Google is Mapping the Amazon
The Google Street View team has landed in the Amazon, visually mapping the river and rain forest to provide an on-the-ground look at this endangered habitat.
In an effort to help promote awareness of the Amazon as one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, Google has partnered with the Sustainable Amazon Foundation to map the region by boat and by bicycle. In addition to its core team members, Google has also employed local indigenous people to pedal around their communities, snapping photos of some of the 350 indigenous and ethnic groups that reside here.
It's a big undertaking with no known timeline as of yet—after all, the Amazon is two-thirds the size of the U.S.!
In the meantime, take our poll and vote for the next location you think Street View should tackle. Don't see it on the list? Add your vote in the comments below.
Have you used Google Street View when planning a trip? If so, how did a virtual poke-around-town help you?
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Establishing a Greater New York-Seoul Connection
New Yorkers are being encouraged to visit Seoul, and Seoul's city dwellers to come to New York as part of a new joint marketing agreement between the two cities. This week, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and NYC & Company, New York's tourism marketing arm, signed a one-year agreement to engage in a reciprocal marketing effort. Thus, in Seoul, 133 posters promoting New York will start to appear in Jongno (the South Korean capital's downtown area), Gangnam (a higher income neighbor south of the city), and at the main train station, Seoul Station. In New York, 70 posters promoting Seoul will pop up around the city, and digital ads will appear on the Clear Channel Spectacular screen in Times Square. The cites also partnered with Korean Air to offer a limited-time airfare deal, starting from 1,310,000 South Korean Won ($1,094, based on current exchange rates) from Seoul to New York, and starting from $1,295 for flights from New York to Seoul. The flights from Seoul to New York must be purchased by Oct. 31 for travel between Nov. 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012 (restrictions apply; prices exclude fuel surcharges and taxes). Flights from New York to Seoul must be purchased by Oct. 28, for travel between Nov. 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012 (restrictions apply; price includes fuel surcharges, but not taxes). To book, go to Nycgo.com. In 2010, New York welcomed 223,000 visitors from South Korea, a 10 percent increase over 2009, according to NYC & Co. Seoul, on the other hand, welcomed 653,000 visitors from the U.S. in 2010, a 7 percent increase over the year before. "There’s outstanding potential to further grow the volume of travel between two of the world's great cities," NYC & Co. CEO George Fertitta said at a meeting in Seoul on Tuesday with Young-Gyu Kwon, the acting mayor of Seoul, and Korean Air Managing Vice President Kee-Hong Woo. The deal marks the first time New York has partnered with a city in Asia, having done similar swaps in the past with London, Madrid and Sao Paulo, as well as stateside with Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. On Tuesday, NYC & Co. also launched a new Facebook page promoting New York to South Koreans at facebook.com/nycgo.kr. More from Budget Travel: Seoul Connection And the winner of the 2018 Winter Olympics is... South Korea New York's Best-Kept Secrets
Breaking down Italy's slew of new hotel taxes
You may have recalled reading something somewhere in the past couple months about a new hotel tax in Rome. Or was it Venice? Or Florence? Or all of them? Well, it was all of them, and some other cities in Italy too. Basically, Italian municipalities are on the hunt for additional revenue sources in the wake of government funding cuts as the country's economy and budget falters. To compensate, this year, at least eight cities in Italy have added a hotel tax of between 1 and 5 euros (between $1.40 and $7, based on current exchange rates), per person, per night. They include Rome, Venice, Florence, Padua, and Giardini Naxos on the island of Sicily. For a complete list of the cities, the hotel taxes, and when they are in effect, see our chart. So, what does this mean for you, the traveler? Well, it means that when you check out of your hotel in one of these cities listed, from here on out you should expect to find an additional charge at the bottom of your bill, one that can range considerably depending on the star-rating of your hotel, how many of you are traveling together and how many nights you're staying. Now, if you've already booked a vacation package to Italy, you might check with the travel provider to see if you're going to have to pay or if they're going to absorb the tax, as several travel companies have come out with statements that they're going to actually absorb the taxes into their 2011 and 2012 prices since they were put into effect so last-minute. The Globus family of brands, for instance, recently put out a release that it is absorbing the cost of the taxes, a decision that is costing the company more than $1 million this year alone. Insight Vacations also stated earlier this summer that it would absorb the cost of hotel taxes in Florence and Venice. Perillo, an Italy vacation specialist, is absorbing the cost of the hotel taxes for its group departures, but people who book through its independent travel website, Italyvacations.com, will pay the hotel directly and therefore pay the taxes themselves. "These taxes represent less than 1 percent of the average tour cost with air, so it's more of an administrative hassle than having a big impact on the final price," said Diane Ferro, product manager at Perillo. But, she noted, "we are already at a disadvantage with the current rate of exchange and we did not need to add on another fee." Indeed, Tom Jenkins, executive director of the European Tour Operators Association, which focuses on inbound travel to Europe, and Terry Dale, president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, whose members sell travel to Europe, have been lobbying the Italian government to ease up on the taxes. In a joint letter to Italy's tourism minister in late June they argued that, "underlying the imposition of these taxes is an assumption that tourists can be exploited as a natural resource." Thoughts on the new hotel taxes and how and whether they will impact your Italy travel plans? More from Budget Travel: Poll: Are quick trips abroad worth the travel time? Theft from luggage at airports and how to avoid it Heading to Europe? Have a Blue Lagoon layover
DC restaurant bans cell phones! Good idea?
