How do other countries stack up to the U.S. in airport security?
As you may have heard, last week the U.S. Transportation Security Administration fired 28 of its agents—and suspended 15 others—for failing to properly screen bags being put onto planes at Honolulu International Airport. According to an article by CNN Travel, "The firing is believed to be one of, if not the biggest, such action in the agency's history, with officials previously stating that it underscores they will not tolerate employees who compromise security."
This got me thinking: The United States is known for having such strict policies when it comes to airport screenings (well, besides this obvious exception mentioned above), but what about other countries? Is everyone being as careful as we are?
One of our editors recently spent the weekend in Mexico City. She just happened to be flying back into the United States, incidentally on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, and was surprised to find that no one at the Mexican airport even asked her to remove her shoes during a routine screening. What gives?
On the other hand, Israel has airport security methods that are more aggressive than ours. Not only do they practice intense psychological video surveillance—the idea being to identify the behavior associated with a potential threat before it has a chance to be carried out—but they employ technology that allows them to better screen passengers without having to use the full body scanners we love to hate. You can even keep your shoes on thanks to a device called Magshoe that screens for explosives in a few seconds.
Clearly, security procedures vary depending on where in the world you are. What's the most surprising method of security you've encountered in your travels? Tell us below.
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Preview your next trip with a virtual tour
Surprises are great—sometimes. But when it comes to booking the best room in a hotel or making a beeline for a beloved landmark, taking a virtual-tour test-run can be a savvy traveler’s best strategy. Here are three new ways to get a sneak peek of your next trip. For hotel rooms Using Google Earth images, detailed floor plans, and insider tips from the hotels’ own front-desk staffs, room 77 pinpoints the nicest rooms in thousands of three- to five-star properties across 30-plus cities in North America, Europe, and Asia. Travelers can search for connecting rooms, distance from elevators, a great view, and upper or lower floors, then scan the rooms the site deems a match. Talking your way into getting the precise room you want, however, is up to you. room77.com, free. For museums Many top museums have created apps that display highlights from their collections. But for one-stop browsing, tap into the Web-based Google Art Project, a compendium of virtual, self-guided walks through 17 museums, including New York’s MoMA, London’s National Gallery, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, and more. Travelers can digitally navigate through each institution and get super-zoomed-in views of featured artworks—without elbowing anyone aside. googleartproject.com, free. For walking tours Nothing’s going to replace a passing whiff of a corner patisserie or the goosebumps you get when you approach Sacré Coeur. But the interactive maps and over 4,000 images packed into Fotopedia’s Paris app will have you feeling like you’re strolling along the Seine in no time. Not much of a Francophile? Fotopedia also makes a National Park app and hosts a growing collection of over 750,000 user-submitted images of destinations worldwide, searchable by place names, themes, and key words. fotopedia.com, free. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 10 Most Useful Travel Websites Open Secret Websites for Booking Hotels New Website Tracks Outrageous Souvenirs
Best hotel rate guarantee ever?
The world's largest hotel company says no one can beat the prices on its website: Find a cheaper rate elsewhere, and your first night is free. Best price guarantees are a dime a dozen for hotel-booking websites. Just about every travel site has one, from Expedia to Marriott to Hyatt and beyond. Typically, the guarantee states that if a traveler finds a cheaper rate after he's already made reservations, the original booking site will match the lower rate -- and often, throw in an additional discount. Expedia, for instance, promises to refund the difference in rates and send the customer a $50 travel voucher. Marriott and Hyatt will match the lower price and knock an additional 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively, off the rate. The InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), the world's biggest hotel company, which operates major lodging brands like Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and StayBridge Suites, just announced a new "Best Price Guarantee" that, at least upon first glance, blows the doors off all the other guarantees out there. Here's the deal: Say you book a room with any IHG hotel through the company's website. If, within 24 hours of booking, you find a cheaper rate for the same property (same date, same type of room, same restrictions) through another booking site, IHG will give you the first night of your reservation free of charge. Is it likely you'll actually get a free night out of the deal? Um, not exactly. There's plenty of fine print that makes it difficult to land a freebie. The 24-hour limit for locating a cheaper rate is one of the restrictions. The rules also stipulate that to qualify you must use IHG's Best Available Rate when booking (as opposed to other rates such as AAA or military discounts), and select the lowest available hotel rate found in your search (presumably, this means no suites or family rooms). Finally, the original booking and the cheaper rate found afterward must be an apples-to-apples comparison: same hotel, same dates and length of stay, same restrictions (refundable or non-refundable), and so on. Winding up with a free night because of the guarantee is also unlikely because, as you might guess, IHG works extremely hard to ensure that its website prices are never undercut by the competition. Many hotel companies, in fact, have contracts with third-party booking sites that specify hotel rooms can never be sold at rates cheaper than those booked directly with the property. But perhaps the biggest reason few travelers will ever realize a free night out of such a guarantee is that scouring the web for cheaper prices takes up too much time and effort. After all, who wants to keep searching for hotel rates after their room is already booked? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Hotels: When a best online price guarantee isn't best Priceline now guarantees your hotel bid is the best deal Get money back when prices drop
U.S. cities where travelers are taxed the most
In 18 major U.S. cities, the average visitor coughs up more than $30 a day in taxes related to their trip. Using data gathered via the Global Business Travel Association, the trade publication Auto Rental News has come up with a list of taxes paid by the average visitor in the 50 top destinations in the U.S. for business travelers. The grand daily tax total was tallied by adding up the mandatory taxes levied on a typically-priced car rental ($55.22), hotel room ($99.47), and restaurant meals ($88.65) for one day. The results put into numbers what many travelers have known all along: We're paying a heckuvalot in taxes. According to the research, even without factoring in the taxes fliers pay for airline travel, the average traveler is taxed to the tune of $28.09 per day. A traveler can expect to pay over $30 in taxes daily in 18 cities, including Las Vegas, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Nashville, Seattle, and Boston. Unsurprisingly, the two cities where travelers pay the most in taxes are New York and Chicago, where the taxes are calculated at $37.01 and $38.85 respectively. Look at how the totals are added up, however, and you'll realize that travelers in these cities are probably paying far more in taxes than the figures listed. The bulk of taxes in most cities on the list come from hotels, and the sample taxes listed are based on hotel rooms that cost just under $100 a night. Rooms at anywhere near that rate are hard to come by in Chicago and New York, and in many other U.S. cities on the list, for that matter. So even if travelers skip rental cars (which makes sense if staying downtown in a major city), odds are they're paying even more in taxes that the list suggests. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Paying to skip long security lines Is it too much to ask that an airline's fees be listed on one web page? Would you pay extra to sit in the front of the plane?
It's named what!?! The worst names for restaurants ever
The world's worst restaurant names? They're picked every year by Zagat, the famous restaurant review site. Zagat was bought last week by the search giant Google for its "useful," "eccentric," and "comprehensive in big cities" restaurant reviews by more than 300,000 patrons. It just so happens that Zagat (pronounced za-GAT with "GAT" like "cat") recently published a list of the world's worst restaurant names. Here are a few of its picks: Rat's Restaurant, Hamilton, N.J. Expensive spot, honoring the rodent character in The Wind in the Willows. Surrounded by Seward Johnson’s life-size sculptures imitating French impressionist Claude Monet's beloved Impressionist paintings. B.A.D. Sushi, L.A. It's hip to have an acronym in the name of your restaurant, which in this case is "Best And Delicious.” The only problem is that, well, it's BAD. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('83bc5d6b-af14-4d6b-b319-b6720755ce4d');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Captain Poo's, Myrtle Beach, S.C. Say the name and you say everything, right? Pink Taco, Century City, L.A. Californians excel at making Mexican food and they excel at marketing everything known to man, so it's no surprise that this Mexican joint with the goofy name is an import from Las Vegas, which tends to get both things wrong. And here are a few more nominations for bad restaurant names: Ruth's Chris Steak House, 130-plus locations across the U.S. Ruth Fertel bought a New Orleans restaurant, Chris Steak House. The contract said she couldn't move the restaurant and keep the name, so when she eventually moved it she added her own name on it. The Dead Fish, Crockett, Calif. The owner's grandmother had a standard reply whenever someone asked her what fish she was cooking any given night: "A dead fish." In her honor, he named the restaurant. Which is a great story, but, still. Blunch, Boston. Supposedly inspired by a restaurant in France called Flunch. But something got lost in the translation. Fuddruckers, national chain, about 200 spots.Love the burgers, hate their name. (Fighting words, I know.) The Fudd is like Häagen-Dazs. It has no meaning, it's merely supposed to catch your attention. Which it does. Like a bad piece of Muzak you can't get out of your head. Doug Lansky, famous for "The Titanic Awards" and "Signspotting," put out a similar list. Here are some names he found: Soon Fatt Chinese Food, Ireland What else is there to add? My Dung, Calif. There are several restaurants named My Dung in California, including one in Rosemead. Go figure. Stomach Clinic Railways Restaurant, Nairobi, Kenya If you're feeling classy, call this by its likely formal name: Gastrointestinal Examination Bistro. Have you ever encountered a badly named restaurant? Let us know in the comments. And vote in our poll on the worst of the bunch. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Ask Trip Coach: Top tips for traveling with your pet Slideshow: Readers' cutest pet photos Pet Travel News: A handy app, a Disney resort, and more