Annoying traveller smackdown

2015-12-13 14.46.22

Okay, maybe I’m being a bitch. But, WTF is wrong with these people?

You’re on a plane for two hours. The flight crew gives you the Mexican travel documents at least an hour before the plane lands. The documents are in English. You’ve got plenty of time to fill them out before you get to the customs hall at your destination.

But no. You don’t bother.

Because, what’s better than being the centre of attention at the airport by holding up the other passengers from your flight at the customs lineup while, cluelessly standing there, you dig out your passport and boarding pass, ask around to borrow a pen and then set about filling in the travel documents who should have attended to on the plane.

Inconveniencing people means having power over them. Don’t it feel good?

These are the photos I snapped in the customs hall. Before the police officer instructed me to stop.

I had my documents ready and pushed past these folks. People can mess about all they like. Just don’t be a nuisance to the rest of us.

 

 

Tourist tantrums: pls stay home

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Being in the jungle on your parents’ tab is SO boring.

So there I am, in the Malaysian jungle. Getting to see orangutans, monkeys, crocs, pygmy elephants and more.

It’s spectacular.

Not everyone agrees apparently.

Case in point, this guy. Big yawn.

“I’ve seen enough of the jungle,” I overheard him moan to his parents, who I imagine were footing the bill for the creep’s trip here. This about two hours after he arrived.

Glad he only had to endure one night of pain and suffering in this horrid setting.

Poor phone reception made this guy pout.

Poor phone reception made this guy pout.

The blonde guy (right)  put his rudeness on display for even more people to witness in the resort’s dining area. His tantrum went something like this, “FUUUUUUUCK, I can’t hear you. Can’t get decent fucking reception here,” he bellowed into his mobile phone while stomping back and forth.

Who brings a mobile phone to the jungle and expects it to work the same way it would in London, Hong Kong or New York?

Tank hates to observe such first world suffering in this, still developing, country where people in the service industry work long days for a pittance, and get only a couple of days off a month to see their family members, who often live elsewhere. Hardworking people who have to endure rude, entitled tourists day after day after day.

So here’s some humanitarian advice: STAY HOME with your mobile phone and good reception, with your telly and crisps. Do NOT pollute your beautiful spirit with boring experiences in faraway lands.

Two more contestants for Tank’s Travels boorish traveller of the year.

Malaysia-bound: #scuba with #orangutans

Travelling Sabah, Malaysia with bug spray and scuba gear. Oughta be fun.

Travelling to Sabah, Malaysia with bug spray and scuba gear. Oughta be fun.

[Okay, not really. But I’ve been scuba diving with Pandas, so anything is possible!!]

I’ve been making the arrangements for a year. Paying for it since last October. But, this journey has been in my head much longer.

Three years roughly. That’s when my orthodontist and occasional dive buddy mentioned (while tightening my braces – OUCH) a couple of scuba videos he’d watched. One was shot in Layang Layang, part of the Spratly Islands, north of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The other video was from Sipidan, near Tawau in the Celebes Sea.

By the end of the appointment, they’d been added to the scuba diving bucket list. The plan, originally, was to do both in one visit to Asia in the summer of 2015. Then, life stuff happened and the trip was postponed for a year. Turns out Layang Layang wasn’t going to work. So, Sipidan became the focus. Oh, and since I’m there maybe see some orangutans.

I’ll cost it all out in a future posting – but you can imagine it’s a wee bit costly. A ‘take money out of your saving account for a trip in a lifetime costly’. But, I’ve made a commitment to spending money on life experiences rather than buying stuff. In the end, I’ll have made three payments to the dive company-adventure travel agency I’ve been working with. It’s called Dive Downbelow. Very professional, but having to fax documents between Canada and Malaysia is hellish.

I’ll fly from Vancouver to Kuala Lumpur, with a stop in Taipei. Overnight in KL then fly to Tawau, where I’ll be picked up for a bus ride to Semporna then boat ride to my accommodation and home for one week, the SMART resort on Mabul Island. Check out the maps below.

More about the trip next week.

Airplane + bus to #LaPaz, #Mexico – saving $ getting there

Take a look at the price. This is why I'm flying and busing - to save money.

Take a look at the price. This is why I’m flying to San Jose del Cabo and busing – to save money.

