Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Revised Flight Surcharge Rates from Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines

Starting March 1, 2012, there will be a slight increase in the number of fuel surcharges of airline companies Emirates, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Air. This applies to tickets issued on or after the given date, including those of infants and children.

A summary of the revised amounts of fuel surcharges is charted below:

EMIRATES (one-way surcharges only)

From UAE to GCC, Middle East, South Asian Region

Economy Class : Dh60
First Class/Business Class : Dh390

From UAE to Africa, Europe, Far East, Australasia

Economy Class : Dh120
First Class/Business Class: Dh500

From UAE to the Americas

Economy Class : Dh170
First Class/Business Class: Dh610


Between Hong Kong, Southwest Pacific, North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Indian Subcontinent

USD 133.20
HKD 1039.00
CAD 135.80
NZD 162.00

Between Japan and Korea
Between New York and Vancouver

USD 29.50
HKD 230.00
NZD 36.00


Between Singapore and Hong Kong

USD 29.50

Between Hong Kong and San Francisco

USD 133.20

The revision on the amount of fuel surcharges is implemented with the guarantee to improve the facilities of the said airline companies. 


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TRAVEL NEWS: Hainan’s Duty-Free Stores Enjoy Huge Popularity

Image sources: China Daily

Duty-Free Stores in the Hainan province are enjoying huge popularity and profit as off-shore duty-free shops. Sanya and Haiku airport duty-free stores are drawing crowds of cash-rich Chinese who are eager to splurge on branded goods.

Unlike outlets in China international airports which can only offer duty-free goods to Chinese travellers leaving the country, the Hainan stores can sell to local tourists without requiring an outbound ticket.

The tropical island is treated as an off-shore location where Chinese returning to the mainland can buy tax-free branded goods with a wider selection, often available at lower prices.

Launched early last year, this pilot programme exempts Chinese tourists in Hainan from paying import duties which can be as high as 40% for cosmetics.

Branded goods in China are usually more expensive than the same products abroad. Coupled with hefty consumption and value-added taxes, the average total levy can add up to about 60%. This jacks up the prices of luxury goods in China and they end up costing about 70% more than similar goods in France and 50% more than those in the United States.

“Hopefully, more Chinese people will be able to enjoy better prices and convenience offered by off-shore duty-free stores without having to leave the country,” said the Sanya store’s spokesman Ms. Jessica Zhao.

The Sanya store racked up an impressive 800 million yuan (S$159 million) in sales in its first eight months of offering 100-plus brands of luxury items duty-free to Chinese tourists last year.

Experts expect to see more duty-free stores mushrooming across China in the next three to five years.

“The central government had set the trend and the conditions are in place,” said the Central University of Finance and Economics Professor Li Huan, who noted that are applying to become duty-free havens.

China’s southernmost island province hopes to take advantage of its “4S” reputation – sea, sand, sunshine, and now, shopping.

Because of the huge popularity of these duty-free stores, several travel agencies have included duty-free shopping in their Hainan tour schedules.

“We have added duty-free shopping to all our tour packages to Hainan and will arrange regular shopping-themed tours in the future,” said Zhang Lingjie, Deputy Director of the Domestic Tour department at China International Travel Service (CITS) in Beijing.

Hotels nearby the stores are also benefitting from the influx of guests, noting that the number of bookings has increased dramatically since the opening of the Sanya store.

Airline companies, too have added extra flights to meet the growing demand for Sanya flights.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

EVENTS: Mardi Gras New Orleans 2012

Mardi Gras celebration
Photo by Ugur Arpaci

Mardi Gras is one big holiday in New Orleans, it means music, parades, picnics, floats, and excitement! Everyone is wearing purple, green, and gold, some even adorned themselves with the long beads they caught from the beautiful floats. People sit on the ground throwing balls, playing music, and having a picnic while they watch the crowds walk by between parades.

During Mardi Gras, all of the businesses and roads are practically shut down -- people are walking everywhere and meeting new friends. People are dressed in crazy costumes, kids are everywhere, and the air is oozing with fun and excitement!

