Category Archives: Tips

The Safest and Least Safe Airports for WiFi

November 1, 2018

A new study by cloud security company Coronet and virtual private network (VPN) provider NordVPN shows that San Diego International Airport is the most unsecure airport in the U.S. when it comes to cybersecurity, while Chicago-Midway is the one where travelers can feel the safest.

According to the survey, Wi-Fi security at U.S. airports is often sacrificed for consumer convenience, leaving networks unencrypted, unsecured or improperly configured.

Coronet’s Airport Threat Score ranking collected data from more than 250,000 users, both private and business travelers, who traveled through the 45 busiest U.S. airports over the course of five months.

As stated in the report, “even for those airports that do prioritize security, attack techniques such as the Key Reinstallation Attack (KRACK), which can break the WPA2 protocol to capture or expose information shared over public and private Wi-Fi, presents significant risk to passengers in transit.”

According to Coronet, the most secure airports in the U.S. are:

1. Chicago-Midway International Airport
2. Raleigh Durham International Airport
3. Nashville International Airport
4. Washington Dulles International Airport
5. San Antonio International Airport
6. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
7. Kansas City International Airport
8. Lambert St. Louis International Airport
9. Miami International Airport
10. Tampa International Airport

The least secure airports, according to the study, are:

1. San Diego International Airport
2. John Wayne Airport-Orange County Airport
3. William P. Houston Hobby Airport
4. Southwest Florida International Airport
5. Newark Liberty International Airport
6. Dallas Love Field
7. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
8. Charlotte Douglas International Airport
9. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
10. Boston Logan International Airport

What can travelers do to stay safe?

Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN, shares some tips on what travelers should and shouldn’t do on an airport Wi-Fi.

Don’t connect to any Wi-Fi. This is the most important one – if you see two similar Wi-Fi names at the airport, remember that one of them may be fake. The same rule applies to the networks with strange or unusual names. If in doubt, better double-check with the airport staff before joining any network.

Disable automatic connections, GPS, Bluetooth and file sharing. This will prevent your computer or smartphone from automatically joining airport networks, unwillingly sharing your location or opening your device to other threats. If you are sharing your mobile data from your smartphone to computer, be sure to protect the connection with a password. Also, it’s always best to turn off file sharing on your computer while you’re on a public network. Do that to stay safe.

Don’t log into sensitive accounts or shop online. If you’re on a public Wi-Fi of an airport, the safest advice is to simply avoid going into your bank and other sensitive accounts, like work email. These hold the most appeal to hackers. Also, avoid shopping or booking hotels while on an airport network.

Get a reliable VPN, firewall and other security solutions. A VPN will encrypt your browsing activities and prevent various fraudsters from using your sensitive data for their own benefit. Also, check if your firewall is turned on.

Source: NordVPN

Instagram Tutorial

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Just saw this great tutorial on my travel writing, SATW collegue’s website, Carole Terwilliger Meyers…Berkeley and Beyond.

Travel Trends for 2018

Global travel started with a bang last year according to Lonely Planet as international tourist arrivals from January to April rose 6% worldwide compared to the same period in 2016. Middle East visits, in particular, rose by as much as 10%. No official figures have yet been released for the entire year, but the World Tourism Organization has been buoyant towards the increase in global travel.

So, will this surge in global travel continue in 2018? It’s hard to tell this early, though, as all three possibilities are in play: a continued surge, a status quo, and a drop off. But these six travel trends for 2018 may very well shape how global travel will look this year.

The Middle East Boom

The Al Dier in Petra, Jordan(1)
The Al Dier in Petra, Jordan

The Middle East is one of the fastest-growing travel regions in the world, and that surge will continue this year. Travel companies have taken notice, and are now offering more Middle East tours. Meanwhile, seven new hotels from Hilton Worldwide are set to be opened this year in Egypt, while renowned and controversial street artist Banksy has opened a hotel in Bethlehem.

New Europe Destinations
Volkovysk Chalk Quarries in Belarus
Volkovysk Chalk Quarries in Belarus

Europe has long been a hotspot for travelers, and it will continue to be this year, but with a slight twist. Instead of all-time favorite destinations such as France, Croatia and Italy, the continent’s lesser known jewels will be explored by more travelers. Among the countries that are predicted to be widely visited in the next 12 months are Belarus (now offering five-day visa-free travel), Moldova (now more accessible thanks to new routes launched by Air Moldova), Cyprus, and Poland.

AirBnB Will Remain Popular

AirBnB has become ultra popular these past few years, especially for vacationers looking for a more affordable alternative to hotel accommodation. Expect things to stay rosy for AirBnB this 2018 as Lola CEO Paul English is predicting continued growth for the company, more so now that business travelers are beginning to take full advantage of this service.

The Rise of the Travel Concierge

Paul English is also predicting a rise in personalized service via what he calls “travel concierge,” which is now being offered by various service and hospitality companies. A travel concierge is simply someone who assists travelers 24/7 (often via calls, chat, and other communication channels and not necessarily in person) with all their needs, including making flight reservations, booking hotel accommodations, and creating an itinerary. A travel concierge is particularly useful when something goes wrong, like when a flight gets cancelled, for instance, or when a traveler needs to check in earlier than expected.

