drug-ridden and colorful are words that immediately crop up. But the real question is whether it is dangerous? A simple answer:
“Many tourists, mainly from the neighboring USA, now consider Mexico to be a bargain and not the dangerous drug-ridden country it has often been depicted in the media,” points out Tourism-Review.com.
When this editor went to Mexico City for a recent convention, the most common reaction was this:“Why in the world do you want to go there? It’s dangerous.”
For most tourists such as myself, the most dangerous aspect of travel here is traffic (which is the biggest cause of death for American tourists visiting any foreign lands). Traffic is terrible anytime but residents will tell you accidents are not that common because of the defensive driving that is also commonplace.
The main problems in Mexico involve interior areas that are far from the Riviera Maya and Cozumel beaches more frequented by sun-seeking tourists.
Despite bad publicity about drugs and swine flu, 7.1 million tourists visited Mexico in the first eight months of this year. Hotel occupancy in Mexico was up 10 percent through August 2010, according to Smith Travel Research, while the number of international tourist arrivals to Mexico was up 27.5 percent in July 2010 as compared to July 2009.
Why is that?
Most observers attribute it to overall prices that are lower than in Europe and much of the US.
While the US State Department has travel warnings in place for Mexico, the violence and the warnings are far from resort areas such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos, popular incentive destinations.
Until recently it was accurate to say virtually all of the crime, murder and kidnapping of foreign (particularly US) citizens was linked to the drug trade. People attempting to buy or sell drugs, attempting to be a part of the trafficking industry or a turf war between drug gangs. But more recently, there have been a few incidents where innocent people have become victims.
Consular staff and their family members have been kidnapped, prompting the State Department to order non-essential staff and their dependents back home.
There's no denying the country does have problems.
It is not advisable to drive on rural roads and highways at night. Bandits occasionally set up roadblocks and rob travellers, for example. But incidents are far from commonplace.
What areas should tourists avoid?
The State Department warning advises US citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Michoacán and Tamaulipas, and to parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila.
The warning also says:
“Millions of US citizens safely visit Mexico each year. This includes tens of thousands who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million US citizens who live in Mexico … Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major drug trafficking routes.”
The State Department also urges “common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.”
Mexico ranks as one of the top international travel destination in the world and is the No. 1 international tourism destination for North Americans traveling abroad.
One piece of evidence of the country’s relative safety for most visits: Many tourists to the country are repeat visitors, which demonstrates that the vast majority of tourists leave with overwhelmingly positive impressions.
By David Wilkening
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
You can call Mexico many things: drug-ridden and colorful are words that immediately crop up. But the real question is whether it is dangerous? A simple answer:
Posted by Travel Leaders of Fargo at 8:07 AM
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Come With Me On A Walk Around Manchester
Do you ever visit a city, but you don't have much time to research and explore its sights and history? You may just have one evening or morning to take a look around. Where do you start to understand the history and culture of the place? You don't have time for a guided tour and really just want to explore and have a few drinks. Well, this is the perfect guide for you. Together we will take a stroll around Manchester's compact city centre, taking a look at some of the more interesting things, and of course, having a few drinks in some typical and interesting pubs along the way.
1 Piccadilly Gardens
Let's begin in Piccadilly Gardens where the buses and trams from the MetroLink system come in. This is no more than a 5 minute walk from both Piccadilly and Victoria train stations. This city centre transport hub is a natural starting point for our trip. This busy interchange underwent a total re-design in 2001- 02. Following the 1996 IRA bomb (which led to over 200 injuries but no fatalities), a huge redevelopment campaign was implemented in Manchester city centre with an international competition being held to identify the best architectural proposal for Piccadilly Gardens. Much of the redesign and re-building investment that is evident walking around Manchester today can be traced back to this era and the investment attracted from the Millenium Fund and as Manchester prepared to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The 4 Statues
Historically, Piccadilly Gardens is the original site of the Manchester Royal Infirmary from 1755 until its relocation to Oxford Road in 1910. There are 4 statues surviving todaythat were erected on the original infirmary esplanade:
Sir Robert Peel 1788-1850 (founding father of the modern Police force giving origin to the slang word for the Police "bobbies")
James Watt 1736- 1819 (whose improvements to the steam engine helped to drive the explosion of economic growth during the cotton centred industrial revolution
Queen Victoria 1819-1901 (on the throne for 63 years and 7 months she was the longest reigning female monarch)
The Duke of Wellington 1769-1852 (a leading political and military figure most famous for commanding the defeat of the French in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815).
