Category Archives: Travel Advice

5 Things I Love About Singapore

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay

Gardens By The Bay is a brand new attraction in Singapore.

About 1 year ago Singapore finished the construction of a garden with gigantic super trees and two fantastic flower domes.

The entrance to the garden is free, but if you want to either visit the flower domes or go on top of the super trees then you have to pay admission.

Tip: You get a discount when you present a Singapore airlines boarding pass at the ticket counter.

 

Chinatown

This is a must visit district in Singapore. Chinatown has a unique atmosphere. lots of little shops and restaurants. It can be conveniently reached by the SMRT on the North-south line.

Tip: Do a “Original Singapore walks” tour on Friday nights. It’s amazing!

Singapore Flyer

The tallest Ferris wheel is not in London. It’s in Singapore! Welcome to the Singapore Flyer – the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. It’s located across the Marina Bay Sands hotel. On top you can enjoy a view of Gardens By The Bay, Marina Bay Sands, The Esplanade and the Singapore Skyline. Breathtaking views – worth the admission fee.

 

Concert at The Esplanade
Concert at The Esplanade

The Esplanade

The Esplanade (Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay) is  an amazing event location with indoor concert hall and outdoor theatre. The outdoor areas often feature free concerts and plays.
There are also retail and food spaces at the Esplanade Mall.

You can visit this place easily by SMRT,  look for station CC3 – Esplanade. 10 minutes walking from there.

 

Changi Airport

Singapore Changi Airport - Terminal 3 - Shopping area
Singapore Changi Airport – Terminal 3 – Shopping area

Singapore Changi Airport is one of the most awesome airports.

It features lots of leisure and business facilities. Also, you can dine and shop at over 300 stores and restaurants. All terminals have several gardens.

For example you can visit the butterfly garden in terminal 3. It contains more than thousand different butterflies.

Other highlights are free WiFi, phone charging stations, TV and entertainment areas, free movie theaters and a swimming pool on the roof of terminal 1.

Tip: if you have at least 5 hours, do a free Singapore city tour. Counters can be found in all terminals.

 

Free WiFi at Singapore “Changi Airport” (2012/2013 Edition) – How to

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Info: Updated guide! Changi Airport now offers 3 different ways for free WiFi.[/note]

The team of Changi Airport offers international travellers free WiFi  in all terminals. Just connect to the WiFi and you’re online? There are several ways. Read this guide for details

Method 1 (December 2012)

On my latest stopover 2012 I discovered another option for Free WiFi at Changi Airport. It’s much better to use than the other options.

Changi is calling it a beta test when you login. I tried it and it’s amazing!

  • Connect to the network “#WiFi@Changi”
  • Read the terms and conditions
  • Click on the big button below the terms & conditions
  • You’re online!

 

Method 2 (January 2012, verified in Dec. 2012)

step 1 – check requirements:

  • You need your passport
  • Your Netbook/Notebook/Tablet/Pad/Smartphone oder other WiFi enabled device

Okay, let’s start.

  • step 2:
    Go to any information desk in the transit area, you can find them every few hundred meters in all terminals.
  • step 3:
    Ask for the “Free WiFi Pass”.
    The staff of the information desk will eventually ask you for your passport to note the details.You get a piece of paper with login details.
  • 4th step:
    Connect your WiFi device with the access point “Wireless@SG” (SSID). As soon as you want to visit the first website, you will be redirected to a login form.
  • 5th step:
    Enter your the login details from the paper and submit. Now you’re online!
    Select as service provider “M1net”. The username contains @m1net.com.sg. The password is uppercase.

I’ve used this WiFi in Terminal 3 at Singapore Changi Airport a couple of times. It should work the same way in the other terminals.

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Info: The access for each Username/Password combination is limited to a few hours.[/note]

Method 3

Method 3 requires a Singaporean Sim card. I haven’t tried it, but it’s not as easy as the methods 1 and 2.

My packing list for 3 weeks in Australia

What should I pack for Australia? Good question. Here’s my packing list for 3 weeks travelling in Australia.

