Archive for the 'Travel Tips' Category

Family Safari – The Great Rift Valley

The noise was wild and untamed — the primeval voice of Africa herself. The full-chested roars of two male lions echoed across the plain, striking terror into their prey and pumping adrenaline into our veins. Nine-year old Annalyse slipped her tiny hand into mine and squeezed it. I squeezed back with a sweaty palm. Naturally our first reaction was fear. After all, my husband, two daughters and I were in a Land Rover with our torsos emerging from the open roof, nothing more than fifty yards and a jeep door between us and these fierce predators. We were close enough to see their individual whiskers and piercing amber eyes. The two males continued to greet each other with verbal ferocity as the morning air vibrated with their deep vocalizations. “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore,” whispered our sarcastic twelve-year-old J.C. “Keep quiet and don’t make any quick movements. They haven’t had breakfast yet,” Tanzanian guide Leonard said with the hint of a smile. Instructions understood; we remained still and silent, in heart-pounding proximity to the lions that strutted and stretched in the orange luminescence of the rising sun.

Soon our bellies growled and we headed back to camp for our own meals. Every day we kept a tally of the animals we saw; in addition to the lions, we watched twenty-one elephants ambling to the watering hole from all directions, leaping impala (we clapped for their high jumps), two loping hyenas, four comical wart hogs zigzagging through the grass with their tails pointing skyward, and dozens of zebra and Thomson’s gazelles – all before a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and cinnamon buns.

A jeep turned classroom:

At dawn and again late in the afternoon we joined our Tanzanian guide and driver in a land rover, and headed into the bush. Careening around termite mounds, up steep banks and down rutted slopes, we watched wildlife from a breathtakingly close vantage point. Sometimes we stayed with them even as they closed in on prey, other times we came upon them just after a kill.

The kids adored Leonard, the Pied Piper of African guides. They listened eagerly as he shared his extensive knowledge about the local mammals, birds and history of the Great Rift Valley; from Tarangire National Park to Olduvai Gorge, and the Serengeti to the Norgorogora Crater.

Prior to our African vacation we thought observing the big animals would be the zenith of our trip, however the camaraderie with our guides, and numerous contacts with the local people were equal highlights. One day we had lunch with our guide and his family in their home. Another day we visited a Masaai village where the homes were made of cow dung, the women wore massive bead necklaces, flies buzzed overhead and hovered around the children’s eyes. The village chief, wealthy enough to have two wives, took my husband aside for a private conversation, in which he offered him two goats for our oldest daughter.

An excerpt from the kids’ safari journals:

“Right before dinner we sneaked up to the roofless shower tent where Leonard was showering. We got a bucket of ice, filled it with cold water and I stood on a stool and dumped it over the top onto him. It was hilarious! He screeched and swore. It was awesome”, wrote JC.

“I drove for the first time today – across the Serengeti! Leonard took me out in the Land Rover and when I took the wheel we jerked and bumped through the grass. Mom and Dad applauded from the porch of their tent. It was so cool!”

On another page she describes our visit to a country school where the girls met the pen pals they corresponded with for several months.

“Children attend this school because their parents are wealthy enough to spare them from working at home. Most of them walk two miles or more each way. Hollow cement block rooms with wood benches passed as classrooms and the wild outdoors served as a bathroom. We all played soccer together. They played in their starched blue skirts and white blouses and barefooted. We wore our athletic shoes and they still pummeled us.”

Annalyse’s journal is adorned with drawings of animals, Maasai homes and smiley faces. “Today my favorite animals were the baby baboons and baby elephants. I was happy and excited (all day long!)”, she wrote.

Parent Concerns:

Our “trip of a lifetime” to Africa was a major investment in time, money and family memories, so I did extensive research to find a tour operator who specializes in family trips. We wanted Tanzanian-born guides who knew how to entertain, feed and teach young kids – and they were fabulous companions and teachers. A range of accommodations was also important. We enjoyed safari lodges, comfy rooms on a working coffee estate, and deluxe walk-in canvas tents. Camping in the bush was a highlight. Make sure not to miss it.

