Posted in Cheap Airline, Europe, Travel

Understanding combination air tickets and luggage allowance on small air crafts

A friend of mine contacted me from Hungary asking me for help on a combination ticket. Her son and husband are flying from Budapest to Barcelona for a soccer tournament taking Wizzair but returning with Ryanair.

In cases like hers, a trip involving multiple airlines within the EU she must check with both airlines to know the exact baggage allowance because airlines have different limitations.  Don’t be surprised if one airline allows smaller cabin bags and lighter checked bags than the rest so when you have a combination ticket you must go with the stricter one (given you travel with the same bag both ways).

Short flight planes are fairly small so the overhead luggage compartments and the space under the seats are very small, which means that they have to limit the size of the carry-on items.  Due to cabin space limitations they may only fit 70-90 cabin bags but any remaining bags will be checked free of charge at the door of the air craft. If you carry fragile items in your cabin bag and there is no room for yours just insist that they check other bags instead of yours otherwise you can say goodbye to your china.

Before you start packing your personal belongings please check your airline’s baggage size and weight allowance (if you are flying with multiple carriers then check  with all of them) because if your bag is off by an inch and it does not fit inside the cabin, you will be asked to check it and there is a fee for that. Keep in mind that checking a bag at the airport costs up to 40% more than checking it online so choose your luggage wisely.  Now, if your bag does not fit because there is no room for it (the overhead compartment is full) than they will check it for you free of charge SO THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!  Measure your luggage (with wheels and handle) instead of relying on your best guess.  If you have a bag that you used in the past on another flight do not assume that all airlines will accept it (under free allowance), for the record Lufthansa and British Airways tend to accept larger cabin bags.

The same rule goes for checked bags, as they call it in Europe “hold bags”.  Size is important so that your bag can fit through the cargo door and weight matters because you will have to pay for it; some airlines have set fees while others will charge per kilogram over a certain weight, like Ryanair does it over 15 kg or Easyjet over 20 kg; the heavier the bag the higher the cost is. Don’t stop there, Wizzair charges different baggage fees during low season and peak season travel, not to mention an additional airport surcharge if you purchased a ticket within 3 hours of your flight departure.

There is no way to memorize these baggage fees for every airline which keep on increasing every year besides the allowances are different for each carrier, so don’t bother. Pack light and try to fit your personal items in your carry-on and second bags; if you must check a bag just follow the guidelines for the cheapest option. First class and business class passengers have more free allowances so I suggest you to check the baggage allowance for your flight every time you travel.

Image: santoantaovacation

 

 

Posted in Portugal, Travel

Portugal’s hidden treasure: Bussaco Palace Hotel

 

 

 

bussaco-5

bussaco-3

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After touring Spain I was really excited to discover Portugal, planned my trip around medieval villages, castles, forts and ports but Bussaco Palace was not only a castle also our hotel for a night.  As you all know castles and forts were built on hilltops so I thought I would spot this from a distance but it wasn’t visible at all.  After leaving Lisbon we visited several castles, stopped for sightseeing in Coimbra and arrived to Mealhada at night.  The road to Bussaco Palace left me wondering if we were going to end up in somebody’s driveway when all of a sudden there she was with her glorious beauty, a tucked away shining star.  Our jaw dropped when we first spotted this illuminated castle while the smell of pine trees combined with the sweet fragrance of magnolia, jasmine and roses tickled our noses.  We normally check-in hotels quickly and settle down but this time we took forever to make our way from the parking lot to the reception. My family took off in different directions leaving the luggages to me, nobody cared about our room numbers yet.   They slowly appeared one by one holding not one but two cameras and told me that they wanted to get up early the next day and see this in daylight.  What a way to end our day, after seeing castles all day long we were actually spending a night in one!

The Palace Hotel of Bussaco is located in the heart of the National Forest Bussaco, right in the middle of Portugal, in the known Bairrada region. The Bussaco forrest is many centuries old, planted and cultivated by the Barefoot Carmelite Monks who lived in cloistered confinement and contemplation for more than 200 years, from 1630 to 1834. This magnificent natural alter was blessed and protected by a papal bull issued by Pope Urban VIII in 1634.

