Week in travel: Brazil launches visa waivers for US travellers this summer

Finland has the happiest citizens in the world, while Kazakhstan renames its capital city, and ANA is the cleanest airline on Earth

Travellers from the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan won’t need a visa for Brazil starting this summer.

Brazil wants to boost the tourist numbers — Shutterstock Week in travel: Brazil launches visa waivers for US travellers this summer
Brazil wants to boost the tourist numbers — Shutterstock

Visitors with valid passports for leisure, business, sports activities, artistic travel, or “exceptional situations for national interest,” can stay in the country without a visa for a period of up to 90 days.

The Brazil Tourism Board has announced the removal of the requirement to boost the South American nation’s annual visitor arrivals.

The move is a part of the ministry of tourism’s intention to bring 12 million annual visitors to the country by 2022, said Marcelo Álvaro Antônio, Brazil’s minister of tourism. In 2018, Brazil hosted 6.6 million visitors.

“This is one of the most important achievements of the Brazilian tourism industry in the last 15 years and we are confident that it will be extremely beneficial to the country,” said Álvaro Antônio.

“This decision of the Brazilian government proves that we are living a new moment and that tourism is being seen as a vector of economic and social growth of the entire nation. This is the first step; we still have much to celebrate.”

Kazakhstan renames its capital city to Nursultan

Astana was renamed to Nursultan after Kazakhstan’s former president — Shutterstock Week in travel: Brazil launches visa waivers for US travellers this summer
Astana was renamed to Nursultan after Kazakhstan’s former president — Shutterstock

The Central Asian country of Kazakhstan has just changed the name of its capital from Astana to Nursultan.

The change follows the decision of president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country for the past 30 years, to step down.

At his swearing-in, the new president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made the announcement “in honour of the first president” and the capital now bears the former president’s name.

It is not the first time that Kazakhstan is facing such a change. In 1998, Nazarbayev moved the country’s capital from Almaty in southeast Kazakhstan to Akmola in the north.

The following year, Nazarbayev renamed the capital to Astana, in an effort to eradicate conflict over the meaning of the name Akmola. In Kazakh, this can mean both ‘white tomb’ and ‘white plenty’.  

Finland named the happiest country in the world

 Fins are the happiest people on Earth again — Shutterstock Week in travel: Brazil launches visa waivers for US travellers this summer
Fins are the happiest people on Earth again — Shutterstock

For the second year in a row, Finland is officially the happiest country on Earth. According to the 2019 World Happiness Report — a global ranking released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations — the country beat the competition from Scandinavia and other parts of the world again.

In general, Scandinavian countries score high in such rankings every year, with Denmark, Norway and Iceland following Finland closely in the list. Sweden ranked seventh in 2019, right after the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The remaining places in the top ten belong to New Zealand, Canada and Austria.

The report was released on 20 March. The day has been declared the International Day of Happiness by the UN.

Top 10 happiest countries in the world

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Norway
  4. Iceland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Switzerland
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Canada
  10. Austria

ANA declared the cleanest airline for 2018

ANA All Nippon airlines have the cleanest cabins — photosounds / Shutterstock Week in travel: Brazil launches visa waivers for US travellers this summer
ANA All Nippon airlines have the cleanest cabins — photosounds / Shutterstock

If you wish to travel in the tidiest interior possible, head to Japan. Local airline ANA All Nippon Airways has been named the cleanest airline of 2018 in Skytrax World Airline Awards 2018.

In the survey conducted by the UK-based aviation industry reviewer, passengers were asked to rate the standard and quality of aircraft cabins. The cleanliness of seat areas, tables, carpets, cabin panels and lavatories was also part of the overall score.

The Japanese carrier ranked the highest ahead of Taiwan’s EVA Air and South Korea’s Asiana Airlines. Asian airlines dominated the top 30 list overall.

Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Qatar Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, Hainan Airlines and Lufthansa make up the rest of the top ten.

Norway opens Europe’s first underwater restaurant

The “eat among the fish” now gets a whole new meaning in Europe as Norway has finally opened the continent’s first-ever underwater restaurant.

Designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, which also created the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York and the Opera House in Oslo, the restaurant looks like a large concrete tube partly submerged in the North Sea.

Its name is Under — which also means wonder in Norwegian — and it provides room for around 40 guests in the underwater dining space. The premises offer ocean views through one giant glass window at the back.

“The fascination is just this movement from above water to underwater through the building … The big window exposes the underwater not like an aquarium, it’s the real thing,” Snøhetta’s founder Kjetil Traedal Thorsen told Reuters.

However, the dining experience can end up being a bit pricey. The full 18-course tasting menu with drinks costs up to $435 (3,700 kroner).