What You Don’t Know About AirBnB

We’ve stayed at AirBnBs. They’ve been pretty much in line with the descriptions and the reviews. But was it luck?

Search @AirBnBHell on Twitter, read through the tweets for 20 minutes and then ask yourself, will I ever use AirBnb again?

Nobody knows how many dissatisfied AirBnB guests there are. Thousands of complaints could mean a tiny percent of users’ experiences.

AirBnB’s review process is smart. Both the guest and the host have 14 days to review each other. Neither can see the other’s review until both reviews have been submitted. The problem is, if a guest is very honest, she may not find many AirBnB hosts willing to accept her in the future. AirBnB encourages the guest to separate the criticism from the review, and leave the criticism private for the host. This means that real ratings can be hard to trust.

This breakfast nook outside of our Miami cottage was a great place to eat these delicious Florida tangelos.

Here’s a sample of AirBnBHell’s tweets:

Overcharged Payments with Currency Exchange

http://www.airbnbhell.com/overcharged-payments-currency-exchange/

Disgusting AirBnB Stay in Florida, Still No Refund

http://www.airbnbhell.com/disgusting-airbnb-stay-florida-still-no-refund/

Host Requires Direct Deposit for Confirmed Reservation

http://www.airbnbhell.com/host-requires-direct-deposit-confirmed-reservation/

Blaming Guests for Bleaching Sheets

http://www.airbnbhell.com/airbnb-scam-blaming-guests-bleaching-sheets/

Complaint about Host and Apartment in Portugal

http://www.airbnbhell.com/complaint-host-apartment-portugal/

It comes down to how much risk you are willing to take for cheaper accommodations? So if you’re okay with some risk, at least read up to learn some warning signs of untrustworthy AirBnB hosts and potential scams.

Apart from @AirBnBHell tweets, here is a short reading list:

Is the host asking you to wire money?

http://gizmodo.com/never-pay-for-airbnb-by-wire-transfer-because-its-alway-1702559921

Trip Advisor Forum Thread

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12290-k9195382Airbnbpostedreviews-BargainTravel.html

Warning signs

https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/airbnb-red-flags-airbnb-warning-signs

This Is Why Waze Navigation App Isn’t Worth Using

During our latest drive down to Florida, approximately 1,200 miles (1,931 km), we re-visited the Waze app. Waze finds you the fastest route to your destination, but it also tries to help you evade police speed traps.

Waze finds the police through user tips. You can do your part: if you see a state trooper in hiding, or ticketing another driver on the shoulder, report it. If it's already been reported, confirm the police presence with a single tap.

Don't stop there, you can report or confirm any obstacle, slow down in traffic or road construction. This is crowd-sourcing, which simply means the app gets its data from us, the users. Waze is only as good as the effort we put into it.

Will Waze save you from a speeding ticket? It might, and that's the problem with it.

  1. You're not assured. If the police presence hasn't been reported yet (and someone has to be the first to report it, right?), then you're on your own.
  2. Is that reported police car where the last Wazer marked it? If it's not, then it may be hunting you, so be careful.

Waze can't offer you assurance. Worse, it offers you a false sense of assurance. So why is it popular? We felt like outlaws using it, keeping surveillance on those who conduct it on you and avoiding getting caught by the law. But in some states, exceed the speed limit excessively and you may end up with a $1,200 fine. A friend of ours got one. The officer recommended she hire a local attorney. She was able to get the fine reduced to $120. That's a big bet to place on Waze's ability to help you avoid the law.

Waze is worth using for several other reasons:

  • It can assist you in finding the cheapest gas station. Police in Virginia say they're using Waze to update roadway construction zones;
  • In Daytona, Waze alerted us to a red-light camera at an upcoming intersection;
  • Waze is fun gameplay, breaking up long trips with small tasks or reporting and confirming. When other Wazers confirm your sighting, Waze tells you these other users have "thanked" you. This added social media participation is addicting for some.

Our confession: we deleted Waze before we reached Miami. First of all, the app performed sluggishly on my 2-year-old iPhone 6. Secondly, we stuck to the tried-and-true method of not being the first or last cars in the pack.

Maybe you’ve had nothing but good experiences with Waze. We would like to hear from you.

Food Bazaar: Your Home Away From Home

Food Bazaar is a small supermarket chain in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. So what is a small supermarket chain doing on a website devoted to international travel? Food Bazaar carries products that immigrants are familiar with from their native countries. These days, many supermarkets have a hispanic or asian foods aisle, but Food Bazaar’s ethnic foods can be found in every aisle of the store.

home-away-from-home

They promote themselves with slogans such as, “Your Home Away From Home” and “Tu Tierra, Tu Barrio, Tu Hogar” (Your Country, Your Neighborhood, Your Home).

Some of the chain’s supermarkets are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Before you ask who would go shopping in the earliest hours of the morning, we confess. After returning home one year from Venezuela, we put the kids to bed and headed out to buy what we would need for that day. The cashier, a young Mexican woman, told us she worked overnight, returned home to prepare breakfast for her family, take her children to school, and return home to get some sleep.

quesos

As shown in the photo above, cheeses from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador.