The walls that protect the forest are more than 5,000 kilometers long and have several gate entrances.  The “Portas de Coimbra” , the gate that served as the entrance to the Monastery, still incorporate the Papal Bulls, which at the time prohibited the cutting down of the trees and banned women from entering the forest – and consists of two imposing gates with the walls covered in the pebble inlay work, so characteristic of the Carmelites area. Adjacent to the “Portas de Sula” is the monument commemorating the Battle of Bussaco, which took place nearby on September 27, 1810 between the Anglo-Portuguese forces led by the Duke of Wellington and Napoleonic troops under General Massena.

Sources: www.bussacopalace.com

Images: bestourism, tripadvisor, versailletovictoria, hotels, luxurydreamhotels

 

Posted in Car Rental, Toll in Europe, Travel

Advising on toll systems in Portugal

Dear Reader and Future Traveler:

If you found incorrect or incomplete information on Portugese toll systems as I did, look no further, this is the blog you need!

In all honesty, I have never seen so many toll gates on one single road and so many different toll systems in a single country, as here.  It does not matter where you enter Portugal, you can’t avoid paying tolls, which already starts at the borders.  Upon entering Portugal you can’t miss these large signs asking foreign vehicles to register for EasyToll. This is a very simple and quick process; you approach the EasyToll machine (make sure your car stands fairly close to the gate), slide your credit card (and leave it inside the machine for processing unlike in the USA where you quickly swipe it), the camera takes a picture of your license plate and associates it with your credit card.  The sign up has a cost of 0.60 Euro+VAT and each journey has an administrative cost of 0.26 Euro+VAT, which will be charged to your credit card.

 

Note:

-These machines do not accept credit cards with a chip so you better have the right credit card with you because you can’t turn around here!!!! 

-If you change rental cars during your trip, you can update your registration online but you can’t switch credit cards so make sure your credit card has funds. 

You are going to get a receipt as proof of registration, showing your license plate, identifier number and the last four digits of your credit card number.  The registration is valid for 30 days and with EasyToll registration you can drive on regular toll and EasyToll roads. Every time you cross a toll gate the camera will read your license plate and automatically charge the toll to your registered credit card without stopping. The amount of toll for each car category is posted on a big sign just before the gate. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE VV (VIA VERDE) LINES with this type of registration unless your car is also equipped with a transponder. When you leave Portugal don’t forget to cancel this service to make sure nobody drives the same rental car with your registered credit card!!!

The toll gates cost nickel and dime but they surely add up because the gates are only a few kilometers apart.  There are secondary roads if you want to avoid paying toll but they barely qualify for roads; you basically have to share a single lane with incoming traffic, which could easily mean anything from crossing goats to tractors.  Somewhat scenic but there are no facilities between the villages unless peeing in the bushes satisfies you, not to mention you can’t drive faster than 25 KPH. We did not last long driving on secondary roads, immediately set our GPS to allow toll roads from that moment on and saved an hour on a 2 hour drive! People, gasoline in Portugal is 1.48 Euro a liter so do the math, it is more economical to take the toll roads, trust me on that, so worth it!

Another toll option is a 3 day sticker which entitles you to unlimited use on regular toll roads (driving light vehicles only) but not good for EasyToll roads.  It costs 20€ with a service cost of 0.60€+VAT and an administrative cost of 0.26€+VAT per journey. There is also an option of a pre-paid ticket with previously defined date and journey:

Journey from Spain – Porto Airport, via A28 or A41 (round trip)

Journey from Spain – Faro Airport via A22 (round trip)

On a side note: I heard this sticker does not come off easily and rental car companies don’t like it. 

