Budget Travel Editors answered your questions
Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for joining us this week. Let's get to your questions!
Melbourne, Florida: We are planning a trip to Rome in May and would like
to visit the Borghese Galleries without standing inline for a long time. How can we get tickets in advance using e-mail and a secure website for credit
Budget Travel Editors: Only 360 visitors can enter the immensely popular Galleria Borghese, galleriaborghese.it, every two hours, and advance tickets (8.50 euros each) are required. You can make a reservation for a date and time slot through the official website, by calling 011+39-06-32810, or stopping by at least one day before your preferred date of visit. You must collect your reserved tickets in person at least 30 minutes before your scheduled admittance time. Entry times are 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm, and the Galleria is open every day except Monday.
Scarborough, Maine: We are thinking about making a trip to Ireland this summer. Where are the best sites for getting information on cottage or small home rentals? Are there packages that might also include car rental as well? Any tips welcome! Thank you.
Budget Travel Editors: One of the best and easiest ways to explore Ireland is through travel packages that combine airfare, a car rental, and a week's worth of bed & breakfast vouchers, valid at over 1,400 B&Bs across the country. Several companies offer competitive packages, including Ireland.com, Brian Moore Internataionl Tours (bmit.com), Dooley Vacations (dooleyvacations.com), Celtic Tours (celtictours.com), Sceptre Tours (sceptretours.com) and EuropeASAP (europeasap.com). You can read Budget Travel's December/January feature article about a traveler's experience using one of these Irish B&B voucher packages, Every Day is a Winding Road.
Syracuse, New York: Traveling to Paris weekend of Mar 2, 2006. Can you recommend a nice French restauarnt on left bank for lunch. Thinking of Allard but have read "good and bad." Merci!
Budget Travel Editors: Part of the magic of visiting Paris is wandering around different arrondissements, which is why it is particularly fitting that Budget Travel's city guides (including one for Paris) list great restaurants, shops, and activities neighborhood by neighborhood. Just download our Paris Snap Guide from the website (it's free!) and pull it out for suggestions when you find yourself on the Left Bank getting a little hungry.
Mahopac, NY: What is the best time of year to visit Australia and New Zealand? For a three week trip what would be the best destinations at both of these?
Budget Travel Editors: Being in the southern hemisphere, the seasons of Australia and New Zealand are the exact opposite of North America. That means their high season (and highest prices)is during their summer and our winter. If you don't want to pay top dollar, try for the shoulder seasons of September--early December and late February--April. Qantas Airlines sells an Airpass (starting at $999)that includes international airfare from L.A. or Honolulu, and three flights within Australia. Destinations are grouped by price zones, so you can hit Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Adelaide and still stay within the lowest price zone. (Check Australia.com for details and prices.) Another option is to take Air New Zealand from L.A. and catch its new nonstop flight from Auckland to Adelaide, where you can easily rent a car and explore South Australia on your own.
Chicago, IL : My husband and I are looking for a quickie European getaway this April or May. We'd like to stay 4-5 nights. I recently saw a package for $550 from Chicago to either Nice or Cannes, but couldn't get the tour company to call me back. Does this sound too good to be true? I have never been to the French Riviera, and wonder, should we save this trip for the summer months or it is nice to go off-season? Is this area "dead" during April/May, or is there still a fair amount of hussle/bussle? What is there to do in these towns if its not warm enough for beaches? Any suggestions on where to find good air/hotel packages for this trip?
Budget Travel Editors: Heading to the French Riviera during the months of April or May is not a bad idea: you'll enjoy spring weather and bustling towns while bypassing the high prices and tourist overload of the summer season. The package from Chicago to Nice or Cannes that you saw seems like a good price - but most likely the figure does not include taxes and additional airline fees and surcharges, which can raise the total price up to $300 more. Francevacations.net, EuropeASAP.com, and Go-Today.com all have Nice packages starting at about $650, not including airline taxes.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Is an entrance visa necessary to visit Holland & Belguim for a week or will just a current passport do? Thanks
Budget Travel Editors:
A current U.S. passport will suffice for a week's trip to Holland and Belgium (visas are only necessary for visits 90 days or longer). For more information, visit the State Department's information page on The Netherlands, and on Belgium.
