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One Reason Other Countries Welcome Us: We Stink at Math

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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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New Titanic-Themed Floating Hotel in Liverpool Stirs up Controversy

Titanic Liverpool hotel

A new floating hotel in Liverpool, England, is already churning the waters of controversy even before it opens. The Titanic Liverpool boutique hotel, set to open this week, is designed to resemble the sinking stern section of the fated ship—complete with two mock smokestacks and a paint job that creates the illusion of a heavy slant.

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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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Now Boarding: Robot Bartenders Take Flight

While this robot is no Rosie, airlines are taking tips from the Jetsons with the SkyMax Skytender, an on-board robot bartender.

The Skytender trolley is similar to current airplane trolleys, but works as a mobile drink dispenser. The innovation can prepare up to 15 different drinks, from steaming mugs of coffee to iced tea, and even cocktails. Airlines can choose from over 100 different beverages and flavors, so plan to be surprised.

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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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Twitterature: Super-Short Travel Stories

Super-Short Travel Story: Dani Shapiro

Social media is a riot of snippets, photos, and links. But where are the real stories? We challenged five T+L wordsmiths to tell a pithy travel tale in just 140 characters. Read the results—and submit your own.

Henry Alford (@henryalford): Visited Campari factory outside Milan to determine once and for all whether the aperitif’s main ingredient is cinnamon gift soap. #TLStory

Peter Jon Lindberg (@peterjlindberg): Paddling Zambezi in 2-man canoe. Sunlight glints; hippos grunt. 18-ft croc slinks under boat. Paul (guide) not talking. Um…Paul? #TLStory

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Snake on a Plane! Reptile Causes Emergency Landing in Egypt

Snakes on a Plane

Here’s a shoo-in for the 2012 Darwin Awards, travel edition: On Monday, an EgyptAir flight, en route to Beirut, had to make an emergency landing at Egypt’s Hurghada airport. The reason: a Jordanian passenger had been bitten by a snake. It was his own snake, mind you, which he smuggled through security in a bag under his clothes. Reportedly, after the crew heard him screaming, the pilot was able to land, and the passenger was rushed away for medical treatment, while the authorities confiscated the snake. Some reports have indicated that the snake was a cobra, and stomped to death after the incident; while we can’t confirm either of those (or unfortunately, the status of the passenger) we can easily confirm that this was the most bone-headed idea we’ve heard in awhile.

Photo © AF archive / Alamy

Can Rwanda Be "Fun"?

Rwanda tourism

In a world where free wifi is increasingly seen as a basic right, the bar for enticing tourists gets higher and higher. "Rwanda Bores Tourists," a recent African newspaper headline declared, and the article detailed how plenty of people come to this nation, once ravaged by genocide, but they don't stay very long.

Granted, in 2011, tourism brought 900,000 visitors and $250 million to Rwanda, and 2012 will likely reflect a nearly 20 percent uptick in visits. Plus, web site GlobeSpots just ranked Rwanda as No. 6 in their Top 10 global destinations. After all, Rwanda offers cool gorillas that live in the Virunga mountains, world-class bird-watching, hiking trails, as well as a lot of coffee and tea—and, for better or worse, a heavy sense of history.

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