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Travelling Tips

Things You Need to Know

Jonathan van Bilsen



February 7, 2021

Things You Need to Know

For those who love to travel, this is certainly a restrictive time, however, at least we have the memories, photographs and experiences from previous adventures. Besides, travel is once again on the horizon, even if it is still half a year away. Many countries are adding, changing, streamlining or simply updating tourist experiences, and I thought I would share some of these with you.

Airlines are changing their rules about pets while flying. If you’re thinking about taking Fido on your next trip, you will have to book him in baggage. As of December 2nd, 2020, the US Department of Transportation made a ruling the only service animals to be allowed on planes are dogs. They went on to say that “emotional support animals” are not considered service animals, the definition of which is very clear: “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability”.

It seems there have been numerous unusual emotional-support animals taken on planes, such as pigs, peacocks, ducks and geese. To everyone’s surprise, some of these animals displayed bad behaviour during flights, such as aggression and not being housebroken. Fortunately, airlines have already banned spiders, rats and goats. Who knew?

Many people fly on Easy Jet, within Europe. The budget, no frills airline, is cutting even more services. Beginning in February, they will be limiting overhead luggage bin access to passengers who have paid for a more expensive ticket. Passengers paying only the basic fare, must place carry-ons underneath the seats in front of them. Pack light, especially if your flight is long.

Israel is going to try something new, by creating ‘Green Zones’. These are areas that require a negative COVID-19 test result to enter. These are mostly tourist spots around the country, with the first ones being two clusters of hotels along the Dead Sea. To enter one of these ‘Green Zones’, a visitor must prove they took a COVID test within the last 48 hours. Alternatively, rapid-response tests will be available at entry points. Testing is free for anyone with a hotel reservation. According to reports, anyone who tests positive will receive a full refund of their hotel booking.

A country, not many people have visited, is the Australian island of Tasmania. This hidden gem is beautiful at any time and now, with less than 2,000 cases of the pandemic in all of Australia, and none in Tasmania, the Tasmanian government is offering self-drive trips, and will continue to do so after the pandemic is gone. A website called Lap of Tasmania can help in planning an itinerary, as well as booking lodging and rental cars. The site offers seven, ten and fourteen day trips, as well as specialized adventures, such as a foodie tour, a nature trek or a high-end adventure. Check out the website:

Canadian travel is once again leading the pack. Exodus Travel Tours of Toronto, is now offering Dateless Departures. At first I thought these were for singles only (dateless), but in actual fact they refer to travellers who reserve a tour with Exodus. They will be guaranteed a spot in the first tour group to go to the location, once that country reopens its borders.

These Dateless Departure customers will also benefit from virtual pre-trip briefings with tour leaders, health experts and local guides, and they will be joined by a professional photographer on the trip.  If you book but are unable to meet the timetable of the first trip, you can reschedule that tour until December 31, 2022, at no additional cost.

It seems the heavens are opening up for tourists. Visitors to Switzerland can now book rooms in any of 50-plus ‘Million Stars’ hotels available throughout the country. Hotels on the list had to meet certain star-gazing criteria, before they were considered a Million Stars hotel. The “room” must offer unimpeded views of the sky, which means being entirely outside, under a glass roof, or surrounded by a clear pod.

A stay at a Million Stars hotel can be booked July through October, depending on the location and type of accommodation. If stargazing is your thing, but Switzerland isn’t, then venture over to Ireland, where budding astronomers will have a chance to view the stars through a 14-inch telescope at the OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory. Opened last October, the telescope has automatic guide and lock-on features, so viewers can focus on spectacular astronomical objects. At the observatory, visitors can enjoy interactive exhibits, including virtual-reality experiences.

For anyone who has been to Egypt, riding a camel up to the pyramids is a great experience. Due to many people posting numerous videos of animals being mistreated near the pyramids in Cairo’s Giza archaeological area, the country’s Tourism Ministry announced that it would ban camel, horse and donkey riding around the complex. Good for the animals, but not for the owners, who probably should have looked into this sooner.

Jamaica has been a great getaway spot for many Canadians, but the government is concerned about their healthcare system, during these difficult times. They recently introduced compulsory health insurance for all foreign visitors. The insurance will cost $40 per person and cover up to $50,000 in medical expenses while in Jamaica. Even if you have your own health or travel insurance, you must still pay this premium for the coverage before entering the country. The premium will be charged at the time the traveller fills out a travel authorization form.

If you’re one of those who loves speed, you will want to make Saudi Arabia one of your next travel destinations. Officials representing the Six Flags Qiddiya theme park project in Saudi Arabia have announced new details about what is scheduled to become the fastest, longest and tallest roller coaster in the world.

According to, the Falcon’s Flight will be the theme park’s signature attraction and is scheduled to debut in 2023 when the facility opens to the public. The record-breaking roller coaster will be four kilometres long, feature a vertical cliff dive of 160 metres and reach top speeds of 250 kilometres an hour. For American theme park enthusiast, that’s an estimated two and a half miles long, a 525 foot dive and speeds reaching 155 miles per hour. The ride will last three minutes, transport up to 20 passengers at a time, boast electromagnetic propulsion launch systems, and will feature panoramic views of the park. I just hope they have a good quantity of airsick bags at the end.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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