Jamestown, RI: We are going on a cruise which leaves from Santiago, Chile, next month. Our gateway is Philadelphia. How long will the flight be to Santiago? What is the time difference there compared to the East Coast. My husband & I have never been to Chile and/or Peru. Any sightseeing recommendations?
Budget Travel Editors: Most likely, if you're flying out of Philadelphia, you'll be flying through Miami. The first leg of the trip is a short flight, just under three hours. The second leg of the trip should take about seven hours. Currently Santiago is only two hours ahead of the East Coast. (If you look at a world map and run your finger from Philadelphia to Santiago, you'd be surprised how nearly straight they line up, meaning daytime hours are pretty similar. Seasons, however, are exactly opposite.) Also, most likely your cruise will be departing out of Valparaíso, just an hour west of Santiago on the Chilean shore, so if they cruise company hasn't already arranged transportation for you from the capital city, you may want to look into the bus schedule out there. (Buses run frequently, are inexpensive and depart from several hubs in Santiago.)
As for what to do, in Santiago you can take a funicular (tram) up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, for great views out over the city (provided you go on a clear day). The tram is at the end of Pio Nono, a lively street with several bars and empanada shops. A real hole-in-the-wall location, La Piojera is a favorite hang out among salt-of-the-earth Chileans. Try the terremoto (white wine with lemon sherbet). The Palacio de La Moneda is the official seat of the Chilean government, and you can watch the changing of the guard every other day at 10AM. The Plaza de Armas is also worth wandering through, dozens of painters set up easels there every day. In Peru, if you can, try to visit the town of Cuzco, and take a day trip to visit the spectacular Inca site, Machu Picchu.
Windsor, VT: My fiancee and I are planning a trip to Bermuda for our honeymoon in June. We know we want to take the June 4th Boston-Bermuda cruise on Norwegian. The ship remains docked in Bermuda for four days, and I'd like some advice on what to do/see while we're there. Although we enjoy the "touristy" activities, we also enjoy wandering around and seeing/doing what the locals do (i.e., we'd rather eat at a small mom'n'pop restaurant than the restaurant closest to the dock, etc.). I've found lots of information on the internet, but its difficult to sift through and figure out what to try and accomplish in just a few days! Any help would be great...
Budget Travel Editors: Bermuda's only a 21-square mile island, so if you get your own transportation, you can do plenty of exploring on your own, away from the crowd. Visitors most often rent mopeds or scooters, which will generally cost about $60 per day for a single, or $70 per day for a double. There are lots of coves and beaches to explore, and making a picnic lunch and setting out for the beach is a great way to spend the afternoon. A famous Bermuda drink, the Rum Swizzle, is served up at the Swizzle Inn--a touristy stop, but still a fun visit. Bermuda also has its own perfumery (recently sold, so the accompanying gardens have been closed!), but you can still pick up a bottle of Frangipanni or Easter Lily for her, perhaps Navy Lyme or Cedarwood for him. The Blackhorse Tavern is a great place to try some local dishes.
Mandeville, Louisiana: What is the most economical way to travel from London to Paris, spending only the day in Paris?
Budget Travel Editors: The cheapest quick option is flying. A search on EasyJet (easyjet.com) turned up flights from Luton to Charles de Gaulle for as low as $37, returning later that same day for only $25. The flight only lasts an hour and fifteen minutes as well. The only problem is, Luton is hardly centrally located, so you'll have to factor in travel time and cost to get there. The Luton Airport Express (thameslink.co.uk) departs from King's Cross Thameslink station, and will cost you at least $18 each way. Another--perhaps more relaxing--option is the Chunnel. A one-way trip across (or should we say through?) the Chunnel on Eurostar starts at $47, and takes less than three hours (eurostar.com). Trains depart London hourly, leaving as early as 5:00AM. The train departs from the Waterloo Station, right in the heart of London, and gets into Gare du Nord, in the center of Paris.