The highlights of the festivities are the Mardi Gras Parade Krewes where one can get treasure items being thrown from different floats like anodized aluminum that depict the parade theme on one side and the Krewe's emblem on the other called doubloons, cups, long pearl beads, and stuffed animals.

Each year there are dozens of parades in New Orleans and the surrounding area, and this year is no different. Parades begin Sunday, February 5, 2012, and continue until Mardi Gras Day, February 21, 2012. 

Each Mardi Gras Parade Krewe has a unique history and theme. Some have been around for decades, while others have been in existence for just a few years. Krewe of ZULU is well known for its interesting history and "golden nugget" (coconut) parade throws. Mardi Gras Indians are about beautiful beaded and feathered costumes they hand design throughout the entire year. Krewe of Bacchus features national celebrity monarchs each year and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. Krewe of Rex is the origin of many traditions of Mardi Gras, including its colors of purple, green, and gold, as well as the collectible doubloon coins Krewe of Endymion quickly emerged as one of Carnival's 'Super-Krewes' in 1974 with the inclusion of more floats and celebrity guests.

Usually, days have several parades booked back to back, so whether you are on St. Charles Avenue with the family, catching beads from a Central Business District balcony, or enjoying the floats on Canal before a night in the French Quarter, plan for a day of Mardi Gras magic!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TRAVEL NEWS: Myanmar to Introduce E-visas

Myanmar travel
Photo by Cheng Q 
Tourists who are planning to visit Myanmar will no longer need to go to the Myanmar embassy to apply for a visa starting in March.

The country’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is pushing for a significant liberalisation of the country’s visa regulations and is planning to introduce an electronic visa application system beginning next month.

Myanmar flag

Union Minister, U Tint San said “We are trying to introduce an e-visa system from March, that would allow international visitors to apply for a visa from anywhere via the Internet, before visiting Myanmar”.

The ministry’s efforts to roll out an e-visa system were first unveiled in January. The pilot project will start this month before it is officially launched in March.

U Tint San mentioned that the ministry is also working to attract direct international flights to airports at Bagan and Ngapali “in the near future”.

“We are also in discussions with other ministries to allow tourists to enter or exit the country at a checkpoint by either air or land,” he added. 

Presently, tourists who would like to enter Myanmar by land need to face quite a number of travel restrictions. Only a handful of border crossings are open to foreigners and a regulation introduced in mid-2011 which requires tourists to enter and exit at the same checkpoint are just a few of them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Travel News: 2011, Busiest-ever year for Changi Airport

Singapore Changi Airport
Image Source: SingaporePictures

Records showed that 2011 is the busiest-ever year for Singapore’s Changi Airport. It handled over 45 million passengers for the first time ever last year.

The airport registered 46.5 million passenger movements and 302,000 aircraft movements in 2011, an increase of 10.7 % and 14.5 % over the year before, respectively.

December 2011 was also recorded as the airport’s busiest ever month with 4.53 million passenger movements which is about 11.4 % more than its succeeding year and 27,700 aircraft movements, showing a 16.0 % increase from last year.

The substantial increase in the airport’s passenger and aircraft movements was attributed to the strong travel demand in Asia-Pacific. South-east Asia and North-east Asia were the two best-performing regions registering double-digit growth, while traffic to and from South Asia and South-west Pacific also enjoyed positive growth.

Jakarta, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila occupied the top five positions among Changi Airport’s top 10 routes. On the other hand Taipei, Manila, New Delhi, Melbourne and Hong Kong registered the strongest percentage growth with at least half a million passengers who travelled to Singapore last year.
It should also be noted that seven new carriers joined the airport’s portfolio of airlines in 2011. They are Air Macau, Hong Kong Airlines, Finnair, TransAsia Airways, IndiGo and Lao Airlines.

News Source:

Monday, February 6, 2012

India Plans to Extend VOA Policy to 13 more Countries

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel 

The Indian government is planning to extend visas on arrival (VOA) to citizens of 13 more countries including Malaysia and Thailand according to a source from India’s Ministry of Tourism.

Based on a report published in India’s “The Economic Times”, other countries which are being touted as potential beneficiaries of the VOA policy extension are Brunei, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and South Africa.

