Central Europe (A Globus Tour): Traveling to Budapest

When you book a Globus tour you have a few options when it comes to airfare.  You can book your own flights and pay only a land tour price or you can have Globus book your flights with an air + land package.  If you choose to have Globus book your flights you can choose to arrive in depart in relation to your tour dates or you can choose to arrive a day or more early and leave a day or more late.  For my trip, I chose to arrive and depart in relation to the tour.

When you’re booking the package, you’ll have your choice of flights and the prices can vary depending on the flights you choose, I went with whatever was cheapest which ended up being flights on Lufthansa to and from Europe.  Keep in mind these are booked at discount economy rates so you do not always have the option to choose seats beforehand without paying additional fees.  You can also choose to pay to fly in a higher class if you prefer that.

My Globus tour would begin in Budapest so I flew out the day before the tour start date so that I would arrive (barely) in time for the welcome dinner the next day at the hotel in Budapest.  I would be flying from Los Angeles to Budapest on Lufthansa while transiting through Frankfurt.  My originals flights left me with less than an hour of transit time in Frankfurt but it was changed (not sure if by Globus or Lufthansa) so that I would fly on a later flight from Frankfurt to Budapest, leaving me with over a 3 hour layover in Frankfurt.

Since the tour we were going on would be moving from city to city, I brought only a roller carry-on bag and a backpack.  To minimize the amount of clothing I would need to bring, I brought a limited amount of clothes that I could layer and wash during the trip.  I also brought two packable jackets that I could layer on top of each other for warmth and in case of rain.  To be fair though, it was a warm winter and I actually like the cold.  Temps were mostly in in the 40s-50s which is warm for Central Europe in December and required less layers than the typically cold winter weather.

Flying to Budapest, I was transiting through Frankfurt for over 3 hours and flying in an Airbus A380 for the long-haul flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt.  It would be my first time flying an A380 on a long-haul flight and Lufthansa has a small cabin of economy seats in the back of the upper deck that is supposed to be quieter with its own bathroom for a smaller number of passengers.  Also, the economy cabin on the upper deck is in a 2-4-2 seat format versus the lower deck which is 3-4-3.  I really wanted to be in the upper deck so I decided to pay ahead of time to choose my seat and chose an aisle seat in a middle 4-seat row as the 2-seat sections were all taken already.

On the day of the flight, I arrived at LAX airport and proceeded to the Korean Air Lounge since I have Priority Pass membership through my American Express Platinum Card.  It was nice to have access to free food and drinks before the flight and also we ended up with a delayed departure by about 30 minutes.

At the gate, they have you line up in different lines by a range of seat numbers.  It was a bit confusing though because everyone is jumping into lines but not sure what line they are standing in.  Unlike some other airlines that use a raised sign that can be more easily seen, Lufthansa had gate agents standing at the front of various lines with the seat rows.  However, depending on where you are walking towards the gate from, you might not realize there are more than one line for all the different economy section.  They do have gate agents walking along the lines checking to see if you are in the appropriate line but if you are in the wrong line it may take a bit before they get to you and then you end up going to the back of the correct line.

Other than the confusion with what line you should be in, boarding went fairly smoothly.  At my seat was a thin blanket and pillow and the seat had seat-back entertainment (not uncommon for long-haul flights).  The entertainment system was for whatever reason very slow.  Scrolling took ages and I would touch a button and it would take a bit to load.  It was a bit maddening to navigate while looking for a movie to watch because the response was just SO slow.  However, there was a decent selection of movies and I watched quite a few.  I believe they did pass out earphones but I always bring my own so I’m not 100% certain.

Sitting in the mini economy cabin on the upper deck was very nice.  There was a much smaller amount of economy passengers and we had dedicated crew to our section and our own lavatory.  Service was probably faster due to the mini cabin with less passengers.  I have heard that Lufthansa crew can be kind of short and rude but I found our crew to be very pleasant and helpful.

For the first meal, if I remember correctly, you had a choice of fish or pasta and I went with the fish which was a salmon dish.  I found though the salmon to be decent.  The second meal left a lot to be desired though.  I kind of anticipated this having read about it on other blogs but seeing is believing.  Basically, Lufthansa has gotten rid of hot meals for the second meal and instead serve a “cold vegetarian dish”.  I do not really have anything against cold dishes or vegetarian dishes but Lufthansa’s offerings leave a LOT to be desired.  The meal for this flight was a sandwich with just cheese, greens and maybe a tomato and a few snacks.  The sandwich was pretty sad and looking around most people did the same as me and ate the other snacks but did not bother with the sandwich.

 

Even though we were delayed for departure, we still arrived in Frankfurt early.  It was too bad they moved me to a later flight because I am pretty sure I could have made the earlier one.  Instead, I had over 3 hours so I went to look for a lounge I had access too.  I knew I had access to certain Lufthansa Business or Senator Lounges with my American Express Platinum Card but I was not sure which ones.  I saw a lounge nearby my arrival gate and went to try there and they told me I needed to go to Terminal B which was neither my arrival terminal nor would it be my departure terminal but with the long layover I decided to go look for it anyways.

I took a shuttle over to Terminal B and found the lounge which was pretty empty which may explain why access is granted for only Terminal B, though I’m only speculating.  They had a nice selection of both hot and cold dishes as well as self-serve alcohol.  I settled in with some food, beer and proceeded to watch shows on my tablet until about an hour and a half before my boarding time.

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After leaving the lounge, I had to find my way to the terminal my flight was leaving from and instead of a shuttle I had a bit of a walk ahead of me as well as a bit of a wait to go through immigration.  Luckily I left earlier from the lounge because this took me a lot longer than I expected.

My flight from Frankfurt to Budapest was a short 1 hour 30 minute flight but I was still happy to see that there was nobody in the middle seat.  I sat in the window seat and pretty much took a nap until we arrived in Budapest.

At the Budapest airport, I was off the plane fairly quickly as I sat near the front and then headed out the airport to get a taxi.  Before I continue, let me backtrack a bit.  When I got my final travel packet from Globus, I was assuming they would provide a ride for me from the airport to the hotel as it is part of the tour package.  However, I was surprised (and honestly annoyed) that I would not have a ride arranged as I was arriving after their supposed cut-off time.  I can understand if it was communicated to me beforehand but I chose a flight off a list they offered me and even before I got moved to the later flight I would have possible been too late to make their cut-off.

Normally what seems to happen is that the tour bus will come to the airport and pick people up as a group to take them back to the hotel.  My parents arrived in the morning and so they were picked up.  I ended up not arriving until past 5 pm and instead needed to find my own way via taxi and then my guide would reimburse my taxi fare.

I had already read beforehand to find the taxi booth outside the airport and to use those taxis associated with the company Főtaxi instead of finding my own since you might end up paying more.  It was pretty simple.  You line up at the booth (which says TAXI in large letters) and tell them where you are going and you get a slip that has a number and you match that to the taxi as it drives to the pick-up area.  When your taxi arrives, you just give them the slip of paper and they’ll confirm with you where you are going.

The ride to my hotel in the city was not too long, only about 30 minutes.  I arrived, paid using local currency, asked for a receipt and was off to check-in at my hotel just in time for our tour’s welcome dinner.

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