Friday, December 4, 2020

Benin

Benin Flag



Why visit Benin?
Ideal for the adventurous traveler seeking architecture, beaches, birdwatching, culture, fishing villages, markets, national parks and voodoo. 


 Photo Credit: Afrikit/Pixabay 


At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy: Artwork, bronze pieces, brass goods, ebony products, ritual masks, pottery, tapestries and wooden statues.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Àkàrà (black-eyed peas). Kuli-Kuli (fried smashed peanuts). Wagasi Cheese.
  • Local Drink to Try: Choukoutou (beer). Sodabi (liquor).

Photo Credit: Noémie Girardet/Pixabay 


Fun Facts
  • During the 17th Century (1601-1700), known as, "Slave Coast", heart of the slave trade.
  • In 1958, France granted autonomy.
  • In 1960, became independent from France.
  • In 1975, renamed from Dahomey.
  • During 1980, had one of the highest death rates for children (under five) in the world.
  • In 1989, riots occurred because the regime did not have money to pay its army.
  • In 2006, signed the Millennium Challenge Account grant ($307USD million).
  • Large exporter of cotton and palm oil.
  • Birthplace to Animistic Religion, belief that non-humans are spiritual beings for a period of time.
  • Dahomey Kingdom, was known for their elite female soldier corps (Ahosi). 
  • "Benin City" is actually located in southern Nigeria.
  • Gris-Gris (Voodoo amulet) is believed to protect from evil or bring luck. Even used as a method to birth control.
  • Has the largest remaining population of lions in West Africa.
  • New port is under construction between Cotonou and Porto Novo.
  • Akans (Ghana) were known to name their children by the day of the week and order born.

Photo Credit: Claire05/Pixabay 


Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: Quintessence Film Festival (January), Gelede Festival (March), Waba Festival (June) and International Festival of the Dahomean Cultures (December).
  • Holidays: New Year's Day (January), Traditional Day (January), Vodou National Day (January), International Women's Day (March), Labour Day (May), Whit Monday, Ascension, Independence Day (August), Assumption (August), Armed Forces Day (October), All Saints' Day (November), National Day (November), Christmas Day (December) and Boxing Day (December). 

Porto-Novo, Bénin. Photo Credit: Yanick Folly/Unsplash 


Good to Know
  • Avoid local dairy products, uncooked foods and tap water.
  • Majority the population resides along the southern coastline (Bight of Benin).
  • French-style bakeries and cuisine is found throughout the country.
  • Rabies and Yellow Fever are present.
  • Most use an outdoor mud stove for cooking.
  • Consult your physician on malaria suppressants and vaccinations: cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and meningococcal meningitis.
  • Due to parasitic worms, Bilharzia do not swim or wade in freshwater.
  • Harmattan Season (dusty trade wind) is from December - March.
  • Somba (Ditamari) citizens (northwestern), do not like to be photographed. Other locals may require compensation.
  • Meat is usually quite expensive, often reflective to your servings.
  • Does not share railway links with adjacent countries.
  • Beware of beach swimming as some ocean areas dump from city dwellers.
  • Children often crowd around forgein travelers with excitement.
  • French is the official language.
  • Literacy rate is among the lowest in the world.

This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport and tourist VISA required.
  • Required Vaccination required. 
  • Currency Restrictions for Entry/Exit, restrictions apply.

Photo Credit: Pixabay 

  • Best Time to Visit: November - May
  • Cool Months: July - September
  • Hottest Months: March - April
  • Peak Season: July - August and October

Your Must-See & Do
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Abomey, Royal Palaces of Abomey and W-Arly-Pendjari Complex.

Ready to embark on custom and personalized services, your journey begins with Louvet Travel

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                                        All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Belize

Belize Flag



Why visit Belize?
Active travelers seeking barrier reefs, beaches, birdwatching, boating, caves, cays, cycling, fishing, helicopter tours, hiking, jungles, kayaking, mangroves, music, nightlife, rainforest, ruins, scuba diving, snorkeling, swamps, water sports and wildlife.


Laughing Bird Caye, Stann Creek DistrictBelize. Photo Credit: Pixabay


At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy: Baskets, chocolates, coffee, dolls, folk art, hot sauce, rum, slate carvings and wood carvings.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Caldo (stew). Chimole (soup). Conch Fritter. Escabeche (onion soup). Gibnut (rat). Panades (fried stuffed turnover). Salbutes (stuffed tortillas).
  • Local Drink to Try: Belikin Beer. Panti Rippa. Rum Punch. 

