Using Your iPhone Abroad

April 26, 2010 on 10:21 pm | In Europe travel,, international travel, phoning home, things travelers need to know | 1 Comment

We saw a great advertisement tonight for the iPhone. It featured a U.S.-based,college-aged student who was touring Europe and using iPhone applications to book rooms at hostels, buy tickets, make reservations, post photos to the Web and just about anything that you could think about related to travel. It looked inviting and it appeared like a hassle-free way to solve arranging travel on the road. However, our advice is not to try this with your iPhone! As a matter of fact, the best use of your iPhone during international travel is to leave it at home.

Why? Well there is the little issue of the expense of international data roaming. When you use your iPhone outside of your home country, in this case, outside of the U.S., Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands (for either voice or data) international roaming rates apply. So if your are in Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia or anyplace other than the U.S., you could find out that opening an email with a 5 megapixel photo in it, or downloading a three-minute video on YouTube, each take about two megabytes of data. AT&T indicates that the cost for this harmless task could be $40, based on pay-per-use international data rates of $0.0195 per kilobyte of data. In fact, we know travelers who have forgotten this little tidbit and racked up charges over $2,000 on brief, international visits.

The poor man’s approach (and the one we practice if we absolutely need to take our iPhone) is to turn off the settings that are going to consume data. Your best bet is to go to the settings screen on your iPhone, look for the button labeled “general” and turn “data roaming” off. In addition, turn off 3G. Finally turn off “fetch new data” under the email setting. Note, that even if you take all of these precautions, it will not guarantee that some data might squeak through, as these actions do not block text or picture/video messages.

AT&T has a page that describes these issues in detail and we urge you to follow their advice, which can be found here.

In short, taking your iPhone abroad can be a real liability. If you forget to make the changes above, you can return home to a very big bill. In addition, even if you do turn off all the data functions, you never know when somebody is going to call and you will be paying international rates for the call, regardless of its point of origination.

AT& T does offer international data plans (described in the page referenced by the link above), but they are expensvie for relatively limited amounts of data. If interested, order one of these before you depart, measure your usage closely while abroad, and cancel the service on your return.

You can use Wi-Fi on the iPhone without charge and this is the low cost way to use your iPhone when traveling, since you can often find free Wi-Fi access points at airports, coffee shops and in some hotels. In addition, you can use Wi-Fi with Skype to call at reduced rates, but there is the problem that someone may call you and the price of that conversation could be more than you were going to spend on hotels for the next few days.

While it is not our intent to beat up the iPhone or AT&T, if you have one of those snazzy new iPads with 3G, turn off the 3G before you take it international or you will run into the same extraordinary data costs that plague the iPhone, although you won’t have to worry about anyone calling you on it.

We have several articles about alternatives for calling home in the ThereArePlaces section on Travel Tips.

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Europe Held Hostage by a…Volcano!

April 15, 2010 on 8:33 am | In Copenhagen travel, Denmark travel, Europe travel, France Travel, Germany travel, Ireland travel, London travel, Netherlands travel, Paris Travel, Scotland travel,, Travel Safety, air travel, england travel, international travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings, travel weather warning | 1 Comment

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano (located near the island’s south coast, approximately 149 kilometers (92 miles) southeast of Reykjavik) has the potential to cause much damage to the country and the world’s climate. Today, however, the volcano’s cloud of steam and smoke, spread across Western Europe and the UK by prevailing winds, has become a major hazard to air travel.

Many of the airports in Europe, particularly those along the western coast zone of Europe, have closed in response to the threat that the volcanic cloud poses. Concentrations of volcanic ash and dust can decrease visibility during flights at higher altitudes and damage or cause engine shutdowns in jet-powered aircraft at any altitude.

For detailed information on the event and the response, see this article in the Wall Street Journal.

For some great photos of the volcano and detailed information on the eruption,see this excellent presentation from the Detroit Free Press.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland has created a major problem for all air travelers in Europe, as well as those planning on flying to Europe. The length of the eruption and the wind patterns can vary and there is no easy way to tell when air traffic will resume normal patterns. If you are planning on traveling to or in Europe in the next week, be sure to contact your airline, well in advance, to see what information they can offer. If you are in Europe and trying to return home, this will be a frustrating week, as volcanic eruptions are one of those situations beyond the control of the airlines or anyone else.

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Little Mermaid Going to China

March 26, 2010 on 2:40 pm | In Copenhagen travel, Denmark travel, Europe travel,, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

For many travelers, the “Little Mermaid” statue in Copehagen is the most well-known icon of this delighful Danish city. Modeled after Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, the small statue has captured the imagination of almost every visitor to the city and is one of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions.


