Traveling in, around or through the European Union‘s 28 nations is not like traveling around the 50 United States. Different countries have different rules, systems and procedures in place.
But what if it was?
Looking to streamline the process, the European Commission is working on a system to make travel across the continent easier.
One of the intended points of having a European Union was to allow more freedom of movement of people, goods and services. While the euro zone monetary union has helped standardize forms of payment, plans to develop a model for a pan-European information and booking system could standardize the procedure for booking various modes of transport including air and rail.
“To make the best use of all existing transport modes and infrastructure, we need to ensure the availability, accessibility and exchange of all relevant information, such as schedules, capacity and paths,” said Siim Kallas, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of transport, in a Travel Mole report.
Think that sounds like a good idea? Not everyone agrees, as we see in this video:
Greenland is the 12th largest country in the world, yet its entire population would just barely be able to fill Michigan Stadium to half of its capacity. Virtually all pictures taken on the enormous island encapsulate this sparsely populated, remote nature, such as this one taken by Mads & Trine on Flickr. Greenland is a place with towns so small they have almost no signs, as residents already know where everything is. This photo was taken in Sisimiut, a town with a quaint population of just over 5,000 where the local school turns into a hostel for the summer. Located just north of the Arctic Circle, it’s an ideal place to catch the Northern Lights.
International travelers arriving in the United States this summer are often faced with a waiting time of three hours or longer to clear U.S. Customs. If their first stop in the U.S. is not their final destination, that wait can easily add up to missed connections too. In March, with several international flights on my upcoming travel schedule, I took a look at what could be done to speed things up.
“It’s a major problem,” said Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president at Airlines for America in a Wall Street Journal report. “People get very, very frustrated when they spend seven or nine or even as long as 17 hours on a flight and then wait another two to three hours in line. People get really unhappy.”
I saw that unhappiness first hand at Orlando International Airport (MCO), my hometown airport and one that sees a bunch of families as the gateway to a number of central Florida theme parks and attractions. It has always been good to be an American at Orlando customs where the line for U.S. citizens is a fraction of what those from other countries face. Still, with recent government cutbacks, lines and waiting time for all had increased.Looking into the Trusted Traveler program, I liked the idea of speeding through the process of entering the United States. I rarely have anything to declare and travel enough internationally to make the $100 fee, good for five years, worth it. After completing an online application, U.S. Customs and Border Protection performed a background check, conditionally approved the application and then allowed scheduling of a one-on-one interview with a customs agent at a choice of local locations. That interview took no more than five minutes and off I went with my Global Entry ID card, something I would never need again.
Arriving in the United States, program members go directly to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport, scan fingertips for verification then make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues a transaction receipt, which is very much like a second fast pass, used to access a second fast line after baggage has been claimed and others are being checked again.
Entering the U.S. in Atlanta (ATL) on a flight from London, the process could not have been smoother. I walked from the plane to my connection with just a brief stop at the Global Entry kiosk, the luggage claim area and on through customs.
A bonus to Global Entry is that it also admits participants to the TSA Pre✓™ program, normally reserved for frequent fliers of certain airlines. In the dedicated TSA Pre✓™ lanes at participating airports screening might not require removing shoes, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, belts or taking off a jacket.
The down side? If traveling with others who are not part of the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ program, I still have to wait for them but can do so at a comfortable airport lounge.
On Saturday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee announced this year’s newly inscribed locations to their list of World Heritage Sites from their 37th session in Cambodia. Each year, the UN agency evaluates the most culturally and naturally significant sites that have been proposed to them from countries around the world. Then, they elect the most outstanding to be put on their renowned list.
This year sees Japan‘s iconic Mount Fuji added to the list after previous nomination attempts were rejected due to garbage disposal problems on the summit as well as a perceived lack of uniqueness of the mountain. Japan successfully lobbied for the stratovolcano to be included this year due to the incredibly prominent role it has played in Japanese history, religion and art. One of the most famous Japanese works of art, “The Great Wave,” features the beautifully shaped mountain in the background. The woodblock print even comes from a series named “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” Today, Fuji-san has come to represent Japan as a whole.Also added to the World Heritage List this year was China‘s gorgeous Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, which have been continuously cultivated for over 1,300 years. Located in Southern Yunnan, the rice terraces cover more than 64 square miles of farmland, where many of the locals still live a very traditional life, living in thatched huts and small villages.
The nations of Qatar and Fiji received their first ever World Heritage Site inscriptions this year. Al Zubarah, a walled fort town in Qatar, was a successful trade post before it was abandoned at the turn of the 20th century. In the years since, much of the site has been covered in sand blown in from the desert, helping to preserve it. Fiji’s Levuka Historical Port Town has been inscribed after more than 25 years of lobbying by their government. The port town was Fiji’s first colonial capital and received strong architectural influences from both it’s British colonial rulers as well as from its own indigenous culture.
In total this year, 19 sites were added to the World Heritage List, from countries in almost every corner of the globe, with the possibility of even more to be announced before the session ends on June 27. Sites that have been given designation by UNESCO receive increased protection under international law, funds for further preservation as well as greater public awareness and tourism. There are presently 962 World Heritage Sites in 157 countries. Other sites include Yellowstone National Park, the Pyramids of Giza, Uluru in Australia and the Darjeeling Railway in India.