Vietnam Travel Tour: Planning a Peaceful Invasion

Perhaps for most of us, Vietnam is more likely to be associated with epic war films due to its historical background. But there’s more to it than being a mere battleground in movies. Its rich culture intermingled with breath taking highlands and terraces, pristine beaches and diverse island landscapes make it an ideal option for the next big adventure trip. Thus from north to south, here’s a ‘debriefing’ travel guide for you to conquer Vietnam’s top tourist attractions.

Infiltration and Timing

There are two approaches in ‘invading’ Vietnam, landing by plane in Hanoi and going south, or through Saigon heading north. Moving in and around the country can be through buses, trains or domestic flights. The optimal season to visit northern Vietnam is from May until October during summertime as winter times are cold and gloomy. Meanwhile, December to April is the best time to drop by the southern part as this is the dry season of the year.

Conquering Strategic Sites

Starting from Hanoi which is the country’s capital, one immediate jump-off is the Hoan Kiem Lake, which means “Lake of the Restored Sword”. This beautiful lake is one of the foremost scenic spots in the metropolis being embedded with a rich cultural history. Approximately 165 kilometers northeast from Hanoi is the Ha Long Bay. It is set in a 120 kilometer long coast line and literally means “Bay of Descending Dragons”. Being the top tourist attraction in Vietnam, Ha Long Bay comprises more than a thousand islands, each capped with abundant jungle vegetation, forming a fascinating seascape of limestone pillars. Some of the islands are hollow, having enormous caves within. No wonder it is among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Numerous travel tour companies provide packages for cruising the bay.

Meanwhile, located near the Chinese border northwest of Vietnam is the Fansipan Mountain, which is the highest peak in all Indochina at 3,143 metres. Also, Sa Pa rice terraces can be found situated in the Muong Hoa valley, between Sa Pa town and the Fansipan mountain. Local tour companies will arrange hikes to both the rice terraces and summit taking a few days.

Going Further South

Marching downward the map, one should not miss the tallest pagoda in Vietnam, the Thien Mu Pagoda. Comprising seven stories high, it overlooks the Perfume River and is considered as the unofficial representation of the former imperial capital. Then, next stop is the fishing village of Hoi An situated on the South China Sea coast. It is commonly called the “Venice of Vietnam” because of the narrow canals that traverse part of the town.

Advancing further down, Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most popular seaside resort town positioned along the second most outstanding bays in the country. It also happens to be the country’s scuba diving capital. It features beautiful beaches with pristine sand and crystal clear water.

Don’t forget to pass by the Cu Chi Tunnels. They are an immense network of underground connecting tunnels located roughly 40 km northwest of Saigon. They were utilized by the Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding places during the Vietnam War. They have now become a favorite tourist attraction in Vietnam.

Take a glimpse of how life is in the Mekong Delta, a region in southern Vietnam which is a very rich and lush area that produces nearly half of Vietnam’s agricultural output. Interestingly, all the villages are often accessible by river rather than taking the road.

Before the battle is to be won, plant your victory flag in Phu Quoc, the largest island in Vietnam located in front of Cambodia. The island’s features and intact coral reefs will surely calm your wary soul. One of its beaches, named Bai Dai (Long Beach), was even selected by the ABC News as one of the five clean and beautiful beaches. Phu Quoc is also known for producing the best nuoc mam or fermented fish sauce in the world. Sounds fishy? Take the Vietnam travel tour challenge and see for yourself.

Your New Woodwrking Business – Knowing What To Charge

When selling your wood projects, what you charge for your final product is an important aspect of your woodworking business. If your prices are too high, you will lose customers, but if your prices are too low you risk the ability of having a profitable business that will provide you with the necessary income. This is a challenge that faces many woodworkers when starting a new woodworking business.

A good formula for determining a good price point for any specific product is to calculate the costs of materials, shop supplies, shop expenses and any subcontractor fees.

The total of these expenses is multiplied by whatever number that gives you a product price that is equal to your anticipated profit and your costs combined. Although this is pretty basic, it can be a little tricky.

Here’s a simple way to calculate all of the cost factors involved.

First, base your material costs on the price of the wood used and add 15% for waste. Add in any cost of fasteners, hardware and shop supplies like sandpaper, thinners, solvents, etc.

The next step is to come up with an overall hourly rate for your shop. The best way to do this is to combine your shop expenses with what you want to charge for your own time and labor.

