With Peter Greenberg, Emmy-winning investigative reporter and producer, and host of The Travel Detective
Peter Greenberg is a multiple Emmy-winning investigative reporter and producer. He hosts the public television show, The Travel Detective, a series that empowers audiences with travel news, must-have information, and travel tips known only to a select few. Greenberg also produces and co-hosts the acclaimed PBS Television special, The Royal Tour, featuring one-on-one journeys through countries with their Heads of State.
Problems With U.S. Travel Advisories
Steve kicks off the show by having Peter tell us how to tell truth from fiction when planning a vacation.
Peter’s pet peeve is with U.S. State Department Travel Advisories because they can be rather confusing and are often misapplied. The Advisories cover 196 countries and are split into four categories.
Category 1 is travel with normal caution. Category 2 is travel with increased caution. Category 3 lists countries or regions for which you should reconsider your travel plans. And Category 4, which is the big bad one, lists places that you should not travel to.
For example, in 2017, four states in Mexico had either a category 2, 3, or 4 designation. The State of Sinaloa had a category 4. But Sinaloa includes Mazatlan, which has no problems, yet it’s painted with the same broad brush as problematic areas.
Do Your Own Research
To get a true picture on what is safe or not, Peter Greenberg suggests reading other advisories, such as those from the British foreign office, to see if they match the U.S. He also recommends going online and reading papers in local cities to get a sense of the law and order situation.
Steve likens this to reports of crime and drugs in Miami in the 80s, with shows like Miami Vice scaring away visitors and tourists. In reality, everyday life there wasn’t unsafe.
So it is with most Cat 2, 3, and 4 places across the world. They aren’t all that unsafe. Exercise reasonable caution and you’ll have a great time.
Who’s In Control
Peter Greenberg believes it’s okay to travel to places where you know who is in control. For instance, he’d skip Syria or Yemen because he isn’t sure who’s in control in the country.
More Travel Tips
Next, Peter says travelers should watch out for their personal and medical safety. He recommends carrying duct tape, of all things, because it fixes rips and tears and really comes in handy.
His other travel tips include carrying two phones and photocopies of passports and travel documents in each bag. He splits clothes between bags, should one get lost or delayed.
Last, but not the least, he never takes a “no” from somebody who’s not in power to give him a “yes” in the first place. He recommends going up the authority ladder in a non-adversarial way.
Top Destinations For Fall
Peter Greenberg’s approach to travel is to go where the dollar is the strongest. Thankfully, for Americans, the U.S. dollar has gotten considerably stronger over the past few years, relative to most foreign currencies.
Argentina looks particularly attractive because they’ve devalued their peso so the dollar now has seven times the buying power it had only a short while ago. With Brexit woes, the British pound is down about 18% against the dollar, and the Euro is down about 20%.
Turkey, with all its problems, is a hidden gem as travel destinations go. A lot of tour and cruise companies have pulled out of Turkey but it’s still a safe and great place to travel to.
Best Travel Resources
In closing, Peter Greenberg recommends his own site, petergreenberg.com, for travel tips. His site is purely informational, gets updated every 24 hours and has nothing to sell.
With the dollar riding high, this is a good time to think of traveling abroad. Before you book your tickets, get your travel tips from reliable sources, and, especially, check news related to the destinations you have in mind.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: Peter Greenberg is a multiple Emmy-winning investigative reporter and producer. And he is one of the most recognized and respected front-line travel news journalists. He hosts the public television show, The Travel Detective with Peter Greenberg. It’s a series that empowers audiences with travel news, must have information, insider tips known only to a select few.
And he also produces and co-hosts the acclaimed PBS Television special, The Royal Tour, featuring personal one-on-one journeys through countries with their Heads of State, Peter Greenberg, welcome to the show.
Peter Greenberg: Happy to be with you.
Steve Pomeranz: I’m currently preparing for a trip to Sicily and I saw your piece.
