Sunday, December 4, 2011

a frequent traveler tips

For the past several years, I've been traveling every month due to nature of my job and lately I need to travel even during my monthly vacation away from home.

While traveling I have learned several things that I wanted to share to others who might find my tips helpful.

Have a credit card
- I normally book my train and plane tickets by net. I can do it even while taking my tea break in my office.
- The same thing with hotels/hostels; sometimes the room is cheaper if you book it by net.
- You earn points which you can use to pay your credit card yearly dues.
- You can avail of your bank's credit card promo. There were times my family cinema tickets were subsidized by my visa card promo. To add, I remember collecting cakes and personal pizzas when I use my cards.
- You can even arrange vacation/fly now, pay later with your credit card.
- In case of emergency, like when our immigration officers demand show money, lol. Kidding aside, there were countless instances that my credit card had saved my day.
- However, be aware about the risks in using and losing your credit card.

Sleep at the airport
- Airports nowadays are safe for an overnight sleep. I slept or stayed overnight several times in Changi airport before and checked-in at my hostel the following day. I saved around 20 USD each time.
- This coming vacation, I'll leave Kuala Lumpur on 15 Dec afternoon and arrive at Bangkok airport at almost 9:00 PM. I'll sleep at the airport then check-in at my hotel in Bangkok next day. Savings of 34 USD. I'll do the same thing when I go to Hong Kong on 22 Dec to meet my family, 64 USD added saving. Not to mention the experience.
- If you decide to give it a try, just make sure your bags/luggage are secured and locked. You can wrap the strap around the bench or your arms.

Sleep on Train
- I did that twice from Singapore to KL, Malaysia. 2 nights hotel cost saved.
- 2 nights saving from KL to Butterworth then Bangkok.

Buy local SIM
- It is cheaper to buy local SIM card and make calls rather than pay roaming charge. It is obvious that you pay more when you roam. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that the country you are visiting will not provide you free telecom service.

Buy your alcohol from duty free
- I am an avid Vodka drinker. During my stay in Abu Dhabi, I know a can of beer will cost me 21 Dhs or around 5.50 USD. It will take at least 4 cans of beer before I reach my limit or 4 shots of my favorite Vodka orange. I bought 1 liter Smirnoff for around 14 USD from duty free. I finished the bottle after 1 week. Savings? more than 100 USD.
- I did the same thing in Dubai and Singapore and I am planning to do the same in Bangkok but I was hesitant to do it in Malaysia. It's a conservative country thus I buy my shots from 7/11.

Another one for alcohol
- If you are alone and you want to visit any bar, order bottled or canned beer. There is less chance that your drinks will be drugged because they normally open the bottle on your table and before you go to toilet consume your beer; order another round upon coming back.
- Don't order beer in pitcher. Some bars were collecting half-consumed pitcher and mix the remaining beer to new order. This tip came from my father. He used to work as seaman. Or in case you really want draught beer, go to counter and order a pitcher, refuse if the bartender will give you prepared beer pitcher from the fridge. Ask the bartender to fill it in front of you.
- Eat first before going to bar. Side dish or food inside the bar is costly. You go to bar to drink. Go to Mc Do if you want to eat burger and fries, cheaper and taste better.

Complimentary? Take it!
- In many hotels they provide complimentary tea and coffee, take them. They're free. Never mind those hotel people, chances are you won't meet them again until your last breath.
- Toiletries? Vanity kit? Disposable slippers? By all means, take them. My wife has a constant supply of shower cap coming from these hotels whereas those bottled and vegetable soap/lotion/conditioner will be fine for your guests in your home. Just place them in your common toilet/bathroom and give your guests a hotel-like experience while using the toilet.
- Some travelers even collect plane toiletries. I love collecting Emirates face towels and comb but be forewarned that taking life jacket is strictly prohibited. You will be apprehended at your destination point. The guy manning the x-ray machine knows how it looks like. I swear I don't do that.

Travel gears
- Be it laptop, camera, mobile phone or simple MP3 player, it will prevent you from entering the world of boredom. I consider pocketbook as an essential travel gear also.
- In my case, I can't travel without my laptop. Access to internet is essential for me. Sometimes my company will ask me to be mobilized for some jobs or training.

Insurance?
- Well, many travelers recommend insurance coverage. I agree with them, I have a company provided medical, life and repatriation insurance hence I have some extra confidence when I travel. But as of now, I haven't enjoy any of its benefit and I hope it will remain like that.

For frequent travelers
- Join any frequent flyer program. Once you reach silver level you will be entitled to lounge use and priority check-in/boarding and possible upgrade to business class during peak season. What more if you reach gold level? And the best thing is, joining is free.
- I sold several round-trip Emirates miles between Dubai and Manila. My price was 500 USD per round trip miles. I am now selling my Qatar Airways miles.

Stay alert always
- One time while in KL, I felt my pocket was being picked. Changed my position and prevented the guy from enjoying my hard-earned money.
- Don't let your things out of your sight. I remember one tourist in Genting Highlands (Malaysia), she misplaced her bag inside Ripley's Believe it or not. Her passport and all her money were inside the bag, she was crying and in panic. Luckily, one person found the bag and returned it to security. She was damn lucky.
- Treat any unusually friendly stranger with grains of salt. I travel not to gain friends. I have lots of them already. It seems rude but I haven't encounter any problem by doing this whereas you will find in net countless stories of tourists victimized or robbed because of being too friendly and accommodating to strangers. However, be aware that in case the situation asks you to befriend somebody then go ahead and enjoy but don't let your guard down.
- If in doubt about your hotel room security, bring your important things or gears with you when you go outside. It's burdensome but surefire safe for your important things.

No English & Comeback, Comeback
- For touts, my tried and tested strategy was to say "No English". I kept on repeating until he/she stopped. I have Chinese blood and some people I met thought that I was Korean/Japanese/Chinese and Singaporean. I can easily escape using my "No English" technique.
- I have used "comeback, comeback" technique several times when shopping. I don't utter any words, I just point to the item and smile. The sales guy will hurriedly search for his calculator and enter some number. I shake my head and say comeback, comeback. They will try to negotiate but it will be useless for my no english & comeback technique. I use my finger in haggling, for one hundred I raise my index finger then again the guy will enter number on his calculator. Last time I used this technique was at Petaling Street (Chinatown), Kuala Lumpur, the 450 RM bag for my wife was brought down to 150 RM. Finally, the guy asked me if I was a Jap. I just smiled. He asked again if I was Korean, another smile from me. Then Chinese? I told him I was from Chow Kit, we all laughed.

Lastly, don't put all your undies in your check-in luggage
- My check-in luggage arrived at my work place after two months. That's one of the benefits of being a member of frequent flyer program, you have direct line to their customer service. Anyway, not much complication because I can re-use my shirt, pants, shorts for several days and I can manage even without socks. But undies?
- I remember one of my colleagues, his check-in luggage was delayed for 1 week. He reversed his undies on the second day. Fortunately, other colleague gave him his spare/old undies.