Zain 7 KD – Data Roaming

Zain

There has been a package for GCC Data Roaming since the beginning of the year by Zain. Sometimes it works with the carrier and sometimes it doesn’t, but I would say that it works 70% of the time which is pretty good. 150MB for 7 KD across the GCC which I thought was perfect, honestly you don’t use too much and it doesn’t cost as much as a car if you use too much data, I remember some bills going over a 1000 KWD because of mistakes with billing which are insane. So these packages for data roaming are reasonable if you didn’t purchase a local land line.

To my surprise when I went to London they also had a 7KD package but it was for 100 MB on Vodafone, honestly that wasn’t too bad. I was pleasantly surprised about it. I switched on my data roaming and within minutes it was working on Vodafone’s network in London, truth be told Vodafone’s network isn’t too great but no one really is in London. But it was just enough data to get WhatsApp working as well as a few emails through as needed, it does the job and I’m happy they are making these deals with other telecom companies, at least now Zain is taking advantage of their size and influence and working out deals with other telecom companies to benefit the customer. I’m not sure if that package works for all of Europe or not, but those people traveling during Eid will know when they get there.

Amsterdam – A Short Visit

Just before GulfRun I had a quick business trip that came up and had to take off to Amsterdam for 42 hours, two longs meetings and heading back to Kuwait. Luckily we had some time to spend sight seeing and walking around, and the first thing you notice is that everyone is on scooters and bicycles in Amsterdam, they even have their own roads.

I was surprised how much they speed but being neighbors with Germany I should have kept it in mind, they were flying down the highways and our taxi was flying which I honestly enjoyed, they knew how to drive. One thing to keep in mind, always use official taxis and not the mini-cabs which are random cars just to be safe. We checked into our hotel which was very nice and luxurious, the rooms were a bit small but the atmosphere was amazing. We went walking right away since our meeting was the next morning in The Hague which is about 25 to 45 minutes away depending on traffic.

We started walking from 3 pm until 12 am, you literally can’t help but enjoy walking in such a cozy city. We kept walking from alley to alley and walking around these canals. To my surprise a lot of shops close early in Amsterdam, most of them close by 7 pm which is rather early so after that we would go somewhere to eat and there were a lot of very nice places to check out.

The flower section was amazing, it was honestly beautiful seeing so many kinds of flowers and I know that a lot of flower shops in Kuwait import their flowers from Holland which have huge flower farms and it is a beautiful view. Then there is the cheese and they do love their cheese, lots of cheese shops all around. The one thing that surprised me is all these french fries shops and mayo, thats all they sell and their are people waiting in long lines for them.

What I found surprising are the Dutch themselves, I just had a mental image that they would be the same as the Germans, but I was very wrong. The first time me and my colleague held out a map someone came over and ask if we were lost or looking for something. They really wanted to help us when we were just looking at the map to get our bearing and to figure out where we are going next. The whole city is beautiful and I honestly really liked it and thought about coming back again to really check it out. There were so many bicycles and scoots around it was ridiculous, they rang their bicycles bells and honk their scooters, and they expect you to jump out of the way, it was hilarious.

I knew that illegal substances were legal in Amsterdam but it was very different knowing it and seeing it, specifically smelling it. You can smell the Marijuana a mile away, you get a whiff of it every once in a while and sometimes in front of cages that you don’t expect, you would think they would be dingy places but they turned out to be very nice cafes with people smiling and blood shot eyes which looked hilarious. Then there were the stores they were right on the main street, I thought it was a jewelry shop only into turned out to be designer store which sold drugs, it was hilarious they had so many different names and presented in nice lighting.

It reached a point where I had to double check if I was buying a normal muffin or if it was laced with something, maybe just a little bit too paranoid but I didn’t want to eat something I shouldn’t. Then of course there is the red light district that you could see a mile away. They are open about their rules and regulations about where these places are, and you can see people walking around. As expected the Dutch don’t care too much for these entertainment drugs as much as people would think, its mostly tourists who are smoked up and chilling in the cafes.

It is a very interesting city and there is a lot to it that I didn’t have a chance to see, and I really loved their highways, people were speeding normally and the police weren’t harrassing them. Turns out in Holland the policy is very anti police, so they aren’t as abusive as police officers in the US who have a lot of power so people seem to be more relaxed around them and speed a little. And I want to rent a scooter next time around and zip around town.

