Feb 19-28, 2022    AFS Maldives & the Emirates     Luxury Small Group

“Beaches, Dunes & the Greatest Show on Earth”

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Two different exotic worlds await you on your new AFS getaway…it’s indulgence first in our Maldives villas to rejuvenate our spirits, followed by adventure thrills and exploration in the Emirates. Our past groups loved it, but this year we added the spectacular World Expo!

World Expo 2022, “the Greatest Show on Earth” is the largest ever since 1851 in London. 192 countries are represented in the themed pavilions design by world-renowned architects that bring to life new cultures, technologies and the future of our planet.

We begin in the Maldives to relax, a paradise of 1195 coral islands scattered like pearls in the Indian Ocean. It’s “barefoot luxury” here with postcard-perfect beaches. The allure is snorkeling with incredible marine life, water sports, spas, fine cuisine and golden sunsets. You’ll love your deluxe overwater villa that’s surrounded by translucent turquoise waters. Just 4 steps down, it’s like swimming in a warm aquarium!

Next, Dazzling Dubai is always reinventing itself with new wonders. We enjoy dune bashing, tour by speed boats, Top of the Burj, a Desert Safari and souks of Old Dubai. Ride the world’s largest Ferris wheel, snow ski indoors and Instagram yourself at Miracle Gardens. Throw in a day trip to Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s wealthiest states with its opulent architecture – and you have a perfect vacation.

(Did you know the Emirates is labeled “safest place on earth” winning the world’s highest health and safety protocols? All regions we visit are in “Certified Safe” for your well-being. Flights are so easy on Emirates Airlines and they include for you the most comprehensive Covid benefits of any other carrier or country.)

Cast your cares away on our ultimate luxury escape of 2 different global playgrounds with the EXPO, now is the time to go! So much to do, it will make your head spin and you’ll be treated like royalty. Only 26 fortunate travel lovers on a trip that can’t get any better than this.

expo-

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Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

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Feb 18 or 19 –  Depart USA via Dubai to The Maldives.  Group air option will be presented soon in Trip Tips.

Feb  20 – 23 –  Sunday Arrive Male – Capital of the Maldives    B,D

Land begins.  On arrival at Male airport, you will be met by

the staff and enjoy a speed boat tour of an hour ride to the resort.  There is a lot to expect in the Maldives – a fabulous and relaxing vacation. Days spent lying in the sun reading books or listening to music, delicious fresh fish cooked to perfection, fresh fruit in abundance and impeccable service. For those that dive, the clear waters are teeming with fish and night dives, in particular, can be fascinating. If switching off and doing absolutely nothing is your ideal holiday, look no further than the Maldives.

Maldives solo travel

The Sun Siyam Oluhuveli

Sun Siyam Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort spans three paradisical islands in the South Malé Atoll. This chic resort epitomizes the Maldives with its pure white beaches, abundant sandbanks, tropical vegetation and enticing blue lagoons. This island resort houses 14 high-quality restaurants and bars, in addition to a water sports center, diving school, luxury spa and 3 swimming pools (including an adult-only pool). The resort lies in the South Malé Atoll, surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The main island stretches over a mile from tip to tip, fringed by powdery white sand beaches, while the two other islands are connected via bridges. You can discover the mesmerizing marine life around the house reef, where you might spot native sea turtles and majestic manta rays.

Why stay here? With every room, suite and villa overlooking the beach or lagoon, this resort offers a true beach island escape.  We booked you in the overwater villas.  Enjoy endless watersports options and even weekly ‘crab racing’ championships, whilst those seeking relaxation will find it with overwater spa treatments, beach dining experiences and sunset sailing trips.

Bars and restaurants: Multiple dining and drinking spots are available within the resort, including The Sunset Restaurant for overwater dining and live cooking stations, Lagoon Restaurant for seafood, Four Spices for Asian cuisine, Island Pizza for Italian favorites and Lagoon Bar for cocktails and evening entertainment.

Other facilities: With its warm clear waters, the dazzling lagoon is the ideal spot for water sports enthusiasts. You can take up complimentary non-motorized water sports – including windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing or sailing or jet skiing.  Stroll along to the Sun Diving School, where trained divers offer unforgettable dive experiences for a supplementary charge.  On land, play tennis and badminton on dedicated courts, enjoy a game of ping-pong or darts or work out at the modern fitness center with private instructors (private fitness sessions are available for an additional charge). There’s also a colorful playground for kids and a full evening entertainment program that caters to all.  At night enjoy evening entertainment.

