HOT: Save At Least 20% On All Flights Right Now

As you have probably heard, the Russian ruble has effectively collapsed. This has created a tremendous arbitrage opportunity, but only if you take immediate action to leverage it.

ruble chart

The ruble effectively collapsed today

Airline tickets are quoted and priced in GDS systems, and currency conversions aren’t adjusted real-time. With the rapid collapse of the ruble, this means that you can effectively get a discount of 20% or more by paying in rubles versus dollars.

So, let’s look at a nice peak season flight from Los Angeles to Costa Rica on anywayanyday, a Russian travel agency:

lax-sjo price in usd

A typical peak season flight price to Costa Rica

As you can see, it’s $792 in US dollars. This is a typical non-sale fare price to Costa Rica during the peak season. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn this into a good peak season sale fare instead?

Currency selection menuIf you change your currency selection on this menu from USD to RUB, you can pay in the Ruble currency. Note that it’s a good idea to call your bank before you do this, because there is a slight possibility that they might consider it unusual that you are paying for things in rubles on a Russian travel site. By this, I meant that they will panic and block your card, which will cause you an endless amount of hassle. Why use a Russian travel site in the first place? It’ll be very hard for anyone involved to argue later that you shouldn’t be able to pay for things in Russia using rubles.

Now, let’s see what happens after you change the currency:

Yikes, that's a big number!

Yikes, that’s a big number!

The price becomes 41,638 rubles. So, let’s see how much that is worth in dollar terms:

ruble to usd conversion

Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s $196 cheaper to pay in rubles.

Folks, this sort of arbitrage opportunity almost never happens and it will not last. Take advantage while you can!

UPDATE: Many airlines are starting to correct this by repricing their tickets in the GDS systems. With British Airways, it is actually less expensive to book in dollars or euros now. Double-check the conversion before you book!

1 Star Hotel Review: Greenwich Inn, San Francisco

It has been a super busy couple of weeks as I’ve been attending startup events around California. However, I was able to squeeze in some stays at one and two star properties thanks to the Visa Checkout promo with Orbitz. For those of you who missed it, over Black Friday, Orbitz and Visa ran a joint promo that gave $100 off a booking of $100 or more. I snapped up 9 hotel rooms, although I ultimately ended up having to cancel 3 of them. This covered two of my nights in San Francisco, and I spent 3 more nights with relatives, who were kind enough to let me stay through the crazy weather and help me avoid a commute to the conference.

Today, my friends invited me to a party in San Francisco at the last minute, but I’d already left my relatives’ house and it isn’t really appropriate to stumble in drunk late at night anyway. So, I needed a place to crash. In San Francisco. On the weekend. This is the kind of place where a couch in a living room on airbnb goes for $80 a night–plus tax! So, I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered that Orbitz and Visa ran another promo through their Hotel Club affiliate: AUD $50 off an AUD $100 or greater booking.

SF Marina neighbhood

You can’t get in a much more central SF Marina location than this.

I found the one-star Greenwich Inn listed for the low, low price of AUD $104. Unfortunately, Orbitz lists the rate before they add on taxes and a bunch of fees, and the discount is off the base rate, not the all-in price. So, the price actually worked out to AUD $70.59 after the discount, which is about USD $58. Still, this is the same all-in price as a hostel bunk in the worst part of town, and it’s is a standalone property in the Marina District with free parking and WiFi. You get your own room and the Internet even sort of works. Split with two or more people, you’ll pay less than you would for hostel bunks. The property seems popular with backpackers.

What does this buy you, though? A property built in the 1960s motel style that has undoubtedly seen a lot of terrible things happen between its walls, but has been spruced up to look semi-respectable. Here are a few photos of what life on the road looks like Seat 31B style. The Greenwich Inn is a typical one star experience, although I had much more a vibe here of something being very wrong just beneath the surface than most other properties. It definitely falls in the “creepy motel” category.

bed at greenwich inn

Queen sized bed. This was advertised as a king. Some tripadvisor reviews complain of bedbugs, so check carefully.

