Two sets of couples using selfie sticks at the Acropolis during pre-pandemic times in Athens, Greece. Skift
In fact, I spent 3-days in Savannah to create this ultimate guide. Soak in the rich history and admire all the Spanish moss…beware, this Georgian peach is going to steal your heart.
Being the first planned city in the US, the streets are laid out on a perfect grid, making it an easy city to walk around. As you stroll from the waterfront all the way to Forsyth Park, you’ll see little “town squares” every block or so, and each one is as charming as the last.
The whimsical natural beauty combined with that good old-fashioned Southern hospitality makes this a prime city for solo travel.
Like much of the southern United States, this city is at its prime during the shoulder seasons. You’ll find gorgeous weather, reasonable pricing, and fewer crowds from April to May then again from September to October.
This coastal city with its cobblestoned streets, horse-drawn carriages, period architecture, trendy boutiques, and otherworldly beauty is like nowhere else — and, ohhh, that food!
You’ll definitely want to make reservations at a few of the iconic restaurants in the area — check out my Savannah foodie guide to plan out your meals!
Are you planning a trip to Savannah? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’ve never heard of Leavenworth, Washington, you’re in for a treat!
Did you know that you can channel all those European vibes without leaving the US? The Bavarian-styled village of Leavenworth is the place!
Located in the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is lined with Alpine-style buildings and restaurants that offer German beer and food. The nearby lake of Wenatchee is the ideal spot for a cozy cabin getaway where you can bird-watch.
Oh, and did I mention the ski areas and wineries? Yep! This place is the ultimate winter holiday destination.
This quaint little town is the perfect Pacific Northwest winter weekend getaway, especially if you can visit during the holiday season. If you’re looking to embrace all those European Christmas market vibes without leaving the US, Leavenworth is like a little Bavaria.
While you would see the best of the town in 24 hours, I would recommend making a weekend out of it to truly get the chance to soak it all in.
Whether you’re exploring the Pacific Northwest on a road trip, looking to make a day trip from Seattle, or simply wanting to plan a cozy winter weekend in Leavenworth — definitely add this charming spot to your list.
The post 20 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Leavenworth, Washington appeared first on The Blonde Abroad.
It’s Black Friday time!
As we know, this day has become the ultimate shopping day every year in countries around the world. In the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Mexico (known as “El Buen Fin”) and others, companies, both physical and online, offer deep discounts that are generally not seen the rest of the year.
For travelers, this is also a great period to plan your trips for next year as everything from travel gear to hotel rooms, if you look in the right places, are being offered at discounted rates.
Where do you want to go next year?
For me, I’m hoping to reach Japan, the Cook Islands and East Africa.
Take a moment to daydream. What destinations pop into your head? White sand beaches? Historic cities of Europe? The ancient temples and pyramids of Egypt?
If it’s beaches and warm water you’re after…
I’ve always been a huge fan of Mexico and would take any opportunity to hit up the Riviera Maya for some time in the sun, on the sand and in the beautiful water. Mix in some historical sites and visiting a few incredible cenotes and it’s a trip that’s hard to beat. On the other hand, one of my friends just learned to surf in Costa Rica and she raved about the experience down there. And after my recent trip to the Dominican Republic, if you’re just looking to relax in a paradise setting, Punta Cana offers remarkable opportunities to do just that.
If you’re looking for history and culture…
Perhaps a European trip is in order, admiring the architectural masterpieces that can be found in places such as Prague, Budapest, Rome and Barcelona. You can also combine this with some of Europe’s lesser known destinations (Brno, Bratislava, Ljubljana and Valencia, perhaps?) to create an experience that offers the best sights and days without any tourist crowds.
And if you’re looking for a proper hotel or resort stay, here’s an example of potential savings. Barcelo Hotels has announced Black Friday hotel offers at their 251 properties around the world (in over 20 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa). You’ll find up to a 40% discount plus you can get an extra 20% off with the code BF2021 at some excellent accommodations for next year.
This ensures you get the best price guaranteed. You can also receive other discounts through their “my Barcelo” loyalty program as well, simply by signing up.
If you saw yourself on a white-sand beach, options include:
- Riviera Maya: Barceló Maya Riviera – Adults Only
- Cancún: Occidental Costa Cancún
- Aruba: Barceló Aruba
- Punta Cana: Barceló Bávaro Beach
If you prefer a cultural European trip, Barceló’s discounts can be found here as well:
- Madrid (Barceló Torre de Madrid)
- Rome (Occidental Aurelia)
- Prague (Occidental Praha)
- Budapest (Barceló Budapest)
Again, this is just an example. Black Friday discounts are everywhere.
So, where do you want to go next? What type of adventure are you looking for? If you can answer that question, get ready to save and turn those travel dreams into reality!
