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Trip Doctor: Dubai, Beaches, and Bikinis: What's Allowed?

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With all the news recently about bans on skimpy swimwear at UAE beaches, T+L wanted to clear the air and figure out what travelers need to know when heading to the Emirates.

First off, the bathing suit laws aren’t laws. After initial reports that bikinis and bikini briefs were banned, UAE newspapers reported that police backtracked, and later clarified that the regulations were only guidelines. After receiving multiple complaints from local families, authorities posted signs stating, "All coastgoers should commit to public morality and modest clothing." Police "strongly discourage" individuals from wearing revealing swimwear, and to respect "cultural sensitivities."

Secondly, these official recommendations apply only to the country’s northernmost emirate, Ras al-Khaimah. The emirate attracts few tourists compared to flashier Dubai, which sees nearly 10 million visitors annually, although it is home to 2011 It List property Banyan Tree Al Wadi.

So does that mean it’s acceptable to wear a thong on the beaches of Dubai?

I checked with the emirate’s Legal Affairs Department to get the final say. Here’s what beachgoers in Dubai will want to know:

° All beaches, even those next to hotels, are public, so local families and international vacationers have access to the same sandy stretches in Dubai.
° Several beaches offer women-only days one day a week. On these days, males—excluding toddlers—are prohibited.
° There is no Dubai law prohibiting a particular bathing suit, but swimwear should not be worn off the beach. Nudity is strictly prohibited.

Still, when considering which suit to wear on their UAE holiday, bikini-toters should consider that the local population, along with the majority of international visitors, in Dubai are Muslim, and therefore unlikely to appreciate skimpy swimwear.

If looking for a destination where scanty suits are a-okay, try Egypt, whose tourism minister stated on Monday that "bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served."

Related: See the Future in Dubai.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: © Jon Hicks/Corbis

Trip Doctor: Packing Tips—Paris and Barcelona

jacket

Q: I will be traveling to Paris and Barcelona for 12 days. How many pairs of jeans do I need? Jacket or sweater? —Marianne Van Auken, Chandler, Ariz.

A: Pack two pairs of denim in different washes and one pair of black leggings (or slim black pants). Since it’s a warm-weather season, opt for a knit blazer over a coat. We love the candy red version from Strenesse Blue (pictured; $625)—the fabric is comfortable, and the shape will keep you looking sharp. Shabby-chic outfits just don’t work in Europe, so try to be as dressy as you can (adding ballet flats and some well-placed statement jewelry goes a long way).

Mimi Lombardo Mimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure's style director. Packing is rarely easy-we're here to help. Send your question to tripdoctor@aexp.com.

Photo by John Lawton

Trip Doctor: Biking in the Big Apple With NYC's New Bike Share Program

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New York City is launching its bike share program sometime this month (no details on a date yet), bringing 6,000 two-wheelers to the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Citi Bike, so-named due to a hefty sponsorship from CitiBank, is the country’s largest bicycle-sharing program. While there is a great FAQ on the project’s website, T+L had a few follow-up questions that we’ve answered here:

Where can you pick Citi Bikes up?

The website’s station map is impressive to say the least. There seem to be Citi Bike stations at almost every block! Until you zoom out, that is. The 330 stations stretch from the Battery up to Central Park South in Manhattan, and from the Brooklyn Bridge down to Atlantic Ave and east to Norstrand Ave in Brooklyn. Riders will never be more than a few blocks from a bikeshare station thanks to the highly concentrated layout, but residents of Uptown Manhattan, the vast majority of Brooklyn, and all of Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx are left bikeless.

What are the helmet laws?

Citi Bike “strongly encourages” all users to don helmets, and it offers annual members a $10 coupon to buy them in any New York City bike store. But there is no legal obligation to wear helmets. New York State laws require cyclists under the age of 14 to wear helmets, but Citi Bike members must be at least 16. Last year, NYC rejected a proposed mandatory helmet law last year. Still, helmets may decrease the risk of head injury to cyclists by as much as 85%, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

How safe is it to bike in New York City?

2011 saw 22 biking fatalities and 369 severe injuries. While up slightly from 2009, those numbers still reflect a downward trend in bike risk, according to city data. The NYC Cycling Risk Indicator, which reflects biking safety while taking into account increased cyclists, has fallen by 73% since 2000. Research from UC Berkeley cited in the Wall Street Journal shows that with ever-more bike lanes, and now thousands of more bikers, New York City’s bike accidents will decrease as drivers adjust their behavior and become more aware of bike riders on the roads.

