GROSS STUPIDITY – LONDON GATWICK AIRPORT
“You are not welcome here Johnny Foreigner”! Well, they might as well put up a sign in the baggage claim area at Gatwick. I just recently returned to Gatwick from outside the EU and went to go use one of the free baggage trolleys for the bags in the baggage claim area. Problem is, they are not quite free anymore. In fact, it’s worse than that. You have to have a British One Pound Coin to free the chained trolleys. What do you mean you don’t have British One Pound coins in your pocket you Tourist from abroad? Oh well, you can use a 1 Euro Coin or a 25 Cent US Coin. Rest of the world – tough. Of course there is NO way to get said coins in this secure area. So you are stuffed. Welcome to Britain, go get some coins. Of course you cannot return to this area once you leave!
What genius thought this was a good idea? Did this person or persons work on the Heathrow Terminal 5 opening fiasco as well?
Well, if you do have a one pound coin, you can return the trolley somewhere and get your pound back. I have this feeling that it is not even remotely near your car.
Get baggage that rolls easily and practice pulling it for huge distances to toughen up your muscles. It’s a good idea in general. Alternatively get someone who lives in the UK to send you a coin. Do not ask me for one either - any freeloaders out there.
I bet you didn’t even rate this tip yet.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Business Travel
- Family Travel
Y is for Your not going to believe the price !
If you are heading from the USA or indeed many other places, do not be fooled into thinking that a 'motorhome' type holiday will be a good idea.
Unless you are just using motorways and a few campsites, you will find it a very expensive way to go.
Not only will you have to contend with narrow roads in towns, but tolls on many european countries motorways (especially France Austria Spain and Italy).
The real killer is however the price of petrol. It is around £1.30 a LITRE in the UK and around a Euro 50c or more in Europe. You just don't want to do the conversion to see how much that is in dollars per gallon.
Unique Suggestions: work out the mpg (miles per gallon) or metric equilavlent to at least know what it will cost you
Fun Alternatives: be green - go by train
R is for Robin Hood meets Disney in Nottingham
The Robin Hood experience is a 'dark ride' which seems to cash in very well on the memory of the most famous person (if he ever existed) to be associated with Nottingham.
The ride consists of sitting in some little carts, similar to a ghost train and slowly crawling through a number of medieval scenes which are supposed to bring to life the legends of Robin Hood.
Even as an intelligent (supposedly) adult I found it confusing to understand and lacking in any real sense of developing story. In addition the area you enter after the ride with various stalls that wouldn't provoke interest at a village fete.
It failed to justify the seven quid entry ticket.
UPDATE 2014 : Closed in 2009
Unique Suggestions: Make you kids pay for their own entry if they pester you to go on it.
Fun Alternatives: Visit the real Sherwood forest.
Ryanair & the Frankfurt HAHN - TRICK
Airport Frankfurt HAHN is 116km from Frankfurt/Main!!!
The Airport Frankfurt Hahn might cause a lot of dangerous confusion, because you might expect it to be at least close to Frankfurt am Main. In fact it is in a distance of 116 km and driving from one to the other might take 2-3 hours depending on the way of transportation and the trafic-situation because you will go over highways and country-roads !
But at least Frankfurt/Hahn is the BEST airport for travels in the Mosel-valley and partly also the Rhine-valley!!
The counters of Ryanair at Frankfurt / Hahn will open 2 hours before and close already 40 min before departure !!
Unique Suggestions: ---------------------------------------------
How to go from Hahn to the real Frankfurt:
There is a daily and direct bus between Frankfurt Hahn airport and Frankfurt am Main Airport and Hauptbahnhof : it takes 1:45 hours, when trafic is no problem,
a Single ticket is EUR 12,00.
it is leaving in Frankfurt/Main from
Busbahnhof Terminal 1, Ankunftsebene vor Halle B - Haltestelle Nr. 22.
Busstation in Mannheimer Strasse, at the south-side of Hauptbahnhof, the sign-post has written on it : "RYNAIR/Bohr"
In Frankfurt-Hahn the station is at Terminal A
this is the shedule of the bus Frankfurt/Hahn to Frankfurt am Main Airport & HauptbahnhofRelated to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
This is more a suggestion than a warning about a tourist trap, but this seemed the best place to put it.
