Drop that bag of birdseed! In St. Mark’s square in Venice, it’s illegal to feed the pigeons.
Warning: You’ve got to add one more item to your list of travel essentials. In addition to packing like a pro, making sure your passport is up to date, and knowing your must-sees before you arrive, you should also make sure you understand the ways in which a foreign country’s laws can affect your vacation.
Relax, we don’t mean to scare you. In most cases, Americans don’t get dinged for accidentally breaking a minor foreign law, but there have been cases of fines and even jail time for some of the more serious offenses. As the saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Some unusual foreign laws are rooted in perfectly legitimate safety and health concerns (for example, some countries are eager to micromanage your bathroom routine); others are rather odd and, in some cases, probably just strange historical stragglers that have never been taken off the books (let’s just say your ability to hail a cab in London may be compromised if you’re accompanied by a rabid dog). Here, a helpful (and often entertaining) look at some of the world’s strangest laws:
Don’t feed the pigeons in Venice’s St. Mark’s square. If you haven’t been to Venice in a few years, this law may be a shock to you, and we’d hate to see you fined for trying to feed that iconic birds that flock to the square. While the law may seem draconian (and you may have fond memories of feathered friends landing on your head last time you visited the square), it is firmly rooted in a concern for Venice’s monuments and historic buildings: Not only is the amazing city under seige by rising ocean tides and decaying infrastructure, but pigeons’ claws and droppings have been wearing away at all that beautiful old stone.
Don’t sing or dance in Rome. Whoa. What? Actually, this law applies to groups of three or more and we have no evidence of it being enforced. But in the unlikely event that you’re gung-ho to reenact scenes from Mamma Mia! in the streets of the Eternal City with two or more friends, you’ll want to ask your hotel concierge about getting a permit first.
Don’t jump in the Trevi Fountain (or any other fountain in Rome). Last summer, some late-night bathers made the news for jumping into the ornate landmark immortalized in the film Three Coins in the Fountain. But wading into any of Rome’s fountains comes with the risk of a fine. (We prefer to think of this law as “Don’t be an idiot.”)
Don’t eat gelato (or any other delicious Italian treat) at one of Rome’s historical sights. Boo! The slobs who dropped food, dribbled melted ice cream, littered, and in general posed a risk to Rome’s ancient marble and stone treasures have ruined it for the rest of us. We can’t say we approve of this law, but do your snacking indoors or away from the historic districts.
Don’t run out of gas on the Autobahn. The actual law forbids drivers from stopping on the highway that’s legendary for high speeds. To avoid a fine, make sure you gas up before hitting the road.
Don’t wear flip-flops when driving. You know, this one makes sense for drivers everywhere, doesn’t it? If you’ve ever tripped out of your flip-flops, imagine what it would be like to lose control of your feet while putting the pedal to the metal.
Don’t spit in Barcelona. Another example of Spanish ingenuity: Dude, don’t spit anywhere in the world!
Don’t wear high heels at archeological sites. The amount of pressure that just one pair of pumps exerts on ancient stone and marble is significant; multiply it by endless visitors over the decades and sites like the Acropolis have got themselves a problem. Just one more reason to pack your comfy shoes for seeing the sites.
Don’t chew gum. Yup, this law is fairly well known because it has been enforced to the chagrin of visiting Americans. Just pretend you’re back in second grade. No gum allowed.
You must flush the public toilet. Um… of course we will.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Don’t eat during Ramadan. It’s a revelation to non-Muslim visitors that they are expected to fast during Ramadan; failing to do so can result in a fine.
Don’t pee in the ocean in Portugal. Psst! We have absolutely no idea how they enforce this law.
The Real Deal This bucket-list-worthy trip to India includes eleven nights’ accommodations at a mix of hotels, guesthouses, and two nights on overnight sleeper trains; train transportation onboard the Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Agra and Jaipur, the Udaipur Express from Jaipur to Udaipur, the Bundi Mewar Express from Udaipur to Bundi, the Mumbai Rajdhani Express from Bundi to Mumbai, and the Konkan Kanya Express from Mumbai to Goa; guided trips to the Taj Mahal in Agra, Agra Fort, Hawa Mahal (aka. The Palace of the Winds), Amber Fort, Gateway of India, beaches of Goa, a Rajasthani cultural show, and guided walking tours of Jaipur, Udaipur, and the Colaba area of Mumbai among other tours; from $1,199 per person for a 12-day trip including all taxes and fees.