By the way, did you know the origin of the term Black Friday? It was apparently used by the police and bus drivers in Philadelphia back in the 1960s to describe the heavy pedestrian traffic on the day after Thanksgiving. It’s quite a different story these days.
*Dates of application of the promotional code are for new reservations made between 11/19/2021 to 11/28/2021 for travel between 11/19/2021 to 12/31/2022. Restrictions may apply in some hotels and specific periods.
There are a number of visa categories for people who want to live, work, study, and more in Australia. Determining which Australian visa type is best for which traveler can be confusing, simply because there are so many available.
While it is impossible to go over every single Australian visa in a single article, here are some general guidelines to help visitors know which visa is right for them. That way, they can start applying soon so they can go to Australia ASAP.
A guide to the different Australian visa types
There are various Australian visa types for different reasons, below are the different visa options:
Australia visitor visas
These visas are for people who want to visit Australia but who do not plan to work there and who will not stay long. The exact length of stay permitted is usually three months, but may be shorter or longer depending on the type of visa and the visitor’s country of origin.
People who are not planning to spend more than 72 hours in Australia should apply for a subcategory of this visa. The Transit Visa allows them to enter the country but does not allow them to stay longer than their planned transit period.
See also What is an ETA for Australia?
Working holiday visas
These visas are largely aimed at young adults taking a gap year, or those in similar situations. Only residents of certain countries are eligible and the applicant must be between the ages of 18 and 26 (or 30, depending on country of origin).
Limited work is allowed, though the main purpose of the visit is recreational. The visa is valid for a year, at which point it may be renewed for another year if certain conditions are met.
Visas for training and studying
Student visas are available for people who have been accepted into academic programs that last longer than three months. University students, students studying certain trades, and those participating in certain certificate programs are eligible.
The educational institution can help people determine whether this is the right visa for them and help them fill it out and submit it correctly.
Student visas do permit some work. While the course of study is going on, students can work up to 20 hours per week. During down times for the course, there is no limit on how many hours they can work each week in Australia.
A training visa is similar to a student visa, but does not require enrollment in an academic program. Instead, this visa is for people who are seeing professional development in Australia and those who want to develop their skills in a certain field.
This visa requires sponsorship by the company or group that is doing the training. If the sponsor is the government, the person must be invited. If the sponsor is outside the government, that sponsor must formally nominate the applicant before they can get a training visa.
Visas for workers or people with certain skills
Australia offers a number of visas for people with different sets of skills. Each individual applicant will need to determine which visa will be best for them and their particular situation.
Many of these visas will be accepted or not based on whether the applicant’s particular skills are needed in Australia at the time of their application. Those with skills that are in high demand will find it easier to enter the country than will those with more common skills, or with skills that are common in Australia.
Certain skills may be in higher demand in some parts of Australia than they are in others. In certain circumstances, regions, states, or territories in Australia may invite people with certain skills. In this case, the visa holder will need to move to, live in, and work in the particular area where their skills are needed.
Most work visas require the applicant to have a signed contract with an Australian company. In turn, that company will need to have formal permission to hire outside of Australia and will need to sponsor the person for their visa. There will be steps that the company needs to take so that the person they hire can enter the country.
Some short-term visas also allow a person to perform certain types of work in Australia. These visas are for people who have jobs outside of the country to do those same jobs in Australia.
For instance, separate visas exist for:
- Religious workers
- Domestic staff of visiting government officials
- Media or filmmakers
- People visiting to participate in a sports match, tournament, etc.
- And more
These Australian visa types are for people who have family in Australia, or for those who are family members of people entering Australia on other types of visas. For instance, it is possible to get a visa to Australia to care for an aging family member, as well as to accompany a spouse who got hired by an Australian company.
The specific visa that a person applies for will be determined by their relationship to their family member already in Australia. For instance, there are separate visas for caring for aged parents and caring for an orphaned relative.
Refugee and other humanitarian visas
Australia evaluates visas for refugees and people requesting humanitarian aid or protection individually. Applicants will need to complete their application, have an interview where they explain their story and why they need protection, and any documentation that the government or their particular visa requires.
Other Australian visa types
Australia offers a number of special visas, too. These include a visa for people who want to invest in Australia and retire there, a visa for people seeking medical treatment in Australia, and visas for those who were once residents of Australia and who are seeking to return.
There are a number of services, including one offered by the Australian government on their website, that can help people determine which visa is right for their particular situation. These offer one of the best ways to find out which visa is best.
Once visitors know which visa to Australia is best for them, they can apply for it. It won’t be long before they are living their dream in Australia.
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You’re in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.
Let’s assume the pandemic is over, which is hopefully soon the case. There are good indicators for it. The steady increase of our website traffic is one of them.
There has been a lot of exciting news in the past few months when we take a look at the tech industry, which will also take its effects into the travel and media industry.
