Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Sleeper Train Review

If your heading for Thailand, one thing for the to do list is a trip on their excellent train network.

If your heading for Thailand, one thing for the to do list is a trip on their excellent train network. One of the most popular routes is up to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, the sleeper train gives you the best of both worlds , experiencing life on the rails, whilst saving the price of a hotel room and no pesky baggage limits, it’s a win win all round. The route has undergone an upgrade in 2016 with fancy new electric powered rolling stock from China added on this route, which makes for a much smoother ride.

Its best to book as early as possible, seats are released up to 3 months in advance. I recommend using a booking agent who can secure your chosen seats for a relatively small booking fee. I used 12gotoAsia, and was able to pick up my tickets from their offices across the road from the station the day before departure, with minimal hassle, and well worth the modest booking fee. If you want to make the most of your time in Chiang Mai, I recommend booking your seats on train number nine , this is one of the upgraded train, which gets into Chiang Mai around 7am.

This is my Thailand Railways on board experience …..

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All aboard to Chaing Mai

Route Hualamphong Station, Bangkok to Chiang Mai ( Train 9 )

Duration: 12 hours Dep 18.10 Arr 7.10

Class : 2nd Class with Air Con

Seat Lower bunk 25 / Upper Bunk 26

Fare : 941 Baht ( £25 gbp / $ 30 ) – upper bunk 1041 Baht ( £27 gbp / $33 ) – lower bunk ( plus agent booking fee 250 baht / £6.50 / $8 per ticket )

At The Station

Hualamphong train station is adjoined to Hua Lamphong metro station on the blue line, you access the train station via an approx 10 minute in a thankfully air conditioned underground walkway. Due to the notoriously bad Bangkok traffic, this is the best way to travel to the station if your travelling light.

On the platform there is a food centre with vendors selling hot food as well as a coffee house , dunkin donuts stall and a small supermarket, perfect for loading up with snacks & drinks for the journey, though its worth noting alcohol is strictly forbidden on the train, along with smoking.

Boarding

Passengers are advised to be on the platform approx 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time, as soon as the train pulled into the platform, staff went to work loading clean linen and food supplies and cleaning down the cars ready for the next journey.

After approx 20 minutes the train was ready to go again, and passengers were allowed to board. All the seating on the sleeper is allocated, you are assigned your carriage and seat number when booking, there’s a choice between an upper or lower bunk, the lower bunk is slightly wider and longer than the top bunk and a 100 baht more.

In the Carriage

Upon boarding, I noticed that everything was spotlessly clean, which for the time they had to clean, was pretty impressive. When I booked approx 6 weeks in advance, I was unable to secure a first class cabin, and I was very dubious about what the second class experience was going to be like , thankfully all my doubts were squashed when we boarded.

Each carriage has 40 seats / bunks , 20 on each side arranged over 10 bays of an upper and lower bunk. each bunk has its own reading light and more importantly a plug / usb socket , though sadly  there was no wifi onboard this service.

Upon boarding the upper bunk was locked , At roughly 8pm the steward came into the carriage and started making up everyones bunks ready for bed.

All the linens ( sheets and pillow cases ) were sealed in plastic bags straight from the laundry, a blanket is left on your bunk still sealed.

Settling down for the night I was quite surprised as to how spacious the lower bunk was, at 5ft 7 I’m hardly tall, but there was bags of room at the end of the bed .

Shortly after the steward had finished setting up all the beds , people started drawing their curtains and retiring for the evening. The curtains gave total privacy, but one thing to note is the carriage lights are on all night, so if your a light sleeper, I’d recommend bringing an eye mask. The air con is also pretty fierce, so long trousers and a fleece are necessary so you don’t wake up freezing.

One of the main concerns I had about travelling 2nd class was the shared facilities, each carriage had three toilets, and they were kept scrupulously clean throughout the journey, as well as a separate double sink.

After a solid six hours of sleep, the steward came thru the carriage at around 6.30am gently waking everyone, and began changing the beds back to seats ready for our arrival into Chiang Mai.

Whilst waking up at 6.30am whilst on holiday is not my idea of fun , it gives you a chance to catch a glimpse of rural Thailand from the train.

Food & Drink

I was expecting great things in regards to food offerings on this journey, but I was sadly disappointed. As I boarded the train, a staff member came through the train offering orange juice and fruit plates, be warned this is NOT FREE , someone will come back and charge you 50 baht for each item , which for Thailand is grossly overpriced, so you have been warned.

After we settled in, someone came round with menu and was taking food orders. There was a choice of just four set menus. There were no other food options available, so as we hadn’t eaten before boarded the train and had anticipated a better selection, we were forced to go with the set menu. Sadly the quality was very disappointing , I went for Menu B , the duck was very fatty, the chicken sauce was very gloopy and there were more nuts than chicken plus the jasmine rice was rock solid, I barely touched it, a waste of 210 baht.

I’d advise checking out the food options at the food centre in the station before you board the train, as there will more choice and probably a lot cheaper than eating on the train, there seemed to be any issue with people bringing their own food on to the train.

Small bottles of water were also handed out by the steward free of charge , though i’d would advise to bring at least a 2 litre bottle each as the carriage gets very dry due to the air con, as none of the windows open.

In My Opinion …..

If your looking for side trip out of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a great place to escape to for a few days out of the hustle, bustle and heat of Bangkok, where the temperature is cooler and the hotel rates are cheaper. The sleeper train is great to do with kids, as there’s loads more space on the train for them to stretch their legs than being trapped in a plane seat , and for a sleeper service its bargain, especially as you save on a nights accommodation.

Second class was perfectly fine, and much better than I expected, the carriage was a mixed of locals and tourists and as soon as the bunks were made up, people drew their curtains and went to sleep. I would advise bringing something to chain your luggage to your seat for extra piece of mind , but your carriage is looked after by a dedicated steward so it would be pretty difficult for someone to make off with your luggage without being noticed , but you can never be too careful. I slept with my valuables ie phones passports and money in a backpack in my bunk, with my luggage stowed under the seats.

When you arrive at Chiang Mai , you will be met by a sea of taxi drivers all fighting for your business , a tip, when choosing a taxi, I was reliably informed that it should cost more than 200 baht to get anywhere in the city.

For further info regarding routes and schedules, please got to Thailand state railway website here . For information regarding other routes in Thailand, and around Asia , check out Man in Seat 61 a worldwide rail travel website.

EL AL 787 Dreamliner, Premium Economy Cabin, Tel Aviv to London Heathrow Flight Review

EL AL was formed in 1948, when it operated its maiden flight, bringing home Israel’s first President, Professor Haim Weizmann, from a diplomatic visit to Geneva. EL AL owes its name to David Remez, the first Minister of Transport, who based the name on a passage from the book of Hosea. With a current fleet of 42 aircrafts including 9 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, EL AL now flies to over 50 destinations in Asia , Europe , Africa and North America.

EL AL Security

Famous for their tight security measures, If your nervous about security when flying , EL AL is your go to airline. Security checks are said to start from the moment you book your ticket, as I was on the return leg of my journey, I had effectively already been screened and cleared on my outgoing flight from London. It’s worth noting everyone is interviewed before being allowed to check in, I was only asked a couple of questions at Tel Aviv and I was waved through in literally 2-3 minutes , but allow at least three hours when checking for an ElAl flight just on case you get delayed in security.I found the whole EL AL Security experience a tad nerve racking, just make sure you can account for everything in your luggage or things could get awkward.

This my premium economy cabin experience flying from Tel Aviv to London Heathrow…

Flight LY317 5.20PM

Route Tel Aviv – Yafo to London Heathrow

Cabin Premium Economy 2-3-2 Configuration

Seat 20K

Flight Duration 5 hours 25 minutes

Plane Type Boeing 787-900

Checked Baggage allowance 2 x 23kg

Boarding

When reaching the gate there were again extra security checks just before boarding, I wasn’t selected this time, but If picked you out will need to make all your hand luggage available for further screening, this delayed boarding somewhat but impressively we still managed to get away on time.

El AL crew on board the new boeing 787 dreamliner

Premium Economy passengers were able to board after Business class passengers, I received a warm welcome upon boarding the aircraft from the two dedicated crew members assigned to our cabin. After I got seated I was offered a hot towel and drink whilst economy passengers were boarding.

Cabin & Seat

The premium economy cabin is located in rows 17 to 20, inbetween the business and economy cabins, featuring 28 seats arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Seat Map ( courtesy of SeatGuru.com )

Each seat has a pitch of 38 inches and is 19 inches wide. Sitting in the last row of the cabin sometimes can be uncomfortable , but if anything I felt I had a bigger recline than normal due to there not being a seat behind me.

On my seat I found a comfortable pillow , and a decently thick blanket and I was handed an amenity kit after takeoff.

ELAL Premium Economy Dreamliner seat

The Amenity kit was a nice surprise, especially as most airlines are cutting back on offering them. Whilst the kit is quite basic, it contains the essentials , and I found the eye mask to be of a good quality.

ELAL Premium Economy Amenity Kit

ELAL Premium Economy Amenity Kit

Entertainment

For a new aircraft , I found the ELAL entertainment offering to be quite limited, though the screen was a generous 13 inches, there were only a few current blockbusters available on this flight which were straight out of the cinema, but in addition there was a large number of classic English and Isreali films and music so there was plenty to watch on a relatively short flight. Im also a fan of the moving map so I can keep track of my wereabouts in the air

The Dreamliner is WiFi enabled and I’m happy to report that I had a strong signal throughout the flight and was able tweet and post to my social media with no problems., which is no easy feat especially when flying internationally. The WiFi is available to purchase on the flight using a credit card. A free package is available, but its only for using the Whats Up app.

Food & Drink Service

After take off there was a full alcoholic bar service, with my drink I was served with a small snack bag of crackers and dinner menus were handed out ( please note all meals served onboard ELAL are kosher ).

Approx 90 minutes into the flight dinner was served, the crew member came and took everyones order individually and the meals were brought out one by one. Playing it safe I plumped for the cooky bag spring chicken, intially when presented with the chicken in a plastic bag, I wondered if the crew had forgotten to plate my meal , but after a quick explanation, a cooky bag I was advised, ensures that the chicken complies with kosher rules.

There was one meal service on this flight , the food served was delicious hot and well presented on china plates. To be honest I could have easily managed another cooky bag of chicken.

In My Opinion…

I was originally booked into the Economy Cabin, but was offered an upgrade to Premium Economy cabin for $250 / £190 at the check in desk. It must have been popular as the cabin was full , but to answer the burning question of is it worth splashing out for the upgrade ? If it was a night flight or I was 6ft plus yes absolutely, but in all honestly for this early evening mid haul flight I would have been fine in the economy cabin, so this was a bit of a indulgence for me.The cloth seat was very comfortable with plenty of room to stretch out. I could also get out of my seat without disturbing my seat mate, which is always a plus, and as the cabin was only over four rows, the crew were always on hand, and were pleasant and efficient and didn’t do a disappearing act after the meal service. The only downside was on the ground with the constant security checks, but it wouldn’t put me off flying with ELAL again.

For more information on EL AL and their routes and fares check out their website https://www.elal.com

Please note I was travelling as a guest of EL AL in economy, but paid for the upgrade into premium economy myself, but as usual all opinions here are my own

Easy Jet London Gatwick to Reykjavik, Iceland #A321Neo Flight Review….

EasyJet was established in 1995, by Greek Cypriot businessman Stelios Haji-Ioannou , as a low cost airline that served all of Europe.

Now as one of Europe’s leading airlines, EasyJet is currently operating on over 900 routes across more than 30 countries with a fleet of over 275 Airbus aircrafts.

Here’s is my Easy Jet experience flying from London Gatwick to Reykjavic Iceland.

Flight EZY 8503

Cabin Economy – Easyjet operates all planes with one cabin

Seat 16A

Flight Duration 3 Hours 20 minutes

Plane Type Airbus A321Neo

Boarding

Passengers who purchased speedy boarding were allowed to board first , though since the introduction of allocated seating, I fail really to see the point of speedy boarding.

Boarding was done via external stairs to the front and back of the plane onto a brand new A321Neo aircraft.

Cabin & Seat

The A321 Neo is the largest aircraft in the Easy Jet fleet with a whooping 235 seats, in a single aisle, 3-3 configuration

The first thing I noticed about the seats were, they looked a lot slimmer than usual , which initially was worrying, but with a seat width of 17.3 inches , I didn’t notice any difference once I sat down.

With a standard 29 inches of legroom, and new look pleather seat covers instead of the usual fabric seat, I definitly found the seat a lot more comfortable that usual.

The only difference on the new seat that I noted was, they no longer recline, which in my opinion is a good thing, theres nothing worse than having your someones head literally in your lap even if it a short flight.

Food & Drink

There is no complimentary food or drink service included on any Easy Jet flights , but there is a pay on board option of snack type meals, consisting of toasties , sandwiches as well as drinks including some alcohol, available from the Easy Jet Sky Cafe.

The only issue I have with the food service is they understandably only carry a limited amount of food, but sometimes they tend to run out, before they reach your row if your sitting near the rear of the plane. So I normally just bring my own snacks, or buy something before boarding at the airport.

In my Opinion …..

Easy Jet provides exactly what it says on the tin, low cost no frills air travel, and with return fares regularly as low as £50 return to Europe from the UK when booking in advance, Easy Jet provides a solid low cost service. If you travel light, and bring your own snacks on board you can keep your costs to a minimum.

Whilst I personally have a Easy Jet limit of flights under four hours flying time , this new more comfortable aircraft could be a total game changer for travelling beyond Europe for Easy Jet in the future. Great flight , good service , massive network , really what’s not to like ?.

For more information on routes and fares , check out the Easy Jet website

http://www.easyjet.com

Please note I purchased my ticket for this flight and recieved no concessions to write this review for Easy Jet. As usual all opinions are my own.

Emirates A380 Economy Class London Gatwick to Dubai Flight Review

The Emirates story started in 1985 when they launched operations with just two aircrafts a leased Boeing 737, and an Airbus 300. Fast forward and now Emirates are flying to over 155 destinations in more than 80 countries around the world. Over 1,500 Emirates flights depart Dubai each week on their way to destinations on six continents, from their dedicated terminal in Dubai Airport.

This is my Economy Cabin experience flying from London Gatwick to Dubai…

View from the  emirates A380 cockpit
View from the A380 cockpit

Flight EK012 9.40am

Route London Gatwick to Dubai

Cabin Economy 3-4-3 configuration

Seat 68A

Flight Duration 6 hours 50 minutes

Plane Type Airbus A380

Boarding

Boarding started promptly at approx 9am, economy & business boarded at the same time due to the cabins being on separate decks , which ultimately cut down on the boarding time.

Boarding on Emirates A380
Boarding on Emirates A380

I recieved a warm welcome from a crew member and the flights Cabin Manager who were at the aircraft door welcoming passengers onboard.

Emirates crew in A380 entrance door
A warm welcome upon boarding

Cabin & Seat

The economy cabin takes up the entire lower deck on the A380, from rows 52 to 88, with seats in a 3-4-3 configuration.

Seat map courtsey of SeatGuru.com

The cabin is split into three sections , with the rear section being the smallest with only eight rows.

I was sitting in the middle section in seat 68A , in my opinion one of the best economy seats in the cabin, this is due to the seat in front being removed due to the curvature of the plane. The seat is classed as an extra legroom seat, which is £75 to pre book , or you can take your chances at check in and nicely ask if its available for allocation on the day.

Seat 68A

Its worth noting that on the A380 seats rows 68 & 81 A& K in the economy cabin all have no seat in front of them , which means these are the ones to aim for if you need plenty of legroom.

Legroom for days

A regular economy seat has a pitch of 32 to 34 inches , I’m 5ft 7 and found it comfortable when I tried out the empty seat next to me in 68B.

Legroom in a regular economy seat

Arriving at my seat I found a decent cotton covered pillow, a lightweight fleece blanket and a pair of headphones for the flight.

Whilst there were no amenity kits in the economy cabin, I noted there were toothbrush packs stocked in the restrooms for passengers to take.

On the seat

Entertainment

Emirates on board entertainment system ICE is as good as in flight entertainment can get with over 4,000 channels of movies , box sets and music , there’s plenty to keep you entertained. If your a sports fan you won’t even miss the big game whilst your in the air, Emirates streams live sport events straight to your seat in all cabins.

Emirates pull out entertainment screen

As well as the entertainment channels you can follow your flight’s progress on the moving map, or see the world from 40,000ft on the planes external cameras.

Emirates moving map
Emirates moving map

Whilst the plane was wifi enabled, sadly I was unable to connect as the system was not accepting my Emirates Skywards number, so despite a number of attempts, so im unable to provide any feedback on this, but wifi is avalible up to 150mb or up to 500mb for a fee paid onboard by inputting your credit card details.

Inflight wifi charges

Food & Drink Service

Upon boarding crew were handing out menus and serving water and juice with a small bag of pretzels before take off.

Once in the air, I noted there was no drinks service before the lunch service which started a tad early at 11.25am in my opinion, especially as I’d had breakfast in the terminal just moments before boarding started.

Emirates economy cabin food menu
Emirates economy cabin food menu

On the menu there was a choice of two mains , a chicken curry ( pictured below ) or a braised beef, I was surprised to see that there was no main vegetarian option offered on the menu.

The meal was served with a small appetiser of coleslaw, finishing with a desert of apple and blackberry torte , which was more like a crumble. It’s worth noting, all meals served on Emirates are halal as standard.

The meal was tasty and served pipping hot , which is no easy feat with plane food, especially in large economy cabins, I finished everything , and easily could have eaten another chicken curry.

Emirates economy cabin main meal

After the meal there was a bar service with the usual beers, wine (basic red or white ) and spirits. Champagne was also available for a fee of $20 for a small 200ml bottle.

In between the meal service , crew would regularly come through the cabin with soft drinks , and would get alcoholic drink when requested.

Approximately 90 minutes before landing an ‘afternoon tea’ was served, with a chicken tikka and cheese and pickle sandwich and a warm scone served with cotted cream and jam and a cup of tea.

Emirates economy cabin afternoon tea

Emirates economy cabin afternoon tea

In my opinion …

This was my first experience on Emirates, Its well known that Emirates works hard to provide a great passenger experience, and on this flight I found the crew warm and friendly, and willing to go the mile.

I found my seat comfortable and had plenty legroom and the entertainment system had more than enough to keep me entertained during the flight. The food was more than adequate for plane food, and more importantly was served hot which is always a plus. I found flying in the economy cabin on Emirates was a good experience, this was enhanced by me having a great seat which I think is worth paying for on longer flights, so you are guarenteed to be able to strech out in comfort.

For more information regarding Emirates routes and fares check out their website https://www.Emirates.com #Flybetterwithemirates

Top tips for visiting London for the first time … Part One

Get an Oyster card

 

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If you only buy one thing when you get to London, make it an Oyster card. ( £5 deposit is payable) These handy pay-as-you cards are issued by Transport for London (www.tfl.gov.uk) and make travel on London’s buses, trains and tubes much cheaper and easier. Using an oyster doesn’t just save time, but it saves money, a central London cash tube journey is £4.20, while using an Oyster card the fare is only £2.20. Can be picked up any tube station including Heathrow, and Oyster ticket shops.

Get a London A to Z Map Book

 

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Despite everyone owning a smart phone , nothing will replace the humble A to Z London map book.Long after your phone battery has died , the A to Z is worth its weight in gold with every London street clearly marked , you can pick one up at any bookstore.

Get good waterproofs

London is well known for its unpredictable weather. The day may start sunny & bright but by lunchtime there could be torrential downpours, ALWAYS carry a foldable mac or an umbrella you have been warned

Do your Web Research

There are a number of sites to check that will save you cash, & give you itinerary ideas here’s are a few of the most popular

http://www.lastminute.com – as it says on tin last minute deals for literally everything Hotels , trips , attractions , spa days , show tickets .

http://www.opentable.co.uk – a London restaurant discount booking site that finds the closest restaurants to your location or budget , discounts can be up to 50% off.

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com– not necessarily a tourist site , but sometimes they have great deals for all so worth checking out.

http://www.airbnb.co.uk
With the average London hotel room hitting £160 per night, AirBNB is an ideal solution to finding accommodation . Also by having an apartment, you can make your own meals saving more cash for that big night out. Just pick somewhere near to transport links and within zone 3 of the tube map as a rule so your not wasting time travelling back & forth.

http://www.southbanklondon.com – For all things cultural in London , theatre , gallery events , art , head to the the Southbank located steps from London Waterloo station on the river always good for an afternoon stroll.

See London from the River

 

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Cruising down the Thames is a great way to see London and rest your weary legs. Check out http://www.thamesclipper.com for times & routes and the good news is you can use your oyster card for a discounted fare.

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Check out the best free view in London

The Sky Garden , aka the walkie talkie building is London’s best kept secret , located across the river from the famous London Shard which charges an eye watering £32 to check out the views down the Thames, book into the Sky Garden for totally Free entry for the same view , plus you get a shot of the shard in all your pictures , the only catch is you need to book in advance at https://skygarden.london . There is also a cafe and restaurant at the top so maybe splash out on dinner with the money saved on entry fees.

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Check out Londons best Museums

Great activity for a rainy day there will be a few rainy days , no matter what time of year you visit, this is London it rains accept it. London’s museums are world class and more importantly most are FREE , here are the main ones not to miss ….

British Museum

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Where: Bloomsbury
Open: 10am-5.30pm every day, till 8.30pm Fri. Closed 1 Jan, Good Fri and 24-26 Dec.
Description: An always busy and always fascinating collection of over eight million objects. Themes include Leaders & Rulers, Animals, and Money.

Museum of London

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Where: London Wall
Open: Every day 10am-6pm. Closed 24-26 Dec.
Description: One of the world’s largest urban history museums. Exhibitions include the story of modern London from 1666 to today.

Science Museum

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Where: South Kensington
Open: Every day 10am-6pm, except 24-26 Dec.
Description: Vast museum of advancements in science, medicine, technology and industry. Suitable for young and old alike.

Natural History Museum

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Where: South Kensington
Open: Every day 10am-5.50pm. Closed 24-26 Dec.
Description: Life and earth science specimens in five collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology and Zoology.

National Portrait Gallery

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Where: Just off Trafalgar Square
Open: Every day 10am-6pm. Thu-Fri until 9pm.
Description: Founded in 1856, it has over 195,000 portraits, from modern subjects to paintings from the 16th century.

For more ideas on what to do and what to see check out the official Visit London Website https://www.visitlondon.com

 

Emirates A380 Business Class Dubai to London Gatwick Flight Review

The Emirates story began in 1985 when the airline launched operations with just two aircrafts, Today, they fly the world’s biggest fleets of Airbus A380s .

emirates gold logo

Flying to more than 155 destinations in more than 80 countries around the world, more than 1,500 Emirates flights depart Dubai each week on their way to destinations on six continents from their dedicated terminal in Dubai Airport.

This is my business class experience flying from Dubai to London Gatwick….

Flight : EK009 14:35

Route: Dubai (DXB) to London Gatwick (LGW)

Seat : Allocated 10D (aisle) then switched to 8B (partial window)

Cabin : 76 Business class seats / 1-2-1 Configuration

Flight Duration: 8 hours

Plane Type : Airbus A380-800 (3 Class)

Check-in

The best way to travel to the airport is by metro, which comes straight into the Emirates-dedicated terminal 3 at Dubai airport. It was then a short walk over to the raft of check-in terminals.

emirates check in information stand
Emirates check in

There is a dedicated Business Class check-in desk, and due to the sheer number of desks available, there was no passengers waiting. When I checked in, I was informed that there were no window seats left, which was disappointing, so I was allocated one of the dreaded middle seats. Thankfully, there are two types of middle seats on the A380: one suited for couples (no console between the seats—nice and cosy) and one for solo travellers who failed to nab one of the single window or partial window seats. These have the consoles in the middle as well as a privacy screen, and I had a promise from the agent of the possibility of a move once I had boarded. After getting this squared away, I headed for the lounge.

Emirates Business Class Lounge

As a semi-regular Business Class traveller, I’m partial to a nice lounge. It’s a nice addition to the whole Business Class travel experience, but Emirates take lounges to a whole new level. Located a short walk from security via a lift to concourse A, the Business Class lounge at Dubai Terminal Three is HUGE. It literally stretches the whole of the concourse. A word of warning: if you want to try everything on offer, you’ll need to arrive in plenty of time.

There thankfully is a map just past the lounge reception area to help you plan your visit.

Emirates Dubai lounges is so big your gonna need a map

There are two fine dining areas, which are both buffet style, as well as a number of snack and coffee areas. You’re never going to be searching for somewhere to sit even on the busiest of days as there’s loads (if not way too much) seating, with desk space to catch up on work as well as loungers for taking a quick nap. There is also a kids contained play area with PlayStation consoles, a pay spa, and showers. To be honest, it didn’t feel like a lounge but instead like a massive posh terminal—just without the crowds, which is always nice. I wouldn’t mind being delayed here for a few hours.

Dubai business lounge

Boarding

Boarding for Business and First Class passengers is straight from the lounges onto the walk bridge, which saves passengers from dragging themselves out of the lounge and trying to find their gate—a definite plus.

Boarding is done simultaneously for the Business Class and Economy passengers as they are on different decks, which cuts down the boarding time, and with only 14 First Class passengers who are boarded first, I was able to enter the cabin with no delays.

As expected, I was greeted by name and shown to my seat, which they had been able to switch as requested to 8B, a semi-window seat.

Cabin & Seat

The Business Class cabin on this three-class A380-800 has a whopping 76 seats split over two cabins located in the middle of the upper deck. The very front of the deck is taken up by the First Class suites, and the rear of the cabin has the famous Emirates in-flight bar.

The front cabin has 58 seats, and the smaller rear cabin has 18 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. All seats have direct aisle access without having to climb over your seatmate, which is a plus. If you are travelling as a couple and are not worried about a window, the best seats are E and F.

If you’re a solo traveller who prefers a window or wants to get some shut-eye, you need to go for seats A and J, as these have the console on the aisle side so it’s best for privacy.

Seat map courtsey of seatguru.com

If you miss out on these, try for seats B and K. You will still get a window, you just have to lean over your console to check out the view. I ended up in this seat and it was perfectly fine, I still managed to film the take off as usual.

And then there’s seats D and G. If there can be such a thing as a “bad” seat in Business Class, these would be it. They’re out on the aisle so constantly disturbed by people moving up and down, and you’ll be too far away from your adjacent seat mate to hold a conversation.

I was surprised to note that the Business Class seat was only half an inch wider than the economy seat at 18.5 inches, but to be fair (being on the slightly chubby side myself), I didn’t feel squeezed in, and with a pitch of 48 inches there was plenty of room to stretch out on the fully lie-flat bed at the press of a button.

Emirates Business Class Seat 8B

On the seat was an almost full-size comfortable pillow with a lightweight blanket and a pair of noise cancelling headphones with the kleptomaniac-proof two-pin plug just in case you were tempted to take them home. I was disappointed to note that there were no amenity kits available on this flight, there was a packet with socks and an eye shade in the console.

There were also toothbrushes in the Business Class toilet, but I felt this was a bit of a cut too far. I know there are amenity kits given on Emirates Business Class, so I can only presume they are given just on certain routes or on flights over a certain flight time.

The well-publicised seat console had an array of goodies to play with during the flight: there was a central panel containing a single reading light, a multi-charging point for two USB points, a 110-volt power point, and the headphone jack. There’s also a mini soft drinks “bar” containing a bottle of water, juice, and two soft drinks.

Emirates business class seat console

There was also a tablet which acts as a controller for the excellent ICE entertainment system—if only I could have gotten it out of its docking station. Not wanting to break anything, I enlisted the help of the cabin crew, but it was firmly wedged in, so sadly, I didn’t get to try it out.

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Also there’s the option if you tire of your seat, you can take a short walk to the rear of the plane and hang out with the other passengers in the bar area, which the A380’s have recently been fitted with new a table area , which is a good place to socialise.

Emirates new A380  business class bar area seating
Emirates new A380 business class bar area seating

Entertainment

Emirates’ on board entertainment system, ICE, is as good as in-flight entertainment can get with over 4,000 channels of movies, box sets and music. There’s plenty to keep you entertained. If you’re a sports fan, you won’t even miss the game whilst you’re in the air; Emirates streams live sport straight to the plane, where you can watch it on your in-seat screen. There’s also a large screen in the bar area if you’re feeling sociable.

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Watch the match on the big screen whilst at the bar

As well as the entertainment channels, you can follow your flight’s progress on the moving map or see the world from 40,000 feet on the plane’s external cameras.

Whilst the plane was wifi-enabled, sadly, I was unable to connect as the system was not accepting my Emirates Skywards number despite a number of attempts, so I’m unable to provide any feedback on this.

Food & Drink Service

Upon boarding, crew were offering a pre take-off drink of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label champagne, which was offered along with water and juice. A drinks and food menu was handed out by the crew before take-off and orders taken. All meals served on Emirates are Halal. This is not something that concerns me personally, but it’s worth noting. With a mid-afternoon take off, the food service started approximately 90 minutes in.

Having a scan through the menu, I went for the lamb shank, sadly the presentation was poor, and apart from the lamb looking wholly unappetizing, the gravy was slopped all over the edges of the plate and the vegetables looked soggy and overcooked, so I sent it back untouched.

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The crew did ask if I wanted to try something else, but luckily, I’d already eaten in the lounge, so I wasn’t particularly hungry. I had great expectations for the Emirates onboard food service, but sadly it fell well short of a Business Class standard on this flight.

In my opinion….

Emirates was the last of the big three Middle East carriers I had to fly, and I was not disappointed. Emirates works hard on providing an all-round experience rather than just the flight.

This experience was excellent, from arriving at the enormous lounge at DXB with two fine dining restaurants and a spa as well as a fully-equipped kids gaming room and being able to walk straight from the lounge onto the plane, to hanging out at the on-board bar at the rear of the plane where the crew are happy to snap a souvenir photo of you behind the bar to take home.

As far as downsides, there were a couple I noted: firstly, the onboard food service was not up to scratch on this particular flight, which was disappointing, especially flying from their home airport. The second was the lack of an amenity kit, which I had expected.

In conclusion, Emirates go out of their way to make your flight memorable, though the experience doesn’t come cheap. A return Business Class fare on this route averages around £3,000, but there’s definitely above-average bang for your buck flying with Emirates.

For more information on Emirates’ latest routes, and fares check their website at http://www.emirates.com.

Please note, a complimentary upgrade into the Business Cabin was kindly provided by Emirates, but as usual, all opinions are my own.

First time on a plane ? things to know know before you go…

It seems like only yesterday when if you wanted to travel you’d have to go down to your local travel agent , who would book your flight for you , and once booked off you’d go with your paper ticket in hand. Thankfully due to the internet, you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own to home to book your flight

The travel website Kayak done a survey and found out that 22% of British adults have never been on a plane. Doing anything for the first time is pretty scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect, so heres a few things to know before you before you go on your very first flight.

Booking your Flight

It seems like only yesterday when if you wanted to travel you’d have to go down to your local travel agent , who would book your flight for you , and once booked off you’d go with your paper ticket in hand. Thankfully due to the internet, you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own to home to book your flight, and more importantly with a raft of comparison sites you can search for the best flight to fit your budget. Here are a few sites to start with:

  • Google flights
  • Momondo
  • Skyscanner
  • Expedia

When booking be sure the name you use on your flight booking matches the name on your passport exactly , otherwise you could be hit with fees for a name change ( could be as steep as £100 per ticket ) or worst ways you could be denied boarding on the day of the flight if your travel documents don’t match.

If you have any extra requirements such as you have a disability which makes travelling difficult or are traveling with small child , let the airline know well in advance so they can make the necessary arrangements to assist you , this also includes food if your travelling on an airlines that serves food as part of your ticket . You can order a wide range of specalist meals such as low calorie , halal , kosher or vegan but again this needs advance notice.

Where to go on your first flight ?

For your first flight , Its definately worth doing a ‘practice run ‘ take a trip in your own country first. This is good firstly because the flying time will be short ( try and keep it under two hours flying time ) and if you really hate the whole flying experience its easier to get back home rather than be stranded overseas because your too scared to get back on the plane to come home. If your not sure where you want to go, google flights has a nifty feature where you can search flight to anywhere and it lists the countries and flight options and prices.

Get your Paperwork in order

In order to board a plane you will need Photo ID. If your flight is within your own country, acceptable ID other than a passport for flights within the UK would be:

  • Valid armed forces identity card
  • Valid police warrant card/badge
  • Valid photo driving licence

If you decide to go a bit further afield ie abroad, you’ll need a passport. If your applying for your very first passport it can be can be done online via the YouGov website it costs £75.50 for a standard 34 page passport.

https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-adult-passport

or another option is to pick up a passport application form at your local post office ( get two you will make a mistake ) fill it in and then go back to the post office where they will check that you’ve filled out everthing correctly before sending it off securely.

For your first passport this in my opinion this is the best way, because then you know that you haven’t missed anything out and everything is correct. Your first passport will take longer to process, as more backround checks are required. The passport office advises allowing six to eight weeks processing time. For more info on the post office check and send service go to their website , the cost for the passport via the post office is £85.00 again for 34 pages.

https://www.postoffice.co.uk/passport-check-send

Know your luggage limits

As this is your first flight its best to keep it simple , pack light using backpack or overnight bag which can fit under the seat in front or in the overhead locker. Different airlines have different weight limits be sure to check , ignore airline weight limits at your peril , if your caught overweight you will be charged, Ryan Air curently charges an eye watering £20 per kg, you have been warned.

At the Airport

So you’ve got your brand new passport , you’ve packed your bag, and its time to head for the airport. The recommended time to arrive at the airport before your flight is 2 hours for domestic flights ( inside the UK ) and up between 2 to 4 hours for international flights.

Most airlines offer an online check in and a mobile boarding pass stored on your phone.On the boarding pass it will have your seat number if you prefer a certain seat ie window or aisle you can pay for the seat when doing your online booking, this usually costs around £10 on short haul flight up to £80/100 on long haul routes each way. If your over 6ft you may want to consider booking an extra legroom seat , again these options are available when booking.

If you already have checked in online you can bypass the check in desk and head straight for the security area.

An important thing to note is if your carrying liquids in your hand luggage, a single containers must hold no more than 100ml. Containers must be in a transparent, resealable plastic bag and its one bag per person, there are no exceptions, so be sure to pack some travel sized toiletries .

At security you have to remove your coat, belts, any metal objects you have your person and take your laptop and or i pad out of its case and place everything in a tray to go through the scanner , and you will also have to pass through a metal detector, and if your really really lucky you could be chosen for ‘extra checks ‘ don’t panic just follow the security personals instructions and you’ll be fine , unless of course you’ve fired a gun recently or have carried drugs in any of your belongings as swabs can be taken of any part of your belongings , ie inside your bag lining , your bank card , phone etc . If these come up positive needless to say you won’t be making your flight.

So you’ve made it through security now all you need to do is locate you flight on the departure board, and more importantly how far away the gate is from the main concourse, otherwise your gonna have to make a run for it when you realise the gate is 15 minutes away but the gate closes in 10 minutes .

Boarding

So you’ve made it to the gate , keep your passport and boarding card handy as you will need to show this to the check in agent as you pass throught the gate to the plane. Depending on the airport and airline you will eithier enter the plane via an enclosed walk bridge or have to get onto a bus which will bus you out to the plane and use external steps.

Onboard

So you’ve made it to your seat , depending on the length of the flight there may or may not be seat back tv’s , a tip is to always take an i pad and / or phone loaded with a few films so you wont be caught out.

Again with regards to food , depending on the flying time your ticket may or may not include food. The good news is food is usually available for purchase on most flights, but you can also bring your own food on board if you wish. Just think of your fellow passengers and leave smelly food at home, sandwiches , rolls , cold pasta are all good things to bring with you and are security friendly.

After everyone is on board the crew will go through a safety demonstration , its extremly important that you pay attention to the safety information , it could literally save your life in an emergency.

Then after everyone’s buckled in its time for the pilot to head for the runway and its up up and away enjoy your flight and then you can look forward to the next one !!!

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Bon Voyage !!!