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    I have been in the market for an international cell phone for a while now.  I travel overseas once in while and I'm used to just buying a pre-paid phone card for use at a payphone.  That’s fine, but kind of a pain in the-you know what.  I mean, in many cities it's not that easy to find a store that sells the calling cards and if they do, then you think to yourself, they’re not as cheap as the last store.  Even if you find an inexpensive phone card, you still have to find a pay phone.  Chances are when you do come across one someone will either be in it for a while, or it may be broken and for sure... not that clean.  
    When I was in Europe a few months ago my cousin, Dennis, he rented a cell phone through our hotel concierge.  It was mighty convenient, until he received the bill at check out.  OUCH!  It was over two dollars a minute to call home and he had to pay a huge set up fee and daily service charge.  In the long run it wasn't worth it.  Last month, I was walking around the mall trying to find Amber Airplane and I came across a Cingular store.  I believe that in the USA; Cingular, T-Mobile, and AT&T offer GSM cellular phones that will work overseas.  These cell phones, known as tri-band cell phones, are becoming more and more prevalent.  If your current cell phone is not a tri-band, then you will not be able to use it outside of North America.  If you do use one of these companies, then it becomes quite confusing on the rates depending where you are and may end up paying more than necessary. And please note that your now-local contacts will need to make an international call to contact you, even if you are next door.  I almost bought one of these GSM phones the other day, but when I found out it will cost for incoming and out going at my next destination, I said to myself "forget it, I will just go the prehistoric phone card way".  
    Then, about two days before I left for Australia I received an email out of fate. It was from a company called Cellular Abroad and they rent and sell international cell phones.  What I read sounded too good to be true, but I made a deal with Cellular Abroad, and everything they told me turned out to be true.  Now, how often does that happen?  This is what was explained to me:  Basically, you need a phone and a SIM card.  Cellular Abroad can rent or sell the handset and then customers must purchase the SIM card.  Most people purchase a package deal for the country of their destination or destinations so that they have everything they need. Then, next time you take a trip, all you have to do is buy a SIM card for the destination(s).  Cellular Abroad encourages buying a package because it is 1) heavily discounted, 2) the phone is really good in terms of battery life, reception and ease of use, 3) in the long run (generally if you take even one more trip), you will save money as opposed to renting. 4) It is a tri-band phone that can be used here in the US. The only place this phone won't work is Japan - but they have prepaid phones (with free incoming calls) for Japan as well.
    Sounds good, huh?  Well, I got the package deal.  Once I got the phone and the SIM card (which is the brain of the phone and easily slips into the back of the phone) I charged it so it will be ready to go when we land.  By the way, Cellular Abroad also provides the electrical converters.  The SIM card, is actually a chip, and is what gives you your service while the handset enables you to use it.  The card not only gives you a local number, but X amount of talk time.  When you exceed your talk time, you will have to buy a recharge.  In Australia they came in dominations of $30, $50 or $100 (AUS dollars, so minus 40%) and are available in over 6,000 stores.  I bought mine in convenient stores, pharmacies, post offices, gas stations, etc.,
    If your travels take you to another country, then you will need to buy just a SIM card for your next trip.  Cellular Abroad also provides them and they are not that expensive.  For example, when I go to Italy I will purchase a SIM card and it will cost me US$89.00, England US$59.00, Hong Kong US$69.00.  For more SIM Card rates .  Again, the card will have a local number and X amount of talk time.   
    The best part about the phone is the low rates.  Therefore, when I travel overseas, I can call my family, friends and colleagues back home for cheap. I even called Dennis to rub it in. Guess how much it cost me to call him in Chicago from Australia?  Try 0.29 cents a minute! And you know what the best part is?  That's in Australian dollars!  So it's about 17 cents a minute in US currency. Hello!  Not only that, even if I ran out of talk time, I still received incoming phone calls.  ... Because incoming phone calls are free!  FREE!

    I shared the phone with my brother and Amber , so we did use it a lot.  Especially Frank, who would make 30-minute phone calls to his office.  You know how much that cost him?  It was AUD$8.70, or about US$5.00 to call halfway around the world for about thirty minutes.  Now that's what I am talking about.      
    What are you waiting for?  Travel like a pro call and 800.287.3020 or email for info or click Cellular Abroad now.  Mention Johnny Jet and you and receive a $10.00 discount, US of course!
Didn't have a chance to read last week's newsletter? Click here!

G'day mates!  We you left off last week just before our first night's rest in Australia.  As I had mentioned before, the time change in Sydney is 19 hours from Los Angeles and 16 from New York.  It actually sounds a lot worse than it really is. For me, it's only 5 hours back and a day forward.  Huh? Well, if it's 5pm on March 27, in L.A., then it's noon in Sydney, but on March 28. See what I mean? It's really not that tough.  After I travel multiple time zones, I have a pattern that I try to follow for the first night.  I believe the first night sets the pace for the rest of a trip and therefore it's really important for the traveler to get into a good sleeping pattern. 

