Archive for the Getting around Category

Ryanair

Posted in Getting around on April 23, 2009 by fonglh

Ryanair is the budget airline we’ve been using for most of our flights. Flights can really be ridiculously cheap. For example, I just spent 20 cents on an air ticket from Stockholm to Glasgow. Flying from Glasgow to London cost another 1 pound. I can even forgo my already booked Stockholm to London ticket. It’s a bit of a waste but then it’s only 10 sgd.

The great part is that there’s no need for any promotional codes or membership stuff to be able to enjoy such low fares. It simply requires you to visit the website now and then to find out about their latest offers. As long as you pick the right dates, usually weekdays or obscure timings, there will probably be tax free super cheap flights.

As the date of the flight approaches, the price generally increases. The tax free offers evaporate, and soon they cost over 100 sgd. However, this is not a certainty. Unpredictable offers sometimes materialise, leading you to wish you had waited a week or two before booking a flight. The percentage discounts increase, the taxes vanish and once again it costs less to fly across Europe than to eat a meal at the local MacDonalds.

These price vagaries have led to a love hate relationship with the airline. More love than hate I say. It’s kind of like playing a stock market.

Comfort and service are acceptable. They pride themselves on being on time, and 90% of their flights do arrive on time or even ahead of schedule. When that happens, a very cheesy tune is played, followed by an announcement that you are on yet another on time flight. Aerobridges aren’t used, so you’ll have to use the stairs. The airports are also smaller and more obscure, thus the airport transfers usually cost a few times more than the flight itself.

The seats don’t recline, but then the flights aren’t too long and hey, lunch cost more, so what’s there to complain about? van finds it disturbing that the amount she spends on food in sg can get her across Europe. Very true. To save cleaning costs and reduce turnaround time, there are no seat pockets either, and the safety information is printed on the headrest of the seat in front of you. Personally I think it’s a much better place to put it as it’s much more visible.

There are advertisements on the doors of the luggage racks and they constantly advertise various sales and promotions during the flight. It can get a bit irritating, but the most useful one is the sale of airport coach tickets on board. They’ll usually accept the currencies of the origin and destination cities but they don’t carry any change.

To reduce their costs, they don’t assign seats, so all flights are free seating. You can also do online check in for free and print your own boarding pass. If you need any extra services like check in bags or airport check in, then each component costs more. There is also a card fee if you don’t use Visa Electron to pay. Other than the card fee, all the other stuff is optional and the price you see once you search for flights is really the price you pay if you choose to fly with no extras. This is much better than many other airlines, who exclude taxes from the first page and only show you when you move on to the next step.

I’ve never checked out the budget airlines in Singapore, but while looking for holiday possibilities, it seems like budget airlines flying out of Singapore simply cannot match the prices of Ryanair. There are always taxes and prices always seem to cost above 100 sgd for return flights. Nowhere close to the 40 cents return flight between Stockholm and Hamburg. Some of them even pull off the sneaky tactic of not displaying taxes at first, so it looks like they’re cheap when they’re not.

Ryanair has really revolutionised the industry in Europe. It has also made it much more affordable to get around Europe, a wonderful thing for us exchange students. 😀

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To the airport

Posted in Getting around, Sightseeing on January 30, 2009 by fonglh

Since yh and zq were arriving, I wanted to figure out how to get to the airport to meet them, without spending a cent if possible. Wikipedia revealed that there IS a way to reach the airport from the city using SL public transport all the way, meaning that my travelcard is valid. For those who don’t know, take the pendaltag J36 to Märsta (the last stop), then transfer to bus 583 or 583X. It’s actually quite convenient because the buses are timed to the train schedule, so once you get there, you don’t have to wait too long before the bus leaves.

I missed the subway train I wanted to take at first, so I was left with 15 mins to wander around Universitetet. The station was deserted so early in the morning.

Universitetet

Some of you may have heard or read about the artwork in Stockholm’s subway network. Every station is different. Some samples from Universitetet are shown below.

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Deserted station in the morning

Deserted station in the morning

Managed to meet zq and yh at the airport. They saw me in the arrival hall, a very good thing since they had no local handphone numbers here yet, so we had to rely on the old fashioned way of meeting up. Here’s a picture of Arlanda’s control tower on a clear winter morning.

Arlanda Control Tower

I went back to Lappis after that. Security here is kind of like the one at PGP. First an electronic tag is needed to get into each block, then a security code is needed for the corridor, and finally you use the key to get into your own room.

Here’s what the security pad looks like.

corridor security

corridor security

After seeing overcast skies for the past few days, it looked like it was going to be a beautiful clear day, so I headed off to the beach again to take some pictures.

Sunrise through the trees

View from Lappis Beach

View of homes across the water

Arrival

Posted in Getting around on January 20, 2009 by Cosine

Thanks to JJ’s excellent instructions, it wasn’t too hard to overcome the first hurdle and find a way to the city centre. The airport coach flygbussarna travels quite frequently between Arlanda and the city centre. Due to some promotion, we got tickets for 2 for 150 SEK.

