Monday, April 13, 2009

Travel Agency Tips for First Time Travelers

Travel Agency Tips for First Time Travelers

Travel agents are an incredible source of information. They know all about deals, have insider knowledge about the industry, develop relationships with hotels, tour operators, airlines, bed and breakfasts and travel associations, and have the necessary technology to find the best deals for traveling to your selected destination.
If you are a first time traveler, deal with a travel agency as though you are a pro. Here are a few tips for you:

• Low-cost carriers – ask your travel agent if they also book with low cost or discount carriers. Because of their inexpensive business models, companies like Ryan air, Jet Blue and Easy Jet offer much cheaper fares.

• Package deals – travel agents not only book flights, they can create a customized travel package for you to include air, hotel, sightseeing and shows. Package deals can be cheaper because of added services.

• Matching service – this is not the romantic matching service that we all know about. When travel agents book tours for their customers, they sometimes receive requests from travelers who like to share a double room, which is cheaper, instead of paying for a single room. This can happen when a particular tour package consists of couples and singles and singles cannot afford a single room.

• No-fuss traveler– inform your travel agent right away if your dates for your return trip are fixed; that is, there is little or no chance of changing your dates. Your travel agent can get you a cheaper fare if you travel on a restricted ticket. The more restrictions are built into your ticket, the cheaper it becomes. For instance, in addition to fixed, unchangeable dates, you can tell your travel agent that you do not mind taking an indirect route (direct routes are more expensive), that you are staying a specified number of days, that it does not matter what day of the week you travel, and you do not mind taking red eye flights.

• The more the merrier – and cheaper! Your travel agent can offer you additional discounts if you request for group travel. Because travel agents receive their discounts in bulk from suppliers, they can pass these on to you as savings. Travel agents purchase seats in blocks, so the sooner they fill up these seats, the better it is for them.

Advice is free – many travel agents are seasoned travelers. They get what the industry calls “fam trips” which means “familiarization trips.” Hotels and tour operators invite travel agents, all expenses paid, so that they can promote them to travelers. Frequent travel broadens not only the mind of travel agents, but also expands their network of contacts. The more contacts a travel agent has, the higher the chances of getting more hot deals. Remember, your travel agent has full access to the industry’s technology. He or she knows what buttons to push to get a good deal. Ask your travel agent to come up with a tour package that will meet your budget. For instance, she could recommend that instead of flying from London to Paris, you could avail of cheaper rail travel between these two cities.

Specialization – find a travel agent that focuses on your particular needs or specializes in the destination you choose. For instance, travel agents specialize in Caribbean travel or in European rail vacations. Some travel agents specialize in senior travel, others specialize in student travel.

ATP – this is the Airline Tariff Publishing tool that most travel agents use. It publishes the latest air fares on more than 500 airlines several times a day. If you call your travel agent on a weekday at 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm and midnight, and ask for a cheap fare, she just might have the latest published fares on discount.

Free vouchers – ask your travel agent if he or she can give you some free vouchers you can use. Believe it or not, they have giveaways that inexperienced travelers are not aware of. But you have to ask!

• Early Bird specials – if you know where and when you are going, call your travel agent anyway even if you are not planning on traveling before six months. Sometimes, they receive discounted fares from certain airlines and it is good to be able to time this fact with your trip. When travelling to overseas destinations, booking months ahead can land you a great deal.
Upgrades – if you have developed a good relationship with a travel agent (regularly booking your boss’ flights with him or her and referring them to your friends), ask if it would be possible to upgrade your seat, hotel or show ticket. Travel agents receive an incredible number of promotions from airlines and hotel operators, and he just might upgrade you at no extra cost, in exchange for business from the company you work with.

Jeremy Foster is a freelance writer who writes about vacationing and the travel industry, often discussing tips and travel deals one would find through working with a travel agency.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

My Top 10 Favourite Places to Stay in Laos

Top 10 Favourite Places to Stay i
My Top 10 Favourite Places to Stay in Laos

Author: Alex Aziz

Image by Bеn

Laos is a stunning country to visit especially if you are after a unique travel experience. Laos is rich in culture with several places such as Luang Prabang being designated as world heritage sites. The country is very safe and the people are incredibly hospitable.