2 Market Street and Corporation Street
Walking away from Piccadilly Gardens down Market Street, one of Manchester's principal shopping areas, you will pass the Arndale Centre, Europe's largest inner-city shopping centre. Originally constructed in the 1970s, its proximity to the 1996 IRA bomb meant that it suffered extensive damage as a result. At the crossroads at the bottom of Market Street we turn right into Corporation Street. Passing the Marks & Spencer store on the opposite side of the road we walk under the bridge linking the store with the Arndale, close to where the van, containing a huge amount of Semtex explosive was parked on Saturday 15 June. An estimated 70 000 people were in and around Manchester city centre on the morning of that day, with usual numbers being swelled by the presence of international football fans. The following day Russia were due to play Germany at Old Trafford in the 1996 European Cup. The game went ahead in front of 50 000 people and Germany won 3-0.
3 Exchange Square
Here you will find the "Manchester Eye". This was first installed in 2004 and is a 60 metre tall Ferris wheel with 42 passenger carriages giving wonderful panoramic views of the city centre and beyond. Opposite this, on the corner of Corporation Street and Withy Grove you will find a modern entertainment venue named "The Printworks". Up until 1996 this was the home of a huge printing press owned by newspaper mogul Robert Maxwell. The complex contains mostly bars and night clubs including the Hard Rock Cafe', a leisure centre and a 23 screen Odeon Cinema which incorporates an IMAX 3D screen. Back to the other side of Exchange Square we find another shopping complex called The Triangle, on the front of which facing the street is a huge tv screen showing the BBC news.
4 URBIS, Chethams College and Manchester Cathedral
Continuing along Corporation Street and crossing Fennel Street we come immediately to Cathedral Gardens and URBIS, a huge futuristic building that is an exhibition centre dedicated to city life. The National Museum of Football is also currently being transferred here and will soon be open to the public. The building opened in 2002 and was part of Manchester's Millennium Quarter redevelopment. Exhibition space hosting many visiting temporary displays of art is spread over 5 floors.
Chetham's School of Music
Opposite and in stark contrast to Urbis' contemporary architectural design, is Chetham's School of Music or "Chet's". The school motto is "Learn To Love And Play". This building originally housed an Orphanage founded by Humphrey Chetham in 1653. In 1969 the music school was launched and now hosts up 245 young people. Entry to Chetham's is open to all regardless of financial means with generous grants available to those who successfully audition and are selected. Selection is based purely on musical potential. As well as having an excellent reputation for musical tuition, Chetham's also has an enviable academic record being one of the top achieving schools in the UK.
At the other end of the triangle that is Cathedral Gardens you will find Manchester Cathedral. The church was extensively reconstructed during the 19th century which gives a deceptive impression that the cathedral is a relatively modern structure. However, its origins can be traced back to 700 CE. The cathedral is a beautiful hidden gem and it is well worth taking time to look in. Its Visitor Centre effectively guides you around bringing to life the amazing history that is responsible for the fine and impressive building still standing today. It is free to enter and there are volunteer guides available to make sure that you get the most from your stay.
5 The Shambles
This is the collective name for what are two separate buildings: The Old Wellington Inn dating back to the 16th century and Sinclair's Oyster Bar originally constructed in 1720. These two buildings were almost totally demolished in the early 70s inner city developments but escaped by being raised 15 feet above their original level and reopened in 1981. However, many people at the time complained that this new scheme hid the buildings from view. When the IRA bomb exploded in 1996 the surrounding buildings took all the blast and effectively protected the Shambles that remained intact within. In the interests of post bomb regeneration, the city council decided to move the two buildings, brick by brick, to a new and prettier site by the Cathedral, a distance of 300 metres away!
Sinclair's Oyster Bar is now an excellent Sam Smith's pub serving fresh oysters and a wide range of interesting beers. This provides us with a natural resting point on our tour.
6 The Royal Exchange
We now walk past the shopping giant "Harvey Nichols" towards St. Anne's Square, the home of The Royal Exchange Theatre. The theatre is a seven-sided, glass-walled capsule, literally suspended from huge marble pillars situated in the Great Hall of the former Cotton Exchange. The unique design means all seats are less than nine metres from the circular stage giving views from all angles. This theatre's policy is to express the bewildering, complex wonderment of life through the full spectrum of theatre. Looking up at the St Anne's Square side interior wall you can still see the old prices displayed from the cotton markets all over the world: New York, Alexandria and Liverpool from an era when cotton was king. The cafe bar is a really pleasant place to linger, have a drink and browse the unique art and craft shops within the Royal Exchange.
