Showing posts from June, 2008

How to rent a car

1) Get a driver's license. These are remarkably useful things to have, especially in North America. 2) Get a credit card that insures rental cars against collision and loss. Such cards often charge an annual fee, but will pay for themselves if you rent as rarely as once a year - buying that insurance from the rentacar company often costs ~$15 per rental day. Make sure that card is paid up, as the insurance may lapse if you're past due, and bear in mind you have to use it to rent the car. 3) Book online, in advance, preferably with at least one Saturday-night stay. I generally use Expedia to comparison-shop the various major chains, then go to the cheapest chain's corporate site and book a car there. I rarely wind up paying more than $25/day. 4) You don't need to provide a credit card number to rent a car, so feel free to book more than one, just in case. 5) Save money when you book. The bewildering rentacar business model includes all manner of "promotion codes&quo

we love it when our friends become successful

Check it out: my friend Nigel Dickinson just won a 2008 Press Photographer's Year Award , which is quite prestigious if clumsily named, in the "Features" category, for his stunning Cambodia travel photography .

Myth America

From Thomas Friedman's latest column : It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Democrats’ nomination of Obama as their candidate for president has done more to improve America’s image abroad than the entire Bush public diplomacy effort for seven years. ...Every once in a while, America does something so radical, so out of the ordinary — something that old, encrusted, traditional societies like those in the Middle East could simply never imagine — that it revives America’s revolutionary “brand” overseas in a way that no diplomat could have designed or planned... For now, though, what it reveals is how much many foreigners, after all the acrimony of the Bush years, still hunger for the “idea of America” — this open, optimistic, and, indeed, revolutionary, place so radically different from their own societies. What he's talking about is the myth of America. That myth used to be incredibly powerful, especially in poor countries where people lived in a kind of oppressive sta

Islands in the slums

This NYT article about a gated community in India is a really good snapshot of what the developing world is like today. As money flows into an impoverished nation, first you get a few tiny islands of First World development, usually in the capital: embassies, presidential mansions, five-star hotels. Inside you find armies of servants in ill-fitting uniforms ready to obey your every whim, for labour is cheap. But the lack of infrastructure still tells. I've been in many luxury hotels with little garbage cans for soiled toilet paper placed beside the toilets because the plumbing still isn't up to much, generators that hum all day and night, and menus which are largely theoretical. (I know, poor me.) Outside - often, literally, immediately outside - all is filth and chaos, and the streets are clogged with crowds of the malnourished. Beyond major cities the roads are often so bad it can take all day to travel a hundred miles. Then the pockets of wealth begin to metastasize: four-