As our world becomes more accessible the scope to explore and experience new cultures expands—but with so many destinations, where to begin?
I interviewed Lonely Planet’s Asia-Pacific spokesperson, Chris Zeiher to find out.
Where does your research suggest Australians will be travelling in 2014?
One of the consistently bestselling guidebooks in Australia recently has been Lonely Planet’s Japan, which indicates that many Australians will be travelling there in 2014. A combination of affordable airfares on low-cost carriers, a favourable exchange rate and a resurgence in popularity due to the destination’s post-disaster recovery are all significant contributing factors to Japan’s current popularity with Australians.
Traditionally popular destinations such as New Zealand, Indonesia (specifically Bali) and Europe remain high on Australians “must visit” list for 2014 and we’ll see significant volumes of Aussies travelling to these destinations. However, within Europe some of the itineraries are changing where some of the best value destinations can now be found in Mediterranean Europe. Therefore we’ll be seeing significant Australian traveller numbers visiting the likes of Greece, Spain and Portugal in 2014.
Additionally, South America – particularly Brazil – should receive significant volumes of Australian arrivals, who’ll be attending events such as the FIFA World Cup.
New York City, the world’s most-visited city, continues to be on top of many Australians lists and the demand for information and content to the Big Apple is at record levels. Additionally Lonely Planet has experienced unprecedented demand for content to Hawaii which has emerged as a great beach and family holiday alternative to Southeast Asia.
What travel trends are emerging in 2014?
With the recent political changes in Myanmar (Burma) and the relaxation of traveller restrictions to this destination, the more intrepid Australian travellers have this country on top of their “must visit” list. Tour companies such as Intrepid Travel have also recently introduced small group tours of Myanmar (Burma) assisting those who may not want to go it alone.
Demand on content to Cambodia and Laos has also spiked as those travelling to Vietnam are now wanting to venture further afield and border-hop to these nations. The rise of “voluntourism” (where a traveller participates in some form of volunteering whilst in destination) amongst Australian travellers is another contributing factor in the rise of popularity of these countries.
Domestically, Tasmania is now the best-selling of our Australian guidebook suite, surprisingly outselling our product to Sydney and Melbourne. Tasmania offers travellers a fascinating and diverse self-contained travel experience which is easily accessed by road, and where some of Australia’s most spectacular scenery and culinary experiences can be had.
Which destinations present the most unique photo opportunities?
For grandeur and scale we’d suggest the 1000km stretch of The Great Australian Bight where cliff upon cliff snaps Australia off like a broken cracker. For those off to New Zealand, the titanic kauri forests of Waipoua Forest in Far North of the North Island will inspire. And in Europe, the “lighthouse of the Mediterranean,” Stromboli, Italy – one of the active volcanic islands of the Aeolian Islands – offers some great action shots as it belches regular explosions of dust and steam.
For a unique wildlife photo opportunity we’d suggest swimming with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, which can reach up to 12m in length in The Maldives. As the whale shark’s diet consists purely of plankton, snorkelling and photographing these beasts the size of a bus can be done in safety.
What are the Top 5 mistakes people make when booking travel?
1. Not researching your destination
To avoid getting ripped off whilst you’re away, or falling for a fake photo of a hotel on a website, or putting yourself in unnecessarily risky situations, it’s essential for travellers to research where they’re thinking of travelling, and finding out what to avoid. We’d also advise that travellers need to be abreast of current travel warnings as posted on Smart Traveller (smarttraveller.com.au) to ensure they’re across any risks in their arrival destinations. Lonely Planet’s travellers’ forum Thorntree (lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) is another great resource for those wanting to liaise directly with other travellers about a destination.
2. Check your baggage allowance
Baggage allowances vary from airline to airline. Be sure that, especially if you’re transferring between carriers, to familiarise yourself with the baggage weight allowance on your ticket to ensure you’re not stung by an exorbitant excess baggage bill. Many airlines are now strictly enforcing cabin baggage allowances and weighing all hand luggage on check in. Checking this information and packing to these allowances will avoid unnecessary expense and embarrassment.
3. Check visa requirements
Some countries do require a visa to enter the country, which needs to be approved and paid for prior to departure. Often this involves sending your passport to a consulate and can take weeks to organise. Ensure all your visas are applied for in ample time prior to your departure date.
4. Check validity on your passport
Some countries require a minimum time prior to the expiry date on your passport (eg six months). Again, ensure that you’ve researched the entry requirements for the country you’re visiting and check your passport validity prior to applying for any visa or international travel.
5. Allow time between connecting flights
If you’re booking your own connecting flights on separate tickets, ensure that you’re allowing a minimum of two hours between connecting flights. Often the process of collecting bags, clearing customs, changing terminals and checking in with the new airline will be a part of the transfer process and this needs time. Also check the actual physical location of your connecting airline, as you may find that your connection is at a city’s alternative airport and a transfer between these terminals is required.
What culture and nature events top the list for 2014?
India’s cleanest state Sikkim tops the list of our Best Regions to visit in 2014. Sikkim’s emphasis on sustainable community based tourism and ecofriendly policies ensures this gorgeous pocket of the planet will remain unspoiled and able to be enjoyed by all. Organic farming is the new mantra in Sikkim with the region aiming to become a fully organic state – this results in travellers being able to sample gunk-free produce throughout the marketplaces and food halls in the region.
In a year dominated by big sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the Winter Olympic Games in Russia and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, it’s destinations such as Sweden that are emerging as the cultural hotspots to visit in 2014. Sweden’s largest northern city, Umea, is the European Capital of Culture for 2014 and a good reason to head north from Stockholm or Goteborg. The pop-culture appeal of this destination, spearheaded by the popularity of chilly Swedish crime novels, is now drawing a very different kind of traveller to its shores.
Perhaps Chris has inspired the explorer in you, or a vacation is long over due—either way you won’t find a more unique or useful guide than Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ (2014 edition). It is rich with ideas for adventure, and exciting destinations. With their wealth of knowledge and global network of guides, Lonely Planet captures the pulse of intrepid passion!
Grab your copy of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 at: http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/world/lonely-planets-best-in-travel-2014/