Kuala Lumpur to UK avoiding closed airspace?
April 18, 2010 3:43 AM   Subscribe

Volcano filter: friend is heading towards the fourth night of sleeping on the floor of Kuala Lumpur airport, and is at the end of her tether. She's been away for a year and just wants to get home to the UK. The volcano shows no signs of stopping, and even when it does there will be a huge backlog of people and flights. So hivemind: practical ways of getting from Kuala Lumpur to the UK, avoiding closed airspace.

I do realise that sod's law being in operation, as soon as she sets off everything will quieten down and flights will start again, but right now she wants to be on the move.

Flying to Beijing and then by train back to the UK has been mentioned, but I don't know if this is feisable, or if it's the most efficient way back.

Money: she has none, but I think most of us UK-side will contribute to a rescue!
posted by Coobeastie to Travel & Transportation around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: She should fly to Morocco. There are no nonstop flights from KL but plenty of options that stop in Qatar, Egypt, etc. From Tangiers, it's a short ferry ride to Spain and then many options to get to the UK.
posted by acidic at 3:53 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: It is probably quickest to fly somewhere as close as possible to the UK but not yet affected, and then get the train, e.g. Istanbul, Athens or Madrid.

Alternatively, fly to Beijing, then take the train to Moscow (6 nights), then train to London (2 nights). Lots of information and timetables on Seat 61, e.g. Malaysia, China.
posted by caek at 3:54 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: IHNBIAVAB. (I have never been in a volcano airspace blackout).

It looks like the NYTimes has Moscow and St. Petersburg as receiving flights, and Athens as well -- also, looking at this page, it seems like she may need a transit visa to take a train through China, as the visa-free transit waiver only applies to flights. That visa might not take very long to process, but it would slow things down at least a little.

I'd guess the best thing to do would be to fly anywhere she can get to in the EU -- whatever the combinations are, Cairo/Madrid, anything -- and then take the train home from there. If that doesn't work, try to fly into Moscow, St. Petersburg, or somewhere else on a central Russian train line, and apply for a transit visa with them. They seem easier about the whole thing. (That's not the consular website, though).
posted by Valet at 4:01 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Getting a flight to (or near) mainland Europe is definitely the best plan, currently airports in the south of France are open. Problem will be all the other people doing the same thing.

I would avoid Russia, as the ash is currently heading that way.
posted by samj at 4:03 AM on April 18, 2010

- European airlines like Lufthansa and KLM have been doing test flights and inspected the results. They argue that the total closing of the airspace has been overly cautious. So some resumption can be expected even with the continuing working of the volcano.
- Long haul train connections like the Eurostar and international trains out of Amsterdam f.i were over booked on saturday. They are running double capacity trains where possible.
posted by joost de vries at 4:09 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: Here's a flight KL-Casablanca on Wednesday that's relatively reasonable ($700). I would think it's best to avoid as much of Europe as she can, because everyone there will be taking the train. Ferries from Spain to England here.
posted by acidic at 4:15 AM on April 18, 2010

(So much for my advice, I just tried to find any flights out of KUL and I am struggling to find any sane route to Europe. That'll teach me to post without researching first, sorry).
posted by samj at 4:20 AM on April 18, 2010

Response by poster: samj - thanks anyway. I think that at this point insane routes are preferable to another few nights on the floor!

Thanks for all the sensible advice everyone, looking into southern Europe flights. On the BBC the damn thing looks like it might be closing in on Madrid, so perhaps North Africa might be a safer bed.

Still open to any awesome travel plans here...
posted by Coobeastie at 4:34 AM on April 18, 2010

It looks like Morocco doesn't offer a visa waiver to UK citizens. It only offers transit visas, which might not let her out of the airport for long enough to find a free seat on a ferry.

Seat 61 might have the answer. It's an exhaustive guide to getting from the UK to pretty much anywhere via train and ferry. It also has links to lesser-known options, like getting a berth on a cargo ship.
posted by embrangled at 4:55 AM on April 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

if Morocco doesn't work, there's a flight to Tunis in a few hours, no visa required. There are ferries to Marseille, Naples, etc.
posted by acidic at 5:19 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: I'm currently in Lisbon trying to get to London - all coaches and trains are booked solid until Wednesday at the earliest, through Portugal, Spain and France. I'm considering buying a beater and driving at this point, or posting my suitcase and hitching. I hope joost de vries is right! So, OP, if your friend can get to Europe she will still have to wait, unfortunately.
posted by goo at 5:22 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's Seat61 page for travelling from Tunis to London without flying.
posted by embrangled at 5:27 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: Also, you may want to peruse Twitter's very punny #Ashtag to see which routes other people are taking and how it's working out for them.
posted by embrangled at 5:30 AM on April 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the Europe-side update goo!
posted by Coobeastie at 5:35 AM on April 18, 2010

Just another bit of background information, since someone mentioned Istanbul--unless things have changed in the last year, as a UK citizen you can get your visa for Turkey upon arrival, and it costs £10 or euro (or, possibly, dollar) equivalent. The standard visa is 3 months, multiple-entry, so there'd be no worry about busting a 48-hours transit visa if things don't settle down. Istanbul would also be a pretty good place to be stuck, as these things go: fantastically interesting, not very expensive, and linked to the UK by EasyJet once the ash begins to settle. Or, alternatively, by overland routes then the ferry (and the ferries might be a better bet than the train for the next wee while, especially as a foot passenger).

Good luck to your friend, whichever route she takes!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 6:33 AM on April 18, 2010

embrangled: "It looks like Morocco doesn't offer a visa waiver to UK citizens. It only offers transit visas, which might not let her out of the airport for long enough to find a free seat on a ferry."

