9 Significant Historical Sites of the American Civil War

From 1861 to 1865 this iconic battle of North versus South waged on to determine the fate of slavery in the United States of America. This battle for civil rights and freedom was a defining moment in our nation’s history and marked the abolition of slavery and the preservation of the United States as one indivisible nation. The Civil War remains today as the deadliest war in American history, with approximately 620,000 military , not to mention the undetermined civilian casualties as a result of the relentless battles. From Gettysburg to Andersonville to Richmond, many of the historic sites are preserved and can still be visited today. Here are a few we recommend any history buff check out:

9. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park -Appomattox, Virginia

Among the preserved and reconstructed buildings at this national historic park is the McLean House. This important building is where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederacy to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant on April 9th, 1865, effectively ending the Civil War. Today the park is home to many original artifacts tied to the events which occurred here, including the pencil used by General Lee to make corrections to the terms of surrender. The park’s visitor center is open daily from 8:30am – 5:00pm and admission is $10 per vehicle.

Mclean House

8. Shiloh National Military Park -Shiloh, Tennessee

Shiloh National Military Park preserves the battlefields of Shiloh and Corinth in southern Tennessee and Mississippi. The Battle of Shiloah was one of the first major Civil War battles in the south and resulted in nearly 24,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing. After this battle the Union troops took the railroad junction at Corinth which is why the sights of both battlefields are preserved within this National Park designation. Among the attractions of these historic sites are the Shiloah National Cemetery, the Confederate Memorial in Shiloah Park, Siloah Indian Mounds and the Sunken Road.

Shiloh National Military Park

7. Richmond National Battlefield Park -Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia played an integral part of the Civil War, having served as the capital of the Confederate States of America during this time. As a result, there are numerous sites of historical significance to be found throughout the city and surrounding counties. Richmond National Battlefield Park includes 13 distinct sites or units, each commemorating an important event or location of the American Civil War. Among these sites are Fort Harrison, Cold Harbor, the defensive battery of Drewry’s Bluff and the famous Tredegar Iron Works, now home to the park’s main visitor center.

"Pattern building, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia" by Morgan Riley - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Pattern building, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia” by Morgan RileyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

6. Antietam National Battlefield -Sharpsburg, Maryland

On September 17, 1862 the Battle of Antietam was fought at the foothills of the Appalachians along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This was a significant battle as it marked the end of General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North during the Civil War. Today, the area and its historic sites have been preserved as a National Park and included on the National Register of Historic Places. Each year over 330,00 people visit the park which includes such attractions as a visitor center, National Cemetery, Maryland Monument and the Pry House Field Hospital Museum.

Antietam National Battlefield

5. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park -Fredericksburg, Virginia

This Civil War site in Virginia gives you a 4 in 1 experience as this National Military Park covers 4 important battle sites of the Civil War; the Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The park includes 5 preserved structures open to the public (one of which is the location where Stonewall Jackson died of injuries sustained during the Battle of Chancellorsville) and at over 8374 acres, Fredericksburg is the second largest military park in the world.

Confederate Cemetery, Fredericksburg VA

4. Andersonville National Historic Site -Andersonville, Georgia

When we think of POW camps, our minds tend to lean more to Europe and the camps of WWII, long before this however there were POW camps right here in America. Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia preserves the site of Camp Sumter, also known as Andersonville Prison which was a Confederate POW camp during the Civil War. The site is open to the public and includes a National Cemetery, prisoner-of-war museum, and remains of the camp itself. Visit this site to pay your respects to the over 13,000 men that died here as a result of the unlivable conditions; a somber reminder of the horrors of war camps.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

3. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park -Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia/Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

This military park encompasses two distinct locations which were the sites of two significant Civil War battles;  the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia and the Chattanooga Campaign at Lookout Mountain, eastern Tennessee. The park consists of four main areas: Chickamauga Battlefield, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain Battlefield and Point Park and Moccasin Bend. These parks preserve and recount the long and hard-fought battle of the Chattanooga Campaign; the power struggle of North vs South for domination and control of this “Gateway to the Deep South”.

Lookout Mountain  Chattanooga

2. Fort Sumter National Monument -Charleston, South Carolina

Fort Sumter is credited as being the location where the American Civil War really began, when on April 12, 1861 Confederate artillery opened fire on this Charleston Harbor fort. While there are several sites associated with Fort Sumter that are accessible by land, including the visitor center, visiting the fort itself will require transportation by boat as the fort sits in Charleston Harbor. Visitors can either take the public boat tours operated by Fort Sumter Tours at a cost of $19 for adults and $12 for children, or if you have your own boat, there is no admission to visit Fort Sumter on your own.

Fort Sumter National Monument -Charleston

1. Gettysburg National Military Park -Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It’s no accident that the site of the most notorious battle of the American Civil War comes in as the number one historical Civil War site to visit in America. The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 was the bloodiest of the entire Civil War with an estimated 46,000-51,000 casualties from both sides. The result of this battle was a Union win, which ended Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North. The significance of this battle was such that it spawned President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address which honored the fallen soldiers of this bloody clash. Today, the public can appreciate the significance of Gettysburg with a visit to the visitors center, the Soldier’s National Cemetery or David Wills House.

Gettysburg National Military Park

The Best Scenic Train Trips in North America

In the past decade more and more people have taken to the skies, leaving train trips a thing of the past, but let us be the first to tell you, they shouldn’t be. Exploring a continent by whisking along the rails not only takes us back to the first pioneers of the areas but allows us to rewind, dine and take in amazing scenery. From towering mountains to beautiful seascapes to the changing colors of the leaves; these 10 train trips in North America will change the way you think about travel forever.

10. Coast Starlight -Seattle to Los Angeles

It can be argued that this is one of the most scenic train rides in all of North America and runs all the way along the west coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. It takes about 35 hours and covers over 1,300 miles and is one of the last remaining full-service sleeper trains. What exactly does that mean though? It means a dining car, an observation car with floor-to ceiling windows, a movie theater, and a slew of entertainment options, including complimentary wine tastings and free champagne. The train passes through the rugged Pacific Northwest, the mountains and forests of Northern California and the beautiful central coast. Along with all of this scenery, this train takes passengers through Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. Whether this is just a scenery trip for you, or a full blown railway experience, you will not be disappointed.

Photo by: There From Here
Photo by: There From Here

9. Ethan Allen Express -New York City to Rutland, Vermont

In just five hours and thirty minutes you can leave the hustle and bustle of New York behind and escape to the wilderness of Vermont. This Amtrak train travels 241 miles through the Catskills in New York to the Green Mountains in Vermont. Riders can choose to ride in the economy class or for a bit of extra room upgrade their ticket to business class. Depending what time of year you choose to travel depends on what you will see on this train journey. During the fall and early winter, riders are privy to the changing colors of the leaves, while summer brings fields of wildflowers growing on the roadside. There are many stops along the way that offer numerous activities and towns to explore if you don’t feel like riding the entire journey. Insiders tip: Make sure to sit on the left side of the train facing the front for the best scenic views!

Photo by: Subway Nut
Photo by: Subway Nut

8. Cass Scenic Railroad -Cass, WV to Bald Knob

Step back into a time where steam-driven locomotives were an everyday part of life at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. The town of Cass remains relatively unchanged from over 100 years ago and is the starting point of your historic train ride. The Shay locomotives complete with passenger cars that were once old logging flat cars are the same locomotives that were used back in the early 1900’s. Passengers can choose from a variety of routes but we suggest take the four and a half hour ride to Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia. The steam locomotive will billow black smoke as it pulls you up two switchbacks and offers spectacular views. Make sure to dress warm if you are heading up to Bald Knob as the temperature does drop and check out the landscape at the top, which resembles Canadian wilderness in a lot of way.

Cass Scenic Railroad

7. Rocky Mountaineer -Vancouver, BC to Calgary, AB

For 25 years the Rocky Mountaineer has been providing breathtaking train trips through British Columbia and Alberta. It would be hard to narrow down one particular route as being better than the rest as they each offer spectacular scenery, the same levels of exceptional service and first-class dining. There are different classes of passenger’s cars here but we do suggest splurging for the Gold Leaf package which offers riders 360-degree view of glacier and peaks from domed, double-decked carriages. These train only travel throughout the day and if you are on a multi-day trip, overnights are at hotels. Besides breathtaking mountain views, lakes, streams and waterfalls; riders will want to keep their eyes open for bald eagles and other wildlife that is in abundance. It has been called the ride of a lifetime and it will certainly pay to take this train ride at least once in your life.

Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

6. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad -Bryson City, NC to Nantahala Gorge

This scenic railway journey takes riders over 44 miles through the remote corner of North Carolina, over four and a half hours. Riders will travel with Bluegrass musicians and an occasional Appalachian story while traveling along the Tennessee and Nantahala River. The historic trellis bridge Fontana Trestle takes you across Fontana Lake and into the beautiful Nantahala Gorge. Riders will arrive at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for a one-hour layover where many choose to relax by the river. You have to time this excursion right as this journey only operates March through October. With a choice of first class cabins, family first class, open air gondola, crown class and many others; it is easy to ride this train well within your budget.

Photo by: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Photo by: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

5. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad -Durango to Silverton, Colorado

This train trip is solely meant for sightseeing and tourism and the 3.5 journey will take riders 45 miles from Durango to Silverton, an elevation gain of 3,000 feet. Riders will feel as they have taken a journey back in history when they chug along at a mere 18 miles an hour in the 1880-era passenger cars being pulled by a 1920’s steam locomotive. The narrow-gauge railway with tracks just three feet apart is not for the faint of heart but the views are absolutely worth it. Colorado’s snow-capped peaks steal the show here in this breathtaking landscape. Choose from four different seating classes or get adventurous and ride up in the open-air gondola. With historic narration from characters, high bridges to cross and a step back in history; this train ride is truly unforgettable.

