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Guide to Tipping in Top Destinations for US Travelers

As part of your preparations for traveling internationally, it is always best to learn about the specific tipping customs in your destination countries.

Different cultures have different norms. In the U.S., tipping big for exceptional service is a compliment and it is much appreciated by person receiving the tip. But in some countries, over tipping for a service can be a personal insult.

A study done at Cornell University shows that U.S. citizens are the best tippers and that they tip for more types of service than citizens in other nations. But what you’ve learned here in the U.S. will not necessarily serve you on your international travels. So do your homework before you travel and learn the local tipping customs. Here are a few guidelines for some top international destinations for U.S. travelers:

RESTAURANT TIPPING:

  • Canada – If the tip is not already included, 15 to 20% is standard.
  • Caribbean – If the tip is not already included, 15 to 20% is standard.
  • Costa Rica – The tip is included in your bill.
  • Mexico – Tip 10 to 15%, preferably in cash

GUIDES / DRIVERS / TAXIS:

  • Canada – Tip tour guide and driver collectively 15% of the price you paid for your tour or excursion. For cabbies, tip 10 to 15%.
  • Caribbean – Tip a few dollars for a bus tour. For private day tours, tip $25 for the guide and $10 for the driver. Tip cabbies about 20%.
  • Costa Rica – Tour guides should get $5 to $10 per person for the day. Drivers get tipped anywhere from $1 to $4 depending on the length of the drive. Tip a few dollars for cabbies.
  • Mexico – For day tours, if your driver is also your tour guide, tip 200 to 300 pesos. If you have both a driver and a guide, tip each 100 to 200 pesos.

HOTELS:

  • Canada – Porters get $1 to $2 per bag. Tip housekeeping $2 a day ($5 per day for luxury hotel). Tip concierge $10 to $20 per special favor.
  • Caribbean – Tip porters $2 to $3 per bag, housekeeping about $2 to $3 a day. Tip concierge accordingly for special favors – the bigger the favor the bigger the tip (up to $25 for special requests).
  • Costa Rica – Tip your porter 25¢ to 50¢ per bag ($1 per bag at luxury hotel). Tip housekeeping $1 per day.
  • Mexico – Tip porters 10 to 20 pesos per bag, housekeeping 20 to 50 pesos per day, and 50 to 150 pesos for the concierge.

You’ll find lots of information and international tipping guides online, so do your research before you travel. Always use local currency for tipping, not U.S. dollars, and always be discrete when you tip.

Happy travels!

 

2013 Record International Travel Predicted

International travel will hit record highs this year, at least that’s the prediction from Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for leading U.S. airlines.

In its annual forecast, A4A predicts that this year U.S. airlines will carry close to 209 million global passengers during the height of summer travel (June through August, 2013). Included in that estimate are 27 million international travelers.

If this forecast runs true, summer air travel this year will reach its highest peak in five years. When will airports and airlines be most crowded? The busiest travel days are expected to be Thursdays and Fridays between mid-Jun and the first week of August.

Top 25 International Travel Destinations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: http://travel.usnews.com/Rankings/Worlds_Best_Vacations/

With the busiest international travel season ahead, passport processing times can be higher than normal.  If you are planning international travel and still need to apply for a new U.S. passport, name change, or add pages to an existing passport, get started now.

If your passport will be expiring within 6-7 months of your planned travel date, get it renewed.  Be aware that some countries require for your passport to be valid for 6 months beyond your arrival date – or from your departure date – depending on the rules in each country.  For example, Brazil and China base their six-month rule on the arrival date.

If you’re short on time (or patience), consider getting an expedited passport.

Where Do You Need a Passport?

Most people are aware that you need a passport to go to Europe, Africa and Asia. But what if you’re staying closer to home?

A decade ago, getting into Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean was as easy as saying “I’m an American citizen,” but not anymore.  After 9-11, The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was enacted making it much harder to get in and out of the US without a passport.

Don’t get caught off-guard if you’re heading to one of these destinations:

 

Canada

Visiting Canada? Check your passport, eh? You definitely need one if you’re flying in or out of the country, unless you have a NEXUS trusted traveler card and you are flying to a Canadian preclearance airport with a NEXUS kiosk.

If you’re traveling by land or sea, you need one of the following to re-enter the US: a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (currently only 4 states offer these), or a NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI trusted traveler card.

Mexico

If you’re flying to or from Mexico, you need a valid passport.

If you’re traveling by land or sea, Mexico requires all US citizens to have a passport if they’re traveling beyond the “border zone,” about 12 miles in. However, the US government requirements for re-entering the US are the same as for Canada above, regardless of whether you stay within the “border zone” or not.