There is for example the improvement of search results. A third of the online users globally use voice search to find results. The evolved AI (artificial intelligence) of Google tries then to provide direct information. Their aim is to give out this information spoken and in the future maybe start a discussion with the user.
Imagine you explore a city and you start the following conversation with your phone:
You: “Hey Google, list me the best restaurants in the area.”
AI: “Sure, is there a specific cuisine you would prefer today?”
You: “I would love to try something local. But I would also be fine with a good pizza. It’s more important that it’s authentic.”
AI: “There is a very popular street vendor two metro stops away, which is well known for their local and authentic dishes. Here is a video and article about it. If you prefer something closer, there is an Italian restaurant just around the corner, which got 4.5* ratings for their pizzas.”
You: “Give me the directions to the street vendor, but also make a reservation at the restaurant for 8pm tonight.”
So far my fantasy… but Google will need lots of input and support from the community and website operators to be able to create this kind of service.
I’m interested to hear more about what we could expect from this new era. What kind of new tools (tech, deeptech) will be there? Let’s discuss who we have to lookout for and what trends are worth joining, which ones are not?
Let me introduce you to Stanislav Stepanov, who is the founder of Teleportour. His start-up works on being the first “real-time immersive indoor & outdoor interactive 360° video streaming platform for remote travelers and local tour guides”.
Stanislav has over 20 years of experience in the field of business development and a big expertise in the implementation and upgrading of innovation technologies. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
TD: How good is my fantasy? Will we see a similar search conversation like in the example above in the near future?
Stanislav: This example is almost a reality. Services that actually help travelers on their actual journeys are progressing rapidly. Your example is an example of how AI and ML work. These technologies have the widest application today, and the question of a full-fledged dialogue between man and machine (or software) is not a question of tomorrow, but of today. So your fantasy is quite realistic. The main thing is that it should benefit the traveler, who asks questions to the machine (software). And by the way, when people are asking such an AI assistant, they will not necessarily say “Hello, Google”, it may well be for example “Hello, Naver”.
TD: If Google gives out spoken results, how can a website operator, for example a hotel director, tour operator or travel blogger benefit from this?
Stanislav: As can be seen from the same example of a Human- AI dialogue, which by the way is quite a good one that you cited, it is usually of a brief informational nature. Even the quite humane attempt of the AI to give its answers a little more emotional flavor, does not give the user (human) a full-fledged replacement for what he can see with his own eyes, learn for himself (by visiting the same restaurant or hotel). That is, when it comes to the benefits of a specific business associated with travel and tourism (hotel, restaurant, gift store, etc.), then AI is only one of the tools in the hands of marketers in this business – for information and brand awareness in the eyes of the user. A handy tool, but one of a number of tools available to marketers now.
TD: One competitor of Google is Facebook, who calls themselves Meta now. What’s behind the idea of Metaverse?
Stanislav: Behind this idea is exactly the good work of marketers. I’m not evaluating the rebranding or the founder’s latest speech, which has traditionally been the subject of memes on the Web. I’m talking about the level of quotability, and the market reaction that followed. From a marketing point of view – Absolute Bravo! To the team that implemented it.
However, If I start answering the specific “What’s behind it” question, we’re going to have to set aside a couple of days for that. And that’s just for the first conversation )). The fundamental idea of the whole picture of the interaction between the virtual world and the real world, was thesed by Avi Bar-Zeev, one of the legends and pioneers of VR, for whom the topic of the interaction of different realities is the topic of his many years of work.
In fact, based on this view, there are many different hypostases of the universe, and it’s not just Meta.
TD: They call it the “next evolution of social connection”. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
Stanislav: I almost agree. Unless it becomes the next evolution of separation. Or “disconnection looking like connection”. Are you sure that’s not going to happen? I’m not.
I haven’t seen pickets or queues of Facebook-Meta users with “We need a next evolution of social connection” banners. I haven’t seen people suffering from any lack of social connectivity. I haven’t seen a single research on the subject of humanity’s real request for the evolution of social connection. This is where we have to ask, “What’s behind this?”.
Obviously, we are witnessing a traditional game with the human mind, subconscious and attention. Such games are always very fascinating. And they are often effective, especially when it comes to creating new markets or redefining old ones. The only question is for whom is this game of real value – for Zuckerberg, or for the people living on planet Earth?
I’m just not sure that humanity has decided to abandon human appearance in favor of avatars (artificial faces and bodies) to solve the so-called “lack of social connection” problem. And if it (humanity) did so, it would be nice to know where, when and how such a decision was made.
It also remains unclear how Facebook-Meta’s new strategy fits in with the UN Sustainable Development Goals such as Goal #10:
Social connection implies people interacting on some basis-whether they agree for free or for a fee-but for the sake of some goal or system of goals.
TD: We’ve seen the online game “Second Life” which started in 2003. It sounds quite similar. What’s different and what could make the difference to succeed now in the mainstream market?
