Flight Deal: Germany to Australia/New Zealand for under €1600

Air China has launched a great set of return flight deals from German airports to Asia and beyond at some excellent prices right through to Summer 2018. The headline fares are the €1600 flights to New Zealand. You can make it to Australia for around €1578.

These are some great prices heading eastwards. You’ll need to be quick through. They are only available today 11 November and tomorrow 12 November. Although not as cheap as some of the recent Qatar prices from Oslo and Stockholm, the one big difference here is that July and August 2018 are wide open for availability.

Head over to the website link here in order to get the best deals. (Hat tip to FlyerTalk for deal.)

Good luck and happy travels!

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Flight Deals: Amazing Qatar Airways Business Class flights to Asia, Australia, and New Zealand!

Qatar Airways is at it again! To celebrate 20 years of flying they’ve announced some amazing round-trip flight prices from Europe to Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. There are good deals in economy, but I’m going to focus mostly on business class here.

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So, what do you need to know? First of all, you need to book by 10 November. Second, these offers don’t work for one person: for business class, you’ll only get the best fares if you are travelling in groups of two. (Groups of three for economy.) Third, availability runs from 1 November 2017 until 31 October 2018 and is wide open during this whole period apart from two blackout periods: 15 December 2017 to 10 January 2018 and 7 June 2018 to 10 September 2018. So if you were planning to take advantage of this for your Christmas or Summer holidays, then you’re out of luck.

Other than that, there are some excellent deals around:

FRA (Frankfurt) to DPS (Denpasar, Bali) for €1025
CPH (Copenhagen) to HKG (Hong Kong) for €940
SOF (Sofia) to SIN (Singapore) for £827
TXL (Berlin) to JNB (Johannesburg) for €1320

These are great prices but the real action is for flights from Stockholm (ARN). There are some outstanding prices from here, especially to Australia and New Zealand:

ARN (Stockholm) to SYD (Sydney) for £1331
ARN (Stockholm) to AKL (Auckland) for £1351

There are some other great deals to other Asian locations as well from Stockholm, which appears to be the winner in terms of starting locations in this sale. Do remember that you’ll need to book at least two seats (and thereafter in multiples of two) to avail of these great deals.

Have fun and Bon Voyage!

 

Trip Report: British Airways Terraces Lounge, Berlin Tegel Airport

Berlin’s Tegel airport (TXL) won’t win many prizes for best European airport and neither will the British Airways Terraces Lounge there either. To be fair, the investment in this airport has been slowed, as the focus was on the new Brandenburg airport which was due to supersede Tegel. However, this has been very much delayed. Add to this the recent problems with Air Berlin, for which Tegel is its home base, and you shouldn’t expect to see much happening in this airport or this Lounge any time soon.

I visited in the early afternoon. To be honest, I wasn’t flying with BA, but with a OneWorld partner airline and this was the only lounge available to me. The Lounge is almost hidden away in the corner of the terminal and you’ll need to go up a floor or two to access it. There is an elevator or you can take a spiral staircase.

I could have edited that photo to improve it a little, but I thought it best to preserve the gloominess of the area! The staff in the Lounge were very friendly and did manage to brighten things up. The Lounge area was spacious enough. Immediately after the entrance area there was an array of soft furnishings and low tables on the right, a bar area in the middle, and a more upright sitting area towards the far end and round to the side.

It was pretty busy when I was there and we were relegated over to the less comfy seats. The food and beverage offerings left a lot to be desired. I purposefully took the below photograph at an angle to show how little there was available in terms of food. Mostly, some crisps and nuts, which were at dangerously low levels for the entirety of my stay there and were not replenished, and a soggy cheese tomato roll or two!

The drinks situation was slightly better. The usual collections of soft drinks, spirits, wines, and beers. The wines were pretty rough, but since we were in Germany, the beer was good!

Now, I’m quite prepared to accept the fact that perhaps the entire offering for food wasn’t available. I can only assume this is the case given all of the empty space I observed. However, it was around 5.00pm and the lounge was quite busy, so if the food selection wasn’t ready at this time, then it should have been.

