Trip planning

HK Express booking tips

HK Express is branded as Hong Kong’s budget airline. I have flown with them to four destinations this year. So far so good and no delay on all flights.

Budget = no frills. You have to pay extra for many things – checked in baggage, choose your seats etc. You are not allowed to consume outside food or drink, so you have to buy everything onboard, including water. If you are cold on the plane, they won’t give you a blanket; they sell it to you!

For short haul flights, I have no problem with these. I actually find it more peaceful when no food is served and the plane smells less. HK Express is also quite generous with carry-on baggage. It allows one 7kg piece plus a handbag. They weigh the bigger looking carry-on baggage and don’t weigh the handbag. So you can get away with carrying quite a lot in two bags.

At the end of October, HK Express celebrated its first anniversary and offered $1 ticket sale. I am a perpetual deal finder and become quite familiar with their website. I write below some step by step tips, hopefully would be helpful to you in their future sales.

Checking:

- “Like” www.meethk.com facebook page and you will see its posts. Meethk updates airlines sales even faster the airline’s email distribution/promotion. During the $1 HK Express sale, Meethk updates availability of $1 seats throughout the day which is very helpful. Try the dates that it says it’s available first. But other dates not listed on Meethk may also be available.

- On HK Express website, key in dates, press “search”.

- if it says “Sorry, there is no available flight”, it means the system is busy, rather than there is really no flight flying on those days. Just keep trying or choose different dates.

- Once the search result is loaded, you will see the fare. If it’s not the discount fare that you are looking for, try different days and flight times combinations. From experience, departing Wednesday and Thursday is cheaper than departing on Friday or Saturday. But it really depends on the chosen days.

- When you try to search for different dates, you cannot click on the tabs that show the dates. It will go into an error message. You have to do a new fresh search for new dates.

- Airfare changes and varies a lot. Can go from $1 to $1060 and then back down again. So just have to keep trying.

- from experience, there is no advantage to book late at night when you think the website has less traffic. The system actually crashes just as much.

Booking:

- Once you find your desired flight, click “Book now”.

- booking page will load. First you have to deselect Travel Insurance. If you wait till you input all information, I have had experienced the travel insurance part disappeared on the screen. Then you will be forced to buy insurance.

- key in your contact details.

- for adult 1, click “passenger detail same as contact person”.

- you have to input date of birth and passport expiry date in the calendar that pops up. Non-sensical and very slow way to input dates. Be patient.

- Deselect check in baggage if you don’t want. Worth noting that if you want to add check-in baggage after booking the flight, you cannot do so by managing booking online as you would expect in other airlines. You will have to call their call centre (which costs money), or just pay even more when you check in luggage at the airport.

- then just scroll down, no need to purchase any extra services like choosing seats, receiving SMS etc. if you don’t want.

- click “Continue”, tick to agree to terms and conditions.

- Click “Purchase”. If it says “there is a problem during the booking”, it means you can’t buy the tickets. You will have to start all over again. This happened to me four times when I tried to book my $2 flights to Nagoya. Now you realise why I am so familiar with the website.

Paying:

- if you go to the payment page, choose the payment method other than 支付寶. The other method is for credit cards.

- then pay

Confirmation:

- if everything goes well, confirmation page will load. You will receive a confirmation email from HK Express almost instantly.

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印度(1):印度≠人道≠忍倒

農曆新年,攞兩日假就可以去玩九日,是旅行黃金檔期,我點會錯過。揀去邊度玩,第一條件是少中國人去的冷門地方,想被開泛濫的annoying and noisy tourists。印度沒有名店shopping,農曆新年人潮不會增加。印度二月的天氣最宜人,氣温二十幾度,sunny everyday。之前Jet Airways promotion $4777 連稅direct flight,夠抵玩。好,就去印度啦!

買了機票後,關於印度的負面新聞不絶,巴士輪姦案,rape victim死唔去的話會被迫嫁給rapist, what sort of culture is this? 印度,好唔人道喎!

