Thursday 31 December 2015

Uber news recap - December 2015

Behind the wheel with Uber in Bogota
A few highlights from the world of Uber news in December:

Worried it will be hard to identify the Uber car picking you up? What if others are waiting for Uber cars too? It turns out there's now an app for that: the new Uber SPOT:
Criticism of Uber's surge pricing (aka 'dynamic pricing') hit a new low (or is that high?) with the story of a former happy Uber customer's experience visiting Grand Rapids. Unable to get a taxi after a game with his buddies, the Uber advocate boasted how fast and affordable the service was. After a car quickly arrived, he asked what the fare would be, and the driver said he didn't know. He got quite a shock after the relatively short drive.
Toronto taxi drivers still don't get it. Just a week after the Canadian Competition Bureau called for a level playing field in the taxi vs Uber debate, Toronto taxi drivers staged a hunger strike. Then they went onto mass strike actions that only caused Torontonians and visitors alike crave the alternative.
What if you want to drive for Uber, but don't have a car? The answer just got easier, if you live in Denver:
Of course, a little ridesharing seasonal cheer:
And on the global stage:
Other headlines:

Related resources
Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me
Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig 
Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas taxis

Taxistas viram Papai Noel em São Paulo
Ho ho ho!
Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family a happy and safe holiday season.

And, yes, that wish includes taxi drivers:)

Related resources

creative commons image, click for source information

Monday 7 December 2015

Tijuana Airport's new Cross Border Xpress (CBX) terminal

Tijuana Airport's new CBX terminal opens
 in San Diego on December 9, 2015
For the past 2 years, San Diego residents have watched a new building take shape next to the USA/Mexican border, complete with an overhead walkway. It's a new portal, of sorts, into Mexico.

When the new Tijuana Airport Cross Border Xpress terminal (CBX) opens on December 9, 2015, making it the only airport in the world to have terminals in two countries.

 "CBX", situated in San Diego, California, USA, is connected to Tijuana International Airport's Terminal 1 by a passenger foot bridge. Eligible passengers will pay USD 18 for access to the 525 foot bridge.

The Terminal 2 building will serve as a check-in and processing facility for departing passengers only, with its own parking and customs offices. There are no gates or arrival facilities. The structural scheme of CBX is intended to allow greater access to flights out of Tijuana Airport for both domestic and international air carriers.

The design of the joint binational Terminal 2 is the work of late Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta.

Related resources
Cross-border airport? New California terminal extends to Mexico
Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) transportation guide
San Diego International Airport (SAN) transportation guide

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Uber news recap - November 2015

creativecommons image afagen on Flickr
Here's a bit of what was happening in the Uber vs taxi war in November.

Canada’s Competition Bureau calls for modernized taxi rules 

 Canada Competition Bureau wants to see a level playing field for taxis and ridesharing services, such as Uber. Commissioner John Pecman has called on regulators to ease price controls, eliminate taxi plate restrictions, permit street hail pick-ups, and provide incentives for accessible vehicles:

The hoopla over surge pricing

Another Halloween, another uproar over Uber's surge pricing. No one much likes it, except perhaps the drivers, but it seems this aspect of the Uber business model is here to stay.

What? Taxis drop their fares to compete with Uber?

How revolutionary: taxi meters in Toronto have been reprogrammed with lower base fares in an attempt to compete with ridesharing services. While surely welcomed by passengers, it may also be annoying to realize that one has been paying inflated rates, along with all the rumbling...

How ridesharing is making a difference

While the Western world argues the merits of ridesharing services, and pours energy into stopping the organic growth that users are seeking, it's a good news story elsewhere in the world. Take India...

Related resources
Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me
Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig 
Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Monday 16 November 2015

Should you travel to Paris?

Eiffel Tower Sketch
creativecommons image danielygo on Flickr
No one can tell you whether you should travel to Paris or not, but we offer a few perspectives that may help you weigh your options.

