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Tour Operator Goes Over the @#$% Line?

hipster backpacking

No doubt, the typical hipster might not be fired up to go on a backpacking tour after looking at a brochure with pictures of people who look like his Uncle Larry and Aunt Karen.
 
Geckos Adventures totally gets that, bro. The tour operator just released a new brochure that, to plenty of travelers, might seem refreshing: According to a post on Travel Mole, it uses photos taken by actual customers—like their target audience of ages 18 to 35—and speaks in a language that, Geckos assume, their clientele understands.
 
Actually, pretty much anyone can understand it. One part of the brochure reads, “may your heart be light, your step swift and your stories @#$%ing epic,” except, well, they didn’t use the funny symbols found on more family friendly travel sites.
 
While some industry folks are already raising eyebrows, the company defends its strategy: "We are not trying to be controversial for controversy's sake,” says the tour company’s managing director. “Our new branding has been carefully thought through to speak to our travelers openly and cutting out all the usual marketing fluff."
 
Fair enough, but the danger here—beyond offending a few Uncle Larrys and Aunt Karens out there—is that those coveted 18-to-35-years-old might just see it as a bit of calculated marketing... Hey, “just sayin.’”  (That is what the @#$%in' cool kids say, right?)
 
What do you think: Is this campaign smart, or will it f-bomb?

Photo by iStockphoto

Take That, Cabbie: Seoul Offers Rewards for Ripped-Off Riders

taxi

Usually, your only chance at "revenge" against a shady cab driver is just denying him a tip—or, perhaps less satisfying, yelling a few choice words over your shoulder as the cab peels away.

Not anymore. The city of Seoul is now offering cash money—to the tune of about $450—to anyone who blows the whistle on cabbies who are bilking foreign tourists.

Government officials say that despite past efforts to rein them in, corrupt cabs are "still rampant" in the city; the most common offenses by drivers include tacking on extra charges, or getting creative with the cab fare calculator.

To report a bad apple, just call the city's English-speaking tourism hotline (02-1330), and they'll investigate. To avoid the worst situations, however, you can look for the city-run cabs marked as International Taxis, and whose drivers speak both English and Japanese. Meanwhile, in a contentious situation, we imagine that cheerfully asking the cabbie for his ID number might not butter him up—but it could pay off.

Photo © Park Jin Hee/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Empty Russian Cruise Ship (Sorta) Lost at Sea

Lyubov Orlova

Is it a bit like The Shining at sea?

The Russian cruise ship Lyubov Orlova is currently adrift in the North Atlantic—with no passengers, or even a crew, aboard. The 237-passenger ship—named after a Russian movie star from the 1930s and '40s—had languished in the harbor for two years at St. John's, NL, after a cancelled cruise and a lawsuit led to its falling into disrepair, and gradually becoming a Love Boat for rats. Perhaps as a result, the ship's new owners had decided to sell the ship for scrap in the Dominican Republic, but the trip to the D.R. was doomed by a series of tow boat snafus—the last being on Jan. 24 when the tow line broke in rough seas.

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Jailbird! Parrot Robs Tourist in New Zealand

Parrot Robs Tourist in New Zealand

Most travelers know to avoid gypsy airport cabs, or to be mindful of pickpockets in crowds—but most of us don’t think to be leery of local thieving birds.

But that’s pretty much what befell Peter Leach, a Scottish traveler in New Zealand who pulled over in his rented camper to soak up the views at Arthur’s Pass—and, to take a picture of a colorful kea parrot posing near his vehicle. Reportedly, while Leach was distracted, said parrot swooped into the camper’s open window and took Leach’s wallet—holding about $1,100.

Adding insult to injury, Leach filed a police report—so that he could recoup some losses through his travel insurance—and met with some resistance. “The officer was very serious for the first few questions,” Leach told reporters. “Then he said, ‘Do you mind if I just stop to laugh?’ I suppose I can’t blame him.”

Apparently, many locals are already aware that the large, olive-green kea parrots are known for being pretty sharp—and perhaps even being malicious, with a reputation for upending trash bins and vandalizing cars. (Perhaps pecking “Go Home Campers” on vehicle hoods?)

Photo by iStockphoto

Georgia Lures Tourists with Zombies

Zombies

Southern belles and the Duke boys? So 20th century. Georgia is hoping to lure visitors with a different kind of Deep South character: zombies.