Accommodation is improving and Laos has some excellent places to stay whether staying in the city or a secluded hideaway far away from it all in the mountains or on one of its many rivers. The Capital Vientiane and the world heritage city of Luang Prabang have some great quality hotels some with exquisite colonial charm and all with a genuine friendly service. Getting away to countryside offers stunning views of the countryside. This list is not in any particular order as different hotels offer different experiences some offering the best facilities and others offering the best views. Here are my favourite ten places to stay in Laos taking in a varied selection from across the country.

Image by Bеn

Seng Arun Bungalows

Set on the banks on the Mekong on Done Khone Island these are small family run bungalows, they are pretty basic in western terms as there is still no electricity on the Island, but the wooden styled bungalows are comfortable, all with en suite showers. They overlook the old French Railway Bridge, with their excellent balconies the day could be spent relaxing on a hammock with a book and enjoying the great view.

La Residence Phou Vao

Set in the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang the city is full of old colonial charm and La Résidence Phou Vao Hotel complements this charm, built in the 1950's and renovated in 2001 it is set at the top of Vao hill. The hotel gives stunning views of the surrounding mountains of Luang Prabang as well as Phou Si Temple and the town. It also offers first class facilities and amenities such as a spa and swimming pool. The hotel uses traditional rosewood, cotton and silk so that the modern facilities and rooms do not lose their tradition feel.

Vansana Resort

Vang Vieng is a truly great town lying on the Nam Song River with stunning limestone karsts to its west. Vang Vieng was previously known as a backpacker town with cheap basic accommodation and lots of adventure activities to choose from. There are now however more upmarket places to stay now inviting a different class of tourist. The Vansana Resort is one of these on these built on the banks of the Nam Song River and boasting excellent amenities. The rooms are excellent with private balconies where you can enjoy the view of the mountains. Or enjoy one of the facilities on offer such as a traditional massage a meal on the balcony on the river or a swim in its top rate swimming pool.

Pakbeng Lodge

A few years ago when travelling between the Thai / Laos border town of Chiang Khong / Houei Sai to Luang Prabang the two day boat trip involved a very uncomfortable overnight stay at Pak Beng. This was an unavoidable stop when taking the slow boat. Recently however the opening of the Pak Beng Lodge has changed all of that, with great views of the Mekong and great facilities it has made the two day journey to Luang Prabang and unforgettable one in the best possible way.

Chan-a-Mar Resort, Nong Khiaw

Probably one of the only luxury bungalow's in this part of Laos, set in Nong Khiaw amidst a backdrop of mountains and two rivers this place truly gives the feel of the real Laos. The owners are also set on preserving and promoting textiles of locally grown and made textiles through the GreenHeart Foundation. The bungalows have been individually designed with local materials, each with its own bathroom, hot shower and private balcony offering stunning views.

Kingfisher Lodge

This lodge is set in the stunning Xe Pian National Protected Area about 60 Km south of Pakse in Champasak Province. It has marketed itself as being an eco-lodge, and its wooden bungalows blend in with the lush forest. There is also plenty of opportunities to explore the Xe Pian National Protected Area taking an elephant ride to Ban Pho Pho or enjoying a two day trek to Ta-Ong where you will hear and maybe even see rare Gibbons and excellent birdlife.

Senesothxeun Hotel

Senesothxeun is one of the newest places in Southern Laos, taking the accommodation options on Don Khong Island to a new level, with old charm and the great aura it gives out, it is a remarkable place to stay. The rooms are all luxury with mod-cons and private balconies, this is the place to stay if you are after luxury in the heart of the natural wetlands of Si Pan Don.

Settha Palace

The Settha Palace is set in the heart of Vientiane and has to be one of the best places to stay in Laos an old colonial style hotel build in the early 1930's, the hotel has been restored and is a true masterpiece, with an abundance of old colonial charm. Facilities and service is second to none with landscaped gardens and a swimming pool where you can cool off.