However, for some unfathomable reason, the Little Mermaid Statue has been uprooted by the authorities and it is on its way for a six-month sojourn in …Shanghai, China for the World Expo, where is will be the centerpiece of the Danish exhibition. So, those of you hoping to see the little lady during your summer trip to Denmark, will have to make do with a video that will run in its place, until it returns.

See this video at the BBC for more information.

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Its Snowing…On The Mediterranean Coast of Spain and France

March 9, 2010 on 11:58 am | In Europe travel, France, France Travel, Spain Travel,, things travelers need to know, travel weather warning | Comments Off

It continues to be a rough winter in Europe and it appears that “Old Man Winter” wants to extend his reach. Today, there was snow in Barcelona. In addition, there was snow in southern France , including Nimes (the link is to a video on the BBC that shows snow and palm trees, something you do not see every day).

Well, spring is on its way and it will be another glorious summer along the Mediterranean Coast of Europe. In fact, with all of the precipitation, it should be a colorful spring as well.

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Britain Raises Terror Threat Level

January 24, 2010 on 9:29 pm | In Europe travel, London, London travel, Terrorism and travel,, UK Travel, United Kingdom, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

The goverment of the United Kingdom has raised the country’s Terror Threat Classifcation from Substantial to Severe. The Severe ranking indicates that an attack is highly likely. The reason for the increase in classiciation is that a government meeting on Yemen and Afghanistan is being held in London next week. Although there is not intelligence that an attack is being planned, the government is being cautious and indicating that an attack is likely. See this article in the Gulf Times for more information.

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Europe Not This Week – Part 2

December 22, 2009 on 10:30 pm | In Europe travel,, country travel information, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news, travel restrictions, travel warnings | Comments Off

Well, its been travel hell in Europe this week and its does not look like the situation will markedly improve until next week at the earliest. Seems like it’s a Dickens’ Christmas for travelers on the continent and in the UK – “Bah, Humbug!”

If you have a choice, delay travel to Europe until after Christmas. If you do not have a choice, be prepared for delays, lines and the usual travel problems that pop-up when the weather “breaks” transportation systems.

There was some good news as the Eurostar is, once again, running the Channel Tunnel, although the backlog of passengers is so large that the company is not accepting new reservations until after Christmas. Here are three stories on the weather troubles from the BBC, Wall Street Journal, and Deutshce Welle.

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New Searchable Google Maps at ThereArePlaces

October 8, 2009 on 11:06 pm | In Europe travel,, maps, things travelers need to know, travel news | Comments Off

We have added a search bar to the maps on As you may know, we overlay these detailed maps from Google with the locations of our recommended best places to visit around the world to help you plan your intinerary when traveling abroad. Recently, Google let us know that they had developed code that would allow us to embed a Google Search Box on our maps.

We thought this might be an interesting idea and played with the code until we got it to work just the way we wanted and were stunned by how useful this feature is for travel. Below is a figure showing the search box at the bottom of our map of Edinburgh, Scotland.

A Google search box on our map of Scotland allows you to search for shops and stores that might be of interest to you.

When you enter a search term in the box, the results show up in a list that is linked to symbols showing the location of the results on the map. For example, we decided to see where we could find shops offering kilts in Edinburgh – after all what better memento of Scotland?

And now we see where we can find kilts in Edinburgh.

We think you will find the map search boxes fascinating. We’ve spent hours looking for patisseries in Paris, chocolates in Brussels, Weinerschnitzel in Munich.

We think you will like this feature, but the best way to find is to try it. The search box is particularly useful for finding stores, bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels and other items of interest – or maybe even just looking for fun stuff to do when you are traveling (or to dream about when you are armchair traveling).

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Amsterdam – A Popular Place

August 30, 2009 on 3:49 pm | In Europe travel, Netherlands travel, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

Amsterdam attracts a lot of visitors and its popularity is reflected at ThereArePlaces by the incredible traffic that we have on our Amsterdam pages. Amsterdam is known to many as a party-town and one which caters to having fun, but if you are going there for tourism, you have to scratch below the surface to find the character of the city.

On our first visit, we thought the city was gray, dismal and continually rainy. Its canals, we thought, were not especially scenic, its numerous bike riders would just as soon run you over as to slow for you, and some of its food high-priced and tourist-bland. Well, on our second trip, we confirmed that it does rain a lot in Amsterdam, so go with the flow. Yes, the city is fairly bland in a visual sense, but very functional. No, the canals are not scenic, but they are a convenient and novel way to get around the city. The food – well you have to search for the places the locals eat, so ask a few and you will find some wonderful places for food, drink and fun.