要去印度,第一關是申請visa。奇奇怪怪地visa service不是由領事館辦理,而是outsource去間旅行社,visa application fee外要額外付service fee to the travel agent. 明明要親身去交申請表,但又必定要填online application form後print出來。申請表上問一大堆irrelevant questions,例如我的宗敎,十幾年前去印度時的visa number,還有過去十年去過的國家。我很用心地列出十年來去過的39個國家,submit form時才話maximum limit 100 letters,又不寫明有字數限制,又不提供其他空位給我補充資料,但張form最後又要我confirm accuracy of all information. 咁令人好難做啫……

一同人講去印度,所有人都會一臉擔心地問我打咗針未,記住小心飲食。聽聞印度南部比我以前去過的北部更加disorganised and chaotic。印度,我忍倒忍呢?

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新年雙城記

國泰和港龍逢星期二推出的Fanfare,幾百蚊就飛得起,抵得交關。一個抵字足以沖昏頭腦,上個月我就被沖昏了。
亞洲地區很多國家我都去過,要找安全、具吸引力但又未去過的目的地,是每一次plan short trip的考慮因素。吳哥窟是聞名古跡,我又未去柬埔寨,近幾年多次想過去玩,但以前去金邊正價機票要成$4000,相對周邊國家貴太多,所以一直未成行。
港龍推出Fanfare $790 only,勁平呀!New Year Day出發還有機位,連同之後個weekend,攞三日annual leave就可以去六日,難以抵擋的誘惑!興奮無比,立即book機票!
Book機票後第二日,老公問我,1月7日星期一晚我要去證婚,那天才返港趕得切嗎?吓?咩話?再看清楚機票booking….. Arhhhhhhh!我攪錯了星期六、日和1月6、7日,錯誤訂了1月7日星期一回程!機票not allow refund or rebooking呀!
1月7日我一定要在香港,唯有forfeit張機票,太浪費了!再買過張金邊返港的單程機票,好貴,not a good option. 點算好呢?
打開個地圖看看,原來吳哥窟同金邊和曼谷的距離差不多,可以坐車過境去Bangkok飛返香港喎,反正我都想去Bangkok shopping。
Bangkok有很多airlines飛,最平的Kenya Airways單程票未計稅$490 only, 於是就book了1月6日返港機票。好嘢,有得去玩喇!

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日本中部(1):計劃篇

上星期去日本玩了五日慶祝生日和結婚周年紀念。現正是去日本中部的最佳季節,山腰有秋天紅葉,山頂有初冬雪景,藍天晴朗,氣溫十幾度,不太熱不太冷,好舒服啊!這個旅程我所計劃的,想像的都一一實現,好玩好玩好好玩,just perfect!

日本中部泛指本州中部的幾個省,由香港可以飛去東京,大阪,名古屋三個機場,再要坐三四個鐘頭車。我未曾去過名古屋,所以兩個月之前Cathay Pacific promotion $1900 去名古屋,就即刻book了機票。

日本火車費昂貴,由日本中部機場去中部地區的城市,一程一個人的車費都差不多要9000 yen。一check車費,就決定要全程租車自駕遊,兩個人以上share cost已比坐public transport划算。 經www2.tocoo.jp租車可以compare幾間租車公司的rate,更有tocoo special rate,比租車公司的official rate更便宜。我用21000 yen租了架Nissan Note細車五日,全程開了超過1000km,油費才花了8500 yen,雖然公路toll fee都用了12000 yen,但始終都平過public transport。而且自己開車較flexible,日本road network又好,司機又守秩序,是最適合自駕遊的destination.

已經幾年没有見過雪,一開始research知道立山黑部山頂是全日本最早下雪的地方,就決定必定要去。我一向都喜歡猿猴類動物,鐘愛牠們近似人類的行為表情。在日本著名會浸温泉的猴子住在長野縣,為了要見牠們一面,要專登遷就行程開三四小時長途車去,但我覺得是個must see,必要加入行程。包含了這兩個highlight,the rest of the itinerary is easy to fall into place. 行程比旅行團還要緊密:

第一日:fly to Nagoya, drive to 松本

第二日:松本city tour, drive to 地獄谷野猿公苑 and visit Monkey Park, then drive to 立山

第三日:立山黑部, drive to新高穗温泉

第四日:visit 白川鄉,高山

第五日:fly back to Hong Kong

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約旦(2): Practical information

Visa
入境第一件事就是申請visa on arrival. 我看過四五本旅遊書,都寫所有人都要申請入境簽證。香港入境處網站話HKSAR passport visa free, 但為了double check,我都在visa counter排隊。約旦immigration是我見過最不official的,剛剛遇上換更,他們在大庭廣衆數cash交收,check我passport個officer竟然穿著T-shirt而不是uniform,連香港的supermarket換更都更加efficient and professional! 我一遞上passport, T-shirt officer 就認得香港護照,話visa free. Good! 摼番JD20 (約HK$200) visa fee! 到底約旦和香港有甚麼交往,會優待港人呢?

