An app I like al lot when travelling to/through airports you’ve never been before is “AirportZoom” . It gives you all information necessary about flight arrivals/departures, map of the airport, hotels, …
- Lufthansa: I travelled with Lufthansa from Brussels to SanFranciso (over Frankfurt). I was very pleased with the entire journey. From FRA to SFO I was on the new Boeing A380 which is a real Colossus and you couldn’t even feel you were in an airplane.
- American Airlines: the second time to SFO I choose American Airlines. This is a ‘never again’ experience. The flight attendants were absolutely not what I have seen before (this is not positive) but the worst part was that the transatlantic flight (BRU-JFK) was in a plane half the size of the interstate (JFK-SFO). Below an idea how that first flight looked like:
I book most of my flights through apps like “skyscanner“. They do a good job at catching all possible flights across airlines with a lot of filtering possibilities. Once you have found your flight, you get redirected to the booking agencies. Her’es my experience once you pas the the app …
- E-booking: good service. you could find this creepy but if you use “Trip-It“ for your trip scheduling the confirmation email of e-booking automatically gets confirmed there too 🙂
- Vamaya: yet another NO-GO. There’s some fine print in your confirmation, AFTER YOU ALREADY PAYED that states: “Airfares and reservations are not guaranteed until all funds are collected, clarifications if any are resolved, fares are reconfirmed, and tickets are issued.” They use this fine print! Very shortly after confirmation (on a saturday morning) I got an email with a 20% uplift (from 430 > 510). As you all know we need to expense our flights towards our companies and try to be as economic as possible. With Vamaya this is not going to help you.
Something that comes in very handy is off course a second phone so can keep being online on your regular phone number. I found another helpfull tool and that is a MiFi. A MiFi is a mobile 3G/4G modem. I chose the Huawei E587. It gives WiFi for up to 5 devices at the same time. First time I used it was in central London in my hotel room and I got 17Mbps download. Eat that [current provider that gives me more Edge than anything else at home] .
I am leaving my current provider @Telenet soon. Although I am a more than 10years customer and have been an early adopter every time, they really screwed up with their mobile services. No decent connectivity in your own country and extremely expensive abroad is just not from these days anymore.
- United States: I use an AT&T card. I have not much to comment here as I got it from someone else when I got onsite. I will update this when I have to reload it on a next travel.
- Spain: Orange Everywhere. There are a lot of Orange shops in Spain. I paid €9,00 for the SIM card and €3,00 per day. This was a data only cards that gave me up to 1GB of data.
- UK: In London Heathrow Airport there are vending machines that offer you multiple data plans. I chose a 3-Mobilecards for £20 with 1GB data and a months to use that up. I was travelling 4 times to the UK in that month so that was really worth it. Downside: on my 4th trip I ran out of my data plan and needed to recharge. This was IMPOSSIBLE online unless you have a UK-based credit card. Just take the money b#tches!
- Switzerland: In some countries you can get the cards in a vending machine. In Switzerland … I had to go to the Postal Office, waiting 25 minutes in the queue (yes, it is a postal office) and once I got there I went through another 25 minutes of inquiry with passports etcetera. When I wanted to pay, they only accepted a Swiss Post debet card. #FAIL. So I had to pay in cash. I was so furious at that point that I didn’t even check the currency rates they were charging me. I ended up with a SwissMobile SIM card with 250Mb for … (can’t remember but awefully expensive). Connection did go well.
- Germany: I did a few shops before I found the following solutions at T-Mobile shop: ask for a Congstar Starting Package. It costs minimum €10,00 but the best part is that you can use that as credit. There’s a few but but but here: first of all, you have to manually enable the SIM card through a German website. Secondly, you’ll need a genuine German Address and Phone Number to activate the card (use hotel details). Lastly: please pick the right package. I first picked a phone+SMS package by accident so I had no data which was what I needed. No sweat, I even had 50% discount on that first €10,00 so I didn’t mind going through it again. You can recharge Congstar in any little small shop.
- Russia: get some help on this one as Russians do not speak English (and I guess your Russian is not that much better). Best provider I had in Saint-Petersburg was Megafon (МегаФон) I have no clue what they sold me but it was more than cheap enough and reception was excellent.
- The Netherlands: I went into a T-Mobile shop and got a “PrePaid Internet” card. It costs €9.95 of which 2,50 for the SIM and 7,50 of credit. However, they told me it is could take up to 48hrs to get registered unless you top it up with at least €10 in the machine at the shop. So for a total of €19.95 you are set. Here comes an important catch: it costs €30/MB with a max of €4,50/day which tops your service to 15MB/day. This is really outrageous and looks a lot like roaming prices. HOWEVER: if you top the card with more than €15, you’ll get 1GB of data with no limitations/day. This makes it €0,03/MB (€9,95 + €20 / 1GB). Important technical sidenote: T-Mobile does require manual APN settings!
- Belgium: yes, even for Belgium I have an extra SIM card. I use it when friends come over so I could share my MiFi with them but also when I really am somewhere without decent WiFi and have to do some actual work. I chose Mobile Vikings. They have a data plan of only €12 per month with 2GB traffic included. The SIM card costs €15 of which you get your first month for free! Remark: If you travel to Belgium, have it ordered upfront and delivered to your hotel for example. You cannot buy the SIM in a shop.
|The London Heathrow vending machine|
I left @Telenet to go back to Proximus. Mainly because, although the support is still crap, at least the 3G reception is acceptable in Belgium. But I still have the data plan issues off course. You “could” go for an international data plan where Proximus works together with Vodafone but just a short look at the prices makes you vomit again …
Apps for travellers:
- Skyscanner: I use this one the most for booking my flights. No BS, just does what it has to do in a neat setup – iOS – Android
- TripIt: if you travel a lot this is a must have. If you let your emails come in through gmail, it automatically scans your inbox and put you flight details or hotel reservations in the app. Great app for planning the entire trip iOS – Android
- Airportzoom: if you travel more than frequently you end up in very different airports, always trying to find your way around. This one really helps you out. Arrivals and Departures, map of the airport and surroundings, … iOS – Android
- Every Time Zone: no more no less, very clean and perfect for what it takes. iOS – Web – very good alternative for web is World Time Buddy
- Yelp: rating of restaurants by the visitors, not by criticists. iOS – Android
- Booking.com: together with HipMunk a great place to search for hotels iOS – Android
- iCurrencyPad: no comment necessary 🙂 iOS
- Über: reserve your taxi, but … no hassle with visa/cache, your CC details are already in the app and you get the invoice automatically by email later. iOS – Android
- HipMunk: this is finding flights and hotels 2.0 . Some really smart people made this app very intuitive. I have seen it’s not flawless (cheaper flights sometimes not mentioned) but hey, what isn’t? Android only