Are travel fairs useful for indie travellers?

When I hear the word “travel fair”, I usually think of crowded exhibition halls where travel agencies peddle toured packages. How useful could such a fair be for indie travellers like me?

In the name of research, I decided to pop by the NATAS Fair at expo last weekend. (NATAS is the National Association Travel Agents Singapore.) Held each quarter, the fairs are so popular that people (like me) don’t mind paying S$4 just to get in.

After you pay S$4, they tie a paper tag around your wrist which allows you to enter the halls again on the same day.

So, how useful was the fair? I had three things I needed help with:
1. Information for my March Yogyakarta trip
2. Explanation about a cruise
3. Find a tour agency to help with a round-the-world ticket

I decided that if all three simple problems were solved, then travel fairs can be useful for indie travellers.

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[Retired post] How to get rid of AirAsia extra charges

[Note: Nov 13. 2012] This is the original “How to beat AirAsia’s b***s**t extra charges” before its Web site revamp in November. For those booking with the new interface, the new post lies under the old title.

Since the revamp, there has been changes to booking so all of the screencaps are not applicable. A lot of the angst in the original post are not applicable too.

START OF OLD POST

Other titles considered: “Tips for first time AirAsia bookers” or “How I saved S$80 by not clicking blindly when booking with AirAsia”.

First thing first, I am a frequent AirAsia passenger and I’m glad that “now everyone can fly” because of it. Thanks @tonyfernandes.

What I’m not glad is that AirAsia hides its extra fees sneakily. So sneaky that you wouldn’t really know how on earth that fee for extra baggage, seats or insurance (seriously?) came into your bill.

If you are an experienced AirAsia flight booker, you won’t need my tips. But if you are a first timer or just haven’t been on the site for some time, here are some ways you can beat the BS charges.

Continue reading “[Retired post] How to get rid of AirAsia extra charges”

Glutton in Kuala Lumpur

My motto is: “Live to eat.” I would say I have a good relationship with food despite what my mom says about the size of my thighs.

During my trip to Kuala Lumpur some weeks ago, I had the chance to indulge my appetite and my ever expanding waist with good food. Really good (and cheap) food.

Did you know, Malaysia was voted one of the Top 3 food destinations by Lonely Planet readers?

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Why toiletries make the best souvenir

When travelling, I usually buy tacky souvenirs for friends at home. (Sorry!) But for myself, there is only one type of souvenir–which unfortunately has multiple product categories–I need.

Regular cute souvenirs

My Achilles heel is not a killer pair of shoes nor a nice dress, but toiletries.

I dislike how the airlines limit how much liquids we can carry. But I’m secretly happy that this will give me an excuse to buy toiletries in a foreign land.

Here’s why you should buy toiletries as souvenirs (for your friends or yourself)

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Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia

malaysia train ticket

UPDATE [JANUARY 2015] KTM STAFF TOLD ME THAT THE NIGHT TRAINS ARE STILL RUNNING. HOWEVER, THEY REFUSED TO BELIEVE ME WHEN I TOLD THEM I CANNOT BUY THE TICKETS ON LINE. KTM CUSTOMER SERVICE IS HORRIBLE. TSK TSK.

THE SELECTION APPEARS ON THE WEBSITE BUT SEATS CANNOT BE CHOSEN. LET’S ASSUME IT’S CANCELLED, UNLESS SOMEONE CALLS KTM TO CONFIRM.

Update [March 23, 2013] Check out the FAQ too

I went on the overnight train to Kuala Lumpur last weekend and it was really fun–the train ride and the trip. For those who have been wondering how to take the old rail train to Malaysia, here are some money saving tips that you can use to save on the train trip from Singapore to Malaysia. My guide will focus on buying tickets online.

1. Leave from JB Sentral instead of Woodlands, Singapore

Actually, you can stop reading from here because this is the best tip I have. As noted in my previous post announcing my trip, you will save half the amount if you leave from Malaysia instead of Singapore.

Based on the 2nd class sleeper ticket, I

Since the Singapore and Malaysia train stations are just a causeway away, it really makes more sense to travel to JB Sentral on public bus and board there. Plus, the KFC at JB Sentral is 24-hours, eat all the fried chicken you want!

If you really want to leave from Singapore (so you can skip the torturous bus ride across the causeway), I’d suggest you buy a cheap seat (about S$17) from Woodlands CIQ-JB Sentral. When the train reaches JB Sentral, you can hop off and go to your carriage. (The ticket checking for the JB passage starts when the train moves.)

2. But come back to Woodlands not JB

Am I confusing you? Yes, you leave from JB but come back to Woodlands. Why? The ticket from Malaysia to Singapore is in RM so it’ll still be cheap. You’ll also skip the horrible traffic jam on the causeway, especially if it’s commuting hours.

3. Choosing where to buy tickets

Back to ticket buying, I’ll assume that you are based in Singapore. Buy the ticket online instead of heading to JB Sentral’s ticketing counter. Plus, you’ll be charged in Singapore dollars if you buy directly at Woodlands.

