Why You Should Never Go Barefoot in Airport Security

dirty feet

Ugh, you made it up to TSA and you are sandals or sockless. This is not good for you or anyone else.

If you want to go barefoot, that’s your gross choice, but if you would like to follow the advice of a podiatrist , here’s your warning…. “The risk is raised in cases of open sores or wounds, cuts, abrasions, dry, fissured skin, or poor circulation, diabetes … children are more susceptible to catching warts because their immune system is not fully developed.”

Ewwwwwww!

Upon further web searches you’ll find alarming quotes, including this one from Dr. Rami Calis, DPM: “Athlete’s foot is not the only issue … Think of all the things that fall off people’s shoes. Also, there might be small tacks or sharp pebbles that could cut you–and if you have an opening in the skin, that is asking for infection. Even a sock won’t protect your foot. If you do step on a tack, then we’re talking about [possibly] having to get a tetanus shot, and possible infections.”

The TSA, of course, disagrees. According to its blog, the TSA actually commissioned a 2003 study on this issue with the Department of Health and Human Services. The study found that as long as the floor wasn’t  moist, the possibility of contracting a foot fungus while walking through barefoot was “extremely small to remote.” Well of course they say this, they want to see your tootsies.

I was traveling one summer in sandals and I have plantar fasciitis . It’s a painful condition made even more painful by being barefoot. I was requested to take off my sandals ( they had a sturdy arch support) and I declined while explaining my condition. The TSA agents were very rude and were speaking behind my back that I was a spoiled princess and there was no reason why I couldn’t go barefoot. After I sat down, took off my shoes, they checked my feet and ran my sandals through the X-ray. I then headed off to the TSA office to file a complaint about their behaviour.

My world traveler advice is to bring or wear socks through the line. There is some funky stuff down there and you don’t want it to sit on your feet during the flight.

 

Emergency Passport Renewal

Processing a passport application can take as many as six weeks. But not all travelers have the luxury of time. Fortunately, the U.S. State Department and international U.S. Embassies can issue temporary or emergency passports.

Even if you’re traveling within 24 hours (last-minute business trip and your passport is expired?) a Passport Agency can help you get a passport in time for your departure.

Bring your application, payment for necessary fees, and proof of immediate international travel to your regional center. If possible, book an appointment in advance, though many have walk-in hours. Most are located in large cities such as New York and San Francisco. Though you’ll find they’re not unlike the DMV (a purgatory-like waiting system is pretty requisite for most government agencies) it’s the best way to get an emergency passport without involving third-party costs—the ItsEasy passport renewal app (don’t worry, it has a thumbs up from the U.S. government) is free to download, but 1-3 day rush service will cost you $269 in addition to all the other government fees.

The fee for an expedited passport through a Passport Agency is $60, though you’ll also need to pay for a new passport (if this is your first) or a passport renewal (when a previous passport has expired).

If you’re not able to reach a Passport Agency, give the National Passport Information Center a ring. Just note that representatives are only available during business hours on weekdays, with limited service on Saturdays.

Passports that are lost or stolen while abroad can be replaced at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Come armed with a passport photo for the speediest assistance. You’re likely to receive a limited-validity, emergency passport in this situation. Upon your return, return your emergency passport to receive a legitimate passport book.

Our advice? Even if you don’t have international travel plans on the books, having a valid passport on hand (with three to six effective months on either end) is always your safest bet.

8 Surprising Things That are Actually Offensive in Europe

Mixing with the locals is the fastest way to the heart of a place—and it’s easier than ever, thanks to Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Eatwith and the like. There’s only one catch—you think Paris’ transit system is tricky? Try navigating the wildly varying cultural norms across Europe. There’s nothing quite so deflating as meeting new people, and promptly (however inadvertently) offending them. See our best tips below.

1. Don’t give flowers as a gift.
Flowers’ symbolic meanings vary widely by country: In Latvia, red roses are for funerals, not valentines. Chrysanthemums are the French funerary flower. In Germany, yellow roses mean the host’s partner is cheating, lilies are for funerals, and heather is associated with cemeteries. Throughout Europe, even-numbered bouquets are considered bad luck, as are groups of 13.

