Here’s an early new year’s resolution: Check the expiration on your passport. Maybe you’re traveling across borders for the December holidays. But even if you’re not, it behooves you to know when your passport expires.
Many countries won’t allow you entry if your passport is valid for only another six months. European countries generally require three months validity, but others require twice that. Among those countries are Argentina, Ecuador, Belize, Honduras, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Laos, and Indonesia.
Israel doesn’t officially require it, but there are reports that airlines may demand more than six month’s validity if you’re headed to Israel. It’s always a good idea to check with the State Department’s web site or the Washington embassy of the country you’re planning to visit. It’s a better idea to renew your passport if it’s nearing six months from expiration.
And why not renew everyone in your family’s passports at the same time so you don’t have to keep track of different expiration dates? In short, simplify.
By the way, if you need to add pages to your passport, you might as well renew the whole thing. It’s $82 for extra pages, only $18 more for a renewal.
The theme of the new century for travel companies might be “fees.” Most of us are familiar with the growing list of airline fees for bags, preferred seating, early boarding, and so on. Some hotels have those annoying resort fees or Internet charges. Now Hilton and Marriott have come up with another one that could sting.
Remember the days when, if your flight was canceled or you had to change a trip at the last minute, you could cancel that night’s hotel room at no charge? Well, the old days will be over at the first day of the year for Marriott and Hilton guests.
That’s when both big hotel chains institute a new rule: If you don’t cancel a reservation 24 hours or more before your check-in time, you’ll have to pay for one room night. So if you’re stranded by a snowstorm at an airport or your boss tells you to change your schedule at the last minute, you still get to pay for a night’s stay. Hyatt has the same rule, but Hilton and Marriott are the 900-pound gorillas among hotel chains, so I won’t be surprised if competitors think, “Hey, that’s a good idea!”
Sigh. The search for incremental income never ends.
–Guess who was just appointed a special economic envoy to Antigua and Barbados in the Caribbean? Actor Robert DiNiro. Why? Because he and Australian billionaire James Packer are renovating and expanding a five-star resort there. Hey, are you lookin’ at me, mon?
–It’s not enough Dubai has all the tall buildings, now the emirate wants to become a center for medical tourism. There are more than twice the number of plastic surgeons per capita in Dubai than in the US.
–And the car service Uber that’s causing fits with taxi companies worldwide was handed what might be its first court defeat by—of all places—Las Vegas. A court issued a temporary restraining order against Uber that prevents it from operating pending further legal machinations. Too bad, because taxis in Vegas are incredibly expensive.
–You know you can eat around the clock on big cruise ships. Now it appears you can drink around the clock, at least on the Norwegian Gem that just added a 24-hour pub and mojito bar. I’m not sure—is that progress or not?
India’s bureaucracy is famous, and I always thought the lengthy process of obtaining an Indian visa was just another example of that country’s apparent love for confusion and paperwork. But a couple of weeks ago, India unveiled an e-visa you can apply for on line instead of having to visit an India consulate.
You may apply beginning a month before your visit but no fewer than four days before your trip. Print out the form, pay $60, present your papers to immigration authorities upon your arrival in India, and you’re good to go.
This new procedure applies to nationals from 43 countries, including the US. The visa is good for stays of up to 30 days for travelers visiting for sightseeing, short duration medical treatment, visits to meet friends or relatives, and even travelers on what the Indian home minister terms casual” business visits.
I’m not thrilled by the $60 visa fee, but no one asked me. Here’s a link to the application.
T-Mobile forced the competition to drop its prices when it announced almost unlimited texting and data for overseas travelers as well as 20-cent-a-minute calls. If you’re not on T-Mobile’s’ network, call your carrier and ask about international options before you travel.
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in one country—three weeks or more, for example—consider buying a SIM chip when you arrive in that country. Make sure your phone is unlocked by calling your carrier before you depart the States, and then you can slip that SIM chip into your phone and all incoming calls will be free, and local calls will cost very little.
Another tip: Always keep your cellular data turned off while traveling overseas. You’ll still get calls and texts, but you won’t incur data charges—check your email and other data services when you’re within range of Wi-fi.
For an off-line map app, consider CoPilot. And, remember, is NOT free when you’re using it overseas.