Photo by: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Photo by: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

4. Coastal Classic -Anchorage to Seward, Alaska

The Alaska railroad system covers over 500 miles of unforgettable landscape but the 114 miles between Anchorage and Seward are the absolute best. To start the journey the route hugs the coast of the Turnagain Arm and the heads into areas unreachable by car, away from the Seward Highway. Riders should expect to travel through five tunnels, over a river gorge and past an impressive blue glacier. The rugged coastal mountains, forests and glaciers are home to some of the best wildlife that can be seen from a train. Riders will want to keep their eyes peeled for moose, bears, Beluga whales, Dell sheep and bald eagles. This 4 ½ hour journey can be stretched into a few days by staying overnight in Girdwood or Seward and taking advantage of the day trips from those towns. Make sure not to miss out on the sunset over Cook Islet on the way home though.

Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

3. California Zephyr -Chicago to Emeryville, California

This epic train ride takes riders through seven states, mimicking a journey that was taken by the pioneers to settle the American West. The stunning Rocky Mountains are just the beginning of what you will see along the route. Other notable scenery includes the Sierra Nevada’s, Moffat Tunnel, Truckee River, Donner Lake, San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait. This 3,000 mile four day trek is also a steal of a deal, costing riders just a mere $250 or so. The cars on this route include the observation car, lounge, dining and sleeping cars. We suggest splurging on the sleeper cars and having all your meals included in your price. Although it is not fine dining aboard this track, these down home meals sure hit the spot. This journey has many stops along the way, to get out and stretch your legs, perhaps the most important thing on a journey that can take 4 days.

"Amtrak California Zephyr Green River - Floy, Utah" by Kabelleger / David Gubler (https://www.bahnbilder.ch) - Own work: https://www.bahnbilder.ch/picture/6533. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Amtrak California Zephyr Green River – Floy, Utah” by Kabelleger / David Gubler (https://www.bahnbilder.ch) – Own work: https://www.bahnbilder.ch/picture/6533. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

2. Amtrak Cascades -Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, BC

If you are looking for a train ride that offers the most variety of scenery that is downright beautiful, look no further than the ride from Oregon to Vancouver on the Amtrak Cascades. This journey takes riders along the coast to discover seascapes, through the mountains with views of Mt. Rainer and Mt. Baker and through rainforests, farms and cloud forests. This is one train ride you will want to pack a pair of binoculars as you can see whales breaching, seals playing, bald eagles flying and an abundance of other wildlife. Free WiFi, plenty of food options, big windows and exceptional service makes this one of the best train rides in all of North America. With a ride time of 11.5 hours, there is no shortage of time to take in all of the beauty that will surround you.

Photo by: Amtrak Cascades
Photo by: Amtrak Cascades

1. Grand Canyon Railway -Williams to Grand Canyon, Arizona

This train ride has been operating on and off since 1901 and takes passengers to the South Rim of the famous Grand Canyon. There are five different classes to choose from when riding this train and as each one get more expensive, the views get better and the luxury services better as well. The trip to the South Rim takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes each way and guests of this ride have the opportunity to spend a good 4 hours at the Canyon exploring before getting back on board. Some of the amenities offered on-board include Western entertainers, snacks, refreshments and big windows. We suggest booking one of the glass observation dome car that offers the best views.

Grand Canyon Railway

12 Common Tourist Scams You Should Know About

Traveling is fun, but let’s face it… sometimes you’re a fish out of water and this makes you the ultimate target for scams. Being vulnerable and uneducated can get you in a lot of trouble, usually financially but sometimes even legally. Before packing your bags it’s important to do some research on your destination so that you don’t fall pray to one of the many, many common tourist scams out there. We’ve complied this list of some of the most common scams you may encounter while traveling this big beautiful world. Don’t let these deter you from travel, but always trust your instincts; and remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

12. The Stain on Your Jacket

A scammer will spill something on your jacket, either making it look like an accident or doing it so subtly that you don’t notice. They will point it out to you and insist they help clean it off for you. While they’re doing this they will take the opportunity to pick your jackets pockets and take whatever they can find. This scam is most common throughout Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

pickpocket

11. The Friendly Photographer

This is a dirty one; you’re taking pictures at some popular landmark when someone offers to take a group photo for you, or if you’re traveling as a couple they will offer to take a photo of you together. You hand them your phone or camera and one of 2 things will happen: either they will ask for money after taking the photo or even worse, they will run off with your device. This scam is most popular through Europe and we think it’s particularly dirty because there are plenty of people out there who will offer to do this and NOT steal your camera.

photographer

10. The Friendship Bracelet

This common scam has been around a while so people are starting to wise up. You’ll be approached by someone offering a friendship bracelet and even if you decline, they will still try to make the bracelet around your wrist. Usually, they will then demand money for the bracelet (that you didn’t want in the first place) or they will use the commotion to distract you while someone else picks your pockets. You’re most likely to encounter this scam while in Rome, Barcelona, Paris or Cairo.

Friendship Bracelet

9. The Taxi Turnaround

A lot of tourist take taxis while traveling because they believe them to be ‘safer’ than public transit, the verdict is still out on that but one thing is for sure, they can cost you A LOT more money, especially since many taxis will take advantage of the fact that you won’t know where you’re going. They will do all sorts of things from taking longer routes to purposefully driving through heavy traffic areas in an attempt to run up your fare. Some taxis have even been known to have meters that are rigged to increase the fare at a much faster rate than normal. This scam knows no boundaries and is used all over the world.

Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com
Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com

8. The Shady Deal

This scam usually occurs while you’re on your way to a night out or a big party such as a full moon party. Your taxi or tuk tuk driver will offer to sell you some drugs and if you accept, a fake policeman will be walking by just at the right time to catch you in a tricky situation. They will then demand you pay a big fine, otherwise face time in a foreign prison. This scary scam takes place typically on the island of Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand. The moral of this story is don’t buy drugs in a foreign country, there are infinite ways you can get in trouble and taken advantage of from doing so.

otan / Shutterstock.com
otan / Shutterstock.com

7.  The Fake Ticket Fast-lane

Cities like Paris and London have become well-known for the incredibly long lines patrons must face to get tickets to popular attractions like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Buckingham Palace. Due to this, scams have been created were an official looking person will offer you higher priced tickets to the attraction you’re waiting for but allows you to bypass the line. This may be tempting while you’re standing in like, back hurting and needing to use the toilet, but don’t fall for it! These ticket won’t work and you’ll have wasted your money.

Paul Wishart / Shutterstock.com
Paul Wishart / Shutterstock.com

6. The English Students

The way this one goes is some innocent looking females will overhear you speaking in English and explain they are trying to learn and will ask to practice it with you. There are then two ways this scam is used;  they will start to tell a sob story and ask you for money, hoping that you feel bad for them or they will invite you to their favorite cafe to repay you for helping them learn. Once the bill comes at the cafe it will be a shockingly inflated amount and the girls will have taken off. This scam has been encountered in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Xian.

Students

5. The Fake Policeman

This next common scam can be quite intimidating! An official looking officer will approach you and let you know that counterfeit currency has been circulating in the area. They will ask to check your wallet and after they do, there will be less money than when you handed it over! They may also ask to see your travel documents like visa and passport, then they will explain there is a problem and demand money to avoid an issue. This tactic is most commonly found in Bangkok, Bogota, Mexico City and Bucharest.

fake police

4. The Female Flirt

Every guy likes the attention of a beautiful woman, unfortunately in this case it won’t have a happy ending. For this scam, an attractive female will approach a solo male tourist and start to flirt with him. She will then invite him to a club or a bar, she will stick around, dance with him and ask him to order drinks, but at the end of the night, a huge bar bill will show up and the man will be demanded to pay. With the woman no where to be found of course. In some cases, fake police officers have even been known to get in on the scam and intimidate the man into paying the outrageous bill. This scam is most common in Athens, Greece.

female flirting

3. The Helpful Local

Using bank machines and ticket machines in other countries can be tricky, especially if they’re in another language. This scam takes advantage of this fact so if you’re approached by a ‘friendly’ local who speaks your language and offers to help assist you, beware! If they’re scamming you they will be remembering your pin number for when they pickpocket you later, or they may just run off with your money (once you are able to get it out). In either case the end result is not a good one. This scam is common throughout all of Europe.

Ticket machine

2. The Fake Front Desk Call

This scam looks to capitalize on the fact that most people don’t want to be inconvenienced. A scammer will call your hotel room late at night pretending to be the front desk. They will advice there is a problem with your card and ask you to confirm your credit card details over the phone. They call late at night hoping that you will just deal with the issue over the phone rather than walking to the front desk. This is a universal scam and is attempted all over the world.

hotel room phone

1. The Broken Camera

This is one tactic that you can easily fall victim to, because who really says no when asked to take a photo? A person will ask you to take a photo of their group but when you go to take the picture, the camera will not work. When you go to hand it back to the person to show them, they will drop it (by accident of course) and it will smash. The group will then get upset and demand you give them money to repair/replace it. Or, they may even pickpocket you in the process. This fairly simple scam is used all around the world to capitalize on “the kindness of strangers”.

photo

10 Significant World War II Sites to Visit in Germany

If you’re a World War II aficionado or history buff in general, there’s no other trip quite like seeing the sights left behind by the Third Reich and Nazi Germany. Some were bombed into obsolescence, others were destroyed to cover over the reminder of the atrocities of war, but many significant spots remain accessible to the public today. Here are 10 historically significant WWII sites to see in Germany:

1. Vorbunker/Führerbunker -Berlin

Vorbunker and Führerbunker were once the places where Adolf Hitler took shelter and eventually lived. The elaborate underground concrete bunker complex was designed to be a temporary air-raid shelter for Hitler, his family and his guards. While the site has been redeveloped into the current residential housing that stands today, this remains an important place of WWII significance as it was in the Führerbunker that Hitler committed suicide. Today a commemorative sign can be seen explaining the layout and significance of the bunker complex.

