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Brazil Tourist Visa Guide for US Citizens

Some of my family and friends would like to visit Brazil but find the tourist visa process a little daunting. I thought I would provide a guide based on my own experiences for what it takes for US citizens to get their tourist visa for Brazil.

Tourist visas are required for US citizens to enter Brazil and must be obtained in advance of your trip. Unfortunately the requirements vary by consulate so what you need to do will probably depend on which consulate has authority over your jurisdiction. What jurisdiction are you in? This link from the Brazilian embassy lists each consulate general and which states are under its jurisdiction. Since I am a resident of Pennsylvania I am under the New York consulate’s jurisdiction.

First you need to gather the required documents.

For all jurisdictions you will need:

  • Your US passport, valid for 6 months beyond your stay in Brazil
  • 2 copies of the signed visa form (see below for form instructions)
  • A recent 2×2 passport photo
  • A photocopy of your US state drivers license
  • Proof of departure (more on this later)
  • Visa processing fee of US$165

Unfortunately some different consulates have additional requirements. If you’re in the Chicago jurisdiction you need to sign a sworn statement that your documents are truthful. Applicants in the Hartford consulate’s jurisdiction require a signed letter of authorization. In the Chicago jurisdiction if you are not staying in a hotel, (e.g. staying with friends) you need an official invitation from your host in Brazil. It even has to be notarized. I recommend staying in a hotel!

US citizens must now apply for their Brazilian visa electronically. This link provides the electronic forms. Select “Visa Request” in the third box (the English one!) and follow the instructions provided. Fill out the form electronically on the site. You will find that you need your parents’ names and your profession for this form, and just about any other form you fill out in Brazil – one the country’s quirks. Also be prepared to provide your passport information, your addresses in Brazil (probably hotels) and duration of your stay.

Where is your consulate?

If you can visit your consulate in person you can print out the form and bring it with you, along with your other required documents. Check the consulate’s website for information on applying for a visa. A few of the consulates will accept your application by mail, but some do not. If you can’t mail the application you can use a visa service rather than going in person. A quick Google search will reveal lots of options. I checked in to several but ended up using the company Travisa, which is also the service I’ve used through my employer for business visas. Initially it seems like Travisa is a little pricier, but I found some of the “discount” services tack on so many fees at the end that the prices end up very similar. The service you use should provide you step-by-step instructions for sending your paperwork through them as well.

The Brazilian consulate expects to see proof of onward travel with the visa application, usually in the form of your airline reservation. This can present a problem if you don’t want to book your plane tickets just yet or want to actually have the visa before buying them. While it is very unlikely that your tourist visa application will be denied and generally safe to book the tickets, you could use “fake” tickets to fulfill the requirement. I just went on Expedia and searched for some flights to Brazil and selected a round-trip that matched my expected travel dates. I went through the reservation process up until I had to pay and then took a screenshot of the flights and sent it along. Make sure the reservation has your name on it.

Send all your documents through your visa service or bring them to the consulate. The processing times vary between the locations but I wouldn’t expect to be without your passport for more than a week or two. And then once you get your visa, enjoy your travel to Brazil!

Keep in mind that the Brazilian embassy often changes visa application requirements. While this information was up-to-date as of press time, I recommend verifying the requirements on your consulate’s website before submitting your application.

Affordable Africa: the pros and cons of overland truck tours

One of the most cost-effective ways to explore Africa is via an overland trucking tour. This all-inclusive travel option takes care of all the details for you: 3 meals a day, camping equipment and camp site fees, a guide and driver, and transportation around the region, including truck maintenance, tolls, and petrol.

Take my recent Mountain Gorilla Safari to Uganda. The 6-day tour cost me $840.00 (of this amount $510 was the entrance fee to Bwindi National Park – a non-negotiable cost for anyone who wants to visit the mountain gorillas.) So the “tour” portion was only $330.00.

