If You Want Power, Be a Conductor. A Travel Agent That Never Rests: Vacations Via Internet, страница 2

Women travelers shouldn't hesitate to ask the carriage attendant to find them a new compartment if they feel uncomfortable with their roommates. Also, it's not considered rude to ask men to leave your compartment if you want to change.

Attendants occasionally have been known to ask for bribes even when the foreigners' tickets are in proper order. If that happens, stand your ground and/or ask for the supervisor.

On most trains you have to pay extra money for your bed linen. Don't be surprised when the carriage attendant comes to your compartment asking for extra cash. Usually this privilege costs somewhere between 10 and 30 roubles.

On long train trips, bring your own food and drink. The dining cars on these trains are infamous for running out of supplies.

On the nicer side, however, tea is usually served in first class compartments on most Russian trains. Just ask your carriage attendant - it doesn't cost much and tastes excellent. Sometimes, a carriage attendant will even offer to keep your cold drinks in her refrigerator for your convenience!

Travel smart, travel often and enjoy the adventure!

Article provided by Steve Caron, of Sindbad Travel

The St. Petersburg Times

A Travel Agent That Never Rests: Vacations Via Internet                                          By John M. Moran

"Where do you want to go today?» Until recently, Microsoft's marketing slogan was largely a rhetorical question. Well, it's time to start taking it literally. The Internet is fast becoming home to an on-line travel industry that lets customers search for travel bargains, investigate vacation destinations and even make airplane and hotel reservations. Dozens of Web sites have sprung up to provide information and booking services to travelers. Most are aiming their services at vacation travelers, although business travelers are welcomed as well.

"There's a tremendous amount of travel information on the Web," said Michael Shapiro, author of the book "Net Travel; How Travelers Use the Internet" (1997, O'Reilly & Associates Inc.). "It really makes it easy to find everything from latest weather information, to when museums are open, to top attractions," he said. "You name it and it's on-line."

Some sites, such as those run by many convention and visitors bureaus, are location-specific, offering data on a specific city or resort. Others are generalists, providing information on many destinations and methods of traveling.

To be sure, the on-line travel industry is still in its infancy, but it appears poised for explosive growth. Jupiter Communications, a New York City research firm, estimates on-line bookings for such services as airplane tickets, hotel rooms, cruises and car rentals will jump to $827 million this year, triple what they were a year ago.

Why the sudden rush of interest? For prospective travelers, the advantages of on-line research and bookings are many, although there are pitfalls, too.

Travel shoppers start with the standard benefits cited for all electronic commerce: on-line businesses are typically open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; comparison shopping is easier; and overhead is lower so prices are often cheaper.

But even more significantly, the Internet offers a tremendous conduit for information.

Including Web sites, e-mail and emerging forms of on-line multimedia, the Internet offers ways for would-be travelers to research where they want to go, how they should travel and where they should stay.

Travel "is a highly information-intensive purchasing process. People tend to do a good amount of research before they spend money on a vacation. And the Web is a good place to do that kind of thing," said Nicole Vanderbilt, a senior analyst in digital commerce for Jupiter Communications.

On-line travel services can quickly update their sites with the latest fares, allow customers to browse schedules and prices and even send e-mail alerts about bargains. Increasingly, information about potential destinations is becoming an essential component of travel sites as well. "We're trying to set up a site where it's not only easier to buy your plane ticket, but also give you information that will help you plan your trip," said Erik Blachford, product manager for Microsoft Expedia.