Paying departure taxes in cash
This winter, the Caribbean island of St. Lucia changed the way it collects its departure tax. Up until now, you had to keep $26 in U.S. cash on hand during your trip to pay at the airport on your way out of the country. But now, when you buy a ticket, the tax is automatically added.
(Note: For the handful of folks who bought tickets last year for travel this year, you still have to pay the tax at the airport on departure.)
As you may know, many countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa expect you to pay a departure tax when you check in at their airports. Some countries insist that you pay in the local currency; others in U.S. dollars. Some let you pay at the check-in gate. Others, such as Argentina, require you to go to a separate counter and pay.
I don't know about you, but I much prefer to pay a tax when I buy a ticket with a credit card. That way, I don't have to remember to save exact change in U.S. dollars to pay the tax at the end of my trip.
I also prefer to have the total cost of the flights be clear up-front, to help me with my budgeting.
Do you have any thoughts about travel taxes? Feel free to post a comment.
Fares: Airfarewatchdog gets an upgrade
Airlines lower fares on different routes everyday without advertising the price cuts. A fare could be $400 today and $98 tomorrow. And then $500 the next day. To book the absolutely lowest possible fare, you have to look at fares on the routes you want to fly every single day for a few weeks, and then adjust your schedule to whenever the fare is lowest. That's what the folks at Airfarewatchdog.com try to do with their email newsletter. In a new feature, you can choose your city-to-city routes or departure cities and how often you'd like to be alerted to fare changes. The service is free. You have to hand over your email address, but the site promises not to sell or share email addresses, and hasn't done so in many years of operation. Another perk: It's the only airfares web site that tracks all airlines, including Southwest, as well as promo code airfares. The catch, of course, is that you have to have a trigger finger that's ready to book your ticket as soon as you see a good deal. Many of the deals that Airfarewatchdog finds are here-now-gone-an-hour-from-now. So be sure to act fast.
Responding to the growing interest in sustainable travel, the publisher has released a new book, Green Travel (recently $15 at Amazon.com), that reviews 120 ecolodges and environmentally friendly hotels around the world and advises people how to be more socially conscious on vacation. The guide describes the steps that each hotel has taken to be green: The Fairmont Chicago, for instance, has installed wind-powered computers and donates used bars of soap to homeless shelters.
Win! A tea basket with treats
Aficionados explain how to buy tea, brew it, and slurp it in the Budget Travel story The ABC's of Tea. For fun, we're giving away a tea basket that contains Harney & Sons Organic Green Iced Tea Bags and plus Caribe Green and Back Tea and Guava. Plus, a couple of jars of Deborah's spreadable fruit, a box of Nunes Farms toffee crunch almonds, and a handy JoAnn Marie Designs tote bag. To enter, all you have to do is tell us a memorable story involving your travels and tea, here or abroad. Our favorite story will garner the prize. Short is sweet. Deadline next Tuesday March 11, 2008. (U.S. mailing addresses only. Void where prohibited. We'll contact the winner by email to ask for their mailing address. ) Post your story below! MORE ON TEA London's top tea parties Pinkies In! A how-to guide to teatime in England. Afternoon tea is back at the reopened Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Rome: The Forum's no longer free
For about a decade now, anyone in Rome could wander among the city's most famous ancient ruins, known by the shorthand "The Forum," for free. But starting next Monday, March 10,* entrance tickets will be required. The Forum will be included in the ticket covering the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It will cost 9 euro -- about $14, or more if there's some kind of special show going on. BUDGET TRAVEL TIP To skip the frequently long lines for entry to the Colosseum, buy your tickets at the Palatine box office (200 yards away, on Via di S. Gregorio 30). Once you have your ticket, you can proceed past the line and straight to the entry turnstiles. BUDGET TRAVEL TIP 2 If you're visiting in the peak season of July, you may want to prebook your tickets through Pierreci (011-39/06-3996-7700, pierreci.it) and pick them up directly at the Colosseum will-call window, but there's a $2 surcharge. I'm personally sorry to hear about this because the policy will discourage locals from visiting the site. Especially during the off-season, you would see Roman families spontaneously visiting the amazing grounds, mingling with tourists. On a brighter note, ... also on March 10, four rooms at the Emperor Augustus's palace on the Palatine hill will reopen to the public. The frescoes in the rooms, including his studio and main hall, have been magnificently restored, according to the Chicago Tribune. The stop is included in the Forum/Colosseum/Palatine ticket. *UPDATE 3/5, at 1pmET: I mistakenly typed March 8 instead of March 10 on first posting. [Photo: Courtesy of Eye of Einstein, via Flickr]