Those looking to relax can lounge around three oceanfront swimming pools, including an adult-only infinity pool on ‘Romance Island’. You can also retire to the overwater Sun Spa to indulge in an extensive array of specialist therapies and massages. All eight treatment pavilions offer a calming atmosphere, complete with twin massage beds, a rain shower and an outdoor flower bath. You can also use the hydrotherapy pools above the ocean or sip a refreshing juice in the relaxation area.

You can relax at beach or opt from experiences available at the resort.

  1. Manta Point:  Join us every evening to watch our neighboring mantas enjoy their plankton dinner. Make the most of the opportunity to get up close with these unique creatures, and watch from the resort jetty as they circle their favorite feeders.
  2. Thrill Seeker – We’re proud to be known as one of the best watersport centers in the Maldives, with a team of talented instructors on hand to help you hit that adrenaline buzz; kitesurfing, parasailing, windsurfing and more.
    manta
  3. Shipwreck – Take a deep dive to find a hidden shipwreck discovered in Vaavu Atoll, a short boat ride away. Swim among the schools of fish that gather in this magical spot, taking some time out to explore what lies beneath the ocean’s surface.
  4. Kitesurfing – Harness the power of the wind and propel yourself across the turquoise waters with this popular sport. After the instructor’s guidance, you’ll hit the waters gliding through the wind on the vast lagoon.
  5. Snorkeling Excursion – A relaxing way to experience underwater life, grab a snorkel and venture out to explore the amazing reefs of the atoll. Instructors guide you to best areas for marine life.

Overnight  Sun Siyam Olhuveli Male

(Note : We will schedule another RT-PCR Test for return journey not included in the cost). 

Feb 23          Fly to the Emirates    B, D

This morning we will transfer to Male International airport to catch our flight to Dubai 10AM arriving 2PM.   Arrive at Dubai International airport and check into your Hyatt hotel in Dubai.

4PM – My favorite activity is the Yellow Boat Safari!  Early evening join our Yellow Boats Safari Tour – Trip will start around the stunning vista of Dubai Marina and then into the open water where you will see Ain Dubai, cruise around the amazing Palm Jumeirah and pause for a perfect photo opportunity at Atlantis and Burj Al Arab. Our tour then heads back along the coast with the spectacles of the Royal Palaces, Palm Lagoon and on to the Marina.  Get the best photos possible of all Dubai.

Overnight Hyatt Place Al Rigga

Conveniently located in the heart of Deira just 3 miles to the Dubai museum, Dubai Gold Souk and beaches. The laid-back rooms come with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, mini-fridge and coffee-making facilities. There is also a restaurant, Café, bar, 24 hour gym, BBQ, rooftop heated pool with a poolside bar.

Feb-24     City Tour of Old and New Dubai plus a Desert Safari!    B, D

We begin the tour of Dubai with Old part This is a city that provides a new setting at every turn, richly mixing together the old and the new; it’s without a doubt the leading tourist destination in the Middle East. Dubai is a city of ages that rises out of the desert and crowns the gulf coast with its presence. This tour takes you on a journey that shows you the old and new Dubai. Learn about the 19th-century life in Dubai as you visit the Dubai Museum and weave through the alleys of the Al Fahidi Historical District.

Next, board an ‘abra’, a traditional water taxi that ferried the locals through the years across the Dubai Creek. On the opposite side of the Creek take a stroll through the Spice Market, and the Gold Souk.  We will drive on famous Sheikh Zayed Road. We will stop for quick photo of one of latest attraction in Dubai : Museum of Future.

Afternoon Dune Bashing and Desert Fun!  We head across the desert of Dubai with several photo-stops during an exciting dune drive to the first destination. The drive continues across the desert. We stop to watch the beautiful sunset before reaching our campsite where you have the opportunity to do a camel ride, sand boarding and try out a henna design on hand or feet. After working up an appetite enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner. Before returning to Dubai watch our belly dancer performing her show around the campfire by starlight.  All our past groups loved it.

Dubai Maldives

Overnight Hyatt Place Dubai

Feb-25   Burj Tour with the World EXPO       B

Today we visit the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa with its famous Fountain Show and world’s biggest shopping mall: Dubai Mall.  One of the many delights included in the Burj Khalifa tour, is a multimedia presentation that not only portrays exotic chronicles of Dubai’s history, but also depicts the arduous journey that led to the successful completion of

this distinctive edifice. Only here can you experience a ride in the world’s third fastest elevator that whips you through 124 levels above the ground transporting you to the top for amazing panoramic photos.   Continue to Jumeirah Beach where you will get a chance to take pictures  with the iconic Burj Al Arab in the background

The rest of the day is allocated to exploring the EXPO, entrance ticket included.

WORLD’S GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

The Dubai Expo has been billed as the Greatest Show on Earth. Dubai never does anything small, the Expo is gigantic, There are 192 countries that have spent over 4 years building their displays and exhibits, which means there are 192 pavilions. It is virtually impossible to visit every pavilion during the time we have scheduled while in Dubai. Some of the pavilions will be so wonderful that you should not miss them. We will have the insider details ready for you when you arrive. The magnitude of this undertaking is staggeringly mind-blowing.  The expo in Dubai was scheduled for 2020 but had to be postponed to 2021. They left the name the same as Dubai 2021 Expo. https://www.expo2020dubai.com/en/

Overnight at Hyatt Place Al Rigga

Feb 26   Full Day Tour of Abu Dhabi    B

Dubai

Today we will transfer to Atlantis our beach resort hotel, the ATLANTIS BEACH RESORT HOTEL.

Highlights include:  It’s a world-famous iconic hotel. It includes the world’s largest water park, along with the Lost Chambers Aquarium (the largest aquarium in the area). It has 29 restaurants including one underwater. The hotel also has a mall under the hotel that includes fast food options. It has wonderful swimming pools and a great beach. It even offers options to swim with dolphins or go scuba diving in the aquarium. It is a destination within a destination that offers so many unique features for guests: – Neighboring Aquaventure Waterpark with complimentary unlimited access – Complimentary access to Lost Chamber Aquarium

OPTIONAL PROGRAM – Full day to Abu Dhabi (about 2-hours each way.)  We start the city tour of Abu Dhabi with a visit to an astounding and expansive white structure – Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque that was named to honor the late president, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. We will also see the impressive Emirates Palace, the bustling Abu Dhabi city center, and the beautiful Corniche. Next, we will visit the extraordinary Qasr Al Watan or the Palace of the Nation! A striking segment of the capital city’s Presidential Palace complex, Qasr Al Watan is where the significant government buildings are located. It serves as an avenue to host global leaders. Then we’ll also explore the unique Date Market.  Time permitting our tour will end with a visit to the Camel Farm to get a close encounter with the friendly and curious camels.

We make this optional as some of already done this. $95  (Based on min. of 18).

Overnight 5-star Atlantis The Palm

Feb-27   Explore Dubai    B 

Free at last! We always include free time here because of the endless things to do. You can exploreSki Dubai at Mall of Emirates more at the EXPO or consider some other fun activities.

Consider; the incredible Miracle Gardens, Dubai Frame, Safari Park, Museum of the Future, brunch at the Burj or sky-high Restaurant in the Sky. There’s also ballooning, paragliding and amazing zip lining at the Dubai Marina.

Visit to Ski Dubai at Mall of Emirates – an indoor ski resort with 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area. The park maintains a temperature of -1 degree to 2 degrees Celsius throughout the year. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world.

world's tallest Ferris wheel.Ain Dubai is an observation wheel on Bluewaters Island, near the Dubai Marina in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is the world’s tallest Ferris wheel.

LA PERLE BY DRAGONE – Theatrical show  Conceptualized by the highly acclaimed cultural-artistic theater director – Franco Dragone, this brilliant show is the centerpiece attraction of the imposing Al Habtoor City, along the banks of Dubai Water Canal. Set within The Atrium, La Perle Dragone is conducted in an inimitable 1300-seater aqua theater occupied by more than 2.5 million liters of water.  There’s a blend of highly imaginative and heart-stopping actions – all staged in, on, and even under the water.

Overnight  Atlantis The Palm

Feb 28   Heading home

Free time until we transfer to Dubai International airport for our flight home.

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Land Price $2795 plus $90 for pre-paid gratuities for guides and drivers  Bases on 26

Deposit $500   

  •  All prices are per person twin share.  Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies.  Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably.  AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”  
  • Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.  
  • Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
  • We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. 
  • Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

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Maldives & Dubai Trip Tips

Prepare to be thrilled by two different exotic worlds that our past groups loved!    I wonder which place will Wow you most. It’s splashy fun in the dreamy Maldives, archipelago of 1200 islands and 19 atolls. You’ll love your Aqua Villas set over the bluest waters with amazing reefs. Then the fun begins in excessive Dubai with its incredible architecture. Each day is a new thrill. Finally onto the world expo, “the greatest show on earth” with 192 pavilions of different countries. It’s odd that attendees are Europeans and Asians because Americans just don’t know about it. You are not only the fortunate ones to book this unique adventure, but also the wisest. I think it’s one of our best AFS trips ever. I’ll be there no November 7 to check it all out for you in advance.

So far, we have a wonderful group of 19 travel lovers. Our goal is at least 24 to protect our group price so please tell your friends about this trip of a lifetime now. World Expo closes March 10 so now is the perfect time to go. Please connect with each other now on your private Facebook group page.  

First, we thank you for your trust in booking this AFS trip. Together we will adapt to new travel norms for the Privilege of Travel.  We are constantly adapting to ever-changing developments to ensure you’ll have a safe journey.  Carefully read the “AFS Confidence Pledge” below. Our vetted local teams in each city are fully trained in the latest health and safety protocols according to WHO and are happy to greet you.  Things are constantly monitored. Do not Google your destination on State/gov/CDC sites as they are often outdated to the updates our expert suppliers have. We’ve sent nine AFS groups abroad so far during the pandemic without one hiccup. Both Dubai and Maldives are receiving tens of thousands of visitors. Because things change often, will send you final details three weeks before departure for accuracy. Do not research this on your own now. If any Covid tests are needed mid trip between the two destinations, we will set up group test for you in the resort or hotel. More to come.

It is your responsibility to read our important emails and updated notes here.  Let us sweat the small stuff as we strive to make your trip worry-free. This may well be the best time to go and fully enjoy your vacation!  Bookmark this page to conveniently find your way back.

Trip Tips are designed to answer trip-related questions. It’s your responsibility to read this information.  Updates and addendums will be posted here.  Check back from time to time.

Covid Travel Rules are ever-changing depending on country and time of year.  Therefore, I created a single Covid rule page so everything can be up-to-date for participants on our trips.   Covid Rules Click Here

IMPORTANT PAYMENT DATES

FINAL PAYMENT DUE Nov. 22, 2021.  Pay by check directly online digitally. Simply follow the instructions. Credit cards will be assessed a processing fee at time of purchase.  As a small business, this helps mitigate costs and allows us to give you the very best price.

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Your fearless GTL Christie Hintz (Gracious Trip Leader, not a guide but liaison between our guides and group to ensure things run smoothly.)

Christie Hintz GTLWe have 5 AFS trip leaders. I wanted to lead this. Christy one. You will love her energy and kind spirit.  I must state everyone loves Christie and we are delighted she’s joined our GTL tribe!  Meet Christie…After being widowed, five years ago, I decided to dip my toes into the waters of international travel. My first trip was to Africa with AFS! I was hooked. Five continents, over 50 countries and 19 AFS trips later, I’m still seeking adventure. From Mongolia to Patagonia, Papua New Guinea to Mozambique, awesome memories have been created. I love meeting the local people and making new friends on my trips. Why did I wait so long to travel?

My four grown children and I live in sunny Florida. I am originally from Long Island, NY but moved to Florida in my twenties. I am a retired, special education teacher. But now I am more active than ever with free time to embrace new joys.  I sang with a local band for over 15 years.  Volunteering with mentally disabled adults and also at a Safe House for foster children fills my heart and my days. My mission is to share patience, kindness and laughter everywhere I go. I’m ready for the next adventure.

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Trip Prep:

  • Read the revised Heading Abroad with AFS, especially if you are new to AFS.
  • Ensure your passport is valid 6 months after return date with two blank pages.  We recommend renewing your passport well ahead of any planned international travel. Take a photo of your passport to store in the cloud or bring a copy. Scan your important documents – Covid tests, trip tips, passport etc. If you lose your passport, US embassies now except a digital copy from your email folder on your phone to re-issue new one quickly.
  • To speed through US Customs download Mobile Passport.  Look in your App Store for details.
  • Notify bank and cc company of travel dates so they don’t block charges.
  • Vaccines – nearly all of our travelers are vaccinated. Email us if not.
  • All airline Covid rules differ.  It is imperative to read your airline rules to ensure a smooth departure!  Click here for the latest info on PCR tests required to travel abroad Latest Covid Testing Info.  Failure to get the correct test may cause the airline to turn you away.   It’s your responsibility to know the airline rules that can change right up to departure. They won’t speak to us with reservations in your name. All websites post their Covid rules at top of landing page. All airlines in the process of making significant routing and scheduling changes now as they scramble ramping up hiring for the travel surge to come. How to reach them?  Call direct or request a callback time. Check to see if your questions can be resolved on the airlines mobile app or via Twitter or turn to their social media for assistance. Travelers get best results via Facebook message to the airline.
  • The local supplier and AFS may require you sign a Travel Pledge before departure.  If so, we’ll email a form to you prior.