North Bergen, New Jersey: I am planning on attending a wedding in Bangalore, India from May 8th to the 9th and I need to book airfare. My question is should I book airfare to London then connect to another flight there to cut costs or book a direct flight from Newark?
Budget Travel Editors: I would start your search by calling a travel agency that specializes in securing low-cost airfares to India from the US. They know the market better than anyone, have relationships, and as a result often have better prices. Try Hari World Travel (888/889-2968 or 212/997-3300, hariworld.com). It's a big agency that started nearly 25 years ago in Canada to serve the Indian community there, and is now based in New York City. If you can book a direct (or better yet nonstop!) flight from the US, you should. The time difference and jet-lag is bad enough with one or two flights. You might also want to check in directly with Air India to see what its fares are pricing at. Right now the cheapest flight on major carriers for the dates you need is $1,300 on British Airways, but I'm confident Hari World can do better. Remember, your flight will be the bulk of your expense in traveling to that part of the world. Once on the ground, saving money will be easy.
Houston, TX: Hi we're a family of three going to Rome soon. Do you know any good traditional Roman restaraunts/pizzerias that are not too expensive ($10.00 a person for a full meal)?
Budget Travel Editors: There are a mind-boggling amount of places to dine in Rome, but finding good spots that are both affordable and delicious is another story. Here are a few BT favorites: Hostaria da Corrado (Via della Pelliccia 39, 011-39-06/580-6004) Massimo Conti's humble kitchen functions mostly as a sort of cafeteria for the motorcycle mechanics and furniture craftsmen whose shops are nearby, but anyone is welcome to have a sit-down meal here. The menu is small and changes daily, but count on hearty pastas, side dishes of spinach and cicoria (chicory), and roasted meats, accompanied by killer rosemary potatoes. You can also order to-go, which means you bring back their heavy white dinnerware, washed, after you've eaten the food elsewhere. Pizzeria Sisini (Via San Francesco a Ripa 197, 011-39-06/589-7110) It looks like just another Roman pizza-to-go joint from the outside, but discerning locals will walk several blocks (which is saying a lot in this Vespa-dependent town) to get a slice of mushroom and potato pizza here. Prices are so low and ingredients so good, it's clear their profits are made on volume, not mark-up. Isidoro (Via S. Giovanni in Laterano 59--61, 011-39-06/700-8266) Revel in the glory of pasta at this cozy hostaria whose specialty is the assaggini misti (pasta tasting menu). Partitioned cafeteria-style plates are heaped with steaming gnocchi alla gorgonzola, linguine with vegetables, or penne with walnuts and cream sauce--to name a few dishes. Prices are based on how many rounds you last. Acqua e Farina (Piazza Giustiniani 2, 011-39-06/574-1382) If you're tired of the same old round pie with red sauce and mozzarella, try this popular pizzeria alternativa, where the basic ingredients--water and flour--are twisted and folded in creative ways and topped with everything from radicchio and goat cheese to walnuts and gorgonzola. Eat inside the cozy dining room, or outside under the sycamores.
Mableton, GA: This is more of a country entry question. If one is entering Argentina, they are given a 90-day visa at the point of entry. However, the question is, if they check work along with leisure or want to work within the 90 days, Will this delay the entry? Do they have to have special provisions for a work permit or residency visa both long and short term? I had heard long term they need to have a company sponsor them - but would like to have more specifics. If you have links for further research on other countries that would be great. Thanks
Budget Travel Editors: Our best advice is that unless you're going to Argentina to take up work, don't check the "work" box on the entry form; it will only cause complications. If you plan on visiting the country in 90 days or less and intend to do a little independent work while you're there (i.e. go on assignment for a newspaper, volunteer your medical skills in a village, have a meeting with potential partners in Buenos Aires, etc.), simply check "leisure." If you plan on staying more than 90 days or are working with a company, you will need a different kind of visa. Since unemployment is still very high in Argentina, 99 percent of jobs go to locals, unless you work for a multi-national company, in which case, your employer will indeed need to sponsor you, and will likely know what paperwork is involved.
For the official word on Argentina visa requirements, follow this State Department link: travel.state.gov
Wheaton, IL: I am trying to plan a Caribbean vacation with three teenagers plus husband. Decided against a cruise after I discovered that reviews of cruise ships always mention smoking--and husband is severely allergic to cigarette smoke. Now am looking at Caribbean resorts, but every time I plug in the 5 adults (my kids are 15-16-17) it kicks me out and says too many people. I'm not a college student trying to cram extra friends into a room, this is my family. And I'm supposed to be at the family friendly resorts--you'd think they'd understand that some of us have older kids. I want fun activities for my teens so am trying to stay away from casinos and bars, but am really getting frustrated in my search. Any advice? Or should I just pick up the phone and talk to a live person who can make the reservations for me? I'm trying to do all-inclusive within a reasonable price range for maybe 3 or 4 nights. Thanks.
Budget Travel Editors: Enjoying a family-friendly vacation with teens is admittedly a difficult task: They hate getting stuck at the kiddie pool and they aren't yet welcome at the bar, so what's a family to do? Consider a stay at Club Med's Punta Cana resort in the Dominica Republic. Not only is the whole place family-friendly--and easily accessible by air--but last March it opened The Ramp, a teen-only hangout that only admits guests 14 to 17 years old. A large skateboard and inline skate ramp marks the hub of the area, and designers did their best to add features that wouldn't be dismissed as lame: a hammock big enough for six, an open air lounge with self-serve soda and flavored syrup shots, built-in binoculars for scoping out who's on the beach, and a photo booth, not unlike the one made famous on MTV's TRL. Teens can hang out 24/7, so when you and your husband are ready to turn in, the kids can still mingle with new friends. The resort is totally all-inclusive so you won't have to worry about paying more when you arrive and you'll be able to enjoy the beautiful Caribbean at your own pace. Visit clubmed.com for more details.
Flagstaff, Arizona: We are two senior ladies who will be visiting family in Cyprus end of April for a week. What can you recommend we try to see and do? Also, Cyprus is in Greece, but travel quotes are sent in Cyprus Pounds. Why is this? Do we need a visa if we only visit the Greek part of Cyprus? Thanks for any help you can give us, Margaret And Clare
Budget Travel Editors: The legendary birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite, Cyprus is rich with ancient Greek and Roman artifacts, cozy villages, and frescoed Greek Orthodox churches, and has a wealth of natural attractions (chalky cliffs, grottos, and the famous Mount Olympus). Be sure to explore the old, winding streets of Kyrenia, a largish, coastal town that retains its authentic Mediterranean feel despite encroaching development, and the wine-producing villages of Lania and Omodos on the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains. As for the money confusion, though split culturally between the Greeks (the southern part) and Turks (the northern part), Cyprus is technically an independent Republic with its own official currency: the Cyprus pound. Like the U.S. dollar, it's divided in to 100 cents and, at a recent check, $1U.S. exchanges for about 50 Cyprus cents. Also, don't worry about a visa; for American citizens, a passport (valid for at least for three months beyond your intended stay) and your travel tickets are enough to gain entrance.
Grand Rapids, MI: My husband and I are going to Vegas! We love it but are looking to budget travel this time. Are there website or tips on how to get the best without spending $400 on entertainment?
Budget Travel Editors: Well, Sin City is all about the ka-ching, ka-ching, but there are some ways to save your pennies (well, quarters) for the slots. For cheaper room options, look to the east side of the Strip (a.k.a. Las Vegas Boulevard). While these smaller, less expensive hotels don't come with all the bells and whistles, you're still steps from the action. For example, the 152-room Casino Royale (casinoroyale.com) is about $99 a night and within a dice's throw of The Venetian, Treasure Island, and the Mirage. Be sure to also check out the website of any favorite hotel for promotional updates and sign-up for their newsletters, which will have the latest on the hotel's entertainment and lodging packages. For other budget-minded advice, peruse cheapovegas.com, which offers detailed, tongue-in-cheek reviews on the city's many entertainment, eating, and hotel options, or see travel2vegas.com or thelasvegasguide.blogspot.com for up-to-date travel info and news.