Bathroom, Greenwich Inn

Something bad happened in the bathroom. The door looks like it was previously kicked in and the mirror is broken. However, the bathroom was clean and smelled like bleach.

Bathroom amenities, Greenwich Inn

A nice set of amenities in the bathroom, resembling those you’d get in a 4 star hotel

Room amenities

Old tube TV, a battered mini fridge, and free in-room coffee.

Coffee table book, Greenwich Inn

Coffee table book mostly full of ads for shopping and tourist traps. Some of the pages were stuck together.

Heater, Greenwich Inn

The wall heater is broken so the hotel provided an industrial shop style electric heater.

 

My Top Five Reverse Culture Shocks

I spent 4 years living, working and studying outside of the United States. Sure, expats keep up with the news in the US, but you end up seeing your home country mainly in snapshots and viewing it through the lens of the media. The country you grew up in thus becomes an exaggerated caricature, even more so than its larger-than-life culture already is. If you’re a thoughtful person, and most expats are, you know that this is going on and you adjust your expectations accordingly. So I was prepared for the general incivility of public discourse (which stands in sharp contrast to the expat community, which almost universally demonstrates the very best of American culture), and the outright stupidity of politicians (whose constituents deserve far better). I was even prepared for the police brutality here, which resembles the feared and loathsome force of “urban management” officials in China known as Chengguan.

But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer number of extremely obese people. I see them everywhere. Or Seattle traffic, which would probably lose a race to molasses. Or … well, read on. Here are my Top 5 reverse culture shocks:

MH900082919[1]1. Everything tastes too sweet. Bakery goods contain much more sugar than in most places abroad (particularly Asia), but it’s not just these. Juices are flavored with high fructose corn syrup. Ice cream is more sweet. The amount of sugar in a cupcake will knock you off of your chair. Even the sauce in pizza has almost as much sugar as a jelly doughnut. No wonder everyone is getting diabetes, people are just consuming way too much sugar.

Don't walk sign2. You can’t easily walk anywhere. With the exception of a few US cities such as New York and San Francisco, it’s really hard to walk anywhere. I miss the convenience of just popping next door for fresh vegetables any time I wanted them, or easily stumbling home after an evening in the pub with friends.

terrible traffic3. I live in my car. Public transportation in the US is generally pretty bad, and this is especially true in Los Angeles and Seattle (the places where I spend the most time). Because I can’t actually walk anywhere to get things done, I end up having to drive all over the place. So, I end up paying a lot more for transportation than I did living abroad.

household budget image4. Shopping is less expensive, but you have to buy more stuff. Because there isn’t a national sales tax in the US, most things are cheaper in stores. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m actually any better off, because the things these taxes pay for (e.g. health care and public transportation) don’t exist. So, living in the US overall costs more.

fat statue5. People are just unbelievably fat.  I mean, folks like you see in People of Wal-Mart just don’t seem to exist in other countries (with the possible exception of Mexico and the UK), but you see this all over the place here. Is it because of all of the stuff above? Probably. I personally get way less exercise here in the US and have been gaining weight since I returned.

Cyber Monday Sale On Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a good Cyber Monday sale. They operate mainly up and down the West Coast, but there are also some good sale fares to Hawaii from many cities. The deals are good today only for dates between December and mid-March. The lowest fares are good for Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday travel only and require a 21-day advance purchase. Alaska also has service to many locations in western Canada and leisure destinations in Mexico. Not to be overlooked, Alaska serves many cities on the East Coast, such as Newark, Boston, Washington DC, St. Louis, and Orlando, although typically with limited service (one or two flights a day).

Alaska Airlines route map

Map courtesy of AirlineRouteMaps.com

You can visit the Alaska Airlines Cyber Monday page to find the sale fares for your city.

While Alaska Airlines has an excellent frequent flier program (Mileage Plan), they also partner with many other airlines including Delta and American. So, if you are a member of these programs, you can get mileage credit for your flights on Alaska.

UPDATE: Alaska Airlines tweeted a coupon code that can be used for an extra 5% off this already great offer. Enter SHOPNOW at checkout to save!