Another slight anomaly with this Lounge was the location of the toilets. There were none either in the Lounge or directly adjacent to it. You had to leave the Lounge and walk across to the side of the terminal, pass through a public bar/restaurant area, and then use some public toilets. This sounds worse than it is and is obviously a reflection of the curious layout and history of this terminal!

Overall, this was a rather disappointing Lounge and if there had been better options in the public area, I would probably have left and used them, alas there weren’t so I didn’t!

Hotel Deals: Accor 30% Off plus Free Breakfast

I’m a bit late to this sale, it’s been around for a week or so, but there is still plenty of time left to take advantage of it, in fact you have until the 20 October 2017 to book and make the best of it, and then it’s valid for all stays from 8 December 2017 until 11 March 2018.

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You can book through the promotion webpage at this link.

You also don’t need to be a member of the Le Club Accor Hotels loyalty program: it’s open to non-members as well, but obviously you’ll benefit from points accrual if you are a member. Not all hotels are participating in the promotion and in some cases you might find better rates when you look at the various hotels, but it’s well worth checking out.

Double Avios on British Airways Flights

BA has relaunched its quite generous double Avios promotion for flights booked and taken between now and 31 December 2017. You need to register in advance for this promotion and you can do so from this link.

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The promotion works across all cabin classes on every BA flight including those flights operated by codeshare partners American Airlines, Iberia, and Finnair, that carry BA flight numbers. OpenSkies flights between Paris and New York are included as well.

The promotion is open to all BA travellers, although if your account is registered in the US, Canada, Mexico, or South Africa you are out of luck.

Another little detail to watch out for here… it’s not ALL flights booked and flown between now and the end of year: it’s actually just the first four return flights (or first eight one-way flights) flown that count. This may or may not be a big deal for you… but if you registered, booked, and flew four short haul return flights in November and then booked and flew four long haul flights in December, you would miss out on a bunch of double Avios! If you find yourself caught out by something like this, you MIGHT want to consider removing your BA Executive Club number from some of the short haul bookings!

Hotel Review: The Caravelle Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

The Caravelle in Ho Chi Minh City has a long history. A base for many international reporters during the Vietnam War, it has a lot of history within its walls. It’s full of charm and exudes a wonderful, sedate, opulence as soon as you enter the lobby, which itself is beautifully presented in its compact form, as you can see from the image below.

We arrived in the early evening and had checked in and were on our way to our room within a few minutes. The check in was efficient and to the point, but lacked any real personal touch. We had booked interconnecting rooms: one double and one twin. The rooms were quite small and faced out over the pool area, but they were functional and served our purposes. I suppose for the rate of €140 per night per room including breakfast, this was reasonable enough, but we had been staying in some really amazing places before we arrived here, so perhaps my expectations were a little too high.

That said, our overall experience in the hotel was excellent. The staff were in general very helpful with directions and guidance. In particular, the staff at the main restaurant went out of their way to be helpful during breakfast. Nothing was too much trouble and they were very attentive. The breakfast offering itself was outstanding. There was no shortage of anything! There was plenty of sushi and Japanese offerings, some excellent pho, the typical European pastries you might expect, cereals, and a generous selection of American style cooked dishes which changed daily, along with omelettes made to order. All in all, wonderful!

One place that is well worth a visit here is the Saigon Saigon rooftop bar on the tenth floor. We frequented here most evenings during our short stay and were happy to take advantage of the half price cocktail hour! It’s a great location and has a very pleasant, although small, balcony area, with great views around the city. We spent time here rather than in the Executive Lounge when we had drinks in the hotel. The Lounge, even with some free drinks in the evening, was pretty stuffy and lacked atmosphere. It was a world away from the fun in Saigon Saigon.

A friend of mine was staying in an Executive Room here, and although the rooms are a little bigger, I really wouldn’t pay the extra for an executive room. Better views and a bit more space, but the lounge is so lacklustre it’s really not worth it.

I would easily stay in this hotel again. It’s in a central and convenient location with plenty of restaurants close by offering a variety of different eating options. A great choice in Ho Chi Minh City!

Hotel Review: Angsana Lang Co, Central Vietnam

After a busy few days in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city, there’s no better place to relax and chill out for a while than the Angsana Lang Co, near Da Nang. It’s a sister hotel to the Banyan Tree, but to be honest, I prefer it to the Banyan Tree: it’s more sociable, relaxed, and a little cheaper, which is nice.

The service here is excellent. The Angsana is about one hour’s drive from the airport in Da Nang but the hotel provides a free shuttle service. We landed a little late and were promptly met and helped with our bags to the bus. Cool towels and fresh water followed. A delight after the hassle of travelling down from Hanoi.

The hotel itself is a little out of the way, but its location is beautiful. We opted for the two bedroom beach-side villa with private pool. It was fantastic. Beautifully decorated in modern and local styles with a huge living and dining space, a bedroom with two single beds for the kids with ensuite bathroom, and a huge bedroom with massive ensuite for the grown ups! We loved it! Oh, and the bed was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced!

I don’t normally post photos of bathrooms, but these deserve special recognition! Bath in the foreground, sinks in the back, and shower area on the right. Stunning!

At the private pool area, there was plenty of space, a table and chairs, and two comfy sun loungers. You could walk directly out onto the beach from here, where there was another small cabana-style sun lounger specifically for our villa.

Although this is a relatively large hotel, it never seemed too busy and crowded, mind you, at breakfast it could get a bit hectic. The villas are well spaced out so it seems very private. The communal pool area is excellent. There’s plenty of space to relax and splash about in, and it was a pleasant contrast to enjoy some quiet private time in our own small pool and complement that with more active time in the communal pool. I’ve included just a small slice of the look and feel of the central area in the picture below: this is the view from the bottom of the steps at the back of the hotel looking out towards the gardens. It’s really beautiful.

You won’t be short of choice for places to dine here. There are excellent, more casual style places on the complex, and then some more upmarket choices, such as the Japanese, and notably the Thai restaurant up at the Banyan Tree, which is a must if you are here–it is simply incredible! My mouth is watering just as I post this picture from our exquisite dinner there…

Speaking of food, this hotel had one of the most extensive breakfast buffets that we came across when in Vietnam. There was a mix of everything, from local Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, and European, so it was impossible to go hungry. The sparkling wine available at breakfast was a nice touch as well, especially if served up with some of the wonderful fruit juices.

There was another thing I really liked about staying here. They had free bikes that you could take out for as long as you liked to ride around the area. Now there is quite a hump in the road just outside the hotel complex, but if you’re even only a little bit fit, it should be no problem on the heavily geared mountain bikes they provided. I went out every day. I did this for two reasons. First, it was pleasant to get out and cycle for an hour or so in the early morning before it got too hot for some exercise. Second, and this wouldn’t be too well known, but there is a little village close by that is worth visiting. There are some beach shacks where it’s a pleasure to get a wonderful and cheap lunch and, just as important, there are plenty of small stores in the village that sell beer. I generally picked up 6 cans of the local brew for about the equivalent of $6 or so. This is about one quarter of the price of the minbar beers. Now, I’m not totally cheap, but it was nice to support the small local traders and save some money at the same time!

This was probably the best and most enjoyable hotel we stayed in on our Vietnamese trip. And they made a special effort on my birthday, with a cake and lovely turn down service! Not the cheapest ever hotel we’ve stayed in, but in value for money terms, it’s possibly the best! Give it a try: you’ll love it!

Flight Deal: Qatar Airways Global Sale

Qatar announced one of its global sales earlier today, but to be honest this one is a little bit underwhelming and far from as attractive as some of the sub-£1000 or sub-€1000 sale fares we’ve been used to from Europe to the Far East. It’s on now and is valid for bookings from today (12 September 2017) until 19 September 2017, so there’s no time to lose if you see something that you like.

Despite being a tad underwhelming, there are some *reasonable* fares out there. There is also good availability at the moment, from September right through to the end of May next year, although there is a modest blackout period from 15 December 2017 until 10 January 2018.

Right so what fares might catch your eye? Well, OSL to BKK can be had for £1290. Nothing stellar but a reasonable fare.