To get an idea of what you get for your money, here’s a quick recounting of the pros and cons of overland truck travel

  • • Safety – No question here – there is safety in numbers. As a girl who spends much of my time traveling solo, I could finally relax during my two recent overland trucking expeditions. Someone else is in charge for a change and I could simply go with the flow. Nice!
  • Border Crossings – Crossing in a group is usually a piece of cake. You hand your passport and entry form over to the guide and s/he walks through the immigration legalities while you and your mates smoke a cigarette on the sidelines. In less than an hour, you usually have your entry stamp and are on your way.
  •  Convenience – The logistics of traveling around Africa are daunting for the normal person. Yes, you can go high-end and book an all-inclusive resort, but for most of us, we’ll need to navigate each stop individually. This legwork requires an enormous amount of time and patience.
  •  Safari Savings – Safaris are expensive, period. Africa’s national parks know that you traveled half-way around the world to see the Big Five and they charge entrance fees accordingly. In addition, many times you can’t enter the park without a local guide, a 4WD car and driver. Going on a pre-arranged group tour is much cheaper than hiring locally.
  •  Camaraderie – I’m still in contact with many of the friends I made on my recent overland excursions. Just think about it – all of you have signed up for 20+ days of outdoor adventure in the heart of Africa. You have a LOT in common with these people!

And the downside of overlanding:

  • Less Local Contact – On an overland truck you’re more removed that if you’d take local public transportation options. The way to counter this is to take advantage of community activities like volunteering and to patronize local eating establishments and markets.
  • Long Rides – If you’re covering vast distances you’ll have your share of 8-12 hour days in the truck. That said, I’d take a 10-hour day in a comfy truck over an 8-hour day crowded in a local matatu any day of the week!
  • Strong Personalities – After more than a week on a truck some of your best friends’ most endearing personality traits will become worn. Your iPod and a pair of ear plugs will go a long way toward maintaining sanity.

Not included in the costs is a suggested tip for the driver and the guide – usually about $2 / $5 a day respectively. There’s also the price of your own alcohol / snack consumption. For me this was a 6-pack of beer and a small bottle of whiskey (a nip at night is always welcome while camping!).

All told, my 6-day mountain gorilla safari including tips and refreshments came to $390.00. Any way you slice it, a huge bargain at $65 a day!

Visit Egypt, Cairo

If you decide to travel to Egypt you have to know something about Egypts most visited spots and travel attractions. For todays travel news we have a story about Egypt and his most famous vacation spots and about his history.

The king Khafra lived a Pharaoh of Egypt, also known as Khephren, Khauf-Re or Khaf-Re. This Pharaoh of Egypt belonged to the 4th Dynasty only there’s no sure data about the age of his reign. The name of the Pharaoh of Egypt means ‘to look like Ra’. It appears that the king Khafra had a lot of wives including his brother’s daughter – Meresankh II; Khameremebty I was another wife of the Pharaoh of Egypt. He had three sons: Menkaure, Sekhemkare and Nekure, and one daughter – Khameremebty II. The king replacement was Menkaure who married his sister. A few objects that dates back the king Khafra’s reign were exposed in the Beirut’s North and in Syria, which signifies that the Pharaoh of Egypt was involved in foreign diplomacy or trade. He may as well have made a few expeditions in Sinai. The king Khafra left a lot of unbelievable values for Egypt and for the whole world, alike the pyramids complex from Giza, the Great Sphinx which was built by him. It’s as well supposed that the face adorning the immense statue is of the pharaoh Khafra, too. Additional great artifact discovered in the Khafra`s valley temple is the Khafra statue made from diorite. Now the statue can be seen at the Egyptian Antiquities Museum. The Pharaoh of Egypt was listed as a despotic king, suchlike his father, king Khufu was too. The king Khafra died in 2480 BC. The Great Pyramid of Khafra will forever be a testimonial of this pharaoh times greatness. The Great Pyramid is one of the most fascinating pyramids in Egypt that constitute a study object for many specialists. The pharaoh’s temple was made from granite, the floor from alabaster of white color. The floor in use to have twenty-three superb statues of Horus and of Khafra, made from diorite. Nowadays, the entirely Khafra complex from Giza is visited by thousands of tourists.