Stanislav: Second Life is a pioneer community, which essentially started the creation of what is now called the Metaverse (Dejaverse by Avi Bar-Zeev). The strength of the community lies in its members and creators, and in the rules that they agree on and follow. It is the kind of self-organizing environment that sociologists might call a democracy.
Here I can only quote Natalie Clayton “We’re going to keep hearing about metaverse for months to come, but don’t be fooled. The metaverse has been here for years, and it’s already bigger, bolder and more wonderfully bizarre than anything Facebook could hope to offer.”
The entire article is here: Virtual worlds are already better than the metaverse will ever be
TD: How can the travel industry benefit from a service like Metaverse? Please give several examples.
Stanislav: There are a couple of benefits available for the travel industry now. Starting with the nascent culture of 360 video, when travel enthusiasts try to record 360 videos of their trips, and it becomes popular. Periodically, people can find such videos randomly on traditional video streaming platforms, and get their perspective on different travel destinations from a new angle. In general, this type of content for popularizing travel destinations is quite effective if done well.
Another possible benefit is related to marketing again. Organizing online shopping in a metaworld is quite possible, and will be one of the catalysts for sales of travel-related products.
The recent decisions of Barbados (Barbados to Become First Sovereign Nation With an Embassy in the Metaverse) and Seoul (Seoul to Launch ‘Metaverse’ Public Service Platform in 2022) also speak to the applicability and potential of VR, 360, AR for the travel industry as a whole as they become a catalyst for audience interest and a tool to retain that interest, and that is ultimately very important for creating a favorable business environment and a new culture of business interaction. If a virtual universe consists of virtual countries, territories and services helpful for real people in the real world – then why not? It’s a win-win situation.
TD: What other exciting new technologies do you see rising in the near future?
Stanislav: We believe that a large part of video content will exist in the form of 360 video. Its share will grow, and it will grow quite rapidly. There are many factors contributing to this. One of the traditional problems of the so-called 360 VR industry has always been the quality of the content. Many videos were simply uncomfortable to watch before. Now that problem is being solved by major advances in Hard and Software. Hard is getting cheaper, Soft is getting better without exaggeration on a daily basis. Today, a good 360 video camera costs as much as an iPhone, and a good VR headset as much as half an iPhone. And prices are going to go down. This is always the case when a new device enters the mass market. So the question about the number of users of VR (360 video) is a question of time and only time. Everyone understands the difference between 360 video and watching a regular video on a flat device with frames. In 360 video a person is immersed in the content and exists in it. This is why it is called an immersive experience. We believe that through the development of such technologies (a combination of breakthrough solutions in Hard and Soft), it is possible to create very necessary and useful services for a huge number of people all over the Planet.
TD: You decided yourself to find your luck in that market. Why exactly this niche? We’ve seen 360° videos for several years already, but they never played a bigger role. Not on YouTube and not on other websites really. What can be the gamechanger?
Stanislav: We focus on solving 2 problems: the traveler – experienced or inexperienced, and the local tour guide (or someone who decided to become one).
The way we travel is broken. And has been for a long time now. Travelers are struggling to find a travel emotions substitute by watching traditional travel content on existing platforms. In fact, it is hard. Because no video can replace travel for at least one billion people who have enjoyed travel at least once in their lives.
What if a traveler can find a way to enjoy traveling even without leaving home?
We believe there is a revolutionary immersive model to teleport and entertain people and bring them travel emotions.
And that’s why we created BilliOnAir, the first real-time immersive indoor & outdoor interactive 360 video streaming platform for remote travelers and local tour guides.
It’s built for experienced and unsophisticated travelers, for professional storytellers, video creators and for the beginners.
BilliOnAir teleports and entertains travelers, and helps local guides make money.
Here is how it works: the local guides make live streams (more simple wording: shoot and immediately transmit the video) from their locations using 360 camera, and remote travelers from any other locations (at the same time) can watch and interact with the guide and each other if they watch the stream together… For this, a VR headset is not required, but it’s recommended to get a fully immersive experience. Travelers can also engage with guides using a smartphone, PC or a tablet. They book in advance or join instantly any available 360 live stream and start watching and interacting with their guide the same way if they really travel. All in one click.
For local guides – virtual tours creators – our platform becomes a monetization tool. The guides make money from every stream and every traveler.
No jet-lag, no queue, no time-zone. Just travel.
TD: If we take a look at YouTube videos, a lot of them are in a low quality. Not from the resolution, but in the way they were produced. You see a ton of shaky videos, horrible camera maneuvers and badly edited cuts and formats.
To produce a 360° video in a good quality is a complete different game. You want to work with professional tour guides who are amateurs in video productions. How shall they be able to produce great videos and then maybe even ‘live’?
Stanislav: BILLIONAIR Broadcasting Kit (BBK) – is the first tuition course made by our team and lead by our Head of Production – Andrii Shramko – one of the most experienced and recognized 360-video content creators and producers.