Users have 45 minutes to ride Citi Bike before needing to check back in to a station. How far does that take you?

Theoretically, a rider can travel from Columbus Circle to the Whitehall South Ferry Terminal building in under 35 minutes, meaning that all of Citi Bike’s Manhattan stations are accessible within the 45-minute limit. From Columbus Circle to the stations in Brooklyn Heights takes just under 40 minutes, while the longest possible ride, from West 59th Street at 11th Avenue to Norstrand Avenue in Brooklyn Columbus Circle could run as little as 55 minutes.

Will it work?

Only time will tell, but all signs point to Yes. Similar programs in Boston, Washington DC, Paris, and Hangzhou, China, have all proven very successful and popular. Here's hoping Citi Bike follows in their footsteps—er—bike paths!

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: Lars Klove /New York City Bike Share

Trip Doctor Series: Trekking, Walking and Hiking

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I don’t know about you, but this fantastic spring weather makes me want to dust off my hiking boots and go explore one of the world’s most beautiful rural landscapes on foot. Thankfully, all I need to do for inspiration is to flip through the May issue’s Trekking, Walking and Hiking package. Every week this month, I’ll highlight a trip from our story that I hope might inspire you to take an adventure of your own.
 
Hike: Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks
Where: idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

Off the Beaten Path creates bespoke trips that combine the ragged peaks and pristine lakes of Glacier National Park with the abundant wildlife of Yellowstone. This spring the outfitter is partnering with Airstream 2 Go to provide top-of-the-line trailers as part of custom itineraries in the Rocky Mountains. Nine days from $2,900. 

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo courtesy of NPS / Jim Peaco

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending May 3, 2013

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The Skies Belong to Us author Brendan I. Koerner points to this lovely Flickr photo album of Czech matchbox labels. Check out this great one from Czechoslovak Airlines. (Matt Haber)

The New York Times sent humorist Henry Alford to exotic Williamsburg, Brooklyn to see if he could blend in and go native. The result? How I Became a Hipster. (M.H.)

Meanwhile, across the pond, Christian Lorentzen, an American writer in London is having some trouble adjusting, as he relates in this wonderfully cranky London Review of Books essay Buck up, old boy, at least there aren't hipster there! (M.H.)

Airbnb fans take note: a new verification program requires your official photo ID, according to All Things D's Liz Gannes. (Jennifer Flowers)

Walk/Score blog's new tool allows you to find hotels within walking distance your ultimate destination and has published their Top 10 U.S. Cities to Travel Car-Free. (Ann Shields)

TimeOut London employs some cool graphics to overlay historic photos with new ones by Rob Greig to create Soho: Then and Now (A.S) 

Gizmodo's Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan shares German photographer Michael Wolf's images of aging high rises in Hong Kong. Very surreal. (Peter Schlesinger)

Swissinfo's Susan Vogel-Misicka has a fascinating update on the $2 billion Andermatt Swiss Alps construction project, including the Chedi Andermatt hotel at the (formerly?) quiet Swiss village. (P.S.)

Alaska's cruise season has started, and this year there are stricter fuel standards. The Anchorage Daily News's Becky Bohrer takes an in depth look at the new law and what it means for the environment and for the cruise industry. (P.S.)

Google Now is finally available for iPhone users, and The Associated Press' Anick Jesdanun does a remarkably thorough job of putting it to the traveler's ultimate road test. (Nikki Ekstein)

CNN rounds up a list of the 10 ways our travel experience can be improved, and we agree with all 10 of them. (N.E.)

In-flight yoga? New York Times travel writer Stephanie Rosenbloom shows you how to strike a pose with just 17 inches of airplane space. (Maria Pedone)

Photo credit: iStock photo

 

Trip Doctor: Packing Light for Buenos Aires

Packing for Buenos Aires: dress

Q: We’re off to Buenos Aires, and I want to pack light. Can you recommend some dual-purpose clothing? —Patricia Broder, Santa Monica, Calif.

A: If you’re headed to the tango-shoe capital of the world, you’d better pack light—you’ll need lots of room in your bag for new acquisitions, especially footwear. We’re excited about Derek Lam’s affordable DesigNation line for Kohl’s—it looks good but isn’t too precious to throw in a suitcase. Our pick for your trip? The wood-grain-print cotton shirtdress ($70), to be worn alone or over leggings. We also adore this space-saving Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent dress ($298)—it can be worn with the V-neck in front, in the back for a boatneck look, as pictured, or over your swimsuit as a cover-up.

