It’s already late March. Where does the time go? The grand adventure has been underway for 16 months now and the flights and airports all blur together in my head. But there are a few memorable ones, for both good and bad reasons, so we thought it was time to write about the Best and Worst Airports of the World – according to My Fab Fifties Life.
My favorite airport used to be Schiphol in Amsterdam. And I still love it. It’s like a small city and can keep you entertained for days (hopefully you don’t spend days there). On our world tour we have encountered some similar airports, mainly the hub airports that are so spectacular in Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Qatar. In these beautifully designed airports you can enjoy
fantastic works of art, delicious dining, designer and convenience shopping as well as usually a fine hotel. You can also find spas and salons, quiet zones, kids zones, smoking zones, charging zones and sleeping zones and often showers.
Almost all the comforts of home.
The Dubai Airport, a giant megatropolis is about to be closed because another even bigger one is
slated to open very soon. From a distance it looks like something from the future. Huge, artistic and from another world. When finished it will be largest airport in the world. Can’t wait to see it. I was told they will just tear down the other one…weird.
We have had some good experiences in some small airports too. Cape Town, South Africa was the quickest and easiest airport we ever went through. Dhaka, Bangladesh, though rundown and old, was one of the friendliest airports with helpful police who escorted us around the passport control so we could get some local currency to pay for our visa on entry.
Small airports have a big advantage in that you can be off the plane and in your taxi in 15 or 20 minutes. No long lines, no walking miles to get to baggage claim. Arrival in Alice Springs and Cairns Australia was so quick. Maldives airport was beautiful and easy to maneuver. The teeny Praslin Island airport in the Seychelles was more like a bus station. Off the plane and on our way. Just botta bing botta bang and you are out the door. Nice.
In Koh Samui Thailand the tiny airport had a beautiful area for waiting for departure and it included free popcorn, chips, coffee and juice. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. However the approach by car to Koh Samui was poor – winding in a van through one lane residential streets weaving in and out of kids and dogs and bikes. Yikes.
In Praslin Seychelles there are so few flights a day there is a traffic light to hold traffic when a plane is landing. The plane’s approach is over the road. But usually it doesn’t matter. There is very little car traffic either.
Many smaller and medium size airports look very much the same. It’s difficult to distinguish
between them. Dubrovnik, Madrid, Santiago, Cape Town – all the same.
We landed in Guam at 3:40 in the morning. In a daze we maneuvered to the car rental area, happy to find them open and waiting for us. Hallelujah!
Less impressive experiences were in Manila, where the waiting area on the concourse was so tiny and crowded we had to sit on the floor. There was no ATM machine and the unimpressive food kiosks only took local currency. In Casablanca, the airport was fine but the baggage handling with Air Maroc was the worst. Our bags on our short flight from Marrakesh disappeared and no one could find them. When they were found, it was because I went and searched every luggage carousel in the airport and found them myself.
Passport control was horrible in Tunisia and Siem Reap, Cambodia where we stood in line for more than hour for no reason other than one passport control guy wanting to be an ass and seem important.
In Sofia Bulgaria, the small but new and nice
airport was marred by the unfriendly and unhelpful tourist information desk and the fact that there was not a single ATM at the airport.
In Ho Chi Minh City the airport was okay but it was the dishonest taxi driver who put a bad taste in our mouth. Trying to trick us and drive us in circles and tell us a 100 bill was a 10.
On departing Delhi India the service at the check in counter was so slow that even though we allowed three hours we barely made our flight. And we went through security intending to find a cash
machine on the concourse only to be told ATM’s were only in the check-in area. What?
Sometimes when we have really long-haul flights we will break the up with overnight (and sometimes a day) at an airport hotel. SInce we aren’t pressed for time we find this a great way to avoid jet-lag. We have done this in Dubai, Qatar, Bangkok and Singapore.
We only have a few flights left before we board a cruise ship for our final leg back to the USA. We have learned a lot – how to pack and plan, prepare and endure all these flights. We’ve also learned to just relax because most of the time it’s all out of our hands.
Flight # 52 today to Sydney Australia! Away!