Tips from a traveler

By Jerry Mendel
This item appears on page 15 of the August 2013 issue.

Always pack an umbrella. Often they’re difficult to find or can be quite expensive. While I was in Miami in April ’13, heavy rain was predicted. Umbrellas at Target cost $14 plus tax! They weren’t worth $2.

• Instead of visiting contemporary art museums and seeing the same famous names (and paying high admission fees), consider going to art galleries. Often, you will see amazing works by local artists. You’ll be able to talk to the people who work in the gallery, you won’t have to endure crowds and you’ll (probably) never have to pay an entry fee. 

Often, many galleries are located on the same street or in the same area. The Rue de Seine in Paris is one such street.

• Unable to read a menu in Cyrillic? Unable to understand what your “English”-speaking waitperson is saying when describing the items on the menu? Check out food courts in shopping malls. 

In Australia, many office buildings have food courts that are open to the public. You can see what you’re getting and just point. (That’s still no guarantee, of course, that you’ll get exactly what you expect.) 

I find the best bets are buffet restaurants, where you take what you want in the amount that you want. Brazil shines in this concept.

• Americans and citizens of 44 other countries can spend up to 72 hours in Beijing or Shanghai without having to have a visa for China* (March ’13, pg. 52). The restriction is that you must be going to another country via one of these cities and have airline tickets that were purchased prior to your arrival in China. You’re allowed to do this twice.

I’m planning to fly to Beijing, stay fewer than 72 hours, then fly to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. I will fly back to Beijing and stay another 72 hours before flying on to another country in Asia. 

“But,” you ask, “what if I stay for 73 hours?” 

Well, then, life as you’ve known it may change for a very long time.


Buenos Aires, Argentina

*Editor’s note: According to, well in advance, you should notify your airline of your plan to use China’s 72-hour transit-without-visa program. Before a China-bound plane lands, the airline must inform border control authorities there of the number of transit applicants aboard. Also, you may not leave Beijing or Shanghai during that 72-hour period.