Start by calculating all your woodworking business shop expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, machinery maintenance, advertising and any other shop related costs. The easiest way to come up with an hourly figure for your own time is to determine how much you would be earning if you worked for somebody else.

An average month has 4.33 weeks, and if you plan on a 40 hour week that comes out to about 175 hours a month. Add up all of your shop expenses and divide that total by 175. Now take that number and add it to what you want to charge for personal labor and you now have your shop’s hourly rate.

You now have a basic outline of how to calculate prices for any of your products. Here is a simple example:

Let’s keep the numbers simple and assume that your shop expenses are $875.00 each month. That would come out to $5.00 an hour for a 175 hour month.

Now add you’re your personal labor charge. Let’s use $20.00/hour for this example.

So the shop’s hourly labor rate would be:

$5.00 + $20.00 = $25.00

The materials for this project cost $300.00 and the time spent was 30 hours. Your price for the project should be:

($25.00 x 30) + $300.00 = $1050.00

At this point, you need to determine whether or not you are going to add in any amount for your profit margin. This is important to any woodworking business and should be added. The industry standard is 15%.

For this example the profit margin would be 15% of $1050.00 or $157.50 and you would add this to come up with a final price.

$1050.00 + 157.50 = $1207.50 Final Price

This is a pretty basic approach to calculating product costs based on your overall expenses and it is effective. Of course, if your expenses are very low your prices will also be lower and more affordable. On the other hand, high expenses have the opposite effect. A good reputation is very important to your woodworking business, so be fair and give good quality for the money.

The Kinds Of Car Keys To Choose From

The automotive industry has come a long way and today car keys are no longer the old style mechanical cut versions. Of course there are several brands that still use this form of keys, but there are numerous other versions out there as well. In mechanical keys, they are machine cut as the name suggests and are more popular with brands such as Ford, GM or even Chevrolet. There are quite a few truck models too that works with these forms of keys. Despite the numerous models of cars on the road, the machine cut continues to be a favourite.

The next version you have is the laser cut automotive keys. These are the advanced versions of the machine cut keys and are also called the sidewinder or the internal cut keys. They have a square edge which have matching cuts on either side. These can fit into a car’s ignition any way you like. Their advantages are that they are not easy to pick and will need specialized help. There is a unique software used in its production and those manning the machines will need specialized training as well. These are found in luxury brand cars like that of Mercedes as well as Audi.

There are several other popular styles of car keys available. You have the transponder keys that have a minute computer chip inserted in the key handle. This is for additional ignition security and to prevent the key from being forged. There is the remote or the switchblade form of transponder keys.

Then you have the smart keys which have a laser cut key that is built in. These kinds of keys gives the driver the flexibility of entering the car and starting it without actually taking the key out of his pocket. Then you have what is known as the VATS keys. This has a unique chip on the blade which though not electronic in nature, has got the name.

And then you have what are known as valet keys. These are given along with a regular transponder key. There is however a slight modification to it, where you can open doors and ignition, but not a locked boot or trunk. These can be made out of plastic or metal.

There are several varieties of keys and the kind you get will depend on the kind of vehicle you pick up. This is essential to the safety of your car and you.

Immersing in New Cultures Through Travel

There is often pressure to see the sights when you travel to a place for the first time. These sights often have more tourists than space for you to move. You may be at the Eiffel Tower, but you share the experience with a few hundred other strangers. Your photos include strangers’ faces and most of your memories include waiting in line.

This may be the price you pay to see the world’s famous sights, but it is no way to experience unique cultures. Travel is not simply taking a photograph next to monuments; it is experiencing something new and far from your comfort zone. Below are some tips to help you get to know your travel destination beyond travel guides and pre-made itineraries:

Go off Book

Having a travel itinerary saves you time and money. You can get a lot done by following your schedules to the minute. Despite this, you can get to know a place better if you do away with overly strict time tables. When planning a trip, make approximate schedules to give you time to savor each activity or place. Instead of taking a tour bus, you may want to experience public transportation and get to know the city.

Choose an Interesting Hotel

You do not have to leave your hotel to experience your location. Some places have well-known hotels with themes and historical value. You can even look at accommodations in an art district hotel. You can very well get to know the true image of a city by visiting artisan and specialty shops around this district. People around these places are usually cultured and interesting to strike a conversation with.