The third option is a transponder, so-called Via Verde device.  This device allows you to use the VV (Via Verde) line which is the express line in Portugal while the toll gates debit the amount from your device.  You can rent a transponder and return it or just buy one if you don’t like the hassle. Cost of rental: 6 Euro in the first week and 1.50 Euro for each week after that. Initial deposit is 27.50 Euro (value refunded upon return of the device) and the consumption is depending on the use.  You can purchase this product in Via Verde stores or in service areas, IN CASH.  For permanent stays, the driver may purchase a Via Verde device with direct debit online, Via Verde stores or at the Caixa Geral Bank in Spain. Validity period of 90 days, extendable for an equal period whenever a new minimum preload is made before the expiration of that period.

The  fourth option is the TollCard which is activated through an SMS, with a fixed amount to be consumed depending on circulation. This solution allows payment in cash or with bankcard, is valid for one year and your balance can be found on the Internet. It is aimed at tourists and immigrants.  The driver can buy a pre-loaded card with 5, 10, 20 or 40 € (with an added service cost of 0.60€+VAT for each purchased card).

After purchasing the card the driver shall proceed to its activation by sending an SMS by mobile phone with the code printed on the card and the license plate of the vehicle (instructions on the card), so that it is associated with the license plate of the vehicle. You can activate more than one card, with the accumulation of balances.

The driver can check the card balance online at www.portugaltolls.pt and when the card balance runs out, the customer will receive an alert SMS. The activated balances will be consumed depending on the use of highways with electronic toll collection only and for each journey it´s applied an administrative cost of 0.26€+VAT.  Each card is valid for one year after its activation.

A tollcard that is not activated or damaged can be returned in any CTT office and its purchasing cost will be refunded. The remaining credit can also be refunded if a credit card was used for the payment (as long this was ordered during the sign up), in a 6 month maximum period. Buy it at CTT post-offices, at Portuguese highway´s service areas or at www.tollcard.pt.

Lastly, the fifth kind of toll, which is not mentioned on any website, are the manned toll booths on certain sections so you have to pick up a ticket the old fashion way and pay the toll when you exit or whenever you get to next pay gate on your road.  They accept cash and credit cards as well.

IMPORTANT: IF YOU FLY INTO PORTUGAL AND RENT A CAR, YOU MUST ASK YOUR CAR RENTAL AGENCY TO RENT YOU A DEVICE OR A TOLLCARD BECAUSE YOU CAN’T REGISTER FOR EASYTOLL IF YOU ARRIVE BY AIRPLANE!!!!

LASTLY: TRY TO LINE UP AT MANNED TOLL BOOTHS FOR PAYMENT, THE OPERATORS ARE PRETTY QUICK, THEY ARE FASTER THAN THE MACHINES THAT PROCESS YOUR CREDIT CARDS. MACHINES OCCASIONALLY DONT ACCEPT FOREIGN CREDIT CARDS OR CARDS WITH CHIPS SO AVOID THE HASSLE AND JUST HAND YOUR CREDIT CARD TO THE OPERATOR INSTEAD.  ONCE THE MACHINE HAS AN ERROR READING THE CREDIT CARD YOU CANT CANCEL THE TRANSACTION AND NEED TO ASK FOR HELP BY PRESSING THE “I” BOTTON WHICH IS INFORMATION AND MEANS A 15 MINUTE STOP. EACH TOLL BOOTH HAS 2 CARD READERS OUTSIDE BUT YOUR BEST BET IS THE OPERATOR.

ADVISE: IF YOU ARE ON A ROAD TRIP CROSSING FROM SPAIN COVERING A BIG PART OF PORTUGAL AND DON’T KNOW WHICH METHOD IS THE BEST FOR YOU: DO WHAT WE DID: REGISTER FOR EASYTOLL.  IF YOU ARE FLYING IN THEN RENT A DEVICE. I WOULD NOT SUGGEST THE 3 DAY STICKER SINCE MOST ROADS ARE ELECTRONIC TOLL ROADS, IT ALSO HAPPENS THAT ONE ROAD HAS BOTH EASYTOLL AND REGULAR TOLL SECTIONS WHICH MEANS THAT YOU WOULD BE PENALIZED FOR USING THE WRONG METHOD FOR EASYTOLL.