"Place Of Hitler Bunker 2007" by I, Zvucini. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Place Of Hitler Bunker 2007” by I, Zvucini. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

2. Dachau Memorial and Museum -Dachau

Dachau was the first of many Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany and was designed to hold political prisoners from Germany and Austria as well as Jewish prisoners. It was also open the longest, from March 1933 to April 1945 spanning nearly all 12 years of the Nazi regime. Today the site of the former concentration camp is home to a memorial as well as a museum and can be visited by the public.

Dachau

3. Nazi Party Rally Grounds -Nuremberg

The rally grounds of the Nazi party covered about 11 square kilometers in Nuremberg’s southeast and were the site of six Nazi rallies between 1933-1938. While not all of the historic buildings remain, many are preserved and can be visited by the public as the entire site is now a memorial.

STRINGER Image / Shutterstock.com
STRINGER Image / Shutterstock.com

4. Holocaust Memorial -Berlin

This 4.7 acre site in Berlin was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold and serves as a tribute to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs known as ‘stelae’ and includes a Place of Information on the site’s eastern edge which lists the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.

Noppasin / Shutterstock.com
Noppasin / Shutterstock.com

5. St. Nicholas’ Church -Hamburg

This Gothic Revival church was once the tallest building in the world from 1874-1876 and played an important role in WWII. During the extensive air raids on the city of Hamburg, the church tower served as a goal and visual orientation marker for the Allied Air Forces. Unfortunately, on July 28, 1943 the church was severely damaged by bombing and was reduced to the only remaining tower which can still be seen today.

jorisvo / Shutterstock.com
jorisvo / Shutterstock.com

6. Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest) – Obersalzberg

The Kehlsteinhaus or ‘Eagle’s Nest’ as it’s known in English speaking countries is a Third Reich-area complex that was given to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday as a retreat to entertain friends and guests. The Kehlsteinhaus sits on a rocky outcrop known as Obersalzberg near the town of Berchtesgaden.  Today the Eagle’s Next can still be visited by the public as it houses a restaurant, beer garden and tourist site.

Kehlsteinhaus Eagle's Nest

7. Colditz Castle -Colditz

Colditz is a Renaissance castle located in Germany’s Saxony state. During WWII the castle was converted and used as a high security prisoner-of-war camp for officers who were particularly dangerous or were regarded as escape risks. The German’s believed the castle’s location on a rocky outcrop above the River Mulde made it an excellent spot for a high security prison, however Colditz POW camp had one of the highest records of successful escape attempts during WWII.

Colditz Castle

8. Mittelbau-Dora Memorial -Nordhausen

Mittelbau-Dora was a WWII Nazi concentration camp located near Nordhausen in the German state of Thuringia. This camp was notorious for its extreme cruelty towards prisoners and roughly 1 in 3 of the 60,000 prisoners sent here did not survive. Today the site is home to a memorial and history museum and serves as a place of mourning and commemoration of the victims of this concentration camp.

Photo by: Buchewald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation

Photo by: Buchewald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation

9. Soviet War Memorial -Berlin

The Soviet War Memorial is located in Berlin’s Treptower Park and was build to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who fell during the Battle of Berlin in 1945. The main feature of the memorial is a 12-m tall statue of a Soviet soldier with a sword holding a German child, standing over a broken swastika. The central area before the monument is lined with 16 stone sarcophagi, one for each of the 16 Soviet Republics. Each of the sarcophagi are adorned with carvings of military scenes and quotations from Joseph Stalin in both Russian and German languages.

Soviet War Memorial -Berlin

10. Besseringen B-Werk -Merzig

The Besseringen B-Werk is the only completely preserved fortification bunker located in the Siegfried Line; a 630 kilometer defensive system built between 19 and featured more than 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank traps. 32 bunkers in the Seigfried Line were built to construction standards or thickness ‘B’ hence the term B-Werk. Post-war, the site was used as a rubbish dump but it was restored and opened in 2005 as a museum which can be visited by the public today.

"Besseringen Eingangshof" by AllX - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Besseringen Eingangshof” by AllXOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Like this? Check out 15 Must See World War II Sites in Europe

The 10 Most Poorly Designed Cities in the World

It’s fair to say that no city can ever be perfect as they are constantly evolving, changing and at times their systems can break down. Anyone who has sat in traffic for 3 hours in downtown Atlanta, Georgia can agree with that. But there are some cities around the world that are worse than the rest, and for a variety of reasons including poor road layout, no green space, non-working traffic lights, overcrowding and more. From India to Montana to Brazil, here are the top picks for the most poorly designed cities in the world:

10. Missoula, Montana, USA

Legend has it that when this city was first being established there were two brothers overseeing development who unfortunately had a falling out in the middle of the process. Instead of resolving their problems, they each began plotting out and building their own grids from separate sides of the city. The two grids converge in the middle of the city, which residents refer to as the “malfunction junction”. Others call this the most poorly designed city in the world because of its “Slants Streets” neighborhood, an offbeat part of town that was created when two lawyers wanted to break away and build a whole new town. The town ultimately said no and created their street plan with a grid, throwing everything out of whack. Whatever story you choose to believe, this city is a mess of bad intersections and confusing streets where trying to make a left hand turn is next to impossible.

Missoula, Montana

9. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

It may be surprising to many that this city makes the list as it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world but Dubai ends up at number nine on this list for a variety of reasons. The increasing number of skyscrapers and residential estates that take up hundreds of acres simply don’t jive well together. The entire layout of the city is connected by massive roadways leading from one enormous development to the next. Walking around the city is next to impossible because of this and frankly this city is lacking in shared public spaces. Parks and squares that encourage togetherness are void from Dubai and instead there are giant shopping malls and indoor ski resorts. If you are looking for a city where you can get to know your neighbors, have a picnic in the park or simply get some outdoor exercise; you may want to avoid Dubai.

All.in / Shutterstock.com
All.in / Shutterstock.com

8. Atlanta, Georgia, USA

If you are planning on moving to Atlanta and enjoying a traffic-free commute, think again. Traffic doesn’t get much worse than this city and in fact the traffic here is legendary. In the 1980’s and 90’s there was a boom in Atlanta that caused a massive urban sprawl and along with poorly situated highways; there seems to be no hope in terms of it getting any better. One of the major problems here is the division of race and class that leads to clashes in what should be done to alleviate the traffic problem. Georgia also happens to be one of the bottom five states in terms of highway spending per capita, meaning they aren’t committed to any kind of game plan to fix the system. Unless something drastic happens in this city, expect that the poor design will continue for decades.

Photo by: Flickr/Matt Lemmon
Photo by: Flickr/Matt Lemmon

7. Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Although this city boasts one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of the USA, Boston can be extremely difficult to navigate due to the layout of the streets. Navigating these maze-like streets can be overwhelming to both visitors and locals and although the common misconception is the streets were laid out on top of wandering cow paths, the truth is they simply weren’t laid out according to plan. The combination of random one-way streets and convoluted intersections pose significant safety issues for runners, walkers and cyclists. And although the “Big Dig” project has improved this city in many ways, it has cost an estimated $22 billion, an amount of debt that will not be paid off until approximately 2038. Although this city looks pretty, it certainly isn’t easy to find your way around and it came at a huge price to fix the problems.

Boston Aerial

6. Dhaka, Bangladesh

This capital city is truly a disaster, from one urban dysfunction to another. It stands to reason that this might happen considering out of the city’s 650 major intersections, only 60 of them have traffic lights, and only some of them work. Millions of rickshaws, cars, bike, buses, cows and motorcycles share these roads and driving here is downright dangerous. The awful transportation system means that many inhabitants are forced to live in the slums in the city, rather than commuting from outside, creating poor sanitation and water systems. This massive failure of infrastructure needs a total overhaul before it can begin to get better. In the meantime there will continue to be millions living in poverty and millions fighting each other for road space, truly proving it as one of the most poorly designed cities in the world.

Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com

5. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Over the course of the 20th century this city transitioned from a small urban environment into a sprawling metropolis, leading to what is one of the most poorly designed cities in the world. This shift in environment meant that the rich took over the center of the city and the poor were pushed to the outskirts; forcing a high number of commuters to the roads. In order to try and alleviate congestion this city implemented a two-mile elevated highway that winds right through the heart of the city, narrowly missing resident’s houses. This noisy eyesore replaced a lively neighborhood that was a cultural center of the city. The rich of the city don’t even bother dealing with roads though; instead they choose to get around by helicopter, making Sao Paulo the city with the world’s largest fleet of helicopters per capita. Unfortunately if you can’t afford a helicopter, you’re forced to deal with this:

AFNR / Shutterstock.com
AFNR / Shutterstock.com

4. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Hurricane Katrina devastated this city a decade ago due to the levee system failing miserably, a system that was designed to protect the city from storm surges. The large majority of Greater New Orleans was flooded and many people lost life and homes. Add this to the fact that this city is built on thousands of feet of soft sand, silt and clay and the song “New Orleans is Sinking” is actually coming true. Combine this with the awful traffic congestion and poor layout of roads and you can understand why this city ranks number 4 in the most poorly designed cities of the world. The saving grace of this city may just be its Mardi Gras festival that brings millions of dollars in revenue; enough to hopefully fix this infrastructure so another tragedy like Hurricane Katrina doesn’t strike this city again.

New Orleans, Louisiana highway

3. Naypyidaw, Myanmar

This fairly new capital of Myanmar has only been in existence since 2005, when the country’s government decided a change of scenery was in order. What was once a land of empty fields has been turned into a super city, six times the size of New York City and complete with 20-lane highways and widespread WiFi access. It sounds pretty great, so why is this city on the list? It happens to be located literally in the middle of nowhere with practically no residents. Government officials are pretty much the only people who choose to call this city home and while the streets and roads should be bustling with activity, more often than not there is no one around. Cities are meant to lived in and over the past decade, this city is failing miserably. Only time will tell if this was money well spent or not.