Lose Yourself

A wrong turn into small streets can be scary, but it is an adventure for the true traveler. Allow yourself to be lost one day but make sure you have the money to return to your hotel. This is a good way to walk into quaint little establishments and remove you from places with too many tourists. Even asking a local for directions can have you learning something new about the place in no time.

Try the Local Cuisine

Food is the best and easiest way to get to know a place. Skip the big coffee shop brands and international fast food chains. You can order local dishes on restaurants, but if you want to experience the real flavors of the special cuisine, dine in hole-in-the-wall eateries. You will experience authentic local food while saving money as these places do not often charge big money for dishes.

Travel during Holidays and Festivals

Each place has their traditions and holidays. If you have a flexible vacation schedule, book your trip in time for big holidays and festivities. This is when the locals come out and wear their cultures with pride. There is often a lot of action and activity surrounding special holidays. It could be a learning experience or just a really fun weekend for any outsider looking in.

The world is too big and life is too short to spend it in one place. Splurging on experiences has longer positive effects than spending all your money on material possessions. You no longer have to be afraid of travel expenses. There are plenty of ways to get discounts if you know where to look. Check online resources for features of hotel types such as an art district hotel.

The Paradox of Drug Abuse and Euphoria

One of the most significant reasons that people abuse drugs is for the euphoric effects they provide. While many might argue that people use substances to escape reality, to cope with stress and an unlimited number of other reasons, the fact of the matters is that euphoria makes these things possible: drugs cause people to feel good, even if they weren’t necessarily feeling bad to begin with. Unfortunately, the neurological nature of addiction tells us that substance abuse actually makes it more challenging for people to feel euphoria, happiness and contentment.

How Drug Abuse Works: Understanding the Role of Dopamine

The following is a highly simplified explanation of the processes at work when a person abuses drugs:

1.) Drug is consumed which sends signals to neurons in the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine (or others in some cases).

2.) Dopamine binds with specialized receptors and produces a feeling of well-being, contentment and euphoria.

3.) Drugs prevent dopamine re-uptake, essentially leaving the substance in the brain for much longer than would ever occur in a natural environment.

4.) Dopamine stimulates the reward center of the brain, which creates a contextual log of the event to use as cues to prompt the user to repeat the behavior. (This is based on the theory that addiction is a byproduct of an innate evolutionary survival mechanism.)

And with these four steps, the groundwork for addiction has been laid.

Tolerance: Another Evolutionary Survival Mechanism

In order to offset the effects of chemical substances, the central nervous system will make changes to receptors and neuronal circuitry to create a resistance to the drug. This can be accomplished by making fewer receptors available, altering the structure of receptors, limiting or restricting their ability to bind to neurotransmitters, or by “disconnecting” parts of neuronal circuits.

The chemical resistance created by adaptations at the neuronal level means that the user will obtain less and less euphoric effect because the CNS essentially views the drug as an invading foreign substance that interferes with the proper working functions of the brain. Of course, this is exactly what drug abuse is; persistent self-inflicted poisoning.

In order to offset the euphoria-limiting effects of tolerance, drug users will simply increase their dosages accordingly. This prompts more changes in neurons – changes that by this point are becoming permanent for many addicts. Ultimately, these changes only make it harder to feel euphoria and generally lead to depression, thoughts of suicide, feelings of worthlessness and other debilitating emotions.

In fact, feelings that are specific to certain drugs, such as high-energy to cocaine, relaxation to marijuana and joy to opiates, are often reversed as the body becomes tolerant to the drugs that cause these responses. This is especially true when an addict suddenly stops using; by forcing drugs into their bodies for so long, they have effectively developed a tolerance to the very feelings they sought to achieve with their substance abuse in the first place.

To summarize, drug abuse can destroy a person’s ability to feel good. And because addiction often comes with repeated relapse events, each successive period of active drug addiction results in additional, permanent changes within the brain – changes that can have a lasting effect on the emotional and mental well-being of the user for the rest of their lives.

This isn’t information to be used as a scare tactic to keep people away from drugs; it’s nothing more than science expressed. People take drugs to feel good, but once addicted those feelings become harder and harder to achieve, even long after active drug use has stopped. This is why it is absolutely critical that if you or someone you love is abusing drugs, they must stop now. With each passing day and each successive “high,” the one thing that they seek – happiness – becomes more difficult to come by; often leading to personal disaster.

The ultimate paradox of drug abuse is that it robs from you what you seek from it.

Home-Based Can Mean Big Business

Nowadays, you can get started with less than one thousand dollars. This will buy you your own website, millions of dollars in inventory, sales and marketing tools, and a team of experienced entrepreneurs working with you every step of the way to help you achieve all your goals in life.

You don’t even need a warehouse with receiving and shipping departments. All you really need is a computer and telephone which most people have anyway.

Initially, I looked at franchises and distributorships when deciding about another business. One of the problems I saw with these two models was the large amount of capital needed to start in most cases. Although the potential rewards were high, the risk was more than I wanted to subject myself to in the current state of the economy.

Another problem was the need for office or warehouse space. This meant I would have the added expense of paying rent and utilities.

Other shortcomings include the long hours it would take to succeed and the need to hire and manage employees.

These were all added expenses and headaches that I didn’t really want or need.

I wanted this to be my last business but it had to be something substantial that I could continue to work at as I got closer to retirement age and possibly beyond.

Then, I looked into home-based businesses. I had a friend tell me about network marketing. My initial thought was that it wasn’t for me. My friend, unbeknownst to me, had been very successful at it and thought I could be too. I took him up on it and decided to explore it further.

I was glad that I did. The investment was small. The return has been greater than any I could have achieved in any other business.

The low risk and high reward far outweighed any other business model.

From past experience I can tell you that it is important to pick the right home-based business. A good support team is crucial to your success. In network marketing, you will need a good upline of people that you can call for help and expertise. Make sure that you choose something that interests you. Do something that you will enjoy talking about and will be passionate about.

A number of really successful people have commented that this is a business structure that will thrive in the coming years as baby boomers get older.

Most boomers don’t have enough money saved for retirement. Also, many of them are losing their jobs or having their hours reduced. Some are just tired of the corporate world.

I get one other benefit from my home-based business. The ability to help other people reach their goals and dreams in life. Most people are either afraid to start their own business or don’t have enough capital to do so. They are afraid to go it alone. Choose the right team and you will never run your business alone.

A home-based business can be the path to financial freedom for anyone.

What Is the Drug, Bath Salts?

Marketed under various names, including, “Bath Salts”, “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” Vanilla Sky,” and “Bliss”, the drug, MDPV has been the cause of numerous emergency room visits and thousands of calls to the Centers for Disease Control and Poison Control Centers over the last couple of years.

Bath Salts is actually a powerful stimulant that also has hallucinogenic properties. A relatively new psychotropic drug, it reportedly creates effects similar to other stimulants such as wakefulness, rapid heartbeat, reduction in appetite and anxiety.

However, this substance causes other, more worrisome and dangerous effects such as psychotic delusions, thoughts of suicide and violent behavior.

Are they really for the bath tub?

No, they’re not. They are labelled that way to avoid legal restrictions. Each packet is even clearly marked with, “Not For Human Consumption”, making it difficult to classify them as drugs. But the real purpose is definitely substance abuse. These packets contain various drugs, including the compound 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) or 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone). A dangerous designer drug, MDPV is popular with teens and some in the military because it doesn’t show on drug tests.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, between November 2010 and April 2011 in one county in Michigan, 35 persons who had ingested, inhaled, or injected “bath salts” visited a Michigan emergency department. Among the 35 patients, the most com­mon signs and symptoms of toxicity were agitation (23 patients [66%]), tachycardia (22 [63%]), and delusions/hallucinations (14 [40%]). Seventeen patients were hospitalized, and one was dead upon arrival at the ED.

So how can a product as apparently dangerous as this be sold legally to the public?

Any product sold in the United States that is classified as a drug must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The product is then classified according to criteria such as likelihood of abuse, it’s addictive potentials or any possible medicinal value. Then it can be sorted into one of several categories.

When a substance does not pass review along these guidelines, they are classified in the Schedule One category. These substances are not legal for any purpose.

But what if it’s NOT a drug? What if it is only an additive for the bath tub? Now special legislation is needed to outlaw it. This is the case with several of these new substances of abuse, bath salts is only one. Another is called “Spice”. Also known as K-2, spice is a drug that is labelled as incense in order to bypass legal requirements of a drug.

Many states have passed emergency legislation to outlaw these specific chemicals, but the makers just alter the compounds slightly, just enough to again slip through the legal nets.

Our best bet in the fight against these tactics is simply this, make the public aware of the dangers and very real consequences of using these chemicals. If enough truth about bath salts and spice or whatever comes next is pumped into the environment, repeatedly, we’ll see this latest and nearly craziest drug fad fade away and become a joke like “smoking banana peels” became back in the ’60s..

