Monday, 19 November 2018

Doha stop-over, or: how to survive the sandbox

Museum roof
Doha is the home base of Qatar Airways. The government has decided to introduce some sights they regard worth seeing, including a rebuilt Souq and a few museums. From the airport, you can take a taxi into the city center, which costs 50 Qatari Rial (approx. 12,50 euro). Qatar Airways has prolonged its free stop-over program, by which you can get a 4 or 5 star hotel for a night for free (excluding breakfast).
Museum of Islamic Art
As we had a 15 hour stopover during daytime, we decided to get into the city center and visit the Museum of Islamic Art. That museum is well worth the visit, exhibiting a beautiful, though (chronologically and geographically) diverse collection of artefacts, in an impressive building. Entrance is for free, and the museum has a cafe with reasonably priced food and drinks, and a shop with less reasonably priced stuff.
Honestly, do you want to see this giant pearl?
But otherwise, to be honest, I wouldn't bother again to visit the city. Basically, it has the feel of a suburb. It's usually insanely hot (we once got offered a terrace heater when we sat outside at nights and it was 'only' 24 degrees centigrade) and it hasn't got a 'soul' (at least we haven't discovered it). Qatari people are doing their shopping, followed by their nannies and porters as if they were their shadows. But if you fancy see a giant pearl, well, it maybe something for you...

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Appraisal of Qatar Airways A320 business class cabin

My wife and I had the opportunity to test the Qatar Airways A320 business class product on a flight from Prague to Doha and vice versa. Qatar Airways flies on narrow body planes from many European destinations, and although we prefer the wide bodies, in particular Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 for their comfort (high cabin pressure, more space in the cabin), Qatar still manages to offer a more than decent product on its narrow body fleet.
High tea, taken literally

The business class cabin on the A320 comprises of 12 full flat seats in a 2 - 2 setting slightly geared towards the windows for improved privacy. The seat is somewhat similar to the seat found on the Qatar Airways 777 fleet (obviously not the revamped QSuite), but it is narrower which you will notice especially if you try to sleep.

Noticeably, Qatar still manages to effectively offer their dine on demand service throughout the flight, which is especially an amazing feat of the crew, who has to work in the cramped galley on the plane's front. There is only one, also very cramped, toilet directly behind the cockpit. With very few exception, Qatar has excellent crews who are really focused on getting you the best service on such planes.

Obviously, the Qatar business product is infinitely better than what European airlines offer on their short haul fleet. Having said that, the airlines will very rarely employ their short haul fleet for such long flights (in this case, around 6 hours). The verdict: recommended, however if you have a chance of getting on a wide body instead, you should definitely do that. By now, Prague has two daily connections with Doha, one of which is served by a Boeing Dreamliner.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

7 pitfalls when using Grab

Grab is the south-east Asian variant of Uber, and actually owned by Uber. It's a great way to get around in e.g. Thailand, but beware: it's easy, but not always the best option available. In this blog post, I list 7 pitfalls to avoid when using Grab:

  1. Remember that data roaming can be excessively expensive. Prepare and buy a local sim to use Grab - you need an active data connection to use the service.
  2. The Grab app is slightly different from the Uber app. You can, for instance, not give tips via the app. Keep some change for the driver.
  3. You can call the driver or the driver can call you - but that short call might be easily more expensive than the fare itself if you use roaming.
  4. Grab can be more expensive than a taxi. Keep a close eye on the fares. Especially fares to outside city limits will easily cost you more money than getting a taxi and agree a price beforehand.
  5. You can easily get a Grab out of town, but it's much harder to get one back. 'All our drivers are busy' is Grab speak for no driver being in the vicinity of your location. You're at the mercy of taxi drivers now!
  6. The base fare for a ride in a city may be much lower than one outside a town, easily differing a factor seven. Also a reason to be aware of the fact that a taxi may be cheaper.
  7. You can either pay by credit card or in cash. To use a credit card, obviously, you should enter your card details in the Grab app. 
Bottom line: Grab is a great way to get around in South-East Asia, reducing the risk of getting conned. However, count in local 'taxi wars' - we almost got forced out of a car in the middle of a high way because our driver was scared of taxi drivers at the bus station where we were heading...