Categories
Travel

What a KD2,000 a Night Hotel Room Looks Like

If you ever wondered what a KD2,000-a-night hotel room looks like, here you go. I originally saw this room last summer when the Grand Hyatt gave me a tour of the hotel, but back then the room was still being accessorized so I didn’t share any photos. A few days ago I went back to see the room because I figured it would make an interesting post.

So here are some facts:
– This is the Presidential Suite
– It’s 260 sq m
– It’s basically a luxurious large apartment, with 2 bedrooms, 3 living rooms, 3 bathrooms, a walk-in closet, a large dining room, a kitchen, and its own private elevator access

I tried to cover the whole room on video in under a minute and barely made it. I even had to leave out some parts like the kitchen and some corridors, that’s how huge the room is. Swipe left for the walkthrough video.

I heard there’s a KD4,500 per night hotel room in Kuwait as well which makes me think I should probably check that out next.

Categories
Travel

Kuwait Airways Reveal New Uniform

Yesterday Kuwait Airways revealed their new uniforms designed by the Italian fashion house Ettore Bilotta. The fashion house is known for collaborating with many international airlines including Etihad and Turkish Airlines.

Kuwait Airways also announced new flight routes:

Starting from June 2023

Antalya – Athens – Budapest

Starting from October 2023
Abha – Alula – Barcelona – Berlin – Qassim – Taif

I wish the Barcelona route started sooner since I’m meant to be flying there in June and I’d rather not have a stopover anywhere. Having a direct flight to Berlin is also great, it’s been on my to-do list for a few years and a direct flight makes it all the more accessible.

Categories
Travel

Jazeera Airways Now Flies to Russia

Starting February 2nd, Jazeera Airways will now be flying directly to Moscow. Their introductory fare starts at KD99 and I just tried booking for a date in February and found seats for KD98.960 so this KD99 price is real.

The only thing is the timing of all this seems a bit weird. With the ongoing war against Ukraine, not sure Russia is the best place to take a vacation right now. Simple things like your credit cards won’t even work there. But KD99 is a pretty good deal though.

Categories
Travel

Istanbul: My Favorite Restaurant

One of the best things about Istanbul is the food, the Turkish cuisine is really great but I’ve also had one of the best pastas I’ve ever had there (@ilcortileistanbul). They know their food and flavors really well which is why I’ve never had a bad experience.

But, my favorite restaurant in Istanbul is a small place called Yeni. I found it by mistake one night on my first trip to Istanbul and it’s now my go-to place while I’m there.

The menu is based on Turkish cuisine but the chef is always deconstructing classical Turkish dishes into more contemporary and exciting versions. Everything I’ve had there was incredibly flavorful and the presentation is always interesting. You can’t go wrong ordering off the menu blindly, even things I wouldn’t usually eat I make an exception for at Yeni since I know I’ll end up loving whatever I try. They have a tasting menu (9 and 7 courses) but I always go the à la carte direction.

The price is considered to be on the high side for Istanbul and so expect to pay around 20KD per person without drinks or 25KD if you go with the 9-course menu. Reservation is required especially on weekends when they’re super busy. Check them out next time you’re there @yeni.lokanta

Categories
Travel

Istanbul: My Favorite Hotel

I’m currently in Istanbul for the week, my second visit this year. It’s such a beautiful city with so much to do and see which is why I’m back again.

My favorite place to stay while here is at the Soho House Istanbul. It’s the only Soho House location in the world that I’m aware of where you could stay in without being a Soho House member.

It’s a really beautiful hotel located close to many restaurants and bars but also close to a metro station. The rooms like the rest of the hotel are beautifully designed and have large windows that bring in a lot of daylight. At the end of the day, I tend to retreat to the Soho House Club which is a large mansion next door that once served as the United States Consulate in Istanbul. It can be best described as a really large lounge occupying multiple floors and rooms with a couple of bars, a members-only restaurant, a games room, and usually a DJ playing great music.

The hotel also houses Cecconi’s, the popular Italian restaurant which more people seem to know about than the hotel itself. There really isn’t any other place I’d want to stay in while here so check them out if you’re ever heading to Istanbul sohohouse.com

Categories
Events Information Travel

Visit the Noor Riyadh Festival

Over the weekend I visited Riyadh to check out the Noor Festival. Noor means light in Arabic and I think they have around 44 different installations located all around Riyadh for this festival. Some of the installations are really epic and I mainly went to check out two, the one above by SpY Studio, and the one below by Arne Quinze.

All the installations are free to check out although for some it seemed like they required to get free tickets so I did, but then nobody was checking for tickets.