7 Keys to Traveling Without Fear Despite Terrorist Attacks
Published yesterday, travel vetran Wendy Perrin puts things in perspective.
You may be making travel plans—or trying to—and you can’t help but wonder: If I go, what is the risk that I will get caught in a terrorist incident? How do I minimize that risk? If I can’t minimize it, how do I get over my fear? I believe the solution is to put your risk in perspective. Here’s how... [read Wendy's full article]

What Should I Do If I’m Traveling to Paris?
Published yesterday, Yahoo Travel turns to Dan Richards of Global Rescue for advice.
For now, Paris is a city in mourning. As we often see in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, the security situation in Paris remains extremely fluid. And that could pose an issue for tourists, students and businesspeople who are traveling, or planning to travel, there. But it might be comforting to know that after Friday’s devastating and tragic attacks, Paris is still open to visitors... [read the full article]

Paris attacks: is it safe to travel to Paris?
Published today in the Telegraph's travel section, this piece contains practical information on a number of fronts.
Despite the announcement that France was closing its borders following a series of terror attacks, flights, ferries and trains have been running as normal - but security has been stepped up. Tourist attractions in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre, are due to reopen on Monday afternoon... [read the full article]

Related resources
What to do in a city where there's been a terrorist attack - Johnny Jet
Government of Canada France travel advisory - read the latest advisory
May the odds be ever in your favour
Travel in the time of Ebola

Sunday 1 November 2015

Uber news recap - October 2015

Uber proves to be the cat's meow in October
creativecommons image dirtymouse on Flickr
Here's an update on the latest in the world of Uber news:

Insurance woes for UberX drivers in Toronto

An interesting development in the world of insurance for Uber in Toronto over the use of UberX driver's personal vehicles without commercial insurance.

Calgary goes covert on Uber

Tension continues in Calgary with the latest Uber crackdown, spy style.
No go for Uber or more taxis in Vancouver, still

The stalemate over more private transportation options in Vancouver is... still a stalemate. In it's wisdom(?), city council has declined to NEITHER end the moratorium on new taxi licenses, or approve Uber for the city. The result? Residents still waiting for rides during peak periods - such as in the club zone at closing time - and expensive rides, often with disgruntled taxi drivers. This is progress?

A rare welcome

Every once in awhile, a city - or an advocate for a city - welcomes the arrival of ridesharing services. A timely, refreshing example...

Weighing in on the future of Uber

What is the future of ridesharing? How long will Uber be around? How will the service change? Forbes weighed in this in October.

Even cats take Uber

Finally, proof that Uber is the cat's meow, with this story that made the rounds in late October...

Related resources
Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me
Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig 
Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Monday 19 October 2015

Headed to one of the 10 most dreaded? (2015)

* * Click HERE for 2016 * *


Read below for 2015:

Sleeping in Airports has announced the results of their 2015 Best and Worst Airports Survey.

While we are inspired by the airports on the Best Airports list to book long layovers to enjoy them, those on the Worst Airports list is another matter.

1. Port Harcourt International Airport (PHC) - new to the list
2. Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) - was #2 last year
3. Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) - was #3 last year
4. Tashkent International Airport (TAS) - was #5 last year
5. Caracas Simon Bolivar International Airport (CCS) - new to the list
6. Port au Prince Toussaint Louverture International Airport (PAP) - new to the list
7. Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL) - new to the list
8. Ho Chi Minh City Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport (SGN) - new to the list
9. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport (ISB) - was #1 last year
10. Paris Beauvais International Airport (BVA)- was #6 last year

Keep in mind that just because an airport doesn't make the list, doesn't mean it isn't really bad. As the list is generated by airport users, other dismal airports that either received less visitors, or just less passengers inclined to vote, may drop off the list itself. In other words, don't be surprised to find last year's losers haven't improved.

The good news? In Layover Ideas for the World's Worst Airports (2015), our sister-site has suggestions about you to survive your layover if you find yourself headed to one of the dreaded!

Related resources
Sleeping in Airports 2016 Best and Worst Airports Survey - cast your vote!
Lousy Lagos Airport layover review
Layover Ideas & Things to Do Anywhere in the World
Go running on your layover
Roundtrip layover tours from airports

Thursday 15 October 2015

New hope for Toronto's UPExpress

UPExpress airport train at Pearson station
creative commons image chriskillam on Flickr
After a beleaguered start, it appears there may be hope on the horizon for Torontonians who watch the city's airport train cars pass by empty.