In its new guidebook, the state tourism board is touting the town of Senoia, a miniature, sweet-tea-soaked Hollywood: it has been the filming site for Fried Green Tomatoes, Driving Miss Daisy, Sweet Home Alabama and, as we write, the AMC television series The Walking Dead. The town, about a half hour from Atlanta, has apparently played the part of Woodbury, which in the series is home to survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

While the studios in Senoia are not open to the public, we can’t deny that you might see some plain-clothes zombies tooling around the town of 3,300, which also boasts some charming-looking B&Bs and The Buggy Shop Museum. Given the show’s popularity, could zombie-phile shops and cafés be on the horizon for downtown Senoia? Would Miss Daisy approve?

Photo: © Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Corbis

One Reason Other Countries Welcome Us: We Stink at Math

change

We didn't need for scientists to tell us that a lot of us suffer from illusions when it comes to our money, but it turns out there's data to support it—and the problem gets worse when we travel overseas.

A recent study published in the Journal of Retailing—titled "Europoly Money: How Do Tourists Convert Foreign Currencies to Make Spending Decisions?"—showed that we do plenty of fuzzy math when we figure out exchange rates abroad. One culprit for the so-called "money illusion:" we tend to round down when doing calculations in our head. When in India, for instance, where $1 equals 54 rupees these days, a tourist will typically just use 50 for easier math, and as a result estimate that items will cost less than they really do. Meanwhile, blithely thinking that one euro is about the same as a dollar—they're always kinda close, right?—can make what seems to be a $400 bill top $500.

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A Grouchy Cabbie is One Thing; Pestilence is Another

cab

You know you have a problem with your city taxis when NYC's cab system is lifted up as a role model.

Indeed, New York cabbies offer charming, sanitary and justice-based services, at least perhaps compared to the taxi drivers in San Francisco. According to a Bay Area publication, San Francisco's complaint line got 1,733 calls last year related to the city's cab drivers; it was a 13 percent uptick from the previous year, and almost double the 900-complaint goal put forward by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

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For Butter or Worse: Trans Fats Totally Banned in MA Town

food

So—you've resolved to eat healthier in 2013? We salute you. But if you're worried that the only way to stick to your new strict diet is stop traveling—too many temptations out there!— here's some good news: Your diet is safe in Chelsea, Mass.

That's because, as of New Year's Day, the Boston suburb instituted a tough ban on trans fats in restaurants. That means a serious dearth of French fries, gravy, pies, cookies or anything really good to spread on your morning toast. It's reportedly a tougher ban than either Boston or NYC's similar laws, which allow trace amounts of trans fats—and it makes the Big Apple's impending ban on jumbo sodas seem downright restrained.

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Croc Makes Nice with Swedish Tourists (Or, Just Misses)

crocodile

It would seem to be a classic man-bites-dog story of the travel world: Crocodile jumps innocent Swedish tourist who’s taking a dip in a lagoon, but no one is hurt.

Watch the video, taken at Australia’s Litchfield National Park. (Unlike a certain viral eagle video,  this one would seem to be quite real.)  While the reports indicated that the croc was merely relaxing on a  rock and perhaps wanted to refresh himself in the cool water, he does seem to make a rather intentional beeline toward the swimmers, and reportedly slapped said Swede in the face. Was he perhaps annoyed that, yet again, tourists were filming him while sunbathing?

“The pair were so unfazed they carried on swimming in the lagoon,” one report says of the laughing tourists. (If this were a movie, we all know what would have happened next: Momma Crocodile would have come looking for junior, and then ordered Swedish meatballs for dinner.) Either way, it’s a nice reminder to keep a safe distance from the local wildlife.

Photo by Tom Brakefield / Corbis

Making Doomsday Plans? Think Turkey, France

Sirince, Turkey

Looking for a relaxing place to spend the holidays?

Two spots in Europe may offer some respite from this year's holiday stress—if, that is, your major concern this season is the possibility of the ancient Mayanprophesied Doomsday on Dec. 21, 2012.

Indeed, while the rest of us are out vainly shopping for Furbies and iPads, other travelers are making long-term plans. UK travel search site Skyscanner recently announced that searches for one-way tickets to Turkey, for travel on the days leading up to Dec. 21, have spiked by nearly a third, while similar searches to the South of France have gone up by 41 percent.

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