7 Mr Thomas's Chop House
Coming back outside on to St Anne's Square, we turn left and continue to walk away from the Shambles. Here we will stumble upon the unique and wonderful "Mr Thomas' Chop House" an authentically preserved Victorian pub set on the ground floor and basement of a narrow 4 storey Victorian building tacked on to the end of the majestic neo-classical Royal Exchange. This really is a special place from it's authentic black and white mosaic flooring to the fine lime green and white ceramic wall tiles and wooden bars with brass fittings, this is a place to just buy a drink and take the time to absorb your surroundings. Founded back in 1867, the New York Times described the place as "probably Manchester's most venerable pub". Should you be feeling hungry, the fine local menu and excellent friendly service will never disappoint. And let's face it, by now you deserve a rest! You have just completed the first of our Manchester city centre walks!
Peter Hayes welcomes hundreds of foreign students of English to his English language training centre every year. If you enjoyed this guided walk, why not take a look at all the other information on Manchester on his website at =>http://www.inlingua-manchester.co.uk/visiting-manchester/
Posted by Travel Leaders of Fargo at 1:53 PM
Friday, October 15, 2010
Riding a Las Vegas Helicopter to the Bottom of the Grand Canyon
Only the fittest of people can hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in a day. I applaud them. I'm sure they trained hard. But for the rest of us, why not hop a helicopter and make the 4,000-foot descent in 10 minutes?
The South and West Rims are the focal points for Grand Canyon visitors. Helicopter flights are available at both locations, but it's only on the West Rim that you can land on the Canyon's floor.
Most flights usually leave from Las Vegas or Boulder City, NV. The West Rim is only 120 miles to the east. Expect to spend up to 45 minutes en route, and expect some fantastic sightseeing, including Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and parts of the Mojave Desert that look prehistoric.
You are now in Canyon country. The West Rim is much more arid than the South, which is located amid the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine in the U.S. The other main difference is the hue and color of the canyon, which is more subdued than what you will see at the South Rim.
The excitement reaches a crescendo as you leave the Rim and drop into the Canyon, descending nearly 4,000 feet until your helicopter softly lands on a makeshift helipad near the Colorado River, right square in Hualapai Indian territory.
Most helicopter tour operators, including Papillon, Maverick, and Sundance, let visitors deplane, toast their journey with Champagne, indulge in a small meal, and explore the surrounding area. Typical bottom time is about 30 minutes.
There are also air-only tours to the West Rim, as well as a variety of side-adventures, including Hummer tours, horseback rides, Western wagon rides, whitewater rafting, as well as a walk on the magnificent Grand Canyon Skywalk - a glass bridge that lets you feel like you are walking on air.
As I mentioned earlier, there are helicopter trips out of the South Rim, but they are prohibited from flying to below the rim and to the bottom. It means settling for a flight through the Dragoon Corridor, the widest, deepest part of the canyon, before reaching the solitary North Rim. Some the cleanest, clearest air exists here, and on clear days its easy to attain visibility of some 150 miles and more.
The helicopter flight back to Las Vegas is equally enjoyable. Depending on the pilot and the package you booked. I strongly suggest that you include an option to fly over the Las Vegas Strip. Its a great way to round out your trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
4,000-foot helicopter descent to bottom of the Grand Canyon? Check out Keith Kravitz' tour ratings first at http://www.GrandCanyonHelicopterTourReviews.com
Posted by Travel Leaders of Fargo at 12:24 PM
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Singapore Airline’s announcement it will soon allow wireless connections for medium and long-haul flights -- for text messages, Blackberries and perhaps cell phones -- brings the use of cell phones much closer to US airways, a prospect that many travelers dread so much they compare it to Hell.
“The train for cell phones on commercial jets left the station a couple of years ago and is gaining speed,” commented Rick Seaney, CEO of airfare-search site FareCompare.com. He predicted it won’t be long until airlines allow cell phone use.
"It's going to be hell," said John DiScala, a blogger known as Johnny Jet. "People are going to be so tired from a long flight and want to sleep, and you're going to hear someone's annoying phone go off and then talking so loud, telling the person on the line everything."
DiScala, who travels around 150,000 miles and visits more than 20 countries each year, said he supports text messages and Internet access but not voice calls. "It's just going to be chaos hearing all these different phones ring," he said. "There are so many people who don't have cell phone manners." Of course, how fast and whether other airlines adopt similar practices may depend on traveler reactions.
