Category Archives: Travel by Rail

3 Ways to Do New Zealand Right

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It’s almost time to start booking that trip you always meant to take: to the fabled land of New Zealand! So we’ve prepared 3 itineraries that might inspire you of your journey. Whether you’re an adventurer, golf fanatic, or stopping by for a quick jaunt on your way to Australia, New Zealand has something for you!

Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel to discuss options for a self-guided drive. We can arrange car, maps, itineraries, flights, and hotels for you to explore this fascinating country on your own. Call 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

For the Adventurer: South Island Glacier Adventure

6 Days | 848 miles, 1365 km

Ancient Glaciers | Arthur’s Pass | Mt. Aoraki | Canterbury Plains | Azure Lakes

Day 1: Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass

Pick up your car for the freedom or choose to travel the more leisurely TranzAlpine. Today’s journey will take you to explore the hiking trails from the village of Arthur’s Pass. As you descend the Southern Alps, you’ll reach the rainforests of the west coast. Greymouth is the region’s largest town, known for its breweries and gold rush history.

Day 2: Greymouth to Fox Glacier

Drive out to Hokitika, for workshops and galleries to admire the pounamu, special New Zealand jade. Near Arahura River, you’ll find the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Take the day for a guided hike, heli-hike or scenic flight for an unforgettable adventure.

Day 3: Fox Glacier to Queenstown

On your drive to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, you’ll have loads to explore: the wild ranges of Haast, river safaris, Mount Aspiring National Park. Or take a break from the adventure to explore the town of Wanaka.

Day 4: Spend the day in Queenstown

Queenstown is THE stop to try all sorts of fun activities: bungee jumping, jet boating, skydiving, ziplining, rafting and mountain biking. Or just take it easy with hiking trails around the beautiful Lake Wakatipu.

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Aoraki

Day 5: Queenstown to Aoraki Mount Cook

Welcome to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the stunning grand playground for NZ escapades. Edmund Hilary used this area as a training ground for the Himalayas, and the unqiue landscape continues to draw mountain climbers, glacier-climbers, hikers, heli-skiiers and heli-hikers.

Day 6: Aoraki Mount Cook to Christchurch

Unwind from your adventures at Lake Tekapo, and take it easy with some lowland kayaking or horse-riding. Your drive will take you to into Christchurch, to chill back once more in civilization.

The Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

For the Golf Pro: North Island Golf Highlights

8-9 Days | 808 miles, 1300 km

Cliffside Courses | Cape Kidnappers | Hawkes Bay | Wellington

Day 1: Auckland to Matauri Bay

From Auckland, leap off to the town of Paihia amid the Bay of Islands. Continue along Matauri Bay to the world-renowned Kauri Cliffs. You can also visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace of New Zealand, and attend a Maori cultural show.

Day 2: Spend the day at Kauri Cliffs

Spent a full day at one of the world’s top golf courses, which played host to PGA Tour’s Kiwi Challenge, and the Shell Wonderful World of Golf match between Fred Couples and Michael Campbell.

Day 3: Paihia to Auckland

From Paihia, return to Auckland for a scenic oceanside drive. Explore the North Island’s favorite city, wines and foods, or escape a bit out to the black sand beaches on the west coast.

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Golf Course in NZ

Day 4: Spend the day at Windross Farm

Take your clubs to Windross Farm Golf Course, just 30 minutes from Auckland. It covers 60 hectares of pristine golf grounds — perfect to work on your swing.

Day 5: Auckland to Taupo

Drive to the center of the island, past the stunning Lake Taupo, and Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park. The road will take you to Wairakei Golf Course, in the middle of NZ’s famous bush.

Day 6: Spend the day at Kinloch Club

From Taupo, a 20-minute drive will take you to Kinloch Club, designed by the one and only Jack Nicklaus. This picturesque landscape is a beautiful respite for fishermen, golfers and boat lovers (and you can even charter a boat to catch the sunset!)

Day 7: Lake Taupo to Napier

From Taupo you’ll make your way to Napier, an Art Deco city on Hawke’s Bay, known for its winning temperature, orchards and vineyards, and the magnificent Cape Kidnappers Golf Course.

Day 8: Napier to Wellington

Finally, drive on the scenic route to Wellington, NZ’s capital. If you’re still gearing to golf, head out to the stylish grounds at Paraparumu Beach Golf Club. If you’d rather pack your clubs in for the week, spend the rest of the day exploring magnificent Wellington’s museums, gardens, old cable cars.

Reading List: New Zealand

For the Quick Sightseer: Christchurch, Canterbury + Dunedin | 4 Days | 406 miles, 654 km

Turquoise lakes | Stargaze above Lake Tekapo | NZ’s longest glacier | Dunedin’s Larnach Castle

Day 1: Christchurch

Discover the street art and botanical gardens of vibrant Christchurch, famous for its stunning Avon River.

Day 2: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

Hop on the bus or car for 3h-3h30 to beautiful turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo. At nightfall, head to Mt. John for panoramic views from the International Dark Sky Reserve.

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Lake Tekapo

Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Omarama via Aoraki

Explore the South Island, stopping at Aoraki for a short detour to admire the country’s largest glacier. In Omarama, spend the night at the famed hot tubs amid wondrous geological formations.

Day 4: Omarama to Dunedin

Drive southeast past lakes to the iconic Moeraki Boulders and Moeraki Lighthouse. Once in Dunedin, explore what some call the “Edinburgh of New Zealand,” home to remarkable Victorian and Edwardian architecture and the country’s only castle.

 

Read More on New Zealand:

Top Roads of Australia & New Zealand

From the Gallery: Clients’ Trip

More posts on NZ, Click Here

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Filed under New Zealand, Oceania, Travel By, Travel by Backpack, Travel by Car, Travel by Rail

Travel News: Snakes on a Plane?

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TSA Finds Python Hidden In Hard Drive

ABC News reports airport security agents stopped a woman from boarding a plane with a python wrapped in a nylon stocking concealed in a computer hard drive Sunday. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said its agents stopped a real-life version of “Snakes on a Plane” from happening after an agent noticed the ball python. “A traveler on her way to the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados attempted to smuggle the snakelet inside of an external hard drive packed in her checked bag. If you think airplane seats can feel constricting, imagine how this little guy felt! Talk about bad memories!” the TSA continued. “While the python itself posed no danger to anyone on the aircraft, an organic item concealed inside electronics raises security concerns, which is why our officers took a closer look. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was notified. They responded and took possession of the snake and cited the traveler. Both the traveler and the snake missed their flight,” the TSA added. “Conversationally, this python had not gone full monty. It was wearing a nylon stocking.”

If You Owe The IRS It Could Cost You Your Passport

EtN reports if you have a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS can certify that debt to the State Department for action, and that department generally will not issue a US passport to a potential traveler after receiving certification from the IRS. This is all in plain print at the IRS website: “Upon receiving certification, the State Department shall deny your passport application and/or may revoke your current passport. If your passport application is denied or your passport revoked, and you are overseas, the State Department may issue you a limited validity passport good only for direct return to the United States. Seriously delinquent tax debt is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt totaling more than $51,000 (including interest and penalties) for which a Notice of federal tax lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under IRC § 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted, or seriously delinquent tax debt is limited to liabilities incurred under Title 26 of the United States Code and does not include debts collected by the IRS such as the FBAR Penalty and Child Support.

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Anguilla Retains Best Caribbean Island Ranking

Travel + Leisure reports the Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) is pleased to announce that for an unprecedented second year in a row, Anguilla has been ranked #1 island in the Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahamas in the 2018 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, honoring the top travel destinations and companies around the globe as rated by its readers. Frangipani Beach Resort has been ranked #1 in the Top 25 Caribbean Resort Hotels category and #3 in the Top Hotels Overall category. The Four Seasons Resort & Private Residences Anguilla has been ranked #12 in the Top Caribbean Resort Hotels category; Zemi Beach House was ranked #15; and Malliouhana, An Auberge Resort was ranked #18 in the Top Caribbean Resort Hotels category. The World’s Best Awards appear in the August 2018 issue of Travel + Leisure, on sale July 27, and online: travelandleisure.com/worlds-best.

Singapore Airlines To Launch Non-Stop Flights From LAX To Singapore

By Christmastime, Singapore Airlines will be flying ten times a week between LAX and Singapore. If you don’t mind sitting on a plane for 17 and a half hours, getting from the West Coast to Singapore will be a whole lot easier and faster, thanks to the elimination of a layover in Seoul. Starting November 2, Singapore Airlines will bring back its nonstop route from Los Angeles International to Singapore Changi. The airline will will fly the route three times a week (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday) until November 9; service will go daily after that. From December 7, three more flights a week will be added for ten total non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Singapore per week. The fall kickoff date is notable for many reasons: It’s two weeks after Singapore restarts its longest-flight-in-the-world Newark-Singapore route (clocking in at nearly 19 hours), and just a week after Star Alliance member United ends its LAX-Singapore route. 
 

Airlines Load Factor Hits All-Time High

Forbes reports that if you think that airline flights are much more crowded than they used to be, you’re not wrong. The passenger load factor of commercial airlines has risen significantly over the past decade. In 2005, airlines had an average load factor of 75.2%, so on average, just three out of every four seats were sold. The recession of 2007-2010 stopped load factor growth. But by 2018, the average airline load factor hit 81.7% worldwide. In the US load factor has increased on domestic flights from 67.88% in 2002 to 86.08% in 2018, while the number of domestic flights has stayed almost constant, from 8,085,083 in 2002 to 8,176,610 in 2017. The US airline industry has clearly gotten better in filling seats as revenue passenger miles rose from 471,652,206 in 2002 to 684,221,393 in 2017. The days of having a whole row to stretch out in coach, or even an empty middle seat separating you from your neighbor, increasingly seem like a distant memory. The airlines are busy shrinking seats and cramming in additional rows into smaller, more fuel-efficient jets.

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Amtrak Service Declines As It Becomes An Airline On Rails

Travellers United reports Amtrak service is becoming more airline-like with a former airline executive in charge, former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson. His Amtrak service changes bring the railroad closer to service practices in the airline industry. Some of the changes: – Hot dining car meals prepared on-board, included in the fare for first-class sleeping car passengers, are being replaced with cold pre-prepared meals served in-room on the Chicago-New York and Chicago-Washington routes starting June 1.

– Amtrak no longer offers discounts to veterans, students and AAA members, and the minimum age of eligibility for the senior discount (which is now 10% rather than 15% was raised to 65 from 62.

– The railroad’s cancellation policy is now more airline-like. There is now a 25% penalty for most reservations canceled more than 24 hours after booking, even if the value is credited to the passenger as an eVoucher (redeemable for future ticket purchases) rather than as a cash refund. Luckily, Amtrak still does not charge change fees.

– First Class amenities like a lounge car for sleeping car passengers have been removed from several routes, and two routes have lost Business Class seating.

– A number of stations have lost their Amtrak Customer Service Representative(s), employees who do everything from selling tickets to handling baggage and assisting passengers with special needs.

– Amtrak has stopped operating charter and special trains in partnership with rail museums and preservation nonprofits, tour groups, sports teams and others, jettisoning a source of revenue and public goodwill in the name of operational convenience.

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Ethiopia Launches New E-Visa Services

Ethiopia, a treasure trove of history and culture, has become easier to get to with an all in one new e-visa service launched by the Ethiopian Immigration and Nationality Affairs Main Department in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines. The new service brings the travelers closer to authentic travel experiences and enables them to travel to Ethiopia. All the visitors have to do is process their visa online on a single webpage where they apply, pay and secure their entry visa online. Give it a try and you will get authorized via email to secure your passport stamped with visa upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Call Willamette Intl Travel to discuss a unique holiday in Ethiopia – you’ll be sure to love this beautiful country and the warm-hearted hospitality of its people.  

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Train Trips around the World

Few travel experiences supersede the simple yet iconic journey of train travel. There’s something quite unique to hopping on a train, grabbing a bite to eat in the dining car, and snuggling up in your very own cabin. From the immense glacier mountains of Switzerland to the futuristic skyline of Shanghai, Avanti Destinations now offers some of the best train trips combinable with nights in luxury hotels, day trips and river cruises.

Call us for more info on these amazing trips and others!

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Spirit of the Andes: Cotopaxi, Riobamba, and Cuenca

4 Days/3 Nights from $1,255 Per Person*

Immerse yourself in Ecuador’s Andean world with a vacation focused on the cultural, historical, and natural attractions that lie between the cities of Quito and Cuenca along the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Visit the magnificent Cotopaxi National Park. Enjoy the rugged beauty of Baños, known for its thermal baths. On the last leg of your independent journey, explore Cuenca, one of the most charming cities in South America.

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Grand Train Tour of Switzerland: Zurich, Interlaken, Montreux, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Lugano, and Lucerne

11 Days/10 Nights from $2,579 Per Person*

This ambitious itinerary highlights the country’s greatest cities, mountaintops, and scenic trains. Experience the variety of cultures that encompass much of what Switzerland offers by visiting the German, French, and Italian regions. The world-renowned Glacier Express, Bernina Express, and Wilhelm Tell Express are included in this vacation.

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Machu Picchu by RailHiram Bingham

3 Days/2 Nights from $1,995 Per Person

Enjoy the luxurious Hiram Bingham as it climbs up through the lush Andean plains taking you on your way to the majestic Machu Picchu ruins. This journey offers less panoramic views, but the service and comfort make it an experience of a lifetime for those who love train travel. Once you arrive, you’ll be going directly to the citadel to discover this magical place with your personal guide.

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China Discovery: Xian, Beijing, Shanghai, Yangtze River, Guilin, Yangshuo, and Hong Kong

18 Days/17 Nights from $5,645 Per Person*

Explore ancient tombs and iconic pagodas in Xian before traveling to Beijing by high-speed rail, where you will visit the largest public square in the world. Then, experience the bright lights and futuristic skyline of Shanghai. Once you’ve had your fill of city living, sail through stunning gorges before transferring to Guilin where you will delight in spectacular limestone karst scenery before ending in fascinating Hong Kong.

*Prices are based on land only and vary depending on season

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Ferrari designer creates super luxurious Japanese train

(From CNN) — What happens when you ask a super-car designer to create a super luxurious train?

Magic, judging by the images released by Japanese rail company JR East.

Yamagata-born Ken Okuyama, well known in automobile design circles, was brought in to style the company’s super slick new Cruise Train, due to start chugging down the tracks in spring 2017.

Holding a maximum of 34 passengers, the Cruise Train will have 10 carriages made up of five suites, one deluxe suite, two glass-walled observation cars, a dining car and lounge.

According to his company, Ken Okuyama Design, he wanted to create a train that would allow passengers “to appreciate the flow of the time and space,” while enjoying Japan’s landscapes and culture throughout the journey.

Some unique features:

  • An observation carriage at the front of the train, which allows passengers to see onto the tracks ahead. The other observation car is at the end of the train.
  • JR Rail says the train will be fitted with furniture that conveys the nobility of traditional Japanese culture.
  • The Lounge, for instance, is wrapped in graceful curves and features decor inspired by trees.
  • All suites will have a private bathroom with a shower and toilet, but the top sleeping space is the split level deluxe suite, which sleeps four.
  • On the bottom are two double beds, on the top a traditional Japanese dining area, with seats on the floor.
  • The train will be able to run on both electric and non-electric rails.

Read the Full Article Here.

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Travel News: KTX Trains now direct to Incheon Airport

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Starting from June 30, 2014, Korail began operation of KTX express trains that directly link to and from Incheon International Airport reducing the trouble of having to transfer. The trains operate between Incheon International Airport and major cities outside of Seoul like Busan, Daejeon and Gwangju.

These KTX trains will still make stops in Seoul as trains departing from Busan Station, Jinju Station and Daejeon Station will make a short stop at Seoul Station before heading to the airport, while trains from Gwangju Station, Mokpo Station and Yeosu Station will stop by Yongsan Station before they head to Incheon International Airport.

Website: http://www.letskorail.com (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

 

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All Aboard Switzerland!

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Switzerland has always been a popular destination for train lovers. As one of the world’s most environmentally-conscious countries, most trains use ultra-clean hydroelectricity and some even generate their own power when traveling downhill. Every Swiss town is connected to the train system. Hop aboard a train from Zurich airport and explore the top of Jungfraujoch and see the legendary Matterhorn.

Try one of the famous scenic trains for an unforgettable, “quintessentially European”—the Golden Pass, the William Tell Express, the Bernina or Glacier Express—for some of the most jaw-dropping vistas of alps, bridges, alpine fields and mountain streams.

You can save a lot by purchasing a Swiss Pass, which allows access to the SBB railway, cable cars, buses, and free entrance to most museums.

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PLUS get $75 off a Swiss Pass or Swiss Flexi Pass if you book with Willamette Intl Travel. Call before August 14 to reserve, at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

 

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All Aboard Italy!

Everyone loves Italy. And with its rich abundance of food, art, scenic drives and romantic waterways, what’s not to love? As a diverse country with so much to offer, Italy is a great destination for the train-hopper. Here’s some of the best destinations on rail in the country:

Ask Yourself: Should I get an Italy Rail Pass? Italy Rail Passes are generally not good value for most people, as regional trains tend to be very low cost, and major trains almost always require seat reservations. You will probably spend your rail time on the main circuit of Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome, and first class fares for these are generally low enough that they don’t warrant a rail pass. It’s less expensive to buy point to point train tickets. When in doubt, ask our travel agents if a rail pass is right for you.

Ventimiglia (c) Mark Fischer, Creative Commons

Ventimiglia. Usually the first stop on a route from Nice, France, Ventimiglia is a great introduction to Italian culture. Make a detour on your route to Milan or Genoa to explore the town’s gorgeous medieval city center and famous Friday Outdoor Market. Nice to Ventimiglia: 45min. Ventimiglia to Genoa: 2h.

Verona. Most lauded as the setting for three Shakespearean plays, Verona is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That means cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, Roman churches, and the Juliet balcony. You can stop in Verona for a few days on your way to Venice or to the northern town of Bressanone-Brixen. Verona to Venice: 1h-1.30h.

Verona (c) David Schiersner, Creative Commons

La Spezia. This town is the first stop for many travelers heading on to Cinqueterre. With a scenic waterfront and modern port, its inspirational center has charmed poets from Byron to Shelley to DH Lawrence, earning its nickname: the Gulf of Poets. Florence to La Spezia: 2h, with a change in Pisa.

Turin. Turin is a major city often overshadowed by its grand neighbors. But don’t overlook its beautiful baroque architecture or the excellent truffles and wine available at its restaurants. Turin is also home to the famous Shroud of Turin, displayed only once every 10 years. Turin to Milan: 45min.

Turin et ses arcades

Turin and the Arcades (c) Frederique Voisin-Demery, Creative Commons

Milan. The unofficial capital of the north, Milan is the center of commerce, fashion and design. Don’t miss the spectacular Duomo, and “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. Much of its old architecture was demolished during the WWII bomb raids, however since then Milan has rebuilt itself into a thriving new cosmopolitan city, a major hub for soccer and shopping! Milan to Florence: 2h.

Naples. The birthplace of pizza has one of the largest historic center in the world, covering over 4,000 acres and 27 centuries. It has the largest collections of antique churches (448) in the world. Naples is a great base for exploring nearby Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii—and the city is often the first stop for travelers heading to the Isle of Capri or Sorrento. Rome to Naples: 1h.

Venice. With its romantic gondolas, ancient canals and gorgeous glass traditions, Venice has long been known as the jewel of Italy. Part of its charm is its incredibly preserved lagoon, virtually the same as it was six hundred years ago. Florence to Venice: 2h.

Florence. Florence is the center of aficionados of art and architecture. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence’s artistic gems still stand tall—the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Pitti Palace. Visit the library of San Lorenzo for its magnificent Michelangelo exhibition. Venice to Florence: 2h, Florence to Rome: 1h30m.

Sunset over Florence (c) Steve, Creative Commons

Rome. All roads lead to Rome, and all the trains do too! Easily accessible from Florence in the north, and Naples in the south, Rome is often the first or last stop on any Italian itinerary. You could spend at least a week here exploring the museums, Roman ruins, Vatican City, and that elusive dolce vita (the sweet life)—and it still wouldn’t be enough time in Roma! Continuing internationally? Hop on an overnight train from Rome to Vienna, Innsbruck, Munich, or even Paris (connecting in Milan)!

Thinking of a trip to Italy? Our agents have extensive travel experience all through Italy and can advise you on air tickets, rail, villa rentals, hotels, and the best time to go! Give us a call at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Read our related post about Vatican fun facts!

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