Rogue24 restaurant of Washington, D.C., has had it with cell phones. Guests face a no-tolerance ban on both cell phones and photography of any kind. There are a few reasons for the ban: Cell phone ringer volume isn't controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers, says the owner RJ Cooper. Plus, smart phones often have cameras, and the act of taking photos in the dining room is disturbing to other customers. See the document patrons have to sign here. So watch what you tweet. Here's Rogue24's chef's explanation of the policy, courtesy of the blog Eater D.C. Do you think it's unfair to ask guests to not do that at your restaurant when it's so prevalent at other restaurants? Let's say you're out on a date, but you sit there Tweeting. What are you doing to your companion? You're alienating them. You're in an environment that's trying to create an ambience that you can't get anywhere else. If you go to the theater, they ask you to not use flash photography, because it distracts. It's the same thing here. We're in the middle of the dining room, so the flashing distracts us as well. Why no phones or photos? It's really about being polite to your fellow guests and your dining companions. If everyone brings out their phones, it detracts from the experience. We're not telling you not to tweet; we have areas to do that. You can do it in the salon or the bathroom. We just don't want cell phones in the dining room. You wouldn't ask a guest to leave if you saw them taking a picture? No, because it's not about being a cop or a Nazi. So, enough about this chef. What do you think? Do you think more restaurants should put a ban on cell phones and photography into place at high-end restaurants? I know I do. I was at a restaurant the other day, when somebody's cell phone rang. It wasn't the ring-a-ling, ding-a-ling type of ring. It was one of those song rings; you know the ones. It was distracting. So was listening to the conversation that happened. I've also been blinded by photography. During one dinner, I was distracted by more than a half-dozen camera flashes in the middle of my meal. I was having a dinner at a restaurant in the D.C. area called L'Auberge Chez François. (I know, I know. It's not very "budget travel." It was a splash-out dinner before I got the Budget Travel gig. Cut me some slack.) I realize that it was a splash-out dinner for other patrons, too, and they wanted to cherish the occasion with a photographic memorie and perhaps share images of the great meal with friends. But, please. It's dinner at a fancy restaurant. Let's have some manners. Do you really need to document your entire lives? Can't you just remember a meal as being good? Or describe it to your friends? if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('47e16142-e70f-4b8b-a291-49bcca78b00f');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Okay, okay. I know I'm being cranky. Sorry. Chime in with your own opinions by posting a comment below. Or vote in our handy-dandy poll! Thanks for your time, as always. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 5 best new ice pops in the U.S. Use BiteHunter to save money on eating out Canada's worst decision ever
East Coast tries to untangle post-Irene travel mess
More than 13,000 flights have been cancelled leaving hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, which struck the East Coast over the weekend. According to news reports citing the flight tracking service FlightAware.com there have been nearly 1,500 cancelled flights on Monday, adding to the nearly 12,000 flights grounded over the weekend. The cancellations and delays have impacted between 650,000 and 700,000 air travelers creating a passenger backlog just before the nation heads into the busy Labor Day holiday weekend. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said that John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports both reopened on Monday morning at 6 a.m. with departures set to resume at noon on Monday. LaGuardia Airport will reopen to both arrivals and departures at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. As the airports and airlines attempt to untangle the mess of travelers left stranded due the cancellations and closures, the Port Authority advised travelers to contact their airlines before heading to the airport to find out if there are any further delays or cancellations. The Port Authority also advised travelers that due to more limited mass transit options, passengers should double-check their plans for getting to and from the airport. As for train travel, Amtrak said that it will operate most Northeast Regional trains between Philadelphia and Washington starting on Monday, but that all Amtrak service between Boston and Philadelphia is canceled due to the extensive flooding, debris on tracks, and power issues as a result of Irene. Additionally, all Acela Express service between Boston and Washington is currently canceled. NJ Transit rail service will also remain suspended until further notice as a result of Irene, with the exception of the Atlantic City Rail Line. NJ Transit said it will operate bus and light rail service on a modified schedule on Monday and that crews are working around the clock to assess storm damage and make necessary repairs. Over the weekend, much of the East Coast and Northeast had braced for what was expected to be a potentially devastating hurricane or tropical storm once it made landfall. But in the end, some of the hardest hit areas were in upstate New York and Vermont, which experienced severe flooding, The New York Times reported. What about you? Has Irene foiled your travel plans in some way? Are you stranded somewhere? How has your home or community been impacted? Share your Irene stories below. More from Budget Travel: Prepping for hurricane season How are airlines responding to Hurricane Irene? The Empire State Building turns 80