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The joy of food and the delight of travel arise from the same impulsethe need to satiate a sensory desire.  Avid travelers would insist that travel is, first, a survival necessity, and second, a primary source of pleasure in life.

Travel and food are inextricably intertwined.  When we travel, food inevitably becomes one of our prime fascinations—and pathways—into a place. 

Reasons for traveling include recreation, tourism or vacationing, research travel for the gathering of information, for holiday to visit people, volunteer travel for charity, migration to begin life somewhere else, religious pilgrimages and mission trips, business travel, trade, commuting, and other reasons, such as to obtain health care or fleeing war.

Motives to travel include pleasure, relaxation, discovery and exploration, getting to know other cultures and taking personal time for building interpersonal relationships.  Travel may be local, regional, national (domestic) or international.  In some countries, non-local internal travel may require an internal passport, while international travel typically requires a passport and visa.  A trip may also be part of a round trip, which is a particular type of travel whereby a person moves from their usual residence to one or several locations and returns.


Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes.  The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".

Tourism has become a popular global leisure activity.  In 2010, there were over 940 million international tourist arrivals, with a growth of 6.6% as compared to 2009.  As a result of the late-2000s recession, international travel demand suffered a strong slowdown beginning in June 2008, with growth in international tourism arrivals worldwide falling to 2% during the boreal summer months.  This negative trend intensified during 2009, exacerbated in some countries due to the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, resulting in a worldwide decline of 4% in 2009.  In 2010, there were 940 million international tourist arrivals, with a growth of 6.6% as compared to 2009.

Tourism is important and in some cases vital for many countries, such as France, Egypt, Greece, Lebanon, Israel, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and Thailand, and many island nations, such as The Bahamas, Fiji, Maldives, Philippines and the Seychelles: it brings in large amounts of income in payment for goods and services and creates opportunities for employment in the service industries associated with tourism.  These service industries include transportation services, such as airlines, cruise ships and taxicabs; hospitality services, such as accommodations, including hotels and resorts; and entertainment venues, such as amusement parks, casinos, shopping malls, music venues and theatres.

Most Visited Countries

The World Tourism Organization reports the following ten countries as the most visited in terms of the number of international travellers.  In 2010, China overtook Spain to become the third most visited country.  Most of the top visited countries continue to be those in Europe, followed by a growing number of Asian countries.



UNWTO Regional Market

tourist arrivals (2010)

International tourist arrivals (2009)




76.8 million

76.8 million


United States


59.7 million

55.0 million




55.7 million

50.9 million




52.7 million

52.2 million




43.6 million

43.2 million


United Kingdom


28.1 million

28.2 million




27.0 million

25.5 million




26.9 million

24.2 million




24.6 million

23.6 million




22.4 million

21.5 million

Adjectival Tourism

Adjectival tourism refers to the numerous niche or specialty travel forms of tourism that have emerged over the years, each with its own adjective.  Many of these have come into common use by the tourism industry and academics.  Others are emerging concepts that may or may not gain popular usage.  Examples of the more common niche tourism markets include: - Wenger Swiss Army Banner

Adventure Tourism

Adventure travel is a type of tourism, involving exploration or travel to remote, exotic and possibly hostile areas.  Adventure tourism is rapidly growing in popularity, as tourists seek different kinds of vacations.  According to the U.S. based Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travel may be any tourist activity, including two of the following three components: a physical activity, a cultural exchange or interaction and engagement with nature.

Adventure tourism gains much of its excitement by allowing its participants to step outside of their comfort zone.  This may be from experiencing culture shock or through the performance of acts, that require significant effort and involve some degree of risk (real or perceived) and/or physical danger.  This may include activities such as mountaineering, trekking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, rafting, zip-lining and rock climbing.  Some obscure forms of adventure travel include disaster and ghetto tourism.  Other rising forms of adventure travel include social and jungle tourism.

Access to inexpensive consumer technology, with respect to Global Positioning Systems (GPS), flashpacking, social networking and photography, have increased the worldwide interest in adventure travel.  The interest in independent adventure travel has also increased as more specialist travel websites emerge offering previously niche locations and sports.

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Agritourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch.  Agritourism has different definitions in different parts of the world, and sometimes refers specifically to farm stays, as in Italy.  Elsewhere, agritourism includes a wide variety of activities, include picking fruits and vegetables, riding horses, tasting honey, learning about wine and cheesemaking, or shopping in farm gift shops and farm stands for local and regional produce or hand-crafted gifts, or staying at a B&B on a farm.

People have become more interested in how their food is produced.  They want to meet farmers and processors and talk with them about what goes into food production.  For many people who visit farms, especially children, the visit marks the first time they see the source of their food, be it a dairy cow, an ear of corn growing in a field, or an apple they can pick right off a tree

Agritourism is a form of niche tourism that is considered a growth industry in many parts of the world, including Australia, Canada, the United States, and the Philippine.  Agritourism overlaps with geotourism, ecotourism, and culinary tourism.  Other terms associated with agritourism are "agritainment", "value added products," "farm direct marketing", and "sustainable agriculture".

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Culinary Tourism

Culinary tourism or food tourism is experiencing the food of the country, region or area, and is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience.  Dining out is common among tourists and "food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation, and scenery" in importance to tourists.

Culinary tourism is defined as the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.  Culinary tourism differs from agritourism in that culinary tourism is considered a subset of cultural tourism (cuisine is a manifestation of culture) whereas agritourism is considered a subset of rural tourism, but culinary tourism and agritourism are inextricably linked, as the seeds of cuisine can be found in agriculture.

Culinary tourism is not limited to gourmet food.  This is perhaps best illustrated by the notion that culinary tourism is about what is "unique and memorable, not what is necessarily pretentious and exclusive".  Similarly, wine tourism and beer tourism are also regarded as subsets of culinary tourism.

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Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism (or culture tourism) is the subset of tourism concerned with a country or region's culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those peoples, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life.  Cultural tourism includes tourism in urban areas, particularly historic or large cities and their cultural facilities such as museums and theatres.  Other destinations include theme parks and country clubs, coastal or island ecosystems, and inland natural areas.  It can also include tourism in rural areas showcasing the traditions of indigenous cultural communities (i.e.  festivals, rituals), and their values and lifestyle.

One type of cultural tourism destination is living cultural areas.  For an indigenous culture that has stayed largely separated from the surrounding majority, tourism can present both advantages and problems.  On the positive side are the unique cultural practices and arts that attract the curiosity of tourists and provide opportunities for tourism and economic development.  On the negative side is the issue of how to control tourism so that those same cultural amenities are not destroyed and the people do not feel violated.

It is generally agreed that cultural tourists spend substantially more than standard tourists do.  This form of tourism is also becoming generally more popular throughout the world, and a recent OECD report has highlighted the role that cultural tourism can play in regional development in different world regions.

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Cultural Heritage Tourism

Cultural heritage tourism (or just heritage tourism or diaspora tourism) is a branch of tourism oriented towards the cultural heritage of the location where tourism is occurring.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States defines heritage tourism as “travelling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past," and cultural heritage tourism is defined as “travelling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present."

Culture has always been a major object of travel.  Cultural attractions play an important role in tourism at all levels, from the global highlights of world culture to attractions that underpin local identities.  According to the Weiler and Hall, culture, heritage and the arts have long contributed to appeal of tourist destination.  According to the Hollinshead, cultural heritage tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry because there is a trend toward an increase specialization among tourists.  This trend is evident in the rise in the volume of tourists who seek adventure, culture, history, archaeology and interaction with local people.

Cultural heritage tourism is important for various reasons; it has a positive economic and social impact, it establishes and reinforces identity, it helps preserve the cultural heritage, with culture as an instrument it facilitates harmony and understanding among people, it supports culture and helps renew tourism.

Heritage tourism involves visiting historical or industrial sites that may include old canals, railways, battlegrounds, etc.  The overall purpose is to gain an appreciation of the past.  It also refers to the marketing of a location to members of a diaspora who have distant family roots there.

Another possible form involves religious travel or pilgrimages.  Many Catholics from around the world come to the Vatican and other sites such as Lourdes or Fátima.  Large numbers of Jews have both visited Israel and emigrated there.  Many have also gone to Holocaust sites and memorials.  Islam commands its followers to take the hajj to Mecca, thus differentiating it somewhat from tourism in the usual sense, though the trip can also be a culturally important event for the pilgrim.

Heritage Tourism can also be attributed to historical events that have been dramatised to make them more entertaining.  For example a historical tour of a town or city using a theme such as ghosts or Vikings.

Heritage tourism focuses on certain historical events, rather than presenting a balanced view of that historical period.  It's aim may not always be the presentation of accurate historical facts, as opposed to economically developing the site and surrounding area.  As a result heritage tourism can be seen as a blend of education, entertainment, preservation and profit.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance.  The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.  The program catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity.  Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund.

As of 2011, 936 sites are listed: 725 cultural, 183 natural, and 28 mixed properties, in 153 States Parties.  Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites to date with 47 sites inscribed on the list.  While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.

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Doom Tourism

Also known as "Tourism of Doom," or "Last Chance Tourism" this emerging trend involves traveling to places that are environmentally or otherwise threatened (the ice caps of Mount Kilimanjaro, the melting glaciers of Patagonia, The coral of the Great Barrier Reef) before it is too late.  Identified by travel trade magazine TravelAge West editor-in-chief Kenneth Shapiro in 2007 and later explored in The New York Times, this type of tourism is believed to be on the rise.  Some see the trend as related to sustainable tourism or ecotourism due to the fact that a number of these tourist destinations are considered threatened by environmental factors such as global warming, over population or climate change.  Others worry that travel to many of these threatened locations increases an individual’s carbon footprint and only hastens problems threatened locations are already facing.

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Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism.  Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights.  Since the 1980s ecotourism has been considered a critical endeavor by environmentalists, so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention.  Several university programs use this description as the working definition of ecotourism.

Generally, ecotourism focuses on volunteering, or "voluntourism", personal growth and environmental sustainability.  Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions.  One of the goals of ecotourism is to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.

Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people.  Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for local communities.  For these reasons, ecotourism often appeals to environmental and social responsibility advocates.

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Extreme tourism

Extreme tourism or shock tourism is a niche in the tourism industry involving travel to dangerous places (mountains, jungles, deserts, caves, etc.) or participation in dangerous events.  Extreme tourism overlaps with extreme sport.  The two share the main attraction, "adrenaline rush" caused by an element of risk, and differing mostly in the degree of engagement and professionalism.

