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Archive for August, 2009

Great location and tiny room Aug 31

I stayed at Radisson Edwardian Berkshire Hotel in London the end of October 2008 in connection with a short trip to London. I booked the hotel in advance and paid 188 GBP. When I arrived, the check in was very fast and I was assigned to room 801 which was on the top floor.  When I first came into the room I found a small room but I was prepared for this based on the reviews that I have read in advance.  But the room itself was quite nice and seemed very organized and tidy at first glance.You can read the rest of the review by clicking the link below.
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Some airports are more exciting than others… Aug 28

I went to Bolivia a couple of years back (see trip report here) and we took a small plane to the national park of ToroToro.  As we were about to land we noticed a cow on the “runway” (it was basically just a field on a ridge) and we had to fly low over it like 5 times before it moved and then we landed on the grass/mud – it was a bit scary as I’m used to (like most people) landing on a proper runway at a regular airport. Here are some examples of airports around the world where landing and take-off can be a bit more exciting that you were hoping for. Do you have any experience with similar “scary” airports?

This is from Gustaf III Airport on the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy

crash SBH from Mo Po on Vimeo.

Another Caribbean island, this time it is Princess Juliana International Airport on St. Maarten in the Dutch Antilles

Next example is from Honduras in central America

Back to the Caribbean – the island of Saba has one of the shortest runways :-)

And here is Lukla airport in Nepal where planes seem to take-off downhill and land uphill ;-)

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ZebraMap – your personal time zone map Aug 27

Do you wonder what time it is at the destination you are going to? Or places that you have been to? With ZebraMap you can create your personal map like the one that I have posted below. Notice that you can also get links on the various locations – quite fancy if you ask me :)

The most expensive city in the world Aug 25

The Swiss investment bank UBS has just relased a “Prices and Earnings” study and Oslo came out on top as the most expensive city in the world…hurrah, we finally won something ;-) Well, it is not really news that Oslo and Norway are voted to be expensive – I think all foreigners knows this to be a fact. At least I do get comments and questions regarding this topic all the time. A couple of years back I had visitors from Malaysia and they were quite shocked to see the prices (especially on food) compared to their home in KL. But this means that it is great being a Norwegian when traveling as most places in this world are cheaper….well, getting a drink in Dubai is actually more expensive than in Norway actually. Here is an article about the study.

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Travel adapters Aug 24

A while back I bought a travel adapter at the store called Handysize. The adapter was pretty brilliant as I was able to puzzle it together into a small provide container and that made it easy to bring it along when I went traveling. But there was a slight problem with it – in some cases (especially when I went to Malaysia) it did not seem to sit properly into the socket and I ended up having to find stuff to support it in order for it to provide constant power. 

So now I’m on the lookout for a new travel adapter. At a store here in the area called Teknikmagasinet it seems like they have a few options. A frind of mine has got one called X-power travel adapter where you just slide out the plugs that you need. It looks a bit more sturdy and it is also handy for throwing into the backpack when I travel. What travel adapter do you use when you travel? Let me know if you have found the perfect travel adapter and where I can get it :-)

iPhone – your best travel companion? Aug 23

I got an iPhone a few months back and I just love it. As weeks go by more and more apps are released and there are of course lots of travel apps out there that can be of some use. One of the apps that I found very useful when I went to Vietnam and Cambodia was this currency converter application. It was useful as it was very confusing to go from Ringgit in Malaysia to Thai Baht to Vietnamese Dong to Cambodian Riel. Check out iTunes for all the travel apps that are on offer both free and at a charge…you can get everything from maps (Google Earth), info on hotels, where you can find restaurants near by, flight information, translation services etc. Will the guidebooks disappear now that you can also get these on the iPhone? Lonely Planet has even started offering city guides on the phone :-) But one word of advice…note that data traffic can be VERY, VERY expensive when you travel abroad so you should try to keep the online surfing to a minimum unless you don’t want a shock when you get back home and see your phone bill. Which travel apps are your favorites?

You can also rip your DVD movies and load them on your iPhone. One of the applications that are getting good reviews when it comes to this is a free application called WinX DVD ripper. I have uploaded a couple of movies to the iPhone and the screen is impressive so the quality of a movie is quite good.

SAS introduces fuel charge on award tickets Aug 22

As a member of the SAS Eurobonus program I got a bit of a shock when I got the news that SAS would introduce fuel surcharge when buying an award ticket. This means that I had to cough up almost 3000 kroner (about 500 USD) when getting an award ticket to Hong Kong. Lufthansa just had an offer where it was possible to buy a ticket to Hong Kong for 3500 kroner (580 USD) – this means that it is not really a point in using the frequent flyer points anymore unless you go for business or first class.

In connection with this a campaign has been started in order to try to convince SAS to go back on their decision but I have to say that I doubt they will change their mind as they are in economic problems these days. But we should still voice around opinion of course Below is an e-mail that you can send to SAS and international members should use stosn@sas.se

Dear SAS EuroBonus,

Since 2003, as EuroBonus members and loyal SAS customers, we have experienced a constant decline in the benefits and rewards of being a EuroBonus member and SAS customer. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who have experienced this which can be clearly seen in your market share of the Scandinavian market and also your recent traffic figures.