Photo by: NBC News
Photo by: NBC News

2. Brasilia, Brazil

It is the second Brazilian city on the list and while San Paulo suffers from a lack of design, Brasilia seems to suffer from too much design. This country just can’t seem to find a happy medium. The city of Brasilia was created from a plan back in the 1950’s which took inspiration from an airplane layout and included modernist concrete architecture, meant to make the city hold for years. While visually appealing to some, this city has earned a reputation for being sterile and artificial. It was also designed to house only 500,000 inhabitants but over the years has become home to almost 3 million people. In order to house all these people, it was no longer about keeping the city beautiful and more about creating room for them. Therefore Brasilia has become this mismatch of temporary fixes overshadowing its original beauty.

Donatas Dabravolskas / Shutterstock.com
Donatas Dabravolskas / Shutterstock.com

1. Jakarta, Indonesia

It happens to be the country’s capital and one of the most poorly designed cities in the World, a combination that makes getting around here a disaster. An ever-increasing number of car owners that come from the expansion of suburbia that surrounds this mega-city are to be blamed for the 400 hours a year that citizens spend in traffic. It is actually hailed as being the worst traffic in the world. It doesn’t seem like there is any solution for this mega-city as the infrastructure here falls into the hands of the local government and contracts are renegotiated annually; which means long-term projects are pretty much impossible. An average trip in this city takes about 2 hours; leaving plenty of drivers frustrated at all times. If you thought traffic was busy in your city, try living here for a few years.

Photo by: Indonesia Expat
Photo by: Indonesia Expat

15 Must See World War II Sites in Europe

For those who are constantly glued to the World War II documentaries on the History Channel and have read countless books and articles about Allied tactics and strategic movements on the European fronts, a visit to Europe is the next step in your historical education. Personally seeing and physically standing on the many sites that were significant to that time will provide an unparalleled perspective and insight into the facts you already know about the war, as well as offer new information that is sometimes hard to come by from secondary sources. So for all the history buffs out there, here are 15 sites significant to the Second World War that, ranging from inspirational to overwhelming, are worth visiting in Europe:

15. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Germany

This work camp just outside of Berlin is found about three km from the location of the first ever Nazi concentration camp known as Oranienburg (now destroyed). The camp became the center of Nazi operations and is now a museum detailing the life of the inhabitants, both officers and detainees in a number of exhibits. Visitors can also see the special exhibition dedicated to the Oranienburg camp found in the museum’s permanent exhibit, and walk the ground of the camp for an incomparable lesson in the severity of the Nazi aggression.

Sachenhausen Concentration Camp, Germany

14. Arnhem Bridge, Netherlands

This bridge became well known after the strategic operation known as Operation Market Garden, whereby the Arnhem Bridge was the last in a string of strategic points targeted for takeover by the Allied forces. Successful up until that point, the Allies were unable to capture the bridge in the September 1944 Battle of Arnhem, an event that later became the subject of several books and the Hollywood film “A Bridge Too Far.” Surviving the September battle, the bridge was destroyed by Allied troops in October of the same year to help curb the transport of German supplies. In 1949 the bridge was rebuilt in the same style, and in 1977, renamed “The John Frostburg” in honor of the British commander that defended it in the September battle.

Arnhem Bridge, Netherlands

13. Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, Krakow, Poland

As many who have read the Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s List” or seen the Spielberg movie of the same name know, Oskar Schindler was a Nazi Party member who saved hundreds of Jewish lives through political bribery and Jewish employment at his enamel and munitions factories. The administrative building of the enamel factory still stands today, and houses the Krakow Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, which is mainly devoted to the Party member and the lives of “his Jews.” This museum is must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about the life of a man now largely regarded as a hero.

Agnes Kantaruk / Shutterstock.com
Agnes Kantaruk / Shutterstock.com

12. Humboldthain Flak Tower, Germany

Originally constructed as a solution to air-strike vulnerability, German Flak Towers were domineering concrete complexes that sheltered anti-aircraft guns and protected ammunition from falling bombs. The towers operated in pairs, one a gun tower (Gefechsturm or G tower) and the other a command tower (Leitturn or L tower). Their heavily reinforced structure also served as bomb shelters for civilians as well as an extremely effective defensive center, with a radar dish that could detect bombers from over 50 miles away, eight 128-mm cannons with a firing capacity of 48 shells per minute and a number of other smaller cannons scattered around the tower. Many of the towers have since been destroyed or converted, but the one remaining in Berlin is open to visitors.

Photo by: itineri.de via Flickr

11. Vel D’Hiv Monument, France

Though the actual building of the Velodrome d’Hiver (indoor cycling track) was destroyed and replaced by government buildings, visitors can still stand on the spot, commemorated by a plaque, where in July of 1942, Jewish families in France were rounded up by the French police and forcibly herded into the Velodrome. It is there that over 13,000 citizens waited in deplorable conditions (without food, water or washroom facilities) for days before being dispersed among various concentration camps. A memorial to the victims was erected in the city in 1993, with the French Government issuing a public apology at a memorial service at the site in 1995.

Photo by: Leonieke Aalders via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Leonieke Aalders via Wikimedia Commons

10. Oradour-Sur-Glane, France

This small village in western France is memorialized as the site of one of the largest Nazi massacres on French soil. On June 10, 1944 SS officers stormed the village and killed the vast majority of residents, some 642 men, women and children, before largely destroying the area. Though officially rebuilt a few km north, the French government ordered the original site to be untouched and to stand testament to the horrors committed there. Visitors can walk through the ruins of the ghost town and pay their respects at the onsite memorial.

Oradour-Sur-Glane, France

9. Umschlagplatz, Warsaw, Poland

During German occupation, the German-named Umschlagplatz (“reloading point”) was the Square in Warsaw used to round up Polish Jews and organize their deportation from the Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp. People waited in hordes for hours until enough detainees were rounded up to fill the train cars, with any signs of resistance resulting in instant death. Today, the site of the former Square is home to a memorial constructed in the image of train cars, erected to pay tribute to the countless lives doomed (and lost) on these very premises.

Dariusz Leszczynski / Shutterstock.com
Dariusz Leszczynski / Shutterstock.com

8. Warsaw Ghetto, Poland

In the beautiful Polish city of Warsaw, there still stands a testament to the largest and deadliest Nazi-created Ghetto in Europe. By the deadline of October 15, 1940, the city’s large Jewish population was forcibly required to move into an 18 km area which enclosed 73 of the city’s 1800 streets, and was divided into the “small” and “large” ghettos linked by a wooden bridge. At highest capacity, the Ghetto housed about 380,000 people, translating to about eight residents per room. Today, the site is commemorated by “The Footbridge of Memory” which denotes the location of the original bridge between the two Ghettos, several monument and memorials. The area also still contains chunks of the original separating wall as well as decrepit residential buildings which have stood untouched for the past seven decades.

Anastasia Petrova / Shutterstock.com
Anastasia Petrova / Shutterstock.com

7. The Wolf’s Lair, Poland

This major complex hidden among a dense Masurian forest was Hitler’s first headquarters on the Eastern Front, and became his most frequently inhabited hideout (he spent about half the war here). Originally built for the impending invasion of the Soviet Union, the property became a sort of small town consisting of shelters, barracks, two airfields as well as a power and rail station. Despite being heavily reinforced and highly secure, this was also the site of the infamous July 1944 assassination attempt of Hitler by Claus Von Stauffenberg. The premises were vacated and destroyed by German officials in January of 1945 and remained untouched by the Polish Government until the fall of Communism. Today, the site is in ruins but has become a popular tourist attraction with a handful of hotels and restaurants now available in the remote area.

Wolf's Lair, Poland

6. Bletchley Park, England

Featured in the film “The Imitation Game,” Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire was Britain’s central site for code breaking during the Second World War. As the location of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), it became the largest and most successful institution in penetrating secret Axis communications, most famously of the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers. Analysis now suggests that the efforts conducted on these premises shortened the war by about 2 years, and the school is now an educational and historic attraction commemorating the accomplishments of the institution.

Photo by: Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons

5. Fuhrerbunker, Berlin

Now largely destroyed, this bunker was located under the former Reich Chancellery building in the heart of the city, and is the site where Hitler spent the last few weeks of the war, married Eva Braun and committed suicide in April of 1945. Located 11.5 feet below ground level, the bunker was a system of 30 small rooms protected by 13 foot thick concrete walls with an exit point in the Reich Chancellery gardens. Today, the site looks inconspicuous enough as a quiet residential neighborhood, and is largely unmarked save the small plaque and information board that denotes the location and provides a schematic diagram of the bunker.

Photo by: Cezary p at pl. via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Cezary p at pl. via Wikimedia Commons

4. Cabinet War Rooms, England

Partially restored and opened as a museum to the public in 1985, the Cabinet War Rooms were originally a secret complex under the basement of the Treasury. The bomb blitz of December 1940 forced the complex to be reinforced as a bomb bunker, becoming the main strategic headquarters for the War Cabinet (consisting of Prime Minister Churchill and several Conservative and Labor Party ministers). Today visitors can descend below the streets of Westminster and check out the various rooms of the complex as they would have existed during the war, and of especial significance, the Map Room, which remains exactly as it was when the premises were closed and vacated in August of 1945.

Cabinet War Rooms, England

3. Auschwitz- Birkenau, Poland

Originally built in 1940 as a detention center for political prisoners, Auschwitz-Birkenau became the Nazi’s most gruesome legacy—the largest death camp and the primary site for the “Final Solution.” Located on the site of a former military base just outside of Krakow, Poland, the complex was regarded as the ideal location to carry out Nazi atrocities because of its proximity to the rail lines used to transport prisoners. Liberated on January 27, 1945 by the Soviet Army, estimates suggest that upwards of 1.1 million deaths were carried out on the property. Today, Auschwitz is a harrowing museum complex not for the faint of heart. While undeniably an important site to see, visitors are urged to check out the museum website (http://visit.auschwitz.org/ ) to familiarize themselves with the rules, entry pass guidelines and capacity restrictions before their visit.

