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Archive for March, 2009


Beijing (北京) is the capital of the most populous country in the world named China with a total population of 1.3 billion people. The capital city Beijing is massive and has a population of 17.5 million people, it’s the second largest city after Shanghai. With time Beijing turned from a traditional structure to a busy commercial district that matches Western standards.

China’s ancient majesty continues to draw travelers to the city. A famous tourist attraction for both local and international travelers is the somber Tiananmen Square, surrounded by Soviet-style buildings & guarded by four marble lions. The square is also the location of Mao’s Mausoleum. Another landmark destination while visiting Beijing is The Forbidden City. The city was the center of Eastern society for about five centuries and nowadays the seat of the Ming & Qing dynasties. To this day, it has remained untouched by the modernity surrounding it.

The Great Wall lies about 70 miles from the city. This majestic wonder can be viewed from Jinshanling and Simatai, where the wall has been kept authentic. A trip here is only meant for the sportive traveler since it involves steep climbs and crumbling stones, which are worthwhile to reach the stunning spectacle view.

Travelers to Beijing need a valid passport and visa. While the city is relatively safe, the common travel concerns include presence of pickpockets, thieves and thick city smog. The best period to visit Beijing is between May and September when there’s the best temperature. On average it does rain more in these months than in periods throughout the year.


Tunis is the Tunisian Republic’s capital and biggest city. It is found on the Gulf of Tunis behind the lake of the same name and the port of La Goulette. Though located on the coast, the capital city does not have much beaches to boast of. Even though it is the republic’s center of modern development, it is not necessarily the most interesting place in Tunisia. Tunis is said to be a variation of an Arabic name, but has also been linked to the name of the Phoenician goddess, Tanith. It is home to 1,2 million people according to latest measurement.

If you are visiting with your family, you may just fit into the Tunis nightlife. The city’s nightlife is all about families getting together for a quiet evening out; a few couples may also join in the throng of people. The days are much busier. You may want to find something unique to bring home. For this, you need your bargaining skills to get your great deals at the markets.

You can reach Tunis by booking a flight to Tunis-Carthage Airport. This airport is about eight kilometers away from Tunis’ center. In the city, you can get around by bus or the metro. It would help if you can speak either French or Arabic. You may also get around by taxi; the fares are quite cheap so you can use the transport as your official transport when you are in Tunis. If you are not used to the heat, riding in an air-conditioned taxi during the summer can help you avoid the direct heat. The temperature can also go down during January and February.

To visit Tunisia, you need a passport valid for at least six months and a ticket proving that you are moving on to your next destination or that you are returning to your home country after a certain period. If you are from the United States, you do not need a visa to stay in Tunisia for up to four months.


The Netherlands Antilles is composed of the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. The capital of and the largest city in the whole Netherlands Antilles is Willemstad, which is located in Curaçao. However, its position as the capital may not be solely dependent on being the largest city. Willemstad is also home to a harbor, which is recognized as one of the biggest oil handling ports not just in the Antilles but also in the whole Caribbean. It is near the South American oilfields. Willemstad is home to 125 thousand people according to the latest measurement.

The big city-small town effect on Willemstad is not quite what you will expect. In other countries, the cities offer the most fun and variety, while the towns offer peace and quiet. In Willemstad, city life is very ordinary that you would crave for the “town” sector where Dutch heritage is most evident. In this area, you could feel like you are in a tiny portion of its ruling country, the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It is better to get in and out of Willemstad through flights from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, from Aruba or Bonaire, and from the United States. Though you may expect to pass by the island of Curaçao via cruise ship, you will not find a regular trip via boat or ferry. Inside the city of Willemstad, you can get around by bus or taxi.  Ask about fares at the airport because taxi fares are fixed. If you want to see more of Willemstad or the whole of Curaçao, you may opt to rent a car. Because the climate is tropical in Willemstad, expect steady warm temperature from morning to night. The average temperature ranges from 73 degrees Fahrenheit to 87 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to visit any part of the Netherlands Antilles, you need to have your passport ready and valid for at least three months. This is because you cannot stay in the region for up to three months without visa. You also have to present your travel documents, proving that you are planning to leave by a certain date.

San Juan

Named after St. John the Baptist, San Juan is the largest municipality and the capital of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico itself is a territory of the United States but still has its own unique personality. San Juan has a history going back to the 16th century, having been founded by Spanish colonists in 1521. During that time, however, San Juan was called Ciudad de Puerto Rico, which translates to “rich port city.” True to its old name, San Juan is an important seaport in Puerto Rico even today. It is home to about 450thousand locals and visited by a lot of tourists as well.

Multicultural by borrowing and by inheritance, San Juan is a definite must-visit for tourists who want to get more from one destination. Not only do cultures merge in this bustling city, but you can also enjoy a blend of old and new. The modern party atmosphere in the city does not clash but rather complement the old city feel of America’s second oldest European settlement. Wandering into the city’s fun streets come with a price, though. You have to endure terrible traffic along with locals and tons of tourists.

