June 1998

Tibet...Vienna...Hotel Tipping...Romantic Waterfalls

I want to go to Tibet, but I need to know the ins and outs. Must I sign up for a tour?And what about altitude precautions?-- C.P., Tokyo
You can obtain a one-month visa for a trip to China through the Chinese embassy in your home country. Travel to Tibet requires additional approval from the Tourist Administration of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Again, the Chinese embassy can arrange this, but you will be told you must join a group. (Individuals are occasionally permitted to visit Tibet, but are not encouraged to do so as it could prove dangerous.) Fly to Lhasa via China proper -- if you enter through Katmandu, your visa will be canceled. Due to mountain sickness, visitors to Lhasa (at an altitude of 11,830 feet) typically feel nauseated for the first few days. That's another good reason to be part of a tour: if symptoms turn serious, your guide will help you get to a lower altitude.

Where can I find out about this summer's cultural events in Vienna, and how can I obtain tickets in advance?-- M.L., Ashland, Oreg.
The Austrian National Tourist Office (800/474-9696 or 212/944-6880; www.anto.com) and the Vienna Tourist Board (43-1/21114; info.wien.at) can tell you what's going on. If your travel agent is unable to book events, try Edwards & Edwards (800/223-6108). It brokers tickets (typically with a 10 percent surcharge) for major performance halls in Vienna, including the State Opera and Ballet, the Volksoper, and the Schönbrunn Palace Marionette Theater, and for special events such as the Universe of Opera (July 3-5). You may want to make time for "Elizabeth '98," an exhibition devoted to the 19th-century empress (through February 16, 1999); the art shows "Henry Moore" (through August 9) and "Caspar David Friedrich" (through July 26); and Roman Polanski's rock musical Dance of the Vampires (through July 12).

Whom do I tip at a hotel?The concierge?The valet parking attendant?The housekeeper?The doorman?-- J.W., Chicago, Ill.
Karon Cullen of the Ritz-Carlton chain says it's nice to tip a concierge between $20 and $50 for an act of heroism, such as finding tickets to a sold-out show. (Note: Foreign hotels may tack on a fee, but you should still give something, just less than you would stateside.) A dollar or two upon receipt of your car is standard for valets. Housekeepers can be left $2 per day at the end of your stay (The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette advises delivering tips personally, but Vanderbilt obviously had a lot of time on her hands). Bellmen should receive one dollar per bag, more if bags are cumbersome. Doormen, according to Cullen, provide the most mystery for guests. She suggests tipping $1 to $5 at check-in and again at checkout. Ultimately, of course, you should give a gratuity only when you feel the employee deserves it. You, after all, are the guest.

My fiancé and I want to be married by a waterfall (not Niagara). Do you have any suggestions?-- J.B., Roanoke, Va.
Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia (800/223-1108 or 758/459-7000, fax 758/459-7700; doubles from $276) has a wedding package ($550, or $650 to be married at the waterfall) that includes legal and registry fees, champagne, a wedding cake, a bouquet, and decorations. The waterfall (to get a better look at it, rent Superman II) is close to the hotel, and there's a new platform for special events. The 48-room resort has 12 honeymoon-perfect rooms on the beach and several locations suitable for a reception -- assuming there will be guests. Before marrying abroad, it's wise to hire a wedding planner: he or she can iron out the bureaucratic details and remember to ask the relevant questions: In your case, Will you get sprayed with mist?Will you be able to hear over the sound of the water?Can the waterfall area handle more than you, your groom, and the officiator?

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