I was listening to one of the podcasts from Rick Steves. One of the callers to the radio program asked if they could take the Orient Express while in Istanbul.
The answer was that any train that went to the east was considered the Orient Express.
For me, my oriental journey is at its end and I’m heading to South America. I actually do not know what to expect, except the cold winters.
This morning, I had the breakfast provided by my hotel. It’s the usual Turkish fare: bread, olives, cheese, fruits, tomato, hard boiled eggs and drinks such as tea, coffee and artificial lime juice.
There is something about hard boiled eggs in Turkey. They are too tasty for their and my own good. I limit myself to only 2 eggs each day but feel like eating another 2 after I finish them.
After breakfast, I still had to pack my backpack. Since it will be winter in South America, I had to make sure that things such as swimsuit are at the bottom of the pack.
Packing seemed a lot easier these days. I managed to tidy up everything before check out time.
Getting scrubbed at a Turkish bath
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I still had Turkish bath on my list of To-do. On Foursquare, I found a hamam near my hotel so I walked to the place after checking out.
I saw the ladies’ entrance to the hammam. The real entrance inside was hidden behind a screen. After I stepped in, I was too embarrassed to step out even though the pricing was higher than what I wanted.
In the end, I reasoned that I was going to take a bath in one of the 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die. So I paid my 108 lira and steeled myself for an exfoliation session with an attendant who looked very much like Rebel Wilson.
I’ll talk more about the bath in a future post so stay tuned!
Aimless walking, training around
I didn’t actually cross “Eat Turkish delight” off my list since I didn’t have much cash left in my wallet after the bath. Instead, I took the tram from the west to the east and back to the stop nearest to my hotel.
The train took about 1 hour to reach the west to the east. I didn’t really look out the window all the times since I fell asleep.
Passing the neighborhoods, I felt sad that I was leaving the city where I’ve spent 4 days. Yes, just 4 days but the store signs were already familiar to me.
Of course, my time in Istanbul had to end. I boarded the airport shuttle (6 euro) off to the airport for the third time.
When I was in the first three years of university, I flew from Kota Kinabaluto Johor’s Senai Airport on AirAsia. From the airport, I usually take a private cab into Singapore for a princely sum.
Of course I had a choice of flying directly into Changi Airport but it was an expensive choice of SilkAir.
When AirAsia finally flew from KK to Singapore directly, I was ecstatic. I remember saying “goodbye” to Senai Airport, adding, “We’ll never see each other again.”
Unfortunately, I did see Senai again.
I took an AirAsia flight from JB back home to Sabah during the Christmas break. It was more than S$100 cheaper per trip compared with flying directly to or from Singapore. (RM284 [SG$115] vs ~S$250).
Compared to 4 years ago, AirAsia has made it convenient for passengers in Singapore to go to Senai. There’s a 2-hourly bus from JB’s CIQ to Senai. The bus journey is about 40 minutes and a pleasant ride.
When I was on the way to the airport, I asked the driver about the number of passengers who have taken the shuttle. He counted in his head and said, “13. And that’s a good number. It’s the weekend, you see.”
On the way to the airport, there were 3 passengers. On my way back to JB, there was only me. I have a feeling AirAsia might cancel the shuttle any time.
Since I had the chance to experience flying to Senai and to Changi, I will list down the pros and cons for you to decide.
Pros and cons of Senai and Changi
Tickets are cheaper than flying directly into Singapore
Marry Brown fast food at airport
Less crowded at airport
Free transport to Senai and CIQ
Extra travelling time to JB or Singapore (depending on traffic)
Update: Feb 23, 2014. I’ve shifted some of the steps because AirAsia changed their sequence.
Update: Jan 13, 2013. Changing publishing date so the post will be higher up, ready for this round of Free Seats.
AirAsia has revamped its whole Web site. Good news is, some of the sneaky charges in the previous booking procedure have been taken out.
However, there might be still some confusion with the booking, I’m doing up a new version of the guide too.
For this money saving activity, you will need
Direct debit e-payment method (save RM4 per journey)
I am using a return flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu as an example. Please ignore the exorbitant flight price.
Step 1: Pick a good price
Unless you are flying within the month, I recommend that you wait for a while for the promos to roll in. The AirAsia Facebook puts up updates about the sales frequently. I haven’t figured out the promo fares’ cycles but they come quite quick.
Plan as far in advance if you can and do not buy tickets at full price. If you are booking during the promo period, remember that a lot of people are doing the same so you need to strategize your booking.
Step 2: Beat the charges I–Luggage
When you have selected the flight with the best price and time combo, you are ready to eliminate those sneaky fees.
At the page where you fill in the passengers’ details, you will come across the first extra charge–baggage fee.
AirAsia lists the 20kg as default. You can select 0kg if you are hardcore.
I’ve been travelling with only a carry one for many of my trips now. It takes some getting used to but it is possible to stuff a laptop, two dresses and other things into one backpack.
Be careful, you will need to deselect luggage twice on the same page if you have booked a return trip.
Money saved with 0kg: S$17 one way (for default 20kg price). Total saved: S$34
Step 3: Beat the charges II–Insurance
With the revamp, AirAsia has made it much easier to skip buying insurance. But it’s still a bit sneaky.
To remove insurance,
untick the box
A word of caution: I do not recommend having no insurance when travelling. I have an annual travel insurance by another company so I do not buy from AirAsia.
Money saved no insurance S$12.
Total saved: S$46
Step 3: Beat the charges III–Seat allocation
Hurray! There is no sneaky extra charge here.
Just head straight to Confirm on the lower right.
