Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Up, up and away with Uber in China

Now you can call Uber to take a balloon ride over Shanghai
Uber in China is breaking any moulds it has created for itself elsewhere. Now 60 cities strong, Uber is stepping things up to compete with its biggest rival, Didi Chuxing.

Since being blocked from China's popular WeChat (an even bigger deal than Facebook here in the West), Uber has had to get creative. As "all in one" apps are how the market works in China, Uber has responded by reinventing its ride-hailing app to be so much more, including:
  • UberLIFE - connecting users to nearby sporting and entertainment
  • Uber + Travel - unique destination-specific transportation options
  • UberPASS - multi-city ride pass
  • Uber Boat - the next generation of boat-hailing (already in Istanbul)
  • Uber Balloon - yup, you guessed it, hot air balloon rides!
This isn't the first time Uber has gotten creative (think the Uber service for helicopters in New York City). We doubt it will be the last.


Related resources
You Can Get Hot Air Balloon Rides Through Uber Now</> - Time
Uber positions its China app as more than a ride-hailing service - TechCrunch
Hey Uber, Welcome To China - TechCrunch
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants - IHateTaxis
Shanghai Pudong International Airport Airport (PVG) transportation guide
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport Airport (SHA) transportation guide
Get cooking on your layover: Asia


Sunday, 26 June 2016

Brexit and the impact on travel - News stories


Let's face it, no one knows what the impact of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. The referendum result is only 2 days old, and no one really thought it would happen. But here we are.

There are more questions than answers at this point, but here are some highlights of travel related commentary on the Brexit.

Brits abroad

First, a few surprising stories of a number of immediate travel-related impacts, not all of which will necessarily continue:
Speculation is the name of the game, with a range of reactions, which we'll organize loosely within the UK, in the EU, in British Overseas Territories, within the British Commonwealth and around the globe.  Here is a sampling:

Impact of Brexit on Travel - reactions in the United Kingdom

The potential impacts on travel Brits are enormous. The stories coming out of the UK are both alarming and alarmist, but there will be real impacts on the freedom of movement of both British citizens and expats.

Impact of Brexit on Travel - reactions in Ireland

Ireland (as in the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign state that is a member of the EU - as opposed to Northern Island, which is part of the UK) is facing numerous implications, including several that will ultimately impact travel.

Impact of Brexit on Travel - reactions in the European Union

Reactions and concerns vary among other European Union member countries.

Impact of Brexit on Travel - reactions in British Overseas Territories

Speculation is rampant in and about Gibraltar, the tiny British Overseas Territory (think "Rock of Gibraltar", bordering southern Spain). Residents here voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.

Impact of Brexit on Travel - reactions in the British Commonwealth

Speculation is also taking place in the 53 countries in the British Commonwealth as to the impact of the Brexit. It's early days, but a few highlights...

Impact of Brexit on Travel -  reactions around the globe

Reactions are mixed around the globe, from airline stocks in the USA dropping 9-11% to enthusiasm for travel bargains in both the UK and the EU.
More perspectives will emerge in the weeks ahead. We are particularly looking forward to perspectives by travel bloggers, so stay tuned for a follow-up post soon.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

I was scammed by an Uber driver


Let we get accused of only focusing on scams by unscrupulous taxi drivers, here is a new category of travel cautions: scams by Uber drivers.

It's hardly surprising. Despite the best designed systems, there are unscrupulous people out there in the big, bad world, and some of them drive for a living. Some drive taxis, some drive for Uber - heck, some even drive for both!

While both environments are also home to plenty of honest and kind drivers, the stories of scams persist - and we share them, so that you can be aware and protect yourself.


