News & Features by Adam Taplin

  • Israel: Try the bus to get around

    You can get almost anywhere in Israel by bus, and the central bus station is a fixture in most towns. Ask for the tahana merkazit. The Egged bus cooperative handles all bus routes, except those in Tel Aviv, where Dan operates. Fares are a flat-rate per journey, not based on distance. For both local and intercity travel, bus drivers accept payment for tickets (payable only in shekels). They don't make change for a bill over NIS 50. It's faster to buy tickets at the bus station.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on June 17, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EDT Tagged: Israel
  • Avoid unlicensed taxis

    So-called "gypsy" cab drivers are sometimes legit, but you generally have no way of knowing this before you hop into the vehicle. And if you are overcharged or mistreated, you have little chance of disputing the incident. Use authorized cabs. And if you're unsure, check your guideback or ask at your hotel the tourist board for information about which cab companies are reputable.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on March 01, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Write down your hotel info on a slip of paper

    In places where you don't speak the language, jot down the name, address, and phone number of your hotel on several pieces of paper, along with the same information for any restaurants, attractions, or other sites you're planning to visit, and present these to cab or bus drivers as you travel.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on February 28, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Frances Mayes Twitter Giveaway

    In her new book Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes shares the original story of renovating her thirteenth-century stone-roofed house in the mountains above Cortona, Italy, along with many of her experiences since Under the Tuscan Sun came out. Tweet or email us for the chance to win a copy.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on February 17, 2010 at 9:00:00 AM EST
  • Ask for help deciding what to eat

    Ask, "If I could only eat here once in my life, what should I order?" Food servers will usually have lots of great advice when you put it to them that way. (Although you could simply ask what's popular, you might not approve of the local clientele's selection.)

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 25, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Call your hotel if your flight is delayed

    It's one of the last things you may think of when faced with the chaos and uncertainty of a delay, but your failure to do this could result in your reservation's being dropped because your hotel believes you to be a no-show.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 24, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Opt for a voucher instead of a round-trip ticket

    Free roundtrip air tickets usually come with many restrictions and usually only apply to domestic destinations. It's a far better deal to get a voucher of several hundred dollars that can be used toward any future flight.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 23, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Buses: Ask what a "direct" or "nonstop" trip means

    Even when a bus is supposedly a "direct nonstop" there's usually a quick stop if the ride is over three or four hours. Sometimes passengers have time to dart into a convenience store or truck stop to buy food or use the bathroom. Sometimes not.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 22, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Consider a cruise to nowhere

    If you're a first-time cruiser unsure about committing to a longer trip, ask your travel agent about a short "cruise to nowhere." There are no ports of call and no real itinerary. You set sail, fl oat at sea, and return home. That's it. These cruises last between two and four days, usually over a weekend, and they cost just a few hundred dollars. If you are concerned about seasickness, look for a single-night cruise from New York, Miami, or Fort Lauderdale so you can test your sea legs.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 21, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Costa Rica: Hire professional, bilingual guides

    To get the most out of your trip, hire someone who can turn what looks like a mass of green foliage to the untrained eye into a widely diversified trove of plants and creatures great and small—one of the highlights of a trip to Costa Rica. For the full effect, bring or borrow binoculars.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 19, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST Tagged: Costa Rica
  • Check out the local supermarket

    That's especially advisable if you're staying put for a while or have a hotel with kitchenette. You'll get better prices here than at hotel shops, and you'll get a good look at cultural habits by seeing what the locals purchase.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 18, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Bahamas: Don't forget to drive on the left

    This can be confusing, because most cars are American with the steering wheel on the left. Similarly, pedestrians must look right, left, right when crossing the street.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 17, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST Tagged: Bahamas
  • Reconfirm your flights on interisland carriers

    You may be requested (actually, told) to take another flight or departure time that's more convenient for the airline, or your plane may make unscheduled stops.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 16, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Don't overlook local agencies when renting a car

    In the Caribbean, local car rental agencies are a good money-saving alternative. Their cars are mechanically sound, and prices are competitive. It's not crucial to reserve a rental car prior to arrival.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 15, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Save your old mobile phone

    If you travel internationally frequently, save one of your old mobile phones or buy a cheap one on the Internet; ask your carrier to unlock it for you, and take it with you as a travel phone, buying a new SIM card with pay-as-you-go service in each destination.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 14, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Save money by choosing self-service accommodations

    If you are willing to stay in self-catering accommodations, you may not only have more room to spread out (condos are usually much larger than a comparable hotel room), but you'll be able to save money by cooking some meals yourself. Granted, food in Caribbean and Hawaiian supermarkets is still about 30% to 40% higher than at home, but it's always more cost-effective to make a few meals yourself.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 13, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Try bargaining in St. Martin

    There's a lot of competition at the island's shops and boutiques. You can always try bargaining, especially in the jewelry stores. You can sometimes get as much as 25% off. Ask "is this your best price"? They will let you know if they're in the mood to deal.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 12, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • In the Caribbean, learn to live on island time

    From the time Caribbean people are very little children, many are taught to acknowledge anyone they encounter with a friendly "good morning," "good afternoon," or "good night." We simply can't understate how important it is you reply in kind. Islanders take these informal niceties very seriously and will almost always treat you with more friendliness if you slow down and respect their ways, by living on island time.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 11, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Don't pay for an expensive hotel breakfast

    Of course, if it's included, by all means, indulge. However, hotel restaurants can be expensive and mediocre; ask the concierge or staff about the neighborhood's bagel shops, cafés, and coffee places.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 10, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST
  • Book your cruise four to six months ahead

    As a rule, the majority of cruisers plan their trips four to six months ahead of time. It follows then, that a four- to six-month window should give you the pick of sailing dates, ships, itineraries, cabins, and flights to get you to the port city. If you're looking for a standard itinerary and aren't choosy about the vessel or dates, you could wait for a last-minute discount, but they are harder to find than in the past.

    Posted by Adam Taplin on January 09, 2010 at 2:00:00 AM EST