Boarding Pass

By David Tykol

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 375th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

Do not try this at home. . . or even away from home.

Several tourists on a bus in Costa Rica fought back when three muggers held them up on Feb. 21 this year.

A group of 12 passengers on the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Carnival Liberty had arranged an independent shore excursion to a beach at Limón on the Caribbean coast 80 miles east of San José. During the trip, three men tried to rob everyone, but they met resistance. A retired military man in his 70s put a chokehold on one of the thieves, who was armed with a knife and gun. The thief had his collarbone broken during the struggle and later died, apparently of asphyxiation. His two accomplices escaped.

No charges were brought against the tourists, and they were allowed to return to the ship and continue their voyage.

These travelers were lucky that none of their group was harmed.

Costa Rican police said they will double the number of police on patrol when cruise ships are in port, they will more closely watch vehicles transporting tourists and they are installing security cameras around the city.

There are a couple of places online where you can check on the expected security-line wait times at particular airport concourses.

On the Transportation Security Administration webpage, type in the airport you’re flying out of plus the date and time of your flight, and up will come the average as well as historical-maximum security-line wait times for that area of the terminal. It may help you beat the crowd.

The website has the same feature.

And on the website, under “Travel,” then “Flight Tracker,” you can enter a flight number and find the plane’s location in real time — even in flight. The tracker displays an image with the plane’s position overlaid on a weather radar image, listing the aircraft type, altitude and estimated arrival time.

If you plug in the names of two airports, it will list all of the flights on that route that day and the current status of each.

ITN subscriber Roger Gordon of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, took a tour to Slovenia and Croatia. He found the landscape beautiful and enjoyed the tour. He felt the return flights as scheduled were an ordeal, however.

He got his wake-up call in Dubrovnik at 3:30 a.m. in order to make a 6:05 Croatia Airlines flight to Zagreb, taking off again at

7:40 for Frankfurt, Germany, where he waited three-plus hours before flying not directly to Miami but to Washington/Dulles and then Miami before driving home. Four planes and 30 hours in transit.

Mr. Gordon was informed of the flight schedule only days before leaving on the trip. He wrote to the tour company, whose representative apologized for his long trip home and explained that the company has contracts with airlines and tries to arrange the most direct routing within those contracts.

The rep added, “For most travelers flying from, say, Newark to Frankfurt to Dubrovnik on Lufthansa, there are several flights a day (each way, actually), so travel is fairly quick and easy. However, if one needs to use Croatia Airlines, which has only two flights a day at this point, air transportation becomes more challenging. One is faced with a very short (35-minute) or very long (5- to 6-hour) connection time in Frankfurt. As more Americans travel to Croatia, there likely will be more scheduled flights in and out of the country.”

The rep pointed out that there’s a benefit to traveling to Croatia today: experiencing that beautiful country without throngs of tourists.

Mr. Gordon says that for his next tour, he’ll make sure to learn details about the return trip before signing up.

At least then, if he chose to go, he could plan to break up the long trip home with an overnight somewhere. While returning from my last trip from the Continent, I stayed a night in New York. Instead of ending up a walking zombie for three days as I was after some previous trips, I was back on my regular sleep schedule almost immediately.

I am one of those people who are subject to jet lag and also don’t sleep well on planes, but a big part of my recovery was simply getting enough rest and not becoming too exhausted. Falling further behind at work by returning a day later was a consideration, but I believe I was better off showing up to work rested and alert. I ended my trip on a good note, that’s for sure.

Does that mean I can’t use fatigue as an excuse for my math blunder in the April issue?

On page 115 I mentioned that Liechtenstein recently remeasured its borders and learned it’s 123 acres bigger than previously thought. That’s about, as a couple of readers corrected me, 0.19 square miles. The whole country covers an area of 62 square miles.

Eileen Rakita of Tucson, Arizona, wrote, “I have just become president of the Tucson/Southern Arizona chapter of Friendship Force. This is not a travel club but an organization chartered by Friendship Force International (Atlanta, GA; 404/522-9490). Our mission is to spread world peace and friendship through one-on-one interactions with people of other cultures. Anyone who is people-oriented and wants to spread peace is invited to look up the websites and”

“I have used ITN many times to read about the culture of a country that our club would visit on an exchange where we actually live with a family for a week. I found a lot of useful information and tips from the articles. At our last meeting, I asked how many people subscribed to ITN. So many hands went up that it was easier to count those who were not aware of the publication.”

Eileen sent us the addresses of those who wanted to be sent a free sample copy of ITN. We can send copies to any travelers you meet, too.

Richard Finerman of Palm Springs, California, wrote, “I subscribed back in 1977-78 when the magazine was just starting. I think it’s great that, 30 years later, ITN is still such a great and interesting resource for the independent traveler.”

Gail G. Clegg of Dulles, Virginia, sent in applications for three ITN “Travel Is My Forte” award certificates.

She wrote, “Following is a list of 40 countries visited by my husband, Charles, our daughter, Lydia, and myself. Incidentally, Lydia visited all of these countries before her ELEVENTH birthday! Can you tell that we love to travel?”

Okay, we’ve got a challenge for you. We’re simultaneously introducing two new travel awards this month: the “Visited All of Africa Award” (you must have been to all 53 countries) and the “African Nations Award” (any 40 out of the 53 — you can be forgiven for not visiting 13 of them; that’s the number of African countries the State Department currently has warnings on).

If you’re heading for Africa, keep an eye out for Lydia — and don’t forget to send us a few ITN Report Cards; see page 100.— D.T.