India flag

The report also stated that the VOA facility would be extended within a year to airports in Hyderabad, Kochi, Bangalore, and Goa, adding to the four active airports such as Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.

Currently, there are 11 nations that are benefiting from the said policy, namely Luxembourg, Finland, New Zealand, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. In 2011, records showed that only slightly more than 10,000 VOA applications from nationals of these countries were granted.

Anju Desai, vice president of Mumbai-based HMA Travel was quoted saying: "The countries earmarked for the VOA are major source markets and will open the floodgates of inbound tourism. We have received complaints about delays in the issuance of Indian visas from our missions abroad. Now, all that will end and seamless travel will begin."

In relevance to the issue, the Indian High Commission in Malaysia released a statement clarifying that the Indian Government had not yet taken any decision to extend VOAs to Malaysian nationals.

News Source:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting To Know Guangzhou China

Guangzhou China
Photo by Lycheeart 

Guangzhou, historically known as Canton or Kwangchow is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province situated in the southern part of China on the Pearl River. It is considered a key national transportation hub and trading port. Although Guangzhou is leading a hectic way of life, there are several tourist spots around the metropolis that offers a relaxing atmosphere and panoramic views that will surely take the stress away caused by the noisy and busy streets of the city.

The outskirt of Guangzhou is a perfect getaway to have a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere away from the busy metropolis. The hilly district in the northeastern part of Guangzhou offers a scenic view of the city. The famous Yuexiu Park can also be found within the district. Yuexiu Park is the largest park in downtown Guangzhou covering an area of 212.5 acres. The park is made of three artificial lakes and seven hills of Yuexiu Mountain, where its name came from. Tourists and locals alike are drawn by its perfect combination of cultural relics and ecological tourism.

Nearby sights can also be enjoyed by climbing the five-storied watch tower which was built during the Ming Dynasty. At present, the tower houses a historic museum which is also worth a visit.
After exiting the park, two large hotels and a market can be seen. Twice every year, traders and customers from all parts of China meet in this particular place for a trade fair. Just nearby is the Orchid Garden where one can see the astonishing sight of 100 orchid species growing on the garden’s 18-hectare territory.

Another place worth exploring which is within the vicinity is the South China Botanical Garden. It is considered one of the largest Botanical Garden in the world boasting a record number of 5000 tropical and sub-tropical plants, grown locally or imported from other countries.

China travel

Moving into the centre of the city, visitors can see the Guangxiao Temple – one of the region’s oldest and grandest temples. The temple possesses a solemn and imposing aura. The key structure of the temple is the Mahavira Hall which sits on a high pedestal with the Bell and Drum tower erected on both sides. Inside this hall are three statues of Buddha, Sakyamuni in the centre, Manjusri on the left, and Visvabhadra Bodhisattva on the right, known as the Three Saints of Huayan. There is also a pagoda built to house Huineng’s hair, Huineng is one of the six founders of Chinese Buddhism who saved his hair in the temple itself when he became a monk. The two oldest iron pagodas which happen to be the oldest of their kind in China can also be found in the Guangxiao Temple.

China travel
The tomb of King Nanyue which is located on the Jeifang Bei Road always attracts a large number of tourists. It is hidden 20 meters underground made up of 750 huge stones with colourful murals. The mausoleum also features more than 1,000 pieces of cultural relics, bronze ware, and terra cotta. The main highlight of the place is the silk-jade garment made up of 2,291 pieces of jade – one of its kind in the whole world. Seeing this fascinating work of art is quite an experience so set aside any hesitation and start looking for cheap air tickets to Guangzhou!

Other exciting places visitors must explore to get the most from their Guangzhou trip are Temple of the Six Banyan Trees which features the giant statue of Guan Yin, the Huaisheng Mosque presenting a good example of Chinese tolerance and shows proof of ancient connections between China and Arabia, Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family and the Culture Park which offers lots exciting activities and attractions.
All these and more waiting for you to explore in the city of Guangzhou, start planning your trip and remember to include all these exciting places in your itinerary for a memorable trip! Several online travel companies offer China tour packages so budget won’t be a hindrance as well.