Sunday, November 17, 2013

Alif Campo Pequeno - Lazy ...

This time I stayed at Hotel Alif Campo Pequeno from November 16 to November 17, 2013. The breakfast was quite economic - not much choice, really - and as I discovered later, I had to pay for it separately - neither this fact nor the price were sufficiently explicit on their web site when I made the reservation. I was attracted by their weekend discount price, but their conditions were insufficiently clear, even for a more than averagely attentive person. I made two requests to the hotel personnel, one was to substitute my chair - the one I had in my room had the seat cushion that was insufficiently rigid, therefore I ended up sitting on the 4 woods that made the seat frame. It seems that they have substituted the chair - with an equal one, which was no better than the first. My second request was to replace the fluorescent lamp in the bathroom, which blinked continuously, at an interval of about 1 second, which was extremely annoying. This request had been ignored, as the lamp continued blinking. I was offered two pillows sitting on top of my bed, but both were too high and too rigid for my liking, therefore, sometime in the morning I ended up sleeping withiut one, to avoid the neck ache I developed during the night.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Taxis at Lisbon Airport

It seems all of the taxis standing in the cue a the Lisbon airport resort to one or more of the following extortion tactics: don't switch on the meter; don't zero the meter from the previous ride; charge an "airport tax" of at least 5 euros (non-existent in Portugal); switch off the meter before the client can read it; charge an arbitrary sum for luggage handling.

Therefore, it is preferable to call a taxi by phone - use the national taxi call number 707 277 277 - and get a quality service instead to being ripped off by these thieves. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Taxis in Lublin

Remarkably, all of the taxis I could find waiting for me in front of the Lublin train station listed at least 4 zloty/km and 60 zloty/hour fees. I had to take one of these, for lack of alternatives, and paid 46 zloty for the trip to my hotel. By the time I had to go back to the train station several days later, I found they have at least one company in Lublin that charges only 1,8 zloty/km and some 30 zloty/hour - this translated into me paying 22 zloty for my trip from the hotel to the train station. As you see, taxi companies love visitors whom they can skin.

Hotel Akropol Palac, Lublin

I stayed at their residential rooms, planned for 3 people with 3 single beds, from June 26 to June 29. The room was quite small, with barely enough space to move from the door to the toilet to the bed. There was no ventilation either in the room itself or in the bathroom, apart from the window in the room that could be opened. It was moist in the bathroom all the time, with small pools of water on the floor never drying after shower. The window ventilation worked reasonably well until the last night of my stay, when a neighbouring farmer decided to burn same plant waste and filled the surroundings with smoke. Therefore, I was made to wake up at about 3 am and shut the window completely, to avoid respiratory problems. I could notice no traces of any cleaning effort in my room during my stay, as several dead insects remained quite prominently in the very same places where they happened to drop dead on the floor. The residential used mattress covers instead of bed sheets, quite inappropriately, although the rest of bed linen was in order. The buffet breakfast was OK, on the days when I could ask someone for yoghurt and cold milk, which did not happen every day.

Polish Railways

It looks that every train that passes through Warszawa Wschodnia station has to stay there for at least 1 hour. This is what happened to both of my trains, on the way to and from Lublin. Additionally, as they explained to me in Lublin, the local authorities are trying to fight against the local residents working in Warsaw; therefore, there are no night trains from Lublin to Warsaw, and in case you have an early morning plane from Warsaw, you have an option to either go there on the previous day by train (and either pay for 1 day in hotel, whereas in fact you only need it for 5 or 6 hours, or kill your valuable time at the Warsaw airport) or take a taxi directly to Warsaw airport from Lublin and pay some 15 times more than the train costs. It can even be a reasoble price if you are a big group, but not for a single traveller. I believe that Poles still very much like the dictatorial-style communist-type rulers, electing the politicians they do.

Ticketing in Lublin is a problem - I arrived to the station early in the morning, some 45 minutes before my train, and could not get a ticket with a guaranteed sitting place - they have no ticketing machines, as they do at Warszawa Centralna, and the only 3 ticket offices were moving excruciatingly slowly, with one of them dedicated to group trips and therefore not moving at all. An alternative that I used was to buy a ticket on a train, paying an extra 10 zloty for the service - is this difference the reason why the offices at the station were not in hurry at all, with half of them closed completely? Imagine - they actually sell first-class tickets without a guaranteed sitting place - I am quite sure it is much more comfortable to stand in the first class as opposed to the second class carriage. I had to change my sit 2 times, after Warszawa Centralna, as people were entering the train who had bought their tickets well in advance, with a reserved sitting place. The first class was very much packed to the capacity on Saturday, June 29, but I still did not have to stand. The WC I used had no water at all, either for flushing the toilet, or for washing your hands. It did have an indication of paper towels, but none of these physically present, and a small bar of soap, which was quite useless in the situation.

Altogether, my train from Warsaw to Lublin was some 40 minutes late at my destination, and the train from Lublin to Poznan was some 1 hr late. Last time I visited Poland some 8 years ago I had to fly to Warsaw via Madrid, this time I could fly via Lisbon, which is much more practical for a person living in Portugal. The railways, however, have not improved much.

On my way from Poznan to Warsaw airport the train to the airport was the only one they announced in English. All the rest was in Polish only. Due to delays they had to juggle platforms and tracks, therefore to my inquiry at the box office as to where the airport train will stop they answered "platform 6 or platform 3". The best option was to stay close to the billboard underground by the exit to platform 2, to see where the train will be announced.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bishkek International Airport

The announcements made by radio at the departure hall are completely unintelligible, due to bad acoustics and insufficient number / bad placement of loudspeakers. Against all logic, you are obliged to walk up the stairs to get to the tax-free shops. Even more against logic, you are obliged to walk down the stairs to get to the first-class lounge, carrying your bags with you -- no lifts available. I had to pass my luggage 3 times through the security check, and my own self -- twice, first before check-in, and then after it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Holiday Inn Frankfurt Airport - North Hotel

I stayed at this hotel from June 24 to June 25, on my way from Moscow to Faro. They forgot my wakeup call. Luckily, I had a backup plan that worked ... I got an impression that the front desk personnel who checked me in had difficulties in expressing themselves in English, or else much overworked.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hotel Rich, Bishkek

I stayed in this hotel from June 23 to June 24, 2013. The installations seem very recent, some of the packing plastics not yet removed from the window frames. I would define the style as Chinese, mostly because of dull red and gold colours predominating in the hall and in the bar. They also use a lot of Chinese hardware, sometimes out of place, such as the threshold creating an unnecessary obstacle at the entry of the bathroom. My single room had a shower, water is heated by a gas heater located in the corridor. You need to order you breakfast in advance - no buffet breakfast available, similar to the other places I visited in Kyrgyzstan. Ho lift, not suited for disabled persons. Hair dryer. Free WiFi internet, which was not working in my room on day 24 - I had to go to the lobby instead. The electricity went down in the city on day 23 for some time, although the personnel said this has become a rare (once-a-month) event as of recently. The personnel was friendly and helpful.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hotel Visit, Bishkek

I stayed at the hotel Visit, Bishkek, from June 15, 2013 to June 19, 2013. Pros: close to the city centre and the university. Cons: unexpected and non-indicated half-steps all over the place - I had at least 4 chances to break my neck going from the entrance to my bed, one on these already inside my room; no facilities for disabled, no lift, no hair dryer, weird TV facilities - they called me at about 12 at night, because the satellite receiver in my room was providing the signal for other rooms, and was off ...

Guest house Elita, Karakol

I stayed at Elita from 19/06/2013 till 22/06/2013. Pros: not far from the University, friendly staff, internet access. Cons: very slow internet, no facilities for disabled, very high steps on the staircase at the entrance, no hair dryer in the bathroom, weird changes in the floor level, unexpected threshold in the bathroom, need to order the breakfast one day in advance - no buffer breakfast available.

Delfin de Lux (Отель Дельфин Де Люкс), Issyk kul

I stayed at the Hotel "Dolphin de Luxe", Bosteri, Issyk kul district, Kyrgyz Republic, from 22/06/2013 till 23/06/2013. Pros: swimming pool outside, sitting bath in the bathroom, easy access to the beach, internet access. Cons: internet works in the lobby only, no lift, no facilities for disabled, small doses at the canteen; very high steps at the staircases, including those giving access to the lobby, canteen and residential building, probably violating the construction regulations; hot water in the room coming from an electric heater and therefore available in a very limited amount. There are no limitations on smoking in Kyrgyzstan, which became quite irritating at the G-Club and disco belonging to the hotel. My room also had a faint smell of tobacco, as already happened in some hotels in Russia ... I did not go bathing, but the sand on the beach was full of cigarette filters with some broken glass and other debris to match. I and some of my colleagues had difficulties in working the locks of our rooms. No phone in your room - if you need something, walk down to the reception and ask. It also looks they haven't decided how to write their name in Latin alphabet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ashgabat International Airport

On our flight from Ashgabat to Frankfurt at around 1 am on May 29 we got our passports checked and our luggage scanned multiple times even before we got to the registration desk, and aditional times after that. It seemed that they had a passport check point in every corridor that connected one zone of the airpot to another. The waiting zone was full of cigarette smoke, as it was allowed to smoke and ventialtion was insufficient, therefore, we went to wait to another hall that served 4 more boarding gates. We almost missed our flight sitting there -- there was no billboard to announce boarding anywhere in view, and they boarded all of the passengers that were in the correct (smoke-filled) waiting hall without making any radio announcements. The Airport does not have a tax-free shop; the only existing shop sells Turkmen carpets, but we did not check if it was open.

Hotel Ak Altyn Plaza, Ashgabat

I stayed in this hotel from May 26 to May 29, 2013. Pros: a good view from the 8th floor on the city and the nearby hills, air-conditioning, continental breakfast. Cons: the hotel has no rooms for non-smokers, as it is allowed to smoke in every room; no ventilation in the rooms -- air conditioning only recirculates the air, and there is no way you can open a window; the plug in the bathtub was absent - taken away because its mechanism was broken; after multiple consultations with the reception and the technicians and some 20h of waiting I finally got a simple rubber plug in substitution of the fancy original; unexpectedly fancy lighting on the ceiling -- I had  to switch it on and off at least 3 times before I got what I wanted -- namely, light on to the maximum brightness, on the first attempt you only get some blue LEDs and stay wondering whether that is all you will ever get; and finally, beware of the teabags in plain view on the table -- contrary to every other hotel I know, here they will charge you US$ 2,00 for each bag. They don't recommend to drink tap water in Turkmenistan, therefore hotel provides electric jugs in each room -- notwithstanding my technical background, I also had problems with that, which were not solved by their technician either -- sometimes the jug would not come on. In such cases, their restaurant provides you with hot water -- free of charge.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Are Russians desperately lacking airport security?

I am still waiting for the explanation of why are the passengers arriving to Germany from Moscow subject to a second security check in Germany? Is it because the Russian airport security is doing a bad job, or because Russians sell terrorist equipment in their tax-free airport shops? Why is the Russian security check adequate for a Lufthansa flight from Moscow to Germany, but not adequate for a subsequent Lufthansa flight from Germany to Lisbon? I am sure the brusselcrats have a perfectly logical explanation for this idiocy.

German Security Lingusts

Beware that the definition of "liquid" as per German airport security staff includes caviare - by extension. They made me to drop off my cabin luggage not allowing to take on the plane the product I bought back in Moscow ... Do Germans habitually drink caviare?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Free Coffee Kaputt

On March 3, 2013 I found no more free hot drinks provided by Lufthansa to its clients at the Frankfurt airport. Gone. Kaputt. I guess the debt crisis got it.

The toilet I used was quite dirty and smelly too. Is this a general degradation of the service standards?

Last time I also got free WIFI internet access from my computer for 30 minutes - not any more ...