Category Archives: Reviews

Renting a scooter in Sanur, Bali

Today I decided to rent a scooter.

Before going into the details I can only say one thing: driving rules here are quite flexible but to sum up, there is only one rule: survive! It’s like a jungle… I had my eyes open but I understood why there are so many accidents, the driving is quite aggressive here.

About legal: be sure to have your international driving license and your original driving license with you. Wear an helmet and drive safely. In case a cop will stop you and find some irregularity to the vehicle I was told that it’s possible to find an unofficial way out: pay 50k.

Scooter costs

Yesterday a guy from the street offered me 80k/day.

A tourist I crossed before told me he got a scooter for 2 months, for 25k/day.

I found a guy near my hostel, he wanted 100k/day, I tried to bargain to 70k, he said 90k. I said another guy offered me 80k so in the end he accepted…

I got a nice black scooter. The guy told me to put Premium Fuel and explained where to find a petrol station 1km away.

At the petrol station, however, the premium fuel was finished. They guys didn’t really speak English, they asked me if I wanted the normal fuel. I said no, so then I went on and on on the same road, and finally decided to just buy some gasoline from the bottle, like in Thailand.

1 bottle (1 liter) costed 7k. I found another petrol station and bought 1.5 liters of premium for 10k. I have the feeling that premium is better.

What else, this was just the beginning. The real adventure begins tomorrow, during the day. Driving in the night was just to warm up… Stay tuned.

Bali tour from Senur

Yesterday I received a voucher for a free island tour in exchange of my time spent at Club Bali’s timeshare presentation (should have been 90 minutes, it was more than 180 minutes!). Pickup time was today at 10:00.

The driver arrived at around 10:10. Very friendly person and very good first impression.

Heading to Bedugul, I asked the driver to stop for a photo:

At Bedugul, we stopped for another photo and we bought some bananas:

We proceeded to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, quite a beautiful attraction (admission fee: 30k rp/person):

We had lunch in the nearby, in one of the little street warung after the curve, 500m/1km before the market (actually the market would have been a better place with more choices). We just had a soup with noodles and chicken. It was ok. I added some chilli and ketchup, as the driver told me that the locals usually eat it like that. My mouth was burning but it was worth trying it :-)

After lunch, we were brought to a coffee/cacao/tea plantation, a lady showed us the different plants, the procedure to make coffee and finally to a degustation of several coffees and teas, most of them containing already sugar. I loved it! We also tried a cup of the special Bali coffee luwak. The degustation was free, but a cup of Kopi Luwak costed 50k RP (5 USD)! It was like a turkish coffee, meaning you should not mix it with the spoon, but you need to wait that the coffee powder goes down. I didn’t add sugar and tasted it pure, as the lady suggested. It had really a unique flavour, compared to the standard Bali coffee (I tried also that one). After the degustation, we went to the shop and bought a pack of coffee ginseng, lemon grass tea, red rice tea, saffron tea and another one. In total we spent 250k + 50k RP = 300k RP. I think it was really worth it!

We went to our final destination: Tanah Lot. The entrance fee was 65k RP for 2 (including parking). I think it was not so special compared to Uluwatu temple. It was full of tourists and if you go there for the sunset, make sure that there aren’t too many clouds… for us it was cloudy. Anyway, there are lot of shopping places there and the prices are better than in the city. So if you happen there, buy something to maximize the investment for the entrance fee. We bought some shorts and a souvenir.

The driver answered all our questions, showing great knowledge of Bali. He suggested to stay a few days in Ubud for a difference -less touristy- experience. We will probably follow his suggestion.

It was a great day! I’m happy I was a yes man and accepted to participate to a boring presentation in exchange of this tour for free (which would have costed, only for the driver, something around 400k – 600k RP I estimate). Life is good!

90 minutes presentation and you get a free voucher for an activity

This is my story, victim of a tourist trap. I’m not telling it’s a scam, but the selling techniques (to sign a contract for 20 years) are very annoying and similar to brainwashing. Read on to get more details.

Yesterday I was approached by a travel agent when walking near Danau Tamblingan Street No. 80, Sanur, Denpasar (Bali). He checked me and my girlfriend and told us we could fit for a special promotion for a new hotel. He said we would just have to attend a 90 minutes presentation about the new hotel and that if we liked it we could eventually be guest at that hotel next time in Bali. So we would not be required to buy anything and, after the presentation, we would get a free voucher for an activity such as jet ski, river rafting, tour in Bali etc. (see picture).