I only wanted to spend one night in Riyadh so I was rushing from one place to another to check out the installations. It was Friday which meant there wasn’t much traffic which was great. The Arne Quinze installation was located around an hour outside Riyadh in the middle of nowhere so that took the longest to get to. It was actually located on the same road into Riyadh coming from Kuwait (I only realized the second day on my way back to Kuwait) so if you leave Kuwait around 11AM you could get there just in time for sunset, check it out, and then continue into the city.

I got to Riyad around 1PM had lunch, checked into my hotel, had coffee, and then drove back out of Riyadh for an hour to get to the installation and another hour coming back. I also spent an hour at the location because there was a second installation (photo above) right next to it, So the Arne Quinze installation took the most amount of time to check out but it was definitely worth it.

Finding the different installations was easy since Noor Riyadh has an app showing all the different installations on a map. All the locations open up on Google Maps so find them was simple. I say you’d need 2 nights in Riyadh to visit most of the ones you’re interested in, especially if you want to do other things in Riyadh. I wanted to also visit Riyadh Boulevard City (tickets from here) and have dinner there at Public (it was great), but that meant by around 10 PM I decided to stop checking out the installations and head there, without Boulevard City I would probably have been able to check out maybe 2 to 4 more installations I was interested in.

Traveling to Riyadh is easy as I’ve posted before and if you live in Kuwait then it’s really easy to get an evisa. There wasn’t any traffic at the borders leaving Friday morning but there was traffic coming in on Saturday afternoon and I ended up spending 30 minutes at the Saudi side of the border.

For more information on Noor Riyadh and to download the app, visit their Instagram @noorriyadhfestival and their website riyadhart.sa/en/noor-riyadh

The last day of the festival is Saturday, November 19th.

Categories
Travel

Kuwait Residents Can Now Enter Oman with No Visa

I like how the GCC is starting to open up to each other. After Saudi opened its borders to GCC residents a few weeks ago, now Oman announced that any GCC resident could enter Oman without even needing a visa (source).

I have to embarrassingly confess I’ve never been to Oman but it is on my to-do list. I’ve actually been thinking of just driving there since it’s definitely a place I’d want to have a car and go driving around for a couple of weeks. From the pictures, it seems like such a beautiful and chill place, and it’s so close to Kuwait.

It doesn’t look like there are any conditions for entering Oman other than the fact that your Kuwaiti residency should be valid for a minimum of three months. I’m sure this is great news for a lot of people.

Categories
Travel

15KD Round Trip Flights to Abu Dhabi!

Starting October 30th, the ultra-low-cost airline, Wizz Air will begin operating daily flights to Kuwait from Abu Dhabi. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is partially owned by the Hungarian Wizz Air but is majority owned by ADQ (formerly called Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company) and operates out of the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

I just tried booking a weekend flight to Abu Dhabi and ended up with a $49 two-way ticket which equates to around 15.5KD, so this price is real. But, because it’s a budget airline, you pay for every single extra thing you need. So for example, the $49 doesn’t allow you to take a carry-on bag on the plane, just a backpack. If you want a carry-on, that’s an extra 9$ each way but you could fit a weekend’s worth of clothes in a backpack so it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep your ticket price under $50 .

15KD to fly to Abu Dhabi for the weekend is a really great price obviously, thats cheaper than a padel court rental. Once you’re in Abu Dhabi there are quite a lot of things to do including visiting Ferrari World or the beautiful Louvre Abu Dhabi (pictured above). You could also rent a car and split your time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai which is just an hour away. I’m sure as more demand kicks in the prices will go up but for now, if you want to take advantage of the 15KD tickets, you should get your ticket asap. wizzair.com

Categories
Food Travel

Fine Dine in Riyadh


LPM

Since getting a visa to Saudi is so easy now I figured I’d share a list of some popular fine dining restaurants in Riyadh. Fine dining isn’t something we have a lot of in Kuwait so turning a trip to Riyadh into a dining experience is really easy.


AOK Kitchen

When I’m driving to Riyadh I tend to get there around lunch and Cipriani is usually my first stop. I actually think about lunch during the drive since it’s like a reward at the end of the long journey. Anyway, check out the list below of some of the popular fine dining spots in Riyadh:


Beefbar

Amazonico
AOK Kitchen
Beefbar
Billionaire
Cipriani
Coya
LPM
Myazu
Nobu
Nusret
Zuma

If there is anything else you think should be on the list let me know:

Categories
Travel

Kuwait Airways World’s Most Improved Airline for 2022

The Skytrax World Airline Awards 2022 was announced and although Kuwait Airways was nowhere near the top of the list, they did make it as one of the top 10 most improved airlines for 2022. Kuwait Airways moved up from 179th place to 76th place which is 103 places in just a year. This year’s best airline on the other hand award went to Qatar Airways while Emirates came in third place.