I Was Victim of an Increasingly-Popular Uber Scam - Angelina Travels
"The good thing about Uber is that both drivers and passengers are rated at the end of the ride to help weed out 'bad apples'. We all know how important maintaining a good rating is, and I always make sure I rate honestly and accurately to encourage good service... Sadly, it looks like I’ve encountered a bad apple 2 days ago when my husband and I rode home from Newark airport. It was 1:30 in the morning.. [read the rest of the story on Angelina Travels]

Please Help - I think an Uber driver is trying to scam me - dinosaurenthusiast on Reddit
"Some friends and I went out to a bar, had 1-2 drinks, then got an Uber home. The next morning, I got an email from uber saying I was being charged a cleaning fee for an incident during our ride. I immediately submitted a complaint, saying there were no liquids or cigarettes with us in the vehicle, so I could not imagine what they could possibly charge several hundred dollars for. Two days later, they finally responded with photo "evidence" saying we vomited all over the back seat and door. This is absolutely false... [read the rest of the story on Reddit]. (Read more on the Uber Vomit Scam).

I got Scammed by an Uber Driver in Los Angeles going to the Airport - Points Summary
"I took an Uber to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) for my trip to San Pedro Sula, Hondruas. It was late at night around 9:30pm and I told him I was leaving out of Delta Terminal 5. When the Uber driver took me to the “Arrivals Levels”, I knew I was going to be scammed. Why would he choose to go to the arrivals level other than the departures level? Because he knew that every flight on Earth was arriving at 9pm and that we would be stuck in traffic going from Terminal 1 to 5..." [read the rest of the story on Points Summary]


Related resources
Uber fraud: Scammer takes the ride, victim gets the bill - CSO Online
The Uber tip dilemma - IHateTaxis
Why we shelved Uber updates - IHateTaxis
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants - IHateTaxis

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Mugging: are you a target? 10 resources

Deserves to be pick-pocketed
This guy is definitely a target - are you?
creative commons image waldopepper on Flickr
Are you a target for mugging? You might be surprised.

Trust us, you don't want to lose your money, credit cards, identification, camera or anything while you travel. So read on...
`
Here we share stories from seasoned travellers who have been duped and robbed -- along with 10 resources to help keep you and your valuables safe.

Lessons learned from Being Mugged Abroad - Yvonne Ivanescu
Just because you've travelled a long time with no major problems doesn't make you less vulnerable, it can make you more so. Here's a telling story from ThePlanetD:
Last month I celebrated the one year anniversary of an event that made a significant impact on my life and molded me into a more savvy, independent and conscientious traveler. In July 2012, I was mugged by thee individuals on a sunny afternoon while I was walking around in Valparaiso, located around 2 hours away from Santiago de Chile. After the event, I recounted my story to numerous eager ears only to be welcomed with blank expressions coupled with snide remarks that my actions had made me an easy target... [read what Yvonne learned].

After 62 Countries in 5 Years, We Were Robbed - Jeremy
Jeremy and Angie  have been travelling the world for years, and thought they had escaped the thieves, but, alas, it happened to them too. Here's their story from Living the Dream:
After 550+ days of travel since 2008, being gone for almost a whole year on this trip, and visiting hundreds of cities in 62 countries, our day finally happened in Puno, Peru. And we nearly lost everything. As we were in the bus station getting ready to leave for Cusco, I looked down and noticed something odd.  My bag containing a computer, expensive SLR, camera gear, passports, and emergency money was nowhere to be found. It didn’t take long to figure out what happened and we soon determined that we were victims to one of the oldest techniques in the book: the diversion... [read what Jeremy learned].

How NOT to Get Mugged on the Paris Metro (By an 8-Year-Old) - Down the Wrabbit Hole
The woman behind the wrabbit has travelled a lot, and thought herself pretty savvy, until she was outsmarted by a little kid. Here's her story from Down the Wrabbit Hole:
My story goes back to my Europe 2010 trip. I was with my 23 junior high students, 10 parent chaperones, and our fearless Explorica tour guide - and a partridge in a pear tree.  Or so it seemed.  Navigating that massive group through the streets of Paris without losing anyone had already proven to be a challenge, but not impossible.  Now we were headed for the underground Metro system, moving from the Eiffel Tower to our restaurant for dinner... [read what this traveller in Paris learned].

So... if it happened to them, it can happen to you!

