so you want to see The Lion King?
Everyone knows that if you're hoping to absorb some culture on a trip, you should buy your tickets ahead of time. Trouble is, language barriers, time differences, ticket availability, and exchange rates can make it mighty complicated.
The easiest way to reserve seats in advance is through a traditional broker such as Globaltickets (800/223-6108), which handles events in 55 cities in Europe and North America. "Buying theater tickets isn't like picking an airplane seat," says sales manager Scott Gainsburg. "It's not 'Window or aisle?'" However, Globaltickets handling charge can reach 20 percent, plus a booking fee of $8.
As with most things travel-related, there's the option of the Internet. Last year CitySearch (www.citysearch.com) joined forces with Ticketmaster to create a network of on-line guides, covering 16 American cities and six foreign ones. You can browse event descriptions and buy tickets for everything from the Melbourne Fashion Festival to an Alice Cooper concert in Los Angeles. Expect to pay a "convenience fee" of about $5 per ticket.
Also on-line, Buy Broadway (www.buybroadway.com) specializes in Broadway shows, while CultureFinder (www.culturefinder.com) posts reviews and listings for 2,000 U.S. performing-arts centers. Globaltickets has a Web site (www.globaltickets.com), but you can't buy tickets through it. "People still want to talk to a person who knows the country they're going to," explains Gainsburg. "Let's say you'd like to see a performance at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Over the Internet, you might buy orchestra tickets without knowing that, at the Globe, orchestra simply means standing room."
Once you're in town, you have the opportunity to eliminate the middleman—which involves more work. Some box offices release last-minute seats; others, discounted "rush tickets" in the morning. Same-day tickets are also available at kiosks in many cities—New York's TKTS sells tickets at 25 to 50 percent off, from booths in Times Square and the World Trade Center; the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) has a half-price booth in Leicester Square. But popular shows usually aren't represented.
If money is no object, of course, scalped tickets are almost always available. In New York, however, it's illegal to resell tickets for more than 10 percent beyond face value. So the scalping companies are based across the Hudson River, in New Jersey (to find one, look in the New York Yellow a ticket.—Andrew Cohen
new on the shelf
Even if you studied a foreign language in school, chances are you never learned phrases like "Straight up or on the rocks?" or "She's cheating on him." Single-named author Adrienne has stepped in to fill the gap: her Italiano Parlato, Français Parlé, and Gesprochenes Deutsch (W. W. Norton, $12 each) approach vocabulary-building in a zesty manner. The last chapter—"Words and Expressions 'Not to Say' "—will have you cursing like a local (sailor, that is).—Kimberly Robinson
• Don't you hate those airports—Atlanta's comes to mind—where you have to walk a mile (or worse, take a train) just to get outside for a breath of fresh air?
• When some beaches in Puerto Rico were recently fouled by the mysterious appearance of tar balls in the water, a manager at one San Juan hotel said, "Our guests don't know about [the problem], and we want to keep it that way." Who gave them the right to withhold that kind of information?
• Instead of cleaning the Métro more thoroughly, Paris transit officials have decided to scent it with 1 1/2 tons of perfume every month.