People complain a lot about places in Europe that are too "touristy" (how I hate that word.) In any event, most complaints are based on, amongst other things, the fact that when there are large numbers of tourists in a particular place, the lines are longer and it makes it more difficult to get around to see what you want to see. One solution to this problem, especially in the case of towns that are very popular destinations for day trippers, is to stay overnight. Have a sleep over, because when the hoardes leave town (usually about 4pm,) you have the whole place to yourself (just about!). This applies very especially to places like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbuehl, Assisi, Fuessen, Colmar, Lauterbrunnen and Hallstatt to name but a few.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
It pays to find the alternative
All too often we head for the more well known, bigger (if you like) places to use as a base for our travels in a particular area. We fall for the trap of paying more for accommodation than we need to, when just nearby there will be a smaller place that has cheapr accommodation and is just as well located for the sights we want to see.
A prime example of this is the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. It is widely believed that to see the Jungfrau, one must stay in Interlaken, which although a very attractive little city can be quite expensive when it comes to accommodation. Twenty minutes away lies a beautiful little town called Lauterbrunnen, which has several hotels which are markedly cheaper than those in Interlaken. It is also twenty minutes closer to the Jungfrau and is connected by train and/or cable car to several other villages which could serve the same purpose. These include Wengen, Grindlewald, Murren and Wilderswil.
Interlaken is extremely accessible from all of these towns, so if you want to pop into Interlaken for dinner you can do that very easily, as the trains run at very regular intervals until quite late at night.Related to:
- Skiing and Boarding
- Hiking and Walking
THE ETERNAL SHAME OF AKROTIRI (SANTORINI, GREECE)
To be somewhat fair the local authorities, the last Tourist to visit was killed on site. A protective roof structure was being erected to protect the ancient ruins in 2005. Unfortunately part of it collapsed and killed a tourist. Fair enough, but they estimated it would be open by now. It’s been 5 years! I have been here twice and have only seen the closed sign (pictured).
Every tourist map lists the ‘Excavations at Akrotiri and several Travel Agent websites actually list it as an activity – mentioning at the end that it is not currently open. It was supposed to open soon in2007. And in 2010. The crazy thing is several tour companies will tell you the closing time each day (3pm), the entry fee (3 Euros) and the parking situation. They even offer transport.
THE PLACE IS CLOSED!!! HAS BEEN FOR 5 YEARS !!!
Why is it so important? Akrotiri is the Pompeii of Santorini. The volcano covered, and preserved, this village more than 1000 years BEFORE Pompeii. A virtual time machine where one can see intact frescoes, furniture, pottery and buildings. If you could get in to see it that is. Akrotiri is a Minoan Bronze Age settlement and there are many inscriptions in the ancient Greek language – Linear A. Unfortunately this language is still not fully understood, but they are working on it. Behind the closed gates.
You could explore this fantastic historical site Virtually here:
AKROTIRI – THE WORK OF THE THERA FOUNDATIONRelated to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Railpass as a tourist trap in Europe (2010)
Most people think, that all passes for Europe are either Interrail or Eurail - which is not the case and few passes are even making sense. These are Swiss Rail Pass varieties and certain (only certain!) forms of German Rail Pass.
So to clarify with everyone:
1) Some (a tiny minority) of passes are worth to consider under most circumstances. None of them is designed by RailEurope - but they are marketed by RailEurope, which adds to confusion.
2) The EuRail pass for young (under 26) designed by RailEurope is MAYBE worth to consider if someone travels ALONE. The price structure (in Euro) in 2010 is roughly:
- 340 Euro for 15 days
- 440 Euro for 22 days
- 550 Euro for one month
- 780 Euro for two months
- 950 Euro for three months
However, we of course have the instant proof, that even these prices are inflated since the equivalent product called "Interrail" - but for European residents costs (I rounded "psychologic marketing" numbers like 399 to 400, that shows the price more fair way):
- 280 Euro for 15 days
- 310 Euro for 22 days
- 400 Euro for one month
That of course - regardless of "worth or not worth" demonstrates the rip-off nature of the passes in general: if people living in countries outside of Europe (typically: "rich" American and Japanese tourists) are being overcharged to such degree for no other reason - than the question arises immediately: is the original product ( = Interrail ) priced honestly?
Of course, it's not - but we accept both Interrail youth and Eurail youth passes (both in second class) as an evil being worth to consider if someone travels a lot and travels without companion.
Neither is priced honestly and the company which markets both (RailEurope) is a dishonest company (later, why). But landing up buying either is an acceptable solution in some cases.
