I waited in line an hour today to throw out the bums running things in the U.S., but meanwhile an election held in Nicaragua this past Sunday has got more than a few people nervous.

The standard tourism line on Nicaragua has been that the Iran-Contra days are long gone, the Sandanistas aren’t a force anymore, and the country is on the upswing. That may all be down the toilet as Sandanista party man from the past, Daniel Ortega, looks to have won the presidency with only 38.6 percent of the vote. (And Bush thought having 49% of the country hating you was bad…)

Depending on who you listen to, this is either a huge disaster or a great question mark. The only people seemingly cheering the results are those aligned with the “let’s all stay poor through socialism” movement led by Chavez and Castro. Pragmatists are ready to give Ortega the benefit of the doubt though, as they feel it’s unlikely he’ll roll back trade policies that have finally lifted trade and investment out of a long rut.

For tourists, who knows? Most of the current building and investment boom has been spurred on by incentives put in place by the outgoing administration and the feeling from expats that the country was finally on the rise. Whether it all stops or not will determine whether the infrastructure keeps improving and more facilities open for tourists. If investment slows down, this will remain a wild frontier for only the most hardy travelers. Good news for Panama and Costa Rica, not so good news for Nicaragua. To keep an eye on what locals are saying, check out GotoNicaragua.com.

The promise of aggregator sites such as Kayak┬áis that you will get a look at all the options out there when you pull it up. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and just as always, you need to shop around.

The problem is that no site lists every airline. Some of them (such as Southwest) don’t give their data to everyone. Others (such as Frontier and many international airlines) only give it to some of these booking sites. The best solution I’ve found is to use a site that aggregates the aggregators, such as Booking Wiz. Here’s why.

For two months I’ve been looking for a decent deal to Merida, Mexico the first week of January. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. All of a sudden last week, when I went through the paces on Booking Wiz, I found a sub-$500 deal on Expedia, all taxes and fees included. It was ONLY on Expedia–not on any of the others, including Kayak. The probable reason was that it involves flying to Cancun, spending the night there, then making the other connection on Mexicana. Complicated, a bit of a pain, but worth it to save $200 and fly direct from my home city to Mexico. Expedia did some algorithmic magic to put it together, the others didn’t. When you try, CheapTickets may find your combination, while the others don’t. You never know, so keep looking.

identity theft
I’ve been lucky enough (or careful enough) to never have my documents stolen while traveling, but I’ve run into plenty of people who haven’t been so lucky. You should always have a safe copy somewhere of of your passport, your health vitals, any insurance info, and your credit card numbers.

If there are two of you, that makes it easier as you can at least have copies of each other’s and be redundant. Other people carry a CD or a USB drive with the info on it. Others leave it buried in their e-mail account somewhere.

There’s another solution out now that makes sense if you’re concerned about data security. There’s an Online Safe Deposit Box that is free for six months, then $3 a month after that. You can upload scans of your documents and then have then guarded behind a strong wall of security. This way if you completely lost everything except the clothes you were wearing, you would still be able to log on from any terminal and retrieve what you need. (Assuming you still have a few bucks left at least…)

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran a short “Arbitrage” piece on airport transfer costs in different countries. Because their readership is not exactly poor, they researched “a one-way private transfer from an airport to a luxury hotel, booked through the hotel.” So naturally this is going to be far more money than if you just grabbed a taxi at the terminal. Nevertheless, it shows you what a huge difference there is between costs in different countries once your plane touches down. Here’s a sampling:

Manila – $42

Taipei – $60

Bangkok – $63

Brussels – $79

Shanghai – $94

New York – $167 (JFK we assume)

London – $171

Paris – $179

And the winner is…. Tokyo, at $382!!!!

In most of the World’s Cheapest Destinations, you could travel around for a month on $382. If you take public transportation that is…

Perceptive travel webzineThe new issue of Perceptive Travel is out, filled with some great travel stories, book reviews, and world music reviews.

What’s in there? Let’s see…getting naked in Amman, tomb raiding in Cambodia, Venezuelan wine, being comfortably Numb in Iran, and the weight of motherhood for an adventure traveler.

We’re glad to welcome two award-winning Canadian writers to the pages of Perceptive Travel: Rory MacLean and Laurie Gough. Also new to this issue are Darrin Duford and Shari Caudron. Michael Buckley, who previously wrote about the new train line in Tibet, returns with a tale of crumbling ruins in northern Cambodia. Wendy Knight steps up with some literate travel book reviews and Graham Reid chimes in from New Zealand with some world music reviews.

Which means I’m staying out of the picture this issue, spending my time going from virtual door to virtual door, groveling for people to go buy my new book for everyone on their holiday shopping list…