Fitness level – 2   (No trouble walking.)

AIR –  You can arrange your own air round-trip from USA to Mali, then internal flight to Dubai, return Dubai to USA. February 18-28. (land dates Feb. 20 to 28.) The best and only choice is Emirates! EK. They are direct with great prices. If you fly another carrier, you will need to arrange your transfer on airport arrival in Male by boat to Sun Siyam  Resort. Note – EK is the world’s only airline that includes health insurance with any Covid expenses.

Group Air – coming soon! It’s great to fly together now days. We’re still waiting for final cost from EK. They fly from LAX, SFO, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, and Newark, but JFK is always cheapest. We will email you when we get prices.  We will need a minimum of 12 in order to get a good group air rate for all 4 legs of this trip. No need now to rush to get your air until we present group air. Then you can make the best decision.

Everyone, check your flights! Airlines are canceling routes left and right now, Many won’t even inform you by email that there’s been a change. If your flight has been canceled, they MUST rebook you book on any other carrier to accommodate your schedule. Stand firm. If you’re not getting anyplace ask for their supervisor.   (Good news, conversely many airlines are adding other new routes which be a better fit for you.)

New:  In today’s air & hotel landscape, avoid booking tickets on 3rd-party booking engines like Expedia, Google Flights, hotels.com and more! It’s too difficult getting refund and it’s nearly impossible to change your ticket. Use sites only to view air prices. Then go directly to the airline or hotel website and book through them for your best protection and price.

Transfers-  We get only one airport transfer in and out to hotels and will give you set times closer to departure. Chosen times will be based on the majority of arrivals of airlines. If your flight time coincides with the group, you may take our single airport group transfer.  It’s responsibility to find the group as they exit baggage claim.  If your flight time falls outside the group, you’ll need to make your own transfer arrangements.  Consider Uber or sharing taxi ride with group member.

Meet Up With Group-   More closer to depature.

Baggage– Think light to ease your burden, not like you’re fleeing your homeland.  You change hotel properties several times. 1 carry-on bag& 1 medium suitcase not to exceed 45lbs – weigh on a bathroom scale – are ideal. This weight limit is set for our porterage and luggage vans.  If you overpack by adding side pre-or post-trip luggage, make prior plans as to where to stow the excess luggage. You may be responsible for any overage charges. So many cool new luggage trackers with GPS available now to prevent lost baggage!  We like LugLoc, DynoTag, Samsung or Apple Trackers.   The new hard cases are difficult to fit in coach storage. Leave space for great souvenirs. Be sure to attach ID to carry-on and bag to assure your bag never gets left behind.

Packing – Check Google Weather a week prior to departure.  This trip is easy. Thank light for long layers. Pack casual summer tropical clothing including a light jacket for long flights. Also bring sun protection, a day pack, wide brim hat, comfy sneakers, wet shoes and swim wear for the beach, pools and spa.  (ladies – as a mark of respect for Islamic culture, modest clothing is recommended an all city tours meaning “covered elbows to knees” anything at beach and pool is fine.)  Read Packing 101 in Heading Abroad with AFS

Pack your hygiene kit and munchies in clear plastic bags.  Airport and inflight food service may be limited.

Electric– Don’t forget a portable backup charger, cords, gadgets, etc. Cell phones and tablets do not need a converter; you only need an adapter plug.  AFSers often leave charger cords in room, so be sure to double-check your room before check out. All properties have hairdryers.

See what of plugs needed here à  https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com

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Money Matters – You will need some cash for personal tipping, meals, and shopping. $500 in cash should suffice. (Venmo may be convenient at home, but useless overseas, ATM may eat your card.  Always bring some cash!  Wise to have new crisp bills.)   Change currency arrival at airport, bank, or hotels or withdraw local currency from an ATM.  Note -independent ATMs are risky due to skimmer scams. Safest ATMs are at airport and banks. Always shield your pin number when entering. Avoid using unless it’s an emergency.  Master Card and Visa widely accepted.  Amex rarely accepted.

Credit cards are far safer than using your debit card. I convert half of it upon entry. I use my credit card for most purchases.  Many cards now offer no foreign transaction fees.

Gratuities – (Prepaid)  It’s protocol to tip our local guides, assistants, porters, drivers and ground staff. Guidelines have increased globally, but around $10 to $15 per day should cover all for the trip.  A $95 total will be added to your invoice. Please understand this is only the suggested minimum.  For ease of distribution, your GTL will tip the different ground services for the entire group each day.

Tipping on own – If service is stellar, feel free to give more directly.  All we tourists leave behind is our reputation. I personally carry a personal stash of US ones in an envelope to draw from as needed. Bell staff/porters – AFSers roll bags to their room.  If you use a porter, please tip $2. Restaurants – 10%. For group lunches or dinners, please leave a dollar or two for waitstaff!

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Communication– Internet is available. With smartphones, be sure to check with your provider for rates and coverage for international phone plans before departure. Data Roaming rates can be expensive. To reach home – Texting, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook messaging when using WIFI. Be cautious using public Wi-Fi without using VPN. Without VPN never open attachments or view financial or personal accounts on the Internet while abroad.  Phone calls, text messages, and data usage of all kinds, it is crucial to understand that, unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, every use of your phone incurs a data toll. That means that viewing and downloading email, browsing the web, viewing social media, and mapping all incur data charges, as do applications that we sometimes assume to be “free,” such as Skype and WhatsApp. Unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, however, WhatsApp is using cellular data, so you are getting charged at your provider’s international roaming data rate.  Facebook Messenger Phone is an easy free way to make calls.

Get Smart: Avoiding Hackers on Vacation.  Thieves not only want your money but also your data.    Change passwords often. Check device security settings before you leave for your trip. Back up, update, and encrypt your devices and data using a virtual VPN.

  • In hotel rooms, hide iPods or laptops to avoid “evil maids” that want to clone your tech.
  • Bottled water is always best abroad, as our gut isn’t accustomed to local tap water. Eat clean food and avoid street vendors.
  • Pickpockets are everywhere now, especially at night.  Never carry your passport outside of the room.
  • It’s wise to grab a business card from the desk before heading out on own.  To get back just show the card to a taxi driver- no memory or English needed.

Photography – Before taking pictures of locals, know it is polite to ask.  Your AFS Private Facebook Group Page is a great way to share your best shots with each other. AFS loves photos with group participants (not typical churches, monuments, or any shot that looks like you pulled it off of the net, etc.) for our website. The best photos are ones that include a group member with a local, children, animals, or at iconic sites in the same frame!

Retail Therapy – There is wonderful shopping in both Dubai and the Maldives. Even non-shoppers will find themselves tempted by local goodies. Our past groups have come back with the coolest stuff.

Dubai:

From traditional open-air markets to vast modern shopping centers, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to shopping in Dubai. Whether you’re looking to update your wardrobe with designer brands or pick up a souvenir from a historical souk, you will have countless opportunities to find a great take-home from upscale, ultra modern malls, rich tradition of souks, or open-air markets, selling everything from Emirati jewelry to personalized perfumes. Whether you’re seeking skyscrapers or souks, brands or bartering, markets or malls, shopping in this city is a haven that truly has it all.

Sought out treasures include camel milk chocolates, Dubai dates, Persian rugs and carpets, oudh and bakhoor (aromatic fragrances), Arabic attars (perfume oils), Pashmina shawls, gold jewelry, coffee and Arabic coffee pots, Dubai spices, and hookah/shisha pipes. Also popular shopping items are colorful lanterns and lamps, incense, Arabian daggers, and traditional Arabic shoes.

The Maldives:

The Maldives attract shoppers with its gift shops, locally-made t-shirts, miniature boats and other craft products and mats. The miniature version of Maldivian sailboats (called dhonis) is quite popular. Absolutely seek out lovely items made from colorful fabrics and textiles as well.

Websites of Interest:

www.visitmaldives.com , www.visitdubai.com , www.expo2020dubai.com –  So much good stuff here. Look now on how to plan and maximize your time exploring the Expo.

Chewing-  Dubai:

This city has endless lists of exotic cuisines to sample and a variety of restaurants to visit. Make sure to not miss tasting some popular traditional dishes. While meat, fish, and rice are the national foods of Dubai, Al Machboos and Khuzi are the traditional cuisines of the country. Also savory are dishes including chicken machoboos, stuffed camel meat alongside rice and vegetables, tabbouleh served with couscous, hummus, shawarma, manousheh topped with Za’tar, al Harees (a famous dish of the UAE with highly exotic taste), Lugiamat (dumplings) served with a sweet date syrup, and kanafeh (noodle-like pastry) sprinkled with pistachio. To sip on, sample gaweh (Arabic coffee). Please note, in Dubai, drinking is allowed only in licensed hotels, restaurants, bars, and in the privacy of a home. You should avoid drinking in public areas such as parks, shopping centers, and beaches. If you get caught drinking in these places, you will be asked to pay a hefty fine, or worse, serve up to six months in jail.


