Kuwait halts commercial flights coronavirus

Kuwait will suspend commercial traffic at the country’s lone
international airport, effective March 13. 

The decision was made by the Kuwaiti cabinet Wednesday, the
Kuwait News Service reported. It comes as the Gulf state has
70 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

The move makes Kuwait the first country to shut down
commercial flights due to the outbreak. Some air will continue, however. Kuwait News Service said incoming flights to Kuwait International Airport will be allowed for
Kuwaitis and immediate relatives. The news service did not clarify if those
traveler would be transported via charter service.

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New Zealand holidays: 5 of the best South Island escapes

It’s time for the North Island to show the South some serious love, writes Juliette Sivertsen.

I’m just going to call it.

I don’t think you can call yourself a proper Kiwi if you haven’t been to the South Island.

There. I said it. Someone had to.

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Cruise: Use this trick to get free drinks on board – including booze

Cruise holidays are popular, not only due to their luxury offering, but also largely thanks to their all-inclusive nature meaning most things are included in the ticket price. Alas, too often new cruisers may find themselves caught out by unexpected drinks costs.


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You see, not all beverages are included in the ticket int the way that the food is.

Drinks, particularly of the alcoholic variety, come at an additional cost and can add an eye-watering sum to your end of holiday tab.

However, two cruise experts have come to the rescue, offering a trick that could see cruisers enjoying a free tipple.

Ben and David have been on almost 30 cruises around the world, and know a thing or two about life sailing the highs seas.

The duo run a Youtube channel dedicated specifically to the world of cruising, aptly named “Cruise with Ben and David”.

They revealed that there are some opportunities to grab free cocktails or even a glass of fizz that many cruise guests don’t know about.

David explained: “Most cruise lines hold certain events where free drinks are on offer. These include things like the captain’s welcome and farewell parties where drinks are free-flowing.

“You usually find a selection of cocktails as well as some fizz such as prosecco.”

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Though these drinks usually come at an additional cost when purchased in the restaurant or at a bar, when it comes to special events, drinks are just part of the draw.

David continues: “Other things as well like art auctions where there is unlimited Prosecco or champagne on offer.

“Plus shops hold some special sales and events where there are free drinks available and there is absolutely no need to buy anything, but don’t have too many because you might be buying stuff by accident.”

For holidaymakers who aren’t too keen on alcohol, there are plenty of free drink options elsewhere.


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Ben says: “Cruise lines also have free water, tea, coffee and juice available in the buffet.

“And tap water is completely safe to drink too, but the taste might not be great though.

“We recommend you bring a refillable mug or bottle for water and coffee to avoid having to buy it.

“We also take these off in port with us as well so we don’t have to waste extra money while in port.”

The pair also suggests taking your own flavoured tea bags and utilising the free hot water or taking cordial squash.

“Cordial squash is great for the tap water, especially if you don’t like the taste,” adds David.

“It will make it taste more like soda.”

Passengers who hope to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner are also in luck, as an ex-cruise worker has revealed a handy way to save money on alcohol in restaurants too.

Speaking to Inside Edition, Brian David Bruns explained: “At the beginning of a cruise if you want to buy a bottle of wine, you don’t have to worry about downing the whole wine that meal.

“They will return the wine to you night after night.”

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TSA Tells Passengers Not to Place Personal Items in Bins

TSA is stepping up efforts to help passengers and agents stay safe at airports during the coronavirus outbreak.

The organization is advising passengers not to put personal items such as phones, wallets and keys in the bins.

TSA Agents are now telling travelers to put these items in their personal carry-ons, says a report on Business Insider.

“Bins in use in the security checkpoint are like any other piece of public property and should be treated as such. With hundreds of travelers coming through an airport security checkpoint each hour, the bins are a common use item.”

The TSA is also advising passengers to wash their hands before and after going through security checkpoints since the screening process often involves removing shoes and touching public bins.

TSA agents are also advised to wash their hands regularly.

Those who want to bring hand sanitizer with them are encouraged to do so. Travelers can bring individually-packaged alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes in their carry-on. They can also bring large containers of hand wipes as well as appropriately sized liquid sanitizers.

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Istanbul city guide: where to eat, drink, shop and stay

The former seat of not one but three empires, Istanbul represents colour and history like no other; the only place in the world to straddle two continents (Europe and Asia), it’s become a powerful showcase of inclusivity and religious tolerance.

With Greeks, Romans and Venetians having initially shaped its structure, Istanbul was later to be punctuated with bursts of Ottoman influence, resulting in a design aesthetic that continues to be mimicked across the globe.

