Every Friday, we help you navigate the week’s most important and interesting travel news stories.

Amazing things that should happen more often

This week China launched its 72-hour, visa-free policy for visitors to Beijing or Shanghai. Travellers from the United States and 44 other countries can now stay for a long layover in either city before making their onward journey to a final destination in the world. Arrivals at the airport apply for a visa-free transit at border control and receive an instant response. [People’s Daily]

In-flight entertainment       
Photos and videos that went viral on the Web this week

This week, a Japanese man vacationed on Syrian front lines and the photos he  posted on Facebook have become an Internet sensation. Toshifumi Fujimoto, a 45-year-old Osaka resident, decided war tourism would be more interesting than lying on a beach at a resort. He snuck across the border from Turkey to visit battle-scarred Aleppo, dodging snipers nearly every day. [AFP]

Ready for takeoff
All set to go, but too soon to tell what’s ahead

This week our most re- tweeted item was CNN’s list of the best places to visit in the upcoming year. Scotland was in the number one spot, thanks partly to travellers’ recognition of the country as a central backdrop in the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, and partly because of its recently opened Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail, a 756km route that encircles the full border of the nation’s mainland, passing pristine lakes and gorgeous glens. [CNN]

Among the many reasons to visit Paris in 2013 are the summer unveiling of its Picasso Museum, which has been closed for many years for renovation. The French capital’s hottest neighbourhood, the bohemian Marais district, will also unveil a few fresh attractions, including the opening of the 19th-century covered market Carreau du Temple and the re-opening of the renovated fountain-filled plaza Place de la République. [EuroCheapo]

Travellers increasingly rely on their smartphones for guidance, and many of them are eager for advice on the best apps to download. The Wall Street Journal recommends several travel apps, including SeatGuru (free, Android, Apple) for finding the best seats to reserve on a flight, and Seat Alerts (free, Android, Apple) which can notify you when desirable seats become available. The Next Web also has named SeatGuru as one of the best travel apps for 2013. [WSJ; TNW]

Families are always looking for ways to stretch their money so that they can enjoy fantastic vacations, and experts have some money-saving tips to help them. "The very best way to save money is to take it off the top before you even see it," said Janet Bodnar, editor in chief of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, who suggests setting up an automatic transfer into a savings account earmarked for your vacation. A $150-a-month contribution adds up to $1,800 in a year. [Huffington Post Travel]

Hold on folks, we’re in for a rocky ride

For at least the next few days, visitors to the popular Vatican Museums can only use cash to pay for tickets, souvenirs and other purchases. Banks have cut off Vatican City from access to electronic forms of payment until it complies with new European Union regulations about tracking money. The Vatican hopes to put into place the necessary measures soon. [USA Today]

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