Preparing for your safari

Medical and safety issues were our major concerns before the trip. We were comforted by the detailed pre-departure package including; answers to our questions, check lists, recommended immunizations, packing and reading lists. We followed the advice of doctors at a travel clinic and took Larium, the strong Malaria medicine. Our nine-year-old had nightmares and walked in her sleep after taking the medicine.

We worried about our safety on safari. Would animals come into camp? All our worries were unfounded. Guards patrolled all night in every camp.

What’s the best age?

In my experience, the best age for a family safari is when your kids are 8-12 years-old. They are old enough to appreciate and remember what they’re seeing, to write about it, and learn, and yet they’re still young enough to enjoy your company, participate in all activities and be awed by the natural world. Our thirteen-day safari was the perfect length.

Don’t leave home without:

A good pair of good binoculars for each member of the family. No one should have to share their binoculars. Label each pair.

Croatia from the Deck of a Sailboat – Cruise the Adriatic Islands off Croatia

Crystal clear seas and more than 1,000 islands make Croatia one of the world’s best cruising destinations. The water is clean and unspoiled; nature reigns supreme. Last summer my husband and I chartered a 42-foot Jenneau sloop for a sailing holiday among these idyllic islands. Our two teenage daughters accompanied us – spending most of their time sunning on the deck, reading, listening to music or occasionally jumping off the stern into the deep blue water to swim.

Although Croatia has been a favorite getaway for “in the know” Brits and other Europeans, it is just hitting the radar for American travelers. When European tourists started going to the Croatia, (formerly Yugoslavia) in the 20th century, it wasn’t for the historic and cultural attractions of fortified towns, Roman ruins, or museums, they came to bask in the sun along hundreds of miles of jagged coastline, and bathe in the pristine Adriatic waters.

Why, you may wonder, would we travel so far to cruise when we live in San Francisco Bay Area, where it’s possible to sail every weekend of the year? Here are ten reasons why we chose Croatia and why we fell in love it:

1. Following the Wind. There was an exhilarating feeling of freedom to chart our own course and sail where we wanted, when we wanted, and to anchor wherever we wished. We moved to the rhythm of nature — at the mercy of the wind and waves, sailing every day. We discovered that one of the most restful ways to enjoy a vacation is to lounge on the deck of a sailboat; indulge in leisurely meals in the open air; watch the vastness of the sea; and rock to sleep to the gentle movement of the waves.

2. Cooking is Optional. So I opted out. I did not prepare one dinner aboard. Every night we anchored in a different bay or along the waterfront of a small village. We always had a selection of open air restaurants with fresh fish, caught by local fishermen hours earlier. Cold beer, local wine and delectable pastas topped off dinner.

3. Great Food in Every Village. Every morning I went ashore and joined a group of village ladies at the local bakery to buy fresh bread, warm rolls, croissants and pastries. In some villages we frequented French-inspired pastry shops and Italian ice cream stands. Small markets sold regional cheeses, wines, olive oils and hams as well as vegetables and fruit recently picked from local organic gardens.

4. Savor the Sunny Season. Thanks to Croatia’s balmy climate from April to November, mostly rain-free days, sea breezes, clear, clean warm water, and relaxed atmosphere, water buffs can soak up the sun and swim for hours.

5. Revel in the Rich History. Many of the coastal towns we visited were surrounded by thick stone walls, round watch towers, town gates too narrow for today’s vehicles, and cobblestone pedestrian streets through the historic town center. In medieval Trogir we wandered through the labyrinth of ancient streets and into piazzas filled with colorful umbrellas, outdoor cafes and gelato shops tempting us to try every flavor (Tiramisu was my favorite). Quaint shops offered soft leather products, the latest European fashions, and silver jewelry. During the peak summer season, July and August, the streets swam with visitors, but in June, when we went ashore mornings and evenings, it was quiet. The outdoor bazaar and farmers market, located across the bridge from the island, is where you’ll find inexpensive sandals, sundresses, t-shirts, and organic vegetables. The tiny strawberries were so fragrant we couldn’t resist. The colorful seaside promenade is lined with outdoor cafes and restaurants. Trogir, founded in the third century BC by Greek colonists, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place not to be missed.

