UAE: Take off for an Eid weekend on a budget

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With the upcoming Eid-Al-Fitr holidays offering the chance of a getaway here’s a look at budget deals that still offer luxury
The summer holidays are almost at an end, and all you workaholics who haven’t managed to getaway for some summer fun have the upcoming Eid break beckoning with promises of island adventures and romantic escapes.

Athens, Greece
Although Greece may seem like the other end of Europe, the flight time between UAE and Athens is a mere five hours (even less on return).

Offering the perfect amalgamation of a rich cultural heritage and modern comforts, Athens is an art aficionado’s paradise, with the numerous historical museums providing an apt home for the many ancient treasures that once epitomised the essence of Greece – least of them being the majestic Acropolis.

While this bustling metropolis has kept pace with the 21st century, it is heartbreaking to see that the ancient architecture has well and truly taken a backseat, with only a choice few institutions preserving their ancient legacy in an era of mass marketing.

So, it is with a sigh of relief when one drinks in areas such as Plaka, where old meets the new as you discover the many treasures that Athens promises.

We recommend the majestic structure of the 130-year-old Hotel Grande Bretagne, symbolising the perfect marriage of two eras.

Occupying a prestigious block of the city’s Constitution Square and offering views of the ancient Acropolis, the hotel is as much legendary, as it is majestic.

Ideally located on Syntagma Square ¬-overlooking the Parliament in one direction and the Acropolis in the other -the Hotel Grande Bretagne is the city’s most legendary lodging.

Functioning as the royal guesthouse in the mid-19th century for King Otto and Queen Amalia, the hotel first opened its doors to receive visitors in 1874.

With time, the Hotel Grande Bretagne has accumulated a rich history that dates back over a century of social and political power plays.

Surviving a war with Turkey, two Balkan Wars, two World Wars and numerous other catastrophic events, the Grand Old Dame (as the hotel is fondly known) has stood by, entertaining crowned kings and princes, heads of state, prime ministers and ministers, business tycoons, and prominent names in literature and arts, to name just few.

Jaipur, India
If history fascinates you and ancient architecture delights you, then you simply can’t go wrong with a visit to the Rajasthani city of Jaipur.

Presenting a perfect amalgamation of the old and new, walking the urban grid of this pink city transports you back into an era where royalty ruled the city from their laps of luxury, cocooned in their palatial complexes.

Head to the city’s palace quarter, which beholds the mesmerising sprawling palace complex of the Hawa Mahal, with its formal gardens and a glittering lake.

Other must-see attractions include Nahargarh Fort, which was the residence of the King Sawai Jai Singh II, the observatory, Jantar Mantar and the Amber Fort.

The good thing about Jaipur is being spoilt for choice with so many palaces now having been converted into guesthouses and hotels to make money in the modern-era.

Our pick is the stunning Raj Mahal Palace Hotel Jaipur. Who says that living the high life of royalties comes with a price?

This ideal retreat is perfect for those looking for a bit of cultural heritage without digging deep into their pockets.

This romantic retreat was originally built in 1729 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur for his favourite queen, but nearly a decade later the palace was also playing host to VIP’s such as Queen Elizabeth, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, Mussolini’s daughter, Princess Katherine and the King of Greece – to name but few.

Set amidst 15 acres of well-maintained lawns, the Raj Mahal Palace was converted into a hotel in 1979 and has spacious, elegant suites with high ceilings, chandeliers and period furniture, paintings and antiques reminiscent of the royal past.

Pangkor Laut, Straits of Malacca, Malaysia
Hungry for a real island adventure? Then a room at Pangkor Laut has your name on it.

This privately owned island is located three miles off the West Coast of Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca and situated here is the internationally acclaimed Pangkor Laut Resort.

Although the island stretches across 300 acres, only a fraction has been developed to house the resort and its estates. The rest is covered by lush and unspoiled two million-year-old rainforest, with coves of beautiful beaches surrounded by an emerald green sea.

There are 148 Malaysian-style luxury villas in the main Pangkor Laut Resort and eight magnificent estates in a nearby, secluded cove. As the island is only accessible to the guests of the resort and estates, it makes the perfect private holiday or a honeymoon getaway.

The resort offers a wide range of facilities and activities, including the award-winning Spa Village, one that extols the healing cultures of the region and offers an abundance of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai practices.

Bentota, Sri Lanka
As the war ended in Sri Lanka in 2009, its government immediately started investing in the country’s tourism sector.