The first thing I do is hang the “do not disturb” sign on the door, and then triple check the alarm to make sure it won't go off in the middle of the night. I’m always paranoid of that, because it seems like every time I forget to check, the alarm goes off.  It really irks me when some over-worked person who occupied my room the night before, and leaves the alarm volume so high that when it goes off at 5am it sounds like a fire!  After, making those adjustments, I then go take a hot shower and jump in bed and hopefully fall asleep.   Of course I use ear plugs and a comfortable night mask.    

This time, Down Under, it worked. Unfortunately, I did forget to put a bottle of water by my bed, which is indeed the reason I woke up just before dawn with a severe case of dry mouth. Those long flights will do it to you every time. This time it was even worse than my trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico last year.  It was so bad that I couldn't even close my mouth or move my tongue!  For a second there, I thought maybe my brother stuffed his dirty sock in my mouth, which wouldn't surprise me because when I was a kid, I would always wake up in the middle of the night whenever Frank had a sleep over.  It almost became routine to hear laughter and "Johnny's an alien" after he and his friends put a pair of tighty-whitey underwear over my head, and call it a "space helmet".  This time, lucky for Frank that wasn't the case. 

I went stumbling to the bathroom in the pitch black. Trying to find aqua! Feeling and, I'm sure, looking like Frankenstein in the Got Milk commercial.  I finally arrived to, what by now truly was, my oasis; the sink. My hair was flat, eyes squinted, eyebrows raised and my mouth wide open. A painful sight.  Even for me. This is one time a "space helmet " would surely have made me a better sight to see.  I didn't want to turn the light on and wake the others, so I had found my way into the bathroom by feeling and you know, I couldn't find the light switch anywhere (yeah, it was outside of the room). I nearly knocked everything off of the counter while longing for water. BTW: Tap water in Australia is safe to drink, but it doesn't taste all that great.

While we’re talking about the bathroom, I need to remind you that Australia is home to the Red Back poisonous spider and the most deadly snakes in the world. So I sure thought about checking twice before sitting down, if you know what I mean.  I also thought about the story I had heard while in Hong Kong the last time I was there.  The story was about a very unlucky Chinese dude who was going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and made the mistake of not checking the pot.  Apparently, he sat on his throne and was promptly greeted by a 15-foot python that made its way through the piping.  You don't want me to tell you the rest, so better check the bowl, than be sorry!

I try and learn from other people's mistakes, so I went searching for the matches like a mad man.  I tipped the rest of the contents that were in Amber's toiletry bag over until I found them tucked away.  I lit one, looked, smiled, sat, and then forgot I had the match in my hand.  Big mistake.  I was too busy looking around the room for imaginary spiders that I ended doing the Dion Sanders high step to the tub.  My finger was throbbing with sensational pain, and I cussed as quietly as I could to myself.  Obviously, I was wide-awake by now, but I still couldn't see my way back to bed.  I was moving much faster, so when I stubbed my toe on Amber Airplane's brand new box of shoes that she doesn't need, it really hurt.  Everyone else was up now because this time, I didn't bother to swear softly.  Needless to say they weren't happy with me and all this happened because I forget to leave a damn bottle of H20 by the bed.   I told you this story so you can learn from my mistake.

Since we’re on the subject of toilets, I have to say Australia's are pretty cool.  Most of them have these buttons on top for either a half or full flush.  Now that's a great way to not waste water.  I think if we had them here in the states, they just would number them "1" and "2", right?
Who could sleep after all that?  Not us.  We checked our watches, 5:50am and decided we might as well go and watch the sunrise at the Opera House. Getting up with the roosters is one of the best travel tips for any tourist destination. This way you can enjoy the place without the busloads of people and have some peaceful moments to yourself.  The sky was starting to get light so Frank made us run down to the Opera house to ensure we would catch the sunrise.  The place was empty, except for a few locals getting in shape.  I was so excited that I just kept snapping pictures of the harbor, which I almost accidentally took a dip in.  Like a fool, I ran down one of the gang planks to get a better picture of the bridge, jumped on the dock which I didn’t realize was wet, and slid all the way across to the end.  I looked like a cartoon character sliding and twirling my arms to catch my balance.  It was almost ugly, again!  

