Give me an L! C! C!
April 20, 2006 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever used low-cost airlines to cobble together a round-the-world-style ticket made up of short-hop flights? Because I'm thinking about it. A lot.

Maybe 11 months from now (Feb/Mar 2007), I'll be leaving Indonesia and heading back home to California, and being so far away already, I'd like to go home the long(er) way, traveling west, thereby having traveled entirely around the planet, which is just, you know, cool.

I could just buy a ticket like Jakarta-somewhere in Europe-California, but that seems a little too boring and fast. I want to transition, maybe take a week or two or three to do it, maybe feel like one of the guys in Dave Eggers' "You Shall Know Our Velocity." Cost isn't as big a deal as feeling like I'm really moving from east to west in a tangible way. LCCs seem to fit the bill.

An evening of Googling has yielded the following theoretically possible (insane? nightmarish? fun?) route:

Jakarta to Singapore (Valuair)
to Kolkata/Calcutta or Bangalore (JetStarAsia)
to Mumbai/Bombay (Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Kingfisher, others)
to Sharjah, UAE (AirArabia)
to Istanbul (AirArabia)
to Cologne (Germanwings)
to London (Germanwings, Easyjet, others?)
to Reykjavik (Icelandair, Iceland Express, BA) or Punta Delgada or Terceira, in the Azores(!) (SATA)
to Baltimore (Icelandair) or Providence or Oakland (SATA)
to Los Angeles (Southwest).

I like flying, I've got one bag that weighs less than 20 kilos/44 pounds, and of the cities listed, I've only ever been to London, Singapore, and Istanbul. All these flights are bookable online and I've had good experiences with LCCs in the past. I realize BA, Icelandair, and SATA aren't bargain-basement, but the Atlantic is hard to cross otherwise. I have friends in many of the places mentioned and won't spend all my time in airports.

So then: crazy? A nightmare of lost baggage and crazy week-long delays and being stranded? Adventure waiting to happen? Any advice, admonitions, etc. welcome.
posted by mdonley to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like an adventure to me. You might also check out airtreks, which specializes in round the world and one-way tickets. You can use their trip planner page to check comparible prices and schedules to the one you've set above. I would recommend taking as much time as you possibly can. Have a great trip.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:53 AM on April 20, 2006

European Flights:,

See if you can fit everything into a carry-on and you're set!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:04 AM on April 20, 2006

Bootsnall has a handy tool for compiling several tickets to make up one round-the-world-trip.

Check it.

Their messageboard is also handy for discussing this with others who have done it in the past.
posted by nitsuj at 10:10 AM on April 20, 2006

If you want a trully slower alternative to air travel - plus an adventure - you could always try going by sea on a freighter - you would need to allow a few weeks.
posted by rongorongo at 10:10 AM on April 20, 2006

Even at the three weeks option that's only a little over two days at each place, not including travel time; customs; airplane delays; how far the airport is outside of the city; jet lag; etc.

How "fragile" are the reservations you're making. If you miss one leg, are you screwed for the rest of your trip? Or forced to pay some sort of change of flight fee the rest of the way on every leg?

Do you need visas ahead of time for any of these places?

If it were me, I'd cut down the number of locations or take more time doing it. It seems the potential for feeling like you spent two weeks in an airport is quite high.
posted by MasonDixon at 10:17 AM on April 20, 2006

Heh. Dave Eggers wrote about doing exactly this in his terrible second novel, "You Shall Know Our Velocity!"

Might be worth checking out to see if there's any practical information in there.
posted by limeonaire at 10:19 AM on April 20, 2006

Heh, the poster cited Dave Eggers' novel in post.

Might be worth reading the whole thing before answering the question.
posted by dame at 10:43 AM on April 20, 2006

May I suggest trains? Hop over to Singapore, then you can get all the way to London in four weeks of Trans-Siberian madness. After that you can kick back with a bit of trans-atlantic BA classiness, you'll have earned it.
This website has advice.
posted by greytape at 10:54 AM on April 20, 2006

I think it sounds like fun - I'd do it! But do allow enough buffer time for missed flights etc., so you don't run into a domino effect of change fees etc. Good luck!
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:13 AM on April 20, 2006

I haven't exactly made a study of the statistics, but I bet most fatalities occur upon takeoff or landing, on smaller aircraft, and on budget airlines. Compared to, say, train travel, I wonder how much your plan increases the likelihood that you will die early next year.

I would at least refer to this when making flight plans. Also, read articles like EU clips wings of African airlines over safety failings, if only to remind yourself that airline safety requirements vary from place to place, and that poorer places might let things slide because they can't afford any other way.

But the plane is the way to go -- spend your valuable time in new towns, not in cramped train compartments or bus seats or ship cabins.
posted by pracowity at 11:18 AM on April 20, 2006

IcelandAir used to have cheap flights between Luxembourg and New York, with a layover in Reykjavik. I seem to recall it being cheaper to take a train from Switzerland to Luxembourg and taking this flight than many of the other options for flying back to the U.S. from Switzerland. Granted this was more than ten years ago, but unless things have changed a whole lot I wouldn't completely dismiss IcelandAir as an option.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:40 AM on April 20, 2006

United & BA/AA all sell around the world ticket for a reasonably cheap amount (with their partmers) - the only stipulation is you can only go in one direction - though presumbaly you can go like southwest but as long as you end up further west than you started.

Be sure and check out the EU list of 92 airlines banned from flying in to the EU - that should give you a clue as who to avoid.

Be sure to check out what kind of plane they fly also - Iceland air has a lot of small older planes you'll be jammed in for hours on end.

Air India also has cheap deals.
posted by jbelkin at 2:01 PM on April 20, 2006


Sounds like a great Idea. Good luck!
posted by gergtreble at 5:27 PM on April 20, 2006

Make sure that if 1 airline screws you up, another airline won't penalize you for missing a flight. Have a great trip.
posted by theora55 at 5:34 PM on April 20, 2006

I've done round-the-world tickets on United (twice). The only restriction was 25,000 air miles or fewer. That was then, they may have changed. The tickets were also reasonably cheap at the time, so it's worth checking against your LCC plan to see if you'd really be saving money (unless you're looking for adventure).

Two great advantages of the United RTW: 1) United frequent flyer miles for the whole thing and 2) easy to change (for a small change fee).

As for the Trans-Siberian railroad, the stretch between Irkutsk and Moscow is excruciatingly dull - 4 days of nothing to look at punctuated by the occasional 10 minute stop in nowhere. If you do the Trans-Mongolian starting in Beijing then that stretch from Beijing to Irkutsk is actually pretty nice, with views of the Great Wall, a stop in Ulaan Bator and a nice bit around Lake Baikal.
posted by zanni at 5:42 PM on April 20, 2006

Search multiple budget airlines in europe
posted by lalochezia at 10:21 PM on April 20, 2006

We did a year long trip and bought as we went, after the first ticket (Canada-India-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh-Thailand-Indonesia-Australia-Canada with a bunch of overland travel in there too). The benefit was that we could change plans at will, add or subtract destinations and take advantage of any deals. As you know already, tickets in south-east Asia are pretty cheap no matter where you buy them. Sometimes we bought on-line, other times from agents or directly from the airlines, wherever we could get the best deal.

Downfalls were that we got stuck once, and had to buy business class to get where we wanted, when we wanted. And some countries do still require that you have proof of departure out of the country before they'll let you in, so you'll have to watch out for that.

It sounds like a great adventure - enjoy!
posted by Cuke at 5:39 AM on April 21, 2006

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