The Globe and Mail has reported of a rumoured takeover of the Union Pearson Express by the city. In the article, Toronto Mayor John Tory "acknowledged that the idea is just a 'passing reference' in what is expected to be a lengthy report on the feasibility of his $8-billion SmartTrack, which would run on the existing GO rail network and has a planned stop in the Pearson airport area."

Passing reference or not, we can't help but be optimistic.

The Union Pearson Express on a busier day
creativecommons image sweetone on Flickr
While the building of the new Toronto Airport train was much anticipated, doubts about ridership arose immediately after the fare structure was announced (see our blog post Toronto joins the 21st century with Pearson airport train).

Since beginning service in June, UPExpress trains have been running largely empty, with few but the most flush travellers, and an occassional local, paying the steep fares. For an international airport, served by thousands of local workers, Toronto deserves better. Let's hope the SmartTrack will get the Toronto Pearson Airport train on the right track.

YYZ Airport train: fast, but not cheap
creativecommons image chriskillam on Flickr

Related resources
Staff report hints at Toronto taking over Pearson express train
Pearson airport express trains 90 per cent empty
Union Pearson Express — the train Toronto loves to hate
What travellers want – and at the right price
Clean Train Coalition on UPExpress diesel design

Wednesday 14 October 2015

The elusive Kabul Taxi

You can't actually take the 'Kabul Taxi'
It seems not everyone is amused by Kabul Taxi, the satirical Facebook page that provided an outlet for Afghans tired from years of unrest.

Since summer, Afghanistan's spy agency has been paying attention to to the page, and threatening to shut it down. It's a compliment of sorts, and the scrutiny has led to greater exposure for the fake taxi page.

While reportedly removed, we still found the Kabul Taxi Facebook page, with 60,000+ likes and recent posts. Even if you can't understand the language, the photos give you insight to the irony and biting commentary on life and politics in the country.

What's next? We were amused to see comments on the Kabul Taxi page suggestion variations, including Kabul Bus, Kabul Jet and more.

Whatever the outcome, we wish peace and whatever comical relief that gets the people of this resilient country.

Related resources
Kabul Taxi is Blocked on Facebook. Long Live Kabul Taxi!
Afghan satire 'Kabul Taxi' angers spies, scribes summoned
A street car named satire: 'Kabul Taxi' lampoons Afghanistan
Afghans flock to Kabul Taxi, a satirical Facebook page that spares no one
Kabul Airport (KBL) transportation guide (real information, no fakes here!)

Thursday 1 October 2015

Uber news recap - September 2015

Uber driver in Dubai
creativecommons image khawaja of Flickr
Here are a few of the Uber vs taxi war stories that made news in September...

This story out of San Francisco, the birthplace of Uber

Nice to see a little competition coming into play in the city of play, Las Vegas. It was certainly needed, as Forbes revealed in 2013 (Taxi credit card scam does not stay in Vegas). 

If you're watching the ridesharing phenomenon unfold around the world, you'll be interested in the news coming out of Brazil, as Rio puts the brakes on the service.

Didi Kuaidi, China's ride-hailing service, has hit the ground running, creating a spark of interest in how the ridesharing industry will unfold in this Communist country.

The fix is in in Edmonton, it seems. Price fixing is a serious charge in Canada, but does this pass the sniff test?

Finally, a great piece from FastCompany about why the sharing economy, and ridesharing in particular, just makes sense. If you're mired in the debate, whichever side of the debate you are on, have a read for some fresh perspectives:

Related resources
Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me
Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig 
Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Monday 10 August 2015

How to Get Away from the Airport

Beijing Capital Airport, headed to ground transportation
creative commons image wikipedia
How do you like to get away from the airport? Do you head to the exit to scope out the taxi situation? Look for your name on the cards held up by a driver as you exit security? Follow the hotel shuttle bus sign? Try to find an airport shuttle bus? If you're lucky enough to arrive at an airport with direct train service, do you take it? Track down the local bus? Rent a car?

Do you always do the same thing? Or do you vary your plan acvording to what airport you are arriving at? What's the best option? How do you decide?

In a recent interview on The Informed Traveler, co-founder Steve Romaine discusses the various forms of airport transportation and tips on getting you out of the airport. Listen to Steve's advice to help you narrow down your choices, and arrive stress-free!