Sydney's most famous landmark has to be the Opera House.  It was built between 1959 and 1973 and had a lot of construction and political delays.  In fact the Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, resigned midway through because of the political turmoil.  That's all in the past and today it's one of the world’s most popular subjects for photographers.  I mean it's hard to take a bad picture with that in the background even after you've just woken up.  The roofs are shaped like white sails but were supposedly inspired by palm fronds.  I don't see the palm fronds, but either way it's beautiful.  Their are all kinds of performances taken place, from theater (we’ll tell you about that a little later), to classical music, ballet, film, and of course the seasonal opera performances.  They also offer guided tours which we passed on, but would be interesting.  We were just so thrilled to be there.  Frank pretended he was Rocky, Amber, Ginger Rodgers and I, Inspector Clouseau.  This is what the roof looks like.
Adjacent to the Opera house is the Royal Botanic Gardens.  Naturally (pun intended), we walked through and it's really quiet in there and indeed peaceful.  And how many public places do you see a sign that says, "Please walk on the grass"?  The gardens have everything you might expect and more. Take a look at this  picture and guess what's hanging from the tree?  Pineapples? No remember, they grow on the ground. They’re bats. That’s right: bats!  And they are big ole' bats, too. We’d spotted them the night before flying around Hyde Park at dusk and wondered where they came from.  Now we know.  This is where they hang out (Get it?) during the day.  According to one of the park workers, there are about 5,000 in the Gardens, and supposedly 10,000 in Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens.  They official name is Grey-headed Flying-foxes, but to me they are big ole' bats.  You can learn all about them here .   If you would like to take a better look around the garden, then click here (I found it on the web). The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney Mrs. Macquaries Road, tel. + 02.9231.8111

After getting our early morning exercise we stopped at an outdoor cafe. This local spot was one of Amber Airplane's favorite meals of the trip.  The ham, egg, cheese, and pineapple were mighty tasty, but then again so was everything else we had.  What's weird about Australia is that people are not expected to tip.  According to the locals, the general rule is to tip around 5% or round up to the nearest $10 for a nice meal in a restaurant.  For taxi's, just round up to the nearest dollar in a cab, but you don't have too.  (WARNING: Don't try this in NYC!)  Most people tip bellhops and porters but no one tips bar staff or hairdressers.  It was too weird for us not to tip, so we did, but looking back we tipped way too much.   

We went back to the room, showered and headed down to Circular Quay to catch a ferry to Manly Beach.  Circular Quay is built around Sydney Cove and is considered by many to be the heart of the city.  It's main focus here is transportation.  They have plenty of ferries, busses, taxis, and a train stop.  Ferries are a key way to get around Sydney and they depart often. Not only do they get you to your destination quicker but you get to enjoy one of the most beautiful harbours close up.   (The big joke on Americans is that supposedly during the Olympics, one of us tried to buy a ticket to the Great Barrier Reef.  I think it's just the Aussie's way to poke fun at us, because who doesn't know the reef is 1,200 miles away?  (More on that later).   Those Aussies, sure are a bunch of funny bugger's, aren't they?

It's a thirty-minute ferry over to Manly, and we were on one of those 300 passenger boats, so no worries about getting sea sick.  Besides, it doesn't look like the harbor gets very rough.  The fare is $5 each way, which was reasonable.  When we arrived, we had about a quarter of a mile walk from the wharf to the beach.  The main street everyone takes, is a pedestrian walkway, known as ‘the Corso.’  The Corso reminded me of an older version of the Third Street Promenade, in Santa Monica.  It offers plenty of shops, restaurants and good people watching.  This is where we saw one of the few protesters we passed in all of Australia.  He was a friendly fellow with no hate in his bones, just peace.  

The weather in Manly was perfect and so was the beach.   Manly Beach is quite beautiful.  What I like about it the most, are the tall Norfolk Pines that line the beach.  The smell of the pines and ocean together is something cool and special.  I wish I could have bottled it.  The sand here is white and the surf is up!  The surfing here is supposedly some of the best in the area.  We walked along the footpath about another quarter of a mile and enjoyed all the scenery.  Then we came across to the quaint little cove of Shelly Beach.  Now this is why they call it Shelly.  There are spectacular views of the ocean from here and million dollar homes.  Instead of eating at all the touristy cafes on the Corso, take the walk and dine at the very nice and pricier alternative, Le Kiosk.  Amber and I had chicken wings served over some of the best Asian noodles we have ever had, while Frank chowed down on fish.  LeKiosk; is at 1 Marine Parade, Manly NSW 2095 – tel. + 02.9977.4122
I can't believe I am only on day 3 of our 14 day trip.  This is crazy!  I thought I would be done by now, but it looks like I have a few more issues before we get to our next hot spot!  BTW: I am headed back to LAX tonight for another long flight.  I will give you a couple of clues.  I have never been on the airline or to the destination, which is popular for honeymooners. It is very far from LAX and even farther from JFK. The colors, artistic designs, and name of the airline alone will make you want to go there. Any ideas? Oh, and yes, of course Amber Airplane is coming along.