Man face lion body, long-familiar as the Great Sphinx of Egypt, most famous tourist attraction, is located in the Khafra pyramid south, on a place that at one time used to be a huge quarry. This astonishing structure dates back about 5.000 years ago and was built by the workers of the Pharaoh of Egypt Khafra, from an large block of stone from which they carved a lion body with the head of the Pharaoh of Egypt. This building was made alike a sun temple and it’s similar with the sun temples that were built by the 5th dynasty kings. A stela was put between the sphinx front paws by The Egypt’s king Thutmose the 4th, who ruled between 1425 and 1417. The Sphinx was worshiped for a time period as the Ra of the Two Horizons but earlier, the statue was built to be a Giza pyramids` guardian. The larger statue of the Egypt man face lion body statue has numerous than 240 feet in length, 66 feet in height, the Sphinx’s eyes have six feet in height and the face has thirteen feet in height. The statue does not have its beard and it nose just in the British Museum you can see the statue’s beard. It seems that the nose disappeared because of the vandals who destroyed it. The humidity and the wind coming form Egypt’s capital damaged the Sphinx that had to be restored in 1980; the restoration lasted six years when over 2.000 blocks of limestone were placed but in 1988 the statue’s left shoulder suffered at deterioration that made the falling of a few blocks. As well, during the time, a few parts of the statue, particularly the bottom part, were buried by sand. But the Sphinx shoulder was restored and is being cared of it to remain the same guardian of the Egypt’s pyramids.

Sunlight Travel – Europe Tour

(GREECE, BULGARIA, ROMANI, TURKEY 14 DAYS) Check into your hotel. The remainder of the day is free for you to wander about this charming city. Later meet your tour director and fellow travelers. Join the included sightseeing tour of Athens featuring the highlights of this ancient capital and a visit to the Acropolis and its fascinating museum.

Travel northeast past the history-steeped Plains of Thessaly and the mythical Mount Olympus to Salonika, the second-largest city and port in Greece and the capital of Macedonia. Still morth motoring along a high way re-built by the British army back in 1916.

Over the Rupel Pass into Bulgaria through the tobacco producing region and the Strouma Valley flanked by the mountain chains of Rila and Pirin. Before reaching Blagoevgrad stop to visit the Rila Monastery. Then a relatively short drive to Sofia. An ancient Roman town much pillaged over the centuries so that most buildings date from after the liveration of Turkish domination in 1878. Your included city sightseeing takes in the golden-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a magnificent example of 19th-century architectural achievement. Through mountain scenery before stopping in the ancient city of Veliko Tarnovo. Then to the border town of Ruse, where you cross into Romania for a 40 miles drive to its capital, Bucharest.

Your stay in Bucharest will be highlighted by this day excursion to Brasov, the most visited medieval town in Transylvani. Enjoy the morning drive to Bran Castle, otherwise known as Dracula’s Castle. Next a visit to an Ethnographic Village Museum showing Transylvanian farm buildings in the afternoon visit Brasov and make sure you spend some time in its world-famous square,the Piata Sfatului. Return to Bucharest for overnight. Day at leisure with time for optional activities. Set in the center of a plain in natural surroundings, Bucharest has many parks and tree-lined streets. The city is rich in museums and art galleries, and its old architecture sits side-by-side with new buildings that give ti the air of a mordern city. The included sightseeing tour with a local guide will take in most highlights and also the museum of Romanian rural life over the ages. Don’t miss out on the optional folklore evening and dinner.

Retrace your steps as far as Ruse once again crossing the Danube by the only bridge connecting Bulgaria and Romania. Now to the seaside town of Varna on the shores of the Black Sea, then along its coast to Burgas for overnight. South today to the border with Turkey through Babaeski with its fine mosque. Motor by way of the ancient highway, known by the Romans as the “Via Egnatia” through Thrace, dotted with villages and mosques, historic and architectural witnesses of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman domination. Overnight in the great city of Istanbul. Markets, peddlers, stalls selling almonds, pistachios, iced drinks, and black coffee-you’ll find this city irresistible, a viforous anthill of Turkish life. The view of the city with its 600 mosques and the Bosporus at dusk are unforgettable. See the Bule Mosque and many other of its highlights on the included guided tour. Optional excursions included a Bosporus boat cruise and a night out with a show and dinner. Day 14, Sat. YOUR HOMEBOUND FLIGHT ARRIVES THE SAME DAY.