Listen: How to Get Away from the Airport - Steve Romaine interview

Informed Traveler: Twitter, Facebook, Blog

Related resources - An International Traveller's Ground Transportation Guide (100's of airports!)
Airport Arrival Advice
Dealing with Touts
Taxi Rates & Fares: Airport Taxi Advice
Dealing with Taxi Drivers

Monday 20 July 2015

Brave behind the wheel

She sleeps with a rifle at night - and drives her taxi by day
In case you missed it, there is a change taking place on the streets of Afghanistan with the country's first female taxi driver in recent memory.

Sara Bahayi (or Bahai) is the brave Afghan woman who was inspired to drive a taxi, and went about securung her license, despite the barriers.

Profiled earlier this year by multiple sources, Al Jazeera recently released a new video about Sara, with footage of Afghan women speaking about the difference one woman is making, a sampling of her detractors and the new generation of women she is now teaching to drive.

You can also watch 2 videos about Sara's bold move on AutoBlog.

Related resources
Female cab driver in Afghanistan breaks stereotypes
The unlikely life of Afghanistan’s first female taxi driver
Afghanistan's first female taxi driver encourages women to drive
Female taxi drivers around the world
Kabul International Airport (KBL) transportation guide

Monday 13 July 2015

The 420 from PDX

Heavy metal overhead
Just a week ago, as part of it's World's Best Awards, Travel+Leisure placed Portland Airport (PDX) at the top of it's World's Best Airports - Domestic Airports list. Or, rather, readers of T+L Magazine voted PDX to the top spot during an extensive readership survey.

Putting aside the conundrum-causing juxtaposition of words the title evokes*, there is a new development that could take "Fly PDX" to a whole new level, if you get our drift. Check out this headline in the International Business Times:
Marijuana Legalization In Oregon: Portland Airport Allows Travelers To Bring Weed On In-State Flights
Creative Lights Yes, that's right. The Portland, Oregon airport has indeed declared it acceptable for passengers to carry recreational marijuana - which is now legal in Oregon - on flights departing PDX, as long as the destination is within the state. And that's recreational marijuana, not medicinal.

Known for it's focus on service and its willingness to innovate, this latest move can only be descried as accommodating. What's funny is that there is no mention of this on the PDX website, however social media and news feeds are alive with the news.

If PaxEx means keeping travellers at your airport happy and relaxed, then PDX takes the cake. Oh, speaking of munchies...

coffee people treats at portland airport
Where to eat at Portland PDX - Portland Eater

PDX Carpet
So many people love PDX's trippy carpet
that they've created a way for fans to buy
a piece of the carpet when they are replaced!

Curious? Read on How the Portland Airport
Carpet Became a Hipster Icon
*Do you share our conundrum? How can a list of domestic airports in the United States can be considered "world's best" (wouldn't that be "World's Best Airports - Domestic Airports USA" or "United States Best Airports - Domestic Airports"?!?).... We get what T+L is trying to do, but the liberties they take with wording their award titles makes us (non-Americans) shake our heads, just a little..

Related resources
Oregon’s Portland International Airport to allow passengers to carry recreational marijuana
Is PDX the best airport in America? Travel+Leisure says so (poll)
Portland International Airport (PDX) transportation guide
Private transfer from Portland Airport - arrive stress free!
Private transfer from Portland Airport in a stretch limo - arrive in style!

All images creative commons - click each image for source info

Sunday 28 June 2015

Heathrow's slick new transport screens

Real time traffic, weather and transportation options come to Heathrow T2 baggage claim, in the traveller's language
A new innovation has been unveiled in the Baggage Claim area at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 2.

Conveniently located where most arriving passengers will do most of their waiting - for their luggage to arrive at the carousels - the new digital smart screens will display all transportation options. Information on the Heathrow Express airport train, Heathrow airport bus service and London taxi service is now available for the traveller to browse.

What's innovative is the way the screens integrate real-time weather and traffic information, as well as updates on rail service. With this data, the screens can generate relatively accurate travel times for each transport method. They will even estimate taxi fares, allowing the traveller to compare with other options.

Equally innovative is the way the screens will adapt the displayed language translations to those of most passengers arriving on each flight. For example, Japanese translations will be displayed when All Nippon Airways flights arrive, and Egyptian for flights arriving from Cairo or Luxor.