I wish you all safe travels, whether you are running to the store or on a long trip, with special thoughts for the men and women sent into harms way.

Cheers, Johnny Jet

  • This week's Johnny Jet Newsletter was the best ever. It was well laid out and very informative. You did an excellent job and I was happy not to see any Manatees. Dad - Erie, PA
  • John: I have to tell you again, that was a beautiful opening to your audience in your 'Where's Johnny Jet newsletter. It was so simple, so touching, yet so diplomatic. I salute you. General Dad
  • Love your website. I use it everyday!  Sara - Michigan
  • Glad to hear that Johnny Jet enjoyed his stay in Oz, but what about God Bless Australia? Hoot -Down Under REPLY: Thank YOU for pointing that out as I should've written God Bless The World.
  • My husband and I were ONCE avid travelers. Now we're pregnant, and while we're thrilled about that, we're a little glum that we're grounded till the baby can don hiking boots. Your newsletter is a little jolt of travel buzz for us. Thanks a lot! Regards-- Vicki R. - Columbus, OH
  • A co-worker just e-mailed me your newsletter on Australia. My destination on April 19th is Australia. It's nice to know that some countries still like the Americans. In these terrible times travel seems frivolous. On September 11th, 2001 I arrived from a red-eye Las Vegas flight at Logan Airport 8:00 A.M. in same terminal as that fateful flight. I also live in the same town as Captain John Oganowski (the captain on American Airlines Flight11). I have continued to fly with less pleasure, but still know you can't give up the spirit of adventure. Safe journeys, may your spirit continue to soar.  Sincerely, Linda - Massachusetts
  • I don't know if I have ever enjoyed one of your stories more; you, Frank, Jr. and Amber Airplane laughing like that was so well described I actually snorted a little myself, the only difference is I am sitting at my desk and my boss came in with very serious (attorney grievance matters) stuff. That photo of your brother looking at that lobster was so "goofy", they cracked me up. And the Crocodile Dundee hat suited him nicely. Liz H. - Connecticut
  • Just want to drop you a line and tell you that we’re really keen on your website. Thanks for giving such a great website.  Regards, Supattra – Thailand REPLY: Hey thanks, your beautiful country is on my “short list” of places to visit! So, I hope to see you on the beach soon!
  • You are so adorable and I just love reading your newsletter. I especially love the photo of you relaxing in first class on your way to Australia.  Lee - San Francisco
  • Q. I am planning a trip to Australia for the month of May.  I read the story of your trip with great pleasure and look forward to seeing the pictures.  I am looking for a backpacker hotel to stay in for three nights, but I can't seem to find the right information. Would you happen to have a list of such places in Sydney? Thanks a lot for your help, Veronique – Cannes, France.  REPLY: Veronique, thanks for the email.  I would try these links:,,   I would also try Airport Traveler Services mentioned in last weeks Where’s Johnny Jet. They can be found in the baggage claim area at the Sydney airport.  We went to the one in the Qantas Domestic Terminal and their competitor is in the International Terminal and has comparable prices.  I spoke with an agent named Claire, who had a great selection of bargains.  They have plenty of budget hotels available.  Traveler's Services’ telephone number is + 02.9654.3420 and their fax number is + 02. 9654.3422.You can use email:  Bon Voyage! Johnny Jet

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What can you do to minimize your own potential exposure to infection (this article reports that more than 50% of health workers caring for stricken people have, in turn, become affected)?  The CDC is recommending that you avoid non-essential travel to the primary affected regions (Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Singapore).  Beyond that, about the only thing you can do is to try not to travel on continuations of flights from such regions (so as to minimize your contact with people from those regions), and to perhaps limit your travels domestically to airlines that don't have any appreciable international business.  For example, most of the major carriers operate flights to/from Asia, but airlines like Southwest or JetBlue of course do not.

The CDC doesn't yet have a clear understanding of exactly what this illness is, but the situation is developing daily and some breakthroughs seem likely.  More information and daily updates can be found on the CDC website.

From David M Rowell aka The Travel Insider 

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International Driver's Permits by Ed Hewitt The Independent Traveler

If you are traveling to an English-speaking country, chances are you'll be able to get by with an American driver's license. However, many other countries will ask that you also obtain an International Driver's Permit (IDP), which is basically just a piece of paper that translates your information into 11 different languages, and is recognized by over 150 countries. If you are planning to rent a car abroad, you may be asked to present one along with your regular state license.

To obtain one, go down to your local AAA with two passport photos (with your signature on the back of each) and a copy of your state-issued license. You will be asked to pay a fee of $10 for a one-year issue and fill out an application, which can be printed online beforehand if you want to get a head start, or if you want to send it in by mail. If you are overseas and cannot visit a AAA office, mail your completed application to:

1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mailstop #28

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