6. Architectural Splendor. Dubrovnik, known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” is one of the world’s most spectacular and best preserved fortified cities. Massive thick walls and medieval fortress towers circle the historic center. We walked through the old town on shining smooth limestone pedestrian streets and lingered in open-air cafés (you won’t miss Starbucks, the espresso is delicious), and stopped to shop small boutiques. With teens in tow, we often stopped to shop.

One morning we hiked up steep steps to the top of the thick walls encircling the old town and were rewarded with panoramic views of the sea, over the terracotta roofed town houses, cloistered gardens and copper domes of Baroque churches. The damage from the 1991-1992 War for Independence has been painstakingly restored and Dubrovnik has regained its former magnificence. Cruise ships from Venice and the Greek Islands stop here and almost every tourist makes a stop in Dubrovnik so expect crowds, especially from July and August. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit in the spring or fall.

7. Search for Treasure. Located on Hvar Island, the historic town of Hvar was our favorite. It is nestled beneath three mountains and crowned by an old Venetian fortress, which is illuminated by yellow floodlights after dark. Hvar was first settled by the ancient Greeks and later inhabited the Venetians. In the 15th century the town was built by the Venetians as a port of call for their trade ships between Venice and the Black Sea. Today the charming harbor is filled with fishing boats, yachts and water taxis. The town of Hvar boasts elegant hotels, fashionable shops, lively nightlife and exquisite restaurants. Vineyards, lavender fields and small coastal villages dot the thin, long island.

8. Melt into the Mediterranean Pace of Life. Sailing along the Croatian Coast and among its multitude of islands is a slow-paced vacation. We sailed into deep blue bays, backed by fields of olive groves and vineyards and dropped anchor, took a swim and napped while the only sound we heard was the gentle lapping of the sea. Far from the crowds, noise, cars, roads, and traffic, we slowed down and found the peace and solitude that replenishes the body and soul.

9. Island Hopping Made Easy. Ferries depart cities and towns frequently, so day-trips are a breeze or select a few islands and settle in. There are regular ferries from Split to the island of Hvar’s main port of Hvar and the small towns of Stari and Grad. Or, if you’re a sailor, charter a yacht for a week or month and sail on your own wherever the wind blows you. Another option is to hire a captain and crew.

Visit Croatia while it’s still affordable and before Starbucks, McDonalds, Costco and other prominent U.S. vendors arrive.

From Sophisticated Cape Town to the Stunning Mountainous Wine Country

Sophisticated travelers often rank San Francisco, Cape Town and Sidney as the most beautiful cities in the world. From the hilly neighborhoods dotted with peach, yellow, and lime-colored wooden homes to the colorful waterfront, Cape Town can confidently accept this praise. An excellent climate, friendly folk, beaches stretching forever, swooping seagulls and sun-kissed surfers make Cape Town the country’s most vibrant city.

Table Mountain, towering 3,500-feet above the city of 3 million, is the symbol of Cape Town, like Statue of Liberty for New York City, Big Ben for London, and the Eiffel Tower for Paris.

South Africa’s legislative capital and oldest city boast top-rated hotels, internationally ranked restaurants, boutique shopping trendy wine bars and a night life that never stops. Jazz clubs swing with the multi-cultural sounds of Cape Jazz, distinctive for its Latin, Africa and Malay influences.

Top Sights Not to Miss:

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront: This entertainment district overflows with pubs, restaurants, clubs, art galleries, museums and night life. Dedicated shoppers will enjoy the shopping mall and crafts centers. The waterfront offers boating excursions, two movie theaters, an IMAX theater, and the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Robben Island:  South Africa’s Alcatraz is a former prison perched on limestone rock in Table Bay where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for almost twenty years. Robben Island, a World Heritage Site and National Park, is a “must see” to learn about apartheid. You’ll need to take a ferry from Victoria and Albert Waterfront. Tours are led by former prisoners who were part of the struggle against apartheid.

