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New York (AirGuide - Regional News Asia / Pacific) Jan 22, 2012

Guide to booking a round-the-world trip It's the ultimate trip: circumnavigating the planet, and stopping off wherever takes your fancy. Great for travelers who want to see it all, or who are just plain indecisive. But booking a round-the-world (RTW) trip can be a complex business. Here's our guide to getting started. How to do it The most economical way to circumnavigate is to buy a round-the-world air ticket that uses one airline alliance. Theoretically, any routing is possible, but knowing how the RTW booking system works will make your trip cheaper. For example, the Star Alliance, a coalition of 27 airlines, offers a RTW ticket with a maximum of 15 stops. Its member airlines fly to 1185 airports in 185 countries. There are rules: you must follow one global direction (east or west -- no backtracking); you must start and finish in the same country; and you must book all your flights before departure, though you can change them later (which may incur extra charges). How long you need You could whip round the world in a weekend if you flew non-stop. However, the minimum duration of most RTW tickets is ten days -- still a breathless romp. Consider stock-piling annual leave, tagging on public holidays or even arranging a sabbatical in order to take off two months, ideally six to 12. The maximum duration of a RTW ticket is one year. When to go The weather will never be ideal in all your stops. So, focus on what you want to do most and research conditions there: if a Himalaya trek is your highlight, don't land in Nepal mid-monsoon; if you want to swim with whale sharks off Western Australia, be there April-July. Then accept you'll be in some regions at the "wrong" time -- though this might offer unexpected benefits (for example, Zambia in wet season means lush landscapes and cheaper prices). In general, city sightseeing can be done year-round (escape extreme heat/cold/rain in museums and cafs) but outdoor adventures are more reliant on -- and enjoyable in -- the right weather. Where to go The classic (and cheapest) RTW tickets flit between a few big cities, for example London -- Bangkok -- Singapore -- Sydney -- LA. If you want to link more offbeat hubs (Baku -- Kinshasa -- Paramaribo, anyone?), prices will climb considerably. The cost of the ticket is based on the total distance covered or the number of countries visited. Remember, you don't have to fly between each point: in Australia you could land in Perth, travel overland, and fly out of Cairns. Or fly into Moscow, board the Trans-Siberian train, and fly onwards from Beijing. Pick some personal highlights and string the rest of your itinerary around those. For instance, if you're a keen trekker, flesh out a Peru (Inca Trail), New Zealand (Milford Track) and Nepal (Everest Base Camp) itinerary with Brazil (Rio's a good access point for South America), Australia and North India. If budget's an issue, spend more time in less expensive countries. Your daily outgoings will be far higher in Western Europe and North America than South-East Asia; Indonesia, Bolivia and India are particularly cheap. Tips, tricks & pitfalls -- Talk to an expert before you book: you may have an itinerary in mind but an experienced RTW flight booker will know which routings work best and cost least -- a few tweaks could mean big savings. -- Be flexible: moving your departure date by a few days can save money; mid-week flights are generally cheaper, as are flights on Christmas Day. -- Think about internal travel: it CAN be cheaper to book internal flights at the same time as booking your RTW ticket -- but, with the global increase of low-cost airlines, you may find it better (and more flexible) to buy them separately as you go. -- Be warned: if you don't board one of your booked flights (say, on a whim, you decide to travel overland from Bangkok to Singapore rather than fly it) your airline is likely to cancel all subsequent flights. Jan 20, 2012

"Leap second" gets a reprieve, for now Diplomats from dozens of nations met this week to debate whether it still makes sense to occasionally add an extra second to the world's clocks to keep them in sync with the Earth's rotation. In the end, the delegates -- some of whom feared that abandoning the so-called "leap second" could disrupt financial markets -- postponed a decision for another three years. Jan 20, 2012

Hotels ramp up property improvements amid ballooning steel prices Brand demands and an improving economy allowed more hotel owners to renovate their properties last year, construction companies say. The lack of available lending also forced owners to settle for upgrades to drive business rather than launching new construction. However, the steadily increasing cost of steel -- now about USD980 per ton -- is complicating work for developers, they say. Jan 19, 2012