2. Follow locals’ lead when it comes to alcohol.
In Spain, wait to take a first drink until after the first toast and you only toast with alcohol, not water or soft drinks. Keep quiet and don’t drink until a toast—no matter how long-winded—is finished in Georgia and Azerbaijan. In France, don’t refill your wine glass without first offering refills to the rest of the table; forget bringing wine to dinner, the host will want to select a vintage that pairs with the meal. In Russia, vodka should never be refused—it’s a symbol of friendship—and toss it back neat, sipping is considered rude. In Germany, looking people in the eyes when you toast is mandatory—on threat of 7 years bad luck in the bedroom.

3. Don’t let your clothes send the wrong message.
Generally speaking, Europeans dress more formally than Americans, even for something as simple as a trip to the supermarket. But beyond a prevailing societal norm that workout gear is only acceptable for exercise, there are also more specific, regional rules when it comes to clothing that may catch you by surprise if you don’t do your research. In Romania, don’t shake hands with your gloves on. Take your overcoat off indoors—in Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union, to do otherwise implies your hosts do not properly heat their home. In Czech Republic, stay buttoned up in business meetings, at least until the highest-ranking person in attendance removes his or her jacket. In Poland, and many parts of Europe, it’s considered impolite to speak to people with your hands in your pockets.

4. Mind your gestures.
Even the most essential of gestures can mean very different things than they do in your home country, so avoid using gestures until you’re sure you know what they mean at a destination. In Bulgaria, locals shake their heads yes and nod no. Making the peace sign, or “v” for victory is the equivalent of flipping your middle finger in Ireland and the UK. In Italy, Spain, France, Greece and former Yugoslavia extending your index finger and pinkie and shaking your fist in the “rock on” gesture, is tantamount to taunting the person you point it at about a cheating partner, whereas in Norway it’s the sign of the devil. Skip the “okay” sign, too—in France, Portugal and Greece it simply signifies “no good” or “useless” but in Turkey and Malta when you curl your thumb and index finger into a circle you’re comparing people to a very private part of your anatomy. Flicking someone’s ear is a homosexual slur in Italy, and cracking your knuckles is considered obscene in Belgium.

5. Save your smile for the right occasion.
In many parts of Europe the easiest way to identify an American on vacation is by their seemingly aimless grin for the world at large. Flashing your happy face in a business setting is considered unprofessional in Russia. In France and Czech Republic smiles are reserved for friends and families, rarely bestowed on strangers.

6. Respect local coffee culture.
Few things are more likely to scandalize the locals and get you a frosty reception at a café or restaurant than botching your coffee order. Don’t order cappuccino after breakfast in Italy, or espresso before or during a meal. In Spain, café con leche may be ordered at breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up, but shouldn’t be ordered with any meals after midday. If you must have a white coffee after dinner, try a cortado—an espresso cut with a splash of milk. In Austria’s historic coffee culture, the worst mistake visitors make is trying to generically order a coffee, an offense in a culture with a multitude of options.

7. Leave your chewing gum at home.
In Europe, walking around with a wad of chewing gum in your jaw isn’t just uncommon, it’s often regarded as impolite. Most Europeans chew gum briefly after a meal, and spit it out in short order. In the Netherlands, chewing gum while talking is considered rude, and in Belgium and France, chewing gum at all is considered vulgar.

8. Time is relative.
Concepts of time and punctuality vary across Europe. In the Netherlands, being early, even to the tune of 5 minutes, is unacceptable. In Germany, punctuality is a matter of respect for other people’s time. In Spain, Italy and France, being 5-10 minutes late is considered within the norm, and not frowned upon, even in many professional settings. In Poland, for informal events in people’s homes, always arrive 15 minutes later than the agreed upon time to allow the host to prepare, but not more than 30 minutes late.

While doing some research ahead of time will help, you’re bound to commit a few faux pas on your travels. The bottom line: Don’t sweat it. Some of my biggest bumbles have made for my most memorable travel experiences, like when an elderly Greek baker with massive, arthritic hands lectured me in her halting English about rude gestures when I used the “ok” sign to confirm my order of a spiral-shaped Skopelitiki pastry, or the time I almost toasted with a glass of lemon Fanta to the horror of my Spanish friends.Read more

U.S. State Department Issues Summer Travel Alert for Europe

brussels-belgium-tourists-cr-getty

Citing a high number of tourists in Europe this summer, the State Department has issued a new alert.

After terror attacks on an airport and metro station in Brussels, the State Department in March issued a broad alert for travel across Europe that was slated to expire on June 20. On Tuesday, the State Department announced a new alert that expires on August 31: In its description, officials note that the large number of tourists visiting Europe this summer present “greater targets” for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, and urge U.S. citizens to exercise vigilance in public places or when using mass transportation.

