Avoid eDreams for bookings

eDreams

Don’t. Just don’t use this company.

Just a warning to anyone out there. I’m trying to book a flight from Bangkok to Hanoi at the end of the month. Vietnam Airlines have one leaving at midday which is great as I’m due in around 7:00am from London, via Mumbai.

However, it’s around £130 booked direct. I checked using the excellent SkyScanner site and they found me it for nearer £70 through eDreams. I went through the shonky booking system – which changes the pricing twice. The claims partway through of “all fees” being included is a lie as they first of all add some unnamed fee, then chuck a tenner on at the end. Oh, and a surcharge for using a credit card. My £67 fair ended up being a shade over £80.

And that’s not the worst of it. When I booked it, I got a large page which told me there’d been a problem authorising my credit card. I was to expect an email with instructions. In the meantime my flight was “confirmed” – this despite them not having any payment.

Strange thing – I checked my credit card statement online and that sum seems to be sat as a “Pending Transaction”. This means the sum has been earmarked and is classed as “out of my account”. Which means there’s no issue at all.

Despite this, a day later I got an email from them telling me to fax a copy of my passport, credit card front and other details to an international number. Along with this were warnings about flight price increases, promo fares not allowing refunds and so on.

A quick Google found a stream of bad reviews of eDreams. And I mean bad. People in the same situation who’d had their cards charged and received no tickets. Another chap who faxed the details twice until they eventually said that had them… but that the flight was more expensive now and that he would have to pony up the difference or lose the tickets. And the money he’d already paid.

As such, I emailed them on both addresses they included in the initial mail explicitly stating that I was cancelling the order and would not expect any payment to be taken by them. See below:

Regarding your follow-up email, I have no means of faxing to an international number. Also, given my current geographical location I can’t telephone any of the numbers you provided to contact you.

I do notice that the fee has been taken from my credit card which tells me that your email is a lie – there have been no problems with the payment. Having checked online I have found many people with the same issue, and a huge number have not received tickets from you or have been told they must pay an additional fee once they contact you.

As such, take this email to be an official cancellation and expectation of full refund. I have contacted my credit card company and informed them of the dubious nature of this transaction and expectation of the end of this matter.

Half an hour later, I received the following short response:

Dear Customer;

The booking has been cancelled.
If you have more doubts, please contact us the most soon as possible.-

Thank you for trusting in eDreams

I will of course be checking very carefully to see if my card is billed. If so, the lawyers at that company can take it up. Their cancellation email is, in my opinion, an acceptance of my terms, to whit a full refund.

I am now booked on an AirAsia flight 2 days later which means 2 days in Bangkok. Not a bad thing, to be fair. I’m sure I can find something new to do. I might even be able to catch a film if the shopping centres are allowed to re-open!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tip: Check out your options

I’ve not posted much on here recently as I’ve not one a lot of travelling since I got back last summer. However, I’m trying to organise some things for Easter and summer and thought I’d pop another “Tip” post up.

This really applies to you if you’ve got a bit of spare time around the dates your travelling and it can be a way of spending less, or getting more for your money.

As an example, I’m trying to get to Warsaw for the Sonisphere festival on June 16th. I have a few days spare beforehand and need to be in Warsaw itself for the 15th. Presently I’m staying in Glasgow though my folks live in Perth.

My first stop is usually SkyScanner. It’s a great way to check for flights between various destinations, including direct and indirect flights. One bonus is being able to name just a city or even a country and letting the search engine check flight prices for all departure or arrival airports in that area.

In my case, it would be far cheaper to fly out of Liverpool, Leeds/Bradford or Edinburgh than Glasgow. Another alternative is Heathrow. Pricier, but the only one not using RyanAir – so the price quoted is the price charged without any crap about bags, booking fees and needing the loo. I’d also get a snack or meal. The downside? A late arrival time in Warsaw.

Next flight down is with LOT and for a pound more, I depart late morning and arrive early afternoon. Plenty of time to find where I’m staying and enjoy the rest of the day.