Image: engenhariacivil, autotraveler

 

Posted in Travel

Dinner in the Sky

 

 

Dinner in the Sky, has met the challenge by providing a unique occasion to discover Brussels’ high cuisine in the most extraordinary manner possible: 22 guests and 1 “starred” chef will share an unforgettable gastronomic experience in the skies over the capital, enjoying an unparalleled view of Brussels and its surroundings while delighting in rare dishes and fine wines.

In 2006 Brussels welcomed a world first with a surreal concept: Dinner in the Sky. Ten years later, this magical table brightens the sky in no less than 40 countries. So it’s only natural that in 2016 they celebrate their 10th anniversary in an exceptional manner, in the city where it all began: Brussels. They wanted to make a wild dream come true by having 10 chefs cook simultaneously for 10 tables that are lifted by 10 cranes at the same time, high in the sky in front of the Atomium at a 50 meter altitude.

Thanks to the support of DS Automobiles, for five days (from June 1 until June 5, 2016) gastronomy will reign supreme in Brussels.  Each day the 10 chefs will treat 220 guests to a delicious lunch (12:30 pm) and 2 dinners (7:30 & 9:30 pm) high in the Brussels’ sky.

So far they have over 40 operational countries: Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Finland, Lituania, Latvia, Estonia, Denmark, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, England, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, United Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South-Africa, India, Japan, China, Brazil, Colombia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Florida and Las Vegas.

COMING SOON…
MEXICO / TEOTIHUACAN /  23-24.01.2016
MEXICO / TEOTIHUACAN / 13-14.02.2016
GREECE / ATHENS / 05.05 – 05.10.2016
SLOVENIA / LJUBLJANA / 13.05 – 17.05.2016
BELGIUM / BRUSSELS / 01.06 – 05.06.2016
AUSTRIA / VIENNA / 10.06 – 12.06.2016
AUSTRIA / VIENNA / 17.06 – 19.09.2016
AUSTRIA / VIENNA / 24.06 – 26.06.2016
AUSTRIA / VIENNA / 01.07 – 03.07.2016
AUSTRIA / VIENNA / 26.08 – 28.08.2016
AUSTRIA / VIENNA / 02.09 – 04.09.2016
ITALY / ROME / 15.09 – 30.09.2016

Source: www.dinnerinthesky.com

 

 

 

Posted in Travel

Customer service and tipping in Europe versus the United States

Generally speaking Europeans are welcoming, polite and kind people speaking multiple languages; however some might argue that the French are rude or the Italians are cocky or the Germans are cold. English is widely spoken even in non-English speaking countries but they may expect you to speak their language; after all you go to their countries.

When it comes to customer service you need to remember one thing: In Europe people have a fixed salary in every industry so they may not make the extra mile for you; it doesn’t really matter if you are satisfied and happy with their services, whether you return or not, because they will still get paid. Don’t expect them to customize services for you, especially in the last minute, they are not that flexible. Keep in mind that Southern Europeans close down during siesta so you won’t get anything done. It is just a differently lifestyle, laid back and a little more family friendly than the USA since people go home for lunch.

In the United States people earn commissions on sales and tips in bars and restaurants.  Americans are highly motivated to serve you well because that is how they make a living and they need your continued business.  Europeans find it bothersome when a waiter checks on them 3-4 times during dinner because if they needed anything they would let you know with a hand move. Tipping in Europe is always welcome but not expected; tipping in Europe means leaving a coin or two (Euro) on the table or 10% in upscale restaurants.

Image: instructorblogs.co.uk

Posted in Caribbean islands, Cuba, Travel

Americans traveling to Cuba

You can go to Cuba legally without a license or paperwork as long as your purpose of travel fits into one of these US government approved categories:

  • Educational activities in Cuba for schools, including people-to-people exchanges open to everyone
  • Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba
  • Religious activities in Cuba
  • Humanitarian projects in Cuba
  • Journalistic activities in Cuba
  • Family visits to close relatives in Cuba
  • Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
  • Any type of support for the Cuban people
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use
  • Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

If your travel falls within one of these categories you are automatically authorized to visit Cuba legally without having to apply for a license. There is no paperwork involved. You simply arrange travel and go to the island.