2 Nights in Paris

In July 2009 I began a business trip to Brussels, Belgium with a few days in Paris. Roberto joined me from Brazil and we met in Charles de Gaulle airport. This was the first time to France for both of us.

I booked the Hotel Astrid online after finding a Travelzoo deal which included a Seine cruise. It was around 90 Euros per night, with the typical European free breakfast. The hotel was a block away from the Arc de Triomphe and very convenient to the metro and Champs Elysees. We concluded that proximity to the metro is key in Paris because you’re never going to find a hotel close to everything. It’s just too big.

Our first day, after a pair of overnight flights, we checked out the Arc and ate in a cafe before taking a little nap. Roberto may have felt a little funny about his flight – Air France from Rio to Paris – but he’s a trooper. We just didn’t mention those details to his less rational mom. The hotel was pretty nice. It had a fun wood carved staircase and we could peek out our window (equipped with the typical Parisian flower box) at the Arc.

That afternoon we walked down to the Eiffel Tower and then up (or was it down) the Seine to Notre Dame. I remember almost getting taken by a street scammer with an interesting tactic. This guy called after me and came running up saying “Here, you dropped this.” Before I could even stop and think he dropped a gold ring into my hand, and when I tried to give it back and say no he would say “no keep it, keep it!” I must have looked like I was ready to hang onto it cause then he started to ask me for money. I basically threw the ring back at him and we walked off. I noticed several of these guys with the gold rings around Paris after that.

We also rode the metro up to the Northern part of Paris to check out Sacre Coeur basilica. We got a little lost in not the nicest neighborhood up there but found it after stopping for lunch in a not so great pizza place. The basilica was beautiful and we were entertained by some crazy Capoeira dancers. We did see quite a few Brazilians in Paris.

We had a lovely night wandering around the banks of the Seine, taking photos and people watching. The Parisian young people seem to enjoy having picnics in the evenings with snacks and booze on the river banks. It looked like a lot of fun. We had a late dinner with a view of Notre Dame and decided we wanted to buy some wine and have our own little picnic.

Still adjusting to the time, we woke up late the next day for some more sightseeing. Our plan was to find a nice cafe for a late breakfast and cappuccino, relax in a park for awhile, and visit the Louvre. Later that night we would go on our Seine cruise and have dinner.

Now I was not that keen on going to the Louvre. I am just not a museum person. I didn’t even find the Egyptian Museum in Cairo all that interesting. But, Roberto said he couldn’t go to Paris without at least seeing the Mona Lisa, so off we went.

And I was thoroughly impressed! The Louvre is just incredible! First of all, the place is just huge, and BEAUTIFULLY decorated. And the exhibits were just fascinating. The paintings, the sculpture, the artifacts, were awesome. We could definitely have spend all day in there. And the place is so huge we wouldn’t have seen nearly everything if we had. I am definitely glad we went!

We went down to the riverbank “at the foot of the tower” for our Seine cruise later that evening. This was nice and it was fun to get out on the water, but it wasn’t the greatest thing ever. The seats were pretty uncomfortable and it was chilly and rainy and really crowded. But there is just something indescribable about the Eiffel Tower coming into view as you round the bend in the river, La Vie en Rose playing in the background, and the lights sparkling on the Seine.

We had a great and reasonably priced dinner in the Latin Quarter in a cafe with nice live music. I had some delicious Boeuf Bourgignon and a kir, white wine with a shot of berry syrup.

We woke up late again the next day and did a little more sightseeing, finishing up our Paris trip with a visit to the Pere Lachaise Cemetary. It was really neat to walk around there but we were short on time and weren’t able to find Jim Morrison’s grave! Bummer! But, we’ll see it next time.

After that we checked out of the hotel and metro’d on over to the Gard du Nord train station to catch our high speed train to Brussels. I thought the train station was really neat, with trains coming and going from all sorts of fun European towns, and backpackers camped out on the floors. We got a good deal on first class seats on the Thalys train and it was really nice, with free internet and food and drinks. Although I couldn’t partake in the internet too much – the train was bumpy enough that I couldn’t look at the laptop screen for more than 30 seconds without getting all dizzy.

