It’s that time of the year.
The start, actually.
Everyone is refreshed, motivated, and inspired to take on 2018! We’ve got our bucket lists out, and are already counting all the long weekends we can make use of to maximize our annual leaves. (Read: The Travel Junkie’s 2018 Long Weekend Cheat Sheet) But before you hop on your next flight, take a look at the key happenings of 2017:
#1 More Budget Flights to Faraway Destinations
We’d tell the fans of budget travel to rejoice, but let’s be real: Who doesn’t love cheap flights? In May 2017, local airline Scoot announced that it’d be adding new long haul destinations to its list of services. In June, they flew their first direct Singapore-Athens flight. They also started flying to Honolulu, with a stop in Osaka. Shortly after in September, Norwegian Air announced that they’d be flying directly to London too. Then, ending the year off with a bang in December 2017, Norwegian Air announced that they will be adding Berlin to their service menu in 2018!
#2 Express Entry into Bangkok
It’s not as if Singaporeans need any more reasons to visit the Land of Smiles, but in the third quarter of last year, visiting Thailand got a whole lot easier. In August 2017, the Royal Thai Embassy announced that Singaporeans can use its new Auto-Gate system for express clearance through Suvarnabhumi Airport. We are the first country to enjoy this privilege and previously, the Auto-Gate was only available to Thai locals.
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#3 More Japanese Goodies
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We are a foodie nation and one of our favourite destinations is Japan! Someone must’ve heard our prayers, and this year, many of our favourite Japanese food franchises hit our shores. In July 2017, the famed Japanese confectionery Pablo Cheese Tart Cafe opened its first local store at Wisma Atria. Then, in September, coffee haunt Omotesando Koffee opened in Downtown Gallery, Shenton Way. To end the year, Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory gave us a Christmas to remember with their store at the Raffles City basement.
#4 Changi Airport Upgrades
It’s been an exciting year for Changi Airport, as they complete their FAST initiative and open the new and swanky Terminal 4. The Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) transformation at Changi Airport began in 2015, and in the third quarter of 2017, the final phase was completed at Terminal 1. This is what it means: Travellers can self check-in at the kiosk and print their own boarding passes and baggage tags. The quicker we clear the check-in, the quicker we can get into our duty-free shopping!
The Bad & Their Lessons
Now, that seems like quite a bit of icing on the 2017 cake, right? Well, yes and no. There’s also been quite a few unfortunate events that we can all learn from.
Here are a few:
#1 Mount Agung Eruption in Bali
In November, Mount Agung in Bali erupted multiple times, devastating the area. Some 40,000 locals were forced to evacuate from 22 villages. Nearby airports Lombok International Airport and Ngurah Rai International Airport were forced to close. Safety always come first, so back home, many cancelled their travel plans, incurring significant losses. Natural disasters are inevitable, and almost impossible to anticipate. So our only advice is to always buy travel insurance, just in case! (Read: Travel #Adulting: Must I Really Buy Travel Insurance?)
#2 Overseas Driving Accidents
In 2017, there were five reported cases of overseas traffic accidents involving Singaporean travellers, with three happening in December alone! This could be due to the increase in locals travelling to popular self-drive destinations like New Zealand, Australia, and others. If lucky, drivers may walk away with a few scratches and a hole in their pocket, but if not, more serious traffic accidents can even be fatal.
Here are some tips:
- Take frequent breaks.
If your route involves long-distance drives, make sure you add in buffer time to take breaks and rest. You may not know it, but your body may not be able to stay alert for extended periods of driving.
- Be familiar with the road rules!
Make sure you read up on the road rules and signages to avoid making dangerous mistakes like driving on the wrong side, making illegal turns, and more.
- Check the weather.
If possible, lower your risk by avoiding heavy rains and unfamiliar terrain (like rocky roads) and weather conditions (like snow).
- Slow down!
So gan chiong for what? Remember, you’ll be driving on unfamiliar roads in a foreign country. It’s always better to stay safe and slow down. You’re more likely to miss a turn when you’re hurtling down the freeway at 110km/h!
#3 The “United Airlines Incident”
Ah… If you haven’t heard about this, we don’t know which rock you’ve been living under. In a nutshell, an Asian passenger was forcibly removed from an overbooked flight. (We won’t elaborate, but it involved a viral video and a good amount of blood.) Overbooking is (unfortunately) a common practice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work it to your advantage. You just need to know your rights and if you don’t mind taking the next flight, you may even “earn” some coupons or a seat upgrade.
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