Today, it’s as much of a commercial leader as it was during the days of the Silk Road; albeit one with avant-garde concept stores, craft breweries, steamy hamams and endless types of coffee.

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But make no mistake, it’s the warm, generous people that make this city extraordinary – and they’ll keep you coming back, time and time again.

The Independent’s hotel recommendations are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage.

More was clearly more for Sultan Abdül Mecit I, who upped sticks from his traditional Ottoman court at the Topkapi Palace in favour of the dizzyingly opulent, European-inspired Dolmabahçe, which has managed to turn its back on the Bosphorus.

In Istanbul, most properties tend to charge a premium for the view between Europe and Asia, but here, the river runs directly behind it.

It’ll cost 60 TL (£7.53) just to see the museum, but if you pay an extra 30 TL (£3.76), you can have a nose around the harem as well. Just keep in mind that you won’t be allowed to look around inside without joining a group guided tour, which lasts around 40 minutes.

Visit a mosque

Istanbul isn’t short of ornate mosques, but local prayer times will dictate when you can visit them.

The Blue Mosque, one of the most famous mosques in Turkey, is – as you might expect – so-called for the shimmering Iznik tiles that line its interior.

It’s slap-bang in the middle of town; you can also tick off the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace in the same afternoon.

The Suleymaniye Mosque, as the grandest imperial mosque in the city, is another must-see. Located in the historic old peninsula, its sprawling complex – the Ottoman court prior to the Topkapi Palace – is comprised of a library, tombs, soup kitchen and religious school as well as the mosque itself, and is easy walking distance from the bustling Grand Bazaar.

Have a hamam 

A rich legacy from the Romans and Byzantines, bathhouses are now an integral part of Turkey’s heritage. Over the last 2000 years, bathing in Istanbul has been perfected into an art form, and there are plenty of hamams to choose from – for every budget.

Try the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam, just across the road from the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) for an expertly-run, elegant experience; the basic 45-minute treatment costs €80 (£70.10) and includes a scrub, soap massage, olive-oil soap and cloth loofah. Unwind afterwards on the outdoor terrace of the on-site restaurant

Where to stay 

The rooms are unquestionably small at Yaşmak Sultan, but if you’re planning to be out and about exploring the area – the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Golden Horn waterfront are all in stumbling distance – that won’t matter. The Olive restaurant and rooftop is excellent value for money – think sweeping views of the old city, with mains coming in at around £6; hotel guests get 10 per cent off meals. Doubles from £51, room only.

Raffles Istanbul stands alone from the cluster of luxury hotels in Istanbul; unlike the others, it’s eschewed all Byzantine and Ottoman influences to create an impressive showcase of modern-day Turkey. There’s no better place to splash out in Istanbul if you’re an art lover; the hotel offers free tours of their 223-piece Turkish art collection, which rivals the city’s galleries – and is also home to one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city, Isokyo. Doubles from £314, B&B.

Location doesn’t get much better than with TomTom Suites; found just off the main throng of Istanbul’s busiest street, İstiklal Caddesi, it’s also well-placed for the bars and restaurants of Beyoğlu and Galata. With espresso machines in every room, white marble bathrooms with baths designed by Philippe Starck and a buzzy rooftop bar, you wouldn’t stop to think it used to be a nunnery. Doubles from £93, B&B.

The Ritz Carlton Istanbul is right next to Besiktas’ stadium, so should you wish to beat the crowds on match day, this is the closest you’ll get. If pampering is high on the agenda for spa junkies in Istanbul, it doesn’t get much better. Home to the city’s only open-air spa – with three jaw-dropping hamams – you can put your feet up to unbeatable views of the Bosphorus. Doubles from £215, B&B.

Where to eat

Pandeli, a former Turkish bathhouse turned low-key, bustling café, is almost as iconic for the turquoise Iznik tiles lining the walls as it is a hotspot for every generation of Istanbul’s ladies who lunch. Expect views of the Golden Horn and the Galata Tower over truly excellent home-style cooking. Go for lunch – it isn’t open for dinner – and let the waiters order for you. But don’t leave without trying the patlıcan böreği (flaky aubergine pie, topped with doner kebab.)

Realistically, you’re spoiled for choice in this city for good baklava, but purists remain loyal to old-favourite, Karakoy Gulloglu, as their baklavacı of choice. Make like a regular and order the mixed portion (pistachio and walnut), with a side of clotted cream and a glass of tea. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, the börek (filled pastry) will set you up nicely.  Alternatively, should you find yourself on the tourist trail near the Topkapi Palace, do your taste buds a favour and stop at Efezade; their chocolate and pistachio baklava is a must.