Table Mountain: As the sun sets over the continent of Africa, Table Mountain reflects a red glow. The top can be reached by a hiking trail or a revolving cable car. Miles of trails cover the plateau and offer incredible views of the suburbs, bays and the sparkling sea. Visit early in the day before the clouds move in or go at sunset to avoid the crowds.

Kirstenbosch Gardens: If you love flowers or gardening, don’t miss this World Heritage Site, showcasing an enormous variety of South African plants, trees, flowers, vegetable, and succulents. A free docent tour is offered at 10 a.m. daily. The docent guide will explain plants, species and medicinal uses for the plants as she leads you through the manicured gardens, sculpture garden, and fragrance garden.

Bascule Whiskey Bar – A Cape Town Hotspot! A five minute walk from the heart of Cape Town’s shops, markets, art galleries and museums, this trendy whisky bar and wine cellar is the place to rub elbows with relaxed young professionals after work. On nice days dozens of good-looking men and attractive women sip wine, beer and whiskey under the umbrellas on the outside patio overlooking mega yachts. The nautically decorated Bascule Bar is located in the Cape Grace Hotel. Over 400 malt whiskies from every producing region including Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada, India, and Japan are served from the long, oak bar. The walls display rare whiskies, including a 50-year-old bottle from Glenfiddich, a 35-year-old bottle of Springbank, and more. The wine collection features world-renown Cape wines and the people watching can’t be beat. Whether under the sun with moored yachts or enveloped in dark wood and warm maritime comfort, Bascule is the “in” meeting place to unwind.

An Appetite for Cape Town: 

Cape Town is the place for a cross cultural food experience. The country’s rainbow culture has produced a natural fusion cuisine with enough variety and spice to satisfy any visitor. Black Africans had (and have) a healthy diet of game, fish, root vegetables, wild greens, berried, millet, sorghum and maiz. Sugar farmers brought indentured laborers from India to cut the cane, and with them they brought the distinctive cuisine of India. The British and German immigrants added European embellishments to South African fare. Workers from Malaysia brought their own dishes – all using a generous sprinkle of spices. Malay slaves brought their spicy and flavorful cuisine. French Huguenots arrived after the Dutch and introduced the vineyards that began South Africa’s love affair with fine wine. Ask where you can have a typical Cape Malay or Zulu meal.

One Market: Judging from the crowd of regulars who cram One Market, an elegant waterfront restaurant, this is the place to go for creative cuisine and intimate dining infused with distinctly South African flavors. Don’t miss the wild Caesar salad with three cured carpaccios of warthog, ostrich and springbok, served with toasted garlic and roasted pistachio chips. The fresh culinary ideas are balanced with flavor and the passion of Chef Bruce Robertson and his team. After your meal compliment your palate with lingering vintages and indulge in the dessert chocolate and wine pairing. Rock Salt Dark Chocolate is paired with Cabernet Sauvignon. The Masala Dark Chocolate compliments the spiciness of Shiraz wine. But best of all is the Rose Geranium Milk Chocolate that mimics the sweet raison and vanilla flavor of Muscat. Winemaker Kevin Arnold and the Chocolatier Richard Von Gensau created this experience. Epicurean dining at an elegant restaurant is part of the Cape Town’s attraction.

The Accommodations Are Also Extraordinary!

Cape Grace was voted “Best Hotel in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler in 2000 and the awards have kept on coming. Located on the picturesque Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, this Leading Hotel of the World has long been the choice for honeymooners and sophisticated travelers seeking comfort and luxury. In addition to the expected luxuries, the Cape Grace has a fabulous spa that combines understated elegance with treatments that hark back to ancient Africa – when massage and aromatic spices were used to cure a thousand ills. The Spa, as well as rooms at the Cape Grace enjoy views of Table Mountain to the south or Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and the Indian Ocean to the north.