TSA launches PreCheck at Los Angeles airport Some travelers flying out of Los Angeles International Airport have the opportunity to participate in the Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck program. It was launched this week at the airport. Travelers will move more quickly through security in exchange for providing personal information. Jan 19, 2012

ZTE aims for higher end of U.S., China phone markets ZTE is looking toward the U.S. and Chinese markets as its best avenues to improving on its ranking as the world's fourth-largest cellphone maker and to boosting its profit margins by shifting toward higher-end smartphones. "If we say ZTE started out as a contractor, like those building mass housing that are value for money, then we want to be a developer of luxury high-end estates," said Lv Qianhao, head of handset strategy for ZTE, which introduced handsets based on the Windows Phone platform in the U.S. last year. Jan 18, 2012

Queensland proposes new safety laws for diving industry Queensland's reef-tourism operators could be forced to have at least two head-counting systems to ensure tourists aren't left at sea. A parliamentary review of the dive and snorkelling industry has proposed new laws to improve safety and avoid a repeat of the horrifying case of US divers Tom and Eileen Lonergan. Defective head-counting systems were blamed for the disappearance of the couple, who were left behind during a dive off Port Douglas, north of Cairns, in January 1998. Advertisement: Story continues below It took two days for them to be reported missing and it was presumed they drowned or were taken by sharks. Safety laws have since been strengthened, but not enough to prevent a disturbingly similar incident in June last year when US tourist Ian Cole was stranded near Cairns and had to swim to another boat for assistance. Mr Dick said the state government was determined to reduce such incidents to nil. "Queensland's diving industry is one of the safest in the world and these proposed changes will ensure we continue to demonstrate best practice," he said. The review recommended a requirement for operators to have at least two head-counting systems. Mandatory medical examinations for entry-level dive course candidates who are overweight, over 45 or suffer high-risk medical conditions were also recommended. The industry has until March 31 to provide feedback on the proposed laws. Jan 18, 2012

Endangered Seychelles Warbler translocated to Fregate Island Private Frgate Island is now home to the Seychelles Warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis) [ETH] the 100th bird on their list. A translocation from Cousin Island Special Reserve was a great success and the new population has adapted extremely well, with the birds dispersing widely over the island and displaying for mates. The translocation took place on December 7 and 14, 2011 and a total of 59 birds were transferred. After the birds were caught on Cousin, each bird was individually packed into cardboard boxes, brought to Frgate by helicopter, and released on the same day. The warblers were released near to the tennis court, an area previously identified as a Ohigh qualityO habitat during a pre-translocation survey. All the birds appeared fit and healthy upon release with no signs of injuries. After the translocation, the warblers spread quickly away from the release site and within a day or two, these intriguing passerines were all over the island. These charming little birds have lovely calls and are easily attracted to the observer by whistling and phishing. The objective of the translocation is to establish another breeding population of the once critically-endangered Seychelles warbler, allowing the species to be down-listed from OvulnerableO to Onear threatenedO and removed from the BirdLife International List of Threatened Bird Species of the World. RELEASE OF 30 YOUNG ALDABRA GIANT TORTOISES Frgate Island has the second largest population of Aldabra Giant Tortoises, with approximately 2,000 free-roaming individuals. These tortoises are capable of growth throughout their life, if conditions permit, and can live to be 150 years or older. The average weight of males is 250 kg and females 150 kg. They are often found in numbers in shady areas during the heat of the day. The tortoises on the island are not tame or domesticated, but are generally indifferent to the presence of people. When frightened, tortoises quickly pull their heads into their shell, making a hissing sound as they expel air from their lungs. On Frgate Island, baby tortoises are kept in a pen for protection, where they are spoiled with plenty of leaves, fruits, and fresh water. Once they are old enough or reach a certain size, they are released into the wild. The release happens twice a year, usually during the festive season for the Christmas and New Year program. On December 23, 2011 and January 1, 2012, the ecology team, along with Fregate Island PrivateOs Managing Director and guests, released a total of 30 Aldabra Giant Tortoises at Anse Parc area. Immediately after the release, the...

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