The Singapore move comes as the airline announces a multi-million-dollar collaboration with in-flight connectivity provider OnAir to offer Wi-Fi Internet access and other services on its flights.
Details are still being worked out, but when the airline implements the system early next year, it could be the first carrier to regularly allow passengers to make and receive voice calls on their personal cell phones.
Cell phone use on airplanes is prohibited in the United States by federal regulations.
Singapore Airlines flies some of the world's longest flights, including an 18-and-a-half-hour flight from Newark Liberty International Airport outside New York to Singapore. That all-business class, 10,371-mile flight is the longest commercial trip in the world. The 100-seat plane is used mainly by corporate travelers.
"The reason we are exploring this is because our customers tell us that on ultra-long haul flights it's important that they have the option to be as connected or not connected as they choose to be," said Singapore Airlines spokesman James Boyd.
"Voice calls are a capability of the system and it's an option that we may open to customers in the future," he said. "There are a number of questions that will have to be explored as we continue to get feedback from our customers on how the system should be managed."
Another question is whether the airline will charge for the service and or how much it will cost.
One option the airline might explore: quiet zones or cell-phone only zones, much as Amtrak has "quiet cars" on its trains.
Not everyone agrees that any similar move would be a disaster, of course.
“Despite predictions that in-flight cellphone usage would lead to Armageddon, the global rollout has been just the opposite,” writes Carl Biersack, executive director of the Inflight Passengers Communications Coalition writes in an article called “If Europe Can Handle In-Flight Cellphone Use, So Can America.”
In 20 months of sporadic global usage, there has not been one reported incident or problem, he says. In fact, 93 percent of passengers who flew on an in-flight communication-equipped aircraft want all jets so equipped, he maintained.
There are a number of reasons Europeans calling on cell phones works better than it would in the US.
International roaming rates have proven to be an “effective form of self-discipline.” In addition, usage is restricted to six lines at any one moment once the airplane reaches cruising level.
“Additionally, air carriers have developed effective procedures, such as turning the service off on overnight flights, that ensure that in-flight communication does not disturb others, “ he said.
By David Wilkening
Posted by Travel Leaders of Fargo at 10:19 AM
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Tenerife is probably the best known of all the Canary Islands - being the largest and also boasting the highest point in Spain ... Mount Teide. Tenerife is also known as the "Island of Eternal Spring" due to its glorious year-round weather, which is normally what attracts people to holiday in Tenerife year after year.
With plenty of beaches in Tenerife to chose from, we have set out our top 10 recommended beaches for you to visit.
Playa de las Teresitas : This large artificial beach was built to provide the residents of Santa Cruz
de Tenerife [the island's capital] with a beach and probably is the most striking on the island.
There is a man-made breakwater, which stops waves and currents and the beach itself is studded with palm trees - the sand was imported from the Sahara. The good facilities available on this beach make it an excellent place to visit - with changing rooms, toilets, bars and restaurants. However, being located on the east coast, it can sometimes be a bit windy, but the calm and clear water coupled with the golden sand makes this ideal for families.
Playa de las Gaviotas : Just along from Playa de las Teresitas you will find Playa de las Gaviotas; named after the seagulls that can found here. This beach is far quieter than las Teresitas and is more intimate - however this beach is known for its nudists; so be warned.
Playa Jardin : Located in Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife is Playa Jardin - a sandy and very popular beach - and due to this the beach itself can become crowded during the high season. There are some good facilities here but the sea can sometimes be unsuitable for the less experienced swimmer. As the name suggests, there are numerous gardens along the edge of the beach and you will find a cascade here which is attractive to children and the young at heart.
Playa del Duque : This beach is located in the area of Costa Adeje which borders the busy resort of Playa de las Americas in the south. Playa del Duque is a golden sand beach where you will find that the sea is relatively calm.
The services here are particularly good with an "upmarket"
feel about it. There are sun loungers and parasol for hire, restaurants, bars, showers, toilets and changing rooms.
El Medano : This is a natural beach and one of the longest to be found in Tenerife - around 2km long. At one of the beach is the resort itself - El Medano with the Medano Hotel jutting out into the sea, and at the other end is the Red Mountain or "Montana Roja". This is a famous venue for windsurfing and kitesurfing therefore expect it to be on the windy side - especially during the months from April to September. Despite the windy conditions experienced, the sea is fairly calm and is ideal for families due to the shallow water.
