Wednesday, June 25, 2008

General Travel Tip - The Tipping Point

Giving Tips Guide
What is your tipping point? If you're like us, you'll be staring at the strange, colorful denominations in your palm, unsure what you should be giving the driver, porter, waiter, hairdresser, barista, police officer as they smile patiently. Tipping etiquette varies across cultures, generations, locations, and occupations. In North America it's become so ubiquitous, pretty soon they'll have "tip jars" in emergency rooms. So where and what should we tip? Here are some ideas we came up with:

1. Research where you are going. In some places like mainland China or Japan tipping can be considered insulting. So do a little reading, save your cash and don't get labeled a rude tourist. For general ideas on tipping in prospective countries we've put together a brief list:
- If you travel in Australia: generally tipping is not expected.
- If you travel in North America: 10–20% depending on level of service (15% is a generally a good guideline), but if the service is terrible, don't feel obliged to leave anything.
- If you travel in China: tipping isn't required (outside of Hong Kong).
- If you travel in Egypt: tipping is expected everywhere, so it's good to have small change available at all times. For restaurants/taxis 10–20% is the standard.
- If you travel in France: service charges are automatically added to the bill, generally 15%.
- If you travel in Hong Kong: read your bill, as a service charge (generally 10%) has probably already been added by restaurants and hotels. For taxis, just round up to the next Hong Kong Dollar.
- If you travel in Japan: don't tip. Some places will actually find it insulting if you do.
- If you travel in Malaysia: tipping generally isn't expected.
- If you travel in Thailand: traditionally tipping hasn't been expected, but it is becoming more prevalent. Many restaurants/hotels have already applied a 10% service charge, so check your bill. For taxis, provided you are using a meter, 3–5 Baht is plenty, 10 Baht if the total is over 100.
- If you travel in Mexico: similar to Egypt as tipping is expected everywhere, so it is best to have some small change on you.

2. Remember to read the bill. As previously noted many restaurants and hotels will automatically add a gratuity and should be giving the tips to the staff.

3. If you're unsure what to tip, just ask. Most people will give you an honest answer and let you know what is adequate.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Travel Hong Kong Guide - Full of joys in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Travel Hong Kong Guide Lan Kwai FongWe admit it, we love Hong Kong. "Where East meets West", "The Jewel of South East Asia", "Asia's World City"; Hong Kong is all this and more. It is the economic powerhouse of Asia, it's a launching pad for new electronics and cool gadgets, it boasts an innovative vibrant film industry, it's at the forefront of fashion, the people are beautiful, flowers are beautiful, the weather, the shopping, and oh my God, the food!!!

Throw in an extensive transit system that gets you from A to B faster than you can say Tsim Sha Tsui, and every part of

Hong Kong is ready for you to explore. Tram it up to The Peak for a falcon's view of the city, walk the Avenue of Stars on Victoria Harbor, gawk at the sky–scrapers of Hong Kong Island, revel in the madness of Mongkok's shopping stalls or admire the Pandas of Ocean Park. BUT friends, there is one place you need not miss, one very, very special place.

Lan Kwai Fong. Saying it tingles the tongue like a dark ale.
Hong Kong's famous restaurant and pub quarter lies next to the central business district, but exists as if in a different dimension. With over 100 restaurant and bars lining cobblestone streets, it is Hong Kong's premier place to go for drinks, festivals and parties.

Originally an area dedicated to hawkers selling flowers and wares (Lan Kwai Fong literally means street filled with orchids and fragrances), the area was revamped in the early 80's by German–Canadian businessman Alan Zeman. Wanting a place to entertain overseas clients, he purchased and converted one of the main buildings in the square into a group of western restaurants. Paired with a couple existing nearby discos, the area soon became the nightlife hotspot for tourists, expats and the nearby business crowd.

The easiest way to "The Fong" is to take the MTR to Central Station on Hong Kong Island and navigate the crowd to exit D2. Find your way up onto D'Aguilar Street and head uphill. Start out in the afternoon and stroll down the cobblestones to check out the chic and trendy boutiques and spas. Window–shop if you like, indulge if you must. Pop into one of the numerous pubs for a late afternoon pint or sit on one of the various patios enjoying the afternoon sun and watch the people start to filter through.

Aromas soon emanate from everywhere, urging you to quell the growing cravings. This is no easy task with so much to choose from. Obviously the Oriental choices are abundant with
Asian cuisines like Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese restaurants nearby, but there is also French & Italian fine dining, or feast at one of the Russian, Nordic, Australian, Spanish and International restaurants in the area as well.

Eating is sure to take you well into the evening and as you step out of the restaurant you'll realize that trendy little pub district has transformed into "The Fong". Beautiful people are everywhere as celebrities, actors and models come to be seen. High heels click and clack on the street like manic metronomes trying to catch the thumping bass from the clubs. "The Fong" has suddenly become one very, very large street party as people move from club to pub, trying to find the hottest spot to dance and mingle. With bars and pubs nearing capacity, people move onto the street, which is now cutoff to all vehicular traffic. In the end it's the street party itself which is the biggest attraction, as people stop to chat and laugh, enjoying a pint or many.

There is always something going on in "The Fong", be it street festivals during the Halloween and New Year's celebrations or the Beer and Food Festivals that pop up in the summer. If you want good food, good times or just to people watch, make sure Lan Kwai Fong is part of your trip.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Travel Europe Guide - The Coming of Euro 2008

Euro 2008 Official LogoRegarded around the world as the most prestigious tournament for European national teams, the UEFA European Cup football tournament has been held every four years since 1960. This year's version, Euro 2008 is offering a total of 184 million Euros in prize money. The winner will hoist a newly designed 8 kg trophy and will represent UEFA at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa

Austria and Switzerland won the rights to host Euro 2008 making it the second time that two nations have been successful in winning the right to co–host the tournament. The matches will be held at eight different stadiums located in various parts of the co–hosting countries. While the host nations were given automatic qualifications, the rest of Europe's elite were forced to battle it out in the rigorous group stages that began in August 2006. 14 teams made it through to join the two co–hosts in the 16–team tournament. The games begin on June 7th at St. Jakob Park in Basel, where Switzerland will take on the Czech Republic.

The German team captained by Chelsea's Michael Ballack is favored by bookmakers to make the short trip home as European champions. However, Portugal, with arguably the world's best player Christiano Ronaldo of Manchester United in their lineup, can't be ignored as they attempt to go one step further this time after finishing as runners–up at Euro 2004. The Spanish also have a star studded team which includes Liverpool's Fernando Torres and will be looking to lose their under achievers' tag by making an impact at the tournament.

The English team will be the most noticeable absence, with former manager Steve Mc Claren being fired shortly after they failed to qualify. Other noticeable absences include Ukraine, Serbia, Norway, Denmark, Bulgaria and Scotland.

Euro 2004 winners Greece made it through and will hope to cause as much of a shock as they did in the last competition, while 2006 World Cup champions Italy will be hunting for more glory

With the likes of France, Holland, Portugal, Spain and Germany all keen to add another major trophy to their cabinets, this tournament could be the most hotly contested in years. However, fans are sure to witness a few surprises as Croatia, Turkey, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Sweden make up the rest of the teams who are all hoping to grab the world’s attention.

"Expect Emotions" is the official tournament slogan as fans are set to experience joy, disappointment, relief and high tension up until tournament concludes on June 29th. The final match will be played at the 53,000 seat capacity Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna and will feature Enrique Iglesias performing the Euro 2008 tournament anthem "Can you hear me?"