According to the link you provided it does and the last three times I visited I haven't needed one.
posted by turkeyphant at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2010

If she's considering ferries or the Eurostar over the channel, she should be aware that 46,000 people got on a Eurostar train yesterday, and when my mum got the ferry from St Malo, she was offered ridiculous amounts by people trying to get in the car with her! Good luck to your friend, sorry I can't be of any real help.
posted by ellieBOA at 7:27 AM on April 18, 2010

Lisbon is open, and with the winds coming out of the northwest it's likely to stay open. There are ferries from Portugal to the UK.

"The plane to Lisbon. You would like to be on it." -- Major Strasser in Casablanca
posted by musofire at 7:29 AM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Take a bus or train to Singapore - its a 4.5 hour bus journey and affordable in any currency. Changi is a far better airport, would probably have helplines and assistance and Singapore has excellent connections to Europe.
posted by infini at 7:42 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also shuttles leave for singapore every hour and its just a 35 minute flight. (pity this wasn't 5 years ago, our old neighbours ran a duty free store in Subang)
posted by infini at 7:45 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: Musofire, the nearest ferries are from Bilbao and Santander in Spain - and they are fully booked this week and car only at any rate. Lisbon is just as backed up as everywhere else - I've now been in a queue for a train to Hendaye for almost 4 hours (no online booking grrr). This volcano is gonna be remembered for a long, long time.
posted by goo at 7:49 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: I completely feel for your friend as I was in a similar situation on 9/11 - had been backpacking around Asia for close to a year, had a great time but was completely ready to go home, my flight from BKK back to the States was booked for ... September 12, 2001. Oops! I was also completely broke (like, $12 that I could access broke).

I was lucky, in a way, because I knew it would be at least a few days until the US airports opened again, so I just stayed at my hostel, got someone to wire me $100 and hung out with the other stranded Americans, calling the airline every morning. It took a bit over a week to get on a flight, and it was ok, but in hindsight I should have just gotten on a bus and gone to the beach for the week.

So I know how your friend feels, but unless there is some non-negotiable reason for needing to get home ASAP, I would take a fraction of that money you and your friends were going to pool to get her home, and encourage her to get out of the airport and go for one last little trip - maybe to that one place she wishes she had gone but didn't have the time. There's always that one place. Or if she's just completely tired of traveling, she could park her butt on a beach somewhere, maybe on the Thai side (probably cheaper), until this all blows over (heh).

Good luck to her!
posted by lunasol at 8:29 AM on April 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm driving from Lisbon to Calais on Tuesday - your friend is welcome to join me if she can get to Lisbon by then. Trains Lisbon-Paris and Lisbon-Madrid (and points between) are booked solid for this week (Lisbon-Paris until the 28th!), as are coaches.
posted by goo at 9:22 AM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

If it's a matter of money, go with lunasol's suggestion, or if she knows anyone else in Europe or Asia outside the lockdown zone, fly here there instead so she can wait it out with company.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:27 AM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: Staying on the floor in the airport for four days sounds crazy and terrible. Finding all of these crazy routings sounds expensive. If money is an issue, KL can be cheap. Suggest that she just take 3-4 days, relax and sightsee. Then get on a plane in KL after Europe opens for business again and a couple days after the mass exodus of frustrated travelers.

10 days to kill in Kuala Lumpur. Check out jeri's link to the fireflies. A great way to kill a couple of days.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:07 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much everybody! I think we've got a far better idea of what's going on now, so it's really up to her how she wants to deal with it.

Also, I love this community and I'm filled with warm fuzzies at how lovely you all are.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:14 PM on April 18, 2010

According to AP the European Union is planning to open half of the European airspace tomorrow (monday).
posted by joost de vries at 1:01 PM on April 18, 2010

If she gets through Europe to the Channel coast, have her look into ferries to Ireland - it's probably easier to get back to Britain from there than France right now, just based on the insane numbers of people on the continent and the smaller numbers in Ireland.
posted by mdonley at 3:32 PM on April 18, 2010

Roscoff and Cherbourg to Rosslare, then on to Pembroke in South Wales on Irish Ferries; Roscoff to Cork on Brittany Ferries.
posted by mdonley at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2010

Almost exactly 11 years ago today, I stayed at a hostel in southwestern Ireland that had a Canadian manager who told me an interesting story. On St. Patrick's day of that year, he got a phone call--his grandmother was dying in Canada. He was able to get a plane ticket out of Dublin, but getting to Dublin was the problem. He made it to Cork, but couldn't get on a train or a bus, or even a rental car, it being St. Patrick's day. As he hung up a payphone after calling the last car rental place he could find, a man on the phone next to him said "You want how much for that car? Outrageous!" and hung up. He asked the man what he was trying to rent, and it was a Jaguar. Our Canadian then called up the Jaguar place and rented one. He then drove past the train station and found three people each willing to pay 1/4 of the rental cost, and made his way to Dublin in style.

Anyway, this may have no relevance to how your friend gets home, but hopefully it will serve as inspiration if she needs to get creative.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:04 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: having talked to the nice people at the Embassy and got some money for somewhere to sleep, she's decided to wait things out for the moment. The news that the Navy has been called in has also been a boost, with the hope that there will be attractive men in uniform at the end of all this!
posted by Coobeastie at 1:50 PM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: Update the second: flights are back on and she's home! Thanks for all you ideas and info everyone.
posted by Coobeastie at 8:06 AM on April 22, 2010

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