Things to bear in mind, then, as far as flights are concerned:

  • You will need to check in around 2 hours before you fly. This is why I ruled out some of the cheaper flights. Departing at 6:45am means being at the airport before 5am. The only way you’ll manage this is with a taxi or by inconveniencing friends. Factor this into your costs. Similarly, late arrival times.
  • Provincial airports are often out in the sticks (or even in other countries…). Flying to Frankfurt? It takes 20 mins and a couple of Euros to get into the city. Flying to Frankfurt Hahn? €25 (if I recall correctly) and 2 hours.
  • Don’t forget the additional costs for baggage, check-in options, credit card fees, sports equipment, priority boarding, meals and so forth. These can easily raise the price of a flight on a budget airline above those of a non-budget.

So, what else can you do? Well, let’s say that I could save £40 by flying from Heathrow. If I book at the right time I can fly or get the train to London for under £20. I have friends there I can stay with and it’s always nice to see them. Given the extra time I do have available then a weekend catching up is worth the time – and the £20 I save would be well spent at the pub.

Often it will cost you a little extra to go out of the way once you factor in the additional costs – but is it worth it?

For instance, it’s cheaper to fly to Krakow than Warsaw from a lot of airports. There’s a regular train from Krakow to the capital which takes around 3-4 hours. If I had the time (I do) and hadn’t already been there (I have) then that would be an excellent option – fly out a day or so earlier and sightsee in Krakow before hopping on the train.

OK, I’ll be spending money on a train and a hostel (unless I couchsurf) but I’ll be seeing another lovely city. Again, likely back up to the price of the flight direct to Warsaw… but better value for my money.

Don’t limit yourself to “departure … destination”. Look into all the options. Work out what you’d be getting for extra cash you spend or where you can tweak your itinerary to get an extra day somewhere, or travel along a recommended route.

Sure, this is a simple example. But throw in the low-cost transport options around Southeast Asia, for instance, and you can really cram more in than you expected. Eastern Europe, also, has very affordable and easily booked rail and bus links.

Don’t stare too hard at the simple things. Make the most of your time and budget!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tip – Cancellations

Flight Ticket - PB240055

Don't need them? Cancel them!

This one’s definitely worth bearing in mind. I’m sure a lot of us book flights as cheap as we can get them. This usually means getting the ones that can’t be changed, upgraded, moved, altered or cancelled without a complete loss of the ticket cost.

Note those two words at the end: “ticket cost”.

As I’m sure you’re aware, a vast amount of the cost of a flight these days doesn’t pay for your seat – it’s taxes. And these – to some extent – can be claimed back should you cancel a flight, even if it’s a non-refundable ticket.

I just cancelled the return leg on my recent flights, due to flying back from Tokyo ahead of schedule. My original booking was with Etihad through Expedia, a return from Heathrow to Bangkok. The overall price was £402.90 of which £198 was tickets and £204.90 taxes! I called Etihad to cancel the return leg, and they told me to contact Expedia to organise a partial refund of the tax. As the girl on the phone said, I won’t get it all back but something is better than nothing.

Given that the return ticket only cost £50 more than a single, if I get £50 or more back then I’ve effectively not spent any more than I would have booking only the outbound flight anyway. The downside is that it can take up to three months for the refund to come through. I’ll try to update you folks with the final amount when I get it.

Still, a good one to remember. If you’re not going to use it, cancel it. You may still get something back into your bank account.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Fáilte Eire!

Glasgow Prestwick AirportI don’t know if that’s grammatically correct, but it’s the limit of my Irish Gaelic for the moment, so deal with it. It’s been a long day (well, more accurately, it was a very short night) and my forthcoming week looks to be as busy and full as any tourist could want it to be.

I was up around 6:20 to grab some breakfast and pack the last remaining part of my luggage – my toothbrush. My folks had very kindly offered to drive me to Glasgow Prestwick Airport for the flight over to Cork, and I wasn’t going to turn that down. Not when the alternative was setting off at 5am to get the train. I bundled myself into the back with the two dogs and finished the Jeremy Clarkson book I was reading so my dad could have it when I left.

Snoozing may have been involved shortly afterwards.

Glasgow Prestwick is a barn. Back in the day it was an awful barn, by all accounts. Get checked in, wait like a cow with no seat, shuffle onto plane, leave. Recently, someone had the idea of spending a few bob on it and giving it a personality. And it’s worked, believe me.