How to interpret the news when planning your vacation, the truth and the fiction? Give us some tips for reading between the headlines before we [CROSSTALK]
Peter Greenberg: Well, it’s all about the information you get and then how you put it in context. And one of my biggest pet peeves is with US State Department Advisories because if you look at the history of the advisories… 30 or 40 years ago, you had advisories that were specifically targeted to individual destinations or cities or countries, that were either in conflict or that were basically dangerous or were at war or were just tough trouble spots. Well, about a year ago, the State Department decided they wanted to basically streamline the process, expand the advisories, and now there’s a State Department Advisory for every single country in the world. That’s like 196 separate advisories, but they’ve broken it down into four different categories. And here’s where it gets confusing, here’s where it could be misguided, and certainly, here’s where it can be misleading.
Category one, travel with normal caution, I have no idea what that means.
Steve Pomeranz: What that means, absolutely.
Peter Greenberg: Right?
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Peter Greenberg: Travel category number two, travel with increased caution. At this point, you’re digging a hole in the backyard.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Peter Greenberg: Category number three, reconsider travel, at this point, you’re putting plywood on your windows.
Steve Pomeranz: Uh-huh.
Peter Greenberg: And category four, which is the big bad one, which most Americans mistakenly think is a rule, law, or a regulation, and it’s not, is do not travel. So let me give you an example of how this gets misapplied. In the last year, there have been four separate states in Mexico that have had either a category two, three, or four designation as an advisory from the State Department, and Americans get scared and don’t go. The one that was particularly problematic to me was the State of Sinaloa had a category four, right, do not travel. And you take a look at the map, well, what’s in Sinaloa? Mazatlan, Mazatlan’s great, no problemo, and yet they get painted with the same broad brush.
So you need additional sources of information to be able to make intelligent travel choices so you know where you’re going to go reasonably safe and actually have a great experience. So my advice is, I’m not telling people not to read the advisories, no, do it. But now read the other advisories from the British foreign office, you can get them online.
See what the British government is doing to give their own citizens advice as to where they want to go anywhere in the world. And see if that matches, and last, but not least, once you figure out a destination you want to go to, my advice is do this. Go online to the local newspapers in those cities, see what stories they’re covering, what are they putting on their front page?
And if those stories don’t scare you, guess what? You’re going to go, and 96% of the time, that’s exactly what you’re going to do.
Steve Pomeranz: Wow, pretty interesting. I’ve been living in South Florida for a very long time. And in the 80s, it was, well, a lot of news reports about drug issues and killings and those types of things.
And then Miami Vice, the TV show, came out, and it was like nobody should go to Miami it’s so dangerous. And when you live in the area, you don’t really feel it or see it, this is not really what life is like.
Peter Greenberg: No, I’m still a fan of Crockett and Tubbs, come on, but the thing is this, you mentioned you’re going to Sicily.
There will be, I mean, if you took a look at some of the State Department advisories and you read the language, you know what the State Department Advisory was for Indonesia? It was, stay away from large crowds and avoid buses.
Steve Pomeranz: God, yeah.
Peter Greenberg: You know what? I live in LA and I stay away from large crowds and I avoid buses, and the reason for that, is I have no idea where the buses go.
And that’s true terrorism when you don’t know where the buses go.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, right.
Peter Greenberg: So you need to get those three sources of information, and in an overwhelming number of cases, you’re going to have a great time, and you’re going to go. My metric is really where I wouldn’t go. And how do I determine that?… Who’s not in control?
If I want to go to a place and no one’s in control, I’m not going. Yeah. So would I go to Iran? Yeah, I know who’s in control. Would I go to North Korea? Absolutely, I know who’s in control. Would I go to Syria? No, I don’t know who’s in control.
Would I go to parts of Yemen? No, I don’t know who’s in control. But in about another 30 seconds, I would’ve run out of places not to go, that’s how few there are.
Steve Pomeranz: All right, let’s get to the mundane aspect of this. What are some safety tips that every smart traveler should know and use?
Peter Greenberg: Well, there’s personal safety, there’s medical safety, I mean, you’re going to laugh. The one thing I always pack in every one of my bags, duct tape, you’re going to laugh.
Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH].
Peter Greenberg: But it fixes everything, it fixes everything. I carry with me two separate phones. I carry with me photocopies of all my documents put in separate bags because if you lose something, you don’t want to lose the record of it in the bag that you lost. And basic common sense, you don’t want to pack all your clothes in one bag, spread it out to two bags. So if the airline does what airlines do, loses your bag, you’re not clothes-less, and just basic common sense.
And then last, but not least, never take a no, from somebody who’s not in power to give you a yes, in the first place. The first person you talk to is usually only in power to tell you no, that doesn’t help anything. So go up the ladder in a non-adversarial way, find the person who can give you a yes.
And by the way, if they give you a no, you really know it’s a no, but if they give you a yes, you just scored.
Steve Pomeranz: Why two phones?
Peter Greenberg: Well, two phones for two reasons. Two phones is two different services because you can’t always get a signal with one service.
That’s number one, and number two, I don’t know about you, but my iPhone batteries die every six minutes.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, true.
Peter Greenberg: So I’ve got to have a backup.
Steve Pomeranz: I gotcha, yeah, yeah. All right, so what are some of the top destinations for this fall? As weather seems to cool, maybe it’s time for a good two-week jaunt somewhere, what areas do you like at this current time?
Peter Greenberg: Well, I sort of back into it another way, I go where the US dollar is the strongest. And for the first time in recent memory, the US dollar is pretty strong. Look at Argentina right now. Argentina, they’ve devalued their peso so much against the dollar that the US dollar now has seven times the buying power it had, only three weeks ago.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Peter Greenberg: Unbelievable, the British pound is down about 18% against the dollar, the Euro is down about 20% against the US dollar. The Thai baht, I mentioned Mexico before, great bargains in Mexico with the Mexican peso, this is the time to do it, it’s a buyer’s market.
Steve Pomeranz: What about Turkey?
Peter Greenberg: You know what? That’s the hidden gem. Turkey has had a lot of problems politically and as a result, a lot of tour companies pulled out. Cruise ships stopped going there because they couldn’t get insurance, but I’m going to flip it around. I’ve been in Turkey four or five times in the last two years, no problems whatsoever.
I went to South Sophia or the Blue Mosque, and guess what? I’m the only guy there, what a great experience.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Peter Greenberg: My God.
Steve Pomeranz: Right.
Peter Greenberg: Never felt unsafe, never felt in danger, and the good news is the cruise lines are now starting to come back.
The tour groups are now starting to come back, so if you want to go, go before everybody gets there, you’ll be much better off.
Steve Pomeranz: All right, so we don’t have that much time, what are some of the best sources for people to use as they’re researching their trip?
I mean, there are a zillion sites, everybody’s got an opinion. Everybody who’s been to a place once or twice is now an expert online, especially if they can write at all.
Peter Greenberg: Yeah.
Steve Pomeranz: So what are some of the sites that you like to go to?
Peter Greenberg: Well, I’ll give you one, which is going to be the most self-serving answer you will ever get today, that’s mine.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay.
Peter Greenberg: So petergreenberg.com.
Steve Pomeranz: petergreenberg.com.
Peter Greenberg: Because, yeah, because we’re not transactional, we’re not selling anything, we’re informational, we update every 24 hours because of one very important fact, travel is news.
Steve Pomeranz: All right, can you give us some others?
Peter Greenberg: Well, the other sites are really sites outside the US because I don’t want to go to a transactional site.
I don’t want to be steered anywhere, I don’t want to be sold anything. I want to know that I’m really getting bona fide information from a trusted source. And in fact, if you go to my website, we list those other websites, I have no financial affiliation with any of them. But that would help you out a lot.
Steve Pomeranz: Very good, my guest, Peter Greenberg. Are you still currently creating new episodes for The Travel Detective?
Peter Greenberg: Absolutely, we’re going into season six, and we’re about to start our 17th year on the Royal Tour, so stay tuned.
Steve Pomeranz: Congratulations, you can find more about Peter at petergreenberg.com.
And don’t forget to remember to visit our website, stevepomeranz.com to join the conversation, listen. Or read, all of our segments, and while you’re there, sign up for our weekly update for the important topics we’ve covered. Including petergreenberg.com‘s web address, it goes straight to your inbox, that’s, stevepomeranz.com, thanks, Peter, for joining us.
Peter Greenberg: Anytime, man.