US visitors are required to engage in a full time itinerary of activities related to the above categories of travel.

Purely touristic travel such as relaxation stays at all-inclusive beach resorts is prohibited.

There is no limit on the amount of money you can spend in Cuba. Travelers can use US credit and debit cards in Cuba.

Note: US credit and debit cards are legal but do not yet function in Cuba.

The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the main currency used by island visitors. It can only be obtained in Cuba and is worthless outside of Cuba.

The purchasing power of the CUC is similar to that of the US dollar. The CUC benchmarked to the US dollar at one-to-one.

However, changing US dollars into CUCs carries an additional 10 percent (10%) fee. This fee does not apply to other currencies. Some travelers take Euros, GBP sterling, Canadian dollars or Swiss francs – currencies for which there is no additional conversion fee. The savings is about 4 percent (4%) overall and may not be worth the hassle.

Suggestion. Carefully evaluate daily spending needs prior to departure. A minimum of $100 per day is recommended. It is better to plan to take more money than to get caught short of funds.

Travelers can return to the US with up to $400 of Cuban goods for personal use, including up to $100 of alcohol or tobacco products. Cuban artwork and informational materials are exempt from this limit.

Image: examiner

http://legalcubatravel.com/

http://cubaexplorer.com/money-matters-in-cuba/

Posted in Cheap Airline, Europe, Travel

Blind Booking for 33 Euros one way by Eurowings

Mystery flights at a fixed price

Naturally, you get to decide when and from where you wish to depart and what sort of trip you’re in the mood for. Just choose your departure airport and your personal interest by clicking on one of the themed offers.

  • Of course, you can specify when and where you want to fly from at Eurowings attractive fixed prices.
  • Undesired destinations can be ruled out for a charge of €5 per passenger and per destination, thus tailoring your booking to suit your personal preferences.
  • As soon as your booking is complete you will find out your destination so you can prepare for your trip.
  • The minimum stay is 18 hours.
  • Blind Booking flights can be booked up to 45 days days before departure

First: Pick a departure city:

Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hanover, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Berlin and Vienna

Second: Choose a category (the airline will chose the city for you from your category)

Culture: Barcelona, Budapest, Dresden, Leipzig/Halle, London, Milan, Prague, Rome, Salzburg, Venice, Vienna, Zagreb

Metropolis: Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Hamburg, Lisbon, London, Milan, Prague, Rome, Vienna, Zagreb, Zurich

Gay friendly: Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Manchester, Milan, Venice, Vienna, Zurich

Shopping: Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Dresden, London, Manchester, Milan, Rome, Venice, Zurich

Nature, Trekking and Hiking: Berlin, Bologna, Dublin, Edinburgh, Klagenfurt, Rostock, Salzburg, Zurich

Party: Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Leipzig/Halle, London, Manchester, Milan, Prague, Vienna

AND FINALLY SUN AND BEACH FOR 49.99 EUROS ONE WAY!!!!!!

Antalya (Turkey), Athens, Bari (Italy), Bastia (Corsica) Cagliari (Sardinia), Catania (Sicily), Corfu (Greece), Heraklion (Crete, Greece), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Faro (Portugal), Ibiza (Spain), Izmir (Turkey), Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), Kavala (Greece), Lamezia Terme (Italy), Menorca (Spain), Naples (Italy), Nice (France), Olbia (Sardinia), Palermo (Italy), Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Pula (Croatia), Rhodees (Greece), Rijeka (Crotia), Split (Croatia), Thessanoniki (Greece), Verona (Italy), Zadar (Croatia)

Image: thedesignair.net

https://www.eurowings.com/skysales/BlindBooking.aspx?culture=en-GB