In addition to traditional travel-based tourism destinations, various exotic attractions are suggested, such as flyovers in MiGs at Mach 2.5, ice diving in the White Sea, or travelling across the Chernobyl zone.  Additionally, extreme tourism includes visiting "dangerous" places, such as those on the US Travel Warning webpage.  This includes destinations such as Somalia, Iraq and others.

Extreme tourism is a growing business in the countries of the former Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, etc.) and in South American countries like Peru, Chile and Argentina.  The mountainous and rugged terrain of Northern Pakistan has also developed into a popular extreme tourism location.

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Geotourism is "best practice" tourism that sustains, or even enhances, the geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.  The concept was introduced publicly in a 2002 report by the Travel Industry Association of America (as of 2009 this organization adapted name to U.S. Travel Association) and National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Like ecotourism, geotourism promotes a virtuous circle whereby tourism revenues provide a local incentive to protect what tourists are coming to see, but extends the principle beyond nature and ecology to incorporate all characteristics that contribute to sense of place, such as historic structures, living and traditional culture, landscapes, cuisine, arts and artisanry, as well as local flora and fauna.  Geotourism incorporates sustainability principles, but in addition to the do-no-harm ethic, geotourism focuses on the place as a whole.  The idea of enhancement allows for development based on character of place, rather than standardized international branding, and generic architecture, food, and so on.

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LGBT Tourism

LGBT tourism is a form of niche tourism marketed to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.  They are usually open about their sexual orientation and gender identity but may be more or less open when traveling; for instance they may be closeted at home or if they have come out, may be more discreet in areas known for violence against LGBT people.

The main components of LGBT tourism is for cities and countries wishing to attract LGBT tourists; people looking to travel to LGBT-friendly destinations; people wanting travel with other LGBT people when traveling regardless of the destination and LGBT travelers who are mainly concerned with cultural and safety issues.  The slang term gaycation has come to imply a version of a vacation that includes a pronounced aspect of LGBT culture, either in the journey or destination.

Gay tourism might also coincide with special gay events such as annual gay pride parades, gay neighborhood festivals and such gay community gatherings as gay chorus festivals and concerts, gay square dance conventions, gay sports meets such as Gay Games, World Outgames or EuroGames and conferences of national and international gay organisations.  Gay tourism blossoms during these peak periods.

Coinciding with the increased visibility of LGBT people raising children in the 1990s, an increase in family-friendly LGBT tourism has emerged in the 2000s, for instance R Family Vacations which includes activities and entertainment geared towards couples including same-sex weddings.  R Family's first cruise was held aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines's Norwegian Dawn with 1600 passengers including 600 children.

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Medical Tourism

Medical tourism (also called medical travel, health tourism or global healthcare) is a term initially coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of travelling across international borders to obtain health care.  It also refers pejoratively to the practice of healthcare providers travelling internationally to deliver healthcare.

Medical tourists come from a variety of locations including Europe, the Middle East, Japan, the United States, and Canada.  Factors that have led to the increasing popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many countries.  The avoidance of waiting times is the leading factor for medical tourism from the UK, whereas in the US, the main reason is cheaper prices abroad.

Services typically sought by travelers include elective procedures as well as complex specialized surgeries such as joint replacement (knee/hip), cardiac surgery, dental surgery, and cosmetic surgeries.  However, virtually every type of health care, including psychiatry, alternative treatments, convalescent care and even burial services are available.

Over 50 countries have identified medical tourism as a national industry.  However, accreditation and other measures of quality vary widely across the globe, and some destinations may become hazardous or even dangerous for medical tourists.

Popular medical travel worldwide destinations include:  Argentina, Brunei, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and recently, Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Korea, Tunisia, Ukraine, and New Zealand.

Popular cosmetic surgery travel destinations include: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Turkey,and Ukraine.  In South America, countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia lead on plastic surgery medical skills relying on their experienced plastic surgeons.  In Bolivia and Colombia, plastic surgery has also become quite common.

In Europe Belgium, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine are also breaking into the business.  South Africa is taking the term "medical tourism" very literally by promoting their "medical safaris".

A specialized subset of medical tourism is reproductive tourism and reproductive outsourcing, which is the practice of traveling abroad to undergo in-vitro fertilization, surrogate pregnancy and other assisted reproductive technology treatments including freezing embryos for retro-production.

Health tourism providers have developed as intermediaries to unite potential medical tourists with provider hospitals and other organisations.  Companies are beginning to offer global health care options that will enable North American and European patients to access world health care at a fraction of the cost of domestic care.  Companies that focus on medical value travel typically provide nurse case managers to assist patients with pre- and post-travel medical issues.  They also help provide resources for follow-up care upon the patient's return.

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Nautical Tourism

Nautical tourism is an increasingly popular way to combine love of sailing and boating with vacation and holiday activities.  First defined as an industry segment in Europe and South America, it has since caught on in the United States and the Pacific Rim.

Not only is nautical tourism an enjoyable way to see unique parts of the world, it is also a very profitable industry.  Many tourists who enjoy sailing combine water travel with other activities.  Supplying the equipment and accessories for those activities has spawned businesses for those purposes.  With many nautical enthusiasts living on board their vessels even in port, nautical tourists bring demand for a variety of goods and services.  Marinas developed especially for nautical tourists have been built in Europe, South America and Australia.

Wind & Weather

Tourist services available at marinas catering to nautical tourists include:

  • Leasing of berths for sailing vessels and nautical tourists who live on board.

  • Leasing of sailing vessels for holiday and recreational use (charter, cruising and similar),

  • Reception, safe-guarding and maintenance of sailing vessels.

  • Provision of stock (water, fuel, supplies, spare parts, equipment and similar).

  • Preparation and keeping sailing vessels in order.

  • Providing information to nautical enthusiasts (weather forecasts, nautical guides etc.)

  • Leasing of water scooters, jet skis, and other water equipment.

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Pop-culture Tourism

Pop-culture tourism is the act of traveling to locations featured in literature, film, music, or any other form of popular entertainment.

Popular destinations have included:

Pop-culture tourism is in some respects akin to pilgrimage, with its modern equivalents of places of pilgrimage, such as Elvis Presley's Graceland and the grave of Jim Morrison in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

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Religious tourism

Religious tourism, also commonly referred to as faith tourism, is a form of tourism, whereby people of faith travel individually or in groups for pilgrimage, missionary, or leisure (fellowship) purposes.  The world's largest form of mass religious tourism takes place at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Modern religious tourists are more able to visit holy cities and holy sites around the world.  The most famous holy cities are Jerusalem, Mecca, and Varanasi.  The most famous holy sites are the Church of Nativity, The Western Wall, Brahma Temple at Pushkar, and the Kaaba.  Religious tourism has existed since antiquity, and unlike commercial tourism, is not done for exclusively hedonistic purposes.  A study in 2011 found that pilgrims visited Jerusalem for a few reasons:  to understand and appreciate their religion through a tangible experience, to feel secure about their religious beliefs, and to connect personally to the holy city.

Religious tourism comprises many facets of the travel industry including:

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Slum Tourism

Slum tourism is a type of tourism that involves visiting impoverished areas, which has become increasingly prominent in several developing countries like India, Brazil, Kenya, and Indonesia.  Slum tourism is mainly performed in urban areas of developing countries, most often named after the type of areas that are visited:

  • Township tourism:  in post-apartheid South Africa and Namibia.  South African settlements are still visibly divided into wealthy, historically white suburbs and poor, historically black townships, because of the effects of apartheid and racial segregation.

  • Favela tourism:  in Brazil

  • Hutong trips in larger Chinese cities, such as Hutongs in Beijing.

A 2010 study by the University of Pennsylvania showed that tourists in Mumbai's Dharavi slum were motivated primarily by curiosity, as opposed to several competing push factors such as social comparison, entertainment, education, or self-actualization.  In addition, the study found that most slum residents were ambivalent about the tours, while the majority of tourists reported positive feelings during the tour, with interest and intrigue as the most commonly cited feelings.

Critics say slum tourism, like poorism, is likened to a kind of voyeurism, exploiting people less fortunate, snapping pictures and leaving nothing in return.  Some tours do use portions of the profits to help out however.  They have also courted controversy because of disputes about their safety, and fears that they misrepresent local culture.

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Wildlife Tourism

Wildlife tourism can be an eco and animal friendly tourism, usually showing animals in their natural habitat.  Wildlife tourism, in its simplest sense, is watching wild animals in their natural habitat.  Wildlife tourism is an important part of the tourism industries in many countries including many African and South American countries, Australia, India, Canada, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Maldives among many.  It has experienced a dramatic and rapid growth in recent years world wide and is closely aligned to eco-tourism and sustainable-tourism.

Wildlife tourism is also a multi-million dollar industry offering customized tour packages and safaris.

Wildlife tourism can cause significant disturbances to animals in their natural habitats.  The growing interest in traveling to developing countries has created a boom in resort and hotel construction, particularly on rain forest and mangrove forest lands.  Wildlife viewing can scare away animals, disrupt their feeding and nesting sites, or acclimate them to the presence of people.

On the other hand, wildlife tourism offers several positive impacts, including:

  • Habitat restoration by eco-lodges and other tourism operations. Many owners of eco-accommodation or wildlife attractions preserve and restore native habitats on their properties

  • Conservation breeding. Many wildlife parks and zoos breed rare and endangered species as a major part of their activities, and release the progeny when possible into suitable habitat.

  • Financial donations.  Some wildlife tourism contributes monetary donations to conservation efforts.

  • Quality interpretation.  A good wildlife guide will impart a deeper understanding of the local wildlife and its ecological needs, which may give visitors a more informed base on which to subsequently modify their behavior (e.g.  not throw out plastic bags that may be eaten by turtles) and decide what political moves to support.

  • Research and monitoring.  Some wildlife tourism operations contribute to monitoring of wildlife numbers or general research relevant to conservation.

  • Anti-poaching.  Bringing tourists regularly into some areas may make it more difficult for poachers of large animals or those who collect smaller species for the black market.

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Travel Documents:

A travel document is an identity document issued by a government or international treaty organization to facilitate the movement of individuals or small groups of persons across international boundaries.  Travel documents usually assure other governments that the bearer may return to the issuing country, and are often issued in booklet form to allow other governments to place visas as well as entry and exit stamps into them.  

The most common travel document is a passport, which usually identifies the bearer as a citizen of the issuing country.  However, the term is sometimes used only for those documents which do not bear proof of nationality, such as the Refugee Travel Document.


A passport is a travel document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder.  The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth.  Although generally accepted by the majority of countries in the world, some issuing countries expressly exclude the validity of passports from nations that are not recognized by their governments.