Puerto Rico’s international flights are served at Aeropuerto Internacional de Luis Muñoz Marin. When getting around San Juan, it is better to use public transport, such as a bus, a tram, or the metro. You can also hail a taxi if you want. You can also rent a car there only if you are familiar with the streets. Take note though the traffic can be so frustrating that driving a car around the city is not a tourist’s way of enjoying a visit. Tropical in climate, San Juan experiences about equal amounts of rain and about the same warm temperature all year round. The average temperature is at 82 degrees Fahrenheit. You may want to avoid hurricane season, which is from July to November.

Because Puerto Rico is a US territory, you follow US rules when visiting. If arriving straight from the United States, Americans do not need a passport or a visa to enter Puerto Rico. A valid ID card is enough.

Port of Spain

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, is also the country’s most developed city. It is located in the northwest coast of the main island, Trinidad. The name “Port of Spain” originated during the time Spanish colonists set up a port in the area in 16th century. The Spaniards named the place “Puerto de los Hispanioles,” then finally “Puerto de España.” The latter can literally translate to Port of Spain. The capital city is home to 49 thousand people according to the latest measurement.

What makes Trinidad and Tobago fun is that the country is a melting pot of races and, to some extent, of interests. Lively Port of Spain offers extrovert-attracting fun with its annual carnival. For those who do not want to party, they can retreat to Trinidad’s natural resources for inspiration. Bird-watching is a definite must-do especially for tourists who want to photograph something beautiful or something unique. For extroverts and introverts alike, you can experience East Indian culture through temples and dishes in this Caribbean setting. The murder and overall crime rate can, however, be daunting. So make sure you do not stray away from the crowd or flaunt expensive stuff.

You can enter Trinidad and Tobago through various airlines including American Airlines, British Airways, and Caribbean Airways. You can get around Port of Spain via bus or mini-bus. Mini-buses are also called maxi-taxis. The average temperature ranges from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a sweltering 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a cool 50 degrees Celsius have also been recorded. Protect your skin from the equatorial heat with sun block.

If you are from the United States, you do not need a visa to stay in Trinidad and Tobago for a maximum of three months. You do need your return ticket and valid passport to gain entry. You will need other permits, such as student permits or working permits, if you are not visiting as a tourist.

San Salvador

El Salvador’s capital of San Salvador is the country’s largest city. It also has the second biggest population in the whole Central American region’s capitals. The city is also quiet old, having been founded in 1525.  Interestingly enough, San Salvador can be found approximately in the middle of El Salvador, near the bottom of a volcano. The valley where it is found is called “Valle de las Hamacas”. The name is Spanish for “valley of the hammocks”.  According to the latest measurement, San Salvador has a population of 1.6 million people.

Tourists are scared of venturing into this Central American city. Publicized as a haven of violence, San Salvador is haunted by its past. Today, however, as long as you stick to the safe zones, you can enjoy the city’s culture through its artsy cafes and breathtaking museums. You can also go on a trip back to history through war memorials and live out the modern turn of the city through its shiny malls and bars. Keep away from Soyopango, however, if you do not want any trouble with the city’s gangs. Stick to areas where the crowd is.

Your best entry point to San Salvador is through Auropuerto Internacional Comalapa. If you are coming from a nearby city, however, you can enter San Salvador through a bus. Traveling within the city, you also have the extensive bus network to rely on for public transportation. You may also go around San Salvador via taxis; taxis charge very cheap rates. Make sure though that you hail a licensed taxi; your clue is the letter A as the first character in its plate number. Hailing a taxi may turn out to be a good idea especially if it is summer in San Salvador. The highest temperature reading recorded in the city is a scorching hot 101 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cool temperature can, on the other hand, give out readings of as low as 47 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to visit El Salvador, you do not need a visa. However, you need to buy a tourist card upon arrival.  A tourist card provides you with 30 days to get around. You also need a passport valid for at least six months upon entry and a return ticket.

Maasai Mara

Maasai Mara is a national park reserve found in south-western Kenya. The park is named after the people who inhabited the area: the Maasai people. It serves almost like an extension to the north of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, which is a game reserve. Maasai Mara prides itself for being home to a large population of wildebeests and zebras. The area has been established in 1974 and covers 940 square miles. Its nearest city is Nyeri.

Tourists visit Maasai Mara for the plentiful wild beasts that can be seen and photographed. This means that Maasai Mara truly represents the whole of Kenya, which is popular for wildlife safaris. There is a large variety of wildlife in the national park reserve, of which the lions are stille the most popular attractions. The lions found there have actually gotten used to the visitors and have graced many tourists with sightings. Other famous animals found in Maasai Mara are rhinos, buffalos, leopards, and elephants.

You can reach Maasai Mara National Park Reserve through a flight to Nairobi Wilson Airport. From the airport at Nairobi, you can fly to one of Maasai Mara’s airstrips for about half an hour. If you decide to travel by land, prepare for five hours of journey. The rainy season may make things a little slower by extending your trip over land to seven hours. If you have arranged for a safari, you do not have to worry about transportation from Nairobi Wilson Airport to Maasai Mara and even within the park itself. If you want to see more animals, time your visit to the annual wildebeest migration from June to October. You may want to avoid the rainy season from March to May.

If you are from the United States, you need a passport valid for at least six months to enter Kenya. You also need to present necessary travel documents, especially your travel itinerary.  If you are coming from a place that has been infected by yellow fever, bring along a vaccination certificate. You also need a visa that corresponds to your purpose of visit.


Yamoussoukro is the capital city of Cote d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast. It is found 150 miles north of Abidjan. It covers 1,351.3 square miles and has 169 settlements. Yamoussoukro is headed by a governor, instead of a mayor. It became Ivory Coast’s capital in 1983 but is starting to feel the pressure from Abidjan. The country’s former president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny’s, had always dreamed that somehow Yamoussoukro will blossom into a thriving, bustling capital. According to the latest measurement, the city’s population is estimated at 200 thousand

Many find Yamoussoukro a strange capital. It is partly because Abidjan seems to be more like the capital city of Ivory Coast, while Yamoussoukro just retains the title. Yamoussoukro is also supposed to be a modern city. The attempt is there with the grid-like, paved streets. However, the streets are yet to offer much. The city does not house embassies and government ministries and has less commercial activity and entertainment expected of a capital city. It is said that Houphouet-Boigny was the one who really wanted the city to be the center of the Ivory Coast.

You can reach the Ivory Coast through a flight from Paris, France. Air Ivoire and Air France have regular flights to and from the African country. You may also get a connection flight from Brussels, Belgium. Fares from France to Ivory Coast, and vice versa, are quite affordable. Within Yamoussoukro, you can get around by bus or taxi. You can also travel on foot, but rather find alternatives to walking during the hot months.

If you are visiting the Ivory Coast, you need to bring a passport, which is valid for at least six months, along with your round trip tickets. You must also present an invitation coming from hosts living in the country or any proof of hotel reservations. You need to present a vaccination certificate for yellow fever. Visa requirements also include two accomplished application forms and two passport photos.

San José

Costa Rica’s capital is also its largest city. But unlike the modern capitals of other countries, San José can be very village-like in feel. It is found on a 1500 meter-high plateau in Central Valley. Although Costa Rica has made its mark as one of Latin America’s oldest democracies, it has one of the youngest capitals in the region. Take note though that San José is heading toward modernism. According to the latest measurements, it is home to 350 thousand people.

San José is not the most modern representative of today’s Latin American city, but every Costa Rican has to go there if he or she wants to be right where the seat of government is. If you are a visitor, being in San José will give you the best idea of what life is really like in Costa Rica. This is what makes the city a capital in the truest sense. In San José, you can also enjoy an active nightlife, though you have to be careful about the distinctions of fun offered. Some night thrills are recommended to those looking for something classy, while the rest can be debauched fun. Be warned against petty criminals as well.

Getting around San Jose is a breeze because the city is the main transportation hub of the country. Walking is the best way to discover downtown San Jose, as most establishments are all within walking distance. Driving a rental can be problematic as the city does not have any street signs whatsoever, something that has not fazed Costa Ricans one bit. You can visit San Jose anytime of the year because the country is blessed with warm weather all year round. Taxis are also available although you should make sure that your taxi uses a meter. Tourism usually peaks during the dry season, which starts from December to April. It is recommend to plan your vacations at least a few months ahead if you want to visit during the dry season.

If you plan to visit Costa Rica, you will be happy to know that you do not need a visa to enter and stay for up to 90 days. However, you need a passport, which is valid for up to at least 30 days upon entry. You should also present important travel documents, such as proof of financial capability and return ticket.


Praia, the capital and largest city of Cape Verde, has an interesting name meaning. In both Cape Verdean Creole and Portuguese, the city name means “beach” which is appropriate for the capital of an island nation. The capital city is definitely surrounded by waters. Praia is a worthy capital not only because it is the largest city but also because of its stunning beaches and a commercial center. It also has a long-standing history; it was formerly called the town of Praia de Santa Maria in 1615 and was declared a city in 1858. The city is home to 125 thousand people according to the latest measurement.

Despite its beaches and commercial center, Praia is not a typical tourist magnet. Usually, tourists would come to Cape Verde’s center for a stopover and move on to their next destination. Still, you can always enjoy a visit to the beach or taking photos of the cosmopolitan life in Praia. There are historical sites and traces of Portuguese settlement in this area. You can visit places such as Praia Cathedral and the Praia town hall, for example. Who knows, you may want to stay for a little longer.

You can reach Praia, Cape Verde through interconnecting flights ending in the capital city’s international airport. From the airport, you can reach the city center through a taxi ride. Unfortunately, there is apparently no transportation that can bring you from where you are staying back to the airport. The average temperature in Praia is mostly within the range of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, from 66 degrees Fahrenheit to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

To visit Cape Verde, you need a passport valid for at least six months. You also need to present your return ticket or any proof that you are leaving the African country at a certain date, either to go home or to move on to the next destination. You need to have a visa to enter the city.