Aruba

To visit Aruba, you need a passport if you’re flying and a passport or a passport card if you’re traveling by sea.

St. Martin

To hang out in this island paradise, you need a passport and a ticket back out of the country.

Bermuda

Bermuda requires all US citizens to present a passport to get into the country.

The Bahamas

If you’re traveling by air, you need a passport book.

If you’re traveling by sea, you can use a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license, NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI card.

The British Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands are part of the United States, but should you want to visit their British siblings, you’ll need a valid passport book if you’re traveling by air.

If you’re traveling by sea, you’ll need a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license or a NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI card.

The Cayman Islands

As of January 23, 2007, you must have a valid passport book to enter the Caymans.

Trinidad and Tobago

Unlike many Caribbean countries, a US passport book is the only accepted form of ID to enter this island nation, no matter how you’re traveling. (more…)

Get a Passport to Be Inspired by Iceland This Winter

Winter is traditionally low season in Iceland, but the “Inspired by Iceland”  campaign aims to fix that. To entice more tourists to visit Iceland during the cold winter months, the campaign encourages Icelanders to open up their homes to tourists eager to have locals show them around the country.  It has received support from no less a public figure than Iceland’s prime minister,  Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who posted a video on the Inspired by Iceland website encouraging others to take part. In the video, Prime Minister Grimsson says,

“Now at the beginning of winter, we traditionally see fewer tourists in Iceland. This is a development we want to change…Me and my wife Dorrit will also take part here at our residence at Bessastadir, invite a good group to come here for traditional Icelandic pancakes. Dorrit also wants to treat them to vegetables we grow in greenhouses…Then we will take a scenic walk around here and see the birdlife and the majestic views.”

Pancakes and a nature walk…that’s my idea of a good time. You’re on!

Visiting the Inspired by Iceland website, it appears that a fair number of Icelanders have decided to follow the Prime Minister’s example. Musicians Mugison and Sigga would love to entertain you with traditional Icelandic music, while Ragnar would be delighted to take you on a traditional Icelandic ice cream car ride. Very hardy souls can arrange to go sea swimming with Benedikt, who promises that afterwards “you will feel like a new person.” Meanwhile, another gentleman named Ragnar will teach you how to take breathtaking photographs of the Northern Lights.

Sounds tempting, no? If you want to head to Iceland this winter, you’ll need to get a passport. Apply as soon as possible, since regular processing can take up to six weeks. The State Department’s expedited processing option will get your passport to you in about three weeks, though you’ll pay an additional $60 for the privilege.

Should you find a last-minute deal that’s good to pass up, don’t despair. There are a couple of ways you can get your passport more quickly. One is to make an appointment at a regional passport agency office. These offices can issue emergency passports within 24 hours, though there are only 24 of them to serve the entire country.  An easier option is to use a private passport expediter like RushMyPassport. We deliver your application to the Department of State for processing in as little as 24 hours, with no need to make an appointment, wait in line or travel any further afield than your local post office.

Need to get your passport quickly? Let us help!

Get an Expedited Passport to Visit Paris In September

Fall is already one of the best times of year to visit Paris. The air cool and the summer crowds have begun to die down. Even better, a series of outdoor festivals and events take place in the city and surrounding countryside starting in September. Here’s a rundown on why this month is worth making the trip:

The Techno Parade

On September 17th, thousands of electronic music lovers will gather in Paris for a 3-mile-long parade through the city. Originally organized as an act of defiance against authorities that tried to quash the burgeoning rave scene of the 90′s, the Techno Parade is now recognized by the government. This year, the focus is on introducing Parisians to this unique subculture and its signature dances. Tommy Vaudecrane, the co-president of parade organizer Technopol, told the New York Times that “Many people in France do not dance and know very little about the dance culture associated with electronic music, such as house, vogueing, rave and the Melbourne shuffle. We have an official dance that was choreographed by professional dancers, which will be performed all day during the parade by dance schools.” Peace, love, unity and respect!

Fête de la Gastronomie

The Fête de la Gastronomie is a celebration of traditional French food. This is the festival’s first year, though organizers hope to make it an annual affair. On the 23rd of September, the entire country will join in paying tribute to France’s unique culinary heritage by feasting on it. Participating restaurants can be found all over Paris, of course, as well as the surrounding countryside. For more information, see the website (though it helps if you know some French).

