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About the Country

About the Country

Belgium is situated in the west of Europe. The land here mostly comprises of flat coastal plains in the northeast, and southeast is occupied by the Ardennes Forest. Dutch, Flemish, French and German are the official languages of Belgium, with Dutch being the widely spoken followed by French. The weather here is pretty predictable. Months from April to September are the warmest. Otherwise the weather is pretty humid and skies are gray, that explains why umbrellas and raincoats are a part of the dressing. So, if the visit is planned for holidays during the rainy season, one must not forget to carry sufficient cover for maximum protection, as this is a coastal region. In case of emergency call 100 or 112.

Culture

Belgians are English-friendly and will make every attempt to speak in English with a foreigner. Always remember to carry a small gift or at least flowers especially when invited over dinner. The dress to wear will be mentioned in the invitation, when invited for a party. Smoking in public is acceptable.

Shopping

Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Ostend, Namur, Mons, Liège, Ghent and Mechelen are the main shopping centers. Belgium is famous for ceramics and hand-beaten copperware from Dinant, laces from Bruges, crystals from Val Saint Lambert, woodcarvings from Spa and Belgium’s finest chocolates. In jewelry, diamonds from Antwerp are on high demand.

Eating Out

The specialty of most of the restaurants is horse and rabbit meat dishes. Although visitors can find a wide range of ethnic foods, but the most famous are frites and mayonnaise and mitraillette; mitraillette is a large bun filled with fries, donair meat and garlic sauce, the vegetarians can ask for a veg. substitute for the donair meat. While eating at a restaurant, tipping is considered customary along with the value-added tax. At the cinemas, leave a €0.50 tip for the attendant and €0.25 after using the public toilets.

Electricity

Voltage is 230 V and frequency is 50 Hz.

Travel

Delta Air Transport has inaugurated its new European airline SN Brussels Airlines recently. It flies to more than 58 destinations in Europe and as well as worldwide. The Brussels Zayentem airport is twelve km from the city and it takes 35 minutes to reach the city from the airport. The airport has facilities like duty free shops, car parking, taxi booking, car hiring, banks, post office, restaurants, and medical help. Internet and fax services are provided for the passengers. The Airport City Express train transports passengers to three main railway stations – Brussels North, Central and South. One can avail a bus which runs regularly from the airport, taxis can also be hired which wait outside the arrival hall. Tipping the taxi drivers is considered customary. Train runs every 15 minutes.

Another airport, Brussels South Charleroi, is 5 km away from Charleroi and 46 km from Brussels. Ryan air serves as the local airline here and has cheap deals for several European destinations to and from Charleroi. The facilities provided here are bus and train services, café, car hire, and duty free shops.

Ostend airport is 5 km away from the city and car parking, car hire, duty free shops, and restaurants are provided here.

Antwerp airport is just 2 km away from the city. Buses run to the Brussels Central Station every few minutes.

Liege is situated at a distance of 5 km away from the city. Buses run at regular interval here.

The departure tax at Brussels Zayentem is €20.93, Brussels South Charleroi is €3.49, Ostend and Antwerp is €10, and at Liege is €7.

There is a network of high-speed trains, which are operated by Thalys, from Belgium to France, connecting Brussels with other destinations like Bordeaux, Chambéry, Cannes, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Valence Perpignan, and Rennes. Booking should be made in advance for these trains. The national railway operates through out the day providing service every few minutes to destinations such as Andorra, Austria, France, Czech, Germany, Italy, Poland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the UK and the Netherlands. Insiders can avail the Inter-Rail pass which allows visitors to travel almost 29 European Countries. This service is valid for residents who have been settled there for more than 6 months.

Duty Free Items

Visitors can carry alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes, coffee and tea without getting customs duty levied on them, but only the goods should be limited. Check out for the limits before carrying such goods. Food items that are not preserved are better avoided.

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About the county (11)

About the county

Cape Leeuwin First Light
Source: Flickr

Ukraine which is located in Eastern Europe is one of the largest country in that region of Europe bordering Russia in the northeast, Belarus in the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary in the west, Romania and Moldova in the southwest and also Black Sea and Sea of Azov in the south. It is a popular tourist destination especially for tourists from Western Europe and North America. The main selling point is the rich historical character of the country with as many five hundred cities dating back as early as nine hundred years. Visitors are spellbound by the architectural beauty of Ukraine. Kiev is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine where most travelers begin their journey.

Population & Languages

Ukraine has a population of roughly 46.7 million and the official language is Ukrainian. The other languages spoken here are Russian, Romanian, Polish and Hungarian.

Electricity

Voltage – 220 volts, Frequency – 50Hz. Standard European Round pin attachment plug

Geographic Location

Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe bordering Russia in the northeast, Belarus in the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary in the west, Romania and Moldova in the southwest and also Black Sea and Sea of Azov in the south. The strategic location of Ukraine between Asia and Europe made it a transportation hub in the region.

Local Customs

Ukrainians are warm hearted and welcoming people. Casual dressing is mostly worn here though it will be a good idea to wear smartly for theatres. Small gifts are appreciated. Tipping is not very common; service is usually included in fine restaurants and hotel bills.

Places to see
St Sophia Cathedral – As old as nine centuries, it is one of the architectural marvels of Ukraine.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (Caves Monastery) – These caves are as old as one millennium and dating back to 11th century.
Great Patriotic War Museum
Statue of the Motherland, Kiev

Travel

By Air – The national airline of Ukraine is Ukrainian International Airlines. In collaboration with Aer Fi Group and Austrian Airline it links Kyiv to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam, Vienna and Zurich. There is one more airline in Ukraine called Air Ukraine which serves relatively less number of European cities. Lviv is also connected to New York, Warsaw and Washington. It is connected to Turkey through Simferopol and to UK through IvanoFrankivsk. The major airport is Boryspil State International Airport (KBP) which is located twenty five miles from Kiev.

By Sea – The primary ports of Ukraine are Izmail and Odessa which are situated on the River Danube. The ferry services connect Ukraine with Russia and Georgia. They also connect various cities on the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Sevastopol is the port which connects Istanbul, Turkey.

By Rail – Ukraine has approximately 14,000 miles of railway tracks linking most towns and cities. Kyiv and Lviv are the main stations which connect with Moscow on a daily basis. Ukraine also has direct lines to Berlin (Germany), Budapest (Hungary), Warsaw (Poland) and Bucharest (Romania).

By Road – Ukraine has an extensive network of roads with approximately 107,000 mile of road network out of which nearly 18,000 mile is main or national roads.

Duty Free Items
1. Up to 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 gm tobacco
2. 1 liter spirit over 22% or 2 liter wine or 32 liter beer
3. Goods for personal use with a combined value of €200

Prohibited Items
Narcotics, firearms, ammunition, weapons, most meat and dairy products, eggs, plants, endangered species, fireworks and alcoholic beverages that contain more than sixty per cent alcohol.

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ARUBA CUSTOMS REGULATIONS

ARUBA CUSTOMS REGULATIONS

Duty free shopping? Your eyes probably popped out of their sockets. And why not? But before you start taking out the money you stashed from five Christmases ago, list down only the most important things you need to buy. Those pennies and cents may be more than enough to buy you a year’s worth of perfume and a different wardrobe for each day of the year, but are you sure you can take home that much?

Well, sorry to pop out your balloon this early, but Aruba is not exactly a duty free port. Before you decide to spend your vacation watching reruns on TV, lighten up. Aruba is not considered duty free port for nothing. Shopping here makes you get away with great buys because the duty is low, especially on such merchandise as perfumes, jewelries, clothes, and electronic gadgets.

So before you splurge, make sure you’re aware of the Aruba Customs Regulations, and shopping can be more fun!

* According to Aruba Customs Regulations, guests at least 18 years old are allowed to bring into the country not more than 2 liters of liquor, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 250 grams of tobacco, on top of those they have for personal use.
* Aruba Customs Regulations has set that you are only allowed $600 worth of duty free goods back home. Families traveling together can add up their exemptions. For Canadian guests who have been outside their country for at least 7 days, duty free shopping is allowed up to $500. Exemptions cannot be pooled with any other member of the family.
* The next $1000 goods bought is taxed at a 10% rate, as stated in the Aruba Customs Regulations.
* Tourists who are not staying for at least 48 hours are allowed to bring only $25 worth of duty free items.
* On top of the $600 exemption, a tourist can mail unlimited number of duty free mailed parcels, except alcohol or tobacco, or more than $5 worth of perfume, provided the addressees are different.
* A $200 worth of items can also be mailed for personal use, with a list of their contents and retail value.
* Tourists who wish to send home used items duty free should indicate “American Goods Returned” on the package.
* Goods sent home as gifts may be mailed provided that the package is labeled “Unsolicited Gift’.
* All the mailed items do not, in any way, affect your exemption allowance upon your return.

