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Travel Advice

Monday, November 07, 2011

Feeling Irie in Jamaica, Mon

This week I want to focus on some of my favorite Caribbean hideaways. Jamaica has always topped the list. Its mix of music, arts, and food is unparalleled in this region of the world. Some travelers are turned off by the haggling on the beach, but if you leave the tourists behind and head up into the hills to raft down one of its rivers or visit the birthplace of Bob Marley, you’ll meet a proud people who simply want to show off their lush country, not sell you a joint. Several weeks back, The Washington Post published an article of mine on an all-inclusive stay at the Riu Palace Tropical Bay Resort on the outskirts of Negril.  I’ve been to more than 20 all-inclusives and this is one of my favorites. The article sums up why I love Jamaica and its combination of Reggae music, jerk chicken, and warm ocean waters.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/07/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Follow Rue Mapp And Her Adventures in Big Sur

Rue Mapp simply wanted to share her love of the outdoors with other people in her demographic, an African American woman living in the inner city. So two years ago, the 40 year-old Oakland resident started a blog called Sharing her love of camping, hiking, fishing, rock climbing, and rafting, she has accumulated quite a following, including the White House, who invited Mapp to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. Now Mapp’s hitting the road again. From October 21st to the 23rd, she’ll be heading south with her family on Route 1 to hike in the Big Sur region. She plans to shoot video, tweet, and blog about her experience, so be sure to join in on the inspirational fun.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/13/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Buy a Turkish Carpet

Numerous vendors, most who speak excellent English, will approach you in Turkey, and invite you into their shop for cay (tea). Some shop owners will even offer lunch and introduce you to their families. By all means, except and enjoy their hospitality. After tea, they will throw down carpet after carpet, explaining in detail the point of origin, age, materials, and processes of weaving, knot-tying, and wool-dying techniques. Undoubtedly you will feel indebted to your new friend. The owner knows this, because that’s when he hooks you.
    “Which one do you like?”
    “I love the one in the corner,” you say while lunging for the prized possession.
    “Yes, you have a good eye. It is very fine workmanship. Over a hundred years old…How much are you willing to spend?”
You name a price and the owner shakes his head and laughs. He then looks at you and acts insulted. “I have to earn a profit. I have a family to feed.” Pangs of guilt emerge and before you know it, you’re walking out of the shop with a carpet you paid three or four time the normal price. This is the typical scenario and mistakes are plentiful. Here are some tips to assure that this won’t happen to you:

Never purchase a carpet in the first store you enter. By going into several stores before buying your carpet, you become knowledgeable about pricing and gain bargaining experience.

Act indifferent. If a shop owner realizes you love a carpet, he will overcharge you.

Make the owner quote the first price. Shop owners want you to say a price first. Don’t do it.

Test the age and quality. An older rug is usually more expensive than a new one. A slightly worn look can add to its charm.

Be patient. Bartering is time consuming. You might have to walk out of the store a number of times.

Never feel obligated to purchase a carpet. Since acting like a new friend is part of the shop owner’s sales tactic, this can be difficult. Never buy anything you don’t truly want.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/29/11 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Konya, Turkey, Still a Special Retreat

As you travel northeast form Kas to the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, a worthwhile stopover is the city of Konya. In the 1200s, Konya was the capital of the Seljuk Empire and home to the whirling dervishes. Many important sites from this period remain, including the Mevlana Monastery, where the dervish leader, the great poet, Rumi, is buried. Overlooking the Monastery is the Hotel Rumi, where the $84 room rate includes a buffet breakfast. In addition to the dervishes, Konya is known for its food. Firnin kebab is roasted lamb. Etli ekmek is Turkish pizza topped with ground lamb. Both are delicious and can be sampled at Sifa Lokantasi (Mevlana Cadessi 30).

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/26/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Check Your Bank Account Even While Traveling

So there I was lounging on my patio at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge after a week of adventure in the Canadian Rockies. I’ll delve into many of my favorite locales from my trip to Western Canada next week. Any way, I was checking my email when I noticed that Bank of America contacted me, saying my funds were getting low. I had transferred money from my savings to checking account before I left, so I should have had more than enough money for the trip. When I went online at Bank of America, I saw three purchases from Stop & Shop and Exxon made in New York and New Jersey the same time I was hiking, rafting, and rock climbing my way through the Canadian Rockies! Obviously fraudulent, I called Bank of America immediately. They cancelled my Visa debit card and quickly refunded me the money that was taken by Mr. Identity Theft. Since I no longer had use of my ATM card, they also wired me money for the rest of the trip. Morale of story. Even though you’d like to leave your life behind on vacation. Sometimes it’s better to check in now and then to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/10/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Globetrotter’s Get-Gorgeous Guide

