Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Fear Factor

“Things are hotting up in Egypt” is a popular comment I have heard over the past week – and the commentators are not talking about the weather.

In two weeks time I will be holidaying in Cairo. I am so excited and despite the media hype and misinformation abound I am not at all afraid that I will get caught up in some dangerous situation.
It may seem strange but I can't see myself walking out of the hotel and being hoisted on to the shoulders of mad protesters heading to Tahrir square or the US embassy.

Everything I have read seems to point that there were less than 500 at the US embassy protest on September 11, and that since then there have been no violent clashes. Protests continue – but protests continue in every country for a variety of reasons every day.

Protesters chant slogans amid orange smoke outside the U.S. embassy on September 11.
Photo: Time World http://world.time.com

Several cruise ships have altered their plans to avoid Egypt and the US Government has warned against travel there. But have they warned against travel to Sydney or Paris? There are protests there too against the controversial movie.
Remember nobody was killed in the protests in Cario. 

Last year I joined (as in went to see) an austerity protest in Athens during a stop over. Days before and after buildings had been set on fire, the city was being flashed around the world as a violent city. But when I was there it was just a protest – a mass one with thousands of people, angry people – the city was piling high with rubbish due to strikes - but there was no violence on the day I was there, just some stink! We also did not get any hassle from the protesters, one of my friends got interviewed for Greek TV!

I don't want to join in any protests in Egypt, but if I get to see one I would find it interesting to see one from a safe distance. To gauge their level of discontent to get an idea of the age profile and to try and understand the issue from their point of view.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Do we still need guidebooks?

I caved in. I thought I could hold out. But it just all got too much.

Too many tweets, blogs, top tens, reviews.
So much history, power shifts, religion, myths.
I got cross eyed and overwhelmed but still seemed to be uninformed.

So I ordered the Lonely Planet guide book for Egypt.

I didn't want to, I actually sort of grimaced during the purchase – but I had no other choice.
It was either buy a Lonely Planet or go to Egypt like an American* – uninformed, and I couldn't do that.

I have surfed the whole world wide web, I have read pages of websites, blogs, reviews, top tens and everything else thrown in. And although of course these sites hold such valuable information (feel like I am doing myself out of a blog here) they didn't satisfy my need for a comprehensive overview.

I want to know what are the main attractions, I want to know the history of the country, the important struggles and more importantly I want to know how Egypt got to it's current situation.
And a few reviews of restaurants or tours wouldn't do any harm.

All of these 'need to know' things can be found in various forms online and print, but I have less than three weeks to take off and I don't have time for extensive research.
But Lonely Planet is the most trustworthy publication (in my opinion) to collaborate all the info into one bulky book.

I have used Lonely Planets all over the world, some for only research pre-holiday and in other cities a battered Lonely planet map has helped us direct a campervan or rental car around the streets!

Any guidebook should be used as such – as a guide.  
It is not the be all and end all, you do not organise your entire trip around it's paragraphs. But for an outline, a general idea or rough sketch then they can be invaluable.

But what about tripadvisor apps and widgets and google maps and you know the new era of smart phones and info at your finger tips 24/7?

Well they are super, time saving, colourful, helpful, interactive etc etc
But I am on holidays, my phone will be mostly off.
I want to look around me, not into a screen.

Anyone else still feel the need to purchase a guide book for holidays, trips and adventures?

*I threw in that terrible stereotype in to annoy you, to push you to continue reading and maybe send me an irritable comment – please do!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Insurance against natural disasters?

The flights are finally booked, the hotels have been reviewed to death, my credit card bill has plenty of reading on it and I can almost smell the sun cream.

There is plenty of build up time between now and holidays to get excited, but there is also one small issue (or large depending on your outlook): travel insurance.

For some, travel insurance is a must, it is essential and is booked at the same time as flights are booked and hotels reviewed. And it makes sense of course, because things can go wrong and you could be left paying a whole load of money for that 'budget trip'.

But still I ponder.

If I was to take a short trip to the UK or Europe (under 5 days) there is no way I would take out travel insurance. I would think of insurance as a silly additional cost.

Flights are of course delayed – but only by a few hours usually and there are always plenty of flight options available. Medically as an EU citizen I know I will be treated without question. I don't have medical insurance at home – so why should I panic just because I am travelling?

I have of course taken out travel insurance for holidays before – because it make sense, it is a fail safe, a peace of mind – a fall back.
But when travelling to Cuba a few years ago I was told I would not be covered there. The trip went ahead successfully, with no problems.
Then last year I went on a cruise to Israel. It was only at the last minute I remembered travel insurance, I was sitting in the airport about to depart and it sparked with me. I consulted with my travel partner and we decided to go on ahead. Nothing bad happened. We enjoyed the trip. We didn't need travel insurance.

I know I have been lucky, I have never been stranded for days in an airport, left in hospital with serious injuries or had all my stuff stolen. I also know the other stories the scary ones about thousands of euro of legal fees, medial treatment.

Some insurance companies are now covering against natural disasters. But I feel like travel insurance is putting a downer on my hols:

Passport – check
Money – check
Suncream – check
Insurance in case my boyfriend dies in a horrible complicated accident – check

Is travel insurance essential. Pic: telegraph.co.uk

So travel insurance – is it really essential?