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Greece - Riots in Ruins

November 10, 2011

 

Cartoon by expresso.pt courtesy of toonpool.com 

 

You can't turn on the TV or gloss over a global newspaper and not catch a story about Greece and its current state of economic despair. It makes our recession in North America look more like an off day at the Track. The phrase "You're money is no good here!" may actually become more than a slang expression - denoting either distaste or affection for a business's patrons - for our brethren in Athens. However, us overseas bargain hunters cannot help but guiltily ponder the possibility that a long overdue trip to Greece may be in store. Another country's bad press and economic ruin often mean one thing for the frugal flyer - a cheap vacation.

 

 

Greece, one of the most beautiful, historic and relevant countries in the world, rich in cuisine, culture, and charisma hasn't been torn apart like this since conflicting religion ripped down its idols heralding the praises of presumably false gods thousands of years ago. Zeus may not be pleased, but the fact of the matter is that cities like Athens, home to Acropolis, the Parthenon, and other ruins that remain to remind us of the mythology that once ruled this kingdom, is still a place that everyone should experience in their lifetime. Perhaps amidst the current chaos is the best time to pledge your support to a country that has given civilization so much, while taking advantage of the opportunity to see the place that eluded us for financial reasons for so long. But is a trip to Greece becoming the bargain we now assume it to be, or is that too a myth? Yes and no.

 

FLIGHTS - Flights are seeing a small to moderate price reduction for airlines that frequently fly to Athens. There may very well be route cancellations for smaller airlines with more to lose by not sending a packed plane across the pond, but otherwise the basic rule of working economics is serving to reduce prices somewhat significantly for those diligent in their fare hunting. Popular airlines that are offering deals to Greece from the U.S. include: Delta, Olympic, Continental, and US Airways. From Canada, Lufthansa is your best bet.

 

HOTELS - This is where the "Yes and no" really comes into play. Smaller, boutique establishments appear to be taking a clenched fist approach, attempting to squeeze as much as they possibly can from their "well-to-do" guests in order to stuff as much money under the mattress as they can fit. On that same token, last minute travelers simply have to call up the operators of these establishments to talk them down in price, even quoting the max you will pay for a night's stay. A general manager of a boutique operation will stare at the open occupancy manifest and often cave on the price knowing that a room sold is better than a room empty. On the flip side, better known budget friendly hotel chains, such as the Best Western have multiple locations in Greece and are dropping rates to keep occupancy levels up. You can stay minutes from Acropolis or the beach for $65/night (approximate U.S. and Canadian currency)! Another moderately priced and convenient hotel worth investigating is Hotel Plaka with rates available from $90/night.

 

CITY TRANSPORT - Things get tricky here. Strikes are popping up left and right. Shuttle services, city transit, and taxis may be no where to be found when things flare up. Whether it’s the city center of Athens or the ancient archeological sites, stay as close as you possibly can to the activities and attractions you came to Greece for to minimize days wasted on in-city travel. You'll also save money that way.

 

DINING, RETAIL, & ENTERTAINMENT - Activities and attractions aside, the other allures of the cities of Greece are well enough intact. Eateries, retail businesses, and discotheques continue to keep travelers from all over the world blissfully separated from the ills of the country, if one is so inclined. Service is at its best as business owners know that to get revenue flowing they need to go the extra mile for those that flew a few thousand miles to pay them a visit.

 

VERDICT - Yes, Greece is relatively cheaper than usual for travelers at this time, but we're far (eons) from second or third world prices folks. The Euro, while still in use, is still the Euro. Greece will never become Indonesia. But nothing shows support for a country in financial crisis and than putting money into the pockets of the local business owners that need it most. Yes, bask in frugality and save every dime you possibly can when booking your flight and hotel, but don't pinch Euros (while they still take them in Greece) when it comes to the small stuff. Our best advice? Do NOT book a vacation to Greece too far in advance. The uncertainty of the currency, looming strike threats in the travel service industry, and civil unrest can erupt or crumble at any given time, leaving those without proper travel insurance in the dust. Those with the freedom to take the trip on a moments notice will benefit the most. Follow deals daily on your favorite booking site or give your travel agent your "go" price and have a bag packed and ready to roll. Zeus awaits amidst the rubble, literal and figurative.

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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AUTUMNatic Reason to Travel

November 01, 2011

 

 

Hit the road to somewhere that a sign like this is needed, and not used as irony, redundancy, or an attempt at humor

 

Hallmark would have us think that this time of the year is one filled with wonder. The leaves on the trees are turning the colors of pumpkins and squash, while pumpkins and squash find their way onto the centerpieces of dining room tables and bookending the welcome mats of doorsteps. Please excuse the pessimist here, but since everyone jumps into descriptors of spring time being one of birth and renewal, the flip side of the coin is that autumn is, well...the opposite. Death admittedly sounds a little harsh but that’s what happened to the crusty leaves that you’re stepping on en route to work or school. You can't have it both ways.

 

I love Halloween as much as the next person but it's all just a precursor to the main event holiday season of winter. Sure pumpkin spice espressos are tasty, but you can't tell me they're better than an Egg Nog latte or Peppermint Mocha. Autumn is just a waiting room, but instead of sitting there unsure if the news is good or bad, we're guaranteed a lifeline when winter kicks in. Weeks worth of holiday season events and entertainment await. Tree lighting ceremonies, Nutcracker performances, ice skating, Christmas day anticipation, Boxing Day shopping, New Year’s Eve planning, skiing, and snowboarding smile from the horizon. And then of course it's all happily downhill from there as spring fast approaches and of course, summer. We patiently wait while the clocks of October and November tick. Boring stuff.

 

Not too many people take vacations at this time of the year, gripping onto their disposable income for the aforementioned holiday season. But this downturn pattern in travel expenditure means one thing - cheap flights and even cheaper hotel stays. I was doing my due diligence before making this claim and found deals that could take you non-stop return from Canada to Kauai (arguably Hawaii's most exploration worthy island) for $368 AFTER taxes! The same reigned true for trips from various rain or sleet infested metropolitan locations in North America to tropical climates. Before you run to your nearest travel agent let me give you a frowned upon (by the industry) tip. Do the work (research, booking, etc…) on your own and you'll most likely find better rates than the quotes from coming from third parties. Deal directly with the airline and deal directly with the hotel and you will almost always get a better deal. Flights predominantly go on sale on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so check around midnight on those weekdays. Pick hotel options that suit your needs and see what their website is charging for specific dates and then compare them to discount hotel sites THEN pick up that antiquated reservation making device - your phone - and actually call the hotel to see if they can beat the quotes. At this time of the year, baring special events and conferences, they will almost always accommodate your requests. This is a method that works far more often than not. Sure it takes a little effort BUT if you are trying to save a buck or two to leave a cushion for the holiday season, it's worth it.

 

It's a crisp Tuesday morning as this article gets posted. Poke around online and see what deals you can find to fast forward yourself out of the pumpkin patch and into a palm tree slung hammock. If you already live somewhere where the latter is more applicable, expect company.    

 

Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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