Andras Foldvari (69) is a Hungarian retired airline executive who has travelled over 6.4 million kilometres, spent 41 weeks in airline seats and flew to/from more than 830 airports. He has set foot in every country recognized by the UN and visited dozens of unrecognized countries. His next scenic trip will be to Antarctica.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
Multicultural – the official language is English, but people communicate in French and local Creole. Even newspapers are written in three languages. Divers, magic scenery, from hills to a picturesque botanical garden. Great food from Indian to African, Superb beaches, great water sports and lovely people. Once we had dinner in a local restaurant and could not get a taxi back to our hotel, so the owner of the restaurant drove us for free – just one example.
They officially have a communist political system but quite a business-minded mentality with amazing hospitality and lovely gastronomy – a great mixture of Thai and Vietnamese food. Dramatic waterfalls – some with swing ropes to jump into the pools, calm rivers with famous long-tail boats. One of the best price and quality ratios in the world in the tourism sector.
Maybe the first global travellers of the world are coming from here with their exciting history and rich, amazing architecture all over the country, from small fishing villages to majestic castles. Lovely wines, inexpensive, tasty food served with genuine hospitality. The beaches of the Algarve are maybe the bests in Europe.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Easter Island sunrise
When I was about forty years old, I got a book about the 100 architectural wonders of the world and decided to visit them all. By Easter 2018, I did visit all but one – the stone statues of Easter Island.
I flew there from Tahiti and rented a quad to visit the iconic lineup of the moais watching the sun rising behind them. This was the most cathartic scene of my life.
Dodsledging in Svalbard
The island group is a Norwegian territory with Russian concession rights for mining. It attracted me, as during the summer months there are 24 hours of daylight. I took a tour from the biggest settlement to a summer camp on dog sledges pulled by sweet huggable Husky type dogs who enjoyed the run as much as I did.
Helicopter ride from Manhattan to JFK
I was on a business trip in New York, and a friend gave me a special gift. A helicopter ride to the airport. Seeing one of the greatest cities of the world from a bird’s eye view was simply unbelievable.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
Arrested in Juba, South Sudan
I was planning to transit in Juba, but there was no airport terminal, so you could only arrive and leave, and I had no visa. I was taken to the police chief of the airport who wanted to deport me, but I had a ticket for the first flight out anyway. I was escorted to an outside tent-like eatery, where I treated my guards to lunch. We had a nice chat, and later they escorted me with great smiles to my departing plane.
Police pulled us over in Lagos, Nigeria
Riding a car in the metropolis, we had to stop by order of a police officer who stated our licence plate on the car was false. My friend did not carry cash, so the officer ordered him to frog jump three times around the car, then the plate got suddenly valid.
Missing a flight as an airline professional
After 40 years working in aviation, I missed a London/Gatwick flight because I read an airline ticket wrong. I went for the flight to the airport at the arrival time in England, not the departure as the ticket was strangely printed. I had to fly to Heathrow first, then a bus to Gatwick to catch my scheduled service to the Faroe Islands.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Never show anything valuable on your trip
Create no desire for others to get your things. I cover my backpack, my phone and things of value with scotch tape, so they look old. I never got anything stolen from me.
Respect other cultures
Try to follow their way of clothing, follow their habits. One exception: Do not drink yak butter tea in Tibet it is disgusting (for me).
Bring a whistle
Very practical self-defence tool in less safe areas let it be from unwanted street dogs to unwanted people. – Nobody like noise.
If you can only choose one:
Favourite airline: Singapore Airlines.
Favourite airport: Koh Samui, Thailand.
Favourite city: Luang Prabang, Laos.
Favourite island: Phi Phi, Thailand.
Favourite people: Iranians.
Favourite small town: Szentendre, Hungary.
Favourite travel book: Around the World in 80 days.
Favourite travel movie: Into the Wild.
Favourite travel website: Flightmemory.com.