How I Got A Parking Ticket In Zagreb

It’s really easy to run afoul of parking regulations in Europe. This is especially true in Zagreb, where signage for paid parking isn’t always clear and parking meters can be a block or more away from where you actually parked. So, I was annoyed but not particularly surprised to see a parking ticket sitting on my windshield after parking outside a friend’s apartment overnight.

Zagreb parking ticket image

An unwelcome decorative item on my windshield

Zagreb, however, is unusually fair about how parking tickets work. Basically they bill you the full charge for parking in the space for a 24-hour day, starting from the time that the ticket is issued. Parking is split up into zones identified by color. This parking ticket was for a yellow zone, for which the 24-hour charge was about $10. Displaying the ticket on my dashboard entitled me to park in any other yellow zone space in the city until the expiration date. So, this actually didn’t end up costing me any more than just paying normally for parking would have, because I needed to park overnight in the same space again anyway. However, it’s painfully expensive if you didn’t plan to park all day.

The main problem was figuring out how to actually pay for the ticket. The information in English on the back of the ticket isn’t very helpful; it just says that you have to pay within 6 days or it’ll go to collections. And my Croatian employees don’t drive, so they had no idea how to deal with the problem. However, one of my Croatian friends does drive, and told me that I could just pay the ticket at, among a long list of other places, the post office.

My Croatian friend tried to convince me very hard not to pay the parking ticket. “Your car is from Budapest? They’ll never track you down,” he said. I wasn’t so sure, and didn’t want to risk not paying the parking ticket. I really don’t recommend that you risk avoiding traffic fines in Europe either. Generally speaking, the parking authorities will just send the fine–with hefty late payment charges tacked on–to your car rental company. They will pay the ticket on your behalf, tack on their own fines and handling fees, and bill your credit card “for your convenience.” There is no disputing or getting out of any of these charges, because you explicitly agree to them in the rental contract and generally initial a separate provision acknowledging that you understand this. Actually, I have personal experience with this. I was tracked all the way across the Pacific Ocean from Australia a year later after receiving a parking ticket in error, and had to argue the fine vehemently with Sydney parking authorities before it was finally rescinded (in this case, I had genuinely been ticketed in error and could provide proof that I was authorized to park in the space).

Fortunately the Croatian post office is pretty good and they have locations all over the city, including one within easy walking distance of my friend’s apartment. They are friendly, efficient and speak English. 65 kuna and 5 minutes later (including the fee for making the payment), and I was on my way with a payment receipt.

If you ever get a parking ticket in Zagreb, I hope this is useful! It’s best not to get one in the first place, though. Always double check whether you’re in a paid parking space. Very few spaces on the street are free, and you might have to hunt around for a parking meter to pay. They don’t take credit cards, and generally only take Croatian coins, so be sure that you carry plenty of change in the car. And, of course, don’t drive if you can avoid it. The hassle and expense are rarely worth it.

Don’t Get Stung By Fuel Prices In Europe

I wrote earlier about the unexpected hassle of getting between Budapest and Zagreb. Renting a car is the easiest way to do it, but it’s certainly not cheap. Actually, the cost of the car rental is the cheapest part of the equation. If you’re coming from essentially anywhere else in the world, you’ll probably have to sit down when you find out how much the fuel is going to cost you. Fuel prices range from about $6 per gallon to over $9 per gallon in Europe.

Gas station in Hungary

When you do the conversion, the price might knock you off your chair.

Still, while fuel isn’t a bargain anywhere in Europe, there are still ways to save. Here are a few tips that I have learned from experience driving all over Europe:

A car can be a liability. Consider whether you really need a car. If you don’t, skip the rental counter. Public transportation is much better in European cities, parking is an expensive hassle, and traffic cameras lurk everywhere waiting to cite you for even the smallest transgressions. It’s really better not to have a car at all, if you can reasonably avoid it.

Think small. A smaller and lighter vehicle not only saves fuel, it’ll be a lot easier to navigate and park on narrow European streets. Keep in mind, though, that the smallest European vehicles are tiny–and they’re not particularly fun to drive. Also don’t trust rental agencies’ promises regarding the number of bags a car can accommodate. Subtract one from the published number, unless you travel extremely light and carry only small bags.

Choose a diesel vehicle if possible. Diesel fuel is usually cheaper than gasoline, and a gallon of diesel takes you farther than a gallon of gasoline. Even if it costs more to rent a diesel vehicle, you can more than make up the difference in fuel cost savings.

If you can drive stick, rent a manual transmission. Not only is it cheaper to rent a vehicle with a manual transmission, but it’s also more fuel efficient.

Don’t fill up along the motorway. Granted, it’s hard to beat the convenience of fueling along the motorway, where it’s a breeze to pull off and back on. This convenience will really cost you, though. Fuel costs an extra 10% or more versus filling up in town.

Buy fuel in major cities. Transportation costs more in Europe than it does in other places. Accordingly, the farther you are from a fuel transportation hub, the more you’ll pay. This is different than, for example, the US where fuel can cost much less in the countryside.

Run for the border. If you’re near Andorra, Luxembourg, Bosnia or Ukraine, it might be worth ducking across the border to fill up. These countries have some of the lowest fuel prices in Europe (Russia and Belarus have relatively low fuel prices, but also officious borders and visa hassles–they’re probably not worth it). However, you can still save money–even if you’re not in one of the cheapest countries–by paying attention to which side of the border you are on. Diesel is much less expensive in The Netherlands than it is in Germany. Gasoline is cheaper in France than in Belgium.

Pay with local currency, or use a no foreign transaction fee credit card. Traveling from Austria to Hungary? Cheaper Hungarian fuel prices might end up more expensive if you pay in Euros. The currency of Hungary is the Forint and you won’t get a good exchange rate at a gas station. Ditto in Bosnia. They use Bosnian Convertible Marks and most gas stations don’t take credit cards. However, they’ll gladly take your border currencies (euros or Croatian Kuna) at a horrible exchange rate. If you can pay with a credit card, you’ll get a semi-honest exchange rate by using a credit card with no foreign transaction fee. I use a Capital One Visa card which not only has no foreign fee, but also pays me 1.25% cash back. This card isn’t at the top of my wallet in the US, but it’s great for international use.

What was the bottom line? I rented the smallest car available from the rental agency, which was an Opel Corsa. My trip from Budapest Airport to Zagreb, round-trip, cost about $160 in gasoline. The 7-day car rental cost me a few dollars less on top of this, for an eye-popping grand total of $317 in transportation cost, not counting parking and tolls (which added roughly another $40 to the total). Granted, I did drive around Zagreb some, but it’s not a large city and I didn’t use a lot of fuel. I put about 500 miles on the car, total, for a cost of 32 cents per mile driven. Your mileage will vary, obviously, depending upon the number of people in the car and the speed you drive. I was alone in the car and drove strictly at the speed limit (the majority at 130KM/h), wary of speed cameras.

Was it worth it? Marginally. I was able to travel more or less exactly on my schedule, but it was a colossal hassle with the rental agency. An hour after renting the car, I discovered that the headlight had burned out, so I was unable to travel any farther than the outskirts of Budapest. It was an epic battle with the rental company to make things right. While they eventually did, having to battle over a maintenance issue was really the last thing I needed after 15 hours of travel from Los Angeles. It would have been a net loss versus arranging other forms of transportation, but having the use of the car in Zagreb with my team there (in my real life I am the founder of a mobile applications company) made up the difference. We had immediate and convenient transportation whenever we wanted to go somewhere. And I actually saved travel time versus flying in from Budapest, because the airport in Zagreb is neither close nor convenient to the city.

I hope these tips help you save money on your next trip to Europe. Happy driving!

Avoiding Rental Contract Tricks Abroad

Renting a car outside the United States can be a lot different than renting one within it. There are plenty of pitfalls that can trip you up and cost you extra. I just rented a car from a small, local company in Budapest and there were even more traps than usual. So, although the last thing that you may want to do after a long international flight is sit down and read the tiny print of a rental contract, it pays to go through it.

First, when you rent a car abroad, all of the normal stuff that you need to watch out for in the US applies. Be sure that you inspect the car for damage before you get in and drive off. Don’t believe anything the rental agent says about the damage not mattering–be sure that it’s carefully noted on the rental form. Also don’t be afraid to take a quick photo of the agent with the car, especially if there is visible damage. This will go a long way towards ensuring there are not arguments later.

Other things to watch out for are insurance scams and additional driver charges. Unless you rent with a rate that includes multiple drivers, you will probably have to pay extra for each driver. And then there’s insurance. It works differently abroad. In the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, all rental cars include both comprehensive and liability insurance. However, there is typically a 10% deductible and also an “excess,” which is an amount that you have to pay before any coverage kicks in. Many credit cards include insurance that will entirely cover any damages to the rental car, so you don’t need this coverage. However, this doesn’t typically stop rental car companies from trying to insinuate that the insurance is required, or that you will have problems using credit card insurance. There definitely can be insurance problems if you use a credit card, but these can be avoided by reviewing the coverage in advance. Note that all bets are off in Israel, Jamaica, Ireland and Northern Ireland where no credit cards offer coverage for rental cars.

However, some charges are out of left field. Have you ever taken a rental car to a car wash? Make sure that the contract doesn’t require it, and that there isn’t a car wash fee. In the contract, there was a 15 euro car wash fee, unless I washed the car myself! Since the car wasn’t actually clean when I rented it, I got the rental company to waive it, but I doubt they would have done so if I hadn’t asked up front. Additionally, there can be a border crossing fee. I needed to cross into Croatia from Hungary, and paid an additional 19 euro charge to do it. However, the vehicle was monitored via GPS, and if I hadn’t paid this, the rental car company would have fined me 150 euro as a penalty–and that charge is per border I crossed. In Europe, countries can be roughly the size of postage stamps, so this can add up in a hurry. Finally, there was an administration fee. If I had run up any tolls, traffic fines, or parking fines, these would all be individually billed with a 50 euro surcharge per item.

Read the fine print when you rent, and avoid nasty surcharges! There are few nice surprises when it comes to renting cars.

How I Save Money Renting Cars In Europe

I’m off to start a round-the-world trip on Saturday. As you might remember, a few months ago I landed a phenomenal deal, and the trip is costing me under $219. One problem, though, is that it’s not taking me exactly where I want to go in Europe. I could only get the deal to Budapest, and I’m actually going to Zagreb. Now, you’d think that this would be a relatively small problem. After all, it’s only 343km between the two cities, and they’re two of the most major cities in the region. So, I figured I’d just buy a cheap ticket on a low cost airline and take the 55 minute connecting flight down.

Well, my brilliant idea that would have been perfectly rational in western Europe totally didn’t work between Budapest and Zagreb. There are lots of cheap flights to and from Budapest on low cost carriers, but none headed to Zagreb. Low cost flights tend to go to the Croatian holiday destination of Split, a few hours away from Zagreb. However, these flights are also seasonal. The Dalmatian coast is beautiful but it’s pretty cold in the winter, and there is essentially no demand for leisure flights. Sure, you can fly between Budapest and Zagreb, but it’ll cost you. The flight was actually pricing out at more than the rest of my entire round-the-world trip. Obviously, this was impractical.

“OK, fine then, I’ll take the train” I thought. Except that isn’t really an option either. There is only one train a day, which isn’t particularly reliable and it takes a circuitous route that takes nearly 11 hours to complete. It’s also a surprisingly expensive ticket. Ultimately, I couldn’t get the times to line up at all with when I needed to be in Zagreb, and I wouldn’t have wanted to pay the price anyway.

Picture of Croatian train

Trains in the Balkans are slow and infrequent.

I started looking for bus options, with some trepidation. In this part of Europe, bus travel makes riding Greyhound in the US seem fancy. Usually, people won’t get on the bus with a live chicken (which is pretty common in some parts of the world) but bus travel seems to attract elements of society you don’t really want to interact with if you can possibly avoid it. There is one bus company operating between the two cities, but the way that you buy a ticket–from all the research I was able to do–is to find the driver and buy a ticket directly from him. No way to buy the ticket online. And there is one bus approximately every other day. While this would have worked for me, these arrangements tend to work best when you know local area really well, and I don’t.

Ultimately, the best option was to rent a car. However, this is usually a very expensive proposition in Europe. You have probably heard that fuel is more expensive (costing as much as $11 per gallon, depending upon which country you’re in), but it’s also a lot more expensive to rent a car, particularly if you’re in eastern Europe and you intend to cross a border. If you plan to do this, your car needs to have a “green card” and it’s a virtual guarantee that the rental rate you’re quoted doesn’t include this. Add an extra 20-30 euro a day to the rate in some cases.

European green insurance card

You need a “green card” to go across borders with your European rental car. It specifies the countries in which you’re allowed to drive.

Unlimited mileage, also typical on car rentals in the US, also isn’t a typical option. Distances tend to be shorter and you won’t want to drive much inside city centers (where a car is more of a liability than an asset), but you can still get stung by overage charges if you’re not careful. And this is before you get into fines for missing vignettes in postage-stamp sized countries (I was fined $250 in Slovenia for this–it’s a complete and total scam) or questionable traffic violations. Overall, it’s enough to make you never want to drive in Europe, ever.

Still, there are occasions where this will be necessary and I recommend that you never pay retail if you can possibly avoid it. Two companies consistently offer very good “voucher deals” where you pay in advance and receive a voucher for the car rental. These are Economy Car Rentals (a Greek company not to be confused with the generally scammy rental agency using the same name in Latin America) and UK-based Travel Jigsaw. These companies technically operate as tour companies selling tour packages, so they can sell special rates on rental cars. With either of these agencies, be sure to read the fine print! You can cancel your reservation, but you won’t receive a refund if you cancel less than 48 hours in advance. Also, they email you a voucher and you actually do need to print it out and present it when you pick up the car. In exchange for prepaying, you can get some pretty good deals. You won’t always know the company you’re renting from in advance, but I have typically cars from Sixt and Enterprise. In Budapest, my car is coming from a smaller local company.

The upshot? I am paying 139 euro for a 1 week car rental from Budapest including the notoriously difficult and expensive to arrange “green card.” This is about half the price that I was able to find anywhere else. I also get unlimited mileage. I’ll enjoy the convenience of getting around Zagreb easily and my overall cost will be about half what I’d otherwise have paid for a flight. It’ll also take about the same amount of time, all things considered; the Zagreb airport isn’t particularly convenient to the city center and transportation connections are slow.

I’m almost fully packed for my second trip around the world this year. It’s going to be an interesting month of November!

Saving At Budget Motels In California

As I write this, I’m enjoying the spectacular weather in sunny southern California. Nothing beats 78 degrees and breezy at the end of October, but as you probably know, California isn’t a very budget-friendly destination. Even a campground will set you back as much as $35 per night! Most brand-name hotels in the downtown areas of cities start around $200 per night, which is strictly unaffordable for the average Seat 31B traveler.

Many travel blogs encourage you to play elaborate points games in order to stay in expensive hotels. Even if you do this, you’ll still end up spending as much as $100 per night. You have to consider the cost of credit card annual fees, the opportunity cost versus earning other types of points, and the taxes you have to pay (which are often billed based on the retail cost of the room). “Free” isn’t really free when it comes to this stuff.

Alternatively, you can look at lower cost options. California is the world’s seventh largest economy, and it’s well known for having unique local businesses. In addition to famous local fast food chains (such as In-N-Out Burger), there are three local motel chains offering clean, comfortable and decidedly budget-friendly rooms throughout California. I’d like to introduce you to Good Nite Inn, EZ-8 and Premier Inns.

Good Nite Inn has locations throughout California, and often advertises in coupon books that you can pick up at rest areas and Denny’s restaurant locations throughout the state. These coupons will almost always save you money. It’s worth picking up the book. They also occasionally have deals on their Web site. You’ll usually pay about the same price for two people as you would for a single room at Motel 6, and you’ll usually find a Good Nite Inn near a Motel 6 location (in Sylmar, there is a Motel 6 next door). Rooms typically look like they are from the mid-1990s, with a tube television and funky carpet. However, the beds tend to be comfortable, everything works, rooms are somewhat clean and there is air conditioning. Like Motel 6, Internet service isn’t available at all locations and it’s not free if it is available. Coin laundry facilities are typically available on site and there is an ice machine available as well. Motel 6 locations fill up fast (being some of the only reasonably priced accommodations in many parts of California), so Good Nite Inn is a good alternative.

Good Nite Inn room

A typical 1990s-inspired room at Good Nite Inn

EZ-8 Motels and Premier Inns are another good alternative. They don’t advertise at all, have no coupon specials, and they only offer a small AAA discount. Their Web page pretty much says as much. As well, these motels are typically located a little off the beaten path. In the Bay Area, you won’t be staying in the center of San Francisco. Instead, you’ll be staying in a bedroom community like Concord or Newark, but you can quickly and easily take the BART from there to San Francisco. When a room in San Francisco will easily cost you $200 or more per night, it’s worth staying a little out of town.

Image of E-Z-8 motel room

E-Z-8 Motel room – basic but comfortable

How much could you save? A lot! A room for a single person this weekend will cost you just $35 per night in San Diego. The W, not far away, has rooms starting at $170 per night (for the most heavily restricted, prepaid, non-refundable rate) and doesn’t even include parking! If you cashed in points for your stay at the W, you’d pay nearly as much just for parking and taxes as you would for an entire room at the E-Z-8.

Budget motels don’t offer frequent guest programs, concierge service or fancy amenities. Some offer watery coffee in the lobby, served in a Styrofoam cup. However, how much of your California vacation do you really want to spend in your room? Get out and enjoy the sun! That’s why you came, isn’t it?

Emirates (Sort Of) Honors Low India Fares

On Tuesday night, there was an incredible deal to India on Emirates. How incredible? $450 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Mumbai. There were even better deals, including $258 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Hyderabad. Deals were available from most North American cities served by Emirates. However, they could only be booked on Vayama, who has a fairly unusual procedure for issuing tickets.This ultimately torpedoed my trip, along with everyone else who booked these low fares.

Last night, I received email from Vayama backing out of the deal:

Dear Customer,

 

We recently received your online booking request.  Quality control has determined that your booking could not be processed at the fare that was originally quoted.  Unfortunately, the airline was unable to accept the fare that was quoted earlier and as a result, the fare is increased now. This was an issue from Emirates Airline due to  fuel surcharge was not updated on the ticket price. Hence we would suggest you to either cancel this reservation or accept the below fare. We are doing this to avoid any kind of problem at the airport.

 

The total fare now  is $992.74 USD

 

please respond to the email or call us on 1.877.628.6452 at the earliest convenience if you agree to pay the new fare, so that we will go ahead and issue your ticket.  If you have any questions please feel free to respond to this email and we will get back to you generally within 24 hours.

 

***Please note: fares are not guaranteed until the final processing is complete***

 

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Sincerely,

 

Customer Care Team

What was the root cause here? You have to have both a reservation and a ticket number in order for the contract to be complete. Vayama, for whatever reason, makes a reservation immediately upon booking, but manually processes ticketing. They likely do this to avoid fraudulent credit card charges. If an airline decides that a low fare was a mistake, it’s very easy for them to back out of the deal in this scenario. No ticket was actually issued at the time of purchase, hence there was no Contract of Carriage. So, Emirates didn’t legally have to honor the deal–and they didn’t. I will have to visit India another time.

UPDATE: I just received a phone call from Vayama indicating that Emirates will honor the fare after all. However, the ticket that was issued was a very heavily restricted ticket which is the same category issued for frequent flier tickets. This means that it likely will not earn mileage with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. However, at a 50% discount from the usual lowest fare, it’s still a very good deal to visit India.