The Clever Travel Companion Updates

Is Airbnb safe? Seven Tips for first time guests May 18 2018, 0 Comments

If you follow these tips before renting an Airbnb, your vacation will go that much more smoothly.

1. Stay safe

Horror stories in the past have raised some legitimate safety concerns about how safe Airbnb is, though many stays are trouble free. Since its launch, the company has added consumer and host protections and worked to make online profiles match real-life identities, under the theory that people will behave more responsibly without a digital veil of secrecy. An online FAQ about "trust and safety" explains more about the company's verification process and reviews.

2. It's not a hotel

Seems obvious, but some renters still don't get the apartment-sharing concept and expect the sort of welcome and the quality of amenities you'd find at a hotel. (It doesn't help the confusion that Airbnb allows rental-property varieties ranging from apartment to yurt.) Pay close attention to what's included—and even more attention to what's not.

3. Be yourself

Airbnb makes a big deal out of its community, which the site says helps keep dealings honest. Creating a real profile, getting verified by adding personal info, and even getting reviews from friends who already use the service can up your chances of booking a successful stay.

4. Shop carefully

The site's many filters make it easy to narrow down the sort of property you're interested in, whether that means a whole home, a berth on a sailboat, a place with a fully stocked kitchen, an apartment near a particular concert venue, whatever! Using filters can help turn 40,000 listings into a few, and from there a detailed study of apartment photos can give a level of detail that written descriptions might miss: Is the room bright and airy? Is that advertised balcony actually big enough to enjoy? Just how small is the shower? A close look can help weed out disappointment in the early going.

5. Ask questions

Airbnb's built-in messaging system makes it easy to ask questions of hosts, from info on the nearest subway stop to whether or not the kitchen maker in the unit comes with coffee too. (The answer may surprise you!) These no-obligation questions are particularly useful in making a choice between similar properties once you've narrowed down your search.

6. Know the rules

Speaking of booking, it's not just a simple click-to-book operation like you'd find at, yes, a hotel. To start a booking, potential guests pick out dates, agree to the house rules for a given rental, and then send a request through Airbnb's messaging service to potential hosts. If a host agrees to your request, Airbnb handles the payment, for a small slice of the pot, to discourage any scams as money changes hands. (A few properties do allow instant booking, for a more hotel-like experience. Those that do clearly advertise the fact.) Finally, cancellation policies vary by property, so take note of the specific terms at your rental if travel plans are still in flux.

7. Show up with an open mind

Most hosts, expert Airbnb-ers say, are used to entertaining road-weary travelers and understand that guests are interested in seeing the city, not hanging around with people they've just met from the internet. That said, a bit of conviviality goes a long way, hosts say, whether that means having a drink or just having a chat. That a local connection is one of the strongest selling points of the Airbnb experience. After that free night, of course.

This article originally appeared in Conde Nast Traveler

Top tips for traveling with pets March 16 2018, 0 Comments

The recent death of the puppyplaced by a flight attendant in the overhead binof a United Airlines plane conjures up distressing pictures and ideas of what it must be like for traveling pets or for the owners who need to entrust them to airline staff. Many people have been retelling their horror stories like the Forbes Author who remembered that years ago her crated poodle flew cargo from Miami to NYC. When she landed she was told by Delta that he wasn't on the plane. She argued vehemently, but distraught, went home without the pup. At 3 am she was called and told that he'd been flown back and forth to Hawaii before being found, in the corner of the plane's cargo area. Luckily he managed to survive.

Things happen. So here, to prevent any more sad outcomes, a few common sense tips regarding travel with pets to keep them safe and sound.

General Info

- According to a study by AAA and Best Western International, more than half of U.S. pet owners travel with their pets. Service animals are increasing these numbers even more. If you have a choice, decide carefully and objectively whether it's best to take your pet along when you travel. Consider your dog’s personality and the reason you want to bring him or her.

Cats are generally poor travelers. There are now cat backpacks and strollers, but placing them in new situations away from their territory often causes stress even if you stay with them.