There are often cheaper ways to travel, if you’re willing to hunt around.

Recently, I outlined how I came to purchase airfare to Mexico for a scuba diving trip in October.

I’m diving in La Paz, a 3-hour drive from San Jose del Cabo. SJD is home to the state’s large tourism-focused international airport. An airport served by many airlines. The airport I’ve elected to use. La Paz also has a airport. It’s smaller, but would be more convenient.

Doesn't get me all the way to my destination, but a lot cheaper.

Doesn’t get me all the way to my destination, but a lot cheaper.

There’s the catch. I’ll need to spend a night in San Jose del Cabo and take a bus to La Paz. Here’s the cost breakdown in CDN dollars.

  • Airfare: $490.91.
  • Cab fare to downtown San Jose Del Cabo hotel: $20 or city bus: $4.
  • One night hotel in San Jose del Cabo: $73 (Walking distance to bus station and La Paz bus the following day.)
  • La Paz bus fare return to San Jose del Cabo: $40
  • Total: $624 CDN, if I take a cab from the airport. $604, if I take the city bus.

Price to fly directly to La Paz:

  • Airfare: $815 (two stops each way – longer travel time than flight to SJD with one stop)
  • Hotel: $140 (for an extra night, in hotel where I’m booked for the remainder of my stay).
  • Airport transfers: $30
  • Total: $985 CDN

I’ll pay for convenience when it makes sense. In this case it doesn’t. Firstly, the difference in price is staggering. Secondly, I’m looking forward to the bus ride – during day time hours – so I can see more of Baja California’s countryside.

In this case, price and experience trump convenience.

One #Mexican destination – #airline prices SO varied

flights

What a range of prices, routes and times. Yikes. (Prices in CDN dollars.)

Here was the plan:

Scuba diving trip to La Paz, Mexico in October. Leaving on a Tuesday (one of the cheapest days of the week to fly). Returning the next Wednesday (also a cheaper day to fly). Flying Vancouver, Canada to San Jose Del Cabo, then taking the bus north.

Sunwing, a Canadian charter airline, doesn’t fly there on those days of the week. On the days it does fly, the price was $760 CDN. As well, Sunwing is a bit of a crapshoot. The flights always seem to be delayed or making unexpected stops to refuel etc. Not, IMHO, a reliable airline.

Westjet, another Canadian airline, doesn’t offer flights on those days. On the days it does fly, the flights ranged from about $700 CDN to more than $1000 CDN.

So, I began searching the scheduled airlines.

You get used to making connections when you travel out of Vancouver. There are limited non-stops and direct flights when travelling outside of Canada.

I collect Aeroplan points, so my first choice is always with Star Alliance airlines, such as Air Canada and United. But, only when the price is right and the timing works.

In this case, Air Canada was stupidly expensive (this was NO surprise) and United’s return flight was stupidly long.

So, American won my business. It offered the best price with the best travel times. I flew with American to Grand Cayman a few years ago, with three connections (LA, Miami, George Town) to get there. Planes were new and service good.

I’ve also booked a flight to Cozumel on American Airlines for December, so I’m now committed to building air miles with American and the One World Alliance.

One thing. I’ll have to stay one night in a hotel in Cabo before taking a multi-hour bus ride to La Paz. This option was still cheaper than flying into La Paz’s airport. I’ll price that out for you next week.

When #airport staff steal your stuff

Inspection notice found in my suitcase in March 2015 at SFO

Inspection notice found in my suitcase in March 2015 at SFO

Hope I’m not jinxing myself by exploring this topic –  another nightmare associated with air travel nowadays. (As if packed planes, shrinking seats in economy, jerks who recline, paying to check luggage, arrested development cases who moan about in-flight entertainment and limited overhead storage aren’t enough).

A Tank’s Travels reader sent me this link from CNN. Shows dirty, rotten airport staffers helping themselves to stuff in travellers’ suitcases.

The stats are grim. Thirty-one thousand theft claims made in US airports during the last five years. More than 500 TSA employees fired in the US for theft since 2002.

I have to check luggage when I travel. I carry scuba gear that’s too large for a carry on. I always worry when I see the suitcase disappear along the conveyor belt.