That Vegas Paradigm Shift

Lots of people are still trooping to Vegas, but not necessarily to enjoy Sin City’s casinos anymore, as there has arguably been a shift in playing behavior among casino players worldwide. This shift is unsurprisingly coinciding with the rise of digital gaming, notably online casinos, which are now offering casino players the opportunity to play a game of blackjack, slots, and poker, without stepping foot in a physical casino. Expect this shift to be a pervading trend in 2018 and beyond, especially with advancements being made in online gaming. One such innovation is the use of live action technology as shown through the Live Casino games on digital provider Slingo. Through this innovation, online players can enjoy the most immersive online casino experience possible with live dealers. The New York Times reports that in response to the online gaming industry, Vegas is now focusing on the video game market to bring in Millennials. A dedicated eSports area will open in the first quarter of 2018 and will be a big attraction for travelers.

A Year of Extreme Adventures
A glimpse of Antarctica
A glimpse of Antarctica

Adventure-seeking travelers will be looking for their next great escapes either in the spine-tingling cold of the Polar Regions or in the sweat-inducing heat of deserts. Arctic and Antarctic expeditions will be popular in 2018, and so will desert journeys (hello, Morocco, Oman, and Death Valley!).

World’s Best Beaches

Whitehaven_Slider_2
Here’s a list for those of you thinking about warm climes as the temperature drops. It was put together by Flight Network with input from around 600 travel journalists, myself included.

The World’s 50 Best Beaches©

Welcome to the most definitive list of beaches ever assembled — a diverse collection of off-the-beaten-path slices of paradise from every hidden corner of our planet.

To create The World’s 50 Best Beaches©, FlightNetwork has consulted 600+ of world’s best travel journalists, editors, bloggers and agencies — the people who do this for a living — to gain insight from their opinions and expertise. By asking the top travel professionals, Flight Network has created the most trustworthy and accurate list out there to inspire travelers and help choose their upcoming winter holiday destinations.

Be prepared to embark on a journey to powder white beaches, swaying palm trees, turquoise waters, volcanic coastlines, and snow-capped mountain peaks steps from the sea. This comprehensive list will take you from the azure waters of Oceania to the postcard-worthy shores of Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia and everywhere in between.

World’s Safest and Most Dangerous Destinations

I just came across this summary from backgroundchecks.org. I think there’s some really good info here. Of course I could add my own two cents. For example, I just got back from Cuba and found it extremely safe. Poor, yes, but people are well educated and very friendly to tourists.

(FROM BACKGROUNDCHECKS) The world is smaller than ever before. Cheapening costs, the unprecedented ease of communication and spread of information complements of the internet and social media, (relative) global peace and competition for the most striking, exotic Instagram posts have all contributed to a dramatic surge in international travel in recent years.

International tourist arrivals hit a record 1.2 billion in 2015, the sixth year in a row to see growth in the category, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. As travel to countries once considered remote and mysterious, such as Vietnam or Burma, has grown increasingly common, the buildup of tourist infrastructure, i.e., hostels, pizza restaurants, homestays, and internet cafes to accommodate the emergent hordes of young backpackers and capitalize on the profit potential, has boomed in tandem. Travel destinations that once felt daring and adventurous now seem mundane and overly congested with likeminded, wanderlust-stricken millennials.

Consequentially, more and more travelers are hoofing it to far-flung, distant locales off the well-trodden backpacker itinerary in search of novel experiences and interaction with alien cultures. In essence, there’s nothing wrong with this, but the bottom line is that there are some countries that people just shouldn’t visit as the potential dangers are just too great. On the opposite side of the spectrum, many find any and all international travel daunting, treacherous and beyond their capabilities.

In order to educate and guide people on both sides of this divide, we’ve ranked 121 countries in terms of their safety for travelers. We’ve based our findings on a number of factors, including crime rates, government travel advisories, the potential for natural disasters, and the competitiveness and sustainability of each country’s tourist industry.

You can find the whole list below, but first we’d like to go in-depth on the top ten most dangerous places to travel, and what makes them so dangerous, in order to dissuade reckless thrill seekers. After that, we’ll run through the top ten safest places to travel in hopes of convincing those wary of 12 hour flights and salads that make liberal use of fish sauce that international travel can be safe and relatively stress free.

Table of Contents [hide]

1 Top Ten Most Dangerous Countries for Travel
1.0.1 10. Colombia
1.0.2 9. Lesotho
1.0.3 8. Nigeria
1.0.4 7. Burundi
1.0.5 6. Mali
1.0.6 5. Mauritania
1.0.7 4. Chad
1.0.8 3. Pakistan
1.0.9 2. El Salvador
1.0.10 1. Honduras
2 Top Ten Safest Countries for Travel
2.0.1 10. Australia
2.0.2 9. Norway
2.0.3 8. Canada
2.0.4 7. Germany
2.0.5 6. France
2.0.6 5. United Kingdom
2.0.7 4. Spain
2.0.8 3. Japan
2.0.9 2. Singapore
2.0.10 1. Hong Kong

Top Ten Most Dangerous Countries for Travel
10. Colombia

While the beautiful, ecologically diverse South American nation has come a long way from its violent late 80’s/early 90’s nadir–when the Pablo Escobar-led Medellin drug cartel waged open war with the federal government, earning it the title of murder capital of the world–tourists heading to Colombia should still take caution.

