Ecuador – The Newest Option For Gay Travelers

Ecuador, South America, is being considered more and more as a Gay travel destination without equal.

Gays and Lesbians seeking intimate time with their partner have romantic highland haciendas and small, out of the way inns, as well as major multi-star Hotels to chose from.

Enjoy a candle light dinner next to a romantic fire place or enjoy a nice drink and a good conversation at the hacienda’s bar. Because temperatures can be low in the high Andes where many haciendas are located, a fireplace brings just the romantic touch, and will heat your bedroom to ensure that you have a cozy warm night.

During the day, haciendas offer activities ranging from adventurous horseback riding to visits to indigenous markets. There is a day activity for every taste.

Ecuador has a huge artisan tradition and most artisan workshops open their doors to the Gay and Lesbian visitor. Visits to artisan workshops can be combined with hacienda stays, especially north of Quito. Excellent handicraft workshops can be found throughout Ecuador, but especially in the city of Cuenca, about a 40 minute flight south of Quito.

Cuenca has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations and this small, yet bustling town is well-known for its excellent, colonial style Hotels and its Gay and Lesbian community—which can be found right in the center of the City. Plan on taking at least 2 days to explore the City and its surroundings.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to spend at least a half a day in Gualaceo and Chordeleg–well known for jewelry workshops and Orchid farms.

A short 4 hour trip by bus from Cuenca is the tropical city of Guayaquil. If you have the time, rent a car or travel with a public bus from Cuenca to Guayaquil. Make sure that you travel through the spectacular Cajas National Park with its hundreds of lakes.

Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and serves as the main port for the country. The city has a very active gay community and it is an excellent gateway for travel to Galapagos Islands. The main gay-bars and clubs can be found at the Rocafuerte Street, 2 blocks behind the Malecon 2000, about at the height of the Ramada Hotel.

Before you dive into the nightlife, walk along the Malecon 2000 and walk up the stairs to the Light House above Las Penas, the small old town of Guayaquil. On both sides of the stairs can be found a variety of bars and restaurants, which invite the Guayaquil visitor in for a cold beer—far and away, the best drink in this tropical city. If you have a moment more, visit “Parque Seminario” or “Parque de las Iguanas” as the locals call it. Here, Iguanas walk around like cats and dogs in North American or European parks. Although it may be tempting, don’t try to pet the Iguanas.

Within 40 minutes flight time is the City of Quito. Should you travel in the morning, make sure that you sit on the right hand side of the Aircraft, because this side of the flight has the most beautiful mountain scenery imaginable.
Quito is a bustling, cosmopolitan city, and offers the most of all the Ecuadorian cities to the Gay Traveler. Stay in the old town. Especially recommended is the beautiful–and pricey–“Gay-owned” Bed and Breakfast “Villa Colonna”.
Not far away from this Bed and Breakfast you can find the offices of True Colors Travel http://galapagostraveller.com, where you can get Expert advice on all travel related topics in Ecuador.

The historical part of Quito has been designated as a World Heritage Site by the UN and offers some of the most spectacular colonial churches in the world. In your visit to the colonial center, seek out and enjoy some of the various excellent museums.
The Gay Clubs and Bars you will find in the Mariscal district in northern Quito. Here, there are many excellent Bars, Clubs and Restaurants. You will feel a comfortable ambiance every day of the week, but especially from Wednesday to Sunday. For Gays and Lesbian who seek Gourmet Dining, there are several excellent restaurants be found behind the Swissotel, around Isabel La Catolica street. My favorite restaurant in this sector, and one which I recommend highly, is “La Choza” which offers excellent Ecuadorian food.

Quito hosts the most important Gay and Lesbian film festival in Latin America. For dates and programs visit http://quitogay.net

Ecuador offers Gay and Lesbian Travelers interesting options for sightseeing, enjoyment, and unique opportunities, and guarantees the trip of a lifetime.

For the best experience, participate in one of the True Colors exclusive Gay and Lesbian Roundtrips, organized by the Experts of Gay Travel in Ecuador, Galapagos and Peru. We look forward to meeting you on one of our journeys.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Vacation Travel Made Easy Using the Internet

As you probably know, the Internet is a highly valuable research tool. However, many travelers do not consider using the Internet to book their next vacation, and thus often miss out on timesavings not to mention truly great bargains.

