This post is about travel tips in general - the next will be the wonders of Mumbai & Manila!
My flights were all with Emirates (economy class) who I can recommend as an airline. It's my understanding they are pretty good to their staff too which helps. I flew for about 38 hours in total across 2 weeks.
General Long Haul Flying Tips -
- Pre-booking a special meal means you get yours first. Being veggie was actually a bonus! All the food looked good though.
- Be aware there is more than one special meal available, but they need to be booked online before the flight. Halal, Vegan, and so on are available.
- Seating - I was aisle the whole way. Benefits - slightly more stretch room, freedom to reach the loos & cabin bags, get attention of stewards easily. Drawbacks - can't see the take-off & landing view, can't rest your head against the cabin wall, bumped by every person walking past, people have to lean over you to pass drinks & food. Go window or aisle - avoid middle unless you are travelling in a group who you are comfortable with leaning on!
- Beverages, go for water or fruit juice - there may be complimentary booze on board but it'll dry you out like nothing else. (I did have a cheeky wine on the way home though). Keep drinking water all the time - it'll also help massively with your inevitable jet-lag.
- Cabin kit - so you have a cabin bag, take a small canvas bag and take out everything you actually need on the plane. Shove cabin bag in overhead hold. Sit small canvas bag in seat pocket or under seat. Things I actually needed - a book, moisturiser, toothbrush & toothpaste, hand sanitiser gel, wet wipes, a traditional hand fan. Sometimes I kept my camera if I wanted to take pictures of the take-off. Also ear-plugs, flying is LOUD and your ears need a break.
- Clothes - get comfortable. Loose and thin fabric is good. They give you a blanket anyway. Don't go barefoot into the toilets!
- Movement - stretch as much as you can. A good time to go to the loo is just after they've finished serving the meal. Everyone is eating and not moving there is a little gap.
- Emirates hub is Dubai. If you are flying onwards, you can check your connecting fight gate on the in-cabin TV channel. Gates open 45 minutes before and it can take 45 minutes to get from your landing gate to your departure gate, so all connecting flights are a minimum of 90 minutes apart. Be wary of delays. Dubai airport is very large and has lots of shops, restaurants, prayer rooms & toilet facilities. Food ranges from champagne & salmon to McDonalds. It's hot there, but the airport is air conditioned (still very warm for me). There's also a few gardens & ponds!
- Emirates baggage - connecting flights will usually send your bags straight through to your final destination so you don't need to pick them up halfway. You & your cabin bag will go through security again before you can connect to your next gate.
- Cabin bags - Emirates is strict on cabin baggage. Hold luggage is a generous 30kg, and cabin bag is 22 x 15 x 8 inches (55 x 38 x 20cm) and must weigh no more than 15lb (7kg) in economy. You only get one cabin bag in economy. They will charge you for excess.
I found it a challenge to figure out business wear for hot weather and long distance travel. I'm fairly tall, muscular and curvy so little cigarette crop trousers & jackets with heels and petite chiffon shirts don't work for me (though I think they look fabulous). I might suit the Joan 'Mad Men' look, but I'm not about to wear it on an 11 hour overnight flight then roll into the office in 37 degree weather. To be honest I don't even dress like that in the UK, it's a lot of effort!
My peplum tops were all from George at Asda. Cardys from New Look. Statement jewellery and clever hair styles upgrade all this as required, but I avoided too much jewellery generally - depending on where you are you really don't want to look like more of a rich tourist. Hair pins! Great for creating cool hair styles - put them all in an empty tic tac box.
Covering up - although it was hot I tended to keep my arms & legs covered with thin fabrics - you might not be in an area that is very conservative, but it just minimises sun damage and the opportunity for mosquitoes to turn you into a banquet.
Crucially all this stuff is stuff I can wear in the office at home. I used the rolling pack method and my small case was half empty - this turned out to a bonus because in the end I bought a lot of gifts home. I could happily buy all of my clothes in India, the fabrics are so beautiful.
So there's always things to adjust to - the traffic is crazy, the food in Mumbai is amazing, the friendliness in Manila is overwhelming, the poverty in both places stark. I got asked if I was married a lot and if I have children and had conversations like this - 'yes I'm married but we don't have any kids yet, maybe one day' 'babies are wonderful, you should bring your husband to the Philippines and make a baby here!' 'Thanks, person I've just met'. I also got asked in India if my husband and I were a 'love-match' or arranged match. These two nations are big on family (as is the industry I work in). My advice is to always be respectful, polite, and friendly, but firm and clear about things when travelling. Exactly the same as you should behave with other humans anywhere. There are perceptions of Scots/Brits/Europeans - I had to fight a bit to convince people that I actually really enjoy and can handle spices in India, while people in the Philippines couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to eat meat. All the time. My colleagues in Manila were also shocked to learn there were any poor people at all in the UK because we are a rich nation.
Heat - I hate it! I'm one of these freaks that hates summer and relishes in rainy days and wintery scenes. I don't love slush and ice but I adore crispy autumn days. I like buying a new winter coat (well, a coat in the sales/charity shop every 4 years or so) and having an excuse to drink hot chocolate. The summer is too hot to do anything useful and none of my clothes fit because I'm sweating! Despite this, I actually coped fine. There were a couple of moments where it got a bit much, but sip on lots of (bottled) water all day, wear loose clothes and don't try to run anywhere - you'll be fine. To be fair I wasn't there at the hottest time, but it was much hotter than Scotland gets. Also - you're going to sweat at some point and once the seal is broken….just wear dark colours. Air con is your friend, but keep it reasonable or you'll get a shock when you go outside. There was a mini Typhoon in Manila while I was there (rain, wind & lightning but we still went out for beer and to the Mall - people just carry on as normal and it feels like a hot Edinburgh Tuesday), but the real big thing is a lot scarier and power cuts, floods and closed offices are to be expected. It may be too hot for raincoats but some kind of thin waterproof cover is very useful. Think carefully about your shoes too - floods pick up quickly. Follow the weather reports, take local advice and stay safe. Mumbai has a weather status just called 'Smoke' - this was something new to me...
Eat as the locals do - they know what they are about and it's damn tasty (and cheap!). They do not necessarily know how to make western style food though because it's not what they are used to. You are far more likely to suffer a dodgy tummy from a poorly cooked "pizza" than from a decent curry. Water systems are different than in Scotland though so eat cooked veggies, not washed salad (same for chopped fruit not washed). Embrace the local food! It's always going to taste better in it's home country. I really enjoy a wide variety of Asian food though so this was a win for me. Being veggie in India is great, but in the Philippines you will struggle - my saviour was the abundance of Vietnamese restaurants. Vietnam is nearby so it's similar to having excellent Italian restaurants in Scotland.
I found I felt pretty safe all the time in Mumbai & Manila. As a woman travelling alone you do need to keep your wits about you (it sucks, but I also think it's true for literally everywhere in the entire world). Thing to point out here - I was on business travel so was well looked after by my company, good hotels, arranged taxis and so on. Although I did go out I think the only time I was actually alone (besides in hotels/airports etc) was walking to the office in Manila, which was less than 5 minutes and I had already been shown the way. Many years ago I lived in Asia for several months by my self and used to cut about all the time alone and was fine. These days I don't go out in Glasgow in the evening much by myself. I don't have the confidence I used to, which is sad. That's not because I think Glasgow is extremely dangerous (though there are things to be wary of) it's more to do with me not feeling as outgoing as I used to. Oddly I can go around the world and run a project with people I've never met but I get nervous getting the bus home alone from the pub. I hate that feeling. The one big shock for me in both India & Philippines is the guns. Security guards have gun - at hotels, at the mall, at restaurants in the mall... I found that hard to adjust to. The only people I know kind of personally (or think I know) who have guns here are farmers and they generally don't carry them about in town, and the police special units. Mumbai had terrorist attacks in 2008 so hotels, airport, businesses have a lot of security and the Philippines are trying to crack down on gun crime in general.
Anyway hope some of that might of been useful to someone!