Here are 10 resources to help protect yourself:
Grzimekhaus, Zoo Frankfurt: beware of pickpockets
Warning in the Frankfurt Zoo
creative commons image sunixzs on Flickr
  1. How to avoid being mugged - WikiHow
  2. Theft by pickpockets in Naples, Rome, Florence and Milan, Italy - Bella-Toscana (GREAT RESOURCE)
  3. Outsmarting thieves and pickpockets in Europe - Rick Steves
  4. Tips for Not Getting Mugged in South America - Going Nomadic
  5. Surefire Ways to Get Mugged on Vacation - HuffPost Travel
  6. Anti Theft Travel Gear: 6 Ways To Keep Your Valuables Secure - IndieTraveller
  7. Top 5 Anti-Theft Travel Bags for Women - Travel Fashion Girl
  8. Make A Secret Pocket In Your Pants! - The Expert Vagabond
  9. The Dummy’s Guide to Packing a Theft-Proof Backpack - Packsmiths
  10. Seven Ways to Keep Your Stuff Safe When You Fly - Independent Traveler

Related resources
Spot the deadly fake taxi on your international travels! - IHateTaxis
Dealing with touts - IHateTaxis
Airport arrival advice - IHateTaxis
The world-wide bad reputation of Bogota taxis - IHateTaxis

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Zhukovsky, Moscow's 4th airport opens

Open for business, but no flights yet at Moscow Zhukovsky Airport
Earlier this year, we captured the mess that is transportation to Moscow's 3 major airports with an illustration by Andy, a Russian resident in Moscow has HOW many airports?!?.

Well, Andy's life just got a little more complicated.

On May 30th, Moscow's fourth international airport, "Zhukovsky", opened for business.

The newest, Moscow Zhukovsky Ramenskoye International Airport (ZIA), is located in the town of Zhukovsky, on the outskirts of Moscow (in Moscow Oblast, to be precise).

Precise? Well, maybe not, as most of the airport is actually located in the town of Ramenskoye. Perhaps the former aviation research, testing and cargo facility (it once a test site for Soviet Buran Spacecraft) had worn out the city's moniker.

But with a slice of the airport located in Zhukovsky, a town named to honour Russia's pioneer of modern aerodynamics research, Nikolay Yegorovich Zhukovsky, how could they not rename it?

Names aside, Zhukovsky Airport was planned to relieve mounting pressure on Moscow's existing airports, which has since eased (25 airlines pulled out of Moscow last year):
Moscow Zhukovsky International Airport is intended to serve low-cost airlines. Few have signed up so far, but Air Kyrgyzstan and SCAT will commence service next month. Cities with flights to ZIA will initially include Aktau, Aktobe, Astana, Bishkek, Osh and Shymkent.

Unfortunately, no transportation infrastructure exists or is planned, so if you find ZIA on your flight itinerary, be warned. All Moscow airports share an IATA city code, MOW, so be sure you know which airports(s) you are flying through.

If you happen to be lucky enough to attend the biennial MAKS Airshow, long hosted by the Ramenskoye Airport, perhaps you can manage to take a flight into ZIA to check it out firsthand.

But still, please, don't ask Andy for a ride.


Resources from IHateTaxis.com
Moscow has HOW many airports?!?
Moscow Domodedovo Airport (DME) transportation options and guide
Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) transportation options and guide
Moscow Vnukovo Airport (VKO) transportation options and guide
Moscow Zhukovsky Ramenskoye International Airport (ZIA) transportation options and guide
Moscow Layover Ideas & Things to Do in Moscow

Related resources
New Moscow airport's take off stalled by vanishing passengers - Reuters
Zhukovsky Airport to Serve First Flight in June - Russian Aviation Insider
Fourth international airport opens in Moscow RT.com
An Aeroflot Nightmare: How I Got Placed Under Virtual Arrest in Moscow
Airport nightmare: Russians seize concertmaster’s violin
Hundreds Miss Sheremetyevo Flights Because of Road Work
STUCK: The meaning of the city’s traffic nightmare - New Yorker
Getting around Moscow by metro and public transport


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Lucky Lucknow is getting an airport train

India's Lucknow CCS Airport serves 2.5 million passengers a year
Lucknow Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport (LKO), referred to as CSS Airport by locals, is getting a new airport train.