We both had a great time in Paris and really enjoyed seeing the sites, getting lost wandering the streets, and sitting in the cafes. We did find the people to be less friendly than we’d hoped, but we didn’t have a chance to meet very many Parisians in our 3 days there. I would like to go back to Paris and see some of the sites we missed, but I don’t think I would plan a trip to spend a full week there. 3 days was a little short, but we didn’t love the city enough to want to stay there for an extended time.

Paris Hostels, Hostels in Paris, Paris Travel and Hostel Guide.

As a city renowned for its expensive fashion and glamorous style, it’s hardly surprisingly that Paris is home to pricey hotels and restaurants. However, it’s still possible to explore France’s capital on a budget and there are plenty of Paris hostels providing cheap accommodation for independent travelers and backpackers.

From the party district of the Latin Quarter to the fabulously seedy streets of Montmartre, there are a host of hostels in Paris which cater for budget travel and offer a great base for exploring the famous sights or hitting some of the city’s vibrant clubs.

Located along a canal in the rejuvenated 19th arrondissement north of Montmartre, St Christopher’s is the newest hostel in Paris. The purpose-built accommodation was opened in 2008 and has all the modern conveniences and comforts that the modern backpacker might need.

Cheap cocktails and live music at the hostel’s late-night bar make a loud and fun atmosphere. There are three metro lines nearby connecting the hostel with the central attractions, although the surrounding neighborhood is itself becoming a popular spot for a night out.

A small, friendly hostel with a traditional Parisian feel, Caulaincourt Square is located in an unspoiled leafy area of Montmartre just minutes from the sights of this district but away from its tourist crowds.

The streets around Caulaincourt used to be the meeting point of painters (including Picasso) and it retains a Bohemian vibe. Rooms are cheerfully colorful and, with internet, towels and breakfast included in the price, this hostel offers travelers value-for-money accommodation in this arty and authentic quarter of Paris.

Housed in a traditional Parisian building, Le Regent Montmartre has comfortable private rooms with views over the Sacre Coeur. There’s no curfew here so guests can stay out till late exploring the streets and lively pavement cafés of the Montmartre district just outside.

With balconies and TVs as standard, this affordable Parisian hotel is a peaceful spot in the heart of the city.

On the edge of the Latin Quarter, Oops! is ideally situated for exploring the famous parks and studenty bars of this lively part of the city. Oops! Hostel is contemporary budget accommodation with a bold designer interior and plenty of modern comforts, including an en-suite for every room.

In walking distance of the sights along the Seine, the Latin Quarter is home to some of the hottest night spots in Paris and an array of reasonably priced restaurants. The 24 hour reception allows travelers to make the most of the hostel’s central (and vibrant) position.

With small rooms of up to five beds, Village Hostel is a cozy and intimate cheap stay at the edge of Montmartre. This popular part of the city is almost like a separate community and every amenity, from bakeries to nightclubs, can be found clustered together here.

The hostel has a relaxing common room and café attached for guests, plus kitchen facilities for self-catering.

Best Places for a Picnic in Chicago

Chicago has an excellent range of well maintained public parks and spaces but some of these are much better spots for a summer picnic than others. The perfect picnic needs beautiful weather, fine company, good food and a serene green space to enjoy. Here are some of Chicago’s best

Welles Park offers something for everyone to enjoy. There’s a fenced in dog free playground along with a more traditional open area. If you’re a couple then you could cozy up in a romantic gazebo or grab a serene spot on the lawn. At night the gazebo lights up to bring an extra touch of romance to the whole experience, perfect for those hot, balmy nights. There are bathroom facilities at the field house and the park is an alcohol free zone. Access the park from the Western Brown Line stop or the Montrose, Lincoln and Western Ave buses.