Regarded by many as the best mangal kebab in Istanbul, Yirmibir Kebap in Beyoglu is split into two sections: Yirmibir and Kevok Ocakbaşı. While both serve the same menu, meat lovers would do well to grab a table next to the spit, where you can watch your food being cooked. There’s a jewellery store next door, as well, which is well worth a browse. 

Jash, a small, family-run restaurant in upscale Cihangir puts an Armenian twist on Turkish classics in what feels like someone’s living room. This, if you don’t know any Istanbulites prepared to invite you over and stuff you silly at dinner, is a boon. The atmosphere is convivial and the service, warm and welcoming. Skip the spleen soup but try not to leave without trying the hünkar beğendi (pureed aubergine and meat.)

Istanbul’s equivalent to The Ivy is nearly always packed with locals and trendy tourists; who, after a trip to the nearby Istanbul Modern museum, settle in at Karakoy lokantasi to mainline raki, snap pictures of themselves (where the sympathetic lighting goes, the influencers tend to follow) and peer at the revolving art installations. But make no mistake, this place isn’t style over substance; they have a brilliant, all-Turkish wine list and excellent meze platters.

Where to drink 

Mandabatmaz means “a buffalo wouldn’t sink” in Turkish, which appears to pertain to the milky foam atop the coffee at this iconic Beyoğlu spot. Beloved by locals who are serious about their daily cup, barista Cemil Usta has been brewing the perfect one since 1967. Just tell him how you like yours – if traditional Turkish coffee is too much of a smack in the face, ask for it az şekerli (slightly sweet.)

Book before you turn up at Bosphorus Brewing Company, or “The BBC”; this micro-brewery is so popular among locals and expats, that it’s nearly impossible to get a table as a walk-in. Craft beer and pork (yes, really) are the orders of the day – the Istanbul Pale Ale or Haliç Gold are solid options, otherwise you can get beer-matched to your choice of food.

Efendi, a narrow cocktail bar in Nişantaşı, is a bit of a dandy. The cocktails are plentiful and well-executed, using fresh herbs, and they often have jazz concerts when the sun goes down. Order from the sour signatures – cocktails are around 40 TL.

Where to shop 

Souq Dukkan was originally launched as a weekly bazaar for artisans in the Karaköy area, but has since set up shop permanently in Levent – albeit, in a soulless shopping centre. There’s everything from silk shawls by local brand Rumisu to colourful headphones by Istanbul-based Happy-nes but, for the latest on the city’s creative scene, keep an eye on the store’s weekly events.

A clever edit of Turkey’s brightest independent design talents, OpenHaus has become a runaway hit with stylish locals ever since it took over a three-storey building in Nişantaşı in early 2019. Go for anything from quirky sunglasses to bedazzled evening gowns, but don’t dither on a potential purchase; the brands in store change completely from month-to-month. 

A short walk from the famed Grand Bazaar, the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Spice Bazaar) is another firm favourite on the Istanbul tourist trail – and for good reason. The vibrant domes of every spice imaginable – look out for piles of sumac, black cumin and saffron – are a camera-wielding foodie’s dream, particularly given that you can sample most of what’s on offer. Once you’re done, make a beeline for Mehmet Efendi coffee – the oldest and best coffee shop in Istanbul – which is directly outside the market, but not before you stock up on Turkish delight inside (look out for the stores selling loukoum, its traditional name).

Need a break from the tourist trail? Get walking around trendy Nişantaşı (meaning “marker stone” – used, quite literally, to measure the range of Istanbul’s archers and sultans in Ottoman times – you can still see the little obelisks on the pavements) – this is the city’s equivalent to New York’s Upper West Side. Expect stylish boutiques, hipster coffee roasteries – this part of town is more cold-brew than Turkish coffee – and utterly riveting people-watching. Park yourself outside at Ministry of Coffee (MOC) for a decent Americano and the down-low on local gossip.

Architectural highlight 

There’s no ignoring the might of the Aya Sofya, which has been reincarnated by many of the rulers of Turkey over the years, and today showcases sacred elements of Christianity and Islam side-by-side; to many, a mark of Istanbul’s religious tolerance. Built originally by the Byzantines as a church, it was to become a mosque under Ottoman rule and later – as it remains – a museum, during Atatürk’s reign. Do your research on the golden mosaics before you go in (some date back to 9th century AD) and head upstairs to the gallery for the best views of the central dome.

