March 31, 2008

Peru announces its own Seven Wonders

The results are in... Who made the cut?

Last summer world voted on the New Seven Wonders of the World, and Peru’s Machu Picchu won one of the honours. Now, the results of a new contest were just announced. This time, Peru’s own wonders were the focus. According to an article on Living in Peru, the contest was held over eight months and involved tabulating more than 150 million votes.

The results? Here are the top three winners in the Seven Wonders of Peru Contest:

1. Los Baños del Inca (also known as the hot springs or Inca Baths in Cajamarca)
2. El Valle del Colca (or the Colca Canyon) in Arequipa
3. Los Frailones stone forest (the Stone Monks).

Rounding out the seven wonders are the Kuélap Fortress in the Amazonas, the Huayllay Stone Forest (in Pasco), Alto Mayo Valley (San Martin) and Gran Pajeten (also in San Martin).

No doubt Peru will once again be in the spotlight for the New 7 Wonders of Nature contest currently underway. The results won’t be announced until 2010, but the nomination process is already in full swing. See the contest website for more details.

March 27, 2008

U.S. announces date of final land and sea entry requirements rule

Wondering when you’ll need a passport to enter (or re-enter) the U.S. by sea or land? The The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has announced the final deadline: June 1, 2009.

As of this date, everyone (including citizens of the U.S., Bermuda and Canada who were previously exempt) will need a passport or WHTI compliant document to enter the United States by land or sea. This requirement is already in place for air travel.

The U.S. government hopes that announcing the date more than a year in advance will allow people ample time to get their documentation in order, and hopefully prevent a repeat of the severe backlogs that occurred last year.

The good news? Enhanced driver's licenses will also meet this requirement, and special provisions will be made for school trips.

Want to see the government’s announcements? See the FAQ and recent press release from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Watch for more information as the Canadian and American governments launch their educational campaigns.

See AST's article Crossing borders with new entry requirements for more information.

March 26, 2008

Lights out for Earth Hour

Last year, millions of Sydney residents did it. This year, people all around the world will do it too. On March 29, Earth Hour participants will make a powerful statement about global warming by using as little power as possible.

From 8:00 – 9:00 pm (local time) residents and businesses all over the world will shut off their lights for one hour to draw attention to the need to act on climate change. In 2007, 2.2 million Sydney residents and 2100 businesses participated – leading to a 10.2% drop in energy consumption across the city. This year, cities and communities across the globe are joining in on the effort.

For more information or to sign up, visit the Earth Hour website or check out this video here:

New transit visa policy comes into effect Friday

As of Friday, March 28 new policy changes mean that more people will require a transit visa if they plan to stop in New Zealand. According to an article on Radio New Zealand News, transit visas will be required for all travellers passing through New Zealand.

Under the previous policy, travellers did not need a visitor visa if they are stopping at a New Zealand airport on their way to another country (staying for up to 24 hours and not leaving the transit area of the airport). However, transit visas were only required for people travelling to and from Pacific nations.

What’s changed? The new policy extends the requirement to all travellers who are not covered by the following exemptions:
  • current New Zealand visa holders
  • Travellers whose next destination is New Zealand or Australia.
  • Travellers who hold a passport from a visa-free country or from a visa exempted county.

All others will be required to apply for a transit visa. The good news is that the list of visa-free countries is quite extensive and includes Canada, the US, Australia and the UK among many others.

Need more information or want to apply for a visa? Check out the Immigration New Zealand website.

March 25, 2008

U.S. government warns women of risks in India

Thinking of travelling to India? You should be aware that Western women are facing an increasing risk of harassment and sexual assault. The widely-publicized rape and murder of British teen Scarlett Keeling in Goa and other known cases are highlighting the need for better safety practices and cultural awareness. The issue is prompting warnings in government travel advice for India.

A recent update to the Country Specific Information page for India (from the U.S. Department of State) includes new advice on how women can protect themselves while they travel. Here’s what the advice had to say:

“U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. Western women continue to report incidents of physical harassment by groups of men. Known as ”Eve-teasing,” these incidents can be quite frightening. While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, according to the latest figures by Indian authorities, rape is the fastest growing crime in India. Among large cities, Delhi experienced the highest number of crimes against women. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underline the fact that foreign women are also at risk and should exercise vigilance.

“Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding using public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions; restricting evening entertainment to well known venues; and avoiding walking in isolated areas alone at any time of day. Women should also ensure their hotel room numbers remain confidential and insist the doors of their hotel rooms have chains, deadlocks, and spy-holes. In addition, it is advisable for women to hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially during the hours of darkness. It is preferable to obtain taxis from hotels rather than hailing them on the street. If women encounter threatening situations, they can call 100 for police assistance.”

Of course, the advice is not exclusive to U.S. women, and the precautions mentioned above are good advice for travel in many countries. The latest news and advice for India can be found on our India Travel Advisory page.

March 20, 2008

Costa Ricans get new digits March 21

Traveling to Costa Rica? Plan to make a local call? New changes are coming into effect that youl'll want to know about. The telecommunications industry in Costa Rica continues to grow, and new changes are coming into place as a result. According to a recent note on ASI Hotspots starting on March 21 phone numbers will pick up an extra digit, going from seven to eight.

What will change:
  • A “2” will be added at the beginning of all landline numbers.
  • An “8” will be added at the beginning of all mobile/cell phone numbers (which will take effect after users reboot their phones).

What stays the same:

  • All 800 numbers
  • All three-digit numbers, including the 911 emergency and 113 information numbers.

What can travellers expect?

There may be some technical glitches immediately after the change takes place at midnight. Services aren’t expected to be disrupted. Make sure to add the extra digit to any local phone numbers you need while you travel, such as your local embassy and hotel.

March 19, 2008

2008 is going to be a warm one

Warm weather is coming to the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s not just because of spring’s arrival. After a very chilly start to the year, including record temperatures and snowfalls in many areas, the temperature is predicted to go up… and up…

According to an article in Reuters, once the cooling trend known as La Nina eases off in the next couple of months, 2008 might turn out to be “in the top 10 warmest years.”

What does that mean for travellers? If 2007’s summer weather was any indication, dangerous heat waves could be on the way. For more information about protecting yourself during extreme temperatures, see Keep cool during your summer travels.