We laud the innovation, as this is the kind of relevant, just-in-time up-to-date information consumers are coming to expect from their portable devices, and from the institutions they frequent. By pulling all this data together and displaying it in baggage claim, when arriving passengers may not have connected their devices, and are most in need of it, Heathrow is setting the standard.

Expect to see the initiative rolled out to Heathrow's other terminals in the not so distant future. Expect to see a mix of adoption of the technologies in the industry as a whole: we wonder who the early adopters will be (a favourite airport near you, you hope!), and fully anticipate those airports that are still charging for WiFi to remain in the PaxEx dark for some time to come.

Related resources:

Heathrow’s new transport screens are such a cool and useful airport amenity
Journey comparison screens simplify onward travel options for Heathrow passengers
Heathrow announces Microsoft as the launch partner on the Towers@T5
Heathrow clinches ACI EUROPE Best Airport 2015 Award
London Heathrow International Airport (LHR) transportation guide
London Heathrow Private Car Transfer - BOOK NOW

Friday 26 June 2015

The stunning Atlantic Road in Norway

Atlantic Road, Norway
Posted by 3dfirstaid visual architecture on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sunday 7 June 2015

Toronto joins the 21st century with Pearson airport train

Toronto's shiny new YYZ airport train
wikicommons images (except as noted)
Toronto has finally joined the 21st century with its new train service to Pearson International Airport (YYZ). There have been discussions since the late 1980s, but this week the dream become a reality.

One can now jump on a train - the Union Pearson Express, or UPExpress - from Toronto's YYZ  airport to downtown (or vice versa) in about 25 minutes onboard a touted luxury train that boasts a comfy ambience and free WiFi, similar to that of the Heathrow Express. This new train only stop twice enroute – the Weston and Bloor West Stations.

The price tag for a one-way journey is a steep $27.50 fare per adult. Gasp.

The fare is quite high in comparison to other airport-downtown train journeys around the world and it is difficult to determine whether this price point will gather enough passengers to warrant itself a sustainable business model. The Vancouver Canada Line, a comparable national example, takes approximately half the time (half the distance) and only costs $5.50 during peak times and $2.75 evenings/weekends, so a $10-15 price tag for the UPExpress would seem more fitting.

creativecommons image
chriskillam on Flickr
Based on the current pricing system, the reduction in airport parking and taxis could be quite limited, and given the UPExpress only frequents downtown, it seems more geared towards business travelers and tourists versus city residents, whom would be better off catching a taxi or a bus. There is a reduced fare for Presto fare-card holders ($19 one-way), but it's not enough to entice regular riders.

What would be a game changer would be if the UPExpress had alignment to Toronto’s subway system or light rail transit to give more flexibility in options for all travelers.

In the meantime, having more transit choices for travelers at the Pearson International Airport is a good thing so long as the arguably prohibitive cost does not make this investment a boondoogle.

Related resources
The Union-Pearson Express is the good news story Toronto refuses to accept
Union Pearson Express test ride: A first look at Toronto’s downtown-airport train
Union Pearson Express Opens Today
Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) transportation guide

Friday 15 May 2015

Myanmar adds airports to meet tourism demand

Departure Lounge
Departure lounge at  Myanmar's Yangon International Airport
creativecommons image by mikecogh on flicrk
Look at any list of the world's hot travel destinations, and Myanmar will probably be on the list. The former nation of Burma, emerging after decades of being closed to tourists, is busy making plans to handle all those new visitors.

Myanmar currently has 3 international airports (along with about 30 domestic airports):
The on-again, off-again, plans to build a 4th is back on again with the recent announcement of new investors for the Hanthawaddy International Airport project [more]. Located in the central Bago region, just 80 kilometres from Yangon, the new greenfield Hanthawaddy International Airport will be capable of handling 18 million passengers, and is expected to open in 2018.

Construction on a 5th is already underway. Expansion of the renamed former domestic Tavoy Airport to international standards has commenced, with runway and other facilities to follow. Dawei International Airport (TVY) is being developed in conjunction with the Dawei Deep Seaport project, and will be fully operational by 2017.

