Faced with the prospect of navigating a domestic train system in a foreign language could be a daunting task. However, taking the bullet train (shinkensen) is no where near as scary as it may first appear. Go to the tourist information centre in the main stations and you will be given a step by step process and timetable. Get yourself a seat reservation and buy your ticket at the machine or at the desk. Much quicker taking the train over distances up to several hours than trekking all the way to the airport.
If you've got yourself some spare time whilst in Tokyo, why not escape to some Yokohama. Here you could visit the iconic Rainbow wheel, a huge shopping mall and a waterfront park. 'Escaping' from Tokyo, you will be delighted by the (marginal) increase in space and sense of openness as a breeze blows over the water. Get a train from numerous stations across Tokyo, including key stations such as Shinjuku.
Singapore’s international gateway, Changi Airport, has been open for business for 26 years and, in that time, has collected 250 international aviation awards. And it’s easy to see why. There are only two major terminals; check-in is very close to where you enter; security is a stone’s throw from check-in; and the lounges are comfortable, full of friendly staff, and a short walk from security. All of this means you can (for once) afford to turn up late – if you’re flying First or Business, an hour and a half before the flight is more than sufficient. The airport has numerous shopping and eating outlets, so you can actually get yourself or your family something useful on departure, including top brand name products from Prada, Gucci, Bulgari and Hermes. In addition, Changi has six open-air gardens, numerous business centres, internet and games facilities, prayer rooms, showers, a gym and even a swimming pool (!). Plus, this is an airport which, unlike “Tokyo” Narita or “London” Stansted, happens to be in the city it purports to serve. You can reach it by high-speed train (only 27 minutes to the centre), buses, taxis, limos, airport shuttles and the standard car rental companies. Going by road is good - ask your hotel to book you a car in advance and you can experience the luscious greenery of the East Coast Parkway.
Many people, when doing a south-east Asian tour on business, will find they have to travel between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and vice versa. My suggestion is to think about using the executive coach travel available between both of these cities. It is not a great deal longer than the process of flying between these two points and involves a far friendlier and easier mode of travel.
The executive coaches have seats similar to airline business class ones. They have power points for laptop usage and food and entertainment on board for individuals. I have made the journey by plane many times and this was a little longer (maybe an hour at the most) but a lot less hassle and lot more pleasurable.
If you fly on Singapore Airlines to Asia or Sydney, then you will probably be eligible for a free Singapore stopover. You can also make use of a number of benefits offered by Singapore Airlines, such as discounted accommodation, special offers on shopping and food as well as a free shuttle bus up and down Singapore's famous Orchard road.
Not so much a recommendation but more of a warning... The airport Maglev train is great for the experience but please be warned that it doesn't go straight into the city. This may come as a surprise to newcomers to the city. You will have to transfer to a taxi once you arrive at the station and therefore make sure you know where you want to go (ie have your hotel's address in Chinese) once you get off.
At the airport
I've pulled together some of my top tips for Shanghai - I've categorised each tip into time periods so that you can pick and choose depending on how much free time you've got.
0-2 hours: Avoid! Bund Tourist Tunnel - 10 minutes
Crossing the Bund can be done by boat, car or underground, but don't waste your time on the rather retro (read tacky) Bund Tourist Tunnel. The name is apt as only tourists would be crazy enough to spend their money on a underground fair ride that is more likely to cause an epileptic shock than any degree of amusement. It is however, the quickest way to cross the river if you are on the banks on the Bund (and it's rush hour so the tunnel is blocked). Give a try... if you really must.
Xian dan di - 1-2 hours
Ironically housed in the former offices of the Communist party, this beautiful refurbished part of town could be accused of being rather faux in terms of its connection with real China life... but it's there and it exists and it is part of Shanghai ex-pat life. The clean streets, the trendy restaurants and the outrageous prices probably tell you that you are in a place for tourists and expats, however, it's worth a look around and for a pitstop.
