After a summer of regional travel and beyond, here are some tips that may make your next travel experience better.
The one that seems to be in least practice is taking strategic denominations of cash from ATMs. As Beijingers we know that small change can be a best friend, and it’s no different in other places, especially in those first few hours in a new destination, for interactions with taxi drivers and convenience stores. In places like Hong Kong and Thailand, where the local currencies not only have large bills but ATMs dispense them, choose sums that give you a maximum amount of small bills. For example, in Thailand, instead of taking THB 10,000 and ending up with 10, THB 1,000 bills, instead choose THB 9,900, which will at least give you almost THB 1,000 in change.
Flying with an empty seat next to you isn't as good as an upgrade, but it can be an unexpected bonus. Here's how to maximize your chances of getting one. First, choose flights that are either the first of the day or the very last, although the latter puts you at the mercy of systemwide delays that can get you to your destination at a late (or in extreme cases, very early) hour. They're less popular and therefore tend to be less crowded. Choose a seat that's in the first economy section – airlines routinely fill the back section with tour groups. Keep checking for rows with only one seat in a row chosen. Airline staff always fill middle seats last except when a couple or family asked to be seated together, so choosing a seat in a row with a single traveler is the best bet. The last step is to ask, upon check-in, if the flight is full. Check-in staff and gate agents can put you in seats with no one next to them, and for couples traveling together but sitting in a row of three, they can put you in a row with no one between you.
Elsewhere, fares to some destinations remain appealingly low. Airfares to the US during the autumn can easily be found for less than USD 700. Hong Kong flights and flights to Thailand for non-October 1, pre-Christmas are hovering around RMB 2,000, with Hong Kong available for just over RMB 1,000 if you check carefully on Hongkong Airlines. Sadly, European routes are not showing the same discounts, and flying to London Heathrow is as expensive as ever, despite continuing low oil prices.
Finally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) now offers PRC passport holders visas on arrival. For the geographically challenged, that means a Chinese traveler can now hop on Emirates or another airline and fly to Dubai without needing to apply for a visa in advance. Morocco has also been visa-free for Chinese travelers since earlier this year.
One road flat safe until Thursday.
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Photo: Steven Schwankert/the Beijinger
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