How to Deal With Outrageous Airline Travel Taxes

Nothing is as annoying as the taxes you have to pay while traveling internationally. In earlier years, you had to queue outside small kiosks situated in the airport to pay for the taxes, and then you would be required to retain the ticket as proof that you have paid for the taxes. Nowadays, the process is a lot simpler as the taxes are added to the total price of your airfare. This happens in all countries apart from a few that carry on with the kiosk tradition.

These taxes termed as departure or entry taxes, are in essence a method used by countries around the world to take advantage of travelers so as to gain profits from travelers. Since most countries now include the taxes in the fare, most travelers tend to forget about the taxes when it comes to traveling to countries where taxes are still paid in kiosks.

Airport departure fees vary in amount. They range from just a small amount of the local currency to costs as high as over $100 USD. This is the case for North American and Australian travelers traveling to Argentina, as they have to pay for the “reciprocity fee,” which is a form of tax that is equivalent to the fee that Argentine citizens have to pay to acquire a visa to their country.

Therefore, American travelers traveling to Argentina or Chile have to pay $131. This is equal to the price that any Argentine or Chile traveler has to pay, so as to acquire a visa to the United States. To be sure if the country that you are traveling uses departure taxes or not, you have to verify online for any country specific information on airport fees. Travel Nation has also made a compilation of a practical list of all the countries that require you to pay airport taxes in person. However, you should always be ready for any changes on the amounts and the tax prices in general.

It is therefore advisable to consult with the US Department of State Country Specific Information so that you can acquire sheets giving you the latest information about all the departure taxes. In addition, it helps to check with each airline for what type of travel tax fees they apply. For example, Southwest Airlines, which flies domestically in the United States advertises that they have no hidden charges. However, in most cases the taxes are not exempt because they are considered a charge from the government, not the airlines. Either way, travel taxes must be taken into consideration when planning a vacation that involves air travel.

Adventure Travel Wilderness and Hiking Trails Fees Rise

The good news for adventure travel and wilderness hiking trails is that the USA has protected some of the most unique and incredible places to see on earth. Our National, State Parks, Monuments and Wilderness Areas are awesome, but for years there have been reduced number of visitors. Many citizens have said that a four-year program to increase national parks entrance fees to make them more uniform may discourage some Americans from visiting their national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion and Yellowstone.

The National Parks have been faced with a budget crisis. The parks are struggling to protect the historic, cultural and natural resources that the parks were created for. The parks are short of funds for operating facilities, repairs to roads, bridges, trails and buildings. There was an 814 million dollar shortfall in 2006. There are almost 400 areas of protection covered by the National Parks Service. Almost every park has fewer full time employees now than in 2001, while there were over 273,000,000 visitors to the parks in 2005. The park service needs more funding to provide education, interpretive and for the safety requirements of their visitors. This is a time of controversy about park fees, current plans for oil, gas and mineral exploration in our parks and of course removing the O’Shaughnessy Dam to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite.

Recently the federal government has moved to replace the National Park Service’s $50 annual pass with a new $80 multi-agency pass. Some people think that the fee increases are getting out of line. The park service raised entrance fees at 34 parks over the past two years and plans to raise them at another 124 parks in 2008 and 2009. At Glacier National Park in Montana and Joshua Tree National Park in California, the fees will go up twice, and beginning in 2011, park officials plan to increase fees every three years, based on inflation. There is a proposal to double entrance fees next year at Crater Lake National Park, now $10 per car. Will it drive the local visitors away? In 1997, when the park service began raising fees, the number of national parks visitors has fallen 1% while entrance fee revenue has gone up almost 16%. Many of them are from outside the United States and love to visit the American protected lands.

Will the National Park Centennial Act to rescue our parks before 2016 – the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service? The acts purpose is to eliminate the annual operating deficit and maintenance backlog in the national parks. If it passed, it was to create a check off box on American tax returns to fund the parks. As H.R. 1124 and S 886 it did not get passed in 2006. In spring of 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report about our National Parks based on research, to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that found that funding had not kept pace with need, requiring park managers to reduce services including, “reducing visitor center hours, educational programs, basic custodial duties, and law enforcement operations, such as back-country patrolling. Additionally, the park system has been forced to close campgrounds, shorten operating hours, eliminate many interpretive programs, lay off many seasonal rangers, and eliminate many of the parks’ scientific studies programs.

So where’s the good news? Being an outdoor writer and avid traveler to our parks and wilderness areas Bob Therrien, President of TrainingPASS Sales, Inc. has created an outdoor recreation message board, he commented “The hardest part over the years, for me has been the research about which parks, hikes, climbs, locations and activities I want to visit with my family and friends. Exploring federal then state website after site, then mapping the distance from each area of interest is inefficient and many times lacking in information. To solve that inefficiency we have collected all the basic information about our parks, wilderness areas and national monuments and put them into one website. I don’t personally have a problem with the new park fees. It cost’s me more to take my family to the movies, and I’d rather enjoy a full day or two at a place like Denali National Park.