Despite that fact that formerly dangerous cities such as Bogota and Medellin are now considered safe for travelers, drug cartels and the paramilitary group FARC (boasting an estimated 10,000 members) still maintain control over many remote and forested regions of the country. Even in recent years, FARC has openly battled with the Colombian military, committing kidnappings, trafficking drugs and executing large scale terrorist attacks. Because of this, much of the country is considered off-limits for tourism. Additionally, bus travel on certain highways is strongly discouraged as gangs and guerillas have been known to hijack buses, robbing and even murdering the passengers within.

However, a recent ceasefire between FARC and the Colombian government is cause for hope, as the group has promised to lay down its arms and discontinue its terrorist practices. What’s more, Colombia’s 2016 homicide rate of 24.4 out of 100,000 is the lowest since 1974. Tourists should not be discouraged from traveling to Colombia and enjoying its beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities, but its best to stick to the beaten path and not venture into high risk areas.
9. Lesotho

The diminutive African nation of Lesotho, located entirely within the confines of South Africa, is a very dangerous destination for tourists. While organized crime is not a serious issue in the country, high levels of poverty and unemployment have led to extremely high crime rates and travelers are frequently targeted in assaults and robberies, even in heavily populated areas in broad daylight.

Furthermore, Lesotho has one of the highest HIV rates in the world: an estimated 25% of the adult population are carriers of the virus. Engaging in sexual activity in any fashion is a huge no-no. Compounding the hazards, medical facilities in Lesotho are very poor and ill-equipped. In the case of injury or illness, receiving adequate treatment in the country is a very difficult prospect.
8. Nigeria

In recent years, travel to the West African nation Nigeria has been extremely hazardous and ill-advised. In April 2017, the U.S. Government issued a travel warning cautioning all citizens to avoid all but the most necessary travel to the country due to the high frequency of robberies, sexual assaults and other dangers.

The Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram is a dominating presence in the northwest part of the country, and frequently targets churches, schools and government offices in sweeping and catastrophic attacks. In 2015, the fearsome organization achieved the dubious honor of unseating ISIS as the most dangerous terrorist group in the world. Responsible for an unbelievable 6073 deaths in 2014, Boko Haram’s reign of terror should be enough to dissuade anyone from traveling to Nigeria.

It’s a shame since the country’s landscape is rich and biodiverse, offering savannahs, tropical rainforest and mangrove swamps. Moreover, Nigeria’s traditional of art and music is deep and endlessly fascinating. Nevertheless, tourists ought to wait until the threat posed by Boko Haram and other militant groups is dramatically reduced before even considering travel to the country.
7. Burundi

Burundi is another African nation that poses serious dangers to propective tourists. The U.S. State Department issued a warning in June urging Americans against travel to the country due its shaky political situation and high threat of violence.

Burundi’s borders are porous and poorly defended, resulting in many roving gangs and militia groups from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo entering at will and launching attacks against Burundians and visitors to the country. The threat is so great that 325,000 Burundians have evacuated their home nation in the past two years for safer neighboring countries.

Because of the chaos and unpredictable vehicular ambushes, roadways are heavily restricted and automotive travel throughout the country is severely limited, if not impossible. That should be enough to discourage travelers from visiting the country for the foreseeable future.
6. Mali

Sadly, Mali is yet another African nation with such a high risk for attacks, armed robberies and other dangers that tourism is simply infeasible. Extremist organizations with links to Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups have waged an open war of terror in the capital city of Bamako, targeting foreigners in hotels, nightclubs, mosques and other places once considered safe. The Mali government has recently extended its state of emergency due to the situation and, unfortunately, hope for an end to the violence is dim, as terrorist activity in the country is expected to continue or even increase in the near future.

Kidnapping, either for ransom money or for religious motives is also an omnipresent threat, and a number of U.S. citizens are believed to be held captive in the country. In short: stay the hell out of Mali.
5. Mauritania

Mauritania, just west of Mali, is another nation that has been plagued by terrorist violence during the past decade. ISIS and other lethal terrorist groups have a strong foothold in the country, they are known to attack and murder foreigners affiliated with aid groups and western governments without prejudice and have openly declared their intention to continue such practices. Members of christian missionary groups are targets, as well.

The high density of terrorist activity in several portions of the eastern half of the country has provoked the government to declare it a restricted area, and people must obtain special permission from the government in order to travel into the region, although it’s highly unlikely that anybody would like to do so. Best to avoid Mauritania entirely until the situation improves.
4. Chad

Like many of its neighbors, the impoverished Central African nation of Chad is experiencing a wave of violence and terror at the hands of jihadist fanatic groups like Boko Haram and other fearsome paramilitary organizations.

In 2015, Boko Harem kick started a vicious campaign in Chad with an attack on a fishing village on the banks of Lake Chad resulting in several deaths. The Chadian military has engaged in war with the group ever since, to little positive effect. For those not wishing to get caught in the crossfire of this conflict, it is strongly advised that you stay away from Chad for the time being.

Other potential threats to foreign visitors include the regularity of kidnapping for ransom collection and the numerous minefields near the Sudanese border. Plus, it’s really, really hot, disease is rampant, and food is scarce.
3. Pakistan

In a welcome break from impoverished African nations enveloped in conflict with terrorist groups, number three on our list of most dangerous tourist destinations is Pakistan, the South Asian nation known for its decades-old rivalry with neighboring India and as the final hideaway of Osama bin Laden.