A passport does not of itself entitle the passport holder entry into another country, nor to consular protection while abroad or any other privileges.  It does, however, normally entitle the passport holder to return to the country that issued the passport.  Rights to consular protection arise from international agreements, and the right to return arises from the laws of the issuing country.  A passport does not represent the right or the place of residence of the passport holder in the country that issued the passport.

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Types of Passport

A rough standardization exists in types of passports throughout the world, although passport types, number of pages and definitions can vary by country.

  • Ordinary passport (Tourist passport, Regular passport, Passport)

    Issued to citizens and other nationals, and generally the most-issued type of passport.  Sometimes it is possible to have children registered within the ordinary passport of the parent, rendering the passport functionally equal to a family passport.

  • Official passport (Service passport, also Special passport)

    Issued to government employees for work-related travel, and to accompanying dependents.

  • Diplomatic passport

    Issued to diplomats for work-related travel, and to accompanying dependents.  Although most diplomats with diplomatic immunity carry diplomatic passports, having a diplomatic passport is not the equivalent of having diplomatic immunity.  A holder of a diplomatic passport usually has to obtain a diplomatic visa, even if a holder of an ordinary passport may enter a country visa-free or may obtain a visa on arrival.

  • Emergency passport (Temporary passport)

    Issued to persons whose passports were lost or stolen, and who do not have time to obtain replacement passports.  Sometimes laissez-passer are used for this purpose.

  • Collective passport

    Issued to defined groups for travel together to particular destinations, such as a group of school children on a school trip to a specified country.

  • Family passport

    Issued to family members—father, mother, son, daughter.  There is one passport holder.  The passport holder may travel alone or with one or more other family members.  A family member who is not the passport holder cannot use the passport for travel unless accompanied by the passport holder.

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A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry.  The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport.  Some countries do not require a visa in some situations, such as a result of reciprocal treaty arrangements.  The country issuing the visa typically attaches various conditions of stay, such as the territory covered by the visa, dates of validity, period of stay, whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc.

A visa does not generally give a non-citizen any rights, including a right to enter a country or to remain there.  The possession of a visa is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it, and a visa can be revoked at any time.  The visa process merely enables the host country to verify the identity of the visa applicant before, rather than coincident with, the entry of the applicant.  Special permits may also be required, such as a residency permit or work permit.  A visitor may also be required to undergo and pass security and/or health checks upon arrival at the border.

Visas are associated with the request for permission to enter (or exit) a country, and are thus, for some countries, distinct from actual formal permission for an alien to enter and remain in the country.  Some countries require that their citizens, and sometimes foreign travelers, obtain an exit visa in order to be allowed to leave the country.

Some visas can be granted on arrival or by prior application at the country's embassy or consulate, or through a private visa service specialized in the issuance of international travel documents.  These agencies are authorized by the foreign authority, embassy, or consulate to represent international travelers who are unable or unwilling to travel to the embassy and apply in person.  Private visa and passport services collect an additional fee for verifying customer applications, supporting documents, and submitting them to the appropriate authority.  If there is no embassy or consulate in one's home country, then one would have to travel to a third country (or apply by post) and try to get a visa issued there.  The need or absence of need of a visa generally depends on the citizenship of the applicant, the intended duration of the stay, and the activities that the applicant may wish to undertake in the country he visits; these may delineate different formal categories of visas, with different issue conditions.

Some countries have reciprocal visa regimes:  if Country A requires citizens of Country B to have a visa to travel there, then Country B may apply reciprocity and require a visa from citizens of Country A.  Likewise, if A allows B's citizens to enter without a visa, B may allow A's citizens to enter without a visa.

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Types of Visas

Each country has a multitude of categories of visas and with various names.  The most common types and names of visas include:

  • Transit Visa, usually valid for 5 days or less, for passing through the country to a third destination.

  • airside transit visa, required by some countries for passing through their airports even without going through immigration clearance.

  • Tourist Visa, for a limited period of leisure travel, no business activities allowed.

  • Business Visa, for engaging in commerce in the country.  These visas generally preclude permanent employment, for which a work visa would be required.

  • Temporary Worker Visa, for approved employment in the host country.  These are generally more difficult to obtain but valid for longer periods of time than a business visa.  Examples of these are the United States' H-1B and L-1 visas.

  • On-arrival Visa, granted at a port of entry.  This is distinct from not requiring a visa at all, as the visitor must still obtain the visa before they can even try to pass through immigration.

  • Spousal Visa or Partner Visa, granted to the spouse, civil partner or de facto partner of a resident or citizen of a given country, in order to enable the couple to settle in that country.

  • Student Visa, which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country.

  • Working Holiday Visa, for individuals traveling between nations offering a working holiday program.  A working holiday visa allows young people to undertake temporary work while traveling.

  • Diplomatic Visa (sometimes official visa), is normally only available to bearers of diplomatic passports.

  • Courtesy Visa issued to representatives of foreign governments or international organizations who do not qualify for diplomatic status but do merit expedited, courteous treatment.

  • Journalist Visa, which some countries require of people in that occupation when traveling for their respective news organizations.  Countries which insist on this include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United States (I-visa) and Zimbabwe.

  • Marriage Visa, granted for a limited period prior to intended marriage or civil partnership based on a proven relationship with a citizen of the destination country.

  • Immigrant Visa, granted for those intending to immigrate to the issuing country.  They usually are issued for a single journey as the holder will, depending on the country, later be issued a permanent resident identification card which will allow the traveler to enter to the issuing country an unlimited number of times.  (for example, the United States Permanent Resident Card).

  • Pensioner Visa (also known as retiree visa or retirement visa), issued by a limited number of countries (Australia, Argentina, Thailand, Panama, etc.), to those who can demonstrate a foreign source of income and who do not intend to work in the issuing country.  Age limits apply in some cases.

  • Electronic Visa.  The visa is stored in a computer and is electronically tied to the passport number; no label, sticker or stamp is placed in the passport prior to travel.

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A laissez-passer (from the French let pass) is a travel document issued by a national government or certain international organizations, such as the United Nations, European Union and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  A laissez-passer is often for one-way travel to the issuing country for humanitarian reasons only.  Some national governments issue laissez-passers to their own nationals as emergency passports.  Others issue them to people who are stateless, or who are unable to obtain a passport from their own government, or whose government is not recognized by the issuing country.

The United Nations (and the International Labour Organization) issue a laissez-passer to officials and members of the UN and other specialized agencies as well as to several international organizations.  The laissez-passer is also issued to their families for official use.  The United Nations Laissez-Passer is similar to a passport, and is generally recognized worldwide, although some countries will not accept the document as sufficient to gain entry.  It does not generally confer diplomatic immunity, but may confer limited immunities and privileges.

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National Identity Card

Identity cards are generally issued as a means of identification within a country, but can often also be used as a travel document.  For example, complying National Identity Cards of the European Union can be used unrestricted in at least 30 countries (the 27 member states of the European Union plus Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland) and also for entering to Turkey.  The U.S. passport card can be regarded an identity card fit for international travel, particularly in North America.  The passport card (previously known as the People Access Security Service Card, or PASS Card) is an alternative to a passport produced in the United States to meet the documentary requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.  The U.S. Passport Card is a wallet-size travel document, issued to U.S. citizens only, that can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book.  The passport card cannot be used for international air travel.

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Enhanced Driver's License

Some provinces and states (British Columbia, Manitoba, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, and Washington) are issuing Enhanced Driver's Licenses.  These are not permits allowing motorists to drive in an enhanced manner but contain ID features like enhanced ID cards.  Enhanced licenses essentially combine a regular driver's license with the same specifications of the new U.S. passport card.  Thus in addition to proving driving privileges, the enhanced license also is proof of U.S. citizenship (for EDLs/EIDs issued in the United States) or Canadian citizenship (for EDLs/EIDs issued in Canada), and can therefore be used to cross the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican borders by road, rail, or sea, but not air (this will always require a traditional passport book).  The enhanced licenses are also fully Real ID compliant.  These cards have RFID so they may be used at border crossings that have RFID readers.

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Travel Safety

It's important to take precautions to ensure travel safety.  When traveling abroad, the odds favor a safe and incident-free trip, however, travelers can be subject to difficulties, crime and violence.  No one is better able to tell you this than the U.S. consular officers who work in more than 250 U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe.  Every day of the year, U.S. embassies and consulates receive calls from American citizens in distress.

Fortunately, most problems can be solved over the phone or with a visit to the Consular Section of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. There are other occasions, however, when U.S. consular officers are called upon to help U.S. citizens who are in foreign hospitals or prisons, or to assist the families of U.S. citizens who have passed away overseas.

The U.S. Department of State has prepared the following travel tips to help you avoid serious difficulties during your time abroad.  These simple tips, and some common sense, should help ensure that you have a safe and wonderful journey.

Before You Go

What to Take:

  • Safety begins when you pack. To help avoid becoming a target, do not dress in a way that could mark you as an affluent tourist. Expensive-looking jewelry, for instance, can draw the wrong attention.

  • Always try to travel light. You can move more quickly and will be more likely to have a free hand. You will also be less tired and less likely to set your luggage down, leaving it unattended.

  • Carry the minimum number of valuables, and plan places to conceal them. Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe. When you have to carry them on your person, you may wish to put them each in a different place rather than all in one wallet or pouch. Avoid handbags, fanny packs and outside pockets that are easy targets for thieves. Inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer. One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.

  • If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. Pack them and any medicines you need in your carry-on luggage.

  • To avoid problems when passing through customs, keep medicines in their original, labeled containers. Bring copies of your prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs. If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor attesting to your need to take the drug. If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country before you travel.

  • Bring travelers’ checks and one or two major credit cards instead of cash.

  • Pack an extra set of passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport’s information page to make replacement of your passport easier in the event it is lost or stolen.

  • Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality. If possible, lock your luggage.

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What to Leave Behind:

  • Don't bring anything you would hate to lose.  Leave at home:
    1. Valuable or expensive-looking jewelry
    2. Irreplaceable family objects
    3. All unnecessary credit cards
    4. Your Social Security card, library card, and similar items you may routinely carry in your wallet.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency.

  • Make two photocopies of your passport identification page, airline tickets, driver's license and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you. Leave one photocopy of this data with family or friends at home; pack the other in a place separate from where you carry the originals.

  • Leave a copy of the serial numbers of your travelers' checks with a friend or relative at home. Carry your copy with you in a separate place and, as you cash the checks, cross them off the list.

What to Learn About Before You Go

  • Local Laws and Customs

    When you leave the United States, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. Therefore, before you go, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the places you plan to visit. Good resources are your library, your travel agent, and the embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit. In addition, keep track of what is being reported in the media about recent developments in those countries.