Millennium Park has several amazing spots to choose from. If you’re looking for secluded and romantic, then go for one of the hedged enclosures in Lurie Garden which is always well maintained with beautiful seasonal blooms. The expansive lawn at Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a great place to picnic and also the home to the Grant Park Music Festival and other free concerts and events. Millennium Park offers stunning views of the Chicago skyline and has the added bonus of bathroom facilities. With a convenient Downtown location the park is easily accessible by all CTA trains and many bus routes.

If you’re looking for a great picnic spot on Chicago’s south side then Promontory Point in Burnham Park has to be your first choice. The park offers some of the most beautiful views in the city and is a popular choice for couples to have their nuptials at the point. Open to the public and right onto the water it offers a real feeling of escape from the hustle of the city. The shore is famous for its tree-lined picnic areas complete with Alfred Caldwell-designed stone sitting rings and huge play meadow. The vast meadow is a great place to relax with good food and friends and watch the kite flyers and fishermen.

At 30 acres, River Park is one of the largest parks in Chicago that is often overlooked. This makes it the perfect choice if you are searching for a hidden gem which avoids the summer crowds. Located at the point where the Chicago River meets the canal it is rich in wildlife and offers fishing and canoeing. River Park also boasts a dog area and two separate playgrounds, one of which features a swimming pool and interactive water playground perfect for hot summer days and less intimidating than the pool for younger kids. With bathroom facilities and a range of riverside paths to walk along this is a great place for picnic and a late summer stroll.

These are just our pick of the some of the best picnic spots in Chicago which are perfect for the visitor or resident alike. If you are thinking of relocating to Chicago you can find all the latest information and house prices at Areavibes website.

If you have found the ideal place for a picnic in Chicago City or would like to share a picnic recipe with us, please let us know in the comments box below.

5 survival tips for an all-night bus ride in Thailand

5 survival tips for an all-night bus ride in Thailand

A tall and skinny country, Thailand’s hubs, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, are separated by long distances. Though budget airlines and comfortable trains are popular modes of transport, the long-distance bus remains the cheapest option. All-night bus rides are common in Thailand, especially for budget travelers who not only take the cheapest transport available but also save on a night’s accommodation.

Thankfully, Thailand has decent roads as well as drivers who don’t treat the horn as though they’re in a parade, trying to make the most noise. Still, spending all night on a bus can be trying. Here are five tips to make your ride a restful night.

It’s worth the extra $5-10USD to have a seat that reclines to horizontal, an attendant that brings passengers food and drinks, as well as blankets and pillows. Remember, you’re saving a night’s accommodation, so make sure you arrive at your destination rested!

Do NOT take the 1st class, VIP buses that travel to and from Bangkok’s Khao San Road.

They’re often very cheap and convenient, especially since you don’t have to travel to a bus station, but they are notorious for theft. Luggage is stored in a large hold, giving thieves all night to razor every bag. We’ve also heard several accounts of passengers being drugged and awaking to find their carry-on luggage has been rifled through.

Keep a warm(er) shirt with you.

Often the buses are air-conditioned to the point of freezing, and even if you’re on one of the nicer buses with blankets, you can still feel quite cold. If are warm enough, the extra shirt can double as a pillow or back support.

It sounds kind of funny, but wet wipes come in handy in countless situations. They’re great for toilet paper, especially if you’ve been having some problems adjusting to the local food. They’re great for sanitizing your hands after said bathroom trip. They can act as a sponge bath – remember, you’re in Thailand, where citizens bathe up to a half-dozen times a day. Their noses are more attuned to body odors than ours, and it pays to keep yourself as clean as possible while you’re there. Finally, wet wipes act as a nice morning pick-me-up; use one to wipe your face and rejuvenate in the early a.m.

Book your first night’s accommodation ahead of time.

While this tip isn’t exactly related to your bus ride, it does relate to your early-morning arrival. Often buses will roll in at dawn, leaving you to stumble groggily around a bus station, looking for a taxi or tuk-tuk to take you to a guesthouse or neighborhood to inquire after rooms. Save yourself the hazy trouble of sleepwalking through looking for a room – book your first night ahead of time. That way, you’ll be guaranteed a room, and you might even be able to arrange a pick-up from the bus station. At the least, you can confirm the price of transportation to your hotel, which will save you trying to sleepily bargain for a ride.