Related resources

Singapore-Japan consortium wins deal to build new airport
Myanmar reboots new airport tender
Myanmar to add two new int'l airports to meet future development
Myanmar Coming to a Crossroads - Travel Pulse
Myanmar airport transportation guides

Friday 3 April 2015

Even taxi drivers are chill about Cairn's free airport bus

Even the Cairns taxi drivers support the new airport bus
Cairns Airport has a new airport shuttle bus service - and it's FREE.

The new service, Airport Connect, provides a vital missing link between the city's public transportation system, and the Cairns International Airport, which has no public transit options. Passengers, airport staff and pedestrians who have no desire or budget to pay for a taxi or shuttle, or who are not staying at hotel with shuttle service, have had little choice but to walk.

Airport Connect will operate just once an hour, so it may not work for most passengers. But now, at least, they have a choice.

The motivation behind the move is sad, but also inspiring: 2 months ago a pedestrian died after being struck while walking along Airport Avenue. The new service means that Dinah Boughton's life was not in vain.

The Airport Connect service is not without its detractors, but we'll take a free bus service over no bus service at all. If the only thing better is a direct bus service from the city centre, well maybe that would be a good outcome. And if advocates for cycling and walking paths are heard, and additional facilities are created, then all the better.

The free bus experiment is limited to a 3-month trial period, which we think is a shame, as this isn't nearly enough time for visitors to learn about the service and begin to use it.

Nonetheless, it's a brilliant idea, and whoever seized the funding to get the project off the ground should be congratulated. Now it's up to both the public to show their support - by using the bus - and for airport executives to show their leadership - by standing their ground and extending the service. If government officials drop the ball by failing to permanently fund the initiative, then it really will be a shame.

Cairns taxi drivers not fazed by free Cairns Regional Council bus service to Cairns Airport
The Cairns Airport bus service is set up to fail
How the Cairns Airport Connect shuttle bus works
Cairns International Airport (CNS) transportation guide
Cairns Layover Ideas & Things to do in Cairns

Thursday 2 April 2015

Don’t let sensationalized travel fear invoke paralysis

standing at the precipice
creativecommons image by charleskremenak on Flickr

by Todd Romaine

Let’s face the obvious fact – you will die at some point. Now, getting over this depressed reality should not paralyze you from living life and seeing the world in real-time versus from in front of a television set.

It seems all too often that the world is becoming a small place to travel within when the broad strokes of generalization of ‘no-go zones’ are factored into trip planning. Generally speaking, the Middle East is considered very volatile with the usual images of suicidal bombers and revolution. Africa is considered dangerous for contacting deadly viral diseases to war and to horrific crimes against locals and tourists alike. Much of Asia, with the exception of the southeast portion, is considered to share the same traits as the Middle East and Africa.

Right off the bat, most people now eliminate 2/3rds of the world and stick to safe countries in safe regions to ensure a continuance of life as they know it. And with the overload of information in people’s lives, we thrive and make decisions based on a combination of news or research snippets followed by gut reasoning.

When Ebola hit the news, people were avoiding Africa and all parts of it, despite the fact it only impacted three countries in West Africa and left the remaining 51 countries alone. While images of the Middle East show chaotic conditions, much of the region is peaceful or safe to travel, or countries considered dangerous generally have pockets of it, versus a wide swath of territory (exception being ISIL in Iraq, Syria).

Unfortunately official country reports tend to reinforce these stereotypes and this compounds the issue further with insurance companies, travel companies and the likes also terminating or intensifying their view of the area.

I am not suggesting you shrug this information off completely but spend time doing research on where you want to travel and what areas to avoid.

Admittedly, I went to Yemen last year as a tourist, a country that only receives a handful of American tourists and likely even less Canadians. Despite the political issues, kidnappings etc., I was able to find pockets of the country that were very safe and was able to enjoy it without dealing with hordes of tourists.

Traveling solo or with a small group tends to attract less negative attention and spending money with a reputable tour group also greatly assists with navigating away from potential dangers.

Maybe the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, but most of the world is still relatively safe and if do your own detailed research, and do proper planning, you have the opportunity to see reality in your own eyes versus the often drummed up sensationalism of mass media.