Wine Country with Local Belvedere Ancestory:

Eric and Lente Schwartz, of Belvedere have deep roots in the Constantia Valley, the Cape’s oldest wine farming area. Lente’s family (the Louw’s) owned the Steenberg estate for three generations. Steenberg, the oldest wine estate, and a five star hotel, still produces award-winning wines. It’s a short 20 minute drive from Cape Town surrounded by pristine vineyards and nestled at the foot of the imposing Steenberg Mountains. The buildings which date back to 1682, have been lovingly restored to their former glory and each has been declared a National Historical monument. And an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Peter Matkowitz follows the natural contours of the original farm.

The property’s first owner, Catharina Ustings, arrived in the Cape in 1662 from Germany, purchasing the estate in 1682. She was first woman and this was the first farm to be given title in South Africa. Catharina was one of the most daring and controversial figures to ever settle in the Cape. One of her five husbands was killed by a lion and legend has it that Catharina hunted the lion on horseback and shot it.

The property is situated in the Constantia Valley, the Cape’s oldest wine farming area, particularly famous for its white wines, due to the cool breezes from False Bay. The flagship Sauvignon Blanc Reserve has won a number of awards worldwide, and Steenberg’s red ‘Catharina’ blend is highly recommended for its elegant French feel. Take time for a guided tour and wine tasting, and treat yourself to a Ginkgo “Elixer” Massage at the spa. The Catarina restaurant won awards for its contemporary South African Cuisine, including the American Express Platinum Award for Fine Dining.

Dozens of old wineries are located an hour east of Cape Town in the historic wine region grouped in a triangle around Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paal. You can do wine tours by bicycle, (there are wide shoulders on the roads for bikers’ safety) or on horseback or spend a day with the wine farmer, the wine maker, and the chef to enjoy a tasting paired with local organic food in the owner’s manor house.

For the discerning guest who wants to visit a winery privately, stop at Vielliera, a family-owned little gem that no large groups or tourist buses visit. Try the Monro, a four star flagship wine with a well-structured palate, unobtrusive with a plumy and chocolate taste. Monro wines are a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hoopenburg is a vineyard famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, selected by South African Airlines for serving to all classes of travelers.

Le Bonheur, is located off a quiet back road, at the end of a gravel driveway. The estate, built by a French Architect, is surrounded by a white picket fence and weeping willow trees. You’ll be welcomed by the sweet heady fragrance of French Jasmine as you relax at tasting tables on oriental carpets set among French armoires. Like most of the vineyards, they don’t know what to do if a vehicle arrives with more than four guests.

For More Information, please consult the South African Tourist Office 212-730-2929.

Ten Tips for Women’s Travel Health

(photo credit: onlymyhealth.com)

Women, if you’re like me, when planning to travel, you’ve got your agenda planned, your wardrobe to match the adventure you are about to embark upon and a child-like smile plastered to your face thinking about the sites you are about to see. Health issues while traveling could put a serious damper on your anticipated plans.  We asked Founder of Women’s Travel Club, Phyllis Stroller, to share a few health tips for women travelers:

