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Are you not glad I have suffered misfortunes, bad service, insects and other hazards? Now I know what to do and what not to do, how to do it and where to do it, and on this page I want to tell you all about it.


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Yay Travel

Eating on the Cheap

Part of the adventure of travelling is food. Unfortunately, food costs money. Some people are happy to splurge on very expensive restaurants every day of their trip, some like to mix the cheap and the expensive and some people want to go dirt cheap the whole trip. If you like to sometimes save money on food, here are some ways you can do it:

 

Buffets

 

Visit buffets as the prices are often lower than what you would pay for something a la carte. They also have the advantage that you can choose exactly what you want and get a good variety of vegetables and nutrients, depending on the quality of the buffet, of course. Some buffets like those in Brazil are really great in that they charge you according to the weight of the food you take. That means that if you eat a little, you do not end up subsidising those people who eat a lot. The fixed price buffets do, however, have the advantage that if you really are very hungry, you can eat as much as you want.

 

Street Food

 

I am most definitely not a fan of street food because the hygiene standards practised by a lot of vendors are less than great. Some people, however, love these vendors because they can get food very cheaply. You need to decide what your comfort levels are in terms of hygiene. Be warned: if you pick the wrong street vendor, you will be spending some of your cash on doctors and medicine.

 

Fast Food

 

Fast food is often cheaper than a lot of restaurants and there have been times where fast food has saved my life, figuratively speaking, because all the food at other places was truly very bad. This happened only once or twice with me, and I far prefer eating decent meals. There are times, however, when the price of decent food is just a little more than what you might pay for fast food and then it is definitely worth it to go eat a better tasting, more nutritious meal. If you do travel and if you really are able to afford only fast food, I would encourage you to mix it up and go to places that serve at least some quality vegetables with their food. Eating fast food all the time is bad for your health and can start to take away some of your enjoyment from your trip purely because your body is not getting what it needs.

 

Locals and Food Courts

 

Go eat where the locals go rather than where the tourists go. Often the locals will go to food courts, which many shopping malls have, including some of the exclusive ones. Some food courts are not great but then there are those, especially in Asia, where there is a good variety of healthy, affordable food.

 

Specials

 

Be on the lookout for specials advertised outside restaurants. If you do not see any, you can always ask the staff before deciding if you should go in. If a restaurant does not have any specials on that day, find out if they have any on another day. Then go visit them when they do have the special. Restaurants also sometimes find it more difficult to attract customers for lunch than for dinner, so consider having your main meal lunch time and then get something small from a supermarket for dinner.

 

Sometimes you will get a tourist card for a specific city and sometimes these tourist cards can lead to discounts in restaurants. Do your research but do not rush out and get a tourist card unless you are certain it will yield other savings for you besides on a few meals. Some cards might cost you more money than they are worth. Also, do not go half way across a city for a discounted meal. By the time you arrive, the discount would have been negated by all the transport costs.

 

Do research too about the airlines that you are thinking of using to get to your destination. Some airlines like Singapore Airlines do from time to time give visitors discounts on restaurants, transport and other services. Sometimes these specials are well hidden on a website and you might have to find them using Google. Otherwise, simply phone the airline and ask.

 

Local Markets and Supermarkets

 

Buying food from a local market or supermarket saves a lot of money because you are not paying the salaries of restaurant staff or other overheads. You also have a lot more choice in terms of what you want to eat. Although supermarkets are often cheaper nowadays than local markets because of their buying power, there are still local markets that are cheaper, especially in developing countries.

 

Stop Eating When You’re Full

 

Even if you’re really enjoying the food at a particular restaurant, if you are full, stop eating. In addition to the health benefits of not overeating, you will be able to take away what you did not eat, and that can then be your dinner. Two meals for the price of one is really not a bad thing, especially if the restaurant you visited was a cheap one.

 

Book Accommodation with a Fridge

 

When you book a place to stay, go for one that has a fridge. A lot of food that can last long, that is affordable and that is nutritious needs to be kept cold. I know from experience that not having a fridge can really put a dent in one’s budget because either you have to keep going to restaurants or you have to keep paying transport costs to get food from the supermarket each day as you cannot store a lot for more than one or two days without it going off.