How Word of Mouth Promotion Can Help You Make Money Online

A lot of people have turned to blogging to make money online. These blogs range from providing up-to-date information about a specific type of product, topic or service like digital cameras, marathons, hemorrhoids, restaurants, etc. You name it and there’s bound to be a blog that talks about it on the internet.

But blogs are not just used for promoting products and services. Professionals from different industries have also discovered that they can make money from blogging by building a community of avid followers.

They start by building a personal brand and reputation online. Likewise, they put themselves out there and let people know that they genuinely want to help them. They then provide a mountain of tips and advices on their blog and sneak in some sales pitches in between to entice them to buy a product or two or even to avail of their services and in the process, make money online.

People, as well all know, are constantly looking for solutions to their problems online. So if they stumble upon your blog which is full of insights, suggestions and tips that are specific to their problems, they would not just visit your blog often, they would also want to share it with their personal network of family and friends! As your followers grow in number, so does your potential to make money online.

The question here now is, “how do you make sure that people find your blog?”

There are many ways to promote your blog online and I’m pretty sure that you’re well aware of some of them. However, there’s one channel that many professional marketers overlook and that is through word of mouth promotion. I know, it sounds pretty old school. But hey, it works and here’s how!

1. A Personal Encounter Has More Impact Than An Online Interaction

Let’s admit it! We can all remember our first date, our first kiss, our first car or even funny incidents with family and friends. It gives us a mental picture that we can easily pull out of our memory and share with others or just to reminisce about it.

This is also true with networking in person. Meeting people in the flesh and engaging them in a lively conversation has more impact than if you were just chatting online or exchanging comments on Facebook or Twitter. Not only that but you will leave a lasting impression which can be strengthened further when they visit your blog and read about your insightful thoughts and recommendations.

Although engaging people online in discussions has its merits, think of how you’re missing out on their expressions and reactions. A personal encounter on the other hand won’t give them a chance to conceal what they’re really thinking or feeling and you can immediately find ways to assure them or provide them with a solution. Of course, don’t forget to let them know about your blog so they could still find you online after your meet up.

2. A Personal Encounter Can Lead To A Community Of Prospects

You might be wondering how this is possible but I tell you, a number of marketers have found networking events are a goldmine of potential business to make money online.

Joining networking events and conferences such as one that is sponsored by your local chamber of commerce would give you ample opportunity to meet with industry leaders and influential people. These people would naturally have their own community of followers who they can influence and if you can get them to see the value of what you’re offering, you would have a huge chance to market to their followers as well!

Mike Eagar of Wildfire Marketing shared how word of mouth marketing had helped him sell thousands of books about social media from just one community at a time when eBook readers hardly existed.

What he did first was identify the trade shows and conferences that would attract influential leaders to join. He would then contact the organizers and provide free resources as well as conduct workshops based on the book that he was selling. However, he made it his top priority to build personal relationships with the leaders of the community.

One event alone led him to conduct more than 20 large speaking engagements that subsequently resulted to thousands of books sold!

Even though this example involved the physical selling of books, this is relevant to promoting your blog too and make money online. For instance, if you’re a social media marketer who offers coaching and social media marketing services, you can reach out to potential businesses that are looking to break in to the social media arena and use its power to boost their business from these networking events. These businesses would know of other businesses that would also want to take advantage of the internet’s reach and they can very well recommend you to them and so on.

So don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth marketing in promoting your blog and selling your products and services on the internet. It is without a doubt a channel that every professional marketer should exploit to make money online.

How Nicotine Test Helps Employers to Establish Smoke-Free Workplace

Nicotine abuse is an issue affecting the profitability of businesses and the environment at workplaces. Employers are insisting on measures that will help them make the workplaces free from smoking of tobacco so as to make their businesses more productive.

Employers in US imposing ban on smokers:

Increasing numbers of employers in US are rejecting the applications of candidates who smoke. They are abiding by the laws framed by the government for the purpose and are not hiring who they find to be smokers. To know whether the prospective hired is smoker, they conduct tests. Those who are found positive for smoking are not offered employment.

Nicotine test helps them to detect smokers – instantly:

Employers apply different techniques to tackle the issue of smoking. These include testing for tobacco (nicotine) by different methods. These tests are helpful to identify if the applicant really smokes tobacco or not. Generally, a nicotine test can be conducted using urine, saliva or hair follicle samples. Employers use any or a combination of these techniques.