Auschwitz Birkenau, Berlin

2. Musee de la Reddition, France

This red brick schoolhouse just northwest of the Reims train station is the historic site where, in the early morning of May 7, 1945 high officers from the German army met with officers of the Allied forces and signed the declaration of unconditional surrender, ending the second world war in Europe. Now known as the Lycee Roosevelt, the property was being used as the headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the room where the signature took place, the map room, remains perfectly preserved behind a glass panel and comprises the museum now called the Musee de la Reddition.

Photo by: Gerald Garitan via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Gerald Garitan via Wikimedia Commons

1. Normandy, France

It is on this stretch of beaches on the Normandy coast where the infamous D-Day Landings of June 6, 1944 took place, changing the course of the war to favor the Allies. The five beaches—Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah—were where the forces of the French, British, Canadian and American armies successfully landed and commenced an operation that changed the tide of WWII in Europe. Today, visitors can pay their respects to the sacrifices made by these troops at the various memorials found on the beaches, at the military cemeteries of each army and learn more about the operation and strategy at the various museums and information centers.

Normandy, France

Like this? Check out 10 Significant World War II Sites to Visit in Germany

The Best/Worst Cruise Lines In The World

Seated in the lap of luxury, surrounded by sparkling waters as far as the eye can see, exploring a new port each day…the experience of an ocean or river cruise is something you won’t soon forget. While few people would probably turn down a cruise no matter what provider it were with, there are definitely some cruise lines that have built a reputation as being better than others. Cruiseline.com provides real reviews from actual travelers and assigns each cruise line an overall average rating based on these customer reviews. Let’s take a look at the 15 best and worst cruise lines out there as ranked by passengers:

Best: AmaWaterways -4.5

If you’ve never heard of AmaWaterways you’re going to want to do some research as they are the highest ranked cruise operator on this list. A leader in the River Cruise industry, they have a fleet of 20 ships which offer multi-day excursions throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. If your idea of a perfect cruise is one with less crowds, you’ll enjoy the fact that AmaWaterway’s largest ships only hold 164 passengers. You won’t find the mega cruise liners of the Ocean Cruise company’s here. Small and intimate is the name of the game. AmaWaterway received an average 4.5 stars out of 5 with reviews highlighting the comfortable, spotless state rooms and excellent service and dining. The only drawback we can see here is the price which can start at $3,000-$4,000 for a 7 night cruise, however those who’ve paid the price obviously say it’s worth it.

AmaWaterways

Best: Disney Cruise Line -4.3

Widely regarded as one of the best family cruise lines in the world, it’s no surprise to see Disney Cruise Line near the top of this list. This leader in family fun brings the magic of the Disney Parks experience to the high seas with their fleet of 4 ocean liners. With sailing destinations including Alaska, Caribbean, Bahamas, Canada & New England, California Coast, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama Canal and Transatlantic, it’s almost guaranteed there’s a destination to suit your family. Cruiseline.com awarded Disney Cruise Lines an excellent average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 with experts advising this cruise line is great for travelers with children but probably less fun for romantic honeymooners. The costs are generally higher than those of other family-geared cruise lines but this seems to get you massive state rooms, baby-friendly amenities and incredible Disney activities according to the review site.

Disney Magic Cruise

Best: Celebrity -3.9

In addition to its high customer satisfaction, Celebrity Cruises has also been voted the “Best Premium Cruise Line” for 7 consecutive years as per Travel Weekly Reader Awards. With 10 ships and 3 classes ranging in occupancy from 3046 on the high end, all the way to the intimate 98 passenger Celebrity Xpedition, you’re likely to find a ship to suit your needs. Favorite destinations include Australia and New Zealand, Bermuda, Hawaii, Europe, Galapagos and South America. Cruiseline.com gives Celebrity 3.9 stars out of 5 based on customer reviews -of which, 64% were couples. The rating site describes this cruise line as perfect for couples, families and groups who want style and comfort without luxury-line prices. Some of Celebrity’s most memorable accomplishments are being the first to grow real grass on board ships and building an extensive on board art collection.

guroldinneden / Shutterstock.com
guroldinneden / Shutterstock.com

Best: Holland America -3.8

Holland America has been taking cruisers to historic and exotic destinations around the world for over 140 years. Their fleet of 15 spacious and comfortable mid-size ships offer more than 500 sailings each year and include destinations on all 7 continents of the world. In April 2016, the cruise line is adding a new 2,650 passenger ocean liner to their fleet which will be the first of its kind for Holland America. Cruiseline.com gives the cruise line a very good 3.8 stars out of 5 and advises this line is generally geared for multigenerational families or older more seasoned travelers as it focuses on professional service and relaxation over sporty recreational and flashy childrens activities.

Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com

Best: Oceania Cruises -3.8

If you consider yourself a foodie who loves to travel, you’ll want to check out the offerings of Oceania Cruises. Formed in 2002, with a current fleet of 5 ships including 3 former Renaissance vessels, they are the world’s largest upper-premium cruise line. In 2016 they plan to add a 4th ship to their mid-size class for a total fleet size of 6. Oceania received a 3.8 star overall rating by reviewers, of which 76% were couples. This reaffirms the review sites claims that this cruise line is best suited for sophisticated couples and friends who appreciate great wood, wine, art and service. Details like Ralph Lauren designed suites, on-board cooking school and wine pairing restaurants make this cruise line all the more enjoyable.

EvrenKalinbacak / Shutterstock.com
EvrenKalinbacak / Shutterstock.com

Best: Royal Caribbean -3.8

Royal Caribbean cruises may just be the best option for families right after Disney Cruise Line -and for significantly less money. With 7 classes of ships and a total fleet size of 25 (soon to be 25 in 2016) there’s guaranteed to be a ship size to suit your style. Royal Caribbean received 3.8 stars out of 5 based on thousands of customer reviews. Surprisingly, 53.3% of these were by couples and 15.8% by families with older children. This cruise line has made their mark in the action and adventure cruise market as ships are jam packed with amazing things to do including one of the best offerings of sports activities out there. This cruise line is definitely one to check out for the adventurous family or couple who likes non-stop action.

Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com
Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com

Best: Princess Cruises -3.7

From starting with a single ship in 1965, Princess Cruises has grown to an 18 fleet cruise line that carries more than 1 million passengers each year to destinations all over the globe. The customer blend is a mix of families and young couples looking for a quality mid-priced experience and older couples looking for a more sophisticated, relaxed approach to cruising. The cruise line was awarded 3.7 stars out of 5 based on customer reviews and has been noted for excellent kids programs like Science on the Sea (created in partnership with the California Science Center) and new release movies shown poolside on huge LED screens -with complimentary popcorn of course.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

Best: Carnival Cruise Lines -3.6

Just squeaking into the ‘Best’ category by .1 of a star, Carnival Cruise Lines are definitely known as ’the fun ships’. This cruise line has built a reputation for offering non-stop fun in the form of parties, karaoke, comedy shows and wacky contests and entertainment. Carnival’s fleet of 24 ships are loud in color and volume with music pumping, adults letting lose and kids having a ball. This is definitely a cruise line for partiers, extroverts and boisterous families with young children. With an overall rating of 3.6 stars, the reviews on Cruiseline.com are generally favorable for this family favorite. If you’re looking for a good price and a good time Carnival Cruise Lines may be your best option.

Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com

Worst: Avalon Waterways -3.5

Avalon Waterways is leading the European River Cruise market with their fleet of 25 ships. If you’ve ever dreamt of traveling Europe, seeing a different city each day and experiencing local sights, you may really enjoy Avalon Waterways. However, if you enjoy making your own itinerary, following your own time frames and being in control of everything you see and do, this cruise line is not for you. Another 0.01 of a star rating and Avalon would have moved out of the ‘Worst’ category, but with a 3.5 star rating on Cruiseline.com it lands on the better side of our worst list. Complaints from passengers include such issues as slow wifi on board, a very noisy dining room, little independent exploration time during shore days and food that doesn’t quite compare to that of large ocean cruisers.

Avalon Waterways

Worst: Norwegian Cruise Line -3.4

There are many things that Norwegian Cruise Lines is doing well; for example they were the first cruise line to introduce flexible dining options, they offer supplement-free studios for single cruisers and they have one of the youngest fleets of any major North American cruise line out there. Though still a popular choice, Norwegian received a 3.4 star rating from customers on Cruiseline.com. Complaints from passengers include the small size of cabin rooms, an excess of smoking areas on board and too many specialty food restaurants (that cost extra) with little focus on food quality.

Kostas Koutsaftikis / Shutterstock.com
Kostas Koutsaftikis / Shutterstock.com

Worst: Viking River Cruises -3.4

With a massive fleet of 40 longships and 23 other vessels, Viking River Cruises has firmly planted themselves as having the most river cruise vessels of any company in the world. That being said, the cruise line is a popular choice if you’re looking to see the sights of Europe, Russia, Asia or Egypt. Like other river cruise companies, Viking will be enjoyed by those who enjoy not having to plan anything on their own, but may not be a great option if you enjoy setting your own schedule. The company received a 3.4 star overall rating from customer reviews on Cruiseline.com and it’s important to note that over 81% of reviews came from couples… which shows you the demographics of this cruise line. Some complaints from passengers include last minute itinerary changes, small cabin rooms and expensive rates.