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Things to Arrange Before You Go:

  • Your Itinerary

    As much as possible, plan to stay in larger hotels that have more elaborate security. Safety experts recommend booking a room from the second to seventh floors above ground level – high enough to deter easy entry from outside, but low enough for fire equipment to reach.

    When there is a choice of airport or airline, ask your travel agent about comparative safety records.

  • Legal Documents

    Have your affairs in order at home. If you leave a current will, insurance documents, and power of attorney with your family or a friend, you can feel secure about traveling and will be prepared for any emergency that may arise while you are away. If you have minor children, consider making guardianship arrangements for them.

  • Register your travel

    It is a good idea to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program—think of it as checking in-- so that you may be contacted if need be, whether because of a family emergency in the U.S., or because of a crisis in the area in which you are traveling. It is a free service provided by the State Department, and is easily accomplished online at (In accordance with the Privacy Act, the Department of State may not release information on your welfare or whereabouts to inquirers without your express written authorization.)

  • Credit

    Make a note of the credit limit on each credit card that you bring, and avoid charging over that limit while traveling. Americans have been arrested for innocently exceeding their credit limit. Ask your credit card company how to report the loss of your card from abroad. 1-800 numbers do not work from abroad, but your company should have a number that you can call while you are overseas.

  • Insurance

    Find out if your personal property insurance covers you for loss or theft abroad. Also, check on whether your health insurance covers you abroad. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide payment for medical care outside the United States. Even if your health insurance will reimburse you for medical care that you pay for abroad, health insurance usually does not pay for medical evacuation from a remote area or from a country where medical facilities are inadequate. Consider purchasing a policy designed for travelers, and covering short-term health and emergency assistance, as well as medical evacuation in the event of an accident or serious illness.

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Precautions to Take While Traveling

Safety on the Street

Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home.  Be especially cautious in (or avoid) areas where you may be more easily victimized. These include crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and crime-ridden neighborhoods.

  • Don't use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.
  • Try not to travel alone at night.
  • Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
  • Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.
  • Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
  • Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices.
  • Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will:
    1. ajostle you,
    2. ask you for directions or the time,
    3. point to something spilled on your clothing,
    4. or distract you by creating a disturbance.
  • Beware of groups of vagrant children who could create a distraction to pick your pocket.
  • Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.
  • Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. Try to ask for directions only from individuals in authority.
  • Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.
  • Learn a few phrases in the local language or have them handy in written form so that you can signal your need for police or medical help.
  • Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • If you are confronted, don't fight back—give up your valuables.

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Safety in Your Hotel:

  • Keep your hotel door locked at all times.  Meet visitors in the lobby.
  • Do not leave money and other valuables in your hotel room while you are out.  Use the hotel safe.
  • If you are out late at night, let someone know when you expect to return.
  • If you are alone, do not get on an elevator if there is a suspicious-looking person inside.
  • Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room.  Know how to report a fire, and be sure you know where the nearest fire exits and alternate exits are located.  (Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit; this could be a lifesaver if you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.)

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Safety on Public Transportation

If a country has a pattern of tourists being targeted by criminals on public transport, that information is mentioned in each country’s Country Specific Information in the section about crime.

  • Taxis

    Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings.  Beware of unmarked cabs.

  • Trains

    Well-organized, systematic robbery of passengers on trains along popular tourist routes is a problem.  It is more common at night and especially on overnight trains.

    If you see your way being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from behind, move away.  This can happen in the corridor of the train or on the platform or station.

    Do not accept food or drink from strangers. Criminals have been known to drug food or drink offered to passengers. Criminals may also spray sleeping gas in train compartments. Where possible, lock your compartment.  If it cannot be locked securely, take turns sleeping in shifts with your traveling companions.  If that is not possible, stay awake.  If you must sleep unprotected, tie down your luggage and secure your valuables to the extent possible.

    Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way. Extra police are often assigned to ride trains on routes where crime is a serious problem.

  • Buses 

    The same type of criminal activity found on trains can be found on public buses on popular tourist routes. For example, tourists have been drugged and robbed while sleeping on buses or in bus stations.  In some countries, whole busloads of passengers have been held up and robbed by gangs of bandits.

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Safety When You Drive

When you rent a car, choose a type that is commonly available locally.  Where possible, ask that markings that identify it as a rental car be removed.  Make certain it is in good repair.  If available, choose a car with universal door locks and power windows, features that give the driver better control of access.  An air conditioner, when available, is also a safety feature, allowing you to drive with windows closed.  Thieves can and do snatch purses through open windows of moving cars.

  • Keep car doors locked at all times. Wear seat belts.
  • As much as possible, avoid driving at night.
  • Don't leave valuables in the car.  If you must carry things with you, keep them out of sight locked in the trunk, and then take them with you when you leave the car.
  • Don't park your car on the street overnight.  If the hotel or municipality does not have a parking garage or other secure area, select a well-lit area.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • Don't get out of the car if there are suspicious looking individuals nearby.  Drive away.

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Patterns of Crime Against Motorists

In many places frequented by tourists, including areas of southern Europe, victimization of motorists has been refined to an art. Where it is a problem, U.S. embassies are aware of it and consular officers try to work with local authorities to warn the public about the dangers. In some locations, these efforts at public awareness have paid off, reducing the frequency of incidents. You may also wish to ask your rental car agency for advice on avoiding robbery while visiting tourist destinations.

  • Carjackers and thieves operate at gas stations, parking lots, in city traffic and along the highway. Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries to get your attention when you are in or near your car.

  • Criminals use ingenious ploys. They may pose as good Samaritans, offering help for tires that they claim are flat or that they have made flat. Or they may flag down a motorist, ask for assistance, and then steal the rescuer's luggage or car. Usually they work in groups, one person carrying on the pretense while the others rob you.

  • Other criminals get your attention with abuse, either trying to drive you off the road, or causing an "accident" by rear-ending you.

  • In some urban areas, thieves don't waste time on ploys, they simply smash car windows at traffic lights, grab your valuables or your car and get away. In cities around the world, "defensive driving" has come to mean more than avoiding auto accidents; it means keeping an eye out for potentially criminal pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders.

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How to Handle Money Safely

  • To avoid carrying large amounts of cash, change your travelers’ checks only as you need currency.  Countersign travelers’ checks only in front of the person who will cash them.

  • Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill. Make sure your credit card is returned to you after each transaction.

  • Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets or purchase souvenirs. Do not change money on the black market.

If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims and as an explanation of what happened.

After reporting missing items to the police, report the loss or theft of:

  • Travelers' checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company
  • Credit cards to the issuing company
  • Airline tickets to the airline or travel agent
  • Passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate

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How to Avoid Legal Difficulties

When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws and are under its jurisdiction. You can be arrested overseas for actions that may be either legal or considered minor infractions in the United States. Familiarize yourself with legal expectations in the countries you will visit. The Country Specific Information pages include information on unusual patterns of arrests in particular countries, as appropriate.

  • Drug Violations

    More than one-third of U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad are held on drug charges. Some countries do not distinguish between possession and trafficking, and many have mandatory sentences – even for possession of a small amount of marijuana or cocaine. A number of Americans have been arrested for possessing prescription drugs, particularly tranquilizers and amphetamines, that they purchased legally elsewhere. Other U.S. citizens have been arrested for purchasing prescription drugs abroad in quantities that local authorities suspected were for commercial use. If in doubt about foreign drug laws, ask local authorities or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

  • Possession of Firearms

    The places where U.S. citizens most often experience difficulties for illegal possession of firearms are nearby—Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. Sentences for possession of firearms in Mexico can be up to 30 years. In general, firearms, even those legally registered in the U.S., cannot be brought into a country unless a permit is obtained in advance from the embassy or a consulate of that country and the firearm is registered with foreign authorities on arrival. (NOTE: There are also strict rules about bringing firearms or ammunition into the U.S; check with U.S. Customs before your trip.

  • Photography

    In many countries you can be detained for photographing security-related institutions, such as police and military installations, government buildings, border areas and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs.

  • Purchasing Antiques

    Americans have been arrested for purchasing souvenirs that were, or looked like, antiques and that local customs authorities believed were national treasures. This is especially true in Turkey, Egypt and Mexico. Familiarize yourself with any local regulations of antiques. In countries with strict control of antiques, document your purchases as reproductions if that is the case, or if they are authentic, secure the necessary export permit (often from the national museum). It is a good idea to inquire about exporting these items before you purchase them.

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Modes of Transport:

The most dominant modes of transport are aviation, land transport, which includes rail, road and off-road transport, and ship transport.  Other modes also exist, including cable transport and space transport.

Air Travel

A fixed-wing aircraft, typically airplane, is a heavier-than-air craft where the movement of the lift surfaces relative to the air generates lift.  The shape of the wing causes air to travel faster over its upper surface.  This reduces air pressure above the wing.  It also helps increase the pressure on the wing’s lower surface, pushing it upward and creating lift.  Fixed-wing aircraft range from small trainers and recreational aircraft to large airliners and military cargo aircraft.

The aircraft is the second fastest method of transport, after spacecraft.  Commercial jets can reach up to 955 kilometres per hour (593 mph), while single-engine piston aircraft may reach up to 555 kilometres per hour (345 mph).  Aviation is able to quickly transport people and limited amounts of cargo over longer distances, but incur high costs and energy use; for short distances or in inaccessible places, helicopters can be used.  The World Health Organization estimates that up to 500,000 people are on planes at any time.

Air travel can be separated into two general classifications:  national/domestic and international flights.  Flights from one point to another within the same country are called domestic flights.  Flights from a point in one country to a point within a different country are known as international flights.

Most air travel starts and ends at a commercial airport.  The typical procedure is airport check-in, border control, airport security baggage and passenger check before entering the gate, boarding, flying and pick-up of luggage and—limited to international flights—another border control at the host country's border.

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Travel Class

In commercial air travel, particularly in airliners, cabins may be divided into several parts.  These can include travel class sections in medium and large aircraft, areas for flight attendants, the galley and storage for in-flight service.  Seats are mostly arranged in rows and alleys.  The higher the travel class, the more space is provided.  Cabins of the different travel classes are often divided by curtains, sometimes called class dividers though some airlines will not utilize a curtain between Business and First class.  Passengers are not usually allowed to visit higher travel class cabins in commercial flights.

Some aircraft cabins contain passenger entertainment systems.  Short haul cabins tend to have no or shared screens whereas long haul flights often contain personal screens which allow passengers to choose what to watch on their personal screen.