- Familiarize yourself with current U.S. Travel Regulations or International Pet Travel restrictions before you go. List questions to ask your vet. Also check out websites such as DogVacay.

- Tag your pet’s collar with the address and phone number of where you’ll be staying. Also, check for vaccination requirements, and bring your pet’s medical records in case of emergency.

- Bring food, toys, a blanket or clothing that reminds your pet of home, and a collapsible water bowl. Short-nosed and excessively furry dogs may need a cooling vest in hot-weather spots; smaller dogs, who have a harder time regulating body temperature, may need a sweater.


- Aside from service dogs, airlines allow a limited number of small dogs or cats in the aircraft cabin as part of carry-on luggage; others only allow pets in the cargo area. Fees vary, up to more than $500. As most airlines only allow one or two animals on each flight, buy your pet's ticket before buying yours. Check carefully with airline policy. PetPlan’s Pet Travel Guide  offers tips on pet-friendly airlines.

- Learn crate or carrier dimensions and include identifying information on both carrier and collar—including your home and destination addresses.

- Before the flight, walk Fido in an outdoor area or pet relief zone.  Don't rush, don’t overdo snacks before the flight - for you or your pet.

- Calming meds may seem kind, and are effective to induce sleep, but can interfere with a dog's ability to regulate body temps. Another option is a DAP collar that emits stress-zapping hormones. Check with your vet.

- Don't allow your pet to be taken anywhere else in the aircraft. Place them under your seat, and within your sight.

- Flying options include a charter airline specifically for dogs.


According to the AAA, about 30,000 accidents are caused annually by an unrestrained dog in the front seat. Restrain animal passengers: you can use special pet barriers, seat belts, car seats or travel crates.

- Help your dog get used to the car; try driving to a dog park for fun. Feed your pet a few hours before the drive, keep your car cool, and consider using a harness for safety. Your dog may enjoy sticking his head out the window, but it could cause ear damage or expose your pet to lung infections, according to the ASPCA.

- Stop every few hours for your pet's relief breaks and exercise. You can bring a portable litter box if you must bring a cat. The ASPCA recommends keeping a gallon of cold water on hand for hydration during the trip.

- On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes, which can be deadly. If you’ll be visiting where pets aren’t allowed, leave them at a pet-friendly hotel — or at home — not in the car alone - For more info, auto safety tips for pets.

On Arrival

- Many hotel chains now pamper pets. See Bringfido for pet-friendly hotels and ideas. Some tips: Leave the TV on for comforting background noise. Keep the “do not disturb” sign on the door. Request a room away from the elevator to minimize noisy foot traffic. Set up a “safe space” in the room, with blankets and a water bowl.

- Seek out restaurants with outdoor seating so Fido can come along.

- Be kind and gentle, aware and responsive to your pet while you're traveling. And if it doesn't work out, make plans for the best possible stay-at-home scenario next time.

The 20 most dangerous countries in the world March 14 2018, 0 Comments

Some countries are better suited for tourists than others.

The World Economic Forum recently released their Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, which analyzes the state of the travel and tourism sectors in 136 countries around the globe.

As a part of this report, the WEF ranks the safety of each of those countries. To come up with this ranking, the forum "measures the extent to which a country exposes tourists and businesses to security risks mainly related to serious harm to people (violence and terrorism)." The ranking does not take petty crime into account.

We rounded up the 20 most dangerous countries from the report, based on safety and security.

Keep reading to see which countries you might want to avoid.

20. Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Congolese armed forces, as well as other armed groups and bandits, are active in many parts of the country, and they are pretty violent. Because the Congolese military is in operation throughout the country, travelers are likely to come across troops, armored vehicles, and attack helicopters.

19. Thailand

The provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla— all of which are in southern Thailand — are the most dangerous in the country. In the last 13 years, more than 6,500 deaths have occurred in these areas due to violence. There's also a martial law in effect in the region.

18. Jamaica

While there are currently no travel advisories for Jamaica, violent crime and shootings are still rampant in some parts of the country, like Kingston and Montego Bay. Even guests staying in resorts can be affected.

17. South Africa

High crime rates in South Africa have led many locals to hire private security guards to protect them. Rape and murder occur frequently, especially in the more remote townships and settlements.

16. Guatemala

Guatemala's border with Mexico is one of the most dangerous parts of the country because of frequent drug and alien smuggling. The country also had the fifth highest homicide ratein Latin America and the Caribbean last year. Other common crimes include carjacking, armed robbery, and theft.

15. Chad

ISIS, Al-Qa'ida, and Boko Haram are all active in Chad. In the past, attacks by these extremist groups have targeted not only civilians and security forces, but also foreigners.

Border crossings can be dangerous too, due to minefields in those areas — specifically Chad's borders with Libya and Sudan.

14. Bangladesh

Besides the threat of terrorist attacks, extreme weather also affects Bangladesh, putting the country at risk for a number of natural disasters. The Asian nation experiences tropical cyclones, flooding, and sometimes earthquakes.

13. Mali

The risk for terrorist attacks is high in Mali's capital, Bamako, as well as other parts of northern and central Mali. Hotels and restaurants are often the targets for these attacks; in November of 2015, a number of people were taken hostage and killed at a Radisson Hotel in Bamako.

12. Lebanon

Because multiple extremist groups are active in Lebanon, terrorist attack such as bombings happen frequently. It's also typical for protests and smaller disputes between neighbors or families to escalate and turn violent, causing harm to bystanders.

11. Philippines

In addition to the recent shooting and fire at a Manila Casino, kidnappings are common throughout the Sulu Archipelago and the southern Sulu Sea. Foreigners are often the targets of these kidnappings.

10. Ukraine

Fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists is common in both the eastern and southeastern regions of the Ukraine, more specifically, the regions of Donetsk oblast, Luhansk oblast, and Crimea. Civilians continue to get caught up in the fighting.

9. Honduras

Honduras is home to one of the world's highest murder rates. The department of Gracias a Dios in particular is plagued with crime and drug trafficking, and also lacks police or military presence.

Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba are other dangerous areas; 70% of US citizen homicides in the last seven years happened in these districts.

8. Kenya

While many terrorist attacks occur outside of Nairobi, the threat of terrorism is still high in the city. Grenades, shootings, and stabbings are common forms of attacks.

7. Egypt

ISIS and other extremist groups pose serious threats to public venues throughout Egypt, including tourist sites. The groups have also been known to target various modes of transportation.

6. Venezuela

Shortages of basic goods such as water, food, medicine, and electricity have lead to much social unrest and crime throughout Venezuela. The country has one of the highest crime rates in the world; armed robbery, murder, kidnapping, and carjacking are all common forms of violence in much of the country. The U.S. Department of State warns against travel to Venezuela.

5. Nigeria

Two extremist groups, Boko Haram, and Islamic State West Africa, are responsible for much of the violence that occurs in Nigeria, and commonly target heavily populated areas like churches, schools, restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues.

The U.S. Department of State says visitors "should be vigilant at public gatherings and locations frequented by foreigners," and to "exercise extreme caution throughout the country due to the threat of indiscriminate violence."

4. Pakistan

Religious conflict has plagued Pakistan for years, and violence against certain religious groups is still common throughout the country.

Pakistan's government also greatly limits freedom of speech, and forbids foreigners access to numerous places throughout the country.

3. El Salvador

Besides having one of the world's highest homicide levels, El Salvador is also known for its many gangs, which are known as maras. Gang violence includes everything from extortion to arms and drug trafficking.

2. Yemen

Rebel groups based in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, continue to both target and detain US citizens. Extremist groups such as Al-Qa'ida are also active in the country, and because of land mines and air strikes, much of Yemen's population lacks basic necessities like food, water, and medical assistance.

1. Colombia

While Colombia isn't as dangerous as it once was — Medellin was named South America's best destination last year — visiting the country still poses quite a risk for foreign travelers.

BACRIM, armed gangs, are responsible for kidnappings, drug trafficking, and robberies that occur throughout the country, while acts of terrorism, like explosions, are common in many big cities like Bogota.