Maldives
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Since Maldives is almost 99% sea, it is not surprising that fish (mainly tuna) is the most important staple of the Maldivian diet. The cuisine found in the island nation is a mix of Arabic, IndianSri Lankan, and Oriental influences. But the ninety odd tourist resorts scattered throughout the islands host diverse international menus, so it’s entirely possible to eat your way around the world while staying in luxury at one of these resorts.

Coconuts are a major part of many dishes in Maldives and can be served in grated form, as milk, or as coconut oil, which is used to deep fry foods. Favorite fish include skipjack tuna, little tunney, yellowfin tuna, frigate tuna, bigeye scad, wahoo and mahi-mahi.

If you do have the opportunity to try ‘local’ food, some Maldives specialties worth sampling include bis keemiya (samosa), kulhi boakiba (spicy fish cake), boshi mashuni (banana flower salad), garudhiya (fragrant fish soup), fihunu mas (barbecued fish basted in chili), huni roshi (chapati bread) and saagu bondibai (sago pudding). Also give a tastily try dining on ghula (pastry balls that are stuffed with soked fish), masrohi, and thelui mas (fried fresh fish cooked in garlic and chile). Please note that as the islands are an Islamic nation, the population does not drink alcohol; however, it is available in most resorts. Locals instead prefer to drink sai or tea. Raa is a traditional drink and is a toddy that has been tapped from palm trees.

Accommodations –Accommodations – Our itinerary has links to each hotel.  Our’s are extraordinary.  Hotels can change, but it’s rare.

Roomies – Single supplements have significantly increased – if available at all.  Save money and buy yourself an awesome local gift. We all live alone, but save money when traveling by rooming together. Suzy spends a lot of time on roommate matching.  99% of our clients are wonderful and you’re only in your room to sleep at night.   Note, kindness begets kindness.

Recommended Options –  See itinerary for Abu Dhabi Day Tour.

Leisure Time –  For your free time, it’s best to arrive and ask our local expert guides for suggestions.  We notice many newer clients pre-plan many activities on the AFS trip well before they arrive, often with disappointing results.  Our daily itineraries are pretty full, but there will be some free time. Expert travelers revel in the element of surprise in a new destination and allow the wind to blow them where it will. Use Google Maps on your phone to find everything nearby.

Amending tour pre-or post-trip or arranging private tours during free time.  We often see many AFSers on Facebook urging others to join them to countries before/after our trip. Stopovers are great to add, but understand AFS has nothing to do with this and is not responsible for the quality of these trips.

Private Facebook Group Page  –  The benefit of the Private FB Group Page is that you have an opportunity to introduce yourself to your fellow travelers before departure and share trip photos during and after the tour.  Where can I find the FB link? Ask us for an invite.

(We found that some never read the Trip Tips jumping right to the Private FB Group Page assuming they will get all trip info needed. Often, they only receive rumors and misinformation. All important information is ALWAYS emailed to each participant and posted here in Trip Tips under UPDATES. Nobody misses a thing.)

Emergency Contact – AFS Phone 770-432-8225, or email us at https://www.afstravelers.com/contact-us/  and more contacts will be provided with your Final Docs email 2 weeks before departure.  Your guide can handle a call home for a true emergency. Do not expect to use your trip leader’s cell phone; you’ll need to use your own cell phone.  3 weeks prior to departure more details on this will be emailed.

Cancellation Penalty –  At booking, we sent you our terms and conditions. Click here for our Terms & Conditions   Briefly, we will refund your deposit less 50% until 6 weeks prior trip’s final payment due date.   Any cancellation after this date will result in full forfeiture of your deposit. AFS reserves the right to resell or otherwise use the canceled space at our discretion.

Travel Insurance– While travel insurance is optional, in today’s world we highly encourage you to get standard coverage to cover trip interruption and cancellation.  Call to ask what Covid coverage they have.   Some companies cover Covid related issues. Best source for all is www.insuremytrip.com.   CFAR or cancel for any reason covers Covid but is expensive.  Note that no company covers for fear.

Preexisting conditions – If you would like the security of travel insurance and have a pre-existing condition (elderly parent, medical, etc.), you must purchase insurance within 15 days from your initial trip deposit in order to assure full coverage.  The trip cost can be amended or adjusted as needed after your initial purchase (eg. like adding an air ticket cost later). You can buy travel insurance at any time, just know that there may be some possible limitations if purchased outside the 15 day period.  We like TravelSafe, World Nomads and Seven Corners.