The sleek new Lucknow CSS airport train
design, as revealed by Railway Gazette
Already under construction, the metro line connecting Lucknow CCS International Airport will cover a distance of 24 kilometres, right through to a new metro station at Munshi Pulia. While most of the line will be elevated, a few kilometres will run underground. A total of 19 stations are planned. The first phase is scheduled to open sometime in 2016.

In 2016, Lucknow Airport was ranked the second best in the world in the small airport category by the Airport Council International. India also took the top spot, with Jaipur International Airport (JAI), being named the best airport serving 2-5 million passengers.

Related resources
Lucknow metro train design revealed - Railway Gazette
Lucknow airport judged second best in small airport category - Times of India
Lucknow Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport (LKO) transportation guide - IHateTaxis
New Shanghai Pudong electric bus routes
Denver Airport Train glitches
New Tehran Mehrabad Airport metro link
New Manila UBE Express Airport Bus

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

New Shanghai Pudong electric bus routes

Shanghai Pudong
More transportation options arrive at Shanghai Pudong Airport
creative commons image fi_chince on Flickr
This week, Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) launched 5 new electric bus routes between the airport and central Shanghai.

Designed to serve tourists transferring to 5-star hotels downtown, the new bus routes serve:
  • Hongqiao
  • Jing’an Temple
  • Lujiazui
  • People’s Square
  • Xujiahui
Airport boarding areas are located at Terminal 1 Arrivals (by Exit 9) and Terminal 2 Arrivals (Exit 27). The new buses will operate between 06:45 and 01:00, and adult fares are CNY 68 (roughly USD 10-11).

Note: Complete route information, as well as details on how the new buses integrate with existing services, are not yet known. Once available, we will update the details on the bus page of our Shanghai Pudong Airport transportation guide.


Related resources
New airport bus routes - Shanghai Daily
Huge tour bus hub to serve Shanghai Disney - Travel Daily Asia
Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) transportation guide
Shanghai Hongqaio International Airport (SHA) transportation guide
Shanghai Layover Ideas and Things to Do in Shanghai - LayoverIdeas

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Denver Airport train glitches

Flaggers out at 10 Denver Airport Train grade-level crossings
After the excitement last month with the opening of the new Denver Airport train, problems on the ground at the line's at-grade crossings are causing delays.

While most modern airport trains are elevated or run as underground subways, the Denver Airport authority decided to build their new line at-grade, presumably for financial reasons.

While the community benefits from infrastructure that is more pleasing to the eye (save the underground option), non-elevated trains pose significant risks. While no-one can prevent a determined soul who wants to go beyond barriers to the tracks, most of the risk is mitigated through automated crossing gates.

That is only true, of course, if those gates operate without a glitch. This week, however, issues began to arise when some gates had not fully closed by the time passing trains came by. Yikes.

As a result, while the trains are still running, each of the 10 at-grade crossings on the line are being staffed with flaggers until the situation is figured out.

It has now been revealed that staff tried to delay the train's opening, due to computer problems. This week, it seems officials are wishing they had listened.

Related resources
Denver airport train faces safety concerns amid crossing gate glitches - The Denver Post
RTD responds to critics' concern over safety of DIA train - Biz Journals
RTD ordered to staff 10 train crossings along Denver International Airport train line - The Denver Channel
New Denver Airport train
Denver International Airport (DEN) transportation guide
Denver Layover Ideas and Things to Do in Denver


Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Uber tip dilemma

You may now see a sign like this in Uber cars
To tip, or not to tip, that is the Uber question.

Corporately, Uber thinks the answer is clear (tipping is not required or expected, and there is no functionality in the Uber app to add a tip).

Drivers and users, not so much.

Many drivers, bless or curse their souls, still crave a tip and will even slip in a scam or 2 to make up for it.

And users... well, many users are just tippers (considering it rude not to), while others "fear" being rated as a lousy ride by Uber drivers, decreasing their chances of getting rides, so tip anyways.

It all creates a hazy quagmire, that doesn't seem to be getting any clearer, despite the outcome of a class-action lawsuit and recent efforts to clarify the company's position. Consider this story posted on the web by Uber last week:

Our approach to tipping - Uber Under the Hood
"Last week, we settled two class-action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts. As part of that settlement, we agreed to clarify our approach to tipping, so here goes. When we started Uber six years ago, we thought long and hard about whether to build a tipping option into the app. In the end, we decided against including one because we felt it would be better for riders and drivers to know for sure what they would pay or earn on each trip — without the uncertainty of tipping. That’s still the case today. Tipping is..." [read the full story direct from Uber on the Under the Hood website]
If that was the end of the story, then that would be that. But take a look at some of these other stories and you'll quickly see that things aren't so black and white in terms of a little green for the good driver:

Uber’s New Tipping Policy Is a Mistake - Harvard Business Review
"Uber recently settled a class action lawsuit brought by drivers claiming unfair wage and labor practices. In addition to paying up to $100 million, the settlement involves clarifying the ride-sharing service’s stance on tipping. Uber has long opposed tipping, claiming riders don’t appreciate the extra hassle of adding a gratuity, as well as citing negative effects including potential racial bias (e.g., customers may leave less for nonwhite drivers). While Uber maintains its policy that “…tips are not included on Uber’s platforms (except on UberTAXI), and that tipping is neither expected nor required” as part of the settlement, it retreats by adding, “…riders are free to offer tips and drivers are welcome to accept them.” Drivers are now allowed to solicit tips by asking passengers or posting signs in their vehicles. An important caveat is that if riders opt to tip, Uber won’t let them do so in its app. Instead, riders will have to ..." [read the full article on the Harvard Business Review website]
That awkward moment with your Uber driver - Boston Globe
"Well, this is uber awkward — I’ve been stiffing my Uber drivers for years, and didn’t even know it. When I first started using the ride-hailing service a few years ago, my tech-savvy partner assured me the driver got 20 percent automatically, or at least that’s what someone told her. In fact, no tip is included in an Uber fare. But the company does not go to great lengths to make this clear to its customers. Its website even says 'there’s no need to tip.'... But the truth about tipping and Uber is out there now, hanging uncomfortably in the space between front seat and back seat. I know from my reporting that some Uber drivers feel their livelihood is marginal, and they badly want a tipping option in the app. But sitting in the back seat while selecting a tip amount or pawing through my backpack for a crumpled bill is exactly the kind of awkward interaction Uber wants to avoid. And judging from the reaction online today, many customers agree with the company..." [read the full article on the Boston Globe website]  
Uber Tips: Why the tipping culture will change - SherpaShare
"One of the non-monetary aspects of the settlement of the class-action lawsuit against Uber was that Uber drivers would now be allowed to put up signs in their cars that tipping wasn’t mandatory but that it would be appreciated. Uber’s rapid growth was in large part prompted by the cashless aspect to all parts of the car hailing experience. However a large part of that was letting passengers believe that Uber had built in a tip into the ride fare. We all know that this is not true. Uber keeps all the fees that they tack on top of the ride and a commission off the fare itself. When Uber first started, rates were 40% higher than they are today. In that sense, adding a tip now can put Uber drivers back at the income level they were first promised when they started driving for Uber. So why has the no-tipping culture been so pervasive with Uber passengers? First, ..." [read the full article on the SherpaShare blog]

Related resources
Does tipping your Uber driver make sense? - Entrepreneur
Uber's New "Tony Soprano-Like" Tipping Policy - Pricing for Profit
Uber got it wrong on tipping! - a reaction from the Uber Driver's Forum
Do I need to tip my driver? -  a suitably vague answer from Uber Help
Exclusive interview with Shannon Liss-Riordan explaining the Uber Settlement - SherpaShare Blog
Why we shelved Uber updates - IHateTaxis
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants - IHateTaxis