China's nightmarish "citizen scores" system uses your online activity, purchases, messages, and social graph to rate your creditworthiness and entitlement to services. One way your score can be plunged into negative territory is for a judge to declare you to be a bad person (mostly this happens to people said to have refused to pay their debts, but it's also used to punish people who lie to courts, hide their assets, and commit other offenses).
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The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking first-hand reports of travellers being asked to divulge their social media habits by US border guards (beyond the optional field on the ESTA form) (email firstname.lastname@example.org); meanwhile, ACLU urges travellers to stay on the customs/immigration side and let them know if people are being detained (Tweet @nobanjfk).
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Randal Munroe nails it again in an XKCD installment that expresses the likelihood that your houseguests will be able to connect to your wifi (I confess to having been the "firmware" guide -- but also, having been reminded to do something about my own firmware when other difficult houseguests came to stay).
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The five Volkswagen executives who were criminally charged in the USA for their role in the Dieselgate scandal have been advised not to travel to the USA because they are liable to arrest there: they've also been told that leaving Germany is risky because they might be arrested and extradited to the USA.
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I enjoy Lithuanian travel vlogger Jacob Laukaitis' YouTube videos. He travels around the world and makes videos like this one about the ruins of Hampi, India, which was once the second most populous city in the world:
And this one of Khari Baoli in New Delhi, the largest spics market in Asia:
Recently, Jacob was hit by a drunk driver in Thailand and broke several bones in his face. His medical insurance company refused to pay the bill until it started getting negative publicity on social media, after which it agreed to pay the $10,000 bill. Lucky for Jacob he has a lot of social media followers to help him out. Jacob said he's heard from other people insured by the same company who have been denied medical coverage.
I'd be interested in learning from readers about the travel insurance companies they use, and whether they've had positive experiences. I've used TravelGuard (AIG) a couple of times, but have not needed compensation for anything, so I can't vouch for it. Read the rest
There are many options for touring Alta Guajira, the northernmost part of Colombia (and of South America), but overlanding in your own vehicle is definitely choice. The only rub is that many of the roads aren't really roads so much as they are just the tracks of the last vehicle that passed through, and not necessarily in the direction you're headed. So, navigation is tricky for a local, and nigh impossible for a visitor.
The various paths that lead to Punta Gallina are unpaved, rocky, and cut through a desert with infamously muddy patches that cars can be stuck in for up to a week. And driving through it during rainy season, as we did, can be especially treacherous.
We had a bit of "luck" on our side, if you can call it that. Unfortunately, the Guajira region has been subject to a five year long drought, making the difficult life of the Wayuu people who live there even more difficult. The UN and the Red Cross have both stepped in to try and alleviate the starvation and the lack of water, but providing aid has not been easy. So when we say "lucky," we mean only for the road quality, since we encountered little of the mud we'd been warned so vehemently about, and made it out with very little trauma to our 4Runner.
The other bit of luck we had was accidentally stumbling on a tourism agency that specializes in trips to Punta Gallina, while actually searching for different agency all together. Read the rest
It’s a big world we live in, full of fortune-telling fox-woman hybrids, libraries where books are chained to the shelves, rusting shipwrecks, and amusement parks at the bottom of salt mines. The website Atlas Obscura collects the most intriguing of them, and now Atlas Obscura is in book form, perfect for flipping through while waiting for water to boil. It’s plentifully illustrated, with photographs or drawings on every page.
This is not The Book of Lists, and it is not for young children. Many of the entries concern war or atrocities, and some photos are gruesome; the world is full of mummified limbs. The authors treat the subjects respectfully, and have done their research. The story of the Bicycle Tree in Washington State, for example, has both the glurgy and the factual versions.
Some entries are not location based, such as the two pages of entheogens from around the world, or the list of abandoned nuclear power plants. But most entries have the latitude and longitude for each attraction, and sometimes street addresses; you could use this as a guidebook for a particularly unconventional wanderjahr.
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton
Workman Publishing Company
2016, 480 pages, 7 x 10.5 x 2.1 inches (hardcover)
$21 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest
Mary Forgione, a US citizen, was stopped and detained by Turkish border patrol when she attempted to reenter Turkey while on vacation. She wrote about her interesting experience for the LA Times. Takeaway: the State Department won't help you if you get detained in another country because a border agent forgot to stamp your passport.
Were's your other passport?" the border agent at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport snapped as he waved my U.S. passport.
He was annoyed, but so was I. I didn’t have another passport. The one in his hand was it.
"You came to Istanbul, you didn't exit and now you are re-entering,” he said slowly, his tone serious. “Where were you?"
But I had exited. Eleven days earlier, I had sailed from the city’s Karakoy port with a group of college friends on a Mediterranean cruise bound for Rome, I told him.
He shook my passport again and said, "Show me! Where does it say that?"