However, Pakistan has something in common with the aforementioned beleaguered African countries: it is awash in ideologically motivated violence. Sectarian skirmishes and terrorist bombings targeting civilians are depressingly routine. Suicide bombings with death tolls in the dozens are the norm, not the exception.

This year, several high profile attacks–including a devastating suicide bombing outside a shrine in the historic city of Sehwan took the lives of 90 people and injured over 300 more for which ISIS took responsibility—have brought the country to its knees and prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a stern travel warning urging foreigners living in or traveling to Pakistan to exercise extreme caution. It is clear that foreigners are specifically targeted by terrorist groups in both killings and kidnappings.

Violence is so out of control and unpredictable that many areas of the country are simply off limits to travelers—and significantly—for U.S. government officials as well.

The unfortunate thing is that Pakistanis, by large, are a peaceful and friendly people. The country’s murder rate is considerably lower than that of other countries that many would consider safer, such as Russia, along with many urban areas of the United States.

Nevertheless, strong anti-western sentiment, a pervasive contempt for LGBTQ folks and numerous environmental hazards, including the potential for flash floods and earthquakes to cause serious damage and loss of life in major cities like Karachi (due to crumbling, inadequate infrastructure and nonexistent drainage systems) contribute to Pakistan’s precariousness and instability. Definitely not a backpacker hotspot.
2. El Salvador

A small nation with a infamous reputation for violence, even by Central American standards, El Salvador is a place where danger lurks around every corner.

In part due to a long, demoralizing civil war between El Salvador’s right wing military-centric government (backed by the U.S.) and a number of leftist rebel groups that lasted for twelve years between 1979 and 1992 and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, El Salvador is inundated with surplus weaponry and at the mercy of vicious and sadistic street gangs, notably MS-13 and Barrio 18.

These gangs openly engage in kidnapping, drug dealing, car jackings (as well as bus jackings) to a degree that law enforcement simply cannot cope with. Unsurprisingly, El Salvadorians themselves are the biggest victims of the chaos, and a 2016 Central American University poll found that 24.5% of Salvadorians became victims of a violence crime in 2015. While foreigners are not specifically targeted, it’s easy to get caught in the crossfire of a gang war or be preyed upon in a random attack.

In addition to the threat of violence, El Salvador is vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms, which cause floods and sudden mudslides.

Even though its murder rate has dipped in recent years, owing to a nationwide military campaign to combat gang activity, backpackers heading through Central America are strongly advised to skip this stop.
1. Honduras

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Honduras comes at number one in the rankings for most dangerous travel destinations. For the past decade, the Central American nation has suffered from one of the worst homicide rates in the world. Since 2017, there have been 47 murders of U.S. citizens in the country, including 4 in 2016, and many more tourists have been robbed or assaulted, even in resort areas and other places considered safe.

Much of the violence is attributed to the presence of dominant street gangs such as MS-13 unhesitant to use extreme measures such as kidnapping, home invasion and even holding up public buses in order to amass funds. The gangs even control a number of the taxi services, and use that to their advantage to rob and extort unwitting customers. While criminal organizations in many countries tend to leave tourists alone, in Honduras, everyone is a target. What’s worse, the underfunded, ill-equipped police force does not have the resources to effectively fight back.

Honduras’s roads are another hazard: they are poorly maintained and traffic signs are imprecise or simply nonexistent. Local drivers often fail to obey traffic rules, speeding and passing in dangerous situations. Defense driving is a must.

Although there signs of improvement; the 2016 homicide rate of 59.1 murders per 100,000 people is down from 2011’s whopping 86.5 per 100,000, its best for tourists to avoid this country altogether.

Now that all you thrill junkies are sufficiently chastened, let’s count down the top ten safest countries for tourism.
Top Ten Safest Countries for Travel
10. Australia

The “land down under” is one of the safest destinations in the world for travelers. Compared to the United States, crime rates are very low, particularly for violent crime, as the U.S.’s rate of 4.7 incidents per 100k is a whopping four times higher than Australia’s. Furthermore, Australia’s homicide rate has steadily decreased in recent years, hitting a record low of 1 per 100,000 in the most recent findings. Tourists can rest easy knowing that the chances of being assaulted or killed in the country are next to none.

Australia is also generally safe from the threat of natural disasters, although occasional heat waves and bush fires in the country’s arid interior have been known to take lives. And while the country is infamous for being home to some of the most poisonous animals in the world, like the box jellyfish, with venom that can shut down a person’s nervous system in minutes, as well as 21 of the 25 most poisonous snakes in existence, very few people die each year from animal bites or stings. Exercising the proper caution should keep you safe. Perishing in a car crash is far more likely.
9. Norway

Norway–along with the rest of its Scandinavian neighbors–is extremely safe and violent crime is nearly unheard of. Police in the country don’t even carry guns. Despite the one dark spot in the nation’s recent history, travelers to the icy northern land can count on safety and the opportunity to interact with some of the most friendly and helpful people on earth.

The one area for concern is Norway’s frosty climate. According to the U.S. State Department, road conditions outside of Oslo can be treacherous, depending on weather conditions. Exposure is another concern, so don’t get drunk and pass out in a snow bank.
8. Canada

It is often claimed that that Canucks have a rate of gun ownership comparable to that of the United States, but with a drastically lower homicide rate. This is not quite true, as the U.S.’s 89 guns per 100 residents is far higher than Canada’s 31 per 100k, but it is true that the discrepancy in murder rates is significant. At around 2 per 100k, Canada’s homicide rate is less than half of its southern neighbor.

While there are some pockets of Toronto that might be considered less than safe, tourists would really have to go out of their way to find themselves in a dangerous situation. Canada is an overwhelmingly safe travel destination.

Reading that thousands of avalanches occur in Canada each year may seem concerning, but they mostly occur in remote northern areas where no reasonable person would set foot and pose no significant threat to travelers. Like Norway, the one noteworthy concern is the temperature. It can get pretty cold, so be sure to pack those long johns.
7. Germany

Yes, the recent influx of Syrian refugees into Germany has perpetuated something of a panic, but the actual threat posed by the recent migrants is drastically lower than sensationalist news media outlets would lead you to believe. Germany is a very safe country, and its people are honest to a fault and most would not think of scamming or misleading a visitor to the country.

Additionally, its geographical location protects Germany from any sort of natural disaster. The country is so short on threats that the U.S. State Department actually warns about roving bands of “hooligans” (their words, not mine), so I suppose that’s something to lookout for. Perhaps it’s best to steer clear of the area around Volksparkstadion stadium in Hamburg after the beloved Hamburger SV football club suffers a heartbreaking loss against traditional rivals, Werder Bremen.
6. France

In recent years, France has suffered several devastating terrorist attacks, the most severe of which being the heartbreaking 2015 mass shooting at the Bataclan theatre that coincided with several other bombings in Paris on the same day.

With these notable incidents in mind, it may be hard to believe that France belongs in a list of the top ten safest tourist destinations. However, France is the most visited country in the world, attracting over 80 million tourists from all over the world in a given year. The overwhelming majority (99.99% or more) of these travelers enjoy their trips in complete safety, thanks to a well-developed tourist infrastructure and a very low crime rate.

Of course, terrorist attacks command public attention and stoke fear; that is what they are designed to do. Nobody should be criticized for factoring these incidents into their travel plans, but it’s important to consider the extreme statistical unlikelihood of becoming a victim in such an attack. By most statistical measures, American visitors to France are safer during the duration of their trip than they are in their daily lives back home.
5. United Kingdom

As with France, several high profile incidents of terror have rocked the U.K. in the past half-decade, yet also like France, the country (yes, it’s technically one country, but also, like, several countries at the same time?) is overwhelmingly safe, statistically speaking, drawing tens of millions of visitors a year that tour the country without incident.

From 2000 to 2017, 126 people were killed in the United Kingdom as a result of terrorist attacks. By contrast, 372 were killed in such attacks in 1988 alone.

It may seem like I’m beating this to death, but it’s important to stress how media coverage and fearmongering distorts our perception of the actual potential for danger.

By any approximation, the U.K. is a safe place: the homicide rate is super low, gun ownership is practically non-existent (handguns are completely illegal), temperatures are mild (if a bit nippy), and dangerous and/or poisonous animals are nowhere to be found unlike its former prison colony across the globe.
4. Spain

Analogous to its Western European neighbors, Spain is a very safe country for tourists to visit. The birthplace of flamenco music and cold, refreshing gazpacho reported a 2016 homicide rate of just 0.66 people out of 100,000, good enough for second lowest in the EU and besting those of the eminently safe East Asian nations of Taiwan and South Korea. Also, Spain has somehow avoided steered clear of large scale terrorist attacks like those occurring in France and the U.K recently.

Considering the sheer of volume of foreign visitors Spain attracts each year without incident, Spain has a remarkable safety record. Travelers to the nation have very little to worry about, other than a heightened risk of pickpocketing and other petty crime in some touristy areas.
3. Japan

There are few countries on Earth where one can leave a bike unlocked in public for a week and come back to find it untouched, but Japan is one of them. For myriad reasons, the Land of the Rising Sun is one of the safest travel destinations on the planet. Theft is nearly unheard of, drug use is extremely scarce (and heavily punished) and the homicide rate of about 0.3 people per 100,000 is among the lowest in the developed world. Crime and murder are so suspiciously rare that a wealth of academic studies have been published in hopes of determining the reason behind it.

With an uber-friendly, polite (albeit shy) populace and virtually zero chance of becoming the victim of a crime, it goes without saying that Japan is nearly unparalleled in terms of safety for tourists. The only knock against it is its vulnerability towards earthquakes and tsunamis.
2. Singapore

World famous for its spotless sidewalks, broad-spectrum orderliness and–let’s face it,–draconian punishments for relatively minor crimes, Singapore is definitely one of the safest countries in the world. As long as people don’t spit gum out on the street or spray paint a train car—criminal offenses that may illicit a caning in the small city state–travelers would be hard pressed to find a more secure travel destination on the planet.

Whether you agree with the Singapore government’s authoritarian approach or not, the fact that its crime rates are basically the lowest in the world are evidence that it is effective. The one area of concern, according to Singapore law enforcement, is the recent increase in online scams, particularly sex-for-credit scams, but only lonely suckers fall for those.
1. Hong Kong

Technically a part of China, but with its own distinct laws, government and culture, Hong Kong is another East Asian destination where a woman or man can walk any street at any time of day or night without fear. With low (and continually declining) crime rates comparable to those of Japan and Singapore, yet without the authoritarian government of the latter or the risk of natural disaster in the former, Hong Kong is the safest place for tourists on Earth.