Money
Jordan貨幣叫Dinar, JD1=HK10.9. Jordan cities ATM很普遍,去到才withdraw cash 都得。我就帶了美金去,旅遊區都有找換店,commission and exchange rates are all negotiable. 記住格價甚至講價。在機場visa counter 前有個money changer, 但exchange rate very poor, commission又高,不要在那裡換太多錢啊!

Car hire
約旦的intercity public transport is quite limited, 就算重要的旅遊點都未必serve by public transport,租車自駕遊is an obvious option. Airport有international car hire companies like Hertz, Europcar etc. 一出機場去pick up car, 居然話our car is not ready, they can only give us a smaller car, but no refund of price difference! We refused, 那個人就made some very agitated loud phone calls, 等了成個鐘頭,refuse 了另一架爛爛地的舊車,才finally got what we booked. My advice to 打算在約旦租車的人是記緊negotiate to get what you book, car hire companies, even reputable ones, 都可能很inefficient或not entirely honest.

Must bring: eye shade, sunglasses, hat and sunblock
六月份5點就天光,4點幾清真寺會大聲播禱告,被嘈醒後要再瞓,最好戴個眼罩遮光。太陽勁猛,7:00am-7:00pm都一定要帶太陽眼鏡才可以睜開眼。加頂遮埋條頸的大帽,揸high SPF的防曬。去完一個星期,我對手曬到仲黑過度木門!嚇死人!怕曬黑的人請不要去約旦。

Dress code
不論男女都不會穿短褲,女遊客最好不要穿背心,露出前臂的T-shirt is acceptable, 除了入清真寺,不必帶頭巾。旅遊書話不可以walk on the street with wet hair, because it means you just have sex!!

Women travellers
當地男女地位不平,女人都不會出外工作,在街上店舖内都很少見到女人。出入境過security check都有分開的一條隊for ladies inspection. As a woman traveller, 我都有少少不自然,例如不知是否appropriate to 截的士,去找換店or order in restaurant. I didn’t like it when I couldn’t be myself.

Public display of affection (PDA)
回敎國家一般都不會在公眾場所display affection. 因為全個trip都甚少見到女人,未知當地人會否公開拖手或kiss,但反而見到男人同男人拖手。PDF – public display of friendship? 作為遊客,我們都自覺地保守點,避免有任何肌膚之親。但在Amman過馬路車輛又快又不禮讓行人,不拖着手要一齊過馬路就要靠叫喚着對方,非常不習慣呢!

Flag of Jordan

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得人驚的毛氈(2): 解決辦法

自從聽聞飛機上面的毛氈有可能不是每一次用完就清洗後,對於毛氈的衛生情況,我一直存有戒心。短途機我寧願不用毛氈,但長途機還是需要保暖才睡得好。
我想向大家推介Uniqlo出品的超輕羽絨,在飛機上穿上了就好像自備睡袋一樣,又輕又暖又舒服。該款羽絨勝在夠輕夠細,只重199克,摺好放入附送的小袋子,同包細薯片差不多大,方便攜帶。
在機場安全檢查,有時會被要求將大衣和鞋脫下過X光。我不喜歡將外衣和皮鞋放在同一個tray,尤其是那些tray裝過無數人的鞋,好不衛生。穿着超輕羽絨,我就可以脫下後塞入自己的手提包內,不怕被沾污。
以後坐長途機,我都一定會帶備這件新寶貝。

 