3) The EuRail and Interrail prices for general public are totally off. In very rare cases some can be useful (three Budapest-Amsterdam round-trips within a month for a couple would cost about 370 Euro / trip. So the couple would land up spending 1110 Euro.
On the other hand the couple is paying a total of $530 (=410 Euro) for "6 days in 2 months" Germany-Benelux saver pass (2nd class) and using three Hungary-Austria CITY-STAR-s for two 3 * 120.9 (362.7 Euro), the total being 772.7 and not 1110 Euro.
But crossing the entire Germany with BeNeLux three times within two months back and forth is not a common practice.
Otherwise just to explore the countries the mentioned 6-day railpass is not sufficient because of time limitation. 6 days?
4) Very special case are the following countries:
In these countries most long-distance trains do REQUIRE reservation and it's also a surcharge to the railpass.
These surcharges add up and in many cases the cost of the surcharge is comparable to the ticket alone.
This fact is not mentioned by RailEurope... and here we can't even speak about some sort of "peace of mind" having a ticket.
Because the railpass holders have to line up at the station like the others.
5) DISHONESTY of RailEurope. Per se there is nothing wrong to sell some products (railpasses) for a price higher than it's worth.
I will start to speak about DISHONESTY (not just "rip off", but a SCAM SCHEME) if a company would use some underhanded means of steering people towards these products.
The way RailEurope does it:
- use "Point-to-Point" versus "railpass" comparisons, while "forgetting" to tell, a "Point-to-Point" international ticket is rarely just a "Point-to-Point", it is in many cases a mini-railpass, entitling the owner to make as many stopovers as desired
- INFLATE the correct price of the simple tickets so it would appear, these overpriced raiplasses are worth the money.
A traveler is, for instance, DUPED into believing a Luxembourg-Paris one-way ticket is worth $130. It's not - in the fact even few hours before the departure one can buy a ticket for about 70 Euro ($90) at the station. Add the ridiculous delivery prices and up-selling some other stuff... easy to see, someone who is planing a Luxembourg-Paris day round-trip is going to spend ca. $300 instead of $180 at the station.... while being pushed to believe, railpass is what she needs!
Here is an example:
6) RailEurope is powered by the ticket/routing engine called "Wandrian". I played with it - it's pretty buggy, in particular if it is about pricing / routing tickets in Eastern part of Europe. There is no excuse to route Budapest-Zagreb ticket via Salzburg or not being able to provide pricing information between major city pairs in Central/East/Southern Europe.
Unique Suggestions: A lot depends on. More often than not it's worth to return the railpass or if the travel begun, invalidate it at any customer care office of any European Railway and return it for 15% loss.
Fun Alternatives: There is no "easy", universal alternative - but local offers like German "Länderticket"-s or Austrian "Einfach Raus" or East European "CITY-STAR" tickets sold for West Europe are worth to consider.
And also in some cases a RAIL+ discount card (at least 25% discount on international tickets) is worth to buy. These discount cards are valid for a year and cost in East Europe 25 Euro for adult, 15 Euro for under 16 or over 65.
It's worth to consider to start the travel in the "EAST": the tickets and offers are more plentiful than the other way.
Typically: Budapest-Vienna or Vienna-Budapest is 13 Euro in Budapest, but the same ticket costs 19 Euro in Vienna.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Benelux Rail passes offered overseas: a rip-off!
Any railpass involving Benelux and offered overseas (typically Eurail passes) are a major rip-off, even the "youth" passes.
The proof... Let's imagine, you buy an international ticket between Amsterdam and Aachen (border point, till Aachen city it's 2.20 Euro extra). But at the same time you would like to visit:
- Den Haag
The best solution is in such case to buy one-month international routing ticket covering all these cities.
The picture of such routing ticket is here:
What it really covers and how wicked is the route can be traced here:
And yes, the total is 51.80 Euro.
With such prices who needs Benelux railpasses with few limited days and starting at $147?
Spend 51.80 Euro and travel 30 days in a month, unlimited stop-overs... if you like.
Remark/1: I used Aachen border-point instead of Aachen station, but if - rarely - any ticket inspector notices, they usually let it go without making you pay an additional 2.20 Euro, otherwise it would be 54 Euro. Aachen itself is in Germany.
Remark/2: Buying such ticket is better in Germany than in Netherlands because it involves personal care at the travel center and Dutch Rail (NS) charges a fee of 3.50 Euro for any non-automatic international service at the counter.
