31 October 2008

Less tourists in Singapore this year

The tourism board in Singapore admitted that this time last year the country
was the preferred destination for more tourists. In September 2008 there were 4.1% less tourists than in September 2007. The blame is cast upon the global economic environment and a stronger local currency. During the past year, Singapore's dollar has strengthened compared to Malaysian and Indonesian currency. Tourists prefer destinations near home or into neighbouring countries.

Singapore Airlines Ltd. did not manage to sell much of its flights in September. It is said that passenger traffic dropped for the first time in three years.
Hotels occupancy declined 11.6 points to 73% in September 2008. Nevertheless, during the F1 Grand Prix in Singapore City, held in September, the average rates for hotel rooms rose almost 50%.

The City expects an increase in the number of visitors by 2015 due to new casino-resorts but Singapore misses tourism target for the time being.

30 October 2008

The ultimate travel experience: NYC Bus Charter

It is easier to love New York City when you take the transport problem off your chest. Either you visit The City as a part of a bigger or smaller group, a bus charter will solve your transportation problem.

NYC Bus Charters offers charter services in New York City, picking you up at the airport and taking you to your desired destination: trade shows, amusement parks, sightseeing or day trips. They also provide charter services to Boston, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Baltimore, Maryland or Washington DC.

NYC Bus Charters offer charter transportation for 9-57 passengers in their comfortable buses
and coaches. For New York City tours they provide a private Double Decker Tour bus.

You will be welcomed at the airport by their Airport Ambassadors (all their staff must complete the Airport Ambassador training program). NYC Bus Charters has well-trained staff, all its drivers have a background checked and a New York State Department of Transportation approved medical exam, so that you are in safe and hands.

Charter Bus NYC offers you on-time and reliable service and more than 20 years experience. For groups they have discounted transfers and companies that purchase tickets in advance have a 10% discount.

What is very useful on the website is the possibility to make a quote by filling in an online form. Charter Bus NYC also offers trip tips and the customers can send their feedback via the website.


Global Metro Manila

The capital of Philippines is made up of 17 cities which form Metro Manila home of 14 million people. In the Spanish Era, Manila was a walled city, the area being called Intramuros. The walls were built to protect the area from the Chinese pirates. During the World War II much of the city was destroyed.

In Intramuros you can see the Fort Santiago, a defence fortress built in 1571. Philippine's national hero - Jose Rizal was imprisoned in the fort in 1896, before being executed.
You can see on the ground his final footsteps in bronze, marking the way from his cell to the execution place.

Even if it had a troubled history, there are interesting places to visit in Manila. From bohemian life, discos and clubs to sport events, you find them all in Manila. Start with Ermita - a district known for its vibrant university life, being the home of several universities and colleges. You can also find here many outdoor cafes (the meeting places for students), coin shops and prostitutes (despite efforts from the government to get rid of these practices). In Malate district you can go shopping in one of the new shopping centres and boutiques or can watch street dancing or ground-level concerts.

On the north bank of the Pasig River you can admire Malacanang Palace - the official residence for the president of the country.

Along Roxas Boulevard you can have a walk and see the sunset over Manila Bay on the Baywalk promenade. If you like outdoor activities you can also spend a sunny afternoon in Rizal Park having a picnic around the artificial lake with a replica of the Philippines archipelago in the middle of it. After a tasty lunch you can also see the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the Orchidarium or the Butterfly pavilion. In front of the Rizal monument there is a post which marks km 0, from where all distances in the country are measured.

The city is now officially a global city being classified as "Gamma" by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network.

Due to its nice weather, especially in the dry season, Manila is the perfect getaway. Even if you intend to spend more time in other parts of the Philippines or want to go scuba diving, don't avoid Manila with its troubled history and the traditional or flashy attractions.

28 October 2008

The Airline “Scam” of Bait and Switch

A frequent airline traveler has seen this scenario: one day, a great deal for an airfare is posted online and the traveler naturally quickly tries to reserve them. But when the payment and confirmation page comes out, the price just increased twice the original fare originally listed online. It’s a scheme of bait and switch of airlines to entice you to purchase a ticket with the new airfare. And they’re not the only accomplice as online travel agencies also have a hand in tricking travelers into purchasing an expensive airline ticket.

The sad news is, travelers have to contend with this practice. Airlines and online travel agencies protect their claim by using words such as “for as low as” or “travel with rates as low as…”. These are gray phrases wherein they only claim that they MIGHT give you the fare they advertise but they can’t really guarantee them.

That is why it is important to stop and read everything before you enter your credit card information online. They will tell you if the price has increased and you’ll be given an option to go ahead with the transaction.

