EuroCheapo launches budget travel guides for Switzerland

While Switzerland is not usually thought of as a budget-friendly destination, there are actually many worthwhile hotels, sights, and restaurants that won’t cost you a fortune. To help travelers navigate their way around this usually costly country, EuroCheapo has launched budget travel guides for the cities of Zurich and Geneva, marking their first Swiss guides on the site. These guides will not only feature accommodation recommendations and photographs from the editors themselves, but also insider tips on how to explore these cities without breaking the bank.

Says EuroCheapo’s founder and editor-in-chief, Tom Meyers, “While it’s certainly easy to overspend in Geneva and Zurich, our editors have uncovered many simple ways to make visiting more affordable. Both cities offer delightful inexpensive hotels that will keep your trip budget in check.”

EuroCheapo is a free budget travel guide for Europe. To check out the brand new Swiss guides as well as money-saving guides for other European cities, click here.

Geneva home to the world’s first mobile airport terminal

Geneva airport just celebrated the opening of the world’s first mobile airport terminal today. The terminal was designed by Austrian company TMT – The Mobile Terminal.

Their “entry level” airport terminal arrives in several standard shipping containers, and can be assembled in about a week. The heated and cooled terminal building features seating for up to 180 people, along with as many self-checkin terminals as required.

The terminals can be built to handle anything from a single gate to multiple >150 passenger jets. Temporary mobile terminals are perfect for high-traffic periods, to replace damaged terminal buildings or during construction work. None of the terminals have been planned for the U.S. yet, but they are fully approved for use in Europe by Eurocontrol, the air traffic control and airport operations agency.

[Photos courtesy of TMT]


Gadling’s favorite destinations for 2011

We travel a lot, to destinations both well-known and unfamiliar. In our defense, it is our job to travel like mad, to explore the world and then write about our discoveries.

Though most travel writers find something or other of interest in most places we visit, there are always those personal favorites that rise above the rest. This year, we decided to scribble our favorites down for you. Some of these spots we’re tipping for greater coverage in 2011, while others are simply tried-and-true favorites that we can’t stop raving about to our friends and the various publications that allow us to write for them. Over the course of this week, we’ll weigh in on our favorite hotels, airlines, gadgets, apps, and websites.

So, without further ado: Gadling’s favorite destinations for 2011.

Mike Barish. St. Kitts. I genuinely enjoy how locals and visitors frequent the same beach bars and restaurants. During evenings on the strip, I’d recognize staff members from my hotel doing the same thing I was doing: enjoying the ocean breeze with a cocktail and some jerk chicken.

Kraig Becker. Everest Base Camp, Nepal. For adventure travelers, a visit to Everest Base Camp is one of the best treks in the world. The 12-day hike isn’t just about the destination, however, as you walk in the shadow of the Himalaya each day, passing through sleepy mountain villages steeped in Sherpa culture along the way. The scenery, and altitude, is a breathtaking once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Catherine Bodry: Ko Chang, Thailand and Sayulita, Mexico.

Joel Bullock: My favorite new roller coaster of 2010 is Carowinds’ Intimidator. Carowinds is located on the border of North and South Carolina in Charlotte in the heart of NASCAR country. It was only fitting that the park design a racing-themed roller coaster that bears the nickname of racing legend Dale Earnhadt. Intimidator is an exciting ride. It’s the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster in the South East.

David Downie: As a general trend, I revisit places that have fallen off the tourist maps, or that have been taken for granted, and delve deeper into favorite destinations such as Paris and Rome, which are infinitely rich and fascinating and satisfying. Cities: Paris (art, culture, walks, museums, food, wine), Rome (art, culture, walks, museums, food, wine), Genoa (food, wine, scenic beauty, history, magically restored architecture), Bologna (food, food, food and atmosphere and architecture), Helsinki (scenic beauty, atmosphere, seafood). Countryside destinations: Burgundy (wine, food, vineyard and mountain scenery), Massif Central (hikes, scenery), Drome-Provencal (ditto, plus truffles and wine), Tuscany (art, culture, museums, wine, food, vineyard and mountain scenery), Italian Riviera (ditto).

Don George. (1) Peru‘s Sacred Valley. I finally made it there this year and was enchanted by scenery, history, culture, people, cuisine. Machu Picchu is of course life-transformingly amazing but the other untouted ruins all around the valley are equally amazing. (2) Kyoto, Japan. The cobbled back quarters of this ancient city are as enchanting now as they were when I first visited 30 years ago. Tiny temples, impromptu shakuhachi concerts, apprentice geisha in full splendor. (3) Aitutaki, Cook Islands. Incredible island scenery, hospitable people, stunning lagoon, peaceful and laid-back lifestyle, thriving dance, carving, and textile arts scene.

Tom Johansmeyer. If you’re a cigar smoker, nothing beats Esteli, Nicaragua. On just about any budget, you can spend a few days down there. Make a few calls in advance, and you’ll have the opportunity to tour tobacco fields and cigar factories. Even if you aren’t a smoker, it’s amazing to see such craftsmanship in action.

Jeremy Kressmann. Hanoi, Vietnam for its great history and architecture, awesome cuisine, and intriguing Cold War sights. Secondly, Laos. The rugged north of the country has great hikes and the buzzing cultural capital of Luang Prabang is totally worthwhile.

Grant Martin. Bogotá. Forget what you’ve heard about kidnappings, drugs and danger, Bogotá is the new cosmopolitan capital of South America. With quaint, brick streets, a buzzing commercial district and a hip, young population, there’s not much to dislike about this place. Get there before the rest of North America figures it out.

