Want to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu this year? Book ASAP
There's been some confusion about securing permits to hike the popular Inca Trail to Peru's ancient site of Machu Picchu. But the message to trekkers is clear—to be safe, secure a spot with a recognized tour operator sooner rather than later.
Peru's Culture Ministry doles out 500 permits a day, according to incatrailreservations.com. That number includes support staff, such as cooks, porters and guides, which account for about 300 of those daily permits, leaving the remaining 200 for tourists. Permits are sold on a first come, first served, basis to government-approved tour operators.
"With many individuals and groups vying for an opportunity to trek this spectacular route, obtaining permits has become a bigger challenge than ever. All of our 2010 peak season departures sold out months in advance and long waitlists were not uncommon ... reserve your spot early for the best selection of date options," REI Adventures warned travelers on its website.
In some news reports, like this one in the British newspaper The Telegraph, there are claims that the allocation system changed this year, creating complications.
Gap Adventures, a Canadian adventure tour operator, tried to set the record straight for weary trekkers.
According to Gap, this year, Peru's Tourism Ministry took over control of permit distribution from the country's National Cultural Institute, which created a backlog.
"Usually, the mass ticket purchases for the year are done in January, but…it got pushed back, given that these governing bodies changed hands, and also because they wanted to implement a system for online purchases," explained Sean Benner, destination manager for South America at Gap.
The Inca Trail is a 24-mile journey that takes at least four days to complete with an intermediate level of difficulty, according to PromPeru, the country's tourism marketing organization.
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We're deep in the production of our May food issue, and so food is very much on the brain in Budget Travel offices these days. We're awash in microdistilled gin from Brooklyn, chips from Taiwan, and wine from Walla Walla. (If you have a good idea for coverlines, we're all ears!) In reading about some new restrictions for food carts in Vancouver, I fell into an online food cart coma after discovering this terrific web site: vancouverstreeteats.ca. The name of the site, run by an intrepid duo who identify themselves only as "James and Amy," belies its geographic breadth, which ranges from Texas to Thailand and has news and information on food carts—and the fascinating people who run them. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('f8a67ea7-6712-4d8f-bd59-1c5496948233');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Up until last year, street vendors in Vancouver were only allowed to sell popcorn, chestnuts, and hot dogs. When that ban was lifted, the floodgates opened to the international community and the number of carts skyrocketed. However, a new city council ruling has approved an initiative to expand the number of "healthy" street options, limiting hot dogs in favor of fare like squash and quinoa. While I'm as cautious as the next traveler about eating off the ground, I will happily eat out of a tin-can contraption on a corner. And god knows, I'm not looking to limit my caloric intake when I do so. In my experience, eating street food has been the surest way to get the flavor of a city. Not to mention that you are guaranteed to meet the chef. This new city ban brings the potential to squash a burgeoning foodie creativity. And what a shame that might be. I'm all for healthful food, but when it comes to carts, and tasting your way through a city while standing, arteries aren't necessarily this hungry traveler's primary concern. Deliciousness is. What's the tastiest, and most unusual thing you've ever eaten from a street cart? See more from Budget Travel The World's Best Street Food How to Eat Street Food Without Ruining Your Trip See more from Budget Travel The World's Best Street Food How to Eat Street Food Without Ruining Your Trip
What is the most memorable place you've ever visited?
It's not unusual for images of iconic destinations like the Grand Canyon, Paris, and Prague to spark inspiration for a trip. Art museums and the Internet are flooded with gorgeous photography, paintings, and videos of classic spots. Last week, for instance, I stumbled across a stunning series of photo montages by Swiss artist Corinne Vionnet, who pieced together "hundreds of snapshots of tourist locations found on the Internet" and overlayed them to create one unified portrait of each. The resulting photos are recognizable—you can easily make out the Brooklyn Bridge and Chichen Itza, say—but also otherworldly. It's a slideshow worth spending some time with. Still, nothing recently has captivated my attention more than an interactive online video series produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFBC). It pays homage to—of all places—Pine Point, Ontario, a former mining-town turned ghost-town. It was the very first place NFBC contributors Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons ever visited, and, it seems, it has haunted them ever since. Recently, they went online to see what had become of their first travel-love and discovered, to their surprise, that the town no longer exists. After the mines there shut down in 1987, the Canadian government shut the town down, too. Less than a year later, it was wiped clean off the map, and its residents relocated. This discovery prompted Shoebridge and Simons to look more closely into Pine Point: what became of the people who lived there, what happened to the buildings and roads, and—most importantly—why, exactly, it stayed with them. The video series they made as a result is curious and singular: a mash-up of audio interviews with former residents, archival findings played out in scrolling text, old snapshots floating across the page. It's about 20-minutes long, and I played it twice through in a row. Something about it haunted me, just like the town haunted Shoebridge and Simons. And it got me to thinking: Every traveler has that one place—that one tiny town, perhaps, or somewhere more exotic and far-flung, maybe—that gets under his skin, and just stays, lodged there. For me, that place is Sebago Lake, an idyllic shore retreat in southern Maine. It was the first place I ever visited solo, as a 19-year-old, so ready and eager for a change of scene from my hometown in suburban Ohio that I leapt at the chance to teach rock climbing to 12-year-old girls at a Sebago Lake summer camp. I haven't been back since—but my thoughts return there often. It's the place that made me love travel. What is that place for you? We'd love to hear about it. Perhaps it could even be a contender in our Coolest Small Towns contest next year… See more from Budget Travel Paris: 4 Easy Day Trips by Train Your Year in River Cruises A Neat Freak's Guide to a Clean Suitcase
Heading to New Zealand? What you should know
If you're gearing up for a trip to New Zealand, reports about a devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the country's second largest city of Christchurch on Tuesday may have you concerned about whether now is the best time to go. Here are some facts to consider: Indeed, a state of national emergency has been declared in Christchurch and some 75 people are considered dead, according to news reports. However, the state of emergency does not have any direct impact on other areas of New Zealand, according to Tourism New Zealand. Considerable damage has been reported in Christchurch's central business district and in Lyttelton, a town just outside of Christchurch, according to the country's ministry of civil defense and emergency management. Not surprisingly, given the amount of destruction, Tourism New Zealand has advised against any non-essential travel to Christchurch over the next week, and has said that travelers with a trip planned to Christchurch in the coming days should check with their airline company and/or travel provider. As for the remainder of the country, all New Zealand airports, including Christchurch, are open and operating, and Tourism New Zealand stressed that the rest of the country is up and running. The organization did advise travelers to check with their airline regarding possible delays. Additionally, travelers with upcoming trips might have some protection if they purchased travel insurance. "In many of our programs if a travel delay exceeds 50% of the scheduled trip, it may allow policy holders to recover lost non-refundable and pre-paid trip expenses. Customers may also qualify for trip cancellation/interruption benefits if their travel supplier experienced a complete cessation of services for 24 or more consecutive hours due to a natural disaster, or their destination is uninhabitable because of a natural disaster," advised Daniel Durazo of Access America. He added that customers should call their travel insurance providers before canceling their trip to New Zealand to review their coverage. More from Budget Travel: Australia goes on sale, Oprah tries to help Riots in Egypt: How much can travel insurance help? 95% of Americans plan to travel more in 2011
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