The ratings game

Anybody who has ever travelled has become accustomed to the star system. We use it to rank hotels, airlines and other services, and we generally understand what it means.


Two stars means ordinary; five stars is excellent. Of course, we now sometimes hear of six- or seven-star properties, which is where the system becomes a bit fuzzy.

But these star systems only go so far in telling us what we really want to know.

Continue reading The ratings game

Find a flight bargain

Of all the factors affecting airfares — ranging from global oil prices to opportunistic price gouging by the airlines — the biggest one is the simple law of supply and demand.


Prices, generally, are higher when the most people want to fly.
But even that simple equation isn’t cut and dried. You can still find a bargain, even at traditionally busy times, if you are flexible.

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Places to feel safe

While I have travelled a lot, for the past four years I have pitched my metaphorical tent in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

One of the things that I like about this place is the fact that I feel that both me and my property is safe. There are few other places in the world where I would leave my mobile phone or other belongings on the table at a restaurant or bar when I go to the rest room. But in the UAE, I have complete confidence that they will be there when I return.

Abu Dhabi cat
Abu Dhabi: cool for cats

Similarly, I don’t fret about going home and finding my flat ransacked, and I don’t fear being mugged on the streets regardless of how late I am out and about.

So, what makes a city safe? Continue reading Places to feel safe

Some travel booking tips

As with any other product, the priceof travel can vary dramatically. The same journey — by plane, train, boat or whatever — can cost more or less depending on a wide range of factors.


Of course, prices are affected by the season — ski resorts tend to be at a premium during winter — and other demand factors.

But with price comparison as near as your computer or mobile device,  you might be surprised to find exactly the same journey or stay, at the same time, offered at bizarrely different prices.

Continue reading Some travel booking tips

Scrap the safety demo

Everyone who has ever flown has had to endure a safety demonstration, usually a video that is played just before takeoff.

I use the word “endure” advisedly. Even though many airlines are going to great eforts and expense to make these videos entertaining, it  is clearly in vain. The fact is that nobody likes them and nobody is paying attention.

Continue reading Scrap the safety demo

Only for Americans

I’m an Australian who lives in the Middle East. During a travel stopover in Bangkok, I received a social-media message from a Filipino friend wishing me a happy Thanksgiving.

22aaf552-2df2-4310-8c8c-388ac34cc6b3-14903-00000a37f76df74d_tmpNow, I’m a great one for celebrations, and I like to see other people happy. Be it Eid, Christmas or Diwali, or any other religious festival, or a national day, I’m happy to acknowledge the occasion with those who hold it dear. But Thanksgiving is a tricky one.

Continue reading Only for Americans

They’re racing in the UAE

Abu Dhabi racetrack
Abu Dhabi racetrack

Horse racing season has begun in the United Arab Emirates, home to some of the world’s best racing and training facilities, and the wealthiest owners.

If you’ve been to the races elsewhere in the world, you’ll feel at home at the racetracks in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (Meydan and Jebel Ali), where events are run to international rules. But some expats will notice that two key ingredients are missing (or difficult to find): alcoholic beverages and ontrack betting.

Continue reading They’re racing in the UAE

It pays to know the rules

I am a big fan of loyalty schemes, but I’m the first to admit that I’m no expert.


There are entire websites devoted to helping you make the most out of frequent-flyer and hotel memberships, and the credit cards that link to them.

If you really want to maximise your points, and you are prepared to change banks, juggle many cards at once and go slightly crazy doing it, I suggest you check them out. Lucky’s One Mile At A Time blog is a good place to start. You’ll be amazed at how he manages to make the system work for him, often resulting in spectacular upgrades and free trips.  But it’s a full-time job. Continue reading It pays to know the rules

Sweet ceremony for Harmony

16 November

The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, has been officially named in Miami, Florida.

Brittany Affolter (

In an update of an age-old “christening” ceremony, Brittany Affolter, a 23-year-old teacher who is the ship’s godmother, pushed a button that led to a champagne bottle being broken over the ship.

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Money worries

While credit and debit cards have made things a lot easier, there’s always a need for travellers to have cash — and getting the right amount can be a nightmare.


For starters, changing money is always fraught. You can be assured that you’re going to lose on the deal. Even those exchange booths that promise “no commission” are paying their way (and then some) somehow, and that’s by charging you an unfavourable rate.

Continue reading Money worries