 

It is also a good idea to have a kettle in the room. Think about packets of soup, instant noodles and more. If you cannot get a room with a kettle, take an immersion heater with you. That way you will at least be able to boil some water.

 

Avoid the Touristy Areas

 

Stay away from restaurants near major tourist attractions or where a lot of tourists stay. This is a general guideline only as there are exceptions. For example, Bukit Bintang is very popular with tourists in Kuala Lumpur and there are a lot of hotels in this street. However, it is also very popular with locals, so you will be able to find everything from affordably to insanely expensive. In fact, one of my favourite restaurants is in Bukit Bintang.

 

Save on Drinks

 

At many restaurants the real price of the meal comes from the drinks, be these alcoholic or non-alcoholic. If you can, buy no more than one non-alcoholic drink to go with your meal and then go buy something else to drink from a shop once you have finished. If you do drink alcohol, then definitely do not buy any at a restaurant. It will add considerably to the cost of a meal. I confess I am a hypocrite when it comes to buying something to drink in a restaurant: if I am thirsty, I will buy more than one drink. In fact, I usually have at least two things to drink in a restaurant although they are always non-alcoholic. In terms of drinks, it depends on how budget conscious you are. I do not hold back on buy something to drink if I want it except at those hotels where you could buy five of the same drink for less at a shop.

 

As I said, food is part of the adventure and for most of us there is a budget limit. It’s just the severity that varies. Use the tips as you need them to stay within your budget but try too not to lose the fun element.

Category: Food

7 Apr 2012 | 03:25 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

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Yay Travel

Safety at Internet Cafes

It is not uncommon for tourists to frequent Internet cafes. It is natural to want to stay in contact with friends and loved ones and the Internet is really useful for doing research and making last minute bookings when you are at your destination.

However, computers in Internet cafes can also be used to steal your personal details, including passwords. I am not talking about someone standing over your shoulder watching what you are doing, although you should make sure no one is behind you. I am talking about keyloggers. This refers to something that looks like a flash drive. The criminal inserts the keylogger into the computer’s system unit and everything you type on every site you visit is recorded. The criminal then takes the flash drive and has on it your credit card number, your bank account log in details and more, your e-mail password and more, depending on what you entered while you were sitting at the PC.

Before you type anything on the PC, check that there is nothing plugged into any of the flash drives. If there is, then pull it out. If you cannot see, then find another computer.

If you are nervous about someone recording the keys you press even though you can see nothing obvious, try to confuse the keylogging software. For example, suppose your password is mypass. Instead of typing this password, type m and then click outside the password field to deactivate it. Then type lots of nonsense, such as fejkfj5frgtrhtrporudewqwojk, return to the password box, type y, then click outside the password box and type nonsense such as ytsedsddwfnkwegewgefe and repeat the process. The keylogger software will then think your password is something like mfejkfj5frgtrhtrporudewqwojkyytsedsddwfnkwegewgefe…

You should also consider setting up a temporary free e-mail account different from your normal e-mail account. That way, if someone does hack into your e-mail, they will have very limited access to any of your personal information as most of it will be stored in your other, usual e-mail account.

You could also get a portable version of Firefox. This version allows you to save passwords so that you do not need to type them when you are at an Internet café. Basically, you save a portable version of Firefox with all your bookmarks and passwords on a flash drive and plug that in at the Internet café. You can get the portable version of Firefox here.

Remember always to log out of your e-mail and other accounts. Do not simply close windows, otherwise you could be creating a window of opportunity for a criminal.

Happy travels and safe surfing.

Category: Safety

30 Oct 2011 | 10:21 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

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Yay Travel

Pack This When Holidaying Abroad

If you ever wonder what you should take with on an overseas holiday or if you simply need a list to help you remember what to take with, we thought we could try to help. Below is a list of possible items you might want to pack for that holiday abroad:

 

Documents

Car rental confirmation

Air tickets

Accommodation vouchers

Airport transfer vouchers

Travel insurance documents

Passport

Vaccination certificates

Phone numbers and addresses of embassies abroad

 