Maison Souvannaphoum

This was the former home of a Lao prince, a boutique hotel set in Luang Prabang it blends in a traditional and modern style excellently. The interior design leaves no compromise with rich silk textiles draped on the walls and ceilings. The facilities are first grade with a spa, swimming pool all set amidst tropical gardens, the food is excellent with top class French and Laotian cuisine and the views from the private balconies unmatched.

La Folie Lodge

On the Island of Don Daeng near the World Heritage site of Wat Phu, this resort is top class giving you the best of both worlds, excellent facilities with a swimming pool and a great sandy beach on the Mekong but you are also on a secluded Island with a great beach on the river! You can explore the island by bicycle or by foot and there are even some old ruins to see on the Island.

Hotel and Tour bookings for these and other hotels or tours in Laos can be made through tour specialists in South East Asia.

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About the Author:

After traveling in South East Asia for several years and falling in love with the area in particular Laos. Xplore-Asia was formed with the aim of promoting tours to increase responsible tourism for the local people and show the world the beauty of this area. After setting up operations in South East Asia, Xplore-Asia expanded into the UK and is Directed by Alex Aziz.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Singapore Travel- an Amazing Experience

ingapore Travel- an Amazing Experienc
Singapore Travel- an Amazing Experience

Author: Nancy Eben

Planning on a holiday in Asia, Singapore travel is the number one choice for millions of visitors who visit it very year, sometimes even exceeding the people of the city. The organized Singapore tourism industry provides the visitors with an excellent, modern infrastructure, a safe, clean and friendly environment. Singapore is a city with many faces to explore and discover. Right from exciting shopping options, food, vibrating nightlife, amusement parks, to sightseeing, one will find all here. All this has given the country another name of entertainment. It enjoys a unique location and is made up of islands between the countries of Malaysia and Indonesia. Packed with numerous attractions it is difficult to unravel all but some of the attractions are worth visiting.

Singapore Zoo

Image by the_macats

The Singapore Zoo is a star attraction during Singapore travel with almost a million tourists visiting it every year. It is an amazing experience watching the animals in their natural environment. It is located in central Singapore, close to the night safari. It covers an area of 28 hectares and inhabits more than 150 different species of animals. Some of the species here are very rare and there are very few zoos, which can match up to it. The environment is so created that it s more like walking in a forest rather than a man made place. One can attend the animal shows that take place daily, whereas the children can enjoy camel rides or share food with an orangutan in the zoo's Children's World section.

Orchard Road

Orchard Road is Singapore’s leading shopping areas and center of tourist activity. This area is the most recommended by all due to the lively atmosphere around here. The luxury hotels, excellent restaurants, international malls selling the latest and branded stuff, coffee bars, wine bars and much more all make it a hot spot amongst tourists. The mane of this place comes from the orchard and pepper plantations that once existed here.

Jurong town

Jurong town is the center of the Singapore industry and home to number of popular tourist attractions. The town has a Chinese garden, Singapore discovery center and the Jurong Bird Park. Of these, the Jurong Bird Park is a very popular tourist attraction spread, over 20 hectares of area and about 1million visitors come each year. The park has received many awards for its services and it is the result of the country’s efforts towards the conservation of the regions natural beauty and birdlife. The park has the largest number of birds when compared to any other park in the world. There is more for which the park is known for, it has the world’s largest indoor aviary, then the world’s tallest artificial/ manmade waterfall is also found here.

Sentosa Island

Image by DavidSciora

A trip to the Sentosa Island is a must when visiting Singapore as it is regarded as the best places for travel and Singapore tourism. It is a 390-hectare amusement park located south of Singapore and about two million people visit it every year. The island is easily accessible by road and cable car. Visitors would need complete 1-2 days to experience the various beaches, museums, aquariums, parks, and enjoy the walks, rides and much more. The island runs its own transportation and even has 5 star hotels for accommodation.

Map of Singapore is very helpful and handy when touring the city, as it becomes easy to chalk out your city tours and the routes.

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About the Author:

Nancy Eben is an associate editor of . The website offers exclusive information of Singapore and map of Singapore. We also provide online hotel reservation of Singapore travel . We appreciate your feedback and queries at