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.

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.

 London to Glasgow Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper Train

Lonely planet Travel Quote

Travelling overnight between Scotland and London on the Caledonian Sleeper, is often touted as a travel must do. It’s not the fastest nor even cheapest way to get to Scotland from London, but it’s certainly the most exciting.

Boarding the train in London Euston, at around 11pm, then after a quick night cap in the lounge, its time to retire to your cabin, before waking up to a view of the Highlands whizzing past your window.

Check out my onboard experience below.

Included in my 1st single berth ticket:

  • Exclusive use of 1st class single berth cabin
  • Free hot or continental breakfast to eat in your cabin or lounge car
  • Complimentary toiletry pack and sleep kit
  • Free access to First Class lounge at London Euston and other station

Upon arriving at Euston station I headed for the Virgin 1st class Lounge, and before you start getting excited , it’s nothing like Virgins airport lounge, but it is away from the hustle and bustle of the main station. The lounge serves a limited range of free refreshments, ( tea ,coffee & soft drinks ) and snacks ( crisps , biscuits & fruit ). There is alcohol available, but it’s chargeable, there are comfortable seats , plug sockets and quiet work spaces so it’s definately worth stopping by.

This best thing about access to the Euston station lounge , is that theres a decent shower to use, ( there are no showers on the Sleeper ) so you can get a hot shower on arrival, before you head off to start your day. If your travelling first class its free, including towels and shower gels etc. If your on a standard ticket, you can still have access to the showers for £5.00, you just need to buy a voucher from the on train host.

Virgin trains 1st class lounge Euston shower room

The Sleeper runs 6 nights a week , Sunday to Friday in both directions. Boarding starts at 11pm and the train leaves Euston promptly at 11.50pm.

Before turning in for the night, theres just time to visit the onboard lounge for a night cap, or a traditional Scottish supper of a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties.

Night cap on the Caledonian Sleeper Dining car on the Caledonian sleeper

Then is back to your extremely snug cabin, check out my in room vlog below.

There are no plugs in the cabin, but there are 3 newly added USB sockets, oddly located above the sink area, if you want to use your phone / laptop while charging, a 2 meter lead just about reaches the bed.

The bed was comfortable, and I managed to get a decent nights sleep, but I personally found them extremely narrow, and there was certainly no room for tossing & turning.

As previously mentioned there are no showers on the train ( the whole service is due an major overhaul in 2018 which will include ensuite showers ) . There are a couple of toilets at the end of each carriage and a wash basin in each cabin.

The cabin comes with bottled water, and a cute sleep kit from Scottish company Arran Aromatics, body wash & lotion, an eye mask , flannel , ear plugs , socks and a pretty nice smelling pillow spray to help you drift off into the land of Nod.

If your getting off in the Lowlands, ie Edinburgh / Glasgow the train pulls in at approx 7 am, I was disappointed that due to leaving late and arriving early there is no view from the window, as your travelling in darkness. So its worth noting if your taking the train for the view, you wont see it on this train, you’d have to travel further up to the highlands i.e. Inverness , Aberdeen & Fort William, where ive been told you’ll be able able to take in the amazing mountain views over breakfast.

I was given a prearranged knock on my cabin door at 6.30am and headed down to the lounge for my breakfast , A hot breakfast is included in the price of your first class ticket , you can choose from porridge , salmon and eggs or a traditional Scottish breakfast. You can also take it in your cabin if you wish.

Breakfast on the Caledonian Sleeper

Unfortunately there are no on station shower facilities in Glasgow , so its worth enquiring with your hotel if you can check in early, so you can take a shower when you get off the train.

Conclusion

As already noted this is not the fastest nor cheapest way to travel to Scotland , but you do save the cost of a hotel room. And it really is a great experience. Whilst i did the return journey between London and Glasgow , I probably would advise, if you just want to do it to tick it off the bucket list, one way is enough.

Booking

In order to get the cheapest fare , its best to book as early as possible , tickets are avalible up to 12 months in advance, and fares start from £130 for a single berth and £70 for sharing a twin ( one way )

To book go to

http://www.sleeper.scot

For a sneak peek at the new trains lauching in spring 2018, with double beds and ensuite showers check out the link

http://newtrains.sleeper.scot/on-board/

Please note that Serco the current operator of the Caledonian Sleeper kindly hosted my journey in order for me to write this review, but as usual opinions are all mine.

Qatar Airways, 777 Doha to London Heathrow Business Class Flight Review 

onboard review of Qatar Airways 777 business class experience.

Flight: QR1 12.55pm Doha, Qatar ( DOH ) to London, Heathrow (LHR)

Seat: 1A ( Business Class )

42 seats / 2-2-2 formation.

Plane type: Boeing 777-300ER

In July 2016 Qatar Airways won three awards at the 2016 Skytrax World Airline Awards , including World’s Best Business Class, so I was expecting great things when I boarded my flight home after a weekend in Doha.

This review is of my in flight experience flying from DOH to LHR in Business Class on Qatar Airways Boeing’s 777-300.

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Seat A1, unofficially the best seat on the plane obviously …

Boarding

Upon boarding there were two separate boarding jettys one for business & one economy passengers, so with only 42 seats in business everyone was on board, packed away and seated swiftly, without waiting for all 316 economy passengers to traipse through the cabin.

Boarding in the front Business class cabin

There was already a pillow & blanket on my seat waiting for me, the pillow was nice and firm and the blanket was decent quality and kept out the onboard drafts.

Seat & Cabin

Seat A1

legroom for days …

Upon taking my seat , the Cabin Services Director came over and introduced herself to me, addressing me by name which I thought was a nice touch.

The flight attendant then came round taking drink orders and handing out hot towels , unfortunately I’m not a frequent visitor to business class, so I thought I’d push the boat out with a glass of pink champagne before take off .

Enjoying some pre take off Champers

I was happy to see that despite being on an older plane, that the seat was wider than normal and the seat reclined totally flat as well a great vibrating back feature.

Lots of buttons to play with …

A genuine flat bed

Entertainment
I found the entertainment system disappointing , the film selection was the same on both legs of the flight, so I’d already watched what I wanted on the flight out.

I struggled to find anything to watch on the flight back, and in the end I resorted to watching BBC i player on my I phone. It was also impossible to use the handset with my false nails !!.

Great comfy headphones

Oryx on board entertainment system , fiddly to use with nails !!.

Food Service

Qatar Airways has an anytime dining menu, so as soon as your ready to eat the crew will prepare your meal in approx 10 minutes. the service was prompt , professional and there was an extensive food choice considering your on a plane.

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One of the things I love about business class is the dinner service. I started my meal with the Arabic mezze, it was beautifully presented with generous portions. Just because your on a plane, you still get the full resturant service, with metal cutlery and a crisp white table cloth.

Dinner is served ….

For my main I went for a low calorie option of plain chicken with wild rice & vegtables , it was a tad bland, but I think this was to do with my what I chose, rather than the actual food.

Even on a plane you can keep it healthy

after saving calories on the main course , I decided to splurge on some icecream & fruit for desert, which was of course divine.

After the dinner service, just in case you had a spare inch of stomach space left , some fancy chocolate were handed out to munch on.

Posh chocs

In My Opinion …

How anyone could ever complain about a business class flight I dont know, as I usually sit alot further back at the rear of the plane on my travels, this was a rare treat. I almost wished they’d fly around a bit longer so I could enoy a few more hours in aviation heaven. The main thing that stood out to me on the flight was the service, I staged my own experiment by ringing on the bell for the attendant, usually a big passenger no no, the flight attendant was there in less than 5 seconds!, it seems the skytrax world airline award for best staff service in the middle east was richly deserved. And just when I thought the dream was over , as I disembarked, I got handed a fast track card to get me through immigration in record time , just what you need when your trying to fight through the queues in Heathrow.

For route information and fare details check out http://www.qatarairways.com

Please note my flight was kindly provided by Visit Qatar in order to write this review , but my views & opinions are as usual all my own.

Norwegian Airlines Dreamliner London,Gatwick to Oakland,California Flight Review

Low cost air travel , it’s enough to strike fear into the most seasoned traveller, I mean no one wants to travel low cost, unfortunately it’s a case of having to for most of us, if we want to be able afford a long haul break away.

But that was then, now it’s positively trendy to go low cost , and thus the rise of Norwegian was born. Voted best low cost operator in Europe for the past 3 years in a row , CEO Bjorn Kjos had his eye on a bigger prize , the coveted transatlantic routes and in 2013 Norwegian launched their first low cost long haul route, and Norwegian now serve seven US cities soon to be eight with the latest route Gatwick – Las Vegas due to start on the 31st October 16

Now over 2.2 million transatlantic passengers later, and us Brits can finally enjoy and more importantly afford that cheeky weekend in New York for less than £400 return. But what’s it like ? surely for that price your packed in like a sardine , clinging to the wing with only a packet of peanuts for your 7 hour flight.

Here’s my Norwegian in flight experience on one of their longest flights of 11 hrs , from London Gatwick to Oakland California, in both economy & up front in premium class.

Firstly, here is the essential fare information, Norwegian has 4 fare categories.

Low Fare
This is the basic fare, it gets you an economy seat & 10kg of hand luggage with 31 inches of legroom.

Low Fare Plus

This is the enhanced basic fare with a few extras in addition to the Low Fare, that you would usually expect to be included on a traditional carrier, such as, 20 kg of checked luggage, all meals on board , plus a drinks service, including alcohol. It also includes free seat reservation when booking.

Premium

Booking a seat in premium gets you in the front 5 rows in a separate cabin of just 32 seats. The seats are bigger, more legroom at a whooping 46 inches, plus reclining seats. You also get increased checked baggage allowance of 2 pieces x 20kgs each , fast track entry through airport security and in some places there’s even lounge access. All meals & drinks are included through out the flight.

Flex tickets

If your plans are likely to change, getting a flex ticket allows you free changes or cancellation at no charge, though tickets are more expensive. Flex tickets are available in both cabins and also include meals, 2 pieces of checked baggage up to 20kg of checked luggage , fast track thru airport security and seat reservation.

Upgrades
If there’s seats available in premium , it is possible to upgrade your low fare ticket at the airport from £250 each way.

On Board

Economy

The economy cabin is split into 2 on the 787-800 , rows 6-23 in the main cabin and rows 24 -35 in the rear , the seat configuration is 3-3-3 .

Norwegian airways Dreamliner seat map

If you can’t nab the bulkhead seats in row 6 or 24 , and you don’t mind being at the back, rows 34/35 have a seat missing between them, so there’s a bit more room but you are on top of the toilets, so there’s a trade off. I’d advise choosing a seat in the rear cabin, purely as there’s less people, which equals less noise, and you’ll get served quicker by the crew.

Norwegian airways economy seat

I’m 5ft 7 , and though I’m not particularly tall, leg room on long flights is always a concern. Whilst there wasn’t much to spare, thankfully my knees weren’t jammed into the seat in front and I was able to stretch out ish .

Norwegian airways economy seat legroom

I was beyond ecstatic to see there was a USB port in my seat , which as a I phone user always in need of power , it kept everything nicely charged up during the long flight. You will need to bring your own headphones or you’ll have to buy a pair on board for £5, it’s a normal headphone plug so standard headphones will fit.

The one area I was disappointed was the entertainment offering, there was only a merge 10 ‘new movies ‘ on offer to choose from , and they were the same on my way back too, a week later. There were some classic movies and tv series available, but not really enough choice for a long flight. Luckily I always load up things to watch on my BBC iplayer / Amazon app before I travel, so I’d advise you to do the same.

If you opt for low fare plus, food is included , there was 2 servings on this flight , dinner was served within an hour of take off .

Norwegian airways inflight meal

Dinner was sweet & sour chicken , with a cous cous side and a chocolate pudding. I’m not the biggest fan of plane food , it was pretty bland , but it was edible and it filled me up . The highlight was naturally the chocolate pudding ….

The 2nd food serving was approx 2 hours before landing , and was more of a packed snack, I could have easily eaten 2 of these to be honest, I was wondering if I got a child’s snack by mistake, not really enough to fill an grown adult in my opinion.

If you opt for the Low fare option , as well as bringing your own food ( highly reccommended ), you can purchase food from the on board snack bar , though it only opens after the food service has finished, and it’s for limited times, so if your starving, you might be in for a bit of a wait.

It’s important to note, they don’t accept cash on the flight , it’s card only. You swipe your card on your tv screen at your seat, and then your order is brought to you in a matter of minutes.

For the AV geeks they had some pretty cool maps & flight info to follow during the flight, if that’s your thing.

Economy – The Verdict

I’ll be honest, I was dreading this flight , 11 hrs in economy is not my idea of a fun time , but I really noticed the difference, the larger windows and the higher ceilings inside the cabin helped with not feeling quite so crammed in.
The lower flying altitude of the Dreamliner also helped with the jetlag , and I arrived in Oakland in almost perfect condition.

Premium
Unsurprisingly I was really looking forward to this leg of the trip, the Premium cabin is in the front 5 rows of the plane in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Norwegian airways premium seat

Upon boarding, your offered a non alcoholic drink, and after take off the curtain is pulled across from the main cabin behind. There are two toilets at the front exclusively for the premium cabin, so no waiting in long lines for the toilet.

You get a blanket to use during the flight and free headphones are offered ( to keep). For this flight I was sitting in seat 3C , I’d keep away from the dreaded seat E in the middle section at all costs unless your travelling in a three.

The legroom is stated to be 46 inches , this actually bigger than every other airlines premium economy offering, where the standard leg room is 38inches. Even with my legs stretched out, I didn’t quite manage to touch the seat in front, and there was plenty of wiggle room in the actual seat also.

The seat does recline and there’s a foot rest , whilst it’s not flat, it’s was perfectly good enough to get a good night sleep, though I found the foot rest a bit annoying so I left it flipped up for the flight.

As soon as we were in the air the crew came round with the drink trolley , with the usual wine and sprits on offer. I’m not a big wine drinker but I believe there was a couple of decent white & reds to choose from.

In premium, food is included in the ticket, there was the same two services as in economy, but the food was significantly better.

I was served beef with polenta & green beans and mushrooms , and it was actually very tasty, so much so I finished the lot. There was a delicious coleslaw side and another chocolate cake for dessert, But I got so carried away I ate them before remembering I should have taken a picture!!.

As it was a night flight, the second meal serving was breakfast.

Breakfast consisted of a lovely warmed bagel , with smoked salmon , capers and cream cheese, which was a build yourself job, which was preferable to coming ready made. It was served with juice and tea or coffee and was perfectly adequate.

The entertainment was sadly the same as in economy , and the film choices hadn’t changed since my outbound flight a week earlier .

Premium – The Verdict

For me booking a premium ticket is really all about the extra space. As someone who was lucky enough to have travelled long haul in BA’s Club World cabin for a number of years , I would pitch Norwegians premium class in terms of space offered, between Premium Economy & Business class for a fraction of the price. Yes they don’t have all the bells and whistles of a traditional carrier, but you have to remember, it’s all these thing push up the ticket price.

If you book well in advance it’s possible to get a Premium return for less than a £1,000 , which is granted still a lot of money for effectively a plane seat, but on a long haul flight, I would definitely consider buying a premium ticket on a night flight to ensure a decent nights sleep.

Norwegian has only been flying long haul for 3 years and I’m sure that service in both cabin will improve with time , but so far they have already been voted the best low cost long haul operator by Skytrax for 2015, so I can’t wait to see what they come up next , I just hope that the ticket prices stay affordable.

Low cost fares to the US start from £135 one way from LGW to Boston, for more info regarding routes and pricing check out their website http://www.norwegian.com

Please note, my ticket to Oakland was kindly provided by Norwegian in order to write this review , but as usual, all opinions are mine.

First timers guide to visiting Petra, Jordan.

Petra a unesco world wonder is undoubtedly Jordan’s most valuable treasure, and greatest tourist attraction. Petra is visited by tourists from all over the world, and a independent visit is easier to plan than you think, keep reading for practical tips for your first visit to Petra.

Getting to Petra 

Start by flying into Jordans capital Amman, and then depending on your arrival time you’ll need to spend the night in Amman before catching the Jett Bus  down to Petra at the crack of dawn the next morning.

 

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The Jett bus,  leaves the bus station in central Amman at 6.30am every morning ( returns daily at 5pm from Petra ) for 11 Jordanian dinar ( JD ) pp each way (approx £11/ $15 ) . The journey takes approx 3 hours arriving at approx 9.30am , with a short bathroom break halfway. The bus pulls in right by the Petra visitor centre, and seats can be booked online on the Jett website in advance , or in their office in Amman.

http://www.jett.com.jo

 

Entry into Petra

 

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Entry into the site of Petra is only permitted to visitors holding valid tickets. These are available at the Visitor Center and can be purchased on arrival. Prices differ for foreigners and locals and a range of ticket types are available depending on the length of stay and number of visits to be made into Petra.

A 3 day pass for 60 JD is the best value for money due to the sheer size of the place. if your  just visiting for the a day it’s a steep 90 JD entry especially as its impossible to see everything in a day. ** Please note you will need to show your passport as id so don’t forget to take it with you. **

For more info check out the Petra visitor Centre website http://www.visitpetra.jo

 

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Petra’s main trail

 

Petra is not the place for the faint hearted, there is a lot of walking and step climbing to reach some of the attractions , the main trail is 5 miles long from the main gate and the attractions are all accessible off the main trail.

Licensed guides are available to hire at the visitors centre from 50- 100 JD on top of the price of your ticket (for the group not pp) as I was travelling alone,  I couldn’t justify the expense, so I purchased a Petra easy guide via I tunes, which gave a short audio on each of the sights, a helpful map and it worked just fine for me.

 

 

The best time to visit Petra is as soon as the gates open at 6am. You’ll pretty much have the place to yourself, not even the Bedouin can be bothered to get up that early, to harass the unsuspecting tourist. It’s claimed that the ticket price includes a horse ride down to the Siq, what they don’t mention, is the horse owner will expect a hefty tip when its time for you to get off, so you have been warned.

 

From the visitors centre it’s a 15 minute downhill stroll to the Siq,  then approx 20 mins to walk through the Siq to the Treasury . This is the main hang out for horses & donkeys owners plying for trade, once you get past the hustle and bustle of the Treasury area there are clear signs pointing out the main trails.

Due to well documented animal abuse that goes on at Petra,  I do not recommend hiring any animals whilst in Petra.

 

 

Most sites are up steps from the main trail but there are 2 sites which require a bit of extra planning . The Place of High Sacrifice is an 45 min upward climb, challenging but doable at a steady pace.  The main and biggest climb,  is to The Monastery the big brother of the Treasury, noticeably harder than  the Place of High Sacrifice, at around 90 minutes of a continuous upwards climb from the bottom of the steps , so lots of  water and sensible walking boots with a good grip are essential.

 

As the start of the trail to the Monastary is the furthest away from the main gate (at least an hour ) , I suggest going straight to it when the gates open. Then you’ll get the place to yourself when you reach the top. There’s even a cafe  where you can grab a mint tea, and take it all in, but be warned I didn’t see a toilet, so maybe best to stick to just the one tea.

 

 

The Bedouins do offer donkey rides to the top, which I wouldn’t recommend due to the sheer drops and narrow ledges of the path and the questionable health of the donkeys.

 

 

Along the trails , you will be invited by the bedouin to stop to drink tea, which out of sheer exhaustion I stopped for a while to catch my breath. To their credit they were hospitable and the tea was delicious , I made sure to leave a dinar or two  for their troubles before continuing on.

 

Petra by Night Tour

If you are overnighting in Petra, it’s also worth doing the Petra by night tour, This is a magical way to see Petra by candlelight, the experience starts by walking the entire Siq to the Treasury, lit with over 1,500 candles. Petra by Night runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 20:30 from Petra Visitor Centre and delivers you back to the Visitor Centre around 22.30pm. The entrance fee for Petra by Night is 17 JD, children under 10 years are admitted free of charge.

 

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Where to stay

With regards to accommodation, I stayed at the excellent  Petra Moon Hotel, a solid 3 star hotel approx  5 minute walk from Petra’s main gates, and right next to where the bus from Amman pulls in . With free wifi , comfortable western standard rooms and a roof top pool, I highly recommend it rather than the pricier Movenpick next door. After a day at Petra, you won’t have the energy to do anything more strenuous than order room service for dinner  anyway.  http://www.petramoonhotel.com



 

For more information on Petra and Jordan check out the tourist board website http://www.visitjordan.com