Clothing

Jewellery

Belt

Walking shoes

Smart shoes

Dresses

Skirts

Tops

Blouses

Short pants

Long pants

T-shirts

Short-sleeve shirts

Long-sleeve shirts

Gloves/Mittens

Hiking boots

Long Johns

Underpants

Panties

Bras

Pyjamas

Jersey/Jacket

Raincoat

Sandals

Socks

Stockings

Swimming costume

Watch

Sun hat

 

Toiletries and Health

Soap

Shampoo

Conditioner

Face cream

Hand cream

Body cream

Suntan lotion

Earbuds

Toothbrush

Toothpaste

Dental floss

Curling iron

Hair dryer

Deodorant

Sanitary pads

Tampon

Brush

Comb

Lip ice

Nail clippers

Mouthwash

Nail clippers

Razor

Shaving cream

Tissues

Towel

Face cloth

Eye drops

Ear drops

Cough mixture

Immodium

Rehidrate

Reading glasses

Sunglasses

Liquid Paraffin

Heart Burn Medication

Contact lenses and solution

Vitamins

Pain tablets

Malaria tablets

Prescriptions

Insect repellent

Water bottle

Cutlery and crockery

Nappies

Sewing kit

Pen

Travel sickness tablets

Dummy

Plasters

 

Equipment

Camera and battery charger

Batteries

Memory card reader

Laptop

Laptop power cable

Cellphone and charger

Memory cards

MP3 Player

Calculator

Knife, fork, table spoon, tea spoon, mug, lunch tin

Immersion heater

 

For the Plane

Books

Inflatable pillow

Face mask

Chewing gum

Pens, pencils, notebook

Category: Packing

20 Sep 2011 | 11:37 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

Posted by:
Yay Travel

Shopping Can Be Hard Work

Some people like to go shopping on holiday and some people simply play at shopping. Either way, if your goal is to buy cheaper goods at a lower price, here are some of the things you need to look for:

 

1. Generally countries where the currency is a lot weaker than yours have cheaper shopping. You would want to visit those countries. Of course, as the develop, you will lose that advantage but this is okay in my books. It is better for people to make a decent living than it is for me to get bargains.

 

2. In developed countries, you need to consider how many large chain stores there are and how many small businesses. You really do not want to go where the major chain stores dominate. For example, if you visit Hong Kong’s malls, you will see the same thing from one mall to the other. The last time I was in Hong Kong the phrase “cookie cutter capitalism” kept coming to mind.       

 

3. Some people love bargaining and think that by bargaining they can get a good deal. Sometimes you can but my opinion is that bargaining is gradually dying out. In fact, bargaining irritates me and I a number of other tourists. I find that simply walking away gets someone to immediately drop their price and sends a signal to other people in the nearby vicinity to give you better prices immediately. Based on my travel experiences, it seems more people are catching onto the idea of not bargaining as much as they used to and instead simply giving someone a fixed price that is a bit more standard around a specific market place.

 

4. Before you plan a trip based purely on the desire to go shopping, check if the country you plan to go to really is a shopper’s paradise. A lot of places that once were shoppers paradises eventually lose their competitive edge as the number of tourists increase or as their societies develop or both. Some destinations that are no longer shopping havens are Dubai, Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City, especially not Ben Than market, with some sellers who like to physically push people to try to force them to their stalls but who do not like being pushed back (I have no shame when it comes to sorting out rude vendors).

 

5. Remember too that different parts of the same country or area can have vastly different prices. The more tourists there are in a specific place, the more expensive items are. For example, you can expect to pay a lot more for items in Patong, Phuket, than you would pay a few kilometres away in Karon, which is also a lot less crowded.

 

6. Good shopping areas come and go, so by the time you read these tips some places I may mention might be anything but shopping paradises. Do your research online before you go and speak to lots and lots of locals. Of course, some locals would not be able to tell you what is 500 metres down the road but keep trying. Find out specifically where locals go to buy clothes, food and other items that might interest you. Be careful though because some locals go to rather dodgy areas, such as Mataderos in Buenos Aires. In some of these places, a few basic precautions will keep you safe; in others you could be playing with your life.

