Tag Archives: Cook Islands

Tipping me over the edge

Tipping – how much is too much and how much is too little.  Is a tip expected?  In countries like Australia and New Zealand hardly anyone tips – it is just not expected.  Same thing in the Cook Islands.  So what’s a poor traveller to do and how much should you tip if at all?

According to the website http://www.thisismoney.co.uk a survey of British travellers showed that 70% of them didn’t research tipping customs for the destinations they were visiting.  This leads to over-tipping – which I guess is not a bad thing from the recipient’s point of view.  My philosophy has always been rather over-tip than under-tip.

The whole tipping thing though does sometimes get out of hand and a good example of this is the cruise line industry.

“There are exceptions, but most mainstream cruise lines pay the men and women who serve their passengers a low base wage (by Western standards). As such, on nearly all big-ship lines, crew members are dependent upon the generosity of travellers for a good portion of their income.” (except from Cruise Critic website).

Now that’s a shame.  But it is also frustrating for guests on these cruises.  For a whole week you have your waiter and bus boy all over you – BFF’s – and then on the last farewell dinner you give them The Envelope!  Next morning at breakfast it’s every man for himself as waiters are getting ready for the next wave of cruisers.  And I understand why they act like that – it is survival.

That’s why it is always surprising and charming when you try to tip someone and they refuse to take it saying that it is their pleasure to assist.  True story – happened to me on a Uniworld River Cruise.  Now they did tell us beforehand that tips are included but this girl had gone out of the way and I just wanted to show my appreciation.  As a traveller there is something really good about being on a trip where you are not taking advantage of other people and that everyone receives a living wage.

I have to admit -I am not very good at this whole tipping thing – probably because my dear husband takes care of all that side of things but I can be a bit of a dope sometimes.  In India last year we were at a fabric warehouse and had watched a demonstration of weaving just in the courtyard.  As everyone was choosing fabrics and shirts I needed the ladies and as this was a pretty smart facility I figured I should take advantage – after all in India you never know!  As I passed through the courtyard the weaving man was still there sitting in front of the loom.

So with a waggle of his head in true Indian fashion he signals me to come over and sit next to me.  Oh that’s sweet I think.  He starts showing me how to weave the wool and I did a couple of lines (or whatever you would call them).  I gave him and nice smile and said thank you and then of course he signalled that you wanted some money.  At the same time he put his finger to his lips to indicate that it would be a secret because clearly he wasn’t allowed to do that.  So of course I gave him some money – I was so embarrassed at being caught in this old trick that I didn’t even check how much.  So much for me – the seasoned traveller!  On the plus side however I hope it made his day and he could go home that night to his modest little hut and show his wife – “Hey look what I got from this stupid English lady today!” and his wife will clap her hands and jump up and down and tell him what a smart and clever husband she has.  Wish I could have been a fly on the wall!


Canadian Loonie Tunes

Oh misery me – the mighty US Dollar is dwarfing our Canadian Loonie and now where – oh where – can we go on vacation.  Better not to go.  After all – convert out what you will pay in US dollars into our miserable weak Canadian dollar and we are paying twice as much.  What is the point of a vacation if we have to live on KFC every day.

Hang on a minute!  

Who says you have to go on vacation and spend US dollars?  Really?  So let’s look at where you can go and spend your Canadian dollars so that you feel like a super hero instead of a super flop!

That’s right!  You tell them Super Canuck!

FIJI – (60c Cdn buys you one Fijian dollar) – use Fijian dollars to buy your Kava fix.  This face-numbing, drowsy-making root is ground up with water usually in a large communal bucket – placed in a cloth that sometimes looks like grandad’s old sock and then everyone has a good chug and after a few cups they don’t care what the hell has happened to the Canadian dollar.  Good medicine!

What’s a Loonie anyway?

COOK ISLANDS / NEW ZEALAND – (92c Cdn buys you 1 New Zealand dollar)
Still winning here – and even more so because there is NO TIPPING IN THE COOK ISLANDS.  That’s right.  No need to think about having to add on 15% to the bill.  Even in New Zealand tipping is not expected and is not customary.  So what can you spend your money on in the Cooks (as it is affectionately known)?  Well you could do a tour with Pa – legendary medicine man ex surfing champion and quite the guy.  $70 NZD buys you a nature walk with Pa.

GUESS WHAT?  You don’t use US dollars in Europe!
Cdn $10 will buy you 7 Euro’s.  That’s better than it used to be.  So where is the cheapest place in Europe at the moment?  According to the BackPacker Index for 2015 no surprise that Kiev in the Ukraine is the cheapest place at the moment.  Better give that one a miss!  However there are some great cities out there such as Budapest and Bratislava offering great value for money.

OH AND WHAT ABOUT BALI?  No USD there either?  The only USD you will need there will be for the visa upon arrival.  Once there – go crazy!  Bali is a shoppers paradise.  But be prepared to negotiate for a good deal in the markets.  It is a national sport – especially where tourists are involved – and let’s face it … they are going to know you are a tourist.  Trust me – they know.

Find me somewhere peaceful and quiet – my top five places

The world seems to be in quite a mess at the moment.  Trouble in Russia and the Ukraine has prompted AMAWAterways to cancel their Russian river cruises for 2015.  The outbreak of Ebola has caused a drop in travel to South Africa – how strange when South Africa is miles and miles away from the affected countries.  Here’s an interesting article to back this up – Washington Post

Lava flows in Hawaii have even resulted in arrests as sightseers get too close to the molten lava.

Don’t worry – there are still plenty of peaceful and quiet havens in the world – here’s my current top five.

  • COOK ISLANDS – Not much happens here – which is lovely – except maybe for the weekly sailing regatta at the yacht club or perhaps Sunday market downtown.  No building is taller than the tallest palm tree and there is one main road which goes right around the island of Raratonga just 32 km in length.
  • MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA – Maybe not as glamorous as Bora Bora but I think rather nicer in some ways.  Easy to get to on the ferry from Papeete and once there you can enjoy a very rural laid back atmosphere.
  • SABI SANDS, SOUTH AFRICA – sleep under the stars in your very own luxurious tree house.  Your game ranger will bring you out here, serve dinner and then leave you for the night – just you and the sounds of the Africa wildnerness……. sound a bit too “out there”??
  • GIUDECCA, ITALY – just across the water from the main island of Venice this island provides an escape from the crowds.  You will never feel too cut off as frequent water taxis give constant access to the main island but you will find the streets of Giudecca quiet and residential.  There are just a few hotels there and the most amazing hostel for backpackers.  Wow – after visiting the hostel I think I could almost backpack (I said almost).  Just Euro 28 a night for a dorm room.
  • THE DINGLE, IRELAND – Forget the Ring of Kerry – head to the Dingle where Celtic is the official language.  The scenery is dramatic and you won’t see a tour bus for miles.

Sometimes on vacation all you want is a good rest – away from the crowds and troubles of the world…..