Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel
Budget Travel Editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach. Let's get to your questions!
Las Vegas, NV: We would like to visit Turkey. We are wondering if we would be better off (financially) to tour on our own, or take one of the many tours available. We can't afford a high end tour. We would like to stay in quaint places, and see the major highlights as well as funky fun places. (The problem with tours is being stuck with slow people and having to eat meals you don't want, go places you don't necessarily care about). Looking at going next Spring-- what is your take on how safe it is for Americans?
Budget Travel Editors: Turkey is truly a fascinating destination--a real crossroads, and it can be very affordable. And while we can't make any guarantees, it's generally considered safe for westerners. In fact, Istanbul is a very western/international/cosmopolitan city. Turkey's also been working hard to make itself attractive to the European Union in hopes of becoming a member, so visitors get to reap many positive benefits of those efforts--better infrastructure, international signage, etc.
Regarding whether to tour on your own or with a company, it's really up to you. I might suggest if it's your first time to Turkey to do both--a short escorted tour (with highlights that interest you), followed by independent time on your own with extra nights at a place of your choosing. You might consider getting off the beaten path to say, Cappadoccia, with an escorted tour, and then creating your own itinerary for Istanbul. There are parts of the country where it'll be more advantageous to travel with a guide who knows his/her way around. That said, I suggest you look into what Foreign Independent Tours has to offer. The company specializes in that part of the world and has an excellent reputation with vetted ground operators. And keep in mind, if you're not in the mood for sightseeing or a group dinner, you can always bow out. For more information on Turkey, I also suggest perusing the highly informative TurkeyTravelPlanner.com.
Chicago, IL: My friends and I will be taking a 7 day Greek Island cruise in two weeks. We plan on staying two extra days and would like to go to Florence for a day. What is the best route to Florence from Venice? What sights can we see in one day as we must return to Venice for the return flight home. Thanks
Budget Travel Editors: The best/easiest route/way between Venice and Florence is by train. The trip takes about 4 hours, and is quite scenic in parts. When in Florence, I suggest seeing the Duomo (main cathedral); the Ufizzi Galleries and the great works of Botticelli and other masters; the Ponte Vecchio bridge; and the Boboli Gardens. The Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace are both fascinating in that you get a glimpse of how the Medicis lived, and then there are smaller points of interest, like Brunelleschi's beautiful "minimalist" church in the Altrarno, Santo Spirito, the bronze wild boar at the Porcellino market (whose nose you rub for good luck), and the ancient, narrow Estruscan street of Borgo Pinti. I also happen to be a fan of the gorgeous, colorful (and recently restored) frescos by Beato Angelico in San Marco church. Of course, you can't miss the David and other works by Michelangelo at the Academmia, either. As you might have noticed, it's hard to prioritize!
I might start with the Duomo, a walk down shop-lined Via Cazaiuoli to Piazza Signoria, go to the Uffizi Galleries, then head to the market, and then over the Ponte Vecchio bridge and have lunch on the much quieter (and more charming) other side of the Arno River, followed by a stop at Piazza Santo Spirito, and then a walk in the Boboli Gardens. If you have time, then poke your nose in the Pitti Palace, and then hit the Academmia and San Marco on the other side. Piazza Santa Maria Novella, adjacent to the train station, also has a very important fresco by Masaccio--The Trinity--the first painting to ever show perspective.
Chula Vista, CA: I've been to Europe once and I did the Eurail-backpacking combination with 8 others. However, this time around, I'd like to rent a home or condo on the Italian coastline. In a previous issue, you had mentioned 5 towns within walking distance of each other that had villas for rent, but I don't recall the names of those towns! We plan on going next August...please help! Jennifer
Budget Travel Editors: Here's a link to our article called "Villa Rentals Around the World" -- it lists a great number of agencies that rent homes, condos, villas, etc. in Italy, and beyond.
Perhaps you were thinking of another story, but there's no mention of the 5 towns you can walk to....However, I suspect you're thinking of Cinque Terre (literally, "five lands") five small villages on Ligurian coast that are connected by goat paths (and accessible by train).
Avondale, AZ: I am planning a trip to southern Spain this November and would like to take the ferry to Morocco for a few days of sightseeing. Are the ferries safe/reliable, and is it safe for a single woman to travel alone in Morroco?
Budget Travel Editors: Morocco is definitely a growing must-see destination--particulary thanks to its convenient proximity to Spain's southern tip and the easy ferry access. The U.S. government does recommend caution in traveling there ever since a series of terrorist bombings in 2003, but Americans weren't the specific target. The country also has its standard amount of petty crime like pickpocketing, etc. If you're sticking to the main cities of Casablanca, Marrakech, or Tangier, you should be fine as American and European visitors are more and more a commonplace. Just be sure to follow obvious safety precautions (don't carry lots of money, stay in well-lit and populated areas, etc.) and blend in, which means dressing conservatively and keeping covered up. There's no need for a headscarf, however. Moroccan men have been known to catcall, but the best response is no response. Also, don't expect to get access to any mosques as they're generally limited only to Muslims, unlike in other countries where tourists are sometimes welcome. As for the ferries, they run regularly from Algeciras, Spain, to Tangier or Ceuta in Morocco; Tangier provides better access to other public transportation around the country.
Lima, OH: We are going to Nashville in August and would like a list of things to see. We have tickets to Opry and will be staying at the Gaylord. Anything else of interest? Thanks, Karen
Budget Travel Editors: If you're going to the Grand Ole Opry (or Nashville in general), then we assume you're into country music. One quirky option for getting to know the city's musical roots is the NashTrash tour (800/342-2132, nashtrash.com, $30). Led by the frizzy-haired Jugg sisters, the 90-minute tour--aboard a bright pink bus--passes by all the quintessential country music landmarks (Wildhorse Saloon, Printers Alley, the Country Music Hall of Fame, etc.). In the evening, head back downtown to check out live music at classic honky tonks like Tootsies Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway, 615/726-0463, tootsies.net), The Stage (412 Broadway, 615/726-0504), and Wildhorse Saloon, which offers popular country line dancing lessons (120 Second Ave., 615/902-8200, wildhorsesaloon.com). For shopping, most folks head to the Hillsboro Village area, but fuel up before you go at Pancake Pantry (1796 21st Ave. South, 615/383-9333). And if you're there the last weekend of the month, don't miss scouring for finds at the massive flea market located at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds (tennesseestatefair.org).
Wheaton, IL: We're looking for a budget trip to see fall color out east. Any suggestions?
Budget Travel Editors: One of Vermont's most idyllic corners is the "Northeast Kingdom," the counties of Orleans, Essex and Caledonia, distinguished by sleepy towns, dense forests, and placid lakes. The Federal-style, family-run Inn on the Common in historic Craftsbury (75 miles east of Burlington), will place you in the heart of the kingdom. Rooms are on the pricier side, starting at $185, but are well worth it if you're up for a splurge. Cheaper rates (doubles from $95) can be found at the four-room Riverbend B&B in the tiny town of Troy, where there are trails for horseback riding and hiking and the nearby Missisquoi River for canoeing. For more suggestions, read our fall foliage guides for Vermont, Maine and Connecticut. We also recently ran a Real Deal on a five-night foliage cruise in New England and Canada from $599.
New York City, NY: I would like to enjoy a language (Spanish) immersion program in Costa Rica. I would want to stay 3-4 weeks and see as much of the country as well. Any ideas? Howard
Budget Travel Editors: One of the more reputable Spanish-language schools in Costa Rica is Forester, which can arrange for homestays in addition to classes, and also organizes excursions. The school is located just outside of downtown San José, the capital of Costa Rica. A week of classes, as well as a homestay with a local family, including two meals daily and laundry service, costs from $450, and weekly prices go down the longer you stay (up to four weeks). For courses that also feature excursions, weekly rates start at $525. Both types of study leave your weekends free to explore. Forester Instituto Internacional, fores.com
Columbia, MO: I am trying to plan a destination wedding on a budget. I would really like to go somewhere tropical-- do you have any suggestions of places to go that are easy and affordable? I would be leaving from either St Louis, MO or Kansas City,MO in March or April. Thanks for your help!
Budget Travel Editors: Congratulations on your engagement! Now, the work begins...
Many of Mexico and the Caribbean's biggest resort groups--Breezes, Couples, Superclubs, Sandals --offer "free" weddings. In exchange for paying for room and board (and often a minimum-stay requirement), resorts will often throw in a wedding, which can be a huge money-saver.
If large resorts are not your style, then you'll want to look into individual properties that cater to destination weddings. For ideas on where to plan your destination wedding, check out The Most Romantic Resorts for Destination Weddings, Marriage Renewals & Honeymoons by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble or The Destination Wedding Workbook by Paris Permenter & John Bigley.
We've written quite a bit about this topic: check out our article on destination weddings.
Also, on August 22, Paris Permenter and John Bigley, who wrote "The Destination Wedding Workbook" will be our Trip Coach guests. They'll answer destination wedding questions from noon to 1pm ET. So check back then!
Sheboygan, WI: We would like to take a road trip through Nova Scotia. Can you give us some guidelines as to a good time of year to travel there and greatest things to see?
Budget Travel Editors: Nova Scotia's summer--and main tourist season--is from early July to early September, when the daytime temperatures are often in the upper 70s. Since the province is surrounded by water, expect showers no matter what time of year you're there. Nova Scotia has at least 10 scenic drives that are ideally suited for road trips; one of the most acclaimed routes is the 175-mile Cabot Trail loop within the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The province's official tourism company (800/565-0000, novascotia.com) lists these scenic route, with maps and descriptions of the attractions and regions passed along the way. The same information is also available in booklet form that can be downloaded or mailed to you.
Abington, PA: My wife and I are taking a cruise to Alaska from Vancouver and will disembark in L.A. The cruise company informed us that they charge $25 per person each was for the airport terminal transfers. Is this a good deal? It is my understanding that Canadian Customs can be bypassed if one is going to the cruise terminal. Does that apply to those who use local transportation? Or do you have to be picked up by the cruise company bus?
Budget Travel Editors: You can take a taxi from the Vancouver International Airport to the Canada Place cruise ship terminal for about $18-$22, which is significantly cheaper than the $50 per couple your cruise company charges. Taking a cab, however, means that you can't bypass Canadian customs--passengers who skip customs have to be transported directly to the terminal on a special "sealed" bus managed by the cruise line. Vancouver airport's expedited service only works with specific airlines and cruise companies; if you want to use the service, be sure check with your reservation agent to make sure you are eligible. When you dock at L.A.'s San Pedro pier, a taxi to the airport should put you back about $50-$54.
Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for all your great questions. See you next week!