For the fifth year in a row, France has topped a list of the best places in the world to live.
International Living magazine’s 30th Quality of Life Index surveyed almost 200 countries across nine categories, including cost of living, culture/leisure, environment, and safety/risk.
“In France, life is savoured,” said International Living publisher, Jackie Flynn. “I don’t think anyone would disagree that France is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, where there is so much pride in all the small details. The French love little window boxes filled with flowers, tidy gardens, pretty sidewalk cafes and clean streets.”
International Living paid particular attention to provincial France, praising the affordability and services outside Paris, especially for retired people and their families.
Australia jumped up the rankings from fifth to second place on the strength of its economic recovery, while the US dropped from third to seventh. International Living claimed that sustaining the ‘American Dream’ had escalated out of the reach of many.
5. New Zealand
7. United States
The UK’s position? A lowly 25th behind the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can help you book some of the finest luxury hotels in Paris and in many other areas of beautiful France.
No sooner had I told you that the ESTA online security form to enter the US was free, there are plans to charge $10 (£6).
This ‘tourist tax’ is contained in a bill called the Travel Promotion Act. It has yet to be ratified by the House of Representatives, but it’s been passed by an overwhelming majority in the Senate and looks likely to come into force early next year.
The fee would be paid by all travellers entering the US under the Visa Waiver Programme using ESTA, which was launched in January.
The American authorities say the revenue will be used to pay for increased marketing to help boost tourism. The number of British people heading to the US this year is down about 19 per cent.
Travel operators in the UK are not impressed. “Any increase in the cost of travel to the US is regrettable,” said one. Another commented: “Compared to the cost of a visa to visit other countries, it is not expensive, but there will be some people who perceive it as a hassle and may be put off by the increased cost.”
- And while we’re on the subject of those annoying travel add-ons, cash-strapped British Airways has announced that it’s to charge people for choosing where they sit (£10/$16 for economy passengers). This will affect those seeking to ensure they’re side by side on a flight and people with a preference for window, aisle or emergency exit seats.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can offer competitive rates at some of the finest luxury hotels in the United States.
Among the many possibilities heralded by the election of President Obama is the re-opening of Cuba to American trade and tourism.
Although it lies only 90 miles from the southernmost point of the United States, Cuba is the only country in the world that Americans are banned from visiting as tourists. Exemptions are made for some journalists and academics with special permission from the State Department, while many other travellers flout the ban by flying via Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas.
Now Congress has introduced a bill that would allow all Americans to travel there. If passed, it would represent the most far-reaching revision of the restrictions imposed by Washington on the Caribbean island nearly 50 years ago.
The US imposed sanctions on travel and trade in 1962, three years after Fidel Castro took power. The US argument was that denying Castro revenue from trade and tourism dollars would undermine the Communist government.
One of the arguments put forward by members of Congress today in favour of lifting the ban is that Americans are free to visit other countries regarded as Communist, such as China and Vietnam.
But opponents argue that flooding Cuba with tourist dollars would only shore up the regime run by Raul Castro, who took over from his sick brother last year.
A thaw in relations seems increasingly likely. President Obama recently agreed to ease restrictions imposed by his predecessor, allowing Cuban-Americans to visit annually rather than once every three years. And the President is attending the Summit of The Americas in Trinidad later this month when new relations with Cuba are expected to surface.
What have Americans been missing? Well, according to the Lonely Planet travel guide, “Cuba, as well as having the usual Caribbean attractions in abundance … has one of the world’s most exciting (and bloody) histories, extraordinary musical and dance traditions all of its own and a rich national architecture that never ceases to astound.”
by Andy Moreton
New security requirements for tourists intending to visit the United States will become compulsory on January 12th.
The introduction of the “Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)” allows visitors from some 34 countries to enter the US without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. But they must apply to the US Department of Homeland Security online three days before departure.
The visitor will be required to give information including name, passport number, date of birth and destination – the same details previously entered on a form completed during the flight over.
The US authorities have said that they will not initially collect a fee for applications made under the electronic system, but have kept open the possibility of implementing one later.
They say that almost all applicants will be approved within seconds and that negotiating the country’s notoriously difficult immigration desks on arrival will become more pleasant. Queues will be shorter and video screens will be installed showing Americans saying ‘Welcome.’
by Andy Moreton