Announcing next trip to Australia

I am very happy to announce my upcoming trip to Australia.

My trip starts September 28th in Munich. From there I am travelling to Darwin, Australia and make my journey to Alice Springs and report about

  • hotels
  • airports
  • airport lounges
  • attractions
  • much more.

After my tour in the Northern Territory, it’s time for Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

Peninsula Excelsior Hotel, Singapore – Review

I stayed at this hotel during my first trip to Singapore.

Location

The Peninsula Excelsior is located in Coleman St., right at the city centre. There’s a MRT station “City hall” of the East-West line nearby. (about 5-10 minutes walking).

You’ll find a 7/11 store, a few restaurants and a few shopping malls within a few minutes walking. Thanks to the MRT, you’re greatly connected to many attractions and shopping malls.

Room

Peninsula Excelsior - Superior room
Peninsula Excelsior – Superior room

I had a Superior Room during my 3 nights stay at this hotel. The room features twin beds, a desk, an armchair and a flat screen. The enclosed bathroom has a shower cabin and a huge mirror. Wish: It could be a bit cleaner for Singapore standards . I had some good nights sleep, even though my room was next to the elevator.
The main room was clean.

I haven’t tried the breakfast. There’s also a pool, a spa and a gym on the higher floors. The staff at the reception desk and the luggage storage was very friendly.

Can I recommend this hotel? Yes, it is a good option for a stop over.

Urbana Langsuan Hotel, Bangkok – Review

I stayed at 2 different hotels during my first trip to Bangkok, Thailand.
I really enjoyed both hotels. Today, I write about the Urbana Langsuan in the Lumpini district of Bangkok.

Location

Urbana Langsuan - My view
Urbana Langsuan – My view

The Urbana Langsuan is located in Langsuan Rd., which is a business district road. There’s a BTS sky train station “Chit Lom” at the intersection with Sukhumvit Rd. (about 10 minutes walking).

You’ll find a few restaurants and lots of other hotels in Langsuan Rd. One of the “entertainment districts” is one stop with the BTS train away. All the famous shopping malls like Central World Plaza and Siam Paragon are about 15-25 minutes walking time away.
There’s a 7/11 store and a shopping mall between the BTS station and the hotel. Even at late hours you’re still able to buy some cool drinks or a snack.

The reception staff speaks good english. They even got me a room on a high floor as I requested.

Room

Urbana Langsuan - Studio room
Urbana Langsuan – Studio room

I had a studio room during my 2 nights stay at this hotel. The room features a king size bed, flat screen, a coach and a small pantry with microwave. The enclosed bathroom has a shower cabin with rain shower feature. The room also has a balcony to enjoy the urban views of Bangkok.

The whole room has a friendly and warm interior. The room was clean. It was very quiet thanks to the high floor. Free WiFi was included in the rate, because I booked online. I had a stable and fast connection.

I haven’t tried the breakfast, because it’s only open until 10am. There’s also a pool, a spa and a gym on the higher floors.

Can I recommend this hotel? Yes, it is a great option for your stay in Bangkok.

Grand President Hotel, Bangkok – Review

I stayed to 2 different hotels during my first trip to Bangkok, Thailand.
I really enjoyed both hotels. I start my series of reviews with the Grand President Hotel in the Sukhumvit district of Bangkok.

Location

Grand President - Deluxe room
Grand President – Deluxe room

The Grand President is located in Soi Sukhumvit 11, which is a quiet (for Bangkok) side street of the Sukhumvit Rd. There’s a BTS sky train station “Nana” right at the intersection.

You’ll find a few bars and restaurants and a “German beer garden” near the hotel. One of the “entertainment districts” is about 10 minutes walking distance away. Another one is one stop with the BTS train away. All the famous shopping malls like Central World Plaza and Siam Paragon are about 10 minutes/3 BTS train stops away. Terminal 21 is only one stop away. Get off at “Asok”.
There’s a 7/11 store between the BTS station and the hotel. Even at late hours you’re still able to buy some cool drinks or a snack.

The reception staff speaks good english. They even upgraded me to a better category.

Room

Grand President - Deluxe room
Grand President – Deluxe room

A had a deluxe room during my 4 nights stay at this hotel. The room features a king size bed, flat screen, a coach and a fridge. The enclosed bathroom has a bath tub with integrated shower.

The whole room has a very dark (black/dark brown) interior. The room was clean. It was a bit noisy during 1 of the 4 nights, because I had a room on one of the lower floors. But this was due to a parade on the street. Free WiFi was included in the rate, because I booked online. I had a stable and fast connection.

The international breakfast buffet was okay. Lots of hot and cold food options. Coffee and juice were on offer, but nothing special.

Can I recommend this hotel? Yes, it is great option for a short stop over.

Here’s the official promotion video from the Grand President Bangkok

Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

More and more visitors come to my blog, because they want to know how mobile internet works in Australia.