After getting to T Centralen, the next step was to figure out how to take the metro to the school and find the accommodation office. Which way to go was easy, how to pay was not. A quick enquiry told us that the 30 day pass costs 690SEK, while a single trip costs 40 SEK. We only wanted to go 4 stops, $8 seemed like quite a ripoff. However, we didn’t have so much cash easily accessible, it was carried in a travel pouch. Taking stuff from a travel pouch in public is most awkward, so we went to look for a toilet. Turns out that toilets costs 10 SEK (S$2). Considering I try to avoid 10 cent toilets, this was quite a large sum of money. At least it was a very clean toilet, unlike most of the 10 cent ones, which are usually dirtier than the free ones.

The 30 day pass allows for unlimited travel on all SL transport, be it buses, the metro, regional trains etc etc. It’s really great, especially for us to make many short trips. It’s actually the adult price, we can’t buy the student one without a union card. No silly 4 train ride restriction here.

Moving a 30+ kg suitcase around a train station was still manageable, except for the lifts, which are quite different. They have a couple of buttons labelled in Swedish. One probably says ground floor while the other says upper floor or something like that. There’s something that looks like a door open button and a few which look like emergency buttons. There’s only 1 door at each level, so there’s no door on the lift itself and you can see the walls move right beside you. The main problem was figuring out how to get the door to do what we wanted. But somehow we did it and got ourselves to the school’s accomodation office.

To us people who live in the tropics, snow is a wonderful novelty, and cobbled streets are quintessentially European. All very nice for photos and experience, but just try pulling a 30kg wheeled suitcase uphill on a snowy cobbled street. No fun at all. You’ll feel hot inside because of the exertion, and cold outside because it’s snowing.

Getting the key was straightforward enough, now it was back to the metro station to take the train 1 stop further to where the accommodation is located. It’s not exactly within walking distance, and certainly not with 40kg of luggage. Incidentally, the lift there was broken, so we had the challenge of getting the luggage onto the escalator without it rolling all the way down.

My room is on the 4th floor in a building with no lift. I happened to meet the caretaker while trying to heft 30kg up 1 step at a time. He helped me carry it up, using just 1 hand. At the top, I tried the security code but it didn’t work, so he helped me to open the door too. Good thing I met him. I found out later when returning to the accommodation office that they had given me the wrong code. If I hadn’t met him I would have been stuck outside.

The previous owner had left quite a bit of useful stuff in the room, including a LAN cable. I plugged it in and was able to get online right away. Not everyone is so lucky. So here’s the first picture I took in Sweden.

View from window

View from window

Ok strictly speaking it’s the second. The first was slightly underexposed due to the snow. Other useful stuff includes a table lamp, working window blinds, toilet paper, hangers, a small pillow, a full length mirror and some other stuff. Not so useful stuff includes a bedsheet of unknown cleanliness, a green and black blanket with black spots on the green which are not part of the design, a large pillow which won’t fit into my pillowcase and again, some other stuff.

You can see a photosynth of my room at here. A download is necessary. No idea if it works for a Mac.

Departure

Posted in Getting around on January 20, 2009 by Cosine

Flew off on Thai Airways on the 7th of Jan. Being the last minute person I’ve always been, I left the final packing till the flight date itself. Lucky my mom helped me to pack, or I might never have got everything in on time. As it turned out, the extra 10 kg baggage allowance I got from Thai airways was totally necessary. Even with that, my luggage was still overweight.

I think the check in staff saw the size of my backpack and insisted on weighing it. Of course it was heavier than 7 kg, so I had to take out some stuff and reweigh it. However they don’t really enforce so I put the stuff back after that. After all, who goes on exchange without a laptop and camera?

Thanks to all those who came to send me off. I really appreciate it. To EH and van, I’ve forgotten what you told me already 😛

This was my first time flying totally alone. Quite a bore actually. The entire flight was in darkness. The aircraft to Bangkok had those personal entertainment screens, so I managed to catch nearly all of City of Ember. Missed a bit of the ending cause the plane landed. Everytime an inflight announcement is made, the movie will be paused, but when it resumes, it’ll skip ahead a little. Good thing it was on demand video, so could rewind and watch the bits I missed.

Bangkok airport is really large. I walked like 300-400m just to reach the first intersection and find a transit counter. After getting my boarding pass checked, I had to walk to the other end of the terminal. Signs indicated that it’s 700m away. Quite a distance, but there are travellators, which made it easier. Managed to find my fellow NUS SEP student sy there. We happened to be on the same flight although we didn’t book together.

The 10+ hour flight to Stockholm was a total bore. There was no inflight entertainment, they didn’t even have playing cards any more. Thank to winter, the whole flight was in darkness. Wasn’t much use in having a window seat, it just made it very troublesome to get out and walk around or go to the toilet. At least it was overnight, so much of the time was spent sleeping. During the final 2 hours of a flight, they showed some cowboy movie. Being in front of the main screens, I got to watch it on a tiny CRT TV hanging from the top of the aisle. One side of the screen was slightly blocked by the bulkhead. Landing was a most welcome relief.

Away from home

Posted in Getting around on January 18, 2009 by Cosine

Ahh ok I’ve finally got this blog started. It’s meant to record my SEP experience, because captions on fb pics simply don’t do some places justice. Will try to keep it updated, but it might be hard. I’m doing 42 ECTS when the norm here is 30. ECTS are like MCs in NUS. Hopefully it’s actually possible to pass everything without too much effort, or else there won’t be enough time to go have fun.