TRAVEL SAFE

To insure or not to insure?

The whole area of travel insurance is extremely confusing so hopefully this will help make your decision a little less so, next time you head overseas.

There are three main categories: trip investment (which covers trip cancellation or interruption), personal health (which fills in gaps in your normal health insurance), and personal belongings (which covers baggage loss and car rental damage). You should always have at least the first two. And make sure the personal health coverage includes both “medical evacuation,” which is the cost of getting you to an appropriate local hospital or clinic, and “repatriation,” which covers the cost of getting back home.

Top Tip – most people fail to recognise that most credit cards and health insurance packages already have some form of travel insurance coverage so you don’t need to buy more.

Credit card travel insurance usually covers everything, and of course platinum and higher level cards provide the best coverage. BUT most of the time you’ll only be covered if you paid for some, or all, of the international air tickets on the credit card, which is considered a trigger for the “activation” of the travel insurance. This means credit card travel insurance policies are useless for business trips (usually paid for by your company). So hopefully your company has something that covers you for work trips – it’s worthwhile asking as I have been caught out several times.

Luggage and personal items are covered well on credit cards, sometimes up to $15,000 per person, with a total of $30,000 for all family members. Standalone travel insurance policies quite often have limits as low as $2,000 for your baggage, so don’t assume you need an additional policy to cover this.

Of course, all the usual conditions apply – you may only get reimbursed for lost or stolen items if you have filed police reports within 24 hours, and only if you can provide original purchase receipts to prove ownership.

If you purchase the ticket for plane, train, bus or ferry on your credit card you will generally be insured against death or debilitating injury for a very high amount, such as $1,000,000 for the death of a cardholder. Regular travel insurance generally only pays out normal accidental death benefits of around $25,000 – $50,000.

And if you are lucky enough to have time off and are going on a long trip, choose your card carefully. Credit card insurance is often only valid for three to six months maximum, and unlike stand-alone travel insurance policies, can’t be extended.

CRASH LANDING

After travelling last week on holiday it was a welcome experience at an airport (Queenstown and Christchurch, NZ) not to have to take off my shoes, belt, watch and everything else, then go through a scanner. The old fashioned joy of actually being able to say goodbye (or welcome) to someone on a flight at the boarding gate was such a nice experience, and sadly is almost a thing of the past.

This got me to thinking to the other extreme, what are the worst airports out there? Here is a list of the ones to avoid (major airports only).

1. JFK Airport Terminal 3, New York City
In 1960, Pan American Airlines built the Worldport, fifty two years later this is still used by Delta as an international hub. Terminal 3 is the worst single airport terminal in America, and probably in the Western world. It is known for endless immigration lines in a dank basement, for an utter lack of food and shopping options. It seems the cleaning crew gave up in despair a while ago too.
2. Manila Airport Terminal 1, Philippines
The terminal has been a frequent target of criticism with travellers and the business community complaining it is congested, run-down and filthy, and bad toilets. Bribery and theft are also rampant in the terminal. Thanks heavens they are re-building this.
3. Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport Terminal B/C, Russia
Rated terrible for anything where you have to interact with airport staff: their attitude, their language skills, and the speed with which they process passengers. It can take 2 hours to transfer to a connecting flight.
4. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi
Nairobi’s airport was built to support about 2.5 million passengers and now averages about double that.
It’s hot, ugly, dirty and confusing, full of touts and scam artists and perpetually overcrowded. This Third World construction site (a new terminal was meant to be built in 2005) remains a place for travelers to avoid.
5. Paris — Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 3
CDG got the “worst airport” award two years running due to the amount of homeless people there. It is one of the worst terminals to transit in across scattered terminal making changing planes here is tiring, irritating, and sometimes a little terrifying. This being Paris, there is also usually a strike on too.
6. Amman Queen Alia Airport
Amman is just plain bad in bathroom cleanliness, places to sit and service of any kind. Reviews on the Skytrax website make it clear that you may just want to “hold it in” at this airport, as the bathrooms are so disgusting!
7. LaGuardia Airport US Airways Terminal, New York City
LaGuardia was recently rated the worst major airport in America (by both JD Power and Associates and Zagat Survey). It has no rail link and is overcrowded and experiences constant delays. Scary service from an airport at one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
8. Newark Airport Terminal B
America’s worst airport for on-time arrivals , and possibly the most dull airport in the country. Once you pass security there is no food and shopping to entertain you. Seems they didn’t get the memo on the right way to do this!
9. “Paris” Beauvais Airport, France
Fifty miles north of Paris this airport lacks seating, services, and feels like a warehouse. Closing at midnight and with no rail link to Paris if your flight gets delayed you may be sleeping on the floor.
10. Chicago Midway Airport
Chicago’s Midway airport ranked as the nation’s worst for on-time departures

TRAVEL TUESDAY – Plugged In


Trying to remember which converter to take to a country to make sure you can charge everything, dry your hair and do the ironing.

Start by taking a look at the back of the device you want to use. If it says something like “100-240V, 50/60 Hz”, it will work anywhere in the world with the right adapters. Connecting a device to a lower voltage than it was designed for is generally not dangerous; the device may not work correctly, but no dramatic failure is likely. Giving any device a voltage higher than it was designed for is dangerous eg if you put 230 volts into a 110V it will melt or explode!

There are only two main types of electric systems used around the world:
100-127 volt, at 60 hertz frequency (in general: North and Central Americas, Western Japan)
220-240 volt, at 50 hertz frequency (in general: the rest of the world, with some exceptions)

Originally Europe was 120 V too, just like Japan and the US today. It was deemed necessary to increase voltage to get more power with less losses and voltage drop from the same copper wire diameter. At the time the US also wanted to change but because of the cost involved to replace all electric appliances, they decided not to. At the time (50s-60s) the average US household already had a fridge, a washing-machine, etc., but Europe did not.

But don’t despair, most mobile phones and digital cameras chargers work with both 110V and 240V systems, though you may still need an adaptor plug or have to use the shaver socket.

Here is a list of plug sockets and voltage for your next trip – http://www.kropla.com/electric2.htm

TRAVEL TUESDAY – Airport Lounges


The quality of airport lounges have a big influence (for me anyway), on how early I get there for a flight. Holidays I always make an effort to make time for a glass of champagne pre-boarding to get into the spirit, but work trips not so much. So which lounges are the cream of the crop and what do they offer.

World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge (as voted on world airline awards)
1. Qatar Airways
Has its own luxury terminal with full spa facilities, martini bar, restaurants, bedrooms, sushi bar, children’s play area… and the list goes on!
2. Thai Airways
Spa, Restaurant, sleep rooms
3. Lufthansa
Restaurants, relaxing areas, bars

World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge
1. British Airways
2. Virgin Atlantic Airways
3. Cathay Pacific Airways

Personally I would add Cathay, Emirates and Qantas to the first class lounge list, as not sure Thai and Lufthansa are that special. Business class – definitely Virgin number one, and from my experience Cathay and Singapore Air outshine BA.

But I will let you be the judge!

TRAVEL TUESDAY

Who do you chose to fly with for work? Unfortunately you can be limited by where in the world you live sometimes, but here is the best of the best.

The annual Skytrax World Airline survey – voted for by more than 18.8 million airline passengers from 100 different nationalities over 10 months, awarded the following:
Qatar Airways was named the world’s best airline,
Singapore Airlines second and
Asiana Airlines third.
Cathay Pacific Airways and Thai Airways International came in fourth and fifth, respectively.

It may be worth relocating to Asia just to fly in comfort :)

FASHION FRIDAY

We constantly aiming to look fashionable when getting on a plane, but also want to be comfortable. It can be a fine line, so here are a few DO NOT’s when you are travelling for business.

1. Thai Fisherman pants – they may be unisex and comfortable, but leave the backpackers to wear them around Asia
2. Sock and Sandals – just wrong! Once the preferred footwear of elderly Brits… uncertain of what to wear travelling.
3. Slogan T-shirts – this fashion niche is most prevalent on the southeast Asian circuit. Do you really want to be seated next to a CEO on a plane wearing a Budweiser or Mickey Mouse t-shirt?
4. Crocs – WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! They are the ultimate example of what happens when practicality supersedes normal boundaries of taste. I won’t even let my 2 year old daughter wear a pair.
5. Bum bags/fanny packs – Not safe for travel and reminds most people of the 80’s when they came in fluro colours. Why are they even sold still!!

TRAVEL TUESDAY

Flying off for business or pleasure… here are a few apps that you should have to make life easier and your trip run smoother.

1. Flight Track – $4.99. This app has the ability to manage both domestic and international flights with real-time updates, and you don’t have to be online.
2. Oanda Currency Converter – Free. Does what it says on the box, easy to use currency converter.
3. Kayak – Free. The easiest way to search for flights, hotels and car rentals all in one place, it even features a function for a packing list.
4. Goop City Guides – $3.99. Gwyneth Paltrow’s extension of her blog is now a City Guide app. The first one released is New York City and includes her favourite places to eat, drink and shop.