I though “ok, what do we have to loose? Let’s go, 90 minutes of my time is not that much!”. The guy was very polite, he put emphasis on the fact that we would get an activity for free and even a free massage when they would show us around the hotel, and even stay there for dinner if we wanted, and a driver would bring us back when we want, also in the evening.

So, we agreed to be picked up at 09:00 at our home stay, the same travel agent picked us up and he was even so polite to bring our bags to a new home stay in the nearby, as our was fully booked and had to check out.

We arrived at Club Bali around 09:40, were brought upstairs in the presentation room, and were welcomed with a coffee and some pastisery.

A nice lady just begun the presentation first with some classic small talk at 09:50, she asked were we stay, were we went etc. so far everything ok. We could tell our story, just to relax, you know.

The small talk went on and on, so I begun to wonder “what’s up here”? Finally we were introduced to the concept of timeshare, something I’ve never heard of before (and it was not even presented as “timeshare”, I just found it by googling around).

As I understood it, the system works like that: I -obviously- pay a yearly fee (wait, she would explain how much only later…) and get some points (2640/year) I could exchange for a nice room in a 3-5 star hotel part of the club. A room for 1 week would cost 1320 points/week. So far, quite cool, isn’t it? Wait, besides the point I would still need to pay an administrative fee of 315 USD/week for hotels in the RCI system, besides the points. So, if I would go to vacation for 2 weeks, I would need to pay 630 USD. But, as I would be member from Bali, I would pay only 45 USD/week for a hotel part of BCWW (Bali Club World Wide). This, just for the accomodation. No food, no breakfast included.

If I would not use the points one year, I could accumulate them for maximum 3 years. Then I would lose them or be able to spend them only at the “mother” hotel, which in this case it would be Jayakarta Bali. A room would cost always the same price (in points), “that’s one of the advantages, you know, for the inflation…” I was shown a nice graph, that a hotel room that now costs 130 USD would cost 1’300 USD in 10 years, because of the inflation… really? Bullshit. I’m pretty sure that the prices go up, but not that much!

I was told I could even sell my stay, for example for an apartment with 2 rooms I could subrent one room to a friend, or even send a friend to vacation with my points. There are thousands of “happy members” of the system, worldwide.

At this point, if I remember well (maybe before) my girlfriend and I were brought to Jayakarta hotel, to see a nice apartment with kitchen and 2 rooms, jacuzzi and nice view. She told us we could expect such a standard from the club. Then she brought us downstairs to see the facilities: fantastic swimming pool with luxury restaurants, and this just a few meters from the beach. Wow, so cool, never seen something like this! (Just kidding of course…). We were both exhausted and the heat during the walk near the beach almost killed us. Thank God we didn’t drink any alcoholic beverages (we were even offered to drink a beer if we wanted).

Anyway, while listening to the presentation I had some quality toilet time, where I could check some reviews about the system and more precisely about RCI, as BCWW is relatively “new”. Check some reviews about RCI:

So, after scrolling these 2 pages for a couple of seconds I understood that I would for sure need to check more about this, before signing for anything (also many reviewers suggest NOT to sign anything).

At around 12:30 I was almost convinced that the system is actually quite cool, till I was “promised” that the yearly “fee” (wait, the senior guy -yes, the lady needed some support for my “interesting questions”- corrected me and said it’s “maintenance costs”) of 630 USD would not be increased too much… say -with the inflation- the maintenance costs would not increase more than 5%. Really? You tell me that the advantage is that the cost is always the same now and also in 10 years (to fight the inflation) but you increase the yearly fee during the years? Are you kidding me?

Additionally, I asked if it’s written somewhere in the contract that the maintenance costs would NOT increase more than 5% (per year). He said me “no, but I promise you it would not happen”.

Sorry, but a serious company writes every single details in the contract, no verbal promise, everything must be written.

In the end I said I would not sign anything, but read the contract carefully, in my room, and sleep over it before deciding for anything.

I was told I could not get the contract with me (rules by club bali) but I could stay there and read it more if I needed (and ask all the questions I wanted).

I was already pissed off enough, and quite tired of the time and brain consuming -brainwashing- presentation and didn’t want to start any argument or start accusing them of anything, as I already knew they would try to change my mind or giving me the answers to every accusation (they are trained for this).

So, I clearly said I would not sign for anything and I would eventually come back another day, if interested.

I was told that if we would go back we would not have the same benefits as during this presentation (to make more drama, the senior even went in the backstage to ask his boss…). I said “ok, I take the risk”. Lol, really you want to play that card with me? No, no and again no!

At around 13:10 I could get my freedom back. Nice shake of hands, no hard feelings and I could get my voucher for a free activity validated. Wait, I asked about the free massage. They told “which free massage?”. The one the travel agent mentioned me… apparently, if I wanted that I had to ask it during the visit of Jayakarta hotel… really cool, isn’s it?

Conclusion: 90 minutes my ass, the presentation (brainwashing) lasted 3 hours, almost 3 hours and a half, which is more than the double. This, without including the driving time from the hotel to Club Bali. A private driver costs around 600’000 RP, which is about 50 USD. My time is not an issue as I’m taking it really easy, but if 5 hours of your time have more value than 50 USD, do not attend this presentation. Pay for an activity and save yourself from this kind of brainwashing.

Tomorrow: pick up time for “Bali tour” at 10:00. Hopefully they won’t try to brainwash me again during the tour… keep the fingers crossed ;-)

If you don’t read anything anymore, in 2 days, begin to worry…

Thai Happy Tourist prepaid Sim card

When you land at the airport, I recommend buying directly the dTac Happy Tourist SIM card for 299 Baht. You will get 100 Baht credit for phone calls and sms and 1gb of data at 42 Mbps for 7 days.

I’m using Google maps and when I arrived at the hostel in the night, the lady was not there for the checkin and I had to call with my swiss number and pay a high roaming just for a 1 minute conversation.

Wish I had the dTac sim card already… So if you need connectivity, go for it.
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Important: to activate Internet follow these instructions (you must download the settings and install them in your phone, if asked, the code is 1800 as you may have seen in the messages)

Withdraw money at the airport

When you land in Bangkok, just after the passport control you will be able to withdraw money with your VISA credit card (see my post about the DB credit card: I just got 20’000 Baht and no DKB fees. Only 150 Baht for the ATM).

Don’t lose time as I did, looking for an international bank to avoid the 150 Baht fee. I asked and a guy at the airport told me that there is no ATM without fees, at the airport. In the city you may find the AEON bank or other international banks, but not at the airport.

So, if you need money, just go to the first ATM you find and withdraw 15’000 Baht or 20’000 or entering your custom amount and that’s it.

Update: I kept all the reseeds for all the withdrawals (I took a picture with the phone) and at the end of the trip I sent an e-mail to DKB. DKB refunded me all the ATM fees. The DKB-Cash Visa credit card is just awesome!

Withdraw money abroad without any fees

If you are familiar with credit cards, you know that typically (I would say in the majority of cases) banks will get a commission if you withdraw money abroad (in many cases, even in the same country).

Situation in Switzerland

In Switzerland, even the big banks (UBS for example) doesn’t let you withdraw money for free (see  UBS Maestro Card prices: they charge 1% commission for withdrawal, see also UBS Credit Card prices: they charge 3.5% commission for withdrawal, 4% if you go over-the-counter).

Same for the popular free credit cards Visa or Mastercard SupercardPlus (from COOP, issued by Credit Suisse) and Visa or Mastercard Cumulus (from Migros – previously GE Money Bank, now issued by Cembra bank). For every withdrawal the user will have to pay 3.75% commission (minimum 10 CHF) + 1.5% surcharge for foreign currency use.

For example, if you withdraw 1’000 CHF abroad (I used CHF for my convenience, for easier calculations. Say you need the equivalent in Thai Baht), the commission would be 37.5 CHF + 15 CHF because of the transaction in foreign currency. In total you would lose 52.5 CHF in commissions. Of course you don’t withdraw so much money, but just divide per 2 (500 CHF: 27 CHF commission) or do the math yourself, for smaller amounts. This is quite ridiculous.

Best way to withdraw money without any commission

Luckily, I found a good and FREE alternative to solve the money problem when traveling: the DKB credit card (issued by Deutsche Kreditbank, Berlin, Germany – but you can open an account per post, even in Switzerland and other countries) is the only one I’ve found so far that lets you withdraw money without any commission. I was a bit skeptical, how can this be possible? Well, I don’t know the reasons (I speculated below, see my note about futurism) but it works!

DKB credit card

Just follow this rule: use the credit card to withdraw money from an ATM. For all  other uses check their prices and conditions. E.g. I’ve read that if you go inside a bank and interact with a person, then you have to pay a commission. I think this bank is a bit future oriented: why should a user pay for an automated interaction with a machine? That said, why should I wait in a queue and lose my time to interact with a human, when the machine gives me money faster? ;)

I’ve also read that you pay a commission, abroad, if you use the credit card to pay directly (e.g. in a shop, in a restaurant). But if you can withdraw money without any commission, I see no point using the credit card itself for the payments: use the money you got from the ATM.

When I order something online, if I pay in Euro, there is no commission. I’ve tested this already when I booked my flight (via airline direct) and when I booked my hotel (via HRS).

I have this card since July 2013, but haven’t tested it to see if I really get money without commission, but so far it looks promising. I’ve read several blog articles.

How to get this card?

Simple, go to the DKB website website and fill the forms. It will take 5 – 10 minutes of your time. You will receive a confirmation email, you need to print it and the only tricky thing is that you need to go to a bank (in Switzerland) or to a post office (in Germany) for the identification process, which is as simple as showing your passport or identity card to the bank/post employee, and ask him/her to sign the identification form (and/or put a bank stamp on it). Many banks offer this service for free, even if you are not their customer. I went to the Raiffeisen bank in Zurich Oerlikon. The guy was really easy going and did it without any problem (ok first he was a bit puzzled, then I explained he needed just to check my passport and registration in the city of Zurich and confirm I didn’t fake my address or passport details, and sign it), even if I’m not their customer.

After a week and a few days, you will receive in 3 separate letters containing 1) the credit card, 2) the credit card pin code and 3) the e-banking password.

DKB e-banking security

You can login to the DKB e-banking with your username (Anmeldename) and a password (PIN). What I don’t like, is that the PIN code can be only 5 characters long and contain a few special characters. On the other hand, the username can be between 7 and 15 characters long and it can contain more special characters. Both username and PIN can be changed under Service > iTAN-Verwaltung und weitere Funktionen, this is quite handy.

Anyway, on my opinion, the username should be short and easy, the password long and complex. I wonder why they decided the opposite way.

What I like is that you have an extra security with the TAN list. When you want to do a payment or change some security settings, the system will ask you to provide a code (iTAN) that you should have in a separate place. This way, if somebody steals your username and password, he won’t be able to do much more than seeing your transactions. For a money order he will need to provide also a TAN.

What I also like, is that the system will automatically log you out after 12 minutes of inactivity.

DKB e-banking reports

With reports I mean seeing your transactions. It’s quite important to check regularly your transactions. This way you can report eventual abuses.

I withrdrawed some money on Wednesday at 09:00. I could see the transaction only 2 days later (Friday at 09:00). This is a bit slow, but probably this is how credit cards work. Just keep it in mind.

What do other people think about DKB and this card

Have a look at these reviews (only in German, but I guess you know google translate, don’t you?):

Puketastic.com: Im Ausland (kostenlos) Geld abheben – meine Erfahrung mit dem DKB Konto

Kritische-anleger.de: DKB Erfahrungen - seems that almost 50% are not happy with DKB, ready why.

DKB-Kreditkarte: Ein kritischer Blick - this traveling blogger was totally happy with the DKB credit card (for the reasons I mentioned above: you can withdraw money for free), till the card was “stolen” -after a successful withdrawal of money if was not given back- by an ATM in Cuba, it was illegally used for a couple of thousands USD and the girl didn’t get her money back, when normally a serious credit card institute has a sort of insurance for this kind of cases (for example, with UBS, in my past, I reported a card misuse and they refunded me when I reported the case). Cuba, anyway, is a particular case. Many tourist guides warn to be careful with ATMs in Cuba and suggest even not to use those ATMs. The blogger was unlucky and DKB was not really helpful with her case. In general -I think- when your card is stolen or misused you can be lucky or unlucky.

What are your experiences with the DKB credit card? You are welcome to comment about it.

Disclaimer

I am not affiliated with DKB, nor I got a commission for this article. I just believe that money, in general, should not be subject to any commissions. Banks earn already a lot of money: it’s ridiculous that the consumers must pay extra commissions just for getting cash from an ATM or using a credit card in a shop. Thus I’m happy to share with you this discovery. Enjoy.

Drink coffee in a sustainable way

This blog is not only about traveling. Well, unless you have an open mind and you let your thoughts travel around, also when you actually are at home…

So, I wanna share with you my ideas for a better world, thus I have to share this fantastic idea of a coffee machine based not on pads, or recyclable capsules. No, this is so much better: a coffee machine where you insert the pure and fresh coffee beans. The machine will do the coffee directly from those.

The project was successfully founded on kickstarter. See World’s first roast-grind-brew coffee machine

The company/start up producing this coffee machine is called Bonaverde and is based in Germany.

If you wanna support them, or secure your coffee machine already, check the Bonaverde project on indiegogo.

As the project was just founded a few days ago, the coffee machine production has just started and you’ll need to wait a few months, before it will be available to the market, but I guess it’s worth to wait for it, if you like the idea.