The Autumn Festival

The Autumn Festival is an arts and music festival that runs from September the 15th to New Year’s Eve. Whether you like modern art, music, dance or cinema, you’re sure to find something exciting at the Autumn Festival. The program is available online. (more…)

A Passport Into Your Favorite Fiction

Many great novels and short stories involve travel. It’s easy to see why; when you leave behind everything that’s familiar and step out into the unknown, all the key ingredients of an exciting plot are waiting for you. To quote JRR Tolkien, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Do you have a favorite travel story? Why not actually walk in your favorite characters’ footsteps? For example, here are four great stories that you could plan a trip based on:

The Odyssey

Okay, so you probably won’t want to be on the road for as long as Odysseus was, but there’s no reason you can’t plan a trip to Greece that includes some of the more prominent stops on along his path. In fact, New York Times travel writer Matt Gross recently went on just such a quest. Instead of Scylla and Charybdis, he faced down Greece’s somewhat capricious ferry system to visit several different islands on his way to Ithaca. Here’s how he described the experience: “There was a regularity to the joy of discovering these new places, each so similar, none identical.”

Eat, Pray, Love

“Eat, Pray, Love”-based itineraries are becoming a bit of a cliché. However, with a list of countries that includes Italy, India and Indonesia, it’s hard to go wrong with Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir as a guide.

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe Island is the island where Alexander Selkirk, the real-life Robinson Crusoe, was marooned for four years, inspiring the classic story by Daniel Defoe. Although it’s no longer deserted, the island, located off the coast of Chile, is an intriguing vacation destination: beautiful, remote and generally overlooked by tourists.

Around the World in 80 Days

One of the classics of the travel fiction genre, the protagonists of “Around the World in 80 Days” start in London and travel through Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Japan and the US before ending up back where they started. Methods of travel include steamship, train, elephant and even a sleigh. This being the 21st century, however, you can simply take a plane.

No matter where your favorite book takes you, if you’re leaving the country you will need a passport. Since it can take six weeks or longer to process your passport application, you should apply as soon as possible. You can expedite your passport application for an additional fee of $60, but be aware that it will still take three weeks for your passport to arrive.

For speedier service, you have two choices: making an appointment at one of the country’s 24 regional passport agency offices, or use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport. We hand-deliver your application to the Department of State, for processing in as little as 24 hours with no need to make an appointment or wait in line at a passport agency office.

Contact us today to get your passport quickly and easily!

 

Get a Passport Quick to See Christopher Robin’s Bookstore

In Dartmouth, England, the Harbor Bookshop has long been an important destination for fans of Winnie the Pooh. The bookstore was once owned by the real-life Christopher Robin. Now, unfortunately, it is set to close in September, a victim of rising rental rates and a change in how people buy books these days.

Rowland Abram, who currently owns the shop with his wife, explained his reasons for closing to the BBC:

“There are various reasons. The book trade has undergone extraordinary changes in 15 years. Rent and rates have also gone up enormously, and we just can’t afford to pay them. We’ve had such fabulous staff who have helped us all these years and wonderful customers in Dartmouth but there’s nothing else we can do.”

Despite the shop’s popularity as a tourist destination, the real Christopher Robin Milne was embarrassed by all of the attention. Andrea Saunders, one of his former employees, told the BBC:

“Americans used to come – obviously they’d heard the Winnie the Pooh stories – and they were very keen to meet Christopher Robin. They used to come in and say: ‘Is Christopher Robin here today?’ and Christopher would scuttle away and say ‘I’m not in, I’m not in.’ He would hide away upstairs and we’d have to say we were sorry but he wasn’t working.”

If you want to see the bookshop, along with other Winnie the Pooh-related stops like Ashdown Forest (100 Acre Wood) near Hartfield, you’ll need to get a passport, quick. The shop is set to close its doors forever next month, though efforts are currently underway to try to save it.

Getting a passport generally takes about 6 weeks for normal processing and 3 weeks for expedited processing. To get a passport more quickly, you can either make an appointment at one of the nation’s 24 regional passport agencies or use a private expediting company like RushMyPassport. We help you get your passport, quick, by personally delivering your application to the Department of State, for processing in as little as 24 hours.

Need a passport, quick? Let us help!

Get a Fast Passport to Attend the Salzburg Festival

Here’s a gentle reminder for all classical music and drama buffs: the annual Salzburg Festival is coming up next week!

The Salzburg Festival is held every summer in Salzburg, Germany, the birthplace of Mozart. The festival has been held annually since 1920, with a break during World War II due to the Nazi occupation. It was founded by poet and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, composer Richard Strauss, scenic designer Alfred Roller, conductor Franz Schalk and director Max Reinhardt.