Luggage - 18 days Australia
Luggage – 18 days Australia

And yes, it fits all into the 20 kg economy class + 8 kg hand baggage allowance of most airlines 🙂

Clothes

  • 1 rain jacket
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • lots of shorts
  • 3 casual shirts
  • 4 or 5 T-shirts
  • Jacket and trousers or dresses (for evenings out)
  • 1 warm sweater
  • Socks (lots)
  • Underwear (lots)
  • Nightwear
  • Swim wear and towel

Shoes

  • Comfortable shoes (for outdoor activities)
  • Sandals/thongs/flip flops
  • Going out shoes

Toiletries

  • Toiletry bag and contents
  • 1 small bath towel
  • Sun screen
  • Insect repellent
  • Aspirins/medications
  • Handkerchiefs/tissue

Miscellaneous

  • Sunglasses
  • Pegs
  • Flashlight
  • Power adapters
  • Day bag

Also think about a netbook or tablet. It’s a great way to view photos, write emails to your friends and research about your environment (Where’s the best restaurant?) .

Contiki Beaches and Reefs Tour – Review

Party in Australia

Lets’s review my first Australian Contiki Tour. The Beaches and Reefs tour is part of the bigger Aussie Explorer tour in Australia.

If you’re interested in doing the Aussie Explorer tour this article maybe right for you, as it features about 60% of the tour you’re going to do.

Aussie Explorer is a 2 part tour. The East Cost from Sydney to Cairns and the second part from Alice Springs to Darwin (or reverse).

The Beaches and Reefs Tour goes from Sydney to cairns (or reverse). My first Australian Contiki starts in Sydney.

 

Itinerary

Day 1 An early morning. After filling some forms and handing our tickets to Justine (our tour manager), we loaded our baggage in the coach. Then we took our group photo in Sydney with the Harbour Bridge in the background. At lunch we headed to Port Stephens for a nice dolphin cruise. Then we enjoyed the afternoon at the Shoal Bay Resort and Spa. And yes, we had a room party 😉

Day 2 we drove to Coffs Harbour, stopping in Port Macquarie for lunch. At this place we stayed at a Surf Camp in little containers and had our first surfing class. Our container didn’t have a toilet, therefore we received a voucher worth 150 AUD for photos and a free T-Shirt.

Surf Camp

Day 3 we headed to Surfers Paradise, stopping in Byron Bay for a few hours for lunch. On our way to Surfers Paradise, we stopped at Cape Byron which is Australia’s most eastern point. Then, we crossed over to Queensland and visited the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where we pet kangaroos and took photos with Koalas.

Day 4 was a day for optionals and free time at Surfers Paradise. I spend the morning jumping out of a plane. Sky diving at the Gold Coast with a landing on a beach. It’s just amazing.  In the afternoon I spent some time at Billabong and took lots of photos. Then we went out to Sin City with the whole group.

Day 5 we stopped at Brisbane, capital of Queensland for a few hours to experience the city. We also saw a presentations about opals. The we drove to Noosa, a trendy beach town.

Day 6 most of us booked the optional 4WD Fraser Island Day tour which took us all through the island’s sandunes, rainforests and freshwater lakes. Swimming at McKenzie Lake and a nice BBQ afterwards.

Day 7 After a night in bunk beds we headed to a country homestead in the heart of Queensland. Most of us dressed up in our western gear for our big roast dinner and then Karaoke night!

Sailling at Whitsunday Islands


Day 8, 9, 10
involved sailing around the beautiful Whitsunday Islands on a racing sail boat. This was not the relaxing yacht ride that many of us thought we were in for. When we were sailing, the boat sat at a 45 degree angle so we would all have to sit at one side of the boat. Sailing included us hanging our legs over the edge, taking in the beautiful views of the islands. We also stopped at a few places where we got to snorkel and see lots of amazing fish. We enjoyed Whitehaven Beach. A few of us even tried sleeping out on the deck under the stars the first night, but it started to rain. The third day in the Whitsundays we stayed at Daydream Island. it’s a big island resort and spa hotel.

Day 11 we continued our journey to Cairns, stopping in Townsville on the way for lunch.  It was also Australia day. Party time!

Fun at Whitehaven Beach

Day 12 started bright and early. A few of  of our group (including me) headed to AJ Hackett for bungee jumping and Minjin Swing. I opted for the Minjin swing.

Day 13 the whole group went on an optional Great Barrier Reef cruise where we spent the day snorkelling and scuba diving the most beautiful reef. At night, we went out in Cairns to the Woolshed for our last night as a group.

Day 14 we made a stop to the rainforest village of Kuranda to see an Aboriginal Experience. We also got to throw a boomerang. Then we made our way back to Cairns Colonial Club Resort. We enjoyed some refreshing Australian beers and said goodbye to some tour mates in our group.

Verdict

This tour is just awesome. You see so much from the East Coast of Australia and you also have fun at night with night clubs, Karaoke on a farm and a nice sleep under the stars.
My personal favourite is sailling between the Whitsundays and going Sky diving at the Gold Coast.
You have to do this tour!