BBK contains a series of lessons and practical recommendations earned by the most experiences creators of 360-degree video.
This course helps anyone to be able to start making 360 videos and live streams easily.
Combined with all features of BILLIONIAR platform it provides all benefits from the very beginning.
In other words we support our amateur 360-video creators from Day One and help them become more professional. So for them to able to deliver a great quality of pre-recorded or live video content without shakes, horrible camera maneuvers and badly edited cuts.
TD: What about VR & AR? Why should a tourist buy and use a VR device and what value will it provide?
Stanislav: My grandmother lived in a small village in Siberia. For many years they did not have a refrigerator, because it had not yet been invented then, and when it was invented, it was expensive. Every time food was stored outside the house in the -30 to -40 degree cold winter. It was a great and functional, but also only a seasonal solution for preserving meat, fish, etc. In summer, such products were stored in the cellar. It was also a solution, but less reliable.
Then came the era of refrigerators, they have become available, including for my grandmother. It is clear that by the time she was an elderly person, she was happy to have a refrigerator in the kitchen – an out-of-season solution available 24 hours a day at a distance of one step. So she has not to run out every time for products in the cold winter, or climb the steep stairs into the cellar in summer to get them.
Tourists may or may not buy VR headsets. But once they try to use them for travel fun, decision making, shopping, etc., they’ll appreciate the benefits of such an all-season available at arm’s length 24/7 solution
TD: How can travel brands, but also the digital media publishers benefit from this step?
Stanislav: First of all, it is an opportunity for brands to showcase their products in the form of new content. This attracts the attention of the audience.
In the form of content in which you can immerse yourself (drive down a ski slope in Rossignol skis with a friend wearing a new Moncler suit) – even more attention due to the effect of presence.
Well and the main idea – when such content is watched with VR headset, there is nothing else to distract. Thus, brands capture the user’s attention and can do with this attention whatever they want in theory.
Digital media are becoming global guides and platforms for the engagement of billions of people around the world.
TD: Why are 360° videos a serious alternative? Will this include VR & AR?
Stanislav: 360 video and the engagement of people watching together for example 360 video broadcasts from tourist locations is really a serious alternative to what is now called the meta universe. It’s essentially the same reality that is now becoming available to everyone. This is the same refrigerator for my grandmother in Siberia.
VR and AR technology are becoming the tools to accomplish such an idea. If you imagine a 360-life stream from the center of Rome, when your guide with a camera walks along the route Colosseum – Spanish Steps and tells you about the sights and history, you can see as a feature the pop-up, superimposed AR tags and navigation hyperlinks, which just might contain useful related information or unobtrusive advertising.
Now let’s think about the main thing – why such an alternative is important. What is travel in essence. It is when a person gets out of his usual location (city, country) and physically visits another location – usually far from his home. In today’s world, this is often done by air travel, for it is more efficient to cover a distance of say 1000 km or more.
A few years ago Boeing conducted a study and obtained this data. Of the entire population of the Earth, only 1 billion people have had the experience of flying by air at least once in their lives. That means that the remaining approximately 7 billion people have never flown in an airplane. That means they have not seen unfamiliar locations in their masses. It means they haven’t and still don’t have enough travel experience.
Why don’t we help them? Why don’t we give them a convenient, accessible tool so they can experience the emotions of a traveler without even leaving home? At least this way we will bring them closer to something new and unexplored, we will consider our mission accomplished, and then they – users will make their own decisions – to fly to Rome or visit it with a familiar or new guide again in a day, week, month with a 360-live stream for 4 euros instead of 400 just for the ticket.
Also, if we’re talking about equality, let’s talk about older people who are young at heart but cannot travel fully due to health limitations. They deserve our attention, and the opportunity to travel from the comfort of their own homes, too – and they will be happy to have that opportunity. That’s exactly where there is no prejudice about VR. For them VR is a real way out and a real alternative and help. The same can be said about wheelchair users, of whom there are about 100 million in the world. So the new tool is already becoming a huge benefit for billions of people. And at the same time it helps the tourism industry itself, and local tour guides, which now have the opportunity to create, conduct tours, monetize their skills on this marketplace for an unlimited global audience.
TD: Which destination would you like to explore through a 360° video? With a VR device? Why this spot?
Stanislav: We are focused on, but not limited to, popular destinations.
I would say that for us it is not so much the name of the geographical point on the map that is important, but the value that this point represents for travel. We focus equally on all kinds of tourist destinations and activities. These are mountains, skiing, sea, beach, museums, castles, city tours, gastro-tours, street performances, sports events, educational tours, nature parks, theme parks. In general, all kinds of activities that travelers can experience and afford while traveling. That’s why we are constantly inviting new and new guides, video content creators, people who know their territories well and are ready to tell other people about them.
