Sunday, September 18, 2016

Don't take a backpack to the Oktoberfest

 If you do, security will not let you in, but direct you to an area where it will cost you  six euro to store your pack.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hiring a Driver in Quito

There are many interesting things to do within an hour or two of Quito.  Some are reachable by public transportation. One can rent a car, which has its challenges.  Although driving outside of Quito is quite easy, the city itself can be a traffic disaster.  We hired a private driver for a day and were glad we did.

First, we contacted Metropolitan Touring, a throughly reliable company — but their prices were very high.  It would have been about $600 for the four of us.  We gasped.  Then we tried our hotel, the Hilton.  They offered a driver for the day for $180.  Much better.  I did some checking on the Internet and found a variety of recommendations for Victor Alban (vicalban@hotmail.com). His English is quite good.  His rate for the day was $140. We tried to get him.

Unfortunately, he was booked for the day, but he suggested an associate, Ruben.  Ruben has limited English, but we corresponded with Victor Alban in advance and worked out an itinerary.  Things didn’t go quite as planned, given rather heavy traffic and the fact that one of our destinations was harder to get to then we expected, but Ruben was adaptable and we did everything we wanted to do.

Altogether, we were happy and definitely recommend Victor Alban if you need a driver in Quito.  You might try to plan ahead more than the two days we did...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Ships Information” in Fiji

Be at least cautious about using “Ships Information” if you are cruising in Fiji.


They set up business where cruise ships dock.  They are reliable enough — but charge a commission.  I rented a car through them in Fiji, then walked 100 feet to the Avis office to get the car.  I would have saved money by going directly to Avis.

I think they are dependable enough — but you should check around the area before using them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Use Taxify to call a Taxi in the Baltics

If you are in one of the Baltic countries, use the app Taxify to call a taxi. It works a lot like Uber.  Recently we were in Vilnius, Lithuania and took four cab rides.  The three using Taxify went fine.  Once I didn’t use it.  The result was a wild ride with a dubious driver who overcharged us.

Taxify is an Estonian start-up, and I expect it will grow with time to more countries. As I write, it is also available in Amsterdam, Helsinki, Prague and Belgrade and a few other cities.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Don’t Stay overnight in Cinque Terre

The five villages of Cinque Terre are lovely.  However, they can be awkward to get to with luggage and they are small.  I’m staying at Portovenere, a lovely village just to the south of Cinque Terre.  There are regular ferries (Euro 25 for a day pass) that go from here to the five villages, and it is also an easy drive.  Besides, Portovenere is lovely village.


Don’t Go to Italy in July and August

Well, OK, any time is good to go to Italy, but summer is both hot and crowded.  If your schedule allows a visit in spring or fall you will have a much more relaxed time.  I’m in northern Italy at the moment.  The weather is fine.  Things are uncrowded.  It’s a very relaxing time to be here.  There is a reason why Roman emperors avoided Rome during the summer months.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dollars, Cruising, and South America

I recently finished a 45-day cruise in South America, visiting Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the Falkland Islands, and Brazil. 

I rarely used local pesos.  Merchants and tour operators much preferred U. S. dollars.  This was especially true in Argentina, where the official exchange rate is about 8.4 pesos to the dollar, but just about everyone you deal with will happily offer 11 or 12 to the dollar.  

Small amounts of local currency are useful for bus fares, etc., but if you are cruising in South America, don’t come loaded with stacks of local currency.