If you’ve visited Istanbul or any of the country of Turkey in the past, you had to stand in line to buy a tourist visa sticker (in cash only, payable in USD or Euro) before getting in a longer line to get through border control and out of the airport. If you forgot to buy the Turkish visa first, you’d have to get out of line and hope that a nice person would let you cut back in once you got the sticker. Now, you can apply online and sail right through to the Immigration line, eliminating one step.
The new e-Visa program is available to citizens of most countries, including the United States, Canada, and European Union. Like the sticker system, it costs $20 and your visa is valid for multiple entries for 90 days (the visa is valid for 180 days but you can only stay up to 90 without applying for residency). You can apply up to 24 hours before departure, though they advise one week. If you forget to apply online, don’t worry, the old visa desk will still be available at the airport.
One of my favorite things about traveling, in addition to foreign supermarkets, oddball museums, and miniature toiletries, is the local English-language expat newspaper. When I’m home in New York, I tend to get all my news online, either directly from news websites through specific searches or curated from friends’ links on social media (one of the best sources for news from US newspapers is Canadian NY1 anchorman and New Yorker favorite Pat Kiernan‘s site Pat’s Papers). Sorry US newspapers, I know I’m part of the problem. But while I’m traveling, I love to grab the local newspaper over hotel breakfast or in a coffeeshop and learn about local issues, news, and phenomena.Last month in Malaysia while reading the New Straits Times, I learned about how competitive the Chinese are at a kite flying festival and how southeast Asian children have to be taught to detect sour milk. The travel section reviewed a new hotel in Penang with a first impression of “adequate” and the Niexter insert written by Malaysian teenagers taught me all about malapropisms. A couple at our hotel told me they came to Penang after reading an article on the Hotel Penaga’s renovation from the paper in Kuala Lumpur.
It was from Istanbul’s Today’s Zaman that I learned about the excellent expat community and online forum I’ve become a part of in the last year, and I now have friends who have worked at Zaman and their competitor the Hurriyet Daily News. When I first visited Turkey in 2008, I recall reading an interesting editorial in one of the papers about how stealing things from airplanes like safety cards can cause delays, as the plane can’t take off without enough for everyone. The torn out article is long-gone, but I’ve retained the factoid and it keeps me honest on airplanes (though I’ve been tempted to take a souvenir from some eastern European airlines). When the Hurriyet turned 50 this year, writer Jennifer Hattam wrote a great piece on the particular challenges of not only translating the language of news, but the cultural specifics and background as well.
Expat news doesn’t only come in print form. I tweeted about expat news sources and read how writer Lisa Bergren relies on the BBC for news as well as comfort, and CJGuest recommends Al Jazeera from the Arabic world, the German Deutsche Welle, NHK from Japan, and Russia Today from the Russian Federation. Gadling’s own Grant Martin likes the South China Morning Post and the more western Sydney Morning Herald.The local English-language paper doesn’t always have the freshest content, the most stellar writing, or the coolest layout, but it provides an invaluable look into regional and national issues. Expat news can also provide a lens through which to see world news through local perspectives, and help us keep in touch with the sentiments and opinions in our home countries and cultures.
Gadling readers, do you have any favorite news sources abroad? Please feel free to share in the comments.
I just heard from a spokesman for Expedia a few minutes ago that it has suspended the sale of flights by American Airlines. Expedia revealed the following to Gadling:
“We have been unable to reach an agreement with American Airlines due to American Airlines’ new commercial strategy that we believe is anti-consumer and anti-choice. American Airlines is attempting to introduce a new direct connect model that will result in higher costs and reduced transparency for consumers, making it difficult to compare American Airlines’ ticket prices and options with offerings by other airlines. American Airlines’ direct connect model is of questionable, if any, benefit to travelers, would be costly to build and maintain and would compromise travel agents’ ability to provide travelers with the best selection.
“As a result, the sale of American Airlines flights on our website has been suspended. We remain open to doing business with American Airlines on terms that are satisfactory to Expedia and do not compromise our ability to provide consumers with the products and services they need.
“We cannot support efforts that we believe are fundamentally bad for travelers. With or without American Airlines’ inventory, we have a robust supply base and broad array of choices for our customers and we continue to offer hundreds of flight options for the routes served by American Airlines.”
How far would you go for a free hotel room? Swedish pornographer Berth Milton Jr. hopes you’d go all the way; he’s proposing a new chain of “sex-themed, five-star hotels” and would offer free stays for guests who have sex on webcams. Barbara DeLollis reports in USA Today that Milton believes subscriptions could bring in nearly $44 million a year from viewers who will pay to watch amateurs having sex.
Milton made his fortune making adult DVD versons of popular films like “Gladiator” but has since been fighting a legal battle over $10 million he allegedly borrowed (and didn’t repay) from his company Private Media as well as a creditor that could take his shares in the company’s board. The porn hotels idea is just one venture he hopes will restore his empire.
Milton did some field research at swingers clubs in Spain and concluded the hotels would have to appeal to guests other than aspiring porn stars. “It has to be a hotel for non-swingers as well — not super-explicit where everybody’s running around naked,” Milton told the New York Post. “That takes the style and class out of it.” Of course not, couldn’t have a porn hotel without style or class. Citing Charlie Sheen’s recent Plaza Hotel romp, he believes there is room for porn in mainstream. “If you take a show like ‘Two-and-a-Half Men,’ it’s all about an adult lifestyle,” Milton said.
Would you stay in a porn hotel, as a performer or otherwise? We’re still skeptical, but hey, different strokes for different folks.
If your next hotel stay is more expensive than you expected, blame the government. State and local governments, still reeling from the recession, are looking for any source of revenue they can grab. And, they’re next target seems to be online travel agencies.
Online booking sites, such as Expedia and Orbitz, negotiate a rate with hotels for available inventory, market it up a bit and pass it along to the travel-buying public. The business model is pretty straightforward. The problem comes down to which room rate should be used to calculate state and local occupancy taxes. At least 40 lawsuits have been filed over the issue, as local governments have rewritten ordinances to try to add a bit more to the coffers.
“Occupancy taxes are based on the rate the hotel sets and receives,” he says, “not the profits, fees or commissions of its partners. … The facilitation fees are no more part of the hotel rate than the taxi that takes the guest from the airport or the tip they give the bellhop.”
How do you feel about this issue? Leave a comment to let us know if it’s what the hotel gets or what the occupant pays that should matter for tax purposes.