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Debbi Karpowicz Kickham for more than decade. She worked as travel editor at Robb Report before having an illustrious freelance career that has taken her on cruises around the world, with multi-month stopovers at her favorite haunt, Hawaii. Now Kickham is sharing her insights on how to look good while traveling in new book titled “THE GLOBETROTTER’S GET-GORGEOUS GUIDE: Diet and Beauty Secrets of Travel and Beauty Pros, Traveling Executives, and Celebrity Travelers.” She notes that it’s the world’s first beauty book for traveling women. The book is filled with tips from flight attendants to road-warrior CEOS and executives, on everything from beauty products to luggage.  There’s a chapter on cruising, another chapter on beauty products from around the world made with local indigenous ingredients, and a special bonus section about buying bargains throughout Paris and France. Samantha Brown of The Travel Channel wrote the Foreword, and Kickham completed interviews with Joan Lunden, Cheryl Tiegs, Ivana Trump, and other well-known names. So if you haven’t yet found that perfect Christmas gift for your loved one, this might do the trick.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/20/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New iPhone App Sends Postcards

Point. Snap. Postcard. World Nomads has just launched a Postcard App for the iPhone that makes sending postcards as easy as a push of the finger. Here’s how it works. Users download the free app from iTunes. Via PayPal, they purchase stamps (the cost of $2 per stamp works for delivery anywhere in the world). Users then snap a photo that is then turned into a postcard image. Type a message for the back. Add a delivery address and then submit everything electronically. The postcard is printed in the USA on real high-quality gloss paper, stamped and then sent to the address on the card anywhere in the world. When making stamp purchases there’s also an opportunity to donate to one of World Nomads’ Footprints Projects that funds community development projects and fights poverty worldwide.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/15/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Have Skype, Will Travel

This past month, I was home only three days, traveling to Kenya, Mexico, and Chicago. That’s a long time to be away from my family. My antidote for homesickness is a video call on Skype, where I can see and talk to my wife and children. The clarity of the call is exceptional, far superior to any international cell phone I’ve ever used. All you have to do is sign up at Skype, pay a nominal fee (it averages about 10 cents for a 10-minute call), and start adding all the significant people in your life as contacts. For travel writers and all other businesspeople who find themselves on the road a good chunk of the year, it’s the most essential tool to connect with your loved ones.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/07/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, December 06, 2010

Mexican Travel is Safe and on the Rise

The time between America’s Thanksgiving and Christmas is usually slow season for many resorts and travel destinations. For warm-weather locales, the big surge happens from late December through early April. So I was surprised to find that many of the resorts I was visiting on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula were filled to capacity with a mix of Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and South Americans. Destination Weddings are still the big trend in travel, with daily nuptials being held as many as three times a day at some of the resorts I stayed at. American media loves to focus on crime in Mexico, but I found the Yucatan to be incredibly safe. The United Nations Climate Control Conference was being in held in Cancun while I was there, with many heads of state including the Mexican president, staying next door to me. So Federal Police were everywhere. Yet, even away from Cancun, making my south to Tulum, I never felt unsafe. That is, until I made my way to the swim-up bar at Iberostar Paraiso Maya and was surrounded by a group of drunken Saskatchewanians. That’s always dangerous.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/06/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, November 01, 2010

Have Packing List, Will Travel

I’m off to Kenya in a week to research and write four stories. Most people stress about packing for a trip, including my wife, who hates the thought of reducing all her possessions into one measly suitcase. I can often pack in less than 15 minutes, thanks to my trusty packing list that’s stored in my computer. Depending on the locale and weather, I adjust the list, but for Kenya it will include passport, printed copy of passport page in case passport is stolen, airplane information, prescription drugs like Malaria pills, Imodium (no travel writer leaves home without it), other bathroom accessories, notebooks, pens, laptop, laptop plug and surge protector, headset for Skype, plug converter (incredibly important. Kenya is on the British plug), iPod and headphones, iPod charger, Flip video camera, Canon camera and additional long lens, camera charger, suntan lotion, Carmex, mosquito repellent, file on Kenya, two good books to read, most likely downloaded on my Nook, the latest Economist (which takes about five hours to read, perfect for trans-Atlantic flights), baseball cap, two nice pair of pants for dinners, shoes, nice long-sleeve and short-sleeve collared shirts for dinner, cargo shorts with four pockets to hold my notebook and pens during the day, lightweight long sleeve safari shirts, more casual T-shirts, polar fleece jacket because it does get cold at night in the bush, socks, underwear, flip-flops, sneakers, swimsuit, money belt, $300 US cash, one credit card, business cards, and finally a gift of pencils, crayons, and stickers for school kids. They went gaga over the Obama stickers I brought on my last trip to Africa in 2008. And that’s it. I’m finished, ready to roll. Write it down once on your computer and you’ll have it for every trip in the future.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/01/10 at 01:00 PM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

Adventure Travel Trade Association