Avoiding Scams And Thieves While Traveling Abroad

Flickr user Modenadude

My wife and I had just left the Musee D’Orsay when a young woman came running up to us clutching a ring.

The pretty brunette spoke in halting English, saying she saw it drop to the ground as we walked by. After a quick scan of our fingers, we told her we weren’t missing any rings, but she placed the ring in my hand and insisted we take it for friendship. Before my heart could swell with the joy of international love and brotherhood, she then asked for money for a cup of coffee. At that point, I realized it was a scam and handed her back the ring, which she no doubt tried to foist onto another hapless tourist couple.

While our stay in Paris was overall a wonderful experience, criminals threatened to put a damper on our trip. Before our flight out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, we would be accosted by other scam artists several more times, and my wife was pick-pocketed on the Paris Metro. Luckily the hipster shorts I bought in a Parisian boutique were so tight, I could barely get my fingers into my pockets, let alone a common thief do the same.

Unfortunately, theft and scams are all too prevalent in most major metropolitan areas. Staff members at the Louvre actually went on strike for a day earlier this year, protesting the unsafe working conditions caused by thieves and scam artists. Bob Arno, co-author of Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Crime While Traveling, estimates about 70 percent of Barcelona tourists will be approached by a street criminal; of those incidents, about 33 percent result in the loss of valuables.

According to the US government, Paris, Barcelona, London, Rome, Amsterdam and Naples have the highest number of scam artists looking to take advantage of naïve or distracted tourists.

Travel expert Rick Steves recently noted some of the most common international travel scams and ways tourists can avoid them. Other advice to consider:

  • Forgo purses or strapped bags in favor of body wallets or buttoned pockets.
  • Leave fancy jewelry or expensive watches at home. Don’t flash expensive electronic equipment –- particularly iPhones, thieves love them –- around. Have the number for the local police department saved in your phone.
  • Keep your passport and other important documents in the hotel safe, after you’ve scanned or photographed them and saved them in a file-sharing app or program like Evernote or Dropbox.
  • Stay alert. While you might be tempted to buy that second bottle of wine after dinner, realize drunk tourists are easy targets.

What are your tips for staying safe abroad?

Two-Wheeled Tourism: 10 Cities to Visit If You Love Bikes

Anna Brones

Why spend your summer vacation on subways and buses when you could be out exploring places on two wheels?

Thanks to an explosion in bike-share systems and a general appreciation for bike culture, making cycling a central part of your travels is becoming easier and easier. You don’t have to throw down, pack your bicycle and head off on a full cycle tour to get the pleasure of seeing a place on two wheels; there are plenty of cities around the world that are bike-friendly and perfect for anyone who enjoys the thrills of riding in a new place.

Here are the ten best places to explore by bike.1. Amsterdam
There’s no denying that if you’re a bike lover, Amsterdam should be at the top of your list. Here people are practically born on bicycles, and if you want to experience the city like a real local, there’s no better way. Start off in the Jordaan district, rent a bike at the friendly Bike City and get ready to master the dance that is cycling in the Netherlands.

2. Copenhagen
Bike riding in Scandinavia is truly part of the local lifestyle, and nowhere is this more true than the Danish capital of Denmark. This is the birthplace of Cycle Chic after all. There are over 390 kilometers of designated bike lanes and over 50 percent of locals commute by bike on a regular basis. The Copenhagen tourism office has a round up of top bike rental places to make fitting in easier than ever. Just remember to wear your finest — Scandinavians look good on their wheels.

3. Portland, Oregon
Beer, baristas and bikes; it’s the Portland trifecta. You can get all three at Velocult, the city’s hub for bike related events and general fun. If you’re downtown you should be sure to hit up the Courrier Coffee Bar, opened by one of the city’s favorite pedal-delivered craft roasting companies. Add Trailhead to the list as well, another bike-powered artisan roaster. And when you’ve had enough pedal-powered caffeine for the day, take your bike, roll over to the bike-centric bar Apex and drink one of their 50 beers on tap.

4. Paris
Ok, so Paris might not be the first place that comes to mind on the list of bike-friendly places – you do have to do a lot of scooter and pedestrian dodging – but thanks to the successful Velib bike-share system, cycling is a big part of Parisian culture. The key in Paris is to identify that bike paths; you’ll find separated lanes around the city that make two-wheeled Paris a true delight.

5. San Francisco
Don’t let the hills scare you off. Through the late spring and early fall you can take advantage of Sunday Streets, a collection of events that closes off streets to cars in different neighborhoods around the city, and in Golden Gate Park there are car-free Sundays and Saturdays. For a longer adventure, make your way to Marin County.

6. Berlin
Berlin is in the top 10 of bike blog Copenhagenize’s bicycle-friendly cities and with good reason. Around 13% of the population ride their bike on a daily basis, and in some neighborhoods it’s as high as 25%. There’s the 1st Bicycle Gallery which is all about showcasing gorgeous bicycles . There’s an online route planner you can use to facilitate your ride, and if you want a different look at one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, cycle the Berlin Wall Trail, tracing the former wall.

7. Rio de Janeiro
A bike-share and over 250 kilometers of bike trails make a normally congested city ideal for the cycle crowd. A large part of the bike push has come for preparing for the Olympics in 2016, and above and beyond the Bike Rio bike-share system, there are plenty of bike rental options around town.