Nuts and bolts 

What currency do they use?

Turkish Lira.

What language do they speak?

Turkish. Some people speak English, but a lot of people won’t – particularly cabbies. If you’re planning to get around by taxi and haven’t brushed up on your Turkish, keep Google Maps at the ready.

How much should I tip?

A standard 10 per cent in restaurants, but just round up on any cab fares. Hotel staff will expect any tips to be given in cash.

What’s the time difference?

Istanbul is two hours ahead of London.

What’s the average flight time from the UK?

Pegasus flies from London Stansted to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen in around 3h 30, from £57 one way. 

Public transport

Hop on the metro! It’s well connected and easy to follow: you can buy an Istanbulkart (equivalent to London’s Oyster Card) for about 10 TL (£1.25), then top-up as you go.

What’s the best view?

Climb to the top of the Galata Tower for 360-degree views of the city.

Insider tip? Get haggling. To maximise your chances of getting the best deals at the Grand Bazaar, time your visit to either when the stores open or close; traders are superstitious about their first and last sales, so are more likely to capitulate to your price ceiling. You’d also do well to get a Museum Card, for fast-track and cheaper museum entry.

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Hilton Expands Presence in Central America with Signing of Premier Property in El Salvador

WHY IT RATES: Hilton San Salvador is a 198-room hotel that, upon opening in July 2020, will be the largest hotel conference center in the country. – Mackenzie Cullen, Editorial Associate

Hilton today announced the signing of an agreement to debut a Hilton Hotels & Resorts hotel in El Salvador. The 198-room Hilton San Salvador is scheduled to open in July 2020, representing a new country for Hilton’s growing portfolio of 160 hotels and resorts welcoming guests across the Caribbean and Latin America. Officially forming part of the World Trade Center Complex, Hilton San Salvador is owned and developed by Grupo Agrisal, and will welcome guests to the country’s capital, known for its black-sand beaches, surfing and vibrant nightlife.

“Welcoming more than two million visitors last year1, San Salvador has seen steady growth in visitor arrivals, making Hilton San Salvador a welcome addition to our growing portfolio,” said Mario Carbone, managing director, development, Mexico and Central America, Hilton. “With the opening of this hotel, we add a new country to Hilton’s global presence, and look forward to welcoming travelers with our premier hospitality and exceptional services in El Salvador.”

Nestled in the prestigious Colonia Escalon neighborhood which offers one of the best San Salvador Volcano views, the existing property will start a renovation project led by Gensler Costa Rica, before reopening as the 198-room Hilton San Salvador. With more than 30,000 square-feet of meeting and event space, the hotel boasts the country’s biggest conference center within a hotel featuring 27 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, two boardrooms and 16 flexible meeting rooms. Hotel guests will enjoy an array of recreational and dining options including an outdoor pool and fitness center, as well as onsite signature dining, bar and Specialty Coffee Shop.

With direct flights from several cities in the U.S., including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta, El Salvador is gaining popularity and encouraging tourism with expansive shopping malls, boutiques and upscale dining in top urban areas across San Salvador. Described as a hidden gem of Central America, San Salvador is surrounded by green-tipped volcanoes and centrally located to all of El Salvador’s picturesque attractions including coffee plantations, beaches and National Parks. Being the country’s leading financial, commercial and industrial center, San Salvador is also the Central America hub for several airlines.

Hilton currently has a portfolio of 160 hotels and resorts open to welcome travelers in 25 countries across the Caribbean and Latin America. The company continues to pursue additional growth opportunities and currently has a robust development pipeline of 100 hotels throughout the region. In 2020, Hilton has opened three new hotels in the Caribbean and Latin America – including the debut of the first Canopy by Hilton in in the region in Cancun, Mexico; Hilton Garden Inn Neuquén, Argentina; and DoubleTree by Hilton Bogota Salitre AR, Colombia.

Hilton San Salvador will form part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 18 distinct hotel brands. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay, an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else and free standard WiFi. Members also enjoy popular digital tools available exclusively through the industry-leading Hilton Honors mobile app.

For further information about Hilton visit

SOURCE: Hilton press release.

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NYC & Company Entices Visitors With ‘Keep Exploring NYC’ Initiative

In the wake of the coronavirus, NYC & Company – New York City’s tourism organization – said the destination is “operating as normal” and is encouraging visitors to explore its events and attractions through the new “Keep Exploring NYC” initiative, which puts the spotlight on the city’s cultural activities and attractions.