Mimi Lombardo Mimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure's style director. Packing is rarely easy-we're here to help. Send your question to tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @TLTripDoctor on Twitter.

Photo by John Lawton

Tech Thursday: Dell’s New, Travel-Friendly Convertible Ultrabook

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Love the portability of a MacBook Air and the versatility of the Surface? Somewhere right in between is Dell’s XPS 12 (from $1199), which hit shelves last October with a slick, rotating touchscreen that flips around from laptop to tablet. You won’t get bogged down with this one in your carry on—it weighs in at under 3.5 lbs (less than a pound heavier than its Apple competitor) and its 12-inch monitor feels substantial enough for productivity, with the advantages of a full chicklet keyboard and Windows 8 Pro (which we prefer by leaps and bounds to the less-intuitive, tablet-specific Windows 8 RT). Unlike other ultrabooks, the XPS12 comes with 256 GB of storage in a Solid State hard drive—doubling most of its close competitors—but all this means you’ll want to use it as a laptop first, and tablet second.

Nikki Ekstein is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Dell

E-Hail Apps Back in New York City

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While car-sharing services are getting shot down on the West Coast, things are finally looking up for “e-hailing” taxis in New York City. Last week, a State Supreme Court case prohibiting their use was dismissed, and as of today, two e-hail apps are back in action in the Big Apple.

Uber made its debut in the New York marketplace last September, but was quickly snuffed out of business over legality concerns; now, it’s back in action as of Tuesday night. Users can book black cars from their mobile phones, but mobile payments are currently not available as they were previously.

Hailo, the only other app approved thus far, launches today with less name recognition but extra perks, from mobile payment to $10 credits for early adopters. Rather than livery-style cars, Hailo works exclusively with yellow taxis in New York.

Expect a glut of new NYC-based e-hail apps to hit the market in the next months, as developers wrap their heads around the new legislation. Part of the deal: participants must be able to integrate with the existing meter system for NYC cabs, and go through an approval process by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Still, the value of these apps is greatest in cities like San Francisco, where hailing a cab isn’t as easy as stepping onto any street corner and sticking out your arm. The laws keeping e-hail apps out of business in California—and other parts of the country—are antiquated at best; we can only hope New York’s example sets a precedent for the cities that need these services most.

See: How to Hail a Cab in NYC.

Nikki Ekstein is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo by Maria Pedone


 

Trip Doctor: Compare Smartphones—Which Platform is Best for You?

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Android, Windows, and even BlackBerry are stepping up their game against Apple, benefiting travelers. T+L’s tech expert finds which platform is best for you.

For the Organization Wiz

Windows 8: Seamless integration with any Windows device is the greatest selling point for this platform. We also love its resizable “live” tiles, which let you put what’s important to you—flight alerts, for example—front and center; innovative tap-to-pay technology; and travel-friendly features, from built-in Skype to top-of-the-line photo capabilities.

The Phone to Get: The sexy and slim Nokia Lumia 920 ($99) has some of the best picture modes we’ve ever tried.

Read More

Hotel Chatter's Wifi Report and T+L's Top Picks

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This morning, Hotel Chatter published its 2013 Hotel Wifi Report, showcasing the best and worst internet service in the industry. The exhaustive study finds that 64% of hotels worldwide offer free wifi, a service Hotel Chatter insists is “as essential as a working shower or air conditioning.”

Paradoxically, as many T+L readers have discovered, the hotels most likely to charge extra for internet service are high-end properties that demand hefty nightly rates to begin with. In fact, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 84% of luxury hotels charge for in-room internet service, while just 8% of economy hotels do.


Travel + Leisure has been keeping tabs on which hotel brands provide free wifi to guests, and acknowledges these few major brands that buck the trend:


Third Place: A tie between Fairmont, Kimpton, and Omni hotels
Each of these brands gives free wifi in common areas and in guestrooms if you join their (also free) loyalty programs.



Second Place: Andaz

All Andaz properties provide free in-room and lobby internet access to all guests.


First Place: Peninsula and Shangri-La Hotels

Both of these hotel companies give free wifi not just in the hotel rooms and common areas, but also in their automobile fleet!


Be sure to check out Hotel Chatter's in depth report here.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by John Huba

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