Rating: 5.0

Free WiFi at Singapore “Changi Airport” (2012 Edition) – How to

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Info: This guide is outdated! Click here for the updated 2012/2013 edition of the article.[/note]
The team of Changi Airport offers international travellers free WiFi  in all terminals. Just connect to the WiFi and you’re online? It’s not that simple. You can find here the original information page. Here’s a short and simple step by step guide:

step 1 – check requirements:

  • You need your passport
  • Your Netbook/Notebook/Tablet/Pad/Smartphone oder other WiFi enabled device
  • step 2:
    Go to any information desk in the transit area, you can find them every few hundred meters in all terminals.
  • step 3:
    Ask for the “Free WiFi Pass”.
    The staff of the information desk will eventually ask you for your passport to note the details.You get a piece of paper with login details.
  • 4th step:
    Connect your WiFi device with the access point “Wireless@SG” (SSID). As soon as you want to visit the first website, you will be redirected to a login form.
  • 5th step:
    Enter your the login details from the paper and submit. Now you’re online!
    Select as service provider “M1net”. The username contains @m1net.com.sg. The password is uppercase.

I’ve used this WiFi in Terminal 3 at Singapore Changi Airport a couple of times. It should work the same way in the other terminals.

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Info: The access for each Username/Password combination is limited to a few hours.[/note]

Star Alliance Gold – The Fast way [Insider tip]

Welcome to part 3 of my series of posts about the Star Alliance Gold Status. If you missed part 1 “Star Alliance Gold – Introduction“, you can read it here. Or want to read my article about the different member airline benefits?

In this article I will reveal how to get the Star Alliance Gold status with a long-haul round-trip ticket or in other words with 20,000 status miles.

 

Miles & Bonus Gold / Star Alliance Gold
Miles & Bonus Gold / Star Alliance Gold

Have you ever heard about the Greece based airline “Aegean Airlines”? I guess you didn’t. Even in Europe most people outside of Greece don’t know it.
But the important point here is, it’s part of the Star Alliance. Which means you can accrual miles on their frequent traveller program, even if you’re based in Australia or other countries.

Aegean has only 3 status tiers.  No status,  Miles & Bonus Blue and Miles & Bonus Gold. For Blue you need 4,000 miles. Blue status has basically no benefits outside of Greece, except for priority waitlist if you missed your flight.

Now to the good part.

After you achieved Blue you only need 16,000 miles to get “Miles & Bonus Gold“, which equals Star Alliance Gold.
4,000 miles + 16,000 miles = 20,000 miles

20,000 status miles sounds awesome, right? Let’s make it even better: Aegean Airlines has currently a promotion. Sign up for their frequent traveler program and get 1,000 status miles as a bonus. That means, you only need to accrual 19,000 status miles.

Eligible miles

I achieved my Star Alliance Gold status with one round-trip ticket from Frankfurt, Germany to Auckland, New Zealand on Singapore Airlines. (11 614 status miles for each direction)

The distance between Sydney / Kingsford Smith (SYD) and London/Heathrow (LHR) is 10576 miles (via Singapore). That means, you can collect 21152 status miles on a round trip ticket when flying economy class.

Have a look at the “Earning miles” list at http://en.aegeanair.com/milesandbonus/program-description/earn-miles/#linkTop
When booking your flight, make sure to book a fare that has at least 100% accrual factor.

In general, the cheapest booking classes are not eligible for miles accrual.
The difference between the cheapest fare and booking class W on Singapore Airlines for my flights between Europe and New Zealand was just 200 bucks.
[note color=”#FFCC00″]Info: Not sure about fare class when booking a flight? Send me an email or contact me on Facebook. I’m happy to help![/note]

Benefits of Star Alliance Gold

Holders of this status (like me) enjoy the following Star Alliance benefits:

  • Priority reservations waitlisting No seats left on your preferred flight? this will give you priority over others if a seat becomes available.
  • Priority airport stand-by  Missed your flight? even if the next flight is fully booked, you get priority.
  • Priority boarding Board the plane at the same time with business and first class passengers (if available)
  • Priority airport check-in You can check-in at the business class or first class counter (depending on the airline)
  • Priority baggage handling Sick of waiting for your bags at the baggage claim? Your luggage gets a special tag and will be among the first unloaded.
  • Additional checked luggage allowance of 20 kg (or one extra piece where the piece concept applies)
  • Airport lounge access to designated Star Alliance Gold lounges (over 950 worldwide)

Web links:

Questions about Contiki

Hi guys,

Quite a few people asked me “How is Contiki?”.
Quote: “Is Contiki just a big party or do we get to see some sights?”