I was given the “Hot Seat” once (for free) but I didn’t feel that it was any better than the rest of the seats. Maybe the red faux leather was prettier than the boring black, but everything’s the same.
Unless you and your darling are two lovebirds who cannot bear to be apart (nice ad by the way, AirAsia) or you need to take care of your child/elderly, please be sensible and do not add any seats.
No sneaky charges. Hurray!. Total saved: S$34
Step 5: Beat the charges IV–Processing fee
We are almost there!
The last fees that you will encounter is very much like the Boss level in video games. You will need that “Direct debit e-payment method” I prescribed up there.
If you pay using a credit or debit card, AirAsia will charge you something they call a “processing fee” for each flight that you take.
It doesn’t mean that you can buy 10 person’s tickets in one transaction to even out the processing fee. It means it’s 10 x [processing fee]=A lot of wasted money.
[Update Sep 16, 2013] Since a month ago or so, AirAsia has started charging processing fee for direct debit payments as well. However, you will still save a measly RM4 if you use direct debit.
In Singapore, we can use ENets as the direct debit payment option, which eliminates the processing fee. Just change the currency to Singapore Dollar to get the ENets function.
For other countries, there are other ways so please research before you start your payment.
If you are buying tickets departing from countries without your Direct Debit option, change the currency to the one your account is based to see if they have the option for you.
Money saved with no processing fee S$16 return trip. Total saved: S$62
Step 6: S$62 richer (+pre flying tip)
So by being careful, I just saved myself S$62 for a single person return trip–enough to fund for another trip to a closer location! The amount also adds up if there are more travellers.
Also, remember to use Web check-in because they might charge you extra at the counter.
My tips are targeted at AirAsia. At my favorite money saving site: UK-based MoneySavingExpert, there’s extra tips on how to save money on budget flights with a focus on inter-Europe cheap flights.
That is all I have to impart. Go on your money saving journey, my friends!
It’s that time of the year when AirAsia has its “Free Seats” sale. This time, the sale will be held on the coming Monday, Oct 29 at 0:00 GMT +8.
Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to book those Free Seats because I am still travelling at the start of the sale.
However, I’ve whipped up a few tips so you can successfully book those Free Seats* (airport tax and service charge not included).
Before you go around saying, “Hey, why do I still need to pay if it’s a Free Seats sale?”, remember, the plane ride itself costs nothing but you pay the usual airport tax, service charge. You can beat secret extra charges too if you know where to find them.
These RM0 sales was once a really rare event. But AirAsia had two of these Free Seats sales just this May and September. It’s great that it’s getting more frequent. This also means that if you cannot book your flights in this round, the other round will come soon.
Are you ready to book those Free Seats? Let’s go! (PS The following tips are adapted from a guide by AirAsia. Even if you have read the guide, I have a few tips based on my booking experience so please read on.)
Preparation before sale day
You should prepare for the sale by following the list below a few days before the sale. Doing it on the day of booking will cost you time and even make you lose your Free Seat.
Step 1: Sign up for an account
Even if you will only book from AirAsia once, sign up for an account as this will cut down the time you make bookings later.
You will be able to save your travel information (such as passport number, passport expiry date, phone number etc) to the account as well. You will need these information when you make the booking.
Step 2: Register your Family and Friends list
Once you have an account, register your travelmates’ names and travel information in the Family and Friends list.
This list saves the travel information of your Family and Friends so you can add them into your booking with only a few clicks. (Similar to Step 1, you will need the personal information of those travelling with you.)
Tip: If you or your travelmate’s passport is expiring around the dates you want to book, just give a pretend expiry date. You can change the passport number and date later after you’ve made the booking.
Step 3: Figure out the routes and dates you want to fly
There are only a few “Free” tickets for each flight so if those RM0 tickets are snatched up, you will get slightly more expensive tickets. This is why you need to be quick and plan really far ahead.
As the tickets are usually for dates that around half a year earlier, you have to figure out which are the best dates to travel. This includes finding out if there are long weekends or public holidays which you can take advantage of.
Also, it’s not worth going on trips where you reach too late or leave too early because you will waste half day’s leave (or your precious holiday time) going to the airport or flying back.
Step 4: Have two or three backups
Even if you are clever enough to plan your trip around public holidays, other buyers are thinking the same. That’s why it’s important to have a few backup destinations or dates.
Without backups, changing dates while booking might be easy if you are a solo traveler. But if you are travelling in a group, make sure everyone is fine with the backup dates.
Step 5: Familiarize yourself with AsiaAsia’s booking system
Practice makes perfect so go ahead and pretend to book a few tickets until you’ve reached the page where you actually need to pay money.
Tip 1: Book early or at a weird timing
I don’t think I’ve been lucky enough to book a Free Seat in the first hour of launch because the servers are usually too busy.
But I’ve had success booking at strange timings like early in the morning, in the office (don’t tell my boss. Shh…) or some days after the initial craze.
For the last few sales, AirAsia has implemented a “Waiting Room” system where you wait for the servers to be less busy before you are brought to the booking page. Make sure you have enough time to wait for your turn when making the booking.
Tip 2: Book through mobile site
There was a year when I booked my free seat through the mobile site and managed to snag one or two free seats. Unfortunately, I could only pay by credit card so there was the extra credit card processing fee.
Tip 3: Be patient!
This tip is actually targeted at myself. I run out of patience when trying to book and that doesn’t really help with the booking experience.
Do you have any tips to share?
That is all I have for now. I’ll update this page if I think of any new tips. If you are a AirAsia veteran, please share your tips for booking Free Seats.
[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.