Catherine Bodry is the writer at WhyGo Thailand, where you can find information on cheap flights to Thailand, book hostels on Khao San Road, and learn more about bus travel in Thailand. She spent last winter living in Chiang Mai, and is addicted to curry.

Aussie stuff: some of the “stuff” you’ll want to know when you visit Australia.

Of course, I can’t include all the Aussie stuff in my Aussie stuff page but what I ve attempted to do is to write a page that will give visitors to Australia some sort of handle on what they can expect when they come to Oz.

We Aussies are, after all, a very different lot; our sense of humour is legendary but very difficult sometimes for our visitors to understand, for example, where else in the world would you find that the redheads in the community are all nicknamed Blue or Bluey”?

Things are often expressed as a contradiction, Aussies know what it all means but a visitor has Buckleys, (to have “Buckleys” or “Buckleys chance”) means you have no chance…)

To find a more comprehensive list of the Aussie Stuff we have on the site go to our sitemap you’ll find it all there.

If you re from the old dart, that s England, and you understand a little cockney rhyming slang then you ve got a head start on most people because the Aussie rhyming slang has its origins in the East End of London, however, it has developed and changed over the years to suit Australia and Australians.

You can find out a little more about the Australian language right here, including some of the more common Aussie slang words and phrases.

Now, what other Aussie stuff will you find useful when you re travelling to Australia?

How about your Australian visa?

Even if you re a Pommie or a Kiwi you need a visa, do you know how to get a visa to Australia or how many types of visa there are or what type of visa you need?

Follow the links you ll find it all here.

Aussie facts, things that are important if you need to know them, things like international telephone dialling codes, bank opening hours, vaccinations, currency, emergency telephone numbers etc. you’ll find on our Aussie facts page and the fun Aussie stuff you ll find on our Aussie fun facts page, go there now and have a gander.

Maybe you’re looking for some of the more unusual Aussie stuff we have 3 pages of it,

Unusual Australia facts about Australia, history, convicts and the Australian environment,

More unusual Australia facts about immigration to Australia, facts about some great sporting moments and some unusual Australia facts about our cities and states.

Yet more unusual facts about our mysteries, eccentrics, the Australian economy and our lifestyle.

What about where to find the best Australian attractions, after all, the lure of an Australian vacation for many lies in the great number of unique Australian attractions that are to be found.

Need a map, you ll find an interactive map of Australia on our maps page, just point and scroll, you can zoom in to make it a street directory or out to see a world map and you can do that for anywhere in the world, all courtesy of Google.

What other ‘Aussie stuff” might the visitor to Australia need to know?

What about where to find the best beaches, after all, most visitors to Australia come for a holiday and when you re on vacation and you re surrounded by the best beaches in the world you need to know where to find them don t you?

If you re planning on a visit to a beach or to the Australian snowfields then you need to know what to expect from the weather, and wherever you go or whatever you plan to do you re going to need money.

Find out how money works in Australia and how much of the Aussie stuff you ll get for your stuff right here.

When you’re planning your trip there are some places you’d be better off avoiding if you can, our Aussie Travel warnings page will give you all the up to date information on the best places to avoid…

Driving in Australia can be a very tedious business, especially if you re a passenger and you re driving through the bush, our Aussie car games will help to relieve the tedium, especially for the younger ones.

The Australia Blog keeps you up to date with all additions and changes to web site as well as our monthly/special travel deals. you can sign up to our Aussie blog right here.

Before you leave why not subscribe to our E-zine, I promise you your email won’t be spammed and we’ll only send you any good travel deals/specials that might come along from time to time.

Of course, there s lots more Aussie stuff that you ll want to find out or need to know, just keep checking back, or better yet bookmark this page, and we ll build this page, little by little, to include as much Aussie stuff as we can find and if, in the meantime, there s something you really, really want to know please write to us, you ll find a contact button on the nav bar, we ll do our best to help have fun.

A Brief Tour of Beijing

China is emerging as one of the most popular tourist locations on the planet. The more and more headlines become dedicated to the rise of China as a global power, the more we seem to want to explore its deep and rich heritage alongside its ever changing and magnetic present.