Related resources
Fear, Risk and Travel - Gary Arndt, Everything Everywhere
Travel warnings and advisories - Independent Traveler
Why you should ignore travel warnings - Reid's Italy
Travel in the time of Ebola
May the odds be ever in your favour
What counts as a country visited?

Tuesday 31 March 2015

Spain’s ‘white elephant airport’ comes back from the dead

El hombre avión
The Plane Man, by Juan Ripollés - sadly, the sculptor was left out-of-pocket for expenses associated with the stunning work

The desire of some European politicians to spend future public funds to help reinvigorate their domestic economies resulted in numerous civil work projects, many of which were abandoned shortly after construction. In places like Spain, the situation is glaringly obvious with public buildings, pools and even airports sitting empty, based on failed speculative theories on increased consumption and use.

In Castellon, a province in NE Spain, a 15 year plan to construct an airport to increase tourism to its postcard-perfect beaches eventually came into existence 4 years ago. The project was launched with the hope it would tap into various regional carrier markets, on the assumption that foreign money would continually flow into the region’s hospitality and that the real estate market would see increases on par with other parts of the world .

Europe’s sustained economic recession, however, has resulted in high levels of unemployment and corresponding less continental travelers flocking to Spain, let alone relatively undiscovered regions such as Castellon.

Despite the airport sitting idle beyond a few charter flights, expenses were paid for security and rodent and bird exterminators, anxiously preparing for the days when the airport would receive national approval and international use.

This was more than an unneeded, useless €150 million boondoggle - the former politician who cooked up the idea, Carlos Fabra, is currently serving 4 years behind bars for tax fraud associated with the project. The renowned sculptor Juan Ripollés was left out of pocket for his masterpiece gracing the airport's grounds. A whopping €30 million was wasted on advertising. The private contractor hired to operate the airport for 50 years sued for cancellation of his contract. And it took f4 years to be approved as meeting regulatory requirements. No wonder Spaniards were sore about the ghost airport.

Well, the day of waiting has come to an end.
Ryanair will start operating flights to/from Castellón de la Plana Airport, or Castellón-Costa Azahar Airport, with multiple weekly flights from London Stansted and Bristol. Ticket sales have opened, and flights commence in September.

Related resources

Spain's 'ghost' airport finally gets ready to welcome its first flights as Ryanair confirms routes between Castellon and the UK
Ryanair to serve Castellón Airport from Bristol and Stansted
Spanish 'ghost' airport's unused runway to be dug up - 2012
In Spain, a Symbol of Ruin at an Airport to Nowhere - 2012
Castellon de La Plana Airport (CDT) transportation guide (watch for updates)

Sunday 22 March 2015

A few thoughts on Frankfurt Airport

This feature originally appeared on our LayoverIdeas blog:
Frankfurt airport
creativecommons image by bortescristian on Flickr
While we are often inspired by innovative airport design and unique features, Frankfurt International Airport takes the cake, by going above and beyond what has become to be expected of world class airports.

Among the many passenger-friendly services at Frankfurt International Airport, the following strike us as definitely created with human creature comforts in mind [continue reading... ]

Related resources
Layover City: Frankfurt
Frankfurt Layover Private Sightseeing Tour with Airport Transport
Frankfurt International Airport private transfer service from IHateTaxis
Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) transportation guide
Frankfurt Hahn Airport (HHN) transportation guide (120km away)

Sunday 15 March 2015

Taxi prices drop in Manila... or do they?

All taxis in Manila - in the whole country of the Philippines actually - have been ordered to drop their fares.

The story is that the move is necessary with the reduction in oil prices around the world, but many are speculating that this is an Uber ridesharing countermove. Either way, it's being rolled out quickly (they've even called it "provisional"), and it's causing no shortage of confusion.

Type of signage you're
likely to see in your
Manila taxi
pic @AceGapuz
Here's the lowdown:
  • All Manila taxis have been ordered to reduce the starting meter fare by PHP 10
  • For Manila airport taxis, this means the starting fare has dropped from PHP 70 to PHP 60
  • Elsewhere in Manila, the starting fare drop is from PHP 40 to PHP 30
  • For reasons that are unfathomable, the fare drop does NOT appear on the meter!
  • It is the driver's responsibility to deduct the PHP 10 off the fare
  • There are severe penalties for drivers who do not give the reduction
  • Expect the reduction and pay attention to make sure you get the correct rate
  • The reduction applies elsewhere in the Philippines as well

It's not hard to see the flaws with this system: how is the traveler to know if the reduction is in place, if their driver does not tell them? With how quickly the change was rolled out, and the fact that it is being called "provisional", the possibility exists for the change to be reversed just as spontaneously (there is a pretty big pushback).