With a substantial and well-developed tourist sector, widespread use of English, and a fast, efficient and modern subway system, travelers to Hong Kong will continuously feel at ease.

The one strike against Hong Kong’s safety rating is its vulnerability to disease epidemics, as in the case of the 2003 SARS scar. This vulnerability stems from its humid, subtropical climate, high population density, and proximity to the Guangdong Province of China, where people eat anything that has four legs that isn’t a table and everything that flies that isn’t an airplane, culinary tendencies that increase the likelihood of a virus transferring from animal to human. Still, such outbreaks are few and far between, and not enough to knock Hong Kong off from its perch as the safest place to travel.

The following metrics were taken into account when creating this ranking: Crime, Security, Tourism, and Natural Disasters.
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Rank (safest to dangerous) Country
1 Hong Kong SAR
2 Singapore
3 Japan
4 Spain
5 United Kingdom
6 France
7 Germany
8 Canada
9 Norway
10 Australia

GERMS! Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Travelling

From The Costoco Connection
Public Bathrooms
Studies show that the toilet seat is often the cleanest surface in the washroom. Primary offender is the floor, along with the tops and sides of stall doors. Jet dryers are bigger germ spreaders than paper towels, spraying some viruses almost 10 feet.
Advice: Avoid setting bags on the floor where they can pick up germs and transfer them to other surfaces, use the door latch to open and close stall doors and wipe your hands with paper towels (when available) instead of using the jet dryer.

Airplanes
Tray tables are a germaphobe’s nightmare since they often don’t get cleaned between flights. Other passengers coughing and sneezing next you, within 6 feet, their droplets will have an impact.
Advice: Carry your own hand sanitizer to use in the lavatory as well as disinfecting wipes for the tray table. To protect yourself from other passengers, wear a scarf and bury your nose in it for 30 seconds when you hear nearby passengers sneezing.

10 Common Turtle Myths

Turtle
This is a little outside my usual travel related postings, but I love animals and these turtle tips are really important. Just wanted to share some tips from American Tortoise Rescue.

Myth 1: Turtles are easy to care for – just buy a nice tank.

False: Turtles are wild animals. They have territories that can be many miles wide. Putting them in a tank is cruel. Think of it this way: it’s like spending the rest of our lives in the bathtub. A turtle needs a large habitat or a pond to approximate nature, not a tank.

Myth 2: Turtles usually live about five years.

False. In captivity, a well cared for turtle can live 25, 50 or more years. These animals have been on the earth for 200 million years, longer than dinosaurs. They might have to be in your will and maybe even your children’s will.

Myth 3: Turtles do not need veterinary care like dogs and cats.

False! The problem with turtles is because of their very slow metabolism, they do not show signs that they are sick until the illness has progressed. The signs and symptoms you should be very aware of include: Closed and swollen eyes, loss of appetite, sitting in one place looking miserable, daily pattern changes and runny nose and eyes. If any of these are observed, see a vet immediately.

Myth 4: It is best to buy turtles and tortoises at a pet store.

Absolutely false. Pet stores should sell pet supplies not pets. Pet stores might buy their turtles from cruel trappers. About 90 percent die in transit. Get your turtle the same place as a dog or cat. Go to the nearest animal shelter or find a reptile or turtle rescue online.

Myth 5: Turtles hide under plants to hibernate.

Some do, like box turtles. Some hibernate under water like red eared sliders and cooters. Each species has its own habits. Whichever it is, your turtle should be healthy and heavy before it is allowed to go to sleep for the winter.

Myth 6: Turtles hiss like snakes when they are mad.

While it is true that the sound a turtle makes sounds like it is hissing, it is not. When a turtle is afraid or picked up quickly, it pulls its head in really quickly and this action forces the air out. It is biological, not deliberate.

Myth 7: Turtles can eat just about anything

False. Turtles are carnivores that must eat live food like snails, fish and worms. You can also feed them prepared turtle food from a pet store. They should not be fed hot dogs, raw hamburger and cat food – stuff that they would not normally find in the wild. Water turtles can only eat under water.

Myth 8: Tiny water turtles stay that size.

False! Those small green water turtles that you see in plastic containers with fake palm tress are hatchlings that will grow up to be any where from six to 12 inches. It is illegal to buy or sell them in the US while they are under four inches.

Myth 9: Washing a turtle gets rid of salmonella.

False. Assume that every turtle no matter how clean is carrying salmonella. It is important to wash your hands after handling the turtle or its water, keep turtle things away from the kitchen and keep turtles out of homes where children under six live.

Myth 10: Turtles can live happily with artificial light.

False. Turtles need real sunlight to be able to grow normally and to have strong bones. Turtles deprived of sun get a condition known as metabolic bone disease where their bones disintegrate. A basking turtle in the sun is a happy and healthy turtle.

For more information, visit www.tortoise.com .

About Us

American Tortoise Rescue is a nonprofit founded in 1990 for the protection of all species of turtles and tortoises. We have rescued more than 4,000 since our inception. Foundlings that cannot be adopted because of ill health remain in the care of ATR for the remainder of their lives. ATR acts as a clearinghouse for information about turtle care. We work to abolish “live market” slaughter of turtles in the US, the cruel importation and exploitation of a variety of species and protecting the desert tortoise.

Quick facts

In captivity, a well-cared for turtle can live 25, 50 or more years.
Pet stores should sell pet supplies not pets. Adopt!
Turtles are carnivores that must eat live food like snails, fish and worms.

Where’d You Get Those Peepers?

MoGeraniums
I don’t know about you, but I have a tough time finding sunglasses I like. Either they don’t fit properly or don’t work with my shape of my face. When I do find a pair, they usually are way out of my price range. I’m also rather unhappy with a chain that will go unnamed because when I spent $200 on a pair of RayBans that fell apart, the retailer wouldn’t lift a finger to help. I had to go the factory myself for a fix that I paid for. So I was delighted when I discovered SmartBuyGlasses.ca which is an online site with hundreds of sunglasses and even prescription glasses and sunglasses. No driving, parking and fighting with surly clerks. The pair I chose were Fendi Color Block. After ordering, they arrived within a week. They came with a authenticity certification card and were packed securely in a cardboard box. According to the box, I get 10% off my next purchase.SunglassesBox
These glasses are a great fit, don’t slide off my nose and are a little more fashionable than the sports style I usually wear.
If you are a picky shopper, or just want to browse and see what’s out there, check out SmartBuyGlasses.ca. I am considering them for my next prescription buy.MoBird

Tips for US Border Crossings This Summer

Just got this press release in from US Customs and Border Protection:

Washington: As the busiest three months of international travel approach, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to “Know Before You Go” when traveling to the United States or returning home this summer. CBP officers at international airports, cruise terminals and land border ports of entry around the country and at Preclearance facilities around the world are prepared for the additional traffic expected this summer. Last summer, CBP processed more than 108.3 million international travelers at U.S. ports of entry.

“The United States has been and continues to be a welcoming country and CBP remains committed to facilitating lawful travel to the United States,” said Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “In the spirit of this commitment, CBP has deployed innovative programs and technology including Trusted Traveler Programs, Automated Passport Control kiosks and Mobile Passport Control to make the arrival process as efficient and as quick as possible while maintaining our dual mission of border security and travel facilitation.”

CBP encourages travelers to plan ahead to ensure a smooth and efficient processing experience. Use these tips to help you prepare.

Travel Documents: Travelers should have appropriate passports and any other associated travel documents ready when approaching a CBP officer for processing or visiting a foreign country. Find out more information about approved travel documents for entry into the U.S. as well as country specific information at getyouhome.gov and travel.state.gov. Remember to carry these documents with you, do not pack them.

Familiarize yourself with Automated Passport Control (APC) and Mobile Passport Control: These two programs are making the entry process more efficient, intuitive and paperless for travelers. Learn which option works best for you and speed up your entry into the United States. APC expedites the entry process for most international travelers by allowing them to submit their biographic information and answers to inspection-related questions electronically at self-service kiosks located at 49 airports worldwide. At 23 U.S. airports, U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can submit their passport information and answers to inspection-related questions to CBP via a smartphone or tablet app prior to arrival. Android and iPhone users can download the Mobile Passport app for free from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Declare goods: Truthfully declare everything you are bringing from abroad including duty-free items. If duty is applicable, credit cards or cash payment in U.S. currency is acceptable.

Declare foods: Many agriculture products can bring damaging pests and diseases into the country. If you have questions about what food is allowed or not allowed in to the U.S. visit https://help.cbp.gov/ and remember don’t pack a pest!

Apply and pay for an I-94 online: Speed up your entry into the U.S. by providing your biographic and travel information and paying the $6 fee for the I-94 application online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/ up to seven days prior to entry.

Monitor border wait times: Download the Border Wait Time app or use the border crossings wait times website to plan your trip across the border. Know which ports of entry have heavier traffic and possibly use an alternate route. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits. The official Border Wait Time app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Obtain a radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled travel document to use a Ready Lane at some land ports of entry: At some ports of entry, processing in Ready Lanes is 20 percent faster than normal lanes and provide a time savings of up to 20 seconds per vehicle. To use Ready Lanes, adult travelers (over 16 years of age) are required to have high-tech RFID enabled cards. These include RFID-enabled U.S. Passport cards, Legal Permanent Resident cards, B1/B2 border crossing cards, Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST) and Enhanced Driver’s Licenses.

Declare gifts: Gift you bring back for your personal use must be declared, but you may include them in your personal exemption. This includes gifts people gave you while you were out of the country and gifts you have brought back for others.

Prohibited vs. Restricted: Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (which is forbidden by law to enter the United States) and restricted merchandise (items needing special permit to be allowed into the United States). For more information, visit the Restricted/Prohibited section of the CBP website.

Traveling with medication: Travelers must declare all medicine and similar products when entering the United States. Prescription medications should be in their original containers with the doctor’s prescription printed on the container. It is advised that you travel with no more than personal use quantities, a rule of thumb is no more than a 90 day supply. If your medications or devices are not in their original containers, you must have a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor. A valid prescription or doctor’s note is required on all medication entering the U.S.

Traveling with pets: Cats and dogs must be free of disease and illness when entering the United States. In addition, dog owners must be able to show proof of rabies vaccination. If crossing with a puppy, certain paperwork will need to be completed at the border for the “new addition to the family.” All pets are subject to health, quarantine, agriculture, or wildlife requirements and prohibitions. The regulations about bringing a pet into the United States are the same whether you drive over the U.S. border with your pet in your car, fly, or travel by other means. Pets taken out of the United States and returned are subject to the same requirements as those entering for the first time. For more information about traveling with your pet to a foreign country or bringing your pet into the U.S., visit APHIS’s pet travel website.