Never Pass Up the Chance to Explore Beijing

If you are flying to China, then you stand a good chance of landing in the country’s capital city, Beijing, which is located toward the north east of the country. Beijing serves a transport hub to the rest of China as well as surrounding countries such as Vietnam, Mongolia and Russia, all of which can be reached via train from Beijing. However, no China tour is complete without a visit to this fascinating city, and a chance to explore it should never be passed up. A city that is home to around 22 million people that defies definition and is forever reinventing itself, Beijing is a true delight of the East.

Depending on when you land, the climate to greet you can vary from the minus digits during winter to the balmy summer months where temperatures will reach and hold at around 30oC. Subways and bus services cover almost all of urban China and are easily accessible, and generally easy to use. Registered taxis can be found across the city, especially near tourist hotspots, but beware: as with many major cities, unlicensed taxis are also prevalent. Accommodation in Beijing is fantastic with many high end and budget hotels available. A good mid-price option is the Novotel Xinqiao, which is well located for access to the local subway, or for a higher end option you can’t really go wrong with the Beijing Raffles.

Beijing is a cultural hub and is home to a significant number of the country’s top cultural attractions, including the Great Wall which is just a short drive from downtown Beijing. The Beijing opera (first shown in the 18th century) is a must for any opera or performance fan, or indeed anyone looking to experience a more traditional Chinese attraction. As well as impressive acrobatic displays the opera also offers some fantastic musical, vocal, mime and dance pieces. For shopping one is again spoiled for choice with the Show Market, Liulichang on antique street and the prestigious shopping street of Wanfujing all of which lament a visit with wallet in hand.

Across the city, the Olympic legacy is ever present and some sights remain worthy of a visit. One of the most famed sights is the Olympic Stadium (also known as the Bird’s Nest) which sits proudly in the Olympic Green and is beautifully illuminated in the evenings. A visit to the “water cube” (Olympic Swimming venue) is visually delightful experience, especially during the evenings when the building is beautifully illuminated which makes for an exceptionally attractive photo!

All guidebooks will, rightly so, point you towards the Forbidden city (largest temple complex in Asia). It is a sight that helps to represent the true power and scale which was once held by the ancient Chinese Empire. You will generally enter the Forbidden City (via Tiananmen Square) through the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Once inside the complex, many attractions await which range from the concubines’ quarters to the City’s magnificent rooftops which are painted in an enchanting shade of yellow (a colour previously reserved for the sole use of the city and its use banned anywhere else within the Empire). The architecture and layout of the temple of Heaven is based on elaborate symbolism and numerology, with separate complexes for the earth, sun, and moon. A good quality and detailed guide should provide an overview of the history and context of these symbols. Whilst here why not try out the echo wall where two people stand at either end of the wall and whisper and the wall carries the whisper to the other end of the wall – simple, but fun!

Within this section of the city a visit to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall is certainly recommended. However, do beware that during mid/peak seasons it can become incredibly crowded and cues can last for hours, an early start is recommended. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of urban Beijing then the Beijing botanical gardens offer a more tranquil and relaxing encounter. Spread over 564,000 square metres, these gardens allow you to see some of the many specifies of plants that dominate the landscape outside of Beijing’s urban sprawl.

For a better insight into the traditional way of the life, Beijing’s Hutongs (residential narrow streets and alleys) are a must for any itinerary, especially if you have more than 48hrs to spare. The Hutongs are essentially the last remnants of traditional Beijing communities and everyday city living. Ostensibly made up by a maze of narrow alleyways, courtyards, and old-style housing the Hutongs offer a real sense of community and history. Wandering the alleyways will give you a real feel for the old Beijing which is rapidly disappearing as then city races for more development and modernisation. One of the best ways to see these streets are through the intimate medium of a rickshaw ride which, if pre arranged, can stop to visit a local family as well as other sites such as the amazing fresh produce market that service the existing hutong community.

Whatever your plans for Beijing, try and stay that extra day and enjoy as much as you can of this delightful capital city. Although there is so much to see and do, we would always recommend you take the time to relax, leave the guidebook alone and spend at least a few hours wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere.