Saturday, 24 October 2015

Europe 2015 - "Third Leg"

I've been here 2 weeks and I've not posted even one post!

At the end of each travelling day, all you want to do is lie in bed and doze off. But if course, there are other pretty important stuff to do. Things like washing up (of course!), make that cup of coffee, pack stuff that has just been bought, keep track of the day's expenses, and do a little planning for the following day. Worse is if you need to move out of the hotel the next day. Stuff has to be packed (what to wear to sleep and what to wear the next day) and you need to turn in pretty early.

So here's a short recap.

I began my trip by flying to Frankfurt, before taking another flight to Berlin. I then moved on to Amsterdam by train and returned to Berlin (again by train) after 4 nights in Amsterdam. From Berlin, it was a short 1 hour flight to Vienna.

I took plenty (its an understatement) of photos, but i'll just be posting pictures of two sketches I did during the trip so far.

Berliner Dom
Canal in Amsterdam
That's about it for now. Hope I'll be able to post again soon! Wish me luck for the rest of my trip!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

"You Travel, So You Must Be Rich!" Really?

Yeah..Really?? *sigh*

Friends and colleagues have always remarked that I am so rich to be able to travel often.

Well, the fact is, their remarks are simply based on how they define "rich" and their perception of "travel". I think most of them who gave that remark will take back what they've said if they were to be on my itinerary.

I wouldn't say that I am a budget traveler. Neither would I say that I travel in luxury. If it helps, from a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being budget and 10 being luxury, I would give myself a 4. 

To put on record, I am nowhere near rich (the definition being, loaded with money). I travel simply because of a love for it. A love to see another country, another culture, different people, different places, new experiences, and of course to see the amazing sights the world has to offer. You can see winter on the internet and television, but its totally a different thing experiencing it.

At the end of the day, traveling helps a person grow. Of course, how you travel determines how much you grow. Which is why I almost always choose to backpack and travel free and easy, instead of following tour groups. Planning your own trip will make you understand the city better from all the research and readings. You also get to decide how long you get to be at certain places and at which time of the day. You get to decide if you want to sleep in on one of the days and only start your day in the afternoon. You get to decide where you want to stay and where you want to go, giving you a good control of your budget.

Which brings me back to the point that just because I travel at least once a year, I am rich. My friends get a rude shock when I told them that my first trip to Tokyo (6 days) costed me S$1,600.00 (on a side note, I realised that I have grossly overpaid for accommodation on my first trip. I manage to find cheaper accommodation on my subsequent trips to Tokyo) Naturally, others will want to replicate that. But what people fail to realise is that how I travel may not be how they want to travel. The places I go, the prices I pay for the type of accommodation, the flight I took or the food I eat may not be to their comfort or liking. The experience they want may not be those that I want. Simply put, what may work for me, may not work for others.

So it irks me when I get that kind of remark. It is almost an insult to the work I put in

a) to constantly save money so I can go on a trip anytime I want, without having to "save money for a trip" or wait for the next pay day;

b) to find the best price and value for flights and hotels

Should the definition of rich be that of being in possession of a huge amount of something (other than money), I'd say that I am rich. Rich in experience. I have definitely become richer in experience from all my travels. 

PS: This post was originally supposed to touch on Travel Budget, but I have rambled too much off-track, that I decided this topic gets its own post. I'll write on Travel Budget another day.

Monday, 5 October 2015


I was looking for halal places to eat in Prague when I stumbled on a blog by a Malaysian on his travels. I found it super useful and it inspired ideas of places and things to see in Prague on top of halal food available. It's in English and I'm happy to share the link:

I'm sure there are 1001 other blogs with photos, ideas, inspirations and sharing of experiences on the web. But this guy's blog stood out this time as it has halal food option for the muslim traveler.

This gave me the inspiration to make my blog useful or even more useful to others too! It began as a general sharing blog. But I guess I can make it appeal to muslim travelers, Singaporeans, Singaporean Muslim travelers, budget travelers, etc. on top of the general public. I hope it can be useful to the people all over the world too!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Selecting Flights

I am often posed with the question, "What is the best flight to take?"

So here, I shall attempt to answer that question. Of course, this question is more relevant to backpackers or free & easy travelers and not very relevant to molly-coddled travelers choosing to go on packaged tours with tour agencies. So, to answer that question, I will consider a handful of factors before deciding on one. They are:

Of course Price is a factor. It goes without saying that when I search for a flight on Zuji or Skyscanner, my eyes will zoom in on the cheapest option. But cheapest may not always equate to be the best.

No. Of Transfers
Some of the cheapest options get you to your destination for the least amount of money, but they may also involve unwanted transfers. The problem with transfers is, it extends your travel time, compared to direct flights. Also, the time in between the flights are important. You wouldn't want to hang around in the airport wasting hours of your time waiting for the next flight right? And it gets worse if the waiting has to be done during ungodly hours (e.g. reaching the airport at 10.30pm with the next flight scheduled at 6.50am the next day) And this is assuming there is only ONE transfer. What if it require more than one transfer? Transfers are not for everyone. Only those who can compromise on the convenience for a lower air ticket.

That being said, transfers are not always a bad thing. If you get transfers which are 1 - 3 hours apart, its still not too bad. Also, transfers can be good if you are able to choose those lasting more than 10 hours, and in those hours, you are able to travel out of the airport and to the city to do some sightseeing of that country! (e.g. En route to Rome from Singapore, I selected an Emirates flight that stops at Dubai for 14 hours with the connecting flight at 3.00pm. I manage to look around Dubai for a couple of hours before returning to the airport in time for my flight to Rome!) Do note though, how far the city centre is from the airport as well as the cost of traveling to and from the airport.

Flight Time
There are two Flight Times to take note of. Time of Departure and Time of Arrival. It can further be broken down to the Arrival and Departure from the respective countries. Let's take a flight from Singapore to Tokyo for example.

Departing Singapore
Chronologically, I will first Depart Singapore. This "Time of Departure" is a concern to me if my time is very precious (i.e. not enough leave, so have to work on the day of departure and can only select night flights) or if I have trouble getting to the airport at certain times of the day. Most often than not, Singaporeans should not have a problem with getting to the airport at any point of the day.

Arriving Tokyo
Now, to me, this is more critical. Why?

Is there public transport running by the time you arrive? (Yes, people can always take a cab. But taking a cab in a foreign country is my last resort. Most times, its not even an option)

If you arrive too early, you can wait for the first train/bus or have breakfast in the airport first. And sometimes, being early will result in you reaching your hotel earlier than the hotel Check-In time. If you are not lucky enough to be granted early Check-In, you have to either wait at the lobby or request to leave your luggage with the reception. All these results in inefficient use of time - your holiday time.

If you arrive too late, you have to make sure you do not miss the last train/bus. Even if you manage to do so, by the time you arrive your hotel, it is almost midnight. And if you think about it, that is about 9 hours of the use of the hotel that you have paid for that you have forgone.

Departing Tokyo
The rule book always advise us to reach the airport 2 hours before flight time. I'm one of those who try to follow this rule as often as possible simply because I would not like to miss my flight, its not fun racing to the boarding gate, (some of them could be 30 minutes away from the departure gate!!) sometimes it takes time to get the tax refund done and I like to have ample time in case of any emergencies.

Taking the 2 hours into account, departure time should not be too early that no public buses/trains can reach the airport. In the same logic, you would not enjoy the feeling of knowing that you have forgone 4 or 5 hours of your hotel stay that you have paid for when you check-out at 6.00am or 7.00am in the morning just to catch the morning flight.

A very late Departure Time will mean killing the hours between hotel check-out (usually 12.00pm) and the flight, all the time lugging your luggage (finding a cheap locker will solve this problem). It will also mean reaching your home country only the next day - which will again affect those with tight leave budget.

Arriving Singapore
Arriving should pose not much concern, in terms of getting home on any time of
the day. It will be a concern for those on a tight leave budget, as mentioned above. The day you arrive will not likely be the day you start working again. Some will start work the next day, and it will be sucky to arrive close to midnight and then returning to work less than 9 hours later isn't it?

Secondary Factors
The above are what I will call Primary Factors. Sometimes, there are secondary factors that will affect your decision. Things like being signed up to a Frequent Flyer Programme of a group of airlines to earn miles.

It could be the reputation of the airlines. You can't deny that you feel "safer" with a certain airline than another.

It could also be the type of airline you are flying and the facilities or perks that come with it. Some prefer budget airlines to save cost. But sometimes, full service airlines can offer cheaper prices than budget airlines. Or, it could be that you have a luggage to check-in and paying for this service with budget airline would make the price higher than a full service airline with luggage check-in included in the flight price.

Sometimes, paying a couple of dollars more will get you on a full service airline and it could be a factor you do not take the slightly cheaper budget airline.

At the end of the day, it is your choice and your decision to make on selecting a flight.

Did I miss out on any? Share them with me!