Fact: Prestwick Airport is the only airport in Scotland that has never been closed due to visibility problems.

Fact: It’s the only airport in Scotland with it’s own dedicated train station.

Fact: It’s the only place in the UK that Elvis ever set foot. At least, they thought it was until it turns out he snuck in another visit elsewhere that was discovered recently.

Then there’s the fact that the paintwork’s a glorious purple and the catchphrase “Pure Dead Brilliant” is scrawled everywhere like some Glaswegian numpty’s gone crazy with a tin of Dulux Emulsion. Amusing Scots caricatures adorn the wall above the check-in desks and the large standard symbol for “men’s toilet” is wearing a Tam o’shanter.

Overall, as far as airports went, I liked it. It’s right by the beach, as well, so my folks walked the dogs after they dropped me off.

Failte!The flight itself was fair enough. Crammed in like cattle into the cheap, plastic RyanAir seats we shot into the sky. Where we were buffeted by heavy winds for a good 10-15 minutes. It felt like the rocky parts on a shoddy roller-coaster, and I swear the wings were wobbling so much the plane looked like it was trying to flap its way over the Irish Sea.

I cranked my PSP up to max and dove into my book to take my attention from it. When I could focus on the words as the pages kept zipping past my eyes anyway.

Well, I didn’t die and we landed five minutes early so I shouldn’t complain. Cork Airport is another dinky one, all big glass panels, and I was outside within a couple of minutes. Joleen was there to meet me and she’s not changed a bit in nigh on two years. Still tall, red-headed and most definitely Irish.

We had a quick natter as she drove me to Crosshaven where she lives and her folks run a couple of businesses. Her brother was working at the farmer’s market – basically half a dozen benches with umbrellas over them to give protection from the lovely sunshine – on the square in front of Cronin’s Pub. He was selling cheeses. And they were fantastic. I tried a couple and they were absolutely divine. I’ve spent quite some time in France with its huge history of cheese-making. They have lots of the things. Some of them are great. But the Brits and the Irish still make the best, no argument.

Cronin’s PubI was welcomed into the Cronin’s Pub by Joleen’s dad, Sean. We had a quick chat round the busy lunchtime crowd as waitresses buzzed back and forth. I also had a few minutes to talk to Ilona, one of the Polish staff, who was rather pleased to hear about my trip to Poland. There are some locals who are French, three Kiwis work there, and Joleen’s housemate is Welsh! A very international flavour for a small community.

The main difference between this genuine Irish pub and the fake ones that litter the UK, Oz and umpteen other countries is that it’s clean. The fake ones seem to go with the idea that if you fill the walls with enough crap then let it get battered, faded, dusty, tarnished and so on then all of a sudden you have an Irish pub. Not so. Cronin’s has an amazing collection of tat on the walls, hanging from the ceilings, on shelves and in display cases. Great stuff. And it’s all clean, shiny and sparkly.

Then, of course, there’s the beer. I’ve had precisely half a pint of Murphy’s in the past. I couldn’t finish it – I thought it tasted of bitumen. It’s brewed in Cork so perhaps it doesn’t travel well as the pint I was gifted on my arrival was very nice indeed.

So I sat and I drank and I had the most delicious ham sandwich (everything from the crisp lettuce to the butter they used was amongst the best I’ve ever tasted) before going for a stroll along the coast following the “Scenic Walk” signs to walk off the calories I’d already put on.

Crosshaven from the “beach”Crosshaven is a boating town. Or “village” if you believe the signposts. Where you draw the line sizewise between one and the other I don’t know. Anyway. You’d hardly guess this was the case unless… oh, I don’t know… you opened your eyes. Boats are everywhere. Sat in the dock, propped up on sticks in dry dock being worked on, sat on the gravelly beach while the tide’s out, zipping back and forth past the pier.

There are all kinds from small yachts, fishing boats of all sizes, canoes, bigger yachts, dinghies, life raft, and probably forty others that I don’t know the names for. Given the local geography it does make sense. The opposite bank of the river is 50 minutes by road, or a brisk paddle away. You could swim, but it’s not very convenient if you’re lugging two bags of shopping from the supermarket located on this side.

I wandered up the gradual incline to an old fort which is very visibly marked as not accessible. Huge signs are at every entrance point – though it’s not blocked off, so you could choose to ignore them – warning you of danger and so forth. I admire Irish law in providing landowners with a get-out clause from trespassers, too. As long as they say, effectively, “enter here and hurt yourself and we’ve legally pre-absolved ourselves of any blame, ya boo sucks” they’re fine.

In the UK, you can stick these signs up to your heart’s content but you’ve got no legal backup. If some scrote climbs your walls and falls off, or walks in your front gate and treads on a carelessly-left gardening rake then they can sue you. Ridiculous. Unless, of course, you make sure they hurt themselves properly and you bury the corpse where nobody will find it.

I do not advocate the above solution. Well, maybe just a bit.

*ahem*

The Irish TricolourSo on and up I walked until the walk petered out. I found the local Gaelic Football ground which looked like it hadn’t been used for a few weeks. No treadmarks on the grass. Or bloodstains. Gaelic goals are pretty unique as is the sport. They’re a mix of rugby goals (the H shape), but with a lower crossbar and the supports at the back to hang a net on as in a regular football goal. A shame it’s past the end of the season as I’d have loved to have seen a game live.

I walked down a slightly different route back to Joleen’s house where I met Mike. He’ from Wales and has been working in Ireland for some time. We had a chat on the balcony in the sunshine for an hour or so and he pointed out a few things that could be seen nearby, and some more trivia.

Crosshaven is home to the oldest yacht club in the world, the Royal Cork Yacht Club formed in 1720. It was originally located a bit further towards the sea on Haulbowline Island, then moved to Cobh (pron. “Cove”) around 80 years later when the Navy decided they wanted the island. In 1966 it moved to its current location in Crosshaven.

Also, Cobh was the last stop for the Titanic before its final, somewhat fatal, one. Well, it moored up some miles outside of the area as it was too large to fit down the waterways and people were ferried up to it. At the time, the town was still going by the name Queenstown, renamed so in 1849 after Queen Victoria popped by. It reverted back to “Cobh” in 1922. “Queenstown”, after all, isn’t a great name for a town in a republic which has just gained its independence from the crown.

Spike Island, the second of two islands between here and Cobh, is home to a prison which is currently being rebuilt.

With this knowledge in my head and a cup of tea in my belly, I popped upstairs for a snooze. It had been a long day and I still had the evening to come!

Later…

I woke up after about 2 hours when Joleen came home. Some neighbours had invited us for dinner and we made our way over around 8pm. We were warmly welcomed by Dierdre, Hugh and Emmet who never seem to have Joleen visit them with the same person twice – and always foreigners!

We mulled for a while as Hugh fired up the steak and ribs, before settling down to a hearty meal of two delicious perfectly-done steaks and all the trimmings/veg as well as an organic salad provided by Joleen. Beer flowed, conversation was entertaining and the food was fantastic.

Crosshaven by nightWe stretched our legs walking back down to Cronin’s where we drank the night away with a few of Joleen’s friends… which basically means 3/4 of the village. This is very much a place where everyone knows everyone else. Entertainment was provided by Pat, the kind of man that every genuine Irish pub has at least one of.

Even without the aid of several pints of the black stuff, he’s prone to break into song at full tilt with no warning and expect everyone to join in, slapping their thighs and stamping their feet. He didn’t do a bad version of The Leaving of Liverpool either. Around 1am, Joleen headed along the road with a couple of friends with some carry-out, but I was struggling to keep my eyes open.

Home and bed it was. If this is what Ireland’s like, I’m going to have a great week-and-a-bit. I already know some of Joleen’s (and therefore my) plans for the next few days and I’m really looking forward to it.

Zemanta Pixie

Packing it in…

Gotchya! I meant packing everything into my rucksack…

This time, I have the experience of knowing what I need and don’t need; what I’d normally pack and never use and so on. I also have the “advantage” of a ludicrous 15kg limit on three of my upcoming flights, courtesy of the cheapskates at RyanAir (seriously, only use them if you have to – they’re awful).

I’ve opted to leave my “decent” camera at home and just take the pocket-sized one. I can live without it round Europe as I mainly like it for wildlife photography of which I’ll do more in Asia. The tipping point was worrying that I wouldn’t be able to take it on as carry-on luggage at Prestwick. RyanAir (them again) restrict you to one item of hand luggage, though the decider is normally the security staff.

Edinburgh have tried to stop me, but listened to my pleas and let me through back in November. I’ve heard tale of friends asked to put their handbag into their larger carry-on… and then threatened with arrest if they removed it once they were past security. Nuts. Absolutely nuts.

I can’t risk having to cram the camera into my rucksack as I don’t want it broken, so it’s staying at home. I’ll be meeting Leah in London in July to fly to Bangkok with Thai Airlines. They’ll let me on with it, no problem. And my luggage limit is 23kg with them as well.

Anyway, I’ll be gone for at least 2 months on this trip. Absolute minimum. Possibly, and likely, nearer 6. Or more. So what am I taking with me? What follows is a complete list. My rucksack currently weighs around 14kg if my parents’ bathroom scales are to be believed, plus I have a separate “daybag” style rucksack for my laptop. The list includes the clothes I’ll be wearing when I leave.

Clothing, etc

  • Cap
  • Walking boots
  • Lightweight sneakers
  • 3 x hankies
  • Fast-drying lightweight travel towel
  • 6 x pairs of underwear
  • 6 x pairs of socks
  • Light 3/4-length shorts
  • Light trousers with zip-off legs
  • Swimming trunks
  • Waterproof jacket (folds into pouch)
  • Regular t-shirt (Blue Dragon one)
  • Padded long-sleeved goalkeeper shirt
  • Long-sleeved t-shirt
  • Sleeveless t-shirt (if that makes sense)
  • 3 x football shirts (1 x England, 2 x Newcastle – can’t find the 3rd!)
  • 2 x CERN t-shirts (gift for a friend in London)
  • Sunglasses
  • Specs and contact lense stuff (may soon be ditching these… Story to come – and note that the lense fluid has to go into the main rucksack, not my carry-on due to the fact that I might try to blow a plane up with it)

Electronics

  • Laptop and power supply
  • PSP, USB cable, charger, spare battery and headphones
  • MP3 player, batteries and headphones
  • Small camera, spare battery, charger, USB lead, 40m waterproof casing, small tripod
  • One plug that fits chargers for both camera and PSP
  • Mobile phone, charger and spare phone
  • Network cable
  • 5-point plug adapter
  • Multi-country plug adapter (so I need one set of these to power up to 5 things with the above)
  • Blank CDs, empty cases to mail them home in and secure box to keep them in
  • Petzl LED headlamp and spare batteries

Misc

  • Novel (A big, thick Dean Koontz one)
  • Another novel – gift for a friend in Cambridge
  • Day bag (to be replaced with a more fold-able one ASAP)
  • Marker pen for writing hitching signs
  • Large notebook – for writing large hitching signs in!
  • Small notebook
  • Pocket diary (flight / hostel details)
  • NUFC flag (bed decoration/privacy curtain)
  • Photocopies of passport and driving license
  • Passport and driving license
  • Graspop e-ticket and related travel documentation
  • Needle and thread
  • Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring (to be left in Cambridge or London)
  • Spare shoelaces – came in well handy when one of my rucksack straps broke/was nicked last time out
  • Dental floss – better than thread for fixing rucksacks
  • Painkillers, Strepsils, anti-squits medication, travel sickness pills, max strength flu tablets
  • Eucalyptus oil (anaesthetic, antiseptic, eases breathing with a stuffed nose, cures cancer…)
  • Sun cream (factor 40)
  • Razor, spare blades and small canister of gel
  • Nail clippers, tweezers
  • Scary big knife
  • Tent (to be left in Cambridge or London – need it for Graspop)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Earplugs
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush

That’s yer lot. As you can tell, I’ll be swapping out a few items (the tent, two shirts and a couple of books) for my camera when I get back to the UK in 4 weeks. So, nice and lightweight as it goes. Watch the scales at the airport say my bag’s 5kg heavier than our bathroom ones do.

I need to buy a money belt as well. I can’t find the one I used last time, but they’re not expensive.

Next stop: Ireland. See you on the green side!