Fuel surcharge on EuroBonus award tickets
The latest occurrence in this steady decline is the introduction in July 2009 of adding the fuel surcharge to EuroBonus award tickets. The argument as to whether a fuel surcharge can legally be a separate charge in the first place is not of most concern to us as frequent flyers. What is of real concern is that the only remaining benefit that has made EuroBonus stand out from other frequent flyer programs – no fuel surcharge on award tickets – is now gone.

With this change, “free” EuroBonus tickets will now cost an extra 152 Euro (on average) on top of taxes, which is a 328% (on average) increase compared to just paying the taxes together with the points, and a devaluation of EuroBonus points by -34% (on average) in terms of their monetary value due to the points required remaining the same.

Also, by adding the fuel surcharge to award tickets you will be discouraging the spending of EuroBonus points on otherwise empty seats on SASSAS must pay for. Would it not be better to keep this money inside SAS by offering an incentive for your customers to spend their points with you instead of others?

EuroBonus no longer has anything that other frequent flyer programs do not also have, and worse – has many more negatives, such as:

No one-way reward flights
Other airlines offer the possibility to pay 50% of the points/miles for a one-way flight (e.g. bmi) while others take 70% of the points/miles (e.g. Lufthansa). However with SAS one must pay 100% of the points as one must book a return flight. Plus as of July 2009 one must pay the return fuel surcharge also – therefore paying twice the money just to fly one way – this is really bad practice.

25% points rule on too many booking classes
Earning 25% of points on the cheapest of the cheap tickets is understandable, but too many fare classes earn only 25% – many of these tickets are not at all cheap. Most other carriers are much more generous in awarding miles/points than SAS, and as you have made it more difficult to earn points, EuroBonus and SAS are now seen as worthless for some members in terms of rewarding loyalty.

Booking classes on Star Alliance codeshares
When booking a Star Alliance flight with SK code numbers, for example HEL-FRA-YYZ operated by LH/AC in Q class, the booking class for LH actually becomes L class, which earns 25% EB points instead of the 100% that one expected. This is misleading and should be fixed.

Poor elite recognition
As a EuroBonus Gold (EBG) there is no recognition once onboard the aircraft whatsoever. For example, other airlines block a middle seat if space is available for their Elite members (and even other partner Gold members), or provide a free snack and drink in Economy to all their Elite members on flights where there is Buy On Board (e.g. bmi).

If the experience onboard for a loyal EBG member flying short haul Economy with SAS is the same as flying Norwegian or Ryanair then there is little reason to chose SAS, and more reason to chose Norwegian or Ryanair in terms of price, and Lufthansa or Finnair in terms of better service and treatment.

This vicious circle of losing more and more market share is partly due to the gradual cutting away of the benefits and not being transparent to your best customers, to the point where we are lured away to fly with other better quality or cheaper carriers and to also use other better frequent flyer programs – thereby ignoring everything to do with SAS on the very mention of the word or view of the logo.

We understand that the current economic climate is tough and that this is the reason you introduced the fuel surcharge on award tickets, but by gradually making more and more negative changes to EuroBonus without also introducing any real improvements, particularly for your best customers (EBS and EBG members), SAS is slowly but surely losing more and more customers – more and more of your best customers who are the very ones you should be doing as much as possible to keep during these tough times.

We therefore hope that SAS will remove the fuel surcharge on award tickets as a priority, and thereafter fix the other above problem areas of EuroBonus, and by doing this, SAS will again have one of the best frequent flyer programs, that can make you win new customers and keep your old ones, making SAS once again the preferred carrier to and from Scandinavia.

Kind regards,

<Your name>
EuroBonus Member Number: EBX ### ### ###
flights. They will instead be spent on seats on partner carriers which

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Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva – expensive and a bit outdated Aug 21

I stayed at Grand Hotel Kempinski in the beginning of November 2008 in connection with a short trip to Geneva. I booked the hotel in advance and paid about 2500 NOK (about 365$). I took the taxi from the airport to the hotel and that cost about 35 CHF and check in was quite fast and I got room 4460. It was easy to see that this is a pretty luxurious business hotel and the lobby area is quite vast and there were lots of shops selling good quality watches and there is even a huge cigar shop filled with Cuban cigars. Click on the link below to read the entire review.
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Weird museums around the world Aug 20

I got a newsletter from the Norwegian travel magazine Zine travel today and one of the topics were weird museums around the world. You can view the article here (only in Norwegian I’m afraid). Did you e.g. know that there is a sewer museum in Paris? And there is a British Lawnmower Museum. I think the weirest museum I have been to is the  Museum of forensic history in Bangkok. I went there during a trip in 2002 and the brochure said that this was a museum “not for the squeamish”…and they were quite right. It is a place were you can see mummified criminals, body parts on jars, babies with various birth defects, skulls with bullet wounds etc.  It was really a bizarre place and I left the place kinda nauseous.  But I guess it depends what you are used to seeing…when I went there, there were school classes visiting and they did not seem to mind. Anyway, you can see more photos at the bottom of the Thailand 2002  trip report.
Now it is your turn…have you been to any weird museum? Tell us all about it :-)


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Skene House Rosemount Aberdeen Aug 17

In September 2008 I went to Aberdeen on a short business trip. I was not sure where to stay so I asked a colleague of mine that had been to Aberdeen before and he said “Stay at Skene House on Rosemount….but be sure to ask to stay in the church”. I found “the church” recommendation to bit a bit odd but I followed the advice and booked the room. Click on the more link below to read the entire review.
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