It's also making for some pretty dismal taxi drivers, all of who are taking the hit of the reduced fare. If you have a heart, tip well.

Avoid the hassle: book an Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport private transfer with IHateTaxis!

Related resources:
LTFRB cuts taxi flag-down rate nationwide by P10
Provisional rollback on taxi flag-down rate ‘unreasonable’–taxi operators
Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) transportation guide
Manila Clark International Airport (CRK) transportation guide

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Baja Mexico's double dipper gas scam

Pemex gas stations are a common sight in Mexico - and it's at
one in Los Cabos that this rental car gas scam happened
creativecommons image: mcrael on Flickr

Heading to Baja, Mexico? Watch out for the double dipper gas scam!

Many Americans and Canadians, especially those located on the continents’ west coast, frequently visit the Baja region of Mexico. This is a place increasingly popular for weddings, kite surfing and general rest and relaxation. More frequently, however, it is starting to get a reputation of numerous scams on well heeled tourists.

Most notably is the double dipper gas scam where travelers head to a gas station before returning to their rental car to the airport to find out that their credit card does not work when it is inserted into the processing machine - followed by a demand is required to rectify the bill in cash; albeit in Pesos or US Dollars. More often than not, travelers with limited time before catching a flight assume their credit card transaction did not go through and readily handover cash, sometimes driving accompanied to a nearby ATM machine to make a withdrawal before speeding off to the airport for their flight home.

Fast forward several weeks and the traveler discovers that their credit card transaction for fuel actually did go through, so they paid twice. Then begins a contestation with the credit card company over the disputed charge.

While this scam is not isolated to the Baja region of Mexico, it is safe to say that the best way around this is to put aside cash (in local currency) as your last and final transaction payment before leaving the country. This will mean for future trips you will need to build this into your overall currency exchange at the beginning of your trip.

Related resources:
Beware the gas station scam in Mexico
The hidden cost of car rentals in Mexico
How to protect yourself when renting a car - Advice from IHateTaxis
Are cross-border car rentals possible?
Renting diesel in North America

Sunday 1 March 2015

New Multan Airport targets March liftoff

New Multan International Airport Pakistan from Shujaat Azeem on Vimeo.

Pakistan's 'new' Multan Airport will finally... hopefully... be operational later this month.

The airport has been fraught with challenges. As recently as February 10th, the airport was set to be inaugurated before the end of February. While this target was not met, there was a final inspection of the facilities on February 27th.

Arrival of passengers on the first test
flight at Multan Airport today
Today saw the landing of the first test flight on the tarmac at Multan Airport, and an announcement that the airport will be operational sometime during May. Let's hope.

The new airport was apparently completed last year, but a lack of power prevented it from becoming operational (there is now a new grid station).

Previous stumbling blocks included cancellation of plans for a new greenfield construction, due to lack of funds, and modified plans to replace the existing terminal instead.

First bags!
Test flight photos by Saqlain Kazmi
via @raisinganchor
Along with new runways and an ILS (instrument landing system), the essentially new airport will boost capacity from 100,000 to 1 million passengers a year.

Information on transportation options for the new terminal are hard to find, even for us. For now, expect to take a taxi, and keep any eye on our Multan International Airport (MUX) transportation guide for updates.

The Mango Season  | Explored In addition to passenger services, the new airport will double mango exports from the region from 10,000 to 20,000 tons (how many planes does it take to fly 10,000 mangos?).

For more pictures, see the Multan Airport Facebook page.

Related resources:
Multan International Airport (MUX) transportation guide
New Multan airport to be inaugurated this month (March): Shujaat Azeem
Luck to smile on Multan in March
PM likely to open New Multan Airport on (February) 27th
Upgraded Multan airport likely to open next month (February)
New Multan Airport to complete by end of 2014
Qatar Airlines to start flights from Multan to Europe