Book By No deadline; based on availability.
When Select dates thru 2016 ($1,199).
The Fine Print Based on single occupancy—you may be paired up with a roommate of the same sex, but you’ll never pay a single supplement on G Adventures trips! Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Contact G Adventures, 888/800-4100, gadventures.com.
This travel deal to Patagonia lets you get back to nature with a visit to El Calafate.
(Courtesy Myer Henderson of Say Hueque Tours in Argentina & Chile)
The Real Deal This land only vacation package to Argentina includes four nights in El Calafate, two nights in El Chalten, and two nights in Puerto Natales at your choice of B&B/Inn accommodations; a full-day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park with a cruise to get you up close to the Glacier; round-trip bus transportation between El Calafate and El Chalten; a full-day excursion to Torres del Paine National Park; the services of a bilingual guide; and daily breakfast; from $1,180 per person after the $150 discount is calculated for Budget Travel readers.
When Daily departures are available; contact Say Hueque Tours in Argentina & Chile to customize your trip.
The Fine Print Hotel taxes and fees are included in this land only package price, however international airfare, domestic flights, and National Park entrance fees for Tierra del Fuego National Park ($20), Los Glaciares National Park ($25), and Torres del Paine National Park ($55) are not—please pay cash locally. Based on double occupancy. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book By No deadline; based on availability.
Why It’s a Deal This travel package gives Budget Travel readers an exclusive $150 discount off regular tour prices in addition to several guided tours, eight nights’ accommodations in three Patagonian locales, transfers, and daily breakfast.
Get to know Auckland, New Zealand, with this travel deal that also gives you time in Sydney, Australia.
The Real Deal This travel package gives you airfare from L.A. to Sydney, with a return trip from Auckland; flights between cities, three nights’ accommodations at the Mercure Sydney Airport; three nights’ accommodations at Rydges Auckland; and daily breakfast; from $1,682 per person including all hotel and air taxes and fees.
When Ongoing; package price is based on an arrival date of Aug. 19, 2015.
The Fine Print Based on double occupancy. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book By No deadline; based on availability.
Contact Trip Masters, 800/430-0484, tripmasters.com.
Smart travelers, rejoice! You already know that the best vacations aren’t just about you, right? That seeing the world brings a new appreciation for that world, and a natural desire to leave it a better place? Well, it’s never been easier to be good to yourself and the planet at the same time. Here, our top trip tips for an environmentally friendly—and totally brag-worthy—vacation.
Pack for the planet
Between disposable snacks, Ziplocs, water bottles, batteries for electronic gear, and wrapping paper for gifts, just one carry-on can contribute an awful lot of junk to airport trash bins. Multiply that by the nearly 2 million people who pass through security in the U.S. each day and you’ve got tons of garbage headed straight to landfills. Instead, opt for reusable options such as sandwich bags from ReUseIt.com, clear Tupperware containers for toiletries and souvenirs, re-chargeable batteries, and BPA-free plastic or metal water bottles. And in place of gift paper, wrap presents in light fabric that can be used (either by you or the giftee) again.
Stay at an ecolodge
The notion of a resort that does no environmental harm—or even gives back to the Earth with sustainable practices—would have sounded a bit like science fiction a few decades ago. Now, stylish lodges across the globe offer luxury, adventure, and sustainability all at the same time, and many will set you back less than $200 per night. Some of the highlights of an eco-stay can include imaginative architecture that often relies solely on local materials, solar power, innovative water filtration systems, environmental education programs like guided tours and nature walks, employment of local residents and native peoples, and restaurants whose kitchens rely on locally sourced produce—often grown right on the lodge’s grounds. Check out Green Globe International to learn more about its certification criteria for ecolodges.
Take a volunteer vacation
There’s no better way to say thank-you to America’s phenomenal parks and trails than by volunteering your time to build or repair a trail. The American Hiking Society offers weeklong stints that can include backpacking or day hikes with a group of up to 15 volunteers and a group leader. Lodgings are simple: cabins, bunkhouses, or just campsites. The work? Trail maintenance and construction, bridge and shelter renovation, and native species reestablishment in national parks and forests, state parks, wildlife preserves, and other unique environments across the U.S.
Get to know the locals
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the heart of the Amazon or on a crowded boulevard in Paris—reaching out to the people who actually live year-round in your travel destination is the easiest and most reliable way to deepen your experience. It can be as simple as asking locals to recommend a public park or a favorite hike. Over the years, Budget Travel has highlighted readers’ True Stories, often demonstrating how a smile, nod of the head, or a politely asked question can turn a tourist into an honorary local, privy to sights, tastes, and feelings unavailable to those who simply pass through.
See America first
We’re not suggesting you pass up the opportunity to see every corner of the world—we’re all about stretching and crossing boundaries—but the simple fact is you’ll be responsible for fewer carbon emissions (and save more than a few bucks) if you explore closer to home. And you don’t have to go coast-to-coast to savor homegrown delights. This weekend, visit the nearest state park, historical society, or winery. Next time you’ve got a few days on your hands, we’ve got “One-Tank Escapes for 8 Cities” to get you started.
Shop at a farmers market
Here in the U.S., we tend to think of farmers markets as a groundbreaking component of the local food movement—and no doubt the explosion of markets in recent years has helped bring home cooks back in touch with the folks who actually grow their food. But, of course, green markets have been a staple of civilization for centuries and can be found just about anywhere in the world you might be visiting. Dive in to local markets, try fresh fruits and vegetables you’ve never eaten before, ask farmers and locals for recipes, and if you have access to a kitchen, bring home a bagful of homegrown produce, fresh flowers, and the satisfaction of having contributed to the livelihood of a farmer.
Walk, ride a bike, or take a train
Being on vacation shouldn’t be an excuse to put more car and bus fumes into the air. No matter where you’re staying, opt for walking tours over buses, rent bikes, and get to know the public transportation system.
At Budget Travel, we devote a lot of time to helping travelers get the most out of their financial resources. That can mean finding bargains in notoriously expensive destinations like Paris, introducing our audience to surprisingly affordable luxury experiences such as Palm Springs, or just showing them how to wring every last second of pleasure out of their vacation without breaking the bank.
I recently spoke with Jesse Mecham, CEO and founder of the personal finance site You Need a Budget (YNAB), who, as the name of his brand suggests, is a kindred spirit who has devoted a lot of his time to a mission similar to ours: showing everyone how to take control of their financial resources and getting the most out of them.
When you add Budget Travel’s know-how to YNAB’s solid financial advice and online- and app-driven financial trackers, the sum is 10 start-today tips to help you save for your next big trip.
VISUALIZE YOUR VACATION
Before we get into hardcore money-saving tips and financial tracking tools, we need to start with something a little less tangible, but critical to the process: creative visualization. Really! You’re already familiar with the notion of creative visualization when it comes to travel. Many trips begin with vacation inspiration from one of Budget Travel’s features or slideshows. For Mecham, visualization is more than just dreaming. “The biggest paradigm shift in saving and spending smarter is to really get into the why behind your vacation,” he says. “Think back to a vacation that you absolutely loved. What was it about that vacation that made it great? Was it the specific location, the company, the relaxed pace? Was it time spent with your family unplugged from work?” Let that visualization inspire you not only to plan your next vacation, but to devote yourself to saving for it in the most responsible manner possible.
GIVE EVERY DOLLAR A JOB
The concept I like best about Mecham’s You Need a Budget program is its No. 1 rule: Give each dollar a “job.” That is a way of focusing on what money you actually have on hand (not future paychecks, windfalls, or hoped-for raises or bonuses) and making sure you understand what each dollar (literally down to zero) is going to do for you (its “job”). That means, of course, understanding exactly what you need to spend on essentials like your home, food, utilities, and car before you can assign any dollars to travel. This may at first sound limiting, but it is actually the opposite: Giving each dollar a job frees you to start putting aside what you need for travel. Should you choose to use YNAB’s online- and app-driven financial tracking services (they offer a free trial), the notion of assigning jobs to dollars becomes very tangible and habitual, and it’s fun to see your savings go up.
“My biggest budgeting challenge before developing You Need a Budget was dealing with an irregular income,” Mecham says. “But YNAB teaches you to budget only the money you have on hand, so it becomes much more manageable. And now I prepare for large, less frequent expenses (like vacations!) by spreading them out as monthly costs, saving a lot of stress.”
