Sterling Vacations-experts in Slovenia, Croatia, Greece & Mediterranean Cruises since 1973. Cruises include Dalmacija, Libya, MSC, & Greek Islands.
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Owners, Damir Bogdanic & Rose Pace

Contact Us • E-mail: info@sterlingvacations.com
4908 Sonora Trace
Georgetown, TX 78633 USA
Phone: 512-863-6100
FAX: 888-557-1046
Office Hours Central Time:
Monday-Friday 8:00AM - 6:00PM
Saturday 10:00AM - 2:00PM
Sunday 12:00 Noon-2:00PM



    Travel Tips
     
    Airport Procedures   Jet Lag  
 Cool Links
 
    Before You Go   Packing  
Weather
 
    Cell Phones   Passports / Visas    
    Currency   Safety   Time  
    Customs / Duty   Shopping    
    Electricity   Tipping   Currency Exchange  
    Hotel Check-In   Travel Insurance    
       
  Before You Go  
    The minute you decide to travel outside your home country be sure that each person traveling has a valid passport. (U.S. citizens are reminded that Canada and Mexico are also considered international and require a passport.) Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the last day of your trip. Not all countries require this extended validity but some do, and it is not worth the worry.  
       
  Passports and Visas  
   

In the United States, you can obtain a new or renewal passport form through most post offices or at regional Passport Centers. Precisely follow the instructions on the form. You must have current, regulation photographs and proof of citizenship-usually an official government copy of your birth certificate or an expired passport.
In addition to a valid passport, some countries require an additional document known as a visa or tourist card. Visa requirements are different for every country and for different citizenships. Since they change often, always check for the latest information through the consulate or embassy for each country you will travel through or to, or seek help from a professional visa service company. Additionally, the Internet is a good source of current information. There are many different types of visas such as those for business, pleasure or transit travel. Some countries may require a multi-entry visa if you are transiting or stopping in the country more than once. Ask questions and explain exactly how you are traveling. http://www.state.gov/travel/

 
       
  Cell Phones  
    Much of the world outside North America—including all of Europe—uses the GSM system for wireless calls, and phone services there use different frequency bands than GSM service in the U.S. and Canada. For wireless service in Europe, you need:
  • A one- or two-band GSM phone designed for European service, or a three- or four-band phone you can use both at home and in Europe.
  • A SIM card—a small memory card that holds the phone's number and other data—anywhere you want to use the phone.

With a three- or four-band GSM phone you can keep your regular number no matter where you are. All you have to do is have your wireless company "enable" it for overseas. Ask your local outlet or call your provider's customer service line; you shouldn't have to pay anything. Retaining your usual number while you're overseas has a big advantage, as people who call you don't have to fuss with new numbers or international dialing codes. That's also a potential disadvantage: You may get calls at odd hours from people who don't know you're overseas. Using your regular phone is also expensive. Currently, in Europe, both AT&T and T-Mobile charge a flat $1.29 per minute for both outgoing and incoming calls. AT&T has a monthly-fee package that reduces the rate to 99 cents a minute—better, but still high.

Overall, keeping your regular number is probably the most convenient. You don't have to buy anything more. It can even be least expensive for short trips, as long as you keep calls to a minimum.

Local SIM cards
You can cut the cost of calls considerably by buying one or more temporary SIM cards that allow you to make and receive calls in dozens of other countries. In Western Europe, many cards provide for free incoming calls and outgoing local calls, as well as cheap calls to the U.S.
  • If you're visiting only one country, a single-country prepaid SIM card generally provides the lowest rates. Local calls and incoming calls are free and you pay as little as nine cents a minute for calls from the U.K. to the U.S. Prices for a one-country SIM card start at around $40, depending how much initial airtime is included.
  • If you're visiting several different countries, you can get a multi-country SIM card that also provides free incoming calls, free local calls in some places, and calls back to the U.S. for around 50 cents a minute. Prices start at about $50.
 