Another fare that’s worth checking is out is SOF to PVG (Shanghai) at £1162. The availability is a little lore spotty here, but a quick look on Google Flights shows plenty of dates within the fare window above when you can grab this fare. Do note that the SOF to DOH segment on this flight is on an A320 so it’s not the lie flat seat you might expect, at least for this leg. If your just hunting for miles and points though, then it’s still a good deal.

These were the standout fares for me… I didn’t spot anything more attractive nor any particularly good deals from major main European airports such as FRA or AMS.

I wouldn’t be too down beta though: there’s sure to be a better QR sale around in a few more weeks!

Flight Deal: London Gatwick to Bangkok, Business Class for £1221 return

Turkish Airlines is offering some good business class return fares from London to Bangkok at the moment. For £1221 return you’ll get a business class flight from London Gatwick via Istanbul to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. This is pretty good price for flights originating in the UK: it’s common to find prices like this to BKK from European airports, but these obviously have the cost of positioning flights from the UK and you might even need to build in the price of a hotel for a night depending on timings.

I could easily find lots of availability for March 2018, as shown in the screen grab below.

However, the availability is much broader than this. There is good availability from the beginning of November 2017 until early December. The Christmas period is blocked out, but there is good availability again from mid-January 2018 onwards right though to the end of March, although after that the handy matrix view tool on the Turkish website doesn’t offer any insights on booking further out, see below…

The minimum stay appears to be only about four nights and there doesn’t appear to be a Saturday night requirement either, but why you might want to stay for a shorter period of time is beyond me given the nature of the distance and jet lag, and of course how enjoyable a stay in Bangkok could be!

Anyhow, yes, you can find cheaper fares than this from Europe to Bangkok, but this is pretty good direct from London with lots of options on the departure timings. The flights from London to Istanbul are on Turkish Airline’s B737 aircraft and then onwards on the B777. Both offer a good quality hard and soft product, with lie flat beds on the longer Istanbul to Bangkok sectors.

Happy travels!

Hotel Review: La Siesta Trendy, Hanoi

If you are looking for a hotel right smack in the middle of Hanoi and close to the action, La Siesta Trendy is the place for you!

There are of course many hotels in Hanoi. Some big, some small, but I think it would be hard to get the kind of balance that this place achieves. It is a small, boutique hotel, but its service quality is really outstanding! The lobby area and the mezzanine area is shown below.

When we arrived, relatively late in the evening, we were treated like royalty, but not in an uncomfortable or stunted formal way. It was classy, effective, and friendly. A refreshing drink in the lobby, a wipe down with a hot towel, a few registration details and off to our room we went.

There are no rooms in this hotel that accommodate four people so we booked adjoining rooms, a double for us and a two single beds for our kids next door. The rooms were small but not basic! They had everything that you might need: a great bed, plenty of storage space, a desk, mini-bar setup, bottled water replaced daily, and a toilet/shower area that was well finished. In fact, all of the finishing and furnishing in the hotel was to a high standard. Some pics of the rooms below…

Now, or thing I would mention about the rooms is that it is very easy to book a room that has no natural light. This may or may not be a problem for you. The room shown above has a ‘real’ window with the real world outside it, but there is not much of a view to speak of for any of the rooms really. One of the other rooms had no windows, but if you are planning to use the room to just bed down for the night and sleep, it’s probably OK. The price difference was minimal anyhow, about $50 per night or thereabouts… it’s great value!

Although the rooms are great, the breakfast area and indeed the food there is really outstanding! They had a great selection of fruits, salads, European, and oriental dishes, as well as egg dishes cooked to order. The staff were very friendly and quite frankly couldn’t have done more for us. The actual breakfast area is upstairs and there are some nice, if realistic, views out over the city.

While you might want to start your day at the top of the hotel at breakfast, there’s a downstairs bar area in which you can finish it with a cocktail or two. It’s a classy and quiet little retreat after a busy day in the city. The drinks are a little more expensive here than in many other establishments in the area, but by Western standards they are very reasonable. The staff are super friendly here too!

Of all the places we stayed while in Vietnam, this was the most down to earth, lowest cost, and I think, the one I enjoyed the most. Visiting Hanoi? Stay here!!