My guide here will focus on buying online. KTMB’s Web site is a bit old school–it even has frames. But it gets it job done.

First check the timetable to figure out which train to catch. I picked the 23.55 train from JB because it arrives at 06.30 in KL. Saves me travelling time during the day. Then sign up for an account to book your tickets.

4. Selecting the tickets online

This part is slightly confusing because of KTMB’s naming convention:

  • JB Sentral=Johor Bahru train station
  • Sentral Kuala Lumpur=KL Sentral
  • Woodlands CIQ=Woodlands station

Pick the timing that you want to leave. Then you choose the type of sleeper/seat you want. I’d recommend the sleepers for overnighting to KL. There are 5 types of seats/sleeper.

  • ADMFB: Air-conditioned Day Night First-class Berth
  • ADNFD: Air-conditioned Day Night First-class Deluxe
  • ADNS: Air-conditioned Day Night Sleeper
  • AFC: Air-conditioned First Class
  • ASC: Air-conditioned Second Class

I’ve only been on ADNS’s upper bunk. It was quite a pleasant ride/sleep, minus the shaking and snoring man.

I was on the upper bunk

The page says you will need to key in passengers’ names and identificaiton number. They never checked mine against the ticket so if you are in a hurry, I think you can just put fake names/ID number.

5. Payment and proof

Pay using a regular credit/debit card to buy the tickets.

They will not send you a proof of confirmation, so remember to save the page. I usually save my Web pages in PDF form so it prints out nicer. I use PDF Creator which shows up as a virtual printer in my Print tool. (Don’t click the toolbar when installing).

Ticket!

Printing out the ticket is necessary. DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.

6. Things to bring on train

Waiting for the trip to arrive is the hardest step. Here’s something you need to know about the trip: There is no food and drink station onboard so bring your own munchies and liquids.

Attention! During my trip in October, I found out that KTMB stopped providing blankets. Please bring something warm for the ride, it gets really cold.

Safety pins to pin your sleeping curtain will be very helpful. I found myself peering into curtains on my way back from the loo. Not much privacy for whoever was in it.

The only bus that seems to be on duty around 23.00 is the SBS and SMRT buses. So there is not much choice in the bus leaving Singapore to JB. Oh, the train might break down, like it did on my trip. Just sit/sleep through it with a smile.

BONUS! JB Sentral map

Many have been asking me about how to get to JB’s train station. I’ve used Google Map to show you that it’s really really easy to reach JB Sentral (where the station is). Map of JB Sentral, train station

Update [March 23, 2013] Check out the FAQ

Update [December 24, 2013] Comments are now closed.

Museums reflect how I travel

I love museums–one of my dreams is to visit every important museum in the world.

I love travelling–one of my dreams is to travel long term.

I was at the second last day of the Dreams and Reality exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore last Sunday. As I had been procrastinating, I almost missed the art exhibition which brought from famous paintings and photographs from Musee d’Orsay in Paris to our tropical shores.

During the visit of the gallery, I realized how being in a museum reflects different travelling style. Imagine the museum as a famous destination and you will see why.

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8 reasons you should visit Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

BootsnAll has a post on why you should visit Southeast Asia. I want to bring you deeper into SEA.

Welcome to Kota Kinabalu.

I was born and raised in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. I’ve always been fiercely proud of being a Sabahan. In fact, I think myself as a Sabahan first, a Malaysian second.

Where is Sabah and where is KK (pronounced keh-keh in our local accent)? It is in the northern part of Borneo–the third largest island in the world. The second largest state in Malaysia.

Continue reading “8 reasons you should visit Kota Kinabalu, Sabah”

Meaning of ‘YQ’ on airline tickets

I just found out that there is a code called YQ (and YR) in airlines tickets.

It actually means fuel surcharge, according to ehow.com. Maybe they were looking for a combination that would not appear anywhere in the English language.

Maybe I should have chosen a better twitter handle/wordpress.com subdomain. But it’s my name!

AirAsia boarding pass

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How we used Kyoto as a base to explore Kansai

During my 10-day trip to Japan last October, my mom and I spent 6 days in the Kansai region and visited Kyoto, Fushimi-Inari shrine, Uji, Nara and Osaka.

Since we wanted to see many sites in Kyoto as well as the Jidai Matsuri, we used Kyoto as a base and took day trips to the other Kansai cities. But if you are more of a city person, you’d probably like staying in Osaka better than Kyoto.

Our itinerary was like this:

Day 1: Arrive in Kyoto
Day 2: Kyoto – Fushimi Inari – Uji – Nara – Kyoto [Kansai Thru Pass]
Day 3: Kyoto
Day 4: Kyoto – Osaka – Kyoto [Kansai Thru Pass]
Day 5: Kyoto – Nara -Kyoto [JR]
Day 6: Kyoto (Jidai matsuri)

My mom and I are temple, old building lovers so three days in Kyoto was fine. (Although we did spend a large part of our last day napping in the public bus.)

Continue reading “How we used Kyoto as a base to explore Kansai”