I have a well-made Rimowa suitcase with a TSA lock. But, that’s no protection against theft.

I know airport staffers are searching my suitcase because, when I travel through the U.S., I always find a note inside from TSA telling me they’ve inspected it. (see photo)

Other than never checking luggage, or packing nothing except clothes and toiletries, there’s not much travellers can do to protect the contents of their suitcases.

Here’s what needs to happen. Airport authorities have to step up. That means staff screening (criminal record & credit checks) and security cameras in the luggage handling and ramp areas.

Travellers also need to pressure the airlines they patronize to pressure the airport authorities to deal with the problem.

Other solutions? I once read you should insert a note inside your suitcase that reads, “I’ve taken pictures of the contents of this suitcase”, as a deterrent to theft. Hard to measure whether it works or not.

I’ve never had a lost suitcase or had items stolen from a suitcase. I’m betting my luck will someday run out.

 

 

Plummeting Canadian dollar = less #travel for this #scuba diver

This is the life.

This is the life. But, I still have to live and eat. Rising cost of living means less travel.

Met a Fort McMurray-based couple on a dive boat in Vancouver recently. Childless. In their 40s. They’d come to Vancouver to scuba dive (top-of-the-line scuba gear) and take in a concert (front row seats and backstage passes to meet the band). An extravagance that was quite a common occurrence for them. They worked hard in Alberta. They bought toys and travelled. When the conversation turned to the plummeting Canadian dollar against the USD, he said, “you can’t stop living just because it’s expensive.”

Okay. But, some of us have to cut back and prioritize when costs rise. Some thoughts on travel, my priorities and how I pay to play:

  • I rarely travel for work. When I do, it’s generally limited to B.C. Any blog postings you see refer to personal travel. To be clear, neither of my employers sends me on scuba diving trips and never will.
  • I work two union jobs. For parts of the year, that means working six days a week.
  • I choose to spend money on travelling instead of things. I’ve come to value experiences more than stuff. With a closet full of quality, well made clothes, boots and handbags, I don’t need any more. Once a committed Holt Renfrew shopper, I now buy the odd thing at Costco.
  • I limit restaurant meals. I bring lunch to work. I rarely buy booze.
  • When I don’t have to drive I walk, run or cycle places. I once ran to a medical appointment at a hospital to avoid paying for parking. The doctor insisted I walk home, though. I ride my bike to Spanish class each Monday night. Even in the pouring rain.
  • I rarely see movies or concerts and I’d never pay to meet the band. Unlike the fellow from Fort McMurray, I have no desire to take a selfie with Ace Frehley. I do free things, like ride my bike.
  • I get the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’. I do, occasionally, mix them up. Can you say, “Venti non-fat latte”?
  • People I’m close with have suffered health problems in recent years. A good reminder we never know how much ‘good health’ time we have left.
  • Taxis? Almost never and only when a flight gets in very late at night. I usually take transit to and from Vancouver International Airport.
  • I have a credit card that gives me Aeroplan points and I charge just about everything. From Starbucks to car insurance. For Costco purchases, I use a card that gives me WestJet miles. Points add up quickly.
Going forward:
  • Until the Canadian dollar rises, I’ll be limiting the amount of travel I do in US dollars. That means cutting back on Mexico and Central America after completing the trips I’ve already booked for later this year. Was considering a month in Costa Rica in 2016 to study Spanish and scuba dive. Probably not going to happen.
  • Flying on points to Asia is looking more appealing. Fairly cheap once you get there. The trick with points is to book the flight when you see it. Don’t wait or it will be gone. This is the reason I had to pay for my flight this summer to Kuala Lumpur. And, the reason I’m diving in La Paz, Mexico instead of Roatan, Honduras in October.
  • I’ll be doing more local scuba diving and less foreign.
  • No more upgrading to business class. An extravagance I can no longer afford. I’m small and don’t need the leg room.

Packing sucks

I’ve written about keeping costs down during trips, with visits to supermarkets instead of restaurants, sleeping in airports and buying airline tickets many months in advance. I scored pretty inexpensive airplane seats to Cozumel for my annual trip in December. Booked them in February.

I’ll continue to take trips but not at the rate possible when the Canadian and US dollars were at par or close to par. This is not a hardship. I’m fortunate and grateful for what I have.