Over the last two years, this tropical nation is fast emerging as a top draw with Asian expats. According to the Middle East office of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), regional travel to the island nation increased by 106 per cent in Q1 2010, in the immediate aftermath.

Rajiv Vats, General Manager, UAE and Oman, Kanoo Holidays toldEmirates 24|7 earlier: “Sri Lanka is a safe bet with tourists… plus, it’s affordable with those who have a recession fatigue still hanging over them.”

With budget carrier flydubai’s convenient flights to Colombo, now’s the time to grab that eid bargain.

We highly recommend to forgo the tourist hotspots and make this eid break one where the surf, sea and sand beckon in all its glory.

Bentota, located on the southwest tip of the island is a top draw, with Vivanta by Taj being the ideal luxury getaway on the cheap.

In fact, Dnata Holidays is offering a special package for the entire month of September, with return economy class flights, a three-night stay in a Superior Charm Room, daily breakfast and return airport transfers, all starting at Dh2,550 per person.

Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, literally translating to new city, offers the perfect retreat from the daily hustle bustle of Dubai.

Located 700km from Bangkok, the city has a has a 700-year-old heritage that dates back to 1296 when King Meng Rai founded his Lanna (a million rice fields) Kingdom on this region’s very soil.

As a deeply religious man, King Rai is the reason why the city is home to hundreds of Buddhist temples, of which the Wat Chiang Man is the oldest and perhaps the most important for keeping the cultural heritage alive through the peace-loving monks who live in the shelter of this holy shrine.

Daily jungle tours from Chiang Mai are a must for those who aren’t afraid to opt for a physical activity on their holidays.

Trekking through the province’s Northern Highlands will bring you face to face with the Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Akha, Yao and the Meo tribes.

And if you are really lucky, then a glimpse into their culture-rich ceremonies will prove to be the highlight of your stay.

We highly recommend the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi as your ideal Chiang Mai destination. The sprawling 60-acres property probably needs a week on its own to explore its many hidden treasures, with architecture that will delight those with a flair for creativity.

© Emirates 24|7 2011


How to Hurricane-Proof Your Travel Plans


iStockphoto

Her name is Irene, and she’s ruining your vacation.

As soon as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dubbed the approaching Category 3 storm Irene on Aug. 20, consumers’ ability to shift their travel plans got more limited. But there’s still some recourse to change plans or get a refund for at least part of your trip.

Steve Lott, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, says, “Be proactive. Start changing plans now.” Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo, advises customers to program their airline’s 800 number into their cell phones, act fast on hotel reservations (at least 24 hours in advance), stock up on any prescribed medications should you get stuck on vacation and pick your connecting airport wisely.

Travel insurance

Now that the approaching storm is “Irene,” you can’t buy travel insurance to keep her from ruining your plans. “You can only insure yourself against unforeseen events,” says Linda Kundell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. If you previously took out a policy for the trip, call your insurer: Experts say policies typically allow you to cancel plans up to 72 hours before traveling right up to the time of departure.

This year’s hurricane season is expected to be more active than usual, so travelers with plans for later this fall may want to consider buying insurance now. The only kind of travel insurance you should buy these days is “cancel for any reason,” which will likely include hurricane insurance, says Ed Perkins, airfare travel expert with SmarterTravel.com. “Other policies are fairly restrictive for what they will cover.” But even for those who have “cancel for any reason” insurance, other exclusions on those policies are rife.

Airlines

Many airlines are currently trying to accommodate passengers by waiving change fees, but there are time limits. For instance, JetBlue Airways will waive change fees and fare increases to allow customers that booked before August 25 to or from select cities in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions to rebook through to either Aug. 31 or Sept. 2, 2011, depending on the city.

That said, not all airline hurricane responses are identical. For customers traveling from August 28 to August 29, Spirit Airlines will waive the change fee and difference in fare, provided customers rebook their travel plans before their original reservation, and travel on or before September 30. After that, Spirit will still not charge a change fee, although differences in fares will apply. But consumers will benefit from Spirit’s moratorium on change fees; it usually charges between $115 and $125.

Hotels

If you’re staying in a hotel, you may be in luck. As Pay Dirt reported in June when there was rioting in Greece:

“Uncovered travelers may be able to salvage some of their vacation fund, but not much. Most hotels booked independently still offer penalty-free cancellation as late as 24 hours in advance of your arrival, but those booked as part of a tour package may charge as much as 90% of the cost for cancelling even 30 days out.”