The USA has incredible adventure travel wilderness and hiking trails. To promote these areas AdventureZoneTOURS created a forum for sharing trip reports on National Parks, State Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas.

The Outdoor Adventure Message Board opens up to reveal a listing of U.S. States, separated into travel regions. Click on any state region and there are sub forums for all the parks, monuments and wilderness areas in that region. Many times there are several interesting choices to pick from within a state region. For the activity-specific minded, AdventureZoneTOURS.com encourages users to share trip reports for a variety of outdoor activities from hiking, climbing, canyoneering, geo exploring, photography, ghost towns, mines, and cave to water sports such as boating, fishing, jet and water skiing, tubing, rafting, and scuba. Winter travel sports such as snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding are featured. Hunting locations, ATV and horseback trails as well as the most scenic areas for outdoor photography are also available as individual topic posts. To research or share your favorite adventure travel location, and to share and promote outdoors, join us today!

Hello From Nova Scotia – Learning About Native Heritage at the Bear River First Nation Heritage

About an hour after my departure from Annapolis Royal after a beautiful drive along the shoreline of the Annapolis Basin and through the early fall colours of the Bear River Valley, (also known as “Little Switzerland”. I arrived at the Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre. I was greeted by Wanda Joudry-Finigan and Robert (Robbie) McEwan, while Frederick Harlow was manning the cash register. All are members of the Bear River First Nation, and Wanda and Robbie proceeded to celebrate my arrival with a special welcome song.

Wanda explained that the song invites our mutual relatives, grandfathers and ancestors to join us at this occasion. The lobby of the Centre holds various artifacts and a Heritage Gallery that pays homage to current and former Chiefs and Elders of the Bear River First Nation. Wanda pointed out present Chief Frank Meuse Junior who also operates a lodge for adults and youth alike who wish to learn about the Mi’kmaq culture. Another image was of Agnes Potter, a celebrated leader and respected Elder of the Bear River First Nation.

Then I was invited to view a brief movie about Willie Meuse, Frank’s grandfather, shown in footage from the 1930s on the Bear River. The film also highlighted the construction and launching of the first birch bark canoe built since 1927. The launching took place in 2004 and speaks to the importance of the ancestors.

We left the vestibule and entered a large multi-purpose room housing a variety of interpretive displays about the life and history of the Mi’kmaq First Nation. This room is also used for theatre productions, games of sports for the youth, community card parties, holiday feasts and presentations. Frederick joined me and gave me an overview of the birch bark canoe. He explained that the canoe weighs about 90 to 95 pounds and was constructed using authentic historical canoe-building methods used in the area. The canoe is a sea-going canoe, evidenced by the high rise in the middle. Fresh-water canoes do not feature a rise in the middle of the canoe.

The vessel is constructed of various types of wood including ash and birch and the outside is covered with birch bark. Any potential openings in the canoe’s skin are patched up with a mixture of spruce gum and bear grease. Canoes used to be the main form of transportation for the First Nations People and their navigation skills, fishing and hunting knowledge helped the French settlers when they first came to this area in the 1600s. This life-size canoe was made by Todd Labrador and Cory Ryan who is a seventh generation descendent of Malti Pictou, a well-known Bear River Mi’kmaq guide. Before Cory, he was the last person to make a birch bark canoe in the area.

The next exhibit featured a variety of arts and crafts that are produced here using Mi’kmaq artistic traditions. Robbie came over to give me more insight into some of the local arts and crafts. He explained that leather is worked to produce mittens, jackets, dresses, moccasins and other items. Dreamcatchers are an important symbol to the Mi’kmaq. With their intricate web-like design they are hung to catch dreams floating through the night air. There is a saying that dreamcatchers let the good dreams through but protect you from the bad dreams.

Jewellery is made using a variety of glass beads, bone beads as well as imitation sinew. In the past moose tendons were used to produce the pendants and bracelets. Decorated deer and moose hide are available for purchase as well. Robert indicated that he recently made an ornate dress for a native chief in Newfoundland. His artistic skills are evidenced by some of the most impressive pieces of work: Robert showed me a decorative jewellery box that he is currently working on. The box is made of birch bark and porcupine quills, bordered with sweet grass whose scent I was able to smell. He explained that porcupine quills are easily removed from the animal, and they are essentially used to stitch an elaborate design. For each quill a hole is poked and the quill is pulled through. By the time this item is finished, Robert will have invested over 200 hours to produce the elaborate pattern on this decorative box.

Wanda joined us and took me to a display of a wigwam to explain certain rituals and conventions that would be adhered to in First Nations encampments. Visitors would be invited to sit in the most honourable space in the home or wigwam. The same would go for children so they would be able to see everything to the left and to the right of them in order to be able to learn. During winter mats made from rush would be used for insulation against the cold. Baskets were hand- made in order to harvest scallop, clams, or mussels. Each of these particular baskets could hold up to 10 pounds of seafood. Other baskets made from ash were used for potato and apple picking. These baskets were hand-made in large quantities in the 1900s as a major means of economic survival in changing times. Today these baskets are sold as decorative items.

