TACKY OR TRENDY?

I was travelling this week and was bored sitting in a very average airline lounge. Instead I wondered around aimlessly looking for something to buy in one of the airport shops (which are fast becoming the same shop repeated every 20 metres). Unfortunately I wasn’t in Hong Kong airport with Jimmy Choo at my beckon call, so I had to settle on trying to buy a souvenir for my 3 year old daughter.

Which got me to thinking… what are some of the best souvenirs you can buy at an airport? Here is a list of some of the more interesting ones and you can be the judge if they are tacky or trendy!

Shanghai Pudong Airport
PANDA HAT – a hat and attached mittens (also available a ton of panda-clad merchandise – bags, beer coolers and toys).

Tokyo Narita Airport
HELLO KITTY or ORIGAMI – What can I say, Japan is all things Hello Kitty! A nice alternative is a gift from the Origami museum located in the airport

Cairns Airport, Australia
CANE TOAD COIN PURSE – The perfect gift for someone who has everything.

Stockholm Arlanda Airport
REINDEER PELT – Yes you read correctly. Maybe stick to buying perfume here!

London Heathrow Airport
RUBBER DUCK – Love the Harrods one (my favourite). Of course the usual double decker bus money boxes are available too.
I am yet to see any inspiring souvenirs from the upcoming 2012 Olympics, so would be keen to hear from anyone who has found one.

Los Angeles – LAX
OSCAR – When in LA… how can you resist a fake Oscar statue (quite easily!)

Any USA Airport
CAP/T-SHIRT – Always a great place to buy the local basketball, hockey, football, baseball supporter gear

Singapore Airport
ORCHIDS – Alive and packaged ready to travel. Although check if you are allowed to bring them to your destination.

What did I buy? Pink panda slippers… perfect for a 3 year old!

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.

EXCUSE ME!

Being in the USA this week (so please expect my posts to be sporadic), pleasantly reminds me of how polite everyone is here. I always enjoy people saying “excuse me” and holding an elevator for you, rather than trying to shut it on you while you have one arm in the door.

So where are the rudest people to be found while you are travelling? Take a look below and when you next travel there see if you agree.

In first place… France. Outside of Paris people are generally nicer, and to be fair, Parisians can be just as rude to each other as they are to tourists.
Russia takes second place.
UK is third and actually voted themselves “world’s worst tourists” too.
Fourth is Germany.

The countries rated as having the least rude locals were Brazil, the Caribbean and the Philippines. And my nicest nations would have to be Japan, Thailand and New Zealand.

Ranking of rudeness
French
Russian
British
German
Chinese
American
Spanish
Italian
Polish
Turkish
Indian
Swiss
Greek
Croatian
Austrian

Source: Skyscanner survey

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 – Wine

Have you purchased a great bottle of wine when travelling that you want to bring home, but have left it in the hotel for fear of it breaking in your luggage? Hoorah, you will never have to do that with a “wine skin”! You just insert the wine in the bottle-shaped bubble wrap bag and seal it up air-tight. The bubbles prevent it from breaking in-flight, but if you hit turbulence, the seal prevents any liquid from leaking out and ruining your clothes.
http://www.wineskin.net

Or alternately don’t buy any wine and just drink on the plane.

Singapore Airlines remains the world’s second biggest buyer of Dom Perignon Champagne and spends $16 million a year on wine and $500 million on inflight meals. The airline’s first class passengers go through 20,000 bottles of wine and champagne each month (even though no plane has more than 12 first-class seats!) That’s a lot of wine per passenger. Although if you are on the longest non-stop flight in world – Singapore to Newark, N.J. there is a lot of time to drink during the 18.5 hours and 10,317 miles.

TRAVEL TUESDAY – Taxis


Landing from a long flight and wondering how best to get to your hotel? Well 54% of travellers choose a taxi over getting the train (16%), catching a bus (16%) or walking (2%)

If you are flying into London then you are lucky, the famous black taxis are number one for safety, friendliness, cleanliness, quality of driving and knowledge of the area . But it comes at a price, as they are the most expensive globally.

Best value for money – Bangkok’s infamous Tuk Tuk. But it was also voted worst in the world for ‘Quality of Driving’, poorest cleanliness and safety, so you may want to rethink catching one if you are on your way to an important meeting.

Who are the best tippers? Hong Kong residents are the most generous, choosing to tip at least 20% of the fare or more. Argentinians are the worst tippers, most never tipping their taxi drivers.

World’s best taxis
1.London
2.New York
3.Hong Kong
4.Tokyo
5.Singapore
6.Bangkok
7.Berlin
8.Helsinki
9.Dublin
10.Madrid

Source: Annual taxi report compiled by Hotels.com (5,000 travellers from 23 countries) , a leading hotel booking website, travellers rank Singapore as the fifth best city in the world for taxis.