I know it has been almost a week since I have announced my blog with little to no updates. Sorry for the delay, it has been a whirlwind of a trip already. Now that I am settled in my apartment in Tel Aviv I am able to spend some time writing an update.
Last Thursday at about this time I was meticulously packing my bags and saying my goodbyes as I prepared for the next 3 months. The trip was off to a good start arriving at Pittsburgh International Airport a good 3 hours before my scheduled departure with a 3.5 hour stop over at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Upon arrival at EWR I learned that I would have to transfer from terminal C to terminal B to catch my next flight to Vienna International Airport (VIE). I did a quick search on my phone to see what airport lounges were available to grab a bite to eat and something to drink while I waited out my layover. I was given two option, either remain in terminal C and visit the United Airlines Club or make my way to terminal B by bus and checkout The Art Lounge. I opted to make my way to terminal B since I had to be there anyways in a few hours to catch my next flight. When I got to terminal B I soon realized that The Art Lounge was located outside security. After consulting with an airport employee I decided to give it a try. She advised me to leave the lounge 45 minutes prior to the scheduled boarding time of my flight and assured me that security in terminal B would not be crazy busy. So with all this being said I hesitantly exited security to checkout this fancy Art Lounge. I was immediately disappointed after entering due to the large crowd and lack of adequate seating or decent food. The lounge attendants were also not able to give me any information regarding my flight to VIE. After becoming frustrated with the wifi and 1.5 hours to spare still before the flight I decided to make my way to the gate. Good thing I left when I did because as I exited the lounge I noticed the security line had tripled since I had entered. Luckily I made it to my gate with only 10 minutes to spare. Off to Vienna!
The flight itself was uneventful aside from the fact that I did not have to sit next to anyone. My last few long haul flights I have gotten really lucky with scoring good seats. I was flying Austrian Air and was overall impressed with the service. The food and wine was decent for economy and with my own row I was even able to score some much needed sleep.
7-8 hours later we landed in VIE. With a 4 hour layover ahead I again searched my phone for a business lounge that I could maybe get some free food and coffee. I found the Sky Lounge which I am able to access because of one of my credit cards. This place was great they had a huge assortment of breads, lunch meats, cheeses, cereal and fruit. Along with any juice, tea, coffee, wine, beer, or cocktail that you can dream up. I filled up on some food and was able to reserve a shower to freshen up a bit before my next flight from VIE to Odessa International Airport (ODS). The wifi worked great and I used it to contact several of my credit cards companies via Skype to let them know that I would be traveling for the next several months. The walk to the gate was only 5 minutes so I arrive with plenty of time to spare. Soon we were shuttled from the gate via bus to the aircraft.
Upon landing at ODS we were again shuttled from the plane to the gate via bus. Passport control was a breeze and before you know it I was in the terminal. The two things that were strange from my perspective as an American in the ODS airport are 1.) There definitely were stray dogs just wondering around inside. 2.) If you look like a foreigner you will immediately be solicited for an overpriced taxi ride. I have taken these overpriced taxis before (often charging 600-800 UAH or $20-30 USD). All in all it is a safe ride and as an American earning USD this actually isn’t alot of money. However, if you call an Uber the price will be somewhere around 60-90 UAH ($2-3 USD). I think Uber is also easier to use if you do not speak fluent Russian. Now at face value this seems like a really evil scam but I am honestly not overly offended by it. You must understand the situation in Odessa, Ukraine where the average monthly income of an individual is around $500 USD. These people are just trying to survive and make reasonable money and don’t necessarily mean you any harm.
A short time later I arrived at my apartment. This is actually a hotel right off of Deribasovskaya Street called Hotel Milano. I stayed here on my last trip to Odessa so I knew it would be an OK place to rest and sleep off jet lag before pressing forward to Tel Aviv.
All in all the journey from Pittsburgh to Odessa was easy. I will be writing another post later this week to tell you a bit more about my stay in Odessa and my flight onward to Tel Aviv.
If you are an American traveling to Odessa, Ukraine or just have a general question please leave me a comment below!