It’s still one of the top classical music festivals in the world. The highlight is the annual performance of Hofmannsthal’s Everyman, but there is also lots of Mozart (naturally) as well as work by other composers and playwrights. This year’s festival is even set to include a couple of modern-day takes on classic plays by Shakespeare and Goethe. You can find the complete program online here.

The Salzburg Festival runs from the 27th of July to the 30th of August, so if you want to attend, you’ll need to order fast passport processing. Regular passport processing takes about 6 weeks from the time you send your application in to the time you get your passport back. You can order fast passport processing from the Department of State for an additional $60, but you’ll still have to wait about three weeks if you go that route.

To get your passport in less than three weeks, you can either make an appointment at one of twenty-four regional passport agency offices, which will mean taking additional time off work and possibly traveling, or you can use a private expediter like RushMyPassport to hand-deliver your passport application to the Department of State. With RushMyPassport, you can get your application processed in as little as 24 hours, with no need to make an appointment or wait in line at a passport agency. It’s a beautiful thing!

Need fast passport processing? We’d love to help…Contact us today!

The Best “Secret” Places To Take Your US Passport

You’ve been to Mexico. You’ve been to Canada. You have pictures of yourself standing in London with Big Ben in the background and holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. What now?

If you want to add some unique stamps to your US passport, consider these 5 undiscovered destinations. While not technically secret, these countries are off the radar for most US travelers but definitely worth visiting.

The Maldives: This remote chain of islands in the Indian Ocean is home to some of the most pristine beaches you’ll ever see. The weather is warm and the water is the clearest cerulean blue. The Maldives is not easy to get to, and you’ll most likely have to fly through London or Dubai. It’s also not cheap, as this Gadling post illustrates: a “shoestring” budget over there is about $280 per couple per day, and prices can be much higher. What price paradise?

Albania: Albania, on the other hand, is a budget traveler’s paradise. Delicious Greek-style cuisine, gorgeous scenery and Mediterranean beaches make this country a winner. Why is it still relatively undiscovered? Until recently, Albania suffered under a repressive Communist dictatorship. The country is still poor and has not joined the European Union yet, but conditions are much improved from the “bad old days” and according to the Department of State, the country is mostly safe as long as you avoid demonstrations.

Macedonia: Like Albania, with which it shares a border, Macedonia’s liberation from an oppressive regime is relatively recent. Macedonia is somewhat wilder, with incredible hiking, superb skiing and lots of ancient ruins to explore. The best way to enter the country is through Albania or Kosovo.

Tasmania: Technically, Tasmania isn’t its own country- it’s part of Australia. However, it’s isolation from the mainland means that even native Australians have just recently begun to discover its charms: gorgeous beaches, great food and wine and stretches of wilderness that hold wildlife that lives nowhere else on the planet.

Of course, visiting any of these countries requires a US passport. Make sure you apply ahead of time if you don’t already have one- it can take up to six weeks from the time you submit your application for your US passport to be issued. Even if you pay the extra $60 for expedited processing, it can still take at least three weeks.

To get your passport faster, you can either make an appointment at one of the State Department’s 24 regional passport agency offices or choose a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport for faster, more convenient service with no appointments needed.

Get your US passport today!

 

 

Want to Visit Cuba Legally? Get Your Passport Application Now!

If you’ve always wanted to visit Cuba without breaking the law, you’d better get your passport application in now. Under President Obama, the US Treasury Department has begun to issue “people-to-people” licenses to travel companies, allowing them to take ordinary Americans on guided tours of the island.

According to the New York Times, the government has been taking its sweet time when it comes to issuing the licenses, but nevertheless, eight tour operators have already been given the go-ahead.

Tom Popper, the director of Insight Cuba, one of the travel companies to receive a coveted permit, explained to the New York Times how easy the new permits make it for Americans to visit Cuba: ““All a U.S. citizen has to do is sign up for an authorized program and they can go to Cuba. It’s as simple as that.”

Well, maybe not quite “as simple as that.” At the moment, demand for the tours are quickly outpacing the supply, especially considering how slowly the government is granting licenses to the operators who run them. As Mr. Popper explained to the Times, ““It’s the forbidden fruit. It’s 50 years of pent-up demand for a country that 75 percent of Americans really, really want to travel to.”

Plus, the availability of the people-to-people permits is subject to the prevailing political winds. Between 2000 and 2003, they were available under President Bill Clinton. However, after George W. Bush was elected, the government stopped issuing them completely. (more…)