Who needs any kind of BeNeLux pass with limited days with such prices on international tickets? Even with the "personal service" fee of 3.50 Euro the international tickets are so much better than railpasses.
Unique Suggestions: Take the hit and next time ask VT-ers before you travel!
Fun Alternatives: Ask VT members.Related to:
- Budget Travel
point-to-point tickets: potential high rip-off!
Be aware: the so-often mentioned "point-to-point" international train tickets in Europe and Asia are in the reality "relation-tickets": train tickets allowing the bearer travel the relation fixed in the ticket for extended period of time and with unlimited stop-overs.
"True" point-to-point international tickets do exist - but Europeans use them only if there is a substantial discount. Typically, long-distance tickets costing 29, 39, 49 Euros in couch or 39, 49, 59, 79 (etc.) Euros in sleeper or couchette are indeed strictly airline-like "point-to-point" tickets: they are bound to particular train(s), valid only on a certain date and like with an airplane, the bearer is expected to enter the train at the start station and exit at the end.
Such tickets are usually sold over the Internet or sometimes in grocery stores(!!!). But regular international tickets or regularly discounted international tickets not bound to particular days/trains are valid for extended period of time (typically one month in Europe), aren't bound to certain trains and offering unlimited stopovers. They usually (but not always) cost more.
Rip-off warning: some agencies with limited knowledge or limited honesty do not tell this fact up-front to the customer. Instead of offering one through ticket covering all cities the customer wants to visit they sell a series of shorter tickets they would call "point-to-point". The level of overcharging varies, in a certain very common scenario (a couple traveling from Budapest to Innsbruck with stopover in Vienna and Salzburg and back) the over-charging is over $500. FIVE HUNDRED.
Here is a better detail, how it "works" out :(
Let's imagine, an American couple flies to Budapest and decides to visit Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck by train and go back to Budapest. The best solution is of course to use Hungary-Austria CITY-STAR ticket for two, that would cost for a couple 155.4 Euro (Innsbruck is in CITY-STAR Zone three, that's 103.6 for the first person, 51.8 Euro for the second person) from Budapest to Innsbruck and back or somewhat under $200.
That ticket is valid for a month, allows unlimited stopovers so stopping for a couple of days in Vienna and Salzburg while going to Innsbruck is not a problem.
Many people do not know about CITY-STAR tariff - but they perhaps know that international tickets allow stopovers. The couple would pay 87.80 Euro pro person in each direction till Innsbruck. That costs more, so they will land up paying 351.2 Euro instead of 155.4 Euro.
But what happens if they believe, the tickets are "point-to-point"?
Ouch - they will first purchase two Budapest-Vienna tickets for 36 Euro each. Than two Vienna-Salzburg tickets for 49.40 Euro each. Than two Salzburg-Innsbruck tickets for 40 Euro Each. While in Innsbruck they will discover, the number of Innsbruck-Budapest trains is very limited. So they will by two Innsbruck-Vienna tickets for 64.20 Euro each and finally in Vienna two Vienna-Budapest tickets (again, 36 Euro each).
They will spend on tickets 2*(36+49.40+40+64.20+36) = 2 * 225.6 = 451.2 Euro... so even without CITY-STAR thinking in "point-to-point" will make them 100 Euro poorer for absolutely no reason.
In some cases a good agency will tell them that there is a discount card called "RAIL+" which costs in Hungary only 25 Euro for a year - and they will get 25% discount of international tariff. In that case the regular price is down to 263.25 Euro instead of 351.2 Euro (but add 50 Euro for two RAIL+ cards, so it's 313.25 Euro for "through" ticket and 338.4 Euro + 50 = 388.4 Euro for "point-to-point scheme").
Now image, like it happens so often - the same couple would like to have "peace of mind" and "let's do the way made for American visitors" and rely on RailEurope service. We can safely assume, they would never think other way than "either railpass or point-to-point". So they will try to price the above ticket:
Budapest - Vienna: $60 / person
Vienna - Salzburg: $77 / person
Salzburg - Innsbruck: $65 / person
Innsbruck - Vienna: $89 /person
Vienna - Budapest: $60 / person
Total: 2 * $351 = $702 or at this moment about 570 Euro for two. We are now very-very far from the original 155.4 Euro they would pay with more knowledge.