I looked in vain at the pages as he kept hold of my precious U.S. passport. He was right. I didn’t see any stamp that showed I had left Istanbul.
I didn’t understand how this had happened, but he did — or at least he thought he did: He decided I had a second, secret passport that I was hiding. But I didn’t.
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iamlindoro says: "I built a site that builds you custom budgets for 600 cities around the world based on your lifestyle, family, housing, and other needs." Read the rest
These folks don't seem the least bit flustered with this guillotine train door. Read the rest
Janek runs an online guide to Prague. In this video, he stood in front of an infamous tourist trap exchange bureau in Prague all day and warned people who walked in to go down the street to a legit exchange office. The rip-off place sells 15 CZK for 1 EUR. Legitimate places will give you 27 koruna for a euro.
The tourist trap called the city police, but Janek made his case that he was within his rights to warn tourists about the place. So the tourist trap called the state police, and the same thing happened. The tourist trap also handed Janek a letter threatening to send him to prison for two years. Janek was not dissuaded. Read the rest
Marcell Shehwaro's magnificent, sarcastic, angry essay in Global Voices expresses her gratitude for her Syrian passport, because it has allowed her to see how states are willing to punish the already brutalized out of rage and fear.
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China has a massive "tourism deficit" -- the difference between the money that tourists spend in China and the money that Chinese people spend abroad: $206B from June 2015-June 2016, up from $77B in 2013. The missing money is hard to explain, since China doesn't export that many tourists.
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I spent a few days in beautiful Victoria, Canada last week. What a fantastic city! One of the highlights of my trip was spending some time with Andrew and Christina, two of the principles at Robazzo, a one-stop-shop eco design studio. They do everything from logos to large architectural installations:
On the flight home, the guy sitting next to me had a small pouch in his lap. Before the plane took off, he unfolded it and blew on a valve a few times to inflate what turned out to be a travel pillow. He slept the entire time. I have a travel pillow, but it is bulky so I don't usually bring it with me. This inflatable pillow looks perfect. After looking around I think I found the one the guy was using. It's $6 if you use coupon code QZJWYQLF. I bought two (one for my wife), and the discount worked for just one pillow.
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I use TripIt for travel planning, but I'm going to give the new Google Trips a try. It stores your travel plans offline, so you don't need to have a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to find directions or access your itinerary.
When I installed it, it scanned my gmail and did a great job of finding my upcoming flight, restaurant, and hotel reservations.
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Google Trips makes exploring the world easier by organizing your essential info in one place and making it available even offline. Get activity suggestions based on what’s nearby, customizeable day plans, and your travel reservations from Gmail.
AUTOMATIC TRIP ORGANIZATION
Your travel reservations are automatically gathered from Gmail and organized into individual trips. Each trip contains day plans, things to do, food and drink suggestions, and more.
See your flight, hotel, rental car, and restaurant bookings in one place without having to search for them individually.
For several hundred of the world’s top places, find popular day plans organized on a map that you can customize based on your interests and available time.
Find out when you’re near popular attractions (and whether they’re open) as well as reviews and ratings from other travelers.
THINGS TO DO
Every trip contains ideas for things to do automatically organized into useful categories like Top Spots and Indoors or Outdoors. For many of the world’s top places, you’ll get curated local suggestions and travel tips.
No Internet? No problem. Google Trips is available offline, so you’ll always have access to your info.
This is what happens who you trust tabloids and rich politicians who say you can have your cake and eat it. What they mean is they can have their cake, and you eat it. Today's shit sandwich is for Brits who thought that leaving the European Union, and preventing people coming into the UK, wouldn't mean reciprocal movement controls. As Nigerian Chibundu Onuzo puts it: Welcome to the world of restricted travel, British people!
The proposed scheme wouldn’t require Britons to have a visa, but intentions for travelling would need to be clearly stated online and applications could, in theory, be denied. It would, in essence, be a curb on freedom of movement: a freedom I have never fully experienced because of my nationality.
I’ve always needed a visa to legally travel out of Nigeria to most places in the world. There are other ways to do it. My cousin walked across the Sahara and slipped into Europe via the Mediterranean, but he was later deported.
Every time I fly into Heathrow, I am reminded that a plastic visa card is the only thing stopping my presence in London being a crime. I often see the other travellers who have been ushered to the side, their lives deemed illegal, only that thin square of plastic separating us. ... who knows? Maybe filling out forms to travel might make Britain more sympathetic to immigrants. I bet Nigel Farage didn’t think of that.
Just imagine the bloviating Harry Enfield rage of lumpy English holidaymakers denied entry to Spain or Ibeefa because they forgot to register their trip with the Proper Authorities. Read the rest
Martin Critchley shot this lovely ice cave footage, which proved so popular he released an extended cut. Read the rest