Here is a link to the top 10 most improved airlines list.
and Here is a link to the “World’s Top 100 Airlines in 2022” list.

Categories
Automotive Travel

Kuwait to Dubai and Abu Dhabi by Car – Everything You Need to Know

On Thursday morning I headed to Dubai in my car for the weekend and just got back last night. I had a few things I needed to do on this trip, first thing was to stop at Abu Dhabi since I have a car being restored there and I needed to check on it and take it out for a test drive. Then I needed to head to Dubai because I had some things I needed to install on my car at Arctic Trucks (Mountain Top roll cover and sports bar, and Rival4X4 skid plates). Finally, on my way back I also needed to stop over in Khobar for work.

Kuwait to Dubai is a very doable trip. Its long, and it’s not something I’d do often, but it would be something I’d be willing to do if I needed to get something from Dubai which we don’t have in Kuwait. Like a couch or something, I don’t know, I just like the idea that if I found something in Dubai that I can’t ship to Kuwait or bring back on a plane with me, then I can just drive there pick it up and come back.

So here is everything you need to know in case you want to do the same trip. This also applies to driving to Qatar since you drive by the Qatari border on the way to the UAE one.

Trip Duration
I left my place in Salmiya at around 6AM, and got to my hotel in Abu Dhabi by 6PM Dubai time (5PM Kuwait time). The trip took exactly 11 hours including stopping for breakfast, a few photoshoot stops, and all the border crossings. If you’re heading to Dubai directly just add another hour on to the trip.

Google Maps
Trusting Google Maps will take you on the best route is not the best idea in the world but it’s something we do. At one part of the trip it made me exit the main highway and go through a tiny road where I swear I read a sign that said for use by ARAMCO contractors only. I wasn’t sure if 30 minutes later I’d end up at a security gate and have to turn back, I just hoped I’d end up back on the main road eventually. It did take me back to the main road but this brings up an important thing which is my trip could be different from yours. Yesterday coming back from Khobar Google sent me on a different and nicer road than my last trip back so just be aware of that.

Kuwait to the UAE Borders
I’ve already covered driving through Saudi in my previous post and the same rules apply here again. The Saudi leg of the journey although long actually passed by really quickly. The thing about driving in Saudi is the roads and scenery change very frequently. There isn’t just one straight highway from here to UAE and so the journey feels a lot more interesting since you drive through a variety of terrain and road types. You could be on a highway for 30 minutes, then a back road for 30 minutes, then driving through a coastal town for an hour, then through sand dunes for another hour, etc. The only issue I faced on this trip was the lack of fuel stations.

I think I counted 8 fuel stations that were open from Kuwait to the UAE borders, and that’s including both sides of the highway. This was the only thing that made me anxious on the way because I didn’t know if I’d find a gas station on the road ahead or not. Google Maps isn’t helpful and at one point when I needed fuel I used Google Maps to find one in a village I was driving by and Google Maps took me to a gas station under construction, and then another gas station that turned out to be a garage. So in case you need them, here are some fuel stations where I filled up at:

First stop after the Saudi borders. There is a McDonalds there so you can also have breakfast: https://goo.gl/maps/LFhKgeHkmmekjxUi8

Second station I filled at. This was in a village when I wasn’t sure if I’d find another station on the highway ahead (turns out there was): https://goo.gl/maps/CUh3oL2nteFyhfNx7

This is to where you should fill up instead of the village station I mentioned above: https://goo.gl/maps/k6zDv9PrLGMvf3FL9

For my third stop I used this station. It’s located on the other side of the road but it’s easy to U-turn to and get to. It’s located in a beach town called Salwa and it’s near the Qatar border: https://goo.gl/maps/dbY3HRz4dr7bv9Hq9

Last station before UAE border. You should fill up here before crossing into the UAE. https://goo.gl/maps/U7sdkoJRGd868hMD6

So basically there were around 4 fuel stations on the way to the UAE with the rest all closed down, abandoned or located in villages and towns out of your way.

Qatar
As I mentioned at the start of this post, you need to drive by the Qatar border to get to UAE. At one point you’ll get to a roundabout where if you go straight you get to the Qatar border, or if you turn right you head towards UAE. Because I didn’t cross into Qatar and experience the trip to Doha, I didn’t make this a Qatar guide as well.