Index
Part 1: General/network operators
Part 2: Travelling with your smartphone in Australia
Part 3: Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

 

Netbook/tablet with integrated 3G

If you own a netbook or tablet with integrated 3G, it’s very easy. Get a Sim starter kit from an Australian network operator (e.g. purchase at Australian Post store). Activate your data Sim and book a data option. How does this work? Staff from the stores can help you. Also, often there’s a manual included with the starter kits, explainig how you can activate it by yourself either online or by phone. Just insert your Sim card into your device and start the software.

USB modems / Mobile WiFi

If you don’t have a netbook with integrated 3G, there’s an alternative. Use an 3G USB Modem. All 3 major Australian mobile network operators offer them for a plus on top of the Sim starter kit.

The network operator Telstra offers e.g. a 3G USB-modem + 2GB data allowance for just $59 AUD (as of writing). After you purchased and activated your USB modem, you just have to connect it to your computer and follow the instructions on the screen.

Smartphone WiFi Hotspot

Another cost effective way is that you use your smartphone. This method is known as WiFi-Tethering. With this method your data connection on your smartphone will be shared via WiFi with devices like netbooks or tablets. Naturally this makes only sense if you have booked a data option with your tariff. E.g. the network operator Telstra offers the BROWSEPLUS49 Pack with 3GB data allowance included for just $49 AUD (as of writing).

Most Android smartphones have  built-in feature known as “WiFi-Hotspot/Mobile Hotspot”. Just enable Mobile Hotspot and connect your Netbook via WiFi, like you would do at a coffee shop.

The following video shows, how it works on a HTC Smartphone.

 

Travelling with your smartphone in Australia

More and more visitors come to my blog, because they want to know if their smartphone works in Australia.

Index
Part 1: General/network operators
Part 2: Travelling with your smartphone in Australia
Part 3: Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

Which network operators are available in Australia, has been answered in part 1 Mobile Internet in Australia – General.

In this article I want to tell you, which smartphones should work in Australia.

The following information bases on different sources: Either on my own experience or external information about the phones hardware specs combined with my knowledge about the network technologies used in Australia.
The following smartphones (EU models) should work in Australia.

Smartphone Telstra Optus Vodafone Source Online shops
HTC Desire + +* my own experience
HTC Desire X + +* Official website
HTC One X/X+ + + + Official website
HTC One ? + + Official website
Confirmation from HTC Sales Team
Samsung Galaxy S2 + + + Official website
Samsung Galaxy S3 + + + Official website
Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini + +* Wikipedia
Google Nexus 4 + + + Official website

*Vodafone Australia’s Extended Coverage 850 MHz 3G network not available.
This is just a selection. There are more manufactures/models that support Australian mobile networks.
All information provided “as-is” and without warranty. This table based on the supported frequency bands listed on the source websites.

Web links to online shops will follow later.

Generally speaking, if your smartphone supports UMTS (“3G”)  on 2100 and 900 MHz, that it should work with Optus and Vodafone. Does it also support UMTS 850 Mhz? Then you can get more coverage on Vodafone and also connect to Telstra. The mobile operator Telstra is according to their own statements the biggest network operator in Australia. Telstra’s 3G network works exclusively on UMTS 850 Mhz. All operators also have GSM networks, but these are much slower than 3G and not recommended for smartphones. If GSM or 2G is enough, than look for a smartphone with “Quadband” GSM.

Update: I am working on a list of models from Asia and the US.

Weblinks:

Mobile Internet in Australia – General

Telstra Sim Starter Kit
Telstra Sim Starter Kit

I get a lot of emails about mobile internet in Australia. How does it work? Which carrier to choose?

Because I use mobile internet in Australia and New Zealand, here’s a guide to this popular travel related topic.

Index
Part 1: General/network operators
Part 2: Travelling with your smartphone in Australia
Part 3: Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

In this part I will talk about the different network carriers and their networks.

Network carriers

In Australia all major carriers offer prepaid tariffs, like in Europe and Asia. Unlike in Europe, they use different networks. Which means that you should look for a provider that matches with your smartphone, netbook or internet stick specs. More on that later.

Telstra is Australia’s largest network provider and has a mobile network that reaches even partially into the outback.
Telstra uses 3G/UMTS 850 MHz as their main network technologyy. There is also a 2G network based on GSM, but this is only available in larger cities.

There is also the provider Vodafone Australia, which has a GSM network. Just like Telstra, Vodafone Australia also has a 3G network based on UMTS. It uses the in Europe common 2100 Mhz frequencies in major cities and 900 Mhz in “regional areas” (rural roads, small towns). Additionally Vodafone also builds a network on 850 MHz to increase existing capacity.

The third major player there is Optus, which also offers a 2G network based on GSM and a 3G network based on UMTS. Optus also uses 2100 Mhz in major cities and 900 Mhz in “regional areas”.

Telstra

Did you choose for Telstra, it’s very easy to get a sim card. You can get Sim Starter Kits for $ 2 AUD in the branches of Australia Post. It must be charged with a balance, because it comes without talk time/sms/data allowance. Alternatively, you can go in one of the Telstra stores.
To activate a Telstra sim, you have to call the phone number listed in the starter kit. At my first activation I was asked for my passport number and an Australian address. I said that I’m a tourist and therefore can only provide a hotel address.
She immediately replied that it is no problem. Then I was asked if I want to activate the sim as a data sim (ie for netbooks, UMTS Sticks, ..) or for a mobile phone.

A few minutes later I was able to go online, recharge my pre-paid sim and booked a data package.

Please ensure that your device (smartphone, netbook, …) supports UMTS 850 MHz, as Telstra uses it for most parts of the network.

Vodafone Australia

My advice: Buy on arrival at the airport. E.g. there’s a Vodafone booth in the Arrival Hall of the Sydney International Airport where they’re already specialised in tourists. They have prepared appropriate forms and brochures. Vodafone uses for most of its network UMTS 2100 Mhz (same as in Europe) and 900 Mhz.
I.e. Most European smartphones work in Australia with Vodafone Australia.

Optus

My advice: Purchase a sim card at the airport. There is an “Optus! Yes” store in the Arrival Hall of Sydney International Airport. Optus uses for most parts of its network UMTS 2100 Mhz and 900 Mhz.
I.e. Most European smartphones work in Australia at Optus.

More on device compatibility in the next part of this series.

KrisFlyer Gold Lounge – Singapore Changi Airport T2

Welcome to my review of the KrisFlyer Gold Lounge at terminal 2 of Changi Airport. It is a Star Alliance Gold lounge at the dedicated lounge area of terminal 2.

Singapore Changi T2 - KrisFlyer Gold Lounge
Singapore Changi T2 – KrisFlyer Gold Lounge

After presenting your boarding pass and Star Alliance Gold member card to the lounge agent. You find yourself at a not so well lit room with with lounge chairs and a buffet selection. You can find here an intensive selection of hot and cold food.

The hot food are typical Asian dishes. A selection of different cereals and yogurt or milk is available. Fresh fruits like bananas and apples can also be found.

A selection of non alcohol drinks like bottled orange juice and soft drinks are available in the fridge.

There’s also a coffee machine which makes espresso, cappuccino, latte macchiatto and other.

If you go further you will find a more silent area of the lounge with a selection of news papers and a huge TV screen.

Overall this lounge is a good place to spend some time before your next flight. The lighting setup should be improved, it’s a bit dark.

How to use MRT in Bangkok

The MRT subway is a convenient way to get around. The fares start at 16 baht for a single journey.

Take the stairs from street level to the station. Upon entering you have to go through a metal detector like at airports.
Go to a ticketing machine. You will find there a touch screen with map that displays, how much the fare is when you select your journey. After you payed your fare you will receive a small plastic coin. This is your ticket.

Bangkok traffic
Bangkok traffic

Most ticket vending machines accept coins and also bank notes. Day passes are also available. You can purchase them only at the ticket counters located at some stations. Go through the fare gate by placing your coin/token on the scanner.

The system works similar to public transport in Europe, look for a sign that tells the name of last station of the line. This will show you in which direction which train will take you. Board the train. On the train they will make announcements about the next stop both in Thai and English. Get off at your designated stop and exit the station through the fare gate.

There’s currently 1 line running through the city. The government of Bangkok is still working on extending the existing network.

Here’s a video by DiscoveryThailand, which explains the system pretty detailed.

How to use BTS Sky train in Bangkok

The BTS sky train is a convenient way to get around. The fares start at 10 baht for a single journey.
It runs on tracks above the streets of this vibrant city. Take the stairs from street level to the station.

Bangkok - Nana BTS station
Bangkok – Nana BTS station

Go to a ticketing machine. You will find there a map that displays, how much the fare is for your selected journey. Also look for the name of last stop of this train line, this is important as you will see later.Press the button with the right the fare for your route, pay and receive your paper ticket.

Most ticket vending machines accept only coins. There are some machines that accept also bills, but only at selected stations. Day passes are also available for 150 baht. You can purchase them only at the ticket counters located at some stations.Go through the fare gate.

Next, take the stairs or escalator up to the trains. The system works similar to public transport in Europe, look for a sign that tells the name of last station of the line. This will show you in which direction which train will take you. Board the train. On the train they will make announcements about the next stop both in Thai and English. Get off at your designated stop and exit the station through the fare gate.

Some train stations are also connected to nearby shopping malls by a overpass.

There are currently 2 lines running through the city, you can use your ticket on all lines.

The government of Bangkok is still working on extending the existing network. E.g the trains don’t run to the northern districts yet.

Here’s a video by DiscoveryThailand, which explains the system pretty detailed.