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坐Emirates去Dublin

由今年1月9日開始,Emirates Airlines有航班由杜拜直飛Dublin。以後由香港去愛爾蘭,又有多一間航空公司選擇了。由香港去Dubai直航只需七八小時,Dubai去Dublin要七小時。平時去Ireland要飛12個鐘去Europe,再駁一程short haul flight。經Dubai就可以平均分配兩程機的時間,比較舒服,決定試試。
Emirates最近promotion,$5800 all inclusive就去到歐洲,超平!全因中東國家大把石油,不收fuel surcharge。相比其他航空公司單是燃油附加費和税就要$3700!
昨晚在Emirates website訂機票,老公和我同一時間找到同一班機,各自在自己電腦book一張機票。我們同步進行booking,一齊輸入所有資料(包括credit card details)後,最後click Confirm and Pay。我就成功買到機票,但老公只收到個email話機票價錢有變,cannot complete booking!!
從未試過online booking入完所有資料後會最後突然唔賣機票!馬上再search website, seat unavailable, 只得business class!!!一定是我買了最後一個經濟客位!其他airline websites一般search時都會寫明是last few seats,等人知道機位tight,但Emirates就全無warning!
兩個人得一張機票,怎麼辦呢?
今早打電話去Emirates,他們沒有任何helpful solution,只叫我們自己再試book。等了一天,他們才email my husband,但錯誤地send去我的email address,offer him one seat,不過比昨晚貴$800。如果要之前的online discount fare,就只可自己keep trying on their website。我覺得有點被屈買貴機票,not too impressed.
未曾出發,已對他們的service有點失去信心。本來book air ticket是旅行的第一步,應該很興奮,但今次被個booking engine攪到好stressful,要不停check住機位,唉!連我這個天生travel agent都變成trouble agent!

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旅遊書巡禮

很多朋友去旅行之前都會看旅遊書做research,不少人問過我那本書最好。因為最近正在plan holiday,看了很多travel guides,在這裡講下幾個大路出版社的特色。

去日本泰國台灣中國的話,我會選看香港出版的旅遊書,因為較適合港人口味,大部份的篇幅都講吃和買,而且相片都很illustrative,especially food photo (這是外國travel guide少見的)。正文社出版社的書比較資料詳細,但長空出版社的都不錯。去泰國,必看胡慧沖系列和他的website,没有其它書比得上他的update。台灣出版的旅遊書文字較多,較少實用資料,或者過份深入,我只會當作supplemental reading。

去香港人少去的地方,我多數會看英文旅遊書。

Lonely Planet – 我的first choice是Lonely Planet。成日都聽人話Lonely Planet太多字,没有圖畫,好悶。我想講,Lonely Planet不是design to read from front to back,而是一本工具書。好像一本字典,不是由頭到尾讀一次就至叻,而是要知道在那兒查到所需的資料。Lonely Planet target independent travellers,有detailed practical information such as local transport, opening hours of businesses,非常方便plan行程。Lonely Planet series cover全世界,一般兩年就出一個new edition,資料都usually reliable and up to date。Lonely Planet都有出全彩色印刷的travel guides,但都算是個new series,暫時只得十幾個destinations。另外,要特別推介Lonely Planet website有售individual pdf chapters,逐個chapter買,去short trip小小地方就不用買全本書,幾划算!

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide – 同Lonely Planet剛剛相反,這個白色底封面的series,可算是最colourful and illustrative的,連建築物橫切面都有。街道圖3D,不會看地圖的人都可以match up buildings外貎with the book。我覺得太多圖畫,反而spoil the surprise,好似未去已經看過一次。DK Eyewitness Travel Guide没有transport information,見到張相幾靚,但它不會介紹how to get there,自己要另外找資料,我覺得幾麻煩。

Frommer’s同Fodors – 兩個都是美國出版社,我個人認為都是比較high end。看Kenya and Tanzania的guides,本書初頭helpfully list some frequently asked questions,其中一條問題是應否帶hair dryer去safari。一看到那裏,我就知本書唔啱feel。我心目中的safari是很rough的,吹頭,給誰看呀?兩本書recommend的tour operators, accommodation etc都是當地the best,參考下都不錯。

Bradt – 非洲最强,最informative。其他地區的都有travel guides,不過不算多,而且在香港冷門,要專門去找or order。

可能你會想,我怎會有那麼多旅遊書?没有,我是去公共圖書館借的。我會先在amazon.com search下要去的地方有那些旅遊書,然後在Hong Kong public libraries website search下有没有。有的話reserve and transfer去方便自己的圖書館借閱,只收取$2.5費用,相比買旅遊書經濟得多。

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馬爾代夫

曬,好曬,馬爾代夫無污染,海闊天空,一定好曬。又是曬命的時候,我book了holiday去馬爾代夫呀!