Report Traveling with $10,000 or more: There is no limit to how much currency you may take in or out of the United States; however, U.S. federal law requires you to report your total currency of $10,000 or more. Currency includes all forms of monetary instruments. Travelers who fail to truthfully report all of their currency risk their currency being seized, and may face criminal charges.

For citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries, an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is required before boarding an aircraft. For those traveling by air or sea on a visa, CBP has automated the Form I-94 removing the need for travelers to fill out a paper copy. Travelers will still be able to obtain their I-94 number and/or a copy of their I-94 online.

For your next trip, consider joining the ranks of a Trusted Traveler. Trusted Traveler members enrolled in Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI continue to enjoy the most expedited CBP processing experience. Trusted Traveler members retain their membership for five years.

CBP’s mission is to facilitate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security for those who live here and for those who come to visit. On a typical day last year, CBP officers processed more than 1 million travelers arriving airports, seaports or border crossings. During the holiday season, travelers should expect heavy traffic. Planning ahead and adopting these travel tips can save time and lead to a less stressful trip.

How to Stay Fit When Traveling

Just got this in. Not anything new, but nevertheless, good advice. Always nice to be reminded!

By Sloane Davis

Trying to stay fit and healthy can be challenging when traveling. I always tell my clients that the goal should be to maintain, not gain while away. And while I am an advocate for living life and enjoying all that is has to offer, going on vacation shouldn’t become a free for all to throw in the towel when it comes to health and fitness.

A common question I receive from many prospective clients is “I am going on vacation soon. Should I wait to start the plan or start right away?” My answer is always this: There is never a “good” or “easy” time to start. You have to learn to live a healthy lifestyle which is what my plans aim to do. In other words, start the plan today. That way, when it does come time for vacation, you have the tools you need to maintain, not gain.

While you won’t track every food that goes into your mouth on vacation, subconsciously you are much more aware of how your meals should look and be balanced if you are following a plan prior to vacation. I can’t tell you how many clients come back to have not gained an ounce. THAT is WINNING!

Here are some tips to help you stay fit and healthy when traveling:

Drink a lot of water – Lots of walking, hours spent outside in the sun… traveling can be exhausting. The airplane ride alone will dehydrate you from the altitude. I love to take a reusable water bottle and fill it up after I pass through security to take on the plane with me. This ensures that I am drinking throughout the flight and don’t have to wait for the flight attendants to serve me. And when they do come to serve, take it! Drink all the water you can. You will feel so much better getting off the plane hydrated instead of tired, queasy, tight, and drained.

When you get to your destination, continue to drink water. Incorporate foods that also contain a lot of water such as lettuce, watermelon and cucumbers.

Stick to your normal routine as much as possible: Just because you are away doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel and eat everything in sight. This goes especially for all inclusive resorts or a buffet. Just because you pay for something doesn’t mean you have to overdo it. Breakfast included in the hotel? Stick to an omelette, a piece of toast or oatmeal, some fresh fruit and one “treat.” You don’t need muffins, bacon, hash browns, pancakes AND french toast if you normally don’t eat that at home. That’s just being a glutton. Pick one savory food and enjoy it. Tomorrow is a new day and a few hours later you will be eating your next meal again.

Keep things in moderation: You don’t have to have everything in one day. Bread, alcohol, dessert all add up at one meal. All 3 along with your meal could mean your total daily allowance of calories or more. So pick one, and choose another the following day. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

If you tend to eat more at night, then keep your breakfast and lunch on the lighter side. If you know you are going to have a few cocktails for happy hour then moderate your intake during the day. It is all about balance.

Try to keep active: If you normally workout daily then try to go to the gym half the amount of days you are on vacation. Vacation is just that…a break, so don’t feel like you have to hit the gym at 7am each morning to feel good about yourself. Let go of some of the stress. Go for a walk, enjoy the outdoors and do something entirely different then you are used to.

If there is no gym and you do want to workout, pack resistance bands. They are super light and there are so many exercises that you can do with them (see my video on how to here) . You could also incorporate some body weight exercises or plyometrics in your hotel room (see hotel room workout video here). Just 20 minutes a day will make you feel a whole lot better and most likely help you make better decisions throughout the day.

Have the willpower to stay on track: I know sometimes this is easier said then done, but I can guarantee that you will feel so much better coming home from a vacation knowing you enjoyed it yet didn’t gain a pound rather than coming home 5 pounds heavier only to have to work it back off. We all know how easy it is to put weight on and how difficult it is to take it off. Just a few minor tweaks each day while away can mean the world of difference.

You are stronger than you think. Choose your battles while you are away. Don’t cave into defeat. You can do it! Vacation is so much more than eating everything in sight. Take the time to enjoy those you spend it with, the scenery, and the culture it has to offer. The food is just a bonus, not the entire package.

Sloane Davis is a Certified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer who has helped thousands of people, both men and women, around the world get in to top shape both mentally and physically. Sloane has her undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Arts from Syracuse University and became accredited through ISSA with her degree in Sports Nutrition and Personal Training. She works personally and online with thousands of clients around the US and globally.

She has been featured in People, Fitness Magazine, New Beauty Magazine, Apple News, The Daily Mail, Yahoo News, Westchester Magazine and Fox 5 Good Day New York.