My article in the current issue of Transitions Abroad is called “The New Eastern Europe: Now You have to Look for Travel Bargains.” This one is posted online, so follow the link.

Prague

Many travelers have not woken up to the fact that a hotel room in Prague can cost more than one in Florence or Barcelona. Even though we’re past the summer now, upper-end hotels such as Aria Hotel (pictured here) and Ventana Hotel are routinely charging over $300 per night and rates can top $450 on busy weekends. Oh, but you do get breakfast.

Krakow and Budapest are trying hard to bring in the big money as well. Both have been popular for a while, though it seems the New York Times just figured that out last weekend. See this funny post on Jaunted.

If you want to go to Eastern Europe to save money, you’ve got to update your thinking. Go to Bulgaria, or Romania, or the countyside of the Czech Republic or Hungary rather than the main cities. Go to Turkey. Or be a real adventurer and go somewhere well off the tourist circuit, like Montenegro. If you are from the U.S. or Canada and are setting out on a round-the-world journey, you might want to just avoid Europe entirely if you’re carrying U.S. or Canadian dollars. (Or wait until we get a new president.) Your money will stretch much further elsewhere. Heck, just go to Buenos Aires or Montevideo and hang out at cafes. You can pretend you’re in Europe but a meal will cost you less than a European cup of coffee.

If your budget is fatter though and you’re just on vacation, you can find plenty of bargains in Prague and Budapest once you step out of your hotel. In terms of food and glorious beer, you can do quite well, especially if you get out of the main tourist districts.

Check out the new issue of Perceptive Travel for stories on New Zealand, Argentina, Vietnam, Italy, and…Turkmenistan.

Perceptive Travel In the September/October Perceptive Travel issue, Edward Readicker-Henderson takes his long name on an equally long trip, just to see some bras hanging on a fence in New Zealand. Graham Reid motors around the Amalfi region of Italy checking out the legend of a flying saint. Jeff Greenwald returns, this time with a dispatch on tracking rare primates on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam. John W. Kropf heads to a remote part of Turkmenistan to see some dinosaur tracks. Last, and probably least, yours truly bounces around Argentina, raising the cholesterol level and drinking gallons of wine in the name of research.

Susan Griffith reviews books The Traveler’s Handbook, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, and The 8:55 to Baghdad: From London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie and the Orient Express.

Global music reviews cover two Putuyamo compilations and new CDs from Bajofondo Tango Club and Cheb i Sabbah.

We’re in the midst of giving away a slew of prizes to current newsletter subscribers. If you’re not signed up, you’re missing out! Go here to get on the list:
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A holiday weekend is over in the U.S. and for many who spent part of it in an airplane, that portion of the trip was likely far from pleasant. But as Tim Winship says in his frequent flyer blog, we need to look in the mirror while complaining because those cheap airfares have cost us plenty.

I conveyed that exact sentiment in Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, after leading off from this quote by RyanAir founder Michael O’Leary: “Air transport is just a glorfied bus operation.” After all, if we go for the cheapest flight every time, then there’s no point in anyone offering a better service for a higher price. American Airlines tried offering more legroom, but in the end they said “screw it” and jammed in more seats–they weren’t getting enough extra business to justify the more comfortable cabins.

The problem I have with this argument though, is that some airlines do a better job than others and this does bring more customers their way. There’s a good reason Southwest, JetBlue, and Frontier are doing well in the U.S.–they’re far more pleasant to fly than the nickel and diming competitors. Unless you can fly enough to hit elite status with a legacy U.S. airline, there’s little incentive to use them. This is not the case overseas, where the legacy airlines are still usually superior in terms of service and amenities–especially the airlines from Asia and the Gulf States.

But I am feeling a little better about the legacy lines these days because I finally managed to cash in some frequent flyer miles for two different trips. Plus Delta bumped me on my last flight with them, resulting in another freebie. I’ll gladly put up with some crappy service and tiny hub planes for that price–free.

Steve IrwinSteve Irwin, TV personality and conservationalist known as The Crocodile Hunter, died after being stuck in the heart by a stingray this past weekend. Here’s a full report. He was snorkeling off the coast of Australia and had the dumb luck of startling a creature that is normally very passive, then getting hit in exactly the wrong place.

Many people probably expected him to die early, but not like this. A rattlesnake bite, a crocodile getting really annoyed, or something else that came from his death-defying, but a mellow ray, something that makes you go “oooohhh” when you’re snorkeling?

I have no real connection to Irwin, except for once landing on Komodo Island the week after he was there filming a show. I always loved watching him though, even if he did seem a little too willing to laugh at risk–kind of like Timothy Treadwell in Grizzley Man, but not as mentally unbalanced. We’ll miss you big guy.

Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding, interviews travel guru and Transitions Abroad founder Clay Hubbs over at Vagablogging. Go to the interview.
travel guideI said at some point I’m going to give a shout-out to everyone who contributed a section to my new book, Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune. I get to kill two birds with one stone on this one. Rolf wrote a great piece on making your own adventures instead of buying them as a package like a product off the shelf. He’s a great writer and thinker and if you’ve ever wanted to take off on a long travel jaunt, Vagabonding is essential reading. It’s less than 10 bucks, so go get a copy.

Clay Hubbs has been a hero of mine for a long time, so I was thrilled when he agreed to provide a little story about ignoring State Department travel warnings and figuring out what’s really dangerous and what’s not. Clay has been traveling and writing for close to 30 years and has never stopped sticking up for what he believes in and preaching that in order to really grow and learn, you have to interact with the people you are traveling among. If you’re an independent traveler from the U.S. or Canada and you’re not a Transitions Abroad subscriber, go get a subscription or at least pick up a sample copy at a good newsstand. If you’re outside North America, at least bookmark their excellent website. It’s a fantastic resource and getting better all the time.