WizzAir had its first flight to newly build hi-tech airport in Kutaisi, Georgia

27 09 2012

Hungarian based WizzAir is the first budget flight operator to have its schedulled flights to Georgia. Many lucky travellers landed today at newly build hi-tech airport in Kutaisi, Georgia.

As you may notice from photos the work is not completely finished yet, but airport is fully functional and ready to operate.

Works will continue according the schedulle, making Kutaisi international airport one of the best in Caucasus region and near east.

Other low budget operators also expressed interest to start schedulled flights to Kutaisi.

We are now entering the new era of low cost international travels. Hurry up, while few limited low cost 25 Euro tickets to Kiev are still available.





Kutaisi Airport (KUT) Goes hi-tech and green

26 07 2012

Not only it will be the greenest and Eco friendly airport in the region, but promises to have highly advanced terminal and one of the tallest ATC towers in the world (58 m). It will be clad with a transparent skin with the potential to change colour as air traffic fluctuates.

Airport designed by UNStudio will serve domestic and international flights, including low cost airlines to promote tourism in Kutaisi and nearby cities Senaki, Zugdidi, Poti, Batumi and so on.

Wizzair will begin it’s low cost flights starting September 27, 2012.

The design for the new terminal in Kutaisi focuses first and foremost on the experience of the traveller by creating an inviting, safe, transparent and user-friendly airport. The desire to provide for and communicate equally with both international visitors and the local community is paramount.

Ben van Berkel

The 4,000 m2 terminal building will house a central arrivals hall, a check-in area with lounge, cafe and car rental facilities, three gates for departure with retail, cafes, a CIP lounge area and exterior garden, an arrival area with customs and offices for the border police and an administration area with staff rooms and press conference facilities.

Georgia, a young state in the Caucasus which has undergone considerable development in recent years, is moving its Parliament from the capital Tbilisi to the city of Kutaisi. A new parliament building is currently under construction in Kutaisi and in 2012 the first parliamentary meeting will take place.

In recent years growing numbers of tourists have been discovering Georgia, a country with an ancient and engaging history. As a result there is increasing demand from airlines to fly to Georgia. By virtue of its geographical advantages and the nearby location of two of Georgia’s most important Unesco monuments, Kutaisi was selected as the destination for a new airport. The new Kutaisi airport will in addition provide an economic impulse to Georgia’s second city and its new seat of Parliament

Interested? Read more at PlusMood





From Dreams to Scams – The eDreams Story

5 01 2012

More and more people make bookings online, whether it’ll be flight tickets or hotel vouchers. Competition is harsh in this business and not all the players play the fair game. There are more and more booking websites popping up each day some of them trickier than others. One has to be very careful before making the commitment to confirm the booking and provide billing information and credit card details.  Today I want draw your attention on eDreams.com – the site that has caused a lot of fuss lately ripping off people and overcharging naive travelers.

Typical story about eDreams is very simple – You search the web for the best possible flight ticket fares and hotel offers and come across eDreams.com offering great deals! But hold it there, not so fast! Once you start booking your price increases gradually. Here is an example for – Tbilisi- Istanbul – Tbilisi flight – offer is operated by the budget airlines “Pegasus”. eDreams initial offer prices 115 Euros.

If we compare the details on the “Pegasus” website we will see the following picture. The fare is actually higher on Pegasus. One would wonder – how is that possible?

So where is the catch? Let’s go back to eDreams and continue the booking.  After completing all the personal information and going to final page where you actually have to pay for your ticket you see that your fair has suddenly increased. So called “service fee” is added to the total price and it is higher than offered on “Pegasus” website.

But the funny story does not end here. Even if you close your eyes on this little difference and make additional payment, you are not guaranteed that you will receive your confirmed seat on the plane. eDreams does not automatically confirm your ticket and ask for dubious additional details like photo copy of your credit card that has to be faxed or emailed to them. And after they check everything and grant you a ticket, they also mention that your booking fee has actually increased a little more…again! Now you are left with two options: to cancel the booking (another painful process) or  overpay, because you have already paid a great deal of money and you are already so fed up that you don’t give a damn about additional 10 or 20 euros to finally get your ticket. But have you noticed how wrong this paragraph really sounds? Normally, every airline gives you the instant confirmation when you make booking directly on their websites and does not ask for additional suspicions details. Additionally I must advise all the readers that sending credit card and billing details over internet is highly risky and not advised. Same rule applies faxes. This is very risky! Even the issuing banks won’t ask you to do that, because they know that this is a serious risk! This is the golden rule that you must bare in mind – if you are asked a photo copy of your credit card or credit card details to be emailed, stop right there and report the scamers to proper authorities. First of all contact your bank and tell them what happened. Ask them to check if there is money blocked and if there is ask them to release it.

It’s the same story when booking the hotel. Here is one interesting example from eDreams.com. A great deal for three star hotel in the city center instantly catches your attention, but don’t forget that some things are usually too good to be true!

I may not be the great mathematician but three times 31.05 does not equal  103.50, at least not in our dimension.  But even with this additional, let’s say “service fee” of  10.35 euros  it still seems a pretty good deal.  All other websites, including Booking.Com and Venere offer the same accommodation from 175 Euros.  So where is the catch now? Once you proceed you’ll learn that you never should have come to this web-site in the first place. Each time you try to book this hotel you will get the error message stating the failure of transaction. Heaven forbid if you’ve repeated this steps few times, because your credit card is actually charged each time you try to succeed in booking this offer. But you will never get the confirmation letter for this booking. Contacting eDreams by email  is absolutely useless, as much as you get the standard letter:

” Dear Customer,

First of all, we would like to thank you for your e-mail
and for getting in contact with eDreams.

Due to the nature of this matter, your query has to be dealt with
over the phone by calling our Call Centre and a travel agent will
be glad to help you with your booking:

0034 93 492 0533.

Our opening hours are:
Monday to Friday: 0900 – 2330 (Central European Time).
Saturdays: 0930 – 1800 (Central European Time).
Sundays: 1000 – 1900 (Central European Time). “

There are hundreds of people who struggled with customer service department of edreams. Here is the fine example of one of them:

“After 13 minutes waiting for someone to answer, the first customer service representative listened to my story, then transferred me to the booking department while I was screaming at him “don’t transfer me; I don’t want to book another flight with this company!” Not listening to me, I was transferred so he didn’t have to listen to me anymore.

At the beginning of the next call, I immediately began stating my case when the customer service agent told me that there was a “problem” in the line and to try calling back (although the lady and I had already exchanged names and greetings without her mentioning a problematic line). “ (Taken from ciao.co.uk)

So, what you should do? First of all avoid using this websites. There are hundreds of raging reviews about eDreams and all the stories are much alike. All these people can’t be wrong. I personally had a bad experience with this company and I would not recommend it to anyone. If you did not know about it and became a victim of this scam immediately contact your bank and cancel the transactions and block all the future transactions from this company. If you still get charged, report it to proper authorities. many credit cards are insured from such incidents.

Only safe way to book your flight tickets is directly from flight operator websites (csa.cz, airbaltic.com, lufthansa.de, aua.com, thy.com and so on …). Buy tickets from official websites only! When it comes to booking your hotel it is advised to use websites that are proven to be reliable and safe. Personally I prefer booking.com or Venere.com. Naturally, there are other good websites too, I can’t list them all, but the golden rule of thumb is that you have to Google the booking company before making your final commitment.





Flydubai announces Tbilisi as 45th destination

16 09 2011

Flydubai, Dubai’s pioneering low-cost carrier, has named the Georgian capital Tbilisi as the 45th destination of the airline.

In a statement on Monday, flydubai said it received an official seal of approval from the Deputy Minister of Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, George Karbelashvili, who hailed the entry of flydubai into Georgia as an important milestone in the development of relations between the two nations.

“Flydubai’s entry into Georgia is a momentous step in UAE-Georgia relations and I am sure flydubai’s connection between Tbilisi and Dubai will help to establish and strengthen ties between the countries. We have a number of common areas of interest such as banking, real estate, oil and gas and tourism; and this is the opportunity to step-up collaboration in these sectors while exploring new relationship avenues,” 
Karbelashvili said.

Located at the crossroads of West Asia and Eastern Europe, Georgia has one of the strongest and fastest developing economies in the region and in recent years has made foreign investment more attractive through reduced regulation and taxes. “We are grateful to the Georgian authorities for welcoming flydubai into Tbilisi. As Georgia’s largest city as well as its industrial, social, and cultural centre, Tbilisi is gaining prominence in the Middle East both as a business and leisure destination.  Also, improving air links between Dubai to Central and Eastern Europe is of great strategic importance to us,” Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO, flydubai, said.

Flydubai currently operates five routes to former Soviet states, namely: Yerevan (Armenia) Baku (Azerbaijan), Yekaterinburg and Samara (Russia) and Ashgabat (Turkmenistan).





Thinking Canada?

27 07 2011

The fact that there is no Embassy of Canada here in Tbilisi makes it very uncomfortable for travelers to apply and get Canadian visa.

The nearest office where you can apply is in Ankara, but that does not meant you have to travel there and personally hand the documents. You can apply by commercial courier and send all documents, fee payment and application forms by courier.

Visit the website on how to apply. All the information on how to pay is available at: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/turkey-turquie/visas/processing_fees_frais_traitement.aspx?lang=eng

We wish you the best of luck in your Visa getting procedures and please share your experiences with us.





Travel with ease to Iran

27 01 2011
Beautiful Iran

Beautiful Iran

Not long awhile Georgia and Iran made an agreement for Visa Free travels between two countries. For Georgian travelers the period of Visa free entry has extended from 15 days to 45 days (maximum of 3 months). Regular flights will be carried out by Georgia’s Airzena (damn!). Thankfully Iran is reachable by other means of transportation, which I will discuss later. There are certain rules and regulation that you should know before traveling the Persian paradise. Non-compliance with these rules may result in fines from us$ 500 up to death penalties!

1. – Holders of passports containing a visa for Israel (either valid or expired) or any data that passenger has been to Israel or indication of any connection with the State of Israel, are refused entry. So what can you do about it? By Georgian law you can have as many passports as you please, so have a secondary passport free of Jewish Visa.

2. – Admission is refused to Women not wearing Islamic head cover, scarf, long sleeves or stockings. My personal recommendation would be to travel with the company of male tourists, either father, brother, husband or boyfriend. Men are also highly advised to wear long sleeve shirts and pants.

3 – Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents.

4 – funds to cover their stay in Iran

5 – All foreigners entering Iran must report their arrival within 8 days after arrival at Police Head Quarters in Tehran or at Main Police Office in other Iranian cities in order to obtain a Residential Permit. Passengers are strongly advised to have on hand several passport photos and photo copies of their passport of page containing personal dates, as all owners of private or public places (e.g.hotels) are held responsible to inform Police Authorities and Foreign Nationals Residence Record Office. Non-compliance with above will result in prosecution.

6 – Now, this is important if you are Reporters, journalists, photographers and cameramen of any nationality other than Iranian! You still require a visa to visit the country, as much as visa free program does not apply to you. You need to obtained Visa from the representation of Iran either in the country of their residence or from the representation under which competence their country of residence belongs.

How to Travel

Imam Khomeini International Airport

Imam Khomeini International Airport

By mean of air – this is the fastest and easiest way to travel. All international flights to Tehran land at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport. There are few flights from Tbilisi. Georgia’s Airzena (from 299 Euro’s twice a week), Azerbaijan’s Azal (from 434 Gel) , Turkish Airlines (553 euro). Because of the close location of the country there are other cheaper options available for traveling by land.

Travel By train:

Via Azerbaijan – There is a railway from Baku to the border city of Astara. From there you can walk through the border to Iran. The railway is going to be joined to Tehran via Rasht and Zanjan.

Travel by bus:

Via Armenia – From Armenia there are daily, modern buses travelling Yerevan to Tabriz and even further to Teheran. Otherwise the only Iran/Armenia land border at Nuduz/Agarak is very badly served by public transport. On the Armenian side you can get as far as Meghri by one Marschrutka a day from Yerevan. In both directions the Marshrutka leaves quiet early in the morning. Kaplan and Karajan are more frequently served by marschrutkas but it is a long and mountainous (and therefore expensive) stretch to the border from there. From Meghri it is around 8 km to the border and hitching or a taxi is the only option. On the iranian side the closest puplic transport can be found around 50km to the west in Jolfa, so a taxi (around 10-15$) again is the only (commercial) choice. Expect to be asked a lot for all taxi rides, so hard bargaining is essential. Make clear (or pretend) that you have other choices (hitchhiking) to get fair prices.The border is not busy at all, so when hitching you have to mainly stick with the truck drivers and Russian or Farsi helps a lot here. Consider for yourself whether this is a safe option.

Travel Tbilisi Tehran by Land

Travel Tbilisi Tehran by Land

Via  Turkey – You can find Seir-o-Safar agencies in Istanbul, Antalya and Ankara to buy cheap bus tickets for Tehran. A one-way ticket between Istanbul or Ankara and Tehran costs US$ 35.00.Dogubeyazit/Bazergan This Turkey/Iran border crossing is easily (and fast) done by puplic transport. Take a bus to Dogubeyazit and a frequent minibus (ca. 5YTL, 15 minutes) to the border. Cross the border stretch per pedes, take the customs taxi (give the driver some 1000 Rial bakschis) to the next village and take a taxi (3-4$) to the bus terminal in Bazergan. There could also be buses to Bazergan, but the taxi drivers approaching you at the border are not the right people to ask for that. From there you can easily get buses to major destinations in Iran. Check the security situation in the region, due to the unsolved PKK conflict.

There are also buses from Van to Urmia crossing from Esendere-Sero border. The buses cost €13 and it takes more than 6 hours to finish the 300-kilometer path. That’s because of poor roads in the Turkish side and also too many check stops at the Turkish side (more than 5) because security reasons concerning P.K.K.You can also take mini buses to the town Yüksekova near the border and ask for taxis to bring you to the border. Cross the border check point on your own since the taxis won’t cross into Iran.

By boat :

There are some scheduled services from Baku to Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea and from cities on the Persian Gulf to cities on the Iranian coast. They are usually of low quality.Starting in late 2007 and 2008; high quality semi-luxurious ferry service started between Kish Island and Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This service is of nominal fee (@ $50 USD) and the journey across one of the busiest stretches of water is sure to entertain. It is not currently known what the Customs and Entry Visa process is like using this service however as the boats do not enter via the airport. While the entry/exit process at the airport is fairly well established, it is unknown if the process is as well managed when entering via the docks. It is likely to be more chaotic and it is not know whether visas are issued on the spot as is the case at the airport. There are also ferries from Bandar Abbas to Dubai and Sharjah in UAE, and also ferries from Bushehr to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain – basically speaking a lot of interesting ways to travel.





Premiere Destination – Her Majesty, UK!

12 07 2010
London Eye

London Eye

London is a truly majestic place! Everyone should visit UK at least once. What I really liked about it was that everyone spoke perfect English!:) Most of my journey was fun and joy, except some minor obstacles along the way. The major problem was the flaming volcano in Iceland – Eyjafjallajökull. I was travelling together with my lovely companion Tika Jokhadze. Sadly for us the flight to London was cancelled because of the Volcano and we have spent endless hours in a northern hub – waiting for our connection! Minutes start turning into the hours and the hours turn into the days -roaming about the passenger zone hating all the duty free shops, cafe bars and airports, but we have survived it. It was already late when finally skies have opened up and the planes were allowed to fly again. We got on board and in about two hours and at about 10 p.m local time we have landed at London’s Gatwick Airport.

One thing that you need to know about UK transportation is that you can reach most of the destinations by train, but they stop operating between 0:30 and 5:00 am (proximately and depending on directions). Had we have arrived a bit later we would be stuck in the airport (again!!!) until the morning. Fortunately we had just about time to make it to the last train. You need a “first capital connect” to take you to the center – either London Bridge or Victoria Station. You can check your rout on a transport for London’s web-site.

Mind the gap

Mind the gap

Transport in London is very expensive so it is advisable to buy pre-paid travel cards. I recommend buying 7 day travel card that is valid for Tube, DLR and London Overground, Bus, Tram and National Rail. It may cost some 25-30 GBP depending on the zones that you intend to travel, but compared to what you will have to pay as you go without the card, that is really cheap! It is also very comfortable, as you don’t have to mess with the ticket machines each time you need to make a journey. And you can avoid cues during the busy hours. If you don’t intend to use London’s transport very often you may consider another option – that is Oyster Card (Oyster pay as you go). For example, is you normally have to pay 4£ by cash for a single journey with Oyster card that would be only 1.80£ (Zone 1).

London DLR

London DLR

London’s rail system is large and may seem confusing, but once you get used to it London’s Transport is the most convenient and easy way to travel! Even if you get lost TFL has a special staff for you to help! Just ask them the directions and they will be glad to help you! Rail and tube maps are also freely available, so grab one. You will need it.

There are many mini cafes on the platforms that sell very delicious muffins, coffee and other snack that you can take on train and enjoy your meal while reading the papers. People are generally very noisy and talk a lot. During the late evening hours most of the passengers tend to be a bit drunk, but it’s still quite safe.

Food in London

Angus Steak House

Angus Steak House

Fish and chips! Definitely! There are just too many restaurants and pubs and most of them are great. Especially the ones with traditional English green woody look and feel. I am not really big fan of English beer (or Ale), so I tried to find the places where they had some Czech or German beer. Tika and I both loved to dine at Angus – I went with freshly battered fillet of fish served with chips and mushy peas or Grilled Scottish Salmons With spinach and mashed potato (Yammm!).

Tika ate so many ribs and steaks of the poor animals, until she got sick 🙂 So be careful not to over eat! Everything is very tasty and tempting, but be reasonable. Otherwise you will end-up swimming in a steak sauce.

Angus Steak House

Angus Steak House

These are some of our photos. Approximate bill for two – 60 £. I have to mention thought that Angus is one of the most expensive places and if you are on a budget, you can dine somewhere else for as little as 4-5£. Especially during the happy hours, when prices drop by 50 % !!!

Enjoy the spirit of London

Tika and I had a plenty of time to enjoy London and have most of it. We have spent two wonderful weeks there walking in the parks, visiting countless museums and attractions. When had some homework to do we went to green park and did it there. Under the shades of blooming trees. We didn’t have much homework to do though and it took only couple of minutes, but fooling around like we were some teenage students was really a rewarding experience!

Have you heard about Ale? – Personally I didn’t like it. I still prefer a good old Czech beer! But it was still worth trying.
But being in London why not take advantage and try varieties of Irish beers and Gueness of course!

Go Beyond !

Prime Meridian

Prime Meridian

You may spend many hours if not days visiting fabulous shops, theaters, pubs, parks and many other places in the downtown, but you should go a little bit farther!

One of the options is Greenwich. The famous meridian 0°00′00″

The Prime Meridian and its opposite the 180th meridian (at 180° longitude), which the International Date Line generally follows, form a great circle that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

On a Prime Meridian

On a Prime Meridian

By international convention, the modern Prime Meridian passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in southeast London, United Kingdom, known as the International Meridian or Greenwich Meridian, although the Prime Meridian is ultimately arbitrary unlike the parallels of latitude, which are defined by the rotational axis of the Earth with the Poles at 90° and the Equator at 0°.

The modern Greenwich Meridian, based at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was established by Sir George Airy in 1851. By 1884, over two-thirds of all ships and tonnage used it as the reference meridian on their maps. In October of that year, at the behest of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, 41 delegates from 25 nations met in Washington, D.C., USA, for the International Meridian Conference. This conference selected the Greenwich Meridian as the official Prime Meridian due to its popularity. However, France abstained from the vote and French maps continued to use the Paris Meridian for several decades.

London's Only Planetarium

London’s Only Planetarium

The Greenwich Meridian is now marked at night by a laser beam emitted northwards from the observatory.

Greenwich also has the great Planetarium with breathtaking effects and a Live narrator!

The show is interactive and fun. I wish all the children in the world were as lucky to have planetariums like this. We’ve enjoyed it much. Highly recommended especially if you are traveling with children.

The place is easily accessible by train and it is only minutes away from the center.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

If you have some more time go outside London one of the must see destinations is Stonehenge of course. It is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is at the center of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC, as described in the chronology below.

The tour takes only a couple of hours so you can take a combined tours with Roman Baths and Windsor Castle. All major tour operators make this tour available.

Back to London for some more entertainment now

London's I-max

London’s I-max

Best I-max experience in the world! The London IMAX is an IMAX cinema in the South Bank district of London, England, just north of Waterloo Station. It is operated by the British Film Institute.

The cinema is located in the centre of a roundabout on Waterloo Road.

The London IMAX was designed by Avery Associates Architects and completed in May 1999. By far the largest screen in Britain (20m high and 26m wide) it has a seating capacity of just under 500 and a 12,000 Watt digital surround sound system.

I-Max and the Prince of Persia

I-Max and the Prince of Persia

We were lucky enough to be able to be on a premiere of the “Prince of Persia, The Sands of Time” – 2010 fantasy-adventure film written by Jordan Mechner. The film is based on the 2003 video game of the same name. Sadly, the movie was not in 3D, but we’ve enjoyed watching in in a gigantic screen with true I-max experience!

Besides cinemas there are tens of theaters playing the masterpieces of eternal classic musicals and modern advantaged – from “Les Misérables” to “Naked Soldiers in the Warehouse” – The choice is yours!

A Flight on a London Eye

On a London Eye

On a London Eye

You may visit the Windsor palace and the Tower and all the famous sightseeing in London, but your journey would not be complete without a flight on a London eye. It’s called flight, because the construction of this attraction was sponsored by British Airways.

This year London eye celebrates its 10th year anniversary and offers discount tickets for only 10 pounds. Alternatively you can take advantage of Southern Railways (if you use one) and get it for 2 for 1 promo price. (Tika found out about this promo, so all the credits go to her!)

Useful Tips

London may seem expensive on a first sight, but it really is not. There are certain golden rules that you have to know about traveling on a budget. It certainly applies to London too.

There are two things that hurt you budget most – accommodation and food.

1. Remember that residential areas away from the touristic hot spots tend to be less expensive. If you have a cheap and safe place to stay, you are good to go! Don’t be tempted by super luxurious accommodations, you will hardly spend any time there anyway. You just need a simple, clean and safe place to spend a night there.

2. Dining in the restaurants and cafe-bars are expensive. Just a single visit to a good restaurant for a couple may cost you about 60-80 pounds. While going to supermarkets with the same amount of money you could buy wide variety of products for 3-4 days. Go to Tesco’s, cause you know – every little counts!

Budget

So how much money you need to plan your trip to London?

Total spendings in London for two weeks including Air fare, accommodation, food, trip to Stonehenge, attractions, travel cards, study and a bit of a shopping – about 1500 Euros!

To break it down:
1. Air Fare – 350 Euros (approx.)
2. Accommodation (Half Board) and Study – 560 Euros
3. Travel cards for London transport – 60 GBP + 20 GBP (approx. for shuttle services)
4. London Eye – 10 GBP (Limited Time Offer) other discount options available
5. Museums – Almost all museums in London are free
6. Trip to Stonehenge – 25 GBP
7. Restaurants and shoppings – Uncountable :))