Boarding Pass

By David Tykol

Dear Globetrotter:
Welcome to the 357th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

As ITN subscriber Calvin Parker of Upland, California, lamented in the July ’05 issue, page 85, Avis would not rent him a car in Belize because he was over 65. He has sent a follow-up letter explaining that he found an agency in Belize City that would rent to him but he ended up feeling cheated.

He wrote, “Upon my returning the car, the owner and a clerk examined it looking for damage. Determined to find something, they went around it four times until they saw two tiny, tiny scratches.

“In the following discussion, I asked what they thought would be equitable compensation. The clerk replied, ‘We will have to repaint the entire door.’

“Immediately alerted to a pending scam, I replied, ‘That is not going to happen!’

“After arguing, the owner offered to settle for $100. Needing to catch a plane, I had no alternative but to capitulate to this coercion and agree to the charge.

“My intent in writing this is to alert ITN readers of the lengths to which some unscrupulous operators will go to fleece a few extra dollars from tourists.

“The checkout inspection is a procedure that has to be meticulously carried out to insure that no preexisting conditions are subsequently falsely charged to the renter.

“A similar incident occurred to me several years ago in the town of Koror on the island of Palau in Micronesia. The operator tried to charge me for a broken taillight. Fortunately, I had so noted the condition of the light on the rental agreement, so there was no question as to the outcome.”

We have it from an industry insider that this fall most of the hotels in India are greatly increasing their rates.

Each year at the first of October, India’s hotels usually raise prices 10%-15%. Tour operators take this into consideration when calculating the coming season’s tour prices. This year they had a surprise.

Rack rates, the posted prices that walk-ins pay, are going up 20%-25%, and the contracted rates for tour operators are jumping 20%-40%. In some cases, as at the deluxe Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, the cost of a stay will nearly double. (Those hotels completely renovated recently to compete with several new super-luxury Oberoi Vilas hotels.)

Many tour operators who months ago set their prices for the 2005-2006 season either will take a loss or have to risk passing the increase onto their customers. Just letting you know so that, in case you get a price-increase notice on your India trip, you don’t think your tour company is pulling any “funny” business.

Norm Duncan of McLean, Virginia, read the item about making sure your passport is valid for at least six months past your anticipated return (Oct. ’05, pg. 2) and would like it clarified that it’s not your return into the U.S. that you have to worry about but your being allowed into some other countries in the first place if the expiration date is drawing near.

Rest assured, American readers, that so long as your passport has not expired, you can reenter the U.S., even on the last day of validity.

If your passport expires before you make it back to the States, however, it’s more of a hassle now to get it renewed. As of April 2002, U.S. embassies and consulates can no longer issue passports abroad, except in emergency cases. The applications are forwarded to the U.S., and it will take a minimum of 21 days for the passport to be sent back, if approved.

In my September column, I mentioned the coming deadlines by which everyone crossing a U.S. border will have to have a passport. The first deadline has been pushed back a year, coinciding with the second. Now, as of Dec. 31, 2006, everyone traveling by air or sea between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean or Bermuda will need to be holding a passport.

By Dec. 31, 2007, the requirement will extend to all border crossings on land as well.

Here’s something to consider if you’re buying spices overseas.

The Washington Post reported that researchers were perplexed about the source of lead poisoning in two unrelated families until they tested the frequently used spices each had bought while visiting relatives in India and in the Republic of Georgia.

It is surmised that the spices picked up the lead during the grinding process, but it’s possible that it was added to increase the weight.

It was pointed out that travelers eating in restaurants overseas likely will not encounter enough lead to have to worry about this.

“Accessible Air Travel: A Guide for People with Disabilities” is the title of a pamphlet geared to disabled travelers on domestic flights.

Produced by the United Spinal Association, a national veterans’ service and disability rights organization, the pamphlet covers such topics as making reservations, getting to the airport and handling the boarding process. It also discusses the implications of the 1986 federal Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which states that both commercial air carriers and airports must provide specific services to travelers with disabilities.

For a free copy, call 800/444-0120 or visit

After a year of writing the “Health & Travel” column every other month in ITN, Dr. Larry G. Baratta, due to time considerations, is bowing out. His writings generated responses of interest and we appreciate the work he provided. Dr. Alan Spira has kindly agreed to write the column on a monthly basis from now on.

In this issue Dr. Baratta focuses on jet lag. Somewhat related, here’s an observation I’d like to share, though it’s probably of no surprise to many of you.

Many times I have made the 2-hour car trip back from Lake Tahoe over the mountain pass to Sacramento or have driven back over the hills after visiting the coast. As soon as I hit the valley, my eyelids would start to droop and I’d need a nap.

I always figured that the drowsiness had to do with the difference in air temperature, that it was just the shock of hitting the warm valley after being in the cool mountains. But the same thing would happen in winter, plus I could make the same-length trip over flat terrain and arrive still wide awake.

Then one morning, energized after a full night’s sleep, I made a quick half-hour flight back to Sacramento — and upon landing I was ready for a siesta. That’s when it occurred to me that the sleepiness must have less to do with the temperature than with the change in altitude, particularly on the descent. It must be a natural reaction by the body, since yawning can make the ears pop and equalize air pressure around the eardrums.

Just a theory. And, keeping it in mind, I’m a little more prepared for the tiredness.

Bill Steltzer of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, suggested it last November, and now Maurice Julian of Cathedral City, California, has seconded the request, saying, “You have ITN traveler awards for many categories. Would you please consider offering an award to travelers who have visited all 43 countries of Europe?”

Done. See page 124. It’s such an obvious category, I don’t know what took us so long!

Ernst Epstein of San Mateo, California, wrote, “I enjoy ITN, as do the patients in the reception room of my office. That is where the copies go after I read them.”

Charles Severs of Louisville, Kentucky, e-mailed, “We enjoy ITN, and when we travel we take a sample issue of ITN for others on the trip to examine. We get them to fill out a request form for a free issue and send that to ITN when we get home.”

Those are two great ways of letting other travelers actually see a copy of ITN. Remember, we also offer easily pocketable cards to pass out that read, “For a free sample copy of ITN, call (toll-free). . . . You will be sent a complimentary copy of the next-printed issue, with no obligation to subscribe.”

If you would like some of these cards to pass out on your next trip, write to ITN Sample Copy Cards, 2224 Beaumont St., Ste. D, Sacramento, CA 95815, or e-mail

The recipients may react like Jane Reber of Palo Alto, California, who wrote, “ITN is my favorite 5-hour read. Life stops when it arrives and resumes when I’ve finished. Thank you for such a wonderful publication.

Where were you in March 2005? If you have not yet answered that question, then please call 800/486-4968, e-mail or send a postcard to March Travel, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, blockprinting your name and including your ZIP code.

So that we may better serve your interests, we need your input on this. Thank you.— David Tykol, Editor