Travel class on an airplane is usually split into a two, three or four class model.  US Domestic flights usually have two classes:  Economy Class and a Domestic First Class partitioned into cabins.  International flights may have up to four classes: Economy Class, Premium Economy, Business Class or Club Class and First Class.  Higher travel classes are more comfortable and more expensive.

First Class

First Class is a luxury travel class on some airliners that exceeds business class, premium economy, and economy class.  On a passenger jetliner, first class refers to a limited number (rarely more than 16) of seats or cabins located in the front of the aircraft which are notable for their comfort, service, and privacy.  Propeller airliners occasionally have first class in the rear.

First-class seats vary from large reclining seats with more legroom and width than other classes to suites with a fully reclining seat, workstation and TV surrounded by privacy dividers.  International first-class seats usually have between 147–239 cm (58–94 inches) of seat pitch and between 48–89 cm (19–35 inches) of width while domestic flights may have between 86–173 cm (34–68 inches) of pitch and between 46–56 cm (18–22 inches) in width.  Some airlines have first-class seats which allow passengers to let 1 guest sit for a short while face-to-face with the occupant of the cabin.

First-class passengers usually have at least one lavatory reserved for their exclusive use, with more than one on larger planes.  Business- and economy-class passengers are not normally permitted in the first-class cabin.  Normally AVOD (audiovisual on demand) entertainment is offered, although sometimes normal films, television programs and interactive games are provided on medium-large seat-back or armrest-mounted flat panel monitors.  Especially for long-haul and high-yielding routes on top airlines, a first-class seat may have facilities akin to a five-star hotel such as a mini-bar.  Recently, some airlines have gone far enough to model their first-class section as suites.

On the ground, first-class passengers are offered complimentary limousine service and usually have special check-in and security zones at the airport while some airlines operate private terminals.  While it is typical that these passengers have lounge access, some airlines have separate lounges for first and business where the former may have more luxurious amenities.  These passengers are often able to board the aircraft before other passengers, sometimes through their own jetbridge.

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary and gourmet meals are usually served with a choice of wine, dessert, and aperitifs.  Often these meals have been designed by leading chefs and are served on white linen table cloths and with real cutlery (often with the exception of knives for security reasons).

When it comes to mileage, revenue first-class passengers are entitled to more bonus miles which can make the earning of a free ticket and other perks (such as a higher tier on a frequent flyer program) much faster.

On most domestic flights within the United States, what is normally regional business class in the rest of the world is branded as "domestic first class" by US airlines.  The service is generally a step below long haul international business class.

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Business Class

Business Class is a travel class available on many commercial airlines, known by brand names which vary by airline company.  It was originally intended as an intermediate level of service between economy class and first class, but many airlines now offer business class as the highest level of service.  Business class is distinguished from other travel classes by the quality of seating, food, drinks, ground service and other amenities.

Long haul business class seats are substantially different from economy class seats and many airlines have installed "lie flat" seats into business class, whereas previously seats with such a recline were only available in international first class.  There are essentially three types of long haul business class seats today.  These are listed in ascending order of perceived "quality".

  • Cradle seats are seats with around 160 degrees of recline and substantially more leg room compared to the economy section.  The seat pitch of business class seats range from 33–79.5 in (usually 55–62 in), and the seat size of business class seats range from 17.5–34 in (usually 20–22 in).  Although many airlines have upgraded their long-haul business class cabins to angled lie flat or fully flat seats, cradle seats are still common in business class on shorter routes.

  • Angled lie flat seats recline 180 degrees (or slightly less) to provide a flat sleeping surface, but are not parallel to the floor of the aircraft when reclined, making them less comfortable than a bed.  Seat pitch typically ranges from 55 to 65 in, and seat width usually varies between 18 to 23 in.

  • Fully flat seats recline into a flat sleeping surface which is parallel to the floor.  The appearance of flat seats in business class has made it increasingly difficult for many passengers to justify, either to their employers or themselves, the added expense of an international first class fare.  Many airlines offer such seats in international first class but retain inferior seating in business class to differentiate the two products and fares.  Herringbone seating, in which seats are positioned at an angle to the direction of travel, is used in some widebody cabins to allow direct aisle access for each seat and to allow a large number of fully flat seats to occupy a small cabin space.

As with first class, all alcoholic beverages are complimentary and meals are of higher quality than economy class.  Economy class passengers are usually not permitted in the business class cabin though First class passengers are generally allowed to cross the curtain between Business and First class.

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Premium Economy Class

Increasingly, airlines offer a Premium Economy class to passengers willing to pay more for slightly better seats and, in some cases, better service.  Premium economy is a travel class offered on some airlines, positioned in price, comfort, and amenities between economy class and business class.  As of 2011, the term is not standardized among airlines, and varies significantly when comparing its use on domestic versus international flights or when comparing low-cost or regional airlines with other airliners.  Premium economy is sometimes limited to just a bit more leg room, but at its most comprehensive can feature multiple "creature comforts" that are only a notch below Business class.

Premium economy can encompass differences from economy class such as:

  • a free upgrade to premium members of frequent-flyer program and passengers flying full-fare economy
  • a separate section of the economy/coach cabin with more legroom (36–38" seat pitch), along with some form of leg rest
  • enhanced in-flight entertainment
  • dedicated cabin crew
  • better seats (often with fewer seats per row, to improve shoulder/elbow room)
  • at-seat laptop power
  • in-seat telephone
  • a lounge
  • priority boarding
  • improved entertainment features
  • upgraded meals and drinks
  • increased luggage allowance

Some airlines may designate an entire economy class as premium.  Premium Economy tickets also normally earn more mileage in an airline's frequent flyer program, attracting a bonus between Economy and Business.

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Economy Class

Economy Class, also called coach class (or just coach), steerage, or standard class, is the lowest class of seating in air travel.  Economy class seats usually recline and include a fold-down table.  The seats pitch range from 29 to 36 inches (74 to 91 cm), usually 30–32 in (76–81 cm), and 30 to 36 in (76 to 91 cm) for international economy class seats.  Domestic economy classes range from 17 to 18.25 in (43 to 46.4 cm).

A pocket attached to the seat in front will contain an airsickness bag, inflight magazine, Duty-Free catalogue and a safety and evacuation card.  Depending on the airline, extras might include a blanket, an amenities bag (e.g.  ear plugs, toothpaste, eye mask) and headphones.  In-flight entertainment in economy class is either a "mainscreen" mounted to the aircraft bulkhead providing the same viewing for all cabin passengers or individual screens for each seat that may show Video on demand.  Some low-cost carriers can charge a fee for headphones.  But economy standards vary between carriers.

Availability of food depends on the airline.  Some major carriers no longer serve meals in economy for short haul flights.  Meals are now only generally provided on international flights.  Some airport vendors have started to offer packaged meals to economy travellers that can be carried on to flights.  Low-cost carriers now charge for food and drinks on flights under two hours long.  In addition, many carriers also make economy passengers pay for airport check-in, checked bags, pillows, blankets and headphones.

Some airlines have remarketed economy class because of its poor reputation with customers.  Economy has been referred to as 'cattle class' or 'sardine class'.

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Ship Transportation:

Ship transport is watercraft carrying people (passengers) or goods (cargo).  Sea transport has been the largest carrier of freight throughout recorded history.  Although the importance of sea travel for passengers has decreased due to aviation, it is effective for short trips and pleasure cruises.  Transport by water is cheaper than transport by air.

Ship transport can be over any distance by boat, ship, sailboat or barge, over oceans and lakes, through canals or along rivers.

A passenger ship is a ship whose primary function is to carry passengers.  The category does not include cargo vessels which have accommodations for limited numbers of passengers, such as the ubiquitous twelve-passenger freighters once common on the seas in which the transport of passengers is secondary to the carriage of freight.  Passenger ships are part of the merchant marine.

Passenger ships include ferries, which are vessels for day or overnight short-sea trips moving passengers and vehicles (whether road or rail); ocean liners, which typically are passenger or passenger-cargo vessels transporting passengers and often cargo on longer line voyages; and cruise ships, which often transport passengers on round-trips, in which the trip itself and the attractions of the ship and ports visited are the principal draw.

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Ocean Liners

Ocean liner is a passenger ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule.  Ocean liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes.  Ocean liners typically transport passengers from one point to another, rather than on round trips.

Traditionally, an ocean liner for the transoceanic trade will be built to a higher standard than a typical cruise ship, including high freeboard and stronger plating to withstand rough seas and adverse conditions encountered in the open ocean, such as the North Atlantic.  Ocean liners also usually have larger capacities for fuel, victuals, and other stores for consumption on long voyages, compared to dedicated cruise ships.

Although often luxurious, ocean liners have characteristics that make them unsuitable for cruising, such as high fuel consumption, deep draught that prevent them from entering shallow ports, enclosed weatherproof decks that are not appropriate for tropical weather, and cabins designed to maximize passenger numbers rather than comfort (few if any private verandas, a high proportion of windowless suites).

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Cruise Season 2012

Cruise Ships

Cruise ships or cruise liners are passenger ships used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are considered an essential part of the experience.  Transportation is not the prime purpose, as cruise ships operate mostly on routes that return passengers to their originating port, so the ports of call are usually in a specified region of a continent.  However, larger cruise ships have also engaged in longer trips such as transocean voyages which may not lead back to the same port for months (longer round trips).

Maritime Cruises

Cruising has become a major part of the tourism industry, with millions of passengers each year as of 2006.  The industry's rapid growth has seen nine or more newly built ships catering to a North American clientele added every year since 2001, as well as others servicing European clientele.  Luxury cruises are often centered around the Caribbean, Alaska, and Mexico.  For certain destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, cruise ships are the most common way to visit.  Smaller markets such as the Asia-Pacific region are generally serviced by older tonnage displaced by new ships introduced into the high growth areas.  On the Baltic sea this market is served by cruiseferries.

Cruise ships are organized much like floating hotels, with a complete hospitality staff in addition to the usual ship's crew.  It is not uncommon for the most luxurious ships to have more crew and staff than passengers.


Dining on almost all cruise ships is included in the cruise price, except on no-frills lines such as EasyCruise.  Traditionally, the ships' restaurants organize two dinner services per day and passengers are allocated a set dining time for the entire cruise, but a recent trend is to allow diners to dine whenever they want.

Besides the dining room, modern cruise ships also usually feature one or more casual buffet-style eateries, often open 24 hours and with menus that vary throughout the day to provide meals ranging from breakfast to late-night snacks.  Ships also feature numerous bars and nightclubs for passenger entertainment; the majority of cruise lines do not include alcoholic beverages in their fares and passengers are expected to pay for drinks as they consume them.  Most cruise lines also prohibit passengers from bringing aboard and consuming their own alcohol (alcohol purchased duty-free is sealed and only returned to passengers when they disembark) while on-board the ship.

