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Why world travelers are going cashless

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What’s your dream vacation? Whether you live to travel or only manage to get away for a couple of long weekends every year, you probably have a bucket list of places to go and sites to see.

Sometimes it feels like there might be too many options.

For some people, it’s adventure travel in Basque Country, exploring the caves of Urkiola, paddle boarding around the Urdaibai Estuary and indulging in world-renowned cuisine; for others, it’s a relaxing vacation in Thailand, including a meditation course, spa day and island hopping through the Phi Phi Islands. Either trip would rejuvenate travelers, yet they are quite different from one another. But no matter where you go in the world, there’s one thing that’s the same: People are going cash-free.

Going cash-free saves money

Part of traveling to a foreign country is exchanging money. With new coins and bills in your pocket, you can spend freely, buy souvenirs, meals, whatever you like.

Research shows that 87 percent of travelers have leftover cash after their trips, so most of us have experienced the mad dash to spend your foreign cash before you board your flight home.

But that doesn’t always happen.

Only 29 percent of travelers convert their foreign cash back to U.S. dollars. On average, this leaves $123 on the table.

That’s a costly souvenir.

Not to mention that getting foreign currency before your trip is just one more thing to do in the pre-planning process. And while 72 percent of respondents in the study said they get cash, many of them also admitted that, with the ease of traveling without cash, it was a waste of time. Skip the cash to save time and money by using your Visa credit card internationally. Plus, you can use your Visa card to pay in local currency, you are ensuring you get a competitive exchange rate and aren’t stuck with hidden currency conversion fees.

Peace of mind

Even if you’re diligent and always exchange your cash at the end of every trip, one of the biggest perks to traveling without cash is security.

Virtually every traveler worries about leaving their money in the hotel room or losing it in some way or another. There’s no easy way around it: Traveling with cash is stressful, and can impact an otherwise great trip.

Why go through the hassle? Accepted nearly everywhere in the world, travelers can use Visa to make purchases with confidence anytime, virtually anywhere in the world. Unlike cash, your Visa card can be replaced if lost or stolen to provide greater freedom for people to enjoy their travel experiences.

Explore the world differently

For travel enthusiasts looking to explore the world cash-free, The Visa Cashless Challenge: International Travel Edition Search will send one lucky winner on a cash-free adventure across the globe. Visa has partnered with Arden Cho (@arden_cho) and brothers Alex and Marko Ayling (@TheVagaBrothers) to create two unique trips that will show the winner what it’s like to travel the world cash free.

The winner of the challenge will choose between a relaxing trip to Thailand or an adventurous journey through Spain’s Basque Country. The winner will have the opportunity to decide between destinations, but once they do, will experience firsthand the ease of traveling cashless in the 21st century, and receive pro-tips on how best to document their journey along the way.

Hotels

Grand Hyatt Athens Opens in Greek Capital

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Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced the opening of Grand Hyatt Athens, marking the first Hyatt hotel in the Greek capital and the first Grand Hyatt branded hotel in Greece. The luxury property is located on Syngrou Avenue next to the Onassis Cultural Centre and combines dramatic architecture with innovative design, easily accessible to historic sites and best-in-class restaurants.

The vibrant city of Athens offers countless activities for all types of visitors. At the same time, it is also known as the historic capital of Europe – an ancient city with rich culture, iconic sites and attractions.

“Athens is fast becoming the destination of choice where ancient history sits alongside modern coffee shops and rooftop bars,” said Nikos Trikourakis, general manager of Grand Hyatt Athens. “Our hotel will offer guests who seek first-class hospitality unforgettable experiences and a luxurious place to stay.”

Celebrating iconic Greek culture, the 309-room hotel incorporates curated art reminiscent of ancient Athens. Alongside original pieces from the Museum of Cycladic Art, the hotel also showcases a glamorous lobby with an extraordinary art installation called The Coin, which is made from replicated, ancient Athenian coins representing the Greek economic supremacy in the fifth century BC. The property’s rooftop also offers the spectacular Penthouse Restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool with impressive views of the Acropolis.

Grand Hyatt is situated within walking distance of the beautiful old town of Plaka and the infamous Acropolis site, while golf courses, the passenger port terminal of Piraeus and the golden beaches of the Athens southern suburbs are just a short car ride away.

The hotel will be managed by Kokari Limited and has been developed by the international real estate investment companies Henderson Park and Hines. It will be the second Hyatt property in Greece, joining Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki.

Accommodations

Designed with bold and vibrant features, the hotel has 309 beautifully decorated guestrooms, 38 of which are suites, including the Presidential Suite, Royal Suite and four Grand Executive Suites with terraces. The rooms feature spectacular views of either the Acropolis, the cityscape or the inner landscaped garden, and offer a spacious and luxurious stay. Additionally, suite and club room guests have exclusive access to the Grand Club Lounge, which provides lavish surroundings, personal concierge services and culinary highlights throughout the day.

Dining

The impressive rooftop restaurant is set on the hotel’s top floor overlooking the brightly lit Acropolis neighborhood of Athens through transparent glass surfaces and offers guests the extraordinary experience of fresh, seasonally-inspired Mediterranean cuisine. For a more relaxed environment, guests can also dine in the Aphrodite lobby lounge & bar, a modern and comfortable lounge-style restaurant offering patisserie selections, salads and deluxe sandwiches.

Wellbeing and Fitness

Grand Hyatt Athens has a stunning rooftop outdoor swimming pool with breathtaking views of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. The wellness center features four private treatment rooms, an indoor heated swimming pool, relaxation lounges, a sauna and a Turkish bath, known as a Hammam (to open in early 2019) – offering a destination of serene luxury and relaxation.

Meetings and Events

Grand Hyatt Athens offers the perfect venue for every type of event with almost 21,500 square feet of flexible event space and seven flexible multi-functional meeting spaces accommodating up to 1,000 guests. Conference facilities are equipped with the latest audio-visual technology paired with dedicated personal assistance at all times to ensure that events and meetings run smoothly.

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Aviation

Emirates revamps its premium offering in First and Business Class

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BYREDO for Emirates Wellness kit in First Class

Emirates has refreshed its premium offering with new luxury products in First and Business Class for a more comfortable travel experience. The new products stem from collaborations with BYREDO skincare, Bowers & Wilkins and Emirates’ longstanding partnership with Bulgari for its refreshed amenity kits.

BYREDO for Emirates Wellness kit

Emirates First Class customers will find the BYREDO travel wellness range of skincare in their private suites. The allergen-free and Chamomile collections were exclusively created for Emirates for a relaxing and hydrating experience inflight. The collection by European luxury brand, BYREDO, was first introduced in Emirates’ new fully enclosed suites on the Boeing 777 last year and is now being rolled out across the fleet.  All the products in the collection are manufactured using the best raw materials with a distinct focus on craft and quality.

Products included in the BYREDO for Emirates Wellness kit are:

  • Cleansing Face Towelette, leaving a clean base to enjoy the maximum benefit from skincare.
  • Facial Toner brings freshness and essential hydration, improving overall skin texture.
  • Eye Cream gently hydrates sensitive skin around the eye leaving it softer and suppler.
  • Chamomile roll-on Sleep Oil to apply on pulse points to ease into relaxation.
  • Chamomile Pillow Mist spray for textile to create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere

The kits are paired with a faux leather notebook and branded pen.

Bowers & Wilkins Active Noise Cancelling E1 headphones

To amplify the viewing experience on ice, Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment system, the airline is rolling out brand new Bowers & Wilkins Active Noise Cancelling E1 headphones in First Class. These headphones were designed by award-winning audio brand Bowers & Wilkins and created exclusively for Emirates using a unique hybrid noise cancellation technology optimised for the Emirates First Class cabins.

The headphones are lightweight and made of the finest materials, including aluminium and sheepskin leather for a comfortable fit. Customers can use the headphones to view up to 3,500 channels of on-demand entertainment on a 32-inch TV screen. The entertainment selection on ice across all classes includes up to 950 movies, 400 TV channels and 2,400 music and podcast channels. The headphones’ sound quality can also be tested on The Bowers & Wilkins Superior Sound playlist, a selection of tracks selected for their acoustic excellence available on ice.

Bulgari Amenity Kits

Emirates continues its longstanding partnership with Bulgari for the latest designs of the airline’s exclusive kit bags. The new set of amenity kits for both First and Business Class feature Bulgari’s fragrance – Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert (Green Tea) – and contain skincare essentials to keep customers feeling fresh and pampered throughout the flight.

The First Class kit bags, made from faux leather, come in eight designs with a new range of colours for men and women. Eight additional designs are available in Business Class – four for men and four for women. The amenity kits are available on long-haul overnight flights and designs are refreshed every nine months. The bags have been designed for multipurpose uses after the flight to store headphones, make up or jewelry.

In addition to the Bulgari amenity kits, First Class customers will also be given Hydra Active moisturising sleep suits on long haul overnight flights.

Fans of the First Class experience can purchase the Emirates sleep suits, First Class blanket or the Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones from the Emirates Official Stores.

Fine dining on Emirates

On all Emirates flights, customers can enjoy a selection of the finest cuisine prepared by gourmet chefs, accompanied by some of the most exclusive wines, champagnes and spirits in the world. Emirates recently revamped its spirits offering across all classes to include exclusives like the Hennessy Paradis Imperial and introduced the Emirates Vintage Collection – a selection of fine wines which have been stored for up to 15 years. This includes the Château Cheval Blanc 2004, Château Haut Brion 2004, Château Mouton Rothschild 2001 and Château Margaux 1998 served in First Class on select routes.