In this article we’ll take a look at how the Internet can help you to plan and book the perfect vacation.

If you haven’t already figured out exactly where you want to go, you might want to visit Yahoo! Travel. This excellent resource provides information about popular destinations based on category, for example ‘Best Beaches’, ‘Top Romantic Getaways’ or ‘Top Singles Destinations’. Yahoo! Travel also features a list of the most popular vacation destinations along with things to do and see for each one.

If you are looking for a vacation tailored around your own personal interests, you should spend some time consulting the Yahoo! Travel Interest Guides. The top destinations are selected for each interest, so choosing a vacation that is perfectly suited to your interests should be a fast and simple task.

Once you have selected a destination then it’s time to start planning how to get there!

Locate and book the best value travel

Whether you decide to go by plane, train or automobile, finding cost effective travel is the first step to planning a great trip. Many Internet resources allow you to search multiple travel providers and directly compare services and prices.

Traveling by car

If you plan to travel by car, then the first step should be a visit to Map Quest for directions. This valuable website will allow to you obtain detailed driving directions to your destination, including total distance and estimated driving time.

If you intend to rent a car make sure you compare prices at different auto rental sites. For example, Car Rental Express provides an excellent resource that compares rental prices from multiple major auto rental companies. Many sites will allow you to directly compare rental prices from most of the leading auto rental companies. Make sure that you spend some time examining the different company regulations governing auto rental that often differ from state to state (minimum driver age, area restrictions, etc…).

When possible, taking your own car can save you a fair amount of money. However, it’s extremely important to ensure your vehicle is ready for a long distance trip. Having your car break down during your trip is not fun, especially if you are looking to experience the perfect vacation!

Traveling by plane

Traveling by car is great for shorter distances; however traveling by plane will allow you to reach your destination much faster. Nowadays, there is so much online competition for short, inland flights that you can most often find some outstanding prices, especially if you book a little in advance. In addition, most of the major airlines offer special ‘Internet Only’ deals and rates.

If your travel arrangements are flexible, then Priceline.com offers some extraordinary bargains. Basically, you simply specify the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a particular flight, and if the amount is accepted by the airline your flight is immediately booked. This is a great system that can provide you with huge savings…that would be totally impossible if it wasn’t for the Internet!

Traveling by train

Although often overlooked, traveling by train can be a highly cost effective and convenient method of travel. You can quickly and easily research the various choices to your chosen destination by going to Amtrak. Check out the ‘Hot Deals’ section on the Amtrak website for some great Internet offers.

Or for a one of a kind travel experience, you may want to consider taking a scenic route on a luxury train. Many luxury train travel packages offer meals and accommodation on the way to your final destination. Check out the links below to find out more information about luxury train travel.

Going on a cruise

Cruise trips can offer an exciting alternative to conventional vacations. After unpacking your belongings, you can relax while the ship takes you from destination to destination. There is typically a wide variety of nightlife; entertainment and activities to keep you busy and most major cruise ships offer a broad range of cuisine to appeal to most culinary preferences. Cruises typically offer low amounts of hassle – simply book your ticket, board the boat and get ready to relax.

Additionally, many cruises are all inclusive – the price of your ticket includes meals and activities.

If you are interested in going on a cruise start at VacationsToGo.com. This is a useful resource for locating last minute and bargain cruises. For many people, a cruise can be the perfect vacation!

Find the perfect accommodation

Locating the ideal vacation accommodation is perhaps the most important part of planning the perfect vacation. Multiple options will most likely be available depending on where you plan to visit.

If you were planning to visit within striking distance of a town or city and for a short period of time, then a hotel or condo would be the most appropriate choice.

Otherwise a rental home, villa or townhouse can offer a high level of comfort and convenience. The great advantage of this type of accommodation is the kitchen/laundry facilities that can help save money, especially if you are vacationing for a week or more.

If you want great value without having to make your own reservations and travel arrangements then a complete vacation package can offer great savings and convenience. A package typically includes flights, hotel rooms, rental cars and can also include meals and tickets for popular activities.

Although often overlooked, home exchanges can offer a great value for money vacation, with the added bonus of having someone looking after your home while you are away! Often cars are also exchanged as part of the process.

Before finalizing your reservation, it’s a good idea to check out reader reviews of your chosen accommodation at http://www.tripadvisor.com. This is a highly valuable resource in determining suitability and comfort and allows you to help avoid any hidden problems.

When you are ready to choose, browse through some of the accommodation links below and compare prices. If you are planning to stay in a hotel, make sure that you check the website to ensure that they have all the amenities you require (fitness center, internet access, restaurant, etc…). Lastly, don’t forget to book early as hotels/homes often become booked rapidly.

Find out what to do and where to go…before you get there!

Hopefully by now you have planned your travel arrangements and booked a great place to stay, however there is still one important factor to consider…

Finding out as much as you as possible about your chosen destination before you get there will help ensure that you are able to have fun upon arrival. By pre-selecting some activities to do or places to visit, you’ll be able to save time and enjoy your vacation immediately, even if you are among those travelers who prefer to just relax and explore your destination once you get there.

A great starting point for learning more about your destination is http://www.citytown.info. This database consists of links to the official websites of most major towns in the United States. Most of the official town websites contain sections for tourists, including things to see and do, places to visit, where to eat, etc…

The SLGN Directory (www.statelocalgov.net) is the easiest method for locating official tourist information corresponding to your chosen destination. Simply select the appropriate state to gain access to a list of official town/city guides and state directories.

You should also explore the World Travel Guide website at http://www.wtgonline.com, which provides a plethora of data for thousands of worldwide destinations. Attractions, airports, tours, images and brochures are covered along with many other useful travel resources. The World Travel Guide is an excellent tool for helping to plan the perfect vacation.

Although less tourist-oriented, http://www.city-data.com still remains a valuable resource for researching information about your chosen town or city.

As previously mentioned, http://www.tripadvisor.com is also a highly useful resource for learning about a destination through submitted user reviews, articles and comments. Spend some time browsing the site and you will be able to find out exactly what other people who visited the area enjoyed.

An excellent resource for obtaining a categorized list of activities around your chosen destination is http://www.infohub.com. InfoHub contains an immense list of specialist activities, from football tours to museum visits and is very useful for planning the perfect vacation based on around you or your family’s interests.

If you are willing to spend a little extra then a professional tourist guide can be extremely helpful in making sure you get the most out of your vacation. A good guide will help tailor the trip based on your personal interests while allowing you to connect with the locals. For personal safety reasons; a tourist guide is highly recommended if you are traveling to exotic destinations. You can obtain information on how to hire a tourist guide by navigating to http://www.wwguides.com.

What Was Your Scariest Travel Experience?

I was reading something somewhere on the Internet about scary travel experiences. It’s interesting because I have been to every continent except Antarctica, and my scariest travel moment was as I was flying into Moscow in February of 2000.

My sister and her husband had adopted a baby from Kazakhstan. She had to spend a few days in Moscow to get approvals from the Canadian Consulate for my niece to be admitted into Canada. My parents and I were in Europe on business (back when I worked for the family business) so we decided to detour to Moscow to spend it with them and to meet the new member of our family.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. Even though I grew up in Canada we were still “concerned” about the USSR. We had heard stories about how people were treated and how they would have to line up for hours to get bread and food. And of course the “nuclear” threat.

The flight from London to Moscow was on BA. They showed a movie called “East/West”. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best Foreign Film, and it was a really well made movie. It told a story that should be told, just not a great idea to show it while flying into Moscow.

The movie was about a Russian Expat Doctor who was asked to come back to Russia to live and practice. Stalin asked many soviets that left the USSR after WWI to return and help to “rebuild” the USSR with no repercussions for fleeing in the first place. Well of course Stalin lied and killed some as soon as they arrived, or in the case of this family took the French wife’s passport as soon as they arrived and then pretty much treated them like prisoners.

As we landed my heart started racing, I was shaking and my face was flushed. My dad actually asked if I was OK…. He didn’t watch the movie – he was safe!

My logical mind said – don’t be silly…this doesn’t happen anymore – it’s the year 2000 – the new millennium – the wall fell ages ago…People visit here safely all the time…my my emotions said – “What are you Crazy????”

I was so flustered I left my laptop ON THE PLANE!. I rushed back to get it and 2 very stern security personnel (with guns I might add) told me in Russian (at least I think this is what they meant) – that I had to turn around and go back – I couldn’t go back onto the plane! I knew it – this was a plot to steal my stuff like they did in that movie. Well OK I am exaggerating a bit!

I stood in the very long immigration line up…with my papers in hand…still fearful….who knows what might happen once we get past that line.

We then got to the baggage claim and low and behold a flight attendant had taken my bag off for me. Whew!

We went through customs and found a taxi…The rest of the trip was AWESOME and we got to meet my beautiful niece for the first time later that night.

In my 4 days and touring around in the cold. They only time I got “hassled” by the authorities was when I was in a taxi going back to the airport – they wanted to see my papers – I happily obliged.

So it was just my mind that made it all up! I guess that is the power of the mind.

The lesson I learned – Don’t make up what isn’t there .. stay present while traveling. Assess what is actually going on..Not what you think might happen!.

Do you have a scary travel experience to share? Share it here http://our-blog.excellent-vacation-ideas.com/2009/03/what-is-your-scariest-travel-experience_23.html

Winter Travel in the Caribbean

When the snow is falling and cold temperatures reign throughout much of the United States and Europe, the Caribbean is warm and sunny as ever. As a result, the winter months have become the Caribbean’s high tourism season, supported by travelers from throughout the Northern Hemisphere hoping to escape inhospitable weather. In addition to excellent weather during the Christmas season and beyond, most Caribbean destinations boast action-packed winter schedules that include concerts, festivals, unique holiday events and special tour and recreation options. Though the popular winter season generally features higher travel rates throughout the region, those traveling on a budget can still find plenty of great values when booking in advance, especially families who can take advantage of special travel packages at top resorts.

December

The month of December marks the beginning of the high tourism season for most Caribbean destinations, but plenty of great travel values can still be found each year before the Christmas holiday. While travelers on a budget will still find plenty of holiday excitement during the first part of the month, those that visit the Caribbean during the Christmas and New Year’s weeks will find a greater assortment of activities and special events. For instance, the islands of Aruba and Curacao celebrate the holiday season in true Dutch fashion with regular appearances by Sinterklaas and special events that fuse modern holiday customs, centuries-old European traditions and a touch of Caribbean flair. Furthermore, those hoping to attend Christmas mass or other holiday services will find plenty of options throughout the region.

While travelers won’t find a White Christmas in the Caribbean, the excellent winter weather – temperatures generally range from the mid-70s to the mid-80s during December – allows holiday visitors to spend plenty of time on the beach, in the water and exploring outdoor destinations.

January

January begins with the excitement of New Year’s Day, a holiday that is well-suited to the region’s exciting atmosphere and penchant for celebration. Select islands like St. Kitts host New Year’s Day parades each year, but nearly every Caribbean destination offers plenty of New Year’s Eve options, including many special activities for families on islands such as Aruba and St. Thomas.

Visitors to the Caribbean during the later weeks of January will find the excitement of high tourism season in full-swing, but the focus on recreation and relaxation allows all types of travelers to recuperate after the bustling holiday season. Though it is easy to kick back and enjoy the scenery during the month of January, the end of the month marks the beginning of the region’s famous Carnival celebrations, most notably in destinations such as Aruba, Curacao and St. Kitts. Those visiting the Caribbean during the month of January will also find a wide variety of music festivals and other cultural events that add to the excitement of the season.

The month of January offers very similar weather to December, as temperatures remain warm, but comfortable during the day and pleasantly mild at night. Despite the fact that January falls in the middle of high tourism season, there are often plenty of travel values available, including specially-priced family packages at some of the Caribbean’s top resorts.

February

As February is often recognized as the least hospitable month throughout the Untied States and Europe, this post-holiday period stands as the most popular time to visit the Caribbean. February offers similar weather to other winter months, though the region typically experiences fewer rainy days in the lead-up to spring. As a result, February is an excellent time to participate in some of the region’s world-renowned water sport activities – including everything from scuba diving and snorkeling to sailing and fishing – as well as other outdoor recreation or ecotourism opportunities.

During February, Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations are in full swing throughout the entire region, meaning plenty of exciting events can be found at any Caribbean destination. The Valentine’s Day holiday is also a popular travel time for couples in search of romantic activities and exotic scenery. Each year, many of the region’s top resorts offer special short-term travel packages for couples that include excellent dining options and relaxing spa treatments.

When considering the excellent winter weather and excitement surrounding high tourism season, it is no wonder that the months of December, January and February stand as the most popular time to visit the Caribbean. Best of all, there are plenty of destinations throughout the Caribbean that are home to an inviting atmosphere and travel values perfect for all types of tourists.