Melanie Nayer. Shanghai. The city of old and new hit a turning point when it hosted the World Expo, and set the stage for Shanghai to become one of the most talked about–and visited–cities in the world.

Sean McLachlan. Ethiopia. Friendly people, rugged scenery, historic sites, and great coffee. What more could you want? Beautiful women, good food, adventure travel? Ethiopia has all that too.

Laurel Miller. Ecuador, especially Cotopaxi National Park (see above), because it’s stunningly beautiful, uncrowded, and there are loads of outdoor recreational opportunities. Ecuador is an amazingly diverse country, kind of like a mini-Peru but with very low-key tourism. There’s also great whitewater rafting/kayaking and mountaineering, fascinating indigenous culture, beautiful colonial cities, delicious regional foods, and the people are wonderful. There’s so much more to Ecuador than just the (admittedly spectacular) Galapagos.

Meg Nesterov. Bulgaria is cheap, creative, and easy to explore. Several of my most well-traveled friends already rave about it. Go now before tourism overexposes the country.

Heather Poole. Positano, Italy. It’s just so beautiful and the food is amazing. I’m a flight attendant and I have a four year-old son, as well as a husband who travels over 100,000 miles a year for business. Our life is like a game of tag. So when it comes to vacations all we want to do is relax. I love to be able to sit on a balcony and let the vacation come to me.

McLean Robbins. Telluride. It’s not new, but as ski towns go it feels non-commercial and relatively untouched. You’ll find truly friendly people (and your fair share of under-the-radar celebrities), but also the country’s best extreme skiing. And it looks like heaven when it snows!

Annie Scott. I’m big on Vienna. It’s a magical city that embodies everything I think of when I think of Europe: culture, history, cathedrals and class. I think the Swiss Riviera may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Lake Geneva looks so pristine you could drink it, and the French influence gives everything from the dining to the shopping that elusive je ne sais quoi. Lastly, I had a marvelous trip this year in Zambia where the wildlife was rampant and the scenery was enchanting and unexpectedly dynamic: sweeping plains, dreamlike riverscapes and incredible trees. The thrill of being immersed in the bush is hard to match.

Alex Robertson Textor. Lima, Peru continues to pop. While the Inca Trail is old hat, Lima is emerging as a major destination on its own. Perhaps most notable is the Peruvian capital’s excellent restaurant scene, which is as disarmingly inexpensive as it is top-notch. I also have to mention green, rustic, jaw-droppingly beautiful Dominica as the Caribbean’s top adventure destination. Dominica has a number of fantastic eco-lodges that showcase the island’s natural beauty wonderfully and are priced reasonably.

Karen Walrond. As a diver, I love Cayman. Love it. Very touristy, but the diving is beyond anything I’ve seen, and i’ve been diving all over the world. And I’m partial to Grand Riviere in my homeland of Trinidad, which isn’t touristy at all. Between April and June, you can see Giant Leatherback turtles nesting in Grand Riviere.

[Image: Flickr | alepheli]

Daily Pampering: Swiss watchmaking excursion in Geneva for $12,000

For the man who has everything, this little excursion will send him spinning: Pure Entertainment Group has created an exclusive watchmaking excursion in Geneva for the serious watch aficionado.

Upon landing in Geneva, guests will be transported to their Junior Suite at the renowned Five-Star hotel Beau-Rivage Geneva via private transportation, where you will be greeted with a complimentary bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, fresh flowers, and Swiss chocolates.

The 4-night package includes everything from guided tours of the city to dinner for two at the Michelin-Starred restaurant Le Chat Botté. The sublime offering, however, is the limo to the De Bethune watch manufacture in La Chaux L’Auberson, where you’ll receive a showing of the De Bethune private watch collection. Rumor has it, during your discussions with De Bethune founders David Zanetta and Denis Flageollet, there’s a possibility De Bethune will create a bespoke watch for just for you.

The cost of this once in a lifetime watchmaking package? The 4-night stay starts with private transfer services, dinner for two and the visit to the De Bethune starts at EURO 8,600 per couple (approximately $12,068).

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Airport efficiency: the world’s winners

Do you get frustrated when you walk into an airport? Even before you get there? On good days, it’s a painful experience, with long lines, the security gauntlet and procedures (which may or may not be appropriate) that are guaranteed to annoy. It should come as no surprise that some are better than others. While the hope for a headache-free flight may not change your vacation plans, knowing that you’ll pass though one may take the edge off a bit.

The Air Transport Research Society has put out a list of the world’s most efficient airports, large and small, in the top three regions for travel: North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. The rankings were based on a wide range of statistic, including “traffic data, on-time statistics, financial reports and passenger throughput.”

According to the ATRS, the five airports least likely to drive you nuts (by region) are:

  • Europe, Large Airport (more than 15 million passengers): Oslo, Norway
  • Europe, Small Airport (less than 15 million passengers): Geneva, Switzerland
  • North America, Large Airport (more than 15 million passengers): Atlanta, Georgia
  • North America, Small Airport (less than 15 million passengers): Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  • Asia-Pacific, Large Airport (more than 15 million passengers): Hong Kong
  • Asia-Pacific, Small Airport (less than 15 million passengers): Seoul-Gimpo, South Korea

So, which one is the best in the world? The ATRS gives that distinction to Atlanta, which is tops for traffic and has solid financial management. Seoul-Gimpo, according to the study, has made a “remarkable turnaround, and Oslo knocked Copenhagen out of the winner’s circle that it had owned for several years.

[photo by Franco Folini via Flickr]