San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), Belize. Photo Credit: hunterfoy/Pixabay 


Fun Facts
  • In 1926, Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss "Baron Bliss" (1869-1926), died of food poisoning on an anchored yacht along the coast. He willed almost two million Belize dollars to a Trust Fund to benefit citizens (institutions, libraries, schools). A national festival is celebrated annually in his honor, Heroes & Benefactors' Day, formerly Baron Bliss Day (March 9).
  • In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed along the Gulf of Honduras.
  • During 16th Century (1501-1600), Spanish explorers arrived.
  • In 1638, English settlers arrived.
  • In 1677, the first record of the country's name was noted in a journal of Fray José Delgado, Dominican Priest.
  • During 18th Century (1701-1800), attacked by Spanish against Britain. 
  • Between 18th Century (1701-1800) - 19th Century (1801-1900), Russian Mennonites of German descent settled in a formed community.
  • In 1716, Belize District was founded by the British.
  • In 1786, a superintendent was appointed to oversee the country by British.
  • During 19th Century (1801-1900), Jamaicans settled.
  • In 1840, became a British colony, "British Honduras".
  • In 1842, Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1809), English Naturalist was noted to say, "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies".
  • In 1862, appointed as a Crown Colony.
  • In 1981, earned independence from the United Kingdom.
  • In 1990, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was founded for jaguars.
  • In 2006, discovered crude oil (Spanish Lookout).
  • In 2010, prohibits vessels from trawling along the seafloor. 
  • In 2016, dual citizen (United States and Belize), Simone Arianne Biles, Gymnast won four gold medals at the Rio Summer Olympics (Brazil).
  • Slaves brought from central and west Africa for logging.
  • Has two underwater sapphire blue sinkholes (Lighthouse Reef).
  • Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio, American Actor privately owns a small island (Blackadore Caye) with aspirations to build a sustainable eco resort on the island.
  • Only continental Central American  Commonwealth country under monarchy of Queen Elizabeth II and represented by a Governor General. 
  • Large exporter of bananas and sugar.
  • Francis Ford Coppola, American Film Director owns two luxury four star hotels there, Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn.
  • National delicacy, Gibnut (rat) was served to Queen Elizabeth II during a visit.
  • Welcomes over one million cruise ship passengers annually (Belize City).
  • British Army trains in their jungle terrains.
  • Features more than 450 islands around 200 considered habitable.
  • Over 60% of  the land is forest.
  • The "Swift Justice" Law is designed as a deterrent to thieves not to target foreign travelers.
  • Belize Barrier Reef, is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
  • Guatemala makes territorial claims to Belize, Cayo, Stann Creek, and Toledo. 
  • Majority of the buses are old school buses from the United States.
  • Education is only required between ages of 6-14 years.
  • "Holy Saturday" Cross Country Cycling Classic, is one of the most popular sporting events.
  • Canoe marathon, La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge spans over 4 days (180 miles).

(Blue Morpho Butterfly) Toledo District, Belize. Photo Credit: Julia Nigh/Pixabay 


Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: Krem New Year's Cycling Classic (January), International Billfish Tournament (February), Placencia Sidewalk Arts Festival (February), La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge (March), Cashew Festival (May), Chocolate Festival of Belize (May), National Agriculture & Trade Show (May),Toledo Cacao Fest (May), Día de San Pedro (June), Lobster Festivals (June), Benque Viejo Del Carmen Fiesta (July), Costa Maya Festival (August), Deer Dance Festival (August), San Pedro International Costa Maya Festival (August) Carnival (September), Carnival Road March (September), Pan Yaad (September) and John Canoe Dance Contest (December).
  • Holidays: New Year's Day, National Heroes & Benefactors Day, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter, Easter Monday, Labour Day, Commonwealth Day, Saint George's Caye Day, Independence Day, Pan America Day, Garifuna Settlement Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Placencia (Caribbean Coast), Belize. Photo Credit: Charles Leslie/Pixabay 