If you want to completely avoid this type of inconvenience, book your next flight the traditional way – get in touch with the airline through phone or book a flight with a travel agent. The bait and switch could still happen but you have a travel agent who will give you options. Instead of browsing online again for prices and routes just to save on airfare, your travel agent will look for an alternative on your behalf.

23 October 2008

Malaysia - you are welcome anytime

Malaysia’s festivals and events attract because there is something for everyone. The country is a mixture of cultures, languages, religions and traditions so that its calendar has lots of events and festivals.

Country’s Muslim population celebrates Aidilfitri (or Eid al-Fitr). The celebration is known as “Day of celebration” (Hari Raya) in Malaysia. In this period, people living in cities pay visits to their relatives or friends in the countryside. Thus, cities are quieter in the month of Syawal. During this month, many Muslim families hold “open houses” by inviting neighbours or friends belonging to other races to join their celebration.
For the occasion, many houses and public buildings are decorated and brightly lit to mark the celebration. So get prepared to be enchanted and take pictures after dark falls.

For foodies, Hari Raya has special dishes to taste: rice cakes wrapped in coconut leaves (called ketupat) – being the promotional symbol of the season and featured on greeting cards or decorative objects. Ketupat is served with spicy beef cooked in coconut milk.

Malaysian Hindu community celebrates The festival of Lights (Diwali or Deepavali) in October or November. In Sanskrit, deepavali means ”row of lights” so that temples and houses are decorated with flowers and lanterns. Hindu homes are also decorated with candles and lights who are meant to invite inside the goddess of wealth – Lakshmi.

Christmas Day - what is different in Malaysia is that at Christmas, you don’t’ get snow but around 20 degrees and, in most cases, sun. On Christmas Eve in Malaysia, people of different beliefs attend night sermons where carols are sung. In the kitchens, housewives and chefs prepare local delicacies (very hot curry) as well as Western food (turkey or fruitcakes).

Moon Cake Festival holds place in September and is an important Chinese celebration. The festival celebrates the end of summer. People offer each other moon cakes which are round pastries filled with a paste of lotus seeds. If you are health conscious, don’t worry, because nowadays they have healthy moon cakes made without fats. Moon cakes are considered delicacies and their price ranges from 10 to 50 dollars.

If you like good food and your palate likes to experience new tastes, then Malaysian Gourmet Festival is right for you. In 2008 it is held in November and it gathers International chefs into Malaysian restaurants. During the festival you can find special prices and offers in restaurants as well as cooking classes or gourmet tours (limos which will carry you to selected restaurants).

Malaysia Flora Festival is a must see, if you love flowers and go to Malaysia in July. It celebrates the beauty of this blessed land and the flowers that can be found there. The Flower Parade on the streets of Kuala Lumpur is the main attraction of this festival.

Wesak Day is a Buddhist celebration, also called Buddha’s birthday and celebrating the birth and Nirvana enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. This festival includes activities like lectures on inner reflection and Buddhism and gift giving.

In May each year takes place in Malaysia – The Colours of Malaysia, a festival celebrating the cultural diversity of people who live in the country. There is dance and music specific for each culture. The Festival is full of colour and sound and will delight every spectator.

For sport lovers Malaysia has to offer Malaysian F1 Grand Prix held on Sepang International Circuit and Sarawak Regatta and many more competitions or festivals.

Malaysia is a world in itself and it has much to offer to its visitors.

20 October 2008

Chocolate travel

South America is known for many things, one of them being cocoa. It is chocolate's main ingredient and originates from tropical South America.

Cocoa was was cultivated about 3,000 ago. The Aztecs used to process cocoa beans and extract a chocolate liquid in its pure form which was called chocolate liquor. From this liquor cocoa butter and cocoa solids are extracted.

The Aztecs of Mexico named the chocolate liquor “bitter water” – xocolatl and the cocoa beans were used as currency. Chocolate became a luxury good. It was still a luxury when it reached Europe after the 16th century: only royalties and those with high connection and money could enjoy the chocolate drink.

We are lucky to live different times . Nowadays everybody can buy a bar of chocolate. if you are a true chocoholic you may combine the chocolate with travelling. You can go on a chocolate cruise or take part into various chocolate festivals around the world in Canada, United States, Italy or Mexico.

What is handier is to follow the chocolate path and enjoy a box of dark chocolate or very dark chocolate (the darkest of dark is 100% cocoa). They are an excellent treat or gift for chocolate aficionados.That will keep you busy until the 4th of September when it is World Chocolate Day and you can celebrate again.


14 October 2008

When jetting is not so easy - Easyjet

These are difficult times for the travel industry and companies are trying to transfer the cost of rising fuel charges to the consumer. One airline that has decided not to do so, is Easyjet.

