Category Archives: Practicalities

Olympic Airlines’ Belgrade Departure

I don’t quite understand Olympic Airlines response to my question about their absence of Belgrade as a departure city on their online form, considering other online reservation systems and their own phone line offering Belgrade as a departure, but for what it’s worth here it is:

Dear Roel,

kindly be informed that according to our Company’s commercial policy, sales are not allowed in Serbia, regarding online bookings.

Please note that this is going to change, as soon as we start providing e-ticket for routing from/to Belgrade.

Always at your disposal

Best regards

Olympic Airways – Services
Athens Reservations dpt
_____________________________________________________

You are invited to visit our website at http://www.olympic-airways.gr or http://www.olympicairlines.com

—– Original Message —–
From: Roel
To: telsales@olympic-airways.gr
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 4:18 PM
Subject: Belgrade as Departure City for Online Reservations

It it an oversight by Olympic Airlines that they do not provide an option to select Belgrade as a departure city at either http://www.olympicairlines.com/ or http://quicktrip.olympicairlines.com/OA/webqtrip.html? If not, why do you not allow Belgrade as a departure city?

Thank you,
Roel

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European Airline Travel

Recently I needed to buy some airline tickets online for getting to the Greek islands from eastern europe, and I’d just like to list my findings of good european travel sites here in case you are in need of the same.

First of all you should know that there is a distinction between the standard airlines (e.g. Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, KLM, etc.) and budget airlines (e.g. Ryanair, easyJet, SkyEurope, etc.).

For the standard airlines, there are two main websites: Odopo, which was created by a consortium of european airlines much like Orbitz was in the US, and ebookers. For the particular route that I was looking for (Belgrade to Thira/Santorini) ebookers did not offer flights from Belgrade. Odopo gave a price of $342 for an Olympic Airlines flight (and $256 for another JAT flight). And a third lesser known site, Airvalues.com, gave an even higher price of $361.

So I checked Kayak.com, which is a great aggregator although sometimes not all that reliable, and they returned a price of $300 for the Olympic Airlines flight. Kayak’s directions were to book directly through Olympic Airlines. I had however previously checked Olympic Airlines for a flight from Belgrade, and they did not allow Belgrade to be chosen as a departure city. I could however pick a round trip from Thira to Belgrade and see that Olympic Airlines did offer a flight from Belgrade to Thira. For $200! Since I couldn’t book this flight online I called the Olympic Airlines reservation office and they gave me a price of $280. I knew there had to be a way around this. I had to hack the reservations system a little to book the ticket online.

For budget airlines, I found that Skyscanner is the best website to determine if low fare airlines service your departures and destinations.

European/International Car Insurance

Wow, it was difficult finding car insurance for Europe. I called my US car insurance, Progressive. They said they did have European coverage. AAA insurance said the same thing. I called Geico, who works through AIG for European insurance, and they said that they wouldn’t cover a high-value sportscar.

Then I called a bunch of UK and Netherlands car insurance companies. The problem I kept running into was that they required the car to be registered in the country that they were based in. It took me forever to find a company that could insure my car, so in case you’re ever in need of one I’ll let you know who it is. The name of the company that provides european/international car insurance is Centraal Beheer. They’re cheap too! They are costing me half of what my US insurance costs, although I had to purchase a full year.

So the three main barriers in my search were that 1) the car couldn’t be a high-value car, 2) the car had to registered in the country of the insurance company, or 3) a full year of insurance had to be purchased. Let me know if you have any tips on this subject.

International Auto Shipping

Wow. Over the past three weeks I’ve been attempting to get my car shipped to Europe. It’s really bizarre how difficult it is.

I started by typing “international car mover” into Google of course. Movecars.com is one website that has a decent list of overseas auto shippers. So I called a couple shippers, among them Jack and April at ShipOverseas.com and Manny at Shipping-Worldwide.com. I learned that there are basically two different ways to ship your car overseas: roll-on-roll-off (a.k.a. Ro-Ro) or in a container. The container can be either 20 feet or 40 feet. The 40-foot container is shared with another vehicle.

I asked April how much shipping my car to Rotterdam would cost. She said $1100 in a shared container plus port and clearance charges, which are paid to the agent at the receiving port to unload the car from the container and get it through customs. She told me this would cost about $300. I also found that I should get full coverage insurance. April said that she could provide this for 2.5% of the car, or about $2900.

So far so good, but here is where it gets weird. I talked to Manny at Shipping-Worldwide.com and he provided me a quote for a 20′ container. His price was $2800 to ship the car and .35% for full coverage insurance, or $400. What’s going on here? I, of course, talked again to both of them and told them each others price. They could not explain the enormous discrepancy. However, Jack (with Ship Overseas) called his underwriter and was able to reduce my insurance cost from $2900 to $1160 (1%). What the hell?!? That’s still three times as expensive as Manny’s insurance.

I decided to go with Ship Overseas. They told me I needed to provide them with three notarized copies of the title and a letter from the lien holder stating that I can take the car out of the country. In this case Wells Fargo held the lien for my car. I don’t know if another bank will let you take your car out of the country, but Wells Fargo won’t. Since I didn’t want to bother with refinancing the car at another bank, I just wrote them a check for $76K, which is what I had left on my loan. You’d think that they could then expedite the process to return my title to me. NooOOoo, they couldn’t! In fact they took two weeks to figure it out. I needed my car shipped before that though so I had to figure out a work around, which I can’t mention here, but suffice it to say that I foiled Wells Fargo’s plan to delay my trip by another month.

More shipping info:
I learned that your shipper should be an NVOCC. Here’s a good site for sharing your moving experience.

Here’s the FAQ for shipping your car that Ship Overseas provides:

1. How and When do I Pay? Payment must be received in our offices on or before sailing date. Payment can be made in the form of a wire transfer, cashier’s check, and in some cases personal check, or credit card ( credit purchase). Payment must be made to our offices in San Diego, CA.

2. How do I start the Process of Making a Booking or Confirming my Intention to Ship? Initially you will make an inquiry by submitting some required information. We will respond with a price and offering you options, when applicable. You will respond on our website information with your full details as required in the format and we will make the booking and advise you by return email, where and when to take the vehicle or in the case of your vehicle being collected from an address or dealership, who the trucking company will be. Perfect instructions will be provided to you on confirmation.

3. What is required to ship my vehicle? 1. An Original Certificate of Title of Ownership without a Lien is required to ship your vehicle. ( no copies) to all International destinations. A Bill of Sale is sometimes required. 2. In the event of the vehicle being Used or Pre -owned the existing Certificate of Title can be endorsed by the seller to the new owner. No Sales Tax is payable to the dealer and proof of Shipping will be given to the dealer, by us, so as to keep him protected against paying Sales Tax. A Bill of Sale is sometimes required. 3. In the event of there being a Lien on the vehicle, permission in the form of a Original Letter together with 3 certified copies of the Certificate of Title must be obtained and presented to the customs office. A Bill of Sale is sometimes required. 4. When a new vehicle is purchased , an Original Certificate of Origin must be obtained from the Dealership who sold you the vehicle in order for us to get Custom Clearance. A Bill of Sale is required.

4. What are port and clearance charges? These are offloading and documentation fees charged by the destination country. Each country differs. Container offloading fees are more than Roll on Roll off fees, usually double.

5. Will there be anybody to assist me when my vehicle arrives? Yes, we have clearing agents at all ports that can assist you, but you can do the clearing yourself if you choose.

6. Do I need insurance to travel on the roads in foreign countries? Yes, insurance can be bought at the port of destination or you can arrange it prior to pick up of your vehicle with an insurance company of your choice.

7. Do I need a driving license in a foreign country? You should get an International DriverÂ’s License from the AAA Automobile Association in your area, however your American DriverÂ’s License will suffice in Europe. You can drive on your American Plates in a foreign country until they expire, when you will be required to renew your plates in the country of residence.

8. Can anybody pick up the vehicle? You can nominate any person to pick up the vehicle, but you must advise us, so that we can enter their name as the receiver. They will be required to identify themselves as well as produce the Title of Ownership or Letter of permission to ship vehicle.

9. Do we provide Marine Insurance? Yes, we do. There are two types of Insurance.

a. Total Loss: You will be covered for the full amount that you choose to insure for with zero deductible, in the event of the boat sinking, theft of the vehicle at the ports on either end or any permanent loss to the vehicle while in our possession. This does not cover any minor damage. 1.5% of the value you wish to insure the vehicle for.

b. Full Cover: This covers you against the above and any dents or damage or loss to part of the vehicle while in our possession. This does cost more and has a deductible of $500.00. 2.5% of the value you wish to insure the vehicle for. NB. Vehicles that are older than 10 years will not be able to be covered under this policy. They will still qualify for Total Loss Insurance.

10. Am I able to load my car with personal possessions? If you are shipping your vehicle in a shared container, you will be permitted to pack goods into the car. These goods are sent under your own risk and cannot be insured. If you ship your vehicle in a container on it’s own, you can pack the vehicle and the container with your goods. These can also be insured.

If your vehicle is being shipped on a Roll on Roll off vessel, you are NOT permitted to pack your car.

11. Shipping containers, which are not airtight, are subject to changing weather patterns. This can result in moss growing on your upholstery. To avoid this, we suggest you cover your seats with a sheet or cloth.

12. Should I remove my plates and Tags from my vehicle before shipping? When your vehicle is not containerized, we suggest you remove your plates and tags when dropping off your vehicle at the port. You can replace them when picking up your vehicle.

13. Are you able to guarantee delivery dates? Most times we are able to give you expected arrival dates, but sometimes due to custom delays or ships canceling their departures or in the event of there not being enough freight available for consolidated shipments, delays can occur. However, we are usually on target. No refunds or deductions in price will be entertained due to these reasons.

14. Do I pay import duties and taxes? Please note that returning citizens or foreign buyers may be subject to import duties and taxes. Each and every country has different laws so we urge you to contact the embassy of the country concerned to clarify matters. We will be available to advise you on some countries.

15. What is a roll on roll off vessel? This is a large vessel, which carries all vehicles that have wheels. The vehicles are stored below deck, not open to the elements and are the chosen method of manufactures to send new vehicles.

16. What level of gas should be left in my tank? Please keep your gas tank at 1/4 of a tank or less. For safety, full tanks will be emptied.

17. What is a customs clearance broker? A customs clearance broker is capable of passing your vehicle through the formalities of the country of destination. We suggest you employ their services to make it easier for you. Depending on the country, we can sometimes direct you to the contact information.