Well, Aruba Customs Regulations does not really prohibit you from spending until all of next month’s pay, however, be sure that you have gotten well acquainted with the regulations before you splurge. You don’t want to end up paying as much tax as your flight costs.

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Wyndham Resort in Aruba, A Window to Your Soul

Wyndham Resort in Aruba, A Window to Your Soul

20180101-IMG_4456 NYE Fireworks Portland
Source: Flickr


If you are looking for the perfect summer get-away in the exotic Caribbean, the Wyndham Resort in Aruba is definitely the place for you.
Perched along the coast of the Caribbean sea in the world-renowned Palm Beach, the Wyndham Resort in Aruba embodies the ideal tropical destination. With the magnificence of the Palm Beach fully carpeted with fine white sand and a superb view of the luminous turquoise depths of the Caribbean, the Wyndham Resort in Aruba unfolds the beauty of the Caribbean right at your doorstep.

A thrill of excitement comes in being presented with an array of choices on how you can fully enjoy the many charms of the island. There is a quiet kind of joy in simply lying on the soft sand, basking in the heat of the tropical sun like a sun goddess and just reveling in the splendor of the place. Or you can go sailing or windsurfing on the tranquil waters of the Caribbean sea. It teems with an exciting and colorful diversity of marine life within a short distance from the resort which makes for scuba-diving and snorkeling as the perfect adventure.

The Wyndham Resort in Aruba boasts of facilities and amenities designed to achieve the perfect mixture of tasteful elegance and cozy comfort. Each room is provided with a satellite television, refrigerator, floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony for you to drink in and have your fill of the fascinating beauty of the sea and a tropical sunset which mesmerizes with its panoply of vibrant shades of red and gold vividly etched on the midnight blue canvas of the skies. The resort has its own fitness and tennis room, and offers the comforts of a spa where you can indulge in a soothing, relaxing massage. Or enjoy a lazy day at the delightful seaside pool where concierges wait on you for a personalized quality service. The resort has its own casino where favorite games of baccarat, blackjack and the like are played to fever-pitch excitement.

A taste of the festive, carnival nightlife of the island is availabe within a short distance from the resort. Lose yourself to the beat of Caribbean music at the nearby Aruban Revue or go wild with excitement at the night-round games played at the famous Casablanca casino. There is an array of restaurants , each one serving different cuisine and every restaurant provides a different ambience that will certainly capture your imagination, making each dining experience unique and delightful.

The Wyndham Resort in Aruba intoxicates with its beauty, truly a sanctuary in the midst of the Caribbean, where you can soothe your tired, restless soul.

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Get Your Canadian Diamonds Here Today

Get Your Canadian Diamonds Here Today

Railpage Albion Camera #3 Rail Movement Detection
Source: Flickr

The last Northern gold rush occurred in the late-19th century in the Yukon when tens of thousands of prospectors made their way to Dawson City to find their fortunes. Since then, miners and oil workers have continued to seek wealth in the North. In the past decade, history has repeated itself with the discovery of diamonds in Canada’s North.

Diamond exploration in Canada began in the 1960s, but major discoveries of diamond-bearing kimberlite ore did not occur until the 1990s. With the discovery of diamonds in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in 1991, Canada has risen to become one of the top three diamond producers in the world in terms of value, behind Botswana and Russia. Currently, Canada produces 15% of the world’s diamonds. According to Statistics Canada, 13.8 million carats of diamonds worth approximately $2.8 billion have been mined in Canada between 1998 and 2002. To put it in perspective, each day Canada produces one 1.5 kilogram bag of diamonds worth $1.5 million. It is hoped that the diamond mines will provide income for decades to come.

In 1991, the first diamonds were found at Point Lake near Lac de Gras in the Northwest Territories, some 300 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife. Soon after the initial find, two diamond mines were opened in this region, the Ekati and Diavik mines. Diavik is approximately 100 kilometres southeast of Ekati. A third diamond mine, Jericho-3, began production in 2005, in Nunavut. A fourth diamond mine, Snap Lake-4 in the Northwest Territories, should begin production in 2007.

The Jericho-3 mine is located near the north end of Contwoyto Lake in West Kitikmeot, Nunavut Territory (NT). It is operated by the Tahera Diamond Corporation, which has been exploring for diamonds in Nunavut for the past seven years. Operations will commence with an open pit mine, and despite the harsh climate, it is planned to operate year-round. It is currently projected that the mine and processing plant will have an 8-year life and employ a total of approximately 125 to 175 employees and contractors.

The majority of shares in the Ekati mine (80%) are owned by the Australian mining conglomerate BHP Billton. The remaining 20% are owned by prospectors Charles Fipke and Stewart Blusson. The Ekati Diamond Mine is the only diamond mine owned by BHP Billiton and produces nearly four per cent of current world diamond production by weight and six per cent by value. The mine is expected to be viable for 20 years.

The Diavik mine, located about 300 km (180 miles) north of Yellowknife, is owned by Britain’s Rio Tinto PLC (60 per cent) and Toronto-based Aber Diamond Corp. (40 per cent). It employs 700 workers and produces 8,000,000 carats annually for total sales of $100,000,000 Cdn. The area was first surveyed in 1992, construction began in 2001, and diamond production started in 2003. It provides approximately 5% of world diamond production. The mine is also expected to remain in operation for 20 years.

The Snap Lake mine, owned by DeBeers and operated by DeBeers and AMEC consultants, is starting this year and is expected to remain in production for 20 more years. This mine is located under a lake and will be the first entirely underground diamond mine in Canada. DeBeers also owns the Victor mine, an open-pit diamond mine in a remote area in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario, approximately 90 km west of the coastal community of Attawapiskat.

Canada’s diamond industry has a world reputation for both quality and integrity. In recent years, there have been ethical problems with African diamonds, which can originate in unstable countries such as Sierra Leone and Angola where diamond sales fund terrorism, war and weapons sales. Canadian diamonds are traceable, as each one is etched on the girdle with a serial number as well as a microscopic Canadian logo such as a maple leaf or a polar bear as a trademark. The pictorial logos vary with the companies selling the diamonds.

Canadian diamonds, especially those from the Ekati mine, are high quality and extremely white. They’re also fashionable, which was demonstrated when the Canadian teen singer Avril Lavigne attended the 2003 MTV Awards in New York wearing Canadian diamonds worth $50,000.

The mines provide high-income jobs with an average salary of $63,000, many of them permanent, not just the temporary make-work projects for which the Aboriginal communities of the Canadian north are well known. Almost 40% of the jobs are done by aboriginals. For instance, one diamond-cutting operation in the Northwest Territories is majority-owned by the Yellowknife Dene First Nation.

Some of the more specialized jobs, such as diamond cutting, are done by professionals from Armenia, Israel, China and Vietnam who earn salaries of more than $100,000. Many of the diamonds are cut and polished in facilities in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Matane, Quebec. Between 1998 and 2001, employment in the diamond mining industry in the North increased from 90 to 700 workers, with estimates of more than 2,000 jobs currently. Another 2,000 jobs are created in support industries for the mines and their workers. Diamond mining produces more than just diamond sales. It also funds many other activities such as construction, road-building, Arctic and sub-Arctic surveying and engineering projects.

Diamond fever in Canada’s north shows no signs of abating, and an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail in February 2004 reported that prospecting companies have laid claim to more than 70 million acres in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The newspaper said the most dramatic increase in diamond prospecting is in Nunavut, where the number of prospecting permits grew to 1,518 in 2004 from just 190 in 2003.

Starting on Dec. 1, 2003, companies were given one month to apply for prospecting permits, resulting in long, round-the-clock lines at offices in Yellowknife and Iqaluit. There is a charge of 10 cents an acre to register a claim, $1.50 to $2 an acre to stake a claim. With 70 million acres involved, the cost of these claims is expected to generate up to $140,000,000 in government revenue even before the mines open. Prospectors desperate to finish filing their claims have even been known to drop claim stakes from helicopters in poorly-accessible areas.

An economic boom is occurring in the north as tradesmen move into the area to fill jobs in the mines. This has raised the cost of living in the north, which was high to begin with due to the cost of transporting food and other necessities to isolated northern communities. In such places as Yellowknife, a basement apartment can rent for as high as $1,500 a month.

In 1998, Yellowknife Mayor Dave Lowell said that the diamond rush might have saved his town from economic decline. “Quite simply, it is our future,” Lowell said. “We’d be going into quite a recession if it wasn’t for the diamond mine.”