Archive for September, 2007

Less ouch in the south!

September 13th, 2007

South of the Equator is definitely the most affordable place to travel. Not only is the weather fairer over much of the southern hemisphere, now travellers find they don’t need to spend nearly as much as they do in the north simply to have a good time.

Two global surveys comparing the cost of living agree that Europe now has the world’s most expensive cities in which to live; one cites Oslo, the other says Moscow. And a third survey, released this week, adds that London is now the most expensive city in the world for dining out.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s annual survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. Moscow tops its list followed by London.

Thanks to the strength of the euro, other serious European dollar drainers include Copenhagen, Geneva, Zurich and Milan. In comparison Sydney ranks 21st.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2007 Worldwide Cost of Living survey names Oslo as the world’s most expensive city for the second year running, followed by Tokyo and Reykjavik. London ranks fourth whereas Moscow is way down the list, only a shade more costly than New York. But the Economist survey omits housing, so doesn’t truly reflect the total cost of living.

Much more tuned to the tourist pocket is the recent Zagat Restaurant Guide 2007 survey. Its focus is the cost of a restaurant meal and it finds that London demands the biggest splash of your cash. Expect little change from $200 for a three-course meal for two! (average cost $94.35 or £39.09 per person). Next in line is Paris ($85.40 pp) then Tokyo ($84.75 pp).

Such astronomical costs may well drive travellers elsewhere, most likely in the direction of South American cities at the opposite end of the spectrum. Both COL surveys rank Asuncion in Paraguay as the world’s least expensive city, with Quito and Montevideo also low down on the list.

Pain in the ear

September 5th, 2007

When I first wrote about the introduction of mobile phones on aeroplanes, it seemed this might happen before the end of that year. Thankfully it has turned out to be a case of so far, so good …. although the gloomy day of mobile lift off edges ever closer.

Low cost carrier Ryanair has said it will equip its entire fleet of Boeing 737s with small base stations that use satellite links so mobile phones can be used during flight without interfering with ground-based networks. This system recently won approval from European aviation authorities. The “picocell” system is supplied by OnAir, a high tech outfit backed by Airbus and it will allow passengers to send and receive not only e-mails and text messages but also make voice calls.

Qantas also said it would consider allowing limited cell phone on its planes, then later modified that to allowing text messaging only. Emirates and Air France have also announced their intention to open up the airways to the chattering classes.

Could flying possibly get worse? But maybe you think this is a good idea? And perhaps it’s already de facto? At the end of a recent international flight a fellow passenger casually switched on his Blackberry and was busy jabbering away throughout our descent. The crew didn’t bat an eyelid.

No nuts!

September 3rd, 2007

I have a sailing mate who suffers from Popeye syndrome. Should he inadvertently overdose on spinach then his cheeks and forearms swell up, his eyes take on a weird metallic glint and he adopts a jaunty nautical gait. In the worst case scenario he puffs frantically on a cob pipe.

This patent rubbish is simply to focus your attention on a real and serious problem, one that can get even more problematic, even life threatening, when in unfamilar surroundings.

Food allergies and sensitivities are a critical issue when travelling in foreign countries where you are probably unable to speak the language and therefore unable to alert anyone to your problem.

The humble peanut, scoffed without thought by millions around the world, is a total nightmare for anyone suffering a nut allergy. They can even prove fatal without ingestion! Yet peanuts are found in all manner of foods, as are many other nuts.

For other people it’s fish or shellfish that presents a lurking and potential fatal danger. Other less serious food allergies may affect us when young but generally disappear as we grow older.

So how do you prevent a disastrous bite in a foreign land? One really bright and simple idea is to carry a card – such as No nuts with that! written in the appropriate tongue and flash it whenever you order a meal.

Customised, laminated food alert cards, available in any language and covering a wide range of foods, from alcohol to yogurt, can be ordered on-line from SelectWisely which also does multi-food, multi-language cards and special cards for specific needs. As a last resort, there’s also a “get me to hospital” card costing $5 (US$3.50)

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