The VR device in this case is a good key to the door that says Teleportainment. But it’s not the only one. Our users will be able to use their tablets, smartphones or computers to try the experience. Again, in our inherently democratic model – then let them decide for themselves whether or not to use VR headsets. Personally, I use it because I enjoyed it.
TD: OK, so which destination will you choose and use your VR to watch a 360° video?
Stanislav: I have a list of hundreds of destinations I want to visit virtually and physically.
But for sure I would like to see and visit: Bali, Dolomiti, Archipelago Los Roques, Mont-Saint-Michel, Lisboa. My previous dream was about the Alps. But now I live here in Grenoble (France), and my traveler’s dream is around me.
While every place on our beautiful planet is a sight to behold, some are simply magical, such as the city of Kyoto. Standing as the monument to the imperial age of Japan for over a millennium, Kyoto is the very lifeblood of traditional Japanese culture.
Naturally, the list of everything you can do and see in Kyoto is as long. Vermillion shrines and golden temples to graceful tea ceremonies, spiritual quests, swaying bamboo forests and taking mind-soothing strolls through Zen rock gardens – Kyoto is more like a place from another dimension.
What can you expect?
The city is swarming with tradition, culture, rich history and architecture. Shrines and temples, wooden treehouses, luscious forests, peaceful gardens and shimmering pavilions are just the tip of the iceberg.
From top food to deep spirituality, Kyoto takes you on a journey where you’ll get to know its history and people and get in touch with your inner self. While Kyoto is the center of traditional Japan, it is also a city that gives way to modern technologies.
You’ll find all the perks of the modern world here, including a vibrant theater and food scene, countless vending machines, concrete high-rises, excellent infrastructure and so much more.
How to avoid crowds?
The crowds in Kyoto can be large at certain times of the year. In addition to locals, tourism has been booming in this city. After all, it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Japan. However, there are certain ways you can ensure that the trip is not too overwhelming, especially if the crowds are something you are not used to being around.
- Stay for more than a few days. Kyoto is a beautiful place to visit, and several days are not enough to see everything. If you stay longer, you can go exploring early in the morning and take a break sometime in the afternoon.
- Book hotels closer to the sights you want to see. You do not want to spend the whole day on a bus or train. Thus, it is best to book a hotel closer to the locations you want to see. Then, you will be able to go on foot and explore more beautiful sights along the way.
- Get up early. Not really a morning person? In Kyoto, you should be. The earlier you manage to roll out of bed, the bigger the chances that the streets will not be packed. Furthermore, since many temples in Kyoto open pretty late, you might want to schedule your visits appropriately. For instance, Kiyomizu-dera opens at 6:00 AM, and it could be the first one you visit.
Visit the Fushimi Inari shrine
While in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is a sight you simply must visit. It is a breathtakingly beautiful shrine with countless bright orange torii gates diving into the forest as it snakes up into the misty mountains.
Visiting this shrine can be a simple temple visit or a forest hike. There are many other shrines to visit along the way, with stunning miniature toriis and magnificent stone fox statues. The fox is vital to Japanese culture as it is considered the messenger of Inari – the Shinto god of rice. The shrine is open 24/7, and entry is free.
Experience the beauty of Southern Higashiyama and Gion
Gion is part of southern Higashiyama, which is one of the most interesting areas to visit in Kyoto. You can find some of the best-preserved and most picturesque streets from old times in the city. It’s considered a historic district and is crowded with paper lanterns, paved stone pathways, narrow lanes and wooden houses.
The entire district is loaded with temples, but the area we recommend visiting first is Gion. Being that Gion is Kyoto’s main geisha district, you can see many beautiful women in traditional Japanese attire. That aside, Yasaka Shrine, Shinbashi-dori, the Shirakawa Canal and Hanami-koji are also top sights that should be on your radar. Overall, Gion is known for its mesmerizing, historic atmosphere with many elements of the traditional Japanese culture preserved.
Additionally, do not miss the opportunity to visit Shijo Dori. It is a shopping street full of goods for tourists with high-end tastes. Even if you do not plan on buying anything, just seeing all the gorgeous things for sale is an experience.
Check out the Kiyomizu-dera temple
Kiyomizu-dera has been standing since 778 AD and is another monumental Kyoto sightseeing spot that you shouldn’t miss. What is so characteristic about this particular location is its rather dramatic hillside view across the city. The first thing that will captivate you is a vast wooden main hall that was built entirely without a single nail.
Then, there is also a thousand-armed, eleven-faced statue of Kannon to behold as well. You can also find other interesting things to see in this rather large complex that houses many other buildings and structures such as the bizarre Tainai-meguri, quiet paths into the forest, red three-story pagoda and the captivating entrance gate.
