Category Archives: Know before you Go

Flying AirAsia? Here’s What You Need to Know

Now Everyone can Fly, indeed.

Tempting sales, hundreds of routes around Asia, super-smart marketing and affordable fares almost all year long – that’s AirAsia for you. And what’s not to love?

As it turns out – the fine print. And AirAsia has plenty of that. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of  flying Asia’s favourite airline or wondering why that incredible deal doesn’t look as incredible by the time you’ve flown with them:

When booking / Before you fly:
  • Pre-book your baggage: There’s no checkin baggage on the standard booking. You have to pay to check your bags in. Pre-book this online – the cost of buying at the counter is almost double of pre-booking. If, like me, you have trouble taking only cabin baggage (7 kgs only) for a trip longer than a week, remember to do this. Check-in luggage weight purchased on the same booking can be shared between passengers. E.g. if you book 10 kg for each of you, two of you would be able to use it even as 12 kg + 8 kg in two bags.
  • Don’t count on being able to sneak in a bigger or heavier bag into the cabin: This probably doesn’t always happen, but I’ve seen people pulled out of the queue for their bags to be weighed and then asked to go back and check their overweight bags in.
  • Surcharge on credit card payments: You will have to pay a surcharge for using your foreign credit card to pay (3% I think) if you’re booking online from outside the specific flight’s ‘home country’. And these are charged per passenger. They do have a payment option without these extra charges but I’ve seen that available only for certain banks in certain SE Asian countries.
  • Insurance: Insurance for the flight is added automatically to every booking but costs very little (less than 5 USD I think) so doesn’t needed to be avoided.
  • Always web check in and print that boarding pass: There are stories around the internet of having to pay extra to have the people at the counter check you in and print your boarding pass (we did get an updated boarding pass for free in Bangkok, but that could just be a random nice person at the counter). To give the airline credit, they do open check-ins on the internet two weeks before the flight, giving you plenty of time to get things done. Alternately, you could self check in at the kiosks (if available) in the airport and print your boarding slip / voucher from the kiosk.
  • Stick with the system-allotted seat: If there are two or more of you flying on the same booking, they sometimes try and split you up when you’re doing the web check in. For example, on our Siem Reap – Bangkok flight, they allotted two seats to the two of us on the same booking that were not next to each other. If you change your seat from the system-allotted one, you pay extra. (we took the separate seats, all these extra charges were annoying me and a couple of hours of parting weren’t going to kill us :))
  • Don’t expect refunds in case of changes / cancellations: This is true for the discounted ‘low fares’, the ‘premium flex’ fares usually have more flexibility but cost the same as other non-budget airlines.
On the flight:
  • Meals are also cheaper when pre-booked but also avoidable as the variety is limited most of the flights are short-haul.
  • There is no free drinking water served in the flight and what’s offered is overpriced. Try and buy or fill up a bottle at the airport once you’re past the security check. Thankfully, you don’t have to pay to use the plane restroom. Yet.
  • Don’t ask them to move you to the extra-leg space seats even if they’re empty after the flight’s taken off. They WILL want you to pay extra for them. Why they don’t understand a ‘sunk cost’ fails me.

Crummy, old low-cost airports and surly stewardesses aside, it’s still a comfortable flight and an airline with a good safety record for the price you pay (especially if you’ve managed to book in one of their legendary sales). Just that I’m a happier flier when I know I’ve not been stung. As they say – it’s about reading the fine print and having the right expectations.

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

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Have you flown AirAsia?

Which one was it for you – ‘Give me that Loyalty Card!’ or ‘Never again!’?

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Know Before You Go: Prague

Dobrý den, my friend!

(And that wraps up my limited knowledge of the Czech language)

You know when you land in a new city / country and find yourself struggling to find the ticket counter for the metro train? Or find yourself in the middle of complicated calculations trying to decide if you should buy that day pass or not?

