Frequent Flyer: Tru Australia's Ben Pullen

By David Flynn, February 25 2011
Frequent Flyer: Tru Australia's Ben Pullen

Ben Pullen is the Australian managing director of Tru, the new multi-country mobile phone network which lets you make calls and even use the Internet in the USA and the UK without paying massive global roaming charges.

Travelling around 100 days each year to Tru's operations hub in Manila as well as Tru's head office in London, Ben's got plenty of tips to share for both those cities – and how to make the most of business travel in general.

What are your best tips for Manila and London?
Manila: for food, given the heavy Spanish influence in the former colony, you can’t go past Greenbelt in Makati – lots of tapas and wine bars, everything from fabulous traditional Spanish and to unique takes with a South East Asian bent. And don’t forget about the fresh seafood at the Wet Markets everywhere. For shopping, the malls are massive and mind-boggling so escape that and head straight to the fun yet frenetic marketplaces like Divisoria to pick up some locally made bargains. Cabs are very inexpensive and plentiful and all times of the day expect to pay around $5 for a 30 minute ride.

London: Well, what’s left to say about London? One of the most (if not the most) cosmopolitan city in the world. I always enjoy visiting the Tate Modern with a walk over the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s. There’s nothing better than topping it off by enjoying a warm, flat London Pride beer whilst defending our nations honour over our cricketing abilities (or lack thereof at the moment).

What's the one thing you do (or try to do) on every trip?
If time and scheduling allows, I love taking public transport to the office – or walking, if I can. There’s always something interesting happening everywhere you look.

On any business trip, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I always love trying the local food, and I don’t mean at a local chain restaurant. Street food in South East Asia and India or dinner consisting of various breads in Morocco feast or a Sunday roast in the green suburbs of West London are great ways of meeting interesting people and seeing the local culture in action.

What’s your favourite city to travel to?
My favourite city, no matter how many times I visit, would still have to be London. It’s so raw and yet refined and energetic all at the same time. I love all the different parts that make up London, from Brixton through to the East End – there’s so much from the past and yet so much creativity and edgy things happening you can never get bored.

You’ve got a spare day in London: what do you do?
I like to go for a walk, because it’s such a densely populated city, there is so much going on with your senses. Especially in winter time, it sometimes feels like such a treat to feel that cold after growing up in Brisbane.

When you’ve overseas, what are your favourite stores to shop in?
I like to find a TOPMAN – they are everywhere but still manage to cater to local markets and tastes really well, so even if you see one in Manila and then in London two days later, seasonally adjusted, there is a lot of new things in store.

What’s your favourite hotel?
My favourite hotel would have to be the Edsa Shangri-La in Manila. The quality of the hotel itself coupled with the natural warmth of hospitality of the Filipino people always makes this a great stay – and you can stay there a while and still be on the good side of your accounts department.

Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.
That would have to be the Wet Market in Ortigas, Manila. The food is so fresh the fish are still jumping and the crabs still scurrying. Negotiate your way to the best price for everything you want and then walk it to one of the local nearby eateries who’ll cook it all up as you like it.

What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?
Mobile phone, headphones, a book and a spare change of clothes for when you do those long haul, multi-stop flights. I’m generally bad at remembering to pack my passport (!) so I’m trying to develop a routine to solve this.

How do you typically spend your in-flight time?
I generally try to match the time zone that I’m arriving in as quickly as possible, for instance, if I’m flying to London or India, I’ll work those countries hours and sleep in those time zones.

How do you beat jetlag?
As quickly as you can – even before you get on the plane – try to match the time zone you’re travelling to. This may also mean a late night in the city with workmates before you go to the airport...

What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?
If I don’t have to go straight into the office then get on the internet, check my emails, call home and then go for a swim if there is a pool. If not, then a long hot shower followed by a quiet beer at the bar does wonders.

What do you like most about travelling, even though it’s for work?
I like the constant state of motion and seeing cities change and evolve as you keep going back. Also, if you have a good network of friends in each place, you can catch up with as well.

What advice would give airlines to improve the experience of the business traveller?
I would recommend that airlines have a frequent business traveller section, somewhere in between business class and economy for quicker check-in/security clearance and to board separately to other passengers. Also, we want a bigger working space, more rotation of meals and especially inflight entertainment – I think I’ve watched Dinner with Schmucks on Singapore Airlines more times than it deserves.

What’s your best travel advice?
Make sure you travel with your mobile fully charged, and that you pack the charger in your hand luggage. I didn’t take that advice on my last flight and I ended up minus suitcase and phone by the time I landed. It’s not fun when you’re not sure where you’re going and don’t speak the language.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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