The “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” tour 2002 gave “Today” viewers a glimpse of the beautiful sites Matt journeyed to over the course of his five-day worldwide adventure. But Matt’s whirlwind tour is obviously not the recommended way to travel for anyone who wants to relax. On NBC’s “Today” show, Mark Orwoll, managing editor of Travel and Leisure magazine offers some advice on how you too can visit some of these exotic locations. Read his travel tips and deals below.
DAY ONE: RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Rio de Janeiro, once a capital of Brazil, has been a global hotspot for years. Rio’s myriad of nightlife possibilities makes it a hot singles’ destination.
Once you’re there, it’s time to party! Grab your friends and head out to the famous Baixos (“By-shows”). These are South Side areas were several streets gather and around which many cafes, bars and restaurants tend to be located. They become natural meeting spots where the party tends to spill into the streets. A great for the young and the young at heart.
Dance clubs in Rio are always a big draw though they generally don’t pick up until well into the night (12am is early here). The area of Rio known as the South Side has a lot of larger/popular clubs, while the area of Ipanema is know for its smaller, more sophisticated clubs. Copacabana has a little bit of everything.
Of course, Rio is also famous for it’s great live music scene. Roof Bar in Copacabana is great for its bossa nova, jazz and samba. And speaking of Samba, while in Rio, learn how to samba at one of the city’s many “samba parlours” or “Estudantinas.” The environment is always relaxed, but remember it’s rude to turn down an offer to dance!
There is good news and bad news for those interested in traveling to Rio. The good news: It’s an exciting and affordable destination at almost any time of year. The bad news is that crime, particularly aimed at tourists, is high, especially in areas where tourists congregate, like hotels, beaches, and airports. Some visitors prefer the extra security of hiring a private car and driver for a full day or night, which your hotel can arrange. It will cost as much as $25 per hour to as little as $100 for a full day.
Tips: On Matt’s trip, you were able to see Rio from the vantage point of a helicopter and so can tourists, for a price. A six-minute flight from one of several tourist choppers will cost $110 per person. A more affordable way to see Rio from on high is to take the cable car gondolas to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain (1,300 feet) for about $8. This is especially beautiful if you can get there around sunset.
Airfares to Rio average around $700 from the east coast and $950 from the west coast. If you want to book your own lodgings, deluxe hotels are available for as little as $70 a night.
Deal: But consider buying a package deal instead, especially if you go with a major tour operator that can get volume discounts. General Tours, one of the most respected tour operators in the business, will sell you a package that includes a round-trip airfare from New York plus six nights lodging for as low as $699.
DAY TWO: MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
This exotic cities has all that is great about a tourist destination, the fabled white city of Marrakech in the desert kingdom of Morocca . It’s a perfect place for a romantic getaway.
Only in the past 10 years has Marrakech become a major tourist destination, bringing with it all the good aspects of tourism without undermining the exotic attractions that made the city popular with adventurous travelers in decades past.
What to do: Visit the main square, the Djemaa el-Fna, filled with jugglers, story-tellers magicians and acrobats. Go shopping in the
surrounding souks (markets); they’re among the best in the country.
Tips: The markets are among the best in the country, especially for leather goods. Many people buy carpets here as well, but beware because if you don’t know how to judge quality, you’ll get anything but a good deal. He also suggests hiring a personal guide to take you through the maze-like web of narrow streets that connect the souks. Tourists can be pestered by shopkeepers, street urchins and would-be guides at every turn. Your hotel can suggest a personal guide for a small charge, which is almost worth it to keep the shopkeepers at bay.
You can visit Morocco year round, despite its desert-like setting. Average temperatures in August are only in the low 80s. But airfares in the summer are high — ranging from $888-$1,500. Comfortable, tourist-class hotels start at around $50 a night, but the sky’s the limit for five-star deluxe hotels.
Deal: Sunny Land tours is offering a package deal this summer that includes round-trip airfare to Casablanca and three nights at a first-class hotel, then they’ll fly you to Marrakech and put you in a hotel there for three more nights. All of this for $1,089 — cheaper than many airlines will charge for the airfare alone. Even better, if you wait to travel next fall, you can book this entire trip for only $698 per person!
DAY THREE: SKIBO CASTLE, NORTHERN SCOTLAND
So can the average person have access to this luxurious and private castle? Yes, but it will cost you. The price for nonmembers is $1,200 per night. If you want to stay again, you’ll have to become a member ($5,000 annual fee), for which you get the discounted rate of only $850 per night.