The crown jewels of Amsterdam’s attractions are the Anne Frank Huis and the Van Gogh Museum. Just these two attractions make a trip the city worthwhile and when you throw in the Rijksmuseum, the Heineken Experience, the floating Flower Market and several other of the city’s attractions you will find Amsterdam growing on you. Of course, if you are looking for a youth oriented town to party in – this is the one to visit!

Centraal Station in Amsterdam is the transportation hub for the city

We have updated our Amsterdam Guide with some new attractions and created a second section on touring tactics, including shopping, advice on hotels, dining tips and more. Why not take a look? Even if you are not planning on a trip to the Netherlands, Schiphol Airport is one of the major hubs in Europe and you can often arrange your flights to give you enough time for a quick trip into town for some fun sightseeing. In fact, if you are interested in doing this, see our section titled “Just a Day” for information on how to maximize you time.

Just one final thing – those bike riders will run you over! In most streets there is a specific lane reserved for bike traffic – don’t step into it when they are moving or you could become huburger (human hamburger). Before you complain you should know that bikes have the right-of-way over pedestrians in the Netherlands.

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It’s Time To Travel – And Plan Travel

July 14, 2009 on 9:15 pm | In Air Sale, Europe travel, Greece Travel, Hawaii travel, Mexico travel, ocean cruising, things travelers need to know, travel news | 1 Comment

Sorry for the lack of news lately, but our teams have been…traveling! Yep, we travel summer, winter, spring, and fall. In fact, we’re on the go just about anytime we can arrange it. And right now is a great time to plan a getaway.

While the airlines and cruise industries seem to be having serious problems due to the state of the economy (e.g. airline ticket revenues are down 25 percent for the first half of the year and many of the big boats are sailing with a lower occupancy than last year), sometimes there are silver linings to be found in “dark clouds”. We have noticed that several major airlines are still discounting tickets to Europe and there are some amazing cruise deals to be found for touring Mexico and Alaska. At this point, it looks like discounts on travel fares and accommodations may last into the fall.

While we realize that it is difficult for families to travel once school starts again in September, if you have the opportunity you should consider a vacation this fall to take advantage of the lower levels of leisure travel and the discounts that seems to be resulting from this phenomenon. Autumn is a wonderful time to tour Europe, although the weather can get “iffy” in northern Europe in late November and December. If you are thinking about soaking up the sun, Hawaii is great in the fall, as is coastal Mexico. Of course, the Greek islands can be magnificent in September and October, although you need to make sure that your favorite place to stay has survived this year’s slow summer travel season.

In other words, our advice is “GO”, whenever you have the chance. While travel is our business, it is also our avocation. We find travel educational, relaxing, enjoyable and important to our well-being. There are so many places to go, so many interesting places to discover and so many wonderful people to meet that we are already anticipating our turn to enjoy the world of travel. When will it be your turn?

Yep. We know. You want to wait just a little bit longer. Maybe next year? Maybe the economy will improve? If that is your position, we think someone may be giving you bad advice. We all hope that the economy improves, but we can guarantee you that as the economy improves, the price of travel will rise accordingly. Now is the time that you should be able to find bargains that you may never, ever see again in the world of travel.

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New ThereArePlaces Guide to Rome, Italy

June 16, 2009 on 11:07 pm | In Europe travel, Italy, Italy travel,, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news | Comments Off

The famous Pantheon in Rome, Italy
We’ve just published our new, Rome Guide and hope you like it. We have new photographs, new attractions, new maps and a new design.

We have provided several themes for exploring the Eternal City that include: Ancient Rome, Rome’s Glorious Piazzas, Rome’s Museums, Rome’s Churches, Rome’s Vatican City, Touring Tactics, Shopping and DayTrips.

To make it easier for those of you who want to learn more about specific attractions, we have created an index to all of the attractions that we cover in Rome.

We’ve added several new maps in addition to our best places to visit in Rome map. Now included are the following maps – Roman Forums, Rome’s Museums, Rome’s Churches, Shopping and Day Trips.

A small section of our Rome Shopping Map

For the most popular attractions we have created detailed coverage in the form of one-page, illustrated guides that provide additional information on the spectacular sights at the locations in this category. Take our new Rome Guide for a spin, we think you will find it helpful in planning your trip to Rome.

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