(Check Out The Pictures Below! There are ALOT)
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56 Hours Of Traveling

This has been one very hectic week with a lot going on with work, family, and other activities. Recently I had to take a quick trip to Amsterdam which is the first time for me. There was an urgent meeting that I had to attend and so we took off a few days later after confirming our meeting. I didn’t know what to expect from Holland but I was looking forward to it.

Traveling for work doesn’t always gives you the chance to look around much. But for a frist time visit I am sure I am going to repeat it as I have found the Dutch to be very nice and always helpful when I open a map and have no clue where I am. I haven’t seen so many scooters and bicycles in my life, it was -1 outside and everyone was on a bicycle or scooter, and I was wrapped up in as much clothing as I had but I loved walking outside in the cold. This city just felt so cozy walking around, we literally walked around for over 5 hours in every direction getting lost and find our way, I have a lot of posts coming up but when I sort out the pictures since I took a lot of pictures.

Vodafone vs. Zain Data Roaming

Vodafone

I have been planning to write this post since I was getting fantastic service from Vodafone UK while traveling in Europe. And the funny part is the day I landed in Kuwait I get a text msg from Zain stating “Welcome back your loved ones are waiting for your call”, then an hour later my phone gets disconnected, luckily it isn’t my primary phone.

Data Roaming Pricing Structure

Zain

  • 0.006 KD per Kilobyte so about 6.144 KD per 1MB

Vodafone:

  • Europe: 85p a MB up to 5MB, then £4.25 for each 5MB after that
  • Rest of the world: £3 a MB up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after that

ZainBlackLogoSM

What Vodafone does better then Zain:

  • There is a charge of 50 British Pounds for data, not including normal call charges
  • This charge cap can be removed if requested by the user, also you get notifications when you are 50%, 80%, or 100% at the Cap where ever you are roaming
  • They disconnect the Data and not your phone line when you reach the cap, unlike Zain who disconnect everything and no notification
  • Also a side note if you have a Vodafone plan then you can also get a package for 40 British Pounds per month to get 25 MB a day to use with your phone line which is very useful and more then enough for your phone

Overall my normal phone with the vodafone line used about 300 MB worth of data in one week, it was my only access to the net so it was very Data intensive period for my regular phone. This cost me a total of 255 British Pounds or 113 KWD, if I did the same type of data roaming on Zain it would have been 1843.2 KWD which is insane. I had my Blackberry on which had a Zain line in it, I would never call from it or do anything with it except replies to BBMs, and as soon as I arrived back in Kuwait they sent me a welcome message and disconnected my phone within an hour, no notification, no call, no nothing. TMobile & Vodafone both manage to contact the customer even when abroad for irregular activities and make sure that the charges aren’t ridiculous but Zain doesn’t mind cutting off the customer in the middle of no where.

I can understand Zain saying that they can’t provide the same prices in Europe as Vodafone has, since Vodafone does cover Europe. But even in the Middle East where Zain is based we get charged insane prices, they don’t have agreements across their own networks when it comes to Data. I know that Kuwait’s international phone lines are controlled by the Ministry of Communication so they can’t give us local calling all over the Middle East but at least Data is controlled by the operator, you would think they have a system in place for their Data charges or have packages in place, and they would be able to come to an agreement between STC and Etisalat to provide mutual data services across each of their networks, it is a long process but something that would benefit the customer at the end of the day. But with the way things are now we will always get the short end of the stick.

Faber Castell – Perfect Pencils

Most everything is digital these day but when I go to meetings I have my trusty Moleskin with me and when I travel I have another for personal use. I like writing stuff down, drawing and doodling on the Moleskin. But with the perfect not pad you have to have the perfect tool, and in this case it the Faber-Castell pencils, I have been using them for a while, regular pencils and mechanical pencils. My drawing skills are no better then that of a 3 year old but I still like to draw and sketch, its always a good way to display ideas and I’m always noting stuff down or trying to draw things.