Travel Psychology 101  – Prepare for your departure joyfully with no contempt before investigation upon arrival. Please understand that with travel, things are not like at home and changes may occur. Great trips work best for those with an open mind, flexible attitude and adventuresome spirit.  If changes occur, embrace them with serendipity. Who knows?… The unexpected may prove to be a better experience.  Adapt and go with the flow with a laid-back attitude.  Be spontaneous. Be tolerant of foreign cultures in respecting their centuries of traditions. Embrace the differences. Be curious, not shy. Smile – locals will sense your energy of kindness and kindness always begets kindness.  Our common goal is to experience different cultures, make new friends, get great photos, have large fun, and return home safely with memories worthy of recollection.

The best spirit of an Explorer requires the openness of a child – Suzy

“When traveling, remember that a foreign country isn’t designed to make you comfortable.  It’s designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clinton Fadiman

Please note that AFS is non-partisan – With our homogeneous groups, we all want to focus on the common denominator – our love of travel.  In today’s divisive world, we suggest members not discuss politics and if you must, please practice my rule of TOK:  Tolerance, Open-mindedness and Kindness.

Book AFS with Confidence – Thank you for booking! We are blown away by the support from all of you throughout this pandemic. It validates the trust and values AFS was built on over 35 years. As countries reopen, so will we. Travel is a shared experience. Together we press on and travel boldly. Below are new guidelines. We all must adapt and embrace any challenges with confidence for the freedom and privilege to travel.

As in life itself, travel comes with some inherent risk the minute we step out our door.   Travel isn’t dangerous. Being irresponsible is. For your protection we want you to be proactive in following new health guidelines. They involve teamwork and personal responsibility, but they do not preclude you from having fun and enjoying your trip! Things constantly change and it’s a huge challenge for airlines, airports, hotels, cruises and tour companies.  We will do our best to keep you up to date with any adjustments.   Please understand we reserve the right to amend any tour activities if needed. To present responsible travel, we at AFS do our part: Our vetted suppliers uphold the highest standards under CDC guidelines.

Safety measures on a trip; frequent handwashing, (bring personal sanitizer) and wear a mask when applicable. Insurance provides trip cancellation, but not from fear, trip interruption, added medical protection. Call them to understand coverage. We are not responsible for any additional cost to you due to quarantine or illness

Our Pledge to You – Our global, vetted suppliers uphold the highest standards under new CDC guidelines.

  • We ensure that heightened sanitation methods have been adopted in every place we visit and that all hotel properties and vehicles have passed cleanliness protocols.
  • Our guides and drivers must be vaccinated and pass stringent safety measures.
  • Most of our groups will be limited to half the size of normal in the past.
  • We are choosing destinations with wide-open spaces for physical distancing.
  • Some private tours for groups of friends only can be arranged.
  • We’ll monitor your trip closely and provide a 24/7 emergency number if your trip is disrupted.
  • All clients must take the AFS pledge that they are COVID-free and will follow all the safety protocols.

Your Pledge to AFS  – We ask you to assume personal responsibility to protect your health and the well-being of your fellow travelers, guides and locals.  Know the COVID rules of the airlines you’ll fly.  Get vaccinated (if you choose not, it’s your responsibility to follow PCR tests.)

  • Read and print all updated Trip Tips on your trip’s AFS webpage.
  • Get travel insurance with trip interruption
  • Stay healthy with vitamin D and zinc
  • Confirm within 14 days of departure but you have no symptoms of Covid nor being in close contact with anyone diagnosed with it.
  • You agree to assume any risk of participating in trip activities, comply with applicable government, airline and health authorities.  Some suppliers may request signature on waiver of liability.
  • Exercise social distancing and local guides directions whenever possible.
  • Sanitize your hands and phone throughout.
  • Read more here –  https://www.afstravelers.com/terms-and-conditions/

Covid Travel Rules are ever-changing depending on country and time of year.  Therefore, we created a single Covid rule page so everything can be up-to-date for participants on our trips.   Click Here for the latest Covid Travel Rules

 

 

Covid travel rules seem to mutate faster than the virus.  To keep groups up to date with the latest information, we created a page that’s up to date.  Set a reminder for yourself to check the Covid page 7 days before your departure. 

Dubai Maldives
Sir Bani Island
Ski Dubai at Mall of Emirates
https://www.dubaimiraclegarden.com/