Fear not, this new feature – ‘Know Before You Go’ is going to enlist a few tips culled from my visits to a few cities that should help you find your way around, just a little bit easier.

Here are some useful things to know for your first (or repeat) visit to the City of a Hundred Spires, Prague a.k.a. Praha.
The Spires and the Orange Roofs of Prague
The Spires and the Orange Roofs of Prague
  • Prague (and the rest of the Czech Republic) is a bargain, compared to a lot of other European cities, especially ones that lie west of it. You will find prices reasonable in general – but in my case, this sometimes leads to overspending, due to my falsely perceived ‘wealthiness’.
  • Service staff in restaurants sometimes tends to be grumpy. Legend has it that this has to do with the Communist occupation of the city. Smile and don’t forget your ‘hello-please-thank you‘ routine.
  • Beer is cheaper than water – at least the local brew is, at the kind of non-fancy places that locals might frequent. This has serious potential to throw your sightseeing plans off-track though. 🙂
  • The best place (and sometimes, the only place – true especially at night) to buy public transportation tickets is a news stand / tobacco shop inside the train station / near the bus stop. Don’t bother with the old-looking ticket vending machines that don’t have very clear instructions. Single ride tickets valid for the stated time (32 CZK / 1.2 EUR as of Mar ’15 for the 90-minute one with transfers allowed) and are usable across multiple modes of public transport like metro, trams etc. An extra half-ticket is needed for a large piece of luggage – don’t avoid buying this; it isn’t expensive and you don’t want to mess with the ticket inspectors in Prague (see next tip for why).
  • You MUST validate your ticket before getting on the bus / tram / metro – a friend of ours had to pay a 500 CZK fine for not doing so (and was almost handed over to the police by the ticket inspector for arguing with him).
  • There’s no direct public transport to the airport from the city – the quickest way is to take the metro line A to Dejivicka from the Old town or Wenceslas Square and then the Airport Express bus; the entire trip takes under an hour – IF you can manage to squeeze yourself and your luggage on to the bus (which only comes once every half an hour, so be prepared to jostle and nudge your way in)
  • There’s art hidden in corners and inconspicuous alleys of Prague – like this statue of Saint Wenceslas on an upside-down horse by David Cerny in the Lucerna Pasaz:

    'Yes, of course, I can ride a horse'
    ‘Yes, of course, I know how to ride a horse’
  • English is spoken quite widely and well by the young, so you will not struggle too much for your lack of knowledge of Czech / Slavic languages.
  • Vegetarians, rejoice – Even though traditional food is meat-oriented, vegetarianism is better understood in the city than others because of a growing international population and you have options of multiple restaurants like Beas, Govinda, Maitrea, Lehka Hlava (all recommended by our guesthouse owner and reasonably priced) – some of these are cafeteria-style places that sell food by weight and tend to be sold out by evening (a hard lesson that was learned by finding empty trays on a hungry Monday evening). Happy Cow should also be able to fix you up with some good options. Below is a Bramboracka, a very filling, traditional Czech soup that’s vegetarian and served in a bread bowl (seriously – you can eat the bowl).

    One vegetarian soup and a beer please
    One vegetarian soup (in an edible bowl, of course) and a beer please
  • Possessing small quantities of drugs is apparently legal in Prague. Not consuming, weirdly, only possessing for personal use. I did not look too much into this, for lack of interest, but if you’re inclined, you should check and double check with multiple sources, lest you get into trouble.
  • Like a lot of other European cities, Sundays are kind of dead in Prague. The streets are dark and deserted after evening – keep the phone number of your hotel / hostel handy in case you’re arriving on a Sunday after dark and can find noone to ask directions from.

Overall, Prague is an interesting, lively and largely low-profile city – though its party scene has quite the reputation in Europe. Pack yourself some comfortable walking shoes and warm clothes for nippy morning and evenings and you’ll be set to explore!

If you’d like to read a bit more about Prague / see some sights of the city – go here.

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Have you been to Prague? What are your top tips for the city?