“During this uncertain time, it is more important than ever to remind locals and visitors that New York City is open for business,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon. “As spring approaches, the city’s events, attractions plus world-renowned arts and cultural organizations continue to entice locals to plan a ‘staycation’ and draw tri-state area visitors for a weekend getaway.”

To encourage travelers and locals alike to get out and about, NYC & Company unveiled

Exhibitions include “Imaging Women in the Space Age” at the New York Hall of Science in Queens (through March 29); the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (through April 19); the “New British Galleries,” which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan on March 2; and “The Nature of Color,” which debuts at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan on March 9.

Performance options include the Der Fliegende Holländer opera at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in Manhattan (through March 27); and “Six the Musical,” which opens on Broadway on Sept. 13.

“As always, travelers are encouraged to follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines – washing hands frequently and staying home if sick,” NYC & Company said.


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Yellowstone logs first grizzly bear sighting of 2020; visitors cautioned

Biologists flying over Yellowstone National Park on Saturday documented the park’s first known grizzly bear sighting of 2020.

a brown bear standing on top of a grass covered field: File Photo

The park announced Monday that the sighting, near Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin, occurred a day earlier than last year’s first sighting.

“Now that bears are emerging from winter dens, visitors should be excited for the chance to view and photograph them, but they should also treat bears with respect and caution,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist.

“Many visitors think bears are ravenously hungry and more likely to attack people for food after emerging from hibernation, but almost all bear attacks result from surprise encounters when hikers startle bears at close distances and the bears react with defensive aggression.”

a group of people on a beach near a body of water

Male grizzly bears are typically first to emerge from hibernation, beginning in early March. Momma bears with cubs leave their dens in April and early May.

Although wintry weather might persist in and around the park for weeks, visitors are urged to exercise caution.

“Hikers, skiers, and snowshoers should travel in groups of three or more, carry bear spray, and make noise,” Gunther cautioned.

Visitors are supposed to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from grizzly bears.

Yellowstone also reminded tourists that access to areas where there’s a high density of winter-kill bison and elk carcasses will be restricted in the weeks ahead to minimize the risk of surprise bear-human encounters.

-Generic grizzly bear image and Grand Prismatic Spring image are courtesy of Yellowstone/NPS

WATCH: World’s largest geyser erupts at Yellowstone (provided by Newsweek)

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Island of Niue becomes the world’s first entirely Dark Sky nation

The breathtaking island of Niue in the Pacific is the world's first country to become an International Dark Sky Place.

Dark skies are areas where you can gaze at the night skies without any light pollution, the latter usually caused by street lights or industrial lighting.

To find these areas is rare, as research from the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute revealed that 80 per cent of the Earth's landmass suffers from light pollution.

Which makes Niue's accolade even more impressive, considering the entire island now offers dark skies.

In fact, the island has picked up two achievements; International Dark Sky Sanctuary and International Dark Sky Community.

It's been formally accredited by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) for both, which together cover the entire island. The Sanctuary status alone covers 75 per cent of Niue's landmass.

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Niue sits about 2,400km northeast of New Zealand and has a population of approximately 1,600 people.

Locals came together to support the dark skies endeavor which includes full streetlight replacement for the entire island and the upgrading of domestic private lighting.

The night skies already play a big part in Niuean culture, which has a long history of star navigation and a life that's regulated by lunar cycles and star positions.

The community's elders have in-depth knowledge of the night skies, and are hoping to pass this passion down to younger generations.

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Misa Kalutea, a Niuean elder and cultural guardian told the IDA: "Niue’s skies have been observed and appreciated for centuries.

"The dark sky nation status adds new emphasis to the importance of our traditional knowledge, providing a reason for the retelling and sharing of this knowledge before it is lost."

Visitors will have access to plenty of viewing sites across the island, while locals will also be offering astro-tours to show off highlights including small Magellanic Clouds and the Andromeda constellation.

While Niue is a remote island, it's surprisingly accessible from New Zealand with regular flights from Auckland.

Felicity Bollen, Niue Tourism CEO said: "The people of Niue are understandably proud and delighted to receive such an important acknowledgment from the International Dark-Sky Association.

"To be the first whole country to become a dark sky nation is a massive accomplishment for a small Pacific nation with a population of just over 1,600."

She added: "The stars and night sky have a huge significance to the Niuean way of life, from a cultural, environmental and health perspective. Being a dark sky nation will help protect Niue’s night skies for future generations of Niueans and visitors to the country."

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