UNDERSTAND YOUR EXPENSES
Mecham actually calls this “embracing” your expenses. After you assign each dollar its job for essentials, it’s time to break down larger, less frequent expenses like holidays, insurance, birthdays, and, yes, travel) so you can treat them as regular monthly expenses. Instead of “saving for a rainy day,” you are accurately predicting how much you’ll spend on your annual vacation (for many, that tends to amount to about one week’s salary, though avid travelers often budget much more). Broken down into very simple math, if your dream trip to Yellowstone is going to cost $1,200, you can easily “embrace” the notion of putting aside $100 per month for a year. It’s really an extension of “give each dollar a job” and allows you to pinpoint what you need for that trip you visualized and make it a regularly monthly “expense” instead of one big annual bill.
Spend some time exploring the beautiful city of Lisbon with this travel deal that also gives you time in Porto.
The Real Deal Vacation package to Portugal includes airfare from Washington D.C. (Dulles) to Lisbon, with a return trip from Porto, on Iberia Airlines; three nights at Real Parque in Lisbon; three nights at the Tryp Porto Centro in Porto; and train transportation between Lisbon and Porto; from $1,044 per person including all hotel and air taxes and fees.
When Ongoing; package price is based on a Oct. 30, 2015, departure date.
Gateways Washington D.C. ($1,044); additional gateway cities are also available.
The Fine Print Airport taxes and fees are included. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book By No deadline; based on availability.
The Real Deal This vacation package includes round-trip international airfare from New York City to Panama City, five nights’ accommodations at the all-inclusive Royal Decameron Beach Resort, Golf, Spa & Casino in beautiful Playa Blanca, round-trip transfers to and from the airport, and the resort’s all-inclusive plan including three meals per day and unlimited drinks, from $839 per person plus up to $115 in air taxes per person depending on which city you’re flying from.
When Now thru Dec. 20, 2015 ($839).
Gateways New York City ($839); add $10 for San Francisco, add $20 for L.A., add $30 for Boston, add $40 for Chicago, add $50 for Miami, add $60 for Washington D.C., add $180 for Denver, add $250 for Atlanta, add $260 for Seattle, add $330 for Houston.
The Fine Print Airport taxes and fees of up to $115 per person are not included and may vary depending on which city you’re flying from. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book By Dec. 20, 2015.
Contact Capricorn Leisure, 800/426-6544, capricornleisure.com.
Spend some time relaxing on the beaches of Oahu and Maui with this travel deal.
The Real Deal This vacation package to Hawaii includes airfare from San Diego to Oahu, with a return flight from Maui; three nights at the Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki on Oahu; three nights at the Aina Nalu Lahaina by Outrigger in Ka’anapali; and flights between the two islands; and daily breakfast at the Oahu hotel; from $920 per person including all hotel and air taxes and fees.
When Ongoing; package price is based on a Dec. 1, 2015, arrival date.
Gateways San Diego ($920) additional gateway cities are also available.
The Fine Print Air taxes and fees are included in the package price. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book By No deadline; based on availability.
Contact Tripmasters, 800/430-0484, tripmasters.com.
Spend some time exploring Ubud with this travel deal to Bali that also gives you time on the beach in Nusa Dua.
The Real Deal If you’re looking for the ultimate romantic getaway—this is it. Get your Eat Pray Love on with this travel deal that gives you round-trip airfare from L.A. or San Francisco on Cathay Pacific (add $200 for New York City or Boston, add $300 for Chicago); four nights at the Alaya Ubud Hotel; five nights at the Melia Bali, a beautiful beachfront hotel in Nusa Dua; an extensive sightseeing program including entrance fees and guided trips to local villages; all transfers and transportation; baggage handling; and 14 meals, including nine international buffet breakfasts, four lunches, and one dinner; from $1,999 per person.
When Select dates from September 2015 thru May 2016; no deadline; based on availability.
The Fine Print Based on double occupancy. Indonesia visa fees of $35 per person and Indonesia departure taxes of $15 per person are not included in the package price. Due to Cathay Pacific’s flight schedule, travelers from New York will overnight at a 4-Star airport hotel in Hong Kong on the way back; travelers from Chicago will overnight in Hong Kong in both directions. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Contact World Spree, 866/652-5656, worldspree.com.