El Socorro : Located near Los Realejos in the north of Tenerife, El Socorro is well known for surfing as there is quite a strong swell so be careful when you are swimming [lifeguards are present]. The beach itself if quite long and has some good facilities including bars and
El Bollullo : Located in La Orotava near Puerto de la Cruz in the north, this beach is backed by volcanic rocks and with sizeable waves. You won't find a lot to do on this beach, but there is a bar at hand for cold drinks and plates of seafood. The beach itself is about 400m long and is reached by a dirt track.
Playa de la Arena : A bit confusing as there are at least 2 "Playa de la Arena"s on Tenerife as it simply means "sandy beach". However, the best of the bunch is to be found in the resort of Playa de la Arena which is near Los Gigantes on the west coast. The actual beach has the most recorded sunshine hours on the island and enjoys great views over to the neighbouring island of
Las Vistas : This beach is probably one of the longest in the south of the island located between Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas and is arguably one of the best in this part of the island.
You will find the sea here calm making it ideal for families. Children will especially enjoy the fountain which shoots seawater high into the air and keeps sunbathers cool. This beach is particularly good for disabled visitors as there are specially developed areas and the additional benefit of amphibian chairs.
Los Cristianos : Located in the south of Tenerife, the beach itself is 400m long and is at the end of the marine walk which begins in the resort of the same name. As the resort is one of the busiest on the island, the beach can get crowded during peak season but the facilities are excellent. It also overlooks the harbour so you are never bored as you can watch boats coming in.
So, if you are looking for a good beach to go to on your holiday to Tenerife then we would suggest you try at least one of our suggestions, but bear in mind that there are plenty of smaller coves dotted around the coastline of this island of eternal spring.
Posted by Travel Leaders of Fargo at 11:28 AM
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
8 Reasons Why a Grand Canyon West Rim Bus Tour is the Perfect Day Trip
The #1 day trip from Las Vegas? The West Rim bus tour to the Grand Canyon. It's no wonder, either. This in-demand excursion is packed with activities and attractions, making it a favorite with families, groups, and independent travelers alike. If you haven't booked this tour yet, here are eight reasons why you should:
1. It's close to Las Vegas. Grand Canyon West is 120 miles east of town, requiring just a 2.5-hour bus ride.
2. You get to see Hoover Dam. The road to the West Rim crosses the Dam, with a pull out on the Arizona side for photos.
3. You get to experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Known as the Glass Bridge, the Skywalk is Las Vegas' hottest natural attraction, taking you 70 feet past the edge of the Canyon and dangling you 4,000 feet above the Colorado River.
4. It's the only place where you can fly to the bottom. Add a helicopter trip to your package and descend 4,000 to the Canyon floor.
5. You can go river rafting. Take a helicopter to the bottom and transfer to a pontoon boat for a ride down the Colorado River.
6. Experience real Native American culture. Grand Canyon West is on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and managed by the Tribe. Interact with tribal members and explore an authentic Indian village.
7. Better value than renting a car. If you drive yourself, you will pay for entrance to the Park, gas, rental car, insurance, and parking. Bus tours are all-inclusive. Pay once and it's done (and it's a lot cheaper).
8. The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and the only one in the U.S.
Most west Rim bus tours include hotel pick up and drop off and a BBQ lunch. Only luxury buses are run this trip. These buses feature over-sized seats, climate-controlled interiors, television screens, over-sized windows, and professional driver-guides.
The most popular West Rim bus tour includes the Grand Canyon Skywalk, followed by the helicopter descent to the bottom and the pontoon boat ride. These are all-day tours that have you back at your Las Vegas hotel by late afternoon.
Trips start at $94 and go up from there based on how you upgrade your pacakge. For instance, Skywalk bundles are $129. These are promotional prices and are only available direct from the tour operator. It's recommended that you make your reservation in advance as tours sell out.
Grand Canyon bus trips are an incredible deal. You can be at the edge of America's most famous natural wonder for under $100 per person. If you choose to upgrade your package, you can experience the Canyon's floor and the Colorado River. The West Rim's proximity to Las Vegas also makes it a stellar day trip for people of all ages. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of The Strip, take a bus tour. There's a good chance it will change the way you look at the planet.
Ready to visit the West Rim? Read travel expert Keith Kravitz' trip reviews first at http://www.GrandCanyonBusDeals.com
Posted by Travel Leaders of Fargo at 10:51 AM