Jordan Tan / Shutterstock.com
Jordan Tan / Shutterstock.com

Worst: Costa Cruises -3.2

Originating in 19th century Genoa, Costa Cruises still maintain some of their signature Italian flair -although not quite to the extend as the old days. You’ll still find Italian favorites like thin crust pizza, Italian charcuterie and perfectly cooked pasta on board, but you’ll also find many partiers and screaming children aboard these ships as well. Costa’s 15 ship fleet has become a popular choice for budget cruisers, party-seekers and young families; thanks to frequent promotions like ‘children sail free’. The majority of Costa’s passengers are European which could be a reason that these ships have many designated smoking areas. If you’re looking to breathe fresh air and be surrounded by fellow americans, we suggest you look elsewhere. The 3.2 star rating on Cruiseline.com is the result of reviews claiming staff can be unhelpful and even rude, food is lackluster and overall quality has decreased over the years.

Ivan Smuk / Shutterstock.com
Ivan Smuk / Shutterstock.com

Worst: American Cruise Lines -3.0

American Cruise Lines specializes in river cruises that tour the historic waterways of the United States with their fleet of 7 small cruise ships. Occupancy ranges from between 150-50 passengers depending on vessel so whatever ship you’re guaranteed an intimate cruising experience. While the staterooms are described as some of the largest in the industry, the primary complaint with American Cruise Lines is the extremely expensive rates. You could easily enjoy a luxury-level ocean cruise for less cost and get a longer experience. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for a low 3 star customer rating from Cruiseline.com; for this price guests expect a lot and unfortunately it’s just not there.

CristinaMuraca / Shutterstock.com
CristinaMuraca / Shutterstock.com

Worst: Star Clippers -3.0

Star Clippers offers cruisers a completely unique experience, very different from the typical ocean liners of the big cruising companies. A fleet of 3 tall ships sails the seas and allows guests to enjoy a true sailing experience combined with the comforts and luxury of modern cruise ship. Sounds great right? Well this experience definitely isn’t for everyone so it’s important to do your research and decide if this is right for you or you may end up like some of the unhappy passengers in the reviews who complained about the ‘child-unfriendly’ nature of the ships, the abundance of stairs and no elevators, or the rocky motion of the ship causing seasickness. All of which were probably contributors to the 3 star rating.

Alvov / Shutterstock.com
Alvov / Shutterstock.com

Worst: MSC Cruises -3.0

MSC’s fleet of 12 ocean liners provide budget-conscious families and passengers a more European cruising experience than some of the other big cruise companies out there. Expect ships to be full of families since children up to 11 years old sail for free and those between 11-17 sail for a reduced rate. You may be surprised to see a popular cruise line such as MSC on the bottom of our worst list but the customer ratings speak for themselves. A 3 star overall rating was due to reviews which list issues such as lackluster food, dingy outdated rooms and countless reports of poor customer service with few English speaking staff members.

NAN728 / Shutterstock.com
NAN728 / Shutterstock.com

The World’s Most Dangerous Airlines

AirlineRatings.com has released a list of the world’s most dangerous airlines to fly, basing them on a rating scale out of seven stars. The airlines below all have a rating of two stars or below and are rated on factors such as is the airline certified by the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), are they blacklisted from the European Union, have they been fatality free for 10 years, are they FAA approved and do they meet all 8 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety parameters. To explain; the IOSA certification is an evaluation system designed to assess the management and control system of an airline whereas the ICAO measures the standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity. Most of these airlines do not offer in-flight products, have terrible on time performance and have been grounded or investigated at least once in their lifetime. Between bomb threats, hijackings, overshot runways and crashes; these twelve airlines have a history of being unsafe. Discover the world’s most dangerous airlines according to AirlineRatings.com.

13. Yeti Airlines

Yeti Airlines is the parent company to Tara Air (mentioned later); an airline that was rewarded only one-star by AirlineRatings.com. Yeti Airlines comes in with two-stars however, being rewarded for being fatality free and FAA endorsed. Based in Kathmandu, Nepal this airline was established in 1998 and together with Tara Air forms the largest domestic flight operator in Nepal. Yeti Airlines serves ten domestic destinations with seven aircrafts in operation.

In the past decade Yeti Airlines has had a handful of incidents resulting in the deaths of over thirty passengers and crew as well as destroying a couple of aircrafts. They do boast the highest on time performance of any airline in Nepal though and offer beverages and snacks on flights. Yeti Airlines also offers an hour long express Everest mountain flight that remains popular with visitors. Like all Nepalese airlines they are banned from flying into the European Union airspace and have not completed any components of the IOSA.

Yeti Airlines mountain runway

12. Sriwijaya Air

This Indonesia airline comes in with a two-star rating as the country’s third largest airline. Sriwijaya Air is a privately owned airline that started its operations in 2003 and services cities within Indonesia and 3 international destinations. This airline is classified as a medium service airline and does offer snacks and beverages throughout the flights. They had hoped to be a full-service airline by 2013 but that has not yet happened as of 2015.

In regards to safety, Sriwijaya Air is lacking in a lot of departments. With no international safety recognition, blacklisted from flying into European air space and not being FAA approved it was only the lack of fatalities that earned them any stars. Not without incident though, this airline has had a number of runway incidents that have resulted in injury and aircraft damage.  Sriwijaya Air has a large fleet of aircraft, totaling 39 with an average lifespan of 24 years old and has been in negotiations to replace a large number of the aging aircrafts. Perhaps with newer aircrafts and added destinations this airline will consider participating in safety certifications that will bump their star rating up in the coming years.

Airplane flying 1

11. Air Bagan

One of the only two-star rated airlines on this list that is allowed to fly into European airspace is Air Bagan. Established in 2004 Air Bagan operates domestically in Myanmar with over 20 destinations. International flights were a go-ahead in 2007 but since have been cancelled due to safety concerns. Only one international destination remains on their flight schedule. Another fact about this airline is that U.S citizens are prohibited from dealing with this airline due to U.S sanctions against the Myanmar government.

With two accidents and a handful of fatalities Air Bagan looks to be slightly safer than most others on this list especially considering they are well on their way to completing the necessary requirements for the ICAO audit. Air Bagan also offers good in-flight products with meals and beverages offered on all their flights no matter what the flight length and distance. Passengers seem to like this airline so we expect to see them rise in ratings as they obtain further safety accreditation.

plane flying indonesia

10. Susi Air

The airlines of Indonesia seem to be heading up the race for two-star ratings from AirlineRatings.com. The combination of extreme terrain, smaller panes, weather, non-cooperation from local tribes and communication difficulties with air traffic control are all factors that contribute to the safety of these airlines. Susi Air operates commercial and charter flights throughout the islands of Indonesia and has been around since 2004. They are one of the only airlines in Indonesia that hires most of their pilots from Western Countries; most often hiring young pilots wanting to clock up their flying hours.

Besides being banned from flying into the European Union, Susi Air has another type of ban on them. After a rough decade of crashes and casualties United States Embassy personnel are now prohibited from flying on this airline. Due to the nature of the planes, don’t expect any flight crew other than the pilots. With an open cockpit and access to all of the pilot’s controls passengers who are rowdy also pose a serious safety threat to these flights. Although Susi Air is said to be one of the better Indonesian Airlines, expect them to stay at about 2 stars in the safety rating from AirlineRatings.com.

plane taking off

9. Merpati Airlines

Merpati Airlines was established in 1962 by the Indonesian government as the second-state airline. Currently it is a major domestic airline with service to over 25 destinations in Indonesia, as well as flying to East Timor and Malaysia. The history of this airline has been a financial mess and as of January 2015 the airline is not operating any flights. The fate of the airline is up in the air as the Indonesian government has promised to invest the money they need to start flying again.

As for their safety record, in the past decade they have had over 50 casualties over six serious incidents and are banned from flying in any European airspace due to safety concerns. Merpati boasts a training center and pilot school which makes their safety record even more surprising. In the past this airline has expressed interest in obtaining their IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) from International Air Transport Association but with unpaid fuel bills, unhappy employees and frozen operations we would be shocked if they are still an airline by the time this study comes out again next year.

Airplane generic

8. Daallo Airlines

This two-star safety rated airlines has some of the worst passenger reviews in regards to safety, cleanliness and service. Daallo Airlines is a Somali owned airline with its headquarters in Dubai and its main operating hub at Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport. Destinations include the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Facts and information are hard to come by about this airline and perhaps this is what makes it even more unsafe.

All flight operations were grounded in 2010 for Daallo Airlines but resumed later in the year; with no reason given as to why. As for the safety record, although this airline hasn’t suffered any casualties there have been a couple serious incidents. An unsuccessful hijack attempt took place in 2009 and in 2010 a man tried to board a flight with enough explosives to blow up the plane. Now banned from the European Union with no recognized safety certificate; you may want to add Daallo Airlines to your list of airlines to avoid flying.

old airplane cabin

7. Ariana Afghan Airways

The largest airline of Afghanistan comes in with a safety rating of two stars according to AirlineRatings.com. Established in 1955 this airline has been blacklisted from the European Union since 2006 due to safety concerns. During the Taliban era the airline was completely grounded and has to rebuild itself after the overthrow. The UN lifted the sanctions that were preventing the airline from flying internationally although the EU blacklist continues to this day.

Due to its age and history the safety record of Arian Afghan Airways is not a pretty one. As of 2014 they had written off 19 aircrafts and counted a total of 154 casualties. Although most of these incidents occurred in the late 1990’s; there are enough of them to justify a low safety rating. No internationally recognized safety audit certificate also bumps this airline down to two stars. Currently operating to three domestic sites and seven international destinations it seems this airline isn’t proactive in trying to earn further safety accreditation.

airplane controls

6. Bluewing Airlines

Bluewing Airlines, a regional carrier based out of Zorg en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo, Suriname has operated since 2002. This small airline generally transports passengers to destinations in the interior of Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela and the Caribbean. The airline has spent time on and off the blacklist for the European Union and currently in 2015 remains banned from flying into the EU.

Bluewing has had its share of problems from aircraft safety issues to crashes. In the early 2000’s the four Antonov 28s that were part of their fleet came under fire for not meeting specific safety regulations including the absence of Ground Proximity Warning Systems (GPWS) on board. In the past decade there have been a number of crashes with both crew and passenger deaths. With a poor safety record, a blacklist from the EU and often poor landing conditions it is not likely that this airline will be awarded more than two stars in the near future.

airplane black and white

5. Tara Air

Tara Air, a subsidiary of Yeti Air (previously mentioned) is a newly formed airline being established in 2009 and uses the Yeti Air fleet. With its main hub at the Tribhuvan International Airport this airline operates the short take off and landing services, focusing on remote and mountainous airports and landing strips. This small fleet of 8 aircraft earned its one star from being FAA approved.

The safety record of Tara Air, to put it gently, is not good. In the years 2010 and 2011 there were three incidents that resulted in 22 deaths of passengers and crew. Small aircrafts combined with the extreme mountainous terrain make flying this airline a risk. Tara Air is also banned from flying into the EU and has no internationally recognized safety certificate although rumor has it that this airline is working towards obtaining possible IOSA recognition in the future. We will keep an eye on this airline over the coming years to see if they can move themselves up on the star rating.

Yulia_B / Shutterstock.com
Yulia_B / Shutterstock.com

4. Lion Air

Indonesia’s largest privately run airline started operations in the year 2000 and perhaps has the worst safety record on this list, along with a slew of other issues it has faced since being established. In the fourth most populous country the demand for medium-haul jets has been on the rise and Lion Air has stepped forward with significant orders of Boeings and Airbus. Lion Air flies passengers to over 80 destinations and has jointly established two additional airlines in Malaysia and Thailand.

The safety record for Lion Air can rightfully be called atrocious with over eight serious incidents and a number of fatalities in the last decade. From overshot runway landings to water crashes it’s surprising that this airline hasn’t had more casualties. Just recently in 2012 Lion Air came under scrutiny for pilots and crew being in possession of methamphetamine (aka crystal meth). As expected they are banned from flying into the European Union and as of January 2015 the ministry of transportation had frozen fifty-three of their routes. It’s no shock that Lion Air is only given one-star from AirlineRatings.com and expects them to stay at that rating for some time, unless drastic changes are made.

Lion Air

3. Nepal Airlines

The only airline in the one-star category to even get an in-flight product rating is Nepal Airlines, formally known as Royal Nepal Airlines. It was Nepal’s first airline in 1958 with a handful of domestic flights. It has now grown to flying to over 39 destinations including seven international ones. None of these destinations include anywhere in the European Union as all Nepalese airlines are blacklisted; including Nepal Airlines.

The safety record for this airline isn’t pretty. Since the 1960’s there have been numerous incidents and accidents resulting in the deaths of passengers and crew members. The most recent accident occurred in 2014 when a plane went missing on-route to Jaumla and crashed; resulting in the deaths of 18 people. Nepal Airlines has not participated in any of the internationally recognized safety audits and continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous airlines according to AirlineRatings.com. This airline has recently purchased a few new aircrafts including an Airbus A320 and will be using that to fly to Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Nepal Airlines
Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com

2. SCAT Airlines

The low cost carrier SCAT Airlines was established in 1997 and operates out of its man hub Shymkent Airport with service to all major cities of Kazakhstan and neighboring countries. Rewarded a ranking of one star by AirlineRatings.com this airline is deemed one of the most dangerous airlines in the world according to this study. The airline is in fact FAA approved and that is what earned them the one star. SCAT is banned from entering European airspace though after an audit by the ICAO deemed them non-compliant in keys areas of regulatory oversight.

SCAT has been accident and incident free for the most part since operations commenced but just recently in 2013 suffered a loss. An aircraft carrying 21 people crashed while flying from Kokshetau to Almaty and all onboard perished. A few other minor incidents have occurred with this airline and it continues to operate without an internationally recognized safety audit certificate. The good news about SCAT is they are genuinely trying to improve and working towards professional accreditation.

plane landing

1. Kam Air

Coming in with just one star Kam Air is amongst only 4 others that topped the list for the most dangerous airlines in the world. This Afghanistan based airline is based out of Kabul and has been in operation since 2003. Kam Air was the first ever privately owned passenger airline in Afghanistan and operates domestic passenger’s services and regional international services. Kam Air did try to schedule flights into Europe but as of 2010 the European Union (EU) banned all afghan carriers from flying into the EU due to safety concerns.

Kam Air has had its share of incidents in the past 12 years which include a crash that resulted in the deaths of 96 passengers and 8 crew members. Other incidents include a bomb threat that resulted in the plane being diverted and a tail strike incident that was not taken seriously by the airline; thus resulting in the ban from the EU. Along with not completing the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit Kam Airlines is also not allowed into American airspace. This airline is clearly failing at becoming a safer airline and will most likely remain on the bottom of this list for a long time.

airplane cockpit

10 Things to See and Do in San Francisco

Surrounded by water, brimming with energy and creativity, steeped in history, and located on the beautiful west coast of Northern California, San Francisco makes an excellent travel destination.  Here are the top 10 things to see and do when in the bustling city of San Francisco.  If you’re planning a lot of outings, make sure you check for discounts before you go to save some money on tourist activities.

1. Ride a Cable Car

San Francisco is known for its steep, hilly streets and is home to the world’s last manually operated cable cars.  Of the 23 original lines, only 3 remain, so make sure you hop on a historic streetcar when you’re in town.  Cable cars run roughly every 10 minutes, a single ride costs $6, and a day pass costs $14.  Start off at the intersection of Powell and Market Street and ride the Powell/Hyde line to Lombard Street (called the world’s crookedest street), up a hill so high you can see the island of Alcatraz, all the way to the end near Ghirardelli Square where you can visit the famous chocolate store after which the square is named.

Cable car

2. Visit Alcatraz

Alcatraz, an island in the San Francisco Bay, is the site of a former prison and an absolute must when visiting San Francisco.  The 2.5 hour Alcatraz tour starts on Pier 33, takes you by boat into the Bay where you’ll get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge while you learn about the history of the island, then you get to dock and walk around the island and old prison facilities.  Book tickets way in advance online to guarantee you a spot on this sought after tour.  Thursday through Monday you have the option of a night tour, which ups the creepy factor as well as provides a beautiful view of the sunset on the Bay.

Alcatraz

3. Visit the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium is a hands-on centre to explore the world in which we live.  Exhibits, projects and events will keep you busy all day, and a delicious café on site will keep you well fed.  Open Tuesday through Sunday; grab tickets in advance online to save time.  If you’re 18+, the Exploratorium offers exclusive adult only Thursday night admission from 6 – 10pm, where you get to mix cocktails and jaw dropping exhibits for a truly one of a kind experience.

Exploratorium

4. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is part of the classic San Francisco skyline and must be visited when in the city.  The best way to see it is to run, walk, or bike.  Lanes on either side of the traffic flow are dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists, so you will feel safe as you cross.  Bike rentals are available downtown, and they’ll provide you with maps to help you navigate.  If you’re driving, there is a toll to cross south back into the city which will be automatically assigned to your license plate.  Definitely bring your camera, and check the forecast if you’re on foot or bicycle- it can get windy and chilly out on the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

5. Take in a Game at AT&T Park

Americans love their sports – so what better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than to check out a game when you’re in town?  The San Francisco Giants, the local baseball team, plays at AT&T Park, a stadium easily accessible by car or public transit.   Check out schedules in advance to secure your tickets, and sit back and relax and enjoy the game.  Make friends, drink beer, eat hot dogs, and get into the local sports scene.

AT&T Park

6. Take in Some Culture – Symphony, Opera, and Ballet

If want a cultural experience while on vacation in San Francisco, the local music and dance scene will delight you.  Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Opera, and the San Francisco Ballet are easily accessible by public transit downtown and offer a variety of programming.  Make sure to visit their websites in advance to look at their schedules and plan your trips accordingly.

Theater San Francisco

7. Watch the Sunset at Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks are two hills in the center of San Francisco – a great spot to check out the 360 degree panoramic view of the city.  See the bridges, the ocean, the city, and beyond from these lookout points.  There is no public transit directly to the top, but there is a stop at the base from which you can walk up.  To make the most of your trip to Twin Peaks, pack a picnic or pick up some takeout at one of San Francisco’s delicious restaurants and head up the hill to sit and take in the sunset.

Twin Peaks

8. Check Out Pier 39

Pier 39 is packed with attractions and is definitely worth a visit when you’re in town.  Plan a half day visit to take in all that Pier 39 has to offer.  Visit the resident sea lions, watch the street performers, charter a boat to take you under the Golden Gate Bridge, eat some local, sustainable seafood at Fog Harbor Fish House, and grab some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

Pier 39 San Francisco

9. Visit Alamo Square

If you’re an architecture buff or a Full House fan, make sure to visit Alamo Square when you’re in San Francisco.  The square itself is a large park with a playground and tennis court, but the houses that surround the square are beautiful, Victorian row houses that were featured on the intro to Full House.  Snap some pictures with the houses in the background, take in the view, and check out the local cafés nearby on Divisadero Street.

Alamo Square

10. Explore Golden Gate Park

A visit to San Francisco isn’t complete without heading to the Golden Gate Park.  You could easily spend an entire day in this massive park, considering it has a golf course, horseshoe pits, a Frisbee golf course, a bison paddock, archery fields, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, and Stow Lake.  With so many options, you might want to rent bikes, skates, or disco golf equipment from Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate to cover more ground.  Friday nights at the de Young Museum are free special events – check out their schedule to see what’s happening when you’re in town!