And of course immediately the RailEurope ticket agent will tell them: why pay $702 for "point-to-point tickets" if "you can travel first class with Hungary-Austria Eurail Saver Pass" and pay "only $199 pro person for four days". Wow, "what a deal!!!" the victims of the FRAUD like that would think - and buy a "6-day in 2 months" Eurail Saverpass for Austria and Hungary ("4 days is not that much, let's go for 6 days") paying $253/person or $506 total, about 410 Euro.
And that was precisely the goal of the agency! Question: would ever anyone buy that "deal" if they would know that there is a CITY-STAR ticket for them valid on 30 days instead of 6 and it costs 155.4 Euro? Of course not. Even the "regular" ticket wit stop-overs being used will cost 313.25 Euro. True: the pass is issued in first class. The ticket price was in second class. The CITY-STAR ticket in largely useless first class costs 232.8 Euro instead of 155.4 - still much less, than the railpass.
This is how "upsale" tactics of some honesty-challenged agencies does work.
Unique Suggestions: Return all railpasses and tickets to RailEurope for 15% penalty. You lose more by using it than losing 15%.
Fun Alternatives: Ask people on Virtualtourist about railpasses and "point-to-point" misnomer. Don't fall in the trap: your point-to-point ticket is most likely a universal relation ticket. Just some agencies do not want to tell you the truth.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
P is for Prancers of Paris
If ever there was a place that was living off past glories, it is the Moulin rouge.
It does however still have a steady trade, relying on hoardes of rich tourists to fill up the theatre seats. For about 150 euros each they get a somewhat average meal from Seven O'clock and then a show from Nine O'clock, always featureing a bunch of East European Lovelies, with legs up to their armpits, pretending to be turn-of-the-century french courtesans dancing the can-can.
It all seems to staid and formulaic compare to the "Va Va Vroom" expressed in the film "Moulin Rouge" where senses tingled with anticipation at a night spent here.
Unique Suggestions: In a similar night out in Lincolnshire UK, it will cost you about 12 quid. A quick meal at Wetherspoons (£5.50 for two), A bootle of Cava From ASDA (£1.99) and entry to a dodgy nightclub (£3 at after dark) to watch a bunch of long-legged Latvian strutt their stuff.
Don't get carried away when planning a trip
Europe is full of gems, some famous some not, just be careful not to overstretch yourself, when planning your itinerary. Sometimes it is better to focus on a specific region if you have limited time, otherwise you will be travelling all the time and spending very little time sightseeing.
Unique Suggestions: Have loads of money and time.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Beware of wrong railway maps
Here is the map of Europe as found on http://www.railsaver.com:
Quickly discovered, only countries with Eurail pass acceptance are there (almost), with most of Greece, Skandinavia, entire Finland and Romania missing.
On the non-colored countries some main lines are also missing: Kosice-Krakow, Zagreb-Beograd, Zagreb-Split, Görlitz-Wroclaw
Unique Suggestions: Look at the map and scratch your head.... How come?
Fun Alternatives: Download the excellent free maps from
- Budget Travel
Do not use AMERICAN EXPRESS
If you are travelling with international credit card, do not use AMERICAN EXPRESS.
I travelled from Brasil to Europe last November, and:
While VISA and MASTERCARD converts
Euro 1,00 = R$ 2,60/2,70
AMEX makes Euro 1,00 = R$ 2,90
I was stolen by AMEX.
Unique Suggestions: Use only VISA or MASTERCARD when travelling from Brasil to outside.
Eurail pass economics
I write this not so much as a warning, but to encourage some homework prior to buying Eurail pass. I may not be correct in all instances and stand to be corrected!
Here's the tip: Hop online and try to check rail ticket prices and compare with Eurail pass for intended journeys. We found (although it was some years ago) that by the time you add surcharges and compulsory booking fees to the First Class Eurail trips, there was very little price advantage (if any) over just turning up at station and buying a 2nd class ticket whenever needed. For us, 2nd class was fine (on one long Eurail trip the reclining 2nd class seating was better than the old first class rigid leather seats so we moved to 2nd class, even though the ticket was for 1st class!).
We were not convinced that we received value for money with Eurail. Maybe things have changed since - I just suggest checking before booking Eurail.
Remember also to VALIDATE your ticket in France, or you could be in for hefty fines! (or just plead ignorance like we did).
Fun Alternatives: Buy second class immediately prior to travel. Much more flexible too.Related to:
- Budget Travel
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