1.     Menstruating Overseas:    Tampons are not sold in many countries. Pads, which come in a long roll and are cut by a pharmacist, are NOT sanitary. Bring your own supplies.
2.     Yeast infections and UTI’s:   Women get urinary infections due to skimping on drinking water.  Yeast infections also occur after one has taken or is taking an antibiotic. Carry Monistat, Canestan cream, or a single dose tablet, Diflucan. Eat yogurt if available.
3.     Safe sex, even with your husband:    Carry birth control pills, do not pack them. Lock medicines in the hotel safe.  If you use a diaphram, do not wash it in iffy water. Bring trustworthy condoms; local products may be harmful.
4.     Medical records:   Always visit a travel doctor before taking a trip, especially to an exotic locale.  List all vaccinations + medicines  (the latter in the generic).  Bring your eyeglass prescription.
5.     Dress modestly:   Notice and adhere to local customs.  Scarves, that cover shoulders and heads, are invaluable and light. Pack socks for walking shoe-less in temples and mosques.
6.     Protect your skin:  Carry a foldable hat. Sun-proof clothes with RIT Sunguard Laundry Treatment. In insect  areas, slather on high SPF lotion, spray yourself and clothes with DEET.  Remember the higher the DEET, the longer the protection-make sure to read the labels!
7.     Proof of parentage:   If you plan to cross borders with children, be prepared with proof of parentage or guardianship. Single parents need a letter from the absent parent with permission for children to leave the country. If separated or divorced, have copies of legal documents regarding custody rights for minors traveling with you. These are important if children need medical treatment abroad.
8.     Wedding rings and jewelry:   Ward off unwanted male attention by wearing a wedding band.  Make sure it is not tight; many women find feet and hands swell on long flights.
9.     The bathroom:    We’ve all hovered over filthy toilets. Welcome PMate, a nifty light invention (fits into an envelope), made of a sturdy disposable coated cardboard- very discreet.
10.  Clean water and avoiding buying water:   Consider purchasing a simple water filtration system. SteriPEN  has many options at www.steripen.com.

Useful Health Tips for Women Travelers provided by Phyllis Stroller. For more women travel tips please visit: www.womentravelclub.com  

France. Follow the Impressionists in Normandy. 1.

Rouen. The Street of the Large Clock leading to the Gothic Cathedral Monet painted from 20 views

Who’s a Francophile? Someone who appreciates French history, culture, fashion, art and cuisine, and that describes me.  Ever since I lived in Paris for four years when I was in my 20’s, I jump at every opportunity to return.

Last month  I jumped at a chance to return to Normandy to follow in the footsteps of the Impressionist Painters. I criss-crossed the countryside from Giverny to the cobble-stoned streets of Rouen, across a patchwork quilt of emerald jewel fields and lush valleys dotted with lambs and cows,  to storybook seaside resorts with chocolate shops, toy stores, fresh fish and flower markets, pastries and sidewalk cafes.

TIP: Pack your umbrella, sunhat, sunscreen and a windbreaker.

Regardless of the season, I knew that we could count on the whimsical weather of fleeting clouds, peek-a-boo sun, and moody mist as our companion.

Rouen

The art history journey began in Rouen, the capital of upper Normandy; one hour and ten minutes by train from Paris.  Filling street after colorfully-restored street are two-stored half-timbered homes. Antique shops, cafes and restaurants fill the first floors and red geranium-choked flowerboxes decorate the upper floor windows.

I meandered down narrow cobbled-stoned streets admiring some of the 800 restored homes dating from the 14th to the 18th century.

The pedestrian street of the Great Clock (rue de Gos Horloge) is the busy shopping area, home to tempting pastry shops and fancy stores. We meandered through this historic part of town, built in the 16th century, then relaxed in a pew at the 13th-century Gothic cathedral (painted by Monet) and watched twinkling red and blue light filter through the stain glass windows. On a more somber note, no visitor to Rouen misses the historic square where Jeanne d’Arc was burned at the stake.

Claude Monet said “Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”

When Monet painted the façade of Rouen cathedral, he worked on up to 14 different canvasses at one time, capturing the ever-changing light and color.

He painted at various times of day and the year and in different weather conditions as he tracked the passage of time, color and light on the cathedral façade. Monet painted – from a window in the second story of a women’s underwear shop – today it houses the office of tourism where we stood to take in his view.

In  July and August “Impressionists Nights,”  a light show, is projected on the cathedral façade and the Beaux-Arts Museum portraying the life and work of Monet, Pissaro and Gauguin in Rouen.

Red Carpet rolled out for guests at Rouen's 5-star hotel in a 16th century Renaissance Manor

You can go for a day or rent a car and visit all the Normandy sites in four days or more.

The tourism websites are: www.normandie-tourism.fr , www.seine-maritime-tourism.fr,

Where to stay.  Rouen:  A 5-star hotel in a 16th century Renaissance Manor. www.hotelsparouen.com

Outstanding Restaurants  Rouen: www.lacouronne.com.fr/ and www.le-sixiemesens.fr

Air France has daily flights from major US cities.

How to avoid airplane germs

I admit that I”m a germ freak. I wear an air purifier around my neck for ion technology clean air, and use a

Germs on an airplane

tissue to touch anything in the bathroom.

What else can you do?

  • Don’t put your head down on the food tray to sleep, or put your bread or snack directly on the tray.
  • Use hand sanitizers often and wipe down the remote in your hotel room.
  • Buy a portable air purifier. This is the model I have used for years  Ultra-Mini.

s

“Four out of six tray tables tested positive for the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and norovirus, the highly contagious group of viruses that can cause a miserable one- or two-day bout of vomiting, diarrhea and cramping, was found on one tray. Most of the bathrooms he swabbed had E. coli bacteria. Thirty percent of sinks, flush handles and faucet handles had E. coli, as did 20 percent of toilet seats, according to his research.”

In case you missed this article in the New York Times Travel Section, March  2011.
http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/travel/06prac-germs.html

What apps are best for overseas travel?

With the help of modern technology – i.e. smartphones – traveling to a new country or city has never been easier. Here is a great list of travel apps to check out.

1.  Viber
There’s a wide range of apps out there that offer travelers and expats an opportunity to keep in touch with their friends and families back home. One such example is Viber, an application that allows iPhone users to make free phone calls to fellow iPhone users no matter where in the world they are. Providing you and the call recipient both have iPhones, then international calls using Viber or Wi-Fi are completely free of charge.

2.  iMetro
iMetro is a handy app that provides metro/underground transport maps for 28 cities throughout the world. Each map is scalable and you can manipulate the screen to zoom in and find your way.

3.  HiConverter
Can’t quite get used to the measurement systems in place abroad? HiConverter is a very handy app that quickly converts measurements from one system to another. Temperature, shoe sizes, distance, currency; you name it, it can convert it. The app also has the added advantage of being integrated with Tiptulator, an app that allows you to calculate the tip on a restaurant or bar bill.

4.  iLingual
ILingual is a fun app that steals your lips and transforms them into multilingual speakers. You simply take a photograph of your lips (or someone elses’ for a more comedic effect), choose the phrase you would like to say in the foreign language and then hold your iPhone over your face where you lips are to create the effect that you are speaking the words. At the very least it will get a few laughs! The app is currently only available in French, German and Arabic.

5. XE Currency
XE Currency is a very popular app because it allows for very quick currency conversions and is capable of performing multiple conversions at the same time. The currency rates can refresh every 60 seconds meaning that you have the most up to date rate available at your fingertips. You can also program the app so that it automatically tracks the performance of a number of different currencies over time, great for expats who are investments in a variety of locations.

6. Word Lens
Word Lens is one of the newest apps on the scene and it has caused quite a stir. The app offers a new approach to translation that is based on images and goes significantly further than many other translation apps have been able to go. At present it only offers Spanish to English translations but more languages are planned in the future.

7. Weatherbug
Weatherbug is a great app to save, and track, the weather conditions in up to 20 locations throughout the world and offers live webcam views of the weather in action.

8. Tourcaster Walking Tours
For travelers or newly arrived expats who are interested in exploring on foot without being armed with an attention-grabbing tourist book, the Tourcaster audio walking tours app offers walking tours in popular destinations throughout the world. Load your virtual map and follow the onscreen instructions to explore the city and learn more of its history. Each tour is categorized according to difficulty, length and distance so you can fit your tours in around your schedule and explore at your own pace.

Thanks for the information, George Eves, serial expat and founder of Expat Info Desk, a comprehensive online information resource for expats worldwide.


About Marybeth Bond

Marybeth Bond is the nation’s preeminent expert on women travel. She is the award-winning
author-editor of 11 books.

Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries around the world.

She was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Marybeth has appeared on CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.