For more on preparing for Irene, read Pay Dirt.


Free & Easy Traveler Awards a Free 20-day Greece & Turkey Adventure Trip

Edmonton, Canada, August 26, 2011 –(PR.com)– She spent the month of July competing in seven challenges with thirty other Free Easy fans and walked away the winner of a free 20-day trip to their newest location – Greece Turkey.

“The response we received from the Get Busy Livin’ competition has been over the top. Not only did we see our fan base increase significantly as a direct result of the comp, but, we also witnessed hundreds of page interactions on a daily basis from our fans keeping our page admins hoppin’.” says Rob Campbell, Free Easy Traveler’s Operations Manager. “We are stoked that the Passport Challenge created such amazing awareness of our brand and adventure trips on Facebook. And to thank our fans, we gave back by tossing out two 20-day Greece Turkey adventure trips, over $20,000 in trip discounts and loads of Rip Curl Mirage gear to some lucky people who played along!”

With the summer winding down and the majority of their summer trips coming to a close, Free Easy is pumped to get back on campus to meet a tonne of new people and introduce them to Free Easy’s original style of adventure travel. Stay tuned to Free Easy’s website or Facebook Page for info on upcoming contests or trips. Including more information on their new 20 or 40 day Greece Turkey Adventure Travel Trip.

Free Easy is currently offering a $200 discount on the 40-day Greece Turkey adventure trip price for anyone who registers and pays their initial trip deposit before August 31st. To take advantage of that deal and have an epic adventure, register for a trip today.

About Free Easy Traveler:
Free Easy Traveler has created a new genre of adventure travel by mixing structure with ultimate flexibility in a group setting. They have been operating as a successful adventure tour operator since 2001. Free Easy currently runs trips to some of the most exotic and amazing places on the earth, including adventure tours in Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nicaragua and now Greece Turkey. Their trips are 10 – 40 days in length and provide you with the time to dive into each destination and really experience a different way of travel, life and adventure. Free Easy Traveler is rooted in Western Canada but has branches located worldwide.

###


Malaria advice issued for those visiting Greece

Holidaymakers choosing Greece this summer are being advised to take the necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites. The warning comes after six residents, five adults and a child, have been diagnosed with the malaria since June. The Health Protection Agency confirmed that none of the sufferers had visited a country where they might have contracted the disease.

A spokeswoman for the agency added that none of the carriers had died and all were making a recovery. The disease was contracted by the victims in marshy areas of the Peloponnese Peninsula and on the island of Euboea. The wetland areas are a common breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The authorities have increased monitoring of the mosquitoes in these areas and have also stepped up control programmes. Health officials and residents are also being made more aware of the symptoms of the disease and what precautions to take to best prevent infection.

According to travel health expert, Professor David Hill, the chances of catching malaria while on holiday in Greece are extremely small. He added that there was no need to start taking anti-malarial drugs but that protecting against any sort of insect bite was always advisable. He went on to say that mosquitoes could also transmit the West Nile virus which attacks the nervous system. There were around 200 reported cases in Greece in 2010.

HPA travel health expert, Jane Jones, said it was important for anyone experiencing the symptoms associated with malaria who has recently returned home from a country where the disease is present to seek medical advice immediately.

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Greece Sets Conditions on Debt Rollover

ATHENS — Greece said Friday it might only go ahead with a bond swap plan that is a critical part of its second bailout if at least 90 percent of private creditors who hold government bonds participate.

The July 21 bailout plan would see banks and other financial institutions give Greece easier repayment terms on its bonds.

However, in return, Greece has to fund an expensive collateral arrangement, which will secure the remaining value of the bonds and would cost the country about €42 billion, or $60 billion, until 2020.

The Athens Stock Exchange on Friday posted extracts of a letter sent by the government to foreign finance ministers saying that Greece “shall not be obliged to proceed” unless it could get at least 90 percent of its eligible bonds swapped or rolled over. It also said 90 percent of that must be bonds maturing between June 30, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2014.

“If these thresholds are not met, Greece shall not proceed with any portion of the transaction” if it determines — along with international partners such as the eurozone and International Monetary Fund — that the total contribution of the private sector is insufficient for the July 21 agreement to work, the letter said.

It said the participation of the private sector needed to have a positive impact on its debt sustainability, or its ability to repay its overall debt load of some €340 billion.

Greece had previously said it was seeking 90 percent participation, or €135 billion, but the figure had been set as a target rather than a condition.

The letter was sent to foreign finance ministers asking for help in determining which institutions in their countries hold Greek bonds maturing through the end of 2020.

According to initial estimates, the bond swaps and rollovers were meant to save the Greek government some €37 billion by 2014, reaching a total of €54 billion by 2020. However, much of those savings would be eaten up by the cost of the collateral, so a lower participation could quickly eliminate the benefits.

The Institute of International Finance, a financial sector lobbying group that has been leading the discussions on private sector involvement with the Greek government, has said that the estimates are based on a participation of 90 percent of Greek bondholders.

However, in recent weeks, speculation has mounted that Greece may fall short of that target.

Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio, a spokesman for the European Commission, the European Union executive, said discussions with Greece’s private creditors were “ongoing.”

“We have no reason to think that the figure will be far from” the 90 percent estimate, he said.

Debt-strapped Greece has been relying on rescue loans from euro zone countries and the International Monetary Fund since last year. It was granted a first, €110 billion bailout in May 2010 but still needed to get a second rescue deal worth a further €109 billion last month. The €109 billion figure is dependent on a strong participation of the private sector.

In return for the rescue loans, the country has pledged to tame its budget deficit, aiming for a target of 7.5 percent of gross domestic product this year from 10.5 percent in 2010. It has imposed a series of austerity measures, including higher taxes and cuts to public sector pay and other spending, and introduced more measures this year.

The talks with banks and other financial companies is just one of the aspects of the July 21 deal that is running into potential troubles.

Euro zone states, which will be funding the majority of the second €109 billion bailout, are also locked in talks about a Finnish demand to get collateral to secure its contribution to the bailout.

Senior officials from euro zone finance ministries were discussing the issue Friday in the hopes of finding a solution that would not endanger the overall bailout deal. Four other euro zone countries have demanded equal treatment if Finland is given collateral

Speaking in parliament, the Greek finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said he was confident a solution would be found, and said the calls for equal treatment by other countries “doesn’t turn against Greece. It turns in favor of the unity of Europe.”


How To Hurricane-Proof Your Travel Plans


iStockphoto

Her name is Irene, and she’s ruining your vacation.

As soon as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dubbed the approaching Category 3 storm Irene on Aug. 20, consumers’ ability to shift their travel plans got more limited. But there’s still some recourse to change plans or get a refund for at least part of your trip.

Steve Lott, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, says, “Be proactive. Start changing plans now.” Gabe Saglie, senior editor at TravelZoo, advises customers to program their airline’s 800 number into their cell phones, act fast on hotel reservations (at least 24 hours in advance), stock up on any prescribed medications should you get stuck on vacation and pick your connecting airport wisely.

Travel insurance

Now that the approaching storm is “Irene,” you can’t buy travel insurance to keep her from ruining your plans. “You can only insure yourself against unforeseen events,” says Linda Kundell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. If you previously took out a policy for the trip, call your insurer: Experts say policies typically allow you to cancel plans up to 72 hours before traveling right up to the time of departure.

This year’s hurricane season is expected to be more active than usual, so travelers with plans for later this fall may want to consider buying insurance now. The only kind of travel insurance you should buy these days is “cancel for any reason,” which will likely include hurricane insurance, says Ed Perkins, airfare travel expert with SmarterTravel.com. “Other policies are fairly restrictive for what they will cover.” But even for those who have “cancel for any reason” insurance, other exclusions on those policies are rife.

Airlines

Many airlines are currently trying to accommodate passengers by waiving change fees, but there are time limits. For instance, JetBlue Airways will waive change fees and fare increases to allow customers that booked before August 25 to or from select cities in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions to rebook through to either Aug. 31 or Sept. 2, 2011, depending on the city.

That said, not all airline hurricane responses are identical. For customers traveling from August 28 to August 29, Spirit Airlines will waive the change fee and difference in fare, provided customers rebook their travel plans before their original reservation, and travel on or before September 30. After that, Spirit will still not charge a change fee, although differences in fares will apply. But consumers will benefit from Spirit’s moratorium on change fees; it usually charges between $115 and $125.

Hotels

If you’re staying in a hotel, you may be in luck. As Pay Dirt reported in June when there was rioting in Greece:

“Uncovered travelers may be able to salvage some of their vacation fund, but not much. Most hotels booked independently still offer penalty-free cancellation as late as 24 hours in advance of your arrival, but those booked as part of a tour package may charge as much as 90% of the cost for cancelling even 30 days out.”

For more on preparing for Irene, read Pay Dirt.


On the Beach: Budget Holidays are Best This Summer


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MANCHESTER, England, August 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —

-Budget holidays have been all the rage this summer; On the Beach say this is thanks to the availability of cheap packages online-

On the Beach, the UK’s leading online travel agency, has seen a surge of interest in budget holidays. The company observed a significant rise in bookings for budget trips on its website in July, as many Brits headed off on superb, affordable holidays.

Alistair Daly, Marketing Director of On the Beach, comments: “This summer has been all about great bargains to places in Spain, Turkey and Greece. Couples and families alike have been especially keen to book their holidays at a minimum of expense. This perhaps owes to the uncertain economic climate, yet it is mostly thanks to the array of cheap deal on the internet: nowadays there is no need to spend a great deal of money on holidays.”

According to On the Beach, the majority of Brits have headed to the Mediterranean for their budget trips this summer, with warm holidays to places like the Balearic Islands proving especially popular. The company says that the proximity of these locations to Britain, and the ready availability of all inclusive packages, makes them a natural choice for budget conscious travellers.

Daly concludes: “Budget holidays to resorts in the Mediterranean have been popular for a long time, yet it is good to see this recent surge of interest. With so many cheap packages on offer, there is absolutely no need to spend a fortune. As more and more people use the internet to book their travel, we expect this number to only grow – once someone has seen the great deals available online, they are unlikely to consider any other alternatives.”

About On the Beach:

Founded in 1995, On the Beach is one of the UK’s leading online travel agencies carrying over 500,000 passengers every year (ABTA K0813). On the Beach provides value for money flights and hotels in the world’s most popular beach holiday destinations. On the Beach provides consumers with a huge selection of travel products, from 50 million available seats, more than 30,000 hotels around the world, insurance and in-resort transfer partners. Customers can book online at http://www.onthebeach.co.uk or by calling the UK call centre on 0870 606 07 08.

As the expert provider of DIY beach holidays to the UK market, On the Beach is so confident of its industry leading position, it offers a market leading price match guarantee for its customers. On the Beach will refund the difference if a lower price is found for the same product on any UK website*.

*Offer applies to exact product match

For more news and great deals follow @OntheBeachUK or join the On the Beach Facebook Fan Page.

SOURCE On the Beach

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Holidaymakers warned after six struck by malaria in Greece

By
Travelmail Reporter

Last updated at 3:35 PM on 25th August 2011

Holidaymakers travelling to Greece have been warned to protect against mosquito bites after six people were struck by malaria.

The cases – five Greek adults and a Roma child – have all been reported since June this year and were seen in people who had no history of travel to a country where malaria is common, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

There have been no deaths and all six patients are recovering, an agency spokeswoman added.

A mosquito

Carrier: Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting diseases such as malaria

The cases were identified in the districts of Laconia, in the south of the Peloponnese peninsula, and the island of Euboea, east of the Greek mainland – areas of marshy wetland where mosquitoes are common.

The Greek authorities have stepped up malaria surveillance in these areas, intensifying local mosquito control programmes and raising awareness among doctors and the general public.

Health officials warned that holidaymakers should take precautions to avoid being bitten.

Professor David Hill, director of the HPA’s National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) said: ‘The risk to holidaymakers of catching
malaria while in Greece remains extremely low, so there is no need to take anti-malarials when visiting this country, but travellers should take
measures to prevent being bitten.

‘We already advise people travelling to Greece to prevent insect bites to protect against another mosquito-borne infection caused by West Nile virus.

‘This can cause a nervous system disease and over 200 cases were reported in Greece last year. The recent cases of malaria in Greece reinforce the importance of taking precautions against being bitten while on holiday.’

Dr Jane Jones, a travel health expert at the HPA, added: ‘It is important that travellers returning from affected areas seek medical advice promptly if they experience symptoms of malaria, which include fever, headache and muscle pains.

‘The HPA is also advising health professionals to consider mosquito-borne illnesses in travellers returning from Greece with relevant symptoms and ensure they are tested appropriately.

‘The HPA and NaTHNaC will continue to monitor the situation in Greece closely and will offer any further advice to health professionals and the general public accordingly.’

This is the third consecutive year that small numbers of cases have been reported in Greece as a result of local transmission.

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