Interactive Traveler: Website Wonders
Published: June 2009
By Mario R. Mercado, Erik Torkells, Hannah Wallace, Wendy Frick, Dara Herman
VIRTUAL SOUK Haggling is a cinch at www.elsouk.com, a joint venture of the World Bank Institute and local organizations in three developing countries. High-quality wares from Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia—terra-cotta dishes, rugs, wrought-iron chairs—are displayed with descriptions in English or French. Prices vary: while an embroidered wedding suit (with headdress) from the Tunisian village of Sejenane sells for $534, a dainty satin purse is just $8. To bargain, register for "the club" and submit your preferred price. Merchandise takes three to five weeks to arrive.
YOUR LOCAL PAPER Using digital technology, a company called PressPoint (212/295-5000; www.presspoint.com) publishes Global Editions, condensed versions of 30 daily newspapers (New York's Daily News, the Miami Herald). For $3.50, the same day's edition will be delivered to more than 60 U.S. and British hotels as early as 6:30 a.m.
MEXICO SAFETY More than 19 million people visit Mexico each year, but a rash of violent crime has dealt a blow to its image. In May, Mexico's Ministry of Tourism introduced an English-language Web site (www.safemexico.com) to address concerns about safety. It has comprehensive, up-to-date information, including assessments of popular destinations. There's also a new 24-hour hot line for emergency assistance: 800/482-9832 (in the United States) and 800/903-9200 (within Mexico).
—Mario R. Mercado
BIGYAN MO AKO NG MARTINI At first we scoffed at the 51 Languages of the World CD-ROM set, with LEARN TO LISTEN & SPEAK—GUARANTEED emblazoned beside a list of languages that included Basque, Haitian Creole, and Zulu. But learn we did (and now we know how to order a martini in Tagalog). You can record your stabs at pronunciation and compare them with a native speaker's, then measure your progress through on-screen charts (as well as by the sarcastic remarks of anyone within earshot). The set doesn't promise fluency, but offers instead "core survival phrases": about 5,000 words each for the "major" languages such as French and Chinese, 1,500 for the less common ones. Transparent Language, PC or Mac, $69.95; 800/332-8851; www.transparent.com.
—Dara Y. Herman
BEST RESTAURANTS Cheers to Zagat for posting reviews for popular destinations—including New York, L.A., London—on www.zagat.com. There's no charge for now, and word is there may never be one. Let's hope so.