馬爾代夫是honeymoon最熱之選,平時被人問到關於Maldives的資料,我都只可大概講下天氣情况,然後refer他們去馬爾代夫專家旅行社Travel Walker。Travel Walker由幾個敬業樂業的人開辦,除了一般的旅行社服務,也為客人提供行程建議,friendly and helpful。今次我終於有機會自己幫襯了!

以前去馬爾代夫沒有直航機,要在Singapore, Malaysia or other places轉機,要飛成12個鐘。馬爾代夫的酒店一晚閒閒地都要$5000,太貴,不可以逗留太多日。飛那麼長時間才玩得幾日,太不efficient,這是一直令我卻步的原因。

今年開始,Mega Maldives和香港航空兩間airlines終於有包機由香港直飛Maldives首都馬里,航程只需6個半鐘。Maldives彷彿突然間近了很多!

去馬爾代夫都是想享受陽光海灘,風季雨季不適宜去運吉。現在包機加酒店的package只valid till November,是淡季價錢,很抵玩。我就book了十月尾,dry season之前的最後一week,搏一搏有好天氣。

馬爾代夫都是一個島一個resort,島與島之間的transport non-existent or prohibitively expensive,一般都只會留在同一個resort for the whole duration。Package有很多酒店選擇,首先我先剔除group tour and family oriented的resort,怕嘈。去謝絕小童的酒店較適合couples。跟着就research一下酒店的popular客戶群,例如太着重scuba diving友的resort會expect people to socialise at night,太過party atmosphere,德國tourist stereotype喜歡一早起身去霸泳池的sun bed,Italian tourist stereotype to be very loud,中國同胞的stereotype我都無謂多講……

我本身不重視luxury,不需要皇帝式的享受,反而更重視環境保育和周圍的海洋生態。Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru和Angsana Ihuru被視為truly environmental,有全Maldives最靚的珊湖礁。Banyan Tree的beach每日有turtle and sting ray feeding,酒店又提供marine biology class。兩間酒店之間有free ferry shuttle來回,去一間酒店,就有access to 2 house reefs,自己可以游去snorkelling sites,不用坐船限時限刻。不過因為要保護島邊的coral reefs,兩間酒店都只在沙灘上建設酒店房,我就没有機會試住Maldives的signature accommodation水上屋了。

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2011聖誕trip: 因禍得福

外國人的聖誕節有如中國人過年,重視一家團聚。到外地居住的子女都會回到父母老家過節。結婚多年,我都未試過聖誕節去愛爾蘭,所以想今年去一趟。

歐洲經濟不景,航空公司減價促銷,今年的機票比往年便宜得多。為了確保每班航機達到一定乘客數量,航空公司會平價售early bird ticket,用墊底價賣機位給墊底客。對我來講,不理墊甚麼底,抵就得了!

從香港没有直航機去Dublin,必須要經歐洲其他城市轉機。聖誕節前人人都趕着回鄉,機位緊張,那程由Europe飛去Dublin的short haul flight隨時貴過Hong Kong/Europe的long haul。坐歐洲航空公司一套機票由香港飛Dublin比分開買兩程機票較為著數。

Air France在六月時推出winter web fare,機票未連稅只需$3690就可飛到Dublin,空前筍價,還可以12月24日星期六早機出發,同日夜晚抵達Dublin,趕得及在Christmas day Dublin airport close之前去到,perfect timing!平到唔信,我馬上book了!

前日收到Air France的email,話去Paris班機cancel了,安排我們早一日出發。作為律師,我當然要捍衛消費者權益,怎可讓他們話改就改?看過Air France的terms and conditions,那張本來non-refundable的機票可以因為flight cancellation而refund。再check check其他airlines,Air France依然最平,我想去個trip,不想refund呀,所以就研究坐其他航班。

今早成功地要求Air France更改來回程機票到我們的first choice,比起原先booking的日子時間好得多。之前嫌貴而不book的航班,現在無端端不需額外付款就有得坐,今次真是因禍得福!Mark Six moment!

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