 

7. As a general rule, stay away from factory shops. In theory, the prices at a factory should be cheaper than at a retailer but if the factory shop is geared towards tourists, you can be sure their prices are not particularly competitive. I remember most clearly the factory shops of Floreal in Mauritius. I walked in, had a look around, shook my head, walked out and got things cheaper elsewhere.

 

8. Sometimes goods are sold more cheaply at specific places on specific days. For example, in Mauritius you can get quite a lot of things cheaply at Quatre Borne on a Sunday and at Mahebourg on a Monday. I have heard that Flic-en-Flac is cheap too but I would need to do my research to find out on which days.

 

9. Stay away from big brand names. If you hear that a specific mall has big brand names in it, then stay away, unless you really want that kind of thing or would like a good laugh. The following malls are sometimes good for a laugh: Tang’s, Singapore; Star Hill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; Siam Paragon in Bangkok and Shopping Leblon, Rio de Janeiro.

 

10. Go to different malls, markets and flea markets, as many as possible. You are likely to find some or other bargain or novelty item at one of them, unless, of course, they practise that most tragic and grievous of shopping offences, cookie cutter capitalism.

 

Good luck and have fun even if you buy very little.

 

 

Category: Shopping

7 Sep 2011 | 11:46 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

Posted by:
Yay Travel

Cheaper Airfares

We all want cheap airfares. Let’s face it – airfares can make or break a trip. There is a dual reality: there are cheap airfares but they are few and far between unless you always fly Tomato Box and Elastic Airlines. Be realistic in your expectations of what you will get because if you hold out for too long, you will almost certainly find yourself paying a higher price. This brings me to my list of tips:

 

1. Book early. As the holiday season approaches, airlines know they are running out of seats and they know people are becoming increasingly desperate to book flights. The law of supply and demand is quite simple. The greater the demand for and the lesser the supply of seats, the higher the prices will go. Of course, you might be very lucky and get a last minute bargain. It does happen but do not bet on it.

     

If you are in the fortunate position to travel out of season, do so. Airfares often drop by about 40%, not to mention the hotels will be a lot cheaper too.

     

2. Choose low cost airlines. Be careful when using low cost airlines: some are low cost in name only. It is pointless flying with an airline that claims to be low cost but that charges nearly the same if not more than a full service airline. Of the potential problems with low cost airlines is that they keep their costs low by not having additional aircraft on standby in case of emergencies. You might therefore find yourself facing delays at the airport. Some allow cost airlines are famous for their regular and lengthy flight delays. If you have a connecting flight to catch, it might be best to fly with a full service airline to your transit point. Neither the low cost airline nor the other airline will have any sympathy for you if you miss your connecting flight.

     

    Also avoid a low cost airline on a longer haul flight if you know their legroom is just adequate for an ant with short legs. You could still live with a two hour flight but after that you might start becoming very grumpy.

     

Then there is a famous low cost airline like Ryan Air. While they are great for many travellers, I would not recommend them if you are going to take a suitcase with you. Everything I have read about that airline says to me it is for students who have little more than their T-shirts on their backs. Perhaps I am wrong and I am happy for the airline to respond.

     

My favourite low cost airline is Air Asia. I like their onboard service and on some routes they have quite decent food. Their seats are not bad either. Unfortunately, they are prone to delays and some people have referred to them as Air Delaysia. Still, I really like this low cost airline. I would recommend you visit their site (and that of other low cost carriers) on a daily basis and sometimes more than once a day. Their prices sometimes fluctuate very fast and today’s expensive fare is suddenly replaced by tomorrow’s dirt cheap fare. One concern I dove have is that, based on what I have seen on their website of late, they seem to be taking a leaf out of Ryan Air’s book. I do not like the idea of low cost and painful. Air Asia is welcome to respond to this if they wish.

     

3. Beware of travel agents. Sometimes a travel agent really will give you great prices on flights, such as those I got on a number of flights on Cathay Pacific a few years ago. However, sometimes they will try to force you into booking accommodation with them. If they do that, I go somewhere else. I do understand travel agents need to make a living and they do have a role to play but their financial interests are usually diametrically opposed to the financial interests of their clients.

     

By all means, get quotes from travel agents and then compare these to what you can get off the airlines’ websites and from other airfare booking sites. Usually, the prices will be similar but sometimes you will get a better deal from one of these sources. Mostly, the better deal will not be from the travel agent.