The alert specifically references several key events: the Euro Cup, hosted in France June 10–July 10; the Tour de France, from July 2–24; and the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day, which will draw an anticipated 2.5 million visitors to Krakow, Poland, between July 26 and July 31.

The original article continues below.

3/23/16: In the wake of twin terror attacks in Brussels, the State Department’s sweeping alert for travel to all of Europe is stoking visitors’ fears further—by raising the prospect of similar attacks in the near future. “Terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation,” the department said in its latest alert, issued shortly after the bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station.

For the U.S. government to issue such a broad—and alarming—alert is unusual, but it’s not the only country recommending its citizens reconsider their travel plans. Several countries issued new advisories, such as Australia, which raised its alert for Belgium from “a high degree of caution” to “reconsider your need to travel.”

So just how are would-be travelers expected to react to the barrage of alerts? While such a broad travel advisory to Europe would strike some as too vague, security experts said it was appropriate, given the circumstances. “With attacks all across Europe, it would be ill-advised to try and single out a specific country,” says Edward Clark, senior security consultant for iJET International. The U.S. doesn’t warn against all travel, necessarily, but instead urges Americans to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation.”

“Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events,” it said. That’s familiar advice to anyone who follows these travel advisories—and the warnings have come more frequently in the past six months following attacks in Paris, Turkey, and elsewhere. Whether it’s practical or useful is another question—after all, how do visitors completely avoid crowds? “While crowds are difficult to avoid, especially if on vacation, [you can] learn where to stand in the crowd and how to position yourself to limit your vulnerabilities,” says Clark. “When you travel, select times when the airport is the least busy.”

The State Department’s alert does expire June 20, around the height of tourist season in several European countries; it’s also a fairly typical three-month alert, and not as broad as the global alert issued in November following the Paris attacks.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Let Fear Get in the Way of Travel

This article has been corrected and updated. A travel alert, which was issued, is less acute and shorter term than a travel warning. Read on for more info.

Russia. Easy for solo travel

St basil moscow

I have just returned from a week in Russia. 3 days in Moscow and 3 in Saint Petersburg. I was hesitant at first because I don’t speak a word of Russian and it was 15 hours of flying.

First, you need to book your flights and hotels, then you can apply for a Russian Visa. It’s going to run you about $300. You also need to contact your hotels for a special visitor’s visa, which they will send you in an email link. The tourist visa is about $5.

So to be clear, first you book your trip, then you find out if Russia will allow your Visa. Give this at least 6 weeks or panic might set in.

I learned a couple of words in Russian, because it’s the polite thing to do and it ingratiates you to the locals. I learned, ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You can find the words online and usually there is a spoken pronunciation. Practice these words.

My reasons for Russia were

  1. It was cheap. 6 days with air, hotels and breakfast was $1036.
  2. I got tickets for the Bolshoi Ballet online before I went. Making my trip extra-spectacular.
  3. It was safer than the other locations that I wanted to go to in Scandinavia.
  4. Because it helps me learn more about the world.

I book almost all my trips via http://www.europeandestinations.com. I am not paid by them, I just want to know how I am able to book my trips so inexpensively.

Moscow and St Petersburg have Uber and wifi is everywhere. I was able to use Uber from the airports for around 1000 rubles ( $15) when the taxis were asking 8000 rubles ($120).

I found both cities to be very walkable, safe and friendly. I did try the subway, but I kept getting lost because I don’t know Russian.

I suggest you do some research before you go. I watched quite a few YouTube videos on the cities and was able to get a feeling of what I was getting myself into and what I wanted to see.

The tourist or old section of Moscow is quite compact around Red Square and the Kremlin. Pick a hotel within walking distance and you shall be fine. I stayed at the Arbat House Hotel in a very quiet section of the city. It was an easy walk to Red Square and the adjoining restaurant had excellent food which they brought up to my room.

In St Petersburg I stayed at the Nevisky Aster Hotel. It is close to The Hermitage on a lovely street just off of the main street of Nevsky Prospect. I was within walking distance of everything I wanted to see, near great and inexpensive restaurants and just a couple of feet from Dior, Louis Vuitton and Prada.

Russia, and interesting location which you may think is out of your comfort zone, but is actually very European.