Food Bazaar has 24 locations and each one carries a products that reflect the immigrants living in the immediate area. With the majority of their products being for hispanic immigrants, you might think the owners of this chain were hispanic, too. However, this chain of supermarkets with a wholly original business model is owned and run by Korean immigrants.

caldo

The chain’s founder, Francis An, was born in South Korea and went to live in Argentina. He embraced the culture and lived there for many years. Later, he moved to New York and became frustrated that he couldn’t prepare the Argentine dishes he loved so much. Francis An opened his first supermarket in Queens, New York in 1988. The company’s name, Bogopa, is a Korean word that means, Yearning for you.

Go With Your Eyes Wide Open And Your Sixth Sense Alert

I confess that before our trip to Guatemala, I made myself nervous. Guatemala City is well known for its gang violence. Furthermore, www.insightcrime.org located our hotel in a zone where La Marasalvatrucha operate. Well, We were only going to be in Guatemala City for a few days. Aixa, not only braver than I am, has the third-world instincts that have gotten us through other trips safely.

Also, we were planning a trip to Tikal to see the Mayan pyramids. But Tikal is in a tropical zone, and the Zika virus scare had just begun. Some airlines had announced that they were willing to cancel bookings to the most dangerous destinations.

The trip was this past February and nothing bad happened to us, thanks in part to Aixa’s third-world instincts, as well as the stories that turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Yes, there are dangers, but you know what? In New York gang members were cutting some pedestrians’ faces and in March, New York City announced that they had registered 18 cases of Zika virus.

We had such a good time in this interesting country that we promised ourselves that we would return. So, before planning your trip, perhaps you’d like to update yourself of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world or check out where were the 10 most devastating earthquakes in Latin America, but I don’t recommend it. Instead, look at the TripAdviosr forums and communicate with other travelers who have visited your destination. Go with your eyes wide open and your sixth sense on alert, as you should every day of your life.

Caravan Tours: Unbeatable Value!

“There’s no way, with all the known and little known travel tips you will gather in your life, that you can match the high-volume discounts that Caravan receives.”

When I showed Dan the small Caravan Tours ad in Real Simple magazine, he immediately began reading dozens of Trip Advisor reviews and, within the hour, we began our way through the booking process for a trip to Costa Rica.

We don’t like group tours. Being bilingual, we like to venture out on our own, talk to the locals, explore, but this value is too good to believe!

Airport pickup, all meals included, beautiful hotels, all day tours paid for, all you can drink at open bars at two hotels, and an attentive guide for a 9 day tour at $1,099 during peak travel season is what they promise and exactly what you get!

POAS

Our guide Rolando was attentive, tireless, knowledgeable and entertaining, informing us about the history and wildlife of his country. Read through Trip Advisor and you’ll find that Caravan Tours travelers fall in love with all of the guides.

Caravan provides a new bottle of water every two days, with infinite refills in between. Rolando advised us to drink plenty and eat yogurt. Those who didn’t take his advice seriously became dehydrated and sick.

The tour (at the time of this writing) starts and finishes in the capital, San Jose. San Jose is not worth visiting and they keep your time there very short. What will you be see? Instead of a list of places you may never have heard of, let’s get into the specifics.

cafe-CostaRica

You will look into the mouths of volcanoes, visit a coffee plantation, cross hanging bridges in the canopy layer of lush rain forests, tour rivers teeming with wildlife, and even spend a couple of nights in a luxurious resort in Guanacaste!

Some people prefer traveling with a group and others, no. Our travel mates on the Caravan tour ranged in age from 4 to 80-something, with an even distribution in between. Everyone was friendly even though the trip required early wake ups, some long bus rides and a lot of hiking.

Still, this is not our kind of travel. We prefer renting a car and doing the trip ourselves. We like stopping in small towns and browsing roadside stands. But our way is more expensive. There’s no way, with all the known and little known travel tips you will gather in your life, that you can match the high-volume discounts that Caravan receives.

Tour of School Luis Mena in Antigua, Guatemala

The number one rated attraction in Antigua, Guatemala is Casa Santo Domingo, a convent-turned-hotel-tourist hotspot. Casa Santo Domingo deserves its ranking, but as educators, we were delighted to find Escuela Luis Mena behind its back wall. In fact, part of the Luis Mena school’s outdoor recreation area is considered legally protected, and off limits to the school staff and students.

Escuela-600

We left the convent through the pharmacy museum, (a different street) and found ourselves surrounded by a mass of students being dismissed, parents picking up their children and street vendors trying to make a few quetzales.

On the next page, see how the heartbreaking poverty affects some children…

Finding Great Tango Performances in Buenos Aires

In Seville, Spain, you’ll want to catch a Flamenco show; in Salvador, Brazil, you’ll want to see them dance Kapoera; and in Buenos Aires, you will definitely want to go to Cafe Tortoni to see Tango.

Cafe Tortoni has been a popular spot since the mid-19th century, visited by the likes of Albert Einstein, Federico Garcia Lorca, Robert Duvall and Hillary Clinton. UCityGuides ranks Cafe Tortoni as one of the ten most beautiful cafes in the world!

The show at Cafe Tortoni, features highly talented singers, musicians and dancers. It takes you from the early days of tango, when it was considered a vulgar dance of brothels, through its transformation to the beautiful dance we know of today. President Obama danced tango in his trip to Argentina.

The show at Cafe Tortoni will leave you wanting more. Maybe you’ll catch a street tango performance, like we did: