Boarding Pass

By David Tykol

Dear Globetrotter:
Welcome to the 356th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

In this issue of ITN you’ll find letters from travelers who answered our questions about “money matters overseas,” specifically, how they deal with cash, credit cards, travelers’ checks, etc., and go about making purchases for goods and services while traveling. More information and advice on the subject is in a feature on page 55 as well as in Dr. Wagenaar’s “Discerning Traveler” column on page 104.

One warning not covered on those pages I’ll mention here.

It’s common knowledge that if your credit card is used fraudulently, you can challenge the charge and not pay the bill until the problem is settled. In the end, generally, your credit may suffer but you aren’t out any cash from your bank account.

It’s often a different story with debit cards, however. A debit card, which you use much like a credit card, draws money directly from your checking or savings account, and, basically, if a debit card of yours is used fraudulently, the money is gone and you have to fight to get it back.

If you have a debit card stolen, you must notify your financial institution within two days to limit your liability in case of fraud. If you do notify them immediately, your liability is limited to $50; if you wait longer than two days you could lose up to $500, and if you don’t notify them within 60 days after receiving a statement showing unauthorized withdrawals, you could be liable for everything.

Debit card fraud is covered under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and not the Truth in Lending Act (which covers credit card transactions).

Fortunately, Visa and MasterCard have extended their credit card liability protection as a courtesy on some debit cards. Not all debit cards issued by banks and credit unions have this protection, however. You must check to be sure.

The upshot? Don’t keep more money than you can afford to lose in an account that is linked to a debit card, and check your monthly statements promptly to report any suspicious charges.

Earl Fox of Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote, “Regarding the tip in the August 2005 ‘Boarding Pass’ (page 2) on checking the expiration date of your passport, it’s not six months left on your passport that’s required for it to be valid, it’s six months past your anticipated return date — a very special nuance.”

Earl reminds readers that with the impending new requirements that everyone crossing a U.S. border have a passport (Sept. ’05, pg. 2), getting a new passport or renewal will take more time, what with the agency being swamped with requests, so check the validity date on yours and, if necessary, apply early.

Earl added, “I have been a fan of ITN since Grace Taylor — bless her heart — introduced me to it almost 20 years ago. Keep up the good work.”

A heads up to those of you planning a trip to the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca. Summer 2005 saw an alarming rise in the number of jellyfish at beach resorts all around Spain, and over 8,000 bathers were treated for jellyfish stings this summer alone, a number close to that reported for all of 2004.

A possible explanation — this year’s drought reduced the amount of cool water reaching the ocean. Jellyfish prefer warm waters and normally stay 40 miles from the coast.

Common symptoms of a sting include swelling, redness, itching and, well, stinging. If you are stung, rinse the affected area with saltwater (not fresh water) or vinegar to neutralize the stinging. If any tentacles are still attached, carefully remove them with tweezers. An ice pack will relieve the pain, and hydrocortisone cream will help control the itching.

High temperatures are creating a stir in Venice, Italy, as well, where officials have begun cracking down on tourists going shirtless and dangling their feet in canals. Some visitors in St. Mark’s Square were fined €50 recently for such unseemly behavior.

You read in our February ’05 issue (page 124) about being able to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, at night — around times of the full moon — for the first time in 20 years. It turns out only a quarter of the number of people permitted to do this have signed up.

Reasons for the low attendance? A nighttime viewing ticket, separate from a daytime ticket, costs a foreigner about $23 and must be bought a day in advance, meaning the visitor generally must spend two days in the area. At least three security checks are required to reach the platform. And, with the platform 300 yards from the monument, on foggy winter nights the Taj can barely be made out.

ITN has a new Contributing Editor and a new column. I’d like to introduce to you Janet Denninger of Redwood Valley, California. An operator of photography tours, she will be sharing tips on improving your travel photos.

If you have a photography question for her or a suggestion for a topic she should cover, she will be happy to take your call or e-mail. See page 103.

A big THANK YOU to Betty Underwood of Marshall, Virginia, who, followed by several other wonderful subscribers, recently mentioned ITN on the message board of a well-known travel website, generating a sizable number of sample-copy requests.

We’ll send each respondent a copy of the next-printed issue, and hopefully many will see the value of ITN and not only subscribe but participate in this travelers’ project of a magazine, sending in ITN Report Cards (page 122) during or just following their next trip and answering polls such as “Where Were You in March 2005?” (see page 23).

Incidentally, if you do send in an ITN Report Card, remember that the “date” we ask for is the date of the travel item you’re writing about (hotel stay, great meal, bad cab ride), not necessarily the date you’re mailing the card.

A few subscribers have told us that some of their copies of ITN have arrived in less than perfect shape. We apologize for this. The round tabs we added several months ago have helped a bit, but occasionally a copy still gets torn.

ITN did write to the Postmaster about an increase in complaints but received no reply. In the past, the Postmaster said that any reader whose issue arrives mangled should complain directly to their post office branch so that the problem could be traced back to its source, particularly if it happens repeatedly.

An “unnamed source” at another national magazine informed ITN of a dirty secret he learned from a worker at one postal center: when the postal workers thoughtfully turn each magazine 90 degrees so that the spine is facing the right way as it’s fed into the machine, thus keeping the magazine from getting torn, they get reproached for taking the extra time, so they don’t.

At this time, wrapping ITN in plastic before mailing is cost prohibitive and would increase the subscription price significantly. ITN does offer readers the option of receiving the magazine in an envelope mailed first class each month. Such a subscription costs $39.15 (U.S. ZIP); see page 9.

Hopefully, your copy of ITN is in mint condition so you won’t miss what Cidne Rossi of Glendale, California, had to say: “As an old PanAm stewardess, travel is my ‘thing.’ Your ITN is like dessert for me. I love you, ITN, because we both live to inspire people to see their world.”

Ozden O. Ochoa of College Station, Texas, also wrote. She told us, “We read every line in each issue and benefit so much from the hands-on expert advice. Thank you for a great magazine!”

Malcolm Carden of Piedmont, California, wrote, “Keep up the good work with ITN. I always want to go somewhere after I’ve read it!”

Gail Maxwell of Bradenton, Florida, saw Nancy Bubel’s request (Aug. ’05, pg. 123) for examples of “Most Incongruous Sight Seen in My Travels” and submitted the following:

“On a visit to Lucerne, Switzerland, several years ago, as we left a restaurant we could hear people singing. When we turned the corner, we saw a group of about 25 German tourists sitting together on some steps clapping and singing in English the Percy Mayfield song that Ray Charles made famous, ‘Hit the Road, Jack’!”

Let us know what you find the next time you hit the road. Keep those letters coming.— David Tykol, Editor