Good to Know
  • With the exception of highways, most roads are unpaved.
  • Some areas can be difficult to access or costly.
  • Avoid downtown Belize after dark. Always beware of your surroundings.
  • "Cool Spot" refers to bars serving local beer and rums.
  • Local Conch Season is July - September and Lobster Season is June - February.
  • Police routinely patrol the streets in Belize City, Caye Caulker, Dangriga, San Pedro, Placencia and Punta Gorda particularly for travelers' safety.
  • Night driving is not recommended to avoid carjackings.
  • Dengue Fever and Malaria are present.
  • Coastline and jungle areas are prone to drug smugglers.
  • Consult your physician about hepatitis vaccinations.
  • Beware of scorpions and tarantulas.
  • Beaches are generally narrow and prone to current trashy coastlines.
  • Connecting Cayo District to Stann Creek District (Hummingbird Highway) is considered the country's most scenic roadway.
  • It's against the law to carry a bullet/gun with a permit, hunt without a license, pick wild orchids, remove archaeological artifacts, remove coral or spear fish.
  • Almost always has 70% humidity.
  • There's no bus service from the airport to Belize City.
  • A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended. Fuel is expensive!
  • Car rental vehicles are not permitted crossing into Mexico. 
  • Belizean Liability on car rental insurance is not valid in Guatemala.
  • Ferry Service is available Ambergris Caye, Belize City, Caye Caulker, Corozal and Sarteneja. 
  • Negotiate your taxi service fee in advance as most are not metered (green license plates). Tipping is not required. 
  • Non-residents may establish bank accounts, thereby attractive to money launderers.
  • Official language is English, widely spoken are Belizean Creole and Spanish. 
  • Violent crimes associated with gang warfare.
  • Businesses are known to close midday (lunch) and reopen late afternoon.

This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport and one blank page for entry stamp.
  • Tourist VISA not required for visits under 30 days.
  • Currency Restrictions for Entry/Exit: $5,000USD.

Mayan Ruins, Belize. Photo Credit: chiselart1/Pixabay

  • Best Time to Visit: November - April
  • Coldest Month: November - January
  • Hottest Months: May - September
  • Peak Season: November - April

Bacab Eco Park, Burrell Boom, Belize. Photo Credit: Michelle Maria/Pixabay 


Your Must-See & Do
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Belize Barrier Reef, Glover's Reef and Lighthouse Reef.

Ready to embark on custom and personalized services, your journey begins with Louvet Travel

Your one stop source: Accommodations I Air I Car Rentals I Cruises I Disney Excursions I Tours I Transfers I Travel Insurance I Villa Rentals

                                         All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Belgium

Belgium Flag


"Heart of Europe" and “The Battleground of Europe”


Why visit Belgium?
Offers architecture, art, beaches, beer, boating, caves, churches, cobbled streets, cultural festivals, cycling, diamonds, fine cuisine, golf, history, horseback riding, museums, parks, rolling hills, sidewalk cafes and spas.


Brugge (The Venice of the North), Belgium. Photo CreditErin Summer/Pixabay 


At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy:  Antiques, ceramics, chocolates, copperware, crystal, diamonds, handmade marionettes, lace, leather goods, linens, pewter, tapestries and wooden carvings.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Belgian Endives. Carbonnade (stew). Crepes. Croquettes aux Crevettes. Frites (french fries). Herve Cheese. Jambon d'Ardenne (hanging ham). Liège Waffles. Mitraillette (sandwich). Moules (mussels). Paling in 't groen. Rijstevlaai (tarte pie), Smoutebollen (beignet). Spaghetti Bolognese. Speculoos (cookies). Steak Frites (steak and french fries). Vol-au-vent (stuffed meat pastry). Waterzooi (stew).
  • Local Drink to Try: Chimay Tripel (beer). Jenever (gin).

Gravensteen Castle, Ghent (East Flanders), Belgium. Photo Credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay 


Fun Facts
  • During 13th (1201-1300) - 14th (1301-1400 Century the cloth industry (County of Flanders) marked them as one of the richest areas in Europe.
  • From 1832-2002, local currency was the Belgian franc switching to Euros.
  • In 1857, Neuhaus (chocolate manufacturer) opened their first store (Brussels).
  • In 1870, Côte d'Or chocolate manufacturer was founded (Schaerbeek).
  • Since 1884, chocolate composition is regulated by law.
  • In 1908, assume responsibility of Belgian Congo (Central Africa).
  • In 1914, invaded by Germany to attack France.
  • In 1926, Godiva chocolate manufacturer was founded (Brussels).
  • In 1940, surrender to the Nazis.
  • In 1948, signed the Treaty of Brussels.
  • In 1951, King Leopold III (1901-1983) forcibly relinquished his monarchical authority.
  • In 1960, the Belgian Congo gained independence.
  • Het Zilvermeer Lake (Mol) features an underwater museum of  historical artifacts and statues.
  • Very high standards of  education, healthcare, living and quality of life.
  • Ranks one of the most peaceful and safest places in the world.
  • Only country not to set age restrictions on euthanasia.
  • Imports include chemicals, equipment, foodstuffs, machinery, oil products,  pharmaceuticals, raw diamonds, raw materials and transportation equipment.
  • Exporter of  chemicals, equipment, finished diamonds, foodstuffs, machinery and metals products.
  • First European countries to transition from hand productions to machinery methods.
  • Their Health Care System is financed and supervised by the federal government.
  • Self claimed originator of french fries.
  • Produces over 1100 beer varieties.
  • Home to the largest volume brewer in the world, Anheuser-Busch InBev (Leuven).
  • Brewed by monks, Trappist Beer repeatedly earns the title as "world's best beer" (Vleteren).
  • Over 2,000 chocolatiers throughout the country.

Brussels, Belgium. Photo Credit: Jochen Schaft/Pixabay 


Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: Bommelsfeesten (January), Bruges Beer Festival (January), Ghent Light Festival (January), Brussels Animation Film Festival (February), Carnaval De Binche (February), Salon Du Chocolat Brussels (February), Bal du Rat Mort (March), Grand Prix van Hasselt (March), International Film Festival (March), Festival van Vlaanderen (April), Sablon Spring Baroque Music Festival (April), Ommegang Pageant (July), Paradise City Festival (July), Rock Werchter (July), Tomorrowland (July), Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix (August), Boombal Festival (August), Brussels Jazz Marathon (May),Ducasse de Mons (May), Kattenstoet (May), Kunstenfestivaldesarts (May), Queen Elisabeth Contest (May), Brussels Food Truck Festival (June), Couleur Café Festival (June), Elrow Town Summer Festival (June), Extrema Outdoor Belgium (June), International Cartoon Festival (June), Brosella Folk & Jazz Festival (July), Cactus Festival Dour Festival (July), Gentse Feesten (July), Dodentocht (August), Flower Carpet Festival (August), Outremeuse Festival (August), Marktrock (August), Meyboom (August), Ghent May Regatta (May), Procession of the Holy Blood (May), Zinneka Parade (May), Zinneka Parade (June), Pukkelpop (August), Brussels Beer Weekend (September), Festival de Wallonie (September), Brussels Flower Show (October), Filmfestival Gent (October), Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival (November) and Christmas Market (December).
  • Holidays: All Saints' Day, Armistice Day, Ascension, Assumption of Mary, Belgian National Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Easter Monday, Labour Day and Pentecost Monday. 

 Royal Palace of Brussels, Bruxelles, Belgium. Photo Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas/Pixabay 


Good to Know
  • Stay in Brussels as your central hub getting around the country.
  • In the east (Wallonia) is spoken, the north (Flanders) Flemish (Dutch dialect) and south area (Wallonia) French. 
  • Home to Europe's main diamond center (Antwerp).
  • Flemish speaking natives prefer travelers to speak English rather than French. Tensions exist between the Flemish north) and Walloons (South).
  • Ferries cross the English Channel to Great Britain.
  • Every Spring the Royal Palace Greenhouses (Laeken) is open to the general public.
  • Same-sex marriages are legal.

Meuse River, Dinant, Belgium. Photo Credit: Ben Kerckx/Pixabay 


This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport with three months of validity upon return and two blank pages.
  • Tourist VISA not required for visits under 90 days.
  • Currency Restrictions for Entry/Exit: $10,000Euros.

Lion's Mound, Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium. Photo Credit: Ben Kerckx/Pixabay 

  • Best Time to Visit: May - September
  • Coldest Months: January - February
  • Hottest Month: July
  • Peak Season: July - August

Atomium, Brussels, Belgium. Photo Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas/Pixabay 


Your Must-See & Do
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Belfries of Belgium and France, Flemish Béguinages, Historic Centre of Brugge, La Grand-Place, Brussels, Major Mining Sites of Wallonia, Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta, Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai, Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex, Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, Stoclet House, The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement and The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs La Louvière and Le Roeulx.

Saint Nicholas' Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk), Ghent, Belgium. Photo Credit: Erich Westendarp/Pixabay 


Ready to embark on custom and personalized services, your journey begins with Louvet Travel

Your one stop source: Accommodations I Air I Car Rentals I Cruises I Disney Excursions I Tours I Transfers I Travel Insurance I Villa Rentals



Oostende Beach, Ostend, Belgium. Photo Credit: armennano/Pixabay 

                                           All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Belarus

Belarus Flag



Why visit Belarus?
Known for architecture, culture, forests, fortresses, lakes, monuments and rivers.


Mir Castle Complex, Mir, Belarus. Photo Credit: Egor Shitikov/Pixabay 


At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy: Balalaikas, boxes, caviar, chocolate candies, fur caps, hand-painted lacquerware, linen fabrics, metal sculpture, tiles, vodka, wall plaques and wood sculpture.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Babka (potato pie). Belarusian (rye bread). Buraki (beet soup). Driniki (potato pancakes). Kapusta (cabbage soup). Machanka (pork stew).
  • Local Drink to Try: Harelka (vodka). Kompot. Kvass (beer).

Minsk, Belarus. Photo Credit: A_Matskevich/Pixabay 


Fun Facts
  • During 3rd Century (201AD-300AD), Indo Europeans (Baltics) were the first settlers. 
  • In 1840s, Nicholas I (1868-1896), Emperor of Russia (1825-1855) prohibited the Belarusian language in public schools.
  • In 1941, (Brest) was attacked by Hitler's forces.
  • During Eastern Front of World War II (1941-1945), they lost 25% of their population (over 1.6 million civilians and 620,000 Belarusian Red Army Soldiers).
  • In 1988, archaeologist found mass graves of victims (Kurapaty) executed between 1937-1941
  • 1991, declared independence.
  • In 1992, currency Soviet ruble was replaced with Belarusian ruble.
  • In 1992, native Vitaly Venediktovich Scherbo, Gymnast, won six Olympic gold medals.
  • In 2019, hosted the European Games (Mins).
  • In 2000, signed a cooperation treaty,Union State with Russia.
  • Over 40% of the country is forest.
  • Only European country to officially have the death penalty.
  • Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism is widely practiced.
  • Football and ice hockey are the most popular sports.

The Church of Saints Simon & Helena (Red Church), Minsk, Belarus. Photo Credit: Zdeněk Fekar/Pixabay 


Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: International Classic Music Festival (January), Dotyk Belarusian Queer Film Festival (February), International Festival of Magicians (February), International Orthodox Church Music Festival (February), International Winter Motor Festival (February), Minsk Spring Tango Festival (March), International Festival of Instrumental Music Guitar Renaissance (April), International Rock & Bike Festival (April), Belarusian Fashion Week (May), Festival of Medieval Culture (May), International Show of Vintage Cars (May), Minsk Pride (May), Cheese Festival (June), Cucumber Festival (August), Flower Festival (August), Mirum Music Festival (AUGUST), Folk Culture Festival (September), International Bikers’ Festival (September), Potato Fest (September), Sugar Fest (September) and Listapad (November).
  • Holidays: Orthodox Christmas (January), Defender of the Fatherland & Armed Forces Day (February), Constitution Day (March), Day of the Police of Belarus (March), International Women's Day (March), Chernobyl Tragedy Commemorative Day (April), Unity of Peoples of Russia & Belarus Day (April), State Flag & State Emblem Day (May), Victory Day (May), Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War (June), Kupalle (July), Dziady (November) and October Revolution Day (November).

Courage Monument, Brest, Belarus. Photo Credit: Aline Mueller/Pixabay


Good to Know
  • Medical care is not to our quality and standards.
  • Local Customs Officers are known to remove valuables.
  • Photographs of the Government House of the Republic or The KGB are not permitted!
  • Drinking alcohol in public places is not permitted.
  • Police are known to be corrupt and seek bribes.
  • Eastern Yiddish, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian are spoken.
  • Breakfast is the lightest meal of the day for locals.
  • Hospitality is shown by offering guests bread and salt.  

This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport with three months of validity upon return and two blank stamp pages.
  • Tourist VISA required for visits over 30 days.
  • Currency Restrictions for Entry/Exit: $10,000USD.

Gomel, Belarus. Photo Credit: Alexander Grishin/Pixabay 

  • Best Time to Visit: May - September
  • Cold Months: December - February 
  • Hottest Month: July 
  • Peak Season: June - August

Lake Narach, Belarus. Photo Credit: Pixabay 


Your Must-See & Do
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Architectural Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh, Białowieża Forest, Mir Castle Complex and Struve Geodetic Arc.

Navahrudak Castle, Navahrudak, Belarus. Photo Credit: anastasiya_salsa/Pixabay 


Ready to embark on custom and personalized services, your journey begins with Louvet Travel?

Your one stop source: Accommodations I Air I Car Rentals I Cruises I Disney Excursions I Tours I Transfers I Travel Insurance I Villa Rentals


All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice.

Travel Tips Aboard

Photo Credit: Steve Buissinne / Pixabay Tourists are often targeted aboard with pickpocketing. Avoid Holding Your Phone in the Air (Makes fo...