Miscellaneous Roundup Friday 17 September 2010

Eiffeltowerb Canada has issued a travel advisory for France, urging Canadians to keep photocopies of the ID page of their pasport, along with copies of their driver's license, travel documents and credit cards, all in a safe place (or online in the 'internet cloud').  They are recommending this due to the high volume of pick pocketing and theft being experienced by Canadians in the major tourist areas of France.

This ties in with a new top ten list from TripAdvisor, showing what they believe to be the worst ten cities in terms of the likelihood of being pick pocketed.  In order, they are Barcelona, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Athens, Prague, Costa Brava, Lisbon, Tenerife and London.

Mexico has introduced an interesting new twist on trying to fight crime.  It is now restricting the amount of US cash that can be used to pay for things in Mexico.  You can no longer use pay more than $100 in cash for an item, but you can still pay for things with credit and debit cards.  Hotels are restricted from changing any more than $1500 per person per month into pesos, and some businesses may now refuse cash entirely.

It has also been suggested that the Mexican government plans to drop this limit down to $30 in the future.

The objective is to stop money laundering.  It probably won't, but it sure will slow down tourism.

Talking about hotels, ARTA are alerting people to an interesting new scam in hotels.  An ARTA travel agent was staying at a Courtyard by Marriott hotel in the Denver area recently.

She was woken up by a phone call late at night by someone saying he was from the front desk.  The caller said they were trying to transmit the credit cards of the guests who had checked in that day to their central office and they had to be in by 1 am.  He asked for the agent's credit card details.  She said no.  The caller said they could send someone up to the room to get the details and again the agent refused, ending the call and hearing nothing further.

The next day she was told that although the call probably did originate from somewhere in the hotel, it was a scam by people trying to steal people's credit card numbers, and that several other hotels had reported similar things happening.

Continuing on a similar theme to hotel scams, hotels are now trying a new tactic to get as much money as possible from guests wishing to access the internet.  One of the travel paradoxes of life is that whereas moderately priced hotels generally include free or low priced internet access in their room rate, up-market hotels charge a pretty penny to allow you access to the internet.

In this USA Today article, they report how some hotels are now offering two levels of internet access – a basic slow rate suitable for basic email only, and a faster rate for more general internet access.

Even basic email can sometimes need fast bandwidth, particularly if you have POP3 rather than web-based email, and friends who send you many megabyte sized pictures and joke files.

A repackaged rip-off is still a rip-off.

One last hotel item.  This story reports on how a group of hotels in the UK are using a new service to share details of black-listed guests.

So if you have a disagreement at one hotel, or are deemed to have made too much noise, or accused of stealing something (fairly or otherwise), you might find yourself suddenly blacklisted at 10,000 other hotels, motels, B&Bs and other such small operators, all around the UK.

I was updating my iPhone to the latest version of its operating system earlier this week.  I was stunned to see how large the download file was that contained the updated operating system.  It was 590 MB in size – just for a cell phone operating system.  It seems not that long ago that a new version of Windows could be loaded from three or four 1.44 MB floppy disks, and so this 590 MB OS update would require just over 400 floppy disks.

Progress.  It is an amazing thing, isn't it.

Lastly in this part of the newsletter, kudos to Amtrak, who are adding a lovely restored dome car to two roundtrip services between Washington DC and Chicago this fall, to allow passengers (on a first come, first served basis) to enjoy panoramic views of the fall foliage on the journey.

The carriage is also being operated on the Amtrak Adirondack trains from Albany to Montreal between 23 September and 24 October.  This 'Great Dome' carriage dates to 1955 and has been refurbished.  It is distinctive in having a dome section that runs its full length.  More details here.


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