Benefits of establishing smoke-free environment:

A smoke-free environment improves productivity of the employees and reduces health insurance costs. Employers find smoke-free workplace beneficial on the following grounds.

Increased productive hours:

A no-smoking environment results in higher number of productive hours than in a smoking permitted one. Employees not used to smoking concentrate better on work and hence there is greater number of productive hours. They are healthy and take few sick leaves.

Whereas, smoking employees take unauthorized breaks to smoke, which is waste of productive time.

Healthy atmosphere:

As healthy employees are more focused on productivity, there is cordial relation between employees as well as employers. Such workplaces boost the employees’ morale and work potential and encourage talented workforce to work for more number of hours. Employers too reciprocate and get prompted to take positive action on any issue.

Shows professional approach of the business:

A smoke-free workplace, places the employer’s image in a positive view among the employees, peers, government, and social groups. The welfare measures taken serve as an example for professional approach taken by the employer. This will enhance mutual trust between the employer and employees.

Reduces healthcare costs:

Following a no-smoking policy at workplace would result in less healthcare costs. This is because, the employees are healthy and need lower health maintenance expenses – be it insurance premium or medical emergencies. These factors are known to cause increased medical expenses to employers in case of employees habituated to smoking. Studies show that, post non-smoking policy there is remarkable decline in the tobacco caused heart attacks, making current smokers to quit (Source: Forbes, 12 June, 2015).

Taking up nicotine tests to enforce a smoking-free environment at workplace is beneficial. The measures, of course, entail costs to the employers.

Researching and Booking Hotels Online

When planning a holiday, it’s always difficult to know where to stay: how do you pick a hotel you’ve never experienced in an area of a city you might never have visited before? Staying in the right place is a key part of your trip; having comfortable surroundings and being in the right location is crucial for both the holidaymaker and the business traveler.

There are so many sites that offer online travel advice, its hard to know where to start! But next time you’re searching for a hotel to stay in, be sure to check out the following:

Wikitravel

Wikitravel is a great starting point for any traveller. The site provides information from a traveler’s perspective and offers useful advice in relation to where to eat and what to do in any given area. Larger cities are split into smaller districts, and on choosing which district you want to stay in, you are offered hotel options to suit your style and budget.

Expedia

Expedia has a directory of over 80,000 places to stay world-wide and can help you narrow down your search and find the right accommodation. It’s worth remembering that choosing a hotel on price alone is never a great idea. Hotels that are further away from attractions and amenities are usually the cheapest, but as location is a very important factor of any holiday it might be worth paying a little more to be located centrally. The handy map feature on expedia allows you to see exactly where the available rooms are located, letting you weigh up price against location.

Venere

Venere lets you filter your search results down to help pinpoint the perfect hotel for you. The filters include budget, type of accommodation and star rating, although generally photos give a better indicator of just how good a hotel is. When looking at photos of rooms, it’s worth cross checking these with recent reviews of the hotel, just to ensure that the photos are not only recent, but also a genuine representation of the room you will receive upon your arrival.

TripAdvisor

One of the best places to find customer reviews online is TripAdvisor, which has over 75 million reviews, tips and opinions from every type of traveller from around the world. TripAdvisor gives travelers the opportunity to rate hotels, share photos and videos and connect socially with other travellers.

Booking.com

Booking.com is the leading online travel agent and attracts over 30 million unique visitors each month. Offering over 253,441 hotels in 178 countries, the site aims to help travelers discover the best places to stay. Targeted at business and leisure travelers alike, the site scores hotels based on user reviews, which are broken down into categories such as comfort, location, value for money etc.. Hotels can also be filtered by the type of person who left the review – such as families with young children, solo travellers or large groups.

When it comes to booking your chosen hotel, you might think that online travel agents offer the best deals, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Booking direct with a hotel presents many advantages:

– You may be able to find exclusive promotions which aren’t offered on travel agent sites

– Some hotels offer frequent guest points and frequent flyers miles

– Hotels provide guest recognition, meaning the hotel will already know your likes and dislikes if you’ve stayed there before

– Having a direct point of contact at a hotel makes it easier to amend or cancel bookings

– Booking verification is instant as there’s no third party to confuse matters.

So next time you’re looking for a hotel, be it for business or pleasure, remember that while online travel agents and travel review sites can act as a valuable source of information, more often than not you’re better off booking via the hotel directly.