Take a stroll down the Philosopher’s Path
Located in Northern Higashiyama along a canal lined with cherry trees, the Philosopher’s Path is truly a wonderful sight to see. It connects two of the most popular temples, Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji, and is 2 km long. It is an excellent place for getting in touch with your inner energy and doing some meditation, as well as strolling down the canal while exploring smaller temples along the way. Of course, you do not have to go all the way along the path. You can walk for as much as you like and turn around.
Visit teahouses for a short break
You might need some time to rest before visiting another place. Teahouses are the place for calm and soothing contemplation and relaxation. Thus, be sure to visit at least one teahouse on your trip to Kyoto. If you are more used to seeing coffee shops, teahouses serve a similar purpose. However, instead of coffee, you get tea.
For instance, if you are already in the Gion district, there are countless teahouses you can visit. While some might be more modern, other teahouses will have preserved their original authenticity. Hence, for the full experience, we suggest visiting Ichiriki Ochaya. It is a historic teahouse, a place that is mentioned in the history books. After all, Japan’s revolutionary warriors assembled in this place to talk strategy.
Stay safe while exploring Kyoto
Being in Kyoto is a brilliant travel experience. In addition to modern technology, you get to behold one of the most historic places in the country. Additionally, almost all locations are well-preserved, allowing you to imagine what they looked like centuries ago.
However, all fun aside, staying safe in Kyoto should also be a priority. After all, you might get enchanted with everything around you. And then, accidentally, you might lose important documents or put your digital data in danger.
Here are some basic travel safety tips while you’re visiting Kyoto to make sure you have the best time possible. These recommendations work in any city you visit. So, remember them whenever you are about to embark on any trip.
- Do some research on the most expected problems that will probably arise in the destination you’re visiting. A simple Google search will allow you to prepare for unexpected situations. For instance, did you know that you should not take photographs of the geishas in the Gion district? If you want to capture the moment, you must ask for permission first. Furthermore, attempts to take pictures might lead to fines.
- Make copies of all important documents and keep them in a safe place. This recommendation is simple, and you should do this before any trip.
- Make sure your hotel room is always locked when you’re not there, and when you’re inside as well. This is an easy way to protect your belongings and to have that peace of mind that all of your stuff is safe.
- When using the hotel Wi-Fi, it’s always best to ensure your connection is as secure as possible. You can do this by enabling a VPN before you connect to the internet. A VPN protects your data and ensures that everything you do online gets encrypted. Thus, eavesdroppers will have no chance of intercepting your communications.
The post How to Have the Most Rewarding Time While Visiting Kyoto appeared first on Wandering Earl.
Americans sure love to travel. Over 45 million Americans traveled abroad in 2019 – some of them for business, others for pleasure. And while the pandemic has dampened those numbers, the need to experience the sights and sounds of the world remains.
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, here’s a quick tax guide to get you started.
Can I work remotely from another country?
Yes! A few have even decided to make the most of the ongoing situation to travel the world.
In an effort to boost flagging visitor numbers, some countries such as Estonia and Bermuda have offered special visas for Americans who want to temporarily work abroad. Since many companies have allowed their employees to work from home for the foreseeable future, the idea is to attract people who might want to continue working in an exotic destination.
It sounds like the perfect solution for people who don’t want to spend their time cooped up in their homes or apartments. They get to live in a foreign country while keeping their old jobs. But traveling and working abroad comes with responsibilities, chief of which is your taxes.
What is my tax situation?
Your tax situation depends on where you stay, and the length of time you spend abroad. It is estimated that over 10 million Americans live abroad long-term. Some of them stay in one place, while others jump from country to country.
But what does this mean for you?
If you spend a total of 330 days abroad during a 12-month period, you meet the Physical Presence Test. Meeting this test is crucial if you want to avail yourself of the many tax benefits available to American expats and travelers.
It’s important that you keep track of your time spent abroad. Even coming up a day short of the 330-day requirement means you forfeit any expat tax benefits that will help you reduce your tax liability.
Your length of stay could also determine your tax residency in that country. This means that you would be subject to that country’s tax laws. It’s important that you do your research ahead of time before making any big decisions.
Do I pay U.S. taxes if I work overseas?
Yes. The United States is one of the few countries in the world to adopt a citizenship-based tax system. This means that American citizens and permanent residents (also known as Green Card holders) have to pay U.S. taxes and file a federal tax return, even if they are based overseas.
Your worldwide income is also taxed by the IRS. Let’s say you decided to open a small side business during your stay abroad, while still keeping your day job for a U.S.-based company. Even if you don’t live in the United States and the business is based in a foreign country, both sources of income are subject to U.S. tax laws.
How do I reduce my tax liability?
Living and working abroad, while exciting, also comes with a lot of challenges. You have to navigate two different tax systems, which could lead to double taxation. It’s important that you understand all the benefits available to you if you want to minimize your tax liability.
Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
One of the biggest tax benefits available to expats is the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE).