The tipi also features a variety of furs, including lynx, rabbit, mink, red fox and silver fox. During the 1920s and 1930s silver foxes were a real fashion craze in England and many women had a fox fur, complete with head and legs, draped around their necks as a statement of elegance. The fox’ head would be equipped with a clasp so it could be clipped onto the lapel of the lady’s coat.

I learned that the wigwam is made of birch bark. Wigwams were lightweight, which made them easy to move from one location to another and water-resistant. Encampments would be set up near the mouth of rivers, which would provide a plentiful opportunity for food and means of travel. A large part of native diet consisted of fish; the rest was made up of berries, fruits and meats. Often fishing weirs were used for catching eels. Wanda explained that in the last few years about 800 encampments have been found in Nova Scotia with more than 4000 artifacts dating back 2,500 to 4,000 years.

Mi’kmaq hunting traditions included bear traps that were baited with fish. Once the animal was caught, women would remove the guts, the hide and the sinews and carry it back to the camp to prepare it. Excess meat and fat would be scraped off the skin with scraping tools, stones or shells. Wanda informs me that women were very highly respected in First Nations society, as they were life givers. Meals were cooked in a hollowed-out log that held red-hot stones that had been heated over a fire. Water would be poured over the food and the hot stones to cook the meal. Spices were gathered in the forest, and instead of potatoes a plant called the Jerusalem artichoke would be served with the meat. Fish and meat were dried or smoked, and eggs were gathered from marsh birds.

We moved over to a display on Mi’kmaq language and Wanda mentioned that there were 7 Mi’kmaq districts, each with their own chief. The Bear River Reservation is located in a place called “Kespukwik”, meaning “where the water stops flowing”, referring to the Bear River flowing into the Annapolis Basin. Mi’kmaq language is based on action verbs, and pronouns are important indicators of belonging and possession. For instance, the words “mother” or “sister” can never be said by themselves, they always require a pronoun to indicate whose mother we are talking about. The Mi’kmaq words would say “your mother”, “my mother”, or” his/her mother” etc.

At the next display we saw a 1936 picture of Wanda’s great-grandmother, Sarah Fossey who lived until 1961 to the ripe old age of 101. Wanda has fond memories of Sarah who used to bring her grandchildren and great-grandchildren oranges as a special treat. Sarah was captured in a movie from the 1930s that was displayed at the Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre. Wanda was overwhelmed when she first saw moving images of her great-grandmother in the movie.

We also discussed life as a Mi’kmaq today. Wanda explained that Mi’kmaq society was matriarchal until the arrival of the first Europeans. In recent years, from the 1920s to the 1990, the government instituted a policy of residential schools where young native children were taken away from their families and taught the “white man’s ways’. This led to a significant loss in culture and heritage, women’s status eroded as a result and Mi’kmaq family structure suffered. The government wanted to force native children to “integrate” into mainstream society and in the process an ancient way of life was destroyed. Siblings were often not allowed to talk to one another and families were torn apart. Many of the native children suffered from mental, physical and sexual abuse in the residential schools. As a result of these policies, today many elders are learning the Mi’kmaq language from the younger generation.

Today there is a counter-trend where young First Nations people are rediscovering their language, culture and heritage. Of the conditions at the Bear River Reservation Wanda says that it is a managed forest and there is no poverty on the reserve, which holds about 100 people. Wanda herself has lived off the reserve for her entire life and has been self-efficient.

Wanda also explained that having “native status” is an important issue in First Nations communities. Native status confers certain benefits in terms of health care, taxation and schooling. Bill C31, introduced in 1985, improved native women’s status in the sense that they could pass native status on to their first generation children, even if the children were from a mixed native/non-native marriage. Men on the other hand can pass on native status indefinitely through the generations, even if they marry a non-native wife. This often creates economic inequality and friction within the same family where one set of cousins could have native status whereas another cousin would not officially be considered native. Even fairly recent legislation prolongs the European tradition of favouring male bloodlines.

Wanda gave me the names of several books that would provide further education about First Nations life and communities and when I said goodbye, she generously gave me two books to read as a present: “L’sitkuk – The Story of the Bear River Mi’kmaw Community” by Darlene Ricker, and “We Were Not Savages – A Mi’kmaq Perspective on the Collision between European and Native American Civilizations” by Daniel N. Paul, excellent reading material to educate myself further about native culture and history. As a parting gift she gave me a handcrafted medicine pouch that she had made herself, an example of the Mi’kmaq tradition of generosity and peacefulness.

I thanked Wanda and the entire team at the Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre for their most interesting introduction to Mi’kmaq heritage and culture and resolved to read these books soon to educate myself. I started driving down the hill and all the people congregated at the local Bear River Band Office waved goodbye to me. It was time for me to continue my drive along the Evangeline Trail to tonight’s final destination: Yarmouth.