In a bid to ease paperwork for millions of tourists, the EU has proposed to make the Schengen visa process an online application system in the next few years. The Schengen visa allows travellers to visit and travel across 26 EU member nations for up to 90 days. Right now, tourists submit their visa application to a country’s local consulate and collect their passports in person once the visa is issued—a time-consuming process which became complicated during the last two years of the pandemic. The new proposal envisions a single digital visa application platform for all EU countries. Instead of a physical sticker, the visa is expected to be a cryptographically signed 2D bar code.
While the Southeast Asian country had relaxed travel restrictions for tourists last month, many of its dive bars, karaoke clubs and nightlife spots were hindered by local curfew guidelines. Starting June, the government will do away with the last set of curbs in the “green” and “blue” zones, hoping that it will bring patrons roaring back to these establishments. Bars in “yellow” zones (with high rate of infections) will still remain shuttered.
The city of Vadnagar in Mehsana district houses many archaeological treasures, especially ancient sculptures and ruins that point to its significance as a nerve centre of Buddhist culture; the place also finds a mention in Chinese scholar and traveller Xuanzang’s writings. Gujarat’s government declared this week that it hopes to turn the place into the state’s next big heritage destination for domestic and international travellers.
Rajasthan’s fourth tiger reserve, Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary in Bundi district, will be India’s fifty second. The reserve includes the habitat between Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve. This new nomenclature is an attempt to aid conservation efforts in the region, encourage more travel to the area and open up livelihood opportunities for native communities. Besides tigers, the reserve also has a healthy population of leopards, chitals and wild boars.
In what might become a blueprint for eco-friendly travel across the world, Palau—a nation comprising over 300 islands in the West Pacific—has launched an initiative that rewards tourists based on how conscientiously they behave towards its habitat. The programme, called Ol’au Palau, involves a digital app through which travellers can unlock exclusive experiences if they are responsible visitors. This could mean using reef-safe sunscreen, patronising regional, organic cuisine, visiting more culturally significant sites, among other eco-conscious steps. Points accrued could open up rare experiences, often only available to residents, such as access to secret caves, invitation to community rituals or meals at the homes of locals.
Wildlife enthusiasts around the globe have a lot to cheer in two recent announcements: first, the U.K. is designating 15,000-acres to create a national nature reserve in Somerset Wetlands, which some are calling a “super nature reserve” that binds six environmentally important landscapes from the marshes of Glastonbury to Bridgewater Bay. The wetlands are fertile ground for avian species (hawks, white egrets) and a plethora of water bodies that host reptiles and insects.
In a second shot of good news, Los Angeles has commenced construction on the world’s largest wildlife crossing, which will allow animals in Southern California unthreatened movement through the city’s freeways. Mountain lions and cougars have often been the casualties of L.A.’s speeding motorists as they try to cross over from one habitat to another. This crossing will greatly reduce dangerous human-animal encounters and also add to the city’s natural attractions.
Lakshmi Sankaran fantasizes about a bucket-list journey to witness the aurora borealis someday. Editor in Chief at National Geographic Traveller India, she will also gladly follow a captivating tune to the end of this world.