The FEIE allows expat taxpayers to exclude a certain amount of foreign earnings from federal income tax. For the tax year 2021, the FEIE threshold is $108,700. You still need to file a federal tax return even if your income doesn’t exceed the threshold and you have no tax liabilities.
To claim the FEIE, the taxpayer must meet the Physical Presence Test.
Foreign Tax Credit
Another tax benefit you need to know is the foreign tax credit. Expats who have paid income tax to a foreign government can claim a dollar-for-dollar credit to reduce their U.S. tax bill.
Let’s say you’ve paid $1,000 of income tax to a foreign government. You can take a tax credit to reduce your U.S. tax bill by the same amount.
Once you have claimed the FEIE, you cannot take a tax credit for taxes on excluded income. You can, however, take a tax credit on foreign-earned income that exceeds the FEIE threshold.
How to file an expat tax return?
It’s important that you straighten out your finances before deciding to move abroad. Moving to a foreign country without a proper plan can lead to issues with your tax return. You can always talk to tax experts, such as those at TFX, if you need help clarifying your tax situation.
This post was written by Veronica Rhodes of TFX. TFX is a women-owned tax firm that offers all U.S. tax services — for both American citizens and non-citizens with U.S. tax filing requirements. From straightforward expat tax preparation to complex cases involving multiple factors — we’ve handled it all for over 25 years.
The post Taxes for Travelers Abroad: 5 Things You Need To Know appeared first on Wandering Earl.
Citizens of roughly 60 countries, including the US, who can travel visa-free in Europe will soon need to make an ETIAS application electronically before entering any Schengen country.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds though and merely involves a few extra steps to add to your travel planning routine. We’ve covered everything that you need to know about applying for ETIAS for your upcoming trip to Europe below.
What is ETIAS?
ETIAS stands for the European Travel Information and Authorization System and requires non-European Union citizens seeking visa-free travel to any of 26 nations in the Schengen area to register online and gain approval before being allowed to board planes to the region. It is an entirely electronic system that allows entry and keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone.
It’s similar to ESTA (United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization), which many travelers need to complete to enter the US. ETIAS aims to lower crime and terrorism risks in Europe and to ease border procedures for visitors.
When will ETIAS take effect?
ETIAS was initially scheduled to take effect from January 2021 but is now expected to become operational by the end of 2022, with transitional measures planned for a smooth introduction.
A list of the ETIAS countries
Countries that require an ETIAS to enter include all countries within the Schengen zone.
The Schengen zone encompasses Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Who will need ETIAS?
ETIAS targets citizens of countries who can enter the EU zone visa-free. This includes 62 countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Hong Kong, etc. You can check if you require an ETIAS here.
How does the ETIAS system work?
The ETIAS system will be efficient and straightforward to use, ultimately saving time for applicants and processing.
The ETIAS application can be made in three steps:
- Complete the online ETIAS application: It takes about 10 minutes to complete and includes biometric information, citizenship, address, contact details, EU country you’re visiting and background and eligibility questions.
- Pay the ETIAS fees and submit the form: When you complete the application, you will have to pay the fee and submit it. The system will process your information and approve your application.
- Receive the visa waiver by email: In addition to being sent via email, the approved ETIAS visa waiver is linked electronically to the applicant’s passport.
During your application, the system will automatically process your identity, travel documents and answers to background questions against databases (SIS, VIS, EUROPOL DATA, SLTD & TDAWN (Interpol), EURODAC, etc.) and its screening rules and watchlist.
ETIAS are valid for three years or until the end of validity of the passport registered during the application, whichever comes first.
An example: Venezuelans traveling to France
Since Venezuela is part of the European Visa-Exempt Program, travelers must complete an ETIAS application before traveling to Europe.
Once ETIAS becomes mandatory, Venezuelan passport holders will apply for an ETIAS for France (which is within the Schengen zone) before departure. With an approved ETIAS visa waiver, Venezuelan passport holders will be able to spend up to 90 days in France.
Here’s an example of getting an ETIAS for Venezuelans to travel to France:
- In the online ETIAS for Venezuela to travel to France application, Venezuelans require the following documents:
- Venezuela passport: this must be valid for at least three months from the date of entry
- Debit or credit card: this is required to pay the ETIAS for France fees
- Current email address: the approved visa waiver will be sent to the email inbox
- While completing the ETIAS online form, you’ll need the below information on hand:
- Full name as it appears on the passport
- Contact details including current residential address and email address
- Passport information such as the number and expiry date
How much does ETIAS cost?
It is planned for ETIAS to only cost €7 for each application for adults over 18 years. Travelers under 18 will not have to pay any fees.
Enjoy visa-free travel to Europe
For members of the 60+ countries that don’t require a visa to enter Europe, don’t let the ETIAS application process scare you away. It’s simply a 10-minute online application that is super simple and efficient!
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You’re in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.