 

Going to Russia, you need a Visa

moscow

Due to the quick turnaround for my United States Passport Renewal ( two weeks!) I decided to find a place that I had never been and that was cheap. I also made sure it was be safe for a solo travel. Russia met all the requirements.

  1. Cheap  1 week, 2 hotels, all flights………………$1036 from Detroit
  2. No refugees. Just read a European paper and see the horror of the raping of women. It’s not just Cologne at New Years, women through most European countries are told to stay indoors and change their lives in order to not get attacked.
  3. Tourism is low in April in Russia, but the weather should be fine. Mid 40’s to 50’s. Perfect for layering.

What I did not know about my super cheap, yet exciting trip was that I needed a visa.

UGH!!!! More expense and time

This is what you need:

  1. Travel vouchers from your hotels. Email your hotel and they will send you a link. Put ALL of your hotels in the form and for around $6 you have your vouchers emailed to you.
  2. A Russian Visa  http://visa.kdmid.ru    This is the part that I didn’t know about and ended up costing $285. You need to fill out the forms, submit them electronically, then mail your passport, photo and other paperwork contained on the site to the proper Russian Consulate for your state. In order to get all of my paperwork done properly I did visit a friend who happens to be an immigration attorney. She advised me to send copies of my flights and hotels along with a copy of the paperwork that I submitted electronically.

I always worry when my passport is out of my possession, so I sent it via overnight and insured mail. I know that today it is in Washington DC and being processed. I did order a 3 year Russian Visa since it’s the same price of the 1 visit. Maybe I will love Russia and want to return.

 

Why It Could Be Impossible to Renew Your Passport Soon

Why It Could Be Impossible to Renew Your Passport Soon

Quick! Check your passport. Is it expiring anytime this year? If so, get thee to the nearest post office and mail off your renewal forms now. The State Department is anticipating a surge of requests–and subsequent delays–as millions of passports are up for renewal between this year and next.

Why the influx? Well in 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect. Under that new law, U.S. citizens were required to carry a passport when traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (aka everyone’s go-to spring break and honeymoon spots). As a result, 18 million passports were issued that year–and they’re all approaching expiration.

Cue backlog.

Renewals can take up to six weeks, so plan accordingly. Hey, at least the photo is finally in your control. Thanks to this nifty app, you can take as many selfies as you need before settling on the photo that you’ll carry around for the next ten years.

 

TSA To Stop Taking Driver’s Licenses from 9 U.S. States

UPDATE, Jan. 14: The TSA has responded to many questions about the changes, outlining answers to common questions on a new website. It says that until January 2018, if traveling by air, residents from ANY state are still able to use a driver’s license, or any of the various other forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration.

In the fall, it was widely reported that people from four U.S. states may need a passport to fly domestically this year. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has increased the list of U.S. locations not offering state driver’s licenses that comply with new federal regulations known as the Real ID Act.

The complete list now is:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina
  • Washington state
  • Puerto Rico
  • Guam
  • the U.S. Virgin Islands

Under the act, all licenses must be equipped with machine-readable technology, which typically comes in the form of a chip. The IDs being issued now are considered non-compliant.

Residents from these states would have to fly on another form of ID, most likely a U.S. passport or passport card. However, only about four of every 10 Americans have a passport, according to the State Department. Other acceptable forms of ID will include U.S. military ID, permanent residence cards or trusted traveler cards like NEXUS or Global Entry.

How To Prepare for a Flight

The deadline had been set for mid-January, but the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t set firm guidelines in place, it’s expected that travelers will have at least four months notice before the changes go into effect.

Click here for more detailed information about the Department of Homeland Security’s policies and updates.

Note: This information was accurate as of Jan. 4. Travelzoo will update our readers when there are updates to these new policies and new domestic air sales.

Photo by Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.comTravelZooAirport Lines

Game Changing Luggage

I am always on the search for the best possible luggage. I purchased what I thought was the best choice in 2015. I have an attic full of luggage and each piece is just another upgrade that I absolutely had to have.

I have recently discovered the G-Ro luggage. I have been studying it for months and have now made my the purchase. This is ingenious and will be so easy on cobblestones, uneven pavement and stairs. STAIRS EVERYWHERE IN EUROPE!!

It also can charge your phone, tablet and laptop. Oh yeah, right there on the top of the bag is a charging station. Seriously!

I am not paid for an endorsement of this luggage nor did I get it for free, I just think that it’s such an important part of future travel that I want to shout it from the rooftops.G-RO_header4G-Ro Luggage