8. Barcelona
Beach and bikes; it’s no surprise that Barcelona is popular with budget-savvy travelers looking for a little warm weather and outdoor strolls. There are over 100 stations for the city’s Bicing program, and a variety of rental and tour options. Top that ride off with some tapas and you have the perfect day.

9. Montreal
Montreal is the place to be if you’re a cycle lover. There are trails, separated lanes and designated biking streets, easily navigable on PedalMontreal. The city is also the gateway to Quebec’s Route Verte, boasting over 5,000 kilometers of bikeways all over the region along with bike-friendly accomodations. You may need a few weeks.

10. Bogotá
Bogotá’s CicloRuta s one of the most extensive in the world. Given that a very small percentage of the local population has access to cars, bicycles make economic sense. If your destination is too far to ride to, the network of bike lanes connects well with the local transportation system, complete with bike parking at several designated stops. As the city’s ex mayor Enrique Peñalosa said, “I think the future of the world has to do with bicycles.”

Call An Ice Cream Truck On Demand Today With Uber

Today is the hottest day yet in New York City’s latest heat wave, and the summer weather is no less forgiving in many other cities in the western hemisphere. To help beat the heat, car service app Uber is offering ice cream trucks on demand, today only from 11-5 p.m. in 33 cities worldwide. The stunt is to help promote the app’s expansion to new cities in the United States and in Australia, Europe and Singapore.

Demand is expected to be high and waits may be long, but if you want to try for a truck, download the Uber app and connect with your credit card info, request the ice cream app, and wait for one to show up in your area. Prices and ice cream treats vary, average is $25 for ice cream for five people. The full list of U.S. cities includes: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

New to Uber cities include Miami, Portland (OR), Houston, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Lyon, Milan, Munich, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, and Singapore. Incidentally, those are all cities where you can get a car and driver on demand anytime with Uber.

See all the details and get your ice cream on Uber’s blog.

Hacker Demonstrates Ability To Hijack Plane Using Smartphone

Imagine this: you’ve fallen asleep on a plane headed to your dream vacation when suddenly erratic flight movement stirs you awake. The cabin is chaotic, and what’s even worse, in the cockpit the pilot has no idea what is happening. All systems have been overridden, and – although the pilot doesn’t know it – someone is controlling the plane from within the cabin.

Hacker Hugo Teso demonstrated he could do just that at a recent conference in Amsterdam. Using a smartphone app called PlaneSploit, Teso showed he could essentially turn a commercial aircraft into a remote control toy. He had the ability to redirect a flight, activate a plane’s alarms and dash lights, and even crash a jet – and he did it all remotely with the touch of a few buttons.

He claims to be able to take control by intercepting and repurposing the data the go to the flight systems.

The demonstration points out weaknesses and lack of security in several plane systems, including the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, which is crucial in the radar tracking of planes, as well as the text system used to communicate between aircraft and ground control. It’s a scary thought, but luckily Teso has no plans to make the app available for download. Furthermore, just because he was able to get access to the communications, it doesn’t mean he could necessarily crash the aircraft. Our own resident pilot, Kent Wien, says:

“The idea that someone can gain modify the FMS (flight management system) on an airliner is pretty far fetched. The FAA claims that there’s no way this person could gain access to an FMS in this way.

Setting that aside, if our FMS, which is similar to a GPS in a car, were modified inflight it wouldn’t go un-noticed by the pilots. And once discovered, a simple change in autopilot mode would result in the airplane flying to wherever the pilots wanted it to go. Not to mention the even more simple move-clicking off the autopilot. I’d love to hear his presentation about how he can access an FMS, but it’s not like he’s able to take over control of the airplane through that box.”

[via Phandroid]

[Photo credit: Flickr user hugokernel]

US Grounded On World Airport Awards, But Shopping Great At Heathrow

World airport awards

As a top honor in the world airport industry, the World Airport Awards rank the best airline facilities on everything from how they operate to airport hotels, shopping and more. To determine the winners, actual travelers from over 160 countries take part in an annual airport satisfaction survey.

A global benchmark of airport excellence, the survey pool is deep. The World Airport Awards results use the answers to 12.1 million questionnaires completed by 108 different nationalities passing through 395 airports during the nine-month survey period in 2012 and 2013.

On top? Singapore Changi Airport took top honors, followed by Korea’s Incheon International Airport, a Gadling favorite, then Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. U.S. airports fared fairly well, coming in with 15 spots on the World’s Top 100 Airports ranking.

While no U.S. airports made the top ten (again), the top three U.S. airports are: Denver International Airport at number 36; San Francisco International, which ranked 40th; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which squeaked into the top 50 at number 48.

But in the top ten, multiple-award winner London’s Heathrow Airport (number 10) was voted best for shopping too. Boasting over 700,000 of high-end retail space, here are some of the more than 500 shops that air travelers can choose from.

%Gallery-185376%It was a good year for Heathrow, which won the World’s Best Airport Shopping award for the second time, rounding out the top ten list. In addition, Heathrow’s $9 billion Terminal 5 was named as the World’s Best Terminal Building in category listings.

Some other interesting wins:

  • Best Airport Security Processing- Copenhagen
  • Best Airport Immigration Service- Kuala Lumpur
  • Best International Transit Airport- Incheon
  • World’s Cleanest Airport- Tokyo Haneda
  • Best Airport for Leisure Amenities- Singapore
  • Best Airport Dining- Munich
  • Best Airport for Baggage Delivery- Zurich

The World Airport Awards survey was conducted from May 2012 through March 2013.



[Photo credits - Chris Owen/Heathrow Airport]