They have decided to follow a different strategy. Selling more products on board. The infamous sandwiches and rarely-seen but well advertised hot meals are becoming a centrepiece in the airline’s strategy to boost profits.

In order however to sell more food you need a hungry/bored and alert audience. Easyjet has decided to follow a simple tactic to achieve this. Sleep deprivation.
Here is how they do it:

Non-reclining seating
It is near impossible to sleep on one of these seats as they offer a 90 degree upright posture. Unless you are drunk or actually faint you will struggle not keeping awake. A true HardJet experience.

Bright cabin lights
Most airlines on a 3-4 hour flight turn the lights low for a small period of time (1-2 hours) so people can relax and sleep. Not Easyjet. Bright lights create a supermarket-like atmosphere and in conjunction with typical bright orange colouring they serve as a strong sleep deterrent. It is normal for supermarkets and clothing stores to have very bright lights in order to showcase products better but Easyjet takes it one step too far in-flight. You end up leaving the plane drained and in need of some serious rest.

Vertical product
Gambling was never a hobby for me but some people seem to enjoy it. After a small wake-up speech by the cabin crew team leader, he proceeded to offer scratch cards that could win you up to 10,000 with 1 in 6 chances of winning (for a pound each). Anyone listening from the Office of Fair Trading or Gambling regulators?

The funniest point was when the crew member claimed that when he does the ‘scratch card rounds’ some rude passengers ‘pretend to sleep’ and ‘ignore him’. No, he did not want any of that. No ‘pretending to be sleeping’ or even ‘actually sleeping’ for that matter. He insisted on the minimum courtesy response of ‘no thank you’ from the passengers that were inconsiderate enough to pass on this great offer. Of course to say ‘no thank you’, a level of consciousness is required, and when someone is demanding an answer it is very difficult not to wake up.

Be honest
Get creative, force people at gunpoint to buy more food (use in-flight security crew), or charge more for flights instead all these subconscious, sleep deprivation tactics (aka torture).

Simply visit DizzyJet or NoShutEye Airways for more information.

06 October 2008

BA vs Olympic on ATH to LHR economy flights

Over the years I have travelled many times between Athens and London using a variety of airlines but mainly BA and Olympic Airways. Given the stark differences I thought about presenting a review of this flight in comparison.


BA has been consistently more punctual over the years with very few delays in service. Olympic on the contrary has adopted a policy of announcing flights sooner than they actually depart to avoid passenger lateness. The consistently “late” departures creating the feeling that the plane is always delayed. And quite rightly so. Get a grip Olympic.

Leg room

There is a clear advantage of Olympic Airways legroom in economy. The Olympic Airbus A340 has not been adjusted to accommodate more seats so the flight is comfortable enough even if you more than 6.5 foot tall. Similar legroom can be found on premium economy and business class on the British Airways planes.


On a morning flight BA usually offers a plastic wrap with a small sandwich, small muffin of some sort, some water and orange juice. Olympic (on my latest flight) had a breakfast consisting of an omelette, sausage and mushrooms with a piece of bread. The steward came round for a second time with what appeared to be warm croissants. Yes, this is exactly what I though. Warm croissants on economy class? Checked my ticket again in case I was in the wrong seat. Butter, marmalade and soft cheese to compliment the treat. A full size chocolate muffin was last on the menu. A selection of drinks was offered twice and three times we were approached for tea and coffee.


BA usually offers standard live flight information on economy coaches plus radio music and news channels which is good. Olympic had a screen on every seat (with nothing on it) and only offered flight information on two central screens (which I had no visibility of). Not nice. However there was audio channels offering a good selection of music.

Airline staff

The Olympic Airways stewards were very polite and overall you thought that this was some kind of premium economy service (to say the least). BA staff is somewhat, should I say ‘reserved’. No, that is not the right word, try rude. It is very difficult to order a second glass of water without getting the famous death stare. This culture is something that has baffled me about BA all these years.


As a last minute booking I paid a total of 166 Euros (one way). BA was charging over £300 for a late booking seat in economy. How are my dates of choice always more expensive on their site I do not know. Would not require a huge amount of trickery though to price up a chosen date, would it?


Ok, I know what you are going to say. British Airways in spite of all criticism is an established and profitable airline with a good overall record.
Olympic on the other hand is a struggling, state-supported money loser that the Greek government has been trying to dispose for years.
If this review is anything to go by, regarding the status of these airlines, you have to admit that good service, food and legroom plus an exceptionally low price are not good signs of profitability for a modern airline. Unfortunately money in the travel/airline industry is made at the expense of the consumer, who is forced to cramp in tiny seats with no legroom, eat rubbish food and pay a premium. That is life though.