There is often a central galley responsible for serving all major restaurants aboard the ship, though specialty restaurants may have their own separate galleys.

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Other On-Board Facilities:

Most modern cruise ships feature the following facilities:

  • Casino—Only open when the ship is at sea
  • Spa
  • Fitness center
  • Shops—Only open when ship is at sea
  • Library
  • Theatre with Broadway style shows
  • Cinema
  • Indoor and/or outdoor swimming pool
  • Hot tub
  • Buffet restaurant
  • Lounges
  • Gym
  • Clubs

Some ships have bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, miniature golf courses, video arcades, basketball courts, or tennis courts.


Cruise ships have implemented various security measures including LRADs to deter pirates, as well as CCTV, metal detectors and x-rays to prevent weapons and contraband onboard.  In addition to these measures, passengers are often given a personal identification card, which must be shown in order to get on or off the ship.  This prevents people boarding who are not entitled to do so, and also ensures the ship's crew are aware of who is on the ship.

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River Cruises

A River cruise is a voyage along inland waterways, often stopping at multiple ports along the way.  Since cities and towns often grew up around rivers, river cruise ships frequently dock in the center of cities and towns.

River cruise ships are smaller than ocean-going cruise ships, typically holding 90-240 passengers (though there are ships that take only 5 passengers, and others can carry 1,000 passengers).  Due to their smaller size and low draft, river cruise ships can go where ocean cruise ships cannot, and sometimes to where no other transport is practical: rivers are an excellent way to reach some attractions, for example in Russia, China and the Peruvian Amazon.

During river cruises the countryside is usually in view, so they are especially relaxing—and interesting—to those who prefer land nearby.  River cruises usually last from 7 to 15 days, although some can last 3 weeks or longer.

Some river ships resemble 5-star hotels, with sun decks, dining rooms, lounges, fitness facilities, swimming pools, casinos and other entertainment.  Accommodation, meals onboard, entertainment and special events (holidays, festivals, contests, concerts, etc.) are usually included in the cruise price, while bar expenses, sauna, massage, laundry and cleaning, and phone calls are not.

Most cruises have a variety of onboard and onshore activities.  The latter include guided tours to historic and cultural sites, visiting local attractions, museums and galleries, and other points of interest.  Guides give a running commentary while sailing.

A river cruise provides travelers a unique way to travel.  According to Douglas Ward, author of Insight Guide to Great River Cruises,

"A river cruise represents life in the slow lane, sailing along at a gentle pace, soaking up the scenery, with plentiful opportunities to explore riverside towns and cities en route.  It is a supremely calming experience, an antidote to the pressures of life in a fast-paced world, in surroundings that are comfortable without being fussy or pretentious, with good food and enjoyable company.

A river cruise is very different from an ocean cruise.  For a start, you are in almost constant sight of land and stops are far more frequent than they are at sea.  The vessels are like small, friendly, floating inns, whereas ocean-going ships tend to be bigger, flashier, busier and livelier, the crew practised in the art of moving up to 4,000 people from one port to another and getting them on and off the ship.  In contrast, when your river cruise vessel docks you simply walk up the gangway and into the town or city—in many cases the dock is located right at the heart of things.  Despite these differences, however, most people who enjoy ocean cruising and the relaxing rhythm of life afloat are attracted to river cruises as well."

Popular river cruises include trips along the Nile, the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Danube, the Rhine, the Seine, or the Volga.  There are several dozen river cruise companies each with 1 to 18 ships.

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Ferries are a form of transport, usually a boat or ship, but also other forms, carrying (or ferrying) passengers and sometimes their vehicles.  Ferries are also used to transport freight.  Most ferries operate on regular, frequent, return services.  A foot-passenger ferry with many stops, such as in Venice, is sometimes called a waterbus or water taxi.  Ferries form a part of the public transport systems of many waterside cities and islands, allowing direct transit between points at a capital cost much lower than bridges or tunnels.

A Cruiseferry is a ship that combines the features of a cruise ship with a Ro-Pax ferry.  Many passengers travel with the ships for the cruise experience, staying only a few hours at the destination port or not leaving the ship at all, while others use the ships as means of transportation.

Cruiseferry traffic is mainly concentrated in the seas of Northern Europe, especially the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  However, similar ships traffic across the English Channel as well as the Irish Sea, Mediterranean and even on the North Atlantic.  Cruiseferries also operate from China and Australia.

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Hotel Barges

The Hotel Barge came into being following the decline in commercial and freight carriage on the canals of Europe.  Many working barges have been converted into floating hotels of varying degrees of luxury.  This trend began in the 1960s and has now grown into a network of hotel barges operating on the canals and rivers of France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Ireland, England, and Scotland.

Luxury hotel barges have been cruising in Europe for over 30 years and are felt by many of their clients to provide an enjoyable, relaxing and luxurious way of experiencing countryside scenery, towns and villages.  The French 'Classic' routes (Burgundy, the Loire Valley and the Canal du Midi) are the busiest, having the most hotel barges operating, together with an appreciable number of hire boats and private pleasure craft.  However, hotel barges are to be found working almost all of France’s waterways, including the quieter and lesser-known canals—these present an alternative to the busier routes.  Most waterways (rivers and canals) remain unspoilt and key attractions of hotel barging are peace and quiet, comfort and relaxation in attractive surroundings.

Hotel barges normally travel for a part of the day, between town ports or more informal moorings.  Most cruise on Europe's extensive canal network (8,500km in France alone) but a few visit or operate on rivers.  Cruise itineraries will have been developed to provide clients with a rich mixture of scenic quality, history and interest.  Many barges will also provide excursions to visit local sights (for example, vineyards, restaurants, artisan workshops, markets or castles), most according to a pre-arranged schedule others entirely according to the wishes and interests of particular guests.  Most barges will provide bicycles for guests for more informal explorations.

Hotel barges vary widely in size, in configuration, in the scale and quality of their accommodation, and in the standard and amount of catering.  At the larger end, there are barges that take 24 guests, at the smaller, just four.  All hotel barges have a high staff to guest ratio, but it would be natural for the more intimate boats to provide a greater degree of personal attention and possibly personal comfort.

From a food and drink point of view, hotel barges vary from those offering straightforward Bed and Breakfast services, to those also providing Lunch, to Full Service.  At least one hotel barge offers self-catering.  At the best Five Star level, barges will have a qualified and experienced chef on board able to prepare and serve cuisine of an internationally high standard, from daily fresh local ingredients—and with an accompanying selection of local wines and spirits.  The opportunity to dine well—and healthily—is another reason many clients say that they choose a barge hotel experience.

Hotel barges provide guest rooms (cabins) of a luxurious standard, with en-suite bathrooms.  They will normally also include a saloon (lounge) and dining room, and an open sun deck with appropriate furniture.  Some barges also feature Jacuzzis, hot tubs and small plunge pools on deck (although these are not always well used by guests, being somewhat exposed to the public gaze).  Many barges, especially those operating in Southern France, are air-conditioned.  Many hotel barges provide mobile internet access whilst on board.

A pleasure barge is a flat bottomed, slow moving boat used for leisure.  It is contrasted with a standard barge, which is used to transport freight.  Many places where canals or rivers play a prominent role have developed pleasure barges for conducting religious ceremonies or waterborne festivities, or for viewing scenery.

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Pleasure Crafts

Recreational boats (sometimes called pleasure craft, especially for less sporting activities) is a boat used for personal, family, and sometimes sportsmanlike recreation.  Typically such watercraft are motorized and are used for holidays, for example on a river, lake, canal or waterway.  Pleasure craft are normally kept at a marina.  They may include accommodation for use while moored to the bank.

A pleasure craft (or pleasure boat) fall into several broad categories, and additional subcategories.  Broad categories include dinghies (generally under 16 feet powered by sail, small engines, or muscle power), paddlesports boats (kayaks, rowing shells, canoes), runabouts (15-25' powerboats with either outboard, sterndrive, or inboard engines), daysailers (14–25-foot sailboats, frequently with a small auxiliary engine), cruisers (25–65' powerboats with cabins), and cruising and racing sailboats (25–65-foot sailboats with auxiliary engines).

Sailing for pleasure can involve short trips across a bay, day sailing, coastal sailing within sight of land, and more extended offshore or 'blue-water' cruising.  These trips can be single-handed or the vessel may be crewed by families or groups of friends.  Sailing vessels may proceed on their own, or be part of a flotilla with other like-minded voyagers.  Sailing boats may be operated by their owners, who often also gain pleasure from maintaining and modifying their craft to suit their needs and taste, or may be rented for the specific trip or cruise.  A professional skipper and even crew may be hired along with the boat in some cases.

A style of casual coastal cruising called gunkholing is a popular summertime family recreational activity.  It consists of taking a series of day sails to out of the way places and anchoring overnight while enjoying such activities as exploring isolated islands, swimming, fishing, etc.  Many nearby local waters on rivers, bays, sounds, and coastlines can become great natural cruising grounds for this type of recreational sailing.  Casual sailing trips with friends and family can become lifetime bonding experiences rarely to be equaled in any other way.

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Passenger Trains:

Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks, known as a railway or railroad.  Rail vehicles are directionally guided by the tracks they run on.  Track usually consists of steel rails installed on sleepers/ties and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves.  However, other variations are also possible, such as slab track where the rails are fastened to a concrete foundation resting on a prepared subsurface.

A railroad train consists of one or more connected vehicles that run on the rails.  Propulsion is commonly provided by a locomotive, that hauls a series of unpowered cars, that can carry passengers or freight.  The locomotive can be powered by steam, diesel or by electricity supplied by trackside systems.  Alternatively, some or all the cars can be powered, known as a multiple unit.  Also, a train can be powered by cables, gravity, pneumatics and gas turbines.  Railed vehicles move with much less friction than rubber tires on paved roads, making trains more energy efficient, though not as efficient as ships.

A passenger train travels between stations where passengers may embark and disembark.  The oversight of the train is the duty of a guard/train manager.  Passenger trains are part of public transport and often make up the stem of the service, with buses feeding to stations.  Passenger trains can involve a variety of functions including long distance intercity travel, daily commuter trips, or local urban transit services.  They even include a diversity of vehicles, operating speeds, right of way requirements, and service frequency.

Passenger trains usually can be divided into two operations:  intercity railway and intracity transit.  Whereas as intercity railway involve higher speeds, longer routes, and lower frequency (usually scheduled), intracity transit involves lower speeds, shorter routes, and higher frequency (especially during peak hours).

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Intercity Railway

Intercity trains are long-haul trains that operate with few stops between cities.  Trains typically have amenities such as a dining car.  Some lines also provide over-night services with sleeping cars.  Some long-haul trains been given a specific nameRegional trains are medium distance trains that connect cities with outlying, surrounding areas, or provide a regional service, making more stops and having lower speeds.  Commuter trains serve suburbs of urban areas, providing a daily commuting service.  Airport rail links provide quick access from city centres to airports.

High-speed rail are special inter-city trains that operates at much higher speeds than conventional railways, the limit being regarded at 200 to 320 km/h.  High-speed trains are used mostly for long-haul service and most systems are in Western Europe and East Asia.  The speed record is 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph), set by a modified French TGVMagnetic levitation trains such as the Shanghai airport train use under-riding magnets which attract themselves upward towards the underside of a guideway and this line has achieved somewhat higher peak speeds in day-to-day operation than conventional high-speed railways, although only over short distances.

Trains often have first class (the higher class) and second class (known as standard class in the UK).  For trains with sleeping accommodation, there may be more levels of luxury.

In the United States train classes emulate the airlines, trains with sleeper cars have additional levels.  In Europe, there are generally two classes, known as "First Class" and "Second Class".  The United Kingdom still must by law provide a minimum Third-Class service, which has been rebranded as "Standard Class".

A convention used by most European railway companies is that the First Class section of a train is marked in yellow, usually yellow band above the doors and / or the windows.  First class may be complete carriages, or may be at one end of a carriage, the other end being second class.

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Intracity Transit

A rapid transit, underground, subway, elevated railway, metro or metropolitan railway system is an electric passenger railway in an urban area with a high capacity and frequency, and grade separation from other traffic.  Rapid transit systems are typically located either in underground tunnels or on elevated rails above street level.  Outside urban centers, rapid transit lines may run on grade separated ground level tracks.  At street level, smaller trams can be used.  

Light rails are upgraded trams that have step-free access, their own right-of-way and sometimes sections underground.  Monorail systems operate as elevated, medium capacity systems.  A people mover is a driverless, grade-separated train that serves only a few stations, as a shuttle.

Service on rapid transit systems is provided on designated lines between stations using electric multiple units on rail tracks, although some systems use guided rubber tyres, magnetic levitation, or monorail.  They are typically integrated with other public transport and often operated by the same public transport authorities.

A tram (also known as a tramcar, streetcar, trolley car) is a passenger rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets and also sometimes on separate rights of way.  It may also run between cities and/or towns (interurbans, tram-train), and/or partially grade separated even in the cities (light rail).  Trams are usually lighter and shorter than conventional trains and rapid transit trains.  Most trams today use electrical power, usually fed by a pantograph; in some cases by a sliding shoe on a third rail or trolley pole.  If necessary, they may have several power systems.  Certain types of cable car are also known as trams.  Another power source is diesel; a few trams use electricity in the streets and diesel in more rural environments.

Dewirements—when the trolley poles come off of the wires—sometimes occur, especially in areas subject to heavy snow.  After a dewirement, trolleybuses not equipped with an auxiliary power unit (APU) are stranded without power.  However, dewirements are relatively rare in modern systems with well-maintained overhead wires, hangers, fittings and "contact shoes".

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Road Transportation:

The most common road vehicle is the automobile.  Other users of roads include buses, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.  As of 2002, there were 590 million automobiles worldwide.


Bicycles allow people to travel for leisure into the country, since bicycles are three times as energy efficient as walking and three to four times as fast.

Recently, several European cities and Montreal have implemented successful schemes known as community bicycle programs or bike-sharing.  These initiatives complement a city's public transport system and offer an alternative to motorized traffic to help reduce congestion and pollution.  In Europe, especially in The Netherlands and parts of Germany and Denmark, commuting by bicycle is very common.  In the Danish capital of Copenhagen, a cyclists' organization runs a Cycling Embassy, that promotes biking for commuting and sightseeing.

In The Netherlands, all train stations are equipped with provisions for bicycle parking for free or a more secure parking place for a small fee and the larger ones also with bicycle repair shops, and cycling is so popular that the parking capacity is sometimes exceeded.  In Trondheim in Norway, the Trampe bicycle lift has been developed to encourage cyclists by giving assistance on a steep hill.  Action buses In Canberra, Australia, offers bicycle rack on the front of the bus to allow riders to mount their bicycle free of charge, and previously it would allow bicycle riders to ride on buses for free.

In cities where the bicycle is not an integral part of the planned transportation system, commuters often use bicycles as elements of a mixed-mode commute, where the bike is used to travel to and from train stations or other forms of rapid transit.  Folding bicycles are useful in these scenarios, as they are less cumbersome when carried aboard.  Los Angeles removed a small amount of seating on some trains to make more room for bicycles and wheel chairs.

Bicycles offer an important mode of transport in many developing countries.  Until recently, bicycles have been a staple of everyday life throughout Asian countries.  They are the most frequently used method of transport for commuting to work, school, shopping, and life in general.

The cycle rickshaw is a small-scale local means of transport; it is also known by a variety of other names such as velotaxi, pedicab, bikecab, cyclo, becak, or trishaw or, simply, rickshaw which also refers to auto rickshaws, and the, now uncommon, rickshaws pulled by a person on foot.  Cycle rickshaws are human-powered, a type of tricycle designed to carry passengers in addition to the driver.  They are often used on a for hire basis.  Cycle rickshaws are widely used in major cities around the world, but most commonly in cities of South, Southeast and East Asia.

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Harley Davidson


A motorcycle (also called a motorbike, bike, or cycle) is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle.  Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.

In certain markets, motorcycles or scooters can often be rented from car rental agencies.  Although any motorcycle can be used to tour with, manufacturers have brought specific models designed to address the particular needs of these riders. Common to the touring motorcycle models are usually large displacement, fairings and windshields (to offer a high degree of weather and wind protection), large-capacity fuel tanks (for long ranges between fill-ups), engines offering lots of low-end horsepower, and a more relaxed, more upright seating position than sport bikes.

Motorcycles are one of the most affordable forms of motorised transport in many parts of the world and, for most of the world's population, they are also the most common type of motor vehicle.  There are around 200 million motorcycles (including mopeds, motor scooters, motorized bicycles, and other powered two and three-wheelers) in use worldwide, or about 33 motorcycles per 1000 people.  This compares to around 590 million cars, or about 91 per 1000 people.  Most of the motorcycles, 58%, are in the developing countries of Asia—Southern and Eastern Asia, and the Asia Pacific countries, excluding Japan—while 33% of the cars (195 million) are concentrated in the United States and Japan.

Motorcycle fuel economy varies greatly with engine displacement and riding style.  Due to low engine displacements (100 cc–200 cc), and high power-to-mass ratios, motorcycles offer good fuel economy.

While people choose to ride motorcycles for various reasons, those reasons are increasingly practical, with riders opting for a powered two-wheeler as a cost-efficient alternative to infrequent and expensive public transport systems, or as a means of avoiding or reducing the effects of urban congestion.  In places where it is permitted, lane splitting, also known as filtering, allows motorcycles to use the space between vehicles to move through stationary or slow traffic.

In many cities that have serious parking challenges for cars, such as San Francisco and Melbourne, motorcycles are generally permitted to park on the sidewalk, rather than occupy a space on the street which might otherwise be used by a car.

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A car rental or car hire agency often has numerous local branches (which allow a user to return a vehicle to a different location), and primarily located near airports or busy city areas and often complemented by a website allowing online reservations.  Alongside the basic rental of a vehicle, car rental agencies typically also offer extra products such as insurance, global positioning system (GPS) navigation systems, entertainment systems, and even such things as mobile phones.

A typical car rental agency offers average-priced vehicles, however some facilities may offer higher-end models of a particular manufacturer, such as Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac DTS in the US.  Some may also offer vehicles like Jaguar or Mustang to attract a specialty market.  Most also offer SUVs in addition to passenger vans.  At major airports or in larger cities, some independent car rental agencies offer ultra high-end vehicles for rent.  These models can include Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Ferrari, and even Rolls Royce.

Car rentals are subject to many conditions which vary from one brand to another.  The vehicle must be returned in a good condition and sometimes must not exceed a maximum driven distance, otherwise extra fees may be incurred.  Additionally, some companies set a minimum age for the vehicle driver, which in some cases is as high as 25, even in countries where the minimum legal age to hold a driver's license is much lower.  In all cases a valid, current driver's license is required in order to rent a vehicle.

Recent conditions have utilized GPS technology to limit maximum speeds or driving to specific regions.  Renewable fuel vehicles are available in certain areas.  Rapidly increasing oil prices, concerns about oil dependence, tightening environmental laws and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions are propelling work on alternative power systems for automobiles.  Efforts to improve or replace existing technologies include the development of hybrid vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles.  Vehicles using alternative fuels such as ethanol flexible-fuel vehicles and natural gas vehicles are also gaining popularity in some countries.

The vast majority of car rental companies require the use of a credit card to make it easier for them to trace a person should they attempt to steal a car, or to charge additional fees at will if a defect is later found with the car.

It is typical, when renting a car, to be offered various forms of supplemental insurance and/or damage waivers as an optional extra at additional cost.  There are several types of coverage:

  • Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) – sometimes also referred to as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) - covers the costs of damage to the rental vehicle in the event of an accident.  In some countries the purchase of Loss Damage Waiver covers all costs after an "excess" fee has been paid (e.g.  all costs are covered after the first $500).  Often a "Super" insurance product may be available which makes this excess amount zero.  Note that LDW/CDW coverage is not insurance and does not offer the same coverage as a damage insurance policy.

  • Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) – a product often sold in the USA which provides coverage in the event of an accident causing bodily injury or property damage to someone other than the renter and passengers.

  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) – covers medical costs and accidental death for the renter and passengers in the event of an accident during the rental.

  • Personal Effects Coverage (PEC) – insures against risk of loss or damage to the personal belongings of the renter (and sometimes the members of the renter's family while traveling with the renter) during the period of the rental.