Go to Starbucks - 30 mins to 1 hour
I kid you not, some would accuse me of sacrilege but there is a reason... please bear with me. A lot of the Starbucks in the city benefit from sitting in the most prestigious and ideally located positions in the city for great panoramic views. My personal recommendation would be the Starbucks situated on the East bank of the river overlooking the Bund just opposite the Shangri-La hotel. Grab yourself a Chinese tea and watch the sunset over the river. The glowing fuzz of the city ahead will warm you before you retreat to your hotel.
Enjoy drinks over the Bund - 1-2 hours
A visit to Shanghai will not be complete without a visit to the historic 'Bund' district, the colonial waterside developed on the west bank of the Huangpu River. Many of the bars/restaurants (I recommend 'M on the Bund' - www.m-restaurantgroup.com/) offer expansive views over the Bund and the tall skyscrapers in the Pudong district. The food's not bad either! English and Chinese menus are available. Other nearby highlights include the old HSBC building (no longer housing HSBC) and Huangpu Park.
Stroll along Nanjing Road (to buy the other half a gift) -
Home to Shanghai's main shopping street so be prepared to be greeted by tens of thousands of people. The shops range from the local to international with department stores dotted along the way. Be sure to stop by one of the many snack stores to take on board some of the delicious buns or dumplings that make China famous. Be sure you check the custom regulations for transporting goods though, be particularly careful with any foodstuffs.
Enjoy a river cruise along Huangpu River - 1-3 hours
One observation you will undoubtedly make whilst travelling in Shanghai is that the river is bustling with life. Container ships, tankers, passenger boats all zip up and down the river at a hectic speed. Board a river cruise boat from the ferry terminal at the south of the Bund district. Here you will be able to enjoy a one, two or even three hour river cruise. Take care though... Shanghai like many other Chinese cities is prone to a spot of smog. Try and pick a clear day. Try Huangpu River Cruise (239 Second Eastern Zhong Shan Road, Shanghai - tel +86 21 6374 4461). Nearest station - Wai Tan
Sleep in the clouds - 8 hours
Nope, I'm not talking about your business class flat bed on the way back home, I'm talking about the ever impressive Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Based in Pudong it's close to the financial centre and closer to the airport. Ask for a room overlooking the Pearl TV tower or over the park.
Rather than lug your purchases around with you on your speedy business trip, why not pick them up at Gare du Nord right before Eurostar check-in? As you exit the Metro in the 'Magenta' part of the station, there's a small stall run by a chap from Provence, who dispenses great wine, cheese, pate and meats to those London-bound. Great for picking up some goodies before heading up to the Eurostar terminal.
Gare du Nord, Paris. SNCF says: France des Provinces Niveau -1 (Level -1) sous la verrière Transilien, face au couloir RER E
Forget buying a Paris Visite card for dashing around the city - it's only valid for 1st class metro which is not always convenient. Instead, buy a Mobilis card for unlimited public transport in central Paris, €5.50 per day. Or, for longer stays, a Carte Orange, €16.60 for a week's unlimited public transport in central Paris (photo required).
The Roissey bus takes you in to the centre of Paris behind the Opera. It is not only a cheap form of transport (from a company perspective) but the bus ride helps you get your bearings and leads you into central Paris where you can shop and eat before going to your hotel.
Outside all terminals at CDG airport and at L'Opera
Why not try hotels down near Battery Park or in the Financial District and commute by subway/taxi to Midtown? Typically hotels can be half the price outside Times Square and environs, and often 'try harder' to impress guests. Also, the Hyatt just across the Hudson is another great option - right next to the PATH train and also has a water-taxi service to Manhattan close by. Again, it is often less than half the price of equivalent city hotels, and has a stunning view of the city as your night-time panorama!
Staying in the Financial District is definitely much cheaper than staying in the midtown area. Especially over the weekend as prices drop significantly! It's a quiet tube ride away and nowhere near as busy. In addition the staff are much nicer and go out of their way to help you.
Financial District, Battery Park
Beware any dermatitis or inflammation on either of your index fingers. On entering the USA you'll be required to provide index finger prints as part of your proof of identity and if the skin of your finger tip is inflamed you may well inadvertently fail this test. At best this means a significant delay at Homeland Security Department. If possible check your index fingers a week, or more if there's an obvious problem, before travel and get some medical treatment to ease your journey!
Recent airline failures such as Eos and MaxJet serve to remind us that cyclical industries such as airlines are subject to huge pressures when a slowdown in the economy occurs. Make sure you protect yourself from being caught short by paying by credit (not debit) card. Airline failures should be covered under section 75 of the 1974 consumer credit act and thus a refund can be obtained for services not received.
Check with your credit card provider for details.
Don't automatically assume that you have to fly from Heathrow to get long-haul. Look at your alternatives, including the very handy London City Airport or the further away (but sometimes more convenient) Stansted or Luton Airports. Dedicated business-class-only flights to New York can now be had from SilverJet (the only such airline still around) out of their Luton base. BA have also excitingly announced an all-busines-class flight to New York from London City. Starting in 09, it will stop for operational reasons in Ireland but passengers can take this time to check through US immigration (due to an age-old agreement between Ireland and the US), saving valuable time when landing.
New York City is THE city, it's got its reputation and it's always the one place I'm excited about visiting. Every visit is different and the city is constantly changing, there is so much to do and see!
It's one of those cities that on your first visit can be pretty daunting, so I thought I'd pop together a couple of tips that can help you on your first visit.
Leaving or Departing the City
JFK is normally my airport of choice but there's really not much in it. The easiest way into the city is to jump in a yellow cab, it costs a $45 flat rate, plus tips and tolls. Upon making your way to the taxi line you'll be offered all sorts of bus and limo services, ignore them, it's only the cabs that are properly licenced for this. You can of course also book your own car, I do this for the return back to the airport using Dial 7 who charge a decent rate and use fairly new sedans.
New York has so many hotels, so find one that's close to where you're going to be based. I normally use The London, which is well located on West 54th street, not far from the park and Times Square. It's a lovely new hotel with one of the best concierges in town. It's also home to Gordon Ramsey's restaurant, which is perfect for that dinner on expenses... But if you're paying yourself, go at lunch time, same food, half the price. Yum yum.
You could write a book on the places to eat in New York… in fact, hundreds of books are already out there, but for my money the top places for a business lunch or dinner are: Gordon Ramsey at The London, The River Café in Brooklyn, Prune for Brunch in The East Village and The Spotted Pig in the West Village. The Spotted Pig is probably the best Gastro Pub in New York, and a perfect places for fans of meat! The River Café has a simple but beautiful menu and offers incredible views over the river to downtown NYC… ask for a window table. Gordon Ramsey I've mentioned above and Prune is a delightful little local place that does THE best brunch in the city in my view... Complete with a huge menu of Bloody Marys. Get there early though or be prepared to wait an hour or so. Just down the road from Prune is Katz Deli which is always rammed and a classic NY food experience - give it a go.
If you're not too busy then why not pick up a jogging map from your hotel concierge and take a run round the park to stay in shape. I also love going to the Top Of The Rock at the Rockefeller Building, giving you stunning views of the city and especially usefully in getting to know it in your head if you’re a first time visitor. You can see where everything is and get a rough idea of distances. 5th Avenue is probably your best place for shopping with plenty of places to visit, including the maddening Abercrombie and Fitch which will give you a headache. But you can get your stuff much cheaper from there than in the UK. Department store-wise I find Bloomingdales always serves me best. Don't forget to go shopping in the village as well, Spring Street has some classic locations where you can find the most random of things. If you get a chance to see a Broadway show, rock up to the TKTS half price booth in Times Square and get into a show on the cheap. Spring Awakening seems to be one of the best shows on at the moment. And if you're there on a Friday you can pop into many of the big museums for free, MoMA being a great one to kill a few hours in.
The best thing about New York is that there is always something new, and it's the one place I've never got bored in despite many trips. So make the most of it.
The days of stepping on Concorde and arriving in New York before you took off are sadly gone. However, what isn't realised is that the same trip from London to New York can vary quite dramatically depending on the flight you take. Take a random weekday date in June. The fastest journey time from London Heathrow to New York JFK is 7hr 25mins with either Air India or the 0855 from BA. However, it's worth noting flights to Newark are somewhat slower, with the flights being as long as 8hr 15mins with BA (1840). Whilst it's unlikely to make a huge different, those of us on tight time schedules may give it some thought.
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