20 October 2012

Vodafone - not a travelling network

I've travelled abroad many times and have never really had a problem using my iPhone for data, messaging and calls. You know it's going to cost you a bit more, but in the past, my network provider, Vodafone, has always sent me clear texts to let me know how much it is all going to cost.

However, on a recent trip to Turkey, both the squeeze (who is also with Vodafone) and I had an absolute nightmare, so I thought I would share our experience in the hope of preventing it from happening again.

Immediately upon arriving in Turkey, I started receiving very contradicting texts from Vodafone. Adam was getting completely different texts so we really weren't sure what the costs were of using our phones there. Some texts told us we were being charged £3 per megabyte, some said we had a 5MB allowance and some said we were being charged £5 for 25MB. It really wasn't clear. Below are a selection of the texts that I received to my phone.

Then, literally on our second day, we both received messages from Vodafone telling us that we had used our allowance of roaming for a trip outside of Europe and that our data roaming had been cut off. Apparently, we had both opted into  a roaming cap (although neither of us had opted into this and this hadn't happened in Australia earlier in the same year). Added insult to injury, the message said that we had reached our "euro" cap, which is utterly nonsensical since we both pay our bills in Sterling and the Turkish currency is Lira. The message said we could respond "stop" to lift the cap, but this didn't work.

Now, some people reading this might think, hey, you're on holiday, don't worry about your phone. However, that very same day, Adam proposed to me and it meant I couldn't share a photo of my ring with my friends and family and meant I couldn't let everyone know on Facebook. I was so upset.

Also, Adam uses his phone for work and urgently needed to access his emails to respond to a customer.

So we ended up having to ring Vodafone on the 191 customer services number. Unfortunately, every time we rang them, we were told that their phone lines were busy and we had to hold. We both tried to book in call backs with Vodafone, where your number is placed in a queue and they call you back when it is your turn. Unfortunately, each time they called us back, we were cut off after one minute.

In total, Adam rang Vodafone nine times and I rang them six times. One time I was put on hold for 16 and a half minutes before I gave up (below). It was so frustrating. When I eventually managed to speak to someone, I was told that I was on a package whereby I spent £5 per day for 25MB of data and they switched my data back on.

However, poor Adam didn't have so much lucky. He spoke to two separate people who informed him that Vodafone don't offer a roaming package for the rest of the world and he had to pay as you go. This is despite this package being advertised on their website and the Twitter support telling us both we should be on that package. Finally, he managed to speak to someone who told us that he could have the "Rest of the world" package which would cost him £5 per day and that to date he had only spent £10 on data.

So, it was all great news. We knew that we were each spending £40 for the whole holiday on data which was fine and Mum received the photo of my ring that she had been waiting for. We could get on with enjoying our holiday.

However, this weekend, we received a massive shock. Absolutely huge Vodafone bills!

We have both been charged for calling the 191 number. At no stage when we spoke to anyone were we told we would be charged for this service, nowhere on their website does it say this service isn't free from abroad and none of the times when we were put on hold or used the call back service were we informed that there was a charge from abroad. In total, Adam was changed £100.65 and I was charged £53.83. All of which was mainly incurred being on hold and all trying to resolve an issue which was due to Vodafone's appalling communication.

We were expecting to pay £40 for data roaming, however, we have both been charged far more than that! Adam was charged £163 and we also discovered that when we were told he had only spent £10, he had actually sent £70! I was charged £128 for my data roaming which is substantially more than the £40 I was expecting.

So my advice would be the following:
  • before you go on holiday, make sure you are completely clear what package you are on and how much it will cost you in your chosen destination. Just because it has been fine before, doesn't mean it will be fine in the country you are visiting
  • never ring 191 from your mobile. It would be cheaper to ring from a land line abroad than from your mobile
  • check your bill when you get home. It probably will be inaccurate as both of ours were
So, thanks Vodafone for making what was supposed to be a wonderful holiday an frustrating experience and stinging us both with killer bills. I've been your customer for nine years. I suspect I won't be for much longer.

14 October 2012

It's nice to be called young again

Some HPB destinations are more popular than others. But HPB Physkos in Turunc, Turkey is notoriously difficult to book. I'm told that some of the villas are booked up at least two years in advance!

Having just returned from a week's stay there, I can completely understand why.

The property is very decadent and luxurious with several large pools and hammocks on the lawn in which to laze in the sun. We had a studio apartment, which the booking staff repeatedly informed us was quite small. However, it was perfectly big enough for our needs with two large balconies, a spacious kitchen-come-living area and a nice double bedroom. As usual, the property was immaculate and equipped with every imaginable kitchen utensil you could ever need. We didn't get round to using the three bread baskets....

View from our second balcony

The pretty town of Turunc is a pleasant five minutes walk. There are plenty of bars and restaurants, a large stretch of beach and a marina with water taxis and day tripping boats to take you around the area. We enjoyed particularly good meals at Tapas Mapas, OBA 09 and Pisces restaurant as well as taking the water taxi to nearby Amos and Marmaris. There is a mini market next door that makes the most amazing pancakes and casseroles that they deliver to your room. You can read about how to get a water taxi on my blog here.

The main appeal, however, has got to be the management team, led by Korhan Demiroz. When we arrived, we had one of the warmest welcomes I have ever received and one of the funniest and useful welcome meetings I've ever been heard (although there was no booze, which for me is a must!). We celebrated a very exciting event while we were there and Korhan even sent a bottle of fizz to our room. A lovely touch from a lovely man.

The best bit however was, we were repeatedly told that "it was nice to have some young people staying at Physkos". Now, being 30 plus some years old, this has got to be one of the nicest things someone could possibly say to me!

And yes, most of the residents were, shall we say, on the greyer side of 50. However, everyone was so friendly and it certainly meant there were no late night parties or loud music!

I've carried on about how great HPB places are on my blog. Having just returned from the nicest one I've ever stayed in, I thought I'd take the opportunity to have another little rave! You can read all about how the HPB system works here and I can't praise the company enough.

The only downside was the naughty old wasps that plagued the pool. But by all accounts they arrive every year at the end of August. There's more about the wasps on my blog here. There was also no free wifi by the pool and since data roaming charges are so expensive in Turkey, this was a real shame.

I will almost certainly return, but next time I will be going in June. And no Korhan, not with children!! Although, who knows what they are doing two years in advance? I barely know what I am doing two weeks in advance so whether I'll be able to book a property may rely on a bit of luck!

I think I hear a buzz.....

We recently returned from an absolutely glorious holiday in Turunc. It's a lovely place, lovely people and overall we had a wonderful time.

However, there was a buzzy little irritant we had for the whole week. Wasps and bees!

They were absolutely everywhere. By the pool, by the beach, in restaurants, on the water taxis. Everywhere! And they absolutely loved everything sweet, so we were dreaming if we thought we could drink fruit juice on our balcony.

And they weren't placid little insects. They were the angry, persistent, aggressive and stinging variety. Everyone we met had been stung at least once and told horror stories of people being rushed to hospital with anaphylactic shock!

The breakfast we tried to have on our balcony which was thwarted by wasps! Look closely, you'll see one in the photo!

We subsequently learnt that the wasps arrive every year at the end of August and stay until the end of October. If you look online, there are quite a few blogs about it in Turunc and the surrounding bays so it is clearly an annual problem.

I have to be honest that, by the end of the week, I had become quite accustomed to them and let them land and zip around me. And the good news is that they go to sleep at night fall. However, the squeeze seemed to go the other way, became increasingly frustrated by the little beggars and was constantly seen swatting and swiping and swearing!

When we went to Amos restaurant, I ordered the most delicious red mullet (above). Disappointingly, as it was quite sweet, the wasps absolutely loved it as I was swarmed by them! They had to bring out a little smoke machine to get rid of them! So I ate in a big, plume of smoke!

I can't say it ruined our holiday, far from it. In fact it was one of the most lovely, relaxing, romantic and friendly places I've ever been. I will definitely go back, but maybe I'll go in June next time...

If it was my job, I think I'd enjoy it more!

When we got to Turunc in Turkey, we were immediately told we had to get a water taxi so we could see the coast from the sea.

Having never used a water taxi before, I approached this with a certain amount of trepidation. As someone who suffers from terrible sea sickness, I was worried about how big the taxi was going to be and how much my delicate tum would feel each of the bumps of the sea.

However, the taxi turned out to be more of a fully fledged boat, accommodating around 30 people at a time. Certainly not the intimate, rocky ride I expected it to be.

Turunc Water Taxis

The first water taxi we took was from Turunc to Marmaris. It cost 15 Turkish Lira (which at the time of writing is a around £5) per person for a return journey that took around 45 minutes each way.

Our hotel had provided us with the water taxi timetable. And, since the next one was due to leave at 10.30 we rushed down to the marina to catch it. However, we soon learnt the timetable is more of a guide than a time set in stone. As we waited on the boat for 45 sweltering minutes before there were enough people to merit a trip.

The taxis are run by a large group of swarthy men who stand around smoking, shouting and looking generally quite grumpy. Unlike the many day trip boats that litter the seas around the bay, the boat drivers clearly don't see their role as that of an entertainer or a tourist guide. The boat starts and they drive to the next stop, with barely a look of acknowledgement to their passengers throughout the whole journey. Mostly, they seem to spend their time shouting at other sailors or shouting down their phones.

I really don't understand what they have to be so grumpy about. As the journey and the coastline is absolutely stunning, the sea is fairly flat (to the delight of my stomach) and the air and sea is clean and fresh. Seems like a pretty good job to me!

Despite the stoic old sea dogs, I absolutely loved the trip and we ended up getting two further water taxis to the bays of Kumlubük and Amos. The whole coastline is absolutely stunning and largely unspoilt.

Costing only a few Turkish Lira a trip, it is definitely worth the money and much better than getting the bumpy old bus inland via the treacherous cliffs! Just don't expect service with a smile!