Golden Gate Park

The Worst Airlines in the World

We live in a modern age of travel where it’s just as possible to fly to the other side of the globe as it is to drive to a neighboring state. With this new found accessibility comes demand from consumers who yearn to see things few others have seen. But what’s the thing that many consumers say they hate most about traveling?  Flying. Traveling and taking vacations are memorable experiences but the catch is always getting there. Confusing airports and busy terminals, lost luggage, tight cramped quarters, poor service and delay after delay after delay… This is often the reality faced by passengers world-wide and while some airlines are better than others, there are definitely those that are worse than others as well. These 15 airlines have all been called ‘the worst’ in one way or another and have reputations for delays, poor customer service and even some questionable business practices. Many have received a very poor 2 star rating from Skytrax Global Airline Ratings which bases its ratings on quality of product and service standards.

15. US Airways

One of the largest American airline carriers, US Airways has made attempts to change its reputation for lost luggage and poor overall quality and customer service. According to flightstats.com, the company’s global on-time performance for the first quarter of 2015 is an average of 75.34% with February reaching a low of 73.15% on-time. The good news is that the stats show US Airways seems to be making improvements, albeit they are slow ones. Their most recent stats on lost baggage claims as per the US Department of Transportation were 2.70 claims per 1,000 passengers. Not as bad as many on this list but definitely not good either.

Vacclav / Shutterstock.com
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

14. Frontier Airlines

While American small carrier Frontier Airlines may have received an overall 3 star rating from Skytrax, a look at the closer details show many areas in which they were only given a 2 star rating including waiting times, standard of customer support service and boarding service efficiency. They actually only received a 1.5  star rating for handling delays/cancellations which is exceptionally low. Surprisingly, lost baggage isn’t as big of an issue with this airline as their stats for lost baggage show 2.21 claims per 1,000 passengers, though we attribute this to the much smaller size of this air carrier when compared to other American airlines.

David Gaylor / Shutterstock.com
David Gaylor / Shutterstock.com

13. United Airlines

This large American carrier has built a reputation for poor customer care…maybe even bordering on abusive as there have been cases of customers being left on the tarmac for hours on end. This reputation got so bad that in 2013 the US Department of Transportation actually fined the airline over $1 million for this offence. For the first quarter of 2015 they only have an on-time performance average of 75.39% with the month of February going as low as 72.96% on time. Not only are the delays a problem but lost luggage is a relatively common occurrence as well with a reported 3.66 baggage claims per 1,000 passengers according to the US Department of Transportation’s most recent statistics.

Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com
Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com

12. Tigerair

Tigerair, originally Tiger Airways is a Singapore born carrier that was meant to be on a similar level as low-budget European carrier Ryanair (mentioned later on this list). Singapore service started in 2004, with the carrier expanding to Australia in 2007. In both markets Tigerair is widely considered sub-par by passengers due to their poor customer service and cheap product where absolutely everything costs extra. The company was even known to use their own poor reputation and complaints record as a publicity stunt to show their bottom-basement airfare prices. It seems however that even Tigerair is trying to start a new and better reputation as in 2013 they changed their name from Tiger Airways to Tigerair. They should probably realize it’s going to take a lot more than a name change to get off the worst airlines list any time soon.

Peterfz30 / Shutterstock.com
Peterfz30 / Shutterstock.com

11. EasyJet

Europe is infamous for its number of low-budget air carriers and UK based EasyJet is exactly one of these airlines. No one should really expect luxuries with any budget carrier but that doesn’t mean passengers should have to sacrifice service just to get a good deal. In the Skytrax quality rating, the airline received 2 stars or lower in the areas of in-flight entertainment and handling delays/cancellations. They also received only 2.5 star ratings for airline product information, in-flight service information, and arrival assistance. It sounds like if you fly with EasyJet you’d better prepare yourself for a lack of information.

Giovanni G / Shutterstock.com
Giovanni G / Shutterstock.com

10. Pakistan International Airlines

If you’re the kind of person who values timeliness Pakistan International Airlines is not one you should consider flying with. So far in 2015 their on-time performance average is a dismal 37.53% -granted they only fly about 3,000 flights a month compared to a major carrier like US Airways who operates nearly 90,000 each month but one would think less flights might make it easier to be on time. In addition, the Skytrax ratings show only 2 star ratings for important areas like check-in services, arrival assistance, transfer services and staff language skills.

Naufal MQ / Shutterstock.com
Naufal MQ / Shutterstock.com

9. RyanAir

Dublin based carrier RyanAir isn’t just a budget airline it’s an ultra-budget airline. They’ve taken the phrase “you get what you pay for” to the extreme and with their cheap fares comes a cheap product as well. They’ve seemingly built their business on cutting corners in order to offer the lowest fares possible but as a result, customer experience is pretty atrocious. Seats do not recline meaning you’re upright the entire flight, they have no seatback pockets and historically the airline has even reduced the number of washrooms on board to make room for extra seats. Everything costs extra with Ryanair, from having an allocated seat to bringing an infant on your lap and even using a credit card.

a href=httpwww.shutterstock.comgallery-1030336p1.htmlcr=00&pl=edit-00Marco Pratia a href=httpwww.shutterstock.comeditorialcr=00&pl=edit-00Shutterstock.coma
Marco Prati / Shutterstock.com

8. China Eastern Airlines

Another airline to avoid if you can’t stand delays, China Eastern Airlines is headquartered out of Shanghai, China and operates as a budget carrier. According to flightstats.com global airline arrival performance, the company is plagued by issues with delays and cancellations. Their average on-time performance for 2015 thus far is 53.87% which is not only bad, but is worsened by the fact that this airline operates around 50,000 flights per month. We’d expect as large a carrier to have better organization and practices in place but then again, a look at some reviews on Yelp paint a clear picture of a very low-quality product and almost non-existent customer service.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

7. Lion Air

Established in 1999, the Jakarta, Indonesia based airline Lion Air is the largest low cost carrier in Asia with service to Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, mainland China and Hong Kong. Despite being the biggest, the budget airline is certainly not the best. In fact, it’s far from it with problems like chronic delays and even drug use by pilots and crew. In 2011 the company was forced to ground 13 planes due to poor on-time performance until an OTP of 80% could be reached and in 2012 there were several incidents of pilots and crew members being found with crystal meth. In one case, a Lion Air pilot was arrested after testing positive for methamphetamine and had been scheduled to fly to Surabaya only a few hours later.

aoo3771 / Shutterstock.com
aoo3771 / Shutterstock.com

6. SmartWings

SmartWings is a european low-cost carrier based out of Prague, Czech Republic. They were established in 2008 and are owned by parent company Travel Service Airlines. A look at many reviews of this carrier paint a picture of deceptively low airfares with some even claiming poor business practices of charging fares and spontaneously cancelling flights a week before departure with no options to re-book. Skytrax ratings only gave the airline a 2 star overall rating with a mere 1 star in areas including product information, service information and online check-in. They also only received 2 stars in the areas of arrival assistance, cabin cleanliness and check-in wait times.

Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com
Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com

5. Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines is the only 2-star rated airline on this list that operates in America. They’ve gained a strong reputation for being cheap to the extreme…and not in a good way. Outrageous fees like charging for carry-on luggage and strict no-refund policies all worsen the customer experience. Seats do not recline and passengers often complain about the cramped conditions. Skytrax gave them very poor ratings in the areas of in-flight entertainment, cabin cleanliness, staff enthusiasm and attitude, staff response to requests and handling of delays/cancellations. It seems the only good thing about this airline are the low-fares but clearly these come at a cost.

Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.com
Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.com

4. Nepal Airlines

This tiny national carrier of Nepal is based in Kathmandu and has a fleet size of only 7 active aircraft, most of which are relatively old. Skytrax only gave them a 2 star overall rating for product and service quality with only 1 star being awarded in areas like on-board comfort, in-flight entertainment, washrooms/shower facilities and the company’s website. They may not be the most reliable of airlines either with many passenger reports of sudden flight cancellations. This is clear when looking at their on-time performance for February 2015 as they’re on-time performance of 34% is nearly matched by their flight cancellations at 32%. Rightly so, Nepal Airlines was banned from flying within the EU in 2013.

Nepal Airlines

3. Pegasus Airlines

Pegasus Airlines is another low-cost budget carrier and is the second largest airline in Turkey. It was named the cheapest low-cost European carrier in both 2013 and 2014, but cheap usually comes at a cost. Pegasus operates only 1 flight class on their aircraft with no in-flight entertainment or meals. Skytrax ratings gave nothing higher than a 3-star rating for any of the rated categories with the areas of standard of customer support service, handling delays/cancellations, in-flight entertainment and staff language skills all receiving below 2 stars.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

2. Bulgaria Air

A relatively new carrier, Bulgaria Air was founded in 2002 and is based out of the
Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Even though this article is focused on product and customer service rather than safety, it’s worth noting that there are reports of numerous incidents where this airline has had aircraft skid off the runway and has had sanctions on flying in American airspace due to a lack of equipment safety documents. Skytrax ratings gives the airline a 2 star overall rating with some of the poorest rated categories being in-flight entertainment, staff response to requests, transfer services and arrival assistance.

Senohrabek / Shutterstock.com
Senohrabek / Shutterstock.com

1. Air Koryo

This North Korean state-owned carrier is the only airline to receive a 1 star overall rating from Skytrax airline rating system. That easily puts Air Koryo in the #1 spot for worst airline for product and customer service in the world. The amount of extremely poor 1 and 2 star ratings in the Skytrax categories are too numerous to name but here’s just a few: check-in service, transfer service, arrival assistance, comfort, language skills, and staff response to request all the the lowest ranking of 1 star. Air Koryo was also banned from flying within the EU in 2006 due to safety and maintenance concerns. In 2010 they were allowed to fly certain Tu-204s aircraft into the EU after improved safety features, however all other aircraft in the company’s fleet remain banned.

Attila JANDI / Shutterstock.com
Attila JANDI / Shutterstock.com

Like this? Check out: The World’s 13 Most Dangerous Airlines and 15 Best Airlines in the World