I’ve done several Contiki tours. I think I am able to tell you more about the differences between tours in several countries

Are there only drinking people on the tour?

During my tours I’ve met 3 types of people on each tour.

First, the people who want party und action, then the people who want discover “country, people and culture” and the third group who want best of both world. You can see that with the booked optionals. While some people do  Bungy jumping, Sky diving…, other people do tours to the Rainforest or similar.
Usually you book the same optionals as your new friends. 🙂

How are the people in “Quad-Share” rooms?

Sailing boat - at the Whitsundays, Australia
Sleeping on a sailing boat between the Whitsundays

On my first Australian Contiki Tour, Justine, the tour manager did assign the rooms. If you had problems with any of your room mates, you could go to her and arrange something. Usually you stick together with the same people, which means if you like your room mates, then the tour manager assigns the same people to a room.

Josh did it a bit different on my Contiki New Zealand tour. He handed out a room list while on the coach, everybody can sign up for himself and
the new friends. So get the list early to make sure you get one of the better rooms (triple share instead of quad share in some hotels)

Contiki Tours are different in Europe?

According to my tour manager Josh: yes. In Europe it’s more like:
Sightseeing during daytime, Dinner at night and then booze and party all night.

Josh is a “Kiwi” tour manager, who did  tours in Europe for a long time, then he moved back to New Zealand.

Get up early or long nights?

Relaxed afternoon on Whitehaven Beach
Relaxed afternoon on Whitehaven Beach

On my first Australian Contiki tour and my New Zealand tour,there were often the so called “Early Mornings”.
Depending on how far the distance to the next point of the journey, sometimes this may mean:
7:20 am bags to Coach (bags / suitcases to the bus), 7:25 breakfast, 7:55 departure.
Sometimes there are also departures at 8:30 🙂

In Surfers Paradise Contiki stays 2 full nights, that means on the 2nd day you can sleep in, if you didn’t any booked early optionals.

On my first Australian Contiki tour and my New Zealand tour, there were often the so called “Early Mornings”.
Depending on how far the distance to the next point of the journey, sometimes this may mean:
7:20 am bags to Coach (bags / suitcases to the bus), 7:25 breakfast, 7:55 departure.
Sometimes there are also departures at 8:30 🙂

In Surfers Paradise Contiki stays 2 full nights, that means on the 2nd day you can sleep in, if you didn’t book any early optionals.

5 tips for your arrival at Sydney Airport, Australia

You’re flying to Sydney. Here are 5 tips you should read. I love this Airport and stayed there for several hours on my first arrival in Australia.

1. Get a local sim card

sim cards
Telstra - sim card starter kit

for your mobile phone. Using a local sim card with an Australian phone number is in most cases cheaper than roaming with your carrier at home.

Both Vodafone and Yes!Optus have retail stores in the public area of the international terminal. Also, you can get sim cards for Telstra at the Australia Post Office in the departure hall of the international area.

Make sure your phone is unlocked and supports the right 3G frequency bands. Telstra uses mostly 850 Mhz, while Vodafone and Optus use a Mix of 2100/900 Mhz (and sometimes 850 Mhz, depending on the area).

Check your phone’s manual or ask your carrier at home for details.
Also check details of your Australian carrier of choice, the frequencies may changed.

2. Get sunscreen!

My travel agent recommended SPF 30 or SPF 50 depending on your skin. The o-zone layer in Australia is not as strong as it is in Europe or the USA. You can get sunscreen at the pharmacy stores at Sydney Airport.

Here’s a list of locations at Sydney Airport.

3. Free Internet kiosks

You need to check your emails or update your Facebook status?. Sydney Airport has internet kiosks in several locations at International Terminal (T1) and Domestic Terminal (T2).  Most offer a free internet session for a specific time period

The Sydney Airport website has a list of locations.

4. Get a free Sydney city guide book

Free Sydney City Guidebook
Free Sydney City Guidebook

Before heading to duty free shopping and the customs and immigration counters, make sure to grab a free Sydney city guide book. some of them also include coupons for several attractions.

The city guide books are available in several languages.

5. take the train

Most people I know stay in Sydney when they arrive in Australia at Sydney Airport. When you stay in the Central Business District, the train is often a better option for transport from/to the Airport.
It’s a direct connection, no traffic jams and it’s eco friendly.

There are train stations at the International and the domestic terminal. According to airportlink.com.au a ticket to the CBD costs $ 15.40 AUD

in Australia