  • Excess Insurance – When a car is hired in Europe, Africa, Australasia, and most of the Middle and Far East, CDW, Theft and Third Party Liability are generally included in the car rental price.  There is almost always an Excess (also referred to as Super CDW, Non Waiver or Deductible) on the CDW and Theft portions of the rental.  A higher excess usually results in a lower premium on the insurance.  Excess is used to discourage drivers from making insurance claims for small damage.  If the damage is cheaper to repair than the excess then generally the driver would not claim and the insurer is saved the cost of the repair.  Excess is just starting to be charged in the USA, it is sometimes charged in Canada, and it is generally charged in the Caribbean, Central and South AmericaExcess insurance is a secondary insurance (only in place with the CDW and SLI cover) and provides coverage to the renter for the excess amount.  The majority of car-rental companies in Europe will sell this cover as a 'top-up' insurance to cover the excess on their standard damage and theft insurance.  Hirers should be aware that not only can this work out quite expensive, it is likely to exclude cover for damage to the windscreen, bodywork, roof, tyres or undercarriage leaving the hirer of the vehicle liable to pay out if damaged.  In the event that the vehicle is damaged or stolen, the rental company will charge your credit card for the excess amount and you then claim for reimbursement on your vehicle hire excess protection policy.

Automobiles offer high flexibility and with low capacity, but are deemed with high energy and area use, and the main source of noise and air pollution in cities; buses allow for more efficient travel at the cost of reduced flexibility.  Established alternatives for some aspects of automobile use include public transit such as buses, trolleybuses, trains, subways, tramways light rail, cycling, and walking.

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A taxicab, also taxi or cab, is a type of vehicle for hire with a driver, used by a single passenger or small group of passengers, often for a non-shared ride.  A taxicab conveys passengers between locations of their choice.  In modes of public transport, the pick-up and drop-off locations are determined by the service provider, not by the passenger, although demand responsive transport and share taxis provide a hybrid bus/taxi mode.

There are four distinct forms of taxicab, which can be identified by slightly differing terms in different countries: hackney carriages, also known as public hire, hailed or street taxis, licensed for hailing on the street; private hire vehicles, also known as minicabs or private hire taxis, licensed for pre-booking only; Taxibuses, also known as Jitneys, operating on pre-set routes typified by multiple stops and multiple independent passengers; and Limousines, specialized vehicle licensed for operation by pre-booking.  Although types of vehicles and methods of regulation, hiring, dispatching, and negotiating payment differ significantly from country to country, many common characteristics exist.

A share taxi falls between taxis and conventional buses.  These informal vehicles for hire are found throughout the world.  They are smaller than buses, and usually take passengers on a fixed or semi-fixed route without timetables, usually leaving when all seats are filled.  Most stop anywhere to pick up or drop off passengers.  Often found in developing countries under a variety of local names, the vehicles used as share taxis range from standard four-seater cars up to minibuses.  Many are privately owned and have an anarchic operating style, lacking central control or organization.

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Vans are also used to shuttle people and their luggage between hotels and airports, to transport commuters between parking lots and their places of work, and along established routes as minibuses.  There are vans in all shapes and sizes.

A full size van is larger than a minivan, and is characterized by a large boxy appearance, a short hood, and very heavy cargo/passenger hauling capacity.  In recent times they consistently feature a powertrain of a V8 engine, automatic transmission and rear wheel drive.

A minivan is a type of van designed for personal use.  Minivans are typically either two-box or one box designs for maximum interior volume – and are taller than a sedan, hatchback, or a station wagon.  Minivans are usually distinguished by their smaller size and traditionally front wheel drive powertrain, although many now are being equipped with four wheel drive.  Minivans offer similar seating capacity (traditionally seven to eight passengers), and better fuel economy than full-size vans, at the expense of power, cargo space, and towing capacity.  In addition, many new minivans have dual side sliding doors.  Worldwide, minivans are also marketed as multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs), people-carriers, people-movers, or multi-utility vehicles (MUVs).

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Recreational Vehicles

Recreational vehicle or RV is, in North America, the usual term for a motor vehicle or trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home.  A recreational vehicle normally includes a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom and a living room.  In other countries the terms caravan, camper van or motorhome are more common, and the vehicles themselves vary, although typically being smaller than those in North America.

RVs are intended for everything from brief leisure activities such as vacations and camping, to full-time living.  RVs are usually found in RV Parks or campgrounds although they are sometimes parked in special trailer parks.  (However, many trailer parks are reserved just for mobile homes, not to be confused with RVs and motorhomes.) 

RVs can also be rented in most major cities and tourist areas.  They are occasionally used as mobile offices for business travelers and often include customizations such as extra desk space, an upgraded electrical system, a generator, and satellite Internet.  Other RVs serve as traveling permanent homes.


Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers.  The most common type of bus is the single-decker bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are used for longer distance services.  Bus manufacturing is increasingly globalized, with the same design appearing around the world.

Buses may be used for scheduled bus transport, scheduled coach transport, private hire, tourism; promotional buses may be used for political campaigns and others are privately operated for a wide range of purposes.

Recently there has been growing interest in hybrid electric buses, fuel cell buses, electric buses as well as ones powered by compressed natural gas or bio-diesel.

A trolleybus (also known as trolley bus, trolley coach, trackless trolley, trackless tram or trolley) is an electric bus that draws its electricity from overhead wires (generally suspended from roadside posts) using spring-loaded trolley polesTwo wires and poles are required to complete the electrical circuit.  This differs from a tram or streetcar, which normally uses the track as the return part of the electrical path and therefore needs only one wire and one pole (or pantograph).  They also are distinct from other kinds of electric buses, which usually rely on batteries.

Currently, around 315 trolleybus systems are in operation, in cities and towns in 45 countries.  Altogether, more than 800 trolleybus systems have existed, but not more than about 405 concurrently.

A tourist trolley, also called a road trolley, is a rubber-tired bus (usually diesel fueled, sometimes compressed natural gas), which is made to resemble an old-style streetcar or tram.  These vehicles are not actually trolleys, and should not be confused with trolley buses.  Tourist trolleys are used by both municipal and private operators.  Municipal operators may mix tourist trolleys in with the regular service bus fleet to add more visitor interest or attract attention to new routes.  In many cities tourist trolleys are used as circulators.  A circulator operates a simplified route limited to popular destinations on a fixed schedule with a reduced or free fare.  Tourist trolleys are also run by private operators to carry tourists to popular destinations.

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Right- and Left-hand Traffic

The terms right-hand traffic and left-hand traffic refer to regulations requiring all bidirectional traffic to keep either to the right or the left side of the road, respectively.  This is so fundamental to traffic flow that it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road.  This basic rule eases traffic flow and reduces the risk of head-on collisions .  Though originally most traffic drove on the left worldwide, today about 66.1% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 33.9% in left-hand traffic countries.  About 72% of the world's total road distance carries traffic on the right, and 28% on the left.

Vehicles are usually manufactured in left-hand drive (LHD) and right-hand drive (RHD) configurations, referring to the placement of the driving seat and controls within the vehicle.  Typically, the placement of the steering wheel is opposite to the rule of the road: LHT countries use RHD vehicles, and RHT countries use LHD vehicles.  This is so that the driver's line of sight is as long as possible down the road past leading vehicles, an important consideration for overtaking (passing) maneuvers.  However, there are LHT countries where most vehicles are LHD (such as the British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Bahamas)—and there are some countries with RHT and mostly RHD vehicles, such as Afghanistan, Burma, and the Russian Far East.  Many countries permit both types of vehicles on their roads.

Left-hand traffic:

  • All traffic is generally required to keep left unless overtaking.
  • Oncoming traffic is seen coming from the right.
  • Right-turning traffic must cross oncoming traffic.
  • Most traffic signs facing motorists are on the left side of the road.
  • Traffic on roundabouts (traffic circles or rotaries) goes clockwise.
  • Pedestrians crossing a two-way road look first for traffic from their right.
  • The lane designated for normal driving and turning left is on the left
  • Most dual carriageway (divided highway) exits are on the left
  • Other vehicles are overtaken (passed) on the right, though in some circumstances overtaking on the left is permitted.
  • Most vehicles have the driving seat on the right.
  • A left turn at a red light may be allowed after stopping.
  • On roads without a footpath pedestrians may be advised to walk on the right.

Right-hand traffic:

  • All traffic is generally required to keep right unless overtaking.
  • Oncoming traffic is seen coming from the left.
  • Left-turning traffic must cross oncoming traffic.
  • Most traffic signs facing motorists are on the right side of the road.
  • Traffic on roundabouts (traffic circles or rotaries) goes anticlockwise.
  • Pedestrians crossing a two-way road look first for traffic from their left.
  • The lane designated for normal driving and turning right is on the right.
  • Most dual carriageway (divided highway) exits are on the right
  • Other vehicles are generally overtaken (passed) on the left, though in some circumstances overtaking on the right is permitted.
  • Most vehicles have the driving seat on the left.
  • A right turn at a red light may be allowed after stopping.
  • On roads without a footpath pedestrians may be advised to walk on the left.

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Transportation Safety

Many countries do not recognize drivers' licenses from other countries; however most countries accept international driving permits.  Automobile insurance policies issued in one's own country are often invalid in foreign countries, and it's often a requirement to obtain temporary auto insurance valid in the country being visited.  It's also advisable become oriented with the driving rules and regulations of destination countries.  Wearing a seat belt is highly advisable for safety reasons and because many countries have penalties for violating seatbelt laws.

There are three main statistics which may be used to compare the safety of various forms of travel:

Deaths per billion passenger-journeys

Deaths per billion passenger-hours

Deaths per billion passenger-kilometres

Bus:  4.3

Bus:  11.1

Air:  0.05

Rail:  20

Rail:  30

Bus:  0.4

Van:  20

Air:  30.8

Rail:  0.6

Car:  40

Water:  50

Van:  1.2

Foot:  40

Van:  60

Water:  2.6

Water:  90

Car:  130

Car:  3.1

Air:  117

Foot:  220

Bicycle:  44.6

Bicycle:  170

Bicycle:  550

Foot:  54.2

Motorcycle:  1640

Motorcycle:  4840

Motorcycle:  108.9

It is necessary to mention that first two statistics are computed for typical travels for respective forms of transport, so they cannot be used directly to compare risks related to different forms of transport in a particular travel "from A to B".  For example: according to statistics, a typical flight from Los Angeles to New York will carry a larger risk factor than a typical car travel from home to office.  But a car travel from Los Angeles to New York would not be typical.  It would be as large as several dozens of typical car travels, and associated risk will be larger as well.  Because the journey would take a much longer time, the overall risk associated by making this journey by car will be higher than making the same journey by air, even if each individual hour of car travel can be less risky than an hour of flight.  In the same vein, when considering the "deaths per billion passenger journeys" statistic, it is important to consider that airliners, buses and trains will carry far more passengers than a car, or bicycle for example.

It is therefore important to use each statistic in a proper context.  When it comes to a question about risks associated with a particular long-range travel from one city to another, the most suitable statistic is the third one, thus giving a reason to name air travel as the safest form of long-range transportation.

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