Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Changes to Tourist Sites in France

If you visited the Eiffel Towers several years ago, you won't recognize it now. A bulletproof glass wall is working its way around the base, meaning you can't just wander under the tower anymore. And add at least 30 minutes to your visiting time, just to get through security. If you want to get to the summit, buy the tickets online. They are no longer available for purchase on the second level.

La Grande Arche de La Defense is open again and an elevator is available to take people to the top. It is pricey, and better views are available elsewhere, but the La Defense district is a fascinating piece of Paris that a lot of tourists miss.

The Grotte de Font-de-Gaume cave in Dordogne is one of the only caves in France where you can still see original drawings. But it is now almost impossible to get in because the site is no longer taking reservations. Tickets are available to local guides and your best chance of getting in is contacting a local guide at least 6 months in advance of our visit.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Some Hints For Visiting Lisbon

Monastery of Jeronimos: There is sometimes a crowd problem here. If you buy a combo ticket at Belem's Archeology Museum, you can avoid the line at the monastery.

Classic Trolley Cars: Riding the trolleys is a very Portuguese experience. But they can be crowded with pickpockets targeting tourists. A less crowded option for the trolley experience is the line number 24E, back in service after not running for decades. The route doesn't pass any tourist sites but it will give you a view of everyday Lisbon.

Alfama Quarter: Not the wonderful tourist experience it once was. Instead, head to Mouraria, a new colorful zone located on the back side of the castle. This is where the Moors lived after the Christians took the city back from the Muslims. It is a colorful and gritty district of immigrants. And don't wait to see it before it becomes gentrified like the Alfama.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Ahead For Sightseeing in Barcelona

If you are going to Barcelona this summer and expect to visit many of the sights it is famous for, be sure to book ahead.

Tickets for the Sagrada Familia sell out fast. You could arrive at Park Guell and find out the next entrance tickets require a 2-hour wait, if available for that day at all.

Other sites that you should consider pre-purchasing tickets are the Picasso Museum, La Pedrera, and Casa Batllo.

Some sites require a guided tour, such as Casa Amatlier and Palace of Catalan Music and those should also be booked in advance.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Travelers Get Ready For New Tourist Taxes

Countries continue to find ways to increase revenue by hitting up the hapless tourist. I know there have been times I've checked out of a hotel to find, in addition to sales tax, a tourist tax added to my bill. I've been to countries that require a departure tax. Sometimes it is built into your airfare. Sometimes you have to pay it in cash, in US dollars!!, even though that might not be the currency of the country you are in.

Several new countries have added tourist taxes. Japan now has a departure tax of 1,000 yen, charge to any traveler leaving the country by air or sea. (Is there any other way to leave the country????)

New Zealand is charging a tax of NZD35 to any traveler arriving from any other country other than Australia.

And cities are now getting on the bandwagon. Amsterdam is charging Euro 6 to any passenger arriving on a cruise ship for a one day visit and Euro 8 per day for an overnight stay, even if it is on the cruise ship. For cruise passengers, the specifics of this will be invisible because it will be added to their taxes and port charges part of their cruise fare. Because of this new tax, two cruise lines have actually changed their itinerary to dock in Rotterdam instead of Amsterdam.

Venice has the approval of the Italian government to tax each visitor a city-entry fee. While the specific amount has not been determined yet, it is possible that it will vary based on the season.