I have picked up about six different pens and pencils over the last two years and I use them all, I have some which are clipped onto a specific note pad and some I use for doodling. And recently I bought a drawing pencil set, from 6H to 8B, and I don’t even know what that means except maybe the thickness of the lead of the pencils, its just normal black pencils which I use for drawing and shading and some of these are very thick so its going to be fun trying them out. I have found these pencils available in Magahwi in Salmiya and Kuwait City opposite Khaleejeya complex, and in Greece Airport, Singapore Airport, all over the UK. If your a person that enjoys their writing and drawing utensil then this is the perfect tool.


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Bank & Economies in Europe

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Seems like the topic of the day are banks and the European countries, and the relationship between them. Greece has been in the news a lot lately and so has UK and Spain about their debt, then there is the decision of Germany to support Greece, and the other countries in the long list. Now all of these numbers flying around, but this infographic pretty much puts all the relationships into considertaion, keeping in mind if one of them goes down then this whole balancing act comes tumbling down. Click the picture for a bigger image.

Link: NYTimes

Schengen Issues

A lot of people travel to Europe for vacation or business, there is a lot to see and do, so I was surprised to here this happened to a colleague of mine. He is Kuwaiti and applied for a Schengen Visa, he wanted to travel to Germany for a medical check up and a short vacation. He had a schengen visa and his reservations ready to go. As soon as he landed in Frankfurt they pulled him aside at the passport counter, they told him his Schengen Visa is a forgery and he can not enter Germany, they will bring him a translator.

A Sudanese translator came, and he explained to him clearly that he understood and that is clearly wrong. They asked if he applied for his Visa himself at the German Embassy, he said no, the travel agency applied for him and they got the Schengen Visa from Spanish Embassy. They kept claiming it was a forgery, so he contacted the Kuwaiti Embassy, and they tried from their end but the counselor said that no matter what they did they were still claiming its a forgery and refused him entry. So he had no choice but to fly back to Kuwait, luckily the Lufthansa flight lands at 5 am and leaves at 4 pm to Kuwait, so he was arguing for hours but with no luck.

When he got back to Kuwait, he contacted the Ministry of Exterior to file a complaint and contacted the counselor as well. After jumping through a few hoops, he got the explanation that it isn’t a forgery but they have seemed to apply a new law in Europe that if someone travels to a Schengen country that he must get a Schengen which originates from that country to travel to it first then to other European countries, so in his case he should have went to Spain then to Germany. I don’t know if this is completely true because I just went to Italy on a Schengen from the German Embassy, so it doesn’t make sense. Also to get a Schengen from the Spanish Embassy takes one day, and to take it from the French or German Embassy takes about 2 to 3 weeks, the Italian Embassy takes about a week to ten days, so you can understand why large quantities of people apply for it through the Spanish Embassy. Also another explanation that was presented was that the other Embassies were complaining about the Spanish Embassy so they complained that they were taking a lot of income away. So it seems this is the action the German Immigration took, so how do you prove that it isn’t fake.

Multiple Stops

For the past few weeks I have been on the move with family and a little bit of work, majority of it is a break from work but I had to have some meetings while I was out abroad. Towards the end of this trip I have been on a plane every day and a half which has gotten exhausting, there is a lot I want to post about but not enough time. Off the bat, Italy was amazing, I’m annoyed that I haven’t gone there earlier, but there is a lot to post about, then off to London and I really missed London. I almost haven’t been to London for almost two years at this point, I didn’t realize how busy I got until recently, but it was so nice to be back in my room and smelling the fresh air next to the park, and now I’m in Hungary for a few days before heading back to London then back to the Kuwait the next night after a meeting in the morning. I have a lot of fasting to make up for when I get back to home, fasting abroad or while traveling is very difficult so I opted to fast at a later point, and I walked a lot in all the places, its just so easy to walk with this cool and nice weather. When I’m out walking I can feel the difference, the oxygen level in these countries are better then Kuwait, it just feels refreshing to walk outside and breath. Still a lot more to do and only a few days left until I go home, I wish all a happy eid.

Out Of Town

As of beginning of the week I got on the plane and took off for a little while with some family and some work. It kind of worked out to be a combination of work, getting some work travel done in between spending some time with the family. First stop has been Italy and I have been wanting to come here for years but never had an excuse to come but I’m quiet happy we are here now. What more can you want, amazing people, love the language great food, amazing scenery and you can feel the culture and that’s only in Rome. A few more stops before heading home but its going to be an interesting trips, and luckily I brought my camera with me.