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How to Ride a Vespa Like an Italian

how to ride a Vespa

So you think you can just scooter around Rome like a carefree Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck? Think again. Mastering the iconic bike—not to mention the traffic—requires serious know-how. Claudio Sarra of Bici & Baci, which provides Vespas to the St. Regis hotel ($$$$), gives us tips on safe navigation.

1. Driving in Rome can be dangerous. Put on a helmet, fasten the chin strap, and slide the visor down to protect against oncoming insetti.

2. Lift the Vespa off the kickstand before starting the engine and giving it gas, or risk losing control and launching it unpiloted into the street (a common mistake).

3. Avoid aree pedonali (pedestrianized zones) and bus lanes, which are marked with yellow paint. Everywhere else is fair game. Well, not sidewalks.

4. Romans hardly follow routine traffic laws, let alone use hand signals; be hyper-attentive for other scooters veering in and out of gridlock, and bypass the busiest intersections.

5. With such narrow frames, parking is a breeze—and free (even in metered spots). Be sure to take your belongings with you, and don’t forget to lock up.

Travel Tip Video: Rome Made Easy

Related Links:
T+L's Definitive Guide to Rome
Europe's Best Places to Eat Like a Local
How to Learn a Language

Illustration by Michael Hoeweler

How to Drink Maté

How to Drink Maté

The tealike beverage is a favorite Argentinean tradition (even Pope Francis loves it), but it comes with a set of unwritten rules. Juan Carlos Cremona, owner of La Martina de Areco (54-23/2645-5011), a café in San Antonio de Areco, outside Buenos Aires, explains the ritual.

1. In groups, a cebador (leader) is chosen to serve everyone. He or she heats water to just below the boiling point, then pours it into a flask.

2. The gourd—a dried squash or a wood-lined metal goblet—holds the ground yerba maté leaves. Purists use a sieve to remove twigs.

3. The cebador moistens the grounds to release the flavor, inserts a bombilla (straw), adds more water, and passes the gourd to the first drinker.

4. On your turn, sip with gusto. Some add sugar or honey, but real gauchos take it amargo—bitter. When done, say “gracias” and pass it along.

5. Hungry? Locals often enjoy their maté with galletas dulces (sweet pastries).

Related Links:
How to Order Wine with Dinner
17 Airline Snacks We Want to Eat Right Now
Trip Doctor: How to Bring Back Food Souvenirs

Food as a Jet Lag Cure

food as a jet lag cure

Q: Are there any foods that will help me fight jet lag? —George Frank, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Even more than foreign-transaction fees and data-roaming charges, jet lag is the bane of international travelers. Resetting your internal clock to a new time zone can be a days-long process. Fortunately, there are ways to ease yourself onto a new schedule—and what you eat and drink can play a key role.

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How Long is Too Long to Linger at a Table?

lingering in a restaurant

Most good restaurants in the United States expect to turn over a table two to three times each night—that means they anticipate a party of two will stay for about an hour and 45 minutes (four-tops are usually allotted two hours). So once you’ve paid your bill, try not to spend the next hour nursing your final sip of wine. Internationally, diners enjoy a more leisurely pace. In Italy, for instance, experts say it’s virtually impossible to overstay your welcome. In countries from Australia and China to Argentina, meals typically run a full two to three hours. If you don’t know the protocol, look to the waitstaff for cues. They’ll let you know when your time’s up.

Related Links:
Travel Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts
Worldwide Guide to Restaurant Tipping
Craziest Travel Confessions

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by iStockphoto

Can I Pack Duty-Free Alcohol in my Carry-On?

duty-free alcohol

As a general rule, yes, as long as you keep your items in the sealed plastic bag from Duty Free. Some countries (South Africa and Argentina included) will confiscate liquids over 3.4 ounces in secondary, at-gate security checks; duty-free items, however, should be exempt. Until recently, if you had a connecting flight in the European Union or the U.S., you would have to either stow your purchases in your checked bag as you switched planes or toss them. But the introduction of new liquid scanners in the EU and the relaxing of such rules in the States (thank you, TSA) mean that you can now carry these items on board.

Related Links:
Travel Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts
Trip Doctor: How to Bring Back Food Souvenirs
Craziest Travel Confessions

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by iStockphoto

Airport Food Gets an Upgrade

Airport Food

Gone are the days of rushing through security and jumping straight onto your flight—you can thank the TSA for that. “Travelers are spending more time in airports than ever,” says Frank Sickelsmith, vice president of restaurant development for HMS Host, one of two major firms that turn airports into epicurean hangouts. The upside? “Now they can have a full sit-down meal instead of grabbing and going.” And that’s where innovators like Sickelsmith come in.

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World's Best Airlines for Food

airline food chefs

The winners, according to our annual reader poll.

Domestic

Virgin America 82.08
JetBlue Airways 74.18
Hawaiian Airlines 71.59

The demise of free meal service in economy class has meant the rise of better buy-on-board options. To wit: Virgin America earns raves for its on-demand dining via seatback touch screen and snacks from home-grown artisanal brands, such as San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe ice cream. JetBlue is a favorite for its Terra chips and boxed meals (try the roast beef sandwich); starting in June, Mint seat fliers can sample a small-plates menu by New York’s Saxon & Parole. Hawaiian Airlines bucked the cost-cutting trend: it’s the only U.S. airline to still serve complimentary meals on domestic flights in coach. The onboard snack bar keeps it local, selling everything from Spam musubi to macadamia nuts.

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How to Find the Best Fares on European Flights

Canary Islands

Booking a great fare to Europe has become increasingly difficult. Here’s how to bring down the cost of your next transatlantic flight.

First there is the question of timing. According to Kayak, the most-affordable airfares to Europe last year were booked eight to 10 weeks before departure—so you should start researching tickets at least three months out. You’ll find even better prices if your travel dates are flexible. As a general rule, European fares rise for travel beginning in the second week of May and don’t fall again until September. Expedia reports that the least expensive months to fly to Europe are February, March, and November. If you can, look for tickets that depart for Europe on either a Tuesday or Wednesday and return on a Tuesday; they tend to be lower, according to Kayak’s research. (See “Fare Finders,” below, for our favorite sites for finding European airfares.)

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Guide to Train Travel in Europe

Europe rail

The fast track on Europe’s new train routes and what to know before you go.

The Fast Track

On Europe’s newest routes, speeds are higher and higher (and prices lower).

Paris to Barcelona: The final SNCF segment between Barcelona and the French border opened in December, cutting the 12-hour travel time between the French and Catalan capitals in half.

Marseilles to Paris: Ouigo, the Continent’s first budget high-speed service, costs a quarter of the average fare. The catch? Less-convenient stations, no catering, and online-only booking.

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Europe Car Rental 101

Europe car rental

What to know before you hit the road in Europe.

Choose an agency. Large companies, such as Hertz and Enterprise or Europe-based Sixt, are best equipped to handle special requests (automatic transmission; GPS devices; children’s car seats). Local agencies often have lower prices but may not offer 24-hour service if something goes wrong.

Book in advance. When reserving online, check hours of operation for rental locations. Airports are usually open every day, but city-center sites may have limited hours, often closing for a few hours at midday and all day Sunday.

Read More

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