     

It might also be an idea to contact local tour operators in the country you are going to, to get quotes on local airfares. They sometimes have access to better deals than you could get from your home country. This is how I found out about a special 50% discount on flights on Aerolineas Argentinas, which is notoriously overpriced on at least some of its routes. You might also wish to pick up the phone and phone an airline’s offices in different countries, even those where you are not travelling from or to, and tell them about specials you have heard about. Of course, they might not have any specials but you might get them to acknowledge that they have one more easily than if you had simply asked if they have any.

     

4. Think about the travel habits of business travellers. If they have a meeting in a city that is reasonably close by, they will take an earlier flight but usually not one that is too early. So, for example, if the destination is one hour away by air, they are likely to take a flight that leaves at 7AM in order to get their rented car by 8:30AM. If you fly before the peak time, which may or may not be 7AM depending on where you are flying from or to, or if you fly after that, your airfares will usually drop. Similarly, business people often finish their meetings at about 4PM, all things being equal, and there is great demand for flights at about 5:30PM. The later flights are usually cheaper but then you might get home really late. Business people who go out of town for a few days often fly on a Sunday so that they can be rested and get all their equipment, documents or whatever else they have with them, ready for Monday. Try not to fly on a Sunday.

     

5. Consider flying to your destination using an indirect route. Flights through the Middle East, particularly to places such as Dubai and Doha, are very popular at the moment.  You need to decide though if the layover, sometimes up to eight hours, is worth a small saving, which is usually what you will get. It is rare to get a substantial saving. Depending on the airline you fly, you might find out why some people refer to economy class to cattle class. I took such a trip once but decided afterwards it was not worth it and went back to direct flights.

     

6. When planning your holiday, consider changing the order in which you will visit places. For example, it might work out cheaper to first fly to and visit New York and then to fly to Los Angeles rather than to visit Los Angeles first and then afterwards New York. I have not been able to work out the reason for this as you will be flying to exactly the same places but the airfares are sometimes vastly different. Play with different combinations of routes when planning your trip.

     

7. It is sometimes cheaper to book multiple trips with the same airline as they are encouraging you to remain loyal to them. The minute you book a trip on a different airline, the first airline tends to penalise you financially.

     

8. Try to book return trips. This may sound obvious as you are coming home after your holiday but consider this example: you need to fly to Manila and can get there via Kuala Lumpur. You then wish to fly to Hong Kong. It might be cheaper to first take the trip back to Kuala Lumpur as you have then booked a return trip of sorts with the airline that took you to Manila in the first place. From Kuala Lumpur, you could then take a flight to Hong Kong. Of course, this is a theoretical example and sometimes will work out cheaper but not always. Again consider to what extent you would be willing to be inconvenienced and weigh that up against how much you would be saving. Substantial savings are probably worth a small inconvenience.

     

9. If you want to ensure cheaper airfares for you and other passengers in the longer term, book your holidays, at least to some extent, based on airfares. For example, airfares in South America are much higher than many parts of the world as are some airfares in Asia. If the airlines wish to fleece you, rather choose a different destination where the airfares are more reasonable and let the airline effectively fleece the tourism industry of the country or countries they serve. If the airline does not get the message from passengers, the tourism authorities soon will, possibly with the exception of Australia’s tourism authorities, although, to be fair, there are other cost issues too dissuading people from visiting Australia.

     

10. You do not have to fly everywhere. If there is a bus or train that is safe, comfortable and fast, you might want to take that. You sometimes get great views from buses and trains. Take into account the time factor though as it is probably not worth spending two days on a bus instead of two hours on a plane if the distance between two cities is that great.  Once more, by choosing not to fly, if it is worth it, you might just persuade the airlines to drop their prices.

 

While I do want you to find cheaper airfares, remember too that the airline industry is extremely competitive. While lower airfares are great, do not support any airlines that lower their prices at the expense of safety. We really do not want a world either filled with airlines that offer mediocre food and mediocre onboard service like so many US based airlines. Flying should be a wonderful experience. Let us balance lower prices with good service and let us never compromise on safety.

Category: Airfares

6 Sep 2011 | 07:57 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel