Travel Tips, Traveling on a Budget

(Must Do) Fare Alerts is the Cheapo Traveler’s Best Friend

If you’re the type to religiously monitor the ebb and cost of plane tickets for your choice destinations, how do you do it?

For those who swear by budget airlines, I am sure you follow your favorite budget carrier on social media: be it Facebook, Twitter or their Instagram pages. In fact, it was through my Facebook feed which allowed me to travel to Tokyo, Japan on a PHP6,000 (USD134) plane fare. Yes, it also meant that I woke up at three in the morning just to check my FB wall, almost stepped on the Hubs on my way out of bed to get my passport and credit card and losing sleep until 6AM just because I was too hella excited.

The bottom line is this: following your favorite airlines on social media works and has its benefits. Here are some of the social media pages of our leading budget carriers:

Cebu Pacific

a reliable airline with affordable rates (picture not mine)

a reliable airline with affordable rates
(picture not mine)

A lot of Filipinos have a love and hate relationship with their airline company. While there were a lot of grumblings about how their customer service needed improvement and that some of their flights are always delayed, we can’t discount the fact that this airline company changed the way Filipinos view traveling and tourism. Whereas before many believed that traveling overseas is just for the moneyed, the launch of Cebu Pacific’s crazy plane fares and its aggressive promo campaigns gave Filipinos the opportunity to travel and discover other countries on the cheap. It allowed the middle class to realize that with conscientious saving and proper planning, you can see your dream destination without winning the lottery. I am one of those people. I used to believe that traveling is for the rich only, but Cebu Pacific changed that.

Of course, in a perfect world — Cebu Pacific SHOULD improve how it provides service to its customers. But meantime, the best dealing mechanism is to prepare and overprepare for unexpected travel delays, lots of patience and good manners. And most of all, do not expect too much — especially if your plane fare cost less than your phone.

Stalk Cebu Pacific’s plane fares here: Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

AirAsia
My second time in South Korea last November was my first time to use AirAsia. The plane fare for the return trip was PHP8,000 — a steal considering that plane tickets to SK usually cost about PHP19K on regular rates. The trip was uneventful, the flight staff was very efficient and courteous that I have nothing but good memories of my flight with AirAsia.

(photo credit to owner)

(photo credit to owner)

Stalk AirAsia on: their website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. AirAsia also has an app which you can download on your mobile phone which allows you to book, ugrade and even check in your AirAsia flights.

JetStar Philippines

(photo credit to owner)

(photo credit to owner)

JetStar always holds a special place in my heart because this is the plane I took when I went on my first ever trip out of the country back in 2007. yes–the seats are cramped that sometimes it felt like riding in a bus; the flight stewardess rarely smiled and can be on the snooty side but all my experiences with JetStar are always pleasant and they always reminded of the quality of its pilots.

One of my most memorable JetStar rides was in 2013 on a flight to Singapore with my whole family. It was the middle of July and Manila is in the middle of the storm. We met the worst possible turbulence during take-off where the plane was shaking so badly. I looked to where my mom and pop was sitting and I could see my mom clutching her rosary while my dad sat grim-faced (it was his first out of the country trip). For a bit, I was convinced that we will all die. But no, the gentlemen at the helm steered the plane efficiently and gracefully amidst Manila’s raging storm. By the time we reached cruising altitude, the plane was so steady and was gliding so peacefully that it felt like you were sitting at home in your living room, instead of being 30,000 feet in the air.

To this day, JetStar remains our top choice whenever we go travel to Singapore.

Stalk them here: website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Philippine Airlines (PAL)
PAL is not a budget airline — but is considered one of the best when it comes to personalized service. You might find this funny, but one of my goals is to go on an out-of-the-country trip using PAL, just because I haven’t tried it yet. I wanted to experience and see the difference on traveling using a budget airline and a non-budget airline.

(credit to owner)

(credit to owner)

Because I haven’t tried PAL yet for an international flight, I cannot give you a more in-depth description of the experience. Though I have flown with them before for business trips domestically, I don’t know if there’s a difference in service and experience for international flights.

Follow PAL here: website,Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But if you are the type who prefer having someone else look for cheap plane fares for you — then why don’t you subscribe for a fare scanning site?

Right now, I am a heavily depending on SkyScanner to find me cheap fares for Osaka for February 2015. You can also use SkyScanner to look for cheap hotels, airport transfers and car hires.

My current search

My current search

Other Fare Alert sites include:

* Trip Advisor Cheap Flights
* FareCompare
* Kayak

The bottomline in finding cheap plane fares is to be patient and continuously search. If you are not comfortable with the amount you found and is convinced that there are better fares out there — keep searching.

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Asia, South Korea, Travel Diaries

Seoul Searching Trip Day 3: Magnificent Korea

If days 1 and 2 got us acquainted with the beauty of Busan and Seoul, then day 3 is our time to get acquainted with the amazing South Korean culture and hospitality.

Day 3 – Magnificent Korea

We woke up late so that as soon as we were ready, my sister and I headed quickly to Myeongdong to look for a place to eat. After walking for a few blocks, we found this restaurant called Yoogane Chicken Galbi, in one of the alleyways near M Plaza. We have no idea what’s the food like inside but the long line of patrons waiting for an available seating surely peaked our interest! (Tip 1: Always eat where the natives eat…or wherever there’s a long line).

We were immediately seated and given the menu. The sister and I opted for the Dak Kalbi Chalpan Bokkeumbap, chicken marinated in a spicy sauce, cooked with a side of veggies and rice in a hot sizzling flat pan while you watch. One order costs around KRW5,000 (PHP184.00 x 2), and we ordered for two. Orders come with three side dishes dishes (electric yellow daikons, kimchi bean sprouts and shredded cabbage), plus a tall pitcher of cold water, maybe in anticipation of the fiery pit that will be your mouth.

Yoogane Seoul

The beginnings of our Yoogane experience!

First, a confession — I have low tolerance for spicy foods that even a sliver of chili is enough to make me cry and shed copious tears. Maybe it’s the “newness” of being in a foreign land, especially in one where Kimchi is a staple diet and the need to prove myself, I immediately said yes when my concerned sister asked me if I can handle our brunch.

Yoogane Seoul

Stirring in the rice for an amazing Kalbi experience!

How can I describe the taste? It’s a wonderful mixture of spicy, savory and awesome goodness of the crunchy vegetables mixed with slightly burnt rice. To temper the heat, I eat cold daikons, the shredded lettuce and drank glasses of water one after another.

The effects of the dish started reeling by the time that I was in my second serving. I actually had a picture showing me about to dispense another spoonful, but my eyes were already red, my cheeks flushed and it looked like I was about to cry. So, I’d rather not post it here.

After brunch, we headed back to M Plaza to have our pictures taken wearing Hanbok. I’ve read in one of the blogs I’ve visited prior to the trip that takes pictures of tourists wearing hanbok for KRW20,000 (PHP738)–that would have been cool too, but after doing a bit of research, I found out that the Seoul Global Culture and Tourism Office located in M Plaza is offering photo ops for FREE! So instead of spending KRW20,000 for our hanbok picture, we got it for nothing and we get to chat with the friendly personnel manning the tourist office.

traditional hanbok

Free hanbok photo ops at the Seoul Global Culture and Tourism Office in M Plaza

The tourism office is also the place to withdraw money (using your international ATM — I used BPI International Card here and it worked just fine), write and send post cards for your loved ones (for free!) and even check out some of the pictures of Hallyu stars.

The staff is very nice and accommodating and they will allow you to take as many pictures as you want wearing the costumes (within a 15-minute allotted time frame, of course). You can also ask them for maps and brochures of places you want to see within Seoul. Before we left, they gave us cellphone charms featuring Haechi, Seoul’s mascot.

Seoul Global Culture and Tourism Center

My sister with the friendly and accommodating staff from Seoul Global Culture and Tourism Center in Myeongdong

Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Office

Messages from around the world!

M Plaza

Hanbok photo ops for free here!

Note: The Seoul Global Culture and Tourism Center is located at 5th Fl. M-Plaza 31-1 Myeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea. Contact Information: (02) 3789-7961~3 / seoulcenter@seoulwelcome.com

Jewels in the Palace
After having our pictures taken, we headed to Deoksugong Palace located near the Seoul City Hall. Entrance to the palace grounds is just at KRW1,000 (PHP36). The palace was considered the smallest of the other palaces within Seoul and is built during the mid-fifteenth century.

The palace courtyard houses a lot of structures including various courts and houses for the King as his palace staff, his Queen and the quarters for the princes and princesses. Also inside was a massive throne room and various antechambers.

Gyeongbokgong

Inside the palace courtyard

Deoksugung Palace

Inside the Palace Walls…

The most exciting part our palace visit is the changing of the guards. It was full of pomp and pageantry which is impressive considering that in the real world, we are just in downtown Seoul. If you will try to ignore the cars and buses whizzing behind you and the ringing cellphone of the person to your right or the flashy DSLR cameras, maybe you can try to imagine that you are in 15th century Seoul as a commoner watching the changing of the guards.

Deoksung Palace

The changing of the guards at Deoksugung Palace

To continue our “Seoul Cultural Day”, we also paid our respects to King Sejong the Great, the founder and father of Korea and the widely regarded as the inventor of the hangul, Korea’s written and spoken language. He is also credited for advancements in military, science and technology and literature during his reign.

King Sejong the Great. Underneath the statue is the entrance to his museum

Behind the base of this great statue is an underground museum dedicated to the life and legacy of the great King. Called “The Story of King Sejong,” the space is a compact representation of the many legacies of this brave and intelligent king. Inside is summary of his life, a replica of his throne and his many contributions to the country. Entrance is FREE so I would recommend that you spend a few minutes getting to acquainted to this wise ruler. The museum is located beneath the Gwanghwamun Square and in front of the Gyeongbukgong Palace (The Northern Palace) near the Seoul Police Department.

Gyeongbukgong Palace

On my way to the Northern Palace gates…

Our third day was definitely the best type of field trip I ever had. It made me appreciate Korean culture more and at the same time, be conscious of my country’s own culture and history. It is truly impressive how Koreans managed to incorporate their history to the continuing modernity of their city.

NEXT: NAMI ISLAND!

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