Planned England To Pakistan Bus Route Hits Bump In The Road

A proposed bus route from England to Pakistan has been delayed due to trouble getting permits, the BBC reports.

The proposed route is the brainchild of Tahir Khokher, transport chief for the Mirpur region of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. The route starts in the northern English city of Birmingham, where many Pakistanis from the Mirpur region live, and runs 4,000 miles through Europe, Turkey, and Iran before reaching northeastern Pakistan and ending at Mirpur.

The problem, of course, is the route itself. It runs straight through Iran and continues on to Quetta in Pakistan, which is a popular hangout for Al-Qaeda. The Kashmir region, which has been the scene of conflict between Pakistan and India since those nations were formed, isn’t exactly the safest place in the world either. A recent survey found Pakistan the seventh unfriendliest country in the world, right after Iran.

On the other hand, a trip will only cost £130 ($200), making it an awesome budget travel option for the adventurous.

The Daily Mail quotes a Birmingham Minister of Parliament expressing concerns that the route could be dangerous. There is also the question of whether it would be used as a low-cost conduit for terrorists.

Khokher says the problems with permits should be ironed out within a month. Stay tuned for more news about the 12-day bus ride through one of the toughest regions in the world.

[Photo Pakistani bus courtesy Flickr user ix4svs. One hopes the new service uses better buses than this.]

‘Vote Travel’ Bus Coming To A City Near You

The United States Travel Association (U.S. Travel) has rolled out a new plan to spread the word on the importance of tourism in America: A big blue bus that is now making its way across the country on a 20,000-mile tour. The bus is a roving advertisement for U.S. Travel, an organization that is on a mission to highlight the economic benefits of travel. The association makes some pretty good points too, citing that travel contributes $1.9 trillion to the US economy and supports more than 14.4 million jobs here on our home turf. Looks like they’re also having some fun while playing off the current political campaign climate.

The bus tour includes major rallies in select cities (for a full list, see the U.S. Travel website), the first of which was held in Las Vegas on April 12. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, tourism is the number one economic driver in southern Nevada, generating $40 billion for the local economy and supporting 37,000 jobs. Upcoming cities include Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Phoenix before the bus makes its way through the south toward Florida followed by a jaunt up the East Coast.

If you spot the bus, stop by to learn how to urge your elected representatives and candidates to sign a pledge that supports policies that “safely and effectively reduce barriers to travel to and within the United States,” according to a press release by the U.S. Travel. The bus also has some swag to give out, such as t-shirts and squishy, stress-relieving buses. Of course, you don’t have to search for the bus in order to help, just visit the Vote Travel website where you can fill out a simple form.

Images (top to bottom) The “Vote Travel” bus inside the Tuscahn Canyon in Ivin, Utah [Photo courtesy the United States Travel Association]; Promotional travel postcards ; [Photo courtesy the United States Travel Association]; and officials from the US Travel Association and employees at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce to kick off the “Vote Travel” national wide bus tour on April 12, 2012 [Photo by Darrin Bush]

Meet the love of your life – on a New York Gray Line tour!

For tourists visiting New York City, the iconic Gray Line tour buses have always been a quick way to see as much of the Big Apple as you can fit into a day. But the folks behind this bus line now also offer a fun way for New York single guys and girls to meet up (though tourists are obviously still welcome!).

For $59 ($30 off their normal price), Gray Line will fill a bus with singles, and take them on a tour of the city – with some pretty romantic stops.

Included in the price is a stop at the Top of the Rock Observation deck, a guided tour of the High Lines, dinner, and – get this – a 90 minute Champagne skyline cruise.

On the bus, singles will get to know each other through a speed dating version of musical chairs.

The “Singles Night On The Town” bus tour departs daily at 5:30PM from 777 8th Avenue. For the entire itinerary, or to reserve a spot on this tour, check out the full details at the Gray Line site.

Tourists flock to erupting Iceland volcano

A recent volcanic eruption in Iceland has proven a much-needed shot in the arm for country’s tourist industry. The Fimmvorduhals Volcano in Southern Iceland began pouring molten lava late last month, Iceland’s first volcanic eruption since 2004. Although the initial eruption triggered evacuations of nearby residents, the event was minor enough to allow most locals to return home. A steady stream of visitors has soon followed.

The volcano, which lies approximately 125 kilometers east of the capital Reykjavik, has proven to be quite a sight. Not only does the lava-spewing eruption make for a dramatic show, it also happens to be set among two massive glaciers. The eruption has also triggered a stream of visitor activity in the region. A hiking trail leading the volcano was reopened, another company is offering bus tours, and the nearby Hotel Ranga has seen a surge in new bookings.

You can check out a photo gallery of the volcano, in all its erupting glory, here.

New tour takes visitors into LA’s ganglands

Tourists looking for a thrill in Los Angeles can now take a bus tour of the city’s most dangerous ganglands. For $65, LA Gang Tours takes visitors around the city, pointing out gang graffiti and stopping at sights like the Los Angeles Riverbed, Florence Avenue, and the Pico Union Graffiti Lab.

It seems tourists are always drawn to places with a dangerous auras and violent pasts, places that are the complete opposite of our comfortable lives at home. The question is, do we go to these places, places like the slums of Mumbai, the townships of Johannesburg or the streets of South Central LA, because we want to understand what life is like for the people there, or do we go to gawk or just so we can say “I’ve been there”? And do these tours actually help the communities that are put on display, or do they make them a spectacle?

LA Gang Tours was created by Alfred Lomas, a former gang member, who says the tour will create 10 part-time jobs for ex-gang members who will lead tours and share their own stories. He says his goal is to help residents of South Central,”to give profits from the tours back to these areas for economic growth and development, provide job/entrepreneur training, micro-financing opportunities and to specialize in educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions.”I’d actually be curious to take the tour, which is scheduled to run once per month. It sounds like, in this case, the tour may be run in a way that takes a more anthropological, rather than exploitative, look at the community. The tour bus is unmarked, and out of respect for area residents, riders on the tour are not permitted to take photos or video.

While in Cape Town, I had the opportunity to tour Robben Island, the prison where political “criminals” were held during apartheid. When the tour guide, himself a former prisoner, was asked why he would do this – lead tours and relive the pain of his imprisonment every day – for a living, he responded with two reasons. One, he said, was because he wanted people to know what happened. The second was that every boatload of tourists that came to the island meant one more person who would have a job.

Perhaps it’s naive to think that welcoming a bus-full of tourists once a month could help solve the many problems of the area. But if offering the tours keeps one more ex-gang member employed running tours and out of gang life, well, at least it’s a start.

[via Chicago Tribune]