Carol Stream, IL: My wife and I are flying to London on August 19 and staying at the Royal Horseguards Hotel for 7 nights. She is interested in Beatles sites. I am also but I'd like to take in some of the numerous museums around town as well. One thought we had was to go to Liverpool but it seems a long way distant and might take too much time (and possibly extra expense). I think our hotel is in a pretty good location but I don't have a good tourist map of the city. Can you make some itinerary suggestions that would take each of our desires into consideration? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide in this.
Budget Travel Editors: Liverpool is not too far from London (two-and-a-half hours by train) and well worth the pilgrimage for a die-hard Beatles fan. Some of the best-loved and most sung-about sights are in the band's hometown: Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, the dim and sweaty Cavern Club, and their childhood homes (visitbeatlesliverpool.com). You can squeeze it all into a long daytrip; find train information at virgintrains.co.uk or search for flights into Liverpool John Lennon Airport on one of Europe's low-cost carriers such as easyJet (easyjet.com) or Ryan Air (ryanair.com).
In London, Abbey Road is the biggest of Beatle highlights. Fans brave oncoming traffic to pose along the striped crosswalk, and they scrawl messages on a nearby wall. The Marylebone Station, which the Fab Four exit pursued by hysterical teens during the opening credits of A Hard Day's Night, the Apple recording studio, Albert Hall (referenced on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album), and a smattering of former homes and haunts are other favorites. Beatles Walks London (beatlesinlondon.com) is one of many companies offering walking tours of the city's Beatles sights, and they list many of the stops on their website. A guided tour will likely be faster and easier than a D.I.Y. walking tour, saving more time for the museum-going!
London is overflowing with museums ranging from the blockbuster and all-encompassing to the intimate and quirky. A few BT picks: the Tate Modern (tate.org.uk/modern), the charming Geffrye Museum (geffrye-museum.org.uk) whose period rooms showcase the evolution of English domestic interior design, the Saatchi Gallery holdings of adman-turned-art collector Charles Saatchi, and the kitschy wax models at Madame Tussaud's. To browse a more extensive list, try the city's official tourism website, VisitLondon.com. For insider tips on other attractions, restaurants, and shops, download our free London Snap Guide. And if the film Match Point's London setting inspired you, read about how to recreate the best moments of the film yourself in Movie Quest.
New York, NY: What are some things that jet-lagged Americans can to do in Zurich for one day?
Budget Travel Editors: If the weather is good, hop off the train at the Hauptbanhof and walk down Bahnhofstrasse, sampling the many shops along the way (truffles from Teuscher, Luxembuergli from Sprungli, a handbag from Hermes...). At the end of the road is Lake Zurich, and the embarkment point for a beautiful ferry ride down the lake to Rapperswill. The view of the mountains and of the city are extraordinary. The roundtrip boat journey is 4 hours, but there is a shorter excursion (about 1 hour roundtrip) available, as well. First class includes full table service.
If the weather is bad, Zurich is filled with worthy indoor diversions. For a taste of Swiss history, visit the Landesmuseum, which is directly across the street from the Hauptbahnhof. The huge castle houses relics from the several thousand years of Swiss history. If you prefer fine arts, take the #3 tram to the Kunsthaus. It is world famous for its collections of Munch, Giacometti, and Medieval masters. For real fireworks, walk upstairs and try to take in the vast collection of works by Monet, Manet, Rodin, Cezanne, Gauguin, and, as if that wasn't enough, van Gogh's self portrait *sans ear*.
And if you feel totally un-motivated (due to jet lag or just travel-weariness), pick up a free downtown map at the tourist information booth at the Hauptbahnhof and wander through the Altstadt (Old City) and along the Limmat river. Time has stood still on these cobblestone streets, and it is not hard to imagine catching a glimpse of Zwingli himself ducking into one of the alleyways.
Budget Travel Editors: Thanks again for all your great questions. _______________________