In Business Class, Emirates is serving exclusive champagnes like the Moët & Chandon Rosé Imperial served on all flights from Dubai later this month. A global on board exclusive, Veuve Clicquot Extra Brut Extra Old, will also be available for a limited time on select routes.

Emirates’ premium onboard experience is complemented by on ground comfort with a network of 42 dedicated Emirates Lounges located within major airports around the globe, including its newly-opened Cairo lounge and refurbished New York lounge at John F Kennedy International Airport. First and Business Class passengers can also travel to and from the airport via Emirates’ complimentary Chauffeur-drive service – available in over 70 cities including Emirates’ latest destination Santiago.

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Destinations

Destination Langkawi: Beyond the Beaches

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With 550-million years of geological history and generations of mythical folklore, there is always something new for guests of Four Seasons Resort Langkawi to uncover on the island.

A paradise of panoramas, the Langkawi archipelago is an amalgam of mangroves and mountains, rainforests and rivers, wildlife and waterfalls, legends and local charm, tidal flats and coral reefs, cliffs and caves. Whether appreciated from the vantage point of a bike, kayak, boat, cable car, sky-bridge or simply on foot, the islands’ thrilling topography ensures a truly breathtaking backdrop for myriad magical and memorable encounters.

Water Worlds

Beyond the beaches, water sports and diving, Langkawi offers visitors rainforests, mangrove “sea forests,” cascading waterfalls, hidden lakes and glistening paddy fields to explore.

Outdoor enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice.  The uninhabited islet of Pulau Langgun offers an exhilarating rainforest immersion and lush wilderness trek to the hidden sanctuary of Tasik Langgun, a large freshwater lake.  Build an appetite biking through paddy fields to Durian Perangin Waterfall – 14-tiers of clear cascading water – perfect for a refreshing dip and picnic.  Or visit the island’s tallest waterfall, Temurun (30 metres or 98 feet), for another scenic natural swimming pool.

A mangrove kayak get guests unobtrusively close to the magic and mystery of forests that straddle land and sea. Traverse small, dense tributaries and follow the natural ebb and flow of this fascinating ecosystem to uncover hidden delights behind each corner. Alternatively, take a coastal kayak along the emerald seascapes of Langkawi’s less explored eastern rim, and paddle through a 15 metre (49 foot) cave tunnel for an unforgettable swim in a salt-water lake.

Mineral and Mystical  

Steeped in geological heritage, Langkawi has some of the world’s oldest and most intriguing naturally formed gems.  Shaped by plate tectonics, volcanic activity, ocean submersion and erosion, Langkawi’s many rock formations have evolved over millennia into exciting natural habitats, many animated by fantastical folklores and legends.

Adrenalin seekers can heed the call of the ancient limestone cliffs for an afternoon of rock-climbing and abseiling within the Resort’s grounds. Just a short distance away, the Langkawi Sky Bridge – suspended 700 metres (2,300 feet) above sea level and accessed via the world’s steepest cable car – offers an up close experience of Malaysia’s oldest rocks (the Machinchang Formation), not to mention far-reaching views extending to southern Thailand.

Fuel for the imagination, Langkawi’s craggy coastline of hidden coves, sunken caves and majestic peaks is straight out of a fairytale and sets the scene for a magical adventure. The intriguing Gua Cerita (Cave of Legends) is the mythical home of a giant phoenix, a captive princess and a deadly giantess. Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Lady) was formed when a huge limestone cave collapsed, resulting in a figure resembling a pregnant woman lying on her back. Locals believe that the lake, famed for the legend of celestial princess Mambang Sari, possesses mystical powers.

Back at the Resort, Spa devotees will be entranced by the element-based offerings at the Geo Spa, where the ancient healing energies of the Geopark meet bespoke natural treatments by ila.

Wildlife and Local Life

A bird watcher’s paradise – the open rainforest corridor, mist-covered Gunung Raya peak, and local village ponds provide the opportunity for ornithologists to tick a fair few flying friends off their must see list. Langkawi is home to approximately 200 species including: flower peckers, hills mynas, dollar birds, sun birds, eagles, woodpeckers, lesser whistling-ducks, little egrets, Chinese pond herons, striated swallows and the largest of them all, the great hornbill, measuring in at 1.3 metres (more than 4 feet).

Animal lovers will not want to miss the mangrove boat safari into the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park and its maze of meandering mangroves for exciting up-close encounters with majestic eagles and kites, mischievous macaques, fish that walk (mudskippers), colourful fiddler crabs, shy otters and sleeping bats.

Cultural connoisseurs will be enthralled by the Malaysian book village of Kampung Buku and the bucolic beauty of stilted wooden houses in local villages. A visit to the fishermen’s village of Kuala Teriang enables visitors to quietly observe fisherfolk return with their day’s catch, or sample delicious deep-fried banana fritters with local milk tea at wooden roadside stalls. Back at the Resort, relish local spices and ingredients during a Malay-cuisine cooking class – available as both adult and child-size experiences.

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