UAE Border
Once I got to the UAE border the process was fairly easy at the Saudi side. It was just me and another car crossing at that time. The guy at the window didn’t even take my passport, I had opened my passport to the visa number page and held it out of the window to give it to him and he just looked at the number and typed it out on the computer and handed me a slip. The UAE side of the border was super nice, multiple lanes and looks like a proper border. I had to drive through an X-ray machine first before arriving to passport control. Even though I usually use the eGate when I arrive to Dubai, after giving the border guy my passport he told me I needed to drive around to the immigration building and get my passport stamped there. It wasn’t busy so the process there was also fast, I filled up a paper and had my iris scanned and then got the passport stamped. I got back into my car and then drove through the border. I had to get car insurance before leaving the border, the minimum duration was 2 weeks and it cost 210AED.

UAE Border to Abu Dhabi
As soon as you get into UAE you’re suddenly on a proper 3 lane highway with a speed limit of 160KM/h. The fuel stations on this road are also a lot nicer than Saudi, and the convenience stores and bathrooms at the stations are proper. I stopped at the first one to fill up and get a sandwich and coffee for the remaining leg of the trip. This was actually my least favorite part of the whole trip. It was around 3 hours of driving in a straight line going 160km/h with the exact same scenery. It was super boring.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai Toll Gates
So this is something I was hoping to work out but couldn’t really do it properly. So Abu Dhabi has toll gates on the road called DARB. I couldn’t figure out how to get it working with my Kuwaiti license plates and I need to check and see if I have any tolls so I can pay them before I get at fine. In Dubai they use Salik and I picked up a Salik tag with 100aed on it from a gas station on my way to Dubai. I couldn’t get it set up. Firstly I couldn’t access the Salik website using my phone data (you can’t use the App btw if foreign plates). Then when I did access the website using a shops wifi, it wouldn’t send me the OTP to my phone to verify. Luckily Google Maps has an option to avoid roads with tolls and I used that. Next day I set up Salik with my friends phone number who lives in Dubai and it worked. But it also told him that it would take up to 5 days to activate. They then called him this morning because they needed my car chassis number, he gave them my number and they spoke to me while I was typing this post up. My Salik is now active and any toll gates I passed under while I was in Dubai will now be deducted from my Salik account.

The best option to keep things simple is tell Google Maps not to use roads with tolls.

UAE to Kuwait
On the trip back to Kuwait I stopped in Khobar. I was meant to spend the night there but I ended up arriving quicker than I expected and once my meeting finished I realized I could make it to the Kuwait borders by 6PM (when there would still be some light). On the way back I left Dubai at 6:20AM (so 5:20AM Kuwait time). I headed to Khobar first, took the scenic route and stopped a few times for photos. I got to Khobar at 1:40PM (so 2:40PM Dubai Time). I was done with my meeting by 2:50 and figured if I skipped lunch and stopped for fuel only once I could make it to the Kuwait borders by 6PM. You do not want to drive on Saudi roads in the dark. I crossed the borders by 5:53PM. What sucked was that Google this time took me through a very scenic seaside road back to Kuwait and I couldn’t stop to take pictures because of my schedule.

Cost Breakdown
Here is the cost for the journey that includes my fuel stops and car insurance:

Saudi
138SAR – Saudi car Insurance
78SAR first fuel stop
95SAR second fuel stop
50SAR third fuel stop
53SAR forth fuel stop

UAE
210AED – UAE car Insurance
155AED – fuel stop

on the way back:

UAE
190AED first fuel stop
113AED second fuel stop
145AED third fuel stop
37AED forth fuel stop

Saudi
61SAR first fuel stop
111SAR second fuel stop
65SAR last fuel stop

Conclusion
I liked the trip and I didn’t find it really that exhausting. I’m not sure how many speeding tickets I got on this trip. On the UAE road where the speed limit was 160KM/h, I got flashed twice going 155KM/h. I was on cruise control and Waze was saying 155, and my car speedometer was saying 155 and I still got flashed, but only on by two cameras. I’m hoping those were just average-speed cameras that take photos of every car, I hope. Then in Saudi, the speed limit is mostly 120 so I would drive under 140. I’d pass by 20 cameras with no issues and then one would randomly flash me. No idea whats going on there. But, I did get flashed at one point for going over 140 but that was my mistake since I didn’t have it on cruise control and didn’t notice my speed.

Hopefully this guide is helpful in case you want to make this trip. I might have missed something or not covered a subject so if you have a specific question, let me know in the comments.

Categories
Information Travel

How to Apply for a Saudi e-Visa if you Live in Kuwait

Last week Saudi Arabia announced that any GCC resident can now apply for an tourism eVisa as long as you meet some basic requirements. I got in touch with their eVisa team for more information and here is everything you need to know.

To apply for an E-Visa you need to do it through the following website: ⁦‪visa.mofa.gov.sa/Account/Loginindividuals

Once you visit that link click on the letter “E” on the top left to go to the English page. Then on the right column under “Login Of Individual Visitors To Saudi Arabia” click on Register to create an account.

After creating an account log in and then click on “Add A New Application” on the right side. Click Agree a couple of time and you’ll eventually reach the Visa application form. Make sure for “Visa Type” you select Tourism and then under “Saudi Mission in” you select “Kuwait”.

Other than that it should be fairly simple. There are some requirements which are:

  • Your residency visa has to be valid of at least 3 months
  • Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months
  • Resident’s occupation should be among the eligible occupations listed on the portal (more on that below)
  • For those under the age of 18, one of the parents must apply first and must be present with them
  • First-degree relatives (Parents, husband, wife, and children) can get the visa online, as long as they are coming together with the one holding the residency

‎Regarding the resident’s occupation, it’s too long a list to share but everything I thought of seems to be listed including salesman, waiter or call center operator. So it’s not just managerial positions. The only occupation I couldn’t find was “Driver” but even that might possibly be listed under a different name.

Here are some visa details they also shared with me:

  • Cost is 300SAR along with health insurance fees
  • Multiple or single entry, this is not an option for the applicant, authorities (MOFA) will decide on a case by case basis
  • Validity of 1 year for the multiple entries, and 3 months for the single entry
  • Length of stay is 90 days for the multiple entry, and 30 days for the single entry
  • The new regulation took effect from the 1st of September 2022
  • You will receive the visa within 48 hours at the registered email
  • You can use the tourist visa to perform Umrah, but not during the Hajj season

This visa is also valid for land, port or air entry.

Finally, they also shared the below requirements for entering Saudi as a tourist:

  • The tourist visa includes medical insurance covering infection with the Coronavirus
  • If you are going to drive, you must hold a valid international driving license or a license issued from a GCC country, and the car must have insurance. Insurance can be done at the border on the Saudi side. For more information on traveling by car check out my previous guide here.

And that’s pretty much it. If you have any questions let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer it.

Categories
Travel Videos

Kuwait Airways Review by Josh Cahill

Josh Cahill is a German-Czech aviation vlogger and airline critic who is considered to be the most-watched flight reviewer on YouTube. Yesterday he posted a video review of his flight with Kuwait Airways and spoiler alert, he had a wonderful experience. He liked a lot of things including surprisingly, the Chicken Kiev which he described as one of the best meals he’s had on any flight. Now I feel like I have to try it. Check out his review above.

Thanks Nidal

Categories
Information Travel

Anyone in Kuwait Can Now Get a Saudi Visa

A few days ago Saudi Arabia announced that any GCC resident can now apply for a tourism eVisa. Previously you could only apply for an eVisa if you were from specific countries, while everyone else had to go through a more complicated process that included getting bank statements and visiting the embassy.

With the new announcement, there are still some requirements like your passport being valid for 6+ months, your residency valid for 3+ months and your occupation should be listed as eligible, but these are just minor things.

Once you get your visa online, you can choose to fly to Saudi or just drive there. Al Khobar and Bahrain are around 3-4 hours after crossing the border while Riyadh is around 5. If you missed my guide to driving to Saudi check it here, or apply for a Saudi visa by going to visitsaudi.com/visa

Categories
Automotive Travel

Hilux to Saudi and Back

Monday I headed to Saudi for the first time in my new Hilux. I wasn’t sure if I had all the correct paperwork to make it past border control since I’m an expat driving a pickup truck that isn’t mine and I so heard I needed a lot of different papers and permissions. But, I made it!

As I previously mentioned, as an expat I can’t own a pickup truck so I had to get the car under a friend’s name. The only paperwork I needed to travel with the car was a power of attorney stating that I was allowed to drive and travel with the car. Getting a POA is a super easy process which I posted about. So that was great.

What wasn’t so great is on my way back yesterday there was a major dust storm. Once I got to Kuwait I realized the dust had sandblasted my windshield and the car’s forward-facing camera. I had PPF on the front of the car but not on the camera and not on the windshield. So now I got to figure out how to get this shit sorted out and how to stop it from happening again (if you have any ideas let me know, especially about the windshield!). I now need to see if both the camera and windshield can be polished or if I need to get them replaced. Not something I wanted to do on a brand new car…