Scotland can be great for family travel because it’s area rich in history, but they still speak English so you don’t have to worry about a language barrier. Still the kids could learn about some local things, like Haggis.
In northern Scotland, where Matt visited, you can take children on ghost tours of the castles.
Edinburg has lots to offer children from the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, one of the best park in the area, to Our Dynamic Earth the new science center, to Midlothian Ski Center which makes artificial snow for skiing year round. It’s only $9 for kids and $13 for adults.
Tip: The best way to reach Scotland is via London, but airfares can be steep — around $750 on average from the east coast.
Deals: While Skibo is an ideal retreat, many of us would like to stay in a Scottish castle but prefer prices that are a little more realistic. They’re not easy to find, unless you know where to look. Try Celtic Castles, an Internet-only booking service that represents 18 castle-hotels in Scotland.
Fernie Castle Hotel, an hour’s drive north of Edinburgh, is more than 450 years old and has a magical feeling to it. Its round tower, stone walls and log-burning fireplaces will send you back in time. Rates for two begin at $216, including dinner, full Scottish breakfast and taxes.
Glengorm Castle, on the isle of Mull overlooking the north Atlantic and the western iles, was built in 1860 as a country getaway for a wealthy Victorian. You can stay there for as little as $130 per night.
DAY FOUR: ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA
Most come to visit Angkor Wat in December and January, when the weather is dry and cool. May is the start of the wet season, which goes through October, but some people prefer to visit then because the moats are full and foliage is lush.
Cambodia is still very much a country in flux. While the tourism is picking up in the major cites and around the historic monuments, crime is quite widespread in remote areas. And there’s an estimated 4-to-6 million unexploded landmines throughout the country, so people are advised not to leave the beaten path without local guides.
Tips: Outside the major cities, banditry is rife and there are an estimated four-to-six million unexploded landmines throughout the country, a very real danger even to tourists, who are advised to travel with local guides in rural areas and to never stray from paths.
The best way to reach Angkor Wat is to fly to the main adjacent town, Siem Reap, from Phnom Penh, book a hotel there and hire a guide through your hotel at a cost of about $25. Go early to the temples — sunrise is the best time to see the elaborate ancient monuments.
Clean and modern hotels are hard to come by in Cambodia and they’re expensive when you find them ($200-$300 a night or more).
Deal: A great way to save money is the airfare. Malaysia airlines has an access Asia pass, sold only through travel agents. You can fly from L.A. or Newark to Kuala Lumpur for as low as $747 — and the best part, you can fly to 23 additional Asian cities, including Phnom Penh, for no additional fee. That’s less than the average airfare (around $1,600) from the U.S. to Cambodia. (You can also fly to as many of these 23 cities — Bankok, Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong — for no extra charge within a 30-day time period).
DAY 5: CANNES, FRANCE
May is the perfect time of year to visit the French Riviera — the weather is sunny and around 70 degrees, but the crowds that fill the boulevards and beaches in the height of summer have yet to arrive. Tour the site of the Cannes Film Festival, the Bunker which opened in 1983. It houses dozens of screening rooms, cafes, conference rooms and cinematic related enterprises.
Tips: While you have to be a celebrity — or related to the mayor — to get tickets to official screening at the Cannes Film Festival, you can tour the festival site at any other time of year.
If you want to go where the movie world’s deal-makers go, have a champagne cocktail at the Bar des Stars in the Hotel Majestic Barriere on la Croisette. Mark Wahlberg, Andie Macdowell and Jennifer Jason Leigh have been spotted dining at the neat restaurant on the Square Merimee. And where do the moguls stay? Hotel du Cap Eden-roc, about seven miles down the coast from Cannes in the resort of Antibes, for about $400 a night.
Deals: The French Riviera in summer is not a bargain destination. Airfares average around $1,000 from the east coast, but Delta is offering a sale price of $712 nonstop from New York to Nice. If you’re willing to hold off until September, the weather is still sunny, prices are better and crowds have dropped off.
The best deal in the summer: Instead of booking a hotel, book a private home or apartment. A charming three-bedroom house in Antibes, a mile from the beach, is only $1,100 in July. A two-bedroom apartment just outside of Cannes, less than 300 feet from the beach, is only $740 a week in high season. A one-bedroom apartment in Cannes with a balcony overlooking the sea, is only $609 per week in high season — all through a company called Interhome.
Mark Orwoll is managing editor of Travel and Leisure magazine. For more travel stories and advice from the magazine, you can visit their web site at: www.travelandleisure.com.