       
  Currency  
    We suggest getting a small amount of currency for the first country you are visiting before you leave the U.S. or at the airport bank at your arrival point. Once you are abroad, exchange your money or travelers check at banks (the rate is usually more favorable than at hotels or exchange bureaus). It is a good idea to carry a chart with you to help you convert U.S. dollars to the local currency. It's also a good idea not to carry too much cash. Many countries have ATM machines that accept most U.S. ATM card. Just be sure you know your ATM password in numbers - the keypads on foreign ATMs do not always have letters. Credit cards are also readily accepted in most major cities or tourist areas. On January 1, 2002, the euro became the official currency in most European countries. The former national currencies are no longer legal tender. For more information and pictures of the euro notes and coins, click on this link: http://www.x-rates.com/photo_list.html  
       
  Electricity  
    The following countries use 220 voltage: France, Italy, Spain, Central Europe, Greece and the Greek Islands, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, China, Thailand, India, Morocco, Vietnam, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. The following countries use 240 voltage: Australia, New Zealand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Ireland and Africa. Mexico and Brazil use 110. The United States uses 120 volts. A converter is necessary for the voltage difference and plug conversions are necessary in many countries as well. Travel kits that include both are readily available at many types of stores.  
       
  Jet Lag  
    The tired, hazy feeling caused by changing time zones is known as jet lag. It is exacerbated by spending an extended period of time inside an airplane, where the air is very dry and the pressure can cause lethargy and even swelling of the arms, legs, hands and feet. Here are some things that can help reduce the effects of jet lag.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine before and during the flight.
Get adequate rest before your flight.
Reset your watch to the time zone of your destination when you board the plane to begin getting used to the new schedule.
If you are traveling on an overnight flight, resist the urge to watch movies. Creating a quiet, dark environment in which you might sleep, will help alleviate the effects of jet lag.
Walk around the plane occasionally and do isometric exercises at your seat.
Drink plenty of water and juices.
When you arrive, make every attempt to jump right into the local schedule including your eating and sleeping habits. Push yourself to stay up until your regular sleep hour. If you must sleep during the day, keep your nap to no more than an hour. If you wake up during the first night at your destination, resist the urge to get up and watch TV or read for hours. This will generally relieve the uncomfortable feeling in one day.
 
       
  Packing  
    Packing light will make your trip much more pleasant in many ways. Depending on your type of transportation and accommodations, you could be forced at some time to manage your own luggage through some situation. Most frequent travelers take simple clothes that can easily be mixed and matched and only require a couple of pairs of shoes. A vacation is for enjoyment! Don't make it a burden. (Tip for weather-changing times: carry a pair of gloves, a warm scarf and a hat. With these easy-to-pack extras, even a lightweight sweater will be warm enough on a chilly day; and they take up very little space in your suitcase.) Always include a copy of your itinerary and your identification inside each piece of luggage where it is clearly visible. This will prevent lost luggage if your handle gets broken off or your exterior tags get pulled off. Gently squeeze any plastic containers you are packing to release some inner air pressure and seal them in a zip-lock plastic bag to prevent leakage. Carry your own washcloth, many countries do not provide them to hotel guests. Put your medication, eyeglasses, an extra pair of underwear, sleeping apparel, emergency toiletries and valuables in your hand-carry luggage. This will be worth the weight of carrying it in the unlikely event your luggage is lost. For the latest information about what is and is not allowed through security, check the TSA website at: www.tsa.gov  
       
  Hotel Check-in Times  
    Most hotels have a late afternoon check-in time to allow for maid service after the last checkout time (usually about 12Noon). The hotel will gladly store your luggage while you wait, but in order to not waste the day you arrive, be prepared with comfortable shoes, your camera and film, and necessities in your hand luggage that will allow you to enjoy even the first day. We make every attempt to get our clients into the hotels at the earliest possible time.  
       
  Tipping Suggestions  
    Tour package: Local sightseeing guide: $3 per person, per half-day tour; driver: $1-2 per person, per half-day; tour escort (tour manager who may or may not act as a guide): $5 per person, per day; private car tours: $15-20 per person for each full day of sightseeing. Hotels: Porter: $1 per bag; chambermaid: $1 per person, per day. Remember that in Europe, most restaurants include gratuities for the wait staff. Double check if you are not sure and if the service was good, leave a small token appreciation tip. Cruises: When tips are pooled: $10-$15 per person, per day. When tips are given to individuals: Waiter/bus staff: $5 per person, per day; stateroom steward: $4 per person, per day; maitre d' and headwaiter: $1 per person, per day.  
       
  Shopping  
    Shopping in a foreign country can be a wonderful experience. With the appropriate documentation, some countries will refund the Value Added Tax (VAT) on large purchases. Always get a formal receipt. Be sensible when searching for a real bargain, however, and exercise care and common sense when making any purchase. Remember - just like in this country, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!  
       
  Customs and Duty on Purchases  
   

U.S. residents must declare the total value of all articles acquired abroad which are in their or their family's possession at the time of arrival. A Customs officer at your first point of entry will determine the amount of duty, if you exceed the exemption. U.S. residents are normally entitled to bring back $800 per person, though this varies and could be higher or lower, depending on the countries you visited. Both residents and non-residents will normally be required to pay a flat 10% rate of duty on the first $1,000 above their exemptions. More information is available from the U.S. Customs web site: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/. When you are preparing for your trip home, try to pack all your new purchases in one bag and keep all your receipts in one place. This system will make an examination or request to see an article easy and quick so you are not tied up in Customs where you may miss your connection..

 
       
  Safety  
    We don't want safety concerns to overwhelm you, but it is important that you use common sense while on your trip. Be aware of potentially dangerous places and situations as you would be at home. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry. Carry your valuables concealed in inside pockets or hidden pouches. Don't put all your valuables (money, credit cards, passports, etc.) in the same place. (In case one wallet is stolen, you should have other valuables and identification in another safe place.) Don't leave valuables loose in your room or slipped into your suitcase. Use the hotel safe. Keep copies of your passports, credit card numbers and travelers check numbers in the hotel safe. Pickpockets can be found wherever there are tourists. Women should keep their handbags in front of them at all times. Watch for crowds of jostling people--they are the perfect setup for sticky fingers.  
       
  Travel Insurance  
   

Travel Insurance can cover a plethora of concerns. Obviously you can include injury or death benefits and can add medical expense coverage. Always check with your own medical insurance provider as to whether your personal policy covers you when outside your home country. If you are covered under Medicare, be advised: it does NOT cover you outside the United States. Emergency Assistance is part of the Medical Coverage and pays the expense of an emergency medical evacuation from remote locations, which can be extremely costly. Baggage Insurance covers loss or damage to your belongings during the entire trip, no matter where or how it occurs. Trip Cancellation protects payments you have made, which may be lost if you are forced to cancel your trip within the penalty period for a covered reason. It also covers loss of funds if a supplier becomes financially insolvent and unable to perform its duties. Obviously, there are certain exclusions and a possible exemption for pre-existing conditions. We advise you to read the policy carefully and call the insurance company with any questions. Even with these issues, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE PURCHASE OF COMPREHENSIVE TRAVEL INSURANCE.

Click on this link to access Travel Insured where you can get quotes as well as purchase coverage that will take effect immediately, giving you complete peace of mind.

       
  Airport Procedures  
    Arrive early - very early - to avoid problems and delays, as well as to eliminate much of the stress of lengthy procedures. Plan to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours prior to your scheduled flight time. Other helpful hints and TSA link to check on latest security issues: http://www.tsa.gov/  
   
Be dressed in comfortable, easy-to-inspect clothing and shoes.
Keep your personal belongings with you at all times.
Never pack your documentation and tickets—always have them readily available in your hand-carry bag.
Always check your routing tags placed on checked luggage by airline personnel, to make sure they are actually going to the final destination of your day's travel.
After check-in is complete, step away from the counter and double check your airline tickets to make sure you have the appropriate number of coupons and/or boarding passes for each flight segment you are taking (a connecting flight requires two coupons, one to the connecting point and one to the final destination).
Put your documents in a safe place and if traveling with a companion, make sure both know where they are. (This can avoid a frightening bout of panic when thinking you have lost them.)
If you are heading home, sell back any foreign currency before going through immigrations and security.
Get into the formalities line early to make sure you have plenty of time to wait through delays and still arrive at your gate without rushing.
Always double check with your international carrier about what is currently being allowed in carry-ons and checked bags. Don't overpack! Most airlines have fees for larger or heavier bags and it is also the most frequently lost or left behind for the obvious reasons.
 
       
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